Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is one of 9 national parks in California; located southern part of the state. It spread into two deserts, Sonora and Mojave. Unlike other national parks, there is no unique attraction in the park. This park attract visitors with two features, Joshua tress and outcrop of  granite boulders.

As name suggests, Joshua trees are prevalent in the park. They sure remind you of Dr. Seuss books.

Sunset over Joshua tree forest

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Other attractions in the park are outcrop of granite boulders. Towering over 100 ft., these boulders serve as training grounds for rock climbers.  We have seen 100’s of climbers in two days. Climbing the boulders is one of the activity that kids loved in this park.

Here is star trails with Joshua Tree  in foreground

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This is image is result of 14 pictures taken in span of 1 1/2 hours. Each picture is of 5 minutes shutter speed with aperture wide open ( f2.8) and ISO 400.  Stray light near horizon is caused by passing cars. I chosen location right next to the park road in order to have company. Image quality suffered quiet a bit from car head lights.  As earth rotates on its axis, stars motion creates streaks when it’s recorded for long enough time. In northern hemisphere, earth axis goes thru Polaris (north star). So place Polaris in the frame where you want center of the circles.

Teddy-Bear Cholla is another interesting plant in the park. You can see them in Cholla Cactus Garden located in Pintos Basin, east side of the park. Couple of sunset pictures.

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With some luck and apt timing, visitors can see endangered desert tortoise  in this park. Rangers told me that high chances of spotting them is during spring or when it rains. They spend 95% of  time in their burrows.

There are some more interesting spots in the park that we did not get chance to explore. Couple of days of camping in back country gives access to many interesting places here.

If you are planning to visit the park, don’t miss climbing up Ryan mountain.

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Swamy

Hiking to Glacier Canyon

I was ready for a lazy winter after finishing last of my three ambitions of this year, half marathon (13 miles/21 km run) to benefit San Ramon School District on last to last weekend ( 10/12/2014).  Hakan came by with a proposal to hike to a canyon that has been in his to-do list for sometime.

Hakan is very accomplished mountaineer. he summited several mountains all over the world including dozens of Sierra-Nevada peaks. He has commendable  knowledge on Sierras peaks, geology and watersheds. I have been waiting for such opportunity to hike with him in Sierras from long time.  I had a week to recover from the run and have been physically active through out the year, so thought I’m ready to take any challenge that this cross country hike including summiting two peaks would present.   Cross country hikes basically means no hiking trail to follow. You  will make your own way towards the destination. It involves  many track backs, retries and changing courses.

Our plan was to park the car at Tioga pass, hike to Glacier Canyon that features Dana Glacier and Dana lakes, climb north-west facing canyon wall towards Mt. Dana, Summit Mt. Dana,  get down to saddle between Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs, Summit Mt. Gibbs, return to the saddle and follow the creek that flows down the mountains towards highway 120 and reach eventually back to the car.

Here is our planned route

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On Friday 10/17/2014, we started around 7:30PM after work. Stopped one hour at Oakdale for dinner. Crossed Tioga pass around midnight and reached Lee Vining around 1AM and grabbed keys that are waiting by front door of our hotel.  Lee Vining is a very small town right on junction where highway 120 connects to highway 395. Good place to stay for exploring Mono lake and surrounding areas.

I was pretty concerned about driving on Tioga Pass during the night as fog rolls in anytime making visibility pretty bad.  We had very calm weather with almost all the road for us. We tried to sleep, but late night coffee took toll on us. We got up around 5:30AM and prepared oatmeal breakfast and got our packs ready and left for Tioga Pass.

Tioga pass is at 9,943ft. elevation. Yosemite national park east entrance station located right on the pass.  We parked our car outside the entrance gate on roadside and started walking into wilderness around 7:20AM.   We reached a  small beautiful lake in about 0.3 miles.

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Hakan marveling at the nature …

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Sun raised over horizon,  as we made our way towards the canyon entrance.

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We crossed an unnamed creek that flows into Tioga Lake.  We stopped at nice cascades for few minutes.

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Just  with in half mile in our journey, we found ourselves walking on talus. Eventually we reached the entrance of the canyon through nice meadow. What I did not know that point of the time was that rest of our hike will be on talus and moraine. Talus is basically heap or slope of rock debris. As glaciers move, they crush boulders in to small rocks. The talus we encountered is mostly 1 to 3 cubic foot large.  Moraine is combination of soil and very smaller rocks grinded by glacial movement.

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Canyon floor was like a staircase of about 4 steps. Each step has one or two lakes. Purity or clarity  of water improved as we go higher and higher.  Lakes started to freeze already. The thin lines you see in below picture in foreground are frost layer formed in the top. Its still very thin and fragile, but as winter approach these lakes will freeze. You can see ice formation in the insert in below picture.

