Friday, August 3, 2012

100 Strangers

About 2 weeks ago, I came upon a thread on the 365 project where there was an internal link to a Flicker group entitled 100 Strangers.  The premise behind this particular project is to take photos of 100 strangers, but with a difference.  

Many times people go out to take photos on the street, shooting people as they encounter them.  This is called street photography.  Street photography can be quite intimidating, mainly because you feel like you're intruding into another person's space.  Some people don't want their photo taken.  Some people will be rude.  It's probably one of the reasons why I don't participate in street photography that often.

The 100 Strangers project is different.  First, they only allow one upload to the group site per day, so it's going to take awhile to complete.  Second, you have to have their permission to take their photo for this project.  In other words, you have to have a dialogue with the person.  The purpose it to improve the photographer's skills as a photographer, but also as a communicator.

You're supposed to post a little bit about your experience when you talked with the stranger.  Thus far, as of this post, I have posted two stranger photos to my Flicker photostream.  I actually missed an opportunity yesterday to photograph a stranger.  I had been photographing in an alleyway when I encountered another fellow photographer.  We had a very pleasant conversation and it wasn't until after we'd taken our leave of each other that I thought I should have asked to take his photo.  I ended up wandering around the village in town just to see if I could bump into him again, but he'd disappeared.

For some of you, this might seem like it would be too daunting, but it really isn't.  Think about all the times you end up just having a random conversation with strangers.  Many times, it's probably while your waiting in line for something.  I can't even count the number of pleasant conversations I've had with people while I was in line for a ride at Disneyland or other amusement park.  The same goes for those people that I've met on hikes while out on camping trips.

I met a couple from Switzerland in Zion National Park this summer.  Had I known about this project back then, they'd probably be in my photostream too.  My son and I met a nice teaching couple from Canada in Zion and we also met a pair of teachers in Bryce Canyon who were from Southern California.  Talk about a small world.  If I'd known about this project even two months, I'd have a dozen strangers already.  It's OK that I don't, because it's not about how fast your get to 100, but the experiences you have while getting to 100.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I've been framed

My wife and I went frame shopping today.  We picked our a mat and frame for the shot in this post.  I realized that I've been taking photos for a year and half, every single day and I haven't printed any of my photos in over a year.  

My daughter bought me a frame for my birthday last year just as I was getting involved in my 365 project last year, one of those four holers, with room for four 4x6 prints.  So I picked the four best of what I'd taken so far and had those printed up and they're now hanging on the wall in our living room.

Since then, all of my photos are just pixels in my hard drive.  Yeah, you can see them all, but that was sort of the impetus behind this photo.  Are they real if they only exist on your hard drive?  Sure they are, and sure they have color, but I decided to play around a little bit with PhotoShop to make a point.  And if you follow me on Facebook or at 365, you may see a couple more of these types of shots.  I like what I did here, but I'd like to try a couple of other things using the same technique.

Now, I guess, I need to go back over my shots and get back to work on that photo book I've been thinking about creating.  I know I have a couple of friends who would like one, so I guess this is the "kick in the butt" I need to make it come a reality.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bryce Canyon National Park

After spending four days in Zion, most of them sweating the triple digit heat, it was nice to pack up our tent and head up to Bryce Canyon.  By up, I do mean up since Bryce Canyon is about 4000 feet higher in elevation than is Zion, so needless to say, it was much cooler there, with temperatures only getting into the mid 80s.

For those who have never been to Bryce Canyon, it's really not a canyon, but more of an amphitheater, a series of small canyons parallel to each other all draining down into a valley below.  You can see the bowl-like shape it has in the first shot.

Upon arriving, we quickly set up camp, then headed to Sunset Point, which is the trailhead spot for several popular trails.  We intended on hiking down Wall Street, a series of switchbacks that would take us down this narrow canyon and down to the floor, then hike around the end and hike back up via the Navajo Loop trail a trek of a little over a mile in length.  It's strenuous, but nothing we couldn't handle.  

At the same time, I was also scouting out photo spots for later on.  Bryce Canyon has some of the darkest skies for any national park in the US in the contiguous states, so I was looking forward to trying out some night photography.  Near the end of the hike, we passed by Thor's Hammer and I knew this was where I wanted to take my nighttime shots.  

