Lead into the Desert by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

Hello (again) World

I am happy to once again have my computer set up with internet access so that I may be able to share my adventures in photos.  I have moved to the Upper Mojave Desert for a job and am very much enjoying my new home.  It is within a reasonable driving distance to many points of interest, including Death Valley, Alabama Hills, the Eastern Sierra's, White MountainsJoshua Tree, and many ghost towns.  Due to the lack of humidity and pollution out here, you are able to see for very long distances during the day and at night the skies light up with stars instead of city lights.  It has been very refreshing to look up at night and see the awesomeness that surrounds us.  I knew I had missed seeing stars after living in larger cities for so long, but I had forgotten how much it meant to me.

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Probably the first thing you will notice about my photos of Red Rock Canyon is that the rocks are not red.  This is due to the fact that these photos were taking with my Infrared modified DSLR and have been processed using alternative methods.

I've modified the way I have been alternative processing my infrared images after upgrading to Photoshop CC for my home computer.  Before I was simply changing the allotted values from 0 to 100, but CC now allows you to go from -200 to +200 for each of the RGB channels.  This really allows you to stretch the channels in your raw file to be able to pull out even more visual separation captured.  The images for Red Rock Canyon with the bright blue skies were processed using the channel mixer and set to:

  • Red: R 0, G 0, B +162
  • Green: R 0, G +95, B 0
  • Blue: R +112, G 0, B -112 

The deeper yellow in the foliage in the canyon is evidence that the water run off is benefiting these shrubs much more than the plants on the ridge which are a lighter yellow.

Barstow & Jawbone

On just about every highway out here you will come across a ghost town from once booming industries that fell into collapse.

Many of the homes from that not too distant past have been picked over by people looking for copper pipes and wire in the walls.

Some homes even have evidence of been set on fire.  I can only speculate if it was the same kind of thing that happened with the housing market crash in 2007.  There were a lot foreclosed properties on the market which were just completely trashed by their previous owners who took out their anger on their lost home.  It also very well could have been the work of random vandalism or drug activity.

Castle Air Museum by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

I went down to Castle Air Museum to see the collection of aircraft they had on display and listened to my dad reminisce.  He worked as an air frames mechanic for the Navy during Vietnam, so he had some interesting stories.  My brother and I were introduced to planes at an early age by getting models from our local hobby shop and building them together.  I learned to appreciate that there were many parts went into the jets and the beauty in them.

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Yosemite in Winter with Infrared by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

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.