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Here are couple of pictures of the canyon and lakes …including its visitors

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Looking back the way we came

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Hakan looking at Dana Summit.

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One of the clear and pure lake I ever saw. I did not find even algae that grows on the submerged rock on the edges of lake.

Hakan filling the water bottle directly…no filtration required.

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We finally reached the end of the canyon and Dana Glacier…Still holding up… never know how long…

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Hakan inspecting the glacier … see him in the insert that gives perspective on size of the glacier.

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Looking back at way we came. We had a great view of Mt. Conness, North Peak and Shepherd Crest.

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We surveyed east side canyon walls that we supposed to climb to get access to summit Mt. Dana. They are pretty steep and treacherous.  We found north side wall to be reasonable. We decided to climb up to Dana Plateau and thought of negotiating our way to the summit over canyon ridge. That’s when my troubles started.  Canyon wall rose about 900 ft. over about 0.25 miles (1300 ft.), i.e. 77% grade.  Its class-2/class-3 climb over loose talus.  Hakan took my camera that was hanging over my chest and blocking my vision.  We took  support of rocky outcrop and slowly climbed over to Dana Plateau. It nearly took 2 hours.  I was completely exhausted.   Based on pure distance and elevation it was like a simple stroll  compared to what I did on JMT with 3 times more weight on my back. But walking on talus, minding every single step and pushing up the body higher as you climb was entirely different.  Half marathon was much easier for me than this. Based on time and my energy levels, we decided to drop out Mt. Gibbs or Mt. Dana from the list.

Here is the Google earth profile of the wall we climbed.

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We walked over to ridge that connects Mt. Dana and Dana Plateau.  To our disappointment, the ridge is very narrow. We climbed over to rim but could not proceed further. At that time, we had to conclude our pursuit of finding route to Mt. Dana  from Glacier Canyon. But views from the ridge were breath taking. Here is the panorama of east side.

You can see complete Dana Plateau, Mono Lake and Mono craters.

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More pictures

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We walked along the Dana Plateau and came down to the canyon entrance but other side of the creek, where we found a trail that led us to Tioga Lake south end.  We reached highway 120 and walked along the road to reach our car. We walked abut 45 min. in the dark.  Over all, we hiked 12 hours about 9 miles with 3500 ft. elevation gain.

Glacier Canyon is fantastic and Views from Dana Plateau are extremely beautiful. Many lessons learned. My camera harness was really bad for off trail excursions like this. Walking on talus is no fun when you can not see where your foot is going.  Running and hiking need their own training methods. I need to get  down from tread mill and get back on to stair case mil again.

Here is our actual route and elevation profile.

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Backpacking Trip to Lower Dusy Basin

John Muir Wilderness lies in Inyo National Forest and Sierra National Forests. It’s home for some of the beautiful and tallest peaks of Sierra Nevada including the tallest mountain in the continental United states (48 states), Mt. Whitney.  Me and my friend Kiran did two day backpacking to Dusy Basin, one of the fantastic areas in the wilderness.

Trail starts at South lake at 9800 ft. Trail quickly climb to 10760 ft. in 2 miles where it meets Long lake. As aptly named, Long lake is narrow but about 1 mile long. Next one mile of the trail pass next to Long Lake. After that trail  climbs about 200 feet passing Spearhead lake and Timberline Tarns. Trails passes next to very beautiful Saddlerrock lake (and a tiny ledge lake) and Bishop lakes before climbing up over 1000ft in less than mile through several switch backs to Bishop Pass. Bishop pass is at 11972 ft. elevation. Due to harsh conditions, serve snowfall and wind, tree does not grow at this elevation. First sight of Mt. Agassiz, Mt. Winchell, Thunderbolt peak  and North Palisades let you out a involuntary scream of joy. Upper Dusy basin is good for photographing Palisade range. Next 3 miles, we climbed down 1400ft in to lower Dusy basin. Its spectacular place. From last two trips, I realized that two day backpacking is not enough to explore these places in detail and photograph.

We hiked about 18miles in two days with 3500 ft. elevation gain. This trail is in and out type (means you will return on same route as you went in).

Here is the detailed map. I recorded GPS tracks for this trail, I’ll upload GPS tracks here for download.

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In the night, when you lie on your back and look into the billions of stars in clear night skies; away from pollution and city lights; you can’t stop think about vastness of university. We look minuscule among countless galaxies, their billions of stars and solar systems. Yet, we are lonely planet and silent observers; so fragile and vulnerable for cosmic calamities. Despite the fact that there is no other place as alternative, global conservation efforts are merely a debate in many countries. Anyway, back to trip report. Two nights that I was in wilderness, I spent couple of hours looking at the sky and shooting Milky way galaxy.

