Check ’em out- the BBQ is amazing, the design is slick, the fundraising project looks cool, and the people are passionate and dedicated to the project: http://gauchogarcia.com/
All images © Sean Arbabi | seanarbabi.com (all rights reserved worldwide)
Way back in 1990 when I was 22, during my college days at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara CA, I had the chance to photograph Josef Muench at the tender age of 85 – father of David, grandfather to Mark – all great photographers in their own right, David probably being the most famous of the three.
Josef was a landscape pioneer, many of his images gracing the pages of Arizona Highways for much of the 1940s and 1950s. To my understanding, he worked for the magazine for roughly 50 years, and his stunning landscape images (shot with his 4×5 camera in 1936) helped place Monument Valley on the map. He returned hundreds of times and to many, his views are some of the most memorable photographs ever taken of this southwest location. He went on to capture images around the world, in Africa, Alaska, Asia, Canada, Colorado, Europe, and Hawaii. Even the unmanned Voyager Expeditions, launched in 1977, included one of his photos (in a group of 117 images of Earth’s landscapes) – a snow-covered Sequoia redwood taken in Kings Canyon National Park.
Born in Germany in 1904, some say Josef once threw a tomato at Adolf Hitler, hitting him in the face. I couldn’t verify this, but he sounded like my kinda guy. While writing this post, I was able to find a nice quote online, Josef talking about the deserts of the Southwest: “When I first saw the desert I liked it. It was new and different. It immediately took on a meaning to me. I had heard it was barren. It isn’t. A little cactus–so delicate and beautiful, can hide from you. You have to go slowly, and look carefully.”
I can’t recall how I found his information when I was in college, but when I contacted him to fill one of my school assignments, he was kind enough to schedule a time, welcomed me into his home, sat patiently while I set up my 4×5 view camera, and allowed me to capture this portrait, even giving his suggestions on how he might pose.
We talked for a bit about photography, and although I wasn’t old enough to really interview him the way I would today, I knew I was with an old photographic soul, so I attempted to soak up his words of wisdom during our brief time together. Ironically we shared the same age (11) when we received our first cameras, and now I’ve had the chance to photograph some of the places he visited (although oddly enough, I’ve traveled all through the Southwest but never been to Monument Valley and have had the desire for years).
He past away in 1998 at the age of 94, but his images live on- just Google his name (Josef with an “f”) to review some of his work. May I be so lucky as to live as long as he did, viewing the world through photographic eyes.
If you are interesting in purchasing one of my how-to photo books (great for holiday gifts), The Complete Guide to Nature Photography, or, The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure, go here: http://www.seanarbabi.com/products_books.html
A fellow photographer and colleague recently posted this link on his Facebook page and it caught my eye. A Dad and his daughter were recently rescued in Yosemite when they got trapped in this dangerous valley I once photographed – check out the article to read more: http://www.nps.gov/yose/blogs/Stranded-Hikers-Rescued-from-Tenaya-Canyon.htm
When in nature, one wrong decision can turn into an ordeal, a lot of extra work, stress and exhaustion, or worse- severe injury or death.
What caught my attention was the location of where these hikers were rescued from – Tenaya Canyon. Tenaya Canyon is an area just East of Yosemite Valley, slightly rising above and gradually continuing up toward Tenaya Lake in a series of steep climbs, thousands of feet below Half Dome, Cloud’s Rest, and Mount Watkins. It’s the one area on the topographical maps of Yosemite and the Sierra labeled “Hiking in Tenaya Canyon is dangerous and not recommended”; and it’s one of the spots my brother and I found ourselves in one long backpacking weekend.
Here are a few shots of Tenaya Canyon from different vantage points:
Below: Two views of Tenaya Canyon from Cloud’s Rest, 5000 feet above – the first, a panorama of the canyon, and the second of the last section near Yosemite Valley (at bottom right)
Below: Two sunset/ dusk views of Tenaya Canyon below Half Dome from Olmsted Point
Below: A glacier carved Tenaya Canyon carving through the Sierra toward Half Dome (the black & white in morning light, and the color version at sunset) as seen from Mount Watkins (smoke from a distant forest fire rolls overhead)
John Muir wrote about this area in his story “A Geologist’s Winter Walk“, hiking up the canyon from Mirror Lake. He writes I thought, a fast and a storm and a difficult canyon were just the medicine I needed. It’s a good read as is any of his jaunts into the mountains. In Muir’s words (which I edited down a bit), This canyon is accessible only to mountaineers…After I had passed the tall groves…and scrambled around the Tenaya Fall…ascending a precipitous rock front, smoothed by glacial action, when I suddenly fell — for the first time since I touched foot to Sierra rocks. After several somersaults, I became insensible from the shock, and when consciousness returned I found myself wedged among short, stiff bushes, trembling as if cold, not injured in the slightest. Judging by the sun, I could not have been insensible very long; probably not a minute, possibly an hour; and I could not remember what made me fall, or where I had fallen from; but I saw that if I had rolled a little further, my mountain climbing would have been finished, for just beyond the bushes the canyon wall steepened and I might have fallen to the bottom.
