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Kaiser Pass 9/9
Eclipse Oregon 8/16

2017 Trip Chronicles:  Page 16

Kaiser Pass 8/9

After the boat ride across Edison Reservoir it was late afternoon thus too long a distance to consider driving home. Additionally on the drive in, I had noted superb areas of wildflowers at Kaiser Pass thus decided to spend the following morning working flower close-ups. I spent a quiet night sleeping in the back of my Forester at a pull out at Kaiser Pass that is within Sierra National Forest where one is allowed to disperse camp in most areas and that includes simply sleeping roadside inside a vehicle.

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When sunshine on Saturday morning August 9 began shining on tree tops at Kaiser Pass, I was soon walking around outside with my camera gear looking for a landscape subject before harsh sunlight reached ground levels. There are large meadows west of the road over the first mile where considerable cattle grazing occurs. The below flowers were captured more than a mile beyond Kaiser Pass about the seep stream areas at 8800 to 9000 foot elevations. The above is a seep meadow image with dense bistort aka dirty socks, polygonum bistortoides, and Jeffrey's shooting star, dodecatheon jeffreyi. Every step in that meadow was atop a soft soggy base and yes there were mosquitoes that I took care of on my hands, wrist, and face with DEET.

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I came across this large whitespotted sawyer beetle, monochamus scutellatus oregonensis, sleeping on a corn lily leaf. Also 3 flies on same leaf, possible one of the vinegar fly species. Many Sierra Nevada flying insects spend nights on vegetation. These and other related beetle species lay eggs in the bark of conifer species. Larvae eating cambium layers of bark are a factor in the recent decades death of many trees.

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Ubiquitous alpine aster aka western aster, symphyotrichum ascendens, very common perennial herb across The West including many Sierra Nevada habitats.

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Greenish white hued corn lily, veratrum californicum, flowers. Note the spider web strand. Both leaves and flowers of these large plants are poisonous. Dense stands of corn lily are found in wet meadows and along streams.

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Close-up of two Jeffrey's shooting star, dodecatheon jeffreyi, flowers with two buds. This thick rooted perennial species is native to all of The West and are found on wet meadows and slopes.

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Downward close-up of ranger buttons, schenosciadium capitellatum, a poisonous carrot family member with spherical umbels at the end of long peduncle spokes. The plant is often found along streams.

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Close-up of an alien looking grapefruit sized sculptured puffball, aka warted giant puffball, calbovista subsculpta, just pushed up through duff forest matter so has particles of dirt atop the white membrane summer rains have not yet washed off.

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Close-up of Lewis's monkeyflower, mimulus lewisii, one of the largest of our Sierra Nevada monkeyflower species shot south of the pass about the Deer Lake stream. By then it was noon, a breeze had been increasing to the point waiting for breezes to calm was futile. There was far more close-up work possible in the area than I managed but I was tired, eager to reach home and relax.

The greater a photographed small flower subject is magnified for the purpose of post process focus stacking, the more it must be static, not moving, or blending multiple frames will result in lack of alignment. Current era digital sensors with their large numbers of dense color sensor elements together with modern lens designs, allow greater resolution than film cameras ever could. However aperture diameter lens depth of field optical limitations still apply. As a flower subject is magnified more, its depth of field decreases thus for focus stacking more frames must be captured at a given aperture setting for sharp results. In the film era we were only shooting single frames of subjects and the same can still be done today, usually with the bokeh technique where background elements are left out of focus. In fact with higher ISO settings available that maintain good resolution, we can also do so at higher shutter speeds stopping motion better. But that traditional technique necessarily results in many sections of a subject out of focus even using small apertures. And smaller aperatures also decrease overall sharpness due to diffraction limitations. In this era, focus stacking of multiple frames at optimal lens apertures can overcome that limitation but doing so out in the field now requires calmer air for more static subjects than in the past. For my own work I carry two 32 inch diameter collapsible circular disks, one a diffuser and the other a reflector, both of which can also be used to block breezes. For the above type of work, I spend a lot of time sensitively judging calm air by the sound of nearby trees, by the movements of both subject and nearby plant visual movement, and by the feel of hair moving on my skin.

Eclipse Oregon 8/16>21

After returning from the Laurel Creek backpack, it would be a week before I left on the long drive north up to Oregon for the 2017 total solar eclipse. The last solar eclipse that had crossed the country had been in 1918, 99 years earlier so this was a once in my lifetime event. As a science oriented and religious person, it had special significance because of all astronomical details in our universe, it is the one that most strongly points to a higher power having a hand in the Earth's creation. The most widely accepted current hypothesis is that the Moon was created 4.51 billion years ago or 60 million years after creation of the Solar System when a Mars sized body named Theia impacted the Earth. Debris from that collision coalesced close to the Earth and since then has been moving further and further away. After 4.5 billion years it is a rather incredible coincidence that when human beings finally evolve on the planet, that the Moon's distance from the Earth is now at the precise distance to sometimes block the disk of the Sun with just enough slight overlap that a magnificent corona appears. Note that the Earth to Moon distance varies somewhat so at times when further away the Moon does not completely block the Sun in what is termed an annular eclipse. In any case this proves nothing but rather is just strong evidence like the fine-tuned universe proposition for improbability of universal physical constants lying within their very narrow ranges.

