Friday, February 10, 2012

Hike No. 2 - Knickerbocker Homestead

January 21, 2012
2.5 miles

Our little town of Cool backs up against an area of rolling oak woodlands variously known as Knickerbocker Flats, Pointed Rocks Area, or Olmstead Area. Sitting in the chair in our dentists office the view beyond the tree with the bird feeder is of open grasslands on rounded hills with clusters of oaks and pines. It provides a great sense of freedom to know that I can drive about a mile into town, park in the lot behind the firehouse, hop a barbed wire fence, and just take off into that land of ridges and creeks, leading to cascades that tumble down canyons into the deep canyon of the American River about 1,000 feet below.

A variety of trails in the Pointed Rocks Area meander through oak woodlands

And I did just that, taking the "big" Nikon D300 and a few lenses on a short hike to one of my favorite spots in the area, the old Knickerbocker homestead. From the firehouse I started off on the "Olmstead Loop", named after an equestrian who promoted the many hiking, biking, and riding trails in the area. The trail parallels highway 49 for a short bit, then turns away for some ups and downs through an oak and grey, or "whispering" pine forest. I love the latter name, which is so descriptive of these sparsely-needled pines when there is a bit of a breeze. The woods are to the right, and open rolling grasslands to the left as you trudge up and down the small hills. An old fence of weathered posts and twisted barbed wire parallels the trail, and I played a bit with the idea of contrasting the wire forms against the background shapes of oaks.

A snapshot playing for form and texture. I used a handheld 300 mm lens on this one. This might be worth coming back with the tripod and doing it right - slower shutter speed and small aperture to get more of the posts in focus. Black and white conversion in Lightroom 3.

More form and texture - enhanced by the conversion to black and white in Lightroom 3.

I thought it would be interesting to contrast the harshness of the barbs and the swirl of wire against de-focused trees in the background. Here the "high key" filter in Nik Color Efex 4 separated the wire from the trees and left a bit of color.

I reach the old ranch site via an overgrown access road. Lichen-covered hand-stacked stone supports the bank on one side. Only one partial building still stands at the site, probably part of a small barn. But there are many concrete foundations, and most interestingly, a floor made of rectangular multi-colored tiles half hidden in many years worth of leaves fallen from the overhanging oaks. Also beneath the oaks narcissus have gone wild, with clumps everywhere that bloom in February when the winter rains have soaked the ground and greened the hills with fresh grasses.

The wonderful tile floor at the Knickerbocker Ranch site. I like to think that this was a fun family project, and wonder about what they used the room for. Vertical panorama stitched in Photoshop CS5 from two photos.

 Time has a nice way of "gentling" works of man. I like the accidental textures and colors that develop through years of weathering. Here I've enhanced these a bit with filters in Color Efex 4. I've just recently purchased this software, and am enjoying the way it loosens up my vision. It allows envisioning an image beyond the way the camera sees it in a traditional photographic sense, and more towards the minds eye's imaginative sense of how a subject might appear.
This color version is pretty, but the image is really about the forms of the clouds and that little copse of oaks, and the winter texture of the grasslands. The black and white version brings these things out.

The image was converted in Lightroom, where controls allow emulation of the filters I once used in black and white film photography. In this case i would have used a deep red filter to add drama by darkening the sky and at the same time lightening and adding contrast to the hummocky grasses. B&W conversion in Lightroom 3.
Returning from the ranch I strike out across the hummocky grasslands, searching for new images of a favorite copse of oaks. there always are. Last year's grasses, brown to yellow and blown down in patterns by the winter rains contrast with the fresh green of this seasons sprouts. Trying to capture this keeps enticing me out here, together with the open freedom of the space.

A goldfinch in an oak

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