Or maybe I should have titled this post “The Lure Of The Trail.” Both are appropriate and actually meld into one another. I love leading lines – they are my favorite theme – and my favorite type of leading line is a trail. That trail leads the viewer’s eye deeper into the composition and onward to whatever adventure awaits. And trails within forests are my favorite, if for no other reason than the forest’s interior glow surrounded by green and brown shadows.
All of the images above were captured with my Sony Alpha 7riv and a 16-35mm lens during my 2020 October visit to Redwood National and State Parks. And all of these images were captured along one of the many trails in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California. The tops of the trees are veiled a little bit in mist, as this trip was during the height of all the wildfires in California. Smoke drifted in from everywhere.
It’s Trivia Tuesday, so here’s a little bit of trivia about “The Mountain.” Mount Rainier is an “episodically active” volcano and the most-glaciated peak in the Lower 48. The indigenous people named this mountain Tahoma or Tacoma, but it’s present-day moniker was bestowed upon it by one Captain George Vancouver, after sailing into Puget Sound in 1792. He named it after his buddy Peter Rainier. Mount Rainier National Park is America’s fifth national park.
Looking at this image might cause you to think I’ve deliberately oversaturated it. Nope. I can honestly tell you that for 20+ seconds, the sunrise colors are indeed this saturated. You have to work quickly to catch the scene, because as quickly as the colors appear, they disappear and are replaced by regular sunlight which turns the snow on the peak blindingly white and risks overexposure of a photo.
See that tiny person standing at the edge of Tipsoo Lake, in the lower center-ish portion of the shot next to the tree? That gives you an idea of the majesty of the landscape: One Big Mountain, One Teeny Person.
This sunrise shot was captured one fine autumn morning, a few months after I’d moved from Texas to Washington state. It’s early summer as I post this photo, and if you were to go there now, the lake would be mostly covered still in ice and snow.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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This shot was captured on my last day in the park. Actually, I was heading out and back to Bozeman to meet up with some friends, but I was loath to leave the park. I could have stayed there for another week and been happy.
Roaring Mountain doesn’t really roar. Instead, it has a low hiss that is sometimes difficult to hear – especially as cars passed by on the road behind me. All those spots where you see steam issuing forth are from fumeroles – openings that emit steam and other gases.
If you ever visit this national park, take a moment to fathom that you are standing upon a volcanically active (hydrothermally active) landscape. The crust is not quite as thick as you think it might be, which is why it’s good to obey the signs that say “Stay On Trail.”
2022 marks Yellowstone National Park’s 150th birthday. I’m going to try and be there at some point in time to celebrate that year with the park.
There are a gazillion images of Yellowstone National Park’s Lower Falls, but I posted this one to talk about capturing snowfall in an image.
There’s this sort of Goldilocks and the Three Bears choice when capturing a decent snowfall image, imo: too slow of a shutter speed means you’ll get white streaks (unless that’s what you want), too fast of a shutter speed means you’ll barely see any snow at all, and just the right shutter speed means you’ll see little white dots or flakes of snow, like you probably originally wanted.
In this shot, I’d just hiked down a steep, zig zag trail to reach the brink of the Lower Falls. There was nobody else there because the snow was beginning to come down hard. It wasn’t a beautiful, feathery-flake kind of snow. It was more like almost-but-not-quite freezing rain, so the snow flakes were small but numerous, and were beginning to fog up the scene a little. I got this shot, cropped it to get rid of all the melted snow droplets on the lens filter front, then began the steep hike back up to the top of the trail. It was snowing so heavily by then that I could barely make out the waterfall.
The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is quite impressive, however you manage to see it. I didn’t realize at the time, that there were quite a few more trails to different viewpoints. The next time I visit this park, you can sure bet I’ll ferret out all those other viewpoints. One can never have too many shots of this waterfall, right? 😉
National parks and protected lands are not immune from ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night. There are all sorts of scary stories out there about spooky forests, dark park roads, haunted inns, and lonely gravesites. In honor of Halloween, I’ve created a National Parks Quiz and Trivia piece which the National Parks Traveler has published in today’s edition.
If you feel like testing your ghostly knowledge while learning something that might raise the hairs on the back of your neck, then click on the image above.