On Friday, we left for Bishop (small town in Sierras, California) early morning so that we can pick up permits for the hike and get acclimatized to high elevation. That night we went to Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest on White mountains. Bristlecone Pine trees here  are longest living things in the world (over 4500+ years). Here are some pictures from this trip

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Here some other pictures (These images are not in the gallery )

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Me on  the trail  (Photo Curtsey of Kiran)

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Backpacking Trip to Thousand Island Lake (July 2013)

Sierra Nevada mountain range in California is one of beautiful ranges in the country.  It is home for lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lakes in North America and Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in contiguous United States.  Three national parks Yosemite, kings canyon and Sequoia created in this region. There are about 20 designated wilderness areas in Sierras.  Ansel Adams wilderness is one of them.
Last weekend, me and friend Saket Jain decided to experience the Sierras in Ansel Adams wilderness. We did  backpacking trip to Banner peak and  Thousand island lake. We hiked 18 miles( 29 KM) in two days covering Thousand island lake, Emerald lake, Ruby lake and Garnet lakes.
 Here is our trail map.
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We started from Agnew meadows trail head and took river trail that runs next to San Joaquin river.  One the way up, we were surprised with unprecedented thunderstorm, rain and hails. I was excited. People who know me long enough know how much I love rain.  I was also excited since clearing thunderstorms leave a great clouds behind. When we reached to thousand island lake, prospects for great sunset was evident.
It’s back country, so no developed camp ground. Just find a flat surface and call it your place. However wilderness camping rules prohibits camping up to 50 ft near to lake shores. We scouted around and careful chosen our spot based on proximity to the area we possible shoot our sunrise. Alpine lakes are pristine beauties. Clean and calm. Quietness at  high altitude ( thousand island lake is at 9850ft ) eliminates distractions and  brings peace.  Here are some images just an hour before sunset.
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As sun dropped down to horizon, clouds moved away from Banner peak. We had to abandon our plan to shoot Banner peak and turned around towards east where sky is more interesting.
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Thanks to our good planning, night was comfortable. High elevation brings cold nights. I was prepared with right stuff for the weather. Typical light weight overnight backpacker carries about 30 lbs (14 kgs) of stuff.  After all efforts I could not reduce my pack less than 40lbs (18 kgs).  10lbs accounted for my camera gear itself.  I bought ultra light tripod and took only 17-40mm and 24-105m  lenses.
Sunrise was good.  No clouds around Banner peak though.  It wasn’t as cold as I was expecting. Around sunrise time, smoke from Fresno wildfire (70 miles south-west) blew right around Banner effecting contrast and color.  Here are some sunrise pictures.
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John Muir trail that starts from Yosemite passes through the thousand island lake. 211 miles of John Muir trails passes on many alpine lakes and Sierra peaks. On our return, we took John Muir trail. Our initial plan was to go down till Shadow lake on John Muir trails and connect back to River trail. As we hiked up to Garnet lake, we were able to smell the faint smoke in the air and fog-ish conditions were blocking farthest views. So we decided to go back to River trail from Garnet itself.
Here are few pictures  on trail. Over all, it was great trip and splendid experience. Saket and myself looking forward for our next trip in this summer in Sierras.
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Our camp site
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Swamy

North West Summer 2012 Trip

Washington’s three national parks, Olympic, North Cascades and Mt. Rainier are state’s crown jewels. Olympic National park is way different than other two. It has Olympic mountain range, temperate rain forest and beautiful coastline.  Olympic range is actually not very tall. Tallest among them is Mt. Olympus, about 7980 ft. high. Due to high precipitation, this range gets lot of rain and snow. This range hold many many glaciers. Hurricane ridge provides excellent vista points to see this range. Subalpine meadows of hurricane ridge display grand show of wild flowers in summer.

Here are some images from Hurricane ridge.

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I originally planned for a road trip across north-west coast all the way from San Francisco to Washington tip. My kids joined me on this trip. Considering only 5 hours drive a day, it takes away 6 days for to and fro journey. So dropped that idea and flew to Portland, Oregon. From there we drove around to all these national parks. Our first stop was Port Angeles, Washington. It’s beautiful town. Vancouver Island, Canada is just a ferry trip away from there. Hurricane ridge is 17 miles from Port Angeles. Good thing about Olympic national park is that you can avoid expensive national park accommodation and still be reasonably close to the park. Next day we covered Sol Duc and Lake Crescent areas. Sol Duc river and Sol Duc Falls has good hiking trails. Sol Duc also has hot springs area. Unfortunately these hot springs converted in to spa pools; but other hand, it’s much safer for people to enjoy goodness of the hot springs.

Here are some images of Sol Duc Falls and Sunset at Lake Crescent.

