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!

The long, long, long mile: Big Basin Redwoods State Park

How long does it take three photographers to walk a flat one mile loop through the Redwood Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County, California? Answer: Almost four hours!

No excuses! It was a beautiful trail through a forest of expressive trees, and there was a lot for me, Marlene and Nicci to shoot.

Coastal redwoods (different from its relative the Sequoia) are found from southern Oregon to central California. Needing the coast weather they extend no more than fifty miles inland. These trees can reach 115 m (377 ft) tall. The bark can be very thick, up to 1-foot , and is soft and fibrous. When freshly exposed there is a bright red-brown color that gets darker as the tree is exposed to the elements. Its roots are shallow, wide-spreading and lateral. Redwoods are naturally resistant to insects, fungi, and fire because they are high in tannin and do not produce resin or pitch.

I remember when my children were young and we camped in a grove of coastal redwoods in Northern California. We went to a campfire program, but I left my flashlight at camp. I was good at walking by starlight, but the forest was so thick, we couldn’t see in front of us. Once I found a family who was walking back to the same campground, we followed them. I’ve never assumed that I could walk via moon and star lights again!

As for what lessons we learned:

  1. Always carry in your tripod. The forest is dark!
  2. Use a fast lens.
  3. Pack a lunch. Don’t count on a fast visit. Fortunately we brought snacks, and the cafe had a limited amount of lunch items.

Take a look at why it took us so long to walk that mile!

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.



What’s in a name?: Capay Valley

Well, what is in a name? Everything! As a former journalist and copywriter, I know that a name is very important. When you name a new company, it has to fit the personality and style of the group. It also has to appeal and suggest a benefit to the potential customer. So here we are with our newly formed Tuesday group, and still no name.

Now you’re thinking, why do they need a name. It’s simple, for the reasons above. After weeks of thinking, bantering and laughing –mostly because I threatened not to let them go home at the end of a long day shooting–we have a name! It is Camera Totin’ Tuesdays. I won’t go into what other choices we came up with, at least not in print. It’s amazing how silly you can get on Diet Coke, tea and water! Boy, do we know how to have fun.

And the name’s working already. We have two women wanting to journey with us when they can. Sometimes we know exactly where we’re going, and other times we just drive and see where the road takes us. We are secure with a GPS and a “Home” button.

This journey took us into Capay Valley. Karen was our guide since she knew the area. This valley is a mostly rural area northwest of Sacramento in Yolo County. Dotted with small towns, it was beautiful with rolling hills and great color. It’s amazing what a little water can do. With mostly farms, the culture is quite different from urban Sacramento and its suburbs.

I think the name Capay has something to do with American Indian culture since a few different tribes have inhabited the valley. I wish I could say for sure because names do tell tales!


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.)



When it rains; shoot indoors: Fairmont Hotel, San Jose

When it rained in San Jose, it poured. Dedicated photographers never give up, especially when you don’t often get to shoot together. So photo buddy Nicci, of, and I went to to lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose.

The lobby was beautifully decorated for Christmas; and, as an added bonus, we were able to photograph Christmas In The Park directly across from the hotel. I had a wonderful time talking with Nicci. This was the first time we went on a photo outing since Leanne Cole’s visit in September.

The only problem was our visit was way too short, and the welcomed rain!




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.


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!



It’s a long way down: Black Chasm Cavern, Volcano CA

You don’t notice how far down you travel until it’s time to walk back out of the cavern. Black Chasm was so interesting, I didn’t notice how far down we climbed. We joined a group of children for a 45 minute tour at the last minute.

The tour guide was wonderful, placing us in the back of the tour so we could stay back and take as many pictures as we wanted. In fact, the entire group accommodated our picture taking. However, we were listening as the guide explained the dramatic features of the cavern.

The most important feature of the Black Chasm Cavern are the rare and delicate helictite crystals that adorn the cavern walls along with the traditional stalactites and stalagmites. I’ve been in other caves and caverns, but have never seen helictite crystals.

The cavern has three main chambers. Although we thought the last one at the bottom was the largest, it wasn’t. At the end of our tour, we climbed the same stairs, but this time going up, and up and up! I said to Marlene, “Did we go down this far?”

Here are some images from this amazing cavern. No captions this time.



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.

This image from the ghost town Bodie was well received, mostly for the color and texture.
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.
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!
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.
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.