Friday, December 5, 2014

Native Forest Birds

I haven't been updating my blog but I've been so busy enjoying life.  Over the past few months I've taken up an interest in photographing birds, the birds you rarely see.  You need to go deep into the mountains where most of the forest is dominated by ohia and koa trees to find these colorful, beautiful, and small, winged animals. 

The first time I saw a native forest bird on Oahu was when I was hiking with my friends coming down a ridge trail on the East side of the island.  My friend Josh pointed out a red bird in a koa tree.  It wasn't a cardinal and he said, "I think that's and 'apapane!"  I tried to bring my camera up to photograph it but before I could it flew away.  I would have never guessed that Oahu still had native forest birds.  I've only seen those on the outer islands.  That same week I decided I had a little bit of time before work so I should go see if that really was a native forest bird.  I hiked up to where we saw it in the koa trees and waited around to see if they'd come around.  To my amazement THEY did.  Four landed on some dead branches.  That's when I snapped this picture. 

I was instantly hooked then and there.  How could I have not seen these birds since I started hiking!?  From then on, every trail that I hiked within the last few months I've had my telephoto lens on while hiking.  Snapping photos like this. 

Juvenile 'apapane (Himatione sanguinea) spreading it's wings and taking off. 

I've found out that hiking and trying to take pictures of these guys are extremely difficult, they are very skiddish and wouldn't come close.  So I would wait, in the bushes on some days and get photos that were a little better. 

'Apapane on some ohia canopy. 

Sitting and waiting allowed me to compose shots a little better.  I can sit and watch and ohia tree and think about where the bird might land. 
'Apapane flying between some branches. 

What's pretty amazing is that my friends told me that 'apapane aren't too common on O'ahu.  But for the first few months that's all I've been seeing.  Those guys and non native forest birds.  They said there are two more birds that are more often seen by birders, the 'elepaio and the 'amakihi. 

The next native forest bird that I started to see after 'apapane were the O'ahu 'amakihi (Hemignathus flavus).  The first time I saw them was on a central O'ahu hike. 
This guy spotted me and was scared to come any closer. 

I never could get a good picture of this species, but sooner or later I will. 

Another backlit 'amakihi picture. 

The last of the three species left on O'ahu is the O'ahu 'elepaio (Chasiempis ibdis).  I only have one picture of the O'ahu one, this guy came really close to me to check me out. 

Perky shot of an O'ahu 'elepaio. 

After seeing all three birds I've wondered if there might be any other birds living deep in the mountains such as an I'iwi or an O'ahu 'alauahio where they've been pushed deep or are extinct on O'ahu island.

Big Island is where I saw lots of native forest birds.  I've taken two trips to Hawai'i island and both times I went to photograph birds.  There are so many birds there if you know where to look.  One of the first time I saw an I'iwi...

I'iwi (Vestiaria coccinea) sipping on ohia nectar.

A little further down the trail I was greeted by a Hawai'i 'elepaio. 

Hawai'i 'elepaio ( Chasiempis sandwichensis).  Notice the difference between the Hawai'i island one and the O'ahu 'elepaio. 

Going back to the car and the trail head we saw plenty of Hawai'i 'amakihi. 

Can you spot the Hawai'i 'amakihi (Hemignathus virens)?

Lastly on the way down driving in our car we saw the Hawaiian hawk or I'o perched on a dead tree. 

One of the only predatory birds native to Hawai'i, I'o (Buteo solitarius).

On the second trip back to the Big Island I brought along a longer telephoto lens.  There were a ton of i'iwi and 'apapane to photograph. 

I'iwi making it's way to some ohia flowers.  

'Apapane trying to balance on an ohia tree.  

I'iwi can take off like a hawk too! 

The bird was sipping nectar and flicking water off of it's bill and head. 

Looking for the next flower.  

They can hang upside down and eat.  

  This guy posed for me!

Surprised that I didn't see more of these guys around.  Hawai'i 'amakihi.

I wish I got a better shot of this 'oma'o (Myadestes obscurus).

