Frances Slocum State Park, PA

September 9, 2011

My friend Steve Furmanski was evacuated from his home like so many others when Central & Eastern Pennsylvania was hit hard by two separate tropical storms simultaneously squeezing us from the east and the west. Since my son Matt took over the insurance business with his sister Celeste as Office Manager, we have experienced an earthquake, hurricane, tornadoes, 3 tropical storms and flooding. As I write this the sun is shinning and tomorrow Barb & I leave for Yellowstone and stop at Yosemite on our way home. By the time we return the locusts will have come and gone and we will likely join right in with the preparations for the next plague.

Back on the day of the flood Steve could do nothing but watch the nail-biting reports on tv, where local newsrooms were relocated to warehouses on higher ground, and reporters there used cardboard boxes for desks, and laptops for monitors. Steve could only pace the floor as he watched workers frantically trying to hold back the water on the bulging dikes near his home. I, too, had two businesses in harms way (actually Matt has one and Ashley has the other, Beauty FX Salon), so we decided to take a stroll in Frances Slocum--surely not in an attempt to keep our minds off the concerns we couldn't control, rather more like fiddling while Rome was burning.

All of the water in the park was high, but not as high as one would expect with the torrential rains of the last few days. The overflowing banks of the lake reminded me of our basement where for 39 straight hours Barb & I bailed the water our sump pump couldn't handle. You can see Steve in photos 22, 23 & 24. He does not look like a man enjoying nature, but one reminded of it's destructive necessity, and one currently caught in its path. We didn't stay long.

Steamtown National Historic Site, PA

September 16, 2011


On the day before Barb & I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary, Dave Cohen and my cousin Ted Straub accompanied me on a visit to the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA. We had a great time, and thank God for cell phones. Without them we probably never would have found each other once we entered the park and each of us got lost in our own viewfinders.

At first I didn't bring my tripod but soon ran back to the car. It was needed to get the depth of field the subjects demanded. Some of the inside shots were 30-second exposures, and I know Dave was using the Bulb feature on his camera to go even longer.

It's tough to read the plaque on photo #10 of the Inspection Pit, so here is the inside story. Photos 13, 14 & 15 are the same exposure treated differently. There are a few other duplications, like the sepia version of 16, and some odd fractalius renderings, along with some usual HDR photos and one unusual one, photo #46 (I can't help it; it expresses what I saw). There are even a few pictures taken with the Olympus PEN, although the Dramatic Tone experiments didn't make the cut. You can find Dave & Ted in photos 1 and 47, and Ted is also in #43 taking a picture of a kitten-drawing next to the big S for Straub. Photo #44 was taken as I walked past a scene that yelled out "Downtown Train" because it reminded me of a downtown street with the sun shinning between the buildings.

On the third page of the gallery you'll find more inside shots. As it turns out, some of the places our muse took us were actually off limits to the public, although we were confused by the opened door and sign suggesting we watch our step. A great time was had by all, and much more is expected.

Yellowstone National Park

September 20, 2011

Well, we started this YYNP trip with little or no expectations of everything going smoothly so we'd be ready to enjoy whatever happens.  We arrived in Bozeman, Montana, anticipating a prolonged stay at the airline's customer service counter.  Again we were not disappointed.  Because of air-travel snafu we learned on our connecting flight in Denver that the airline screwed up our connections both coming and going.  The only way they could correct the problem and still get us on the plane was to register us with special stow-away privileges or something.  They told us the Yosemite leg of our trip was still messed up in their system so we should stop at customer service when we landed in Bozeman to get it corrected. 

Delta blamed US Airways and US Air blamed Delta --or was it United.  After about an hour of shifting blame and shrugging shoulders they sent us away in our rental without a solution.  I was on the phone with US Air--actually more on hold-- for the whole trip from the airport to our hotel in Gardiner, a bit over an hour long.  Just before we got to Gardiner we lost phone service and left the conversation unsure if we had a ride home.  No problem.  Yellowstone is an amazing place to get stuck. 

