On the Trail to Big Baldy

Big Baldy Trail Forrest

Recently I made a quick trip up to Sequoia National Park. It was my first time and it was an easy 3 hour drive up to the park’s entrance from Los Angeles. I was blown away by the size of the great Sequoia trees, their trunks wide enough to accommodate a two lane highway. The mountain trails were unlike anything I have every hiked – steep, secluded and full of cougar, bear and fire warnings. The warm smell of desiccated pine needles filled the air, bringing home the reality that my surroundings could spontaneously combust and trap me in a fiery maze.

I brought my Canon 7D, but I was lazy for most of the trip. I took plenty of photos with my iPhone 4S and posted Instagrams of the General Sherman Tree (the largest living thing on the planet), Moro Rock, and the surrounding mountains and forests. I just didn’t bring out the big gun until I summited Big Baldy. It was a 4.4 mile round trip with about a 650ft gain in elevation, topping out at 8,209ft. Not an overly tough hike, but I wanted something I could be sure to get in and out of before the sun began to go down.

Big Baldy Trail Mountains

I made it to the top of Big Baldy by mid to late afternoon. I finally pulled out my 7D with my new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens. That’s when I shot the photo at the bottom of the page. It’s an image of the Great Western Divide, a tightly packed, impenetrable wall of rock that spanned the eastern horizon and separates part of Sequoia National Park from Kings Canyon National Park. You can even see the plume of a “small” forest fire burning on the far side of the mountain range, bringing home, once again, the dangers of the extreme drought.

I took some time to take in the view, have a snack, and shoot a bunch of photos from the summit. Then I packed up my bag and slung my camera over my solder. I really liked that the 24-70mm had a locking mechanism that kept the zoom from telescoping out as I hiked down Big Baldy. A little ways down, I snapped the middle shot (above), a rocky ridge that protruded out, adjacent to the Big Baldy trail.

The photo at the top of the page was taken only a short way down from the ridge photo. I saw the spot on the way up and snapped a couple pics with my phone, but I had to capture it with the 7D. The sun was in a great position, allowing for the long shadows of the trees to give the location a more enchanted feel. This hike was the first time I felt like nature could suck me up and make me disappear. All it would’ve taken was a wrong step or a hungry cougar. This shot captured that emotion for me.

On Top of Big Baldy

So I didn’t end up taking a ton of photos. I didn’t even give them a good look for over a month. But I’m really happy with these three. I cropped them all vertically a bit to give them a wider feel. I also desaturated all of the images with the black and white layer adjustment filter in Photoshop. I added the filter and then took down the opacity to around 50%, allowing the color to bleed through. For some reason, I really enjoy putting type over photos, so that’s why I made the titles. I used ITC Giovanni Std for the main titles and Helvetica Neue LT Std for the trail specs.

I hope to shoot more photos like these in the near future, next time with a little more purpose. I can’t wait to go back to Sequoia. There are so many hikes and climbs to explore. I really need to make it a 3 to 5 day stay. I bet there are some amazing starry night time-lapses waiting to be captured out there. Hopefully the government will get with it, because until the shutdown ends, none of us will be visiting a National Park. Sad times.

Make sure to click on the photos to get a full-size image. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

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