Hope Valley Autumn


Two hours from Sacramento is Hope Valley. For this Tuesday my friend Anne and I head out to find some Autumn color. My Dad passed away 5 weeks ago, and it is time to look outward.

Traveling on Route 50 we stop in Strawberry. This unincorporated town was a stop for the Pony Express in the 1850’s. Strawberry Lodge was my introduction to snow in California. When my kids were little we came here to go sledding.


Granite cliffs call to me. Do I see some faces there?


The south fork of the American River in Strawberry, Ca.


This Dodge truck just fits in this space


The Sierras in the distance have been dusted with snow.


Back on Route 50 we will turn south before Lake Tahoe

We stop for lunch at Sorensen’s Resort in Hope Valley. Great lunch. Cabins, pond, fire pit, rustic charm, and topiary make for fun picture exploring. This is just how I like to spend time out photographing with my friend.


Just Fishin’


On the lookout for picnic baskets, Bo0 Boo!


Imagine Relaxing with a Good Book


After a summer it is great to see Aspen color

Rain fell in the Sacramento Valley during the weekend leaving a dusting of snow along the Carson Pass at an elevation of 7800 feet.


Caples Lake located in the Carson Pass

Many Sacramento photographers recently posted a cabin in the woods.


Cabin in the Woods



Goodbye Hope Valley. Glad to spend time wandering around just looking for beauty in nature.



Donner Summit, the Sierras, Mother Nature and History

Donner Lake is less than 100 miles from Sacramento. I have now travelled up to Donner Lake four times this year: twice in winter, twice in summer.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains has played an historic obstacle in settling California. One famous example is the tragic story of the Donner Party. Following bad advice about a short cut, and an early October snow  in 1846,  strand an unprepared group of pioneers. This tragedy ends with cannibalism for survival. Only half of the original emigrants made it to California. The top of the rock base represents the amount of snowfall that the Donner Party encountered. The pass through the Sierras was renamed for the Donner Party.


Donner Memorial State Park


Plaque lists members of the Donner Party that perished and those that survived. Plaque attached to the north face of the fireplace from the Murphy cabin.

Visiting during the snowy winter and imagining the area without the modern highway system the area looks daunting.



Snow covered cabin provides an idea of how much snow can fall in the Sierras.


Beautiful view, but slippery road.


Winter driving can be treacherous. The snow shed used to cover the railroad track are visible from the road.


The Sierra Nevada Mountains created the most challenge to connected the continent.


I see a profile of a person’s face.

The hardest part of connecting the transcontinental railroad lay in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is the first time I visited the  Summit Tunnel, Tunnel #6. Walking through the tunnels built by the Central Pacific Railroad to connect east with west, it is hard to believe that the Chinese laborers hand drilled through 1,659 feet the Sierras in 15 months between 1866- 1867. It was dangerous work placing first black powder, and running out in time. The debris then had to be removed. Later nitroglycerin was used: more unstable, but more powerful. Many workers did not survive. The hard work of tunneling through granite, the blasting, and the risk of avalanches in the deep snow, and freezing temperatures  contributed to much loss of life. Work was finally completed in August 1867.


Light at the end of the tunnel.

Walking into the tunnel I felt drops of water hitting my head. Dressed with a jacket, armed with a flashlight, prepared with my tripod I start walking.  Pretty flat terrain, so a flashlight is just a security measure.


Textures and colors grab my attention.


Love the textures


Shapes and shadows 

Compare this image with the next one processed with HDR. Do you have a preference?


Many families hike through the Summit Tunnels in the Spring.


This is a good location to utilize HDR (high dynamic range) technique. I already had my tripod, and the lighting ranged from dark to light. After shooting 5 images with different f-stops I brought my images into Photomatrix Pro 5. This takes the best from each image and merges them together for this affect.


With a tripod this is a good place to use HDR

I always look for puddles and reflections.



Captured a puddle reflections in the snow shed.


Another reflection from a different angle.

The tracks not covered by the mountains had snow sheds built to keep the deep snow off the tracks.This was sometime successful, other times mother nature wins.



I like the light coming from the snow shed door.


Snow sheds erected to keep snow off the tracks. These tunnels are often not accessible in the winter.

In the spring and summer  the area attracts families, hikers, and photographers. This is a good place to visit to get out of the Sacramento heat.




View of Donner Lake from the Tunnel Door during the summer.

Graffiti has found a home.  Some are artistic, some just making a statement that they were there.




