Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Vallecito Valley 3 Day Backpack Trip

After Thanksgiving Gary and I headed out to the Vallecito Valley area for a 3 day backpack trip. Original plans that included hiking over to Canebrake changed to just poking around the Sawtooth mountain range for 3 days. That meant my truck would sit all alone waiting for nobody over in Indian Valley. After deciding on a place to leave Gary's vehicle we started out cross country thru a mixed boundary of ABDSP, BLM, County and private lands. We had no set goals other than to hike, explore and camp out for 3 days, pretty simple. We each started with about 9 liters of water thinking we would find some more at a piped spring I knew about but if it was dry we wanted enough to get us back. Temps for the trip were low 80's during the day and low 50's at night with very little wind and an almost full moon each night, pretty darn good weather I think.

Not to far into our trip we ran across an old windmill setup
Old Windmill blades

I guess the KendallVille name goes back a long time in America's Windmill history
Windmills have a long history in America and Kendallville Indiana was part of that history.

Looks like the windmill pumped water over to a trough that had a sophisticated float shutoff valve assembly
This trough collected water from the windmill operation
Inventive float valve was used to regulate water flow into the trough. Looks just like a modern toilet float valve

This must be the towering metal base for the water collection
This must have been the windmill water collection system that transfered the water to the trough

Here is a great view into Storm Canyon
Wide open Vallecito Valley

Vallecito Valley has many water troughs left over from early cattle ranching days and we found several of them. Here is another dried up trough out in the middle of nowhere
Old water trough that is now dry

Unfortunately Mylar Balloons do not seem to escape our remote wilderness trek
Fresh mylar balloon kill, no better way to say I love you

The Sawtooth Mountains at sunset
Heading down the wash  from a low saddle. What a great view of the Sawtooth Mtns.

Are you a Yoni "believer"?
Yoni..if you are a believer

Gary and I had some plans but as we headed out they seemed to slowly fade and we ended up just drifting thru the valley and exploring the landscape and boulder outcrops as the sun slowly began to set. The moon was shining bright enough to allow us to hike during the early evening without lights so we took advantage of that moonlight and hiked several more miles under the moonlit desert skies until we reached a good place to camp near the base of the Laguna Mountains.

Here is our moonlit camp on day 1, this is a long 5 minute exposure. Beautiful weather and campsite
Nightime view of our camp. Am almost full moon helped keep the exposure time down. Notice the airplane streak in the upper left corner.  ISO 100,f/4, 5 minute, 27 second exposure, focal 10 mm

Early morning sunrise with Monument Peak towering in the background
Early morning view of my campsite and the Laguna Observatory and Monument Peak

Even though we both brought 9 liters of water for the trip we had counted on getting some water from an old piped spring out in the valley. I knew the last time I was there it had plenty of water and we were counting on it being wet this trip also. Turns out the pipe had a hole in it a few hundred yards up from the collection trough. The spigot was only dripping when we got there and the trough was only inches full, just enough to support pond scum life
At night there were hundreds of these worm critters swimming in the water trough

Gary found the hole and with some old left over repair debris we found and an old beer can we managed to get it back flowing at full capacity.

Here is the hole pre-repair
Gary found a hole in the water pipe up stream

Here is the hole post-repair
Gary and I patched up the hole on the water pipe with some left over repair debris we found. An old rubber hose, some hose clamps and an old beer can

Now the water flow is good and we get a few liters of water to start the day with
Spring Water flowing good again after the repair

Damn, boulders everywhere!!
Wow...boulders everywhere..!

Here is an old water trough that has dried up
Dried up trough

And the valley seems to have miles of water lines that have dried up and broken over the years but have largely been forgotten by now
Water pipe several miles down the canyon from the spring.

The tranquil day is coming to an end and we look for a place to camp out for the second night of our trip. The middle of the valley is as good of a place as any and Gary schools me on how to "rough" up a soft spot for the night. With the moon still bright we took a short hike up a small finger towards Moument Peak looking for a spring we did not find but it was like the first night, a very restful and enjoyable evening out in the wilderness. The coyotes serenaded us in the early morning hours.

