Disappointment? Not with friends around: Grizzly Island and Rush Ranch

I’ve never been on a photo outing where I didn’t get a good shot or learn something. This time, I learned not to return to Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Suisun City, Solano County. When we were there last, it was during the drought. I thought, with the current rains, it would be different. I thought I’d see a lot of wildlife (It does boast of being 12,900 acres of prime wildlife habitat.)  and nice green marsh land. However, it looked much like it did last year with more water.

We drove for about 45 minutes and then called it a morning there. Next we, Ray, Marlene and I, went to Rush Ranch, which is down the road from Grizzly Island. At first Marlene wouldn’t get out of the car because of mosquitoes. They were swarming during our last visit. So Ray and I checked it out–no mosquitoes. Marlene joined us. I did get some shots that I hadn’t gotten in the last two visits.

Yes, it was a disappointment, and I probably won’t return; but we did have fun. Whenever you go out with friends, it’s fun. We shared jokes about this misadventure, mosquitoes and more. I value the friendships I’ve gained since beginning photography.

First print competition and lessons

It’s not easy putting your work out there and have it judged. But for me, it was great. I didn’t do as well as I did last time at the Sierra Camera Club in Sacramento, but this was for the print division and a different judge. I entered into the Monochrome and Color categories. We are allowed two images per category. The other category is artistic–I’m not ready for that!

Here’s how my images were judged on a sliding scale of 8 – 12. I’ll give you a hint: 3 were 10’s and one was 11. I’m not upset, but I’m excited. I learned terminology I’d never heard. The judge not only graded, he explained why and gave ways to correct the problem he saw. He was teaching. He was surprised and said at one point that he hadn’t  seen any eights or nines!

Here’s one that got me a 10.

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He thought the figure was too dark and got lost. He suggested I work with the dark and light to add more depth, and that the scale was not that impressive. Well, I can disagree with the scale not being impressive. I guess you had to be there.

Here’s the one that got me an 11:

people (14)Here’s the one that I got an 11 on: Well, it’s not exactly the one. I couldn’t find the one I had printed. I cropped off my copyright for the competition image and he said he would have liked to see his whole foot. He also said that the guy was centered–another distraction, and I agree. He suggested that I could have shot the picture from the other side and then the guy wouldn’t have been centered. Who knows what it would have looked like. I did learn not to put a copyright on an image that I might submit, but make a virtual copy. Also, take a candid, which this was, then ask if I could take his picture. Then I could have taken several shots and moved around. However, he did say that the tonal values were right on. That got me the 11.

I’m loving this camera club and learning a great deal. I took 3 1/2 pages of notes at this meeting, and I’m looking forward to once again putting my work out there and have it judged.

PS: The top image rated a 10. I submitted it without the copyright.

 

Allergy? Cold? More!: Ironstone Vineyards, part 2

Allergy: Yesterday Laura and I went to visit the Jepsen Prairie Preserve (You’ll see it soon.) to see their vernal pools. As soon as I stepped onto the area around the pools. I started sneezing and couldn’t stop! Did I have tissues with me? No. It wouldn’t have mattered because I could not have brought enough. I had to use my shirt I use as a light jacket. Oh my.

Cold: When I got home, the sneezes kept coming. I finally realized it must be a cold. I’m not sure how this allergy/cold affected my shooting. I looked at my images briefly last night, but didn’t get them into Lightroom.

More: I’m preparing prints for juried competition for the first time at tomorrow night’s Sierra Camera Club meeting. I’m a little nervous. But, it’s all part of the learning and growth experience. I’ll let you know how I did.

Now, back to Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys and their beautiful grounds. This winery has a museum, tasting room, cafeteria, amphitheater and hosts events. When you’re there, it’s time to relax and rejuvenate. That is unless you have an allergy or a cold. Next time I go out, I’m bringing a whole tissue box with me!

 

Beauty; no beast: Ironstone Vineyards, Murphys, California

We sometimes travel distances for beauty. On a recent Tuesday we traveled 2 hours to Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, California. Why did we drive all that way? Because I know it’s beautiful, and there would be no disappointments. Well, sometimes it could be raining like during my last visit there. There was a little wind, so that meant we didn’t use our macro lenses. However, my 18 – 140 Nikon lens does excellent close up photography in the wind.

