Have you visited Stoney Point Park in Chatsworth?
Personally, I’ve always felt drawn to the rocky peak on the edge of LA, although I didn’t actually explore the park until I moved to the surrounding neighborhood.
This Los Angeles landmark offers a chance to climb rocks, see epic views, and immerse yourself in San Fernando Valley history. The Stoney Point train tunnel in particular made an appearance in numerous old movies; however, the area’s roots stretch way back beyond the silent film era. The stones date back about 65 million years and natives inhabited the land since approximately 5.000 B.C. According to local legend, Stoney Point served as a gathering place for ancient Shamanic rituals facilitated by the Tongva and Chumash people.
Stoney Point Park Infrared Photo Gallery
The park’s past as well as its terrain makes it an excellent spot for infrared photography. I headed out for an afternoon adventure with my 720nm IR converted Lumix DMC-ZS35 and I believe I had a white balance breakthrough during this photo session. Please note that all of the images below were processed in Photoshop using the false color aka channel swap technique unless stated otherwise.
I entered the park off of Topanga Canyon, which feels a little dicey due to the close proximity of oncoming traffic. There’s no sidewalk to speak of from Chatsworth St on up to the park entrance, another hurdle for us cyclists. As soon as I stepped on the dirt road towards the crag, I noticed the horse stables to the right. The horses reminded me of Timothy Flower’s work on the Lomography blog, the article that initially inspired me to try IR photography.
One of the horses saw me watching and walked over to the chain link fence in front of me. I snapped its picture and as I checked the results in the viewfinder, I realized I needed to set my white balance correctly before I kept shooting.
I turned around and focused on a large tree behind me to set the custom white balance. I saw the difference in color as soon as I took another picture of the horse stables. The original version of the above shot appeared to have a yellowish sky in the viewfinder, a stark contrast from the all pink photos I’ve gotten before. I knew I’d hit a milestone.
I turned to face Stoney Point again and tried to put an infrared spin on the iconic Chatsworth formation photographed by thousands of climbers, hikers, and tourists. I can’t be the first person to shoot this site in the infrared spectrum, yet I couldn’t find any similar photos online. Anyway, I think the rocks emit an ominous vibe when seen in this kind of light.
I took the trail to the right of the hillside, and passed by groups of climbers practicing on the big boulders. I came across a stunning tree with the sun positioned directly behind it. I thought about other IR photos I’ve seen, and realized I rarely see the sun in such photos. Since there wouldn’t be any IR photos without sunlight, I decided to incorporate the sun into as many photos as possible that day. It was my way of giving the sun credit for its role in IR photography. I like the soft glow and round shape of the sun in this picture (settings = 1/125, f 5, 200 ISO).
From there the trail started getting steep, so I locked my bike to a horse post before ascending. I climbed up and inhaled the expansive view below. I liked the way the trail looked from above, and composed a shot with lens flare in an attempt to convey the sun’s serenity.
I reached a fork in the path, and took a brief detour to capture a dramatic, eerie looking tree. The tree seemed to call out from its wild branches begging me to reveal its essence. Its asymmetry and complex structure posed a challenge, and I’m not entirely satisfied with the photo above.
I hiked back to the path and briefly ventured down to the railroad tracks. Don’t try this at home, kids! I just couldn’t resist getting a couple of IR shots of the train tunnel. The intro photo at the beginning of this post shows the tracks with a little bit of lens flare from the sun; I almost prefer this version with the sun central to the composition and heavy flare touching the left side of the tracks.
From there I walked up the trail to the top of the tunnel. Here’s another view of the tracks from a safe position above the tunnel.
I surveyed the overlook, and thought it would be a good place to try an infrared panorama. By that time the fall sun started to sink lower in the sky. The shot came out darker than I expected and I probably should have set the camera to a faster shutter speed than 1/500 with wider aperture. Still I appreciate the way the sun beams sparkle and cast deep shadows over the tracks.
I figured the backdrop would work well in an IR selfie, too. While my frame obscures the train tracks, I dig the stark contrast between the bright foliage to my left and the dark shadows to my right.
I remembered previous photo sessions with my DSLR, and headed to where the trail meets Topanga Canyon again. I love the way old Santa Susana Pass cuts through the rocks to Simi Valley. I waited for a lull in traffic to preserve the old west mood and ended up doing a lot of post processing to reduce the lens flare in this image.
As you can see by the sun’s position in the sky, sunset wasn’t far off. Since I was by myself, I chose not to continue up to the top of the hill. That didn’t stop me from photographing the trail in front of me, though.
I walked up to where the trails wraps around the hillside. Even though the busy street is only a few feet away, the dense brush makes you feel far removed from civilization. I believe this photo eptimoizses the concept of the sun as a lead character in our story. I left in the messy lens flare to preserve the organic nature of the image.
I spotted a slender plant nearby swaying in the gentle breeze. I stuck to a simple composition and used the sun beams along with a bit of foliage to naturally frame the plant. The subject didn’t emit much infrared light, which seems to help the image work. I feel the blur from the breeze enhances the surreal effect.
On my way down the hill I saw a tree that stopped me in my tracks. I’d seen it out of the corner of my eye earlier, and didn’t stop to shoot it as the tree was too shadowy at the time. From this new angle the shadows added depth in my eye, yet I worried there wasn’t enough sunlight to get a good picture. The tree stood in direct sunshine; it was the time of day and strength of the rays that concerned me. I shrugged off the doubts, and I stuck to daylight camera settings (1/250, f 8, 200 ISO). In retrospect, I probably should’ve lengthened the exposure time with a slower shutter speed.
I hope these photos inspire you to take a trip to Stoney Point Park in Chatsworth, in the north SFV area of Los Angeles. It’s a fun free place to escape from the city with tons of creative photography potential! All I ask is that you please be respectful of this special place and leave it the way you found it.