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We stayed in fork for three days. fork is small coastal town outside Olympic. But this is central place to go either Sol Duc, Hoh Rain forest and all the beaches. All the rain fall due to Olympic Range, created two temperate rain forests at foot hills for the range. Hoh Rain forest and Quinault rain forests. Next two days we spent in Hoh Rain Forest. Photographing forest scenery is very challenging. Composing the frame without distractions and still maintain your story is great learning experience as artists. Presence of mind is always required but here you cannot do without it. If you want to challenge the artist in you, this is the place to take it. Its really fun. My kids were unusually cooperative in this trip with my long stop overs for each picture I took. Some reason, I did not get same privilege on first day in Hoh rain forest.  So we came back hotel early and watched nice movie.

We spent another day in the rain forest….dropping out Quinault from our list. Weather was great in the rain forest both days. overcast with slight rain. Ideal for photography. We fortunately carrying our rain ponchos with us. I would now suggest a mosquito repellent spray as well. Obviously, I realized why kids were a bit cranky last day, only after seeing bumps caused by mosquito bite on their hands and forehead.

Fox Glove flower are in full bloom everywhere.  Here are some images from Hoh Rain Forest.

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Last day we spent in Ruby beach. We had blast playing in the beach for long time. After getting them back on dry cloths, I spent sometime composing some images. sky was promising with great cloud cover, but unfortunately, not that great show of color at the end. There are so many other beaches in this area with great sea stacks (mounds). La push and second beach are two other beaches, I wanted to cover, but did not get chance this time.

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Next day, we took off to Seattle. We spent one day in Seattle Science museum  and Space Needle. Next day we took off to North Cascades National Park. North Cascades and Rainier are part of Cascadian range that extends from Lassen peak in North California to Canada’s British Columbia. These volcanic mountains are part of pacific ring of fire.

North cascades is less known and less visited national park. However, I found it pretty good. Beautiful Skagit River with greenish water runs next to Route-20 that takes us from I-5 to North cascades. National Park boundary start from few mile further on Route 20 from Marble mount village. But I fell in love with cascade river road that starts from Marble mount village into north cascades. First few miles are paved and rest of the road  is rough, patchy and very narrow; but you can travel by even a passenger car as well. Cascade river runs along next to road.  You can see cascades (Mt. Johannesburg, Cascades and Magic Mountain and Mount Formidable much closer. Cascade pass trail starts at the end of the road. Route 20 goes through North Cascades National Park. There are several waterfalls and lakes on the way. Gorge Falls and Diablo lakes as well.

Here are some images

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We stayed in wooden cabins in Rock port. These wooden cabin are great. With kitchen and fire place, kids enjoyed homemade food after a weeks fast foods. From there we took off to Mt. Rainier next day. We reached a bit later than expected. We could able to cover some hikes and water falls before reaching  paradise. I love Mt. Rainier.  My both the trips to Rainier are little early in the year to see wild flower spectacle there, but still there are lots of flower in bloom. The grandeur of Mt Rainier always amazes me. Sunset and Sunrise was great from reflection lakes. I did not get lot of time to compose my images here. When I was waiting for sunrise last year, clouds covered Rainier completely. But  while clouds moving, I had a very brief peak of alpine glow on rainier. It was bright red. This time, weather was a bit warm and no clouds. I did not see same color during the sunrise. But anyways, it was fantastic morning and a great trip.

Here are images from Mt. Rainier.

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Monolake Trip (6/2/2012)

In my long drivers, whether I’m entering into Humbolt county (Redwood National Park) or nearing Sierras, I always feel an awakening. Something like, I woke up from trance. Anticipation fill my heart. I wish my communication skills go beyond talking through images, so that I could express them in words.

I went to Tioga Pass this weekend. But this time, for some reason; I did not feel that I’m at subalpine environment. I was on Tioga pass during mid-day; that could be the reason I did not enjoy it that much. It was much better from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite park exit. Tuolumne river is flowing at very low levels. No signs of flowers in meadows and very few patches of corn lillies here and there. We only stopped at couple of places very briefly.
We went to Monlake for sunset. South Tufa area is best place to see monolake unique geological feature tufas.  This area is more photogenic than other places around monolake. Drive 3 to 5 miles north towards Reno for complete view of the lake.
Sunset was spectacular that day.

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We also shot sunrise at the same place. You can see alpine glow (left to right) Mt. Lewis, Mt. Gibbs and Mt. Dana.

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Here is another composition from same place.

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Swamy

Protect Mission Peak

Misson Peak along with few other places in the Bay Area is prime location for hiking. Summit at 2500 ft elevation offers a great view of silicon valley. An early morning (an hour before sunrise) trip to the summit greets with refreshing fog at foothills. As you climb up above the fog, spectacular scenery with dawn skys and cloud cover over the valley from Mission peak to Santa Cruse mountains mesmerizes the hikers.

