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A California Portfolio - by Lon Overacker

NOTE: this exhibit appeared in September 2000. Click here to visit the current showcase.

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El Capitan in the Mist
Yosemite National Park, CA

It may take a few visits to make your way past the cliches in Yosemite, but the opportunities are endless. I'm fortunate to live only a couple of hours from this wonderful park and I never tire of it's awesomeness and beauty. During the spring months, the valley is typically en cased in fog during the morning hours - it's just a matter of choosing your location. It's easy to be humbled in the grandeur of Yosemite Valley and it's a special feeling to capture a scene like this where a 3,000 foot granite monolith can be shown as a gentle whisper appearing through the fog.


Frozen Dawn
Lower Klamath NWR, CA/OR

images like this can be found just about anywhere the rising or setting sun meets a frozen winter. This one happened to be captured along the "wildlife auto tour" within the Lower Klamath National Wildlife refuge. Moments before the sun hits the horizon, the sky is filled with colors that explode on the landscape. Fortunately the waterways in the refuge were only partially frozen, leaving the shoreline a mix of open water, paper thin ice and snowfall from the previous night. This combination of water, ice, snow and color from a glorious sunrise make this one of my favorite images.


Branches & Snow
Yosemite National Park, CA

Lessons learned and visions developed. I have always been taught that to be good at something, you must learn from someone who's good at it. Thus it is with photography and I have always sought and admired the works of great photographers. While visiting the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite, I came upon a print by Charles Kramer. This was a huge 20x30 EverColor print. This was the most beautiful print I had ever seen. It inspired me. Although the viewpoint was unique, I knew the exact location he had taken the shot. I wanted to duplicate it. As you might guess, my shot failed miserably. But a lesson was learned - I had found a new way to see parts of Yosemite I had never seen before. And I thank Charles Kramer for that. The "Branches & Snow" image seen here is my lesson learned and I carry the same feelings about this image that I did when first viewing that shot in the Ansel Adams Gallery. For those not familiar with Yosemite, the backdrop behind the tree branches is the face of El Capitan.


California Poppy
Livermore, CA

In contrast to the "subtle" poppy, this image is bold, bright and colorful. Again, it is difficult to capture an image of a poppy without repeating what has already been done. Capturing this image from this perspective however wasn't so easy. With the camera mounted upside down by reversing the center column, I laid with my ear to the ground and enough room to get my eye to the viewfinder. The rest was a game of patience; waiting for the wind to subside. And a little help from Velvia.


Indian Swamp
Yosemite National Park, CA
The winter of '94 and spring of '95 produced so much run-off that Yosemite Valley was ravaged with floods not seen in 100 years. The effects of this flooding are still being felt today. Despite the natural tragedy, the over abundance of water in the valley provided great photographic opportunities. Indian Swamp, located on the North Side drive just below the towering El Capitan, typically holds water every spring. This particular May found more water than usual and a delightful late-spring snow on the valley peaks. The image was captured on 4x5 using a 90mm lens while literally standing in the water. The morning fog was lifting revealing the scattering of snow on the valley walls beyond.


Rural Winter
Tule Lake, CA

Photography is all about capturing light. Light is constantly changing as a result in changes in seasons, time of day and the weather. This can be frustrating when you're at one location where the weather and lighting socks you in and around the bend, magic is happening. This image is a case where it wasn't happening and I went "chasing the light." The sun was going down, fog rolling in, and frustration mounting as I drove frantically thinking I would miss it. Finally coming upon these sprinklers in the snow-covered fields, I literally slammed on the brakes got out without the benefit of a tripod and snapped the image just before the sun disappeared in the on-coming fog. I remained frustrated about that shot - until I got the film back.


Oaks in Spring
Mount Diablo State Park, CA

Valley and Blue oaks cover much of the landscape at Mount Diablo State park. There are many grand scenics like this along the twisting, turning road that leads to the 4,000ft summit. I love this area during the spring months when the hills turn from brown to green, the poppies emerge and the deciduous oaks sprout new greens. The hills and oak woodlands as the sun drops towards the horizon turn a golden color even Velvia has a hard time matching. The use of long lenses, such as 200mm here, allow a photographer to pick and choose landscapes out of grand scenic views.