The next evening, we waited until after 9 PM or so, then headed over to Sunset Point again to hike down.  Thor's Hammer is very close to the rim, so we didn't have to hike too far, but the trail is a little creepy at night, even with good flashlights.  I set up my equipment and took several longer exposures of 30 seconds or less.  Taking less than 30 seconds, you get pretty close to pinpoint stars.  Anything longer than that and your stars start to become trails.  These shots, I wanted individual stars in my photos.

On the LCD screen on the back of my camera, the shots looked to be a little bit of a disappointment, but they turned out much better once I got them on to my computer screen at home.  I need to remember than the next time I'm out shooting stars.  You can't see all of the stars on that little bitty screen.  Here's what I think is one of the best ones I shot that evening.  Thor's Hammer was illuminated by my son using his flashlight.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's Official

Two days ago, on Wednesday July 11th, my wife officially has now put up with me for 25 years.  To quote Lou Gehrig, I feel like I'm the luckiest man in the world.  I can't imagine why anyone would want to put up with me for very long, let alone 25 years, so I guess I must be doing something right.

She is my best friend and I am very fortunate to have found her so many years ago.  The ride has been fun, with many ups and a couple of downs, but it's not anywhere near the end. I'm enjoying it too much to ever get off.  I only hope she can claim the same.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The last time I'd been to Zion National Park, it was on my honeymoon, our next to last stop before heading home.  We ate a late lunch in the Zion lodge, walked a trail back to the Narrows, then headed to Las Vegas to spend the night. 

This time, my son and I had four days planned there.  Tuesday dawned and we slept in, mainly because we could.  This was our planned day to explore Zion.  Since my last visit, Zion has instituted, much like other highly visited parks, a shuttle bus system that transports visitors to various spots in the park and relieving the park of the multitude of cars that descend upon them in the summertime.  

After visiting the visitors center near the campground, we boarded a shuttle bus and headed into the canyon.  Zion, like most national parks, has to be walked along the trails to fully appreciate it.  The canyons, very steep walled, block out direct sunlight until much after 7:30 or so in the morning and do the same at night.  The photo above was taken just before 8:00 AM one morning just after the light started to hit the walls of the canyon.

The further you go back into the canyon, the closer the walls are, and the cooler the temperatures are.  This was really important because the heat would hit triple digits all four days we were there.  We stopped at the old visitors center, which was now a museum, watched a movie about the park, then headed back out to catch the next shuttle which took us to other viewpoints and trail heads.  

We stopped at the Court of the Patriarchs, got our picture taken together by other campers, learned a little about the geology of the park, then decided to head back to camp for lunch.  At that point we decided that we'd hike back since there was a well used trail that we could follow.  

Sunscreen had already been applied and hats were on as we headed out along a trail that followed pretty closely to the Virgin River.  We passed an open area that had once been used as a pen for desert bighorn sheep when they were being reintroduced to the park.  

We crossed over the river on well constructed bridges three or four times.  Most of the erosion in the park happens on about 14 days when the Virgin River is in flood stage.  Thunderstorms in the surrounding hills cause flash flooding which causes the river to become an erosional giant.  Today, we weren't worried, but I was impressed with the solid construction of the bridges and thought that even still, I wouldn't want to be on one of those bridges during a flash flood.

After lunch we ended up lounging around the campsite in the small shade we had, then later, when it was a little cooler, took the shuttle up to the Weeping Rock, something I'll touch on a little bit more in detail in one of my next installments.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Camping - One day at a time

It's been two years since I've been on an extended camping trip with any of my children.  My youngest and I had a week long excursion planned for Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park starting on June 18th.  The new park for both of us was Zion.  I'd been there before, but it had been 25 years and I'd never camped there, so we had four days planned there and 3 days planned at Bryce Canyon.

Monday broke bright and clear and we had the car packed early and were on the road by 8:30 AM.  We were packed lean and mean because this was the first time we were camping in our Corolla.  In the past, we'd always camped using our family van, but with my wife's recent surgery, she didn't have enough hand strength to work the stick shift in the Corolla, so we took that so she could maneuver around in the van.

As always, geocaching was a part of the trip.  When we hike, we usually look for geocaches along the way.  When we drive, we look for geocaches to break up the drive, so I don't get too tired and become a road hazard.  Since we were driving all the way to Zion in Utah in one day, one of our goals for the day was to find a cache in every state we traversed, for a total of four.  It was easily done, with Utah the only state where we only found one cache.

