Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cottonwood Mountains

Cottonwood Mountains, Death Valley National Park, CA
Canon Power Shot SX40 HS, 1/200s, f/4, ISO: 160
Before buying an entry-level DSLR, I shot for a year with a Power Shot SX40, which is a point-and-shoot with a 40x zoom lens.  It was a step up in terms of complexity from my Power Shot SD770, which is one of those little pocket-sized cameras.  The SD770 took nice photos and it's what originally got me into photography.  I shot mostly on auto with the SD770 and learned how to manipulate the exposure settings by angling the camera differently against the sky.  That knowledge transferred to the  SX40, but the SX40 had a bigger lens and was much smarter with how it handled the light.  It was also faster with less delay between the pushing of the button and the firing of the shot.

I have a a Rebel T5i now.  It's interesting, I get better pictures with it--it's smarter, faster and I'm starting to understand how to manage exposures manually--but I also throw away a lot more pictures.  That's partially because I've become more fussy with image quality but it's also because I take more shit pictures with the Rebel.  Both of the Power Shots took more consistently acceptable photos.  The SX40 also had better reach than my 250mm lens, which is the longer of my two lenses.

What's the point and what does it have to do with this picture of the Cottonwoods?  I'm not sure, really.  I suppose as I encounter these older photographs I'm pleasantly surprised with how well Power Shots handled themselves.  I wouldn't want to give up my DSLR.  If nothing else, it's simply more fun to use.  Finding just the right settings is sometimes a challenge, but it's also rewarding.  The Power Shots took some nice ohotos, though, I don't regret taking my time moving from the SD770 to the SX40 to the Rebel.

Blah, blah, blah.  I hope you enjoyed today's photo.  It's one of my favorite places to visit.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Desert View

Desert View, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 1/30s, f/5.6, ISO: 200
Desert View is a heck of a place for a sunset.  Watching the sun go down as these people are is spectacular, but that's not where the real action is.  The real show is behind them on those cliffs in the background.  The cliffs face West and they light up with an amazing display of color as the sun drops over the far side of the canyon.

The goofy tower bugs me.  It looks ancient, but was actually built in the 1930s as a tourist trap--er--attraction.  I take great joy in grumbling about it whenever I see it.

Inspired by Geogypsy's Foto Friday Fun 96, photo #1212.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

One more cup of coffee 'til I go . . .

. . . to the valley below.

Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 1/125s, f/8, ISO: 100
I made a trip to the Grand Canyon for Memorial Day weekend last year with my son, my dog and friend Jim.  It was a great trip.  My parents even joined us for an afternoon on their own road trip to New Orleans.  My dad had never seen the Grand Canyon before.  He said it was a really big hole in the ground.

This picture comes from our last morning at the canyon.  That's Jim taking a picture on the rock.  He and Sam had quite an adventure the day before hiking down into the canyon, but that's a story for another day.  This picture captures a reflective moment, that point in time when an adventure has come to its end and the adventurer turns for one last look before moving on to the next big thing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tule Reeds

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/1600s, f/5, ISO: 200
I suspect the beauty of this photo may be lost on a lot of people.  The colors, after all, are drab at best.  It was overcast, which kind of put an exclamation point on that drabness.  It's got a little bit of color with the water and the ducks (I love ducks) but not enough to negate the gray light and the pale reeds.  I love these reeds and what they represent.  They are a connection to this region's past.  The Native Americans wove these reeds into all sorts of things.  Boats, mats, shelter, baskets, pretty much everything they needed could be made from this stuff.  Seeing these vast fields reeds reminds me of this corner of the country's deep past.  Plus, I just like the way they look.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beautiful Bird

Red-tailed Hawk -- San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 
I caught this hawk in a tree on the auto tour yesterday at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Merced,  Some hawks look tough, others look regal, others have an air of intensity.  This bird was absolutely beautiful.  Its legs looked strong and thick, its head sleek with rich colorful streaks of brown and gold.  Gorgeous.

