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Old Sep 10, 2009, 3:29 PM   #1
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Default The Ancients

Our first stop on our recent trip was to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (Iíve been working backwards with my threads). Itís a very remote area of the Inyo National Forest, high up in the White Mountains east of the Sierras.

Why would someone want to visit what appears like a very inhospitable place? Especially when itís located at around 10,000 feet elevation and our car was gasping when it finally made it to the visitor center, itís not a place many visit or even know about, another very off-the-beaten-path type of place. But it set an appropriate start for a weekend that was all about history.

The Bristlecone Pine trees are odd looking, knarly trees:

Whatís so important about a strange looking, not very tall tree? Apparently back in the 1960ís it was discovered that the carbon-14 dating procedures currently used were flawed (carbon-14 amounts can vary) and researchers went looking for a way to correlate carbon-14 with something else, so they used tree rings. One researcher, Dr. Edmund Schulman, went looking for some really old trees, and happened upon a grove of twisted trees high up in the mountains, some bristlecone pines. Here he had found a number of trees over 4,000 years old, including a living tree going back over 4,600 years, still recognized as the oldest living tree in the world. Using the rings on downed trees and living trees they documented 10,000 years of history in the tree rings.

We didnít walk to that oldest tree (itís a 4 mile hike), but we did take the Discovery Walk, a 1 mile self-guided nature trail that leads past many old trees. The sign said it could be walked in under an hour, and Iím sure it could be. But being a photographer meant that it took me over 2 hours, as I tried to sort out focal length and exposure options, choose details to photograph and absorb the information on the plaques placed along the way.

Like so many trees in California, many of these have been touched by fire but not killed by it. The bristlecone pine has very dense wood and is well adapted to very harsh conditions.

It can grow in all sorts of twisted shapes:

Most people think of pine cones as being brown, or perhaps green. Not so with the bristlecone!

I learned a lot about dendrochronology (the study of tree ring patterns), saw lots of unusual trees and reflected on the short lives we humans live, an insignificant time for these ancient trees.
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Old Sep 10, 2009, 3:39 PM   #2
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Great set of photos. Just love some of the patterns on those trees. They even make me feel young!

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Old Sep 10, 2009, 7:09 PM   #3
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Very interesting, Harriet. Yet again, we learn something new. At least I did!

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Old Sep 10, 2009, 7:33 PM   #4
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Very nice contrast and color saturation on the images of the trees! Were you using a polarizer? I enjoyed your comment about dendrochronology (new word for me)...yep, it does make our presence on the earth somewhat temporally insignificant!
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Old Sep 10, 2009, 8:23 PM   #5
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Simply beautiful, Harriet.
I love them!
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Life's a breeze on a Goldwing...
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Old Sep 10, 2009, 9:11 PM   #6
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Thanks for the compliments!

Some of the pictures were taken with a polarizer on the DA*50-135, several with the DA*200 without (the close-up of the tree rings and the pine cones) and two were taken with the K20 and DA 55-300 (by Dan) - the tree growing on top of the rock and the corkscrew branches.
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Old Sep 10, 2009, 10:28 PM   #7
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Nature never stops amazing me, what wonderful shots you've taken.
Knarly what a good word and a perfect description.
Thank You for sharing your trip.


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Old Sep 11, 2009, 7:14 AM   #8
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Wonderful shots as always, Harriet. The places you have visited on this trip are very unusual.

The first image shows the remoteness of the area. I love the shots of the knarly trees against the stark blue sky background. Nice work on these!

Were some of these HDR shots?

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Old Sep 11, 2009, 2:15 PM   #9
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The camera is becoming part of your body, Harriet. Any picture you post these days is for the wall, all of these too. And a nice story to go with them.

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Old Sep 11, 2009, 4:18 PM   #10
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you're right about how many people see thees, oh, great shots.. in '78 after spending 6 weeks in Yosemite, kings canyon, and Sequoia, we needed to get to Yellowstone before the park closed.. i hope you realize what a great place you live in..
Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors. - W. Eugene Smith
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