Sunday, November 10

First Light of the Week

Today I actually got up for first light without the motivation of people waiting for me.  I even woke before the alarm.
Without a solid plan, I headed north on 395 looking for an interesting foreground for the fine Sierra background.  Before long, and well before dawn, I found myself in Manzanar tromping around on the north end between blocks 26 and 27.
First light on Mount Williamson from Block 26, Manzanar

Me looking very self-satisfied
I set up and waited for the light on the mountains. Then, I followed its progress down the mountain and across the valley until it finally reached the cottonwood remains of a Manzanar garden.
After capturing the image below I had trouble moving on - which is to say getting back in the red Jeep and preparing for the drive to Los Angeles.

First light on Block 27, Manzanar with a view of Mount Williamson
I dawdled. I set up a couple of detail shots. I poked around and finally got in the Jeep, only to stop again on the access road for George's Creek. That's a great location and I think there will be photos posted from that stop. And return visits, too.
No more stops before I got to Lone Pine, but now I am sitting in my Timberline Motel room and blogging.
I gotta go.

Saturday, November 9

Chasing Ansel Adams

After a blizzard of emails, much speculation, internet and print research, map study and exploration by various members, this gang of Ansel Adams fans visited the spot where he made the negative that would become Mount Williamson From Manzanar.

There will never be another one just like it but here is my quick study, after Ansel Adams. Of course, the day was crystal clear and my negative was actually a digital file and color, too. Still, it was a great thing to stand there and wonder what it was that told Ansel to stop here and look for a shot.
There is a register at this site where visitors can leave their names.  In the 10 days before our visit, John Sexton and Alan Ross had stopped by and dropped in their cards. Stu Levy visited earlier in October, too. We are in good company (albeit remotely).
I'm hoping to get some images from the gang to share, so keep an eye out.
Editor's note: Allan sent along a link to a wonderful 360 degree pan made as I was composing our group shot.  Check it out.
Ansel Adams

Thursday, November 7

Another Oregon Snap

My last outing was in Oregon.  This shot is from Bandon Beach.
Tomorrow evening, I'm heading to Lone Pine for an Owens Valley photo outing. More details, next post.

Wednesday, October 16

Have a look at my Oregon Gallery

Stormy, Bandon Beach, Oregon
I should be working on the budget, but it's been weeks since I returned from the Oregon Coast workshop with Don Kirby and Stu Levy (not to mention Joan Gentry).  I want, at least, to acknowledge the experience of a week under the tutelage of such excellent photographers.

I benefited from their guidance in better field procedures and in Lightroom/Photoshop workflow. I learned from every one of the fifteen or so portfolio reviews, especially my own, during which a couple of criticisms rubbed me the wrong way.  Still, I took them under advisement. For one, I was told that I turn horizontals into verticals; I am coming around to an appreciation of that crit*.

Dr. Stu gave me homework: more scanned still lifes and get out there more for landscapes. I'm taking that to heart.  The day after I came home, I made a fresh new scan of orchids. I'm not thrilled with it but it made me consider how that process works. I'll make better choices in the future.

I also scheduled a trip to the Mojave desert for the full moon in the landscape. Can't wait for that to come, so luckily some of my photo pals came up with another outing in the Owens Valley early in November.

You can see a hodgepodge of images that will prove I went to Oregon in this Oregon Gallery on Picasa.

* The photo above may be a horizontal turned into [almost] a square! Is that bad? What do you think?
I like the proportions and I wanted to draw attention to the distant scene on the horizon.  This composition reminds me of Fredric Edwin Church's view of Petra.  In the online version of Petra, the "background" is way more vibrant than I remember it from my viewing at the Huntington Library exhibition. In my mind's eye the architecture is dreamier.

Saturday, September 21

Workshop Lesson

This frame was processed in Lightroom 3.0
Here I am at Stu Levy and Don Kirby's Oregon Coast Photo Workshop. Just about to leave and I wanted to get at least one post out there.
On Thursday evening, after dinner at Bandon Bill's, some of us went back to the beach for some night photography experimentation. These are two versions of the same shot, quickly and not definitively processed. Interesting, right?
This frame was processed in Windows Live Photo Gallery

Tuesday, September 10

Read This Essay

I commend this essay to you.  It may change your life - and your death. I've excerpted the lead here with a link to no-charge access on the WSJ website.  Be warned, the story might make you cry a little, but it has a happy ending - which is also the beginning.

