2016—It’s Cooler Elsewhere

The 105° temperatures of the past few days (the “but it’s a DRY heat” mantra doesn’t cut it when there are two or more successive days of triple digits) prompted me to take a look back at my Haines, Alaska photos.  This one, especially, caught my eye because the eagle is perched on a snow covered branch.  I feel cooler just looking at it.

Haines, AK Perched Eagle.jpg

2016—Vintage Dior

I’m practicing with my remote speed light and it continues to challenge me.  I wanted to try my hand at photographing a piece of vintage costume jewelry that I brought home from my Mom’s  a year ago.  It was a good challenge for me to use flash.  I used my 105mm macro lens and tried various apertures from f/2.8 to f/45 and placed the brooch on a mirror to get reflections.  In the end, I decided the most interesting result was using the lens set to f/3.2 to get the out of focus reflection in the mirror.  I also tried rear curtain sync so the flash triggered at the end of the exposure not at the beginning.

I was actually looking for something else in the jumble of necklaces, pins, earrings, and bracelets placed haphazardly in the various frayed boxes and worn fabric jewelry cases in which  my Mom, for decades, had stored her collection of mostly costume jewelry.  When I picked up this piece of glittery, and just a bit gaudy, costume jewelry and noticed there was writing on the pin, it got a bit more interesting.  The writing said “Chr. Dior 1961” and “Made in Germany.”  Although Christian Dior died in 1957, the heyday of his fashion house  continued into the 1960’s.   I did a quick Google search  which showed this set (there are earrings, too) might have some value.  Since I’m going to be in San Francisco on Thursday with my friend Melinda, spending the day wandering the City (as much as two old broads feel comfortable wandering around San Francisco) I thought I would take the brooch set and a few other vintage pieces to a dealer who specializes in vintage estate jewelry.  Turns out the dealer I found, within walking distance of our starting point, isn’t interested in 1950’s and 1960’s vintage jewelry.  “Don’t you have anything older?” she asked, after making an appointment.  “We don’t usually deal in that sort of thing,” she sniffed.  So, the appointment is cancelled and  Melinda and I will have more time to wander around the City in search of wonderments to photograph.

Dior Pin.jpg

2016—Remote Flash!

My Nikon D5 camera and my Nikon SB5000 Speed Light can be paired so that the flash can be triggered  remotely from the camera. I had to send my Wireless Remote Control WR-R10 to Nikon to update the firmware in the remote set so it would work with the new camera and new speed light.  I finally got the three pieces working together.  Bobo was my willing (?) subject with the camera on a tripod in front of her and the SB5000 setting off to her right on the window seat.  I had the flash compensation set to -2 and the 50mm f/1.4 lens wide open which is why only her head is in focus.  She is in the process of stretching one of her legs and wings simultaneously, something she does after she’s been sitting still for a while.  I’ve used remote flash to photograph the hummingbirds but it required the built in camera flash to trigger the remote flash and there needed to be a way for the remote flash to “see” the trigger light.   My D5 does not have a built in flash so the remote flash set up needs another form of trigger.  With this set up, the wireless remote triggers the flash—it is radio controlled so “line of sight” is not needed.

Bobo Flash.jpg

2016—Six Degrees of (Kevin) Bacon

There was no Kevin Bacon in evidence to photograph this morning but my skillet of bacon seemed like a good subject.  Last Tuesday, I started on the PaleoRestart program, a 30 day jump start into eating Paleo.   I started this plan because I needed something different to motivate me to lose the 20 extra pounds that have plagued me for the past 2 1/2 years and that I have been unable to successfully lose and keep off.  I live in fear that my 80 pound weight loss of 30 years ago, that I managed to successfully maintain for 27 years, will evaporate .  Already, I can no longer claim almost a quarter of my long time maintained weight loss.

