Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Search of Fall Colors ~ The Eastern Sierras

The Eastern Sierra's are known for their rugged peaks, clear water, storm clouds and intense fall colors. The trick is to find them all at the same place at the same time, and not also discover the wind. This second attempt to second guess nature by looking at a calendar and map and set off in high hopes of finding that color I see in other peoples images. Last year we found green, wind and just beat the snow on our way over Tioga Pass.

On the last day, at the last lake on this trip; there was a gentlemen who at the age of 94 still pulled on his wadders and headed out to his favorite spot to enjoy the best tripod holes and hope for the best image yet.
I can see now why people return year after year, hopping for a better sky, brighter color, still water and a better angle for the light.
Next Year!
For more images click here

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Viva La Fiesta!

Viva La Fiesta

August in Santa Barbara is Old Spanish Days

Dancing on the steps of the courthouse, an equestrian parade on Friday, Children's Parade on Saturday and food mercados scattered around town.

And a few colorful eggs filled with confetti just waiting to be cracked over an unsuspecting head.......

Scott Kelby's World Wide Photo Walk 2009

July 18th was the second annual Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Day.
I had a small but fun group meet and we enjoyed the Stow House and Rancho La Patera Grounds and the Goleta Depot.

Old Fashioned 4th of July at the Stow House

Stow House for the Old Fashioned 4th of July is always a fun event. They usually have a steam up of some of the old farm machinery. Freshly painted tactors, vintage cars, people dressed to fit the period and music.

Across the street from the restored Goleta Depot building are a few of the lemon groves, much of the events have some historical root in the lemon growing industry.....and of course a lot of lemonade is served.

At the end of the day, I opted for the easy view of the fireworks, from the balcony of an apartment that I was showing.

More Photos Here

As the Months Fly by: May 2009

May brought more painting....a lot more painting.

But as the end of the month approached a trip away from the ladder was needed

Lone Pine had some wonderful clouds and great company.

The Auto Club of Southern California Byway's Magazine featured a photo of Mono Lake on the cover. Not exactly what you want to see for a holiday weekend when your planning on going to Mono Lake, but...what could we do but try and find a place to squeeze in and fit our tripods.

It was shoulder to should, with a few people that did not seem to notice the cameras or the rules about climbing the Tofas...........

More Photos:

As the Months Fly by: April 2009

I always look forward to rain when the hills are green for a bit. This year the rainy season was short and the heat
came early. So much for a long wildflower season.

I filled my little patio planter with a few natives, but even those did not do well this year.
My mom decided that she had waited long enough to have the sun porch walls repaired, so she called the contractor neighbor over to do the exterior. While his scaffold was up, she called to ask if "I thought she should climb up on it and prime that end of the house".....Of course the answer was NO! And thus the spring of chasing wildflowers because the incredible house painting Odyssey

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hwy 166 Wildflowers

Wildflower season in California is ruled by the weather. Plans for this weekend included a trip to Sutter Creek to see the daffodils. It did not include the winter storm with the rains, wind and low snow level, oh well.

Since I was still hoping for wildflowers this weekend, I thought I could beat the storms arrival if I stayed closer to home. I set the alarm for early, just to be wake up earlier with the sound of rain. I sat in bed watching the weather channel hoping for some guidance on where the storm was, just to see we had no rain...hmmmm I decided that since it was calm outside and I had the camera gear packed I may as well go.

It drizzled and rained for the drive to Santa Maria and the start of Hwy 166. I thought well at least I beat the wind. I went later in the season last year and the hills showed more color so I was not expecting much when I got to Cottonwood Canyon, my first stop. The hills were still green rather than the almost neon yellow from last year, the river ford was dry and the showy river bed was mostly yellow. And it was cold, gray and the wind was picking up.

The Tidy Tips against the Goldfields would just have to do. There were some tiny Lupines and Blue Dicks waving in the wind with the Fiddle Necks.

I did find some flowers to shoot, but spent most of the time chatting with Lynne Glazer who was there to shoot a horse event crossing through the flower trail.

The wind blew away the clouds, but since I was done shooting Tidy Tips, I headed on down the road to my next stop.

