Oh deer look at the swans: Effie Yeaw & Mather Lake

Living in the Sacramento area offers two nearby places for photographers to capture nature: Effie Yeaw Nature Center and Mather Lake. Both are less than 1/2 hour from my home. One March morning Ray and I went to both places.

First, we met at Effie Yeaw along the American River. The deer are very accustomed to humans and let us get close enough for me to use my 55 – 200 mm lens easily. This morning, unfortunately, we didn’t see any bucks, but there were a lot of does grazing.

We also saw turkeys and a tree branch that looked like an animal with a long neck. Do you see it too? Maybe a dragon?

After walking the trails in the nature center, Ray and I met Richard at Mather Lake. I wanted to practice carrying and shooting with my Nikon d7100, the prime 300 mm lens and new short monopod Ray made for me. This is a small lake and popular fishing spot. I had to walk to the back of the lake before I found swans close enough for me to photograph. At least I was able to carry the equipment easily.

It was a lovely morning of camaraderie, practice and exercise.

Lens Artists Challenge #142: You pick it, The 365 challenge

Our Lens Artists Challenges challenges can take us many places. This week, Ann Christine’s challenge took me back to 2015 which was the year I did the 365 challenge. If you haven’t taken that on, consider it. It wasn’t that I looked to take exceptional photos each day, I just took whatever was handy. It taught me discipline and improved my ability.

Not every photo was wonderful. Like the few weeks I just shot my foot that had the boot on after minor surgery. Gem, now runs out of the room when he sees the camera. The grandkids make stupid, funny faces when they see me pick up a camera. You get it, a whole year of taking the d7100 wherever I went. Taking a fast entry because I forgot. But also learning.

I briefly went through that year, 2015, and first hit the first, tenth, twentieth, etc. months and then went back to find some more. Here they are. Explanations are in the captions.

I was ready for this challenge to end and proud that I had shot a picture each day of the year. Then I was amazed at the difference in my photographic ability. If you don’t think you can do 365 days, try the 52 week challenge no matter what level you’re at. I’m glad I did!

An end to a wonderful get away: Napa

Here in California when we think of Napa Valley, we think of grapes, wineries and wine. And, there was no shortage of that on the third day of my short get-away trip with Sandy and Peg. Here are some scenes from off the road.

We also managed to find the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (closed for tours) and the The Richie Block Building in St Helena.

Before we headed back to Windsor, we came across the Peju Winery in Rutherford. The grounds were beautiful as was the large inside tasting room.

It was a wonderful trip and I can’t wait for the next phone call asking if I’d like to get away!

Lens-Artists Challenge #141: Geometry

I cringed when I saw the word geometry in Patti’s challenge post. All I could think of was math; my worst subject in school. But, shapes I understand. We look for them as we do our photography. They help make our images interesting. Many give our pictures depth and help them look three dimensional.

Here’s what I found while looking through my archives.

One of my favorite buildings, the CALSTRS building in West Sacramento has many angles, lines and shapes.

And here are a couple from Fort Point in San Francisco: stairs and a shape within a shape within a shape (actually a hallway).

There are lots of triangles and other shapes at the top of the transformers at the Folsom Historic Powerhouse and in the stairs at the Great Bear Vineyard.

And the flowing structural lines at the Manetti Shrem Museum at UC Davis and The Barn in West Sacramento.

Last, a simple store entrance gives us rectangles, squares, triangles and circles. Taken in Sutter Creek.

The Russian Fort: Fort Ross, Jenner California

I’m still enjoying my short get-a-way to Windsor even though I’ve been home a while. In my last post Lens Artists Challenge: #140: An Change of Scenery, I showed you Windsor and the surrounding countryside. The following day, we drove toward the ocean and ended up at Fort Ross State Historic Park. What a photographers dream that was.

Before you got to the Fort, also called the Russian Fort because it’s a historic Russian-era fort compound that has been designated National Historic Landmark status, you walk through the grounds of beautiful scenery and beaches. Here is a sample:

And now for the Fort. I know I’m giving you a lot to look at, but I’m hoping you’ll think it’s worth your time.

The next day we went to Napa. I’ll save that for another post.

Lens-Artists Challenge #140: A Change of Scenery

It was like this challenge from Beth of Wandering Dogs was just meant for me! I just returned from a scenery change. After a year of wandering around the Sacramento area with my photography pod, my friend Sandy, who lives in Tuolumne City, invited me to spend time with her and her sister Peg in Windsor in Sonoma County, California. I didn’t need to even think about it before I said YES!

Sandy picked me up on Monday and returned me on Thursday. We had two full days of seeing the sights and taking pictures. I haven’t been able to edit all the pictures yet, but I can show you the small town of Windsor.

Here are the small shops and buildings in the downtown area.

From the town we go into the countryside.

Day two had us go to the coast, ending up at Fort Ross State Historic Park. The next day we drove through Napa. Those pictures still need editing.

I totally needed and enjoyed my time away. A change of scenery is always a good idea, especially after a year of in and out of lockdown. And thank you Sandy for driving and Peg for your hospitality.

Lens Artists Challenge #139: Special Moments

When you’ve lived 77 years, you gather, in your heart, many special moments. There’s the usual life cycle moments that you work toward and totally enjoy, the personal achievements you’ve worked hard for and the moments that brought you fun and delight. In her challenge this month, Tina wants to see our special moments and what made them special.

I’m going to begin with our cross country trip in 2013 to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

This is the mighty Mississippi and the push boats that continually move their cargo. We were told that they move 24/7, stopping at certain points to pick up supplies. Being near and on this river was important to me because my mom always wanted to take a Mississippi river cruise on a paddle boat. We did take a short cruise in her honor.

