Day 151—Ain’t No Sunshine. . .

. . .But at least I have sunflowers.

I experimented with exposure today. The bouquet of sunflowers was backlit by a window and I thought the luminescence of the petals was pretty and I wanted to capture that while still being able to see detail in the center of the sunflower. I used my tripod (how did I ever manage this without my tripod?) and tried different shutter speeds and apertures. I even changed from my 18-200mm zoom to my 35mm prime lens. I think this photo captures the backlit petals beautifully and still has enough texture of the sunflower center. Other photos with more detail of the flower center resulted in washed out petals.

Focal Length 80mm
ISO 100
f/5.6
0.6 s
SOOC

Day 150—All Gave Some; Some Gave All

Today I found myself at the California Viet Nam Veterans Memorial in Capitol Park. It is a very peaceful place. The black granite walls display the names of those who died in Viet Nam (every name was read aloud yesterday in a pre Memorial Day ceremony). The names are separated by home town. I read the names listed under Santa Rosa and was relieved that I didn’t recognize any. But I was struck by how young most of the men who died in Viet Nam were; the vast majority were 19, 20, 21. Just babies. The bronze statues were all bedecked with fresh flowers, beads, and flags. One look at the display and the tears started to flow. I was not expecting the emotions that overwhelmed me as I walked around and took photos, tears streaming down my face.

I spent about an hour there, most of the time talking to a former Navy SeaBee, a gentleman in his late 70’s who entered the memorial about the same time I did, using his walker and proudly sporting a cap that proclaimed his Naval service. I sat next to him on a bench. He told me he spent a couple of years in Viet Nam as a chief heavy equipment operator building and rebuilding Liberty Bridge at An Hoa in Quang Nam Province over the Thu Bon River. As we talked, people, all much younger, approached him with outstretched hands, shaking his, thanking him for his service, or recounting their own.

Focal Length 62mm
ISO 100
f/7.1
1/60
SOOC

Day 149—Finally I Am Ready for Scarborough Fair

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. At last I have planted all four of those delectable herbs in my garden, along with oregano and lavender (for Le Cachat, don’t you know). Simon? Garfunkel? Do you hear that? Over the years I have always had one or more of these herbs growing in my garden but never all four at once. In the past, it seemed easier just to buy the parsley and sage at the market. Yesterday, I found a particularly lush rosemary plant that I bought to replace my 20 year old scraggly, pot bound rosemary that was no longer producing readily usable stems and I planted it a few minutes ago. The red reflection in the pot is one of my red garden clogs as I straddled the pot trying to get the best angle for a shot. As you can see, I missed the angle so I had to straighten this photo a bit.

Focal Length 32mm
ISO 100
f/7.1
1/125
White Balance Sunny
Straightened

Day 148—Neighbors

I’ve had it with the neighbors on both sides of my house. Yesterday, when I arrived home from the gym, my neighbor on one side greeted me in my driveway with the announcement that they needed to prune the xylosma plant that shields my yard from theirs; her explanation was that they needed to prune it to allow them to erect a storage shed because some branches protruded into their yard. I assured her that was no problem as long as they just pruned the parts that were in their yard and that they pruned nothing that was vertical. When I walked out to assess the situation, I discovered they had already pruned it and there are now gaping holes where lush green once blocked my view. Aarrgggh! So no photo op there. In fact, I have often used that lush greenery as a beautiful backdrop for other things. I hope it recovers quickly.

And then, this morning I looked out to see yet another toy laying in my yard from the neighbors on the other side. This time it was a colorful ball. The good thing is that I thought it might make a good photo op so a few minutes ago I walked out, knelt down, and snapped a few shots. This was my favorite. Only a small part of the grass seed head is in focus because I used such a shallow depth of field. Now the ball can go into the garbage can. They will NOT be getting it back. Am I becoming a curmudgeon? I guess I should welcome these things. This is the second photo op these people have provided for me (please check out Day 129—The Antelope 500). What will be next?

I did have to make one adjustment. I forgot to change the white balance from incandescent to daylight so I had to make the adjustment in Aperture.

Focal Length 35mm
ISO 100
f/1.8
1/1250
White Balance set to Tungsten
White Balance corrected to Daylight

Day 147—Jump. . .

. . .Squat! I had a session with Noelle, my personal trainer, this morning and she had me doing jump squats, one of the more arduous exercises in her torture repertoire; today she added 5 pound weights to the exercise. Since she knows about this blog (her daughter has been featured in it twice) she suggested taking a photo of me executing a jump squat. She offered to take the photo but then my friend Cindy, who also has been featured in this blog and who has deftly handled my camera in the past, stepped in and took them.

