Search Results for: tilden

Wild Orchid, Tilden Park

Tilden Park is a great and extensive wild area very near me. It is about 1/2 a mile up to the top of the hill and to the park entrance (right by Nicky’s pre-school).

The park is part of the California State Park system. Although bisected by high-tension power wires, and with wonderful attractions such as a narrow gauge steam railroad, animal farm, and merry-go-round, it is really, truly pretty wild. Wildlife includes the occassional mountain lion, eagle, and rattlesnake.

The park has miles and miles of trails and views of San Francisco Bay to the west, Mt Diabolo to the south and east, and Napa and the Straits of Carquinez to the north. It includes the entire Wildcat Basin, Wildcat Peak, Lake Anza, a botanical garden featuring California native plants, and an extensive nature preserve.

Mid-June is a little late in the year for wild flowers in the park. Mostly, everything turns a golden brown – and will keep getting crisper until the autumn rains. But even when everything is dry, one can still find treasures – witness the photo of the wild orchid hidden in dry grass that I found along the Meadows Canyon Trail this afternoon.

Here are a few more images from my set today taken along the Meadows Canyon Train in Tilden Park:

Wild Orchid, Tilden Park Dragon Fly
Wild Orchid, Tilden Park
Posted in Flowers, Hiking, Photography, Tilden Park

The Carousel in Tilden Park

Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round

Nicky and I went first to the steam trains and then to the carousel in Tilden Park today.

We both had a lot of fun.

It’s great to be able to spend time one on one with the kids, and as the middle boy Nicky sometimes seems to get a little less attention than his younger or older brother.

Nicky on the Tilden Park Carousel

He rode the merry-go-round at least five times, many of them in the rotating saucer. The double rotation made me dizzy after just one ride.

This carousel in Tilden Park near us is an elegant and wonderful thing for kids of all ages!

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography, Tilden Park

Dancing Trees

The other day I went for a long walk in nearby Tilden Park, which lies about a mile from my home, on the farther side of the initial crest of the Coastal Range hills. On the trail, I stopped to put down my backpack and take out my camera. The photo shown below, Eucalyptus Forest, was the result.

Eucalyptus Forest © Harold Davis

Eucalyptus Forest © Harold Davis

As I looked at Eucalyptus Forest in post-production, I realized that there was a structural similarly with other images of trees I have made. The examples that came to mind were Along the Old Schoolhouse Trail and Aspens near Sonora Pass.

Along the Old Schoolhouse Trail © Harold Davis

Along the Old Schoolhouse Trail © Harold Davis

Of course, the species of tree are different. The chaotic and messy eucalyptus make it hard to see linear order, even among the vertical lines of the trees. And the California coastal oaks along the Old Schoolhouse Trail are not the aspens that I photographed near the summit of Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada.

Aspens near Sonora Pass

Aspens near Sonora Pass © Harold Davis

But all three images share similarities in formal composition. As I teach my students, one can diagram compositions using simple shapes like lines and circles, and making note of patterned repetition. With a line drawing of these three compositions, the underlying similarity of image structure becomes clear. 

My artistic intent was also comparable across the three images: I wanted to capture the spirits of the trees, Dryads if you will. In my mind, the spirits of trees are always dancing.

Original blog stories: Along the Old Schoolhouse Trail; Aspens below Sonora Pass.

Posted in Landscape, Monochrome, Photography

It starts with some twigs…

It starts with some twigs © Harold Davis

My kids and I gathered some twigs in “The Grove” [of coastal redwoods] in nearby Tilden Park. I used the twigs to create a light box composition, shown immediately below as an LAB inversion and single channel. I like the simple impression of the bare twigs as an image on its own.

Twigs “line drawing” © Harold Davis

Next, I added some color using LAB equalizations, Photoshop blending modes, and gradients, shown below.

Adding some color © Harold Davis

The final image at the top of this story was constructed from the twigs using rotations and reflections. It is made up of eight copies of the version shown below, which itself involves four reflections.

The first reflections © Harold Davis

So this is the story of creating a complex construction from an extremely simple starting place—a line “drawing” of twigs gathered from the ground of a redwood grove in the California autumn.

Of course, the key issue with an image like this is not really the mechanics of photography and post-production, but rather the visual and aesthetic choices one makes along the way. Just saying!

Posted in Photography

Katie on the hiking trail

On a beautiful spring Sunday with glorious clouds and shifting light I took my four kids for a hike in Tilden Park. We parked a car near Lake Anza (Phyllis helped with the logistics), then drove to the trail head at Little Farm. We walked around Jewel Lake, ascended the Upper Packrat Trail, switched to the Memory Trail, crossed Canyon Drive, turned left on Selby Trail, and proceeded on Selby Trail back to the parked car. You can see a park trail map by clicking here (opens in a new window).