The Ultimate End-of-Life Plan by Katy Butler
Wall Street Journal / The Saturday Essay / September 6, 2013

My mother died shortly before her 85th birthday, in a quiet hospital room in Connecticut. One of my brothers was down the hall, calling me in California to say, too late, that it was time to jump on a plane. We were not a perfect family. She did not die a perfect death. But she died a "good-enough" death, thanks to choices she made earlier that seemed brutal at the time.

She slept in her own bed until the night before she died. She was lucid and conscious to the end. She avoided what most fear and many ultimately suffer: dying mute, unconscious and "plugged into machines" in intensive care; or feeling the electric jolt of a cardiac defibrillator during a futile cardiopulmonary resuscitation; or dying demented in a nursing home. She died well because she was willing to die too soon rather than too late.

* * * * * *

My dad's death was similar to Mrs. Butler's - except that most of his family was timely and had spent the previous day at his bedside. He did not get his wish to die at home, but he almost did. As it went, he was comfortable and happy and the passing seems to have been painless.  Thanks to his decision to let it happen and make it happen.

I'll try to follow my Dad's good example.

Monday, September 2

Slow-Roast Brisket over Almond Wood (part 3)


The Hero Hot Links
When last I posted, I was feeling pretty confident that the brisket would be done properly. I added more heat at around 11:15 and the temperature really stabilized. After awhile, I was getting nervous about over-roasting - my Mom was on the phone telling me I should check the temperature. But I didn't want to start poking lots of holes in the meat. Finally at about 11:45, I gave in  and checked the temp. It was well past my target 145° so I pulled it off and whisked it into the kitchen.  I shifted the meat to a baking stone to rest so I could re-position the grill again quickly.
The hot links took the brisket's place and roasted on the residual embers. If I'd had any fresh peaches or pineapple, I would have added those to the edges over the coals. It seemed such a waste not to have more on the grill now that the fire was so perfect and the smoke smelled so sweet.
Back in the kitchen, I sliced into the brisket, pulled off a slice and posed it for this picture, then ate it up. 
Tender and delicious - but, oh my, too salty!

The Finished Brisket
I was immediately grateful that I had my back-up links and plentiful sides...I wondered what I was going to do with six pounds of salty beef...I could slice it really thin and call it bacon...and most of all, I really hoped that the moment's rest atop the brisket had "contaminated" that tasting slice.
In the end, it was all good. The brisket rested all afternoon. My friends arrived promptly and we sipped margaritas and Mexican Coke and munched peach salsa and chips in the garden. When we sliced up the brisket and links and sat down for the real test - we were all smiles.  Happy munching all around the table. And to capit off, we had Phill and Annmarie's killer Goat Cheese Cake with Tequila-Pineapple Jam. It was all too delicious to think about making a picture.

An interesting thing happened after my guests departed for the long drive home. I was cleaning up the kitchen (a simple task because of all the advance preparation) and revisiting the flavors of the evening as I packed leftovers for storage, sopping out this and that serving bowl with leftover slices of baguette. There was the foil "tray" that had held the brisket on the grill and captured the jus. It was black and brown and greasy and I started picking at the burned bits and swiping at the brown residue. They were umami treats.

On Monday, Janet John and I trotted out the same dishes for lunch under the jacaranda tree with our neighbor, another John. It was all still good. This  time, we finished with figs from the tree just behind me, a perfect light dessert. But, inside cleaning up, I missed the cake.

Sunday, September 1

Slow-Roast Brisket Over Almond Wood (part 2)

Back again!
The 9:43 stoking went better as I achieved the more perfect temperature.
Here's my "routine" (if I've done it twice is it a routine?): 
  • pull the grill with the beef in a foil pan out and rest it on a ceramic tray,
  • cover it with the kettle lid to preserve at least some heat,
  • add wood embers and this time a couple of pieces of "fresh" wood for more smoke,
  • carefully replace the grill and the lid. Above, you see the brisket ready for to be covered up again,
  • watch the thermometer and hope it comes back to something less than 250° but more than 200°.
  • start a new batch of wood on the old embers in the staging spot.
Here is a picture of the staging spot.  When the wood catches fire, I turn the flowerpot over on it to slow down the burn.
Our kettle is pretty small. I want to put some fresh wood in for the smoke but when it catches and flames up, the heat really rises and that would totally cook my brisket. So I add mostly embers and little bits of fresh wood. As it is, the embers are just barely off to the sides, hugging - even climbing - the walls of the kettle a little. I put a ceramic bowl on the fire grate with a couple of broken bricks to make an oblong void and over that I have positioned the brisket. I hope the bricks are helping to maintain the 200° and not generating too much heat under the ends of the beef.
It is surprising how few embers it takes to keep the kettle in the correct temperature range. 
By the way, I have some hot links that will go on the grill near the end of the process and linger after the brisket comes off.  So, if I totally incinerate the beef or otherwise end up with a tough slab of gray protein matter, at least we'll have something to go with the sides.

