Light Moods.

Due to the worldwide Covid outbreak, it’s difficult to simply jump on a plane to explore far off lands. That’s not to say I couldn’t, it’s just that I feel I shouldn’t – if that makes any sense. I am, however, on the verge of just doing it (safely and selectively, of course). In the meantime, it’s given me the opportunity to search out places and events close by that would otherwise not make the visit list. California being such a large state, there’s plenty of locations to explore – even the smallest & obscure. Nearly equal time from the Norcal and Socal, is a sleepy little town of Paso Robles. Known long ago for its thermal springs, is overshadowed now for its vino and olive oil growing and production. So much so, there seemed to only be one place offering any kind of hot springs – and they were a day-like spa! Like Starbucks, there were multiple tasting rooms on any given block in the main part of town. My not being anything close that would resemble a ‘wine person’, much less a consumer of alcohol in general, when in Rome (or Paso as it were) … right? I was more interested in boutique-like wineries with a good (aka interesting story) over the larger more well known names. This quest is a whole different story …

… when the hot summer sun sets, what to do? Sip more wine? Sure. But, a recent art installation, which I first saw online earlier in the year was only supposed to be a 3 month temporary exhibition intrigued me. Having great success, they’ve decided to extend the exhibit until early next year. After arrival near sunset, much though, effort and ongoing construction was evident. My first thought was … this is a lot of construction for something temporary! Talking to folks working there, as I sometimes do, word has it that they expanding the installation and making it a permanent ‘landscape’ fixture! So, what is it you ask? It’s called Sensorio.

Sensorio is a collision of tech and nature. It’s immersive. If you take pause to take it in, it’s a surreal experience of the visual senses. A portion of it adds sound. If you have the time or interest, make the trip down, sip some wine, sample some olive oil and be sure to make a reservation ahead of time to visit this special place.

(Click on first image to see it full screen)

Since no photography accessory equipment (mainly any kind of camera support like a tripod or monopod) is allowed, I brought one of my more ‘forgiving’ cameras that allow me to fire off frames at very slow speeds that other cameras would have too much hand-shake. It doesn’t help to employ learned calm breathing techniques too! Darkness and handheld (camera) usual spell disaster, so these are mostly acceptable.

As the night wore on and the sky darkened too much. Yes, there’s a certain point when the sky turns pitch dark, it no longer has any interest. I much prefer the Blue Hour at latest, unless I’m shooting astrophotography. I also love to play with the camera in creating abstracts of normal everyday things – the below is a sample.

I hope this inspired you to make it down (or up or over) here!

Happy Trails!

In my teens, I was a Boy Scout, albeit not a very good one. My M.O. wasn’t to move up the ranks with badges or medallions – those didn’t interest me to much. I have always fancied the freedom of meandering outdoors, waking to the sweet aroma of withering trees being whisked by the changing winds and the campfires … awwwh, the — feeling of standing by a burning ring of fire with smoldering hot embers of wood gasping for the last bit of air begging for a fresh log to reawaken itself into a fiery flame of warmth into the cool night. Yes, I learned/experienced a number of things that lend themselves helpful in my general life skills today (basic knot tying, being in the outdoors, etc.), but I was in it for the fun of rough-housing it with the others in the troop. Memories of adolescence days gone by indeed … fast-forward to present day and in the last number of years, I have found different ways to getting outside to enjoy, consume and bathe in what nature gives us – nowadays mostly through photography.

There are times, however, getting away from city life for the sake of exchanging the concrete jungle for dirt jungle in is satisfying at the most basic level. This past weekend, I found myself — another first – backpacking. As a Boy Scout, we did a fair amount of multi-day backpacking – maybe that’s where I didn’t see much point of carrying about a third of your body weight (at the time) into the wild and come right back with the same stuff a few days later. It just seemed like a senseless effort! Today, even with high-tech outdoor gear specifically designed for backpacking, I still can’t say it’s my favorite thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’d likely do it again (maybe), but I did learn a lot about the planning and lugging your survival gear to the point of absurdity. Here’s my story …

Across from our campsite on Treasure Lake.

Getting a relatively later start from the trailhead was probably a slight miscalculation, more on that later. We head out over friendly terrain with gentle up and down slopes through shaded forest with the occasional sunbeam poking through the trees. It’s visually a great hike as the trail is chockfull of several water crossing ranging from logs, boulders and wooden bridges as you are pretty much following the meandering stream that eventually leads you to your destination. As the distance increased, so too did the inclines and elevation – I guess this is typical for trails like this; it’s a workout on the lungs for sure! We had received reports that the presence of snow was likely near the top (or about 1/4-mile from the top) and weather was clear in the low 60s (*F). By the time we reached the snow line, we were 2nd guessing pressing on as we didn’t know how much (worse) it might get and more importantly, the sun was getting lower by the minute and quickly approaching the ridge to the west. Making quicker decisions to make it through the thigh deep snow in many sideways approaches, we finally reached Treasure Lake. With about 45 mins left of sunlight, camp was setup in record time and even had enough sunlight to cook a much needed hot meal – sparked up the water boiler and rehydrated a yummy bag of Beef Stroganoff before settling into the tent for the night. Water was plentiful as filter lake water is as pristine as you can get.