Oh, did I mention the airlines also lost one of our suitcases, the one with my clothes and tripod?  Well, re-reading above I can see I didn't.  I had no qualms about facing Yellowstone naked, but not without a tripod.  Not to worry, they assured me.  They figured out that the lost piece never made the plane in Denver --at least not our plane.  They were looking in the baggage claim areas of San Francisco and San Diego to see if an unclaimed bag was circling the turnstile.  They promised to bring it to our hotel when they found it.  I assured them that I worried about the success of their mission, and Barb and I left for our first taste of Yellowstone.

Gardiner, Montana, is named after Johnson Gardner (I leave it to the readers to investigate why there is no "i" in the namesake of the town [hint: it has nothing to do with team] and admonish them not to take the first account they read or hear as the truth).  It is an absolutely great town and everyone in it seemed especially warm and wonderful.  It is the north gate of Yellowstone and the only entrance open all year.  The park starts at the Roosevelt Arch  (photos #1 & 2). 

Just inside the park is the town of Mammoth Hot Springs, where the elk roam free.  In fact it was rut season and the mornings heard the sounds of bull elk instead of roosters.  We knew we wouldn't get too far into the park before we ran out of daylight; we knew we had three full days and another morning to taste the fruits of this international mecca.  We were thrilled to be among humans who drifted toward the spiritual side of our existence because of the proximity and concentration on the natural beauty that surrounds us here. 

Photos 5, 7 & 9 show some of Mammoth Hot Springs below the amazing hill of oozing-earth-innards.  With night falling and handhelds becoming more difficult we went back to Gardiner to eat. 

After checking our room we stopped at the desk to mention that the airlines might be dropping off our lost luggage and asked would they accept it in our absence. We then went for a quick look in the gift shop. When we returned to our room it took us at least ten minutes before we noticed the missing suitcase standing at the foot of the bed where we had to walk around it several times each. It arrived while we were buying t-shirts.  We had a couple drinks and tried to stifle the thought that everything will go more smoothly tomorrow. 

Yellowstone National Park

September 21, 2011

This was our daughter Celeste's birthday, and we celebrated her existence among the splendors of the first National Park in the world.  She was our first child in our world, and a big reason why we smile when we see a waterfall or the night sky. Our children make the mountains more majestic, the seas more soothing and sometimes scary, the trees more friendly and the rocks more alive.  They provide the sense for the maxim Leave No Trace.

Since my back was still screaming at me, we didn't expect to do too much hiking for our shots, so most everything we got was quite near a road.  The "Road" in Yellowstone can be described as a figure eight and that's what I'll use to describe our path for each day's venture.  HERE'S THE 8:  Gardiner is just off the top left of the upper bubble in the eight.  Traveling west to east, the upper bubble leads from Mammoth Hot Springs around the east side through Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Village at the bottom, while the west side of the 8 brings you down through Norris where the top bubble ends, through Madison to Old Faithful in the lower bubble.  Grand Teton National Park is just below the 8 near West Thumb, and Yellowstone Lake sits at the bottom of the 8 on the east side and rises north to Canyon Village.  The middle line of the 8 (did you guess?) is the road between Norris and Canyon Village.  [Here's a map for those who'd like to follow along.]

Today's excursion brought us down the west side (both bubbles) and around the whole bottom bubble and back across the middle of the 8.  We then retraced our path back up to Gardiner, actually forming a rigid number six.  There were 481 exposures from this day, which resulted in only 90 photos to make the gallery.  Of course with digital there are such things as don't-cares, let's-try-these and what-ifs that clog up media cards.  Add the many HDR attempts which usually use at least three exposures per photo, a large number of frivolous photos from the PEN out the window of our moving car, and it's tough to come up with ninety.  Certainly the subject matter gets the credit for the quantity as well as any perceived quality.

The morning photos missed many opportunities the early frost provided because I was too excited to be in Yellowstone National Park; that is, I got in the way.  Photos 5 thru 9 were taken at the first real stop we made.  Barb likes to drive so she can get that freaked out feeling when I scream "HERE!" or "STOP!!!" or "PULL OVER" and she has to piss off anyone driving behind her.  Hmmm.  Maybe she doesn't really like that.  Maybe she likes it better when I drive with my head out the cold window looking for the perfect picture while driving around switchbacks as though they were straight-a-ways.  No.  I'm surprised she likes to come at all.  Again I give credit to our destinations. 