We found several caches in and around Las Vegas.  This was the first time we'd stopped in Las Vegas to find caches.  Since it's a major tourist attraction, most of the geocaches in the city tend to be virtual caches, one where you have to either post a photo showing you were there, or email the cache owner with answers to questions that can only be ascertained by being at the correct coordinates.

We found two virtuals near the MGM Grand Hotel, one at M&M World and one at the MGM Grand.  Las Vegas is such an entertaining city.  I don't think there are too many places where you can see a replica of the Statue of Liberty surrounded by a looping rollercoaster across the street from a large hotel castle.  Across another street is a golden lion and a casino/museum dedicated to candy that touts itself as "Melts in your Mouth, not in you Hand."  And hidden behind a sign near that, we saw Batman, sans mask, taking a drag on a cigarette.  Only in Vegas.

The rest of our trip through the Nevada desert was rather monotonous and we were rather glad we weren't early pioneers to the region since our car thermometer was registering 115˚ F outside that day.  It wasn't much cooler by the time we got to Zion, the temperatures in the high 90s at about 6 PM MDT.  All four days we were in Zion, it was triple digit temps, so shade was at a premium.

But the scenery was worthwhile and we happily set up our tent after a long day's drive.  The one problem that camping newcomers have is they don't know the best sites at a particular campground.  We wouldn't consider ourselves newcomers to camping, but definitely newcomers to Zion.  Our campsite didn't have the best shade in the world, so we had to improvise during the days to make sure we were away from the heat and in shade if we happened to be in camp.  There were other sites, particularly D Loop where there was lots of shade.  At least we'll know for next time.

No campfire that evening, in fact, we didn't have a single campfire as it was pretty much outlawed in southern Utah at the time due to extreme heat and dry conditions.  We survived without our S'mores that week.  But, as you can see, we had a pretty spectacular view.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The reason I can celebrate today

Father's Day, for me, is March 29th, 1989 the day my oldest was born, the day I became a father. That, in no way, diminishes my other two children in any way.  They just happened to be born after I was already a father, which is probably why we have a specific day set aside for Father's, which is celebrated today.

The back photo is of my wife and me, 25 years ago next month on our wedding day. The front photo is of my three children, probably one of my top five favorite photos of the three of them together. They were 11, 8 and 4 years old in this shot.

This was taken in July 2000, the last time we camped in Yosemite. By the expressions on their faces, you can tell it was after the hike was over and not before. My daughter is pointing to where we hiked, the top of Vernal Fall. It was a 3 mile round trip hike with 1000 feet of elevation gain. It's a tough hike along the Mist Trail.

The Mist Trail is called that, because it gets misted with spray from the waterfall all day. There's a hand rail to help guide you because it's also very slippery. Stair steps have been carved or created into the rock face as you climb up to the top of the fall.

Of course, just as we got to the top of the falls, my youngest decided that it was at that time he had to break free of my grasp on his hand and run toward the fall. Fortunately, the guardrails are heavily reinforced mesh to prevent such nightmares from happening, but it was one of the scariest moments I've had as a dad.

I have another shot of the three of them at the top, with the water flowing over the fall right behind them. You're literally that close to the brink when you get up there, a spectacular view.

We spent a full week in Yosemite that year, hiking, taking photos, and sightseeing. It was a wonderful trip and hopefully a memorable one for them, although I would suspect that my youngest, who is 16 now doesn't remember quite as much as the older two do. I do remember him saying at the time when we were looking at Half Dome that he wanted to climb it when he was older. Hmmmmm.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting ready to go camping

Every summer, we end up going somewhere in the west for about a week to camp.  We enjoy the scenic beauty our country has to offer, plus spend some time recharging batteries.  Geocaching comes into play as well as it's one more thing the two of us (my youngest and I) enjoy doing together.

Last year, due to major scheduling conflicts we weren't able to go camping, so it's been two years and we are really itching to go.  The plan is to leave next Monday for Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.  We plan to spend four nights there, then head over to Bryce Canyon National Park where we'll spend the next three nights before coming home on Monday the 25th.

If everything goes well, we should also be able to have a day trip down to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  Capital Reef National Park is also a possible day trip once we get over to Bryce Canyon.  Of these, we've been to all of them before with the exception of Zion.  Actually, I've been to Zion a couple of times, but my youngest hasn't been there yet.  We're both looking forward to that.

