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Autumn Sunrise, Mono Lake California 1998 Bristlecone Pine and Moon, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California Old Barber Shop, Calico California Soap Tree Yucca, White Sands, NM Half Dome from Sentinel Dome Mono Lake Evening Aspen, Lassen County, CA


Autumn Sunrise, Mono Lake
(click photo to enlarge) 

This is part of the third of a series of photos I made at about the same place each October from 1994-1996.  The first shot in 1994 was very good and I believe the equal of this except with a different color palette.

My second series shot here in Oct., 1995 suffered from flat light that morning.  I never even bothered to scan or print any of them.  This is from the 1996 series, probably shot on Oct. 5.   Of the 3 years I trekked to South Tufa on early October mornings I had great light in two of them.

I was an attendee of a photo workshop in Lee Vining run by Stuart Scofield through the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension.  From the 1980s to at least 2008 Stuart ran photo workshops.  At one point during each workshop we all trekked down to the South Tufa area to photograph the sunrise.

I set my alarm incorrectly so I got a late start that morning.  I slept in at least an extra half hour.  I threw on my clothes, picked up the workshop attendee riding with me who was also running late, and off we sped into the darkness from Lee Vining to South Tufa, about 10 miles distant.

It was cold as I parked the car, and the horizon was brightening with the coming dawn.  I bundled up against the weather, loaded myself up with gear, and set off toward the point of the shore where I wanted to greet the dawn.  I finally got there.  I began to set up my shot, but I couldn’t see well.  It was still too dark to see anything up close.  I turned on a small flashlight and at least half a dozen photographers nearby started screaming at me to turn off the light!  I had no idea they were there!  Off went the light and I continued to set up by feel.  Still not ready to shoot I became more and more alarmed as the horizon became more and more colorful.

Then I found the camera wasn’t loaded with film!  It seemed to take forever to load the film and I thought I had lost the best light.  Finally ready I quickly shot off a roll of 10 images using various exposures around f 16.  This is one of the shots.  It is about a 2-4 second exposure.  Most of the photos on the roll are it’s equal.

Photography is a strange beast.  Sometimes you get nothing.  Sometimes you get it all.

This was submitted twice to the Mono Lake Committee for consideration for their calendar.  The first time it was rejected, the second time it was accepted.  It became the September photograph for the 1999 Mono Lake Committee Calendar.  It was also 1 of 20 photographs accepted for the Mono Lake Committee’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition.  It was on display at the Committee’s office in Lee Vining, CA. during September and October, 1998.

This was shot on Fuji Velvia film, Pentax 67 medium format camera, 75mm lens, with a skylight filter.  The filter was unnecessary except as a protection for the lens.

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Bristlecone Pine and Moon, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California
(click photo to enlarge) 

I first photographed this tree on a visit in 1992 and I could not forget it’s interesting form.  In September, 1994 I attended a photo workshop based out of the UCLA High Altitude lab in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  One evening during my stay I knew the moon was going to be rising.  I remembered the tree and visualized the composition in my mind beforehand.

I was there for an hour as the light became more and more orange, shooting a series of photos with both 35mm and medium format cameras.  As the moon rose higher in the sky I framed it between the branches.

This is one of my best photographs.  It gets compliments from whoever sees it.  I use it as background wallpaper on my computer, favoring this over all my other work.  My only regret is I did not move further back to use a medium or short telephoto lens, which would have yielded a larger moon.

Shot on a tripod with a Hasselblad 501, 6×4.5 film back, 60 mm lens, Fuji Velvia film.  There is no polarizer in use here.  With the sun setting behind me a polarizer would have little useful effect.

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Old Barbershop, Calico Ghost Town
(click photo to enlarge) 

Calico was a booming California mining town during the late 19th  & early 20th centuries.  It is a few miles outside of Barstow, Ca., just north of I-15 on the way to Las Vegas.