Katie on the hiking trail © Harold Davis

Katie on the hiking trail © Harold Davis

The route was probably about three or four miles, with plenty of up and down, and tired us all out. But the kids did wonderfully, with only a little whining from Katie towards the end, and only a little stick-and-sword play from the boys.

The image was photographed using my iPhone camera, and processed on my iPhone.

Posted in Hiking, iPhone, Katie Rose, Kids, Photography


In the dead of winter there’s not much color, even in California’s usually highly saturated gardens. The Tilden Park Botanic Garden emphasizes California native plants. It’s always a wonderful place to wander, but at the turning of the year I looked for texture and form rather than color.

Agaves by Harold Davis

Agaves © Harold Davis

The succulent gardens, and in particularly these agaves, seemed to answer my needs. I multi-shot the images for High Dynamic Range (HDR) in black and white using my new 40mm macro lens. My idea in processing the image was to create an effect almost like an etching rather than a photo, as in Tomales Bay and Choosing the Path.

Full exposure data: 40mm macro lens, four exposures at shutter speeds from 2.5 seconds to 1/6 of a second, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and hand-HDR.

Related image: Succulent.

Posted in Monochrome, Patterns

Urban Star Circles

Urban Star Circles

Urban Star Circles, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Star trails—and star circles—are tough to pull off in an urban environment because of all the ambient light pollution in the environment. You don’t really see the stars when you live in a modern city; for example, most urban dwellers have never seen the Milky Way in all its glory. The relative brightness of the night skies means that the contrast with star light is greatly diminished—making dramatic captures with star trails more difficult. I think this linked night shot of the Golden Gate Bridge works—but only because the quadrant of the sky showing star trails was to a considerable degree isolated from the ambient light of San Francisco, and the foreground reflections of the bridge are also interesting.

Last night seemed crisp and clear. My idea was to go up into Tilden Park and find a north-facing location that was somewhat protected from the ambient urban light. As you can see, as plans often do with night photography this one went somewhat wrong—because of the strength of the overall ambient light even deep in the park, and because of cloud cover.

I shortened the exposure time from what I would usually use in the deep night, and made 47 exposures, each one at 90 seconds, f/2.8 and ISO 200 (for a total exposure time of about an hour and ten minutes). In addition, there are a few frames of light painting of the trees in the foreground.

You can see many airplanes flying into (or out of) Oakland or SFO in the bright, night sky. But for me, the most interesting thing about the image is the way the light—from East Bay cities and San Francisco—has formed beams projecting against the high clouds that are in motion. I see the light patterns against the clouds in the sky as almost like the patterns in shadows you can see when you shine a light through Venetian slatted blinds.

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

Furled for Winter

Furled for Winter

Furled for Winter, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Like the winter thistle, I found this frost-covered fern frond on a chill early morning in Tilden Park.

Posted in Patterns, Photography, Tilden Park

Winter Thistle

Winter Thistle

Winter Thistle, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

The morning dawned cold (for around here).

I grabbed the kids and ran up to Tilden Park. Nicky and Julian played with frost and skim ice, a rare treat for them, and I photographed frost covered thistles. The sun came up, and I rushed them to school a bit late, all of us flushed from the outdoors and happy.

Posted in Patterns, Photography, Tilden Park

Miracle of Light

Miracle of Light

Miracle of Light, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

It was a chilly (for the Bay area) December afternoon with intermittent squalls of rain. Around 3:30PM I drove to Inspiration Point in Tilden Park. I dressed in several layers of wool and a down jacket. With about thirty pounds of camera gear on my back I headed for Wildcat Peak.

I got to the summit in good time, about half an hour before sunset. There was a chill and moist wind blowing, so I bundled up. I was ready with camera, tripod, and long lens as the sun sank behind the Golden Gate Bridge. After a brief moment showing the miracle of light, the sun disappeared into a fog bank, and all was cold, dark, and gray. I made the trek home bundled in my balaclava as one by one the stars came out.

[Nikon D300, 70-200mm VR zoom lens, TC20E extender, effective focal length 280mm (420mm in 35mm terms), 1/1250 of a second at ISO 100 and f/14, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Photography, San Francisco Area, Tilden Park

Lunar Eclipse

A full lunar eclipse was scheduled just after moon rise in the early evening in the Bay area. My hope, foiled by roiling cloud cover blowing in through the Golden Gate, was to photograph from Marin Headlands with San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge as background.

Instead I headed east to Inspiration Point in Tilden Park in the coastal range. Parking the car, I hiked in a mile or so to a ridge with a great view of the show. As the evening got dark it grew cold, and the clouds covered the moon. Even so, I got in a shot or two and enjoyed the spectacle and solitude.