Wind Wolves Preserve

I have never been there, but had read that it was very nice on my favorite wildflower location tip website, Carol Leigh, I was unable to do a lot of hiking, but guessing there was much more to be seen up the river trail. The hillsides already looked past their peak, but the snow on the mountains behind make me think plants by the creek will still be blooming.

One of the reasons I like exploring Hwy 166 is that it is the back side of my local mountains. Last weekend I looked at that same snowy peak from Mt Figueroa and in Cottonwood is likely from the Mt Figueroa water shed.

I would like to go back and spend more time, with less wind, at Wind Wolves.

I headed back toward home on Hwy 166, but pulled off just past Maricopa on the Elkhorn Grade Road. I had read reports on this route but never taken it. Since shooting macros was out due to the wind, but the clouds were nice I figured I would still be interesting.

The road is about one dozer/grader blade wide and a lot closer to off roading than I had hoped for, but I also knew it went back to Soda Lake Road right down the middle of Carrizo Plains Reserve so I did it anyway. There were plenty of nice views, but next time I will do it with a second car along for that "Just in Case". From most of the peaks I did have cell service, but did not think AAA would like to help me change a tire.....

I headed back to Soda Lake Road and down the middle of the Plains. It was pretty, but mostly yellows and dry. The wind was howling and the sun was getting low, so I did not stop a lot.

I came out on Hwy 58 and headed back to San Louis Obispo and Hwy 101.

Hwy 58 was full of Baby Blue Eyes last year, but so far I only found one little patch on the side of the road and just a few Shooting Stars.

As I got closer to the coast, the drizzle started back up and the wind calmed down.

It was a fun day, but next time I will try to get to Wind Wolves before the wind!

For more photos click Here

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mount Figueroa March 15th

Sunday was my first trip to one of my favorite wildflower locations; Mount Figueroa. From hwy 101, it is the 154 exit toward Los Olivos. Once you see Los Olivos on your right, where you may need to stop to pick up an Adventure Pass, the road to Mt Figueroa is on the left. The road starts out pretty nice, but after a few miles it becomes a 1.5 lane paved mountain road. Even with all the hair pin turns and climb, it is popular for bicyclists-so watch out.

I got a late start....that mom's taxi I arrived about the same time as the wind, again. The wildflowers are late this year compared to last year, but I was still able to find a nice variety. I think the weeks to come will bring even more variety.

I saw: Johnny Jump Ups, Fiesta Flowers, Miners Lettuce, Fiddle Necks, Shooting Stars, Popcorn Flowers, Buttercups, Star Lilies, Chocolate Lilies, Henbit, Pitcher Sage, Gold Fields, Blue Dicks, Cream Cups, Poppies, Lupines and several others.

Click the Photo for a link to my gallery

Friday, March 13, 2009

Point Lobos and McWay Falls

Sunday morning brought the rain that had been promised for days. Just enough to make you cover your camera and not enough to clean the road sand use on the snowy Yosemite roads off the cars.

Point Lobos State Reserve is a special place on the Monterey coast and it had been years since I had stopped for a visit. The wind was howling and the sky a deep gray, the storm was on its way, we could only hope that it would wait long enough to get some nice shots. It is kind of like visiting an old friend, you remember the rocks you really want to see wet from the rain and the walk to the point in the cypress trees.

With the window howling, tripods stayed in the car, more likely to blow over since staying low and behind rocks seemed the only break from the wind. But a good storm just seems fitting for the park and I could always hope for a break in the sky. The wind blows white caps on the ocean and makes the water even rougher looking. The storm drove the waves up the rocks, the images lack scale, but there was not putting a person in danger just for scale!

While walking through the Cypress grove the rain band passed, the deer came to pick their favorite blades of grass and a few Star Lilies called me to come and shoot them, of course as they blew back and forth in the wind.

With out knowing how much longer the rain would last, we headed down the coast and toward the end of a nice calm before the work storm that was waiting for me at home.

There was time to stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns / McWay Falls it was still raining a bit and the wind blowing, but I was determined this time I would get a couple of better shots than the last time. It was raining less and the wind was not blowing me off the overlook like last time, but there was still too much rain in the air to make for a good shooting day.

Next time......

