2014—Dirty Chai

I was introduced to, and fell in love with, Dirty Chai Lattés at Famous Mo’s Coffeehouse & Theater. Because I now have my own espresso machine at home, I can indulge in my obsession with this wonderful libation any time I choose. A dirty chai latté, if you’re not familiar with it, is a chai (sweetened black tea infused with herbs and spices) latté (in my case made with nonfat milk) with a double shot of espresso added. It’s an afternoon pick me up with a double whammy, caffeine from the tea and from the espresso. Making them gives me a chance to practice pulling shots, frothing milk, and drawing designs in the froth.

When I decided to make one this afternoon, I thought I’d photograph the design made with the espresso in the froth, a simple leafy pattern which is about all I can manage for now. Since the macro lens was already on the camera from the prior day’s macro shots of the seashell, I decided to do macro shots. I processed this in Perfect Effects 8, adding a ghost border and intensifying the color of the espresso.

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2014—Bottoms Up

I decided to photograph my 3/4 inch sundial shell again to see if I had improved my macro focusing skills. I’m not sure my eye has improved any; I did better on my first try than I remembered, though. After taking a few shots, I looked at the underside of the shell and decided it was every bit as interesting as the top. But, after downloading the photos, I found them to be very mundane so I transferred to Perfect Effects Black and White and tried various filters and effects. Then I returned to Lightroom and moved sliders around. I ended up with a decidedly 3-D effect. I have absolutely no idea what I did and it is unlikely that I could duplicate my efforts today, but I like the end result.

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2014—The Bicycle Thief

The bicycle is gone; all that’s left is its shadow, and the shadow appears to be heading down hill in pursuit of its origin.

I was so taken by the morning shadow of this bicycle locked to a lamp post on the patio of my gym that I hopped off the treadmill, grabbed my camera, and ran out to photograph it. My original thought was that the bicycle and the shadow together made an interesting photograph but despite photographing it from several angles, not a single one of the shots I took was good…until I rotated the shot 90° to feature the shadow and cropped out the bicycle almost completely. I used one of the “film noir” filters in Silver Efex Pro to emphasize the stark contrasts, turning it to a grainy, black and white, high key photograph.

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2014—Mon Petit Chou

I was in the yard with my long lens and D7100 at mid afternoon because I saw a white butterfly flitting around the lavender…a different white butterfly than visited the lavender the other day. It was a Pieris rapae (thank you Google), or Small Cabbage White Butterfly. I got two shots, one blurry and one not, so I’m featuring the “one not.” The title of this post, “mon petit chou” is probably my one and only chance ever to use this phrase of affection that I learned in French Class in high school. It literally means “my little cabbage.”

Focal Length 180; ISO 100; f/5; 1/1000; rotated 90° because, as shot, it looks (and I guess, really is) upside down.

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2014—Urban Fragments

I spent the day sorting through clutter and papers that have accumulated so quickly that I really wonder if there ever could be a “paperless” society as was so optimistically predicted more than 30 years ago. At one point in my shredding, I knocked over the bin of paper shreds, spilling its contents onto the floor. When I looked at the pile I was surprised to see words and numbers that were actually meaningful. I realized I was shredding incorrectly. Who knew there was a right way and a wrong way to shred? Feed the paper in; the shredder cuts it up, right? Wrong. If the paper is fed with the information parallel to the blades, even with a cross-cut shredder, the information that I am trying to obliterate can, at some level and with some effort, still be read if anyone is predisposed to do so. I looked at the heap of paper shreds and decided there was a photograph in it somewhere. And, once again, what luck! A recent Flickr challenge was “urban fragments.” If my shredded papers aren’t urban fragments, nothing is!