On our 3rd day out we stumbled across what we called "chair cave", gotta love those old timers....
Gary and I came upon this small shelter nesteld in some boulders, we called it Chair Cave

We decided a shade break was needed
Chair Cave with Gary (left) and I (right)

Well since we were exploring we found a few cultural artifacts and some rock art along the way

A small arrowhead point
Small arrowhead point

A metate fragment
Broken Metate


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And some historic artifacts, maybe this is a hand forged knife blade??
Old knife blade, maybe hand forged

A Good 'ol boy horseshoe with square nails and all
Old Horseshoe

Oh wait, almost forgot the most significant artifact
Mylar Ballons this trip. Apparently Dora also explores out here

I guess even Dora Explores the Desert

Total Mylar Balloon Count - 11 (Not all pictured)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Little Petroglyph Canyon

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I was fortunate enough to be invited to go tour Little Petroglyph Canyon (AKA Renegade Canyon) this last weekend. Little Petroglyph Canyon has the largest known concentration of petroglyphs in the western hemisphere and is located on the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Base. You can only visit this site with Navy approved guides and tour dates are limited to certain times of the year. You can find out more information about touring the site from the Maturango Museum website.

Recommended Reading about the Coso Range Petroglyphs

This was an amazing site with probably thousands of petroglyphs. Probably one of the most amazing parts of the petroglyphs is the obvious difference in dates of all the petroglyphs. You can clearly see many that have patina dating back thousands of years and some that apear to be probably only a few hundred years. Some dating techniques recently used suggest some of the petroglyphs are 14,000-16,000 years old!

In the 3-1/2 - 4 hours we spent in the canyon I took almost 1,000 photos, there were petroglyphs everywhere! I trimmed down the collection to mostly all unique photos and you can view them all here Little Petroglyph Canyon Photos

Here are a few of my favorites

Really,really old petroglyphs
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I call this guy "Ziggy"
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Family Petroglyphs
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Medicine Man
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The Hunter
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Bighorn Sheep Kill
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Monday, November 19, 2012

DStretch - Removing the Wild and Crazy Colors

In this DStretch tutorial I am going to show you one method of how to remove the wild and crazy colors sometimes produced by the color space enhancements of DStretch.
The method I will show you in this tutorial will use free software available for all major operating systems. You can download and use all of the software I use in this tutorial for free. I will be using DStretch and the Gimp, hopefully you already have DStretch installed on your computer. The Gimp can be downloaded for free from here http://www.gimp.org/downloads/ If you are using Windows or Mac OS you will need to click the "Show other downloads" link for your operating system.

If you already have Photoshop or another application that supports layers and masks you can use that instead since the techniques used in this tutorial are pretty basic and can be easily interpreted and applied in other image manipulation software programs.

Lets get started...!

We will start with 2 images, the first being the original, non DStretched image and the second will be the wild and crazy colored DStretched image.

Here is the original image and the DStretched image I will use for this tutorial.

Original Image
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DStretched version with crazy colors

The final image will look something like this
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The steps involved to create the final image are basically this:

1. Open the original and DStretch images "as layers" in your image application
2. Use a selection tool to outline your pictograph and save it as a "channel"
3. Invert the selection and also save it as a reversed channel
4. Create a Mask of the inverted pictograph channel
5. Erase the background of your pictograph Mask layer to allow the original image background to show thru.
6. Modify the colors of the pictograph Channel layer to get the best results
7. Save your modified images

Once you have your original image and your DStretched version ready you need to open them both "as layers" in Gimp
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Select both images to open. You can hold down the <Cntrl> Key while clicking on each image

You should end up with 2 layers in Gimp. One is the original image and the second is the DStretched version. You want to make sure the DStretched version is the top layer, if it is below the original image layer than you can drag the layer above the original image layer
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Now we will need to trace around the pictograph using the Free Select tool. This tool icon looks like a lasso rope, just select it by clicking the mouse on it