To view a gallery with more photos, click the top Point Lobos photo.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2009 02 21 Lighthouses

Since Yosemite was booked up for the weekend with Firefalls photography workshops and camera clubs, Friday meant deciding do we all go home, go to the desert or hit the coast.

The coast won.
Santa Cruz
Saturday morning was a good time to go to the Santa Cruz Lighthouse and Natural Bridges Parks. The surf was up and being enjoyed by the surfers, human and otter. Photos of the surfers are here They surf close to the bluff, these are all full frame (for a Canon 40d) 300mm photos. It was windy and the water was cold, but that did not seem to stop the surfers from catching some nice waves.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse was calling from up the coast, so the GPS was set and off we went.

The lighthouse has a hostel that operates in the keepers quarts, a few open museum buildings, but the actual lighthouse itself is fenced off because the salty sea air has caused some damage to the metal band that holds the lighthouse together. A chunk fell off, there is a group raising funds to repair the lighthouse, but for now images include a chain link fence.
The view from across the bay included some tide pools that would have been fun to explore, but the tide was in and the wind was howling. A storm was expected for later in the day.
While looking at the gift shop, there was a post card from the Montara Lighthouse just up the coast a bit further. The trip was now a lighthouse tour, so off to the next light.
Half Moon Bay
Montara Lighthouse also has a hostel operating in the keepers building and was not as impressive as the postcard. But it was still interesting and had a pretty garden to add to the foreground.
It was more of a challenge to loose the No Parking signs and plastic lawn chairs.
Since driving further north would bring us to San Francisco, it was time to head south and see where we would end up for the night.
The rain was finally starting to catch up with us, the sky was closed and the hoped for sunset did not happen, but there still was the Point Pinos Lighthouse and a dinner and the much talked about Fishwife Restaurant.
I could not figure out what I was doing wrong while trying to get a clear shot with my 300mm f4IS lens. I had the tripod out, the remote cord in use, even the mirror was locked up.....after a frustrating few minutes I realized, I also had the IS on and not turned off.....ooops. And yes it does make a difference if you forget and leave it on!
Click on the photos for links to photo galleries.

Yosemite's Hwy 140 Wildflowers

Spring Wildflowers!

Odd that my first spring flower trip would also be on my first Yosemite snow trip for this year, but this is California.

Highway 140 is known as the "All Year" highway because it is lower and follows the river. In the past, we have driven this way and not seen the first snow on the side of the road until just as we drove in the National Park entrance, even though the park got two+ feet of snow the night before.

The California Poppies were starting to bloom. There seemed to be Baby Blue Eye's as well, but we were on the wrong side of the river to get very close.

I thought about my friends Bob and Betty, too bad the hill was not covered for the fall, I am sure they would have loved the short drive from their hotel to see the poppies.

To see more photos of Hwy 140, click the photo.

2009 02 19 Yosemite Winter

While Firefalls in Yosemite was a learning experience for our group, we had plenty of different photo opportunities. In the mornings the valley would fill with a low cold fog that would set off the frosty trees. The falls were all flowing strong. And the river was full of snow covered rocks that looked like pillows.

The sky was clear, except for the jet trails that seemed to appear just as we set up our tripods, some drama in the sky would have been nice.

Since I usually visit Yosemite in the fall, the falls were very nice to see running and rather full of water. The walk to Yosemite Falls is usually skipped, but this trip it was a nice walk, and just a little bit of ice to walk past.

More photos from Yosemite can be seen by clicking on the photo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yosemite Firefalls 2-19-09

