Those little buggers: Rush Ranch, Suisun City, California

Those little buggers are called mosquitoes,  and they were biting at Rush Ranch during a recent visit. We backtracked to Rush Ranch after leaving Grizzly Island and eating lunch. It wasn’t too far, and I knew there were things to shoot.

Rush Ranch is an operating facility and is part of the Solano County Farmlands & Open Space Foundation that provides educational programs. There are hiking trails and  grasslands. And, this time, there were mosquitoes. And did they bite!

Those who entered the barn to photograph the two barn owls were ferociously attacked. I decided the shot would not be worth the pain. I didn’t venture on any of the trails either. Nevertheless, I was bitten on my left index finger which took a little more than a week for the swelling to go down!

I’ve been there before and there were no little buggers to feast on us. You can never predict what environment you’ll encounter on a shoot!

Enjoy what I did get of Rush Ranch before rushing back into the car. The old equipment is there as museum pieces. All photos were shot and processed in HDR. No captions are necessary.

Just one of life’s challenges: Locke, California

If you read my previous post, you’d know that I left my tripod at home and was without it for our Tuesdays With Seniors Sacramento Delta trip. So when we reached Locke shortly after lunch, my challenge was to shoot this wonderful town full of historical buildings without doing HDR.

And, those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that I’ve worked hard to become one with my tripod and to rely on it for many types of shooting occasions. Past shoots have taught me that you can’t really do HDR handheld, and I almost always shoot HDR when I come across rustic buildings, etc. So I shot Locke handheld and tried to add an HDR look in processing.

“Locke was founded in 1915 after a fire broke out in the Chinese section of nearby Walnut Grove. The Chinese who lived in that area decided that it was time to establish a town of their own. Levee construction originally brought the Chinese to this area, but by the time Locke was built most of the work was in farm labor. Locke had many businesses that catered to the farm workers and residents of this region. In the 1940’s restaurants, bakeries, herb shops, fish markets, gambling halls, boarding houses, brothels, grocery stores, a school, clothing stores, and the Star Theater lined the bustling streets of Locke. At its peak 600 residents, and as many as 1500 people occupied the town of Locke.  By 1920 Locke stood essentially as you see it now.

“On August 2, 1970, Locke was added to the registry of national historical places, by the Sacramento County Historical Society, because of its unique status as the only town in the United States built exclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese.” Check www.locketown.com for more information on this amazing town.

Now, you can see Locke shot with my handheld camera. Did I overcome the challenge?

On the road again: Bodie and Mono Lake, part 2

I can’t believe I left my tripod home! I’ve worked hard to become “one” with it, and I left it home. As I post about Bodie and Mono Lake, we are visiting Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks and Fresno, California. I’ll post about this visit back to the parks after a more than 30 year absence next.

So far, I haven’t needed the tripod, but I did need it in Bodie. Why, to get great HDR images, you need to bracket and that’s difficult to do handheld. I’ve done it, but it’s much easier with the tripod. I did a lot of bracketing in the ghost town, because that seems to be a good way to present the decaying buildings and machinery.

Founded in 1876 as a gold mining town, Bodie is a now ghost town in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of Mono County, California.The nearest is Bridgeport,  where we stayed. I talked about the altitude (Bodie is at 8,379 ft or 2,554 m.) and my reaction to it in my previous post. Bodie is also recognized it as a National Historic Landmark, became a California Historical Landmark,  and officially became Bodie State Historic Park in 1962. We were three of the about 200,000 yearly visitors.

Because of the ghost town’s altitude and other health issues, I had a difficult time. However I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just took my time and rested when I needed to. Back home, I had a lot of fun with pushing sliders in Lightroom and processing images in black and white.

Here are some of my favorites in Bodie. Mono Lake will be in my next post. And, I’ll tie a string around my finger regarding my tripod when we head out on the road again!

Milky Way, sunflowers and refrigerators: A week in my life

What do the Milky Way, sunflowers and refrigerators have in common? Nothing really, except I experienced them all in one week.

Let’s start with the fridge. I bought a new fridge on June 9, it was delivered on June 11. By the time the installers were done, they had scratched one of the doors, and the ice maker didn’t turn off after 24 hours. Okay, they wanted to send out another fridge on Sunday. But I was supposed to spend the night up at Blue Canyon Airport with my husband Richard (our observatory is there) and a couple of my photo clubs were coming up to shoot the Milky Way. So I changed my plans and arranged to come home with another photographer.

While the Milky Way wasn’t spectacular, I did learn a great deal. This was the first time I was able to shoot it and not get a light tan background when processing in Lightroom. My fellow photographers were more than willing to help. And, they enjoyed mingling with the astronomers.

Back to the fridge which wasn’t delivered on Sunday because the order never made it to delivery. So the second fridge was to come on Monday, June 15. It did, but by the time the installers left, it had a dented door and again–the ice maker didn’t work. Richard discovered that the water had not been hooked up properly! The third fridge was scheduled to be delivered on Wednesday, June 17.

