Friday, October 18, 2013

Classic Fall Foliage in Mono County - Eastern Sierra Nevada

Last weekend, we passed by Mono county on our trip to South Lake Tahoe for fall color. Even though we didn't plan anything for June Lake and Lee Vining area but we were in for a big treat. Every other year, we always miss the peak of the season in this area. We either went too early or too late. But this year, it was just perfect. It was a cool late Sunday afternoon with a lot of cloud in the sky. First we stopped at Conway Summit and the viewpoint was just off the Highway 395. You can take this photo even from your car and that was an amazing thing. We loved how the patchy clouds create different light and dark area on the ground. Then we drove off to June Lake loop.

Colorful quaking aspen fall foliage in Eastern Sierra Nevada June Lake Loop near Mammoth Lakes in Mono County Southern California.
By the time we got to June Lake loop, it was already late. Most of the road was in the shade already. However, it was the best time to photograph the area. When foliage is at the peak, we find it more colorful in soft-light or in the shade. In addition, there was not a lot of traffic at all. So it wasn't hard to take photo in the middle of the road (I'm not recommending anyone to try this, please be careful).
These photos were taken only last week (10/13/2013). So, it is still peaking right now. It's not too late to go this weekend.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Uncooperative Weather over Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe

Raining in Emerald Bay South Lake Tahoe California in Black & White
We arrived at Emerald Bay viewpoint around 6:45am on a cold Sunday autumn. There was a lot of cloud in the sky, but we hoped that maybe it would break apart during sunrise just enough to give us some magical light. But it never did. We saw about two or three other photographers at the viewpoint hoping for the same miracle. It was cold and the breeze was freezing literally.  Instead of keep searching for the color in the sky, we focused on an approaching storm. The cloud formation was really interesting and it started to rain hard in the middle of the lake. We know that we couldn't get much color out of an overcast stormy weather so we just went with the flow and anticipated images would be converted to black&white. It was our first time visiting lake Tahoe and it was a fantastic experience even though we didn't see the sunrise that we hoped for. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Monsoonal sunset at Corona Del Mar, Newport Beach

Monsoonal sunset with cloud at corona del mar, newport beach, orange county
The annual monsoonal moisture brings a lot of cloud to Southern California lately. It's hot and humid but the sunset is rewarding.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Milky Way and Perseid Meteor at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree and the milky way, desert at night
Saturday night was a wonderful night for us at the Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. Normally, we would never think about going to this place in the middle of summer because of the heat. But we decided to go to catch a glimpse of the Perseid meteor shower. As city dwellers, we don't get to see starry sky much because of the light pollution. And in summer, we often get thick marine layer which makes it even harder if not impossible to see the meteor shower. So we packed our things and went to the national park which is just little more than 2 hours drive. The August weather in the park was very pleasing. It was cool and a little chilly but really comfortable. The park was kind of crowded for this time of the year. Most of them were either photographers and/or stargazers. We saw so many stars and shooting stars although it was not really completely dark like Death Valley NP. But it was fantastic regardless. We made some wishes too! I'm not a big fan of star trails images so I didn't take any. To me, I like photos of stars the way we see it with our eyes, as bright dots in the sky. We got good photo of the milky way and some of the meteor. Although we saw a lot of it, we didn't capture as many. We'll definitely going to see this event again next year.

Joshua Tree and the Milky Way, starry night in the Mojave desert

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Foggy San Francisco Skyline during Sunset

It was a extreme windy and cold late afternoon on Twin Peak viewpoint in San Francisco. The wind was so gusty that it almost knocked my camera off the ground. Luckily, I held onto it tightly. The fog was moving in fast and covering the whole city. From the viewpoint, the city was no where to be seen. The visibility was just a few hundreds feet at most. So we packed up and left the viewpoint. On our way down the hill, the view started to get clearer. We stopped at a small pull out on the way down. And luckily, the sun broke through the fog and lit up the San Francisco skyline. The way a warm and golden sunlight illuminated the tall buildings was just magical.

Lost in Time at The Redwood Empire

Foggy Redwood in mountain
Finally after years of dreaming, we went to the Redwood Empire in Northern California and it was more spectacular than we'd ever imagined. Although it was a dry winter down in Southern California, it was relatively wet up there. We could see many wildflowers this place along highway 101 (aka The Redwood Highway). The freeway traversed the redwood forest including some old groves. It rained (not too hard) and it made the forest even more special. Fog and low clouds were hugging the trees. The rain washed away all the dusts and turned the forest into a deep emerald green color. Traveling on the freeway, we just wished that the forest would just stretch out into infinity.
We took a detour on Avenue of The Giants (highway 254) which going through the Humboldt Redwood State Park. The park was amazing. We drove under the canopy of redwood trees which claimed the title the tallest trees on Earth. Parking on the highway, yet we could only hear the sound of rain drops and birds chirping. The breeze was a little chilly, and we could smell a scent of pine in the air. We sat there for a while, lost in thoughts.
redwood forest panoramic view
Visiting the park, we felt like time had stopped here long ago. Hiking underneath these giant trees, it felt as if we were in the age of the dinosaurs. It was not just the redwood trees, but also ferns and shamrocks covered ground along with many other deciduous trees and vines made the whole place special. The serenity and tranquility cleared our minds of all the worries in life. We loved this place so much that we wished we could move here some day. We felt proud and appreciated all those who had worked so hard to protect these treasures for us and generations to come. Without their effort, we wouldn't have a chance to visit these places today. You could still see sign of logging in the early days. The American idea of national parks is truly the greatest gift to nature lovers like us.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trinidad Bay - A Gem of California Northern Coast

