Saturday, April 23, 2016

Northern Exposure

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My wife and I drove up the coast to chill out in Mendocino for a couple of days, and we stopped at Salt Point State Park on the way up to stretch our legs and enjoy some northern exposure.



I think I could photograph the tafoni sandstone formations at Salt Point all day. I spent maybe half an hour in one small area while Pam took in the inspiring seascape and spotted a couple of gray whales heading north and spouting off fairly close to shore.



The tafoni formations are one of those subjects that you never finish exploring. The possibilities are endless and invite many interpretations and compositions. Eventually you have to move on, but you do so knowing you weren't truly done, and that one day you will return to explore some more.



We walked north along the bluffs from the paid ($8) parking area. There was lots of sea pink, or sea thrift, as well as goldfields and iris and poppies. The bloom wasn't as fantastic as I chanced to see it one fine day in May a few years back, but it was still pretty good.



We'd just reached this promising area for more minute exploration, with carpets of purple johnny-tuck and pillows of poppies, when it started to drizzle. We didn't want to head back to the car, but the drizzle kept intensifying, so we made a reluctant retreat and continued our drive up the coast to Mendocino. 



I mainly used my pocket camera in Mendocino and came home with a bunch of tourist pix that I thought I might sprinkle on the blog until I realized it was just too much. After a brief, wonderful stay, we drove down to the headlands this morning for one last look. We were harried by rain yet again, but it was all good.



Springtime in Sonoma and Mendocino counties is awesome, and rain enhances the experience if you let it.



This one little cove was churning with heavy swells, but farther down the coast it wasn't rough at all.



When I first walked out onto the headlands with my wife I only brought my pocket camera, but after seeing how splendid things looked I had to run back to the car for my D800. 



There's nothing quite like this stretch of coast in our neck of the woods. Every now and then it's good to head north and get exposed to something a little different.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Meadows in the Sun

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An early wake-up got me all the way out to Chimney Rock before the sun came up.



I half-expected there to be several other photographers out there, maybe even a class, but I saw only one other person the whole time I was out there.



It was much more windy than I'd have liked. I was able to fire off a few landscape shots, but close-ups were pretty much out of the question.



What a difference a couple of weeks has made. It was nice when I came out with my wife a couple of weeks ago, but now there's a whole bunch more flowers and species.



Peregrine falcon bonus, although he doesn't look too pleased to see me.



He didn't really seem to mind the company until another falcon called and he flew away, maybe to a nest site on the cliffs below.



Wight's Indian paintbrush on the bluff tops.



And tidy tips.



Lots of deer around Chimney Rock, as usual.



One more view of Mt. Saint Helena, with flower-packed meadows in the foreground. You can't see them in this little image, but there are lots of deer in the meadow.



Brief coyote sighting. 

I thought about taking off after him, but there was an electric fence between us. I could probably have squeezed through, but it seemed like a long-shot anyway since the coyote quickly dropped out of sight behind the hill.



A small herd of elk enjoys the forage above Drake's Beach.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Iris in the Rain

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The coyote was my last frame of the day, shot on the way out to Drake's Beach. I saw him from the car as he was hunting in a beautiful iris-filled meadow. I pulled over and put my long lens on, then stepped out of the car into a light drizzle, propping the heavy lens on a fence post. Unfortunately, the coyote spotted me right away and I got just two shots off. It was my second coyote sighting of the day. The first had been out on Tomales Point, where a very furry fellow crossed the trail maybe fifty feet in front of me, soon followed by a small herd of elk. It was raining, and visibility was extremely low at the time, and I probably cut a frightening silhouette with full rain gear and umbrella.



A friend told me last week that Pierce Point had way more wildflowers than Chimney Rock, which I had just visited with my wife. He wasn't lying. There is a very good iris bloom going on just south of Pierce Ranch.



It was raining constantly, so I had to do my photography from beneath an umbrella. Handling a tripod and umbrella at the same time, being very careful to keep droplets off the lens, is not my favorite way to approach a subject. It's an unwieldy process, as you can imagine.



I had hemmed and hawed a little bit from home as to whether I should even make the long drive out to Point Reyes. It can be a fun trip if you don't get stuck behind a pokey driver who won't use pull-outs to let people pass, and I had mixed luck on that score, as usual. But a couple other factors weighed in favor of going. First, the forecast was for very light wind. The storm wasn't going to be a howler and make it virtually impossible to work under an umbrella. Second, although I would love to have had great light and good visibility to photograph the meadows and landscapes, this moody and broody stuff is what Point Reyes looks like much of the time. Indeed, by the time I got back from my hike, the fog in this area had reached total coverage, reducing visibility to maybe thirty meters.



The beginning of the Tomales Point Trail drew a thin line between thick meadows of wild mustard and radish which are still just waist-high. They'd have made a nice foreground for landscape shots -- if only the background of the landscape had been visible.



