Sunrise over Eagle Falls
After chasing sunsets all day over Glen Alpine Falls and Lilly Lake I retired to my room in a little motel on the outskirts of the City of South Lake Tahoe. Yes I did consider just sleeping in my truck as I sometimes do, since I only planned on sleeping a few hours. However, after hiking and standing on my feet all afternoon till after dark, I knew I would need a shower and a good night’s sleep; well 5-6 hours of sleep at least.
Just me, and the Sunrise
I have photographed Eagle Falls several times before. Most recently I visited the falls this past winter and made a daring hike down to the lower falls. I just realized I never posted about that excursion. It was quite and experience to say the least. I’m not sure I want to do that again. None-the-less, there had been one item on my Bucket List and that was to photograph the falls at sunrise. Sunset here is much less dramatic if not drab and unremarkable.
I woke up at 3:30am, showered, put on my winter clothes, prepped my camera gear, loaded up the truck and was on the road just after 4:00am. I arrived at the trail head around 4:30am. I was the only soul at the falls. Sunrise was around 5:30am. This gave me enough time to scout my shot. It was dark, with clear skies. After a few minutes my eyes adjusted and could see the stars. It was beautiful. I used Google SkyMap to determine where on the horizon the sun would appear so I can frame my shot to center it’s radiance. I was all setup and ready to go with so much time to spare that I actually took the time to photograph myself. I always forget to do this and thus have no record of ever being there.
Sunrise piercing through the trees
Nothing could have prepared me for the sunrise over Eagle Falls. Nothing. As the sun started to rise the breathtaking beauty all around me just kept intensifying. It was surreal. One thing I love about sunrises is that they tend to last much longer than sunsets. I reflected back to the previous day as I lay on my sofa just before noon and decided all of a sudden that was NOT now I wanted to spend my weekend. Now there I was the following morning, my soul overflowing. My passion fulfilled. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.
I hope you enjoyed the photos and they inspire you to dare to venture out and explore. The shots are unedited and straight out of the camera, as I tend to do these days. This explains the halos and ghosting typical of in-camera HDR images. The camera has less elaborate HDR algorithms. Who has time to tinker with image editors when you could be out there? I typically only edit/process when I’m taking a photo to limited edition print. The two panoramas here will definitely be available in very limited edition print.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
Several weekends ago while Chasing the Sunset over Glen Alpine Falls, I took a break for a late lunch snack a little further upstream at Lily Lake. It was so relaxing to just sit there and take it all in, all of this magnificence, all to myself. No cell phone reception forced me to unplug from technology that has so much invaded every aspect of our lives.
Taking a break from chasing the sunset at Little Lake.
We’ve had record rain and snowfall this year so I wondered what this lake would look like with a little less water – perhaps more like a bog?? I made a note to revisit it later in the summer. Maybe with waders on? An inflatable dingy/boat? A shot from the middle would be beautiful.
I did take a fem moments to give the scene a good photographic treatment. I have yet to process the ultra high resolution panorama, but judging from the looks of these quick and rough shots, it should be a real treat to look at when it is ready. It will most likely be available in very Limited Edition print.
Glen Alpine Falls at Sunset
This time of year my calendar just seems to spontaneously fill up. However several weekends ago I found myself lazying around on the couch all Saturday morning. By noon, I thought to myself “how did this happen” and “why aren’t I out there stealing a piece of beauty to keep for myself?”. Lately I have been on a bit of a waterfall kick. So I grabbed my phone and started searching for waterfalls around Lake Tahoe. Eagle Falls came to mind, but I have shot it during the day and very much wanted to shoot the sunrise there.
Scouting my shot for sunset.
Driving up in the middle of the night just for the sunrise didn’t sound too enticing so I figured I’d look for another good waterfall to capture on that day, spend the night in Tahoe and then capture the sunrise over Eagle Falls. As soon as Glen Alpine Falls popped up on the phone, I knew that was where I would be chasing the sunset.