We didn't have to worry about anyone behind us this morning because it was too early for them, and no one had to even say "Let's stop here" because the scene was that obvious.  We pulled into a little lot and could see a pool of water steaming in the morning dew.  There was a large group of tripoders (photo #5) already gathered along the appropriate shore.  I joined them.  We exchanged some kind nods and occasional gestures like asking if I was in the way or similar niceties, but I sort of just came upon them, danced around them and left without leaving a trace.  Actually I wish I was more forward.  Often I am, but morning moods are surprisingly quiet wherever photogs gather.  It's interesting how everyone whispers at times like that—so as not to disturb… what?   I feel it, too; there is a reverence for the... moment? place? situation? other's privacy or space?  All of the above?  Often it's because we all quite recently tip-toed passed someone who'd rather not get up this early.

"He's working on his crystals," I heard one say to another.  I deduced from the direction of their attention when they spoke that they were referring to some kind of photographic effect someone was working on using the mist over the water.  It sounded like something indigenous to the place, like they were locals waiting for that secret moment only a local could know.  I didn’t ask, but wish I did.

We drove about another mile and saw our first buffalo.  "Pull over here," I whispered to Barb in an excited volume.  Without freaking out she was in the pullout and already reading her book, refusing to experience the chilling cold on its terms, when I sipped my coffee and reached for my camera.  The first 24 photos in the gallery were all taken before we reached Norris, all in the upper bubble.  We crossed the West Entrance road in Madison and continued onto the lower bubble, taking spur-of-the-moment detours on sidetracks like Firehole Canyon Drive, where I took a lot of photos for people --usually couples.  They think I must be good at it because I use a tripod, but I warn them I might instinctively focus on the waterfalls they are standing in front of instead of on them.  [Here are the ones (27 thru 35) “you” said I’d do better, folks, but I’m sure yours are equally good or better.  Thanks for sharing the moment.]

We then stopped at Old Faithful, took some handhelds in and around the predictable geyser,  and had lunch.  Photo #44 was surely taken during the day but I used such treatment to enhance the warning on the sign in the ground.  As we walked through the visitor's center on our way to lunch at the lodge we overheard someone say to a passing ranger,  "Wow, that was pretty disappointing."  "What's that?" asked the ranger.  "The geyser.  It wasn't very high."  Without taking the straight line the ranger called "upstairs" on his shoulder phone and came back with the answer:  "90 feet.  That's average."  Okay, so maybe the inquiring mind was higher than Old Faithful, but what about the amazing predictability of the event?  What about the enthralling amazement all around you?  Are you not engaged with it? That guy should have gone to Disneyland to satisfy his Hollywood expectations, but maybe a trip to Yellowstone is just what he needed to become complete.

Speaking of rangers, let me rewind to the informative pep talk another ranger gave just before the punctual Old Faithful pleased most of the spectators right on cue.  During his talk the park ranger also mentioned how "last" night he received an email from his state representative.  In it the rep asked for support for some commercial interest using National Park land.  The noble ranger declined, saying when it comes to national parks he must vote for the entire nation --in fact all nations past, present and future. The "inquiring mind" who later expressed disappointment in the Old Faithful stage show probably thought the ranger was a fool for passing up such a great business venture.

We left the lodge and traveled along the bottom of the 8.  With a few diversions like Kepler Cascades and Craig Pass, the road brought us to our first view of Yellowstone Lake (photo #46).  Also, as we later saw on the flight from Bozeman to Denver, this is an incredible lake to view from the air.  Photos 47 thru 60 were all taken at the West Thumb Geyser Basin overlooking the lake.  Further up the road we looped onto Gull Point Drive for the views.  When we tried to re-enter the main road we discovered a huge traffic jam.  This time of year that would most likely mean some sort of animal sighting.  Sure enough.  We had to wait for a herd of buffalo to come our way off the Natural Bridge.  After that we went straight to the Mud Volcano on the east side of the lower bubble before a long stop at the Lower and Upper Falls areas. 

