Someone’s in the kitchen:Crystal Hermitage Gardens

Right now there’s 35 matzo balls boiling on the stove, a turkey roasting in the roaster and chicken soup cooling on the counter. I’m in the kitchen to make sure there’s enough water in the stock pots so the matzo balls don’t burn. They can when the water gets low; I’ve done it before!

Happy Passover to all of you who celebrate the holiday also. It’s late this year. I look back at this holiday with fondness. I remember my entire maternal family gathered around my grandparents long table, my grandfather reading the entire hagadah (story) in Hebrew, and the rest of us reading from mismatched hagadahs just to keep busy. It seemed like agony then, but now, if I could only go back. After my grandparents passed, Passover was never the same.

I have tried to create my own holiday tradition for my children and grandchildren. I hope that my older grandchildren will create a tradition for their families when that occurs.

Of course, this has nothing to do with the Crystal Hermitage Gardens which are located in Ananda Village located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Grass Valley, California.

The Exploring Photography Meetup group organized a visit to these beautiful gardens to photograph the amazing variety of tulips planted. I can’t imagine the effort it took to create this beauty for residents and garden visitors. This will be a two-part post because I have many images to show you. Today, I’ll show you the flowers. Most are tulips and there are some others.

No captions again. I’m way too busy in the kitchen preparing my portion for a pot-luck Seder with friends!

After a rain, shoot, shoot, shoot: Effie Yeaw,Schweitzer Grove, McKinley Park

It’s sometimes called cabin fever, but for photographers it’s more intense. Since you can’t shoot, you edit, read tutorials or discover new processing programs. So, when, on a recent Tuesday, Marlene and I were the only photographers to partake in Camera Totin’ Tuesday, we took full advantage of the partly cloudy weather.

Our first stop was Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael. This wonderful preserve houses all sorts of animals, provides educational programs and welcomes photographers. Located on the American River, there is a lot to shoot. On this day, I was looking for deer; but, I was amazed by the area’s beauty after winter rains. And, yes, I did find deer. I couldn’t believe how they let us get so close to them. They know they are protected from human harm, but natural predators are still around. You’ll see more from Effie Yeaw because Marlene and I bought a season pass.

Next we found Schweitzer Grove Nature Area. This is a 17-acre park also in Carmichael that allows dogs to be off leash. It’s quiet and green–a great place to walk babies, dogs or just yourself.

After walking Schweitzer Grove, we drove over to McKinley Park in Sacramento. We were hoping to still see some roses, but there were none. Still, we weren’t disappointed for there were other flowers and people that caught our attention. If you remember, I did a post on this park before and the roses were beautiful. We’ll be back.

What did I learn? My passion for photography grows along with my experience. We have so many beautiful preserves, parks and rivers here in the Sacramento area so you don’t have to drive a great distance to shoot. And, finally, I’m so enjoying the friendships I’ve made with other photographers. Marlene has been my  sidekick for more than a year now, and I do appreciate her willingness to go out with her camera.

It’s raining right now, but it’s supposed to be partly cloudy for our next Tuesday adventure. I know we’re all anxious to get out there and shoot–with our cameras!

This will be a two-part post. There are too many pictures for me to put in one.

Mustard and Alpacas: Napa California

We expected wineries but photo buddy Karen took us on a special tour of Napa and Napa Valley. We didn’t see the touristy Napa Valley as described here, taken from the Napa Valley website: “More than 400 wineries dot the fertile soils of Napa Valley, one of the world’s premier viticultural regions. But wine, as visitors quickly discover, is only the beginning. Lavish resorts and top-rated chefs work alongside the farmers who tend this land: the result is something understated and exceptional.”

We saw the real Napa Valley. During our day we saw Lake Solano Park, Monticello Dam, rolling green hills, mustard tucked in between rows of vineyards, livestock grazing, alpacas and where her husband’s family ranch used to be. And we visited Napa City towards the end of day for some fantastic lighting.

Let’s see, what did I learn? I discovered the difference between llamas and alpacas, and again took the ultra wide lens out for a spin. So take a look at the Napa we saw on our recent visit with Karen.

Do you know the way to San Jose? Livermore & Sunol Regional Wilderness Park

My trip to San Jose, for my yearly vision board session, with Marlene was going according to plan. We stopped in Livermore to shoot the sights and eat lunch.

While Livermore is nationally known as the home for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, it’s a small, lovely town nestled in rolling hills. We walked around Historic Downtown, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way it was designed.

Next we stopped at the Sunol Regional Wilderness Park. I always wanted to get off the freeway to see what was hidden in the hills as I would go to San Jose, but never took the time. This was the time! It’s a beautiful area and now green because of our recent rains. There are many parks, lakes, etc. for residents to enjoy. Our stop was at the Sunol Regional Wilderness. Located in Alameda County and near the town of Sunol. It was primarily ranch land, and today cattle still graze in some areas. We enjoyed shooting in this beautiful park; however, our adventure went awry when we left.

