Thursday, April 12, 2018

Rubio Canyon -- Little water, few wildflowers

Very short hike on Wednesday, April 11. The lowest waterfalls were essentially dry, so I didn't bother with any pictures. These few wildflowers were on the first trail that leaves the "main" Pleasant Ridge trail and heads up the ridge. Just took that detour on the way back because I hadn't gotten enough walking in on the main trail to the waterfalls.
Other than wild mustard, this was about it. The first shot is of some pearly everlasting. The seond is of something white, possible popcorn flower.
The third and fourth are of lupine. But these flowers were sparser and more purple than other lupine I've seen this season. Their leaves were also much narrower.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Millard Canyon and Brown Mountain Truck Trail

Short afternoon hike around Millard Canyon. Parking is at the end of Chaney Trail Road. "Adventure Pass" or Public Lands Recreation Pass required.
Modest flow over the falls, 1/2 mile spur from the parking area. Not bad for the calendar, mostly due to recent rains.

Scattered wildflowers along the Truck Trail.
Once back on the truck trail, I walked about a mile, then took the 2N68 spur to the Owen Brown burial site.

The cluster of sycamore seeds, above, was from the trail to the falls, as were the white flowers, at the top of the post. Annoys me that I can't recall what they're called.
Western wall flower, along the truck trail, right near the start.
One of a handful of scattered Canterbury bell.
Spanish broom a highly common exotic.

Tobacco tree flowers. Not a great shot, but the first I took of them this year.
White nightshade.
California buckwheat.
Possibly Cleveland sage, though I'm not sure.
Wild mustard, another common exotic.
Wild cucumber flowers.
Lupine.
Indian paintbrush. There were a few, on the spur, approaching the Owen Brown burial site.
Sweet pea.
Near the Owen Brown burial site. I've been here, before.
View across the mountains, as I began my return. Fairly cloudy until early evening then it cleared. Comfortable hiking weather.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Old Mount Wilson Trail to First Water

Been way too long since I've posted! This is not much of a hike, but it's the latest, hiked today, March 12, 2018. I was curious to see if the recent rains was producing any significant runoff. I also wanted to break a sweat, and this one's a short, but steep hike. My Fitbit said 190 floors by the time I finished, but I'm not sure what the count was when I started. Probably around 50, but possibly as much as 60. I go up and down the stairs at work for exercise during the day.
There were a couple of recently-installed benches on the side trails that have been engineered over the past few years. That trail work has taken some serious effort and the engineering is good Unfortunately it does fragment the habitat, and leads to even more cutting of switchbacks and use trails crisscrossing above the main trail. The trails mean more exposed areas for smaller animals where they may be spoted by predators.
This was my first free afternoon after the switch to daylight saving time. It doesn't get dark now to well after 7pm. That means and easy 90-120 minutes or so of hiking time from when I get to my day job to the trailhead, depending on which trail I choose and what the traffic is like.

I'm hoping to get back into the rhythm I had before my cancer surgery. Unfortunately, various family issues have limited my hiking time, and it may be having some significant health effects. Problem is, it could also just be after-effects of the surgery and chemo. But, either way, my blood sugar has been somewhat high the past year, and really spiked at my last checkup. I'm seeing my GP tomorrow to discuss this, and see what can be done.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

More Around the Observatory, February 2018

Several hikes around the Observatory in January and February of this year. It's convenient for me, as previously mentioned.

This first shot is kind of interesting when you compare it to the one I took around Winter Solstice. In just six weeks or so, the setting point for the sun has moved very significantly to the north.
Thoe shots were taken from the same place (Glendale Peak), but, near Winter Solstice, the sun set just a bit north of the Astronomers Monument, on the lawn of Griffith Observatory. Six weeks later, it's setting near the edge of the parking lot, south of the lawn.