We then drove across the middle of the figure 8 from Canyon Village to Norris and retraced our earlier path back up the east side of the top bubble to Gardiner.  We made a few second-time-today stops at places we photographed in the morning to see how different they appear in the late afternoon.  Numbers 22 & 23, for example, are from the same place --North Lake of the Twin Lakes-- as numbers  86 & 87.  We celebrated a luscious birthday for Celeste and know she did the same. 

Yellowstone National Park

September 22, 2011

This day we decided to travel the east side of the 8 so we turned left in Mammoth Hot Springs and headed toward Tower-Roosevelt.  We encountered a lot less traffic on this road, especially on the Blacktail Plateau Drive offshoot.  We made quick stops at the Petrified Tree, Tower Fall, and any other pullout that caught our heart.  When we reached Canyon Village we decided to cut across the 8, head back up to our hotel, and make plans for the evening light.

We passed by Ice Lake too quickly to startle the driver behind us with a "RIGHT HERE!" move so we slowed for the second left off the main road and pulled onto Virginia Cascade and looped back to our destination. Barb once again decided to stay in the car to catch up on her reading. Not knowing what to expect because of the overgrowth on both sides of the winding path to Ice Lake I brought the whole backpack full of photo tools, carrying the tripod with a camera and lens mounted. A good distance along the wooden path I came to a poster-size warning about not going any further without bear spray. Well, knowing I didn't have one in my bag I stopped to think. Above, a bright yellow plane circled low and seemed to be trying to get my attention. I put two and 2 together and turned back to the car in a cautious hurry. Sure I'm schooled on what to do if a bear comes my way, but who wants to test that? Perhaps the usual Bear Aware bear scare was intensified this year because there were already 2 people killed with bear encounters (not bear attacks), and there have only been 7 since the park opened in 1872. The planes were dispatched to monitor bear activity, and they didn't need my help.

A view of Gardiner from the edge of Yellowstone can be seen in photo 26.  When we arrived back at our hotel we noticed another family arrived (photo 27).  They reminded us of our closest neighbors back home.  

Returning to the park for some evening shots, we went up the hill to Mammoth Hot Springs and continued to the Upper Terrace.  This hill of travertine above the town is other worldly with countless photo ops.  We could have spent all of our time here making photos of the boiling limestone.  Algae living in the hot pools help to expand the color range of this marvelous place.  You can see some of the usual wooden paths in photos 39, 40, 50 & 51.  Not only are they great ways to get close to the boiling jackpots, but they also provide good footing for tripods.  Of course, others walking on the planks even 20 feet away can drastically alter a long exposure. Once I took advantage of these boards to stretch out my back; they're also good for sitting on to get close-ups of the steamy ooze.

God turned out the lights and we went home. 

Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks

September 23, 2011


Barb & I have always planned spontaneous trips, ever realizing how weird planned spontaneity sounds.  On our honeymoon, for example,  we took the money her dad gave us and drove until it was gone.  Wherever we stopped at night we just got out our maps and roughly figured where we might go the next day.  The next day never turned out as planned because we always left room for spontaneity. 

In our planning for this trip we figured we'd see Grand Teton National Park at some point.  This turned out to be the day.  The weather was the same each of the days we were in the area, but I can't help wondering if the mountains would have been more photogenic on any of the other days.  We've seen many gorgeous pictures of this place but this day there was so much haze we knew we weren't going to get some of our own.  Still, we enjoyed a great visit and with post production were able to come up with some acceptable representations.

We traveled down the west side of the 8 and continued on to Teton.  Our first view of the mountains is photo 11 in the Yellowstone gallery, so you can see we weren't expecting too much by way of photos.   To chronologically insert the Teton gallery into the Yellowstone gallery the insertion point would be between photos 22 and 23.

