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Cheeseboro & Palo Comado Canyons

Went for a nice loop hike in Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons on Sunday afternoon -- a big chunk of land preserved between the San Fernando Valley and Agoura Hills here in So Cal. The canyons include a series of trails criss-cross the rolling Simi Hills, which are now green (but probably not for long) due to some recent rains.

These rolling grasslands are studded with big, old oak trees. This is classic So Cal scenery -- once ranched, now protected -- and it's one of my favorite local hiking areas. Most of these type of low-lying places have been developed and while hiking it's not hard too imagine the area as a sea of asphalt, mini-vans and red-tiled roofs.

But it's not, and this is one of those rare places when the powers-that-be in So Cal got it mostly right. Mostly? Well, there is a landfill nearby and a set of high-tension wires running along one of the ridges above Cheeseboro Canyon.

My big goal for the day was to take a picture of a lone oak or two amid the grass. Something simple that conveyed the look and feel of these oak valleys -- and a photo that showed how the thick tangle of oak branches create their own mini-ecosystem of sorts.

As I discovered, that turned out to be a real bitch of a self-assignment. First you have to find a tree sitting by its lonesome. Then you need to find a good place to shoot from. Both are easier said than done.

As a I result, I ended up shooting a few photos with the long view or wide view -- stuff from along or near the trail as my partner and I hiked the loop, trying to get back to the car before dark.

The top photo is my favorite; it was also my final shot of the day, looking toward the last leg of the trail to the parking lot. The horizon line is pretty much in the middle of the frame -- a purported photographic no-no -- but in this case I really like the composition. Rolling hills in the shadows, mountains in the shadows, a hint of trail and sky. That's it. Simple.

It's probably worth noting that I underexposed my image in my rush to get to the car and use a fast-enough shutter with enough depth-of-field to capture the place. I make this mistake all the time when I don't have the chance to pull out the tripod and set up a proper shot.

But I also shoot in RAW and that makes recovering shadows and fixing exposure issues a lot easier. It's not ideal. It's always better to get the right exposure. But RAW offers a bit of a safety net, which I don't mind using.

Nonetheless, this place (like many others) is probably one I'll have to return to several times to get the kind of photos I'd like. The ones above are a good start.

All taken with my Nikon D5100 and either the Nikon DX 10-24mm lens or Nikon DX 35mm 1.8 lens. I processed the RAW images in Lightroom 4 and a VSCO preset that mimics Fuji 800Z film, although I removed all the grain. Interestingly, Fuji calls this high-speed daylight film perfect for portraits and weddings; I've come to like the preset for landscapes.

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The above photos are ©Steve Hymon and may not be used elsewhere without my advanced written permission. All rights reserved. 

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