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!

Go again next year? Water Lantern Festival, Folsom Lake

I saw the picture of the activity and thought, “I’d like to do that too.” The water lanterns glowed in the dark while their reflections glowed in the water. That’s what drew me into going to the Water Lantern Festival at Folsom Lake in Folsom.

Now, I do understand about expectations and how the environment can change our ability to get perfect shots. What I don’t understand is how an event of this size can be so mismanaged!

Arriving was easy. Photo buddy Ray and I got there about 5 p.m. (gates opened at 3 p.m.), parked in the second parking lot and immediately jumped onto a shuttle. This was easy. I was able to carry my camera bag, tripod, backpack, chair and dinner. We checked in and walked down to the beach, agreeing that getting right near the water was necessary for good photos. I took note, however, that the bathrooms were up at the top and the lake was down, leaving more beach to walk through.

We knew that getting that picture perfect photo wasn’t possible (didn’t keep me from trying) because of the wind blowing that day. So, we took pictures of our surroundings: families, kids playing in the water, anything that amused us. Of course, in the evening, I made the trek up to the bathrooms; I didn’t want to do that in the dark. We also got our lanterns ready for launching.

I think they started the kids games too late, because at dusk, they were still playing them and saying that the official launch would be soon. People being people started coming down to the beach to launch their lanterns before the official launch. Ray and I started shooting, hoping to get whatever we could. Slow shutter speed and a moving target just don’t do well together. It was difficult to get a single shot since the breeze had turned into a wind. Ray suggested I put the camera on “auto,” which I tried, but didn’t necessarily like. We did the best we could and decided to make the trek up the hill to where we could get the shuttle back to our parking lot.

Here’s where the worst began. We got there just as the shuttle left. It was about 45 minutes until it got back (Remember I was carrying my camer bag, backpack, tripod and chair.) with a load of people. I asked one woman where she came from. She said the parking lot. It took them 2 hours to get from the front entrance to the destination. We climbed aboard the bus which took us about 30 minutes to get to the very close parking lot because of cars leaving and taking up both lanes.

Once back to our car, another 30 minutes or more (I stopped looking at the time by then.) until we got to the entrance. So, would I go again? I don’t think so. One enjoyment from the evening are our photos!

 

A sugar coated outing: Jelly Belly Factory, Fairfield

You just have to like Jelly Belly jelly beans. They tempt you with so many flavors like popcorn, chocolate, cherry. These are just some I like. So, when we decided to do a shoot at the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, I knew some of the shooting would be a challenge, but at the end would be a bag of belly flops for me to buy.

First let me explain what belly flops are. They are the candies that just are not perfect. Some are not shaped correctly and some are double or triple beans stuck together. They taste the same as the pristine jelly beans, but cost a lot less.

So there’s the candy at the end of the rainbow; what about the photographic challenge? My challenge was to shoot inside without flash, through somewhat dirty glass at the factory below us. This was my first time shooting with a circular polarizer filter. I also decided to use my Sigma 17 – 24 mm, F/2.8 – 4 lens, hoping that would add additional needed light. I also needed to get everything in focus. I think I was successful, but the subject was sort of boring. When you look at the images, you will get an idea of what they do in the factory.

An additional challenge was put before me: the windows at floor level were cleaner than the ones at standing height. So I squatted my way through the self-guided tour. It took a week for the muscles in my quadriceps to relax! When the tour ended, I was really too tired to shoot the colorful goodies in the store. I did a little, but oh my!

I do like Jelly Bellys and took home a 5 lb. bag of flops. I’m going through them slowly, restricting myself to a certain amount each day.

The last from the desert: Painted Canyon, Mecca

We got a late start, we got lost, we finally found our way. That pretty much sums up why we arrived at the Painted Canyon in Mecca California so late in the day. Richard and I visited the Painted Desert in Arizona during our 2013 cross country trip, so what could compare to it? Was I surprised!

Even though we just got a taste of it, I want to go back. The approach to the Canyon is on a 3-mile dirt road. The golden hour had just begun as we parked the car. I talked to a couple who had just come out of the canyon and found out that it’s a slot canyon with narrow passages and involves a good deal of climbing. When I said we were not able to climb, I was told that there was another way around that was flat with a good view of the colorful mountains, but was a 5-mile round trip. Again, due to our current physical limitations and late arrival, that was impossible this trip.

So, I did what I usually do, made the most of what I could do. I walked to where the slot canyon began and was amazed that there was so much color already. The minerals created such beautiful orange and green effects. Also, the entrance to the canyon was majestic.

Enough talk, take a look for yourself. Next year, it will be get up early, go the direct way, and be able to walk the 5-miles!

Happy Birthday USA

I missed the fireworks at our neighborhood block party yesterday. I was inside holding my Schnoodle, Gem, who was wrapped in his favorite throw. It was the only way to calm him down and stop him from shaking. This is one of the by products of legal fireworks. The noise scares animals.

But, I did get to shoot some fireworks the night before. Linda and I went to the Sun City Roseville fireworks show. We were a little disappointed because most of the beauty was at the tree line with only a few above them. But, this did give us an opportunity to get some light trails along with the bursts.

