A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Best Chile Relleno...

...I have ever had.
At a new restaurant within walking distance from home.
What more could one ask for?

Carboniferous Canyon

   After the last rainstorm period ended I went out to the forest to see what I could see. I took my macro lens and tripod along on the hunt for rain drops on plants pictures. After a short way I stepped off the trail to photograph something. Then a few steps further in for something else that caught my eye. And again, deeper into the forest for another plant, flower or mushroom. One subject after another kept drawing me into the forest, to an area I had never been before. As I neared the top of a ridge I could hear the sound of running water on the other side. "Oh, this needs to be investigated."
   I only had to go about 100 yards when I stepped into a scene straight out of prehistoric time. The narrow canyon was more lush than any I had been in before. Moss covered trees were down straddling the ravine in all directions. All the ferns, moss and trees were dripping wet. A narrow milky stream cascaded over rocks down through the jumbled mass of vegetation and out of sight. I just stood there thinking to myself, "Oh my goodness. This is amazing." 
   And there I stood, taking it all in and nothing with me to record what I was seeing. I had left my movie making camera back in the car as well my wide angle lens. The 105mm macro was useless for this.
   I hiked back out to the car just to get my video camera and another lens then returned. It was worth it I felt just to record what I discovered.
 This video really doesn't capture the beauty and moment as it really was. It is the best my little camera could do in the hands of a novice cinematographer.
The sun was breaking through and creating too much contrast when I returned.
I planned to go back earlier the next morning and try again.

(days later) I went back. Not once, but twice, on two separate days coming home with unsatisfying footage so I decided to stick with the original above.
I may try again.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Flowers, Leaves & Things

Uh-oh, looks like Blogger is having issues this morning. I struck out in trying to comment on blog posts this morning. So just know I viewed your posts everyone but that was all.

Interesting thing about this plant was that it is growing out of just a few inches of soil that had flowed down onto the top of this large boulder.

These are very small leaves of a mossy fern-like covering on tree bark. I was trying to catch a drop of water forming and falling off but was never successful.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Discovered Waterfall & Newts

I had never seen or even knew this fall was in the canyon as I had never climbed in as far before. At this point the canyon wall to the left is near verticle, impossible to scale. The side I was on was sloped about what you can see on the bottom right corner. So with slippery leaves underfoot, very soft ground giving way and most the hand holds to limbs turning out to be unsecured downed tree branches..."whoa!",  the thought was running through my mind I have no business being here. If I were to go tumbling down no one would be able to hear me over the noise of the rushing water. And besides, no one was out and about anyway near where I was.
Time for this boy to go home.

All along I had been seeing newts. They love this these conditions. Being as I was very careful with my footing I could easily see one of these critters moving along before stepping on it. It was the newly hatched little fellows only two inches long that I worried about. One could very well be under a leaf and I would not know about it. I sure hope I never stepped on any.

Disclaimer: Last year I referred to this as a Rough Skinned Newt. This year it is California Newt. Next year it will probably be Pacific Newt. They all look the same to me.
Hard to see, huh?

Just as I was climbing out of the canyon I saw one more. So while taking a break I videoed this guy crawling along. Notice how his feet slip on a leaf. He too is having a difficult time climbing up. Towards the end of the video I shift the camera to my other hand, inadvertently covering the microphone, at the same time trying to switch positions so as to get a head-on view of the newt. Just then I start losing my footing and quickly shut down filming. Fun stuff.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Soft Water pt.2

It appears the rest of the photos are a bit off on the far white end of the spectrum also yet overall not too bad for a first time endeavor. I think I've realized I am not really a soft water person. I like looking at what others do but to do it myself I'm not really into it. The hike in, setting up and taking the photos was all fun to do but I guess I am more into what the eye sees than a special effect for my photos.

There were a few inquiries from the previous "Soft Water" post as to how this is done. First of all, a tripod is mandatory because it involves longer exposure times than one can hold a camera still (which is around 1/60th of a second). I use a remote shutter release but you can also use the timer release on the camera. Most all of the images I included on these two posts were at a range of 1/5, 1/10 or 1/13th of a second at f/8. I think this was my downfall. Too long of an exposure. The picture below is the same scene as the first picture of the previous Soft Water post. This one though is at 1/50th of a second with the lens wide open at f4.5. The water is not as soft - it looks more like water. Take into account it was an overcast day and I had nearly full overhead coverage of trees. In an open setting I expect the one could have a wider range of settings they could use. I would guess too that in bright sunlight I don't think the camera could be slowed down enough to create "soft water" without over exposure, but I don't really know not having tried it.

Enough talk. Here are some more pictures.

This shot was done at a faster shutter speed so as you can see the water is not as "soft". The original was very much darker (under exposed) because of the faster shutter speed but this allowed me more room to brighten it up afterwards. One can't really do much if it is over exposed. Yet I could only go so far or again the white in the water gets blown out of detail.

This is looking down upon the above shot after I climbed a bit higher.
Notice the rock surrounded by water center left. It looks like it doesn't belong, as if it was drawn in.
Probably due to too long a exposure thus 'stretching' the water out too much?

Another faster shutter speed (under exposed) photo, then brightened up with my photo program. 
By now I am into new uncharted territory (for me) and the canyon was getting narrower and steeper.
 Tomorrow I will conclude this series as the 'adventure' was getting a bit sketchy at this point.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Not So Graceful Landings for World Bird Wednesday

Watching birds land on water is always entertaining. Gulls never disappoint. 
These were taken at a swimming lagoon (closed during the winter) in a nearby county park.

