To buy or not to buy!: Sacramento Wildlife Refuge

I have resisted buying a lens that would zoom out larger than 300 mm because I really can’t handhold anything heavier. And, lets be honest, I would only need it when I shoot wildlife. So…..I guess I can do without it. That’s what I’ve been telling myself, but when I looked at my pictures after a recent visit to the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge with Laura and Marlene, I saw mostly grainy images. They were in focus, but not tack sharp.

I knew I’d have a problem before I agreed to go on the outing, but I thought I’d give it a try. Even though it was overcast, I had hope. With the current rains there would probably be more birds than last year, and I knew I’d get something. I did. Thanks to Laura’s sun roof, I got some fantastic shots of a bald eagle in a tree above us. With my lens all the way out, I could get in nice and close. That was one of the eagles we saw.

We saw two other bald eagles that day. One was too far away to shoot even with Laura’s 400 mm. The other was a distance, but we could shoot it. Although in focus, the images were grainy. After looking at my almost 1,000 shots for the day, I’m thinking of getting a 400 mm zoom lens.

When we shoot wildlife at a refuge or preserve, we can’t get out of the car and have to shoot out the window. The window (which is all the way down) becomes a tripod when a small pillow is placed on the frame. I could also use the heavier lens on a tripod. It’s rather limiting, but I could get a better shot of wildlife.

Right now, I’m checking the used departments of online stores. My goal is to find an affordable factory refurbished lens, so I won’t be in the buy or not to buy quandary.

Staying the same and changing: Crockett and Mare Island

It may be a challenge, but it puts your photography to a test–revisiting places you’ve already shot. I go back with the idea that I’m going to find a new way of shooting, find new things to shoot and just enjoy it.

That’s the approach I took when Marlene and I went to Crockett and Mare Island. She had never been to Crockett and had been to Mare Island a long time ago. Crockett was the same: old, and sometimes dreary and quaint. Can a town be both? This one can. Its claim to fame is the C & H Sugar plant, and just like before, we were chased away. They do not like their property photographed.

We drove around, had lunch and found Port Costa (described in my previous post). From there we drove on to Mare Island, which was in the midst of change. Chain link fencing was around many buildings, the front street at the shore was closed to traffic, most of the large cranes were gone and we were left with little to shoot. They are fixing up the Island and getting ready to lease out buildings. So, I made lemonade by shooting various locks I found and some buildings.

It was a full-day shoot, and I enjoyed it. Especially the challenge of finding a new slant to a place I’ve already photographed.

Riding the freeway: Port Costa California

Not knowing the country roads, we needed to take the freeway to get to Crockett, Port Costa and Mare Island. Marlene said, “Greg wouldn’t approve,” and I agreed. This was our first long distance outing since Greg became ill. We stayed around home base for a few weeks during our Tuesday’s With Seniors outings to accommodate his needs. He may not have been able to come, but he was certainly on our minds.

Driving the freeway route, we first stopped at Crockett, then found Port Costa and eventually made our way to Mare Island. Today, I want to show you some of Port Costa. This small, decaying town is a census-designated place in Conra Costa County. The population was 190 at the 2010 census. Founded in 1879 as a landing for the railroad ferry Solano, Port Costa’s ferries carried entire trains across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia to Port Costa. The town lost its importance when a railroad bridge was constructed at Martinez in 1930 to replace the ferry crossing. Today, it’s a sleepy, photogenic and cute town.

I enjoyed shooting in Port Costa more than the other two places which I will show you in another post. I just wish, some of the stores were open on Tuesdays. It’s a good thing we ate lunch before we arrived!

From Port Costa to Mare Island, we were able to stay off the freeway although we did use the GPS–another thing Greg would never use!

Rain, and I’m liking it: Tower Theater, Sacramento

What do photographers do when it’s raining or rain is unpredictable? Some go out in the rain anyway, some do studio work, some go through old images and edit or re-edit them, and then others run out when the weather breaks for however long.

I’m one of those who run out during rain breaks. Today would have been the perfect day to do that, but unfortunately my scheduled did not permit it. However, I am wanting to try shooting in the rain after seeing many rain shots in the Sacramento Photographers Facebook group. We’ll see. Apparently, the rain is here to stay for a while.

With this post, I’m wrapping up our visit to the Tower Theater. When we moved to the Sacramento area in 2001, we heard about the theater, but never made it down to visit it. Opening in 1938 as a single screen theater, the Tower was converted to a triplex in 1972. Tower Cut-Rate Drugs, a drugstore named after its next door neighbor, opened and starting selling records in 1941 and was the beginning of Tower Records. It eventually moved across the street.

By the 1980s, Tower Records sold records, books and videos.  succumbed to the digital age and closed in 2006. I remember the news coverage showing devoted fans mourning their loss at the record store’s closing.

Now Dimple Records is in that same place, the Tower Cafe, which opened in 1990, feeds movie goers and the Tower Theater stands above the tree line with it’s art-deco design.

Maybe during the next rain break, Marlene and I will go down to take more photos of the theater and enjoy lunch at the cafe; but, only if the weather permits during the week so we can avoid crowds at the cafe.




Sunday is funday: Roaming Sacramento City

Photography is definitely a stress reducer. That’s what brought Marlene and I out on a Sunday morning. Concentrating on shooting takes your mind off various stressors and allows a couple of buddies to talk it out.