Our first pullout in GTNP was a magnificent spot to stand in awe of the grandeur.  There's a neat kind of transformation that occurs when you come upon a scene that silently bellows it's beauty and you have camera in hand.  It may be the real reason for the quiet I mentioned on the morning of the 21st; that is, so we can all hear without ears.  When I pull the tripod from its travel spot in the back the camera and 24-105 lens are attached.  I'm off to photograph but I'm no longer in charge.  The muse takes the controls. 

When I finally look up from the camera I notice a bus of tourists who only spoke Japanese had pulled into the turnoff.  The occupants quickly debussed and scattered, each one quietly proclaiming the beauty in excited whispers.  Perhaps it was the awe of place, the inability to communicate with language, or the state of aforementioned transformation, but there was that unusual contact where one soul on a sojourn acknowledges another and wishes them well.  A level of communication I wish we humans would explore more.  It was present in the air and acknowledged by the eyes of many I saw.  Nothing was said, but communication was cosmic and eternal. 

We left the bus and moved on well-wished.  The next pullover we chose had similar beginnings, but led to a problem that could have left me without a tripod for the remainder of the trip.  Photos 14 & 15 of the Teton gallery were only included to remind me where it happened.  I walked off to look for a better composition showing the river.  After settling for photos 12 & 13, I started to walk back up the hill to look for Barb.  The muse noticed a Paul Stand stump (that nomenclature I'll have to explain later) and I went about setting the tripod low to the ground to get it.  Just as I was about to push the remote release a leg of the tripod fell off.  Pieces were everywhere.  Before leaving I snapped 14 (over-exposed) and 15, which was behind me. 

Barb recognized my uh-oh face as I approached.  Trying to reassemble the broken leg I noticed a very small piece was missing.  Barb and I retraced my steps and found it with incredible quickness, although it was under a leaf.  Still, I couldn't re-attach it without a proper screwdriver.  Just then a camper pulled in and a couple got out to have lunch.  Camper folks have everything and they are always willing to share it.  We were back on our way in minutes and stopped at a country store to buy our own screw driver.  Thanks campers!

After lunch at the John Colter Ranch House we continued on our quest for that great Teton photo, knowing we'd be happily settling for experiencing the sensation of this amazing part of the planet.



Yellowstone National Park

September 24, 2011

It was almost possible with our schedule to photograph the sunrise in Yellowstone and sunset in Yosemite on the same day, this one.  We had to fly Snafu Airlines to Yosemite so we were lucky to make Fresno by sundown. 

Success this morning, however, depended only on my getting up on time and getting to the terraces in Mammoth Hot Springs without incident.  The photos I got there were a big bonus; just getting there to "say" goodbye was the goal.  Getting to Yosemite was also the goal; photographing the same day would have been a bonus.

It was rut season for the elk, and they roam freely in and around Mammoth Hot Springs.  Getting through is not as easy as you might have been thinking in the last paragraph.  Bull elk have been known to charge cars there.  I started in the Lower Terrace close to, but through, town.  There were a few other photographers being quiet as we listened where to shoot.  It was going to be another warm and beautiful day, but at this time there was that crispness in the air that made you glad you brought a jacket. Then I heard that beautiful, high-pitched yet full-bodied grunt of a bull elk down the hill near town.  I looked and saw him running back and forth in a field, his nostrils snorting warm warnings to anyone knowing the language.  Then I saw a lady with a point-and-shoot camera arm's length as she ran at the animal for the shot.  Some of the other photographers near me then made the lady the subject of their money shot; I continued saying goodbye by capturing momentos, but kept some attention to the drama.  Neither the spectators nor the woman let out a single scream while I made my way around the bottom of the hill gathering a few last takes of the coolness of hot springs.  As I approached my car to climb to Upper Terrace Drive I saw the woman walking up with a large smile of pride on her face as if walking through a tickertape parade.  "Get him?" I asked.  "I sure did," she replied with delight moving her head with each word.  Good thing he didn't get you, I thought. 

For that lady the bull elk was the sound telling her where to shoot. 