I know that I’m supposed to take the photos that I post to this blog, but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll post whatever I want in it. I did set up the exposure and Cindy executed the shots while Noelle directed. Here is the jump squat series. Not great form but interesting action shots. I collapsed after these were taken. Thanks, Cindy for taking the photos and thanks, Noelle, for suggesting what is now my photo of the day!

Jump

Land

Squat

All three photos:

Focal Length 24mm
ISO 1000
f/8
1/60
Cropped

Day 146—Rescue

Today I got another rescue call from the California Foundation for Birds of Prey. A baby hawk had fallen from a tree and needed to be picked up and brought to the clinic. My photoblogger friend, Melinda, who was visiting me when I got my first rescue call a month ago, was visiting again. What are the odds? She rode with me to the location and volunteered to sit in the back seat of my car on the return ride to the clinic to make sure that the baby hawk was secure in its box. She volunteered despite her fear of birds. Thanks, Melinda. You’re a trouper!

I took a few shots at the clinic where Vincent, one of the clinic staffers, held the downy bundle up for us to photograph. As we fumbled with camera settings, he urged us to hurry. When we returned home, I found that my shots were perfectly exposed but completely out of focus. Melinda’s were underexposed and we won’t know the status of her focus until she returns home and downloads her pictures. We may be intrepid photographers but we seem to have a long way to go before we’ll be able to take pictures under duress. Maybe the third time will be a charm!

Focal Length 170mm
ISO 640
f/5.6
1/20
SOOC

Day 145—Red Daisy

I’m experimenting with still life today because I have a life and won’t have time to take a photo later today! I bought some lovely red gerbera daisies yesterday and thought this single blossom would make an interesting composition. I experimented with different shutter speeds and this one resulted in the best exposure for the look I was seeking.

Focal Length 42mm
ISO 100
f/10
1 sec.
Tripod
SOOC

Day 144— Fascinating Rhythm

Blurred motion is something I’m interested in, both because my photos frequently get unintentional blurred motion but also because I find intentional blurred motion fascinating. Today I decided to dust off my metronome and see what kind of blur I could get. I set my camera on the tripod and experimented with apertures and shutter speeds. I took photos in three sets, downloading to my computer after each. This photo is from a set that produced the best blur of the metronome but because I was not careful when I placed the camera back onto the tripod, the level was off. I had to straighten it. So, this photo is not straight out of the camera. I grabbed the stiffest piece of sheet music that I had for background, which was Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune. I should have selected Gershwin, given the title of today’s blog entry. But on closer scrutiny, the time signature of this piece is 9/8 which is a pretty fascinating rhythm. What happened to 4/4? So I guess it’s no wonder I could never play this piece all the way through!

Focal Length 82mm
ISO 100
f/11
2 seconds
Straightened

Day 143—Tower

The latest assignment for the photography class I’m taking gave us several options. I chose architecture, which proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be. We were asked to find a picturesque building that is at least two stories tall. We had to shoot the building at its full height and in at least two other angles. We were challenged to create converging lines in at least one picture, and correct them to some extent in another. We could also shoot details and alter the perspective. I tried everything. I had more success with some shots than with others.

I chose to follow advice on shooting architecture that was provided on one of the reference sites for this lesson. The advice helped me to set up the shots in other than my usual random and haphazard way. The primary advice was that buildings don’t move. That’s stating the obvious, I guess, but it went on to say that in order to achieve adequate sharp focus in an architectural photograph, it is necessary to use the camera’s lowest ISO (ISO 100 in my case) and to set an aperture that provides a large depth of field (I alternated between f/16 and f/22). A slow ISO and small aperture require a slow shutter speed (1/30 resulted in the best exposure for me) and thus it is imperative to use a tripod.

I chose to photograph the historic Tower Theater in downtown Roseville. Vernon Street was almost deserted at midday today and I felt free to set up my tripod and try different compositions and angles. When I got home and viewed the photographs I took, I was generally disappointed. I took only 37 photos which is a small number for me; I took only 4 or 5 in each of 8 different poses. I discovered that I don’t know how to position the scene well when using a tripod. In many of the photos, minor adjustments I made in the position of the camera on the tripod resulted in vastly different and many unacceptable composition changes I hadn’t recognized through the viewfinder. I also discovered that I didn’t adjust the camera to level in both vertical and horizontal positions on the tripod. Tripod use is obviously something I need to practice.

