Lens-Artist #113: A Labor Of Love

When I first saw this challenge given by Rusha Sams, my immediate thoughts went to raising children. They are conceived in love, raised with love and then their children are loved. Beyond that, when I was traveling, I wasn’t taking pictures. It’s only in my senior years that I discovered photography as a form of self-expression and a passion.

So, bringing “A Labor Of Love” down to very basic terms, I chose to show an activity that is a labor of love for participants and fans alike. My topic: Hot Air Balloon Festivals.

I’ve only been to two Hot Air Balloon Festivals. The first was in September, 2012 when I bought my Nikon D3100. I chose an entry level camera to start because I wasn’t sure about photography. It didn’t take long before I upgraded to the D7100. I heard about the balloon festival in Windsor, California. So, off Richard and I went in our 5th wheel trailer, staying two nights in what they set aside as a campground. I was warned that the show started promptly at 4 a.m., and it did.

I woke up to the announcer on the loud speaker saying, “Good morning Windsor!” I jumped out of bed, got dressed, grabbed my camera and ran out the door to be greeted by total darkness. Once on the field, I realized I hadn’t set my camera! I saw the green “A,” turned the dial, and ran toward the “Dawn Patrol” that had just set up. The rest is history. I had a great time. I loved the challenge of getting the shots, lying on the ground as the balloons went up in the air, kneeling down to catch a picture of the balloon being blown up. It was an exhilarating morning. Here are a few of my first shots with my camera.

Fast forward to September 2017 when I was shooting with a Nikon D7100 at the Reno Hot Air Balloon Festival, Reno, Nevada.

Linda and I decided to stay one night at a hotel and waking up at 3:30 a.m. rather than waking up at 1 a.m. and driving 2 hours. It was a smart move for two seniors! This was a larger festival and just as much fun.

I saw many of the same balloons in Reno as I did in Windsor. The pilots have such a love for this sport that they travel from festival to festival. Weather is a big factor on whether they can take their balloons up. The second day at Windsor, it was too windy for them to fly.

This was a nice memory to catch up on. Thank you Rusha!

A little non-macro practice: Gibson Ranch

I knew Gibson Ranch Park in Elverta wasn’t the best place for macro shots, but you can use a macro lens for more than just close up photography. Yes? Well, I gave it a try when Marlene, Linda and I went to to the park. I hadn’t been there for a while, and I wanted to practice with my new macro lens for the Fuji camera. It performed well.

There were the usual amount of ducks at the pond.

And there were geese!

And a squirrel enjoying a peanut tossed by a young boy.

And Gibson Ranch has other animals too.

There are also stables where horses are boarded. In one area, trail rides are offered.

Oh, yes, I did manage to get a couple of close up/macro images too.

Now I have to find some flowers and bugs to practice on!

Paradise lost: The Camp Fire Aftermath

The photos in this post are not pretty or inviting, but they are realistic. My neighbor, a Camp Fire survivor, invited me and a few of my photo buddies up to the small town of Paradise to document where he used to live. Just imagine not being able to look at photo albums containing images of past generations, your children when they were young, past celebrations. Camp Fire survivors don’t have that privilege. They are lucky to be alive.

Called the deadliest and most destructive fire in California, this fire ignited before 6:30 a.m., November 8, 2018 near Camp Creek Road and Pulga Road in Paradise, Butte County. After extensive investigation, the cause was found to be a faulty transmission wire maintained by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). The two roads out of Paradise into Chico were jammed with residents trying to escape. A typically short ride down the mountain took 4 hours. My neighbor said the car was hot and it looked like they were surrounded by walls of orange. Eighty five people didn’t make it.

We visited June 30, 2020. By this time all the debris was cleared, the murals painted on wall remnants were gone, but desolation remained. Here’s what we saw. Pictures are captioned.

This was a difficult shoot. I’m posting this because my neighbor said he was so happy we wanted to come up to photograph the place he used to call home.

A lonely park: Rush Park

I knew that there wouldn’t be children playing on the three playgrounds, skate boarders enjoying the skate park, swimmers in the pool, kids playing baseball at the diamonds, adults using the tennis and pickle ball courts but I thought we’d be able to get on the grounds of the historic Rush Home and Gardens. At least that’s what one of the Sunrise Department of Recreation told me the day before. He said the house was closed, but that we could take pictures of the grounds. He didn’t tell me that we’d be shooting through the fence!

So off three of us went to this large park in Citrus Heights. Just looking at my images will show the lack of activity in an otherwise jammed park. It was sad. We didn’t walk the entire park. What we saw was enough.

The Historic Rush Home is normally used for weddings, meetings and other special events. The gardens, at least what we could view through the fence, didn’t seem spectacular.

Some pretty flowers and water in the park.

The unused fun areas that are now empty.

I’m hoping the next time we visit Rush Park it will be full of laughter, families and people enjoying their sports.

Escape #4: Effie Yeaw Nature Center

Something familiar, comfortable and close by; that’s what I wanted for my first photo outing that didn’t involve a car ride. Yes, I had to drive to get to Effie Yeaw in Carmichael, but I loaded my camera on my sling and walked the Nature Center. And, I wasn’t alone. Marlene, Jean and Ray joined me. I guess I wasn’t the only one who needed to escape!

This time was very different. We each drove our own cars, wore our masks and kept a reasonable distance from each other. And worst of all, we didn’t follow our adventure with lunch!

Because I had a morning Toastmaster meeting, we met at Effie Yeaw at 10 a.m. It was too late to see the deer, but we did see a lot of people. Some wore masks, some stepped aside when they saw us walking the path and some just passed us on the path. I guess everyone has their own level of concern about this pandemic.