I also enjoyed this second shot, taken a bit after sunset. There was a soft, pink light, very dim, but photographed well. It lasted only 10-15 minutes after sunset, before everything went to blue.
The rest of the shots were taken a few days later. I brought my 11-20mm zoom, with two goals: I wanted to get some sunburst shots, and I wanted some dark sky, ambient light shots of the building.
To get the sunburst shots, I stopped down the aperture. Some came out okay, but, still, you need to see the pictures relatively large to see the sunburst. They're created by light, passing through the small opening of a narrow aperture, with rays corresponding to where the aperture blades let a bit wider amounts of light in, near where each blade intersects with the one next door.
It's one of those things I only read about recently, though I had obviously seen the effect in my shots for years.

Sunset at the Observatory is often an "event," just because of the large number of people, gathering on west-facing overlooks to watch. I mostly just expose for the sky and aim for silhouettes. Adding sunbursts was just for a new twist on the shot.
Finally, out in front of the building, I utilized the fast lens (f/2.8) to hand-hold shots of the building and lawn telescopes. The first shot was at 12mm. At that wide and angle, you get some pretty significant distortion of the shape of the building.
The second shot is at about 16mm focal length. The distortion is much less noticeable. I shot a shorter exposure length to compensate for the increase in shake-blur that would be apparent at the longer focal length. Both are sufficiently sharp for my purposes, though, when I zoom in on the shot on my laptop, I can see some streaking of the stars, indicating I moved a little during the exposure.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Las Vegas Springs Preserve

Visited here over MLK Day weekend. I've been here before, but hadn't walked the trails for possibly several years. There's probably about four miles of trails, if you walk them all. I just sort of ambled around and covered most of those trails. It's not very scenic, but there are some birds and rodents in the area. Among the birds, mocking birds seemed to be the most common and most obvious.
This Elvis-haired bird showed up a few times, too He seems to be a phainopepla.

I also saw a number of hummingbirds, but apparently wasn't satisfied with any of those shots.

The Las Vegas Springs Preserve is supposed to be about 180 acres, which is, very roughly, a little smaller than the area of a square, 1/2 mile along each edge. Honestly, it seems larger than that. It also intersects with several washes, so perhaps that makes the area appear larger.

The northern boundary is U.S. 95, with a very tall sound wall barrier. The west end is Valley View Avenue, with no hard barrier, but a wide and busy road, and development on the other side. The east end is a concrete wash and developed land beyond, and the south is Alta Drive, and developed land. I think the wash provides a conduit for some wildlife to access between the Preserve and undeveloped land, beyond.
The antelope squirrel seemed to be the most common type of wildlife. I am told a number of fox live in the area, but they're less frequently seen.

In addition to the relatively-undeveloped portions of the Springs Preserve (besides the trails and roads), there are some demo areas for solar energy and low-water usage home gardens, near the south end of the property. On the west end is the developed campus, which includes several museums, classroom areas, a cafe, and gift shops. The last two shots are from those developed areas.
The other hike I took that weekend was to Petroglyph Canyon, in Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. I've have been there many times in the past, as well. May try to post some pictures from that hike later, too.
Looking forward to getting one or two more hikes in the Las Vegas area, before it starts getting warm, again.
Over the past month, and closer to home, I have hiked several more times around Griffith Park, returned to the Legg Lake / Whittier Narrows Recreation Area and Sturtevant Falls. Still well behind in my posting, despite the slow hike rate.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

More Around the Observaory

Griffith Park has been my only consistent walking area, just because, on many weeknights, I head up there early (to beat the traffic), then have hours to kill before my shift begins.
As the winter solstice approached, I thought it would be fun to try to catch the sun, setting near the Observatory. That meant finding a spot to the east.
All of these shots were from one of two hikes I took between the Observatory and Glendale Peak. According to the "Tom LaBonge" map, Glendale Peak is 1,184 feet tall. That's 400-500 feet shorter than the "top" peaks on Griffith Park, like Mount Hollywood (1625 ft), Mount Bell (182), Mt. Chapel (1614) or Mt. Lee (1680), so Glendale Peak doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd. In fact, standing at the Observatory, it doesn't look like much of a peak, at all.
Nonetheless, it is about fifty feet higher than the Observatory grounds, so, from Glendale Peak, you are looking slightly over the spot. Your altitude becomes somewhat apparently when you notice you can see the ocean over the Observatory lawn.

