2014—Delicious Mutsu

We drove up to Apple Hill on Saturday morning. The weekend crowds that would have normally descended on the apple farms for the fall harvest, crowding the narrow roads and farm stands, were light because of the cool weather and the lingering smoke from the King Fire. We discovered a new-to-us apple called a Mutsu which is absolutely delicious and which is a cross between a Golden Delicious and the Indo varieties grown in Japan. I brought home a bag.

I took the first shot at a farm stand that made apple pies with Golden Delicious apples. This box of Golden Delicious apples would soon be peeled and sliced for pie filling. I took a shot of the Mutsu apples after we returned home. I sliced these apples and served them for an afternoon snack after I finished taking pictures of them.

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2014—Impala SS

Impalas are known for their leaping ability and while touring Safari West, and we saw a small herd of them leap and cavort across a clearing as the sun broke through the overcast skies just before noon. I was able to capture a few of their leaps but none of the shots I captured show their signature 9 foot high leaps. Nevertheless, I was happy to get a few in acceptable focus as they ran by in groups of two and three.

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2014—Stripe

The zebras at Safari West don’t always make an appearance so we were thrilled to see several groups of Damara zebra on our outing. The Damara zebras have faint gray or brown stripes on their flanks in addition to the black stripes with which we associate zebras. The first shot of the mother and baby zebra is not in crisp focus but I loved the photo so I included it.

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2014—Reunion

The Santa Rosa High School 50th high school reunion, my class of ’64, was last weekend. What a fun event. More than a third of our graduating class of 378 students participated in the weekend long event that included a grad night, a tour of the high school, and a dinner. And, at the dinner, my table won the Beatles’ memorabilia quiz, so we each went home with a bottle of Zinfandel. Plus, I was the first one to blurt out the significance of the date, February 9th, 1964, the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, so I won another bottle of wine. So, do you think I might be a Beatles fan?

Here are a few of the photos I took at the tour of the high school and one cell phone shot at the Saturday night dinner when the school’s original Pandy mascot made a surprise appearance. The SRHS “Pandy” no longer looks like this so it was fun to see our school mascot as we remembered him, usually played by a “her.”

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2014—Plug

We toured the Santa Rosa High School campus as part of our 50th reunion weekend. It was so much fun to see the campus again and the buildings where we once had classes. SRHS is a beautiful school, originally built in 1924 and used as the backdrop of several Hollywood films, most notably, “Peggy Sue Got Married” in 1985. It is a top rated school and now has a waiting list for students to attend because of it is one of the few schools in the area with a specialized curriculum that includes the arts, agriculture (including viticulture) and an industrial program that features woodshop, autoshop, and metal shop. I don’t recall ever seeing the metal or wood shops while I was in high school, probably because those classes were not open to girls back then. While we were touring the metal shop, I noticed some electrical plugs suspended from the ceiling and focused my attention and my camera on them.

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2014—Pinot

Friday morning, since we were in “the wine country” (it wasn’t known as “the wine country” when we lived here) we visited a Santa Rosa vineyard owned by my sister-in-law’s brother. My brother who was also visiting there, drove us around and through the pinot noir grape vines in the John Deere Gator. Most of the grapes had been harvested but the leaves were turning and the light behind them made the colors pop.

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2014—Dew Drop Inn

I’m back at Honora’s house, AKA The Dew Drop Inn for all the dew drops on her flowers, enjoying the foggy, dewy Santa Rosa morning, such a contrast to the hot, dry Sacramento Valley. I’m here with some old high school friends for our 50th (can that be true?) high school reunion. As I wandered through Honora’s colorful garden before anyone else got up, the overcast skies made the flower colors pop. This orange viola, with dew drops and webs, caught my eye. I didn’t plan it but the colors of this shot reflect Santa Rosa High School colors, orange and black.

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2014—Morning Sky

While I lurked on the patio early Monday morning, hoping for a hummingbird encounter, the sky was filled with pink clouds. In this drought-plagued state, I was hopeful that the red sky in the morning would cause sailors to take warning and there would be a huge downpour. Sadly, the clouds quickly dissipated but before they did, I was rewarded with an interesting view of the colorful sky through the cross beams of my patio pergola and the oak leaves over the wall.

Focal Length 400mm, ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/500

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2014—Fire Cloud

The King Fire is burning in steep terrain in the South Fork of the American River Canyon and Silver Creek Canyon, north of the community of Pollock Pines, about 50 miles east of where I live. As I write, the fire is only 5% contained and there are both mandatory and voluntary evacuations in affected communities. Wednesday afternoon, driving east in the direction of the fire after picking up my friend Susan at the airport, the pyrocumulus clouds, also known as fire clouds, caused by the firestorm were clearly visible, more than 60 miles away. We stopped a couple of times driving east on Elverta Road to capture these photos of the pyrocumulus clouds looming in the distance beyond the rice fields and farms. Amazingly, as I write, no structures have been destroyed but many are threatened.

