Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Big Finish

So I will try to wrap this up. I got to bed on Friday night about one after the mediocre milky way attempt. I remember looking at the bedside clock in the motel at 4:08 in the morning and drove myself back to the beach as soon as I could groggily throw my clothes on. So you can do the math, I am operating on three hours sleep.

I was the first one to my destination, soon to be joined by an over talkative chap from Colorado who felt the need to recount every shot he had taken in the last week like a laundry list. He also kept going on and on about shooting in the "blue light" which I assume is a paean to Galen Rowell but might instead be a religious thing.

I set up on the beach and took a couple shots that were not too terribly interesting. I waited for some more light to come.

There were not a lot of clouds so things were not too promising but I can't think of too many other places where I would rather see the sun come up.

I saw a group of photographers arrive on the hill and start making their way down to the South Tufa Beach. 

The sun finally started to cast its light on the mountains and the unique carbonate landforms called tufas.

It was about this time that things went temporarily sideways. A Frenchman and his wife had wandered into the picture. Literally. We photographers have very few rules of etiquette but one thing we try to do is respect each other's sight line. First come, first served.

But the Frenchman set his tripod up right in my field of view.

I gently called out to Mr. Clueless and asked him to get out of my shot.

He started sputtering, said I would be somewhere else if I was smart but he eventually begrudgingly cleared his gear out of my picture frame.

It is a funny thing. I have been taking pictures for over fifty years. And almost invariably, the people sporting the most expensive gear, your Hasseblad and Leica photographers, seem to take the crappiest pictures.

I know it is an unfair generalization and my dad shot Hasseblad and he was fairly competent and I do wish I had a medium format Leica but I am serious. 

Not sure why but you don't see a lot of workhorse photographers shooting those cameras, they mostly look good on bookshelves. Short of in the fashion studio, I guess. 

People evidently think that expensive gear will make them better photographers. 

And also these sorts tend to think that they are artistes and god's gift to photography. I am indulging in gross generalizations here, remember. No offense intended KP.

I always had crummy gear growing up, Topcons and Konicas mostly, but I learned to get the most out of them, if I can say that humbly.

Anyway the few decent minutes of light were soon over and I was sitting there amiably chatting with a couple of nice photographers from Santa Fe and Santa Rosa when Frenchy, still sore at my upbraiding him publicly, says, with the most petulant sneer,"If you guys would stop talking and move I could take my pictures."

Zoot alors! I pretty much lost it, I honestly can't remember going off like this before during a shoot.

"Did you just say, if we stopped talking and moved, you could take a picture?"

My fuse was lit. I was ready to fire. After his previous poor behavior he was now trying to save face by being a total dick. 

I suggested that my gallic friend commit a physically impossible sexual act with himself and I said it at the highest of possible decibels. The Frenchman scurried off in surrender, toting his precious Hasseblad with him. Amscré!

I apologized to my newfound cronies and they laughed and said that they were with me on this one. I drove back to the Lakeview and checked out, had a great and filling breakfast before I left, something I tried to do every day of this trip.

I headed for the Tioga Pass which was just opened back up May 27th. 

It was so beautiful through there.

I showed the Ranger my Senior Pass and they checked my reservation and I entered Tuolomne Meadows and the park. Just incredibly pretty.

I got to Yosemite and it was another story.

Even with the attendance restrictions thee place was mobbed, mostly by people from India. They seemed to want to get selfies of themselves in front of every conceivable rock and sign. Lots of posing. 

Pretty girls but my vacation in nature and solitude was clearly over.

The valley was jammed. I drove up to Glacier Point and there were so many people there all three parking lots were full. I could have stuck around but it is a sacred spot to me because of my father and my history there and I decided to leave instead. 

I did stop at the next viewpoint and grabbed a shot of Half Dome. But my vacation was officially over, with one more day to drive home.

It was a great and much needed road trip. I discovered a lot and had a lot of fun, saw a lot of beautiful sights. Cancer cystoscopy check tomorrow, wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

What am I?


I have this most amazing plant growing in my yard. Have had it for years but it has never done this before. Beautiful pink orange center. I don't know what it is or when I got it but I think it was about seven years ago. Absolutely striking, have never seen anything like it.

Each frond is about three feet long so it is approximately six feet wide. 

There is a pup offshoot that is quite large with no interior color. I have a nice location to plant the offspring so don't even ask...

Renée thought it might be a puya at first and then a hechtia. I do not know. I have seen hechtias with pink flowers but not pink stalks. 

It resembles both an agave, an aloe and a bromeliad. Totally not my field of expertise.

Anybody have a clue?


postscript - the brilliant Jeff Chemnick had no problems figuring this one out, took less than a minute - Bromelia balansae aka "heart of flame"- thank you! I guess I have a flower stalk to look forward to!


I would also like to boast about the Cape Chestnut tree outside my store, just rounding into peak bloom. Do trees get much prettier than this?



Tweedy - Flowering

Down the road

After visiting Crowley and Convict Lakes on the beautiful second morning, I decided to cruise through Mammoth. 

I thought about hiking back to Rainbow Falls again but it was awful hot and the memory of hiking with all of my equipment in the heat with Ken made me give up the idea.

Besides, Devil's Postpile was closed and I was not sure that the trails were even open to Rainbow.

I tooled around with the windows down, enjoying the beautiful clean mountain air and gentle breezes, eventually taking the scenic loop.

I had never been to Inyo Craters before and decided to hike up to them. 

The trail was not very well marked but I eventually found them after backtracking and visited two of them, one beautiful turquoise, one rather dingy dark green.