I ran across a Paleo magazine and decided that the foods on the Paleo eating plan are foods that I already eat and like.  I didn’t think it would be difficult.  Paleo Restart provides recipes for 3 meals a day for 30 days.  There’s lots of cooking but so far, the effort has been worth it.  In a nutshell, a Paleo diet, which sort of means eating like the cave men ate, is high in fat, moderate in animal proteins and low to moderate in carbohydrates and it encourages eating nutrient-dense, nourishing foods.  I’m not quite sure how bacon, even if it is uncured and nitrate free, was ever a part of a cave man’s diet but I’ll run with it because I love bacon.  After 4 days of following the plan almost to the letter (I had a couple of glasses of wine the other night) I’m down 3 pounds.  So far so good!

I fiddled around  so long making white balance and exposure adjustments that I actually overcooked (not quite burned but almost) the bacon.


2016—R.I.P. Band-tailed Pigeon

The band-tailed pigeons at Moose Peterson’s house are not welcomed with open arms there.  This largest of pigeons lives in the pine forests and arrives in flocks to dominate the feeders and the perches near the feeders, scaring the smaller birds away.  When suddenly all the birds became silent and disappeared one afternoon, Moose suspected a sharp-shinned hawk was in the neighborhood.  It wasn’t long before large white and gray feathers wafted past the deck from the rooftop, signaling the demise of one of these unwelcome birds.  I’m not sure if this bird was the unfortunate meal for the sharpie but if so, I’ve preserved it for posterity.  R.I.P., band-tailed pigeon.


2016—White-headed Woodpecker Revisited

When I visited Moose Peterson’s house last December for some one-on-one instruction with my 600mm lens, I photographed a white headed woodpecker from inside his office.  Moose’s office is spacious and airy with lots of large windows and a sliding glass door that provide prime viewing of the birds that frequent his feeders.  The doors and windows remain open whenever there is an opportunity to shoot, regardless of the weather or outdoor temperatures.  I’m told that sometimes snow blows into the office.  It didn’t snow while I was there in December but it was chilly and the deck and railing outside the sliding glass door was covered with snow.   Weather during my June visit was much nicer but it still got a bit chilly in the office with all the doors and windows open.  I’m not sure if this is the same  white-headed woodpecker from   six months ago , but I got a better shot this time.


2016—Dead Trees

Since 1980,  near the Long Valley Caldera and at adjacent Mammoth Mountain, California,  large volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) gas seeping from beneath the volcano is killing trees on the mountain.  We visited the area at Horseshoe Lake as the sun was coming up one morning.

Dead Trees at Horseshoe Lake.jpg

2016—Stellar Jay

This Stellar Jay spent lots of time around the feeders at Moose’s house in Mammoth Lakes.   I practiced a little “content aware” patching in post processing.  The branch was an artificial branch placed near the feeders for photography purposes.  The original photograph shows that the branch is attached to an aluminum pipe.  I never was able to photograph the jay far enough away from the pipe to eliminate it from the composition so I removed it in post.  Ya gotta love that Content Aware feature in Photoshop.

Stellar Jay.jpg

2016—Refrigerator Magnet

After my initial excitement over photographing the Milky Way at 10,000 plus feet last week, I discovered that the photographs I took that evening in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest were not quite as good as I thought they were.  The shortcomings of the photos were revealed when I printed them in a printing workshop conducted by Moose Peterson in Mammoth Lakes, a few days after I took them.  Printing the Milky Way shots at 24 X 30 inches (the gold standard for a photographer’s prints)  revealed myriad major problems with my photos.  As it turns out, while they don’t look too bad on an iPhone or computer screen, every bit of noise caused by incorrect camera settings and every out of focus star caused by my carelessness at focusing the lens (darkness is no excuse) leapt off the page.  The workshop was an eye opening experience for me.  I discovered it is crucial to get the photograph correctly exposed and composed in camera.  Photoshop can repair only so much and some Photoshop adjustments cause the photographs to break and fall apart.  Printing a photograph on such a large scale shows whether the photograph was a good one to begin with.  While I did manage to get a couple of photographs right during the Printing Workshop, and those printed beautifully at 24X30 inches, none of my Milky Way shots made the cut.  They had such potential in my mind but instead, they are more suited to be refrigerator magnets.

