When life hands you lemons; shoot anyway: Rodeo Beach, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

We weren’t exactly handed lemons at our Rodeo Beach visit, but the dead seal, dog poop and crustacean pieces didn’t help create an atmosphere for beauty on the beach. I just decided to make the best of it, wait for the sunset and do the best shooting I could do. After all, the beach itself was nice.

But then, my shooting was hampered when I needed to clean the inside of the filter on my main lens. I couldn’t unscrew the filter and neither could three other photographers. So the day’s shooting was done with my 300 mm telephoto and ultra wide lenses. I enjoyed the day, meeting two great gals I carpooled with and more from the Meetup group, Exploring Photography.

When 29 photographers get on a small patch of beach, it can get crowded; but, everyone cooperated. I would go up to photo enthusiasts and ask them what they were shooting, what they were using, etc. In the end, the fog made the sunset less than spectacular, giving us an orange glow before it went behind the fog bank.

Life may have handed us lemons, but we did shoot and I did get some very good images.

There’s gold in them their hills: Gold panning, Bear River, Colfax, California, part 2

What is your passion? Do you find fulfillment from it? The Dirt Bags, as Jim and Jos are called by their gold panning community, found their passion and work hard at achieving it. They have an elaborate set up for gold panning, and, yes, they get dirty doing it.

In this post you’ll see how they find that sparkling treasure. As for me, I’ll stick with photography. Last night I chased my passion to the Marin Headlands–more to come on that outing. For me, each image is my gold and my passion.

There’s gold in them their hills: Gold panning, Bear River, Colfax, California

I like to shoot photos, Richard likes to image the stars and Kenny Nichols likes to pan for gold. It relaxes him, and gets him away from work and home. Gloria, his wife, goes along to get away and enjoy time with friends. Fortunately, we are among their friends, and I finally got a chance to visit them while they were out on a gold panning weekend.

Everyone has their own way to capture that precious metal. Some have elaborate machines (I’ll call them that for lack of knowledge!) and others prefer simplicity. No matter which they choose, it’s very physical. After a day of panning, the club members relax and enjoy duck races, evening board games and other activities.

Their weekend was dampened by the huge King fire that filled their campground with smoke. The fire, which was arson, has been raging for a week and a half and is only 65% contained now. When we were there, the smoke had just come into their area and hung heavily over the river blocking out the sun.

My pictures will show the smoke, and because of it, we didn’t stay long. But, we did stay long enough to get acquainted with the community and their passion for their hobby. One couple took a good deal of time with us, and you’ll see their pictures in the next post. Kenny wasn’t panning because he fell the day before and was resting. I’m sure he panned the following day.

For Richard and I, we are back following our hobby passions.

Back to where I started: A point and shoot camera

It might seem like I’m going backwards, but I’m not. I’m simply covering all my photography needs. Well, not maybe all, but at least the need to not get caught without a camera.

You must have been caught in a circumstance where you said, “I wish I had my camera!” That happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I had just left a meeting about 35 minutes from home and there was the most fantastic sunset, and I didn’t have my camera! By the time I got home, it was over. To overcome that, I purchased a Sony Cyber-shot camera. This morning I gave it a trial run while walking my dog.

It did well in the areas that I would use it. This model detects whether you are shooting a landscape, portrait, close up, night shot, etc. I haven’t figured out whether I can override its Auto Intelligence mode. What it calls macro doesn’t give bokeh (blurry background).

Of course, there’s nothing like my Nikon DSLR, but the Sony fits in my purse (It’s smaller than my cell phone.), and I’ll have it with me at all times. It’s also useful when you’re at a wedding and want to take your personal shots. Its small size won’t interfere with the professional photographer.

So here are some shots from today’s effort in going backwards.

No traffic; no light trails: Sacramento, California

The challenge: to learn how to shoot light trails. The second challenge: Not a lot of traffic to create an effective composition!

That’s the way it was on Friday night when I joined a group of photographers to shoot light trails near Old Sacramento. I did succeed in overcoming the first challenge–I now know how to shoot light trails. However the second challenge left me disappointed. You’ve been there before. You have this image in your mind, but in the real world, it doesn’t happen.

Even though there were not enough cars running through intersections, I did have a great time. The group from Sacramento Photographers is great. There’s always someone to help you, and you learn by just talking to them. Oh, the pizza at the end just capped the evening. I’m ready to find traffic now!

Out and about: Effie Yaw Nature Center (a local treasure)

Where would you go to photograph deer and wildlife? Around Sacramento, you would head for the foothills or the Sierra Nevada mountains–or maybe not. Recently I went to the Effie Yaw Nature Center and found deer and other wildlife within 30 minutes from my home. This place is a true treasure.

Yes, the animals are well fed and not afraid of humans, but they make for good practice. We didn’t get through the entire center because hunger and heat intervened, but I’m going to go back. I’m also going to take my younger set of grandkids for a visit once the weather gets cooler.

Best of all, this center is on the American River which is still picture perfect even in the drought we are experiencing. Here’s a peak at the Effie Yaw Nature Center.

