Running Tinker Knob Trail in Lake Tahoe


This is the first time that I've declared my love of running on this photography blog. For those that may not know me very well, running is a critical part of my day. I run multiple times a week (typically 1.5 hours at a time), and it's my church, my sanctuary, and my place to be alone with myself and my GPS watch. It's a time when I let all the issues that are clogging my brain settle down, get processed, and come out as relatively clear action items that I can handle in more digestible chunks. My wife's brain is like a computer that's constantly running defragmentation programs to keep her stress-levels running in prime condition. I can't do that. I guess it's not so much a problem with me but it's my "feature". 

While attending and photographing a wedding in Lake Tahoe for some of my best friends in the world I was able to sneak away for a couple hours to the mountains just northwest of Lake Tahoe, near Donner Lake, to run up to the Tinker Knob peak. This trail also happens to be part of the Pacific Crest Trail going from Mexico into Canada.

Gosh, it's a gorgeous run. Easily on the top five runs I've had the privilege of running. And, if you get up there early enough you beat tons of foot traffic, you get to see the sun rise over the ridges of Lake Tahoe, and you have the trail all to yourself.


Because I was heading deep into the woods I packed relatively light with my Garmin watch, my iPhone, lots of gummy bears, and the wonderful pack and water bottles from Ultimate Direction. I don't typically take photos while I'm running but everything was turning up aces with the trail looking stunning as ever with the morning sun and a light-to-sometimes-moderate rain falling. 

I turned on on HDR settings for the shots with my iPhone so that when I got the photos back to my computer I could play a bit more with the areas that are under exposed and over exposed. HDR settings are a combination of three shots (and sometimes more):

  • One (or more) way under exposed to bring out the colors hidden in the over-exposed bits of your picture, e.g. the sky. 
  • One at normal settings to get an average of the scene 
  • And a third (or more) that's way over-exposed to bring out the bits of the scene that would normally be super dark.
Those vertical streaks in the distance are spots of rain falling. This shot was taken in-between burst of rain (thankfully no thunder) on top of the ridge. 

Those vertical streaks in the distance are spots of rain falling. This shot was taken in-between burst of rain (thankfully no thunder) on top of the ridge. 

Tinker Knob and Lake Tahoe - sunbeams.jpg

So, the results of HDR pictures when you get them back to your computer or when you edit them on your phone are pictures that give you a lot more range when you want to increase brightness, bring up the shadows, or bring down the highlights. All of these pictures (with the exception of the panorama below) are HDR images. So, under normal, non-HDR settings these images would be slightly wasted because there's a lot of stuff that would normally be hidden in the dark and in the over-exposed sky. 

Note: there is some weirdness and irregularities in these pics due to lots of sweat on the lens of my phone. And, there's something Sysphian about when you try to clean it off with a synthetic shirt it just smears and further warps the images (or maybe it's just me).


One of the absolute, most-frustrating things for me is to get done with a run and to have the Garmin GPS data wiped from my phone. These frustrations are compounded exponentially when it's on a run in a spot where I'm vacationing and may not have the opportunity to come back. And, lucky me, when I plugged my watch into my computer to upload it to Strava, I find out that the entire run (which I ran further and faster this time than my run on the same trail a couple years ago) had been completely wiped from my watch. No-re-syncing, no getting into the back-end file storage of the watch could save it. It was gone. Only the memories of the run and the bitterness of losing data are left with me.


But, fortunately, several years ago I nearly summited this same Tinker Knob. However, at the time the winds were nearly blowing me off the final ridge that you run up just before summiting. And, I was worried about falling thousands of feet so I decided to turn around without climbing the final 100 feet. So, the data below is the same route that I ran minus the final 100 feet that I climbed this time :).

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