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Escondido Canyon Falls

My brother and I took a hike yesterday in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area near Malibu, CA to see Escondido Canyon Falls.

Upper Escondido Canyon Falls - Malibu, CA

We'd never been here before and I've never even hiked in Los Angeles County before, but I read great things about this waterfall, so we decided to take a chance on it. There are an upper and lower falls that both consist of a long drop where water clings to the cliff in its descent. It's not a ton of water pouring off these crests, but the waterfalls are impressive nonetheless - especially for being tucked in this wealthy, densely populated area of the country. You really wouldn't expect to see waterfalls of this size here.

The lower falls is about 60' tall and is easy to get to. I didn't get any pictures of the lower falls because the light was ugly. But the second falls is an adventure to reach with very steep rock scrambling - part of which necessitated using some pre-tied ropes to assist your climb - and tight squeezes through brush. The reward, though, is worth it.

Most sources I find online say the upper falls is 120'-150'. I call foul on that. Can't be more than 80'. But still very impressive. Check the second picture below for scale (I'm on the left and I'm 6'2"), just keep in mind that the extreme wide angle I had to use for the shot distorts sizes and actually makes the falls look much smaller than it is.

Upper Escondido Canyon Falls - Malibu, CA

Upper Escondido Canyon Falls - Malibu, CA

Overall, we must have hiked about 6 miles. Great work out, but I was beat by the end of it.

Becoming a Professional Photographer

A lot of people nowadays have great aspirations to become a professional photographer. They just picked up some professional equipment, they got themselves a professional website, they had a professional logo designed by a professional graphic designer, they have professional business cards all ready to go and, most importantly, they already have some paid gigs under their professional belt.

Well, if they are getting paid to take pictures, then they must be a professional photographer, right? Sure. No doubt about it. Because if you look under "professional" in the New Oxford American Dictionary, one entry is as follows:

professional
adjective
(of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime

So, yes, they are technically a professional photographer. Technically. But most people seem to overlook another entry you'll find under "professional" in the dictionary. It's a definition that I think says much more about a person. It's a title one must earn through hard work, practice and patience. It's not something one earns with a cleared check. It's the definition we should all strive for over the latter:

professional
adjective
having or showing the skill appropriate to a professional person; competent or skillful

Having or showing the skill appropriate to a professional. Competent. Skillful.

These are the things every photographer should strive for. Not just the ones looking to make a buck with their photography - everyone. We should all strive to be competent and skillful. Whether you collect payment for applying these skills is irrelevant. Family pictures, travel shots, party pictures...doesn't matter. If you are competent and skillful, you will enjoy photography and you will have great pictures to show for it.

If you do want to make money from your photography; great! There's never been a better time than now to do it. The sky is the limit and you can create a successful photography business faster than ever before. But don't be just another paid amateur. Be competent. Have the skills appropriate to a professional photographer. Know how to operate your camera with your eyes closed, be able to rattle off the shutter speed that will lighten your exposure by 2 stops, know exactly what depth of field you need, don't ever forget that a smaller f-number is a larger aperture.

Be competent. Be skillful. Be professional.

Regardless of what your financial goals are in photography. Earn the title. Earn it through training, experimenting and tons and tons of practice. Collect payment or don't. But never stop striving to be professional.

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