Backlit Rose
Livermore, CA

Much of the time we cannot always travel to far away places to seek out images and must be content with things close to home. This hybrid rose was cut from the front yard and laid horizontally near a sun-lit window. A simple image captured with a 105mm macro lens with some extension. Although I prefer to be in the great outdoors with a camera, the possibilities are endless even right at home.


Foxtail Barley
Mono Lake State Reserve, CA

The hours near dawn at Mono Lake's South Tufa's is something to be experienced and highly recommended. The autumn mornings can be downright cold, the walk to the tufas in the dark is silent and eerie, and if you're lucky, the sunrise spectacular. But in less than 30 minutes after the sun breaks the horizon, the harsh light washes out the tufas. After numerous visits though, you soon begin seeking out the subtle and less obvious opportunities this unique area has to offer. The Foxtail Barley along with other grasses and plants make for great subjects. Although the sun had washed out the tufas, it was still low enough on the horizon to be able to isolate this barley stalk against a dark background.


Mono Lake
Mono Lake State Reserve, CA

The image here of the shores of Mono Lake taken in late afternoon light is a great example of "capturing a moment in time." It can be said that this image is completely unique and can never be duplicated. Why? because the shores of Mono Lake in this image are now completely under water(salt water that is.) In the 1940's, four out of the five streams that fed Mono Lake were diverted to Southern California to provide water. Mono Lake has no outlet and the lake slowly began to evaporate. A few years after this image as taken in 1993, the streams were re-directed to flow in to Mono Lake and the water level began to rise. Today, many of the images you have seen of Mono Lake are long since gone - only to bring new and challenging opportunities to photograph a constantly changing landscape.


Egret Taking off in the Rain
Fremont, CA

Most photographers might agree that there is an element of "luck" in a great image. But we would also agree and point out that without planning, perseverance, knowledge of the subject, being prepared, and "being there," we wouldn't capture those images. This Great White Egret was captured at the moment of flight as a light spring rain began to fall. The timing was just right, the light was great and a little rain provided the element of luck. And what many would never know was how many hours were spent watching egrets; their behavior, the habitat, how to approach them and that for many months I carried a camera and 300mm lens with me in the car for just such an opportunity. Luck?


Trunkfull of Aspens
Silver Lake, Eastern Sierra's, CA

California certainly isn't known for it's fall color like the Northeast, the Great Lakes, or even Colorado and Utah. But there a plenty opportunities for scenics of aspens set against the dramatic and rugged Eastern Sierra Nevada's. While great expanses of aspens are few and far between, small groves of aspens are plentiful and provide endless choices and you can shoot all day long. These aspen trunks were captured at a picnic area alongside Silver Lake on the June Lake Loop. A relatively shallow depth of field created a soft background of orange and yellow. Lot's of images of aspens, aspen trunks and leaves over the years and I've always liked this one.


A Settling Place
Lee Vining Creek, Eastern Sierra Nevada's, CA

Yes, the leaf images you see here were not natural occurances; I helped the composition along by placing the leaf. To me, the leaf does a number of things for the image, mostly to give the image a center of interest. So I'll count myself out as a "purist." What I will never forget about this image is that two years after this image was taken, I returned to the same location, the same rock, and found a leaf on the rock - naturally. Somehow I felt that this was nature's way of showing me she could do it to.


Gateway to the Valley
Yosemite National Park, CA

This is a classic scene in Yosemite taken from the last pull out before leaving the valley. "Gateway to the Valley," it is called, offers a spectacular view of both Bridal Veil falls, El Capitan and even Half Dome. During the winter when the Merced river is at its lowest, "snow muffins" form atop the rocks in the river after a snowfall. Many a photographer, including myself have spent many mornings and evenings at this locations just waiting for that special light that hits the walls of Yosemite Valley. Despite it's popular location, you would be amazed how few people stop during those special times around sunrise and sunset.


California Poppies and Sky
Livermore, CA

The California Poppy, the California State flower, is found in abundance throughout most of the state from early spring through early summer. At the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve near Lancaster, you can see entire hillsides covered in Poppies and various other flowers. Coverage and bloom will vary from year to year depending on the amount and timing of rainfall during the winter. This particular image was captured along the road in my hometown of Livermore. Whispery, Cirrus clouds provided a dramatic backdrop to an otherwise ordinary Poppy image.


