Winter Drive to Mt. Laguna

San Diego – Last week was the final week of classes at City College.  Well, officially Monday (today) is the last day of the semester but Dave and I gave our students the day as an open lab day so in fact final lectures have been given, the final portfolios have been critiqued, Merry Christmas (oops, I forget where I am, I mean “Happy Holidays”) wishes relayed, and we will be in our offices assembling grades and getting them turned in.  Then we will be off for about a month.  Well, sort of… I still have a few classes remaining to re-write due to the fiasco concerning course repeatability but they are mostly templated and so it should not be a major chore.

I’ve been working on some new datasheets/handouts and Friday I had lunch with my friend Lee Peterson who showed me how he tested DSLRs for the cleanest “Prime” ISO; a technique I immediately incorporated into a revised datasheet I’ve been editing on calibration for DSLRs.  Different from color management issues, this is about the digital version of calibrating the system for proper exposures, ISO and light meter issues, etc.

Lee’s approach was far simpler than my old way so I was happy to learn and be able to use it since a lot of students are put off by anything that smacks of work or techie gobbledygook.  I was pleased that the results on my own cameras were the same as for my older, harder method (at least I had not given bad information to students) but this was so much easier and so much less reliant on good monitors and observation.  And the timing was perfect.

My major plan over the long Christmas break is to update all of my handouts, datasheets, Powerpoint presentations, essays, and perhaps a book or two, and put them together on a CD.  There are over 300 pages of datasheets alone and having to print them out from my web site, even though they have been free there, is a pain for them and if I can make this available for a reasonable charge hopefully they will avail themselves of it for use in classes and in their photography.  My goal is to have it ready for Spring Semester though that may be a touch ambitious as a plan since there is a LOT of work to do.

But I needed a break.  More to the point, a shooting break.  It has been raining steadily over the past few days, the mountains are shrouded in clouds and new storms off shore are pushing inland, so, hoping to find some winter scenery and maybe pick up a touch of Christmas spirit, after breakfast Sunday it was off to the Sunrise Highway and Mt. Laguna.  I had also hoped to pick up the last shots needed for a new handout on using filters in the digital world (including why NOT to use them).  But though the shots I needed for that project eluded me, others were not so sneaky and I managed to snare a few.

It was not all that far down the road from the turn off away from the Cuyamaca road onto Sunrise Highway, with new storm clouds coming in hard behind us, that a break in the clouds allowed the sun to stream through the moisture laden air to form a rainbow over a tree on a hill.  The cold wet wind cut right into you, so digging for the pot of gold, tempting as it was since I could clearly see the end of the rainbow, seemed like a bad plan.  To be honest I didn’t see it, I was actually trying to line up the next shot below.  But my shooting companion did and over the wind howling in my ears and my chattering teeth I heard her shouting to me.  She was pointing and I turned to look.  This is what awaited me…

Rainbow Tree

Wow. That shot makes it look like the storm may be breaking but it is actually looking WNW, the wrong direction.  I’m not sure i’ve ever seen a rainbow in front of a storm before.

Turning back around into the wind, the onrushing clouds were devouring the mountains as they ate their way toward us.  A lone tree awaited its foggy fate and within a few minutes it too was wrapped in the fog’s chilly embrace.

A tree braces for the unrushing storm clouds.  5D Mk II, 85mm f1.8

A tree braces for the unrushing storm clouds. 5D Mk II, 85mm f1.8

A little farther into the Cleveland National Forest, near what had once been an information stand that had been burned in the Cedar Fire, there was a stand of ghost like trees looming out of the mists.  Blackened and burned out remnants from that deadly and devastating fire a few years ago standing mute testimony to the devastation possible when man does something unconscionably stupid.

Remains of trees killed during the infamous Cedar Fire loom out of the mists.  Canon 5D Mk II, 17-40 f4L

Remains of trees killed during the infamous Cedar Fire loom out of the mists. Canon 5D Mk II, 17-40 mm f4L

When that fire was burning, advancing faster than fire crews could get ahead of it, it covered an area from the slopes of Mt. Laguna all the way into the outskirts of San Diego.  Only an evening on-shore wind kept it from marching to the sea right through northern San Diego between Pacific Beach and La Jolla.  The skies in San Diego, 100 miles from where this was taken, were dark and orange creating an eerie glow to the city as ash rained down coating lawns, roofs, and cars like grey snow.

Around one blackened tree some various bushes have formed a natural wreath.  It struck me as something from an old-time illustration so that is how I edited it below.


Winter bushes form a natural wreath around a sleeping tree.

Winter bushes form a natural wreath around a blackened tree. Canon 5D Mk II. 17-40 mm f4L

That might make a suitable illustration for a winter card or poster.  I liked the contrast between the rich wet colors of the leaves and the bleak snowy background.

To my surprise the forest was filled with people out playing in the snow, building snowmen and even what I think was a snow bear.  They were everywhere, kids and adults trying to sled down the poor little hills, making snow angels in the wet soggy snow… you’d think they had never seen snow before.

Oh wait, this is Southern California, maybe some of them had not.

Driving down the southwestern flank of Mt. Laguna an interesting tapestry was formed by the rows of cedars.  The color was strange and I thought at first perhaps the ends of the branches, ranging from bright red to rust red in color, were showing some frost kill of some kind.

A tapestry of color from a grove of cedars.

A tapestry of color from a grove of cedars.

But upon close inspection the ends of the branches were tipped with what appeared to be new growth and seeds.  Since we are at the front end of winter that surprises me but there is a great deal I do not know about the flora in this area.  In Colorado we had four or five kinds of trees and about as many flowers to learn but here, the abundance of strange and wonderful trees and flowers is amazing.  Growing seeds in winter is a new one on me but here they are.


Winter seeds on the cedars near Mt. Laguna.  Canon 5D Mk II w/ 180mm f3.5 macro

Winter seeds on the cedars near Mt. Laguna. Canon 5D Mk II w/ 180mm f3.5 macro

Weird, huh?  Oh well, anyway, time to get this uploaded and then tackle the grading.  I can hardly wait…


About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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2 Responses to Winter Drive to Mt. Laguna

  1. sph3re says:

    I really like the shots especially the one of the natural wreath. Excellent find!

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