Wednesday, December 16

The World Where We Stand

Lately my head has been in the heavens with the moon, the stars, distant planets and streaming meteors. A couple of weeks ago, I was persuaded to re-visit Kelso Dunes where my focus is very often closer and much, much lower. It took me a while to find my way.
At first, I was visually disappointed. Yeah, yeah, big dune; fewer sinuous curves and more grassy sprouts. I’d rather visit Panamint Dunes or even Mesquite. But Vaughn and I walked out a ways in the wintry morning light and there it was - the appeal of Kelso Dunes.
It’s the grass. All twists and arches and ribbons. What fun!

Friday, October 23

Voilà! Meteor!

I was out in Joshua Tree National Park with some pals for the Orionid Meteor Shower. We were hoping to capture some meteors in pixels. It's a hit and miss proposition - lots of frames, not many meteors..
When I got home - what do you know?  I had a full color Orionid in Orion!
Be sure to click the picture to view an enlarged image.

Friday, October 9

Joshua Tree Scout Trip

Some shots from our scouting trip in Joshua Tree National Park.

Our camp in White Tank (above and below)

Mini Star Trails

Wednesday, October 7

Monarchs To Be?

When you plant milkweed as Janet did in the spring, you may find caterpillars, as Janet did this morning.

We counted five striped slinkies munching on milkweed this morning and they seem to match the pictures on the Monarch website.

We should have looked for eggs (as Douglass would). But now we'll keep an eye out for chrysalises.

This fellow has on a different uniform.  Maybe it has not yet grown into the more vivid stripes.

Monday, September 28

Eclipse Night

Supermoon Eclipse Night turned out to be a little disappointing for local photographers and other lunatics as so much of the southwest experienced overcast skies. This disappointment was tinged with irony, of course, because we were all grateful for a little relief from high temperatures and because the skies were actually quite beautiful.

So many of us were looking forward to a clear view of the big Moon as it rose in penumbra (on the west coast any way). We'd all read Michael FryeNikon or other resources on how to capture the perfect time lapse series of the eclipse phases. I even caved in and got an intervalometer for precise timing. The dream shot just didn't "pan" out.

Just a Whisper of a Moon
I went to the top of Corral Canyon, way above Malibu. It is a great location where I had taken a Camera Committee group a while back. In the twilight, only a tiny edge of the Moon peeked out from behind the veil of clouds (as you can see here if you really look hard).

During the course of the evening, though, some interesting views came along. The shot at the top of this post for instance shows the Red Moon in full eclipse.

In spite of the clouds (and maybe because of them), what I enjoyed was priceless: a lovely couple of hours on a temperate evening on a mountain at the end of a gentle hike, the Moon above, the sea below.
Santa Monica Bay  
Then, I had a Moon-lit walk back through dreamland to the trailhead.

You can see additional photos and a couple of animated slideshows in my Supermoon Eclipse album.

Saturday, September 26

Mark Gee's Moonrise Silhouettes

Watch this:  photographer Mark Gee tells about the response to his Moonrise Silhouettes movie in this talk on the TED stage in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

The talk starts with his short moon movie, so you don't have to look for it if you haven't already seen it.  It is lovely.

Mark reminds us that the night sky is amazing and free for all. This evening (the day before a full moon) will be a good time to catch the almost-full moon rising in a lighted landscape (a little after 5:51 pm and look almost due east). The timing will depend on the height of your eastern horizon, of course. You may have to dodge buildings and trees to get a clear view.

And in case you've been sequestered from all social, public and commercial media for the last month or so, tomorrow there will be a supermoon in eclipse as it rises here in the west a little after 6:40 pm. That big moon will enter total eclipse at about 7:11 pm and will turn red in the Earth's shadow, hence the name Blood Moon. 

Should be quite a sight.

Tuesday, September 15

Rain day!

This was my view when I got up today.

Rain, soft and consistent, in a gentle shower; a welcome sight in Southern California. Then, I read the news: 2+ inches fell in Downtown last night. Rain pounded LA, the report said. No wonder my window sills were a mess.  Oh, yeah.

The morning commute was really a mess. Flooded freeways and neighborhood intersections. Petroleum-patina'd slick asphalt and mystified drivers. Lost raincoats. Frail, old umbrellas. Rain boots and rain coats on a 75° morning. I roll my eyes. There were also "swift-water" rescues in the Los Angeles River.  It's still a wild thing, our river.

