On cloud nine

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Ever since I had my first film camera I have enjoyed taking pictures of clouds. The first storms of the season were an opportunity to break out the 25A red filter to try and get that dramatic landscape of clouds rolling in over the city. Even now when I see a cool looking cloud I break out my iPhone and snap a picture or two to add to my growing collection cloudscapes. I was pleasantly surprised to see cloudy skies greet my drive to Round Valley Regional Preserve for this morning’s hike, as I would have a chance to add to my growing cloud collection.

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I had hiked Round Valley in July with a friend and today’s solo hike would follow the same route, a trip up and down Hardy Canyon to Miwok and follow the trail through the park’s flatlands to Murphy Meadows to complete the loop. At just under 8 miles it is not terribly long and it does have a few hills to get the blood plumping but what I was looking for were those wide-open expanses with a storm rolling by.

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I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be seeing any rain; the partly cloudy skies were rolling through fast. In the canyon I would catch the sun rising through the cloudbank as it passed over the hills. I was travelling light with just the Canon 70D and the 17-40mm lens.  Today was going to be mainly landscapes so I wanted a wide-angle view from the trail.

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Even though I saw the trail a few months ago today trail looked different.  The lighting condition, broken cloud cover and a lower sun angle gave a different look to the scenery. The lighting was muted; colors seemed subdued in the overcast. While shadows help give depth, detail and texture to a scene the light from the clouds cast little if any shadows making it more a study of shapes and sizes. The sunlight would often break through patches of the clouds sending random shafts of light striking the trail, making for an interesting study of contrast.

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But the most striking thing to view were the clouds themselves. Wind currents swirled and pulled the cloudbank apart send it wafting over the park in sections. Wispy trails extended over hills and blazed against the deep blue sky. The sun, still climbing through the morning, illuminated sections of the cloudbank in a fiery display, tinged with the hue from the sunrise.

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As fall heads into the winter months I will have more wonderful opportunities to capture the seasonal colors and skies. This is the time to be on the trail where colors are more vibrant and skies more dramatic. I will have to get my fill of such sights before the rains come and hiking waits for drier times. But for now I will enjoy my cloudy days on the trail and the colors they bring to the trail.