Speaking about sides, here is the menu:
  • Texas Style Slow Roasted Brisket
  • Grandma Schipper's Tangy BBQ Sauce
  • BBQ Beans made out of Joan's Pantry
  • Lemon-Caper Potato Salad (a riff on April Bloomfield's genius recipe)
  • Diane's Goat Cheese and Tortellini Pasta Salad
  • Sliced Tomatoes from Janet's garden
  • Grandma Jones's Lime Pickles
  • Baguette (because you have to have some white bread with BBQ)
  • Phill & Annmarie's Goat Cheesecake with Tequila-Pineapple Jam
  • Delia's Choice of Wine
  • Margaritas
  • Peach Salsa and Tomato Cilantro Salsa with chips

Slow-Roast Brisket Over Almond Wood (part 1)

I am making barbeque for friends on this Labor Day weekend.  I've been wanting to try slow-roasted BBQ over wood fire for some time and was encouraged by Janet and John's success a couple of weeks ago with a pork shoulder. So here I go - and because there is plenty of waiting-around-time, I can blog.
On Saturday, I bought a six pound brisket and gave it a rub following Steve Raichlen's recipe and method and set it to cure overnight. (Sorry I didn't think about blogging this until it was too late to get the rubbed-brisket photo. It was big and reddish in a two-gallon ziplock bag.)  
It has been hot, hot, hot here this last week and just because the calendar says it's September doesn't make this day any different from late August. My plan was to get the grill going early Sunday and beat the heat. Late Saturday, I assembled the materials and tools in the BBQ zone. Then I went inside to fiddle with sides and kitchen chores and assemble more tools.
On B-Day Sunday, I was up at 6:30 and got the fire going in our kettle grill.  I used charcoal briquettes as a base (ala Steve Raichlen) and mixed in leftover almond wood that John prepped. In no time, I had a good bed of charcoal and wood embers! It smelled a divine, sweet almond flavor that I don't remember from Janet & John's fire. I hope this goes well with the slightly sweet rub on the beef and the tangy sauce we'll use at table. But when I put the lid on to measure the temperature, it was way over the top. I let it burn down a little and regretted using so many briquettes. It was taking forever and my cool morning advantage was "going up in smoke". Then I realized the other way to control heat  is to remove some of it.
I pulled about half the briquettes out to the staging fire spot in the wheelbarrow. After checking the temp again, I was ready to put the meat on the grill. Here is the setup at about 8:00am with the brisket in the kettle. Finally!
The surplus hot charcoal became the base for the next batch of fire. It's there under the clay flower pot in the photo at left. 
Now it's a matter of keeping an eye on the temperature and adding heat as necessary to maintain about 225°.  Following Janet's example, I have a thermometer in the vent on the kettle lid. Steve Raichlen says you need to supplement the fire about every hour.  My first addition was at 40 minutes in and that was a little too hot for a while. I'm hoping for the best but lower temp for longer time is the path to brisket-success. Also, I am a little concerned because this brisket seems thin to me and I suspect it will get done faster than is desirable.
I'm going to post this and go add some fire to the kettle.

Saturday, August 24

Stephen Beck is leading a workshop

Would you follow these people?
CamCo Leader Stephen Beck is leading a beginners digital photography workshop on Sunday September 8.  This outing Getting Off Auto is designed to help beginners gain confidence in their skills with their digital cameras.  Stephen and I went out last week to get a feel for the venue, the Civic Center's Grand Park, and snapped a few shots. 

QuinceaƱera portrait
Grand Park is a popular venue for portrait photographers.  I was fascinated by this photo team and their equipment.