Firefalls in Yosemite used to refer to the Curry Village 9pm event when a load of burning firewood was pushed from Glacier Point for the enjoyment of the crowd below. Today, Firefalls is a natural event that happens for 10 to 14 days toward the end of February. The setting sun lights up a small section of the rock wall and the Horse Tail Falls looks like it is on fire.....when you get it JUST right-I did not get it just right.....
For years Firefalls has been more of an insider secret, but it was featured in Outdoor Photographer, written about and now on the DNC hotel reservation website There were also numerous $$$ workshops offered in the park for the weekend. Since the rooms were sold out and the prospect of fighting over tripod holes was not appealing, our group decided shooting the Firefalls mid-week was a good plan. Our friend Charlie Phillips has a favorite shot of mine and showed our group the best places to shoot it from.
There are many variables, if it is cloudy nothing to light up with or if it is a dry year, no falls. The first night our group got to the favorite parking lot very early and stood around and waited. It was looking like maybe we would get to see it, but the snow that brought the water for the falls, also got the fog to raise and a thin layer of clouds between us and the sun softened the light to the point there was no Fire in the falls.
The next night, Thursday, we headed back to the parking lot...... just to find it was already packed full with a few people that did not understand what the diagonal lines were for in the parking lot (one car in 3 spaces... 2x), a workshop of 20 people all with the same lenses, cameras and angles talking about the various compositions....(hmmm can we say the same) and the people that found this big open spot to set up their tripod and did not notice it was the exit driveway from the parking lot and did not think they might want to move to allow the cars out of the parking lot. The main road in the park had just been reopened to allow limited access to the parking lot, the lane coming out of the parking lot was already full of people parking and hoping the rangers would not show up. We joined them and left a gap for our group and a few other people to shoot from.
As we discovered, the angle was not the best..... But we were not run down or part of the insanity of $$$ workshops and camera clubs jockeying for the best spot. We did get some good giggles about the people that pulled up late, discovered the people parking on the street, the cars shoved in the snow next to the parking lot and still thought "hey if I drive in the wrong way I am sure to find a parking spot..." Thankfully, no one backed in to us. The wind blew the falls around, the light was fairly soft, and we had too broad of an angle....but next time.
Besides, we only paid the $89 Bed and Breakfast midweek rate for the Lodge, ate til we were stuffed in the morning. Shot all the rest of the day, enjoyed the good company of friends and still got an idea of what we want to see next time in Firefalls.
If you click HERE, it should be a short animated clip (unplanned so a bit jerky) of what the firefalls looked like from the street.

Coyote Springs Ranch

On Wednesday, February 18th, got up super early for a nice drive to take pictures for Charlie Phillips in Mariposa. The Amgen Tour of California was running from Merced on Hwy 140 right past Cathey's Valley and Mariposa on their way to Clovis.

The day was perfect, blue sky and white puffy clouds and not too hot or cold, a big change from the weather just the day before.

Since Charlie could not be everywhere at once, we were covering the riders in Cathey's Valley at the Coyote Springs Ranch. The ranch is a working cattle and guest ranch. Beautiful green hills, a penning ring, party barn and more!

Theresa Castaldi from the Coyote Springs Ranch had put out the flags and made sure the ranch was looking great.
The sun was not cooperating, it wanted to be in the wrong place to shoot the faces of the riders and the ranch as well. But the sun was moving to suit the photographic it had to be shot at a different angle that hoped.
Waiting on the riders, hoping for that clear shot of Lance Armstrong, but knowing from a previous Amgen Tour, they would zip by fast had everyone hoping for a great view of the race. They tour with a big collection of support cars, photographers, marshalls and other people not on bikes...... I was hoping that the cars would not be blocking the view and that the riders would be spread out.
Luck was on our side, the support cars were not blocking even though they rode the opposite side of the streets fog line, they were still in a smaller bunch, but spread out a bit. Lance was hard to see, but if you looked really hard you could see a bit of his helmet, but for me that was okay. I was shooting the race passing the ranch, not sporting news.
It was a fun shoot with very nice people! I am looking forward to visiting the Coyote Springs Ranch in the future and hope to see it full of guests enjoying the beauty of the area. More photos are here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter Challenge Entry

This is my entry in to the "Winter" theme at the Bloggers Community Photo Challenge

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Getting Ready for the Spring Flower Season

Spring is coming quickly to my part of California, we have had a couple of light rains and then a big warm up. This weekend will bring a ton of rain! The flowers in my neighborhood are all ready up and starting to bloom. I am hoping for a long season and a great bloom.
Carol Leigh's website is already posting updates here
One of my new favorite books is California's Wild Gardens
My first destination will probably be Mt Figueroa for the Chocolate Lilies

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Bloggers Community Photo Challenge Close Up entry:

Click here for more info
This is my entery in to the Close ups Contest

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Now that I posted how to make a lighting kit on the cheap, I am going to post the photos I took with my real strobes.