[Nikon D300, 600mm in 35mm terms, 1 second at f/5.6 and ISO 400, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

Eucalyptus Grove in the Fog

We’ve been living under a cloud cover in the San Francisco Bay area for the last week, sometimes high clouds, sometimes low fog, sometimes bright, sometimes not, but always grey. Since the weather around here is generally wonderful, I’ve no right to complain. But it does make night photography kind of questionable.

Yesterday Mark was over in East Bay on business, and I thought it would be nice to show him Wildcat Peak in Tilden Park, since we’ve done so much walking around the Marin Headlands in his “back yard.”

After dinner, we set off from Inspiration Point. Normally, there’s a panoramic view from Wildcat of the Golden Gate, San Pablo Bay, Mount Diablo, Tamalpais, and more. But last night everything was socked in with a thick wall of fog. It was chilly, in the low forties, and a stiff wind blew. We didn’t linger on the summit.

Coming down from Wildcat Peak past the Memorial Grove, I stopped along Nimitz Way in the Eucalyptus grove. The trees were creaking and groaning in the wind. In the background, there was a bright white light, possibly the moon coming through the clouds.

Using my 12-24mm wide-angle lens, I placed my camera on my tripod and exposed this image for 80 seconds. Long enough to capture the trees in the dim light, and to let the moving branches turn kind of “liquid” as they moved in the foggy time exposure.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

San Pablo Bay from Wildcat Peak

San Pablo Bay is the upper part of San Francisco Bay, to the northeast of the Golden Gate. Beyond San Pablo Bay, if you were a ship you could make your way through the Carquinez Strait into Suisan Bay and the maze of the Sacramento River delta.

On Tuesday we were picking up the kids at around 5:30PM from their pre-school, Step One, which sits high up in the Berkeley hills. Phyllis and I looked at striations in the sky, and figured that the sunet might be memorable. I decided to head for Wildcat Peak, which is the highest peak in the Bay area that can’t be reached by road.

I packed my bag, Phyllis made me a sandwich to go, and I was at the trailhead at Inspiration Point in Tilden Park by about 6:15. Wildcat Peak is only a couple of miles, and I was there in plenty of time for sunset.

The really spectacular views from Wildcat are west towards San Francisco, the Golden Gate, Mount Tamalpais, and beyond. There’s also a nice view of Mount Diablo.

As night came on dark and inky in the upper sky, I was struck by the wrap-around effect as the coastal range in Tilden Park topographically stepped down to San Pablo Bay.

This was a one minute exposure with my lens wide open.

Related story: Night for Day.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area, Tilden Park

Eyes of Newt

There was great clarity yesterday after all the rain. Great fluffy clouds scudded in from the Golden Gate. I decided to hike to Wildcat Peak to photograph sunset.

Wildcat Peak (in Tilden Park) has a panoramic view of the Bay area. As someone put it to me, it is the highest mountain-without-roads in the Bay area. You can drive up both Mt Diablo and Mt Tamalpais, and they have structures at the top. The only way to get up Wildcat is to walk. Then you can enjoy the views of the Golden Gate, Tamalpais, and Diablo (the top of Diablo was fretted yesterday with fresh snow).

On the way up my pack felt a bit heavier than normal. I stopped to take a look, and discovered I had packed my bulky and heavy 200mm macro lens. I don’t normally carry this lens around on treks.

Coming out from the memorial grove of redwoods below Wildcat, I saw this salamander, a perfect subject for the telephoto macro. I believe it is a red-bellied newt, Taricha rivularis, native to California coastal areas north of San Francisco.

The newt had a dirty top and a bright pink underbelly. If he is indeed a red-bellied newt, his skin also contains strong toxins.

Part in the sun and part in the shade, he posed for his close-up portrait, and then ambled on all four legs into the bushes.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Naming the Wilderness

Certain names come up over and over again in the wilderness. In my experience, there are numerous Inspiration Points and Inpiration Point Trails besides the one in Yosemite Valley. (Nicky is shown in this story on the Inspiration Point trail near Tilden Park’s Inspiration Point.)

Other names that I’ve seen repeated in parks and wilderness are Mirror Lake, Bear Valley, and (oddly) Horse Heaven.

Of course, some names are absolutely unique like Hell For Sure Pass in the High Sierras near Goddard Canyon and Evolution Valley on the Mount Henry topo.

Whether a wilderness name is common or unusual, the entire process of giving a topographic feature an English identifier is as artificial as the image above from the Inspiration Point trail. In other words, the mountains were there before us, will likely be there after us, and are not altered by our conceits, just as adding curvature to the boundaries of Yosemite Valley does not actually change the spaces of the valley.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite