Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A change in programing

Due to some upcoming projects I have underway in the near futureI have had to make a change to my blogging.  I have started a new blog Through the Viewfinder to follow my photography adventures on the trail and elsewhere except at work.  All work discussions will remain here on the Snapshots blog.

Everything at Through the Viewfinder is my own personal content with no connection to the Tracy Press.  Please feel free to follow along with my hiking, aviation and other photography adventures at the new blog site.

Something fishy

Of all the things you would expect to find at the Tracy Animal Shelter a 3-foot long leopard shark isn't one of them.  The fish was found lying in the middle of Chrisman Road early Tuesday morning.

You can read the whole story here and by the time I arrived at the shelter the shark was lying quietly in the freezer to sleep with the rest of the fishes.  Never a dull day in Tracy for sure.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I remember the old days of photography, a fresh roll of Tri-X ,my Nikon FM and a nice sunny day made for some photography adventures.  Digital photography and the high capacity memory cards and live view photography has taken away some of the magic.  Blast away as many frames as you can and look almost instantly to see what your picture looks like.  That anticipation of waiting to see your negatives fresh out of the film developing tank is gone. Almost gone.

Enter the iPhone app 36.  This is a pretty cool idea.  It simulates a single roll of film.  You have 36 frames in black and white to take.  You can't see what the pictures look like until you have finished taking all 36 and even then the camera "develops" the pictures one by one.  This is not a blaze away for instant gratification of your images.  This is old school photography of sorts.

I headed out for this weekend's hike to Round Valley.  I decided to link two trails together for about an mile trip.  I would start out along the Miwok Trail to the Murphy Meadow loop and the finish with a climb along hardy Canyon.  With just my iPhone I would use the 36 app to record the hike.

I have a bunch of photography apps from panorama to Hipsmatic but 36 seemed different.  Not looking at the pictures until you are done with 36 images sounded the most interesting.  I wouldn't be able to check lighting, composition or focus , I would have to go with my gut instinct.

And then there was the fact that I would be limiting myself to 36 exposures.  Sure I could shoot more than one "roll" of film but it was the concept of like the old days, a limited number of frames available.  I would have to be choosy, more deliberate and certainly more careful in my selection of subject material.

I did a pretty good job of conserving my film.  I tried to stay away from the sweeping vistas of the countryside as much as I could and stick with studies of textures and lighting.  Looking back the app does not do the best of jobs with shadow detail but it sort of adds a vintage look.

I finished my last exposure near the end of my hike and then let the iPhone begin the laborious process of developing my shoot.  Honestly they could have made it a lot quicker but I guess they wanted to keep the idea of sending it out to processing  so you couldn't look at the pictures right away.

On the plus side part of the app's coolness is a contact sheet that pops up ready to send to your photo album, Facebook or Twitter account.  It looks a lot like the contact sheets from my black and white days in the darkroom.

Looking back at the hike with the 36 app it really did force me to slow down and think about my pictures more before I took them.  I had to think about which composition and angle worked the best or i would have to sacrifice two or more frames on the same scene, which I had to do a couple of times.

I will use the 36 app more in the future, it is a great way to make yourself slow down and think about your photography.  It would be nice if they could make a version of 36 to simulate a roll of Kodachrome slide film.  That would be a fun time remembering those colorful day behind the lens.

Edge of the storm

With a cold winter storm bearing down on Tracy I headed out after work for a sunset view of the approaching storm.
Thick clouds prevented a good view of the sunset but gulls looking for a roost gave me a great view and perspective of the storm front.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Into the mystic

Every year as the winter descends on the trails I look forward to visit one special place.  I guess you could sort of call it a magical place; a quiet trail hidden away in a canyon among the trees and rocks.  A place where time seems to stand still while I wander the road to take photos.  It may not really be magical but I feel like I do to take a step into the mystic with a hike down the Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop.

Nestled away near the base of the Santa Cruz mountains Uvas Canyon is a short but spectacular hike along the path of Uvas and Swanson creeks.  From the moment you step out of your car in the parking lot you can hear the water tumble and cascade along the rocks nearby.  The trail is fairly easy to navigate and there are several opportunities to get near the creek bed for photographs.  

And that's what this hike is all about, taking photographs.  Where most of my other hikes are adventures on the trail where I take photographs this day is all about the pictures.  Packing my Canon Eos 40D, a 24-70mm 2.8 zoom, a 10-22mm f 4 zoom and 70-200mm f.4 zoom along with a tripod, electronic cable release, spare batteries and memory cards I hit the trail looking for the perfect waterfall.

Right off the bat I knew I would have plenty of waterfalls to choose from.  I started out across from the parking lot in a little area of the creek thick with branches and dead falls from storms long ago.  It is a part of the trail that few go and I was alone with the rushing waters as I set up my camera.

With the sound of the r]water roaring around me it is easy to lose track of time.  I couldn't tell you if I was in this first spot for 10 minutes or half an hour.  Time really does seem to stand still on the trail standing at the edge of the creek.  With he sound of the water droning in my ears i am oblivious to the world around me.  My world is confined to the live view picture I am composing of the waterfall before me.

Thoughts of work, family growing old and the half a dozen other daily decisions that invade my mind are replaced with simpler thoughts.  Shutter speeds and f stops rule my moment along with thoughts of light and shadow.  It is a slow paced deliberate photography as i judge the image on the screen for content.  Is the water too blurred, are the highlights to bright, is this what I want to say about this moment in time?

I don't think I take as much time crafting an image as i do at the waterfalls.  Over the three miles I hiked I spent five hours taking just over 300 pictures.  I weighed and
debated the merits of some scenes and compositions with myself to a point that I rarely do even on assignment for work.

The sights along the trail can be eerily spectacular too.  Water drops into a pool hidden in the shadows of a steep rock ledge.  A black rock wall glistens as water pours across its jagged edges.  it seems mystical if not medieval in places.  There is always the sound of water crashing the rocks and running the course of creek.  Soon it becomes almost a white noise even blocking out the sound of my breathing.

I could have stayed there the entire day exploring the different falls, watching the water course and pour between branches and stone but I had to leave.  Looking at my photos it seems another time in a place where things move slow enough to see the ebb and flow of the water across the landscape.

I'll have to wait a another year to return to this place and as the rains arrive next year I will know it marks the time to return to this special trail, my own step into the mystic.