Happy Birthday Ryan: How to throw a kid’s party without the mess

Children’s birthday parties have changed–from home to party place. I usually don’t post my family’s birthday parties, but this one will be an exception. It was my younger grandson’s 6th birthday, and he wanted it at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Doesn’t every kid?

The staff at the restaurant were great. They kept the kids busy. Every child had a cup full of coins to play with. By play, I mean they played arcade games and received tickets as they went along. Even if they lost the game, they received one or two tickets. There are two sides to the play area; one for young children and the other for older ones. My granddaughter, at 3 years, stayed in the small kid area, while Ryan tried his luck in the bigger kid area. It was difficult to capture pictures at this party because the children were so excited and busy. My grandchildren have become used to me and my camera and are now turning around, not cooperating. I had the camera on aperture priority and auto sometimes, because I had to shoot quickly.

It became easier when pizza (which was pretty good) was served and Chuck E. Cheese himself visited. The only downside to the party was that the mouse was working two parties at once. Did you know that Chuck E. Cheese is a mouse? Then the child and a chosen adult get to go into the ticket machine where tickets are blowing around. Whatever tickets the duo get to grab are theirs to keep. The prize is the big 1,000 ticket which also blows around. If you win that one, you get $1,000 additional tickets. You’ll have to look at the pictures to find out what happened for Ryan and his dad.

The children leave the party stuffed with pizza and tickets which they redeem at the redemption counter. I remember having birthday parties for my boys at our home or the park. We played all sorts of games to keep them busy, fed them lunch and birthday cake and gave them party favors. And, when the kids left, I had to clean up the house. If you can afford it, Chuck E. Cheese is a better option.


Frozen: Shooting and light painting silos at night

Night photography–a lot of fun and a great learning experience. The only problem with night photography is that you freeze. And, there’s more than one way to become frozen. This time we went along Highway 99 in the Yolo County area to shoot the full harvest moon, the sunset and light paint silos. We met at about 6:30 p.m. and didn’t get back home until 10:45 p.m. We’re an adventurous bunch.

The first set of silos were located along the Sacramento River. As soon as we began setting up our cameras we knew it would be cold. It was a cold wind that blew across the farming area, and soon the physical “frozen” set in. We caught what we could of the moon and sunset and then moved to another vantage point to shoot the silos. I’m slowly getting gear for night photography. I have a couple of light sticks which don’t throw much light and a nifty new flash light that has range when it’s on white. Now I have to get gels to cover the flash light, and I can light paint on my own.

I became mentally frozen when it became dark and we started shooting long exposures. I couldn’t figure out how to dial in the right shutter speed! I stood there becoming more and more frustrated when one of the photographers finally helped me. Once he showed me what to do, I was set for the rest of the night. Yes, frozen in two ways! I think I should have started this hobby 15 years earlier!

All in all, it was a great night. By the time we got to the second silo, the wind had stopped and it was warmer. I had a lot of fun at the second silo because our coordinator had talked to the owner, and we were able to walk around the grounds. A couple of cars and workers were there also.

Night photography is fun, but bring a lot of layers because you don’t want to get frozen.


I go where the Meetup takes me: The Grand Island Mansion, Walnut Grove, California Part 2

Now let’s see, where did I leave off? Yes, I left you outside of the Grand Island Mansion. Now, let’s go inside!

I enjoyed roaming the inside. We couldn’t go upstairs because they had a wedding the night before and the guests were still sleeping. But, we did have access to the main floor and one below. Or at least I thought we did. I’m saying that because another photographer, who was eating there, told me she was asked, by the owner, not to take pictures inside! With that bit of information I stayed mostly downstairs, but I did get a good shot of the main dining area and buffet.

There was one room I was unsuccessful at shooting–the small theater. I was able to get the bowling alley, but was not happy with the result; so you’re not going to see it. Sorry. Enjoy your tour.


I go where the Meetup takes me: The Grand Island Mansion, Walnut Grove, California

I’m not a wanderer; I’m a homebody. But, through the various Meetups I belong to, I’ve been places I didn’t know existed and re-visited sites with a new photography outlook. Essentially, if there’s a Meetup within two hours and a carpool, I’m in.

With the Grand Island Mansion so close to home, in the Sacramento Delta area, this was a must visit. I was intrigued about this wedding and special occasion get away right on the water. So  I packed my gear and off I went. Although I wasn’t disappointed, I was not delighted either. The Mansion was open to photographers during their brunch hours, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. We were invited to shoot the grounds and were told we could go inside as long as we did not disturb the diners. Oh, we could also enjoy brunch too–at the regular price of $29.95 not including tax and tip. Truly, I can’t eat that much food! Buffets are not a good option for me.

So, you probably safely assumed that I did not do brunch. But, I did stay out of the guests way and tried to get as much of the interior as I could. Today’s blog will cover the Mansion’s exterior which I found a little lacking. The front grounds were small with an area for weddings. There were many statues in the front, but they needed some sanding (or however you maintain them) and some fresh paint.

In the back, they had a courtyard and tent for more wedding activity, but it was all concrete. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I did take pictures of the back, but didn’t see much beauty in them. I did find some murals that were beautiful. Most of these images were taken on aperture priority.  Take a look.