2018—Looking Very Owlish

I’m heading to Florida this week and so today’s post is a photograph I took in Florida last year.  It’s a Burrowing Owl whose burrow was on the edge of a busy neighborhood park on Sanibel Island.  It was past 7pm and the sun was beginning to set, the light was golden, and the owl could barely keep its eyes open.  But, it looks very owlish.

Florida Birds Day 1 75420-1.jpg

2018—Bumble Boogie

Playing the piano makes me smile.  And my piano is smiling too, thanks to my Nikon 8-15mm Fisheye lens.  Although I added a vignette to the edges of this shot, all 88 keys are in the photograph.  I set my camera a few inches away from the keyboard to capture it in its entirety and the sheet music too, which, by the way, is my all time favorite piano piece, Jack Fina’s Bumble Boogie.   Bumble Boogie is played “eight to the bar,” eight notes to a measure played very fast and its captivating beat is classic boogie woogie.

Bumble Boogie was written in 1946, the year I was born, and I used to hear it on the radio and on television in the 1950’s when I was a kid.   I loved its boogie rhythm and its play on Rimsky-Korsakov’s frantic Flight of the Bumble Bee.  I started taking piano lessons in the mid-1950’s.  When I went to Junior High School, rock and roll became a big part of my music world and I began to resist playing classical music.   Finally, after 6 years of classical piano lessons, the last two a constant argument with my mother about practicing, when I entered high school, my mother let me quit those weekly lessons.

After “hating” playing piano for what seemed to me like a lifetime, when I no longer had to practice and I could choose my own music, I began to actually enjoy playing again.  I decided to visit Stanroy’s Music Store in downtown Santa Rosa where in large bins next to the paper-sleeved 45’s from Elvis, Ricky Nelson (my first rock star crush), and the Shirelles,  I found a new world of sheet music that wasn’t classical.  So, for the first time, I had piano music that was modern and hip and not composed by Chopin or Bach or Haydn.  I was thrilled to find the sheet music for Bumble Boogie and I knew it was 75 cents well spent.   The irony that was lost on me then is that the music is based on a classical piece.

It took me months to learn the first three pages of  Bumble Boogie and before I knew it, I was in college and away from the piano.  When I came home to visit I’d play the first three pages of it but never got beyond that, let alone playing all eight pages.  Twenty years after I quit taking lessons, I got an electric keyboard and began to learn piano again.  I played mostly Rag Time Music by Scott Joplin and although the shortened keyboard required me to do some musical editing, it brought back the joy of piano music for me.  And, it was forty years before I once again had my own real piano, the Kawai upright pictured here, and the time to spend practicing music again.  I took jazz piano classes and those classes inspired me to relearn to play my precious  Bumble Boogie sheet music that had moved with me throughout my life.  After all that time, I finally learned to play it all the way through, and it was so gratifying to  play those tricky notes with my fingers flying across the keyboard.

Passion for photography has replaced my passion for piano but every once in a long while, I’ll sit down at the piano and play a little rag time or pop music from the 1960’s or even some Chopin.  It’s been several years since I played seriously but, what always makes me smile is playing  Bumble Boogie  even though I can barely make it through the first three pages again.

fisheye piano.jpg

2018—Home Surveillance

My new 8-15mm fisheye lens is a fun lens to use but as I have discovered,  it produces some unexpected results.  When it’s set at 8mm using an FX camera like my D850, it produces a circle and has a 180° view.  Yesterday after I finished experimenting with the lens, I set it on the kitchen table and walked across the room to check on another camera. I’d  been having some syncing issues related to the remote I use, Nikon’s wireless Wr-R10 system, and I wanted to see if the other camera would fire when I triggered the remote after using the D850 with the same remote.  I was satisfied to learn that indeed it did so I shut that camera off, shut off the D850 and downloaded images.  I was surprised to find this image which was the result of both cameras firing at once.  I suppose I could set up a home surveillance system with this very wide angle lens.  It captures all suspicious-looking activities.


2018—Backyard Sunburst

It’s taking me some time to get used to my new 8-15mm Fisheye lens.  I’ve only had a real chance to use it once,  when my camera club went to the abandoned train tunnels at Donner Pass.  I’m going to spend some learning more about it this week but I just reviewed the handful of shots I took the morning after I got the lens and I overlooked this shot of my fountain and the shrubs (and weeds) that surround it.  I was surprised to see the sunburst extending beyond the circle that the lens creates when it is set at 8mm.  Hmmm.  Something to look into.

Fisheye  backyard sunburst00161-1.jpg

2018—Back to the Tunnels

Visiting the abandoned train tunnels at Donner Summit is a fun and fascinating day trip.  When my camera club visited there a couple of weeks ago, we all agreed we wanted to return another day because there was so much more to see.  I, for one, moseyed along so slowly I barely made it into the third tunnel before our adventure had to end.  This is the second tunnel.  My shutter speed was 1/2 second so the people walking through at a faster pace than a mosey are blurred.