Setting up camp beside the half frozen Treasure Lake was surrounded and protected by snow covered terrain making for limited exploration during the day – bummer. From the high winds of the day giving way to a snowy evening that continued on and off throughout and into the morning, we decided to hightail it off the mountain as early as possible, not soon after daybreak. On the way down and after getting past the more gnarly snow covered traverses, we were treated to a snowy downfall through the forest – a truly magical hike back to the car.

Northern Beaches

I’ve wanted to come up to this area in Northern California for a long time and out of a whim, I gathered a few friends and headed up north towards Ft. Bragg. Given the recent fires surrounding the area, we weren’t sure whether we going to get anything due to the smoke, much less being able to gain access to the place we came up for.

Setting up camp, I made a rookie mistake and left, of all things, my tent! Luckily, the campgrounds are car sleeping friendly so I just inflated my pad and slept in the SUV … phew!

Just a handful.

First stop, Glass Beach. From all accounts, this beach got its name roughly 60 years ago as it was used as a dump site. I guess back then, they weren’t too concerned with environmentally disposing of human trash, so they simply backed up trash by the truck loads until about 1967 or so. As the roaring seas rushed in and out everyday, everything but the broken glass disappeared. After years of ebbing and flowing with the tides, the glass shaved itself into smooth pebbles of white, blue, amber and different shades of green. Even as people have taken them, there’s still enough along the shores to marvel at. If you visit, please resist the urge to take any and allow others to enjoy the beauty that nature has turned human waste into.

Next stop, after a nights rest (in the car) is another magical place that has eluded me for years, is a place that could easily be overlooked. Not only is it not the easiest to find, but you have to hit it just right or else Mother Nature hides it from view. Almost alien-like perfectly rounded boulders peek above in rushing Northern California shoreline waters. Thinking … how did they get here? They’re certainly too heavy to be washed up from the ocean and if they did, why are they not swept out to sea? Standing back from the shoreline, it stands up against a sheer cliff wall of sandstone. My guess is, parts of the wall gave way to the crashing waves over time, causing landslides into the ocean (you can see remnants of a slide on either side of where you stand). Fallen earth and hardened driftwood all tell me this is the probably case.

Like the glass bottles sharp edges, huge chunks of sandstone were given the same treatment (by the ocean) and made these perfectly mounded orbs not but 30 meters from the cliff. After allowing the sun to set below the horizon on this moonless night, darkness begins to set quickly. Attempting to catch a vertical Milky Way, for first-timers at this location was sort of a crap shoot, but thanks to apps like TPE or Photopills was able to get a pretty good idea of what to expect. Not having been here before, access back to the car from the beach was always back of mind concern for me and the others, so I didn’t want to stay too late into the evening.

Waiting for darker skies, we had to move our position 4 or 5 times as the tide rushed up closer and closer to the cliffs much of swiftly than anticipated – which only heightened my awareness to getting back safely. But, in the end, you can always find some composition that’s acceptable before calling it a night. In the above photo, by the time we left (~8:30pm) the water table had risen 1/2-way up that dark band on the right!

Do your scouting for best times to go, be respectful and leave no trace behind, leaving it so others can enjoy the same experience you did.

And Summer Begins …

Unprecedented weather along the middle coastline of California just about an hour north of San Francisco brought us to spend a couple of days outside. Car camping, camp food and good company, getting a few camera wielding people to enjoy the outdoors doesn’t take too much “arm-twisting”.

After a shoreline shoot, we get ourselves into position and wait for sunset to appear … it was definitely worth the 1/2 mi. hike to the spot I had envisioned from photos online.

With day ending and the sun breaking the horizon for the day, the fun begins as the golden light develops.

Love this composition of the two bodies of water on each side of the land mass.

Nighttime shoot session until 1am (photo coming soon from camera).

Sleep.

Then, catch early morning light amongst these leaning giants.

Then, head home for the time being … we’ll be back again.

Nature & Music Collided

Peace.

Sitting amongst the crashing waves and settled sand underfoot under the early evening hours waning light, sitting in surrounded circle while being treated to a private and personal piano concert (that’s mic’d up to our wireless headsets, is something I’d not thought I’d find myself ever doing. Actually, I was lost in the surreal sounds of a masterfully played piano while ably wandering aimlessly on the sand in the semi-dark closing of the day.

