Category Archives: Highway 395

Eastern Sierra RV Trip

Warning – This is another post that isn’t only about photography!  I’m going to mix the discussion up between photography and our annual Eastern Sierra Fall Color RV trip.

Several weeks ago my wife and I packed up 3 little dogs into our Southwind Class A motorhome and headed for the Eastern Sierra.  While it isn’t a difficult drive, we have been breaking it up into smaller chunks by spending a few days in the town of Bishop, California.  Bishop is located on the eastern side of the Sierra right along its base, and within easy driving distance of several lakes and streams.

There’s a nice campground on the north side of Bishop called Highlands RV Park.  It’s a paved RV park with trees, and a nice grass area for walking dogs.  It’s not fancy, but does have full hookups including 50 amp electrical service at each space.  We’ve been staying here for many years and have always found the park clean and the staff friendly.

After a few days in Bishop, we headed up Highway 395.  The long drive up the Sherwin Summit (about 7,000 feet with 6% grades) comes up very quickly once you’ve gotten out of Bishop.  Our Southwind “Goggins” isn’t going to win any races pulling a grade like this, especially since we are towing a Honda CRV, but the Workhorse chassis and big V8 continue to impress me!  In a little under 2 hours we were at our destination, Mono Vista RV Park in the town of Lee Vining.

From the road, Mono Vista RV Park has always intrigued me.  It’s a very pretty RV park with lots of very green grass, and large mature trees.  We’ve been wanting to try something different (we usually stay at a campground on the June Lake Loop) so we booked a site with Mono Vista for 2 weeks.

As far as the park is concerned, it’s very clean.  The spaces for RVs seemed wide enough that we weren’t stacked up on top of each other.  We were in the front row, pull through spot with full hookups, including 50 amp electrical service.

It’s not all sunshine and roses.  Just before we came up, my wife decided to check out some reviews of the park, and came away with some mixed feelings.  It seems that they have a reputation for being rude when quoting their rules to their park guests, especially regarding dogs.  One of their rules says that you CAN NOT leave your dog alone in your RV, at all.  They are also adamant about keeping your dog off of the grass areas around your RV.  There is a tiny area designated for dogs off to the north side of the park, and it connects to a trail that goes off into the bushes.

We love our dogs, and take them with us for rides and walks quite often.  But, we have left them in the RV (with the air/fans set and tv on) when we go fishing or out to dinner.  They don’t make any noise and have never been a problem.  In fact, they are better behaved than most peoples kids!  To be fair, I’m sure others have abused this rule and created problems.  What I don’t like is blanket rules for everyone because of a few idiots.  I didn’t like the feeling that I had to sneak around with my dogs for fear of getting caught on the grass or that I couldn’t go away for a few minutes without them.

Now don’t get the wrong impression.  Our 2 weeks at Mono Vista ended up being ok.  We worked within (and around) the rules and didn’t have any problems.  We were able to go fishing with and without the dogs, and it worked out quite well! Almost all of our fishing was done at Lundy Lake, which is within a relatively short drive from our camp. I think we will keep Mono Vista RV Park open as an option for future stays, but limit our time there to no more than 1 week.

And now let’s talk about photography!  Yes, I did actually spend some time trying to capture a few images.  There are a lot of options for fall colors in the area.  We were also much closer to Mono Lake than we had been in previous years so I was able to make a couple of visits to the Tufa.  I was also able to sit in on a Fall Color Photography presentation by Jeff Sullivan, a photographer that I follow on Google+, Flickr, and Facebook.  Jeff had his book “Photographing Southern California, Vol. 2” available and I picked up a copy.

I’m going to limit this discussion on photography to photos that I took with my LG-G4 phone.  There will be future posts where I share photos and info where I used my Panasonic GX8 and FZ1000, so please check back for updates.

I’ve been pleased with the quality of images coming from my phone.  When the light is good, the phone does quite well.  For post processing, I use an app called Snapseed.  Here are some examples:

After 2 weeks at Mono Vista, it was time to come down from the mountains for the final leg of our journey. One of our favorite campgrounds along the Scenic Byway of Highway 395 is near the little town of Lone Pine. The campground is called Boulder Creek, and is just a couple of miles south of Lone Pine, and sits at the base of the Eastern Sierra, Mt. Whitney, and the Alabama Hills. This campground has full hooks ups, a great store, club house, pool, etc…, along with a very friendly staff. They are also very dog friendly with lots of options for walking (with poopie-bags located throughout the park). What is really nice for your dogs is the completely gated dog park area, equipped with water, tables, and of course poopie-bags! And if you like military aircraft, the F-18’s from China Lake are usually buzzing about. This is a great RV park and definitely worth a look if you are in the area!