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Since my first climb  few years back to now,  traffic on trail increased dramatically. Even though I’m pleased and applaud the increased health consciousness in people, I constantly see some of us take short cuts and make new paths to the summit. These actions will result into land errosion and damage to already minimal  flora.
Volunteers and Rangers are ticketing people caught on these short cut paths, but I believe the change should/will come from individual’s self-conviction.  Current state of peaks does not look threatened, but hopefully we never get to that state.

Land preserves meant to preserve them to their natural state. I wish cattle are not allowed on the peaks.

Image (Mission Peak on right corner and Mt. Allison on Left corner)

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Yosemite Trip (5th Feb 2011)

Click here to go to gllery directly.
For last four year, I went to Yosemite many time during February  in hope to see the magical light transforming  tiny, thin horsetail fall into  hot streaming fire falls. Finally it was my turn to witness this magic. Generally anticipation makes expectation bars rise higher. The longer you wait eagerly, higher your expectations rise. So in general when things happen, you end up with little disappointment. But in case of horsetail falls it was beyond my all expectations. I have been seeing many photographs over the years. I almost know every streak and stain on El capitan around the falls. In spite of that my heart pounded as the light shifted towards peak on red spectrum and water flow shimmered in light.

As I mentioned in my journals last couple years, the original photograph was taken by Galen Rowell.
His image of this falls is still the best. You can see it in Galen Rowell’s Yosemite gallery (2nd page)

My image is from some where close to Cathedral Beach on South Drive.


As the color on falls slowly faded light, my focus turned towards the sky. Sunset was glorious.
Unfortunately there are lot of distraction in left corner in this image (below). Had we got enough time to get into the river, it would have been a great image.


We enjoyed sunrise at inspiration point. Following two images are from there. Point to note here is
First image was taken 30 minutes before sunrise, Peak color faded away with in a minute or two. So I guess, we need to be there way before sunrise here.


Following two are my personal favorites from the trip. This is one of the intimate images of Merced flow. I had to get into water for right perspective and zoom for this image. I had waterproof over-all on me, without which I wouldn’t  even dare touch winter cold river. Merced is cold even in mid summer.


Here is another original and personal favorite “Life Under Shadow of Giant”.

Here are three macros

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Swamy

Death Valley National Park

After weeding through multiple cancellations and postponements for a month, I finally took off on 4 day trip to Death Valley National Park on Thursday, Nov 11th. Its basically two full days  in the park that’s as large as 1.5 times of delaware state; good luck.
I spent most of the time at four places only.

  • Two important playas (Playa means flat-floored bottom of an undrained desert basin.)  in the park,
    • Salt Flats
    • Race Track.
  • Mesquite Sand dunes
  • Zabriskie point

I spent quality of time at each location and the experience at each location was exquisite. Name of this national park turns some people off, but the beauty that this place offer to its visitors is exceptional…Soaring temperatures in summers often cross 120 degrees Fahrenheit reminds the name is apt.

Salt ponds at bad waters: This is lowest point in North America, 286 feet below sea level. Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 states is 85 miles far from here.  Bad waters located 27 miles from furnace creek village.

I spend two sunsets here. Sunsets behind telescope peak (range), but you can turn any side that has good composition and sunset colors…that’s big advantage at this place. Just walk straight into salt ponds about 1 to 3/4 miles from parking lot for good undisturbed formations. Alternately, drive little more distance from parking lot and park on the road side and walk into the flats to avoid crowd.

Here are couple of images from this place. Click on each image to view largers

I stayed back after sunset to try star trails. I started clicking off one hour after sunset. I took 16 images in next two hours. More images makes skies more interesting…but I wanted to see how successful is my attempt first, before committing another hour or two in the night. I was the only one around in the salt ponds, three hours after sunset, no sound other than wind. Even though it was half-moon in the sky, it was reflecting off the light from complete white fields and sky with full of stars…its just pure beauty. Close your eyes for couple of minutes. Open your eyes and look around you. I’m not trying to be more poetic here, but an experience that this moment brings will stay for ever. At least speaking of me, it will.

This image shows how bad my star identifying skills are. My intention was to put polaris in the middle of the frame. Obviously I missed it big time. My exposure was also not correct. On top of all these, there were couple of passing clouds in the two hour period brought some noise at horizon. Anyways, for second attempt…not bad at all.

Race Track: Its a ancient lake bed. Its 32 mile drive on very rough dirt road from Ubehbe crater. A high clearance vehicle is required. 4 wheel drive is preferred, but not necessary. Inspite of engaging part-time 4 wheel drive, I did not drive more than 20 miles to ensure, my tires are OK. Rocks in this playa are moved slowly making their way marked in the clay  promptly. It’s believed that this rocks are moving due to wind. I reached here 3 hours  before sunset and surveyed the area and picked up my racing horse…na…rock and waited. I tried star trails after sunset. This was my first attempt and missed on exposure, position
completely. But again, experience at this location is great. No one around you for at least 40 miles distance. Whole playa, sky and stars are all yours. Pure wilderness experience.