I have no idea what got into me. Maybe it was the Greg Morris influence, but I saw that Calaveras Road continued on into Milpitas. I had my trusty GPS with me. And Marlene didn’t say “No, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go that way!” So off we went on a joy ride that would include mostly hairpin turns on an extremely narrow road. Not knowing the road, I was going around 18 to 25 miles per hour and the drivers coming the other way were cruising at about 40 miles per hour! Worse, remember those hairpin turns? They came around so fast and had to break when they saw me. Moving over wasn’t so much of an option with a shear drop on one side and a mountain on the other. At one point, Marlene suggested that the car came with a horn to use as a warning device.

We made it. But we weren’t able to pull over and take pictures of the beautiful scenery that included the Calaveras Reservoir. So, we made mental pictures, and I can’t show them to you. You can click on the link to see someone else’s images!

Going off plan proved adventurous, somewhat nerve racking at times, but gave me something to write about.

 

 

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.

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.)

 

 

Who moved my chairs? Back to Volcano

My red chairs. The simple, inexpensive patio chairs I shot, during a prior visit, as they were positioned in front of a Volcano, California store were moved. And, I was moved. I don’t know why, but when I saw that they were not in the same photographic set up, I was taken aback! Did I want to shoot them again? Did I want to make a good shot even better? Probably not, but I did look at the composition–no, not as good.

I did take a shot from a totally different angle. Of course you’re thinking, “Why didn’t she just move the chairs back?” Good question, I’m going to have to start setting the scene when I can. I’m sorry that I don’t have the original on my laptop here in San Jose. If you want to see it. It’s archived in this blog. Anyway, here’s the shot I took.

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This was my second and Marlene’s first trip to this small town. Except for the red chairs it hadn’t changed! It is full of historic buildings that have been re-purposed and still used.

Volcano was a cultural center in this gold fever valley. It was the first to have a lending library and many other civic and private offerings. I love the look of stone on Main Street’s buildings.

We had just come from the Black Chasm Cavern tour and were hungry. We were directed to the General Store and had burgers. We then walked beyond Main Street and saw more of the town.

I may go back to Volcano in the future, and I’ll definitely move some chairs!

 

 

Great feedback: Back to Jackson, part 2

Wow, I am so grateful for all the feedback I received from my last post. Most of it was on Facebook. It really helped me shape the next part of my journey.

I began this blog as a way to talk about my new hobby and document my chosen paths. I chose not to take classes, but study tutorials, practice and join Meetup groups. And, it’s worked. It took about 3 years, but I am confident now and ready for the next step–learning more about processing and putting my work out there. I’m not looking to sell anything, but to get more feedback. Most of all, I’m having fun and have met new friends and wonderful, helpful people.

In the meantime, I promised you the images from Jackson and here they are. I will always be open to feedback, and I’m willing to listen and try new things.

 

 

Rain, rain–stay, stay: All About Photography Toastmaster club

It’s finally wet out there, and Mother Nature is being very kind. It’s raining in the evening and through the night. At least it did last night. But, what’s that got to do with my Toastmaster photography club? Nothing! California is just happy that it is raining.

And, I’m happy with this Toastmaster club that is like no other. Wanting to combine my two passions, I started All About Photography almost a year ago. It’s been fun finding our way, keeping the Toastmaster structure and making the meeting all about photography. Now you see how we got our name.

We are the same as any other Toastmaster club except all our speeches are on photography and our table topics are basically critiques of images. Last Monday I was the Table Topics Master. I selected some images I wanted feedback on and presented them to the club. Before I selected the member participant, I gave a brief background on the picture. The selected member then gave a 1 – 2 minute critique. We do vote on who did the best job and present them with a ribbon.

I’m going to try something new and insert the pictures in the blog individually, not in a gallery.

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This image from the ghost town Bodie was well received, mostly for the color and texture.
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When I shot this, I was trying to show the musician’s emotions. However, the participant felt there wasn’t enough contrast for his face to be predominate. I need to figure out how to darken the tent top.
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I put this one in because I happen to love it and it didn’t get great play on Facebook when I posted it. I wanted to know why and what I could do to make it better. The participant loved it as much as I do, but she noticed the neon open sign in the window furthest away. Can you see it? She thought it was distracting. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed it until she mentioned it!
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This, from near Sedona, AZ, was liked because of the action and depth of field. I thought it might be too busy, but the participant didn’t think so.
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I showed this one because I almost didn’t process it. I thought the vertical orientation made it too tight. The participant thought so also. He thought a horizontal orientation would have shown more of the landscape, giving the viewer an idea of the image’s context. I agree. However, I do like the texture of the wood and grasses.

So there you have it–a glimpse of what we do during an All About Photography meeting. And, to top off the meeting, the former District 39 Photographer told me how much he enjoyed my pictures and thought I had a great eye for composition.

It’s going to possibly rain again tomorrow, so I’ll be busy processing this week’s Tuesday With Seniors photo outing.