I talked to various people including three birders who were happy to have spotted an olive warbler in the trees and spent a brief moment discussing native woodpeckers with me.

Beautiful morning in the mountains. I wonder how many Mammoth skiers ever even see the place in the late spring or summer?

I walked back to the trailhead and returned over the rough dirt road to the pavement. 

My car is behaving so admirably but I think the next tire change I will go all terrain and it will be even better. I do a lot of driving on the dirt.

I casually drove on up the road, no real plans or itinerary except stopping and shooting nearly every lake and pretty mountain ridge I came across.

This might be June Lake, I don't rightly remember but I believe so.

Too much beauty, I might have lake overload. Need to visit a few sleazy ghettos, stat.

I drove up the long and fairly gnarly road to the Parker Lake Trailhead. I think Los Angeles owns and gets some of its water from this lake. Make sure you have a high clearance vehicle on this road. 

I was pretty tired and didn't walk to the lake. Crowded with people and I wanted my space.

You do get a nice view of Mono Lake from up there.

I drove up to Bridgeport and went to the market to get a sandwich. It was a long wait, the affable girl behind the counter said it took about six minutes to make one, her record was five and there were thre ahead of me. 

She suggested I walk around town, visit the tackle shop or something. I quickly lost interest, an emotion evidently shared by the surly older woman at the register with the ugly and somewhat butch tattoos on her forearm.

Afterwards I had a decision to make, Walker, Bodie or Twin Lakes. I called a friend and he texted me, definitely the latter. Very pretty up there for sure.

I drove back towards my hotel, the pretty nice Lakeview Lodge in Lee Vining. The I saw the sign for Bodie. What the hell, why not? I have a definite need to want to find out what is around the next corner.

I drove back to the motel, blown away at my good fortune in shooting the couple, all of us simultaneously traveling back and forth in time.

Took a nap and then eventually left to grab the sunset at Mono Lake from the South Tufa beach. You really never know what you will get at the lake, unfortunately, the light and clouds never came together for us this evening.

I would be bummed but I can't be as I have nailed it there before and will nail it again there one day, I do believe.

Did my best with what I had to work with.

I went back to the hotel and had dinner, then took a nap. Got up about 10:30 and decided to see if I could get a good milky way pic from the overlook. I couldn't with my 24 -70mm. Didn't dial in the focus properly, squibbed it. Here it is, warts and all.

Pros never show their failures. So this either confirms my amateur status or shows my zen like emotional detachment. I'm cool either way.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Garth Hudson

Sierra Trek continued...

My back is out, lower left sacral musculature screaming and gnawing for the last ten days or so. Too much sitting I am sure. I saw a chiropractor before my trip, didn't really cure the problem.Thought all the hiking would fix me but I was wrong.

So you will have to excuse me if my trip recount is a bit disjointed and scatter dashed. Not to mention brief. Medicine not working.

So last we knew I was traveling up the Eastern Sierras and I had some time to kill. I was going to meet up with two buds who were taking their motorcycles to Susanville, Jamie and Bill. They were an hour and a half back and we had loose plans to meet at a barbecue in Big Pine, the Copper Table, for lunch.

I ended up going to the Alabama hills, west of Lone Pine, famous as a movie locale for umpteen westerns. 

Lots of cool rock formations and I chance to take a nice hike and stretch my legs and back.

It was a perfect June day, not too hot, fresh clean air. 

Photographers like clouds but we are not as Gandalf would say, weather masters so sometimes we have to make do with just blue skies.

Afterwards I drove ten miles up the mountain to Glacier Lodge, near the most southern surviving glacier  in the Sierra Nevada. Glacier Lodge has cabins that were built in 1932 and is situated on Big Pine Creek. Very pretty area. 

The Glacier is called Palisades and there is a 19 mile up to it passing seven lakes if you care to make the trip.

I did not.

I did hike up to a pretty waterfall and take some shots however.

Place was beautiful and just what the doctor ordered.

Met the guys for vittles, as good as the write up.

Afterwards. I headed up to the Bristlecone pines.

Last time I was there with Ken I had altitude problems, no problem at all this time. Probably because I did three hikes at altitude the first day.

I went to the Visitors Center and was told that there was no fee for seniors. I asked if she wanted to see my pass and to my chagrin, she said no. Seriously? How come I still feel like a kid? Guess I don't look like one any more.

I drove the 14 miles on very rough road to the Patriarch Grove. There was a sign  that mentioned that there were no services and that the road ate tires with its sharp teeth. I am about due for tires and was a little worried but the Mazda CX 5 awd handled the road beautifully.

There was a large group of Los Angeles area photographers out there, ready to spend the night taking astro shots. They had a moderator on a walkie talky telling people what to do. So not my thing, artistry in groups. I flee.

I like the place though. Hopefully will come back one day with a wide angle prime lens and take some night shots over the trees.

It was a long and careful drive back in the evening. 

Watching my gas gauge and the local deer. 

People are motivated by different things. I am an explorer and new information processor. My buddy Big Mike used to call me Charge because I always pushed it, had to take a big bite out of the apple and move forward.

I don't think I have changed.

One of the reasons I mostly travel alone is because normal people who do not share my obsession don't really feel like keeping up and I totally get it. No problem with Leslie or Ken, that is about it.

Got back to my hotel, had a decent night's sleep at the Motel 6 and got up early the next morning to cruise up the base of the Sierras and hit every lake and new road I could find. 

First stop was an old friend, Convict Lake. I experimented with a bunch of new grad filters there, to limited success.

to be continued...