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!

Lens-Artists Challenge #137: Soft

When I hear the word “soft” in photography terms, right away my mind goes to a beautiful bokeh background. This week’s challenge from Ann Christine is on things soft. She gave many examples on how we can interpret this challenge, but I’ll stick with the pleasing muted backgrounds.

Flowers with a bokeh background was the first type of shooting I wanted to learn when I started photography.

But then I started thinking that animals can also have a bokeh background too.

Let’s see what else I can find.

There are some very small daffodils outside my front door. If it wasn’t so windy, I’d go out and shoot them for inclusion in this post. Thank you Ann Christine!

Off to see the animals: Sacramento Zoo

For me, going to the Sacramento Zoo is like seeing old friends. You get to know some animals by name, you learn their behavior and watch their babies grow. My camera group decided since the zoo was open again, we needed to visit. Right now you just can’t go to the zoo on a whim. You need to go online and buy your ticket for a specific time slot. Even though I’m a member, I still have to reserve a time slot. They can only let in a certain number of people at a time for each specified slot.

So, we were at the zoo at 10:30 a.m. Fortunately, the large cats were still awake, having eaten their bones. It was a Thursday–bone day!

The lions and snow leopard.

This is the second time I’ve caught the Red Pandas awake. They were busy finding and eating food.

All the Orangutans were out and having a lot of fun and eating.

The River Otters were putting on a show too. I processed this one in black and white.

One of the alligators came out from the water so we could get a good look at him. Does he look hungry?

Baby giraffe, Glory, has grown since my last visit. She’s eating food put at her height.

The Masai Giraffe was playing with a large plastic bucket. Do you think he’d be good at soccer?

One of the Okapi decided to show me his best side! They do have a beautifully marked rear.

Some of my favorites weren’t out. I guess another visit should be put on the calendar.

All’s well that ends well! Miners Ravine Trail

Sometimes when a planned outing goes awry, it can work out well anyway. That’s what happened when my photo group decided to walk along the American River starting at Folsom Dam.

Our organizer gave us an address to meet at. Easy? Not when you don’t follow GPS directions. My bad! But when we got there we (Donna and I) arrived at the Miners Ravine Trail parking lot. This was not the shopping center meet point. We had the wrong address. Even with the right address, we got lost. Finally we met our group who was past the patience point. Marlene had brought her dog (almost a year old) who was doing okay with the loud traffic, but would he do well walking across a busy street and along the dam? One member (Jean) was still lost and hadn’t arrived yet.

I told the others to go ahead; I would wait for Jean and maybe follow them. I told Marlene about the Miners Ravine Trail head we found, and she agreed it would be more suitable for her dog. I ran to take a picture of the dam. Jean gave up and went home!

Are you frustrated yet? I was! Marlene and I did one end of the trail before she headed home. I was soon joined by the rest of the group who had walked the American River Trail. We walked the other side of the trail.

In the end, I had a good time and don’t think I missed anything along the river trail. Here are some images from that walk.

It’s good that I love trees. Without leaves to disguise their structure, they are so expressive. So, all’s well that ends well!

Lens-Artists Challenge #134: From Forgettable to Favorite

I admit it, I’m lazy. I totally enjoy spending time taking the photo, but not processing it. This week Tina has challenged us to show how we’ve turned our “forgettable” photos into “favorite” images.

Well, here’s another problem. Once I get an outing’s photos into my desktop, I delete the ones I don’t like and just process the ones I do like. So, for this challenge, I’ll show a before and after with how I edit.

Going back to my being lazy, I mostly rely on Lightroom (LR) and presets in NIK and De-noise in Topaz. Photoshop allows me to take out unwanted stuff with the spot healing brush and also replace skies. It might be more that I don’t prioritize learning more.

My examples were taken last month. This tree was taken on a very foggy morning at Boulder Ridge Park. I did basic editing in LR, working with the highlights, shadows, whites and black sliders. I then put into NIK Color Efex and used the detail extractor preset to accent the tree. I wanted the tree to stand out more. Before is on the left as you look at your monitor. After is on the right.

This next one is the entrance to Stock Ranch Preserve. Although they are not exactly the same image you can see the difference the my edits in LR and Color Efex accomplished. Here I used LR sliders to enhance the orange on the fence and Color Efex to bring out the details and enhance the sky. Of course, all my images get the crop treatment.

This is on the way to Folsom Dam. Again not exactly the same image, but a good example of what I began with. I worked with the shadow and black sliders in LR and the tone curve. I brought it into Color Efex to bring out the sky and clouds. When in Color Efex, I use the sliders also. However, I haven’t mastered the control points.

This last image is of trees along a portion the Miner’s Ravine Trail. I love trees, especially when they have lost their leaves. They are so expressive. Again, the same treatment in LR and Color Efex. I also cropped the tree that seemed to be in the middle. For this I wanted to lighten up the tree trunk, keep the tree shadows and highlight the sun. Color Efex brought out more detail.