Glen Alpine Falls
I hurriedly packed for an overnight visit, scoured the internet for a cheap, decent room where I could lay down for a several hours before casing the sunrise. I was on the road within an hour and made it to Glen Alpine around 3:00pm – just the way I like it. I had ample time to explore the general area and plan my sunset shots. It was far more majestic than I had hoped.
With time to spare, I went up to Lily Lake to explore and have a late lunch snack before heading back down for the sunset at the falls. It was a very relaxing day well worth the effort to get out there. I highly recommend it and will be going back to explore the Glen Alpine Trail soon.
This past weekend, I happened to have a free Saturday afternoon/evening. I’ve been wanting to get out and photograph an interesting subject for a while. Something a little unusual. One that came to mind was the Lake Berryessa dam spillway, otherwise known as the “Glory Hole”. Trust me, even I couldn’t come up with such a misplaced name…LOL.
The Glory Hole
Thanks to a recent break in our record drought here in California, most of our reservoirs are overflowing. Lake Berryessa is one of them. However what makes it a point of interest is the overflow spillway just behind the dam. It is the most unusual of designs. It makes for an interesting illusion. This has been in the news and all over social media since the beginning of the year. The rains have stopped and the weather is getting warmer so I thought I should hurry out there and capture it. The lake levels have not reached the spillway in over a decade from my understanding. The level was about 6 inches above the spillway. It must have been quite a sight at it’s peak earlier this year. The drive from Sacramento was pleasant and short. I should have done this sooner. Check the lake levels, and definitely plan a day trip if it is still above the spillway.
Yosemite Valley, Sunrise via Tunnel View
Several weeks ago I made a last minute spontaneous trip down to Yosemite. Finally after severe snow storms for months, the weather cleared up for for almost an entire week. With the forecast looking completely clear the entire weekend, I decided to hit the road early Friday afternoon. After several weather and construction related detours I finally arrived at Yosemite View Lodge after driving about 4 hours.
The lodge is the last stop before you get to the Yosemite Valley park gates, just a few miles up the road. I was tempted to go into the park that night, since it is a 24hr park – one of the best things about Yosemite Valley – however I was worn down by the long drive and felt I might be more productive after some good sleep. Instead I decided to rest, wake up and head into the the valley before sunrise.
I was up by 4am, hit the road shortly after and was in the valley before sunrise. First stop was Tunnel View lookout. I captured two sunsets over the valley from this location last spring when I made my first trip to Yosemite – one of the many trips I have yet to blog about. I wanted to try something different. The sunrise sounded like a beautiful proposition since the valley lies West to East and Tunnel View is located at the Western end.
Little did I know it would far exceed my expectations. It was magic, above and beyond the already majestic landscape. The best part was, unlike most sunrises and sunsets which typically last just about 5-to-15 minutes, this sunrise lasted at least 2 hours. This had to do with the winter sun being further south and it stayed hidden behind the southern mountains most of the early morning. This game me ample time to carefully work through my process and make sure I got a good capture. The shot above is what I was going for and more. It will definitely make it to limited edition print.
Have you been to Yosemite? What was your favorite view?
Jenny light painting with steel wool
Last week my friend Jenny and I were finally able to get together and play with some steel wool. We had been talking about exploring this popular genre of photography for a while now. Since none of us had tried it before, the idea was to get familiar with the nuances and work on technique before we tackle our more ambitious creative ideas. It turned out to be some of the easiest fun I’ve had with photography in a while.
Basic light painting supplies
After some quick googling, I found out it was pretty simple to put together. There are of course way more elaborate ways of doing this but I very much prefer the path of least resistance. This means less time tinkering, and more time practicing photography. All you really need is some steel wool, a wire whisk, some steel wire/cable and a lighter. It turns out I already had all I needed laying around the house.
