Sunday, October 30, 2011

Last Light of the Desert Sun

We spent the weekend out near Joshua Tree, and one of the big highlights was taking our Jeep out to the middle of nowhere looking for a mine.  I'll save that post for later (it's a good one!)... but wanted to share a few photos from yesterday afternoon.  The last 10 or 15 minutes before the sun sets are extremely magical out in the desert!  And for some reason, seems like the more remote you get, the more magical and interesting things are!
"Aliens on stilts"... within a minute or two of this photo, the shadows were
gone and the sun had set!

Grabbing light rays!
My photo-model and wife... enjoying the last
rays of the day!
Wide open spaces!  See the Jeep and photo-model??
Blog addendum:  I was getting ready to pull out an old, desert weed this morning and noticed there were actually some very small flowers on the plant.  Really incredible, as the plant looked totally dead and dried out!  Anyway, grabbed my camera and macro lens and took this photo.  Wish I could identify the plant.  Oh, and decided to leave the 'dead plant' alone!
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Night Photography Along Hwy 62

I was viewing some photoblogs last night, and one site I visited had some great night shots posted (sorry... can't recall which site, but trust me, they were excellent photos!).  It inspired me to grab my camera and tripod and drive down to the highway to experiment with some night photography.  I have a lot to learn and figure practice makes perfect (or at least improvement).  On the opposite side of the highway there is a radio tower or antenna of some sort, so that was my first target.
This next photo is just turning the camera directly towards the highway... the car lights become a single streak of light.  Some stars are visible, and you can see the lights from 29 Palms Marine Base in the background.
The next photo was taken in the opposite direction from the highway... back toward the hills.  Much less light from this direction, so I dropped the f stop a little and increased the exposure time to about 2 minutes.
I like the wispy clouds.  A problem with these longer exposures is the stars move and start to look blurry.
Repeat photo from above, but I used a flashlight to lighten up the foreground.  Kind of a fun effect.

Time to head home.  Picture a very dark, beautiful night on a dirt road out in the desert in the middle of nowhere...  so stopped the car to take a photo out the front window (hand-held long exposure, so a little shaky, but I like the photo).  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Getting in the Halloween Spirit!

Am I in a rut?  Seems like I keep finding spiders to photograph!  Oh well, I'm much more interested in the web in the photos below.  I think I may have missed the ideal light this AM when the sun was just coming up and the rays of light were lighting up the web.  My wife alerted me to it, and I was on one of my never-ending conference calls.  All and all, it turned out pretty good.  And I love the way my wife hammed it up for the second photo!!

Linked to Skywatch Friday 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Spider and the Fly (or in this case Bee)

I have an area around the side of my house that always seems to have some kind of bug or spider activity.  When I went out with my camera yesterday, I came across this guy.  He (she?) is a Leopard spider, also known as as a Snake-Back spider, because the marking on the back of it's abdomen sometimes looks snake-like.  I've also seen a bright green version of this spider... and they blend in perfectly with green leaves.  Here's a great photo of the green version:  green leopard spider.  As I got closer to take the photo, I was really surprised to see he had a fresh kill - a honey bee.  Never knew bees were typical prey for spiders (or at least this spider).
Happy Macro Monday, and have a great week!!

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

How Do You Make a New Photo Look Old??

Some creative photographer out there came up with the idea of using a newer DSLR camera and pointing it through the viewfinder of an old camera to give the photo that 'vintage' look.  Too much time on his hands?  May be, but a cool idea, eh?  The process is called TtV for "Through the Viewfinder".  I think I first saw it over at A Rural Journal, but it's probably been around for a while and I just wasn't aware of it.  At any rate, my wonderful sister over at Lap Dog Knits picked me up a couple cameras last week at an antique flea market.  One's a Kodak Duaflex II, and the other is a Brownie Starflex (stay tuned... I'll post pics in the future of these cool-looking cameras).  Both cameras have the large viewfinders on top of the camera needed for the TtV process.  My next step is to make a "contraption" (not joking here... this is the term they use!) to block out light between the DSLR lens and the Kodak or Brownie viewfinder.

Tonight I stumbled across some free textures on Flickr, including a couple that are TtV textures.  It basically allows you to use Photoshop to get the same (or similar) effect as rigging up a TtV device.  I know, too easy, right?  I still plan on setting up my 'contraption' and using the real process.  But in the meantime, let me share a couple pics with you to illustrate the process.

Step 1:  Pic an image
I like this photo because of the long, straight desert highway heading out to the middle of nowhere.  This is taken heading east on Highway 62 a few miles out of 29 Palms.  The sign speaks to what a desolate stretch of road this is!

Step 2:  Convert to black & white
Certainly not mandatory, but the b&w image lends itself to a more vintage feel.

Step 3:  Add the TtV texture in Photoshop
Ta da!!... kind of that gritty, grainy look you might get taking a photo back in the '60s using a Kodak Duaflex or Brownie Starflex film camera.  Hope you like it!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy SkyWatch Friday!

Here's one of my all-time favorite sunrise shots.  This actually ties into my post of Oct. 2 ("Get Up You Lazy Bum!").  My wife, who almost always gets up earlier than I do, got up early in the AM a few weeks ago when we were out in the CA desert, saw this fantastic sunrise, saw my camera on the kitchen table, and went out and composed this shot.  Beginners luck?  No, I don't think so!
I eventually got out of bed, but not quite in time to enjoy this awesome sunrise.  Enjoy your weekend, and Happy SWF!

