2015—Different View of Mesa Arch

Back again to Canyonlands National Park and Mesa Arch. I don’t think I had really looked at the shots I got of Mesa Arch when we spent one morning there until yesterday. I used my fisheye lens and got what I think are rather unusual views of Mesa Arch. The top of the arch, which is actually flat, is at the left in both shots, not what you usually see in the guidebooks.

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2015—And They Called It Puppy Love

I can hear Paul Anka now, singing his anguished heart out. But Rosey, my friend Peggy’s pooch, has a different kind of “puppy love” for her stuffed reindeer. And, it is far from anguished…more like satisfied, I’d say. In this shot, she spent a moment caressing her “love,” making sure she licked off all of the peanut butter Peggy rubbed on the reindeer’s eye to keep Rosey’s attention fixed on one thing. It is so difficult to photograph a constantly moving target when you have no idea where they’ll move or what direction they’ll be facing. Once again, Rosey was another photographic challenge for me. This was one of a very few successful shots.

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My friend Peggy and I always have lunch at Lucca in downtown Sacramento before we attend the Saturday Matinée of Music Circus. Yesterday was no exception. I had the salad special that featured grilled chicken with walnuts, bleu cheese, and nectarines. It was delicious and looked beautiful but it wasn’t until the dessert arrived that I was compelled to take a photo…with my iPhone since I’d left Big Nik at home. Mike, our regular waiter for quite a few years, pointed at me when he cleared away our salad plates and said, “you order dessert,” then turned to Peggy and said, “and you don’t.” He grinned when we acknowledged the accuracy of his statement. I asked which of two desserts I was considering would be his choice. One was the Chocolate-Caramel Tart, which I’ve tried before and which is deliciously decadent. The other was the White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream, Fresh Strawberries, Strawberry Coulis and Toasted Almonds. Mike knew I’d tried the dark chocolate tart in the past so he recommended I try the white chocolate bread pudding. Peggy asked for two spoons! We were neither one sorry for our choice. The bread pudding is every bit as delicious and decadent as the tart.

This is an unedited iPhone shot.

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2015—The Shadow Of Your Smile

It’s so hot here (the Instant Read Thermometer I usually use for grilling registered 106.2° about 3PM yesterday) that I haven’t thought too much about taking photographs. This morning, while reviewing photographs on my computer, I ran across this shot of a Lesser Sandpiper that I took at the Lagoon on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica in January. I haven’t published it before now because I wanted to showcase the more exotic species I photographed in Costa Rica. The shot reminds me of cool coastal waters and, of course, the movie “The Sandpiper” and its award winning song of 50 years ago. And, looks are deceiving. The temperature when I took the shot, at about 6 AM, was nearing 80° and the humidity was about 95%. At least, as they say, we have DRY heat!

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Honora and I spent Wednesday afternoon in the “wine country.” We started with lunch on the patio at Rustic, the restaurant at Francis Ford Coppola’s winery in Geyserville where I took this shot of Honora with acres of vineyards in the background. Our table was just a couple of feet away from the lovely rose and herb garden.

We had a delightful afternoon examining the huge collection of Francis Ford Coppola memorabilia, including his Oscars (I’d never seen an Oscar in the flesh – uh, gold before) and a number of Golden Globes and Palmes D’Or. There were costumes and photographs and props from the various “Godfather” and other films and even the Tucker automobile from “Tucker.” It was a really fun place to explore.

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I’m visiting my friend Honora in Santa Rosa for a couple of days and we cooked fresh salmon and corn on the cob for dinner. It was delicious but we had to laugh at one of the cobs of corn which had, instead of perfect rows of kernels, a rather random hodgepodge of kernels.


2015—And Suddenly . . .

Eggplant! I’ve been watching the flowers on all of my veggies (I know, eggplants and tomatoes are technically fruits, or berries, I think) waiting for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to emerge. Yesterday, suddenly, a fully formed eggplant. Now I admit that the eggplant variety I have is called “Little Finger” and this particular eggplant is only about the size of a thumb…but I guess that’s saying something since a thumb is lots bigger than a little finger. There are lots of flowers on the plant and I expect that eventually one of the flowers will end up on the blog, too, but I was too excited about my first eggplant to bother with any of the flowers, as interesting as they are. I noticed a few yellow jackets buzzing around and an ant or two moving busily up and down the stems but I didn’t see any butterflies or larvae crawling around although it appears as if something has found it’s way into this eggplant. There is a prominent hole at the base of the stem. I hope there are not too many holes or pests in the eggplants. I’m looking forward to grilling these little gems.

