Archive for January, 2010

Winter Backpacking for the First Time

January 24, 2010

Backpacking San Jacinto State Park above Palm Springs in the Winter

Just thought I would share an experience I just had this morning, I was invited by a few friends from a California photography forum to go winter backpacking, something I have never tried. I was pretty excited to hear this but I didn’t have all the gear. I’ve been slowing collecting the gear for a while now, it can be a huge chunck of change to pick it all up at once. Long story short, only Eric Good wanted to go. I can’t blame anyone for not going, it’s been snowing for days non stop up there. Eric had the equipment that I did not have so the only thing that kept me hesitant was the cold, getting lost, and avalanches, the usual stuff a mind could conjure up.

There is a tram that will take you up to 8,500 ft above Palm Springs from cactus to clouds. There is also a trail if you are really serious, it has a gain of 11,000ft. Looking out the windows of the tram it was almost like flying through the mountains and clouds. With all the snow the visibility was only a few hundred feet, you could see the beautiful and rugged terrain of one of North America’s most steepest inclines. Gliding through the atmosphere with granite spires and monoliths rising into the stratus cloud and coming only a few feet from the tram so you can really experience what the side of the mountain is really like. You could lose yourself just by looking out of the window for a few seconds.

We got off the lift and the hand rails heading down were completely covered, woo hoo, that ‘s about 4 feet of fresh snow. Skis would have been nice, I had enough wait but a little more wouldn’t of hurt. We snowshoed almost a mile before setting up camp in round valley or somewhere near it, there was not a soul around. At this point it was still snowing too much to scout out a place for morning photography.

At 6AM I looked out of the tent and the clouds were gone and it snowed about an extra foot. I grabbed the camera and one lens, my tripod would not open, the threads were frozen shut, this usually happens when it gets wet and freezes, should of kept in the tent at night. Lever locks seemed to better in this cold enviroment. I found this very limiting but having broken a tripod in the past trying to get it to work so I didn’t chance braking this one. My only choice was to shoot a foot above the ground with the tripod sinking into the snow. Eric and I both went our seperate ways exploring the area for photographs.

I had no idea that this ridge was so close to camp, I can see why some people only return with tree photos from snowshoeing trip. This was the case for me since that was all I found at the time when the light was at it’s best.

The view from my extra short tripod.

For a first time I don’t recommend snowshoeing through 4-5 ft of frest snow, it can become very exhausting. I have snowshoed with just camera and it was a lot easier. I was layered up pretty well so my torso was warm the whole the time and my -20 sleeping bag kept me toasty through out the night. My fingers nearly froze most of the time on this trip while taking pictures, I use mitten flaps when it’s dry out but this time I used goretex gloves with fleece liners so keep that in mind. I did have a hard time getting used to all of this, it is a completely different experience adding the backpacking equipment. I can see how one might find it to be a miserable experience but just the fact that I was experiencing something new again was enough keep me happy. Seeing so much untouched fresh snow heading off into every direction at first light is so worth all the hard work one has to do get there, with or with out a tram. I will definitely try this again before the season is over, of course throw in a little extra cardio into my weekly routine.

Cliffs on Mt San Jacinto

Condensation got me at the bottom of the mountain, not a great idea to whip out the camera when going from 25 degrees to 60 degrees. If this happens to you just place your camera back in the bag and don’t open it up as soon as you get home, let it sit for a while.

*This was not a pretty picture show so stayed for some of those in the next post.

Workshop info

Steve’s Gallery


Ever Wonder about the History of Landscape Photography?

January 15, 2010

One of the pioneers of color landscape photography passed away a few years ago. He left behind so much to be remembered, Philip Hyde donated his life to the enviroment. His photographs helped protect Dinosaur Nat’l Monument, the Grand Canyon, the Redwoods, Pt. Reyes, Kings Canyon, the North Cascades, Canyonlands, the Wind Rivers, Big Sur and many other national parks and wilderness areas.

Cirios, Boulder, Baja California, Mexico by Philip Hyde
Cirios, Boulder, Baja California, Mexico by Philip Hyde

With so much left behind his son, David Hyde whose articles have been nationally sydicated, will begin a new blog journal with a launch date of January 15th, 2010 at 10:00am (that is right now). The blog will contain, Philip and Ardis Hyde’s travels, fine art landscape photography, enviromental campaigns, straight photography, photography collecting, green economics and more!

The image above is copyrighted and permitted for use here by David Hyde, please respect all copyright laws.

You can find it at Anyone thats find the history of landscape photography important or is interested in giving back to the enviroment will love the site and any art lovers as well, you have my word!

California’s Unknown Sea

January 13, 2010

A view from California's Central Valley

Ok, I’m kidding about an unknown sea in California. There isn’t one. These are just some rocks in a grassland and nothing more causing an illusion that helped my think of a title. The atmosphere just gave it a mysterious feel and a view I hadn’t seen before or anything similar at the least in California.. . .

One thing that I will always remember about this place before venturing in is that it is full of snakes and spiders and that you will not be able to see them because the grass is so high. Great, add mountain lions to that. I accidentally stepped on a poor little defenseless rodent walking around these parts. How easily could that have been a rattlesnake? I still haven’t seen one yet ever after hiking so many miles and miles. I have seen plenty of snakes but never a rattle snake unless it was crossing the highway as I was driving by probably over the speed limit. I should be shooting wildlife if I can see like that, however that is a different kind of patience I do not have. Waiting on the sun to do it’s thing is easy just like what happened here.