Milky Way 20161627-1.jpg

2016—Cliff Swallows

Early Sunday morning, we drove from Mammoth Lakes to a site on the Owens River to photograph the cliff swallows.  The area is owned by the City of Los Angeles and is part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct system.  There seemed to be scores of mud nests and at least as many cliff swallows busy at various nesting stages.     According to The Sibley Guide to Birds, cliff swallows nest colonially, building enclosed jug-shaped nests on rocks or buildings.  In this case, the mud nests are on the underside of the pilings left from a bridge that no longer has a roadbed.

Except for the first shot, which is an iPhone shot,  I took all the shots with my 600mm lens.  None of the shots is cropped.  The iPhone shot shows the overall scene of the cliff swallow colony.  The next three shots show what I presume to be routine cliff swallow activity, carrying insects to feed nestlings, excavating debris from the nest, and waiting at the nest opening.  The last shot appears to be some sort of territorial dispute with one swallow, from inside the nest, holding another by what I think must be the bird equivalent of the “scruff of the neck” while the swallow being dangled squirms to free itself.  The dangling swallow was eventually released and plummeted for several inches before recovering from the insult of being restrained and flying off.


The Owens River Cliff Swallow Colony:Owens River Cliff Swallow Nests

Cliff Swallow with insect-filled beak:Cliff Swallow bug


Cliff swallow excavating debris from the nest:Cliff Swallow Cleaning House


Cliff swallow at nest opening with mate’s head barely visible:Cliff Swallow at Nest


Interloper swallow being restrained by annoyed cliff swallow:Cliff Swallow Dangling


2016—Starry, Starry Night

Vincent Van Gogh probably couldn’t see the magnificent view of the Milky Way that we photographed Tuesday night—our lenses record much more detail than the naked eye—but he certainly had a vision of the spectacular sight of this starry, starry night.  We hiked up to one of the oldest trees in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, thought to be at least 3500 years old, to try our hand at photographing the Milky Way.  At about 9:30 PM, Richard, Dave, and I huffed and puffed our way about a half mile from the parking lot to the tree at 10,256 feet of elevation, carrying our gear in the pitch black night along a narrow, shale covered path that rose in elevation about 300 feet.  It took about a half hour to get up there.   There is no light pollution at that elevation because there is nothing else around.  Our small headlamps gave us plenty of light to make our way up the mountain.  We spent three hours photographing the Milky Way as it rose in the night sky and then at just after 1:00 AM, we hiked back down.  We were so excited about what we had just witnessed that we couldn’t bring ourselves to pack up our gear so we spent another half hour photographing the  Milky Way from the parking lot.  I took my last photograph at 2:05AM.  We packed up the car and drove back to Bishop, about an hour and a half drive, getting back to our hotel about 4:00 AM.  This is a photograph of the Milky Way that I took from  the parking lot.


Starry Starry Night.jpg

2016— Really Old

We hiked through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest high up in the White Mountains in Inyo National Forest on Tuesday.  The elevation is over 10,000 feet so the air is thin and I huffed and puffed up and down the hilly, shale covered trail carrying my camera on its tripod.  The Bristlecone Pines are the oldest trees in the world and the pines found here are the oldest, some over 5000 years old.  This one doesn’t appear to be alive any longer but many of the trees here appear dead but have a branch or two with green pine needles.  The textures of the bark is twisted and gnarled making the trees look otherworldly.  If you stare at the trees long enough, it’s easy to imagine they are creatures instead of trees.  I used a polarizer to darken the sky and converted the shot to black and white.


Bristlecone Pine.jpg