To trace around the pictograph just start clicking around the edges of the pictograph. You can be as precise or not as you choose. For this tutorial I am only going to trace a rough outline. Here is how it should look as you get started, once you go around the entire pictograph double click on the last point and it will automatically finish the trace for you

Here is how your finished selection should look
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I recommend you add a bit of a feathering effect to the edges of the selection. This will help soften the overall look of the colors of the pictograph. With your selection still active choose the menu option Select > Feather and enter a value you want to use, I used 20.00 for this tutorial
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The next steps are where some of the magic happens. First, save your work now! File > Save and it will prompt you for a filename and the extension will be .xcf which is fine, that is the default for a Gimp file just like Photshop uses .psd. This file format will allow you to save all of your layers, selections, etc so you can modify them later if you like. Once you save your photo as a jpg all the hard work you are doing now will be lost so save your .xcf file now!

With your selection still active you need to save it to a Channel. You will do that by clicking the menu option Select > Save to Channel
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This will save the Channel and pop you over to a new window of saved Channels

Next you need to reverse or "invert" the selection to make the background the selection and not the pictograph. Do that by selecting the menu option Select > Invert
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You will need to save this inverted selection to a new Channel just like the previous step. When you have saved both the normal and the inverted selection to Channels you should see both of them in the Channels window. The white area denotes the selection area. (I have renamed the channels to reflect picto and background selections, you can do the same)
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Now you are ready to apply some magic....
On the inverted Channel, right click the mouse and choose "Channel to Selection". This will apply the background selection to the main image layer.
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Next you need to select the layers window to get back to the actual photograph workspace. Select the tab circled in red shown here
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You should see your two image layers now and the next step is to add a Layer Mask. Make the DStretched layer active by single clicking it and then on the menu select Layer > Mask > Add Layer Mask....
Accept the default value of White(full opacity) and click Add

You will see a new white box next the image on the layer itself. This is the new Mask. Make sure the Mask is selected by clicking the white box. A white outline indicates the currently selected item. If you click the image it will get a white outline instead, for now select the white Mask box instead.
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Now pick your current color which needs to be black
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Select the bucket tool
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And then apply the black color with the bucket tool by clicking anywhere on the main image window (make sure the layer with the Mask is the highlighted layer)
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Now you see magic!

Those are the basic steps. You can Save/Export the current image as is or you can fine tune it to look a little better. Some of things I do are change the opacity of the layer and change some of the Hue/Saturation effects on the pictograph layer.

To try those things, you need to go back to the Channel window and right click the picto outline Channel (not the background one we did already) and select Channel to Selection. This will make just the picto the selection and not the background like we had before. You can select/highlight the Mask layer to make it the active layer and also make sure you click the image to make it active, not the Mask box and change the opacity or from the Colors Menu select Hue-Saturation and play with the values.
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This was a pretty long tutorial and you can watch the 6.5 minute video below instead. It covers everything here as well as showing you how to Save/Export your final image.

If you are familiar with how to use Layers and Masks this tutorial is probably all you need to tackle some of the tougher pictograph images. This tutorial used a simple, solid shaped pictograph which is pretty easy to enhance. An image with lots of pictographs or others with many open areas in the pictograph will require some crafty use of Masks and Layers to get good results.

Jon Harmon commented to me that this technique is an interpretation of the rock art and I agree. This technique may not be good for all pictographs and there is another method you can use to help isolate the colors using just DStretch alone. Jon has built into DStretch the concept of Masks and it can be a tricky beast to use. I will cover how to use the Hue Mask panel in another tutorial but for now you can watch the below video for a quick overview of how it works.

Links to all of my DStretch Tutorials are here:

DStretch Tutorials - Getting started
DStretch Tutorials - Modifying the Default Enhancements
DStretch Tutorials - Batch Mode
DStretch Tutorials - Removing the Wild and Crazy Colors

Please do not email me and ask me for locations of rock art, I will not reply to you.