Silver ore was mined there.  Walter Knott, the founder of Knott’s Berry Farm, worked there as a young man.  When the mine played out the town practically disappeared.  Later, Mr. Knott made his fortune in Orange County agriculture.  At some point in the 40s or 50s he bought much of the town, dismantled many of the buildings and rebuilt them in Buena Park as the Ghost Town part of Knott’s Berry Farm.  He retained ownership of Calico and developed it into a tourist attraction.  The Calico Mine ride at Knott’s Berry Farm features a reconstruction of the central part of the mine still in existence at Calico.

I first visited Calico in 1957 with my family.  Sometime in the 1970’s Mr. Knott deeded Calico to the County of San Bernardino where it remains a county park and tourist attraction.  You should visit Calico Ghost Town website.  Calico is a few miles outside of Barstow, CA.  If you find yourself in the area Calico is well worth the visit.

This shot was taken in 1997.  I was there with our Boy Scout Troop.  It was late in the afternoon.  I was walking by the barbershop, which has no public access, but is easily viewed through the front windows.  The scene interested me so I put the lens to the glass to avoid any reflections and snapped two frames in quick succession.

Basically this is a “grab” shot and I thought nothing more of it until I got the film from the lab.  A late afternoon sun shining through the back window illuminates the scene.  The colors are warm, and the soft foreground snaps into sharp focus with the chair and the cabinetry.  Props in the near cabinets were probably added by the Knott organization.  The others on the far side of the cabinet seem more genuine to the period.  The photos of this scene were my best of the entire trip.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but this is one of my most popular photographs.  Friends like it, and it has been in at least one show.

Shot hand held with a Canon A2E, 28-105 mm lens, and a skylight filter.

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Soap Tree Yucca, White Sands, NM
(click photo to enlarge) 

This photo of the White Sands area was shot in the morning of Friday, July 15, 2011. I was there with a friend of mine from work, Crawford Kirkpatrick.  He has accompanied me on other trips so his name will appear here and there in my commentaries.

It was very warm out on the sand.  We weren’t carrying any water so we didn’t venture any farther than about a half mile from the car.  This was my second trip of the week to White Sands.  Of the photos I shot during both trips I like this one best.  The white sands and the deep blue sky make a wonderful contrast.  This was shot well into the dunes at about our farthest point away from the car.

I believe this is a Soap Tree Yucca.  It is long after the bloom.  Down on my knees I leaned forward and took a series of these with the fisheye lens.  The front of the lens is only 8 or 9 inches from the plant.  There is a bit of curvature in the horizon as the subject is off center of the lens.  Otherwise it is a bit hard to tell it is shot with the fisheye.  The sky is far bluer at right than at left.  This is because the field of view of the lens is so large.  The sun is just out of the field at upper left.  The sky at upper right is almost 90 degrees away from the upper left.  It is darker because it is less illuminated by the sun.

Shot hand held with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Canon 15mm f2.8 fisheye lens set to f/18, ISO 640, 1/800th of a second.

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Half Dome from the Jeffrey Pine on Sentinel Dome
(click photo to enlarge) 

The Jeffrey Pine on the top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park has been often photographed and is quite famous.  Accessibility to this area is not difficult.  The mile or so hike from the road is not strenuous and can be made by most people.

I was there in one late afternoon in May, 1994 with my older son Aaron.  I wanted to shoot a photo of the famous pine that was different than anything I had seen to date. I hoped that when we got there an inspiration would dawn on me because I had absolutely no idea of what I was going to do for a composition before hand.

It had been raining in Yosemite the few days before and the sky in the east was still cloudy.  We arrived at the pine in the late afternoon.  I immediately liked the texture of the bark and the wood.  I also liked the look of Half Dome in the distance.  With the pine as a strong foreground subject I realized I needed an ultra wide angle lens for my shot.  The widest I had with me was a Leica 24mm f2.8 lens on an R5 body.  I was shooting handheld, I had brought no tripod, so exposure time and depth of field became a serious concern.  As I recall the exposure time was about 1/30th of a second.  I had the aperture ring set to a hyper focal distance so I could get depth of field from just in front of me out to infinity.  The wood at the very bottom of the photograph is a little soft in focus, but the transparency offers a good print up to 20” x 30”.