My original destination for the eclipse was east of the Cascades however mountain fires had been burning for weeks causing smoky skies that could interfere with air clarity so I changed plans to the next best choice. Salem near the center of the totality path, lies between the Coastal Range and Cascades in the north to south oriented Williamette River Valley but with a greater marine air influence thus more likelihood of clouds than areas east. Salem is the capitol of Oregon with an urban population of one quarter million. Given limitations in conventional lodging and the expectation of unprecidented numbers of visitors, the city's leaders had made the remarkable decision to allow visitor tenting in most of their city parks. I liked the notion of experiencing the eclipse within a large crowd of other people.

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After the peak morning commute passed on Wednesday August 16, I began the drive up I680 then over I580 at Richmond to US101 where I would then be driving for long hours. I crossed the Oregon border late afternoon then found a state roadside rest just above Brookings to spend the night sleeping inside my Forester. My driving distance was about 430 miles for the day. Conditions were very windy along the coast and skies were rather smoky due to numerous lightning caused fires burning in the Six Rivers and Siskiyou National Forest mountains just east. Although I had been to Oregon in the past skiing at Bend, and had visited our redwood parks and Crescent City a few times, it was my first drive up along the Oregon coast. I wanted to be in Salem by Friday afternoon so would have a couple days to explore Oregon coastline areas. Harris Beach State Park was near the roadside rest so I went into the park where the most helpful woman at the entrance station provided me with a pile of brochures and information sheets on Oregon parks that I later perused in the evening.

Before sunrise Thursday August 17, I was on my way north on U101. I stopped at a couple locations at Samuel E. Boardman State Park that has impressive sea coast scenery I highly recommend. The above image shows impressive forest covered sea stacks at one of the places I found with some map analysis and expect to return to in the future at a more aesthetic time of spring when wildflowers are peaking. That obscure beach amusingly is does not have a signed pullout obviously to keep visitor impacts low.

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After about 120 miles, I reached Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area where I went into Spinreel Campground and got a site for the night, though it was rather close to traffic on US101. I did not however bother to set up my tent as it would be much quieter sleeping inside my Forester. Later in the afternoon hiked 3 miles roundtrip out to its windy featureless beach shores that I would not recommend. I did work the above image of sea shell fragments with sand dollars on sand.

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Friday August 18, I was up at dawn and out on the road north on US101. Rather quickly stopped at Oregon Dunes Overlook area then hiked down into the dunes where I found various interesting close-up subjects. Strong winds in the region continually blow sands over any tracks keeping the sand surface smooth. There were raised tracks about the wonderfully smooth sand surface by some nocturnal insects that apparently move about just below the surface.

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There is a long list of state parks along the coast and many more scenic pull outs and unsigned pullouts, many with paths down to beaches. The above is just one of I passed by, almost all of which I simply did not have time to do more than glance at while driving by. I did meet a woman at the pull out with her husband in an RV that were also on their way north for the eclipse that. She nicely took a picture of me set up with my tripod taking the above photo so I gave her my business card that has my website and email address information that she then later sent.

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I stopped at Strawberry Hill at Neptune State Beach then explored wonderful shore areas north of the parking area finding much to be fascinated by. The above image shows colorful shore smoothed volcanic geology bedrock with limpet shells and sand.

Arriving in Salem late afternoon Friday as planned, I then drove around trying to make sense of the downtown area. The one way streets had me going around in circles. Stopped a few places like Riverfront Park where I expected to tent and then was surprised I was easily able to find lodging as most motels had many rooms available despite all the media hype. I was content to stay at a Motel 6 with wifi for $70. On the web searched local news and found a supermarket that still had eclipse sun glasses so picked some of those up plus groceries to last through eclipse day, Monday. Thus spent the evening reorganizing my gear and checking out various web information about the city.

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Saturday August 19 I didn't leave the motel till mid morning after which I went directly to Riverfront Park where ...surprise... the large parking lot was still mostly empty. Parked under shadiest group of trees where I left my car sit until after the eclipse, instead walking everywhere. At the time there were only about a half dozen tents set up in the park that is the closest to downtown, has a permanent carousel, and playground for kids. During the weekend within a nearby fenced off area with a grandstand, there was a Christian music concert on Saturday with a list of different groups and mariachi band concert on Sunday. Two walking bridges provided hiking access to miles of nearby riverfront trails and park areas. And the downtown had considerable dining and retail areas plus all the state capitol buildings. I probably hiked a good six miles all told Saturday.