The photo is more of a whimsical type of photo that I stitched together using PhotoShop Elements 9.  It just shows that I can enjoy my summer getting ready to go camping while also working hard.  It probably will look better if you view the real deal as opposed to the small package seen here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

This, that and everything else

I can remember when I was younger.  Summer officially started in middle of June and ended in the middle of September.  Now, it's generally recognized as beginning Memorial Day weekend and ending Labor Day weekend.  My own school district ended our year last Friday on June 1st.  We go back sometime the first week in August, a month before Labor Day, but I'm not going to think about that right now.

Apologies for not writing in a couple of weeks.  The last couple of weeks of school are always tough and busy and that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.  My wife also had surgery on her thumb to correct a trigger finger where the nerve gets inflamed and adheres to the side of the nerve sheath.  It rendered her thumb immobile, but the surgery was a success and she now has movement in her thumb again.  She's supposed to be getting her dressings off tomorrow so then we'll get to see what the surgeon did as far as cuts into her hand.

Go Kings!  I hope tonight the Los Angeles Kings can close it out against the New Jersey Devils.  Hockey is probably the most exciting sport to watch with end to end action.  It's very similar to soccer on ice, but it's so much faster with action going on anytime the clock is moving.  The first time I went to a Kings game was when they still wore the purple and gold at the old Inglewood Forum, so no one can accuse me of being a bandwagon fan.  But I think tonight's the night when the Kings will hoist Lord Stanely's trophy.

Lastly, but certainly not least, my daughter started a blog entitled Various Vanities. She only has one post at the moment, but I'm sure she'll expand on it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tour of California

This weekend, the Tour of California made its way down to Southern California, with Stage 6 running from Palmdale to Big Bear and then Stage 7 starting in Ontario just after noon today.  The race today started at the Ontario Convention Center, then came north on Euclid Avenue through the town of Upland and finally onto Mt. Baldy Rd. to climb to to 6800 feet, then head over on Glendora Mountain Road, down into Glendora, back up again along Glendora Mountain Road and back to Mt. Baldy to the finish.

My youngest and I picked out a vantage point at the top end of Euclid just as it made a sweeping left hand turn heading west toward San Antonio Dam on the west side of Upland, before the route would then head back into the canyon, loop around and head up to Mt. Baldy Road.  Last year, the route was very similar, only the start being in Claremont, CA as opposed to Ontario.  This is the second year in a row we've watched the tour.

While I don't follow cycling, it's a colorful spectacle to watch for the 30 seconds or so it takes for the peloton to whiz by.  I do find the stamina of these riders amazing, in that they finished this 75 mile segment, with two major hill climbs, one from 900 feet elevation up to 6800 feet, in just about 3 hours or so.  I'm pretty sure I couldn't ride 20 miles in an hour and these guys are maintaining a pace greater than that while climbing steep hills.  It's just an amazing feat of athleticism.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Our church held their 65th annual church fiesta this weekend.  They always host it on Mother's Day weekend and it's the 2nd or 3rd largest event the city has each year.  Many times in the past, we've been elsewhere, but in the past 10 years or so, we just enjoy the weekend, eating the great food, hanging out with friends and enjoying the live music played there.

My wife is in a jazz group called 11th Hour and two years ago they played at the fiesta to open up the Saturday that weekend.  Small but appreciative crowds were on hand as is usually the case at noon on Saturday.  The fiesta really gets hopping around dinner time both Friday and Saturday and it lasts all the way to 10PM both nights.

The past two years, I've played around with some long exposure settings on my camera.  I really didn't know how to do it very well last year and was just getting 4 second exposures, mainly because I didn't know how to set my camera on the bulb setting.  I fixed that over the past year, learning how to use my camera more and more in the manual setting.

This year, I got several shots that I'm quite pleased with.  The second shot looks like a giant slinky about to tumble over a staircase.  While, I'll never understand the fascination of spinning around and around in circles for five minutes and then throwing up (I exaggerate a little here), but the light trails on these things really lend themselves nicely to some interesting shots.  There were no rollercoasters at the fiesta, so the thrill seekers had to be content with the spinning rides or the bumper cars.

