One of the most interesting hikes we did at Yosemite was the short hike to Mirror Lake from Yosemite Valley. My friends Aaron, Lorie and I woke up at 4:45 am to make the short trek so that we could be at the lakes at sunrise. We hiked for about a mile and we came to what we thought was a creek that had a sign saying it was mirror lake. Based on some pictures we saw in a Yosemite photo book which depicted a large and wonderful deathly calm lake we were absolutely positive that the sign was a mistake. We kept trekking down the stony path for another 30 minutes until we came to a dead-end. Realizing our mistake we back trekked to the Mirror Lake creek. When we got back we realized that you had to actually follow the creek around and there were parts that the lake formed nicely.
We came to one interesting part of the lake formation where the mountains and sky seemed to have a perfect mirror image in the lake. There was this duck that was there floating when we got there. Aaron and I rushed for our cameras to capture the floating duck on the lake – the duck would appear on the lake where the mirror image of the mountains would be on the surface of the water but it would not be in the sky above. Well the duck got scared and swam off. We were disappointed. Aaron and Lorie left for a little bit and I continued to snap away trying to find the perfect image. It was hard because we were there too early – the sun was not light enough to light up the trees and landscape close to us, but it was too bright and would wash out the sky if we turned the exposure too high. All of sudden the duck swam back towards me, and got into exactly the position that I wanted. I snapped away, trying to capture a nice image. I did finally get an ok image, not tremendous but enough to satisfy what we were looking for.
Photography requires a lot of patience and you never know what you are going to get when you go out taking photos. It’s oftentimes not really up to you, its up to mother nature.
A few months ago, I convinced my nephew Charlie to let me take some photographs of him in San Diego’s notorious Chicano Park. For those of you not from San Diego, Chicano Park is located underneath the Coronado Bay Bridge and is home to the worlds largest collection of outdoor murals. The park is dedicated to the hispanic heritage, whose people make up a large part of the San Diego population.
The park area was originally known as Logan Heights and was formed by Mexican settlers that were trying to escape the Mexican Revolution. Over the years, the primarily hispanic neighborhood was decimated by the creation of bridges (Coronado), highways (The 5) and lots of industrial buildings. It stirred up a lot of resentment between the hispanic people that lived in the area and the City Council.
The San Diego City Council promised the community a park but instead secretly planned on building a parking lot. On April 22 1970, a boy named Mario Solis noticed bulldozers in the area where the park stands today and started knocking on doors to get the neighbors to start protesting. He was successful in getting a large congregation of people to go to the park. They ended up staying there and protesting for 12 days. The result of their effort was the development of Chicano Park and it is a place where hispanics of all countries congregate each weekend for BBQ’s, Events and to just hang out with friends and family. It is truly a remarkable place.
I like to photograph in Chicano Park because of the authenticity of the place, and because of the brightly colored murals that provide and urban and unique setting.
I read an interesting article about a photographer that used flashlights instead of on flashes to lighten up subjects. The basic concept was that he would put his camera on a tripod, turn the shutter speed very low and then move the flashlight around to lighten up those areas that he wanted to expose.
I took my camera, tripod a a huge flashlight (25mm candle power) to Scripps Pier in La Jolla (after sunset) and begin to try out the idea. In about 30 minutes I had some pretty good shots that I was really happy with. I basically set my shutter speed to around 20 seconds, ISO to 200 and then did long exposures right down the pier into the water. There was a double benefit to the slow shutter speed. Not only was I able to smooth out the water (so it looks really calm), but I was able to light up pretty much the whole pier so that it appeared to be glowing gold.
They say that John Muir is largely responsible for bringing attention to Yosemite Valley and eventually convincing people to turn it into a national park. Well it is a national treasure and once you visit Yosemite you think of when and how you can return to see more of the beauty that you left behind. I was a little surprised a the length of the drive from San Diego to Yosemite. Yes I ended up stopping in a few places like San Luis Obisbo and San Jose for an evening but my trek up there by car took 3 days. It was well worth it. With my camera in hand I found lots of interesting things to photograph.
I didn’t actually get as many amazing photos as I would have expected. Well we ended up hiking up half dome which was far scarier and far harder than I would have imagined prior to committing to the hike. I vowed when I got to flat ground never to do it again. The best places I think to photograph in Yosemite were mirror lake and the Yosemite Valley itself. Not all the best photos are at sunrise, in fact sunset is better and the case of Mirror Lake the photos get best between 8 and 10 am in the summer. The photos could get even better in the winter because they lake fills up much higher given you pristine and still mirror images of half dome and other peeks in the area.
Having just quit my job from a company that I created with a partner and then sold to a larger company, I found myself with an extraordinary amount of time on my hands. More leisure time than I have had since I left college and back then I was quite handy at wasting hours on end writing silly songs on my guitar. I had batted around the idea of driving up the coast to see my friend Aaron and then hiking half dome up in Yosemite for quite some time since I had seen another friend of mine post some pictures of his triumphant ascent of the rock. Given my fun-employment status I decided to drive up this week.
On the way up the coast yesterday I had a chance to see something else I have wanted to see for a long time – Big Sur. Big Sur actually means “Big South” in Spanish, and if you have ever been up to this part of the central coast you will understand why. The cliffy coastline offers the most dramatic views off the West Coast. Stunning sheer cliffs drop of into the massive blue sea. The two lane highway is a stretch of 40+ miles of hair pin turns with the most amazing views you can find in California. Bixby Bridge is towards the north end of the drive and it is probably the most oft photo’d bridge on the drive. I always hate taking pictures of monuments or places that you would expect but I feel compelled for some reason. One good photographer I read about advised that you should always try to find something different when you are photographing something that is very common – a different angle, different colors, something unusual in the shot. When I was at Bixby Bridge, I just happened to notice a couple, holding each other and enjoying the moment. I decided to use them as my subjects and let Bixby Bridge in Big Sur act as the backdrop. The photo is not great but it did help me capture the monument and something different about the picture that might make it more interesting.
She is a great girlfriend and she loves pictures, I guess that is a bonus because I follow her around everywhere snapping photos of her all day long. Her name is Tu. Not one, not three, but Tu (2). Everyone likes it when she says that. In fact everyone remembers her name, they never forget it. I guess everyone needs something like that. I always imagine telling people my name is Frank Sinatra when they meet me. I imagine if I said that they would never forget my name.
I guess I take so many pictures of Tu because she is so beautiful and because she always has this really nice warm smile. Her mom once asked me who did I think she looked like, her or her father. Well I thought she had her mom’s eyes and her dad’s smile. Her dad has this huge smile, and I think she has it Tu. One great thing about Tu is that she said she will never fake smile, so if you ever see a picture of her and she is smiling, it is because she is genuinely smiling. I think I have thousands of pictures of her smiling. I think it is pretty great to have a girlfriend that is so understanding and let’s me take so many pictures of her.
My nephew Geno is one of the most interesting people to photograph and that is why he is the subject for many of my portraits. He has so much personality and life that it really shines through when I take a photograph of him. The challenge is that Geno is constantly in motion so I need to keep in constant motion to keep up with him. Photographing kids is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you can do in photography and well, Geno is a great example of that.