Yeah, I'm kind of crushing on this bird.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bad to the Bone

Red-tailed Hawk -- San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm f4.0-5.6 IS II, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO: 6400
The sun was completely down when I came across this hawk sitting on a fence post just outside of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County yesterday.  I wasn't expecting much from this shot.  I had the f-stop at 5.6, which is as wide as it will go when zoomed out to 250mm.  The camera cranked the ISO up to 6400, which is as high as it goes.  I usually don't like the photos I get with a high ISO, they're usually too grainy.  In this case, though, I like how it turned out.  This bird looks like a bad ass, and the roughness added by the high ISO adds to the hard look of the bird.

I saw a lot of hawks at the refuge yesterday.  I'd guess I had to have seen at least four dozen.  I've never seen such a dense concentration of raptors, and I've been out to that refuge many times in the last couple of years.  I even saw a bald eagle a few miles away from the refuge yesterday, which is the farthest South that I've ever seen a bald eagle.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Roadways: Highway 101 (Astoria-Megler Bridge)

Astoria-Megler Bridge, Highway 101, Astoria, OR
Canon Power Shot SX40 HS, 1/640s, f/4, ISO: 160
I love going across this bridge.  It spans the Columbia River near its mouth.  The river is massive at this point, roughly four miles wide where the bridge crosses it.  Living in the Bay Area I'm used to bridges of this size and length, but this bridge isn't going across a bay, it's crossing a four mile wide river.  How can a river be that big?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Roadways: Highway 101 (Yaquina Bay Bridge)

Yaquina Bay Bridge, U.S. Route 101, Newport, OR
Canon EOS Rebel T5i,  EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/125s, f/4, ISO:800
Oregon has its share of dramatic bridges.  Yaquina Bay Bridge has been one of my favorites since childhood.  My cousins lived in Newport just North of the bridge.  A trip across the bridge usually meant a we were going to the marine science center where we could pick up starfish and see the octopus.  Good times.

I took this picture in November.  It came out OK considering I was shooting in twilight.  I spent a lot of time on this trip working with different shutter speeds.  I've still got a long way to go before I feel like I've got handle on this stuff.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Roadways: Highway 101 (Rogue River Bridge)

Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge, U.S. Route 101, Gold Beach, OR
Canon Powershot SX40 HS, 1/320s, f/4, ISO: 200
The Rogue River Bridge, officially but awkwardly named the Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge, is a real beauty.  Built in 1931, it's supported by seven concrete arches that span the Rogue River near its mouth.

I usually stop for a picture of the Mary D. Hume when I'm driving up the coast.  She's a steamer that was built in the nineteenth century for hauling cargo between Gold Beach and San Francisco.  She's been a sunken wreck in the river for thirty years.  I like picking up the bridge in the background, so I have a number of shots from a similar angle from various drives over the last few years.

Mary D. Hume, Gold Beach, OR
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 1/640s. f/4, ISO: 160

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Roadways: Highway 101 (Golden Gate Bridge)

Golden Gate Bridge, U.S. Route 101, San Francisco, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i,  EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/125s, f/11, ISO:100
Highway 101 is long and has a number of remarkable sections (as well as a few exceptionally drab ones).  The Golden Gate Bridge is about as exceptional as it gets on any stretch of road.

