Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pave Paradise?

Coyote Hills is 510 acres of open space in North Orange County, CA. It's owned by Chevron Oil, but the oil pumps were shut down a long time ago. The property has been sitting vacant for many years, fenced off, private, and with little impact by humans in the recent past. It looks like "old California" used to look back in the day. The organization "Friends of Coyote Hills" has been fighting the good fight to keep the property undeveloped, but alas, a final decision has been made to build homes over a large chunk of the property. Coyote Hills is the last significant open space in a ten-city, highly urbanized area of Orange County (and happens to be about a mile from where I live). It contains a rich coastal sagebrush habitat, supporting 60 pairs of California gnatcatchers and other rare species. I decided it was time to go take some photos before it's all bulldozed over and homes are built. 
Hole in the fence in a remote area.
Coyote Hills (Chevron Oil property) is on the left of the fence. There are a number of these old service roads on the property. Some have degraded to gravel and dirt, others (like this one) are in pretty good shape.

The property has some amazing 360-degree views. As you walk it, you feel like you are on an elevated island that looks down on a sea of urban sprawl.

These markers are all over the place. I'm guessing they mark the spot of capped oil wells.
We used to call this "wild tobacco" or "tree tobacco" when I was a kid hiking around in the local mountains. I haven't seen it growing locally in a long time.
Toyon tree with red berries. This is native to California, and another tree I don't see very often unless I get away from developed areas.
A favorite part of the Coyote Hills property are the eroded sandstone cliffs. They have a nice reddish color. Here's a closer look.

Lots of California Pepper trees throughout the property.
Thanks for joining me on this walk of the Coyote Hills oil property. I like the rugged, untamed feel and very much wish it could be left as is. However, it's worth a huge amount of money... to Chevron in selling the property, to the developer/homebuilder, and as future tax revenue to the city. Seems like open space just doesn't stand a chance.
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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."  Robert Brault
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Moon Dilemma

To edit or not to edit?? Moon photos can be flat out frustrating. The moon is so bright that it often makes getting the right exposure impossible. You photo-bloggers know what I'm talking about. If you set your exposure for the background, the moon turns into a bright, undefined mess. Nothing at all like what you actually saw when you so carefully composed your photo! On the other hand, if you expose for the moon, you get great moon detail surrounded by blackness. You lose all your background detail. Again, nothing like what you saw live, in person! Let me share an example.
In the image above, I exposed for the people on the walkway (taken at the Fullerton Train Station). A bit underexposed purposefully so the moon didn't wash things out too much. The moon, unfortunately, turns into a bright light with no definition. This is very different from what my "eyes" saw at the time. It was a beautiful moonrise and I could clearly see all the detail in the moon. Did I mention moon photography can be frustrating?

Without moving my camera (it was on a tripod), I adjusted the exposure for the moon. A much faster exposure which resulted in a totally dark background but good moon detail. I superimposed the moon over the first image to get the best of both worlds (background + moon detail). Often referred to as a "composite" image, it's kind of cheating. But it truly looks much closer to what I saw with my eye as I was taking the photo.

Whew, thanks for letting me get that off my chest! I think as photographers we struggle with how and when (and how much) to edit. And that's especially true with moon shots. So let me say that with very few exceptions, when you see a moon shot with good moon detail and definition, and you see good background detail, you are very likely seeing a composite or otherwise edited image. The photographer may or may not disclose this. With today's camera technology, you can't have it both ways... you need to either expose on the moon or the background, one at the expense of the other. Other options are to use bracketing (which puts you back into composite images), spot adjustment to reduce the moon brightness (works so so) or perhaps flash fill or light painting for long exposures.

So with that being said, read on, but know that most of these are composite images!
Nope, not a composite. No background to worry about here!

Yes, definitely. I was really focusing on the people walking on the bridge and admiring the moonrise. The freight train came along at just the right time, and the exposure was long enough to capture some blur!

It's obvious, right? This is a crop of the image above, and you can just imaging the people on the bridge going "oohhh" and "aahhhh".

Nope, just a single image. No moon definition as it becomes visible from behind the palm tree and bridge. But I like the overall feel of this photo, with the people walking up on the bridge and down below on the platform, the the blur on the passing train. Lots going on!

Definitely a composite. The original (bright, washed-out, undefined moon) looked crummy. I loved how this guy was stopped in his tracks when he spotted the moon and was moved to take the picture. The photo is a lot more powerful when you can see the moon as it really looked!

Yes, a composite. One of my favorites from the night. This train came flying through the station, and I had no idea I was capturing these bright colors and lines until I pulled it up on my computer later that evening. Like a space ship blasting off!

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sullivan Road, 29 Palms

I'm lucky, some of the best sunset views are right from my own property in the S CA desert. There have been many times when I have been driving around Joshua Tree National Park chasing sunset shots, only to return home to find the best sunset waiting for me!

Our rustic little desert homestead cabins that we rent out on Airbnb. If you look west on Sullivan Road... get a nice, open desert vista and the road seems to go on forever.

And by the time the sun starts to set, things get even more dramatic! This was taken just a few steps away from the previous photo.

This photo was taken a couple hundred yards from the Sullivan Road photos. That's a big "Teddy Bear" cholla cactus (lower left). Very nasty, tenacious spines makes this a cactus to avoid!

Later that same evening, as the stars are just starting to come out, I took this shot at the back of the property. That's my old "project" trailer (which is turning out to be quite a project). It's permanently placed on a concrete slab... it's days of rolling down the highway are over. We finally have electrical and plumbing completed, although still a lot more to be done. But I'll save that for another post!
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