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2014—Espresso Yourself

Since acquiring my incredibly wonderful espresso machine in January, I have been making mostly Americanos for myself—a double shot of espresso with hot water added. I drink strong black coffee so an Americano seemed perfect for me. But I have, after all, an expensive espresso machine, not a coffeemaker. So, after finding a set of espresso cups yesterday, this morning I finally took advantage of Vaneli’s truly remarkable Classic Cremosa flavor, described as a “sweet creamy body with dark chocolate notes and a cherry finish.” It is heavenly! The undiluted espresso is so much more intense and delicious. I can’t wait to try Vaneli’s Espresso Forte that pushes “the sweet dark chocolate notes to the foreground.”

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I continue to grill every day. Tonight’s dinner included three of my favorite things: grilled fresh wild caught King salmon, grilled asparagus, fresh from the Sacramento Delta, and mango, in this case, fresh from Haiti! Yum.

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2014—Red Tongue

I’m still working on the fly-tying pix and mid afternoon, I decided I needed a break from them. I went outside about 3PM with my D7100 and the 70-200mm lens and sat by the lavender. I decided I wanted to capture bees in flight and stop the motion of the wings. I can do it with hummingbirds but it’s not as easy with bees, I’m finding. The only shot I liked was one of a bee completely still on the lavender. But, I thought the red proboscis was fascinating. It’s kind of a different view of a honeybee.

ISO 320, f/4, 1/800

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2014—Fishing On Lake George

I have spent the day editing about 1700 photos I took more than six weeks ago at the Northern California Fly Tying Expo held in Redding that was put on by the Shasta-Trinity Fly Fishers, of which my brother, Arthur, is a member. I stopped to take a break and decided to photograph a tiny fly, presented to me by Karl Jaeger, one of the fly tyers, at the expo. Since it is so small, I wanted to show some scale so I found a nickel in my wallet and set the fly on the nickel. As I set up the shot, I wondered whether Thomas Jefferson, whose face appears on the nickel, was a fly fisherman. A quick Google search (I love Google) revealed that he enjoyed fishing so that was good enough for me. This is a quote from a letter to his daughter found in the Papers of Thomas Jefferson about Lake George in the Adirondacks of New York, on May 31, 1791.

“An abundance of speckled trout, salmon trout, bass and other fish with which is stored, have added to our other amusements the sport of taking them.”

This is a macro shot, a 6 second exposure at f/51, ISO 100.

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2014—Lavender Wars

Three different winged critters were vying for dominance over the lavender this afternoon. First was a Skipper, a small orangey brown butterfly that looks more like a moth than a butterfly. When the Gray Hairstreak (my personal favorite) arrived, the skipper tried unsuccessfully to scare it away. A few honeybees made their presence known and before I knew it, the honeybees were in control and the two small butterflies were gone. I didn’t see the Skipper or the Gray Hairstreak again.

I used the 70-200mm lens on the D7100 and sat on the patio just a couple of feet away from the lavender and watched the battle for “king of the lavender” ensue. Once again, getting proper focus was my issue. First, I found I was frequently too close with the long lens because they were moving constantly and occasionally flying too close to me and I was seated. I also discovered that I have developed a very bad habit of holding my thumb on the AE-F button (I use back button focus) after I have achieved proper focus; in continuous focus mode, when I move to recompose or follow a moving creature, I lose focus. That could explain why I had no in focus shots of Webster, a Lanner/Saker falcon hybrid who put on an amazing acrobatic show at the California Foundation for Birds of Prey Open House last weekend. Now to concentrate on breaking that habit! I had the camera set to continuous focus but by the time the bees were in control, I had changed back to single point focus. That helped.

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2014—But I Don’t Like Chinese Food

Kate Marden of West Coast Falconry feeds a chunk of quail with a pair of chopsticks to 60 day old Enkidu (sort of rhymes with Inkydoo) her newest bird and a captive bred aplomado falcon, which is a medium sized American falcon native to the southwest. I fell in love with Enkidu at the Open House held by the California Foundation for Birds of Prey on Sunday. Enkidu has already grown to full size despite his youth, but he still exhibits that that sort of dumb Disney-esque look of a baby bird. After lunch, Enkidu settles down on handler Shawna’s arm for a nap.




