West Side Road

West Side “Road” is a hiking trail on Cleveland National Forest land that starts at the very end of the San Diego Country Estates area near Ramona. It’s very close to the super-popular Cedar Creek Falls trailhead – and receives very little attention.

I had never hiked there because it’s “just an out and back trail” that essentially leads nowhere – the trail ends at one of the many “Private Property” signs that limit so much back country exploration and hiking in Southern California*. In this case, the land beyond the sign is actually used by a ranch and on my first “scouting” trip I saw some cows grazing. I can understand that access to areas used for livestock is limited.

The interesting part about this hike is that one gets a look at the “Devil’s Jumpoff”, which is another waterfall in San Diego County that only runs after wet winters. After the heavy rain in the second half of January I’ve now seen it running, but was there at the wrong time of day – the falls were in the shade, with the surrounding landscape in bright sun. It was a bright and sunny day without any clouds, so that didn’t look too great. It’s an afternoon location, for sure. :-)

Instead, I used the opportunity to play with infrared again: thanks to an incredibly generous donation, I am now in the possession of a Nikon D200 that has been converted for pure black & white infrared!

Tech Notes

Pure black & white means that the camera’s infrared pass filter limits the infrared bandwidth in such a way that no useful color information is recorded – through custom white balance settings alone, the image becomes black & white (this poses a little bit of a problem in Lightroom because it’s easy to forget to “convert” the photos to black & white, in order to then be able to filter the library for them).

It’s a bit trickier to use the old D200 body with infrared: it doesn’t have Live View, so focusing can be a challenge – infrared light has a different wavelength and the phase AF doesn’t focus on what you see in the viewfinder with infrared. The actual focus is a bit in front. With landscape photos this wasn’t a problem. It’s a crop sensor camera so there’s more depth of field anyway, and focusing at infinity with infrared seems to work reliably well.

The best thing though? My Nikon 16-35/4 does NOT have an infrared hot-spot at all! That’s something I’ve really been struggling with when I was using the IR-converted Sony A7r with Canon lenses and an adapter: both Canon’s 16-35/2.8 and 17-40/4 suffer from this phenomenon (the f/2.8 lens more than the f/4). I’m missing “really” wide angle now of course – the 16-35 translates to a “harmless” 24-52mm viewing angle on the crop sensor D200 body. Makes it a pretty good walk-around lens.

And man, that D200 body feels like coming home – I’ve been using it in the form of the Fuji S5pro, back in 2008 and 2009 (the Fuji S5pro was a D200 body with Fuji sensor and electronics). The way it quacks felt instantly familiar. :-)

*) I say this because there’s probably just as much private property in Germany – except that very few property owners care about “trespassers” aka harmless people hiking or walking dogs on their dirt roads. Typically, there’s a sign “use at your own risk” and that’s it. And people know how to behave – there are very few guns in Germany… (sorry, could not resist).

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