Hey buddy, I was here first!
I meant to do that.
Move it!
Flight 33 you're coming in too fast!

Pull up! Pull up!
Abort! Abort landing!
Nice form, fair approach, good entry, no splash, average degree of difficulty - Score 9.3.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Soft Water

The weekend rain ended and I went right out to check the water flow volume at my usual trail head. Despite the rain the creek looked pretty much as it did during the video (you can see the video here) so I didn't do any filming. Maybe a heavier rain is needed or this is as much as the creek can handle, I don't know. So I took the opportunity to try my hand at some soft water effects, something I've not done before. Here are a few images.
The next three is from the same point just at different focal lengths. 

You can see I was a bit off on the exposure as the whitest white has no detail.
I'll have some more to come that might show a little improvement...hopefully.
This photo episode wasn't without it's own little bit of adventure either.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One Left

My grandsons will be able to recall seeing payphones in their lifetime, but the next generation most likely will not. Only in movies, photos of days gone by and museums will that generation and those that come after will they see a public telephone, a device that one deposited coins into in order to make a telephone call. To have an idea how strange that may seem to them, imagine long ago someone telling you the day would come where you would have to pay money for air?
Closer inspection of the sign shows that if you buy gasoline, California law states that you are entitled to free air and water. You just have to go inside and state your case to the cashier. Otherwise, pay a dollar.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Waterskiing Geese

I was on a mountain bike ride, stopped by the lake, had just finished eating my apple and was preparing to ride off. On the other side of the lake about a quarter of a mile away, there was all this commotion. A pair of Canada Geese were honking, trying to make a decision, should we stay or should we go? Soon they lifted off and flew close to the water straight for me.

Neat. Hey, this might be a good picture if they fly right over head.

I ripped off my glove, zipped open the pocket on my vest and pulled out my point & shoot. The geese were still on target and half way across the lake by now, honking the entire way. I fumbled about getting the camera out from it's silk drawstring pouch. The honking was growing louder. The geese were closing in. Frantically I pushed the tiny button to turn on the camera, the lens slowly came awake, I held the camera out, and couldn't see a darn thing in the screen as I had sunglasses on. Aiming in the general direction I quickly pushed the shutter release button, hoping for the best as they skidded in to a landing on the water.

This what I got:

One blind shot and I couldn't have expected any more even if I tried.
The above is a cropped version from the original shot below.

Gutter Mug & Rain Filled Creek

Can't say the recent rains are responsible for the mug in the gutter but they are for the creek at the beginning of my usual hiking trail. We're suppose to have a weekend full of rain.
This baby will be roaring.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Turkey Making Time

The wild turkeys are on the move everyday. It is that time of the year for the turkeys to mate. I've been seeing large numbers moving about the fields and woods, the most in one herd was over two dozen. I couldn't get an accurate count for they wouldn't stand still.

Heads up girls, photographer approaching.

The males will have harems of five or more females to mate with during the breeding season. During this time his wattle will become more brightly colored. He'll make gobbling sounds and spread his tail feathers which is very alluring to the female.

Normally the females will roost in a tree but after mating she will make a nest on the ground in a small depression hidden among tall grasses or brush, lining the nest with grass and leaves. She will lay 6-18 eggs, that are light tan in color with brownish spots and incubate them for 27-28 days. It is at this time the eggs are vulnerable to predators such as skunk, raccoon and coyote. When the chicks hatch they will be ready to move out within a day following mom for food and protection. They soon learn to climb into trees at night like their parents.

It was overcast the day I took these photos so their feathers are not really showing their full potential of gorgeous colors. I came upon 2 toms yesterday while riding my bike. They had their tails fanned out trying to impress the group of ladies with them. My goal is to get a picture of a tom displaying, but naturally I can not do so while on a bicycle. I also would like to find a nest and get a photo of a hen laying.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Over $30 Worth

based at this rate...including tax

Trust me, getting that first shot was all I could do to stand directly over the rising reeking stench.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


My lens was clean for a change. I see only a couple dust specks on this picture. I am really bad about having dust on my lenses but am getting better at remembering to clean them.

Going outside and taking a picture of a clear sky is the best way to see if there is dust on your lens. If after cleaning your lens and you still see spots just like the one at about one o'clock above from the right end of the telephone pole crossbeam, then the dust speck is on your sensor. Do not touch the sensor. Read your manual on how to clean the sensor. If you look through your viewfinder and see a dust speck in the same spot with different lenses or no lens on the camera then the speck is on the Fresnel lens of your camera. That spot will not show up in your pictures but it is annoying to look at through the camera. You can easily brush or blow the dust off the Fresnel lens safely. The Fresnel lens is the frosted looking piece of glass inside the camera up underneath at the top.

Now if I want to remove a dust speck from a picture I use the clone tool in my photo program. You may be able to find about six spots removed in the picture below after cloning them out.
If you try to clone out a dust speck several times but it stubbornly remains, then the speck is on your computer screen. Um, that's another whole issue I really have got to get a handle on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Black-necked Stilt

At a small wildlife refuge near home in the San Francisco North Bay.
I took a lot of pictures of these birds who were fairly tolerant of my presence. When sorting out the rubbish it came down to the images where they were facing this direction, into the hazy sun were the best. Also having the dark reflected background helped compared to a pure water background.

Surprisingly I was successful in getting a couple decent inflight images.

This little video captures the constant sharp yek, yek call they have. Midway through the film the sound goes away as I slowed the video down to one quarter the speed so as to better see the bird in flight. At the end is another inflight segment and you'll see how fast they are and how difficult it was to keep them in frame. You'll hear me go "hrmmpft" thinking I missed it.