Open and Shut: Daffodil Hill, Volcano, California

We photographers never know when or if Daffodil Hill will open for the public. It all depends on the weather, and you know how fickle Mother Nature can be. Last year it didn’t open at all because of the rains. In years past, the owners had to close early because of rain.

This family attraction is located in the tiny town of Volcano, Amador County. It’s family owned and operated. People can visit without charge, but there are donation boxes and a small gift shop at the front. It’s great for families who picnic in the parking lot, walk the paths that wind through the And, if all goes well, 300,000 flowers fill the hillside when in full bloom.

These are personally planted by the family and volunteers help direct traffic into and out of the parking lot. I had been there before and posted about it in a blog. But that visit was during the week, not too crowded and peacocks were showing off in numbers. This time, being the first day and on a Saturday, it was crowded, no peacocks. There seemed to be less flowers too.

So why did I go on opening day? I didn’t think it would be open very long with rain being predicted. Laura had never been there, and I thought it would be fun to take photos of the crowds. With Marlene riding shotgun and navigating, we began our adventure a little late, sat in traffic while waiting to park, and finally entered after a half hour.

And, I was right!! Daffodil Hill closed for the season. three days after it opened! This venue is truly a labor of love and dedication for the family and volunteers. No captions for the flowers–you know what they are!

The sun is shining: Valley Oak Wool Mill & Frate Sole Olive Oil, part 2

Right now I can feel the sun’s warmth on my back as I write this post. What a treat! And, during the next week and a half, the worst they are predicting is 30% chance of rain! Am I smiling? Absolutely!

A couple of days ago, I introduced this two-part post with Valley Oak Wool Mill and promised to show you Frate Sole Olive Oil in a second post. The two are right next to each other, in Woodland, and participated in the Yolo Art & Ag program.

We were welcomed graciously by Andrea Mayer, whose family owns and operates the olive orchard. She told us that a talk was being given at Valley Oak and tea would be ready when we returned. Return we did. I totally enjoyed sitting and sipping the hot tea and touring her facility. We didn’t go out into the orchard too far because the ground was wet and muddy. One photographer came back telling us to be prepared to get wet up to our ankles! We decided to stay put.

After tea, we walked around, met Abby, the dog, and listened to her presentation and tasted some of her delicious olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I’m not a fan of balsamic, but hers was wonderful!

The day was overcast, ground wet, and puddles large and small were showing reflections. This was a perfect photography opportunity! Enjoy my images.

Enough is enough: Valley Oak Wool Mill & Frate Sole Olive Oil

My body says enough with the rain. Truly it cannot handle this much dampness. The house is 70 degrees F, and I’m sitting at the computer wearing a turtle neck top, sweater, jeans and a bathrobe. I’m still cold! I’d go to the pool area and sit in the hot tub, but it’s raining! Do I sound fed up? I am!

Okay, now that I’ve complained about Mother Nature, let’s move on to more fun activities–meaning taking the camera out for an outing. Last week we went to the monthly Yolo Art & Ag activity at Valley Oak Wool Mill and Frate Sole Olive Oil.

Both are in Woodland, and are right beside each other. They were easy to find. I say that because navigating the country roads can get tough when you’re not familiar with the area. This visit was inbetween rain storms and the road was puddled, but in good condition.

When we arrived we first went to Frate Sole, not realizing that a talk was being given at Valley Oak. The talk was almost over by the time we walked over there, but we were able to get the gist of it. Owner and operator Marcail McWilliams spins wool for her customers who supply the wool. Once spun into yarn, she returns the finished product to the client. I was amazed at the size of the machinery she works on. Her yarns are simply beautiful.

With these many images, I’ll save Frate Oil for the next post. As you can see, it was still overcast and wet. Let’s have some sun!

Feeling the sun: di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art

Oh, it’s wonderful: two days of sunshine, and one more to come! After, that showers begin again. I have managed to get out with my camera during the sunshine, and you’ll see those images later after they’re processed.

Today, I’m taking you to the second half of our journey into Napa that began with the Quixote Winery (in my last post) and ended with the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.