There are multiple routes between the Observatory and Glendale Peak, but none of them are direct. One way takes you up the Charlie Turner Trail, east, below Mount Hollywood, past Dante's View, then along teh East Ridge (Hogback) Trail. The spur to Glendale Peak is right after crossing the small metal bridge.

Route two from the Observatory would be down the Boy Scout Trail, across Vermont Canyon Road, along Commonwealth Canyon Drive, up to the Riverside Trail, then up around to Glendale Peak.
I'm pretty sure the latter route is shorter and has less altitude change, yet either seems pretty long when you're walking. It shouldn't seem that long, since I used to walk further than that all the time, but just not much of that, recently. Wild guess would be about two miles each way via the latter route, and 2.5 miles each way via the former. A loop makes it about 4.5 miles.
My first hike this loop was the Sunday before the Solstice. Wasn't sure if the spot would work, but it pretty much did. The sun set just a bit north of the Astronomers Monument, on the lawn of Griffith Observatory. I returned again the Friday after (the day after) the Solstice. The setting location must have differed, but not appreciably.

On that second trip, I knew a SpaceX launch was scheduled for shortly after sunset. My plan was to try to get back to the Hollywood Sign viewpoint on the Charlie Turner Trail. Figured I could set my small tripod on the seating area there, and get a somewhat more stabilized camera for my shots. But I didn't quite make it back there by the time I saw the rocket, steaming off into space. So I stopped, attached my long telephoto, and took some shots. I also took some with my wide angle. The launch was visible for several minutes from most of southern California, so I had time to make those switches.
The first two satellite photos here, by the way, are the same shot. The first one was just processed to show dimmer detail. All of the other shots are just .jpegs of the shots, as my Nikon D3400 recorded them. Obviously, I toggle the exposure settings around quite a bit during things like this. But, especially because I had no tripod, I knew I wanted to take relatively short exposures, to minimize camera shake. Under the circumstances, I was pretty happy with the result.

With the exception of the last shot in this post, all of the telephoto shots were taken with a Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 telephoto. It's a little heavy, even with a tripod. Still haven't decided if the extra weight is worth the extra 100mm of reach, as, it turns out, the difference between 300mm and 400mm doesn't seem that significant, through the viewfinder. But I haven't had a chance to try this on distant birds, so we'll see.
The superwide angle shots are with my Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8. Wanted speed, shooting in the dark. Still love this lens.
The last shot was with my Nikon 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6. That's pretty slow, but in daylight, it covers the most frequently needed ranges, except when I want to go macro, or long telephoto. Got that one as a Nikon refurbished lens (the Sigma was also a refurb, and, had I been patient, I could have gotten the Tokina from their refurbished "outlet" website, too). Obviously, these lenses are still not "cheap," but they're a lot cheaper as factory refurbished than they would be as new. Something for photo bugs to consider to stretch your budget.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Griffith Observatory Walks

Of course, now that we're coming up on the Winter solstice, sunset is now a little after 4:30pm. Since my shifts at the Observatory don't start until 6:15pm, I've got plenty of actual darkness to wander up to the big turn in the Charlie Turner trail and get some nice nighttime views of the Observatory, with the DTLA skyline as a backdrop.
I'd estimate it's only about 1/2 to maybe 3/4 of a mile from the trailhead to the turn. Add another 1/3 of a mile or so if you're walking from the building, which, of course, I am.
At the turn, there are a set of polished granite-covered seats. It's designed as an overlook towards the Hollywood sign. It's also a nice, flat place to set up my backpacking tripod.

When you zoom in on the Observatory, you're looking just past a drop-off, and generally, there's no one to obscure the view. However, widen the view, and, yeah, there are usually people (often, with their own tripods set up). That just gives you more framing alternatives!
One problem I have is that if I zoom in on the Observatory, I get internal reflections from bright lights around the Observatory, showing up as ghost images in my shot. I need to frame wider, then crop, to get a decent close-up without the ghost images.