During shooting the flowers and grounds, I was having some trouble with my camera’s exposure. I would compensate and then on the next picture, re-compensate. It was bothering me because it meant that I would have to take two shots. One to let me know if I needed to compensate and another with the compensation. Maybe someone can help me figure out if I have a problem with camera or lens. It may be that the sun was bright, but then I’ve shot in bright sun before. Oh, it didn’t happen on my photo outing this week!

Other than that frustration, we had an enjoyable day. And, since I wasn’t driving, I napped on the way back. Yes, the key to traveling long distances is to pick a worthy spot–then you don’t mind the long drive, especially if you can snooze a little on the way home.

This will be a two-part post. Today, I’ll show you some of the flowers. Most are tulips, but there are others. In the next post, I’ll show you the grounds and cavern (wine cellar).

A sugar coated outing: Jelly Belly Factory, Fairfield

You just have to like Jelly Belly jelly beans. They tempt you with so many flavors like popcorn, chocolate, cherry. These are just some I like. So, when we decided to do a shoot at the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, I knew some of the shooting would be a challenge, but at the end would be a bag of belly flops for me to buy.

First let me explain what belly flops are. They are the candies that just are not perfect. Some are not shaped correctly and some are double or triple beans stuck together. They taste the same as the pristine jelly beans, but cost a lot less.

So there’s the candy at the end of the rainbow; what about the photographic challenge? My challenge was to shoot inside without flash, through somewhat dirty glass at the factory below us. This was my first time shooting with a circular polarizer filter. I also decided to use my Sigma 17 – 24 mm, F/2.8 – 4 lens, hoping that would add additional needed light. I also needed to get everything in focus. I think I was successful, but the subject was sort of boring. When you look at the images, you will get an idea of what they do in the factory.

An additional challenge was put before me: the windows at floor level were cleaner than the ones at standing height. So I squatted my way through the self-guided tour. It took a week for the muscles in my quadriceps to relax! When the tour ended, I was really too tired to shoot the colorful goodies in the store. I did a little, but oh my!

I do like Jelly Bellys and took home a 5 lb. bag of flops. I’m going through them slowly, restricting myself to a certain amount each day.

Not like last year: Crystal Hermitage Gardens, Ananda Village

Last year, the sun was shining, the tulips were open and we were in a drought. This year, it was drizzling, threatening to pour as we visited the Crystal Hermitage Gardens in Ananda Village, Nevada City. It was still beautiful, in fact the flowers were more vibrant.

This was a learning experience also–isn’t every outing. I had never shot in rain, and it was a challenge at first. I put my camera into a protective plastic sleeve, but had difficulty turning the lens barrel. So I shot with the cover on top of the camera. Very inconvenient! Between shots, I tucked my camera under my jacket. The drizzle kept up most of the time we were there. One time it came pouring down and we ducked for cover.

Ananda Village is a cooperative spiritual community dedicated to the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, founded by his direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda. It’s a peaceful place and the people are great. Yearly they plant tulips in a terraced garden and invite the public to visit. We weren’t the only people walking the garden that morning, and not the only ones with cameras. I wish it wasn’t so far away. I enjoy meditating and this place would be great.

We were there on a Tuesday, and the sun didn’t shine until Friday. I heard that we had more rain this year than Seattle, Washington. One ski resort is thinking of staying open all summer! Could you guess–the drought is officially over. As I write this blog, it’s overcast and threatening to rain.

Rain or sunshine, I’m not worried about the tulip garden. They will have visitors no matter what the weather.

Getting the sun’s glow: Cosumnes River Preserve, Galt

You’ve got to love Laura’s enthusasim when it comes to photography. I do. So, on a recent weekend morning, about 8 a.m., when she suggested we go down to Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP), a nature preserve of 46,000 acres, to catch the tail end of the morning’s golden hour, I scrambled. I always need that push to get up early, stay up late, etc. Laura gives me that push.

In my rush to get out, I left my backpack that contained, snacks, hiking shoes etc. at home. Another truth about me: I will shoot in Birkenstocks whenever I can because my feet don’t like to be confined (a bad arthritic toe). Luckily, we were walking on the dirt paths around CRP.

