Thursday, December 29, 2016

Final Post for 2016?

Wow, hard to believe just 2 days left in 2016! I'm guessing this will be my last post of the year, but we will see. S. CA has finally been getting some rain.
With a little searching, you can find some interesting reflections. And the sunsets have been amazing!

And, of course, no post is totally complete without a shot of my granddaughter! Happy New Year, and see you soon in 2017!!

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Seasons Greetings!

Have a Merry Christmas, and wishing you 
all the best during this holiday season!!
(Don't worry... no Joshua Trees where hurt while taking this photo. The ornaments are virtual, as you might have guessed!!)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday

I can thank Stewart over at WBW for motivating me to make this post! I've been going for walks in our local park and a week or so ago I heard a distinctive "whoooo, whoooo, whooo". Now I'm not a "bird" person by any stretch, but this owl was big and fairly easy to spot even though high up in a eucalyptus tree. I was in deep shadow, so a bit challenging to get a fast enough shutter speed for well-focused photo. However, I was totally surprised and excited to see an owl in a local city park with limited open space. 
Profile shot.

Eyes closed.

Eyes open.
I did a quick internet search. This guy looks kind of like a Great Horned Owl, but I'm not really sure. I've only seen two or three wild owls in my lifetime, so really fun spotting this guy. Also, I've been back to the park about four times and he's always in the same spot. On my walk yesterday, someone pointed out there are actually two owls! I'll be on the lookout on my next walk!

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mission Bay

During our recent San Diego Zoo trip, we stayed at a motel very close to Mission Bay in San Diego. We went over to explore the area after spending most of the day at the zoo. We still had a couple hours of daylight left, which was just enough time.

Side note: I had just sold my 400mm telephoto prime lens on Ebay, and was anxious to try out my brand-new 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens. Some of the photos below are me just clicking away, testing out my new lens. I sold the 400mm prime lens because I found I was missing shots. It didn't have image stabilization, and unless I was shooting in nice bright conditions, I either needed a strong heavy tripod or my shots turned out blurry. Note to self: Never buy a telephoto lens without image stabilization! I also really like the flexibility that the zoom function gives me, although I'm sure I am sacrificing a bit of clarity. It's a reasonable tradeoff.
My granddaughter and I just messing around. Photo by my wife on her iPhone.

Lens panning... helps show the perpetual motion of my granddaughter!!

Up on the slide at sunset!

This low-light, handheld shot would have been impossible with my old lens. F9, 1/80th sec, ISO 200, 400mm.

This crescent moon was a nice little bonus, and I'm happy with how "close" I can get at 400mm.

As I read posts from my blogger friends and see photos of snow, ice crystals and the like, I wanted to share a little S. California sun and warm orange skies with everyone!!

Thanks for stopping by!!
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Thursday, December 8, 2016

San Diego Zoo

We took our granddaughter to the San Diego Zoo late last week. We had taken her to Safari Park a few months ago and really enjoyed it. We bought annual passes (which includes admission to both Safari Park and the zoo) and promised her a trip to the zoo in the future. We had a great time, but I prefer Safari Park over the Zoo. Safari Park is much larger and the animals live in a more natural, open habitat. I took my camera and one lens (telephoto zoom) and took just a handful of photos.
I tried to be pretty selective with my photography and avoid shooting through wire mesh cages, but I couldn't resist a photo of this big raptor. What a majestic bird!

 I had to laugh as I was taking these gorilla shots. They seemed to be smiling and posing for my camera! Hamming it up for the silly human tourists!!

I should have done a better job of keeping track of the animals I was photographing. I think this is a heron of some kind. There were quite a few open-air bird displays, and it makes me wonder why these guys don't just fly away?

The meerkats appeared to be posing too. They were in an open area and the sun was backlighting their fur. Not sure why this guy had his snout up in the air!

No worries... I was shooting through glass to get this rattlesnake shot!

Queen and King of the jungle!

It was a beautiful blue sky couple of days with pretty clouds. The San Diego Zoo has a nice aerial tram (free with price of admission) that takes you from one end of the zoo to the other. Even with the tram, we did a ton of walking with lots of steep areas. Since we have the pass, we chose to do two half-days, which was perfect. According to my iPhone, we walked about 3 miles on day #1 and 4 miles on day #2. And I was wearing a backpack and pushing a stroller for most of that time!!

The tram gave me an opportunity for some nice sky shots, and a great view of Balboa Park!

Our granddaughter enjoying the tram ride!

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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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