Hiking

Yosemite in Winter with Infrared by Brenda Hartshorn

All images below were taken using my IR camera that was converted from a Canon 5D.

For the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir images, I used the methods of Straight Photography in respect to the early photographers who dedicated themselves to taking photos of the West.  These images provided evidence to help conserves our national parks today.  The most famous of these photographers was of course Ansel Adams, but there were many others apart of Group f/64.  Others included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, and Willard Van Dyke.  These photographers would pack 100 pounds of photography equipment in order to bring back images of these great landscapes.  In some cases, a mule was required to carry their large format 8x10 camera, lenses, tripod, film, and portable darkroom into the wilderness.

For the photos taken at Mirror Lake, I also did some alternative processing using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to help pull out the difference in luminosity of the areas reflecting the IR spectrum.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Yosemite has a few different entrances into the park, most of which lead to the well known Valley Floor.  However, the North end of the park also has an access point to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

It is said that before the reservoir was filled, it was an area that was just as beautiful as the rest of the park.  And, to some, it has been considered a great loss to have filled this area with another reservoir. After hearing this commentary over the years, I had always assumed that this area of the park was off limits.  I was wrong.  Not only is this area open to the public, it has fairly well maintained trails, is very beautiful, and has no entrance fee for day use.

This area of the park is less developed than the greater Yosemite.  There are no camp grounds, stores, or hotels here.  However overnight backpacking is allowed with a wilderness permit.

With the recent rains, the waterfalls and cascades in Yosemite were looking very impressive.  There was so much water that small streams had formed, taking over sections of the trail by running across and even along them.  Waterproof boots required.  The water increased difficulty of the hike, but it was still manageable and I would recommend checking out this area of the park.  I do not see this reservoir as a tragic mistake of lost tourism opportunities.  It is in fact still beautiful.

With the recent drought that California has been going through, we need all the reserves we can get without further damaging the environment.  Dams for the purpose of creating energy, are not very effective when compared to other methods and should not be driving reason for construction anymore.  They are also not good for the ecosystem as a whole, since they trap the needed sediment that our shorelines use for protecting us from the ocean's powerful force of erosion.  However, dams are not a great evil.  California does not have the same luxury that Washington state has in terms of the abundant supply of rain water.  There is no one fix-all solution for being able to provide resources to the people.  We must look at what we have locally to best decide how we can provide what is needed.  Northern California would benefit from its reservoirs and water treatment plants to recycle waste water during its cycles of drought.  I would like to point out that this area of California is not a desert.  It has  rich areas of soil provided by the erosion of the Sierra Nevada's that is carried downstream to the Northern and Central part of the state.  In these rich areas of Central Valley, it provides 1/4 of the nations produce.  If the rest of the country is only capable of producing in large quantities wheat, corn, livestock, and energy- the country, and the world, will continue to hear about California's drought concerns every 5 to 10 years.

Desalinization for this part of California would not be a good idea for economic and environmental reasons.  To produce water through desalinization, it is double the cost in comparison to obtaining it from reservoirs and it has proven to be very destructive for our marshy shorelines.  However, desalinization could be beneficial to other areas.  As a response to the recent drought, Southern California has started a project to create 15 desalinization plants.  For them, this may serve as a better source of obtaining water than piping it all the way down the state as they have better areas for disposing the unused salt down there.

Mirror Lake

The lake was more full thanks to the help of the snow this season and one busy beaver family.  There was a lot evidence of their work from the half chewed tree trunks along the perimeter of the lake and the pile of limbs at one end of the river.  It was only last spring, that a person could walk across the meadow-like area to reach the other side of the trail. We estimate that the water depths now range between 2'-10' based on the known heights of boulders that were accessible for climbing on before.

Although beavers can be very destructive in changing the landscape, we may be able to thank these little structural engineers for helping restore this area back to its name and historical environment.  Mirror Lake had been slowly disappearing due to the natural build up of sediment flowing into the lake bed.  Although beavers are not native to the Sierras, the park at this time has not published if they will be removing the rodents from their new home.

Skull: Lightfield and 3D model by Brenda Hartshorn

While accompanying a crew for doing some Native American archaeology exploration at Hatch Creek, one of the people from the party found a canine skull.  Initially, given the location of being out in the middle of Sierra Foothills (about a 3 hour hike from the nearest small town and an hour drive from the city of Modesto), the most logical explanation would have been that the skulls was from a coyote.  However, under further examination with the aid of using California Academy of Science's online 3D Skull exhibit, we were able to identify that the skull was actually from a Pitbull or breed close to it.  Since there are ranches in the area, it is possible that this dog came from one of them.  There did not appear to be an evidence of a mountain lion attack, however only the skull was found.

 

Although it was sad finding the skull of a dog and our survey of the area was unsuccessful for identifying any undocumented Miwok village site locations for the State of California, it was a great day to have been out in nature and use some technology I had helped make while working at Google.  The Skulls exhibit that California Academy of Science did in collaboration with Google's 3D scanning technology was one of the projects I was most excited to be involved in while working there.  I can now also be proud that I have used the technology as a scientific reference for identification. I hope to see this technology grow as a common tool for reference that is widely available to students, hobbyists, and professionals doing research.

Seeing the skull as a lightfield using the Lytro Illum has an added realism experience which is very nice.  Although, since I am unable to turn the skull around with a single lightfield, using it as a reference tool isn't as good as viewing the 3D model.  However, the lightfield is nice being able to see the higher resolution texture on the surface of the skull and be able to get a sense of the terrain in which it was found.  Therefore, the lightfield could serve as a nice supporting piece of material for an exhibit for adding context to the subject.