My monthly photo column is now published in the National Parks Traveler. In it, I talk about how Redwood National and State Parks are the perfect places to capture plenty of vertical shots, with the occasional horizontal thrown in for good measure.
To read the article, click on the photo above.
The image above is of Howland Hill Road, a dirt and gravel road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, which takes the driver to the parking area of Stout Grove. This road was my first introduction to redwoods, and I actually almost got lost trying to find the road. You see, the road runs for about 7 miles and you can enter it either just outside of Crescent City, CA, or a mile or two east of the Haiouchi Visitor Center along CA Highway 199. I opted for the Crescent City approach only to discover that road was closed less than a mile in, for construction work. I was hemmed in by huge construction tractors and had to gingerly make my way back down the hill and onto the highway to get to Howland Hill Road via the Hwy 199 route. The drive was worth it, though, as Stout Grove is a perfect introduction to coastal redwoods.
It’s Fun Fact Friday! Did you know that coast redwood trees have a very shallow root system? When I saw these and other downed trees while wandering the Stout Grove Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, it brought to mind the downed oak trees I’d seen after hurricanes while living in southeast Texas. I asked a park ranger about this and she said yes, coast redwoods have shallow root systems that only go about 3 feet down, but the roots migrate outward around the tree for quite a distance, some as far as 80 feet from the tree. And, studies have indicated that one coast redwood tree’s root system can communicate with another redwood tree’s root system, providing nutrients and water to that other tree if it needs them.
I first visited Black Sand Basin in Yellowstone National Park during the evening on the previous day from this shot. It was overcast and getting dark and I didn’t even notice this little side area next to the entry drive to the parking lot. I didn’t see this until I visited the next morning, a lovely, sunny day. I’ve been reading: TravelBrains’ “Yellowstone Expedition Guide” and learned this interesting fact: the trees you see here are dead, of course. The bottoms of their trunks are white because they absorbed the hot water in the area, which is filled with silica in solution. That silica comes out of solution and is what has colored those trunk bottoms. It’s the first step in petrification of the trees. Oh, and Black Sand Basin gets it’s name from the black obsidian sand grains in the area. Cool, huh?
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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Artist Paint Pots Geothermal Basin with Mount Holmes in the distance, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
It’s a short walk along a well-trod path to get to the boardwalk beginning the loop around the Artist Paint Pots basin. As I stepped onto the boardwalk, I passed a couple of men talking to each other. Another friend approached and they told him that their wives were off looking at the sights while they remained there, since they were not that enthused about the area. Lo and behold, as I passed the men, their wives returned and one of them said sarcastically “Well, that was a blast.” They were not impressed, either.
I don’t know what those two couples were expecting, but I have a feeling they have not been reading my photo column in the National Parks Traveler, where I urge people to 1) keep their expectations on the low side since it’s likely they will not see exactly what they expect to see, and 2) observe what is around them. Really *look* at where they are and what they see. I am assuming that the couples, like many other people who come to this area, were a little jaded and didn’t stop to think about what they were standing upon: thin crust with a busy geothermal system beneath them. It’s amazing that we can enter a national park that is so geologically active. How many other places in the world can you see so many active geysers, hot springs and fumeroles all in one area? How many other places can you actually hear the hissing of the steam and see the bubbling water and mud pots? I know there are some, but I’ll wager not that many that you can actually get to. When you are someplace like Artist Paint Pots, you are walking beside geysers and hot springs with boiling or near-boiling water.
These couples probably did not appreciate the many colorful hot springs around them (hence the name “Artist Paint Pots”), or the panoramic view that included a snow-iced Mount Holmes in the far distance.
I brought with me the mindset of a geologist and photographer, so I saw beauty everywhere I walked in that small basin. As a matter of fact, that’s what I told a retired gentleman and his wife as he approached the trailhead, with a daughter and active 6-year old in tow. He stopped me and said: “Two questions: how far to get there and is it worth it?” I told him I thought it was worth it but I was seeing everything through a geologic and photographic background. I then told him about the reactions of those two couples. I told him that I’d also seen another couple with their 4-year old child who was managing the walk and the uphill climb to the bridge overlook (which is where I stood to take this photo) with no problems. I said to him that they’d have to judge for themselves as to whether or not the hike and the view were worth it. I certainly thought both were.
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