Thursday, July 18, 2024

Surfer Girl in Training

 The mission: Get Lilly down to the Huntington Beach pier every day for a week by 8:30AM for Surf Camp. Lilly's responsibility: Learn to surf! Me: Sit in a chair, sip coffee, enjoy the ocean breeze and wonderful views, and watch Lilly learn to surf. I'll take this assignment anytime!
This sky kind of sums up the weather for the entire week: Cloudy, with the sun trying to break through the clouds (usually unsuccessfully), with temperatures in the high 60's to low 70's. It's lovely beach weather. Very comfortable, not much chance of a sunburn. 
The kids had to carry their own boards a considerable distance, which I thought was a good rule. You wanna surf, you darn well should be able to carry your own board! The buddy system seemed to work best.
Instructions begin! Step 1: Practice going from a lying position to a standing position without falling of your board. It's harder than you might think! That's Lilly in the middle.
Junior lifeguard practice was going on at the same time. Huntington Beach Pier is a very busy place in the summer!
Seagull under the pier.
Action Shots

She's getting the hang of it!!
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you are enjoying your summer.
It seems to be flying by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Of Moons & Rockets

 I got the urge to take pictures of the recent "strawberry moon". It had been quite a while since I had taken moon photos, and I think what got me up out of my chair was knowing a close friend who lives in Joshua Tree was going out into the desert to do the same thing. I couldn't join him in the desert, but I did manage to hike the local hills for some full moon fun.
Photographing the moon is in many ways similar to photographing the Milky Way. As I hiked around in the hills, I was constantly looking for something that would make an interesting foreground. I knew where the moon was predicted to rise, so using the compass on my phone, I could compose the shot prior to the moon actually rising.
Once you have a foregound you like, the other issue is focus. For most of these photos, I took two shots from the same exact spot (you need a tripod to do this effectively). The first photo is focused on the foreground. Your moon will be fuzzy and out of focus. Your second photo will be focused on the moon. Then you blend the two images to get sharp focus on both the moon and foreground. Although I was only blending two photos, I guess you could call this focus stacking.
The strawberry moon appears to be rolling down a very hazy Saddleback Mountain!

A couple nights later, I was scrolling through Facebook posts, and I noticed somebody posting about a SpaceX lunch. I went out in the front yard to check it out. I was a little late in viewing it (just the contrail was left), but it still made for an interesting night sky!
These SpaceX rocket launches are becoming so commonplace that people don't make a big deal about them anymore. I still enjoy seeing the rocket (or left over contrail) streaking across the sky!
I'll leave you with this video (more of an audio) of coyotes yelping. You'll need to turn your volume all the way up. I had finished taking my strawberry moon photos in the Coyote Hills, hiking back to my car, when the local fire department deployed a fire truck. The coyotes couldn't resist howling when they heard the siren. Without that siren going off, you would never know there were coyotes living in Coyote Hills! 
Thanks for stopping by, and keep looking up!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

The 4th of July

 One of my favorite places to be for a 4th of July celebration is at the beach. Huntington Beach shoots off fireworks from the end of the pier, so its both beautiful and very photogenic. Unfortunately, it's also extremely popular. The crowds are challenging, parking is impossible, and traffic is gridlocked, especially after the fireworks end. These photos were taken on the 4th of July in 2022. 
Breezy conditions as we wait for the show.
If you celebrate, have a happy and safe 4th of July!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

June Milky Way

 For the June Milky Way, Mitch & I decided to keep it simple. Just find a Joshua Tree for the foreground, +/- some boulders. What could be easier in Joshua Tree National Park? There was only one problem: There was something called a "heat dome" in effect. When I left my desert house to start hiking at 4:30PM, it was 102 degrees. That's dangerously hot for a hike, especially for a couple of old farts like us!
Hot weather hike tip #1: Hike only early morning (best) or late in the day. Never at mid-day.
Hot weather hike tip #2: Keep hikes short and simple. Nothing long or challenging!
Nolina flower stalks catching the late afternoon sun, putting on an amazing show!
Mitch (lower left) spots this tall, gangly Joshua tree. He says it looks like it has two broken arms, so we decide to use it as our foreground.
Hot weather hike tip #3: Wear a loose fitting long sleave shirt, long pants, broad-brimmed hat, and lather yourself in sunscreen. The less of your skin that sees the sun, the better.
Now that we have our foreground picked out, we have time to kill. We have about 45 minutes before sunset, and another 3 hours after sunset for the Milky Way to become visible. Yes, LOTS of time to kill! I start hiking up into the hills just to see what's up there (this strange tiki rock, for one thing) and what's on the other side. So far we've hiked about 1.5 miles, and we're feeling the heat, so this is a good place to set up camp for our photo shoot later in the evening.
Hot weather hike tip #4: Do I have to say it? Carry lots of water!! Carry more than you think you will need. And hydrate BEFORE you start hiking. Some people recommend the night before. I prefer to carry about a liter of water in the car, and just before starting the hike, I drink it down. Works great for me.
Pretty view from the top of the hill.