Native forest birds from Ryan Chang on Vimeo.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Panorama trail to Yosemite Valley floor

I think the best hike we did during our stay was this hike.  Panorama trail starts high above the valley floor at Glacier Point.  The plan was to take a shuttle up to Glacier point and hike our way down to the valley floor where we would leave our car. 

Since we had to commute from Tuolmne meadows camp site we woke up early and hopped in the car before the sun was up.  Took the hour drive down to the valley floor and took a shuttle up to Glacier point by 8am.  We didn't start the hike till about 9 because when we got to the top the view was jaw dropping.  Half Dome was directly in front of us and Yosemite Valley floor was way down there. 

The start of the hike was a few switch backs and some contouring down to Little Yosemite Valley.  The first waterfall we hit was Illiouette falls.  We stopped at an overlook before we hit the stream bed.  The waterfall was trickling because it was so late in the summer but, that was ok.  We headed down to the stream bed and took a long break, ate lunch and took a dip in the cold river water.  It was really refreshing! 

After lunch and a break we had to do the hardest part of the trail.  We had to gain a little elevation.  It was difficult for us because we were already so high up, us Hawaii people aren't used to hiking at elevation.  Huffing and puffing we finally hit a high point and the trail kind of leveled off.  The next stop was Nevada Falls.  Just under a half mile off the main trail it was worth a visit.  We were greeted by hoards of people.  Chilling under and over a bridge and in the stream so close to the edge of the waterfall.  It was a little disconcerting to see people so close to the edge just to get a picture. 

After Nevada Falls we were feeling a little tired but we made our way down to Vernal Falls overlook.  After about an hour of hiking we hit the stream that Vernal falls gets it's water from.  We took a break there for some photos and water.  There were more and more people the further we got down the trail.  We were all getting tired and hungry.  Before we got to the bottom we all agreed to shower and eat in Yosemite Valley.  Dinner was pizza! 

On the Mist Trail we saw the bottom of Vernal Falls, a big pool that people were swimming in.  It looked inviting but it would have made us late for pizza!  We booked it down the trail and headed to Curry Village. 

The trail we took today was a good day hike.  A solid 8 mile one way hike.  If you have questions ask here! 

I could have stayed here all day and watched this view. 

Heading down a few switchbacks through pine trees. 

Sick views of Half Dome. 

Jenny and Katie blazing their way down the trail. 

Illiouette Falls

Looking down.  

Cooling down.

The top of Nevada Falls.

Deep blue pool made it look inviting but one fumble on this slick granite could prove fatal.

Nevada Falls and a barely visible rainbow. 

Bet these fall colors would be epic if it were later in the year. 

Twins were loving the view!

Vernal Falls overlook. 

Christian taking a break and using the tripod for the stream shot.

The pool was inviting but the pizza was calling my name. 

Panorama trail to Valley floor from Ryan Chang on Vimeo.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Yosemite National Park

We headed to Yosemite National Park after spending a few days in Mammoth.  We took the Tioga pass entrance into the park which is usually closed during the winter and spring time because of snow.  The drive up was beautiful passing huge granite walls and kettle and tarns (lakes formed during glaciation).  The first thing was to check into our camp site and set up. 

We had reserved permits for tent camping in Tuolmne meadows months in advance.  We checked in and gave us camp site "G" at first.  We had heard from previous people that camped there to try and get an "A" camp site.  Unfortunately we wasted some time setting up and breaking down our camp site and finally settling in at an "A" camp site.  Even though it was crowded there, we had a big stream to hang out by and much better scenery.  I highly suggest getting an "A" campsite over others.

After setting up we enjoyed checking out the river and going over to Tenaya Lake to fish a little.  At sunset we hung out at Olmstead point for pictures.  The sunset colors on half dome were a cool pink color.  That night was the only night we cooked for dinner.  We made a camp fire and ate all kinds of foods.  We hit the bed early because the next day we were hiking all over! 