I camped in a primitive campground two miles away from the playa for the might. This camp ground is not marked any where. It does not have electricity/water/rest-room, not even picnic bench. Just level ground for tents and some stones for camp fire.

Very unexpected, there are two other people already there at the site…non-photographers. After all, I was not alone there.

Sand Dunes:  Sand dunes are just a mile away from Stovepipe wells village. They look very small and hardly covered any area from the road. I started hiking one hour before sunrise. It took one hour to reach on top of the tallest sand dune which I thought is not too far. I was completely tired, disappointed. Almost all the dune edges are covered with foot steps. On top of that I could not previsualize the scene… I should be ready with camera setup on tripod by the time first rays hit the dunes. I was simply trying to shoot west side sky between cotton wood mountains and grapevine mountains with some pale sunrise color. I have no more sand dunes on west side of me. I have not interesting fore ground. My expectations were much more from the dunes. Then the first rays hit the sand dunes…I just stopped what I was doing.  I forgot about camera for a minute ( I don’t have a composition to work with anyway). The place turned in to amazing playground for light. I stayed there for 5 minutes and got down from that dune. I didn’t have to try hard for composing below images. I fortunately found this dune without foot steps in time. This was really great experience. After thought cleared my doubt on why I failed to previsualize the scene; it because, my expectations are blinding me. The sand dune images I have been seeing with great sunrise/sunset colors making me to look toward east all the time.

If you want to really experience the beauty of sand dunes, get on to the top of this tallest dune and wait.

On the way back to parking lot, I found a clambering man with walking stick. By the time I reached, he fell on his face twice. I helped him out to parking lot and found that he is suffering from balance disorder caused by  a brain disease. Seems aggravates when patient is under more physical stress. I asked him on the way, how did he find this place, thinking that it would be his first time and he underestimated the walk. He coolly told me that he comes very regularly here from LA and he can not resist coming here inspite of his health condition and the danger it involves. I just went “Wow” !…

Here are the images from Sand Dunes

Zabriskie Point: Zabrisky point is 6 miles frm furnace creek village. I took this from observation point itself. There is a trail that takes you down into the canyon, but you will not get the same perspective.

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Swamy

Yet Another Casualty

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This pregnant whale died after struck by a ship and washed to San Mateo County beach two weeks ago. There should be a way to avoid this kind of accidents. May be by using some kind of whale repulsion device in ships.  Blue whales are endangered and very likely to categorized into critically endangered in couple of years. These are giants, we can not keep them in farms and grow them in quantities in order to save this species. If we can not help, least that we can do is leaving them alone. This is another issue that shipping industry should consider. 90% of world trade is carried through ships. Almost everything that use in our daily life are brought here through ships. Its multi-billion dollar industry. Its hardly an expense for them to spend for research to find ways to avoiding this kind of accidents.

Anyways, I finally got my new camera 5D MarkII and started again where I stopped  photography early this year due to the mishap that costed my gear. Its unfortunate to start with new camera on a sad note ( this image) though.

If any bay area folks want to visit, here are the GPS coordinates and map. Bean Hallow beach is about 12 miles south to Half Moon Bay.

regards

Swamy

Yosemite Trip (Jan 2010)

As most of you know, every year I religiously pay a visit to Yosemite in winter. My trip this year was a bit early and accompanied. It was a family trip. After lots of fun in skiing and tubing  [well… for me, mostly watching it and pulling tubes on slopes  :(], I bought my time for few clicks at sunset.

To my surprise,  Horsetail falls is not flowing yet. If I can not make another trip in next three weeks, I will miss this falls consecutively third year as well. First year I could not trace the location. This thin falls is almost invisible for wondering eyes on 3000 ft granite monolith, El Capitan. One evening that I spent in the valley last year was not favorable in terms of weather. It should be a clear day to see the magic that happens at sunset every day during last two weeks of February. Sun illuminates this falls and it looks like fire flowing down the cliff. Original composition was done by Galen Rowel. Here is complete article about this  falls  by  Michael Frye (http://www.michaelfrye.com/articles/horsetail.html).
Hopefully, enough snow melts in time for this year and I can make one of these week ends again to Yosemite valley.

Horsetail falls being out of scope, I left with fifteen minutes to decide on location. I was close to valley view, so I decided to shoot El Capitan. I did this two years ago, but last those high resolution images in a computer crash. Well, good that I took another shot at it, this was better.

Light on El Capitan is not as red as what I saw earlier (since it was late February), but now I got good foreground and light covered El Capitan more. I stayed up late after sunset and turned around and saw the opposite cliffs are illuminated (partially by moon, I think). So I took this image from the logs that I have been sitting on.