Los Angeles Music Center
Late in the evening, we strolled over to the Music Center and I was able to grab this shot of  Jacques Lipchitz's Peace on Earth before the guard came to tell me tripods are not welcome on the property. Too bad I didn't realize I was on the "wrong" side of the dove.  It was kinda too dark to see - that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

Saturday, July 20

The Best Biscuits I Ever Made

My name is Joan and I'm a biscuit addict. 
I just love biscuits. Which is not to say I'm indiscriminate. Nay! I only eat bisquick biscuits in the backcountry when John Baker is making breakfast (or lunch or dinner) over a camp stove. But I eat biscuits most any chance I get when the biscuits are any good.
I make pretty good biscuits usually, but today I happened upon a great biscuit and it came in an act of desperation. 
I am just back from travelling and my pantry is pretty bare. No milk, no bread, no fruit but some sad citrus. So, what to make for breakfast?  I had a hankering for biscuits. I could have gone the canned milk route but I spied some yogurt in my fridge and decided to experiment.
I used my Mom's recipe, and substituted yogurt for milk in even exchange. I should say this yogurt was homemade from 2% milk so I was not going after all the fat I could get. And this was not the strained or thick Greek yogurt that I like to eat (which explains why it was still hanging around uneaten in my fridge). Because yogurt is acidic like buttermilk, it needs a little baking soda with the baking powder. From there I proceeded as usual. Well, almost. For some reason, it seemed logical to use butter in place of my usual shortening.
You can see the results - sorry you can't smell or taste them. The biscuits are flaky (thanks to the butter) and tender (thanks to minimal handling). The flavor is buttery rich and tangy (thanks to the yogurt). The crust is not crunchy, it's light and crisp instead (even on the bottom) and the crumb just about melted in my mouth. I don't know where that crust comes from but I know I ate five biscuits. I only buttered the first one so that indulgence is offset, right?  
I'm thrilled to have made these biscuits and I just hope I can replicate the experience next time.

By the way, these pictures (and the public market shot posted a couple days ago) came out of my Canon Elph replacement. They look pretty good, don't they? The short story is my original pocket camera stopped working in December. I fretted over the replacement for months and finally found the latest iteration of my Elph. It has a bigger monitor, wider exposure latitude, better stabilization and, wonder of wonders, it uses the same battery and charger! It also fits in the same case as my old Elph. I snapped it up and have been quite happy since I started using it.

Thursday, July 18

Seattle Moment

Public Market Neon, Seattle
I was in Seattle for a conference. I think it's been about 20 years since I last visited. Nice place - great for walking.
One fine evening, I approached a reception for people like me (except probably more social) and as I got closer and the sound got louder, I had misgivings.
Well, I met that sound barrier in the doorway and was knocked backward out to Pike Street. So, I walked to the market. I did not make this picture, but I did make others that are still in the camera. Hope they are as nice.
This one I found like a gift left in my path on Tuesday evening when a storm was brewing. 

Sunday, May 19

Token post

This is a token post.  Just something to say I have not been hit by a bus. At least, not literally.
We are short staffed at work and in the midst of a fundraising campaign (Food From the Bar).
So, I've been working "lots" and sleeping "littles". Trying to eat appropriately rather than giving in to the yummy-greasy-salty-sweet that seems always to be at hand.
So, I'll be back with something soon.
Maybe we'll take a walk
Maybe there will be surprising news...

Tuesday, April 9

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Call me fickle.  I have a new favorite place.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is in the Mojave Desert just west of Las Vegas. Beautiful geologic formations (including the Keystone Thrust Fault), nice colors and textures and lots of trails to be explored. The vegetation here early in April seemed so much happier than comparable locations in So Cal. The result of more water, I suppose. There seem to be lots of springs - the result to the fault perhaps.
The visitor center at Red Rock Canyon is really impressive. It's mostly outdoors and has great colorful exhibits and scuptures of local wildlife. Unfortunately, it is behind a gate with a $7 per vehicle admission fee. You can use your America the Beautiful (National Parks) pass for admission, too.
The Red Rock Canyon camground is a pleasant if exposed sort of place with a nice couple from Idaho acting as camp hosts this season. They'll take off in May when it must be really, really hot.
Taking my cue from them, I'll probably wait until the fall to see if RRCNCA really pans out. Then, I'll be reaching out to my hiking pals to share the drive (4 to 5 hours) and the walks (seemingly limitless).

By the way - Red Rock Canyon Campground makes for cushy camping. It is less than 3 miles from a couple of McMansion developments. Their local shopping center offers Alberson's, CVS, Chevron, Wells Fargo and assorted pizza, pet, bike, donut and nail shops. Oddly enough, I didn't spot a Starbucks where I could tap into a wi-fi connection. But the corner sports bar has an excellent burger and very nice watresses (they flirted me out of an extra generous tip).
And, yes, there is video poker. After all, it's Vegas, baby!

Saturday, April 6

Spur of the moment has a barb

Heading to Vegas, baby, for a workshop on Monday. So I figured I'd camp the weekend away, then drop in to the resort for the session and hit the road. Nice plan but, I didn't do adequate research and made no reservations.
My plan was to camp at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area but I got a late start and the sites are few and the weather got warm. En route, I decided to go to Mount Charleston where there are more campground options and the elevation would mean more comfortable temperatures.