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I met a local Salem person that was the official NASA ham radio network person reporting on the eclipse whose crew was also doing a documentary on the eclipse activity and people in the park. He was voluntarily meeting every group that came in and tented, interviewing some, and I slipped into a roll of tagging along having fun meeting people from not only all over the Northwest but also some from other states and countries. Although unfamiliar with Christian music groups, in the afternoon bought a ticket and was enjoyably entertained as the event was well attended by families and people from a wide region of the state. By the end of the afternoon Saturday our tent city had grown to a modest couple dozen tents. There were of course a number of other parks in the city and region where visitors were also tenting and a list of special events for the eclipse some of which had paid tenting.

On Sunday August 20 I continued having fun wandering about Salem including catching a classical music concert in the morning at the capitol park and spending time at the nearby weekend flee market. Much much more. My A6000 was pretty much left in the Subaru during both weekend days as I just captured a few information shots with my moto g smartphone camera. By mid afternoon many more people had now set up tents. The mariachi concert was well attended with numbers of colorfully dressed visitors coming into the park. But it was during the evening that large numbers of people arrived, some tenting but many simply spending the night sitting on park bench seats wrapped in blankets. Weather reports had become more optimistic for clear sunny conditions the following morning.

Sunny skies greeted Salem Oregon on Monday August 21 and there was incredible energy everywhere as people began massing throughout the city including our park areas. Yes eclipse day was absolutely perfect weather. During the early morning I packed away my tent and readied the car for a quick exit when the time came. At 9am the Moon began to eclipse the Sun and it was at 10:17am that totality would start and then last only 130 seconds. Before leaving on the trip I had decided not to bother trying to capture any serious Moon/Sun eclipse images because that requires serious equipment I neither have nor know how to use like expensive telescopes, sun filters, tracking equipment and software. Thus would be content to just experience the eclipse and maybe take a shot if I could do so without much effort. However I was more interested in recording a video of the crowd watching the eclipse so brought along my Canon R700 camcorder. I set up my A6000 to point in the general location of the sun and my Canon R700 camcorder also on a tripod towards the crowd among tents.

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As more and more of the Sun was occluded by the Moon, landscapes gradually dimmed but such was not much more than when high clouds dim the sun a bit on normal days. Everyone looked through their eclipse glasses marveling at the orange image of slices of the sun being blocked out. It was about 10 minutes from totality or a bit after 10am that more noticeable changes increasingly occurred with the dimming landscape. At 10:16am people could see just a small slice of sun left however it was still rather bright out everywhere. There was a considerable buzz in the large crowd as people knew totality was imminent with many getting ready in whatever way they planned to. One thing that all expected to do is most had only been viewing the sun via the eclipse glasses and it was time take them off then for a following 2 minutes viewing with one's naked eyes. Thus many parents talking to their children about doing so though not a few like this person had already begun squinting directly at the almost eclipse. At 10:17am the light change was suddenly very dramatic in just a few seconds as the entry diamond ring phase rapidly changed to totality with enormous gasps, OOOHs, Oh My Gods, AWESOMEs, rising everywhere. It was suddenly immensely darker everywhere. But not like the night because the sky above was still a light blue. More like a dark twilight. Behind the blazing corona circling the intensely black disk the sky was a dark blue, not the black one tends to see in even professional photographs because camera sensors simply have a too limited dynamic range. One of most incredible experiences of my life beyond being able to put into words and much of my own emotion was due to more than just the incredible visuals. Like I was there, right then, witnessing one of the most incredible events possible, possibly the result of an ultimate power guiding life in the Universe wanting to leave a signal to eventual evolved advanced intelligent beings that they are not alone.

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The above image at page top was taken at the end of the eclipse, the diamond ring exit phase, with my SEL55210 lens zoomed to maximum. Because the moon and sun position were continually moving during the morning, one could not aim a telephoto lens at the target beforehand and at the end of the eclipse I spent more time just getting it framed and focused that in hind sight would have been better spent actually watching the end of the phenomenon. The image above is a crop of the image at page top. As the diamond ring exit phase began, a delay from my camera infrared remote shutter release resulted in a bit more ring than I actually preferred. As totality ended and the diamond ring exit phase blazing light appeared, the crowd roared again and just as quickly as totality began, it also ended with a ringing cheer and clapping heard into the distance. People slowly began moving about while some began rapidly moving towards their vehicles since the next prime directive was to escape to wherever without being caught in the nightmare traffic jams the media had been talking about for weeks.

I was out on the road within about 20 minutes of the eclipse and over and across the nearby route 22 bridge, leaving the city westward and most traffic. A few miles west I turned south on route 99W that slowed down to stop and go at Monmouth for awhile and then again some at Corvalis but nothing like stories of those using Interstate 5. At Junction City I turned west on route 36 that had light traffic and went into route 126 reaching the coast where I would remain on US101 for the rest of the long miles home. About midnight, I stopped for a few hours north of Willits at a state roadside rest for some sleep before continuing south at sunrise, reaching the San Jose area by late morning. Well I'm now an eclipse convert and am certain to make plans for our next eclipse in the United States that will not be 99 years but rather less than 7. That next eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024 swinging northeast through Mexico, Texas, and up through many states to Ohio. I have some relatives in Texas and we will make some awesome plans.

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   David Senesac
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