And then he writes a line I just love, and one that has become our silly mantra in the outdoors (and in other venues of life) was one he wrote after falling and knocking himself unconscious navigating the treacherous narrow canyon.
I felt degraded and worthless.
As in classic Muir fashion, he made it up through the canyon and returned to Yosemite Valley a few days later via a safer route.
By cool efforts, along glassy, ice-worn slopes, I reached the upper end in a little over a day, but was compelled to pass the second night in the gorge…I escaped from the gorge about noon, after accomplishing some of the most delicate feats of mountaineering I ever attempted.
I hadn’t read this account of the canyon before my brother and I took our August trip, but I wished I had. We headed off on a three-day backpacking trip, not completely planned out, starting with a 7.2 mile trek up to Cloud’s Rest from Tenaya Lake. We were either going to camp at Cloud’s Rest and return the next day, or spend another day out there somewhere – either heading to the valley or to another high country location. Not growing up together, it was our first backcountry trip as brothers, so it was special.
Here are a few images I documented along our three-day journey. The first (below) is a sea of smooth granite curved into a bowl-shaped depression as if from a cirque glacier, captured just down from the Cloud’s Rest trail in an area known as the First Rock Bowl. This was after we spent a night atop 9,930 foot summit of Cloud’s Rest. Heading back toward Lake Tenaya, we veered off the trail and cross-country hiked to get here, no designated trail leading us.
It was a magical spot – Tenaya Creek trickling through various bowls of water we sat next to. We plan on heading back here in the next month or so – it’s been too long.
At this point, we decided to head toward Yosemite Valley somehow. I had some knowledge Tenaya Canyon didn’t have a trail leading to the valley, so we headed West.
This fourth image was shot as we head over a ridge cross-country from the First Rock Bowl to a dry creek bed just south of Olmsted Point. Familiar with my surroundings, I had an idea where we were going, but without a more detailed topo map (mine covered the general area), I didn’t know if we’d hit a trail that would lead us to the valley.
This second day grew long and after climbing up and down a few ridges, we came to a dry creek and followed it to the edge overlooking Tenaya Canyon and across to Half Dome, Quarter Domes, and where we started our day on Cloud’s Rest. It was a great view but we knew we couldn’t enjoy it for too long because we had to make a decision. Filled with an adventurous spirit, my brother wanted to head down into the rugged dry river bed, packed thick with granite boulders. But it looked steep and was the unknown. I had a bit more backpacking experience and felt uneasy with this choice, but after some discussion of our options agreed with the route. I told him if we reached any places we felt were points of no return (such as a place were we might be able to get down, but not back up), then we’d turn back. My fear was we couldn’t see the entire route down, and if it appeared more hazardous than we thought, without ropes or any rock climbing experience, it could be extremely dangerous. We were also very low on water and expected this river to be one of our fill-up spots.
The rest of the afternoon was spent maneuvering through the dry river bed, passing our backpacks down to each other as to be as balanced and safe as possible, and soon the sun set and it grew too dark and dangerous to continue- even with headlamps. We had to settle in for the night, in a cramped sandy area too small to even set up our two-man tent. From this vantage point, we could see Pywiack Cascade flowing 600 feet over a granite lip into Lost Valley. The base looked to be only a couple of hundred feet down it, maybe 15-20 minute away, but we weren’t even sure we could get there. We were tempted to continue just for the mere fact our water bottles were now empty. Without any water for dinner, we ate what food we could and crashed for the night, our throats parched and our spirits a bit dampened.