We are looking forward to rain this week, a good time to clean up the patio planter and get ready for spring. I had driven past Home Depot and noticed that they had Tulips. I never buy them, but they were calling me.

They were nice models for $4 and are now living their retirement in my planter. More photos of them are here I found a couple of other plants with a bloom on them they are posted over here, I went to my favorite nursery that has the more unique plants. I was really looking for some more natives. I picked up a couple, hmmm guessing Icelandic Poppies are not too native, and headed home to plant them. One looked familiar but the Latin name was not, the label said low flowering plant, so I bought a pony pack. Google showed me that I had bought Columbines, I love them so I was happy. When I cleaned up the planter bed, I discovered my three Columbines from last year that were so happy and bloomed for so long, had sowed seeds and I already had a planters full. So I am going to have a lot of Columbines to photograph later!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bloggers Community Photo Challenge Hearts 09

I hope I am doing this right, this is my first entry in to the Bloggers Community Photo Challenge

This is my entry:

Heart of Stone


I spent the weekend taking pictures of two Tulip plants I bought, one of the lucky things about living in Southern California, the plant departments never closes. The farmers market rarely gets rained out and if your lucky, you have flowers in the yard to use as a subject year round.

So what are these photos of, fake flowers..... But the flowers are really not the subject. I used my background stand and mono block strobes to take the tulip photos, but I was thinking about my snow bound friends with no strobes. Too cold for available light out side, so what do you do it you don't own strobe lights?

You hit the hardware store!

I took this flower photo using a pair of clip lights and 60 watt bulbs. To make a light stand I went to OSH and got some 1/2" PVC parts, I picked OSH because I knew they sell pre-cut small pieces so there would be little cutting. I used only slip connections (not to say I did not find a few threaded ones I had picked up by mistake-double check)

Parts List (one light stand $3.48):
3 x 18" pipes (.29 each)
5 "T"'s (.29 each)
4 caps (.29)

Cut two of the pipes in to 4 6" sections and 4 3" sections, this all the cutting this project took. Do not use glue if you want to make this super portable, if you have a place to store it, just glue the base and not the upright part
1.) attach 2 6" pipes to one of the slip T's at either of the straight side and cap the ends, make 2 sets like this.

2.) attach 2 3" sections like the first sections then attach the 2 longer sections at the "T"

3.) attach an 18" upright with a "T" on top
4.) adjust so the legs rest evenly on the table and the upright is straight and your done!

For my table top background stand $6.02:
11 x 18" sections .29 each (so it is easier to collapse or make shorter)
1 slip "T" .29
4 90 degree elbows .19
2 caps .29
3 couplers .14
and the only threaded parts (to add a bit of length to the back support)
1 T threaded coupler (with the angle part threaded) .45
1 slip to threaded adapter .33
1.) the top use; one "T" with a pipe on either side of the straight part of the "T"
2.) attach a 90 degree angle at either end.
3.) Make 2 uprights for the sides with 2 pipes and a coupler
4.) Make 2 legs using a cap at one end and a 90 degree angle at the other
5.) attach top to legs and legs to feet.....It will want to tip over so set something on the feet at this point. A bag of beans works well for this.
6.) back support; attach 2 pipes together with a coupler, at one end attach the threaded adapter and screw on to the angle part of the T
7.) attach to the center of the top and angle backwards for stability.
Now the fun begins! A towel, sheet, fabric, throw....use for your back ground or shorten one section of pipe and use foam core.
If you take this outside in your garden, remove the feet and add couple of water bottles and rubber bands to the legs and back support.
If your going to the wildflowers (like I plan) you might want to get 4 24" pipes. Use 2 for the sides with out the coupler, one for the back and cut one in half for the top with a "T" in the center.
This all will store easily in a bag and you can always use later for your sprinkler system. Think Tinkler Toys......
Oh, don't forget to set your camera for tungsten! You may want to use stronger bulbs, if you use fluorescent, set your camera to match. In RAW you can make adjustments too. You will need to either up your ISO or use a tripod. If you don't have a macro, try your widest lens, they usually have a better Depth of Field, but you will make what ever is closest to the lens look even bigger than it is, have fun!