I know I can do more with the editing programs I have. Will I prioritize the time to learn. I hope so.

Lens Artists Challenge #133: My Photography Journey

Life’s journey seems to take twists and turns, but it’s been my experience that important happenings come at a right and perfect time. Amy has given us the challenge of describing our photo journey. I started this blog at the very beginning of mine.

For me, photography came as I closed down my part-time speaking and writing business. At age 70, I didn’t know what to do with all the extra time I would have. Friends suggested sewing, quilting and crocheting. No! I’ve sewed and crocheted before, and it wasn’t fulfilling.

After several weeks, I remembered how much I enjoyed the photography class I took at Pierce College when I was a returning student (My youngest was in first grade). All the journalism majors had to take the photo class and the photography students had to take a journalism class. We had to use an all manual camera. Fortunately, Richard brought back a Minolta from his time in Vietnam, and I used that camera. What fun I had developing the film and making prints.

During that time, I was also writing for a newspaper and started taking the pictures for my column. I always wrote tight so the editor wouldn’t cut my articles. The only time he cut one was to run one of my photographs a half page. After graduating and moving, I stopped taking photos except of family with a point and shoot.

Fast forward to my retirement decision to purchase a DSLR. Not sure about the decision to make photography my new passion, I bought an entry level Nikon, the D3100. I didn’t know anything about crop sensor vs full frame or even how to use the camera. And, what was ISO?

From the archives, a picture taken with my D3100 shot on auto because all I could see in the dark was the green “A!” This was taken at one of my first outings with my new camera.

I found that photographers were more than willing to share their expertise, and I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. I found out that ISO was like the film camera’s film speed and much more. I didn’t take a class because I didn’t want assignments and homework. Come on, wasn’t I too old for that?

The more I learned, the more I understood the limitations of my 3100. So, within a year, I bought a Nikon D7100. I could bracket automatically and it had two card slots. I liked that camera and used it until 2020.

Here’s a shot taken with my 7100 in 2014. Now I know how to reduce the white at the bottom.

I was still learning, experimenting and asking questions. In 2015 I did the 365 Challenge, and I’m so glad I did. My photographic ability jumped after that year. That in itself was a journey.

Here’s a picture I took during week 10 with my new/used macro lens.

My passion for photography never waned through the years. The more adept I became, the more I realised my need for a camera that would be better in low-light situations. If I was to get another camera, it would be a mirrorless for the size and weight. Marlene bought a Fujifilm X-T2, and when I saw her pictures, I knew that was the camera I wanted. The color was outstanding and the clarity amazing.

In 2020 I bought a Fuji X-T3. I’ve always bought new cameras, but used lenses. This time I came home with a new camera and three new lenses. I have not regretted that decision. I still use the Nikon for ultra wide and telephoto shots. I’ve sold my wonderful Sigma macro lens since I have one for the Fuji.

Here’s an image taken in 2020 with the Fuji.

So, here we are in the present. I’m still learning and growing in ability. I do need to conquer Photoshop and other plugins. When an outing is sort of blah, I still come home with an image or two that are worthwhile. I now see things differently, and I’m more aware of my surroundings. Most of all I’m having fun. What an amazing journey that’s still twisting and turning while moving forward.

Lens Artists Challenge #132: Striped and Checked

Just look around, patterns make up our scenery. It may be buildings, trees or seating. As photographers, we all look for repetitive lines whether linear, curved or squared. Or, as Ann Christine says, “striped and checked” in her challenge this week.

Before I was able to look in my archives, I read JohnRH’s post on the challenge. His was of trees. I thanked him for the idea! Here are trees from Calaveras Big Trees State Park and its giant Sequoia trees. And a leading line too.

I love textures, and wood has so much, including lines. The horseshoe is there for luck!

Windows give us a checkerboard of reflections. I found these at Mare Island, a former Naval Station.

How about a line of squares, a square monument to those lost in the Vietnam War, or the lines on the grate of an old train?

I’ll end this post with diagonal lines.

I don’t see squares, but I do see rectangles! Thanks Ann Christine for this fun challenge.

Fog, trees and pond! Boulder Ridge and Coyote Pond parks

I’m not too fond of fog when I’m driving, but when I have my camera in my hand, I love it. On one foggy morning we (Marlene, Linda, Ray and I) ventured out to two local parks hoping to get foggy images.

The fog was lifting when we arrived at Boulder Ridge park in Rocklin, but still thick enough to block the visual of most of the park. This time of the year, the trees are bare and stand tall against the fog.

This large park is popular with locals. But it was damp and cold while we were there, and the hillsides weren’t visible. When we couldn’t see the rest of the park, we left and followed in our cars to Coyote Pond in Lincoln. The fog had lifted there and the beauty of this small neighborhood park was waiting for us.

It’s great that we have such beauty easily accessible in these COVID days.

