Needing to get out of a funk? Don’t go after the Sandhills: Consumnes River Preserve

I’ve been in a funk for about 1 1/2 weeks now. So, remembering my trip to Benicia and all the fun I had, I decided that I would get up early and drive about 45 minutes south to capture the Sandhill Cranes at the Consumnes River Preserve. I missed them last year and really wanted to shoot them this year.

So off I went with my camera gear and coffee–no breakfast. I wanted to get down there before they flew off. They spend the day elsewhere and come back at sundown. The preserve was supposed to be open from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. I left my house around 6 a.m. Remember, I’m doing this to get out of a funk. The elusive thread of happiness.

I got there around 7 a.m., and all the gates were locked and barriers were across the parking lot. So I drove along the levee a little and then I need to use the bathroom. I drove back to the visitors center and the pit toilets were locked too. I had to drive about 15 minutes to civilization to get to a bathroom and some breakfast. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t hold the camera still. I hadn’t eaten breakfast and hypoglycemia had set in.

After I returned and still found gates locked, I went back to the levee. More problems–I didn’t see the sign that said to stay on the road. After talking with the Ranger, who gave me a lengthy explanation of preserving the wetlands and promised to open the gates, I returned to the main area.

And, I don’t think my shots of the Sandhill Cranes are that great. My 300 mm lens just doesn’t reach that far. You’ll see what I could salvage in this post.

So, did I get out of my funk? What do you think? Benicia, I’m coming back! It’s important to maintain a sense of humor.

Just writing this is helping me out of the funk. I’m looking forward to shooting in Santa Cruz this weekend.

Feeding my soul: Hakone Gardens, Saratoga, California part 2

I’m already needing to feed my soul again even though my visit to Hakone Gardens was a week ago. I’m so glad I discovered photography. It’s become more than a hobby. It’s a passion, and I need to press that shutter to ground myself, bring joy into my life and just relax. Yes, I also like to see the results and bask in my improvements.

I do wish I had more time to devote to photography, learning more about my camera and the editing programs I have. There are not enough hours in the day, and by the time I have the free time, I’m tired. “But, you’re retired,” you’re saying. Yes, however my days seem to fill up! Now I understand why retired folks say they are more busy than when they worked.

Maybe Sunday I’ll be able to get my next soul food. In the meantime, here are the rest of the Hakone Gardens images.

Feeding my soul: Hakone Gardens, Saratoga, California

I just needed to take time to feed my soul last week–feed it with photography. We have been so busy, and I missed getting out and shooting. Not that I wasn’t using my camera; I just wasn’t using it in an activity where I could relax. That’s why I spent the day in Benicia on my way to visit friends in San Jose.

While in San Jose, my photography goal was to visit Hakone Gardens. I used to go there to relax and meditate when I lived in San Jose. Then it was free, quiet and beautiful. It’s still quiet and beautiful, but it’s no longer free. But the fee is nominal and shouldn’t stop anyone from visiting.

Here’s a brief history of the place from Wikipedia:

In 1916, two San Francisco arts patrons, Oliver and Isabel Stine, intending to build a summer retreat, purchased the 18 acres (73,000 m2) site on which Hakone now stands. Inspired by her trips to Japan, Isabel Stine modeled the gardens upon (and named them after) Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. She hired Japanese landscape artists and architects to design the gardens and the Upper “Moon Viewing” House. In 1932, ownership passed to financier Major C. L. Tilden who added the main gate to the gardens. When he died, Hakone was inherited by his sister, Mrs. Walter Gregory. After her death in 1959, Hakone was left untended, and the property was put up for sale.

In 1961, Joseph and Clara Gresham, their son Eldon and wife Deon, and four Chinese American couples: George and Marie Hall, John and Helen Kan, Dan and June Lee, Col. John C. Young and Mary Lee Young purchased the estate. This partnership restored Hakone to its original splendor, keeping its traditional Japanese authenticity while using it as a private retreat. In 1966, the partners offered a beautifully maintained Hakone for sale to the City of Saratoga. Today Hakone is administered by The Hakone Foundation, a non-profit organization, which was established in 1984 to restore and enhance the gardens independently of public funding. The gardens are open to the public and the various community facilities are often used for cultural events.

I’ll write more about the gardens in my next post. Yes, this is another two-part post.

I hope these images feed your soul.

Photographer error: Benicia, California, part 3

Okay, where’s the extra battery for my D7100? These last two weeks have been comical regarding camera equipment. I know the minute I order another one, it will turn up. Is this photographer error or a senior moment?

I noticed the battery missing when I went to Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California. I had a great time there and will talk more about it in my next post.

Here are the final images from Benicia. I found the waterfront and pier. It was a great day for me. I had never gone to a new place on my own, scouted it out and shot what I wanted to. It was great.

By the way, I’ve got my check list on paper and mentally stored in my head. Right now I’ll trust the paper version more!

The waterfront.