We drove to the art gallery after lunch and stopped along the way for more picture taking. You know photographers, we just keep clicking when we see something pretty. On approach, the gallery is pretty, the grounds are beautiful, but I wasn’t feeling the art. But, as I’ve learned by having my images critiqued, art is totally subjective. (I did find out that my “Droplets” picture did make it to the table from which the winners were chosen!) While I may not like something, someone else will.

The grounds that the two galleries sit on are beautiful, complete with a lake. I did the best I could with the limited access we had to the grounds. The highlight of the trip was the stop at the Lake Berryessa, in Napa County, and its spillway or Glory Hole.

So, here are the images of the country side, art gallery and Glory Hole!

Weathering the storm: Quixote Winery

With only a few days of sunshine peaking through, we are still wet here in California. In fact, they’ve called the drought over everywhere in the State. Right now there’s a break and the sun is shining, but I don’t expect for too long.

That’s the weather update, now for my personal photo journey. I did get my framed images down to the In Focus Photography Competition; however, they didn’t place. And, when I last communicated with the contest official, she said they hadn’t sold yet. She did say that when a group of school children came through, one boy fell in love with the mantis picture. He even drew a picture of it. Too bad his parents weren’t along to buy it for him!

It was an experience that I value. Those prints will be seen again at the Sierra Camera Club print competition. And, we’re thinking of buying a printer so we can print out our own images. Richard, Bright Star Observatory, is taking some great deep space images now, and they should be seen. I’m still not sure whether I’ll start competing elsewhere. Ahead is the State Fair competition which should be fun and educational. Maybe I’ll check other County calendars too. Who knows!

Right now I’m still battling a cold that my doctor says lasts for 4 to six weeks. I’m doing much better, but still have to watch my exercise level. Too much activity and I’m tired the next day. I did get in one day of shooting in the Napa Valley to the Quixote Winery and the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. It was the first sunny day in a long time and I needed to get out with my camera. I did pay for my adventure for 2 days afterward!

Here are some images taken on the way to the winery and at the winery. We’ll talk about the museum in my next post. I think I have to find my copy of “Here Comes The Sun” by Richie Havens and play it continually! You think that would work?

Pre-competition jitters & a cold: Emigh’s Hardware, Sacramento

It’s 4:50 a.m. and way too early to be up, but I can’t go back to sleep. Today I’m taking my photos down to Columbia in Tuolumne County for the competition. Since I blogged about two of my images making the finals, a lot has happened, and the person responsible is my photo buddy Lucille.

I was talking about my 8 x 12 prints and that I wasn’t thrilled with them after getting them home and seeing the difference in color on my monitor. I’m also thinking she wasn’t happy with the idea of me taking small prints to the competition. She invited me to her home and together we worked on producing larger prints.

When I left, a whole new world opened for me. I couldn’t believe how wonderful the pictures looked larger. I thought I couldn’t resize them and not lose any of the image. The whole new world is that of do I want to start investing in printing and selling my pictures. I thought about it and decided to wait to see what happens in Columbia. I’m not sure, even if I do well, I want to walk through that door. Do I really want all that pressure at my age? Do I want to turn this photography passion into a small business? I have lots of questions and, right now, no answers.

And, now for the cold. I’m not talking about the weather even though it has been cold and raining for weeks. I’m talking about the sneezing and coughing kind. I’ve been tired for a few days, thinking it was just jitters and being anxious. I’m anxious especially since streets in Tuolumne were flooded a couple of days ago, and I don’t drive a boat!

But, last night at a Toastmaster contest, I realized I had a cold. Just my luck! I fully intend to take my photos down. However, whether I say for the weekend events will depend on my friends Sandy and Ken accepting me with a cold. I’m due to stay with them in Tuolumne City.

Right now my mind is in a quandry and my body is working hard to get me through the weekend. Since, this is a blog about pictures, here’s a few from another rainy day outing at Emigh’s Hardware in Sacramento. When I shoot in a crowded store, I try to isolate my subject and shoot mostly close up.

