Saturday, January 16, 2016

Rain in the Redwoods

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When I started up the trail into Muir Woods this morning, the forest floor was nearly dark. I figured the early hour, plus the rain, would give me a couple hours to enjoy the place in solitude. For one reason or another -- most recently a run of sore throats and coughing fits -- I haven't been able to get out to the woods for a while. I chose a Muir Woods hike because it's an easy enough walk to manage even on the tail end of a bad cold.

I'd hoped to hear salmon splashing in Redwood Creek, but I was too late. A ranger later told me the run happened around Christmas. In the old stories about this area, back in the early 1900s when its conservation fate was not yet assured, Redwood Creek was a well-known salmon stream. Saved from loggers in 1902 and a water company that wanted to flood the whole valley in 1907, the salmon run today is nevertheless on the brink of extinction. 

There's a bit of an art to doing photography in the rain. You've got to hold an umbrella against the rain while maneuvering your camera out of the backpack, getting the right lens attached, and plugging in the cable release. Then you've got to zip the pack closed and get it on your back while protecting the camera until you can attach it to the tripod and remove the lens cap. Even a small droplet on the lens can be a disaster. At first I tried to do things too fast which turned out to be more conducive to frustration than efficiency of movement. I was much happier when I slowed down accomplish the string of tasks one at a time.

I didn't take my camera out for the first time until I was all the way back to Bridge 4, near the border of Mt. Tamalpais State Park. What I liked about that area was how the view opened up. Rain still fell, but so did the light of morning. While I found myself awake in the middle of the night last week I got to thinking about light's 93 million mile journey from the sun to our planet. How that light strikes an object like a leaf which reflects certain wavelengths into our eyes where it generates an electrical signal to some part of our brain where we consciously become aware of it. "Green," with think. Not even aware of the whole Rube Goldberg chain of events that led up to our brilliant insight since it all happened at the speed of light. We open our eyes and POOF! the world lays out before us. But of course the world doesn't come and go, and there is no separation between us and it. We all rewind back to the same singularity.

Anyway, that's the kind of stuff I think about at 2 in the morning sometimes. As you can see in this image, I tried a couple of unusual compositions. I might be alone in enjoying this one, but I find it kind of amazing that such a chaotic scene can be pleasurable to my eye.

I left the park and drove toward Muir Beach, passing a flock of wild turkeys that included many young birds, and pulled over at one point to admire the leafless, lichen-jacketed, alder trees along Redwood Creek. I'd planned to photograph songbirds along the trail, but there was some kind of footrace going on, with individual runners passing by every half-minute or so, making any quiet stalking impossible.

I left Frank's Valley to go home, but as I drove past Muir Beach it looked like the sky was clearing, so I drove on up to Rock Spring. Unfortunately, the sky did not clear, and visibility was quite limited. Cataract Creek was truly flowing, though. This little cascade is actually along a side stream that joins Cataract Creek a few feet downstream.

I'd noticed earlier in the season that this jumble of roots had been covered by numerous sticks. I figured kids had been building a fort, or maybe just tossing branches for the fun of it. I really like this root jumble, though, and I wanted to photograph it. Just as I got down there, I saw a group of people coming down the trail, so I waited for them to pass. Instead of passing, however, they walked over to the edge of the embankment and looked down to admire the mossy jumble and see what I was doing. They were four or five young women and a guy with a small dog at the end of a leash, all staring at me. We exchanged a pleasantry or two, but they took their time before finally moving on. After they were gone, I climbed into the jumble to remove the unsightly sticks and branches. This mossy jumble is actually tree roots that were underground before the stream washed the soil away.

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  1. I just noticed your tip jar. when my paypal gets flush again I'll have to use it here...I so enjoy being taken up on Mt. Tam.