If you’re following my blog, you know that I’m becoming a BBQ queen. I’ve barbecued 11 out of the last 12 days with my new Weber Performer Platinum grill and its electronic gas ignition. At the Auburn Home Show on Friday, I went to a barbecued pork rib demonstration by a local chef who is also a purveyor of barbecue rubs, i.e., “Big Dick’s Rib Rub—A Treat For Your Meat” (I kid you not). I actually bought some because the sample was fabulous and until I can figure out what spices he uses, I’ll rely on his to do ribs. I’m sure that with the title of this blog post, you’re thinking it’s about barbecued ribs. Not at all. At the Auburn Home Show on Saturday, I found an antique wooden canoe on display that caught my eye. It was a beautiful thing. My favorite shot of the several I took was of the canoe’s ribs, that I modified slightly in Perfect Effects.

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An alpaca I met at the Auburn Home Show on Friday looks warily at me and my camera. A pair of alpacas, one black and one white, were at a booth displaying items made from the wool of a small herd of alpacas from the Oakawahnee Ranch near Oakhurst. I discovered that photographing this pair of high contrast creatures in high contrast midday sun was a difficult challenge. If I exposed for the the black, the white alpaca was blown out and if I exposed for the white one, the black alpaca was in deep shadow. This is the only photo that I was pleased with because I only had to expose for one alpaca. I love the expression and the reflection in the eye.

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A couple of days ago, I noticed a single tiny lobelia plant in a dry planter bed struggling to bloom amid the dying moss and hard clay. Today I noticed that it was in bloom with three tiny flowers and even more buds, all on a tiny plant no taller than 2 inches. When I discovered that a recent Flickr challenge was “the number 3” I knew I had to photograph this valiant trio emerging from a plant that grew from a seed left over from long ago. I used to have lobelia and other bright annuals planted there but my garden suffers from neglect. I hope to rectify that soon.

I decided to use my macro lens for this shot. My tripod was sprattled rather precariously, two legs on the edges of the brick planter and one extending through my legs onto the patio. It was late morning with full sun beating down on me and the plant in our second heat wave of the season—102°is too hot too soon— so I shaded the plant with the diffusion panel from my reflector clipped to a garden chair. The lobelia flowers were each on a slightly different plane which wouldn’t have mattered had I not been using my macro lens with its ultra shallow depth of field so I couldn’t get the three in focus at once. I tried a smaller aperture but that brought more of the background into focus and I wanted the background soft. I took this shot at f/10, 1/13 second shutter speed and ISO 100.

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2014—Where There’s Smoke . . .

There’s barbecue! I am obsessed with my new Weber. I think it’s the gas starter that lights the charcoal without the hassle of newspapers or lighter fluid or charcoal chimneys that makes this such an easy thing for me. I’ve barbecued every day since I finished assembling it last week—nine days straight. Some were lunches and some were dinners; some were for me alone and some were for me and guests. I’ve barbecued steaks, chicken, pork chops, salmon, hamburgers. I’ve grilled asparagus and French bread, smearing the toasty bread with a raw garlic clove and slathering on butter. And as I’ve said, oh, how I’ve missed that smoky flavor.

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2014—Just What She Needed

It’s been a while since I last featured Bobo in this blog. Sadly, I continue to neglect her own blog so this will have to do. This morning before I left for the gym, Bobo looked a little pathetic so I picked up the squirt bottle and spritzed into the air. That perked her right up and she scrambled down the ladder onto the granite counter top. She was so happy about her anticipated spray bath that she calmly waited while I set up my camera on the tripod and attached the cable release.

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2014—Uh Oh, Am I Becoming A Birder?

Although my friends would probably beg to differ with me, I am not a birder. Oh, I obsess over the hummingbirds in my yard, that is true. I am occasionally privileged to rescue a hawk or owl for the California Foundation for Birds of Prey. My primary reason for ever going out onto Lake Shasta with my brother is to spot bald eagles, not catch rainbow trout. My annual visits to Port Aransas, Texas revolve around the opportunity to photograph great blue herons, great white egrets, roseate spoonbills, ibis, brown pelicans, and terns. And, much to the consternation of some of my friends, my favorite birds are the ultra-intelligent western scrub jays and yellow-billed magpies. I think of “birders” as little old men in khaki vests with spotting scopes stalking some innocuous small brown species of wren or finch. I’ve rescued my share of those little creatures, to be sure, but really…that certainly isn’t me…is it?

