Photo essay: Panoramas

I don’t always consider myself to be a good photographer. I am self-taught, which is respectable, but as shutterbugs go, I am not the most patient. Additionally, I so often pack my tripod for a trip and then opt not to haul it around. As such, night photography is often in “P” (Program) mode rather than “M” (Manual) mode. I still pull off some good shots, but I don’t deny that they could have been better.

One category in which I excel – I think – is panoramic photography. It isn’t so much that I’m a natural; some places simply lend themselves to “wider-angle” photography. Natural wonders are obvious choices – the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Alps, I could go on and on. On rare occasions, cityscapes make for terrific panoramic images as well. The trick, of course, is a) to seek these vista points out, b) to step back and recognize a place’s potential, and c) to have a camera on your person.

Below are several of my favorite panoramic photos from my travels. My process is to snap snap snap an epic view from left to right, then “stitch” the individual images together in post. I use Windows Live Photo Gallery for this feature. It is a free program; don’t be surprised if a version of it is already installed on your computer.

Unless otherwise indicated, pics were taken using a Canon Powershot or a Nikon DSLR. You may have to click on them to see the full detail.

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The Backbone Trail of Southern California

For this hiking-related entry, I decided to write about an epic, multi-day hike across the spine – or “backbone” – of the mountain range in which I have spent the most time. During the twelve years I lived in Los Angeles, I spent many a weekend day exploring LA and Ventura Counties’ literally hundreds of hiking trails. Three transverse mountain ranges pass through LA, and my favorite trails to hike are in the Santa Monica Mountains. These mountains follow the coast (more east-west than north-south in SoCal), cross the 405 Freeway to comprise the Hollywood Hills, and end at Griffith Park, one of the world’s largest urban green spaces.

SMMNRA sign

The Backbone Trail is a 65-mile hike that takes you from the highlands of star-studded Pacific Palisades, into the hills above Malibu and the canyons beyond, ending at Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County. Along the way, the trail ascends and descends over 11,000 vertical feet, passing through five Mediterranean ecosystems and past geological and cultural treasures. The trail passes two Inspiration Points, at least two split rocks, and is a short scramble from the highest point in the range. Best of all? The highest point is just 3,111 feet above sea level, so cold weather is seldom much of a factor. This is one trail that is actually better when hiking during the fall-winter-spring off-season than during the scorching summer months. Are you ready to give it a try?

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