Each year, our church makes a nice profit from the fiesta which helps funds the school there and other things throughout the year.  Even in these tough economic times, it seems that people are willing to spend some money having a little fun in Claremont.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dear Friend

I have many friends, due to the social media giant Facebook, plus other sites.  In fact, any site where there's a discussion board, you can learn about people that share similar interests.  I've also been able to connect with a lot of long lost friends because of these social networks.

One thing I've found through the years is that people like to spout off on discussion boards about their political leanings.  This, in my opinion, is a bad thing.  Mainly because most of the time, all those political discussions do is cause arguments to start.  And although a good flame war can be very entertaining from time to time, it's not something that I relish, nor something that I seek out.

So here's my plea to all of my friends and I fully expect to be flamed for this, but I'm going to say it anyway.  Please keep your politics to yourself.  Think about what you're posting.  There's too much vitriol out there to add to it.  Your position on almost any political or religious subject is not going to convince anyone on the other side to change their position on the given subject.  All it's going to do is cause an argument where everyone will believe they're right and the other person is wrong.  

I like you as a friend.  I liked you when we were in school together.  We talked about a lot of different things, but we really didn't talk about religion or politics.  Those were the things we were told as kids that we shouldn't talk about.  Hmmmm.  Maybe our parents were right.  

I would prefer to maintain these friendships in the coming years.  Talking politics makes that more difficult.  Social media has brought many of us closer together and helped us reconnect with our past friendships that we let drift apart over the years.  I would really love it if I didn't know the political affiliations of my friends.  I just want to be friends with them.  Now, that might make me appear to be like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand.  At the moment, that's OK with me.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Magna cum laude

When she was three years old, she saw Itzhak Perlman playing the violin on Sesame Street. She stated, quite emphatically, that's what she wanted to do.

Saturday, she completed what she set out to do, graduating magna cum laude from the University of the Pacific's Conservatory of Music with a degree in violin performance. She is a fourth generation college graduate. Both of her parents, three of her grandparents and two great grandparents preceded her with degrees.

I wanted to convey some kind of joy with this shot. Of the 257 photos I took on Saturday, I think this one conveys it the best. Even though you can't see my wife's face, you can see her smile in the corner of her eyes. The joy is evident on my daughter's face.

She's off to Salinas to start her job on Monday with El Sistema working with underprivileged children in the Salinas area teaching them music. I don't know if this will mature into a full-time position or not, but they apparently are working around her summer schedule quite a bit just to keep her on. She's taking a week off in July to go on a cruise to Mexico. We'll see her just before that because she's going to a wedding of one of her friends on July 7th. Her cruise begins on July 8th. She said I need to come up and visit her this summer, mainly so she can take me out to dinner once she gets some paychecks under her belt. I shall take her up on the offer. 

But for the most part, she'll not be coming back for any extended stay anymore and unless we contribute a lot to her graduate work, this year may be the last year we will be even able to claim her as a dependent on our tax returns. It's something I knew was coming, yet still hit me hard last night. She really is my "little girl" all grown up now and ready to strike out in the world. Even though she's not been here on a regular basis since last August, I shall miss her terribly.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Lucy is an endangered species.  She's a California Desert Tortoise and the only way you are legally supposed to have one is if you have a permit, which I do.  She lives in our backyard and has a burrow that she sleeps in at night and during the cold winter months.  

She usually comes out in the spring time, usually in mid March when the days become warmer.  This year, she didn't make her usual appearance even though we'd gotten some nice warm weather in mid March, so I was a little concerned about whether she'd made it through the winter or not.  

Friday afternoon, I was logging some of the geocaches I'd found that afternoon on the computer when my youngest came into the family room and looked out onto the patio in the back yard and announced the tortoise was out.  I didn't think twice; I grabbed the camera and went outside intent on documenting the moment.  Fortunately, I hadn't mowed the lawn yet this seasons, so it was highly overgrown with dandelions.

Dandelions are good for tortoises because they're high in calcium which helps build strong shells.  She started chowing down on the dandelions I picked for her and I got some nice shots, this one being the best of the bunch.  Saturday I mowed, but she was out eating again, so it looks like she's going to be active again this season.  I think we'll see her regularly now until sometime in the middle of September when she settles down for her hibernation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring is definitely here

Spring has sprung.  Last week, we had temperatures in the low 50s with over 2 inches of rain.  This week, it's been in the low 80s.  The natives are restless at school, with testing right around the corner.  