Could this be a preview of things to come in an El Nino year? I hope the storm reminded folks to check their neighborhood storm drains and their own rain gutters; check and replace their wiper blades; find and exercise last years's umbrella and get their minds right about slick streets and slow commutes.

Then most importantly, remember to soak in that fresh rain smell, admire the raindrops climbing up your windshield, relish the dip in temperature and take a walk to look for charming reflections in puddles.

Keep your fingers crossed for more rainy nights and mornings.

Click this picture for more rain in our backyard

Sunday, August 30

Sharp and well-exposed

Moon over Cashio Street

I just wanted to demonstrate that I can produce a well-exposed and properly-focused image of the moon. This is one is severely cropped from a file made with my Sony Nex 5N and 18-200mm f3.5/6.3 lens

Saturday, August 29

Santa Monica Moon and Ferris Wheel - but not together

The moon rose over the palms and beach go-ers carried on. I have several of these palmy shots on a balmy night because it was fun to watch the moon's progress while the population below shifted around. I didn't make enough for a time lapse, so only two went into my gallery - the first one and the one with the iPhone man.
I need to work on moon exposure. Ansel Adams nailed it in Moonrise over Hernandez on the run and without a meter because he remembered that the moon's luminance is 250 cd/ft.  Sadly, that did not help me.

When the moon was high, I turned around to look at the pier and was surprised to see people still playing in the waves and basking in the moonlight. There is a small collection of colorful Ferris wheel snapshots in the gallery, too.

Friday, August 21

Let there be light...

A series of unrelated episodes has bathed my world in new light.

A couple of weeks ago, I endeavored to capture better photos of the Milky Way in the landscape and in doing so, I've been shooting the widest and brightest lens I own, a 16mm f2.8 pancake lens. This little lens mostly rides around in my camera bag "just in case". But now, I'm thinking, what a joy to use!  In nightscapes and Milky Way imagery, it allows me to start with a lower, less noisy ISO and it seems to be so much sharper than my 18mm to 55mm zoom. Plus, it's very compact and light in my hands! I want to use it all the time!

☼  ☼  ☼  ☼  

This week. I took down all the sheer curtains in my kitchen and service porch to launder. Those rooms returned to the open, airy state I remembered from my 2009 remodel! It has been a joy to sit with the windows open and a nice breeze wafting through.

Construction and new dining area 2009
When Janet asked if I was going to wash the windows. I balked but reason won out as I thought about it. Better to do the windows now without the curtains and curtain rods...  So I borrowed the vacuum and did the job right.  It took me hours but it increased the wattage of the light flow substantially!

The 2015 dining area
Ultimately, reluctant to "stop down the apertures" but more reluctant to live in a fish bowl, I hung up the curtains. Now I am extra happy I have crystal clear windows!

☼  ☼  ☼  ☼  

Coincidentally another brightening was under way in our neighborhood and it arrived at our house yesterday. The City's tree trimming crew came up Alvira from south to north "lifting" all the park way trees, trimming away low-hanging branches and artfully thinning the canopy.  All up and down the street it has brightened the aspects. The liquid amber and jacaranda trees on our east side look great.

Today, the crew reached around to Cashio and cleaned up our tall, once stately palm trees and it was quite the performance. The palms went from stately to gangling in less than 90 minutes. It's like they just got an awkward haircut and now it has to grow out.  I'm not sure I like the "do" it but it opens up the north light in my living room more than I ever expected it would.

☼  ☼  ☼  ☼  

This post would really be complete, if I could wrap up with a report of re-reading William Faulkner's Light in August, but lately I've been reading Sally Mann's Hold Still. 

She lives in a world of light all her own.  I recommend it!

Saturday, August 15

Perseid Meteor Shower - Trona Pinnacles

A few of us went to Trona Pinnacles for the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower after Allan sent a link to a PhotoPills page with details about the event. We had minimal camp equipment, plenty of water, numerous cameras (one with a new ultra-wide lens) and tripods, one smart phone, a couple of compasses, high hopes.

What a night!  I could barely close my eyes to nap.