Fortunately, Marlene knows Sacramento City because I took the wrong freeway and truly didn’t know where we were when I exited. All I knew was that this wasn’t where we were headed! We decided to just drive and find neat things to shoot. We eventually found our way to the iconic Tower Theater, out last stop for the day. I’m saving that for another post because I want to focus on it.

This Sunday morning was fun, sometimes challenging because of harsh lighting or total clouds, but fun. I think for both of us, photography is an escape. Whether for just a couple of hours or a full day, it takes us away, gets us concentrating on the process of shooting, and challenges our minds. It’s also taught me what wonderful places we have right here.

Yes, this past Sunday was funday.


My go to spot: Dry Creek Park, Roseville, CA

We all have a go to spot. You know, a place where you feel comfortable, familiar with and pretty much know what to expect. Dry Creek Park is that place for me. In the summer it’s teaming with families enjoying the water, wading and swimming. It’s green and lush.

However, in the winter, the trees are barren, with branches strewn all over. I wonder whether they come in during the spring and clean it out before the summer crowd hits. I thought I’d see more water in the creek because of this winter’s rain, but I didn’t notice much of an increase in height.

There is a playground, tennis courts and a covered picnic area in addition the creek separated by a concrete roadway and large grass area.

Marlene and I went for a quick shoot. I wasn’t raining and we both wanted to get out. That’s the kind of place it is–a go to spot.


It’s not raining; let’s shoot! Stock Ranch Nature Preserve

That’s something I haven’t needed to do in the last 4 years–run out and shoot in between rain storms. But, Linda and I did. There are many places in Sacramento to spend an hour or two shooting and feel like you’ve seen the whole place. Stock Ranch Nature Preserve is one of those places. Located in Citrus Heights, this 47-acre preserve has 1.5 miles of nature trails running along Arcade and San Juan Creeks.

It’s very easy to wander through; but, I did find that without foliage, it was stark. Branches were strewn all over, and there was a small amount of water in the creek. It’s important to know that this little preserve is located in suburbia surrounded by large warehouse shopping, apartments and single family homes. However, when you’re walking the inside path, you have no indication of what surrounds it.

I’ll be back in the spring to see how foliage changes the scenery. In the meantime it’s great to have it so close. It’s important to have a place to run to when you’re needing to shoot quickly in between storms!

A new look for the New Year: Discovery Park

I’ve reached a plateau. After a year of taking a picture each day, I believe my photography has reached another level of competency. To celebrate, I wanted a new look for my blog–something clean and crisp that would show off my images. So here it is.

Of course nothing is perfect! Wouldn’t it be nice if it were? The one and only thing I don’t like about this template is that you have to scroll down to the bottom to get to the archived posts. And, as my photography level has grown, my technical capabilities have not. What does CSS mean anyway! I mean, it isn’t going to change. So, I hope you don’t mind scrolling down. Let me know what you think.

Now on to Discovery Park in Sacramento. Lately we’ve been concentrating on short, local outings. It’s amazing what photographic opportunities Sacramento City and County have to offer. This park is at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers, is 302 acres, and is the beginning of a 32-mile bike trail that runs along the river. We were there about 3:30 and the park was still hosting runners, bicyclists and boating enthusiasts.

I had never walked on the I-Street Bridge that links West Sacramento (which is in Yolo County) to Sacramento. There we found homeless returning to their camp and workers returning to their homes on either side of the river.

It was a beautiful evening and set the stage for a New Year and this new look.



Finding new in the old: Michigan Bar Road, Sacramento County

Did you ever get the idea that you’ve been some place before? I didn’t just get an idea, I know I’ve been on Michigan Bar Road before–two times. My outing with Laura made the third time.

You can always find something new to shoot: new composition, new things to find and new challenges on what you’ve already shot. Since my other two visits involved HDR, I decided not to bracket my shots. I also looked for small details to shoot. And, believe it or not, I found new things to shoot.

We did get off Michigan Bar Road and onto Latrobe Road, but not the road we know with the same name. The Latrobe Road we know is a curvy, paved highway. This road was dirt, and after a few rainy days it was full of puddles and ruts. Laura did a great job of navigating until we came to a puddle too large to navigate. Back we went. In addition to photography, adventure is part of the fun!

We did try to catch a sunset on Scott Road before heading home, but that was not very satisfying. All in all, it was a fun day of exploring and shooting even though I had the feeling that I’d been there before!

An ending and beginning: Christmas lights

Happy New Year. We ended 2015 shooting Christmas Lights, after the holiday but better late than not getting there at all. Going during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we thought there would be less crowds. Wrong! It was crowded on Dovewood Court. I guess everyone had the same idea. This court is one where all the houses are lit up beautifully. We went there last year also, so you’ll recognize some of the pictures. I tried to shoot differently for variety. And, this year, I felt more comfortable with my ability to shoot correctly.

Also ending is the 365 photography challenge. This being January 1, 2016, I didn’t have to shoot a picture, I could walk the dog without bringing a camera and both husband and dog are breathing easier now that they don’t have to be models. I’ll talk more about the 365 soon. It was an amazing experience.

Beginning is my attempt to learn more photography software. I’m going to do the 52, meaning I’ll post a photo once a week. My twist on it: I’m going to post a before and after image, showing a new editing skill I’ve learned. And, I don’t think I want to be tied to assigned themes. I just want to learn.

This year, I’m even more enthusiastic about shooting and learning new editing techniques to bring my photography to the next level.  Does that sound like a resolution? Maybe I’m just looking forward to a new beginning.

Here are some of the Christmas lights. (No captions necessary.)