Katie decided that she wanted to hike the North Dome trail.  We all piled in the car with our lunches and gear we needed.  We drove about forty five minutes to Porcupine Creek where the trail head was.  The trail quickly drops down with a paved path to a wooded area.  We saw plenty of squirrels and deer.  The trail winds around for about three miles in a wooded area and then comes to an opening with some granite rock to an overlook.  We hung out there for a bit and made our way to the end of the North Dome hike.  At the end we were sitting on a dome of granite over looking Yosemite Valley.  We could see half dome right across from us begging to get it's picture taken.  More squirrels came around and begged for some food.  It was a great place to have lunch. 

After about an hour we left and took a side trail to Indian Rock.  It's an arch that's found no where else in Yosemite Park.  It was also the only place where everyone had cell reception!  After visiting the arch we decided to drive to Tuolmne grove since it was still early in the afternoon.  I really wanted to see Giant Sequioa but come to find out it wasn't the best place to view them.  I highly suggesting visiting Mariposa Grove and skip going to Tuolmne Grove. 

That night we were so tired that we just wanted to eat shower and sleep.  We went down into Yosemite Valley, we heard there were warm showers for a fee.  At Curry Village there were hot showers with towels for $5 a person.  Even though it cost money I felt so good taking a shower after hiking all day.  We ate at the cafeteria that night and headed back to our home in Tuolmne meadows.  The drive back was really long because you drive along a cliff side with no street lights.  Driving cautiously is a must! 

Katie starting her trek through the woods to North Dome.


The woody grassy area thinned out and granite and sand took over. 

Looking down into Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome seemed like a stone throw away. 

Beggar of food.

Hiking to Indian Rock.

Archy arch.

Giant Sequoia tree tunnel.

These trees lived up to it's name, Giant Sequoia.

The tops of the Giant Sequioa. 

The classic Tunnel View. 

Yosemite North Dome from Ryan Chang on Vimeo.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Friday night Jenny arrived and we could start our road trip the next morning.  Saturday we got the car packed up and ready to go.  We crammed the Tahoe to the brim with all of our camping equipment by mid morning.  But, what's a road trip without a few bumps in the road?  The first monkey wrench in our road trip was that the car would die when we tried to drive it.  We replaced the battery and drove it just to test that it wouldn't die on us.  Many thanks to Steve the family mechanic of the Ersbak's to come down and replace our battery on super short notice! 

Our first major destination was to go to Mammoth and visit a family friend of the Ersbak's and stay there a few nights.  We drove inland passing Death Valley on the right and Mt. Whitney on the left.  We had to stop for a few pictures of Whitney.  Then to Bishop, climbing land!  We made a stop at the beef jerky place called Mahogany Smoked Meats.  If you are ever passing through Bishop you have to stop here for some fresh jerky, I highly recommend the teriyaki and the sweet and spicy style.  After 6 or more hours of driving we finally made it to Mammoth and the Day's residence.  Claus and Christine made it up to Mammoth the day before and were hanging out in Mammoth for the weekend.  When we got there the Day's welcomed us with refreshments and their giant back of some tall granite peaks.  We chit chatted for a few hours and soon it was dinner time.  As the sun was setting I couldn't resist but taking a few pics.  Just across the valley was the White mountains.  Looking South we could see the canyon where a lot of rock climbers would go for world class bouldering.  After some dinner we talked about plants and animals of Hawaii.  Donalda Day was really interested in the flora and fauna of Hawaii.  I showed her a few of my pics and made recommendations when they go up to Maui.

It was getting late but Christian was out photographing the night sky.  I went out to join him, luckily I was still awake since all the stars were out and the Milky Way was showing just above those granite peaks.  We stayed out till about midnight trying to get awesome pictures.  I could have stayed out there all night but we had a hike the Day's were going to take us on the next day.  Some of the Milky Way shots turned out epic! 