Contrary to my usual and intended practice to post photos straight out of the camera, today’s photo was one of those photos that was not perfectly exposed and I had to apply Curves adjustments in Aperture. When I realized my exposure was wrong and made the adjustments in shutter speed to achieve correct exposure, I failed to return the camera to the same position and the composition was poor. I chose composition over correct exposure today, but to show that I can do get the exposure right, I am posting the correctly exposed, poorly composed photo as well.

Focal Length 20mm
ISO 100
f/22
1/200
Curves Adjustments

Focal Length 18mm
ISO 100
f/22
1/30
SOOC

Day 142—Freedom

Today, the California Foundation for Birds of Prey held an open house. One of the highlights of the event was the release of a rehabilitated juvenile red-tailed hawk back to the wild. They held a silent auction to determine who had the privilege of actually releasing the bird. The winning bid pledged $135 to the CFBP. I was thrilled to capture the instant of his freedom. He quickly disappeared into the thick woods nearby.

Focal Length 112mm
ISO 400
f/5.6
1/500
SOOC

Day 141—A Real Snooze

Today I played photographer. I attended a Civil War reenactment “experience” commemorating the sesquicentennial anniversary of the start of the Civil War which began on April 12, 1861, when the Confederate States of America fired on Fort Sumter. Attending as a photographer, I felt free to roam the grounds and photograph what struck my fancy. I met “Gen. Robt. E. Lee” and he kindly posed for me telling me that his troops rarely took his battle advice. I talked with a “laundress” who was cooking a pot of beans over a wood fire in preparation for a post battle meal. I examined both Union and Confederate cannons with nary a soul around me and took a few close up shots of Union horses that would soon be pulling the cannon into battle. I asked a “Union soldier ,” who was filming the battle reenactment, about his high tech gear and asked what year it became available to the Union(!). I compared lenses and camera equipment with another photographer when we were in the Confederate camp and were asked to step away from the troops who were lining up in preparation for battle. I was playing with the big boys today. I lined up with the “pros” who were wielding huge telephoto lenses supported by monopods; I walked with them to the front of the viewing area and stood with a clear view of the battlefield. It’s great to be a photographer and get a front row seat and no one questions you about it.

Sadly, the battle reenactment was a real snooze. I guess I’m too used to having battlefield scenes accompanied by heart pounding music, with closeup views of heads being blown off, blood splattering everywhere, and continuous action. I found what was probably a semi-accurate depiction of a Civil War battle to be dull and uninteresting. Yes, there were cannon to right of us and cannon to left of us that had very loud booms, and it probably would have been a valley of death they were riding into had it not been a reenactment 150 years later (and yes, I do realize Tennyson was writing about the Crimean War and not the Civil War but still, the time period was approximately the same). During the 30 minutes or so I watched the battle, I tried to capture the fire coming from the mouth of the Rebels’ cannon; I was always a fraction of a second off, watching through the viewfinder as fire shot from the cannon just as I pressed the shutter release, never able to anticipate the right timing. My battlefield photos were as uninteresting as the reenactment itself.

I managed to capture a few interesting photos during my visit to the park, though. And I actually have two favorite photos today; neither one is a battle photo and since I couldn’t decide which I preferred, I’m posting both. I took the first shortly before the Confederate soldiers assembled for battle. This guy had the right idea. I took the second as this Rebel soldier took aim on an unsuspecting attendee.

Focal Length 112mm
ISO 200
f/5.6
1/400
SOOC

Focal Length 24mm
ISO 200
f/5.6
1/80
SOOC

Day 140—Bummer, Hummer

Today’s photo was both serendipity and bummer. I was out on my patio with the camera planning my photo of the day when I heard the familiar buzz of the hummingbird at the feeder. I jumped up from the chair, focused, and snapped a few pictures (serendipity) but I was too far away to get a good closeup, even with the focal length at maximum (bummer). The background for this shot is ugly fence pickets not the lovely green a few feet over that would have resulted in a lush, bokeh-filled background had I changed my position (bummer). I stayed on the patio for another half hour, standing near the feeder and checking my position to get a better background so that I’d be prepared when he flew to the feeder again. No such luck; with hummingbirds, they flit in and they flit out. So ugly fence background it is. Bummer. The settings are kind of screwy. I had the ISO set to 1000 because I had been fiddling with some photos in the shade so I’m happy that it wasn’t horribly over exposed. Serendipity. Since this photo was in acceptable focus (serendipity), I cropped it to get the closeup I was hoping to get if he had given me a second chance. I’ll keep trying.