I find breathing with a face mask on difficult. There’s something about breathing your own air that affects my heart. I’m probably not getting enough oxygen. So, with that hindrance, I got tired sooner. But, it was all worthwhile.

Here are some flower images from that morning.

I love the trees at Effie Yeaw. They are so expressive.

And then there’s the American River.

And, let’s not forget about the other things that catch a photographer’s eye.

The last image was created with a Photoshop filter that distorts. It was a piece of green netting!

It was a great escape, but a little different. Maybe next week there will be another adventure!

 

Almond trees and more! Capay Valley, California

Beautiful Almond trees in Capay Valley were calling to my small photo group. Every year we make that trek to capture the beautiful blossoms. We were a two-car caravan and stopped along the way for pictures. If we were a larger caravan, I’m not sure that would have worked.

Starting out in the small town of Esparto, we drove along the main road through the valley. To our dismay, some of the orchards were surrounded by chain link fencing. Unfortunately, some visitors and photographers have been going into the orchards, causing problems. We make sure to stay on the side of the road, not trespassing. We did manage to stick our lenses through the chain link. It made taking pictures difficult but not impossible. Thank heavens for telephoto lenses which allowed us to get some close ups.

When we reached Rumsey, we found yard full of treasures. Fortunately, the owner Don Hayes was there and gave us permission to take photos wherever we wanted. I think I must have been getting tired, because I missed some of the smaller items that my photo buddies shot. Well, there may be another chance!

Four in a row: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and 3 more!

Honestly, I’m not much of a birder, that is a photographer who loves to photograph birds. But I do like to get out during the season and do my best to capture some of our feathered friends. A great birding day, for me, is when I can photograph our amazing bald eagle. I recently went on an all day outing with Laura, who is an amazing nature photographer, to four wildlife areas within 2 hours from home.

First stop was the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows. Wow, just one drive around and we saw eagles, hawks, and sandhill cranes. Here are some of my images:

From there we went to Llano Seco Wildlife Area near Chico. We had never been there and were surprised to see just one viewing platform. I took the opportunity to do some landscape photography:

From here things get blurry in my brain. I should post these blogs when I’m fresh from the activity! We were out on January 11! I think these birds are from Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. It’s much smaller than Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, but there were photographic opportunities:

Our final stop was Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Gridley. The sun was beginning to set and we caught a golden glow on the birds and landscapes. The mountains in some of the landscapes are the Sutter Buttes. For sunset, we went to our favorite spot in the area to photograph a spectacular sunset:

So this was the beautiful end to our fantastic day! Could it get any better?

Bone day: Sacramento Zoo

Truth. I wasn’t going to renew my Sacramento Zoo membership. While they are talking about moving to larger acreage, they invested in creating a larger enclosure of glass for the lions. Part of it was where they had the tiger. I know I can use a long lens and get through the cages, but glass? Smudges and dirt?

I remember trying to photograph the meerkats when they first arrived, but their glass enclosure was dirty and it was difficult to get a good shot. But, I reluctantly renewed my membership when my photo group visited the zoo last month.

One thing positive, I didn’t have to carry my heavy F/4 prime 300 mm lens. My walk-around 18 – 200 mm was perfect and much lighter and versatile. Here’s some of what I photographed.

So that’s my experience with glass enclosures at the zoo. I’m glad I renewed my membership. I just need to get there early in the morning so the glass is fairly clean!

Just to let you know–I’ve started Matt Kloskowski’s Photoshop course I purchased about 2 years ago. I’ve done two lessons which consist of many tutorials. So far so good!

Cars, cars and more: Concours d’Elegance at Ironstone Vineyards

I have been to car shows, but not one had this many vintage vehicles! I’ve been to Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys before to photograph flowers and the grounds. That alone took most of the day! But there were cars and trailers all over, including an amphibian car that I missed!

We stayed until about 1 p.m. (got there at 10 a.m.) but had to leave after lunch. I would have liked to have gone back to shoot the flowers, but I needed to get to my son and daughter-in-law’s house warming. The drive each way is 2 hours. However, I did get to photograph most of the cars. No, I’m not going to show you all of them! But, this will be a 2-part post.

While editing these photos, I came upon a dilemma. I come from a journalistic background, and as a non-fiction writer, we did not embellish our stories in any way. We basically wrote the facts in an interesting and readable way. Photographing this car show is basically telling a non-fiction story through photographs. So, do I do some image altering edits, or stick to the basics. Most are basic edits, but I did add some filters to some to make them look older. What do you think?

Let’s begin with hood ornaments which were straight edits. I do like to get up close and some were beautiful.

Now for some of the scenery and full or mostly full images of the vehicles. If I had my way there would be greater separation between cars and only me at the show! I can dream, but I truly don’t mind crowds. I just make the people part of the image.

Sometimes new isn’t as good as old: Donner Snow Sheds

Our loyal group of senior photographers made a return visit to the Donner Snow Sheds located above Donner Lake in Nevada County. No longer used as a shelter for trains coming through the Sierra Nevada mountains, they are now hosts to art and graffiti from locals.

Since these works of art change as they are painted over, we decided it was time for another walk through the tunnels. I was there in July 2016 with Linda and Marlene. Neither of them were available for this visit.

Honestly, I was disappointed with the art. First, the initial tunnel was barren of art. I did find familiar scenery in between that and the second tunnel. The third tunnel had the most to photograph. Of course, there was beautiful Donner Lake!

To make matters worse, I experienced some altitude illness. At an elevation of 7,057 feet above sea level, I shouldn’t have had that trouble! I’ve been over Donner Pass and at Donner Lake a few times without trouble.

But all things come to pass! It was an enjoyable outing with great friends. Maybe I’ll do it again in a couple of years as the graffiti is painted over.