Past, Future and Present

Next morning sunrise was rained out, so got good full night sleep.  Next day, same exercise with kids… pull the tube all the way up slope and back, fetch them and go again. But I couldn’t buy my free time that day. Kids wanted to build a snowman and do more sledding on wild slopes (non-groomed). After struggling with sled for sometime, I tried to push some snow up and call it a snowman and thought to steel some time for sunset. While I was hurrying, my consciousness gave me a bonk.
I hardly had anytime to search a location or even to drive to any known locations before sunset. So instead of doing two mediocre things and sure to fail, I decided to do one thing atleast right and turn the situation to my favour. So kept our snow-modeling skills a test and used it as subject for my sunset picture. So here we go with Mrs.Frosty….

Mrs. Frosty

Next morning , got up at 5AM and hurried to tunnel view. Slipped on frozen deck out side our cabin and did a half somersault and landed on my back. Good thing about cold weather is that you don’t feel pain until you are warm again 🙂 But sunrise was good. This was my third/fourth attempt at this place. Even though I reached at 5:30AM, colors peaked just few minutes before sunrise (7AM) Its pretty classic image from Yosemite. Composition inspired by Ansel Adams, few people before him and million others following him till yesterday.

Yosemite Classic

I did about 45 minutes walk-up in merced river bank after sunrise to shoot three-brothers, but with lot of debris around…did not get nice location.  So just these four images from this trip.

Happy Clicking…
Swamy

Zion Narrows and Left Fork hikes (‏ ( 11/2009

As winter approaching fast,  last trees in lower elevations started to shed their leaves. My mind had been craving for fall beauty and fishing for opportunity since beginning of  official fall season in mid September. After wading through many near cancellations, my trip started on Nov 1st, Sunday morning to Zion. Its about 700 mile, 12 hours drive to Springdale, Utah. I hardly had anytime to plan and prepare for this trip. But anyway, I had been dreaming to hike Narrows and Subway in Zion from long time.  So I set off with a hope of doing those two hikes.

Narrows hiking can be done in three ways. One way is to hike up entire 13 miles from Gateway and have someone pick you from other end at Chamberlain’s Ranch. Second way is to hike back 13  miles next day. Both these hikes need permits. Third way is to start from Gateway and hike 3 miles to Ordervile junction and return. 65% of the hike involves river wading. once in while you will find dry place to walk. At this time of the year water level is just 2 to 3 feet and no risk of flash floods. But water is darn cold; about 40 to 45 degrees fahrenheit.  Neoprene socks, some under armors (for cold), dry pants, dry backpack, river wading shoes,  pair of trekking poles are required for this hike. Fortunately, I have all of them. Neoprene socks make you comfortable by not absorbing water much. But you can not avoid your feet  touching cold water. my feet were numb after 1/2 mile hike and after a week, some parts of my feet still numb. I could not cross Ordervile junction. There is a small pool where water level reached  to neck and could not climb up the ditch. Water level in main stream was also high and do not have  dry suite for upper body. More over it was 4PM, so I withdrew from ordervile. But 8 1/2 hours I  spent in narrows are life time memorable. Every turn of virgin river offer a new surprise. I
highly recommend this hike. Hike is every easy with two trekking poles. Water is very welcoming in summer. But need to check with ranger about flash flood warnings.

Here are some images from Narrows

Spellbinding Narrows

Narrows

Narrows

Narrows

Next day I went to Subway. Subway is a  very small slot canyon. North creek carved it as a tunnel. Subway is located on back country trail left fork. Its strenuous 9 miles round trip hike, involving 450ft  descend at the beginning, trail finding, boulder crossings. Since its back country trail, hikers need permits. Only 40 permits are issued per day, which will be gone in no time in summer. But in November, including me only 6 people showed up that day. Even though it seems  strenuous, an average hiker can easily do this hike. But please remember to start back early, no later than 3PM in fall. I stayed for fellow photographer and started hiking back at 4:45PM. We were half way back and the day light was gone. Luckily we have GPS and trail was recorded while coming in, so we did not find it hard while even is the dark. I always carry head lights. This trail is beautiful every yard.

Here  are some images from this hike

Subway of North Creek

Subway of North Creek

The Crack

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls

Sadly, I  had to cut short my trip and return immediately. I started driving back on Wednesday
itself. Two days driving and two days of hiking; still not a bad deal. 🙂

Happy clicking
-Swamy

Oregon Trip (7/2009)

Photography like other art forms excels in self expression. When artist can not find his emotions  in the image, his work is a mediocre. He may be successful in impressing his audience, but he does not find it self satisfying. Many artist carry such burden on them for one main reason; attempt to impress their critics. Critics means general audience or business partners…who ever he cares to listen from. This distracts and deteriorate the most important thing,  experience of the nature. Your presence in the scene with mind and soul is essential component in photography. That’s one reason I travel at slow pace and spend more time at small areas.