Focal Length 200
ISO 1000
f/7.1
1/800
Cropped

Day 139—Greta

I am obsessed with closeups of dog’s noses. When I photograph most dogs I encounter, I feel a compulsion to get very up close and personal. This afternoon, while out and about with a friend in Auburn, we came across Greta (and her owner) at the Auburn-Conheim train station. Greta is a very friendly German Wirehaired Pointer. Greta was very curious about the camera and cooperated by posing for me. I love this particular photo because not only is it expressive, Greta’s nose has bokeh! What more can I ask? A dog’s nose and bokeh. Ahhh, life is good.

Focal Length 95mm
ISO 200
f/7.1
1/125
SOOC

Day 138—The Black Dahlia?

On another visit to Green Acres Nursery this afternoon, I found the most unusual dahlia; it’s a hybrid called Mystic Illusion. The yellow flowers popped against the black foliage despite the cloudy sky. Although I was intrigued, I didn’t buy it because I couldn’t quite picture where black foliage would fit in my garden. But it was interesting enough to be my photo of the day.


Focal Length 200mm
ISO 200
f/5.6
1/500
SOOC

Day 137—Don’t Stop Believin’

This morning I drove to Auburn to photograph a local blues band, Foxtrot Mary, that was scheduled to play at the start of Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California along with another local band, Awesome 80’s Boom Box. About 11 AM, shortly after the race began, Awesome 80’s Boom Box took to the stage. It began to rain, then pour. I spent the next hour trying to keep my camera dry while taking photos. Note to self: remember to bring an umbrella next time AND to get some sort of protective cover for the camera that will keep the camera dry and still allow me to take photos in the rain.

The rain continued unabated and drove most of the crowd from the post race festival by noon. Foxtrot Mary did not perform. I’ve been home for 3 hours and I am still shivering from being wet and cold this morning. I managed to capture a few marginally decent photos, some of the bicycle racers and some of Awesome 80’s Boom Box. My photo of the day is of Blakky Faux of Awesome 80’s Boom Box as he flips his hair while riffing on “Don’t Stop Believin'”. I was more worried about my camera getting wet than I was with proper settings. I should have used Aperture Priority but I kept it in manual mode and used a slow shutter speed and a wide aperture which resulted in an overexposed image; and I did not use my tripod so the photo is not in focus. But I still love this photo.

Focal Length 120mm
ISO 200
f/5.3
1/40
Curves

Day 136—Peloton

Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California passed through town today. It actually was the first stage of the race because Stage 1 was cancelled yesterday due of the dangerous snowy conditions at Lake Tahoe. The second stage was shortened, too, because of weather and instead of starting at Squaw Valley, it started in Nevada City two hours after the original scheduled start. We arrived at the corner of Pleasant Grove Rd. and Riego Rd. near the levee in Sutter County more than an hour before the Break and the Peloton were due to arrive. We barely found a place to park. The cars were lined up in the one parking area at the corner which I discovered yesterday and stupidly thought no one would know about. A lone CHP motorcycle officer was stationed at the intersection. There were lots of cameras mounted on tripods and one enterprising person affixed a digital HD video camera to a sign post facing Pleasant Grove Rd, down which the cyclists would be riding before turning onto Riego Rd.

We followed the action on the Amgen Tour of California App on my iPhone so we knew that the Break, four riders out in front of the Peloton, were about 3 minutes ahead of the Peloton and we could guess about when they would arrive. Two groups of a few riders passed by us but no one could figure out who they were. Since we were following the race on my iPhone, we knew they weren’t the real racers but everyone took pictures anyway. When the news helicopters arrived we knew they were close. CHP motorcycles, CHP cars and CHP SUVs passed by, seemingly again and again. I hope it was the same guys circling because if it wasn’t I think I know where some of the problem with California’s budget lies! Then an Amgen truck arrived and a guy with a push broom swept debris from the turn. Finally, an official Amgen car with a speaker mounted on top stopped at the corner and thanked everyone for gathering and told us the Break would be arriving in a few minutes followed by the Peloton in another few minutes.

The Break whizzed by and were gone almost before I could take a photo. I had positioned myself on the north west side of the street, after the turn. I snapped a couple of photos as they rode toward the turn, then as they turned, and as they rode away. All in 20 seconds. I just held my breath and hoped for the best. I had read advice about photographing bicycle racing and the two things I remembered were to keep a short focal length because you can always crop later, and a large aperture to get the best chance of distinguishing the riders from the background.