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Stink Bug!

Remember stink bugs when you were a kid?  They're quite common here in California... in the desert (like this guy), mountains, and most places in between.  They are well known for their comical, yet effective, defense tactics.  When alarmed they stand on their heads by bending their front legs down and extending their rear legs.  Depending upon the species, they exude an oily, stinky secretion which collects on the rear of their abdomen.  Some species eject a reddish brown secretion as a spray.  Larger desert species (like this guy) can spray 10 to 20 inches!  Most species can spray multiple times, if necessary.  The spray is not painful unless you get it in your eyes or mouth, where it is painful, burning and temporarily blinding.  It does not wash off.  After reading this, I now have much more respect for stink bugs!!  Happy Macro Monday!

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oldsmobile "Dynamic 88"

Do you like the desert?  Ever dream of having a little get-away desert cabin?  A place to spend your weekends where it's warm in the winter and sweltering in the summer?  If you answered "yes", well, have I got the place for you!  My wife and I stumbled across this place a month or so ago just as it was getting dark.  Clearly abandoned, and from the looks of things, abandoned many years ago.  But in it's prime, WOW!!  So, we took the Jeep over for a second look today.  Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera, so just have a few photos that I took on my iPhone.  Anyway, the brick wall construction appears to be actual adobe.  The supporting overhead timbers look like old hand-carved logs.  Its got a Spanish mission decor, with light fixtures to match.  Check out the hardware on the top half of the front door.  The photo doesn't do it justice, but these long door straps and hinge straps look very old!

The desert rocks on the lot (which is probably 2 1/2 or 5 acres with beautiful views) are absolutely stunning.  Someone must have literally taken years putting this rock collection together.  What attracted my wife was the landscaping with many beautiful cacti (we've never seen so many red barrel cacti in one place!) and desert rock.  Oh, and did I mention the location?  It's in Joshua Tree, south side of Highway 62, within walking distance to the park and beautiful boulder hills.  Very cool and desirable location!
Front porch with beautiful stone flooring, adobe block wall, timber beams.
And here's the bonus... hiding behind creosote and cacti is this old Oldsmobile "Dynamic 88" I stumbled upon.  You know the kind... big tail fins, V8, big front grill... you could glide down Highway 62 in style!

Note how close the rocks of Joshua Tree National Park are in the background!
There is no 'for sale' sign, but I sure hope someone puts the loving care into restoring this place.  It really deserves it, and has so much potential!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Quick Midwest Visit!

I had the chance to visit family this week.  My aunt lives in a beautiful suburb west of Chicago.  We were very lucky, as the weather was absolutely perfect.  Fall is setting in, so a really nice change of pace from my usual scenery in So. Cal.  Anyway, wanted to share a few photos from my trip. Happy SkyWatch Friday!
Morton Arboretum.  Thanks to my sister over at Lap Dog Knits for letting me
use her camera!!
Morning stroll at the Morton Arboretum
Fall colors!

Old Lock on graveyard fence
The old house next door
Vintage Oberweis milk in glass bottle!
Typeset wall decor

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Macro Monday - California Buckwheat

I took these photos last weekend.  Nothing much blooming in the desert right now, but always interesting things to photograph.  Happy Macro Monday!

Desert lichen on granite... very near where the CA Buckwheat was growing.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rattlesnake Canyon

My wife and I found another cool area in Joshua Tree.  It's called Rattlesnake Canyon, and it's at the far north end of the park in Indian Cove.  It's easy to get to... not far off Hwy 62 before you reach the town of 29 Palms.  Turn south at the Indian Cove market and about 2 miles later you are there.  It's a beautiful little area, really popular with rock climbers.
Technically, we took these photos from the wash at the base of the rocks.  I think you have to scale the rocky face ("wonderland of rocks") to actually reach Rattlesnake Canyon (I'm saving that for a future adventure!).  Hopefully these pictures convey some of the natural beauty of the area.

This area is known for it's crystal-studded boulders... very distinctive. 

Photo credit to my wife - she took this through the front window of the Jeep!  That's rain in the distance

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Thrift Store Camera Monday!

The Ansco "Pioneer" dates all the way back to 1947.  This camera was made between 1947 and 1953 in Binghampton, NY.  My wife found it in a thrift store, and I like the look.  When I open the back to look inside there's... nothing!  Not sure if it's missing parts, or is so basic it's just a light box.  There's a channel along the top of the camera for a small viewfinder.  The shutter release is on the right side of the lens.  Push down and count to 3?!


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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Get Up You Lazy Bum!

I'm not a morning person.  I admit to that.  My wife, on the other hand, is usually up well ahead of me.  So yesterday I was awakened to "get up, your gotta see this".  Turned out we had an absolutely splendid sunrise.  This photo really doesn't do it justice, but it's the best I could muster without any coffee!
The rest of the day wasn't bad either.  Bright blue sky with white fluffy clouds... what I would call "photographer's weather" because it makes all your photos better and more interesting.  Here's a shot of our clothesline... pretty boring without the clouds, right?
I hiked up behind our house to get some scenery shots and take advantage of the sky...
Followed a small wash, around a fence marking Joshua Tree National Park, and scrambled up the rocks...
From the top of the hill, looking back at the wash I had just come up.  That's Copper Mountain in the background.
On my way back, took a picture of my neighbor's Saguaro cactus.  He panted this when he first bought his property almost 50 years ago!
Scenic Sunday