Not much else to say here.  I've got more Pacific Coast bridges coming, but this is the grand-daddy of 'em all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Roadways: Pacific Coast Highway (Rocky Creek Bridge)

Rocky Creek Bridge, California State Route 1, Big Sur, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 1/125s, f/9, ISO:100
Rocky Creek Bridge is roughly ten miles South of Carmel.  It looks a lot like Bixby Bridge which lies a couple of miles South, but it's a little smaller and a bit less dramatic.  Both bridges are of similar design, made of concrete and built in 1932, but the Bixby Bridge just kicks a little more ass.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Roadways: Pacific Coast Highway (Bixby Bridge)

Bixby Bridge, California State Route 1, Big Sur, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/80s, f/4, ISO:100
California's Pacific Coast Highway can stand toe to toe with any of this nation's scenic drives.  Shoot, the Big Sur stretch alone can hang with the best of 'em.  Bixby Bridge is one of the highway's well known icons.  Built in 1932, the bridge spans Bixby Creek Canyon which is about fifteen miles South of Carmel.  Where the Big Sur coastline begins and ends is a bit fuzzy to me, but most sources I've seen seem to agree that the bridge is in Big Sur, so I'll gladly go along with that.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm f4.0-5.6 IS II, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO: 800
I don't know why Blogger insists on messing with photos being posted.  It's got some kind of autotuning that it does and drives me crazy.  It ruins the photo I had planned to post today and damages this one that I did post.  You'll have to use your imagination here.  This picture is actually much lighter than what Blogger has done with it.  The background is a friendlier tone of brown, less dirty looking, and the bird glows a bit from the back lighting.  Blogger's autotuning has made the photo drab and lifeless.  Argh.

It's the delicate pictures that suffer.  Pictures like this one that relies on low contrast levels or the photo I didn't post that has a specific color balance that makes it work.  That's what comes from using a free service, I guess.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Redwood Creek

Redwood Creek, Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 1/4s, f/4, ISO: 800
I got a lot of moody pictures from my last visit to Muir Woods.  It was wet and overcast, and given it was the winter solstice the sun was at the lowest angles it would get all year.  I was experimenting with exposure times and was able to draw out a lot of greens and blues while maintaining the dark feel of the woods on that particular day.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel about these pictures over time, but almost a month has gone by and I'm still very happy with a few of them.  I want to go back soon for more.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef  National Park, UT
Canon PowerShot SX40, 1/640s, f/4, ISO:200
I made a trip to Utah in the fall of 2013.  I followed on the heels of a very large storm that had caused extensive flooding in the neighboring state of Colorado and had dumped a lot of water on Utah and Nevada as well.  The ground was still saturated in a lot of places when I arrived at Capitol Reef, and the rivers and creeks were running high.  The water brought out a lot of dark tones in the rocks, which can be seen a little in this photo.  It turned out to be a very nice time for taking pictures.

Capitol Reef was something of an afterthought for me.  My main destination on that trip was Bryce Canyon.  I'd been hoping to hit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as well, but I wasn't able to reserve a camp site and they don't have unreserved spots on that side of the canyon, so I altered my plans and visited Capitol Reef instead.  I have no regrets about that.  I still want to visit the North Rim, but Capitol Reef was an absolute revelation and I hope to visit the park again soon.  I only spent an afternoon and a night there, I have a whole lot more I want to see.

Photo selection inspired by Geogypsy's Photo Friday Fun 94, Image #888.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Roadways: Scenic Byway 12

Utah State Route 12
Canon Power Shot SX40 HS, 1/1250s, f/4, ISO: 125
I've only spent a few days in Utah, but I've seen enough to believe that few states aside from California can compete with its epic beauty.

Scenic Byway 12 runs roughly between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  It has a well-deserved reputation for being one of America's most dramatic drives.  The section of the road in the photo above runs along the top of a ridge with cliffs on either side and no shoulder to speak of.  Who came up with this plan?  It was sheer genius.

Highway 12 is a drive not to be missed.  If you're travelling between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon, spend the extra time and take this route.  Hell, make a special trip for this drive.  It's worth it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Roadways: Avenue of the Giants

California State Route 254
Canon Power Shot SX40 HS, 1/25s, f/3.5, ISO: 800
California SR 254 is known as the Avenue of the Giants.  It's a spectacular drive through redwoods groves along the Eel River in Humboldt County.  One could easily spend an entire day exploring this thirty mile stretch of road.  There are numerous places to stop for short hikes and sight seeing, as well as a few small towns where one can grab a bite to eat.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Ring-billed Gull -- Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/400s, f/5.6, ISO: 100
I tend to avoid taking pictures of gulls.  If I get a good picture I'll need to identify it, and identifying gulls can be difficult.  Well, some are easy, like ring-billed and heerman's gulls.