I took this shot with my macro lens on the tripod. It was quite a challenge adjusting the tripod legs to allow an eggplant-eye view without crushing the vining ambrosia melon and a couple of marigolds next to it (well, I admit to injuring a marigold just a little), then crouching down to look through the viewfinder and determining focus while perched awkwardly on the edge of the raised bed. At least the raised bed has a bench (thank you Jesse and Lyle). The eggplant was shaded by foliage but the camera and I were in bright sun. Thanks to a magical photographer’s toy, my Hoodloupe, I was able to view the results and adjust the focus without extreme contrast or having to squint.

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2015—Wing Blur

The weather was surprisingly mild for this time of year Sunday afternoon, so I sat on my patio with my camera in my lap and enjoyed the slight breeze. When I heard the hummer’s chirp, I focused on him at one of the feeders and captured a few shots before realizing that my ISO was set to 100, too low to get a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the wing movement. When I downloaded the shots, I decided the blur of the wings was quite appealing. At a shutter speed of 1/60 though, there is still some movement of the head and the eye isn’t in crisp focus in of the shots, but I love the patterns of the wing blur.

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2015—Four-Legged Butterfly?

A couple of Gulf Fritillaries flit about my yard every day. I happened to catch this one as it landed on the butterfly bush to feed. They have very short front legs that aren’t even noticeable so they look like 4-legged insects. What appears to be a fifth “leg” is really the fritillary’s proboscis through which it drinks nectar from flowers. I didn’t get the eye in focus; these butterflies don’t stay put for long so I was having trouble keeping him in the viewfinder let alone in focus.

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I’ve never been a braggadocious kind of person but something happened the other evening that motivates me to toot my own horn just a bit. For the second year in a row, I was awarded “Print of the Year” by the Placer Camera Club. I am thrilled that my peers like and appreciate my photography enough to bestow this honor on me. This year I won for a sunrise photograph I took in Costa Rica in January on a K&M Adventures trip with Kevin Dobler and Moose Peterson. Last year, I won the same award for another sunrise photograph I took on a K&M Adventure with Kevin and Moose in the Grand Canyon. I tried something new for this year’s print competition. I had the Costa Rica photograph printed on aluminum, something I’ve wanted to try since seeing metal prints in Arizona a couple of years ago. There is something spectacular about a metal print; the technique gives the photograph incredible depth and clarity. I was very pleased with my first metal print and even more thrilled when it won the award. Here is the print itself bedecked with its ribbons, a first place in the “Landscape” category and the very fancy “Photo of the Year” ribbon.

Thank you, Placer Camera Club!
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2015—Girl On A Swing

I finally finished reviewing all of the photographs I took of Faith the other day. I found quite a few that I think Noelle will be able to choose from to create a birthday party invitation. After spending an hour or so posing for photographs, Faith started to get tired and her silliness turned to boredom, so I put my camera away. We headed over toward the swings. Finally free to do what she wanted to do, Faith ran and jumped onto one of the swings. I took out my camera again and caught only a couple of shots of her. This was the second shot I took and I love it. Her face is shaded and out of direct sun, her blowing hair frames her face perfectly, her smile is both serene and happy, and she is looking straight at me.

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2015—Fashionista Tomboy

Faith, my personal trainer’s daughter, is turning five in a couple of weeks. Every year, I take the photograph for Faith’s birthday party invitation so it was time Tuesday morning to take the annual photographs. Faith is growing up and developing a very distinct personality. She loves to ham it up and act silly in front of the camera but she’s as much a natural model as she is a ham. She insisted on four wardrobe changes, all very feminine dresses but she climbs the jungle gym, dangles from the ropes, swings from chains, and does flips over the railings much to the chagrin of her equally athletic mother, Noelle. She is what I’d call a fashionista tomboy. I took 599 photos and have looked at only a third of the shots so far because I have been busy and haven’t yet had the time yet to go through them all. But when I saw this photo a third of the way into the shoot, I fell in love with it and decided it had to be my photo of the day. Faith is a real charmer and I think this shot oozes charm.

