Category Archives: Travel

High Speed Rail Boondoggle

The Hundred Billion Dollar Boondoggle

Right now, Californians are well on their way to making a huge mistake.  The Los Angeles to San Francisco high-speed rail line indeeds sounds great on paper.  The idea that in just a few hours, you can head from the South to the Bay Area with stops in the Central Valley, sounds appealing.  Yet, time after time, history shows us that this expensive mass-transit project will not work.

The Big Dig:

Originally supposed to be a $5 billion dollar project and ended up over $20 billion dollars.  If you think California has an accurate idea on the final costs of building this project, then I have some beachfront land to sell you in Bakersfield.

Ridership:  

Will there be enough people using high speed rail to pay it’s own way, or will taxpayers indefinitely be subsidizing it similar to Amtrak?  Will the rates be affordable enough to justify a train ride and eliminating one vehicle on the road?

Mass Transit Only Works In Certain Areas:  

Only in regions where travel by car is irrefutably difficult does mass transit truly work.  Communities like New York and Chicago are examples where it has worked.  But larger regions with more urban sprawl such as Southern California have made mass transit practical for only a small subset of the driving population.

Environment:  

High Speed Rail is not without environmental concerns, including one of the canyons they wish to build to bypass the freeway in the Bay Area.

 

Sunset At Upper Cathedral by T.M. Schultze

Yosemite’s Upper Cathedral Lake – Notes

Sunset At Upper Cathedral by T.M. Schultze

Sunset At Upper Cathedral by T.M. Schultze

This past weekend, I journeyed to Yosemite National Park with long-time friend, colleague, and fellow photographer, Jeremy Long.  We were looking to make an image showing Upper Cathedral Lake at sunset, with reflection from beautiful Cathedral Peak.

On paper, the hike did not look imposing.  My map indicated it was about 3.5 miles each way.  Despite not having ideal weather (the forecast called for clear skies), we were excited to make the journey and add a new image to our respective portfolios.  This looked like a simple, single-day hike.

As we learn, time and again, it rarely works that way.  The hike up the John Muir Trail (the reverse of how most people travel from Happy Isles to Tuolomne Meadows) was tougher than we thought.  This was especially true for me, carrying much more equipment in my backpack than I needed.

I also found that the hike was quite a bit longer than written on paper.  My GPS noted the distance to the correct side of Upper Cathedral Lake at 5.3 miles.  The paper mileage was 50% wrong!  In addition, we quickly realized that the proper image was taken way up on the dome outcropping to the south.  Only, after Jeremy and I scoured separate sections of rock, we did not find the best spot.  The reflection of Cathedral Peak was either obscured by the shoreline, or we were lined up correctly but there were trees in the way.

Eventually, we both found a large outcropping that appeared to be in the right spot.  The bouldering appeared to be tough, and the light was growing dim.  However, with sunset growing close, and an additional 5+ miles back to Tuolomne Meadows, it wasn’t ideal to take more chances.

Learning Through Scouting Locations

We hiked back that evening tired, beat up, and sore.  As always, one must remember to never trust the map.  Besides the mileage, the hike was tougher than appeared on paper, and failed to take into account the extra work we needed to make the best image possible.  We didn’t have the high clouds we dreamed of either, so in this case, we counted it as strictly a scouting trip.

The next time we go, we will be more prepared from this experience.  And that is the whole point of scouting out locations.  We know what to expect and will plan for an entire weekend and camp at the lake.  We will be there earlier, with more time to scale the rock outcroppings to reach our best location.  And we will give ourselves that much more chance to make the image we are dreaming of.

The lesson is to never discount the work it takes to make an image, long before the perfect scene reveals itself to you.  If your trip doesn’t go perfect, remember the value in the experience and the knowledge you have gained.  It will give you an edge the next time you are ready to make that photography.

Further Viewing

More Images From Yosemite National Park 

Partnering in Photography

In about six months, I am planning to co-author my first book, the
Photographer’s Guide To Joshua Tree National Park. My co-author and lifelong friend, Jeremy Long are extremely excited to bring this project to fruition.