The Processing:

This was reprocessed 4 years after an older version, that I decided to replace. This is 2 bracketed exposures blended together in CS4 combined with the use fo a GND soft filter moved up and down during the exposure to reduce flare from the sun. The blending is not that difficult and the hardest part is adding the contrast to where the horizon meets the sky. Photoshopping images can take some time so if you don’t want to spend the time don’t take it out on me for being HONEST about it. Anyone that mentions only spending a couple of minutes in photoshop could be pulling your chain and revealing thier character. We shoot in RAW format which lessens contrast and color so we can adjust things to the look and feel we are aiming for.

Camera used Nikon D70, shot way back in 2006!

The Portfolio

Learn to see in a different way

Landscape Photography My Best of 2009

January 9, 2010

2009 was a great year! Here are a few images from throughout the year. Enjoy! I’ll give a little more detail on some of these in later posts. Thanks!

1. Wild California lilacs in the Santa Monica Mountains Los Angeles

2. Cold Toes

3. Warm Light from the south

4. This one above is kind of odd but I love it!

5. A bend in the Virgin River, Zion National Park

6. Nevada’s Great Basin Desert

7a. Mountain Shapes
Also known as Patrick the Starfish from Sponge Bob Square Pants
7b. Beer Gut Star Fish – Northern California Coast Mendicino County
Trinidad State Park, California
8. “Lupine Island” Trinidad, California

9. 10 minutes away from home – Newbury Park, California

10. Death Valley

11. Death Valley

12. Abandoned Mine – National Trails proposed Monument

13. Treasure Peaks, Eastern Sierra

14. Backpacking at White Sands

15. Antelope Valley with the glow of Los Angeles in the background.

16. Royce and Feather Peaks, Eastern Sierra

17. A new arch hidden out in the Mojave Desert

18. The one shown above is part of my new minimalist series. White Sands, New Mexico

19. Took the one shown above the night I slept on California’s 20th highest peak w/ out a tent and sleepbag

20. A spring snow storm in late April in Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay

21.Gaint sand storm in Death Valley, there is an RV in the large photo for scale.

22. Galen Rowell’s famous Milpond rendered in my own way.

23. Neopolitan Ice Cream – Artist’s Palette, Death Valley.

24. Red Rock Canyon State Park, California – I hope to photograph more black and whites in 2010!

25. Finally decided to broaden my horizons with abracts in 2009

26. Iceberg Lake, Eastern Sierra

27. Joshua Tree at Night. There is more I just didn’t have the time to process them all. It may look like I get out often but many of these were taken in the same day.

Let’s see what 2010 has in store for all of us. Make it a great one!

Death Valley workshops –

My official website

Finding New Icons Next to Old Icons

January 6, 2010

Old Icon

It is always nice to visit that beautiful iconic scene and come back with something that just makes you proud but we always want a little more don’t we? I have noticed while standing in these famous spots my head wants to pull a 360 like an owl, looking for more rodents to eat. When you are visiting an iconic location always look for prominant object such as mountains or certain rock formations. Some places you might have to go searching further than others but you can eventually find a nice viewpoint. This El Capitan photograph from the snowy winter banks of the Merced in Yosemite is one location in particular. You can find two newer iconic scenes over either of your shoulders, I’m not kidding the second photo is the Three Brothers over my right shoulder and over the left shoulder is the Cathedral Spires in the last photo. Both scenes are very worthy of being called iconic and you won’t have to go far to get them. Just put them on your to do list while there in Yosemite.

New Icon - Three Brothers reflecting in the Merced, Yosemite National Park I’m not kidding, literally right over my right shoulder when looking directly at El Capitan along the Merced.

The Cathedral Spires over my left shoulder.

This is some of my older work, I hope to share some of my newer Yosemite winter shots soon… .. .

Winter in Yosemite

The rest of the portfolio –

Learn to see in a different way California workshops

Happy New Year!

January 4, 2010

Aspen Convict Creek Eastern Sierra

Wishing you a Happy New Year and hope your 2010 is a bright, colorful and a productive one!

I photographed this intimate scene late one morning after I waited on some alpen glow that never showed but kept at it until I found something I was pleased with.

Best wishes,


Backpacker, A Different Kind

January 4, 2010

Organ Pipe National Monument

On the US Mexican border the average drug trafficker backpacks with 40-100 lbs for up to 70 miles for a ticket to America. – Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu of Operation Tucson.

Trafficker backpack

I pale in comparison to carrying 40lbs let alone a 100lbs and so do most other backpackers I know with our packs that might average 30 lbs. If you think your pack is heavy, think again. I am against drug trafficking but it’s just amazing compared to the hard efforts we put into our nature photography that does not always combine backpacking. That thing in the photo (the backpack), does not even look comfortable. I would probably die having to travel 70 miles with something like that on my back.

How does this relate to nature photographry? Organ Pipe Nat’l Monument, Coronado Nat’l forest, Buenos Aires, Cabeza Prieta Nat’l Wildlife Preserves and many other photographically interesting spots exist in these areas where trafficking occurs. I don’t think it’s impossible that someone could come across one of these smugglers at the wrong time but I am very curious if there has been any incedents on our side of the border?