Lens-Artists Challenge #130: It’s a Small World

Think big! Don’t sweat the small stuff! Did you want to super-size that? In today’s world, we are taught to think BIG. We go for the big SUV, the big sale and the big burger. In photography, we learn to shoot large landscapes with a wide-angle lens. 

Donner Lake in Winter

But what about thinking small? Let’s talk about macro photography.

What is macro photography? What is micro photography? Are they different from close-up photography? Have I confused you? I’ll give you a hint, two are the same and one is different. Let’s delve into the subject.

Close-up photography takes a subject and zooms in on it. Usually the subject is small, like a plant or an insect, but it could also mean getting close to someone’s eye or face as a subject. The picture is taken with any lens. I’ve taken close-ups with a nifty fifty on a crop sensor camera.

A close-up image taken with an 18-200 mm lens, shot at F/5.6.

Typically, these types of images fill the frame. However, I’ve put flowers or part of flowers off to the side. Shooting with a 200- or 300-mm lens can give you almost macro quality.

This flower was shot at 200 mm at F/5.6.

Macro photography refers to a picture taken with a dedicated macro lens yielding a magnification ratio of 1:1. Meaning, the image depicted on your camera’s sensor is in its actual size. When printed, the subject appears life-sized. This type of photography is used especially when we shoot something exceedingly small or want to capture an extremely small part of it.

Hint: If you want just part of a subject in focus, use a lower F stop (meaning F/number) to get the entire macro subject in focus, use a higher F stop.

The praying mantis in this image appears life-sized as does the part of the flower it’s feeding on. It was shot with a 105 mm macro lens at F/16.

The leaf in this image was shot with the same macro lens, but at F/2.8 creating a more shallow depth of field.

Micro photography is the same as macro photography. Camera manufacturers use the terms interchangeably. You might say that a macro lens takes a picture of a micro subject! I borrowed that last phrase!

One big difference between close-up and macro shooting is breeze. For close-ups you can shoot in a slight breeze because the regular lens isn’t as sensitive as a macro lens. When shooting with a macro lens, any movement in the subject will result in blur. Often, I’ll just take my 55-200 mm lens out when there’s a slight breeze. I can still get nice close-ups.

Oh, yes, everyone says you need a tripod. Confession, I’ve never used one for macro. In fact, I hardly use one at all. However, you will need a steady hand and fast shutter speed.

Now we’ve covered the macro, micro and close-up differences, and you are wanting a macro lens, let’s talk about options. Macro lenses are expensive but there are less expensive alternatives. Extension tubes or reverse ring adaptors to turn your regular lens around are much less expensive options. Personally, I decided against either option and bought a used macro lens for my Nikon D7100. When buying used, be careful. Buy from a store that will let you return it within 90 days if not satisfied. Also purchase one that will give you a 1:1 ratio.

For my Fujifilm camera, I treated myself to a new macro lens, knowing I would use it a lot. It’s a prime 80 mm but still shoots at a 1:1 ratio.

So, which two are the same and the other different? The answer: macro and micro photography are the same and close-up photography is different!

This week’s challenge is to take your camera for a walk around your yard or home and shoot some close-up or macro shots. Too cold, too wet, too busy? Feel free to choose some images from your archives. Be sure to link your response to my original post, and to use the Lens-Artists TAG to help us find you. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Thank you Tina, Amy, Ann Christine and Patti for this amazing guest host opportunity!

Lens Artist Challenge #127: Precious Moments

Precious moments are those times that get us through the difficult times. Remembering them fills our beings, making the dark more bright. Amy’s choice of Precious Moments couldn’t have come at a better time. We all need to come out of the dark and into the light.

My precious moments revolve around my children and grandchildren. In this post, I’m sharing images of my wonderful grandchildren. I have two sets and they are far apart in age. I was at the same elementary school for 16 years! After adopting two boys, we had a natural child, a boy of course.

My oldest John, who passed away, left us with two wonderful grandkids. Madison and Christopher. Here are their prom and graduation photos.

Christopher agreed to have his picture taken before he left for his prom. With him right after graduation are his mom, Teresa, and sister.

Madison’s prom and graduation came 2 years later.

Madison and Christopher are now grown with homes and loved ones.

The younger set belong to my son Greg and daughter-in-law Jessica. We were so excited to welcome Ryan and Olivia to our family in 2011. We had a family party in celebration of Olivia’s first birthday. Ryan was three.

Two special moments I was able to capture was at the Sacramento Zoo in 2013.

Although older now, 11 and 9 years, they still are close siblings. Here they walk the zoo hand in hand.

We were across from the flamingos when Olivia noticed the plastic birds. Just from the look on her face, I think Olivia thought they were real.

My last precious moment occurred on Valentine’s Day 2015. The kids were spending the night with us while their parents went out. We prepared a small celebration with some gifts. Ryan used all his stickers on his grandfather. I thought that it was a generous share!

These children are my precious every things. They feed my heart and soul. It’s true, you have children so you can have grandchildren!