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2014—A Different View

Whenever you read about effective wildlife photography, the emphasis is always on making sure the eyes of the creature are in focus, most preferably with a distinct highlight in the eye itself, and, if that creature looks directly at the lens, pulling the viewer into the photograph, wow! You’ve achieved photographic Nirvana, at least when it comes to photographing wildlife, assuming composition and exposure are perfect. After turning the Vibration Reduction setting to the “on” position on my 80-400mm lens, I set out to rectify my errors of prior days. There was some hummingbird activity with lots of chasing and very little hovering so I held little hope that I would get a hummingbird shot. However, finally one of the hummers seemed to have earned the right to drink at the fountain without being harassed and I was ready. I got several decent shots of the hummer just standing still in the water drinking and although those shots were in focus and had the requisite highlights in the eyes, they were nothing special or different from what I’ve posted here many times. However, I did get two shots with the hummer’s wings deployed (if that’s a term that can be used with bird wings) and they are in decent, though not perfect, focus. The trouble is, the eyes are completely obscured by the wings in both shots. Still, I liked the shots because they show the wings and in the second shot, it’s clear that the hummer is still getting new feathers. One of the left wing feathers has not grown out fully and the white keratin sheath that holds the new feather while it matures is visible.

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2014—Gray Hairstreak

I have more than a few streaks of gray in my hair so I was delighted to see the return to my garden of the Gray Hairstreak butterfly, a small butterfly with a penchant for herbs. Here are three shots of it, two on the flowering basil and one of the flowering chive. I decided to use the D800 with the 80-400mm lens and set the camera to shutter priority mode in case something fast moving came by. The Gray Hairstreak tends to sit for a while on a flower, turning for the best access so I didn’t really need the fast shutter speed but I like the exposure and I didn’t feel the need to apply any exposure compensation. I did almost nothing to these shots beyond the minimal preset I apply when downloading files and I cropped them.

Focal Length 400mm, ISO 100, f/9, 1/400s

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Focal Length 400mm, ISO 100, f/10, 1/400s

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2014—What A Difference A Day Makes

Twenty-four little hours. Well, to be exact, 22 little hours and 45 little minutes. I tried hand holding another moon shot, this time with the Vibration Reduction set to “on” and I was more successful this morning. In addition, the moon was a bit higher in the sky causing me to lean back a bit so the camera rested on my face steadying it even more.

This morning, the moon is in its “last quarter” phase. They sky actually had blue in it this morning when I took the shot but the smaller aperture and finer ISO made it darker than yesterday’s shot.

Focal Length 400mm, ISO 200, f/13, 1/200

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2014—Waning Gibbous

I missed the last Super Moon so Sunday morning when I was outside about 8 AM before leaving for the gym, I noticed that the waning gibbous moon was still in the sky. I took a few shots, hand holding the camera which is not what I normally do when I photograph the moon. I usually clamp the camera (or in the case of the 80-400mm lens, clamp the lens itself) firmly to its tripod and use the remote or timer to take the shots to avoid as much camera shake as possible. I discovered, much later, that not only did I not use a tripod or timer, the vibration reduction was turned off. I don’t know when I might have turned it off. It’s likely been off for a while now because I only turn it off when I use a tripod and I haven’t used the tripod with the 80-400 lens in weeks because I want to practice hand holding it as steady as possible. This may explain my recent disappointments with less than perfectly focused images.

Note to self: Pay attention!

I was pleased to see that the moon shots I took were in fairly decent focus, despite hand holding the camera. While not as good as when I use the tripod, they were acceptably clear. It must mean I’m getting better at hand holding this monster lens but I still have a long way to go. And the moon is a stationary object (more or less) not an erratically moving creature. So, it’s practice, practice, practice, and more practice.

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2014—High Key, Low Key

I noticed a few water drops on the back of the petals of a gerbera daisy I had just placed in a vase. I thought it would make a good shot. I photographed it on a white background and after seeing the results, and noting how “high key” the shot looked, I decided to try a similar shot with a “low key” effect, moving the flower to my black granite window seat. I took the “high key” shot with my OTT lights as the light source. When I moved the flower to the window, natural daylight provided the light source.

I ended up using different apertures because when I moved to the granite, the reflections were distracting so I had to blur them out with a larger f/stop. And, my placement of the petals in the second shot was not as effective as in the first but I noticed that too late to correct it. Still, I love photographs with dark backgrounds, so I think I prefer the second shot.

Focal Length 56mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/50

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Focal Length 52mm, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/40

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2014—Tesla

Tesla, a California Foundation for Birds of Prey education bird, is a Golden Eagle who survived electrocution many years ago after landing on a power line and plummeting to the ground, breaking her shoulder. She lost talons on her left foot from the electrocution but the broken shoulder prevented her release back to the wild and sealed her fate as an education bird. She was on display at the San Francisco Caledonian Club’s Annual Scottish Gathering and Games over Labor Day weekend. In this shot, she had just been spritzed with water to cool her down. The water drops show on her head and neck.

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