Floating Leaf
Yosemite National Park, CA

This image could have been taken anywhere. I happened to capture this one in Yosemite Valley on a early November day that was drizzly, gray and otherwise pretty miserable. It's times like this when you look for the subtle, the small intimate scenes. The lone sugar maple in the valley had lost most of it's leaves, but the ones just fallen from the tree were soaked in a rich red color that couldn't be resisted. At the moment I had no image in my head so I gathered up some leaves and tossed them on the floor of the car. As I drove the loop for the second or third time, I stopped at a pull-out near Bridal Veil falls and spotted a burned out stump of an old pine. The black, weathered gnarled stump was a perfect backdrop for the red leaf. Even though the leaf rested directly on the wood, to this day regardless of whether I look at a print or on a monitor, the leaf appears to "float."


Mono Lake at Dusk
Mono Lake State Reserve, CA

Another image of Mono Lake that will never be seen again. The water level is rising and the landscape is constantly changing. Just after sunset when enough light remains in the sky to illuminate the landscape is a wonderful time to be at Mono Lake. A 20mm lens combined with a dramatic sky and a weathered old tree branch made for a nice composition along the shores of Mono Lake. A graduated split neutral density filter helped tone down the sky in order to bring some detail into the foreground. Despite my many trips to this place, I continue to be fascinated and entranced with it's beauty.


Dusk on Mount Shasta
Lower Klamath NWR, CA/OR

You almost feel like you're in the "Big Sky" country of Montana when you spend time in the shadows of Mount Shasta in northern California. For me, the sunsets here are simply gorgeous. This simple image was taken right alongside state highway 161. For ten years I have made a winter trip to this area that sits on the Oregon and California border. And for as many trips, I continue to find beauty in an area that most folks would simply drive through without stopping to gaze. Winters can be brutal in this part of the state, but for this photographer, beauty abounds and numbs me to the cold.


Lower Klamath Sunset
Lower Klamath NWR, CA/OR

Very little, if anything, was performed on the computer to enhance the color of this image. The colors were simply intense. The image was taken just a mile or so from the previous image along the same highway, the year before. The quarter moon adds a nice touch to an empty sky. Although sunsets like this can be seen anywhere and are easily photographed, it takes some time and a couple of trips to be able to find and recognize the stark beauty of this place. Mount Shasta, Lava Beds National Monument, the national wildlife refuges and even nearby Crater Lake provide so many scenic opportunities that many photographers overlook them while in pursuit of wildlife and waterfowl and eagle opportunities (which are great by themselves!) Should you ever get the chance to visit the area, please feel free to contact me when you go.


Note: For best viewing, set your monitor to High Color or True Color (Thousands or Millions of Colors on MacOS) and 1024x768 pixels. These images have been carefully prepared with a Gamma of 2.2 using the BruceRGB color space. This should work well with high-quality Windows monitors. If you are a MacOS user, set your Adobe Gamma control panel to "Windows Default" or, at the last resort, choose the sRGB calibrated profile in the Color section of your Monitors control panel.

Please note:  All images featured in this showcase are Copyright Lon Overacker, all rights reserved. These images are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and may not be used or reproduced without permission. For licensing information, or to order prints, please contact Lon Overacker at

About the Exhibit:

This month's PhotoTripUSA Showcase features Guest Photographer Lon Overacker, presenting a collection of wonderful images in both 35mm and 4x5, mostly from California.

Local Color: Most photographers might agree that there are plenty of images to be captured close to home. A number of the images in this portfolio were taken right in my hometown of Livermore, California. Much of California has basically two seasons: green and brown. Starting in February the golden hills begin to turn green with spring. By April, California Poppies scatter across the landscape. The poppies and oak woodlands in spring are a wash in color and composition; calling the photographer. The Subtle poppy and backlit rose were captured right in my own yard. Possibilities are endless.... no matter where you live.

