Lori Carey Photography

Monday, July 30, 2007

July Road Trip II - Sequoia NP

With backpacks and gear loaded in the jeep, I took the first shift as we headed north on the 5 for 139 miles to pick up 99N. We would follow that 97 miles and get on 198E for 43 miles to Sequoia NP. Somehow I missed the sunrise I had hoped to catch. We must've been "nowhere" or I was too sleep- and caffeine-deprived to even notice. Other than a quick stop to grab a fastfood breakfast and use the facilities, our first stop was Kaweah Lake (N36.396 W118.98863) just outside Sequoia National Park around 8:30am. It had taken us 5 hours with our stops for gas and breakfast.

There were a few fisherman just putting their boats in the water and getting ready to head out to spend the morning on the lake. The water was a beautiful blue and the air was crisp, so we took some time to stretch our legs while I took a few photos. When we finally decided to get back in the car and continue up 398, we decided it was time to swap drivers so I could look for photo opportunities. Of course, that meant a few more stops before we actually made it to Sequoia NP because the road followed along the lake as it turned into a river into the Three Rivers area.

Finally we made it to the one thing Bill wanted to see - big trees. I have to admit that I was initially skeptical about the attraction, but when I first saw them I was in awe. As soon as we got our first glimpse Bill said "wow" and then we both went silent. Maybe it's because we're living in southern California now, land of eucalyptus and palm trees, and we haven't seen "real" trees for quite some time now. The sequoias were humbling; so proud and majestic. John Muir said it best;

"When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done," he observed, "the trees with glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awestricken among them."

We just had to get out of the car and take our "tourist" photos.

This is a "little" unnamed tree.

Sequoia NP is the second-old national park in the United States. It was established in 1890 to protect the Big Trees in Giant Forest, including General Sherman, the largest living thing in the world. Sequoia also contains Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain peak in the lower-48.

I struggled to find a way to capture the trees with a camera in a manner that would do them justice. I tried laying on the ground and shooting up, but the contrast of the sky was too much and I'm not really happy with those shots. I'm going to try double-processing one that has good potential and see if that will reveal what I want to convey. It was now late morning and the light just was not cooperating with me. Ultimately I found myself fascinated with the bottoms of the trees - the scarring from old fires and the incredible root systems of the fallen trees. I used my 580EX for fill flash because it was so dark under the canopy, and those are the shots I am happiest with. It was amazing to see how much damage the trees could take from fire and still stand so strong. Some of them were literally hollowed out halfway up.

We continued roaming along General's Highway through the Giant Forest, turning down the side roads and getting out whenever something caught our eye, but for the most part avoiding the crowds by avoiding the named trees and the visitor centers. It was kind of funny how no one paid attention to anything that didn't have a sign on it, but everyone had to have their picture taken at the Tunnel Tree or the Auto Log. We debated stopping to see the caves, but with a goal to make it to Yosemite in time for sunset we didn't think it would be prudent since it required purchasing tickets in advance and reserving more than two hours time. It was just killing me that we didn't leave any time for hiking on this trip, so I had to tell myself that this was just a scouting trip and that I would make a checklist of places that deserved more time on our next visit.

Eventually we came upon the turnoff for the road to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. Moro Rock (N36.544167 W118.764167) is an exfoliated granite dome that stands 6725 feet high and overlooks most of the park and the Great Western Divide, a company of peaks all over 11,500 feet. With several of the peaks over 12,000 feet, he Great Western Divide is so high that it blocks the view of Mount Whitney. It is an easy climb to the summit of Moro Rock; there is a staircase cut into the side of the dome (done long before we decided it was better to preserve such treasures in their natural state), and a steep 1/4 mile climb with a 300 foot ascent will take you to the top. We've lived at sea level all of our lives and I've always had a hard time acclimating to elevation, so in a sleep- and oxygen-deprived state we had to stop mid-way up to catch our breath before proceeding to the top.

"Why are we doing this again" Bill asked.
"We're bagging a peak." I replied. Ha-ha, I did a little climbing when I was younger, but he always thought it was crazy and would never even give it a try, so it was one of those things that fell by the wayside after we got married. This was the closest I'd get to peak bagging these days.

He he - I look like I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open! Look at the haze over the valley.

Still mid-day, so once again the light was not the best for photography, but the view of the Great Western Divide was just amazing. This was our first trip to the Sierra's, and they were everything we had hoped they would be.

After our invigorating climb to the top of Moro Rock we continued working our way over General's Highway. We had been warned about construction that had the road down to one lane at one section, and that northbound traffic was being let through every hour on the hour. We weren't sure how long the back up would be so we were anxious to put that part of the journey behind us and start heading toward Yosemite. We began climbing, climbing, climbing over the pass, and when we hit the construction area we must have timed it right because there was no backup to speak of. It was a scary sight to look out the window and realize that the road was one lane because the cliff had eroded away beneath the surface of the other lane! I can't even begin to imagine how they plan to fix it, and we supposed that the only fix would be to blast away rock from the far side of the road so there would again be two lanes. But what could they do to stop the cliffside from continued erosion? That vision of the crumbled road stuck with me throughout our journey as every destination required crossing over mountain passes with narrow roads on the sides of steep cliffs.

A meandering drive with incredible views and several more photo stops along the way eventually brought us out to CA180 for the 200 miles or so we'd drive to Yosemite.