I love how the hills fade in color as they get further away!
It's time to get comfortable. We're not spending the night, so our only set-up is some chairs, food and water, headlamps, and wait for the sun to set and the Milky Way to rise. We even brought a portable cooler with ice and cold drinks. It feels like I've died and gone to heaven on this triple-digit day in the desert with an ice cold drink!
Hot weather hike tip #5: Always carry a headlamp, even if you don't plan on being out after sunset. Stuff happens and you want to be prepared just in case. It's also a good idea to carry a Garmin InReach (or similar device) in areas without dependable cell phone coverage in case of emergency.
11:12PM. Mitch photographing the "broken arms" Joshua tree and stars.
My first image, with focus on the old scraggly Joshua tree. The light on the tree is from our headlamps. I take a few of these with various exposures and lighting to be sure I have one that I like. Next I'll take photos with exposure and focus set on the stars, being careful not to move my camera on the tripod. Then I can blend the two images. In theory, this blend should give me relatively sharp focus on both the Joshua tree and the stars. 
Ta da!! I'm pretty happy with this one. The Milky Way is partially blocked by clouds, but that's OK. Next, I'll turn the camera on the tripod for a horizontal exposure and repeat the same steps.
Hot weather hike tip #6: Always tell someone where you are going, with who, where you are parking, what car you are driving, and when you expect to return (this is true for any kind of weather). If you are hiking off-trail, you should be creating a route to follow, or at least waypoints, and you should share this info. with someone too.
Horizontal camera orientation.
After we are both satisfied we have the photos we want, we start packing up our gear and begin the hike back, making our way back using headlamps. The temperature has dropped considerably, and we are cool and comfortable on the hike back to the car.
Hot weather hike tip #7: Hiking at night is a great way to beat the heat, but don't do it solo. Go with someone experienced who is very good at navigating using a GPS app or device. Many of the landmarks that you rely on for orientation may not be visible at night.
Thanks for stopping by, and stay safe out there!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

June Gloom

 It was a June gloom hike this morning, and it was wonderful! If you're not familiar with the "June gloom" term, it just refers to the cloudy, gloomy weather typical of this time of year. Most of Orange County gets it, but as you go further inland (especially into the desert regions), it disappears. 
I'm a big fan. June gloom is actually the marine layer pushing inland from the ocean, and it keeps the mornings cool. I can deal with summer heat when the mornings are cool, and when temperatures cool off overnight. As summer progresses, June gloom is just a memory, and the sun is out full blast first thing in the morning. When temperatures stay hot overnight, you know your in the worst part of summer, and you just cross your fingers and hope it doesn't last too long. The only thing I don't like about June gloom are the skies. They tend to be grey and boring, so not great for Skywatch Friday.
A typical June gloom sky in Orange County, CA.
Here's an example of June gloom in action. When I started my hike this morning at 9am (in Orange County), the temperature was 62 and cloudy. By the time I finished my hike (11am), it was 65 and still cloudy. Perfect hiking weather! The high is predicted to eventually reach 80.
Had I been out in the desert, the temperature today at 9am was 74 and sunny. Not a cloud in sight. By 11am, it was 82, and heading for a high of 94. Uncomfortably hot for a hike. What a difference!
There wasn't much in the way of bright, showy flowers. Too late in the season for that. Even so, there were a LOT of flowers. If you enjoy muted earth tones, you would have enjoyed this hike. I'm not sure what kind of plant this is in the foreground, but its whitish flowers were everywhere. It, along with California buckwheat, were by far the dominant flowering plants.
A batch of sticky monkey flowers in the center of the photo (above), and close up of the same flower (below). It was seen in widely scattered patches, and the flowers are a little past their prime.
Flowers, flowers everywhere! I think that's California Buckwheat in the foreground. Behind it is the mystery flowering plant I haven't been able to identify. These two plants probably account for at least 60% of the blooms I saw during the hike.
Update: I got some help from a friend about the plant ID, and he thinks it's something called "Pearly everlasting."
Pearly everlasting?
Most of the prickly pear cactus is done blooming. This one still has some closed flowers, and interestingly, both yellow and red flowers on the same plant. I wonder how the flower color is determined?
Hiking trail through a carpet of buckwheat flowers!
An impressively large buckwheat flowerhead.
Tree tobacco
California brittlebush. Didn't see mamy of these, and most was well past its prime.
So here's my very unscientific flowering plant survey from today's hike:
  • 30% California buckwheat
  • 30% unidentified white flowering mystery plant
  • 10% elderberry tree flowers (no photos)
  • 5% sticky monkey flower
  • 25% all other/unidentified
I'll be heading out to the desert again for my next post.
Thanks for stopping by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Mystery of the Red Doors

 While heading east out into wide open desert spaces recently, I spotted an area with a lot of flowers in bloom. Chasing flowers wasn't my primary goal, but I had some free time and my camera at the ready, so what the heck! A quick stop wouldn't hurt anything.
Beaver tail cactus (taken from my yard)
Looking straight down at a barrel cactus covered in yellow fruit.
Close-up of Chia. The seeds inside these spiky seedpods are edible and have a pleasant minty flavor. They have been called a "superfood" because of their nutritional properties. They were an important foodsource for Native Americans.

Desert Sand Verbena
Evening primrose
The elusive Desert Lily. For whatever reason, they seem to be getting harder to find. I've been told that at one time, they were much more common. They grow from bulbs, and with enough rainfall, they flower in the same area year after year. I wasn't expecting to see so many wildflowers, and the Desert Lilies were icing on the cake! OK, time to leave the flowers and continue on the journey.
Here's the desert mystery part of my post. On this same drive, I came across these strange red doors. I was zipping along the highway and spotted them out of the corner of my eye. Had I just seen what I thought I had seen?? A quick U-turn for a photo was in order! What are they for and why are they here? Your guess is as good as mine. 
And yet another desert mystery. Not far from the red doors, but on the opposite side of the highway, is this old fuselage. Very odd.
Ocotillo blooms under a feather boa cloud.
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed the mystery of the red doors!
Linking with Skwyatch Friday.