Wow.

What a concept to be uplifted through a musical journey where the distractions of external sounds are blocked out. All that can be heard are the delicate notes being played by a lone pianist, hearing even the slightest flawed notes in transition from one rift to the next. It doesn’t matter. That’s the beauty of it. Non-perfection. One solid continuous hour, unbroken by anything except your own passing thoughts … I didn’t want it to end.

Transformative.

Here are a few silent snaps …

Bloom or Gloom?

With all the hype around the unusually wet winter here in Southern California this past season along with (typical) dryer years during the same time, the inter webs have been blooming over wildflowers blanketing the eastern hills with sprays of orange, yellows, purples and green. Viewing with envy, the many posts & pics from the past month, I finally had the chance to venture some 2 hours from where I now live to the eastern slopes of the much talked about Walker Canyon.

From the time you exit the freeway, you get a sense of the zaniness from all of the commotion going on in the movement of cars and people … and this was at 3:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon! I can see why the weekends are an absolute nightmare for an area that’s usually not frequented by the masses and not setup for this type of adoration for wildflowers. Anyhow … upon parking, the mild leisurely stroll up the canyon on nicely carved roads makes for easy navigation throughout the canyon itself.

Is it a love for the flower, outdoors or just a seen and be seen to instagram or facebook that brings out the best and worse in events like this? Bad (human) behavior is shows itself along the roads as pink and yellow plastic tape with closure signs in attempts to ward off folks traipsing through sensitive or overrun areas on the hills themselves. Even with these friendly reminders for good behavior, witnessing several on the other side of the tape proves that … well … people suck! It’s me me me me, I’m an (self-imposed) important ‘grammer that has to go beyond the rules to get whatever pic that they think is different or sic, just to get ‘likes’ on social media. Ugh. From young to older, singles and groups and peeps wearing fancy dresses for photo ops, it’s great that the appreciation from nature is alive and well in the day of video games and the like, but c’mon people – respect the place will ya?

I digress. As we walked further in to the canyon, we began to ask ourselves … where are the huge blooms and pop of color (other than the green hills) that we’ve all seen on social media? Was it too late in the season and they’re withering away? Was it the wrong time of day? Golden Poppies do open and close to grab sunlight and go dormant during the nighttime, so perhaps that was the reason for such little orange coverage on the hills. I’m no horticulturist so I have no idea. Nonetheless, it was well worth the ride out here – if not to walk around outside to get some fresh air!

Happy Windsday!

Power of the flower lives on.

The Other Blue Angel …

… It’s been awhile since I shot fast moving things, so it was time to brush up on slightly different camera settings. It took a bit of trial and error, but I think I had it dialed in for what I had (lense-wise). I wanted to rent the Tamron 150-600mm beast of a lens, but my bad planning didn’t allow for its arrival in time, so I just went with my 28-300mm, turned my Nikon D850 into a DX machine, which gave me 450mm at the long end. I could’ve used 150mm more, but I can’t complain. Just to be there was a thrill. Luckily, there was a CVS across the street from where I was shooting as I forgot my earplugs – a highly recommended accessory – these things scream and roar that’ll keep your ears ringing for a couple hours afterwards.

(Click on images above to enlarge them)

It was a perfectly clear day. Blue sky. No wind. Lots of sunshine. And … lots of people! The latter was manageable and didn’t really get in the way as I was pointing skyward most of the time. There single-props, skydivers, Boeing 777, C41, a flight squadron called the Patriots and of course the Blue Angels.

Fleet week is one of those celebrations where you can think what you think about war machines, but in the end, you can’t dispute the raw power of these awesome machines that defy gravity, not to mention human tolerance in the amount of G-force one can sustain without blacking out.

Enjoy the results!

Peace.

8:15am, August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, Japan was struck by the first atomic bomb that shook the country and the world testing both human invention and how tragic some of these innovations can be on human life and the human society around the world.

Held virtually every year since then, Japan and the world calls out for world peace with a ceremony of peace to mark remembrance of the over 140,000 irreplaceable human lives lost as a result of human conflict. Along with a solemn moment of silence, lanterns are set afloat along waterway shore where both the Peace Memorial Park and one the last surviving building stands to pay homage to these people and to look forward to a more forgiving future.

heiwa taiko

Remembrance & Celebration. The Heiwa Taiko drum group led the heart pounding beats. The man in blue is a survivor of the bombing; he was only 14 years old at the time.