Yosemite National Park

September 25, 2011

As hinted in the beginning of yesterday's blog, there was no way Snafu Airlines would get us to Yosemite on time for photos.  Fortunately the rental car guy said he'd wait for us if we were late.  We arrived after they were closed and he was still there. He didn't have to be.  It was Saturday night.  I tipped him enough to let his girlfriend know we were grateful. He knew we'd rather sleep in Yosemite than Fresno.

Making matters worse, a day or two before we left Yellowstone I noticed something brewing in my lower right jaw, and by the time we were at max altitude on our way to Yosemite it was in full-blown abscess.  When asked by the attendant if we needed anything from the cart, I mumbled, "A parachute."   So I was especially happy the car guy waited.  Although, if I would have thought about it, I would have figured there was a better chance of finding a dentist in Fresno than Yosemite, especially on the weekend.  I didn't think because I knew if I could only get out there with a camera in my hand, there would be no pain.  It's just like playing bass.  Either what happens is you leave while a better you who doesn't care about the pain takes over, or there is some "addition" to you that blocks pain receptors or something.  Still, if I would have thought about it, the gamble was too great.  If there was no dentist in Yosemite, I'd likely have to come back at least as far as Oakhurst, a 45 minute ride each way.  Also, what would I do with all the time I wouldn't have a camera in my hand?  Maybe I could get a bass.

We arrived at Yosemite Falls Lodge close to midnight, and got a room close to the falls.  Last time we were here it was May and we got the room closest to the falls.  We heard the falls all night.  This year it was September and we'd be lucky to hear the falls if we slept under it.  Barb & I had a restless night so I let her sleep when I left for the light and the relief.  The morning air was a bit chilly and it didn't hurt my smile any, but every time I got back in the car my tooth screamed and I was it's voice.  So, Reader/Viewer, picture this pathetic photog whining like a baby as he drove around the valley in between those shots in the gallery --at least the first two mornings.  I tried to act like a big boy when Barb came along.  She had enough to worry about with the possibility of our basement back home flooding.  Now that I think of it I'm all for eliminating TVs in National Parks.  That's how Barb kept up on the WeatherChannel news, as they featured our little town in Pennsylvania.  But then that's how she found out about the dentist in Yosemite, too. 

Barb learned that Yosemite had it's own dentist within walking distance of our room, but he's only there Monday thru Friday.  He's probably in Fresno for the weekend.  Knowing I wasn't good with pain killers, Barb went out and stocked up on beer, rum and a local analgesic --you know one of those things in a tube that you rub on your tooth and gum and seconds later wonder why.  Thinking of a different meaning of local analgesic, I begged her to call the front desk to find out how long it would take for me to get one of those new medical marijuana cards available in California.  She thought I had a better chance asking for a parachute from Snafu Airlines. 

Wow, look how far I got with this and still haven't even talked about the photos.  What a complainer.  Anyway, for this first day you can picture the Screaming Tooth In A Blue Malibu guy up to photo 32.  After a few disappointing but pain free exposures along Northside Drive I got in the car and screamed over to the Southside Drive.  I got out and headed toward the Merced.  The foreground was terribly dark, while across the water the morning sun was making spotlights out of the granite formations.  Numbers 12 and 13 were taken on the way back to the car.  There were others that I liked but didn't realize until the digital darkroom that there were raindrops on the lens.  They were cleaned without recognition when I returned to the car to scream.  Photo 22 is a blend using four exposures.  I first made an HDR with 3 exposures, but didn't like the foreground bush with the effect so I blended in an earlier take. 

After Barb procured some scream eliminators for me (described above), we went out for a quick valley tour --in a rather quiet Malibu.  That would be photos 33 thru 48.  Photo 49 was taken from our balcony.  Below  there were several elk getting their antlers caught in leaves while they ate.  I tried, but never really got a good shot of them. 

In the evening we went to Bridalveil Fall and Tunnel View, then to eat and back to the room to catch up on the flood, drown our pain, and get a good night's sleep.  I slept with a camera in hand but it didn't help.

