Category Archives: Photography Tutorials

Lake Fulmor – Highway 243 – Idyllwild, CA


Address:  Lake Fulmor, Highway 243 (Lat 8051129, Lng -116.779569)  [ Map It ]

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Lake Fulmor is a great location to photograph that mirror like image on a calm lake. You might have caught a glimpse of this lake as you passed by on your way to Idyllwild, CA. On Highway 243 with its winding road, this lake will only be within view for a second before you head into another turn on the highway, so it often gets overlooked.

The lake itself is man-made and part of a reservoir system for Indian Creek which flows into it. The creek turns into a trickle in the Summer months but in Winter, when the snows come, you can catch some great photos of the creek just north of the lake.

Lake Fulmor sits at about a 5,500 foot elevation, and is a rather small lake that only takes about a half-hour to walk around. Well used dirt paths mark the way all the way around. On either end of the lake, there are bridges, which provide some great shooting locations. The south side of the lake provides the most picturesque views with a pine tree covered mountain as your backdrop.

Capturing the Shot: Wide, wooden steps leading down to the water can be found at several points while walking over the south bridge (nearest the highway). Walk down one and check out the view from water level. I set my tripod up with two legs hanging off of the lowest step to touch the ground and one leg of the tripod placed on the step itself. Shooting with a shutter speed of 1/125 and an ISO of 100 will bring out the surrounding Autumn colors suitable for framing. An f-stop of f/11 will produce a nice depth of field to bring both the lake and nearby mountains into focus.

The north bridge is where Indian Creek meets the lake. When the creek is flowing, this vantage point allows for some great photos.

One notable landmark at the lake is an outcropping of rocks that protrude into the lake. These rocks provide for some great shots due to their contrast to the surrounding area. If you are adventurous, you can even climb on top of the rocks for some different views of the lake.

Opposite of the rocks is a wooden platform (pier like structure) that extends partly over the lake. This area too can provide a great location to shoot from.

The best photo results of the lake will come in the Autumn (multi-colored leaves) and Winter (snow covered trees) but really, it has no bad season. However, weather does play an important factor in capturing that calm, still, lake photo. Even the slightest breeze will cause ripples in the lake, destroying that mirror image. Still a good photo with minor ripples, you really want to to visit on a day when the winds are nil. The time of day that you visit also plays an important role. The best time to visit is in the morning between 10:00 am and Noon. Before 10:00 am, the Sun has yet to come over the mountains to shed light on the trees and lake. In the late afternoon, the Sun will be at the south end of the lake, so shooting from the north and down the lake will put the Sun right into your lens.

The highway leading up the mountain to the Lake Fulmor has many turnouts that you may not want to overlook. Take the time to stop at a few for some fantastic views (right side turnouts are often views of Hemet and the valley far below, and the left side turnouts reveal mountains and many rock formations). The small mountain town of Idyllwild is about 10 miles past the lake. If you plan your trip right, you can arrive at the lake by 9:00 am, do some exploring, take some photos, and then head off for Idyllwild for lunch before heading back down the mountain.

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Note: Lake Fulmor is a designated “Day Use Area” requiring the $5.00 per day, Adventure Pass. HOWEVER, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA), which was passed by Congress to authorize the policy for collecting such fees, was recently struck down in part by the U.S. District Court, Central District, and the U.S. Forest Service was enjoined and barred from collecting fees from people who simply park and hike without using any of the developed facilities, such as picnic tables and restrooms. See Fragosa, et al. vs. U.S. Forest Service.

“On April 28, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., ruled that the United States Forest Service cannot charge fees to recreational visitors who park a car, then camp at undeveloped sites, picnic along roads or trailsides, or hike through the area without using the facilities and services.”

“Relying on a previous case, Adams v. United States Forest Service, 671 F.3d 1138 (9th Circuit 2012), Judge Hatter wrote, “Adams is quite clear. The Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking. If a visitor does nothing other than park, the fee is solely for parking and is, therefore, plainly prohibited by the REA.”

Don’t be duped or intimidated into paying such fees if you are simply visiting the lake and do not use any of the facilities.

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Blackbird Airpark – Spy Plane Museum – Palmdale, CA


Address:  2503 East Avenue P, Palmdale, CA 93550  [ Map It ]

A while back I was looking for a movie set out in the desert using Google Maps in satellite view. As I was looking around I spotted what appeared to be an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane on the ground. As I zoomed in, sure enough, it was an SR-71 Blackbird, a long known about but super secret military spy plane that was recently declassified. As I moved into Google Street View, I saw the plane was even visible from the street. Upon further investigation, I found that it is an aircraft museum. This I had to visit.

Blackbird Airpark is a spy plane museum like no other aircraft museum. Here, they have several historical spy planes on display, including the infamous U-2 spy plane and the precursor to the stealthly SR-71, the A-12 single seat spy plane. Also, the ultra top secret SR-71 looking D-12 stealth drone.

If you want to get a close up shot of an SR-71 Blackbird, according to their website, this is the only place in the world to do so.

Staffed by volunteers, Blackbird Airpark is only open Friday through Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, but closed on weekdays. Admission is free but donations are appreciated..

Capturing the Shot: Because the planes are free standing and your head comes up to the landing gear, I mounted my camera atop a monopod and using my camera’s intervalometer, I set it to automatically snap a shot every 5-seconds, I then lifted the monopod high up in the air for a bird’s eye view of the planes for that unique shot.

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