New year, new view (or, Welcome 2013)

January 29, 2013  •  Leave a Comment
"One's destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things." - Henry Miller

For the last ten years or so, I've flirted with travel photography. Maybe my interest is deep-rooted due to having grown up in a military family where we moved every three years until I was a teen. That coupled with my grandfather and father being hobbyist photographers for as long as I could remember. 

As a kid I shot with whatever was at hand (Instamatics, Polaroids, Voigtlanders, Holgas) and in front of me (family dogs, youth groups, the woods behind our house, even smokestacks and water towers). As I got older and was able to travel farther and with more autonomy, I graduated to national parks, monuments, and tourist attractions, while still investigating many of the lesser well known but equally compelling areas around where I lived.

I'm a curious traveler at heart. And as a photographer, the novel and strange and unfamiliar catch my eye first. Unexplored neighborhoods, foods, buildings, landscapes, and events draw my focus for hours on end and often re-orient my view of the world.

This year I'm sharing my (and a few others') travel experiences here in the newly re-dubbed "Go-See-Do" blog that takes you Inside Incite (Photography). I'll go 'off the beaten path' and show what you won't see in the average travel guidebook or site. In this visual journal, I'll also post from a few choice 'spotlight' locales where I've journeyed to take it all in - from behind and in front of the lens.

Off the Beaten Path - East of the Sierra Nevada, California, USA

California stretches almost 1000 miles (1609 km) north to south which makes for one incredibly diverse road trip. There's plenty of "best of" moments along the way, the most familiar being west of the Sierra Nevada. Think Disney, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Redwoods and Sequoia, Big Sur, and all those beaches.

East of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Highway 395 skirts its base linking the lowest point in North America to California's highest peak and beyond to one of the oldest lakes in the western hemisphere.

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CA, USA: ©Incite Photography, all rights reserved
Badwater Basin marks the lowest point in the U.S. and North America at 282 feet below sea level. Precipitation that provides snow for the Panamint Mountains (background), eventually also contributes to the salt flats below. Southern California's Salton Sea contains the 2nd lowest elevation in the United States as well. #diversity

A Death Valley staple, sand dunes here seem an easy climb from a distance. Once up close or half-way to the top, you realize that with no footholds or railings there's just one bad misstep between you and a camera bag full of grit. 

At dusk, campers gather to catch the nightly show. Without city light pollution, star shine is easier to see and capture via techniques like extended exposure or time-lapse photography. #whollygalaxies

Natural Bridge Canyon

Follow the trail past enormous rock formations to the narrow (once was) waterfall at canyon's end. Several wall's at this point are well over four stories.

Zabriskie Point, Harmony Borax Works, Dante's View, and the Artist's Drive through Artist's Palette round out the Furnace Creek area of the park accessible from Route 190. With more time (or less lingering), you can explore the Stovepipe Wells, Panamint Springs, and Scotty's Castle (home of The Racetrack / Racetrack Playa) areas before leaving the park.  

A couple of hours and several thousand feet in altitude to the West is Mt. Whitney - the 'Lower 48's' highest point.

Without climbing gear (or with a fear of heights), the easiest approach is by car from the Alabama Hills. This strange series of boulders look like the dumping ground for a kid giant's Tonka truck and have been used as a filming location for The Long Ranger (TV) and Iron Man (to name a few).
Naturalist John Muir summitted Mt. Whitney from the east via Mountaineers' Trail  - a less-intrepid visual preservationist can capture the peak from closer to sea level.

Less than 45 minutes away is another uniquely Golden State point-of-interest. Manzanar National Historic Site's carefully maintained ruins are easily found off of Highway 395 in Independence even if it's not as readily discovered in most popular travel guidebooks.

Inside the site's Interpretive Center, each display relates a different part of the history of more than 10,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were removed from their homes and "interned" at the Manzanar camp. 

The suggested (driving) tour route takes you past the former sites including the mess hall, gardens, and a baseball field all contained in neatly laid out blocks. Once out of the car and walking through the camp cemetary, the barbed wire fence and biting wind remind you that this was not the type of camp where anyone wanted to spend a summer.

California history is seeded with interesting characters from the famous 49ers to Gold Coast gentlemen pirates to the boom town developers and patrons. Often, names on street signs and highway markers hint at the treasure trove of stories available with just a little research, or so I've always thought. Just who is (was) "Lee Vining" and why are the town, airport, canyon, and other landmarks named for him? As it turns out, the area's significance well eclipses the man (Leroy Vining). As the gateway to Yosemite National Park, the Tioga Pass, Reno (NV), Lake Tahoe, and Mono Lake, perhaps the townspeople just thought it sounded better than "Poverty Flat".

Bobbing like a cork in a wine bottle is encouraged in the area's cheapest outdoor spa setting. Mono Lake's high salt to water ratio helps "swimmers" stay afloat rather than sinking to the bottom of the lake. 

While focusing on the glassy (unfrozen) lake and luminous tufa at sunset, it's easy to overlook the incongruity of the snow-encrusted mountains behind. Travel is excellent for that - confusing what is familiar for foreign and vice-versa. 


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