Another harbinger of spring is the return of butterflies and ladybugs.  As I look back over my album for the past month, I can see four different photographs that feature ladybugs.  There's a photo of a ladybug on a post, there's one on an artichoke, there's this one and then there's one I took today of a bug in a flower.

Ladybugs are very cute little critters and pretty easy to photograph.  As long as it's not too windy, they make a decent subject and very few people get tired of looking at ladybugs.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lots of zeroes

It probably isn't very significant, but last Friday, my Toyota Corolla rolled over 100,000 miles on the odometer.  I know lot of people that have cars with way more mileage than that, but it's actually the first car I've ever owned that had more mileage than the zip code I had growing up (92704 - Santa Ana, CA).  

Our van is quickly reaching that same number as I noticed it was about to roll over to 89,000 miles.  It's a year younger than our Corolla, but either way, we really don't put much mileage on our cars.  It took us almost exactly 11 years to go over 100K on the Corolla.  It will probably take a little bit less than that for the van, since we use that for major trips.

So, what's the most mileage you've gotten out of an automobile?  I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Downtown Los Angeles

Monday, I rode Metrolink into Union Station near downtown Los Angeles.   The purpose was to meet up with some friends of mine I'd met earlier through the 365 project. The plan was to take a couple of hours or so and go photo crazy.  We weren't even sure what we were going to shoot that day.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated immensely.  The day before and most of the previous night, it rained.  Monday was cloudy, but there were patches of blue sky, which made for some very photographic skylines.  My friends picked me up at Union Station and we went to lunch at a great Mexican restaurant on the edge of Olvera St., which is the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles and part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.  

About a block or two north of there is Chinatown and to the north were a multitude of different buildings. So we had two different cultural area we could explore or architecture.  Either way, it would be fun and we could always come back and explore another area at a different time.  Monday, we chose buildings and architecture.

We walked south over the 101 freeway which cuts through the middle of downtown L.A.  There are proposals on the table to create a large central park on top of the 101 freeway.  This would create a large green area and allow more freedom of movement of pedestrians around the existing downtown area.  Whether the idea comes to fruition or not is a different story and I don't expect it to happen for awhile, given the current economic climate.

Once across the freeway, we saw the Los Angeles City Hall.  Across the street from the city hall is the State Dept. of Transportation building, otherwise known as Cal-Trans. It had a very upscale modern look to it and I spent some time there taking some shots.

Eventually we ended up heading west toward the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  The best way I can describe this building is a structure that was built out of stainless steel panels, then left out in the sun to melt and warp.  Wall panels seem to fall away from the structure or bend toward it.  A walkway has been designed so the public can walk all the way around the building, some times at a low vantage point, while at other times, up high to get different perspectives of the structure.  

The building panels had to be altered after the finished construction due to excessive reflective light from the sun off of the panels into nearby condominiums.  Light and temperature was excessive, so many of the panels have been sanded to reduce their reflective capabilities.  At one point, we walked by one section that reflected a blast of heat toward the street.  There was quite a temperature gradient at that point near the front of the building.

Eventually, we ended up at a small coffee house across the street from the hall.  After coffee, we walked back down toward Union Station, passing, among other things, Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Cathedral.  The cathedral sits right on the edge of the 101 freeway and would be right on the edge of the new park if it gets created.

I will be the first to admit, I'm not much of an architecture person, preferring instead the great outdoor cathedrals to the human built ones.  However, I had a great time photographing the buildings and would love to come back again, but if I do, it will be with a new lens, one with a wider field of vision than my current 28mm lens.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Making excuses

I guess this is the only thing I can actually do at this point is to make some lame excuse for not writing in over a month on this.  At the very beginning, I speculated that I would post at least twice a week.  That, obviously, hasn't happened.  Life got in the way, as it is wont to do from time to time.

During most of the latter part of February and into March, I was involved in our school's annual 60 minute Shakespeare production.  Last year, we produced Romeo and Juliet.  I played Lord Capulet, father of Juliet.  I had a fun time with it, but was stressed out considerably while I tried to memorize my lines.  I had fully planned on not being involved in the play this year, but another teacher at our school wanted to be in the play and there weren't any appropriate roles for her unless there was another adult male playing opposite her, so I volunteered to play the part of Theseus opposite her Hypolita in A Midsummer's Night Dream.