There were some iris patches out there too, but nothing like the profusion in the elk sanctuary on the approach to Pierce Ranch. There were lots of California poppies and cream cups, species that only open when the sun comes out, so I could only imagine how gorgeous the hike would be on a clear day.



I saw quite a few elk cows, but no bulls or calves. I think the fog's limited visibility made them extra spooky. I had to wonder about the coyote I saw because it had been much closer to the elk than I was, yet I (not the coyote) had spooked them. Had they not seen the coyote? Or were they simply unconcerned by its presence? The coyote was big, with a thick, healthy coat, but would probably be no match for a grown elk.



The rain let up for about fifteen minutes near the end of my return hike, so I thought I'd check out a nice patch of low-growing fiddleneck near the parking area. It soon started raining again, so I had to continue working under an umbrella, this time on the soaked ground with a macro lens. With rain pants and jacket, though, I hardly noticed the wet ground and was able to keep my attention on holding the umbrella over the camera.



Shooting in the rain is not my favorite thing, but once I had the hang of it my only regret was that there were so few species to photograph.



There was just enough of a breeze to make things more difficult, so extreme close-ups with focus stacks weren't really an option.



This sign on this weathered old post above Tomales Bay State Park caught my attention. I wonder if "protected" means no huckleberry-picking.



Fog had greatly reduced visibility out around Pierce Point, so I thought I'd drive over to see if it was any better out at Chimney Rock. I knew from last week's visit that Chimney Rock didn't have the spectacular iris show that Pierce Point does, but there is still a nice variety of wildflowers all the way out at the point. Out there with my wife I only had my point-n-shoot, and I thought I'd like to go back with my real camera to photograph the wildflowers with the cliffs in the background.

I made a short side trip up Mt. Vision Road, and a ranger stopped where I'd just parked on the roadside and was gathering my photo gear. I'd been reading on the West Marin Feed's Facebook page that there have been a few car break-ins lately, so I'd stashed all my gear in the trunk when I hiked out on Tomales Point. The ranger also warned me about break-ins and said there'd been another one just that morning. 

I stopped briefly at North Beach and saw a few surfers out. The waves had probably been much better at low tide. I took another detour down to Drake's Beach, figuring if I could see Chimney Rock, then I'd buy a snack at the store and continue on out there. The fog was thick, though, so I decided to save that trip for another weekend.

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

April Fool

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I'm an April fool, and same goes for the rest of the year.



Poking around a mountain to see what I might find.



Found most of it before, but it's always new.



I stop shooting just long enough to go out of my mind.



And then I find . . . resistance is futile.



Flowers too small to photograph, or at least I thought so at first.



Too cool to be fooled, Elizabethan leaves.



The monk of Potrero Meadow noting that the geocache remains stashed in its allotted space.



The pontiff of Potrero Meadow, adorned with moss, waits for azaleas to bloom.



Sunshine warms the lupines and perfume wafts into the air.

A fool and his lupines are too soon parted.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Season of Renewal

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It's always good to be able to push away the obstruction, come out of the cave and embrace a new day. Especially if you can do it with someone you love in a place you love.



Among other projects of renewal this season, I finally broke down and bought a new computer. Because Adobe no longer supports CS2, my upgraded version of CS5 Photoshop became useless, so I subscribed to the CC version and have already fallen in love with the content-aware fill tool. So much better than the clone tool for cleaning up dust spots.



The new machine is also so fast that I no longer have time to brush my teeth or do laundry while HDR operations run, and focus stacks run so fast I can't quite believe it. 



I've also moved my entire image library to a single 5TB external hard drive (my old drives will be used for back-ups). I haven't been able to fit all my images in one place in years, and it's great. I re-imported everything into the CC version of Lightroom and now have a well-structured and complete catalog.



We saw a couple of wild turkeys and several deer today. Seems like it's been a while since I saw any deer out enjoying the hillsides. I guess a few years of drought have been hard on just about all the wildlife, so it's good to see things being back to the "old" normal (while still feeling anxious about the "new" normal). 

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Winter's End

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I hesitated to get up this morning and didn't arrive at the gate until after 7 a.m., so I'm not sure if this was as good as the sunrise color got, or if I missed the peak. The combination of clouds and fog gave the sun just a little window to shine through.



There were several other photographers already there when I arrived. It used to be rare to see anyone else first thing in the morning, but that has been changing over the last year.



I checked out the calla lilies again, having noticed from a distance last week that there were many more blooms on the patch, but it's already gone well past its prime. When I saw that the lilies were a mess I hurried back to hang out with the lupines. What a brilliant morning.



I spent a lot of time just taking things in without taking any pictures. I was surrounded by bird activity, from chickadees to flickers to acorn and pileated woodpeckers, wild turkeys, band-tailed pigeons. And so much green.



It's really a great time to get up there. I think if you rarely go for a hike on Mt. Tam, this is the time to do it, especially along the Coast Trail. There's also still plenty of water in the creeks, so you could pick up a waterfall if you chose the right route.

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