Rainy day visit: Folsom Prison

We’ve pretty much exhausted our rainy day photography options. We’ve been to the Antique Trove twice, IKEA once, and last Tuesday we went to Folsom Prison. Doesn’t everyone want to visit a prison?

I was a little disappointed when all we could photograph was the one gate and from a distance. We were also not allowed to take pictures of officers or inmates. The small museum saved the morning. There were treasures in there. However, shooting through the glass enclosures proved to be difficult!

Aside from the Johnny Cash concerts, Folsom Prison was one of the nation’s first maximum security prisons. It was built in the decades following the 1848 California Gold Rush, relieving the overcrowding at San Quentin State Prison.

Today the prison houses medium security male inmates.

Take a look at what I saw, beginning with the outside.

Inside the museum there were many inmate made artifacts.

And there were some weapons made by inmates too!

Some other things at the museum.

There was quite a bit of space dedicated to the Johnny Cash concerts.

Good-bye Folsom Prison!

A rain break: Capay Valley Ranches

Finally, a Tuesday with just the threat of rain! This was great timing since Yolo Arts and Ag had scheduled time for artists at Capay Valley Ranches in Capay Valley. This organization provides artists access to various ranches and farms in Yolo County. Painters will bring their easels, brushes and whatever medium they use and photographers bring tripods and cameras.

They let us roam the venue at will, giving us the opportunity to get great images and to get a feel for what life on a ranch is. Capay Valley is home to almond orchards. The trees are normally in bloom now; but with the cold and wet weather, they are not in full bloom.

This was disappointing, but we made the best of it, and enjoyed the partial sunlight. Oh, the wind was furious and gave us an additional challenge! I love my walk around 18 – 140 lens. Even with wind, it can stop action.

Here are some of my images from that windy, cold morning. It was great to be outside without an umbrella!

Anxiety: Finalist in the INFOCUS competition

I was on overwhelm. I had bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D3100 in late 2012. Digital photography was slightly out of my technical expertise. Like what was ISO? Nikon wrote a pretty good manual, but assumed that the reader understood the terminology.

So, I looked for help, and I went to visit my friend Sandy, in Sonora, who’d been shooting for years. We had a great couple of days. Mostly, she showed me how to relax with the camera and gave me composition tips.

Since then, my expertise level has increased, mostly because of doing the 365 (taking a picture each day of the year) and joining the Sierra Camera Club in Sacramento which offers juried competitions twice a month. I’m not there to win; I’m there to learn. But, I always wondered if I should enter into a more broad type of competition.

I watched Sandy winning or placing at small county fair compeitions and asked her to let me know about one when it came along. The California State Fair, right here in Sacramento, seemed daunting to me. Could I really compete with the wonderful photographers in this region?

Sandy did let me know of the INFOCUS Photography Competition & Exhibition in Columbia, California. I knew if I didn’t enter this one, I would never enter one. I submitted five photos and two made it into the finals. So why am I anxiety ridden? It’s the printing, matting and framing that has me in a tizzy. The wonderful owner at Image Pros Photo, in Orangevale, helped me understand that I couldn’t make the images larger. I would lose some of the picture. Since these were macro and closeup photos, I kept them small. She also worked with me on the lighting in the picture.

So, here I am, ready to frame and bring the pictures down to Columbia for judging and exhibition on March 9. Still on overwhelm!

Here are my entries that made it into the finals. Wish me luck!

It’s raining, it’s pouring: Antique Trove, part 2

Yes, it’s still raining here in sunny California. In fact, we are getting atmospheric storms. A woman in Toastmasters this morning told us that her neighbor’s tree ended up in her pool! They are preparing for floods in certain areas that usually flood in rains like this. Discovery Park, a nice picnic area on the American River has been closed off. Many years in the past, those tables were under water!

Today, I was able to walk my dog, Gem, on his usual 2-mile trek. But, as I write this, the rain is coming down.

So, back to the Antique Trove in Roseville. I always bring money in with me when I shoot inside because I mignt find something I can’t live without. It’s also nice to buy something as a way of saying thanks for letting a photography group invade the store. Here are the last of the images I took.