I spend 5 days in Columbia river gorge in Portland, Oregon, hiking and photographing Gorge’s some of beautiful waterfalls in wilderness with famous photographer Marc Adamus. Marc has been my favorite photographers. I like the originality of his images and effort of making them. I witnessed it first hand in this trip.

My first stop was at Burney falls near Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was midday and the falls does not have much shade. Although this waterfall is very wide, its not very photogenic throughout the width. I do took some images, but just a travel documentray purpose only.

My next stop was Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Crater Lake is amazing lake with great depth and water clarity that results into blue reflection on surface. I went around the lake and scouted out for sunset and sunrise locations. Discovery point is best location for both sunset and sunrise.

Liquid Sapphire

Liquid Sapphire

The problem with Crater lake was that its so vast and my widest lense ( 17mm) could not capture complete lake. I took three images and stitched them up.

I stayed back in Mazama Village for night. I went back to the lake at 5:30AM for sunrise. On this mid-summer morning weatherr was near freezing. I was thrilled to see the patchy cloud formations in the sky and eventually witnessed one of the great sunrises I ever experienced. Unfortunately the location I have  chosen last night (watchman overlook) was not the right one for sunrise. I composed the image with best possible way, but if I get another chance, I’ll try it from discovery point.

Traffic Jam in the Sky

From Crater Lake I drove directly to Cascade Locks, a small town right in the gorge. That evening I thought I’ll stop by Multnomah Falls, the famous classic of columbia river gorge and shoot sunset from Women’s  forum park. But I spent about 4 1/2 hours at the falls, waiting for the good light. Just around the sunset time, a small rainbow appeared in the middle of upper falls. As you can see, its quite insignificant when took full length of the falls. So I composed image with rainbow at the top making flow look like fire and water.

Fire and Water

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge

Next two days, Marc and myself hiked up 22 miles in the gorge and surrounding areas and shot some beautiful water falls. I learned many different techniques from Marc. Anticipating lot of wading, I packed my wading shoes and pants, but as we worked on the scene, I never remembered that I need to change. Most of the water falls were taken at thigh level waters. When it comes to water-fall photography, perspective, composition is everything beside exposure and timing, so don’t hesitate to get wet. But need to be very careful with each and every step; one bad move hurts you and your camera.

Exuberant Beauty

Fairy Falls

Serenity

Pony Tail Falls

Liquid Emerald

Punch Bowl Falls

Punch Bowl Falls

Ramona Falls

Dry Creek Falls

A Mountain Stream

Another Mountain Stream

Water falls in Wildreness

Metlako Falls

One of the very difficult composition that I tried on the entire trip are the following corn-lilies abstracts.  Seeing the lines and placing them at right place and planning the crop is very difficult task. I really found new respect for this kind of abstract images. What I got here are very good, but first one has lot of empty space  in the frame and other one has lot of distractions.

Corn Lilies abstract

Corn Lilies abstract

Last two days, we tried to take sunset images, but clouds are not right.  But thunderstorm was in forecast for next day. Marc suggested me to go Lost Lake to shoot Moonset and sunrise. After two days of work-out, my energy levels were at low to make  1:30 hours trip in early morning at 3:00am to lost lake from Government Camp. So I took extra hour sleep and went to trillium lake at 4AM, its just outside Government Camp town. I shared entire lake with two other people that morning. As you can see in below images, it was gorgeous  morning. As I went well in advanced, I set-up my camera and enjoyed morning as the drama in the sky started to develop. The nice reflection of Mt. Hood in trillium lake and fog rising from water was  just serene. That’s when it just happened. A mother Mallard and its six ducklings dived in to water right before me creating ripples all over. I would have forgotten about reflection and would love to include  the group in composition. But moving objects in such long exposures is tricky. I tried to scare the ducks away, but when ever I through a rock the ducklings were ganged-up on the area thinking it was food. I was literally helpless; with some effort I got-rid of the intruders (infact, its otherway, isn’t it).   Here are Mt. Hood images …

Moment of Serenity

Mt. Hood

From there I went to Painted Hills and waited until later afternoon expecting terrific sunset. I sat and watched as cumulus clouds gathered in the sky. But as evening progressed towards sunset, small wind started to blow the clouds to south. By sunset, I left with bare sky. Even though I haven’t good sunset images, I got good image from late evening.

Painted Hills

I went to Mt. Bachelor and camped over night at sparks lake to shoot sunrise next day before heading back home.

Spark Lake and Mt. Sister

Spark Lake and Mt. Sister

Happy Clicking…

Swamy