Speaking for myself, I can’t wait to finish this guide for artists and photographers everywhere to enjoy. I am also quite nervous. Good artists are endlessly creative, but good artists who are smart also know how to bring a project to completion.

This goes against my perfectionist nature. Left to my own devices, I have no doubt that I would spend an eternity writing, rewriting, rearranging, redoing, starting over, and spinning in circles. Putting this guide together with a partner gives me a person who can push me to do my best work, but also work toward a defined result.

Partnering is very important. Nobody really makes it on their own. Even Ansel Adams had Alfred Stieglitz and Ed Weston. Ask any successful photographer and artist, and they will tell you that partnering and networking are crucial to being successful in their field.

This isn’t my strong suit, and I need the help. I can write pages and pages about carefully planning to shoot a scene in the best light, but thinking about networking with others and building relationships is lost on me.

This book makes me ponder my personal strengths and weaknesses. One of the keys in partnering with others is to find people who can help you with your weak points. Ideally, your strengths can then be a source of inspiration and mentorship for others as well. Don’t go it alone. Make the success of your friends and colleagues part of everything you do.

If all goes well, the Photographer’s Guide To Joshua Tree National Park will be the culmination of the efforts of two people with different expertise and strengths. We will seek to build a guide that provides the motivated photographer some tools to begin building a strong Joshua Tree portfolio. The book will not be exhaustive, because that is impossible. We are excited to bring this project to you and hope it is a welcome addition to the photography field.

– TM

How To Fly With Your Photo Gear

How To Fly With Your Photo Gear

By T.M. Tracy Schultze

Do you want to know how to fly with your photo gear?  Congratulations! If you are reading this article, you are possibly planning your next photo destination. While it is certainly not too challenging to properly pack your photography gear for a road trip, it is a bit of a challenge when that trip takes you in the air.

Over the years, I have taken many trips by plane and wanted to share some things I have learned, as well as some best practices you may want to follow. Please keep in mind that this is not a “one size fits all” article, so you will need to assess your needs as well as what you are hoping to accomplish.

Some “Do” Items For You To Consider

  • Strongly consider flying Southwest Airlines. If you are a serious photographer, you are likely on a budget anyway. Southwest has the best baggage policies which will come handy in some of the items below.</li>
  • Your first checked bag should be your backpack or suitcase. I typically stow away my backpack and daypack inside my largest suitcase. Items that I typically pack for hiking or backpacking are carefully packed in each pack, while other items such as clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc., are rolled up carefully and put into the suitcase. Don’t forget to weigh your suitcase before leaving for the airport. Try to keep your suitcase to 40 – 45 pounds to give you a few extra pounds for any souvenirs you take home from your destination. Your suitcase is the most important bag to plan because it must be organized, packed well and tightly, and fit everything you need.</li>
  • Your second checked bag should be your tripod. Most tripods already ship with a case. Be sure to use a brightly colored luggage tag with it. Some people may mistake it for a gun bag and you don’t want the added hassle, so be sure to make it conspicuous. I would not recommend trying to make this item a carry-on, because it will almost certainly put you into secondary inspection with TSA. Another important thing to keep in mind is that your tripod bag will often end up in the “oversized” baggage area, so if you do not see it at baggage claim, don’t panic.</li>
  • Your overhead carry-on bag should be your camera bag. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Checked luggage is not treated as fragile cargo, but you know how just how precious your camera equipment is. Having your camera equipment with you in a camera bag is the best way for you to personally be sure it travels safely. While I have had my camera bag sent to second inspection with TSA a few times, the agents have typically been easy-going when they see that it is camera equipment.</li>
  • Your under-the-seat carry-on bag should be your technology or laptop bag. I typically travel with a Macbook Pro laptop as well as an iPad. This gives me easy access to these items while on the plane, especially with new FAA regulations allowing “airplane mode” usage under 10,000 feet elevation. In addition to my laptop and tablet, I also have mobile charging cables, notes for my trip, maps, and other items that I may want to access. I typically keep my paperwork in a small binder that fits into one of the pockets of my laptop bag.</li>
  • Make sure any lens cleaning fluid is under 3.5 ounces. If you have a large cleaning bottle, you will need to remove it from your camera bag and put it in your suitcase. I typically do this with smaller bottles as well, but even something as innocuous as lens cleaning solution over 3.5 ounces will be confiscated by TSA.</li>
  • Plan your flight check-in. As you probably know, if you are flying Southwest Airlines, you need to “check in” to your flight 24 hours in advance. While checking in a day in advance of your flight out is not trivial, your check-in 24 hours in advance of coming home can be a challenge. Southwest offers a mobile application on iOS and Android that allow you to check in via your cell phone. But consider your location. Is it remote? Will you have internet or cellular access? While you are on your trip, make note of the locations where you have adequate cell coverage and put a reminder on your phone to be there 24 hours in advance of your flight. Doing so can be the difference between boarding in the “A” group and being stuck with an uncomfortable middle seat boarding with the “C” group. If you know you will be out of cell coverage with no chance to check-in, you can pay the early boarding fee with Southwest. Finally, when you get to the airport, you will be able to print your boarding pass(passes) at the self-service kiosk.

