I like to hike. Well, I didn't always like to hike.

I like to hike.
Well, I didn't always like to hike.

by: Cynthia Leeder
Cynthia Leeder

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Cynthia obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry in 1975 from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, CA. After graduating she worked for 19 years as a chemist in the medical diagnostics industry.
I like to hike. Well, I didn't always like to hike. I discovered I liked to hike after having a midlife crisis of sorts after my parents passed away in 2005 and I started thinking, what have I done in my life? Was I just working to live and living to work? Shouldn't I be doing some living to live? But where were the big adventures in my life? Where was the fun?

So here I was, already in my 50's and I was realizing the last 25-30 years of my life had just vanished as in a blink of the eye and most of my memories seemed to only involve work.

Well, by the time I was realizing this I had already discovered I liked photography and my evolution into hiking was an outgrowth of that. I was already taking my camera out on short hikes at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve by Moss Landing just to take pictures, and as my fitness improved I started thinking about other locations I might try.

So by 2006, I did a very enjoyable short hike in Death Valley, and then not long after that I did another hike with a friend and our cameras in the Marin Headlands, going down the Steep Ravine Trail from the Pantool Ranger Station and then looping back up the Dipsea Trail. A beautiful hike by the way, if you've never done it.

And wouldn't you know it? That hike hooked me and I've been hiking ever since. And as it turns out, the San Francisco Bay Area is a great place just lousy with parks to hike. We've got them everywhere, all around the bay, to the north and south, east and west and some of the parks and trails here offer wonderful views and amazing hidden beauty.

So I like to hike, and I like to take pictures. That seems like a nice marriage of hobbies. Hiking can get you into places where you can take pictures. Cool! Well sort of. There's long hikes and there are short hikes and there are hard hikes and there are easy hikes and if I am going to take pictures on my hikes, I need to take a camera along and its hard to drag a lot of gear around on a long hard hike.?

Since those first tentative hikes in 2006 I have done dozens of hikes all over the Bay Area and so now here I was a few months back doing a long hard hike in the Marin Headlands with a local hiking club. This was going to be 20 mile hike with 3000 plus feet of elevation gain and so rather than take all my gear along, I was just carrying my little Canon A710 IS point and shoot digital camera. It's small and handy and great to grab some quick shots on a hike.

So we're hiking up the Dipsea Trail from Stinson Beach on a foggy day and its gorgeous. The trees and plants were just so vivid and green and lovely that I found myself thinking how neat it would be to set up my tripod and start shooting away with my SLR, which of course, was at home. I still took some pictures as I hiked along with my little Canon anyway, nothing great, just mementos of the hike.

And then we hit a fog shrouded forest at the top of the trail that was like something out of a fairy tale and immediately I wanted to create. I didn't want to just take straight pictures of it, I wanted to create! And all I had with me was my little point and shoot Canon and I couldn't possibly create with that, could I?

Who says I couldn't? Why not give it a try? So I put my camera in manual mode and set for an exposure time of about a quarter of a second and I started taking swooshes. Or pans, or swipes, or whatever you want to call them.

Since the trees were vertical I started panning my camera in a smooth vertical upward motion and then took the picture of the trees in the fog with a fellow hiker on the trail while trying to avoid any jerking of the camera as I did.

The result? A swoosh or swipe or pan, or whatever you want to call them. Perhaps not for everyone but I like them a lot. They're abstracts really. I wasn't trying to document the scene. I was trying to create with it. I wanted to create the feel of the foggy forest, to create a mood from looking at the picture of what it might be like to be there. Did I succeed? You be the judge. Pans, swipes, and swooshes aren't for everyone and its not always easy to get a good result.

But you can do them in all sorts of places with motions from vertical to horizontal to diagonal. Have you ever seen a soft flowing abstract of the ocean and clouds? Or sand dunes? Or hills covered in flowers?

My best advice to get them is to start the motion first and then snap the picture while still moving the camera. I find a quarter second exposure time works well and I try to avoid really bright sky in the picture. And then I take a lot of them. Most of them may not look like much but then you will find one that does

So go ahead, break the rules, do something with your camera you are not supposed to do. It's fun, and you never know, you just might create something neat you weren't even expecting. And you might even find yourself doing a little living to live.