December is one of the best months of the year to hike in our local mountains. Sierra and I headed to the Trabuco Canyon Trail last Sunday. I rarely come across anyone at the trailhead when I get here just before sunrise, which in my opinion is one of the best times to go. Since Trabuco Canyon runs east/west, you can get some great light early whereas Holy Jim stays shaded until late morning.
The toyon is in fruit and the trees tend to be more photogenic in the winter. I tend to try to hike this trail right after a little rain storm comes through. We had about a 4,000 foot overcast cloud layer through the west half of the canyon, but an indefinite ceiling with fog and mist in the eastern part of the canyon about a mile east of the trailhead.
I usually blow past the high desert while driving up Highway 395 on my way to the Eastern Sierra. Lately I've stopped to take a closer look. I've driven past the old hangars many times, but finally decided to stop and take a few photos late one night a while back. The old hanagars had a lot of character but I had to shoot these two Cessna 140s through a chain link fence. My lens was too large to avoid the chain link so I used a large aperture to essentially blur it to the point it is invisible. If you shoot it with a small aperture, the chain links will be visible in your shot - not good.
Old truck, Kramer Junction
The shot above was from the adjacent antique yard called Kramer Antiques. About 20 miles or so north is the old mining town of Randsburg. The turnoff is just north of Johannesburg and the town is about a mile west of 395. Randsburg started out in the 1890s as a mining camp and was at its heyday by the end of the century. Now it's a "living ghost town." There are a number of of original building in town and a few that look like they were installed later for the tourist.
I made a quick stop at Charlies Ore House before heading on to Red Rock Canyon State Park which is about 15 miles west of Randsburg at Highway 14, and then headed home.
...to head into the canyons. This is the time of year I become an evangelist for our local fall colors. Again, Vermont it ain't. But it's close by, and barring a Santa Ana wind, the temps are comfortable. Sierra and I headed to the Trabuco Canyon trail last Sunday when we had the drizzle and low overcast. The moisture after a rain or drizzle saturates the colors and is the best time to go, particularly for photography.
Trabuco Canyon trail from the trailhead to the West Horsethief "Y" is an easy 3.5 mile out and back with less than an 800 feet total elevation gain. If you are looking for a bit longer hike, I suggest staying to the right at the "Y" which is the continuation of Trabuco Canyon trail and hiking it to Main Divide Road, an 8 mile out & back with a 2,000 foot elevation gain. Some like to do the loop back north and return via West Horsethief, but I prefer the scenery on the less-exposed TC trail.
This trail is considerably less crowded than Holy Jim trail, although you won't be alone on weekends generally. This is a terrific mountain biking trail and you are almost sure to see a few bikes no matter what time of day you hike. Be careful not to misjudge the amount of time to hike the full length as the days become short; it gets very dark in this canyon and difficult to hike if you forgot the flashlight.
When I photograph a popular national park such as Bryce Canyon, I prefer to get shots that are different from the standard shots from the popular lookouts. You definitely need an establishing shot such as the one above to give the people who have never been to the park a sense of the overall character.
Although most of the time I'm shooting early or late in the day (or at night), you can make good use of the harsh mid-day light if you expose for the highlights and let the shadows go completely black as in the photo above.
Although all of these shots were taken during coventional photography hours, I almost always try to time my trips sometime between the moon's first quarter and the third quarter so I can get some night shots which will be a topic of another post on Bryce Canyon.
It's been a tradition for years to come out to the RSM lake on July3rd to lay out a blnket to ensure a good spot for the firework show. When I first moved to RSM in 1987, it wasn't necessary. You could bring your blanket 15 minutes before the show and get a great spot. I think that ended in the 1990s.
I try to get to the Balboa peninsula at least once every couple of months since there is plenty to photograph. Get there before sunrise when the light is good, and you can leave before it gets too crowded. I tend to leave at about 8am when they start enforcing the parking meters.