We got up around 7 the next morning to get ready for the hike.  The Day's were going to take us on our first Yosemite hike to an alpine lake.  They said it was "easy" 4-5 mile round trip.  We got to the trail head just inside the Tioga entrance to the park.  The scenery on Tioga road was beautiful.  We passed tall granite mountains, waterfalls, and big lakes.  The beginning of the hike was all up hill.  We started just below 10,000 feet and probably topped out over 10,000 feet.  The hike uphill was brutal and everyone in our group was feeling it.  Gaining elevation at so high was difficult for me because I'm used to low elevation.  When we reached the peak we could see the lakes we were going to.  Gaylor lakes was a deep blue surrounded by rolling hills of granite and lots of pine trees.  We made our way down to the lake where we'd take our first good break.  Mike Day told us that this was one of the warmer alpine lakes and during the summer season tons of people would be swimming in it.  Today no one was dumb enough to swim in it except for me.  I stripped down to my undies and slowly waded my way in until I was too deep to wade anymore.  Total time for staying in the water was probably under a minute it was so cold.  Luckily it was a nice sunny day where I could dry off quickly.  After drying off the group made their way to Upper Gaylor lakes.  We had our lunch there and headed back to the car.  We made a few stops on the way back to the house.  Christian had to pick up a fishing license to fish while we were in Yosemite and Claus had to pick up his winter pass to ski in Mammoth during the winter season.  We made it back to the house just in time for some dinner.  Again the stars were out and we shot late into the evening. 

The next morning Christian had to send out pictures to his clients so he had some work to do in the morning.  I was pooped from the day before and stayed with him at the house to cruise around and wait for some opportune pics of some hummingbirds.  The Day's took Katie and Jenny out to do a short hike up the road before lunch.  After lunch we planned on going to the Bristlecone Pine Forest.  The Bristlecone Pines are the oldest known living organism on the planet.  Some pines are over 5,000 years old!  We made a stop at the museum and talked to a person from the Forest Reserve staff.  Lauren told us about her passion working for a National Botanic Park Preserve.  She also shared a few facts and a story about Methuselah the oldest known living tree in this park.  The where abouts of Methuselah are kept secret since the felling of Prometheus.  Prometheus was the oldest known living individual but a graduate student with the help of park service cut it down in lieu of research of the ice age.  Walking amongst these ancient trees gave me chicken skin... all I could think about was what would these trees say if they could talk?  After a late afternoon stroll through these trees we went to a Mexican restaurant to eat.  It was our last night in Mammoth, I'm definitely going to come back, this place is pretty cool.  The next morning we said our goodbyes and thank you's to the Day's and we headed off to Yosemite National Park. 

Thank you again Donalda and Mike for taking us in.  I really enjoyed staying at your place and all of your hospitality.  If you ever come to Hawaii soon let us know!  We'd like to show you folks around! 

The start of the madness.  Small kind over packed. 

Christian being a gangstah. 

This wasn't a airport.  It was where airplanes go and die. 

Never ending road. 

Mt. Whitney is to the right by the jagged peaks.  From this point of view the mountain in the center looks the tallest but it's not. 

Near Bishop, you need to stop here for jerky. 

Snacks for the road trip. 

Late afternoon at the Day's residence. 

The colors of the sun as it sets on White mountains.

Stars came out to dance. 

Milky Way was spectacular and clear since there was no light pollution. 

Donalda leading the way to Gaylor lakes. 

Katie stopping to enjoy the scenery. 

Catching our breath. 

Christian and Jenny were happy to see Gaylor Lake. 

The water was inviting but cold. 

Upper Gaylor Lake.

Heading back out.  Gaylor lake down there. 

Father and two daughters. 

Twin falls. 

Posted up in the morning at some bird feeders hoping to catch a hummingbird. 

Trying to freeze action. 

Lauren talking story in the visitor center.

First capture of a Bristlecone Pine.  Such character...

The tree had a golden glow to it.

These are the pine cones oozing with sap. 

Every tree was different. 

Christian getting a close shot. 

I noticed this bird pecking around at some dead trees.  Possibly looking for bugs.  Donalda told me it was a White Breasted Nuthatch.

Treescape nearing golden hour. 

I was amazed how old these trees were. 
#straightroadtrippin from Ryan Chang on Vimeo.