We don't see heerman's gulls in the estuary.  They seem to stick to the coastline,  Ring-billed gulls are common, though.  I found this gull sitting on the railing of the fishing dock.  This particular bird was very patient with me as I took photos, comfortable enough to sit down and ignore me for the most part.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Roadways: Highway 190

California State Route 190, Death Valley National Park, CA
Canon Power Shot SX40 HS, f/4, ISO: 100
There are roads and then there are roads.  Some drives are just special.  Highway 1 in Big Sur and  Highway 12 in Utah are probably my two favorite stretches of road, at least that I've driven over the last few years.  Eastern California has a couple of gems.  Highway 395 runs North/South along the back side of the Sierras and Highway 190 runs through Death Valley.

This shot is Highway 190 as it descends 5000 feet from Towne Pass to Stovepipe Wells.  Those clouds in the sky actually dropped a bit of rain on this particular day.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ridgway's Rail

Ridgway's Rail -- Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO:1000
I've been hitting the Shoreline pretty hard over the last couple of months.  I was excited when the winter birds started to return and that excitement hasn't subsided.  Excitement is probably too strong a word, it's not opening Christmas presents when you're a kid kind of excitement.  I guess it's closer to opening Christmas presents after your kids are grown and out of the house and you know what your wife bought you already because she put it on your credit card and it's a sweater kind of excitement.  I mean, Christmas is Christmas, right?

This morning I spent some time sitting on the lawn with the geese.  There was one white-fronted goose mixed in with the canada geese.  Last week there were three.  This one seemed to hobble a bit, I suspect it might be stuck with an injured leg.  Hard to know, though, it might just like hanging out with those rambunctious canada geese.

I saw this ridgway's rail near the fishing platform.  At least, I think it's a fishing platform.  They aren't rare here, but like soras they seem to like to choose particular moments to expose themselves.  I'm always excited to see one.  There's that word again.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Duck Out of Water

Surf Scoter -- Oakland/Alameda Estuary, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/1600s, f/5.6, ISO: 1250
I'll grant you, it's not the prettiest picture.  The light was bad, the water was murky and the colors are brown and gray and gross.  I post this simply because it's something I've never photographed before: a surf scoter out of the water.  This is the farthest I've ever seen a surf scoter from water when not in flight.  Four inches, at best.  Even when they're flying they usually seem to fly over water.

I took this shot this morning after picking up coffee a block or so away from my house.  There are often scoters in the estuary in winter, this morning there about thirty or so, including this guy.

Friday, January 9, 2015

On Being Fabulous

California Sea Lion -- Moss Landing, CA
Canon Power Shot SX40 HS, 1/320s, f/5, ISO: 200
Elkhorn Slough is a fantastic place to spend a day in a kayak.  The water is generally calm and although the tidal currents can be swift in my experience they are manageable.  The slough teems with wildlife, including sea otters, seals and sea lions.

From land, sea lions are loud and kind of funny.  They are a bit more intimidating from a small boat on the water.  They are big animals, with the males often weighing over eight hundred pounds.  Combine that size with their exuberance and you might be able to imagine why they don't seem quite so cute and cuddly from inside a ten foot long plastic boat.

I think of this as their "fabulous" pose.  Flaunt it if you've got it.