Some “Don’t” Items For You To Consider

  • Do not pack all of your photo gear. This item explains itself, but it is extremely tempting to pack everything. You always want to be prepared to get that perfect image. An overpacked camera bag is going to slow you down, rob you of your focus, and increase the chances of things getting disorganized on your journey. You may think you are going to shoot wide-angle panoramas, long focal-length images of wildlife, as well as macro images of bugs and flowers. Be honest with yourself. Are you really going to be shooting “everything?” You are probably flying to make some particular images. Visualize those images, and what combinations of body and glass you need to capture the moment. Leave everything else behind.

Now, Go Have Some Fun!

While the items I have prepared for you are exhaustive, they cannot possibly account for every travel scenario. Be ready to adapt. Plan ahead. Visualize your trip and account for everything. Your trip won’t go perfectly, but if you have planned for everything you can think of, you will be ready when something doesn’t go according to plan. Write down your best practices. And, in closing, be sure to have fun!


T.M. Schultze is a San Diego area-based photographer, writer, and artist. For a list of his articles, <a href=”../articles/index.html”>click here</a>. To send him an e-mail, <a href=”../contact.html”>click here</a>.

Cedar Creek Falls Sucks

Cedar Creek Falls Sucks

This is quite something to say about what is the most picturesque waterfall in San Diego County.  After the closure of Cedar Creek Falls, I hoped that something could be done to reign in the partiers, jerks, and immature people clogging the falls every weekend.  After my first visit with the Cleveland National Forest’s permitting system, I was very disappointed.

So What Has Changed?

Virtually nothing has changed except for a guy who may check for your permit at the San Diego Country Estates parking lot.  Descending the trail to the Falls, there were a lot of people.  75 permits are supposed to be released per day, and you can name several people on the permit.  This was a weekend, and near the opening of the permitting system, so I wasn’t too concerned with the foot traffic.

As I approached the falls, I realized nothing had changed.  There was no Forest Service presence to be found anywhere.  People continued to cliff dive, which is strictly against the rules.  In fact, people were steading themselves with one hand, holding onto the No Diving Sign, while scaling their way up to dive.

Across the pond at the bottom of the fall, the tree in the alcove still had the swinging rope attached for more diving.

As my friends and I left, we encountered numerous people openly drinking out of beer cans to the falls.  This was a day that would get into the high 90s, and I even felt a little heat exhaustion heading back up the switchbacks.  Yet, there were more people, worrying about having a party than being safe, endangering themselves and others.

In fact, I overheard a conversation to my right where the people claimed they had continued visiting Cedar Creek Falls during the “closure.”  I have no doubt they were telling the truth, and by the absentee display of the Forest Service, no doubt they easily got away with it.