Yosemite National Park

September 26, 2011

The dentist office didn't open until 9 so I performed much like Sunday morning.  This time the reader can only picture that screaming photog (me) until photo 19.  After that we went to the dentist.  We walked in and were thrilled there we no other patients in the waiting room because we obviously couldn't make an appointment.  We waited for the receptionist behind the window to finish her phone call and noticed this cool photo of a coyote (if I remember correctly) sitting with its large mouth widely opened and its huge teeth threateningly exposed.  The caption said something like Dr. Dale Soria, DDS, in Yosemite since 1988.  After hearing our sad story the receptionist dashed our hopes of immediate care when she said, "Oh, I'm so sorry.  He is on vacation."  She explained that he never took a vacation from Yosemite National Park (that part didn't need an explanation) in twenty-two years, and this was his first day away.  "Where did he go?" I wanted to know.  Don't you?  She gave us explicit directions to the nearest dentist 50 miles away in Oakhurst, and then gave us the option of walking out the door and around the building to the medical clinic.  Maybe they'd give us an antibiotic.  We took the latter, which was the sidewalk. 

They gave us an appointment to come back at 11:30 so we went to the cafeteria to tease my tooth with hot coffee and cold juice.  What's with this Yosemite and teeth thing?  Ansel Adams had bad teeth.  Of course he didn't get them here, but...  The day before our last trip here I had to have a tooth removed, and Barb, who has been the office manager in a dentist office for 20 years (almost as long as Dr. Dale) had to remove the stitches while I sat in the chair by the window in our Wawona Hotel room. 

We were back early and they were ready for us earlier.  The doctor, knowing little of what to look for in a bad tooth, had to rely on Barb's expertise, and filled a prescription for penicillin after he was able to confirm her suspicions.  We were off to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias!  We didn't make it, and I'm ahead of myself here.  First, the morning photos.

Somewhere in the Yellowstone blog I mentioned a Paul Strand stump.  Now that we're here in Yosemite, and the first two photos in this gallery are of a small stump, let me explain.  First of all, I've always been engrossed in the stories that appear in old stumps, much like those in rock.  Many times I'll walk out of the way when I see a stump in the distance.  Sometimes I get a shot, usually a thrill, always a story.  Short version:  Paul Strand was a great photographer who was born in 1890 and lived for 86 years.  He became a friend of Ansel Adams through Alfred Stieglitz.  Ansel Adams once brought him to Yosemite for a week.  Although his host was rather busy during his visit, Paul went out for walks daily.  One day Ansel asked him if he saw anything he'd like to photograph.  "There is a stump," he replied.  Imagine what he would have done with digital. 

So that's the story with the first two shots; then come the opossum shots.  Sorry, maybe it was a hangover from our attempts to stifle The Screamer, but this day the reflections across the Merced in about the same spot as yesterday now appear like anopossum.  I wondered for a moment how many opossums might be misplaced because of the flooding back home. 

On our Sunday drive Barb asked me if I ever took any shots of the chapel.  Number 16 was the first so the answer was no.  I started from the side and came away with only the idea of a cool photo.  The steeple looks similar to the peak of granite above it from this angle and could be lined up in an interesting way if the light was right and the sky was special.  This was not the day as you can see.  And remember, The Screamer was waiting back in the car. 

We stopped at Tunnel View on our way to the big trees.  Who wouldn't?  We also stopped at Alder Creek where I tripped my first shutter in this magnificent park in May of 2009.  We pass the Wawona Hotel and I smile remembering we left this place in stitches, er, left stitches in this place back then.  When we get to the hill to the grove we see something I only expected to see in the summer.  The gate was down and we were directed to go back to the Wawona and wait for a shuttle.  We decided to drive up to Glacier Point instead and return here tomorrow.  On our way we stopped on the side of the road just before the Wawona and picked a few trees to bring home in photo form.