I'll spare you the details and just say that I am "camping" in a room at Saddle West Hotel Casino in Parhump.  Nice grounds, basic but spacious and truly non-smoking accommodations, good drinking water and less than $100 a night.
I'm hoping to get a spot in Red Rock for tomorrow night.

Don't get me wrong, the day was not all bad.  It was a lovely, easy drive. Lunch at the Mad Greek was big enough for dinner, too. There are some wildflowers in Kyle Canyon (leading up to Mount Charleston) and the blooming Joshua trees, viewed late in the afternoon in Lee Canyon, enticed me to stop for photos. Much of the vegetation here looks happier than its SoCal counterparts.
These views look toward Mount Charleston from the northeast. I will try to figure out the name of the distinctively-shaped hill. The shot below was made in the Sawmill picnic area. Only one picnic party - they had the run of the place.

Sunday, March 24

Another time in Death Valley

This is another one from the Panamint Dunes - only it was our New Years trip of 2011.

Sunday, March 17

Manly Beacon - the West Profile

Yes, I am a bit obsessed with Manly Beason these days. I'm sure I will get over him soon enough. Maybe after 100 Views of Manly Beacon.
Having happened upon and linked to Ansel Adams view from the west, I thought I needed to post one (or two) of my own. There could be more.

Friday, March 15

New View of Manly Beacon

THIS is the same Manly Beacon you have seen from Zabriskie Point.
Or have seen in all those pictures made at Zabriskie Point.
The panorama below is the more typical view.  Go ahead, click on it for the larger view...
...then flip between the two views to compare.
Remarkable, isn't it?
Zabriskie Point is east of Manly Beacon.  John and I were very near the foot of the Beacon and to the south when I collected the frames that went into that upper image.

By the way, even Ansel Adams stopped at the Zabriskie Point overlook- see here. He did a little exploring, too; see here for a view from the west.

Thursday, March 7

Atop Dante's View

Traveling in Death Valley National Park

Wednesday, March 6

Badwater from Dante's View

Traveling in Death Valley National Park
2:12 p.m.  March 2, 2013

Friday, January 18

Death Valley Dunes

Just do me a favor and click on this pan to get a bigger picture. It's a view of the eastside of Panamint Valley from the Panamint Dunes at the north end.  In the distance, you can see Lake Hill, a volcanic structure sitting in the dry lake bed. We were out there for the last weekend of 2012.
I love that walk. We didn't have the best light on the dunes that weekend but it is a pleasure to be out there looking around anyway. I'll go again in the spring, I think.

When we came away from Panamint Dunes, we headed for Stovepipe Wells for two nights. On Monday morning we went to Mesquite Dunes for first light.  My friend Thom got a terrific shot of the rhythmically undulating dunes. That sent me back to my own collection to see if I had anything to compare and I found I could work up this image. Thom's is way better.
You can see a few more shots in my Picasa collection.

Monday, January 14

New Year's Morning - Zabriskie Peak

Happy New Year

I can watch this two minute video again and again, following the changing light, the marching clouds, the shuffiling crowd.  If you look very closely, you will see hikers on the trail moving away from Zabriskie Point and then to the left and in the distance on a crest of the trail. They are heading for the Golden Canyon trailhead.   
That was a great spot to catch the first light of 2013.

Saturday, January 12

Winter in LA

Finally we are having a little winter here in Los Angeles!
For the last few days, I have been glad to have lunch dates with friends because, besides the good company, that meant sitting down indoors to eat. Typically, I take a light lunch to work and find a sunny spot to sit outside. Walking about at midday on Thursday and Friday was a Chicago-like experience with crazy-cold wind. Definitely not good for al fresco dining.
But today we have a reprieve. It is sunny and clear enough to cut your finger if you reach out to the mountains. A few minutes ago, I took the trash out and stopped to turn some kitchen trimmings into the worm pit. I was perfectly comfortable in a sweatshirt. Lingering in the garden, I noticed that the fig tree is almost nude but a few hold-out figs are stubbornly hanging on, waiting for a little ripening warmth. January sunshine may be pretty but it's not much good for figs.
Now, as I write this, I see outside my dining room window, the manzanita is blooming little white bells in the musky green. A hummingbird is looking for a taste of something sweet. There are bumble bees stirring things up, too. You have to appreciate the SoCal Winter.

I have Death Valley photos coming soon. In the meantime, this is the last moonset for 2012.