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Winter Color, Kern River Canyon

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 26 February 2011 in Landscape & Rural.


Northern Arizona Photo Workshop - Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Sedona - March 17-21, 2011
(Workshop Sold Out)
Spring Big Sur Workshop - 4th Annual Wildflowers and Color - April 17-20, 2011 (Workshop Sold Out)
Springtime in Lake Tahoe and the Mokelumne Wilderness Photo Workshop - May 14-17, 2011 (space available)
Northern California - 3rd Annual Redwoods and Mendocino Photo Workshop - May 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Second Annual Garden Isle and Tropical Paradise - Kauai Photo Workshop - July 8-12, 2011 (only 4 spots remaining)
Summer Big Sur - 3rd Annual Mystical Fog and Colorful Headlands Photo Workshop - August 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Full Moon Over Red Rock, Arches, and Canyons - 3rd Annual Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - October 9-13, 2011 (only 2 spots remaining).
3rd Annual Magic Light, Moonlight, and Pfeiffer Beach Arch Big Sur Winter Workshop - January 8-11, 2012 (space available)
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We are all creatures of habit. It seems the older I get the more set in my ways I have become (where I have heard this before)? Sometimes this is a good trait, but when it comes to finding new imagery, sometimes a shakeup is needed. On a recent trip back to my home in the southern Santa Clara Valley from the eastern Sierra, I decided to take a route through the Kern River Canyon. I had been this way long ago (we're talking over 30 years) and it was time for a change in scenery. Mind you this was mid-morning on a clear-sky day but I was bored with my drive so off I went.

The landscape starts with high desert scrub and Joshua trees and finishes with a trip through the beautiful Kern River Canyon just east of Bakersfield. I saw many potential scenes along my route but the harsh sun made it not worth my while to stop.

Once in the canyon, I was reminded of being in the Merced River Canyon west of Yosemite National Park. But instead of following the Merced River, I found myself tracking the Kern River. Reflected light was bouncing off the surface of the river creating beautiful warm tones but nothing caught my fancy until I spotted this lone scrub oak in vibrant yellow color. Had I been transported back to fall? This was late January, why was this tree displaying fall color? I could only surmise that the restricted sunlight in the deep canyon had something to do with it; nevertheless, it was time to pull over, dig out my gear, and get to work!

My initial couple of frames were rather staid and boring, what could I do differently? My only thought was, let's allow the motion of the water to add a bit of visual interest in this static scene. So out came my Singh Ray Vari ND Duo filter and the game was on. It was now a matter of dialing in the right amount of neutral density while turning the polarizer, and with one filter I was able to get a nice blur to the water and allow the vibrant color of the oak to pop.

Unfortunately my fun didn't last long as a breeze began to kick up resulting in too much blur with the leaves. This was the last of only four frames I captured with my 70-200 mmL lens at f/22 and a shutter of 1.5 seconds at 12:45 pm in the afternoon. Thanks to the indirect light provided by the open shade, my light was even and manageable. I played with my contrast in post until I got the look I wanted. The bonus was the warm reflected light creating golden hues in the blurred water.

The next time you are on a long familiar drive, challenge yourself to take a different route. Who knows what photographic gems lie waiting your discovery!

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 4/5 seconds F/22.0 ISO 100 90 mm

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