Glacier Point, home of the Firefall of old, is a magnificent place to view a large part of Yosemite.  From there we can see much of the valley as well as many of the stars of this national park show.  Half Dome is prominent, but from here you can see more than just a flat face with Ansel McGoo etched upon it (photos 74 & 75. what do you imagine?).  In many of the photos in the gallery you can see Vernal Falls (the lower of the 2) and Nevada Falls.  Find Vernal Falls in photo 36 and compare it with 39.  Now here are 2 crops from 39.  Thirty-two hundred feet can be quite revealing in a lot of ways. My friend Bradley Gelb has a picture of him standing out on that diving board in photo 53. 

That little close up experiment reminds me of the GigaPan guy at Glacier Point when we were there.  He was working on a pano when I was getting photos 53, 54 & 55.  Maybe by next year I'll be able call him a fellow GigaPannner.  I couldn't find his work from this day, but here is a GigaPan sunset from Glacier Point by Elliott Wolf from 2 days earlier. 

After an exhilarating time on top, Barb & I returned to get more of the valley floor.  My tooth was already starting to ease its demand for attention. 

Yosemite National Park

September 27, 2011

Our last day before heading home.  Up early and out shooting with barely a whimper in the car.  The Screamer had been subdued.  Right around photo 7 I was waiting for a large bull elk to come into the light as he crossed the Merced when a group of 3 pulled up, jumped out of their car and came running to get a quick snapshot.  Animals in Yosemite know they are safe, but they still have that animal instinct.  They startled him but he didn't run.  He did, however, alter his course and took himself out of my expected elk-in-the-wild shot.  Hope one of the intruders came away with a prize. 

We again drove up to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and again the gate was closed.  This time, however, we just had to park at the gate parking lot instead of going back to Wawona.  The employee who directed us was a local and she said this was the first time in her 21 years there that they had to use these lots in September. 

Two years ago when we visited this part of the park we got somewhat better photos.  The light was a lot less harsh then on this Yosemite Sam trunk, for example, than what was available on this trip.   It's never easy to capture one of these giants in a photo (see the truck in #s 22 & 23) without stitching several exposures together, but this year my first shot was taken at a few minutes after one, post meridian.  I was hoping for more help from the large canopy of sequoias, but the 5pm-in-May start on our last trip was certainly more conducive to obtaining a favorable photo.  Neither visit should make us feel we deserve more help from the sequoias because both visits were way too short, but that same thing can be said of whatever part of this park we spent our most time.  Way too short, but with life-lasting effects. 

Speaking of effects, on our way back to the shuttle I saw this fallen and hollowed out tree which acted like a photographic lead-in bridge to two sequoias that seemed evenly lit, although much of their surroundings glowed in harsh light.  Photo 26 was a 2-exposure HDR.  I discarded the brightest shot.  Number 27 is a single shot that required some digital darkroom dodging and burning to achieve.  Number 28 is another 2-exposure HDR, but this time I let the program, Photomatix, develop the black and white image, which was later enhanced in Photoshop and Lightroom. 

There was a 2 and a half hour respite Barb & I enjoyed back at the lodge between photos 31 & 32.  When we emerged from the recharging we heard a helicopter.  Sounded like another rescue somewhere.  Sure enough, as we drove toward El Capitan I knew we'd have to dodge rubber-neckers who wandered around with their eyes in the air watching the drama.  Although probably no one really wanted anyone hurt, probably everyone wanted something to go wrong.  It just makes a more compelling story.  Barb wanted to stop, so we did.  I know she's probably still ticked at me for rushing her, but this was our last few hours of daylight in Yosemite.  I offered to pick her up on the way back, but...

There are two panoramic photos in the gallery, #34 stitches 9 exposures, while 39 is an 8-shot pano.  After our time at Tunnel View we came back to the valley floor and it was still abuzz with the ongoing rescue.  Everyone was facing up with out-stretched arms to try to capture that moment when the climber became the faller.  I was busy documenting what the trees and rocks looked like when it happened.

The next morning we stopped one last time at Tunnel View, although the light was against us.  Here is a last photo of Barb.  She lost the filling or whatever its called on her front tooth the night before.  What is it with Yosemite and teeth?  We must return to find out, but next time we might be better off booking our trip around Dr. Soria's schedule. 

Home is always the last exciting destination of the trip.