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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

 

2018—Revisiting Vermont

I was reviewing photographs from my trip to Vermont last fall and found this misty view across Kent Pond.

 

Kent Pond, VT.jpg

2018—Oh, the Possibilities!

Yesterday was my birthday and my birthday present to myself was…surprise… a new lens.  But not just any lens.  It’s Nikon’s 8-15mm Fisheye lens.  It has a 180° field of view and focuses 6 inches away from the subject.  Oh, the possibilities!  At 8mm, it creates a circle of wonderment.  At 15mm, it doesn’t create a circle but the creative possibilities are endless.  When it arrived yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to try it.  But first thing this morning, I was out in my garden testing it out.  Here are two 8mm shots from my garden.

Fisheye 00270-1Fisheye 00252-1

2018—Elegance in the Treetops

While we were in Madera Canyon, we heard that the birders visiting the lodge were excited about an Elegant Trogon seen in the area and lots of people came to the Coronado National Forest because they heard about the Elegant Trogan sightings.  For the first couple of days, we occasionally heard the trogons calling their harsh, yappy dog barking call but never saw one.

Then, one afternoon, during a brief rest break from hummingbird photography, Sharon found Richard and me idly chatting and told us Moose had staked out the male Elegant Trogan in a tree on a hiking trail near the lodge.  We quickly changed to our longest lenses and marched off toward the trail, camera rigs slung over our shoulders.  During the short walk to the trailhead, then throughout the walk over the creek and across the brush, we could hear the barking of the Trogon.  Then, we saw him, perched on the edge of a tree cavity searching for a mate.   The more colorful males find what they think is a good nest cavity, stake it out, then call to the female in the hopes she’ll come and find it acceptable.

Elegant Trogan 2

At one point, the female approached and landed in a tree directly over our heads.  The male dipped deeper in to the tree cavity and his calls were modulated, apparently a Trogon signal to the female about the nest cavity.   We watched the frustrated male and listened to his plaintive cry for about half an hour while the female flirted with him, then left.  Finally, the male Elegant Trogan took a last look around, gave up his quest, and flew away too.

Elegant Trogan

2018—Only as Big as Your Thumb

I have been busy printing photographs to go on display along with those of other members of my camera club at a local hospital.  We’re hanging photographs under the Art Can Heal program so the prints have to have subject matter that is not disturbing.  I will be hanging 13 prints, mostly birds and a few landscapes.  While considering what I might print, I revisited my files from my last year’s trip to Costa Rica.   At first, I thought I’d print this adorable, no bigger than your thumb, Spurrell’s Leaf Frog  (also known as Spurrell’s Flying Tree Frog).  He is irresistibly cute to some, but I have a good friend who is terrified of frogs so he fell off the list just in case someone else is as afraid of frogs as she is.  Then, another friend wondered if I was going to make a blog post today because it was noon and I hadn’t posted one yet.  So, since the files were at hand, here he is, along with a shot of him to prove that he’s no bigger than a thumb.

 

Spurrell's Leaf Frog.jpg

 

Spurrell's Leaf Frog on thumb

 

 

2018—Taking a Break

In Madera Canyon, a female Broad-billed Hummingbird rests on a twig before returning to the feeders.

Day 1 female Broad-billed hummer perched.jpg

But, she remains alert and watches for the inevitable harassment from other hummingbirds.

Wary Female BRoadbilled hummer.jpg

2018—Flying Jewel

A male Broad-billed Hummingbird shows off his jewel-like feathers in Madera Canyon a couple of weeks ago.

Flying Jewel

2018—“Hey, Is That the Bird You’re After?”

Before I went to the gym on two mornings last week, my camera and I were at the city’s Mahany Nature Preserve, which is next to my gym. There are acres of dried grasses, a creek, a seasonal pond, a small grove of blue oak trees and some birds.  A Cooper’s Hawk watched from atop a stump.  Mourning Doves perched in the limbs of cottonwood tree.  Western Bluebirds flew in the distance.   A Western Kingbird observed from the top of a dead oak tree.  Scrub Jays scolded from the treetops.  Anna’s Hummingbirds buzzed by my head.   Lesser Goldfinches flitted around tall grasses near the creek.  A white-breasted Nuthatch scurried down a branch.  Acorn Woodpeckers announced their presence with rat-a-tats.  Aha!  That’s what I was there for.  And, when I espied a pair high in a dead tree, I left the trail and slowly approached the tree, keeping my eyes on the birds as I walked.  I hoped to get a better chance at a good shot if I got closer

“Hey! Is that the bird you’re after?” a harsh voice shouted at me.  The woodpeckers  flew off and I glared in the direction of the voice.  The voice was from a man I had encountered when I entered the preserve.  He had asked me lots of questions about my camera and what I was photographing in the preserve.  We kept pace for 50 yards or so and I tried to ignore him but admitted I was there to photograph birds.  I was relieved when a “Y” in the trail allowed me to go left  in the direction of the woodpeckers when he veered right.  But, a few minutes later, he found me again atop a grassy knoll,  as I looked up into the tree at the woodpeckers.

And, “no” this photograph is not a photograph of an Acorn Woodpecker which is the bird I was after.  This is a Black Phoebe that landed on a fallen limb behind the woodpecker’s tree, just as I turned away from the annoying man on the trail.  Serendipity.

Black Phoebe PS

2018—Panting at 107°

We’re in the middle of a summer heatwave with daytime temperatures ranging from 103° to 110° in the region.  At my house Wednesday evening, it was 107° when I went outside to revive the wilted plants on my patio.  I saw an Anna’s Hummingbird fly away from the fountain and watched him perch on a twig above the fountain.  He was panting, a behavior I’ve seen hummers do only a few times, always in the midst of intense heat.  I’m happy that my fountain is working and the cool water is there for the birds in my yard.

Anna's hummingbird panting-1.jpg