Less than two minutes later, the Peloton swooped by. I photographed them on Pleasant Grove Rd. before the turn, coming around the turn, riding by me, whizzing away, and in the distance snaking out along onto E. Levee Road. This took less than a minute.

When the Peloton whooshed by, the wind they generated almost knocked me back. I was astonished at the velocity of it. I stood on the shoulder of the road and could have reached out and touched the riders. The photo I chose today makes it look as if I were standing in the middle of them.

Focal Length 135mm
ISO 200
f/5.6
1/1000
SOOC

Day 135—Rice Fields

Today I took a drive between thunder, rain, and hail storms to look for a suitable place for me to take some photos of Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California tomorrow afternoon. The roads are bumpy and narrow and there are few places to pull over. I hope the weather cooperates tomorrow because I may have a bit of a walk to get to the place I want to be to watch the cyclists.

For about 20 minutes after I arrived at E. Levee Road, I was trapped in the car because it started pouring again. Then the rain let up briefly and I thought the dramatic sky would make an interesting photo. I took this photo facing southwest overlooking the rice fields. The Sacramento skyline is barely visible between the two clumps of trees on the horizon. I like the converging lines in this photo, both those coming from the lower right and the power lines coming from the upper right that seem to disappear into the clouds.

Focal Length 18mm
ISO 320
f/22
1/50
White Balance set to Cloudy
SOOC

Day 134—Cobalt Fish

I love any cobalt blue ceramic thing. The first set of dishes that I bought just out of college was cobalt blue. More recently, the fish plates I bought in Port Aransas, TX this past January and which appeared in this blog under the title “Broken Fish” were cobalt blue. Today’s cobalt blue entry is another fish and I’m happy to report that it is in one piece…so far, anyway. I couldn’t resist coming home with it after my visit to the nursery this afternoon to buy herbs.

I don’t know how appealing it is for a giant fish to be spitting out sage leaves, but that’s what it is and I kind of like it. Because it is cloudy, I set the white balance to cloudy and fiddled with the colors until the blue looked like cobalt blue. I used my tripod so I didn’t have to worry about jiggling and I remembered to turn off the VR setting on the lens (and happily, I have already returned the setting to “on”).

Focal Length 95mm
ISO 200
f/8
1/40
SOOC

Day 133—Nicht so schnell!

My new tripod arrived yesterday, a day earlier than I expected it. It’s a Cullmann Magnesit 525 M, made in Germany! That’s why my blog title today is in German. “Nicht so schnell” means “not so fast” in German, a reference to the very slow shutter speed I used for this photo.

I decided my photo of the day today has to be my new tripod. But I didn’t want just to take a picture of it. Instead, I set the camera onto the tripod and posed it in my bathroom. The only full length mirror in the house is in my bathroom so I had to disguise the bathroom a little. I set the tripod with camera mounted in front of a length of red Ultra Suede (left over from my days as a seamstress) which I stretched between the glass of the shower and the cabinets on a tension rod.

I fiddled with exposure and lighting until the red of the Ultra Suede was the exact color. That required a very slow shutter speed, for which the tripod serves the very purpose. I used the remote to trigger the shutter. I took several photos because I had to keep adjusting the camera position, focal length, and background fabric so no tile, mirror edges or cabinets showed. What I didn’t figure on was the slow shutter speed capturing me as I triggered the remote. I did take a couple without my ghost but I find this a more interesting photo. I also couldn’t seem to coordinate the distance from the mirror and the focal length to get the feet of the tripod in the photo. I’m sure it’s doable but not worth the endless effort I know I would probably spend on it.

So here’s a photo of my new tripod, without its feet showing, and with my Nikon D90 mounted on it and my Crumpler camera strap dangling. I’m the ghost on the right.

Focal Length 80mm
ISO 320
f/16
2 seconds
SOOC

Day 132—Let There Be Light

This guy was working on the parking lot light fixtures at the gym this morning and was nice enough to agree to my taking some photos of him. I thought I’d try a silhouette because the sun was directly behind him. I didn’t achieve the silhouette I was seeking; I think you’re supposed to meter on the sky and then refocus on the subject. I didn’t do that but I liked the results anyway. I tried applying curves to darken the silhouette but decided to leave it as it came out of the camera.

Focal Length 18mm
ISO 200
f/16
1/160
SOOC