This was my first time shooting without an expert helping with exposure, shutter speed, etc. I began experimenting with different shutter speeds, leaving my aperture at F/ 14. Also we were closer than I’ve been before, so shooting at 18 mm was a must to gain focus.

The next day, our block party started at 7 p.m. with games. We have more kids on the block now and former residents came to visit. There were more people than I expected. We haven’t been home the last 2 holidays and things have changed.

It was fun, and it was good to see the block full of young kids again. By the time the car race (Each car was powered by Piccolo Pete fireworks.) was over it was almost too dark to shoot the rest of the games, so I put my camera away and just enjoyed–until the fireworks started! Next year, Gem is getting a tranquilizer!

 

Home, home, on the ranch: practice again at Gibson Ranch

It’s one of my favorite places to practice. I’ve learned how to shoot sunsets, sunbursts, animals, water fowl, events and buildings there. And, best of all it’s close to home! Gibson Ranch is a park where people board and care for their horses. They also train them there. It’s a place to hold large events like the Civil War Re-enactment. Most of all, it’s peaceful.

When you visit you may see children feeding the ducks and geese, or a father and son fishing. With two playgrounds, it’s also a wonderful place for a family to picnic and play.

For me, it’s a great place to practice photography. On a recent visit, that’s what Marlene and I did. We walked through the horse grounds, caught peacocks high and low with our cameras and tried to have as much patience as the egret had as it was trying to fish.

Here’s our visit to Gibson Ranch and my practice session.

What the eye doesn’t see, the camera does: Grandson’s soccer

I was amazed after I looked at the pictures and cropped them in. My younger grandson plays soccer with determination and aggressively goes after the ball. As one of the youngest and smallest on the team, he sits out at least a quarter or sometimes half the game. His playing has improved since he began on the smaller field. Now he’s playing on a larger field.

Another aspect that the camera showed me is his speed. He’s usually in the lead when he runs after the ball with an opposing team member. Am I proud–of course! I’m his grandmother!

I’m so glad I was at two of his games and brought my camera because it showed me what my eyes couldn’t–he’s going to be a great soccer player. And, if he takes that spirit into his life ethic, he’ll do fine.

Ryan is number 25.

Underground living: Forestiere Undergrounds in Fresno

How would you like to live in a cool underground dwelling while it’s sweltering topside? Yes, this dwelling would have all the creature comforts available at the time it was built. You may not have that option today, but in 1906, Balasare Forestiere began digging to escape the heat of his new home in Fresno, California.

An immigrant from Sicily, Forestiere bought this land hoping to plant trees like those in his native country. However, the soil was not conducive to growing anything and the heat was oppressive. So, Forestiere began digging his home–air-conditioning was not an option then! He dug and planted until his death in 1946, leaving acres of living area in the cool underground. Some of it was sold by the family and some bought by the government via eminent domain for highway 99. His brother held on to the current acreage, finishing what Forestiere had planned. Today, his nephew still tends to the place with the help of The Forestiere Historical Center. While the land is still privately owned, it has been designated as a California Historical Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I did introduce the gardens to you in my last post, but wanted to show you more of this amazing place. I was impressed with how airy and well lit from natural sources the catacombs were. Forestiere had planted citrus trees underground and they grew to the surface and beyond via openings. As he dug, he kept changing his living quarters. In the end, it was like a maze. He wanted to have people come to escape the heat, enjoying the cool underground quarters. But, that never materialized as a business, He did have guests though.

Take a look at this amazing cool underground dwelling. If you are experiencing hot weather, you’ll wish you were here!

Music, music, music: The Sacramento Music Festival, Sacramento, California, part 2

Will we have a music festival? That’s the question we hear asked each year. This year the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society put on its 42nd festival and made money by working with an all volunteer staff and cutting down on venues outside of Old Sacramento.

We are not involved in the yearly pre-planning, but only work the festival during the weekend. It’s fun and I love listening to the youth bands, called the Next Generation bands. And you never know who will drop in and jam with them. This year our usual 3 1/2 shifts were lengthened to 4 – 4 1/2 hours. But, that still left us enough time to see acts and listen to wonderful music.

And, we have one of the half days off. Ours was Monday. Because we had the closing shift Sunday night and are not used to staying up after midnight, we didn’t go in Monday morning. We did help break down the venue. Why does it always take less time to break down than put up? It’s the same when you travel. It takes longer to get there than it does coming home!

Home was sweet on Monday morning. I had time to prepare for our out of town dinner guest.

Will there be a 43rd festival? I’m sure they will have it. This format worked, and the newspaper reported that a small profit was made. Till next year!

Practice, practice, practice: Dry Creek Park, West Roseville, California

They say that practice makes perfect, Well, I’ve been practicing every day even if it is only for the 365 challenge. It has helped, but I’m far from perfect! But then, who is perfect?

I like to go to Dry Creek because it is so close to my home and is beautiful. I’ve practiced with my ND filter, macro lens, 50 mm lens and just to shoot. The last time, I went with Richard and Gem. The boys walked while I went down to the water to shoot. In the summer, the area is a great swimming hole for children, and it’s harder to shoot.

In this post, I’m going to show you how beautiful this creek is. However, with the drought, the water level is really low. I’m not sure how the creek will hold up during the summer. Let’s hope we get some rain this fall and winter. After all I will still be practicing!