Daybreak couldn’t come any sooner. As soon as the first light gave us enough to see, we packed up and continued our scramble down toward the pool of water at the base of the waterfall. All we had were potable water pills, and the ten minute wait to purify the water was torturous. When you run out of water and you’re thirsty, boy you appreciate it all the more. At this point there was still some descent but the valley widened and flattened out, and I was a bit relieved.
Here we stood near the bottom of Pywiack Cascade that morning, deep in Tenaya Canyon looking toward Half Dome at the start of Lost Valley (below). The image above looking at the Pywiack’s pool and the ridge high up from where we came- little did we know what was ahead.
We played around a bit, then followed Tenaya Creek from the waterfall down into the V-shaped valley, and soon most of the creek seemed to sneak underground as the river bed turned mostly dry, which made it a bit easier to hike through instead of the thick foliage on each side. Piles of bear scat dotted the valley, a bit unnerving since I knew these bears were probably from Yosemite Valley and less nervous to approach people. I also had a feeling this rocky dry river bed was the calm before the storm. I kept saying to myself, this looks easy but where ever this creek comes out, I have a feeling it might not be a good place for us.
Sure enough after a few hours zig-zagging through the rock bed, we came to a sandy area, and just beyond a few large granite boulders (most likely glacier erratics) we came to a place I call “The Gorge of Death”. A steep drop-off where Tenaya Creek burst out and down into an overhanging gorge, unnavigable without serious climbing experience. Any hopes of getting to Yosemite Valley, which felt all too close, were dashed. It was Sunday mid-day and knew we had to decide what to do, but it wasn’t much of a decision – the only option was to hike back to our car at Tenaya Lake, miles away and thousands of feet above. As we made our way back, a creek bed to our right looked easier and more inviting, but we decided against it, figuring the route we came down was the one we knew best – it was doable and predictable albeit hard.
Below: Retracing our steps back up Tenaya Canyon through the relatively dry Tenaya Creek
So we spent the rest of the day retracing our steps and after a long hike up a few thousand feet in elevation gain, scrambling up the dry river bed, and over a number of false summits, we finally made it back to Olmsted Point – almost out of water again, beat, yet a bit relieved to have no major incidents. Ahhhhh. Off with my backpack, remove the boots and socks, guzzle down a gallon of water, smile, and drive on home.
I don’t know if I’ll ever return to Lost Valley – maybe above it where it’s safer and more accessible, but not all the way down into Tenaya Canyon. It was an adventure, but one that could have easily turned bad. With a little luck, being extremely careful when my inner voice was telling me to heed the warnings, we had a special memory instead of a nightmare.
Below: A ridge above Olmsted Point at dusk
For more on navigating Tenaya Canyon, take serious caution, don’t travel alone, know what you’re doing, tell someone where you’re going, take lots of water, and see the route description at: http://www.summitpost.org/tenaya-canyon/160152
His wife of 60 years past away earlier this year, and he’s moving to a retirement community in a few months. He hoped to donate his collection to the local museum, but they said they didn’t have enough space. So I walked into his office to view his collection and we talked shop about various cameras, many of which were his personal cameras that he snapped photos with, dating all the way back to 1956. Kodak brownies (even a cool red one), a few movie cameras, even an old sleek black Viewmaster.
I told him I’d help him look around to find an organization that might be interested in the collection. Then he turned to me and said, “Sean, I asked you over to let you pick out any camera you want”- totally caught me by surprise. I told him I couldn’t accept the offer, but he insisted. So instead of taking one of the cameras, or finding the most expensive one (which I’d never do), and decided on something else.
He had what looked to be an old wooden film plate – what I thought might be a plate photographers coasted with chemicals and slid into the backs of their 4×5 or 8×10 field cameras to produce a glass plate image. It looks real cool and seemed original. Although I didn’t chose it, he knew and liked it, so he pulled it off the shelf and gave it to me. I accepted his kind gift and told him I’d work on getting the rest of his collection into a place that could educate future generations on some of the history of photography. I also took a few old photos of him to restore as a trade for the wooden plate.
I went home, did some research, and came to find out the wooden piece was a “camera print hinged wood plate holder frame – spring loaded” – I assume to be used to frame still photographs from the day. Anthony and Scovill Co was printed on the back, the manufacturer of the piece of photo equipment, with “patented Aug 12 1880″ pressed into the wood. It features a double spring hinged back with early type time indicator (not sure what that means). The frame measures 6 1/4″ x 8 1/2” and apparently “will accept up to a 4 1/4″ x 6 1/2″ plate”. Not an expensive piece by any means, but a very nice antique photography collectible over 132 years old.