Our first try
Steel wool burns very fast. We did almost two dozen takes. Each take lasted mere seconds but were a veritable light show, even more so on camera as you can see. I set the Canon 5D Mark III on a tripod. My Model, Jenny, held a candle in front of her face while standing on a predetermined spot. This helped me acquire focus on her in live view. I then switched to Manual Focus, and set my shutter to about 5 seconds. This covered most of the take from start to finish. I would light the wool for her, jump out of the frame and trigger the shutter, using and infra red remote control. We got the hang of things pretty quickly. We are definitely ready for our more creative ideas. I can’t wait!
Molten steel embers/sparks can be very very hot. Although they are generally too small to be of any concern, some larger globs/chunks/drops will break loose and continue burning where ever they land. I kept a water hose close by just in case I had to put one out. I also keep several canisters of fire extinguishers on hand at all times. You cannot be too careful. Please allow ample space and nothing flammable around you.
Constellation Cygnus the Swan – Canon 5DsR + EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II @70mm
I have tried my hand at many a genre of photography but none have humbled me the way astrophotography has. A few weekends ago I happened to be free the same time we had a New Moon. This meant that I could actually have a care-free 24 hours to pack up all my gear and run away somewhere with less light pollution than my backyard. I opted for my good friend Ethan’s place in Auburn. An amazing artist himself, it was refreshing just to catch up with him. Another friend Jeremy came out at the last minute. He’d always wanted to explore Astrophotography so I figured this would be a good opportunity to share what I’ve learned so far.
I stuffed my car full of everything I could think of – my entire telescope and mount setup (read more about that here) as well as my entire photography kit – and headed up the Auburn Hills to Grass Valley. I figured if it turned out to be a good showing, I wanted to be prepared. It was mostly cloudy but the forecast said it should clear up by 10pm, right when the sunset really ends, so I took my chance. Unfortunately the clouds and haze lingered all night especially in the Northern sky where it was darkest. The light pollution from the Sacramento valley was also much worse than anticipated. Combined with the haze it overpowered all but a few of the brightest stars.
Finally around midnight the North Eastern quadrant of the sky cleared up. Due to the weather conditions I was only able to perform a very loose polar alignment as well as a poor 2-star alignment of the Celestron Advanced GT German Equatorial (GE) Mount. This resulted in poor tracking. However poor tracking on a GE mount is always better than a simple tripod. To compensate for this I chose to use the Canon 5D Mark III for its excellent high ISO low noise capabilities. I mounted it (piggy-back) on the telescope and aimed at the clear part of the sky – the Constellation Cygnus. After just a handful of shots I realized that even with the poor alignment, I was still able to do 3 minute (180 second) exposures at ISO-400 without the stars trailing. I knew this was well within the capabilities of the higher pixel density sensor cameras such as the 7D Mark II or even better, the 5DsR. Both just happened to be laying idle in my bag.
I had never tried the 5DsR at astrophotography and very much wanted to see how it performed. I liked how the 7D Mark II did and knew the 5DsR would at least match or exceed it since they have very similar pixel densities. Accounting for about 1 stop exposure difference from the 5D Mark III, I bumped the ISO to 800. Exposure stayed the same at 3 minutes. I was also shooting with the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II which I recently added to my kit. I knew it was tack sharp and would be able to keep up with the 50 megapixel body. Nothing prepared me for what I saw. I only took 4 shots and decided it was good enough.
What you are looking at above is a single 3 minute exposure. Processed from a RAW file with no noise reduction, some color temperature and curve adjustments and a final light mask to help reduce the atmospheric haze. Nothing fancy not even lens correction (you can see some vignetting). The shot has bee downsized to about 1/12th it’s original size. At 70mm the detail is astounding. The light “clouds” are easily revealed to be individual stars. Mind-boggling scale and detail. It’s one thing to see images from the Hubble telescope, but an entirely different experience to see it for yourself.
I’m not sure what took me so long, but it’s safe to say I will be spending several sleepless nights shooting the stars out in the middle of nowhere this summer.