The pine had been alive until about 1969.  Its remains fell in the early 2000’s.  This composition is no longer possible and may be unique.  As of the time I shot it I had never seen another composition like it, and have not seen one since.

Shot hand held with a Leica R5 body, 24mm f2.8 lens, KR 1.5 warming filter.

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Mono Lake Evening
(click photo to enlarge) 

I was passing through Lee Vining, CA on my way to Tacoma, WA for a job there.  The evening of October 15, 2010 I set up my gear near the parking lot just off of Highway 395 to the west of the visitor center.  A few people were there at times walking in and out of my composition.  It was chilly, winter was coming to the eastern Sierra.

I was set up well before sunset and chronicled the fading light from this spot.  At one point another photographer approached me.  We began to talk.  As I made my exposures we and had a very nice conversation about photography.  His name is Rob Bohning, he shoots professionally and has an excellent website at

As I made my exposures I was very concerned with depth of field.  Even on the tripod the wind made the camera unsteady, so I had my bag hanging off of it for added stability and to lower the center of gravity.  Ultimately I settled on ISO 200 to get an exposure time I thought I could live with.  At the time I was still new to digital photography and leaned on my experience with film cameras to tell me what to do.  If I had this to do all over again I would probably shoot a few at ISO 400 or even ISO 640.

By the time the light had faded I packed my gear and we both left the parking lot.  I went to Nicely’s for dinner and left for Oregon the next morning.

Once on the computer I chose this of my various shots as the best.  I had used a 2 stop soft edge split neutral density filter to darken the sky and bring down its light.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.  I had to lighten the foreground another 2 stops digitally to bring the colors into balance.  A 4 stop split neutral density filter does exist, but I didn’t have one with me.  This is the first time I recall ever needing a filter that strong.

Canon 5D Mark II camera set at ISO 200, 24-105mm f4 lens, 60mm focal length, f/11, 1/5th of a second exposure with a 2 stop soft edge split neutral density filter.

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Aspen, Lassen County, CA
(click photo to enlarge) 

October 16, 2010 I was driving from Lee Vining, CA to Klamath Falls, OR via any back roads I could find.  Out of Susanville I got onto Highway 139 heading north.  Somewhere on a downhill slope a few miles from Adin, CA I buzzed past an aspen grove & saw this tree standing slightly apart from the rest.  My brief glance showed the colors were great drawing my eye right to them.  I slowed to a stop, turned around, and found a place to park by the road.

This may not be true, but I have found Aspens tend to grow together in clumps, groups, groves, or forests.  This is probably fine for the Aspen, but it makes isolating one a bit more difficult for a photographer.  This tree seemed far enough away from its companions and catching so much sun that it might do well in a portrait.

Close to the tree I put on the fisheye lens.  Without the fisheye it seemed to me there was no other way to really isolate the tree from the rest of the grove.   I think the front of my lens was within 2 feet of the nearest leaf.  I shot 9 bracketing my photos in groups of 3.  This was the last of the 9.  Knowing the fisheye can easily distort vertical or horizontal lines I made sure the vertical center of the tree was in the dead center of my frame.

The depth of field on the lens was not critical.  Frankly, I think a shot on this lens at f/2.8 or f/4 will give a depth of field virtually out to infinity, but I still shot at f/13 to make sure.  A wider aperture with a shorter exposure would probably have been just as successful.

The tree itself must have been 12-15 feet tall, its top is somewhat indistinct in the photo.  Some of the trees behind it are considerably taller, but appear to be lesser in stature because of the quick way size recedes in the lens.  This photo sometimes fools people because it is hard to tell it is shot with a fisheye.  One indication is the curved ground, which was flat, but could have actually been that shape.  The real give away is the tops of the distant trees which lean into the frame.  I suppose if I ever care to I could try to get rid of that distortion.

Finally, keep in mind the extreme angle of view of this lens.  The diagonal from any corner to its opposite is 180 degrees, half of a circle!  It is a rectilinear frame, but distortion is a given.  I love it.  It is the most fun lens I have.

Canon EOS 5d Mark II camera set at ISO 200, 15mm f2.8 Fisheye rectilinear lens, 1/125th of a second at f/13.  Hand held.

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