Yosemite National Park: There are few places in the world that have been photographed more than Yosemite. And for good reason. Yosemite is a special and awe-inspiring place; evoking inspiration to the millions who have visited. John Muir once called Yosemite Valley the "Incomparable Valley." Although my travels have been limited, I happen to agree. Yosemite is less than 3 hours from home and I've enjoyed and absorbed Yosemite's wonders for a dozen years. And never tire of it. The photographic challenges in Yosemite are capturing images that haven't been captured before. This requires many visits throughout all the different seasons, times of day and changing weather. Opportunities abound when you're familiar with your subject; spending time to capture it's moods, seasons, and changing light. Sure, it's difficult not to be drawn to the classic, cliche'd shots of Yosemite. But there is so, so much more available if you can spend the time to look for it.

Eastern Sierra Autumn & Mono Lake: While California certainly has a wide variety of photographic subjects, many of which are unsurpassed in the world, California is not usually where photograhers go for fall color. However that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of opportunities; the Eastern Sierra Nevada being the main one. Aspens provide color, lining the rugged eastern valleys of the Sierra Nevada range. Although this area doesn't even come close to the expanse of aspens you might find in Colorado and Utah, the California aspen landscape offers unique and dramatic scenes of aspens with a backdrop of rugged, towering granite peaks of the Sierras. Abundant too are the creeks, ponds and groves of aspens for intimate shots of autumn in California. From Bridgeport to Bishop, you can see just some of the examples of what fall color can be captured in California.

Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges, CA/OR: Unlike Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra, the region just northeast of Mount Shasta, California can be driven through without much of a second look. Hugging the California and Oregon borders, this area is more widely known for it's wildlife and large population of wintering Bald Eagles. In fact I was first drawn to the area to see and photograph the eagles and thousands of migrating water fowl. It took but one trip to uncover the subtle and stark beauty of an area rich in grain fields, but otherwise pretty dull when it came to scenic and pictorial photography. I've since returned seven times to capture scenes of Mount Shasta reflecting in the icy waters, the rugged beauty of Lava Beds National Monument and the whor frost of those wickedly cold winter mornings along the border of California and Oregon. The landscape comes alive after a night of "Tule" fog; frost engulfing trees and fence lines. Some of the most beautiful and dramatic sunsets I have ever witnessed have been during winters in the shadow of Mount Shasta.

I would love to hear from you! Please send all comments to my e-mail at:

About the Photographer:

"Capturing Moments in Time" has been the driving philosophy behind my photographic pursuits for over twenty years. No matter when or where I may place the tripod and capture a moment in time, I feel completely unique in all the world that I have captured something that can never be duplicated. Sure, plenty of images are seemingly identical when you place another tripod in the same location with the same lens, same film, etc and can essentially capture the same image. However, what has changed and can not be re-captured, is time. A moment in time has passed and can never be re-captured. This, along with my own visions that have developed over time, make me feel unique in a world of millions of photographers.

The first indication I had that photography would prove to be a life's passion was at the age of twelve when my family vacationed in Glacier National Park. Armed with a Kodak Instamatic, I came home with rolls of prints with not much more than pictures of the Rocky Mountains. My father wondered why I took so many pictures of just the mountains. I know now as I knew then that well, they were simply beautiful. And now, not a day goes by that with or without a camera, that I don't visualize beautiful scenes where ever I go.

Although I haven't pursued a career in photography, I have taken small steps towards bringing my work to the public. I'm currently represented by a stock agency in Japan and have publication credits in Outdoor California, Hewlett-Packard's "Measure" magazine and local publications like the Livermore Chamber of Commerce directory. I've enjoyed being active in my local camera club for many years and have been fortunate to win many awards from the Alameda County fair, including four "Best of Show" awards. The most recent endeavors have been the design and building of my first web site and getting my work visible on the internet. I must thank Laurent for providing the opportunity to participate in the PhotoTripUSA Showcase. Thanks Laurent!

Equipment Info: My film of choice is Velvia. The key to using this film is to know it's strengths and limitations. In my opinion, it remains the sharpest transparency film available and is now just about the cheapest! For 35mm equipment, I shoot with a Nikon F4 and 8008S with various Nikon lenses ranging from 20mm to the 80-200. In addition, I use the Tamaron 300/2.8. For the last five years, Large Format 4x5 has been my primary focus. I use a wooden 4x5 field camera with 90mm and 210mm Nikor lenses.

To see more of my work and learn more about some of these images, please visit my website at Lon J. Overacker Photography.

Find photos of the Colorado Plateau in Land of the Canyons, the Photo Trip USA landscape photography guide book.
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