It’s a very cool piece. I put a family photo inside and added it to our living room decor. I wonder where it’s been and who used it. I’m sure someday I’ll give it away myself, trying to remember this story. I hope my neighbor enjoys the last part of his life- I can’t imagine how hard it must be to not have his wife by his side.
Last Saturday, I was teaching a photo workshop in Point Reyes National Seashore through the Point Reyes Field Institute. I’ve taught 2-4 workshops a year over the past 13 years, and wrote an article in Outdoor Photographer a couple of years ago about photographers past and present capturing images along this beautiful coastal region north of San Francisco – it’s a joy and a privilege to be part of the group of past and present image-makers.
So on July 28th I headed out from my home in the East Bay and drove an hour and a half to lecture at the Red Barn classroom near the Bear Valley Visitor Center – great place to teach. We started at 1pm, I lectured about photographic exposure ’til about 5pm, and then after a break we drove up to Pierce Point Ranch, parked at the lower lot and hiked down to McClure Beach. My hopes for nice sunset were a bit dashed as we drove through the park since waves of fog and wind were battering the coast (it was fairly sunny back at the Red Barn). After a couple of hours talking shop on the beautiful storm beach we hiked down to, I thanked my students and we all headed on our respective ways.
Driving back to the Red Barn classroom to pick up some of gear, I passed back through Inverness- a small quaint little town along Tomales Bay. The light dimmed, cabin and home lights began to glow, and my photographic mind began to turn. I love the time between dusk and dark – twilight – that ethereal deep blue light that casts across the land – add the artificial lights of a cabin, a building, a tent and the combo makes for a nice moody image. So I parked my car just off the road, grabbed my DSLR, tripod and a 12-24mm f/4 lens and hiked down a few feet into the bushes near the shore. As I metered, I waited for the artificial light to balance with the ambient light, then shot a number of compositions. The scene felt mysterious and magical, and after a long day it was like a little gift.
Wish the web offered more colors, but it’s limited – especially for tones like this deep blue- so the original looks better (as probably the case with most images on the web).
The caption reads: USA: California: Marin County: Inverness: Lights shine on a pier, “Launch for Hire”, Brock Schreiber’s boathouse at dusk along the shores of Tomales Bay, as seen from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (preserved as prominent local landmark)
Exposed for 30 seconds at f/10 using ISO 200, at 24mm, spot metering with my trusty new Nikon D800E DSLR – my 36MP beast of beauty as I call it. Processing the RAW in ACR, I recovered very little of the bright lights of the boathouse – that was about it. You can see a larger copyrighted version here: http://twitpic.com/afi2b5/full
Just wrote another feature article for Engadget Primed entitled “What is Aperture and How Does it Affect My Photos?“:
Check it out- lots of solid info, links, diagrams, photos, and more – covers apertures, depth-of-field, hyper focal distance, how it relates to exposure, and so on. Now I’m working on my third piece for Engadget- one of many to come.
It’s available in paperback (10.8 x 8.5 inches) and electronic versions (iPad, Kindle, Nook, ebook, iPhone). It will be in many countries as early as February 2012 as well- China, Denmark, France, Russia, the UK, and so on.
Published by Amphoto/ Crown Publishing, a division of Random House, the book is 240 pages long (~50,000 words), packed with roughly 240 images in 10 chapters covering the gamut of nature and outdoor photography. As I did with my last book, The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure, I followed a step-by-step approach to the art in order to help readers move easily through the process, with a lot of freedom to create. I have also included an ‘assignment’ in each chapter to give readers a task to follow, helping them improve through the book.
No book signings are set up at the moment- the industry is changing and it seems like bookstores aren’t as interested (of course unless you are J.K. Rowling, James Patternson, or Stephen King – and I ain’t there yet!). Lots of interviews however and solid press – a New York Times interview, promotion on Red Room, interview on Scott Kelby’s iPad magazine Light It, Think Tank Photo, Nik software, and more- good stuff.
Google eBook (for iPad, Android, iPhone, Nook, Sony, etc): http://books.google.com/ebooks?id=fHY6-tgeey0C&source=productsearch
Kindle version (Amazon): http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Guide-Nature-Photography-ebook/dp/B004SOQ0MQ