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Holy Jim Falls Trail

Holy Jim Falls - Orange County, CA

We had some great weather this past weekend here in Orange County (again...), so I took advantage of it and went for a solo hike up in the Cleveland National Forest (again...). This time, I decided to hit the Holy Jim Falls Trail in Trabuco Canyon.

My dad used to take my brothers and I to hike this trail when we were kids. In fact, it was those trips that helped me find my passion in landscape photography. But I hadn't hit this trail for at least 10 years, I think, due to the fact that I didn't have any 4x4 to get out there.

But man...I must have forgotten how beautiful this trail was or maybe I just didn't appreciate it as a kid and before I picked up a camera, but this trail was absolutely gorgeous! The hike winds through lush green forest, criss-crossing the crystal-clear Holy Jim Creek until you reach the 18-foot tall Holy Jim Falls. The various cascades leading up to the main falls coupled with the rich greens of the Spring foliage made for some awesome pictures.

Holy Jim Falls Trail - Orange County, CA

Holy Jim Falls Trail - Orange County, CA

Holy Jim Falls Trail - Orange County, CA

To my surprise, there were lots of patches of snow along the path. To those not familiar with the area, getting snow in these parts is rare and fleeting at best.

In one of the patches of snow at the base of a tree, I found a very clear paw print of a mountain lion track. This kind of evidence of these dangerous animals always gets me to start looking over my shoulder a bit more when I'm hunched over my tripod. For an ambush predator like that, a photographer crouched low along a babbling brook must look like Thanksgiving dinner.

Cougar Track along Holy Jim Falls Trail - Orange County, CA

The paw print was about 3.5 inches wide and 3 inches from toe to heel. Definitely a cougar.

Holy Jim Falls - Orange County, CA

Holy Jim Falls - Orange County, CA

Holy Jim Falls - Orange County, CA

After reaching Holy Jim Falls and photographing the hell out of it, I made my way back to the car and started the rough drive out to the main road. But before I could get home for some dinner, I had to stop along the highway for a few last-minute shots of the rolling green hills and puffy clouds as they gathered the sunset light. Click the pano for a bigger view.

Green Hills - Orange County, CA

Green Hills - Orange County, CA

Green Hills - Orange County, CA

 

Hike in Trabuco Canyon

For those of you who follow me closely on my blog or Facebook, you may have heard I recently traded in my little 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer for the car of my dreams: a Silver 2000 Toyota 4Runner 4x4. Yes, it's old, but it really is the car of my dreams and has been for years. I prefer it much more over the newer models.

Having a little front-wheel-drive 4-banger as my only mode of transportation for over 8 years has mostly restricted me to paved roads, which isn't ideal for my line of work. So, needless to say, my "new" 4Runner will be getting lots of use in the dirt.

I had a rare day off last Saturday with nothing planned. But if you take a landscape photographer, a mostly-cloudy day, an empty schedule and a 4x4...you've got yourself a recipe for off-roading. So I loaded up my gear and headed out for a solo trip up to the Trabuco Canyon trail in the Cleveland National Forest. For those of you familiar with the area, it's near the Holy Jim Falls trailhead.

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

While off-roading to the trailhead, blasting through mud and creeks, I fell in love. That's right. I fell in love with my 4Runner. And I'm not ashamed of it. She knows how to make me happy. She never asks for apologies. No. She only gives.

*ahem* Anyway...

The Trabuco Canyon Trail is gorgeous, by the way. One of the most beautiful in OC, in my opinion. It really feels secluded. One of the coolest aspects of this trail is the old, rusty car laying in ruins among the forest. I had photographed this car back in 2003 when I was just a wee lad of 15. I was shooting Fuji Velvia transparency film in my Minolta Maxxum 7D. Eight years later, I decided to get a refreshed take on it using my digital. I actually like the older shot better compositionally and in terms of color and contrast, but I'm sure I'll be back soon to have at it again. I hope to go back in the next few weeks to see if I can get some flowers around it and fine-tune the composition for a little more impact.

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail
^ The original shot taken on slide film in 2003

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

^ My modern-day "refresh"

Hmm...makes me kind of miss film. I love the saturation and greens of Velvia. Here are the rest of my shots from the day...

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

There you have it. The entire day was gorgeous with passing clouds, mild temperatures and plenty of solitude. Looking forward to going back soon.

Featured Testimonial and Student Images

The following is a testimonial from one of my students by the name of Juli. She started out with private lessons and took my Landscape Photography Class in Irvine, too. From landscapes to portraits to food, she's a very talented photographer with awesome work. See a sampling of her images below and be sure to check out her site at www.JVDPhoto.biz.

Here's what she had to say about my services...

Nick is extremely talented both as a photographer and an instructor. Many in his field excel in one area or the other, but he is equally gifted in both.

Private lessons come complete with interactive presentations and customized assistance. Beyond his years of in-depth photography studies and practice, he has clearly put hours of work and dedication into his teaching strategy and materials, which expedites the learning process and connects with various learning styles.

Nick asks what you do and don't already know about photography, but he also feels out which aspects you think you know, but don't really understand properly. His corrections of my misconceptions have provided some of the biggest breakthroughs I've yet experienced, in areas I didn't even realize I was ignorant.

As someone who (self-professedly) eats, sleeps and drinks photography, Nick has a passion for the subject that makes his classes and private lessons engaging and fun. He's a fast talker and keeps the lessons moving at a speedy pace (despite being paid by the hour - you will definitely get your money's worth!), but he also creates an environment where you feel comfortable speaking up when you have "stupid" questions or get lost. And true to his skill as a teacher, when you need clarification on a subject, he will attack it from different angles until it truly makes sense to you, not just repeat the same wording until it's been beaten into your short term memory.

Nick's lessons have taught me to properly utilize the features and functions of my camera, and have made me a more knowledgeable and confident photographer. I would definitely recommend him to anyone looking to get more comfortable with their DSLR, take their photography skills to the next level, discover tips and tricks to reliably achieve the images they want and expect out of each shoot, or simply get a better grasp on all that technical stuff that they tuned out in High School Photography class. Oh, wait… was that last one just me? 🙂

In addition to a generous amount of new knowledge, I have walked away from every single session with one or more "Aha!" moments that have made (and in some cases will make, with more time and practice) a huge impact on my future shoots and photos.

Despite his youth, Nick is an experienced photographer and an adept instructor, who provides more knowledge for your buck than many instructors twice his age. You will definitely be surprised by what (and how much!) you learn.

- Juli

Image by JVD Photo

Image by JVD Photo

For information on private lessons, click here. For a list of upcoming seminars, click here.