The half-ass measures put in by the Forest Service haven’t changed a thing.  Cedar Creek Falls is a beautiful place overrun by a bunch of clowns and partiers who are making the place an unpleasant and potentially unsafe location to see.  Their ignorance of this pre-closure helped provide the atmosphere that resulted in a death and very serious injury.  It simply doesn’t have to be this way.

Cedar Creek Falls Hall of Shame

I could post a ton of these images, but you will get to the point. Cleveland National Forest, you can do better!

My new blog

Good evening friends and fellow artists.

I have started this new blog to offer a regular opportunity to communicate with those who share my interests in art, photography, writing, and travel.

I plan to use the blog for quick posts that will be much shorter than the Articles I plan to write on the website and longer than I want to post on my Twitter account, something right in between.  I imagine that some of the short blog posts will eventually evolve into Articles and I hope this will stir creativity for me and my friends who read my work.

I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts, opinions, ideas, insights, and adventures out in the world, and in doing so I hope you can share too.

Orange Ghosts by T.M. Schultze

National Park # 1 – Joshua Tree National Park

Orange Ghosts by T.M. Schultze

Orange Ghosts by T.M. Schultze

Joshua Tree National Park was the first National Park I visited, although at the time it was then just a National Monument.  I remember hiking and bouldering as a young kid, and then camping there as a Boy Scout.  Both sides of my family also took us there, although I don’t remember doing much beyond walking around the rocks.

The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 established Joshua Tree National Park (as well as Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve)

Over the years, my appreciation of the park grew, especially as I spent more time doing photography.

I now spend every Christmas in Joshua Tree.  When I started this, the park was sparsely visited during the Holiday, but has grown very popular.  With the park closing in on 3 million visitors per year, the time will be reached when the solitude of the high desert reaches of the Joshua Tree will be non-existent.  Let’s hope that lack of solitude will not foretell the dying off of the Joshua Trees themselves.

Recently, vandalism has followed the huge increase in visitors.  Ryan Ranch was essentially destroyed, with beautiful adobe that had stood the test of time for nearly a century felled by jerks.  An asshole named Andre Saraiva thought it was cool to deface rocks in the park.  Carey’s Castle and El Sid are now permanently off-limits.  For those who care and respect for this park, more and more of these off-beat places are no longer available.

Joshua Tree National Park was my first and the most important National Park of my life.  I doubt I will ever feel a connection to a place quite like I do in JT.  And yet, so many other people, through social media or word-of-mouth, are also creating an impact.  I don’t know what Joshua Tree National Park will look like in 50 years.

Spire by T.M. Schultze

National Park # 2 – Grand Canyon National Park

Toroweap, Grand Canyon, Storm, by T.M. Schultze

Toroweap, Grand Canyon, Storm, by T.M. Schultze

I first visited Grand Canyon National Park in 1990 coming home from a Boy Scout summer trip to Philmont in New Mexico.  I remember the anticipation of seeing this mile-deep gouge in the Earth’s surface.  It rained the entire time we there, enough that the inside of our tents were completely soaked.  We hiked the Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch and back in one day.  We ate a lot of pizza that night.  This trip was the first to truly inspire me to love the outdoors.

I have visited the Grand Canyon many times since.  One highlight was an awesome trip I made with my friend Jeremy Long to Toroweap, along the North Rim and accessible by a 60 mile dirt road.  I stood on a ledge 2,500 feet above the canyon floor.  In hindsight, it was pretty dangerous and people have died from falling.  It was a stormy morning, and it was beautiful.

Many of my other trips have been challenging.  Several of my Summer/Autumn trips have had smoke from fires fill the canyon.  During a recent Thanksgiving weekend, they were even doing a controlled burn near the North Rim!

Spire by T.M. Schultze

Spire by T.M. Schultze

Still, I come back, because the beauty and majesty of one of the incredible canyons in the world is just hours away.  I will keep coming back.  I wish I had pictures from that first trip in 1990, but it wasn’t meant to be.  I was only 13, I wasn’t doing photography, and it was a really wet day on what was a very long hike.

I have found the overlooks to the East to be more my style.  The overlooks in the West are more crowded, and, I just want some solitude and time to reflect.