One abstract photo of the snow shed ceiling.


Donner Lake in the summer. 


Plenty of summer water activities on Donner Lake 


A last look at Donner Lake in the summer months.

This area is amazing, and I will be back to take in more of the beauty, and history of this area that is only an hour and a half from my home.







Mono Lake Tufas inspire me to try new photo processing techniques

Mono Lake is an ancient  65 square miles lake located 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park. It has no outlet, and continues to become increasingly salty. Amazing limestone rock formations called tufas form from fresh water springs interacting with alkaline lake water.

Mono Lake Tufas

Mono Lake Tufas

Tufa spires start underwater. Thirty foot formations become more visible as the lake levels decrease due to water diversions to Southern California.

Tufa Watches Over Mono Lake

Tufa Watches Over Mono Lake

In 1994 the State Water Resource Control Board in an effort to protect Mono Lake set limits on amount of water that could be diverted.

Gently Floating Along

Gently Floating Along

All kind of objects spring to mind when I look at a tufa rock formation.

Kissing Lambs

Kissing Lambs

It is so easy to imagine faces, and animals.

Animal Look-A-Like Tufa

Animal Look-A-Like Tufa

Serious Tufa

Serious Tufa

I spend time in the late afternoon watching birds around the lake. Some nest on the tufa. Later I photograph a sunset on the South Tufa side of Mono Lake.

Sunset over Tufas

Sunset over Tufas

Tufa Sunset

Tufa Sunset

Dramatic Sunset Over Mono Lake

Dramatic Sunset Over Mono Lake

Getting up early provides photographic rewards.

Sunrise Over Mono Lake

Sunrise Over Mono Lake

Summer Sunrise Over Watchful Tufas

Summer Sunrise Over Watchful Tufas

Early Morning at Mono Lake

Early Morning at Mono Lake

The tufas on Mono Lake are somewhat other worldly, and my photo processing skills felt free to experiment. I used Adobe Lightroom 5.7, Photomatrix Pro 5 and Topaz Plug-Ins: Detail and Adjust.

I semi reluctantly returned to Bodie and Mono Lake with my photography friends Anne and Laura.  My first experience had been clouded by altitude sickness. I am so glad that I set aside my trepidations and I came away with some good photographic memories. Note to self, always set aside initial reservations, and get out and make new memories.


A Bodie Photo Journey (part 2)

Bodie required a second look, so we headed back early the next day. It is not that the town is that large. The heat, dust and altitude passed my creative juices. When I reach the point that creature comforts takes over my attention, it is time to put away my camera. I’m glad my photo friends, Ann and Laura felt the same way.

This second day with clouds overhead we began at the Bodie Cemetery.

Path to Bodie Cemetery

Path to Bodie Cemetery

Up on a hill, a little outside the town the cemetery stands. “Arrested decay” may describe this place, but there are signs that restoration happening. As I walked up to the cemetery I imagined what a family member would be experiencing. Many of the gravestones marked the passing of children.

Bodie Gravestone of young girl

Bodie Gravestone of girl

Many of the grave sites were missing markers. Probably made of wood, and did not survive the test of time.

Bodie Cemetery Grave Site

Bodie Cemetery Grave Site

A Gated Grave Site with no marker, just wildflowers

A Gated Grave Site with no marker, just wildflowers

About 80 gravestones remain.

Bodie Cemetery

Bodie Cemetery

For the rest of the morning I took it slow, tried to get a feel for the hard, desolate life lived in this area.

Framed by Auto

Framed by Auto

Vehicle Garden in Bodie

Vehicle Garden in Bodie

When the population abandoned Bodie, the shuttered buildings and personal items were left as is.

General Store

General Store


Some items held up to time, some rotted away, some fell apart, and layers of dust collected.


"I'll huff and I'll puff and ..."

“I’ll huff and I’ll puff and …”

That part of it captures my imagination. Visiting museums I see artifacts from an earlier time, but they are often set apart from their time. Here everything just continues to get older.


My photograph captures me in a moment in time!

I enjoyed the time spent here. I also had fun with processing my photographs using various software tools. Mainly, I used Lightroom 5.7  with the help of Topaz plug-ins. I used Topaz Adjust and Topaz Detail 3. In some of my shots this weekend I used Photomatrix Pro 5 which I just purchased after the trip. I still need practice to perfect my 5 bracketed HDR images and process it with this new software.

I am getting ready to upgrade to Lightroom CC.  There is always something to learn to improve my art! This keeps it interesting!