Donner Train Tunnels  00078-1.jpg

2018—Curious Yellow?

While I enjoyed a glass of Old Vine Zin on my patio Tuesday evening as the air quality improved and the temperatures were bearable, a pair of Lesser Goldfinches came down to enjoy the bubble in the fountain.  Only the female perched long enough for me to capture an image.  She looked curious about something


lesser goldfinch female.jpg

2018—Revisiting the Grand Canyon

In the past few days, I’ve had occasion to revisit photographs from the Grand Canyon taken on my first K&M Adventure  with Moose Peterson and Kevin Dobler in February 2013.  That was my first visit to the Grand Canyon and and it was a magnificent introduction to this geological treasure.   We had voluminous storm clouds and snow and rain and god beams.  It could not have been more spectacular.  This image didn’t have much color so I converted it to black and white for a more dramatic effect.

Grand Canyon Sat PM-129-1 V 2 B&W.jpg




2018—Bath Time for Bobo

One of Bobo’s favorite things is to get a spray bath.  I have a small, bright yellow spray bottle that I use only for Bobo’s baths and when she sees it, she immediately scrambles out of her cage door, races across the top, steps down the ladder leading to the countertop, and runs to the edge of the kitchen sink to await her bath.   Sadly for Bobo, over the past few days, I have been using “her” spray bottle for another purpose (spraying water drops onto grass leaves if you’ve seen my recent posts) and she has been denied her beloved bath time.  I’m done using the spray bottle for water drops for the time being and when I picked it up to put it away Saturday morning, she barely looked at it.  For several days, I had left it in full view on the countertop and I suppose she had stopped associating it with a bath.  But I spritzed her as she stood atop her cage and she remembered.  She scrambled down the ladder and ran to the edge of the sink to get a proper soaking.

Bobo bath.jpg

2018—Smoky Drop

The devastating wild fires that are consuming California have blanketed the state with smoke and ash.  Fires are raging, largely uncontained, and smoke covers a third of the state. Although I am more than 100 miles from any of the fires, the sky is hazy and the morning light is reddish.  When I took a photograph of a tiny blade of grass with a water drop yesterday morning, the sun shining through the smoky haze created a reddish aura around the droplet and the sun’s rays created a star burst that glowed red as well.

Nikon D850; 105mm Micro Lens; ISO 64; f/57; Shutter 1.3 sec.

smokey drop.jpg

2018—‟Hi! Canada Rules”

A little further inside Tunnel #6 of the abandoned train tunnels at Donner Pass, one is surrounded by the chiseled rock walls and ceiling and some of the “Kilroy was here!” type graffiti begins to appear.  White painted letters spelling out “Hi!” and “Canada Rules” almost leap off the walls.  The tiny figure of another photographer is barely visible near the small light at the end of the tunnel.

I stood close to the right wall of the tunnel and used a 5 second exposure to capture as much light as I could.  With the 8-15mm Fisheye lens set to 15mm, the wall appears to stretch and curve out to the right.

Donner Train Tunnels  00042-1.jpg






2018—Small Light at the End of the Tunnel

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chinese laborers completed drilling, blasting, and chiseling through the granite of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Donner Pass, an elevation of more than 7,000 feet.  They worked for the Central Pacific Railroad under Charles Crocker and built east from California where track they laid met with track set down by the Union Pacific, which worked westward.   About a year later, on May 10, 1869, the golden spike was hammered in at Promontory, Utah joining the two railroad tracks and establishing the Transcontinental Railroad system.  The Big Four, the railroad magnates of the time, Crocker, Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, and Mark Hopkins agreed that the task could not have been completed in the time constraints directed by Congress without the hard work and dedication by the thousands of Chinese laborers who worked around the clock to accomplish their incredibly difficult task.

This  portion of the track was decommissioned by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1993 and soon thereafter, they removed the tracks.  The abandoned  train tunnels are awe inspiring in their magnitude and considering that the tunnels were hollowed out of solid granite by hand, at a time when there was no electricity and machinery to do this kind of work was minimal if any existed at all.  Now the walls are covered in graffiti, some professional-looking, some amateurish, some childish, some clever, some funny.  It’s all colorful, perhaps a bit disrespectful to the thousands of workers who labored on these tunnels but it is all fascinating.

My camera club took a field trip to the tunnels on Saturday.  About a dozen of us joined the scores of people fascinated by the tunnels, their history, and their colorful new life. For most of the trip, I used my D850 and my brand new 8-15mm Fisheye lens.  This is the entrance to Tunnel #6.  The pinpoint of light at the bottom center of the image is the very small “light at the end of the tunnel.”  From this viewpoint, it’s hard to imagine that only 25 years ago, trains lumbered through these tunnels as they traversed the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Donner Train Tunnels  00039-1.jpg