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Tag Archives: Trail

Lake Fulmor – Highway 243 – Idyllwild, CA

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


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.


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.

Posted in Landscape Photography, Photography Tutorials Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Vasquez Rocks – Agua Dulce, CA

Address:  10700 Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, CA 91350  [ Map It ]

The Vasquez Rocks were first made famous in 1873 by a notorious bandit named Tiburcio Vasquez who used the rocks as a hide out and for whom the rocks are named. Later, Hollywood made the rocks famous again by using them in many movies and TV shows. Probably the most famous of which was a popular Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk faces off against the lizard like Gorn Captain.

The rocks’ very noticeable and unique 45 degree angle were formed as a result of the rocks being pushed upward by the San Andreas Fault, and are what makes the rocks stand out both as a great western back drop (Apache 1954 and Blazing Saddles 1974) as well as that of a far away planet (Star Trek 1967, 1986, 1994, 2009).

In pictures of the Vasquez Rocks that I found online, many of them showed cars parked right in front of the rocks (a photographer’s nightmare). For my trip out to the rocks, I planned to be there when the gates opened at 8:00 am so that I could be the first one in and to get my photos before someone decided to park in my shots.

Admission is free and once past the gates, you follow a car safe dirt road down to where the main rock formation is. Arriving at the formation, I quickly unpacked my gear, set up and while I was shooting, a car pulls right into my shot as if I didn’t exist. Giving the occupants a few moments to notice me taking pictures didn’t seem to matter. They exited their car, grabbed some backpacks out of the trunk and were about to head off before my friend politely asked them to move their car.

Capturing the Shot: If you plan on photographing the rocks, I would recommend arriving at about 7:30 am and wait for the gates to open. Arrive later and you will likely find someone parked right in front of the rocks which would ruin any shot for you. Now, if the lighting is good, you can always park outside of the gate and walk in before the gates open and any cars have a chance to get in, and many do just that. Outside parking can be found right outside of the gate alongside of the road.

I visited the rocks on a day slated for good weather, however, not a single cloud could be found in the sky which made my photos appear rather bland looking. I would suggest visiting on a day slated for at least some cloudiness to give your sky some detail.

Once you get your photos of the main rock formation, there are many easy trails that you can follow for some photos of other strange and unique rock formations. The back side of the main formation produces some great shots that show the rock’s flat side seemingly heading off into space at a 45 degree angle. You could spend an entire day walking the trails and various rock formations can be found everywhere. I prefer to shoot unique landscapes but I could easily see posing or laying a model across one of these rock formations for a terrific outdoor shot.

Note: This location is a living desert and desert wildlife such as rattlesnakes do live here (and in rock crevices), so be careful when you’re out hiking and climbing around. Also, Summer temperatures will often hit 100 degrees and winter temperatures in the mornings are very cold. This area is also prone to high winds that can pose problems for camera gear as well. Check your weather report before heading out and dress accordingly.

Posted in Landscape Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Abalone Cove – Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Address:  5970 S. Palos Verdes Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275  [ Map It ]

I stumbled upon Abalone Cove almost by accident when using Google Maps to find another location. I spotted the parking lot while in satellite view and thought it might make a great place to stop while in the area to catch some photographs of sunsets. Upon further research, I found that there are tide pools and some sea caves which made the location attractive to me.

Visiting the location’s website, I saw that there is a $5.00 entrance fee. Using Google’s Street View, I scouted the road along Palos Verdes Drive to find a place to simply pull over and park for a bit with the intent to simply walk down to the beach, however, I found plenty of No Parking signs and only two turnouts that held no more than four cars at a time and the signs posted there were marked “1 hour Parking.” Really no way around paying the $5.00 to visit the location. I chose to visit the location in the afternoon and when I arrived, the gates were open and no fee was charged. Also, I did notice on the website that the location has marked hours and I was curious what my time frame to park, get down to the beach, set up some shots, and get back to the car before the gates closed, so I telephoned and the gentleman said that once inside the parking area, you can leave whenever with no worries about having your car trapped there overnight if you arrive after the stated hours (use your own judgment).

Once on site at the location, I put on my hiking boots and slipped into my Lowepro camera backpack. For this shoot, I brought along my Canon 5d Mark II and my favorite Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens and my heavy Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5 lens. I also packed my tripod, battery grip and the usual extra batteries, miscellaneous camera gear, and a large bottle of water. All told, my backpack most likely weighed in over 30 pounds.

At a little after 3:00 pm, I set out on the trail leading down to the beach. There are two trails from the parking area. One in the lower corner and one in the upper corner. Most people appear to chose to take the lower trail. I took the upper trail because the sea caves were my priority. Taking a wrong turn, I ended up in the same place as a lower trail which comes out on a very rocky beach. By rocky, I mean, large rocks that make walking slow as the rocks move and roll under your feet. Caution: You can easily twist an ankle on this beach while walking on the rocks, so be careful and take your time. Hiking boots that support your ankles would be advised. Once on this beach, you can find the waves crashing into the rocks for some great shots. You can also see the curvature of the beach and the cliff (Portugese Point) that juts out to the south.

The hike down to the beach takes about 20 minutes, which includes a stop or two at look out points to admire the view. Going back up takes a bit longer as the trail is much steeper than it looks making me wish I would have left my heavy 5 lb. Sigma lens at home. Keep in mind, this is a steep dirt trail that I imagine could cause you to slip and slide with worn out basketball or tennis shoes with no tread left on them.

The lower trail ends at the rocky beach, however, if you go back into the small canyon where you came out, the trail can be picked up again on the right to continue along the bluff and on down to the bottom of Portugese Point, and if low tide, tidal pools. Around the corner, on the south side of Portugese Point is Smuggler’s Cove, and the better sea caves where the ocean rushes in making for some great shots. Caution: While at the tide pools, having a spotter along to watch for rouge waves is advised as many have been swept into the sea without notice. In fact, recently the park was closed for several weeks after several people, on different occasions, were swept to their deaths by rouge waves caused by a southern hurricane.

Capturing the Shot: It’s best to check the tidal charts before scheduling a trip to Abalone Cove. Low tide days are best to visit the tide pools and high tide days produce shots of the waves crashing on the rocky beach.

I chose to visit this location in the late afternoon so that the sun would be off to the north of me while shooting the beach in the opposite direction and which would make the ocean appear more blue with less reflections, and I wasn’t disappointed. The draw back to late afternoon is that the nightly marine layer begins to roll in and you can see it coming off in the distance. Use your best judgment for the shot that you are looking for.

All told, this is a great location that seems to be overlooked by many photographers by virtue of the hike. Getting down to the rocky beach is fairly easy. Getting to the tide pools and sea caves will take a good bit of hiking but well worth it to capture that unique shot that is rarely found in California and more often associated with Hawaii.

Posted in Ocean Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |