Earth Angels: Happy Birthday Carol and Alyse

If you’re lucky you have earth angels, you know, the people who are always there for you no matter what. I’m fortunate to have had three. Judy was there when we were young, raising our children. She’s never forgiven me for moving away. We don’t talk often, but she’s in my heart. My two other earth angels are celebrating their birthdays this week.

They are the same age, just one week apart. Carol and Alyse were there when I was at a tremendous low point in my life. They picked me up, took me to the ocean, out to lunch and made me feel that I was worthy. I’ve never forgotten that. They were also there when I woke up in CCU after heart valve surgery. They drove from San Jose to Sacramento just to make sure I was okay. I remember waking up and seeing them sitting there. They said hi, that they loved me and left. I went back to sleep. That was a five hour drive and sitting I don’t know how many hours just to say a few words!

This is also significant because about 20 years ago Carol was diagnosed with a degenerative auto immune disease. The doctor wanted to order her a wheel chair, saying she wouldn’t be walking for very long. She refused. He offered her a walker. She refused. He offered her a cane. She accepted.

Since then, she’s been diagnosed with two more auto immune diseases and has suffered a major heart attack. She’s still walking with a walker around the house, but uses a chair when she and Alyse go out. She is my hero, bucking the doctors who would have made her an invalid before her time. She’s determined and maybe a little precocious.

Alyse, Carol’s friend and roommate, has been her caregiver this whole time. She’s also my hero, never giving up even though she’s had surgeries and medical issues of her own. The challenges these two women face are enormous and their joys are numerous. They are always there to help their friends. And, if a person is in need, they become their friend.

They wanted to celebrate their 75th birthdays with one lunch on Carol’s day and another on Alyse’s day. Alyse tells everyone that Carol is older! I’m thrilled to be among their friends who gathered for Carol’s birthday. If we could say that we have touched so many people and affected their lives for the positive, then we would be walking in Carol and Alyse’s shoes.

Happy Birthday my dear earth angels!

Photographer playtime: San Jose, California

For me, photography is playtime. Just going out with the camera slung over my shoulder fills my soul and invigorates my spirit. That’s why I bring at least one camera with me everywhere. Sometimes I get down to my point and shoot or even to my cell phone! This past weekend I went to San Jose to celebrate my two friends birthdays with them and their close friends. They are the same age and one week apart.

Of course, the camera came with me, and I had a purpose in mind–practice my macro skills. My friends live in a modular home park and there are flowers abundant. Perfect conditions for macro practice except for the breeze that creates movement in all the park’s plants. But, I persisted anyway. With camera and macro lens, I went out to find success. I hope you enjoy my efforts. I do think I’m getting better at it. Oh, all these images were handheld.

The second morning I took my camera and 18 – 55 mm lens to Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos. I didn’t have too much time because we had a celebration to go to. This was a pretty setting with family setting up picnics, walkers and dogs, fisherman, boaters, geese and other photographers–imagine that!

So, here’s a glimpse of my playtime.

Underground living: Forestiere Undergrounds in Fresno

How would you like to live in a cool underground dwelling while it’s sweltering topside? Yes, this dwelling would have all the creature comforts available at the time it was built. You may not have that option today, but in 1906, Balasare Forestiere began digging to escape the heat of his new home in Fresno, California.

An immigrant from Sicily, Forestiere bought this land hoping to plant trees like those in his native country. However, the soil was not conducive to growing anything and the heat was oppressive. So, Forestiere began digging his home–air-conditioning was not an option then! He dug and planted until his death in 1946, leaving acres of living area in the cool underground. Some of it was sold by the family and some bought by the government via eminent domain for highway 99. His brother held on to the current acreage, finishing what Forestiere had planned. Today, his nephew still tends to the place with the help of The Forestiere Historical Center. While the land is still privately owned, it has been designated as a California Historical Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I did introduce the gardens to you in my last post, but wanted to show you more of this amazing place. I was impressed with how airy and well lit from natural sources the catacombs were. Forestiere had planted citrus trees underground and they grew to the surface and beyond via openings. As he dug, he kept changing his living quarters. In the end, it was like a maze. He wanted to have people come to escape the heat, enjoying the cool underground quarters. But, that never materialized as a business, He did have guests though.

Take a look at this amazing cool underground dwelling. If you are experiencing hot weather, you’ll wish you were here!

On the road again: Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and Fresno, final chapter

Sometimes things are not what you think them to be! We found this to be true in Fresno, California. Typically thought of as a farming community in a not so well off county. We expected a small town with little to attract tourists. Boy, were we wrong!

Fresno really impressed us. There was much to do and enjoy. The town has grown and will continue to grow. There was only one disappointment: The Tower District which is supposed to be the hub of Fresno night life complete with the iconic Tower Theater. We went there during the late evening, hoping to catch some of the sights before dark. Then I wanted to shoot all the neon that the brochure pictured. The Tower Theater was not well kept and dirty, and after the fourth police car went through, we decided to leave.

But everything else was as promised and enjoyable. I’ll probably post a large amount of images just to get through the highlights. You’ll see sights from the Old Fresno Water Tower, downtown Fresno, the Forestiere Underground Gardens, the Shinzen Japanese Gardens and Fresno Zoo. That was all we had time for. And, yes it was hot there. So, we went out in the mornings and evenings.

Take a look at Fresno, and find out more about each place by visiting the links.Because, sometimes you can be surprised!

On the road again: Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks and Fresno, California

“You can’t go home again!” You’ve heard that old saying, and going to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks was like going home for Richard and me. We used to take the kids camping there pretty much every summer. I just loved it there, but we haven’t visited in more than 30 years.

The good news is that nothing has changed in the parks. The same trails are there, campgrounds are the same and the sights are still beautiful. The bad news is that we have changed–we’ve gotten older! Oh, and the altitude is about 1,000 feet less than Bodie. We took a few simple walks and decided that we needed to get into shape. My goal is to do Little Baldy Saddle. It’s a beautiful walk through the woods and then about 1,000 feet straight up via a switch back trail. At least that’s the way I remember it!

Why haven’t we been there? Well, our previous trailer was too big to get into the park and Richard is on a CPAP machine at night, needing a generator to run it. I was told over the phone that they would not make exceptions for medical purposes and no generators could be run at night (there are no hookups). However, it was a different story when we talked with the rangers in person. We can camp there, and we found just the right spot that would accommodate our much smaller rig. That’s why we were in Fresno at an RV park. And staying in the National Park will eliminate the 1 1/2 hour ride each way on Highway 180. I will talk about how Fresno surprised us in another edition of this post.

Right now I want to introduce you to Sequoia if you haven’t been there. This park is home to the earth’s largest tree in wood volume. The General Sherman Tree is estimated to be 2,200 years old. Sequoia is also the second oldest National Park, being given the status in September 1890. The Sequoia tree is resistant to most disease and even fire because of the chemicals in their wood and bark. Different from the coastal redwoods, which are tall and thinner, the Sequoia is wide with a massive trunk, huge stout branches and is not as tall.

Take a look at these magnificent trees found only on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada usually between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation. But, why when they get older, they get stronger; and, when we get older….?

On the road again: Bodie and Mono Lake, California, final chapter.

Catch a breath, relax and gaze. That’s one way to take in Mono Lake. Photo buddies Marlene, Laura and I took it in with our cameras. We were there as part of our weekend trip to the ghost town Bodie.

Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline soda lake 8.321 miles long. It’s at least 780,000 years old and is among the oldest lakes in North America. While we enjoy its beauty, migratory birds call it home for a while and brine shrimp swim its waters.

You can see Tufa Towers as you walk down to the lake. These salt towers are formed because having no outlet, trace amounts of salts and minerals brought into the lake by freshwater streams have accumulated over the centuries. This resulted with Mono Lake having a salinity two to three times the Pacific Ocean. Tufas are the result of the combination of minerals in fresh and salt water. They take on all sorts of shapes and various neutral colors.

The images you’ll see in this post are of sunset and sunrise (Only Laura can get me to wake up at 4 a.m.) when the lake looks most beautiful. Just catch a breath, relax and look.

On the road again: Bodie and Mono Lake, part 2

I can’t believe I left my tripod home! I’ve worked hard to become “one” with it, and I left it home. As I post about Bodie and Mono Lake, we are visiting Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks and Fresno, California. I’ll post about this visit back to the parks after a more than 30 year absence next.

So far, I haven’t needed the tripod, but I did need it in Bodie. Why, to get great HDR images, you need to bracket and that’s difficult to do handheld. I’ve done it, but it’s much easier with the tripod. I did a lot of bracketing in the ghost town, because that seems to be a good way to present the decaying buildings and machinery.

Founded in 1876 as a gold mining town, Bodie is a now ghost town in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of Mono County, California.The nearest is Bridgeport,  where we stayed. I talked about the altitude (Bodie is at 8,379 ft or 2,554 m.) and my reaction to it in my previous post. Bodie is also recognized it as a National Historic Landmark, became a California Historical Landmark,  and officially became Bodie State Historic Park in 1962. We were three of the about 200,000 yearly visitors.

Because of the ghost town’s altitude and other health issues, I had a difficult time. However I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just took my time and rested when I needed to. Back home, I had a lot of fun with pushing sliders in Lightroom and processing images in black and white.

Here are some of my favorites in Bodie. Mono Lake will be in my next post. And, I’ll tie a string around my finger regarding my tripod when we head out on the road again!

On the road again: Bodie and Mono Lake, California

Altitude–I guess I can’t do much of it any more. On a recent trip, the weekend of June 26, to the ghost town Bodie which is located east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California and 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe, I experienced the effects of altitude sickness.  Now a California State Park, Bodie is located 12 mi east-southeast of Bridgeport, at an elevation of 8379 feet.

So, what does all that mean? Probably when you’re 72, you should take oxygen with you! I went with photo buddies Laura and Marlene. All of us were affected by the altitude. But, it was worth it as you’ll see in the images I’m posting. In spite of the altitude, the two-day trip was fun. Only Laura could coax me out of bed at 4 a.m. to catch a Mono Lake sunrise.

But, let me start at the beginning. The scenery was so beautiful when we were driving to Bridgeport, our home base that I finally started shooting out the car window. Laura would have pulled over, but there was no place for her to park. I did the best I could. We got to Bridgeport, Bridgeport, the county seat of Mono County, California with an elevation of 6463 feet. just in time to get settled and go to dinner. This is a small town and it was decked out in red, white and blue for the July 4th festivities. I do wish we could have stayed.

I’ll begin this multiple post with scenes shot on the way and Bridgeport.

Happy Birthday USA: My July 4th

The day before July 4, I was Toastmaster at Skillbuilders Toastmasters. My theme was July 4. Well, it had to be given it was July 3. I didn’t mean to become so emotional, but when I started talking about how I thought we were losing sight of what the holiday was really about and that to many it has become an opportunity for a three-day weekend, I did. I urged our membership to look back and remember the holiday for it’s early reasons, appreciate the country that we have the good fortune to be citizens of, and do what we could to make it better. The look on their faces told me that I was reaching them.

So, on July 4 my photo buddy Marlene and I caught the second half of the Roseville July 4 parade. It was great to see a small town celebrating. When we were in Bridgeport, California, the weekend before, (my next post) the streets of this tiny town were already decorated and waiting for the celebration. I can imagine they also had a parade.

Street photography was next after the parade. The water fountain was on (recycled so it’s okay during this drought) and the kids were having water fun.

Later in the evening we went to a block party in my son’s neighborhood. It was a great party and the beginning of a tradition. This was a chance for neighbor to meet neighbor. That’s sort of keeping with the spirit of the holiday. As if to complete the scene, the sun put on a show as it set. Then came nightfall and tons of fireworks. I discovered that these little fireworks are more difficult to shoot than the large aerial blasts. When I say a ton of fireworks I meant it. There must have been at least $1,500 to $2,000 on the table. This made me wonder about how that investment could have been put to better use.

For those of you who are U.S. citizens, i hope this blog spurs you on to think about our country, it’s founding and why we truly celebrate Independence day.