Pinnacles National Park was “established” in 2013 as the United States’ 59th National Park, elevating it from a National Monument. It is known mostly for its interesting-looking eroded volcano remnants from an “extinct” volcano, some of which are pictured here. It’s also a release site for California Condors. You’re probably more likely to see a California Condor here than anywhere else in the wild (all I saw was stupid Turkey Vultures).
I visited for a day earlier this year, and by a day, I mean a few hours. We were in San Francisco for a wedding and while checking out things to do, I noticed that Pinnacles was only around a 2.5 hour drive away. The wedding was pretty wild (one of our friends works for Google, so it had one of those fancy Google buses and everything!), but I took it easy so I’d be ready to pounce early the next morning. I got up about 4 a.m., stocked up on free coffee in the hotel lobby, and then drove like a madman. As I drove like a bat outta hell through the middle of nowhere at dawn, it felt a bit like a scene out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas–except the only drug in my system was a copious amount of caffeine.
When I finally arrived, I still had about 45 minutes until sunrise, nearly no gas, and little idea where to drive for the best view. After going left at a fork in the road and driving about 5 miles, I realized that my choice would take me to a lower elevation, whereas the right would’ve taken me to a higher elevation. D’oh. My gas situation being what it was and the nearest gas station 20 miles in the other direction, I didn’t have much of a choice but to try to hike to the higher elevation for the sunrise.
The 2.5 mile one-way hike took longer than I hoped, and my body gave a firm “no” when I tried to run up the mountains as the sun peaked over them. I managed to grab the sunrise from the trail here with the eroded volcano remnants all around me, but it wasn’t nearly as epic of a view as I would have had if I had taken the right at the fork in the road.
After hiking back down the mountain, I promptly left the park and drove the 2.5 hours back to our hotel (given my driving, I think it was more like 1.5 hours each way), as we had a day of activities planned. When I got back, just about everyone else was still in bed…
The Times They Are A-Changin?
Early this morning, Sony announced a full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera to be released on December 1, 2013. I had been following the leaks regarding this, and was up at 2 a.m. to promptly place a pre-order on Amazon. I’m still not sure whether I will go through with the order as the initial lens lineup is a little questionable, but I will have a mirrorless camera before the end of 2013.
Those of you who follow ISO 5571 might know that have not been an early adopter to jump aboard the mirrorless train. My mantra in the past has been that if it’s not small enough to fit in my pocket, smaller size doesn’t matter to me for my purposes. Unfortunately, I’m wrong a lot. This was one of those times.
Prior to last year, when we were mostly just traveling to Walt Disney World and Disneyland for a few days at a time with only a few other locations thrown in, this was true. However, in 2013, we’ve taken more Disney trips than we’ve taken Disney ones, and spent around twice as many days in “real world” locales. As much as I love my DSLR, when traveling in the real world, the smaller size does have its allure. I don’t mind carrying around 20+ pounds of gear in a theme park, because its a touristy place with restaurants and attractions that match. In the real world, I’ve found a huge backpack and camera draw more attention and aren’t quite as comfortable to carry. It has been a pain in busy cities and on crowded trains, at restaurants, and in exhibits and other attractions. (It’s also a pain when hiking through the National Parks, but I’m still willing to deal with that annoyance for now.) I realized this last year, but have kept using the DSLR because the quality justified it. The Sony NEX and Olympus systems, while having their upsides, still didn’t compete with a full frame DSLR in terms of quality. That has been my thinking and the conventional thinking among landscape photographers since the supposed mirrorless “revolution” began a couple of years ago.
Sony disrupted that conventional thinking today with the announcement of the Sony NEX a7 and NEX a7R today. While it understandably won’t have nearly the lens lineups of the established DSLR systems at launch, those who have had a chance to test the camera have suggested that it competes with full frame DSLRs in terms of quality. If you are even mildly interested in these cameras, you might want to pre-order now and think later (you’ll have at least until the end of November to cancel before being charged), as Amazon is already warning that their initial shipment won’t be enough to satisfy all pre-orders.
My only question…where are industry leaders Canon and Nikon? Thus far, they have been inconsequential players in the evolution of camera technology, with marginal DSLR market players like Sony and Olympus really turning heads with emerging tech. It seems to me that Kodak’s fall from glory would be a cautionary tale. I love my Nikon DSLRs and lenses, but I have no brand loyalty. I go where the quality is, and unless Canon and Nikon act quickly, they will be left behind while Sony and Olympus take the lead in the next generation of digital photography.
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Photographed with a Nikon D600 and the Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens. Shot back when I was using the DX fisheye lens with my FX Nikon D600. It worked well enough, especially given that I have enough MP to crop out the black areas. I now use the Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 full frame fisheye, and prefer that.
In post processing, I used Adobe Camera Raw to adjust the white balance, tint, color balance, and exposure and opened the image as a Smart Object into Photoshop CS6. The big adjustments here were to the individual color channels, because my raw file looked pretty green, whereas I remember the light being much warmer (it seems this green tint is pretty common for me…). I finished by doing a curves adjustment layer and then doing some healing where there were sun spots and stray lens flare.
What do you think…worth driving 3-4 hours round trip to see the sunrise at a National Park? Have you visited Pinnacles National Park (or Monument)? Please share any thoughts you may have in the comments!