Meanwhile, Tuesday evening, Marlene and I went in search of sunflowers. By the time we found a field in Woodland, going to Davis first, the sun was low in the sky. Most of the sunflowers were in the process of turning around toward the sun and drooping. This was the first time I actually felt in total control. I decided to do close ups and take advantage of the back-lit flowers. I’m focusing on manual for about half my shooting time now. You’ll see the result. The old car was an added bonus. I shot HDR handheld.

Okay the fridge again, It was delivered on Wednesday and I warned the guys that they were to take care not to scratch or dent the doors. They were told to also install it properly and hook up the water. They thought I was a controlling nut case until I told them that this was the third unit.

No scratches or dents, but when my husband checked, the water was not hooked up! Richard hooked up the water while I thought I was living in a script of the Twilight Zone! This morning, my 72nd birthday, I went downstairs and saw about 10 ice cubes in the freezer bucket. I started singing the birthday song. This was a great present!

So was my week of the Milky Way, sunflowers and refrigerators!

Learning through the fog: A Sacramento Photographers workshop at the Aerospace Museum, McClellan Park, California

Wow, that’s a heafty title! But, that’s what it was. We gathered at the Aerospace Museum for a workshop sponsored by the Sacramento Photographers Facebook group given by Pedro Marenco. We covered topics including HDR, DOF, Focus Stacking and more. (Did you like how I threw out those acronymns!)

Except for the dismal weather, it was fun. My big take away was how much I already know. I keep berating myself about the technical aspect of photography, but I have learned quite a bit. And when there’s math involved, I can get around it. I’m much more confident now.

Most of the images I’m going to show you are HDR. High Dynamic Range explained simply takes three or more shots taken at different exposures of the same image. These different exposures are then brought into a software program that compresses the shots into one image. This eliminates the washed out skies, dark areas, etc. Most HDR programs have presets that can create all sorts of looks. It’s really fun. These old planes are perfectly suited for this.

I also realized that I need to be inspired about what I’m photographing. Although this is an interesting museum, it’s not what I would abosultely go out of my way to shoot. Once we got outside photography got a litlle more interesting. Oh, Richard is totally into planes and docents at this very museum!

Beyond the comfort zone: sunset, full moon and light painting – Mare Island

Everyone has a different comfort zone. When it comes to photography, mine is on aperture priority and hand held. I’m just making peace with the tripod–I no longer feel like throwing it when I try to set it up! I’ve just started doing HDR, and have only mastered part of Lightroom. It’s safe to say that I’ve not gotten fully knowledgeable with my D7100. So with all this learning to be done, I headed back to Mare Island in Vallejo California with Mary Gromer and the “Shoot or Go Home” photo Meetup group.

We were going to shoot some buildings during the golden hours before sunset, catch the sunset, do full moon photography and end with light painting. I have never done full moon photography or light painting so I was really excited and knew I would be out of my comfort zone.

For today’s post, I’m going to show you some of the buildings. I know I’ve done the Mare Island buildings before, but not in the golden hours. My next post will go into the full moon and light painting photography.

 

Self-taught photography lessons

Yes, I teach myself lessons all the time. However, they are never planned or easy! Yesterday, not feeling well, I decided I needed to go up to Dry Creek, practice HDR and work with my new prime 50 mm lens. I was bummed out because we were supposed to be in Adin, California at a star party. I was looking forward to trying some night sky photography. But our trailer lost a wheel and axle in Anderson and we came home with the truck loaded with our clothes, food, camera gear and telescopes.

So, you can understand why I needed to do some photography at my favorite, close-by creek. Dry creek which is usually quiet was teeming with families on every possible square inch of beach area. They were just enjoying the water, but it was difficult to find a spot to do some HDR. I did find a couple of areas, and set up my tripod. But, without photo buddy Jayne with me, it was a struggle (She helps me a lot!). Now I am totally one with the tripod, having won the battle. I do have tenacity! It wasn’t until I was taking the images off the SD card that I realized I was shooting JPEGs and not RAW files.

Also, I’m learning to speak up for the sake of a picture. I did ask a woman who was going to take an empty chair if she could leave it so I could take my shot. Then another woman, who didn’t own the chair sat in it. I politely asked her to move while I took my shot. They were very understand and obliging. I would have been faster if it weren’t for my struggles with the tripod.

I was only there an hour and couldn’t believe I had taken 72 pictures, but I did. What lessons did I learn? First, if you’re not feeling well, stay home. Second, practice with the tripod and check the camera before you leave. And, third, people are nice and willing to help you–just speak up. Here’s the result of my efforts.

 

HDR: my first images

I finally did it! Yes, I downloaded some HDR software and processed my first images. I didn’t do much more than their presets, but it’s a beginning. Thank you photo buddy Jayne West who gently pushed me into taking bracketed shots on two separate outings. That gave me some photos to work with.

Why did I wait so long? I thought it would be too difficult to learn. But, it wasn’t–at least loading in the photos, choosing a preset and modifying the image slightly. I know the program, Photomatix Pro, has many more features, and I’ll learn them in time. In fact, we will be heading to a star gazing party for four days/nights in Adin California. It’s a cute small town so I’ll have more opportunities to practice HDR. I’m also going to try to do some night sky photography. I printed out many tutorials just in case we don’t have cell reception. Did I mention that we are dry camping in a cow pasture!

Since I finally did it, here are my first three HDR images. All advice is most welcome.