Photographer error: Benicia, California – part 2

One of my photo buddies posted that she had made the same error of shooting on JPEG instead of RAW which limited her editing. I could only post a reply that she wasn’t alone. So did other photographers of various levels. So, how do we overcome photographer error. Again every problem I’ve had with my cameras have been mine. Sometimes is not understanding the camera fully; sometimes it’s just brain fade. Routine may be the answer for me. Before I leave, check the camera settings. When I get to where I’m going to shoot, re-check the camera settings. The night before I leave, make sure batteries are charged and SD cards have ample room. We’ll see how it goes. If anyone has a better way, please let me know.

Meanwhile, today’s images are from the Benicia Marina. This was a stark contrast to the State Park which I didn’t find very well kept or pretty until I reached the shore. The marina was full of boats and yachts. Condos lined the shore. And, the sun was peaking through the clouds.

Still running on JEPG here, so editing was limited on these images. No more photographer error in the future!

Photographer error: Benicia, California

I’ve come to believe that Nikon has arranged for everything to be photographer error. Things happen, but it’s never a Nikon problem! For instance, at a recent outing where we learned more about flash photography, my new 18 – 55 mm lens wouldn’t work. An accomplished Nikon photographer helped, but he couldn’t resolve the problem. So, I shot with my 55 – 300 mm lens all evening. The lens and flash (remember, that is new also) were really heavy and got heavier as the night pushed on. I did learn a great deal about using my flash, and I bet I’ve increased muscle mass too!

Oh, how did the lens issue come to be photographer error? Our fearless leader of the Sacramento Photographers looked at my camera during dinner. He asked me if I knew the lens was locked. I had totally forgotten the lens had a lock. Of course I knew when I first tried it out, but……

And, yesterday I didn’t realize that with all the moving of knobs, etc. the camera must have been put on JPG image quality. Yesterday’s shots in Benicia were all shot at JPG, leaving me less ability to edit. Anyway, you’re going to see some images from the Benicia State Recreation area today. This is going to be a three parter since I was there all day and visited three different areas.

I’m hoping to get to Hakone Gardens before I leave San Jose. I’m going to carefully look over the camera before I start shooting. I’ve got to because Nikon won’t help me prevent photographer error!

Photography can be expensive: Fort Tejon State Historical Park, California

I’m feeling it now–the dollars are just flowing out. First, my lens (18 – 55 mm kit lens) breaks and then my external flash says goodbye. I’m not too upset about the lens, but the flash was only used a couple of times! Of course, I’m trying to see the opportunity in both these items breaking: I have a slightly better lens (didn’t want to opt for the one that was $500.00 more) and a much better flash that I’m determined to use more.

I haven’t had much opportunity to use my flash in the 2 1/2 years I’ve been shooting, doing day or night photography. But, today I’m taking a class in how to effectively use it. This lesson and my paying for a new flash. hopefully, will bring me to seek out more opportunities to use the flash.

One of the bright spots in all this is Action Camera. They managed to fix my old flash from my film camera days, clean the D7100’s sensors and, of course, sell me the new flash. They advised me against using the old flash on the digital camera because the electrical has changed, but I can still use it as an off camera flash.

Meanwhile, on our way home from a Los Angeles (San Fernando Valley) trip this past weekend, we stopped at Fort Tejon State Historic Park. This is located near the summit of the Grapevine off Highway 5 in Lebec California. The sun was blaring, and it would have been an advantage to use a fill flash, and I was using my prime 50 mm lens. I enjoyed using the nifty 50, but still have to get used to it. Today, I’m showing you some of the images from this little fort. Most of the buildings are recreated, but you can still get the feeling of how it was in the 1800s.

What happens when your lens just won’t focus?: Coyote Pond, Lincoln, California

What would you do if your lens wouldn’t focus? Probably go back home and try to figure it out–right. But, what if you had to pick up your grandkids within an hour and your home is 30 minutes away? You keep walking and shooting. At least that’s what I did.

The lens did okay when my depth of field was long. It failed at close up and mid range shots. I just closed down the aperture and hoped for the best. That was yesterday. Today it focused, but it’s having other troubles. It may have sensor or connector problems. I don’t think it’s the camera. When we were back east, the barrel kept getting stuck at about 35 mm. It’s an 18 – 55 mm kit lens. Now it’s working better, but not focusing all the time, and the barrel is lose on the front.

Since it is my main lens, I’ve ordered a replacement. So that’s my current frustration with my photography adventures. Now for the images I was able to get, here’s a little background on Coyote Pond Park. This is a small neighborhood park in Lincoln that has a pond. There is a walk around path and a small playground for the children. However, the find of the morning was a tree that had lost its main trunk, maybe to lightning, and is surviving from branches that have grown out of the bottom of the remaining trunk. Fortunately, those pictures came out clear. It is an amazing tree. I hope you enjoy it.

Hopefully, the new lens will work well, and, of course, focus when I need it to!