Inspired by Geogypsy's Foto Friday Fun 93, image #0072.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Let It Snow

Yosemite National Park, CA
Canon Power Shot SX40 HS, 1/160s, f/4.5, ISO: 200
I spent a day up in Yosemite in December of 2012.  It was a drought year, but a storm had blown through a few days previously leaving a foot or so of snow in the valley.  I don't think you can beat Yosemite in these conditions.  The valley never looks prettier and there aren't a lot of people.  The sound of snowfall down the cliff faces can occasionally be heard, other than that it's exceptionally quiet and peaceful.

We had a lot of rain this last December, but the pictures I'm seeing from Yosemite's webcams show no snow in the valley and only a dusting on top of Half Dome.  We need a lot more snow but we've had nothing but sun for the last couple of weeks.  Argh.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Made Before the Foundation of the World

Weston Beach, Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 18-55mm IS STM, 1/125s, f/7.1, ISO: 100
I don't know that this is a great picture, but it's been the background on my computer for the last day or so and I've been enjoying it.  I think these rocks are fascinating. There's an entire beach made up of formations like this at Point Lobos.

I wish I knew more about geology.I'm sure there's an interesting story here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Muir Woods

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Zoom Lens, 1/13s, f/4.0, ISO: 800
It's almost always crowded at Muir Woods, especially on the weekends.  I hear if you get there early in the morning it's usually pretty quiet.  It's usually an afternoon trip for me, though.  Some days the crowds can ruin the experience, especially if they are loud.  At other times its not so bad, it becomes more of a shared experience.  My trip there a few weeks ago was more like the latter than the former.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron -- Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO: 200
Night herons are common in Oakland.  They are almost touchable around Lake Merritt, and there are certain trees near Chinatown where they tend to gather and parking beneath them guarantees you'll need a car wash.  They act a little more naturally away from downtown, but this bird was still rather approachable.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Every Grain of Sand

Pfeiffer Beach, CA
Canon Power Shot SX40 HS, 1/1250s, f/4.5, ISO: 160
A beach with purple sand, can you beat that?  If you're in Bug Sur, don't miss Pfeiffer Beach, which has just such a thing.  I hear it's best to go after a big storm.  The purple sand comes from magnesium garnet deposits from the hillside (there are visible purple streaks in the rocks) or just offshore, I've read differing accounts.  Anyway, it's pretty cool.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250 mm IS II, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO: 100
This is easily the best picture I've ever taken of a kingfisher.  These birds just don't like posing for me.  This one was different, for some reason.  I was driving home from work early on New Year's Eve and I saw him/her on this piling out in the estuary.  I had me camera with me because I'd taken pictures there on my way to work.  I got this shot from my car through the passenger window.  Not a bad way to end the year.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Elegant Tern

Elegant Tern -- Klamath River, Redwood National Park, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II, 1/1200s, f/5.6, ISO:200
This was a tough bird for me to identify.  I'm pretty sure based on the size, tail and slight curve of the beak that this is an elegant tern.  I wouldn't want to bet a lot of money on it, though.  I took this picture at the mouth of the Klamath River in late August while the salmon were running.  So much activity was going on that day.  People were fishing on both sides of the mouth of the river with poles and nets.  People were fishing in boats as well.  Birds were fishing.  Sea lions were fishing.  It was quite a spectacle, something I'm glad to have experienced.

Photo selection inspired by Geogypsy's Photo Friday Fun #92, photo #7035.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Into the Future

Bald Eagle -- Coos Bay, OR
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II, 1/1600s, f/5.6, ISO:1600
I'm kicking off this year with one of my favorite pictures from last year.  I saw this eagle while driving up 101 to Olympic National Park this fall.  This is one of two bald eagles I saw near Coos Bay, the other flew right over my head and out to sea at Cape Arago.

I grew up in Oregon in the seventies and eighties.  We never saw bald eagles when I was a kid.  I don't mean we rarely saw them, I mean we never saw a single bald eagle in all those years, and we spent a lot of time in places where they are commonly seen today.  The birds have made an amazing recovery.  I saw twenty eagles on that trip to the Olympic Peninsula, including two in California.

There is hope for the future.