Trinidad State Beach - Trinidad Bay - Pewetole Island
Pewetole Island - Trinidad State Beach
Over the Memorial weekend, we took a trip to the northern coast of California. The drive was long but the beautiful scenic highways turned it into the best road trip ever. On Sunday, we arrived at Trinidad Bay, a small state beach about 20 miles North of Eureka. Located right in the bay, Pewetole Island is one of the most iconic places in the northern coast. It looks somewhat similar the famous island in Olympic National Park of Washington state. We explored the area while waiting for sunset. But the arriving storms didn't seem to cooperate. Luckily, we got some cloud and decided to take the photo in black and white. It was still little bright at the time so we had to stack a polarizer filter with a 3-stop ND filter to bring the exposure time to around 8 seconds in order to smooth out the raging waves. We hope you enjoy the photo and share some of our feelings from the trip. We will definitely come back here some day and this time we'll spend a lot more time in the area.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Little Bit of Purple

lavender flower blooming close up with hue of colors

It's just a little bit spring left over in Southern California. This spring is pretty short due to lack of rain in the winter and many heat-waves early in the year. Wildflowers are parched early in March. You can only find some sight of spring in local gardens or farm where rain is not really contribute much. I always like lavender flowers ever since reading about it in books or story especially this one - Royal Velvet Lavender. It's such a beautiful name, isn't it. Even in a local farm, this year lavender doesn't bloom as much. The plants are much smaller and the bloom is more scattered. I cannot believe it is this dry this early in year. I think I should make the rain dance now even if it's still early.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Shasta Cascade

Mossbrea Waterfalls - Shasta Cascade
Cleaning up my email, I've found some old email from a group of friends regarding about the trip we took 4 years ago back in 2008. It was around this time, and we headed to Shasta Cascade region located North of California. I know there are some photos that I have marked but for some reason I haven't have a chance to take a look at them. I almost forgot about them until today. Sometimes it's good to dig through your "trash" to find treasures lying around. 
Shasta cascade is a special place in California. It boasts numerous of lakes and waterfalls. The waterfalls in this region isn't as large as Yosemite's. However, they're spectacular nonetheless. The Mossbrea falls is a small waterfall but it's a special one in California. It's not tall but it cascades more than 60 feet long running through moss-covered wall. In wet year, the fall is most amazing in early spring after a wet winter. Late in summer, it becomes just a few trickles.
McArthur Burney Falls State Park
The most famous waterfall in this region is McAruthr Burney waterfalls. It's about 130 feet tall. It's not the largest or the tallest one in California but it is the most beautiful. Most people take photo to show the grand-beauty of the whole waterfall. I want to try something different by zooming closer. Still one can see the magnificent of this natural treasure.

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Love for Outdoor

fire on the sky at mono lake tufas, eastern sierra
Sunrise Mono Lake - Easter Sierra
My wife asks me "how come there are people who don't enjoy and appreciate a beautiful landscape!" At first, I don't think anyone can ignore the nature beauty that mother Earth has blessed upon us. But then I realize there are such people exist. The discussion takes me back to earlier year when I first embraced photography as a hobby. Growing up in a city all of my life, I rarely had a chance to travel anywhere. I didn't get to witness those beautiful sunrise with colorful clouds except in post card and prints or on the internet. To me, they were just a product of photographers' manipulation. "There is no way that could have been real," often told myself, until I took a trip to Mono Lake. I still remember as if it was just yesterday.  After 6 hours of driving, I arrived at Lee Vining on the Thanksgiving afternoon. Staying there for the night, the next morning around 4am, I drove the Mono Lake. It was my first time here and having to find my way in the dark was not at all fun. Luckily, I found the parking and headed to the shore of the lake. I tumbled around looking clueless because I didn't know where to start. As the dawn approaching, I could see clearer. It was a going to be a stormy morning according the weather in which I didn't check prior to this trip. I lost hope for any decent photo (based on my standard at the time). But as the sun rising up, I looked up and saw the whole sky lit on fire. It was the most dramatic sunrise I had seen. It was beautiful beyond any words could describe. I could only take a few shots before the color disappeared completely. It was a dull morning overall except for that short magical moment. The jackpot I took back from this trip is a beautiful photo that I still treasure to this day. To me right now, it may not be a technical perfect nor great in term of composition. Yet, it's a proud photo that is a real eye-opener to me. Since then, I have seen many spectacular sunrise and sunset. But still, the image of this moment burned deepest in my soul.  Now, I have my wife with me on every photo-expedition-trip. We can share these moments together. Our souls seem to merge into a single being upon gazing into a beautiful landscape. Now, I'm a believer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Convict Lake - Peaceful Place Despite Its Name

Convict Lake Sunrise - Eastern Sierra Nevada

Out of all places in California, we love Eastern Sierra mountain range the most. It has world renown Yosemite National Park, the iconic Mono Lake tufas, the emerald green lake Tahoe, and many more breath-taking locations. Convict lake is also nested in the Sierra range. It's a relatively small lake surrounded by granite mountains. Early in the morning, the rising sun would lit the mountain giving us a gorgeous alpenglow. We were here late in May; yet it was still snowing hard. We got around 8 inches of snow the day before. But the following morning, the sky was clear and the breeze was freezing cold. It was really easy to access this lake. About 10 minutes from Mammoth Lakes town, we drove here and the vantage point in the photo above was literally next to the parking lot. Besides some people fishing, we were the only photographers in the area. So we didn't have to fight for a vantage point with other fellow photographers.

Orange County Beaches - A Treasure Closer to Home

Corona Del Mar Arch Rock - Newport Beach, California

Low Tide at Victoria Beach - Laguna Beach, California

Last Light on Yosemite Horse Tail Falls (Firefalls)

Classic shot of the horsetail "fire" waterfalls in Yosemite 2013. It's a relatively dry winter so there is not much water. We are lucky to witness it anyway.