With reasonably dark skies and the new moon rising on Thursday, at an elevation of about 1,800 to 1,900 feet, we had a great view of the broad heavens and saw lots of meteors streaking past us.
I made a lot of still images in the 13 to 20 second exposure range and caught about five meteors.  When I set up for a 12 minute star trails exposure at about 1:15am I caught one. Obviously, I was not looking in the right direction.

Allan set-up a time lapse camera and captured LOTS of meteors. His lens was open 15 of every 20 seconds. You can watch it on YouTube.  Be sure to go full screen to see all the meteors.

In the meantime, you can browse my little gallery of Trona photos. I was looking for "available" light (car headlights passing by, walkers with flashlights, the occasional flash from some distant photographer). I may not have captured meteors in pixels but I have many indelibly recorded in my brain and I had a marvelous night under the stars.

Next year, I'll be better prepared for the long meteor-catching exposure and choose my composition more carefully!  I'll also have a walking around camera and tripod to snag the opportune moment before a pinnacle.

Waiting for Perseus

Tuesday, August 11

Midnight in the Bristlecones with the CamCo

The prime target of our photo weekend:
an ancient bristlecone pine tree.
How can a photo go wrong when the subject is as grand as this ancient bristlecone pine?
Well actually, judging from my out-takes there are plenty of ways. I don't want to talk about those...

Converging on this point along the Schulman Grove Discovery Trail with nine other photographers is not the best way to shoot in such close confines as a mountain trail on a moonless night. I usually think of Camera Committee outings as scouting expeditions, but this evening, the nine photographers included creative lights like Peter V and Clive and resourceful fellows like Peter M and Jeff, so the chances were good and the results were excellent!

I hope you'll look at the additional images in my Bristlecones gallery.  I expect to return to that set in the coming weeks to add more images.

Some of the crew at work on the lights.  It's not a war scene, it just looks that way!

Saturday, July 18

A pleasant sight to behold in Death Valley National Park

What can I say?  The light was so beautiful!
I actually made several exposures hoping to capture the wafting tissue in an appealing repose. It was almost like music.

What Dolores Delivered

In July 2015, Hurricane Dolores delivered thunderstorms to Central and Southern California after beating up Baja California. A small group of photographer friends was camping under a new moon in Mahogany Flats - the "highlands" of Death Valley National Park - to capture the Milky Way, make star trails and log some time at elevation ahead of an August trip amongst the Bristlecones. On Saturday morning, we packed up camp and headed home to escape gusty winds that had buffeted us on Friday night and to avoid Dolores's impact. Of course, heading south, we were running into the storm.

Emerging from the Panamint Mountains and heading across the low point of Panamint Valley, we had some stunning clouds, so we had to stop on the lake bed to shoot. Below are three frames I shot that morning presented in different wide aspect ratio formats.

What do you think?  Is one stronger?

The files are pretty small so I like to click on any image and open the gallery. The images are still small but I can use the right and left arrows to skip from one to the other.  I'll try to mount larger files soon.

Panamint Valley Storm Clouds I 

Panamint Valley Storm Clouds II
(stitched panorama)

Panamint Valley Storm Clouds III 
(stitched panorama, cropped)

Milky Way over Death Valley National Park


While we were high above the sweltering lowlands of Death Valley, we spent our evenings at the Charcoal Kilns. The night sky was amazing and the Milky Way was prominent. I experimented with off-camera flash to light the kilns while nature lit up the sky. 

I'm still getting the hang of astrophotography or the limited variety of astrophotography that I've been practicing.  In these shots, I didn't know about adjusting the white balance to get a more appealing color balance.  My friend Allan shared a link to Mark Gee's excellent tutorial and there I found an excellent capsule summary of all you need to know to get started. 

I have a few other shots in this Death Valley Highlands Gallery.

Saturday, May 9

What Happened to April?

April? It was just here a minute ago. Now it's passed without a post. was such a good month, too. Crazy good...I miss it already.

What happened in April was a trip to Toroweap Overlook on the (remote) north rim of the Grand Canyon, a photo outing to Trona Pinnacles and my Mom's 88th Birthday.  It was a busy month because there was also a celebration of photographer Ray McSavaney at the Camera Committee, the Otis College Kite Festival with my mom and sister, the LA Regional Foodbank's 2015 Food From the Bar campaign kickoffs, theater and movies with friends and some good visiting.

This Trona Pinnacles post is a small remedy and I'll try to post about Toroweap soon.