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2015—Judy, Judy, Judy

I’ve heard that Cary Grant never uttered the words “Judy, Judy, Judy” in a movie…but the phrase is so…um…Cary Grant. This rose is called “Judy Garland” and when I took its picture, that phrase ran over and over in my head. The rose once belonged to my mother and my brother urged me to bring it home with me. Roses are spectacular in the Santa Rosa climate but I wasn’t sure it would do well moving suddenly from perfect rose growing weather to hot, hot, hot. To add insult to injury, when we arrived back in the valley heat, we discovered that the clay pot it was in had broken in the trailer and I was afraid it would not make it. It had been neglected for quite a few years and it was showing little sign of health; there were no buds or new green growth and the spring growth had already yellowed and was covered with black spot. After a couple of days, I repotted it in fresh soil in a larger pot and fertilized it. Even in drought conditions, the miniscule TLC I administered did the trick. It immediately began to sprout new, healthy leaves and buds. There are now several open and I was delighted to see this small rose making a comeback in my garden.

I took this shot with the macro lens set at ISO 400, f/9, 1/100. I took several shots and focus stacked the images to get more of the rose in focus.


2015—And The Beets Go On

Not exactly what Sonny and Cher had in mind, I know, but their words came to mind in a manner of speaking when I prepared the beets for a beet and goat cheese salad this past weekend when my friend Honora came to visit. It was only after I had roasted the red, gold, and white beets, sliced them wafer thin on the mandolin, and marinated them in a walnut oil vinaigrette with chives from my garden that I found out that Honora hates beets. They make her gag. I understand. It’s the way I feel about English peas. So, we discussed what to do with the beets, and we decided they looked good enough to photograph. But by then, we were working on our second glass of wine and by the time I took these, I wasn’t particularly careful with my composition or focus. I’m happy to report that Honora did try the salad and she said she enjoyed it… and, she cleaned her plate.

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Green onions from the farmers’ market are much more robust and healthy looking than the thin, scrawny green onions I usually buy at the supermarket. When I first saw these I thought they were small leeks. I wanted to use my macro lens and get more of the onions in focus so I set the aperture to f/36, the shutter speed to 1/4 second, and the ISO at 250. The depth of field was much deeper with the smaller aperture and I didn’t need to use focus stacking to get everything I wanted in focus and the slow shutter speed worked fine with the flash.

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2015—Rainier Cherries

As I drove down Rocklin Road Thursday morning, I noticed that the Rocklin Farmer’s Market was in full swing. I pulled in and purchased lots of fresh produce. I bought red, yellow, and white beets, white and yellow nectarines, broccoli, green onions, and Rainier Cherries. I photographed the cherries on a shiny black enameled pan using the macro lens set to ISO 320; f/36; 1/60 and used the Speed Light soft box set on the left so the light came from only one side.

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2015—Nekkid Espresso

There is something very sexy about espresso; it is a sensuous drink. Even the equipment is sexy. One piece of equipment is called a Naked Portafilter! When you pull a shot using a Naked Portafilter, the espresso collects visibly at the center of the filter then streams seductively into the brewing pitcher or shot glass.

Vaneli’s asked me to take some photographs of espresso as it flows from a Naked Portafilter and I tried to do it there a couple of weeks ago but was disappointed in my results because of focus issues and my failure to notice that the espresso machine we used had some spots and blotches that were not easily removed in Photoshop. After that photo session, Gene Lemos of Vaneli’s gave me my very own Naked Portafilter. He also told me that a perfect Naked Portafilter shot would coalesce to the center and drip in a single stream with beautiful tiger stripes. They have asked me to come back and try again for a perfect naked portafilter shot.

I decided to try it myself at home before going back to Vaneli’s so that I would be better prepared. One of the things I had to do was to work on tamping the grounds perfectly because if they’re not perfectly tamped, the espresso drips from several places instead of just streaming from the center. I think I managed to capture that with this effort, and while it’s not perfect, the tiger stripes are beautiful. At least I have some practice so I’ll have more confidence and hopefully more success when I return to Vaneli’s Thursday to try again.

I used the macro lens and my soft box to diffuse the flash from the speed light: ISO 100; f/8; 1/60s