I didn’t do much in the way of photography for the 3 days we were camped at Boulder Creek, but there is a great little golf course nearby, the Mt. Whitney Golf Club. With wonderful views of the Eastern Sierra and Mt. Whitney, and almost always having the course to ourselves, we played 2 days in a row. We are much better at fishing than golf, but had fun (no need to add up the score and ruin the day).

That’s it for this post! Check back soon to see what kind of photos I was able to capture with my Panasonic GX8 and FZ1000!

Before and After.

I love looking at photos from our vacations.  Sometimes even the goofs will bring back a memory of that day, and even the second that I pushed the shutter to make the image.  Not all images are winners and deserving of posting and some are really good right out of the camera.  For this post, I’d like to talk about one that wasn’t so good and what I did with it (other than deleting it).

Here’s the before image, taken with my Sony NEX3.  I made this photo at the scenic viewpoint on Hwy 395, coming down from the Conway Summit, looking back to Mono Lake.  It’s pretty clear that there are several things wrong with it.  The first and most obvious is how the horizon line is leaning so far to the left it looks like I must have been drunk when I took the shot.  There’s also some vignetting in the corners (from my polarizing filter).

For some reason, I still liked the scene and wanted to try a couple of things to take it from blah to not bad.  I opened the image in Photoshop and corrected the horizon.  Then I cropped the image a bit to remove the vignetted corners.  And last but not least, I converted it to black and white.  Here’s the after:

This version is much more dramatic.  I love the tones and textures in this image.  Black and white really seems to add some punch to an otherwise lousy snapshot.  With a little post processing in Photoshop, this image went from being on the brink of deletion to being sent out for printing!

The message I suppose would be to revisit your stockpile of photos, and after you are inspired by another image or you learn a new technique, don’t be afraid to try it out.  Who knows, you may have a masterpiece sitting on your harddrive just waiting for you to discover it!

Something Old

In my last post, I went through a process of creating an HDR like image, and it was very subtle.  This time I’m going to “grunge” things up a bit.

This image of an old truck is from my last visit to the ghost town of Bodie.  Bodie is located about 13 miles off of Highway 395, near Bridgeport California.  Bodie is a real ghost town, and is kept in a state of arrested decay.  The are all sorts of wonderful old buildings, cars, and other items laying around to explore and photograph.  While wandering around, I came across this wonderful old truck.  Using my Sony NEX3, I took a couple of shots.  This is the one I liked the most, probably because of the unusual angle of the truck, and the puffy clouds in the background.  Since the original image is in RAW format it needed to be opened with a program that could read it, so I used Adobe RAW.  Here’s what it looked like:
Although there are quite a few adjustments I could have made, I chose instead to open the image and do my tweaking in Photoshop.
This is what my screen looked like with the truck image opened in Photoshop:
I think there is a lot of potential for this shot.  The truck is an excellent subject for “adjustments”.  I want to try to bring out the textures of the metal with is flaking paint, scratches, and rust.  So, here we go.
In this screenshot, you can see the truck image is beginning to take shape.  The texture I’m looking for is starting to show in the grass, and the metal of the truck.  Even the clouds are showing a little more personality.
Here’s the truck again, with more adjustment.  Things are really starting to pop now!  Notice how there’s more detail in the shadows compared to the original.  You can almost feel the scratchy, bumpy surface of the trucks fender.  The colors also seem more rich and saturated.
More adjustments have created an even more textured, sharp, and saturated image.  Unfortunately this is starting to take on a fantasy look.  For me, this is a little more grungy than I would like.
So, how exactly did I get my normal truck image to look like the one in the screen shot above?  I used my Photoshop plug-in, Nik Color Efex Pro.  The specific filter I used is Tonal Contrast.  In fact, I used it 3 times.  Each time I used it, it created an additional layer in Photoshop.  It was the last layer that I used to do some clean up work.  I used a mask, and a soft brush to take the clouds and a little of the truck back to the previous layer, softening some of the grunge.  To get the final image, I also cropped in tighter around the truck.  There were some people in the background on the left side, and a distracting building on the right side.  I also had to clone out a telephone pole over the left fender, and a piece of the building still poking into right side behind the bed of the truck.  I also ran a filter to remove noise since there seemed to be quite a bit of it in the sky.   Here’s the final image:
I’m very pleased with the final image.  There is no doubt that the truck is the main subject of the image, and appears larger than life.  The color is vivid, and there is a wonderful sense of texture.  I also like the unusual angle of this shot, it gives it a unique point of view and adds some interest.  In fact, I like this shot so much I printed it at 16 x 20, and put it in a very rough frame.  It looks great!
I hope this all made sense and that it helped give you a couple of ideas.  Don’t be afraid to experiment, and if you’d like, leave a comment on how you “adjust” your images.