A few years ago, the San Francisco Bay Area Peace Lantern Ceremony was started to commemorate this tragic event located at Aquatic Park in Berkeley, CA. This is my first time attending and was quite surprised at the attendance – both in numbers and in diversity. Asian, white, black, latino, young and old et al, all congregating under one common theme: peace. Even in today’s current crazy world political and societal misgivings, people seemingly still crave for this most basic of all things … to live harmoniously with and amongst each other. From all appearances, 2 to 3 thousand were on hand as night fell with the guidance of ceremonial Taiko drum performances, survivor testimony and buddhist prayer led us towards the lantern launching. The glow of the lanterns began to release their messages that were personalized by many in attendance. As the gentle current of the water picked up ever so slightly to give life to the lanterns, somber Japanese themed music could be heard along the shoreline. It was a surreal event designed to touch the soul and (hopeful) in renewing the good in the human spirit.

Here are a few images from the lanterns … amongst all of the lanterns, there were a few that struck a cord with me, you can’t miss them when viewing them individually. Maybe there is hope for humankind … (click on any of the image below to view in full screen)

 

 

 

After a longer than expected journey to the ever sacred countryside of the California Eastern Sierras due to road closures in the wake of punishing winter rains, we finally reach the valley floor of Yosemite. Arriving, we head straight for the daily campsite and get lucky in securing a site to bed down later tonight – it should get down to the mid 20*F by the time sleepy time rolls around.

Killing a few hours until nighttime, this winter’s snow melt is in full force as the waterfalls are spewing streams of gushing water from the surrounding walls of granite. Settling on a spot beside the shores of the Merced River with tripods setup, all you heard is the water calmly rushing past a fallen branch a few feet from shore. Ommmmm … no humans with just an occasional visit from grazing deer. Peace. As the sun begins to lower itself behind the granite monoliths from behind and all around, the star of the show begins to isolate itself from its competing peaks, reaching for the last bits of sun rays. Temperatures are dropping steadily sitting in the shade and the layers of clothing begin to appear. Not wanting to leave this surrender spot (not to mention missing golden hour), we prepare ourselves a mountain fresh gourmet meal. There’s nothing quite like scraping a 2-sided spoon/spork/knife instrument against the inside of a foil bag of chicken fettuccini alfredo sauce! What a feast I tell ya! It helps to have a portable water boiler to reconstitute your food. Full bellies, we wait for sundown.

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Calle Lily Alle

For a number of years now, when I first happened upon images online about this area down along the coast of northern California, I’ve been pining year after year to capture this rare event. What event? Well … first off, I’m not a big flower kinda’ person when it comes to making images. I don’t make special efforts to seek and find flowering blooms – it’s just not all that inspiring to me. But, plunk me down into the desert during wintertime where there’s a “Super bloom” happening and I’m already planning to be there, I’m all in!

I digress …

LS (5 of 5)

Still looking fresh

Same goes for this little slice of paradise in a deeply covered revine somewhere alone Highway 1 just south of Carmel Valley about 15 or so minutes. Perhaps that’s why it has taken me so long to finally make the effort to scope out this place. So, driving along Hwy 1 like a lost dog, attempting to follow as many bread crumbs folks on internet sites have left behind in their wisdom to help others find this place, affectionately known as Calle Lily Alley. Why? Well, it’s filled with blooming Calle Lily’s – you know, the kind of white fleshy platters with a yellow plumes coming out of the middle during full bloom (otherwise curled like a roll of paper towels) you typically see during Easter Sunday and perhaps at funerals as well. It’s completely different when you see them growing in the wild in all their glory as they shoot skyward to grab a few hours of sunlight. Remember – they’re set in a deep revine. The unique thing about this revine is fresh mountain water makes it way to the ocean as there’s a steady little stream rushing water onto the beach/ocean not but a couple hundred meters westward – where fresh water turns into seawater. The ground is moist and soggy underfoot along with lush green shrubs and plants that flank both sides of the revine – spare the occasional Poison Oak shrubs.

Since I wasn’t in the area to specifically shoot this – more of a “while I’m here” kinda thing. I only brought my walk around camera (Fujifilm x100F), no tripod, filters or anything else to assist me in any attempt to getting creative, so I was fixed to one focal length at 28mm. Having so, it challenged me to work the revine as creatively as possible – not being able to zoom wide or in tight. I actually had to use my feet to zoom in and out – go figure!

I finally found the revine about 5pm’ish and stuck around until about 6pm or so. I really wanted to stay for sunset to grab the Golden Hour, but I had a hungry someone waiting for me in the car. The time I was there, the lighting was still a bit harsh for my liking, but felt it was a good enough first visit. Two last points of notice … shoot with your widest angle lens, work on crafty compositions and definitely wait it out for sunset … until next year as this event starts around mid-March and lasts about a month or less. Many blooms were starting to wither and brown around me.