The weather was severely windy until late on Saturday. The early arrivals on Friday all put up and took down tents (or collected blown heaps of tent material). As you might guess from looking at the shot to the right, my tent poles are now tent pretzels. Doesn't that tent looks like it's trying to escape the frame? I packed it up and slept in the back of my Forester.

Conditions improved so that by 9:00pm Saturday, campers were able to pitch a tent that stayed in place.

At the top of this post, you see a sort of panoramic triptych looking northeast to clouds gathering over the "other range of pinnacles". We camped in a protected bowl among the pinnacles of the "front range", but still a long walk to the lone toilet (see below) and the interpretive materials.

Our days were largely overcast and cool but the night sky cleared enough to give us stars and cloudy texture. It was great for those composing starscapes and spinning star trails. We had plenty of moonlight to illuminate the pinnacles.

There was a nice bonus just before sunset on Saturday. The folks who were prepared to shoot captured a lovely rainbow. This MeetUp photo album has rainbows posted by Peter and Jeff.

Monday, April 27

Toroweap on the North Rim

Allan at a Toroweap Overlook
Morning light on the Colorado River
from Toroweap overlook
Last week, Allan took me to Toroweap Point on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I've been scheming on how to get back there ever since.

We had two nights in the Tuweap campground near the end of a long, 4WD road, just about a mile from the overlook on the east side. The road continues on to deliver you to a picnic area in the middle of the point with views to the east, south and west.

One morning we followed a longer, cairn-marked trail as it ran east from the campground through the landscape and turned south, along the rim almost to the picnic area. That was a nice walk.  Allan did it the second morning, too, while I tried to sprint ahead on the more "direct" road route to catch the pre-dawn light. I missed the best light but got the shot at the right above.

For a sampling of the landscape on the north rim have a look at the quick album of Toroweap photos in my Picasa collection.

This goofy pan below, give you an impression of what the 3,000 foot drop from Toroweap to the Colorado River looks like.
The Colorado River is about 3,000 feet down from here. 

Saturday, March 21

A Night in Black Rock

Weird Sisters in Joshua Tree
Black Rock is the campground on the north side of Joshua Tree National Park where my companion for the trip gave me a clue about focusing my camera for night sky photos. He mentioned in a casual conversation over carrot cake that the default position for an electronically-focused lens is infinity.
I had to experiment and snapped several frames on the table top (sans tripod).

This series observing our neighbors by their campfire, with wonderful light on the Joshua tree blossoms, a spectral figure in the clouds and stars above all, was the perfect exercise!

Sunday, March 15

New Photo Work

In my pre-retirement/unemployment days, I am hoping to hone my photo skills - especially visualization and printing. I've made a folder in my Picasa page for new work and hope to post images there that are nearing completion. These will be items I would show my pals for feedback. I hope folks will post a comment or dash off a note of critique.

Thanks for looking in occasionally.

Tuesday, March 10

Yosemite Digi-Snaps

 Heading up Tunnel View Trail with my friends

 The golden hour in Ahwahnee Meadow

 Lucky image capture while waiting for the shuttle to take us to dinner.

These balanced rocks are culturally and environmentally insensitive to some.
When I spy a display like this, I revel in the spirit of playfulness!

Magical parting visions. 
Click on this one at least to see a larger version.

If you want to see more snapshots, have a look at my
Yosemite Gallery on Picasa.

Thursday, January 1

New Hat for 2015

I am wearing a new hat these days.
Newly Unemployed

Not the one in the picture...I've owned that one for ages without many occasions to bring it out. Figuratively, I am wearing a new hat but I don't know what to call it. I am no longer a salaried employee. I am resting for awhile and then, hopefully, I'll pick up a nice revenue stream.

I know I'll work a little for my former employer as we try to find a candidate that everyone agrees can do my old job. I think I may offer on-call assistance to law firms and I can imagine working in a law firm to fill in for a new mom or dad.

What I'd like to try is public library reference. And maybe dog grooming. And if anyone needs help with packing for a move or unpacking afterwards, I'm your girl. I love organizing kitchens and offices.

So, am I a Consulting Librarian? An Independent Contractor?

I kind of like the title Itinerant Librarian. I like the idea that I might follow a job circuit and find myself working in Wyoming or Oregon or Upstate New York.

For the moment though, I am just Downstairs on Cashio Street.