But we weren’t lucky enough to catch the last of the golden hour because there wasn’t any! Fog! This was the second time we caught the morning fog at CRP. The last time we were able to catch glistening spider webs on plants. That morning there were none. The rains had washed away the webs and the spiders hadn’t returned yet.

Because of the fog, I decided to use my Sigma 2.8, 17 – 70 mm lens; but, that meant I didn’t have the ability to catch the birds out in the distance. When the fog lifted, I switched to my Nikon 55 – 300 mm lens so I was able to catch a few birds.

In the end, we did get the sun’s glow and the moody fog. All in all, it was a fun morning.

A big step: Empire Mine, Grass Valley, California

I move slowly–I know it. So, when people started telling me I should enter my photos in competitions, I was reluctant. I didn’t know how to prepare them, didn’t know where to enter, etc. To help push me along, I joined the Sierra Camera Club.

This is a big step for me because they have two monthly juried competitions. Last week I put two images in competition. Wow, that was intense. I was really looking for guidance and constructive criticism. Scoring was 8 points at the low end and 12 at the high end. I really did not have any expectations of what score my photos would bring, I just wanted to hear what the judge had to say.

He went through more than 100 images in the open category and half that in the artistic category. I learned a great deal that night from listening to him. Oh, my images scored an 11 and 12. Below is “Capitol Moon” the one that earned 12 points. Not bad for the first time. And the expertise of many members is tremendous. Their photos were outstanding. Some of them warned me from experience not to get upset when I score my first “8” since judging was subjective.

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Next month, I need to print out some pictures for the competition. I’m still looking forward to it, knowing the judge will be different and may be more tough. For me it’s a big step towards learning more.

For this post, I’m taking you back to the Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley. My Tuesday group went there recently. I was hoping that with all the rain, the flowers would be blooming. No such luck. So I tried to shoot close up and do a little HDR. We did take the Cottage tour, bringing us inside the cottage (not the small cottage you may be picturing). See it again, but differently, through my camera lens.

 

When life gets busy: Capay Valley, California

Have you ever felt like a dog that’s chasing his tail? I’m sure you have at one point or another. March felt like that for me. Between getting ready for my Georgia trip, going on it, and doing photography to help with the emotional stress I knew it was bringing, I forgot to post my trip to Capay Valley.

Our Camera Totin’ Tuesday group went there to shoot the blossoms of the almond trees. There are many orchards in the valley, and fortunately they are all on different time tables of blooming. We were too late for some and just in time for others.

Timing in landscape photography is critical, and so is knowledge of the area. What I’m realizing is that I’m not the most patient photographer! I also rely on other photographers’ knowledge rather than research it for myself. I guess that makes me lazy in addition to impatient! I’d like to climb out of that rut but there are other things grabbing my time. I keep reading that a good photographer should do the research on the area they are shooting, go during the right time of the day and have the patience to sit there for the shot. I’m lucky I have people I can rely on!

Back to Capay Valley. We had a fun day of driving, finding almond orchards, farms and more. We took off with an end in mind and wandered until we got there. Cell phones helped us keep the three cars together.

I did enjoy it, and I’m sorry that I didn’t post sooner on this beautiful area, but………..you know!

The end of my Georgia journey: World of Coca Cola, Atlanta Georgia

With my GPS to guide us, Brenda (my sister-in-law) and I set out to find the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta, Georgia. This was the first outing that brought us a good distance out of Peachtree City. After driving around town with me, Brenda was used to going around in circles, and this trip was no different! We did find the museum and a parking lot, and only went around the block once!

When you first go in, there’s a reception area where visitors are given a soda. You wait and then the tour begins. The kid giving me a soda was doing his welcome bit and asked where I was from. When he heard California, he said, “I want to visit there someday. I hear you have some nice hills.” Well, I just had to tell him that those hills were called mountains and were more than 7,000 feet high! I do love living in California.

The tour was fun and took most of the day with time out for a lunch break. When we got back, we went to see my brother for my last time. For me this was, barring a miracle, good-bye. That night, I sat feeling so empty inside.

After a few days home, we did have a miracle of sorts. My nephew sent me a picture of my brother with his head up. He couldn’t lift it up for more than a week. At least he can see people and eat if he wants.

I’m just hoping his angels and internal GPS guide him on his journey. Love you Chuck!