You can view my Sequoia National Park photo gallery here.
There's not too many photos in there because I was shooting at mid-day, so I'm still thinking about how to possibly process some of them to see if they're worth saving.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

July Road Trip, Part I

My husband and I both share a love of the open road, and few things make us happier than to just throw a bag or two in the car on the spur of the moment and take off with little more than a vague idea of where we might want to go. We are wanderers and explorers at heart. And so when he suddenly found himself with an open week the beginning of July, what else would we do but hit the road?

We have only been living in California for four years, so there are still so many things in the northern half of the state that we hadn't had a chance to see yet. There were three places he had his heart set on for this trip; Napa, San Francisco and Sequoia National Park. If he had to choose only one, it would be Sequoia National Park. I'm not sure where he got this fascination with big trees, but if he wants to see big trees, we're going to see big trees.

What little planning is done, is done by me. So I play around in GoogleEarth to sketch out a rough route, and realize how close Yosemite is to Sequoia NP. Okay, I've been talking about getting to Yosemite forever, so I decide that we absolutely couldn't be that close and not take the time for Yosemite. Then I realized that if we took the Tioga Pass through Yosemite we'd end up at Mono Lake, and I've always wanted to photograph the tufa towers. Hmmm...from there we can head over to Napa, and Bodie SHP is just a short side-trip along the way. I've always wanted to photograph Bodie ghost town! From Napa we'd go to San Francisco, then take the coast all the way back home. That's an ambitious itinerary for one week, but I bounce it off the big guy and he's good with it so I download the routes into my gps.

Realizing that last minute travel during a holiday week could very well mean that there are no available hotels or campsites, I sneak off to my office to check on availability. Everything in Yosemite was booked (no surprise), so as a fail-safe I book a hotel room on the west side of the park for our first night and the east side of the park for our second night. I know, I'm getting older and sleeping in the car just isn't what it used to be. After the first two nights we'd just see what happens (I still have some sense of adventure!).

And so it was that I loaded up my gear, threw some clothes in a backpack and agreed to hit the road at 3am on Sunday, July 1 so we could be "somewhere" by sunrise. Okay, we actually didn't leave until 3:30am due to some discussion about the best way to pack the jeep when he decided that we should bring the tent and sleeping bags just in case. That led to a discussion as to whether or not we were camping, and if we were camping shouldn't we bring at least the campstove so we can cook, or at least boil water for coffee? And then of course, that means that I'll need to go pack some coffee because I have to have my coffee...

If you're married you'll understand.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Rude Awakening - or why I would never make it as a photojournalist

First let me say that I have no intention of making a serious attempt to break into the field of photojournalism. But what photographer (or for that matter these days, anyone with a cellphone camera) doesn't secretly harbor the wish that he or she will someday stumble upon a newsworthy event and find that they are the only one with a camera, thereby causing all of the newspapers to come knocking on their door, creating instant fame and fortune? Okay, that's the complete fantasy part, but I do believe that most photographers would like to think that they'd be able to rise to the occasion should they find themselves in the midst of a newsworthy event. I even carry the phone number for the newdesk of the local paper just in case. Well I found out the other day that I don't have what it takes, and I've been kicking myself ever since.

I was driving along the Killen Truck Trail/South Main Divide in Cleveland National Forest with two friends, and about 20 miles in we drove smack into a drug bust; LEO's as far as one could see, two suspects in handcuffs sitting in the road leaning against a sheriff's car, a big burly SWAT-looking guy keeping an eye on them, and a helicopter hauling up bales of marijuana from the canyon floor below. It must've been a huge haul because the helicopter kept bringing up load after load after load.

As a friendly LEO walked over to my jeep, our first instinct was concern that he was going to question why we were out here, which was silly but nonetheless was voiced by each of us. When the LEO told us that the road would be closed "for quite some" and that we'd have to backtrack all the way out to the main road, John started looking on his gpsr for possible side trails rather than retracing our steps, Marie remained fascinated with watching how quickly the helicopter hauled the bales of marijuana up, and I sat there and said "Sh*t!" as I tried to figure out how I was going to turn around on this narrow canyon road.

Oh wait! Hey, I've got my camera in my backpack! So what did I do? I am sad to report that I proceed to take photos of the helicopter. Not the handcuffed suspects guarded by the big guy, even though we were probably the only ones who had access to that side because anyone from the closest town would've had to come in the OTHER way, which was completely blocked off. No, I took photos of the helicopter hauling up bales of marijuana, backlit because I was shooting into the sun. And since I only had my 24-70 lens with me (which would've been perfect for photographing handcuffed suspects!), it is a TINY backlit helicopter. And the whole time I'm doing so, I'm afraid of getting caught (I'd better cross paparazzi off my list, too).

So I keep asking myself where was that instinct that I thought I would have, and why did I feel so intimidated? I've never had any unpleasant run-ins with the law, I wasn't out there doing anything questionable, and I'm not uncomfortable around guns because I grew up around guns and learned to shoot when I was a kid. To make matters worse, we've been checking all of the news sources and haven't found a single word about the incident. Now my friend raises the possibility that it was a secret bust and "they" don't want to publicize it. Maybe because there was another recent large marijuana bust very near by and TPTB don't want everyone to think that all of SoCal is turning to marijuana farms. Okay, so now the photograph that I failed to take could've busted the whole thing WIDE OPEN! Ha-ha.

All right, so it wasn't national news-worthy, but I still feel like I failed a test.