Saturday, February 26, 2011

Whiteout

In pursuit of yet another, THE perfect Horsetail Falls image, (for a detailed explanation click here), my good friend Judy and I migrate every February to Yosemite National Park. Sometimes I think, the falls are just an excuse, since we are meeting with friends and good weather or not, have always lots of fun. This year, though we were in for a surprise...

The weather report wasn't very promising, but that would not deter us one small bit.
And the nice weather on the first day, forecast was pouring rain, proved us right. As soon as we arrived in the park, we checked in and went immediately to one of our favorite spots to photograph the falls. Over the years, photographing the falls has become so popular among photographers, that you have to be on the spot at least two hours before sunset, or your perfect spot is taken. We don't mind, since one always meets fellow photographers, chats about different equipment and experiences, exchanges tips and tricks and simply meets interesting people. This first evening was not different, we had a good time chatting and met Colins, who came all the way up from L.A.
Then sunset grew closer, the chatting ebbed and everybody focused on the falls, as they started to light up quite promising...
...but that was it, as soon as the glow came, it went, and disappointed murmur went through the photographers.
While editing later, the following was the best we got this evening.
We didn't mind, we had two more evenings to try, or so we thought.


We packed our gear, went to dinner and made plans for the next day.
On our way back from dinner, I marveled at the moon shining on Yosemite Falls and an idea popped up in my mind: With the rocks so brightly lit by the almost full moon, how about a long exposure night shot of the falls?
No sooner said than done, I ventured out by myself to give it a try. Not an easy task, I got the right exposure, 2 min, but that was too long, everything turned out pretty grainy (or noisy how the digital photographer calls it). I looked around for a better spot, all the while thinking about how to solve the exposure problem. While I was wandering around with my tripod shouldered, a truck stops next to me, the window goes done and a man (must have been a photographer) yells out at me: "ISO 800, f 4, 1/30 of a second"...window goes back up and gone he was...That's it, I was still shooting at ISO 200, but with the new generation of digital cameras, ISO 800 is not longer a problem. Thanks to this "mystery" photographer I got the image I envisioned:

Starry Night at the Yosemite Falls:



Excited I went to bed, just to wake up the next morning to the noise of pouring rain...
Judy and I went to breakfast with our friends. While we were enjoying our coffee, the rain turned into snow and in matter of minutes it snowed so much that our friends, who only had a two wheel drive car, decided to head back home before it got worse. We hopped in our car to check out how Yosemite would transform with this amount of snow coming down.

I took the following image as we left the lodge...



...and this about ten minutes later...



It snowed on and off, so we were able to take some "winter wonderland" images, but in the early afternoon it became a blizzard and we decided to head back to the lodge for a break.

This dead tree seemed to wave at us


Lower Yosemite Falls


El Capitan with Merced River


El Capitan panorama



Around 4 o'clock that afternoon, we didn't want to surrender to the weather and hoped against better knowledge, that the sun would come out just for sunset.
No such luck and we figured, the best chance for any good image would be from Tunnel View. As you can see, we were not the only ones with that idea...and not the only ones who finally DID surrender and went back to the lodge in heavy snowfall.



It snowed on and off during the night and as we headed out of our ground level hotel room the next morning, we stopped immediately in our tracks, since we looked face to face in a group of not so shy deer.



The sun tried hard to come out and cruising the park we found some interesting shots, but around noon the weather turned, and since much more snow and bad weather was predicted we decided to play it safe and cut our visit short in order to get home.

Cathedral Spires reflecting in a temporary pond


Trees at the bottom of El Capitan reflecting in Merced River


Union Point reflecting in Merced River


Half Dome


After one last stop at Tunnel View, this time actually with a view, we said Good Bye to the Park and drove home.


Guess I have to try again, right?

For more Winter photos of the park, please visit the Yosemite in Winter gallery on my website

International Polar Bear Day

FEBRUARY 27TH, 2011 is International Polar Bear Day!

To honor the International Polar Bear Day, I put together some of my favorite Polar Bear photographs.

Friends are repeatedly asking me why I'm going to photograph the polar bears again and again. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced the closeness to these giant bears, and what it is about.
The easiest way to watch the bears is to visit Churchill in October/November, when the polar bears come together to wait for the ice on the Hudson Bay to form. Enormous Tundra Buggies bring you safely out on the frozen tundra.
To photograph the female bears coming out of their dens with the cubs, you have to travel about two days (coming from California), and you are exposed to extreme temperature, up to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. You wait long days in front of a den, and stay in a remote lodge without running water. But it is well worth it!
The only place I know of where you can do this is the Watchee lodge of Churchill. Although this lodge is remote, they know how to spoil you with comfort and unbelievable good food. The owners, Michael and Morris Spence, as well as a staff of knowledgeable guides make the stay perfect. But all this fades into the background when you are eye to eye with a mother bears and her cubs!
I hope these images will inspire you to think and act upon climate change.

To help the Polar Bears directly, please check out the following links:

Polar Bears International

Defenders of Wildlife

WWF

To see more of my Polar Bear please feel free to check out my Photoshelter stock site.


Enjoy and Happy Polar Bear Day!





























Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Conservation Tip

The Dirty Dozen

If you are like me, you are trying to buy most of your groceries organic. But sometimes you wonder, if you really should spend $ 5.99 for 8 oz of strawberries, if the conventional ones are $ 2.99 a lb, right?

Help is on the way: The EWG (Environmental Working Group)publishes a so called "Dirty Dozen" guide every year, listing the twelve most pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables. According to their measurements, we, the consumers, can reduce our pesticide exposure by up to 80% by either avoiding the "Dirty Dozen" or buying organic.
And here the list, number 1 being the most, number 12 the least contaminated:

1. Celery...up to 64 pesticides were found!
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries...maybe we should spend the extra $$
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell Pepper
8. Spinach
9. Kale
10. Cherries
11. Potatoes
12. Grapes

Just barely off the list in 2010 were Carrots, Pears and Tomatoes

Not in the fruit and vegetable section, but dairy, especially milk, and meat not only can contain pesticides, but also hormones and antibiotics.

Another grocery to think about is coffee, since it's often produced in countries where pesticide control is marginal, look for the USDA Organic label, and even better, look for Fair Trade coffee.

Now the good news, here a list with the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables:

1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet Corn...although to my knowledge, all not organic corn is genetically modified...
4. Pineapple...which is usually not local...
5. Mango
6. Sweet Peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage...of course...;-)
10. Eggplant
11. Papaya
12. Watermelon
13. Broccoli
14. Tomato
15. Sweet Potato

Please check out the Daily Green and the EWG websites for more information and details.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011