The other day while waiting for the Amgen Tour of California riders to reach the rural corner where I was stationed, I wandered down the road a bit and espied a bird I didn’t know. I wondered what it was. Uh oh, does that mean I’m becoming a birder? Do I have to know the species of every bird I encounter? This bird was fairly innocuous, robin-sized, brownish, with a yellow belly and a gray head. How dull could it be? Pretty dull, I think, but I liked the composition of the dry grass and barbed wire fence. The problem with this shot is that the poor bird appears to be impaled by a twig; the bane of portrait photographers. Now I have to worry about this with the birds I photograph.

If anybody cares, my Sibley’s Guide to Birds (one of about a dozen bird books I own…12 bird books, really? oh no!) identified this bird as a western kingbird. I’d never seen one before. I guess I better add it to my life list!



And Whoosh! they did as the Break, the six leaders of Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, turned from Riego Road onto Pleasant Grove Road into incredibly strong headwinds as the tour kicked off in Sacramento Sunday.

I used my D7100 and the 70-200mm lens. I should have used the same lens with my D800 because I was—incredibly—too close to the action; I would have liked a wider angle than the D7100 gave me. And, against my better judgment, after talking to another photographer there—a wedding photographer no less—I upped my ISO to 320 to allow a very fast shutter speed, 1/3200. I could have had ISO 100 with at least 1/1000 with no noise. It was a bright, sunny day and I didn’t need the higher ISO. But, live and learn. That’s why I do this.

It was a fun day. I was the first to arrive at the corner—a large gravel parking area at Riego Road and Pleasant Grove Rd.— more than 90 minutes before the race kicked off in downtown Sacramento and more than two hours before the racers would reach this spot. The area quickly filled up with spectators and a few serious photographers. A CHP officer advised me that once the roads were closed, I couldn’t leave. I assured him I was there for the duration. When the Amgen Tour Marshal dropped off the race official for that corner with his bright orange flag used to make sure the racers went the right way, things got interesting. He asked me if I had a broom. He declined the whisk broom I keep in the trunk. They needed to sweep the gravel off the road so it wouldn’t obstruct the riders as they turned at high speeds. The Sutter County Fire Department came to the rescue with their firetruck and push broom after being contacted by the Sheriff’s Deputy on site. Then a diesel pick up truck turned the corner prior to the road closure and unknowingly left a trail of slippery diesel fuel in the racers’ path; a deputy sheriff was dispatched after him and the Firemen, now assisted by Cal Fire, washed the diesel off the road and blew off the remaining chunks of gravel with a powerful blower.

The race official told me that I would get a great photograph of the riders as the Break formed an echelon, a way for riders to get maximum draft in a crosswind. So, I crossed Riego Road, away from the huge crowd that had formed, and waited with a couple of other like-minded photographers.

A seemingly endless stream of official race vehicles, CHP escort vehicles, and motorcycles preceded the Break. The six riders came suddenly into view in the distance, riding in the predicted echelon. They were riding less than 20 MPH as they approached, perhaps preparing for the effort they would have to make as they turned into stiff headwinds. Despite their relative slowness, however, they were gone too soon. There was a 5 minute break before the Peloton whooshed by. And then, it was over.

Three of the six leaders (Charles Planet, Eric Young, and Isaac Bolivar) riding in the diagonal Echelon:


Planet and Young, standing to pick up speed as they come off the turn into headwind:


The Peloton, the remaining 121 riders, whooshes by. It was 32 seconds from the first sighting of the Peloton in the distance crossing the railroad tracks on the levee until it disappeared from sight down Pleasant Grove Rd.