This was also my first time using my Nikon d3100 and entry into the hobby. Next is a picture from Central High in Little Rock Arkansas. The Little Rock Nine integrated this school in 1957. When I saw that we could visit the school I needed to go. To our surprise it is now a National Historic Site, and we were able to join a tour led by a ranger. She was so graphic about what happened to those children, it broke my heart. Hate has just got to stop.

On to 2015 and a picture of photo buddy Greg Morris. He has since passed away from brain cancer, and I still have fond memories of him. He didn’t like that I rarely used a tripod. He also had a great sense of humor. He’d pick up Marlene and I in the morning, taking us away for a day of shooting. Of course, because he always used a tripod!

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, in 2016, saw me climbing through Laura’s sunroof to capture the eagle below. He was on a tree limb that crossed the road and looking straight down. Laura’s seats are leather. I was trying to balance a heavy lens while trying not to slip on the seat. But it was worth it!

In 2017, I did use a tripod to capture these wine barrels at the Ironstone Vineyards. Shooting in a dark place was a first for me. My shutter was at 1.6 seconds and my ISO was at 1000. And, of course, I used a tripod!

Every year we photographers travel to find Fall color. For me, these trips are more than to shoot photos. They are fun time and memories made with friends. Marlene and I found this patch in 2018. It was one of the best trips.

This last photo was a total surprise for me. I guess I happened to be doing the right thing at the right time. I was taking a picture of this train in Old Sacramento, October 2019. I was shooting at night and decreased my shutter speed and increased my ISO. I was just practicing on getting this train at night with ambient light. As I pressed the shutter the train moved. My exposure was 2.5 seconds What a treat! I call it trainsparency.

So these are just some of my special photographic moments and their meaning to me beyond photography.

With a little help: The Nesting Tree

Yes, with a little help we can accomplish what we thought we couldn’t. One of the reasons I bought a mirrorless camera was the need for a lighter camera. I could still hold my Nikon D7100, but with some lenses it was getting heavy, and I’m not getting younger. I currently use my Nikon for two types of shooting: ultra wide and telephoto.

The last time I tried shooting with my Nikon and an old prime (meaning metal casing) 300 mm, my photo buddy Ray saw I was having difficulty holding it steady. It was more than that, I couldn’t hold it steady. So, he made me a short monopod to anchor the lens.

I wanted to show him what I call the nesting trees in Lincoln and he wanted me to try out my new small, hand-held monopod, so off we went. And guess what, it worked. With just a little help from my friend I can now use a telephoto on my Nikon. If I ever get a telephoto for my Fuji, it would also help. The birds were across a small gully and a stretch for any 300 mm lens, but I was able to photograph them and really crop in.

The second bit of help also came through Ray. He let me know that Topaz was having a sale. Now I can’t resist a sale, can I? I bought Topaz Sharpen AI and DeNoise AI. I used Sharpen AI on all the birds and it was amazing.

We didn’t stay long. The egrets’ and herons’ mates were not flying back with food/nesting material. But I was able to get a shot of one flying in without branches and twigs in the way.

I’ll be going back to the nesting tree with my new monopod soon! Thank you Ray!!

Lens-Artists 138: Natural Light

Awareness of natural light is essential in photography. Some photographers only go out when the light is optimum. I go out whenever I can and make the best of it! I’ve become good at reducing shadows and highlights in post. This week Amy wants us to show images taken at various times of the day.

Since I rarely get out for a sunrise, mid morning is the time you’ll find me out shooting. Here’s a picture of a painter doing a mural during Sacramento’s Wide Open Wall festival. The sun was in position to show his shadow on the ground and on the wall as he’s painting.

We’re getting slightly later in the morning. This blue heron is facing the sun which lights up his face and beak.

This building along the Sacramento River Walk is in bright sunlight and shadow.

The sunlight streaming through the foliage at Effie Yeaw Nature Center gives this tree expression and beauty. Moss grows where sunlight rarely hits.

And then there’s no sunlight. Folsom Prison looks especially formidable on a foggy day.

We are now approaching sunset time. This is when the light begins what will be a beautiful sunset.

And let’s not forget the darkness. We may not be capturing natural light, but manmade light can be fun and a challenge like this long exposure at Sunrise Mall’s small carnival.

Thank you Amy for this archival trip. It was fun.

Where have all the blossoms gone? Devastated almond orchards

It’s the season for all photographers and “lookie loos” to descend on almond orchards seeking beauty. However, due to a couple of good wind storms, one hard enough to topple trees and take off roofs, the beautiful blossoms are hard to find.

We photographers respect the orchards and do not go into them. We photograph from the roads, using long lenses. When I saw that one farm was opening their orchard (for a small fee) for us to walk through, Ray and I made a plan to go there. We knew it was risky given the winds we had and were still having that day, but we went anyway. This farm was outside of Davis and closer than those in Capay Valley.

It was as we thought. Not only were the blossoms blown off the trees, they were blown off the ground. In years past, fallen blossoms looked like snow. We talked to the orchard owner who said the situation was dire. Not only did she sell tickets for people to come in, but also hired bees from bee keepers to pollenate the blossoms. Cost and revenue loss. Not totally bare, some blossoms held on.

Here’s a picture taken in 2017 to give you some idea at how full the trees can get. Notice the blossoms on the ground.

A little further down the road we found a younger orchard, shorter trees, that seemed to withstand the wind better.

Here are some other almond blossom images taken on this trip.

We did find the beginnings of a mustard field.

So where have all the blossoms gone? Mother Nature has control over that! Next year!