So stress plays a factor, and also time itself.  I am amazed at how middle school students can memorize Shakespeare so quickly.  One girl was given a page full of new dialog to memorize and had it memorized in less than a couple of hours.  I can't do that.  The best way I've found to memorize material is in context, feeding off the other person's lines, or I type.  Yes, I literally type my lines over and over again until I don't have to look at my script in order to type the lines.  I don't think this lends itself very well to good acting, but it works for me.

The photo I've posted is a self portrait I took of myself after taking a nap following our last performance.  I had a headache and lay down on our bed to rest.  I tossed and turned for what seemed like fifteen or twenty minutes, so decided that I couldn't go to sleep so I might as well get up and be productive.  I looked at the clock and realized that I must have literally passed out, because an entire hour and a half were gone from the afternoon. So as you can see, I've had a nap and I still look exhausted.

And I also know that photography is taking an awful lot of my time.  With the spring weather, I'm enjoying being outside more, although you couldn't tell that by how tall the grass and such is in the back yard.  Still, I will try to make a more balanced effort in the future to post here more frequently.  

I leave you with the first butterfly I've been able to capture this spring.  It's a Painted Lady and was enjoying the nectar from the lantana that grows in our parkway.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A great gift

We normally celebrate Mother's Day in May and Father's Day in June.  In reality, at least to me, today is Mother's Day and Father's Day.  On this date, 54 years ago, my mom and dad became parents for the first time.  It is humbling to know that two people so loved each other that they wanted to spread that love to someone else and so became pregnant and had a child.  

Becoming a parent is the toughest thing anyone can ever do in life.  There is no instruction manual.  If you have more than one, they don't turn out the same, so you can't even use the lessons learned on child number 1 and have them work on child number 2.  And God help you if you decide to have that third child, because then they outnumber you and you're in trouble for the rest of your life.  I'm kidding about that last part, mainly because I don't want to scar my youngest for life.

I've received a lot of birthday wishes from friends of mine on Facebook today.  Thank you all very much for taking the time out of your day to wish me a happy birthday.  I am truly overwhelmed.  My present seems to be on permanent back order, so I guess I'll just have to be patient and hope it arrives soon.  But that's OK, because in reality, I received the best present many years ago.

Next time it's your birthday, if your parents are still around, call them up and thank them for bringing you into the world.  It's the greatest gift you'll probably ever receive until you give that same gift to someone else.

It's my birthday.  Thanks Mom and Dad.  I love you and I especially love my birthday present.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day.  That's when people are supposed to show their love to the person they love in some special way.  How about showing your love to that person every single day?  

Why do people expect flowers, or chocolates, or something else on Valentine's Day.  Wouldn't it make more sense to surprise that someone special with something on March 13th, just because they're not expecting it?  We build up Valentine's Day so much that most people are disappointed when it is all over.

I guess that makes me a humbug for Valentine's Day.  Nah.  I'm a romantic at heart.  25 years ago today, I didn't bring my girlfriend chocolate or a card.  Ooops.  I had other plans that day.  I took her to Disneyland.  We went on rides, we ate and walked around the park and just enjoyed ourselves.  

Sometime after dinner, we went over to Tomorrowland and got on the Skyway ride that rides above Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.  By the time we'd gotten to the Fantasyland station, I no longer had a girlfriend.  

Ah, but this isn't a sad story at all.  No, actually, 25 years ago, I proposed to her in that Skyway car as we were floating over Fantasyland.  I think that's rather appropriate, because, in my opinion, I've been living a fantasy for the past 25 years.  I get to live with my wife, my confidant, my best friend.  She makes me whole.  She completes me.

I have no idea why she puts up with me sometimes, but she does.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Friend, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law

I met Adele Grossman in the summer of 1986 when my then girlfriend, now wife, brought me to her house to meet the parents for the first time.  To this day, I can still remember the look on her face when she came in the door after finding out that my wife and I were engaged.  She was thrilled that she could throw another party.  And what a party she threw.

She was like that.  Generous, kind, loving and very outspoken.  I grew to love her over the years.  I don't think any man could have had a better mother-in-law even if they tried to create the perfect mother-in-law.  

In her 60s, she went back to college to earn her undergraduate degree, graduating from Cal State San Bernardino with a degree in Political Science.  When she went back to school, it spurred me to also go back to school to earn my masters degree.  

She was a reader of books, mostly non-fiction.  Her library at their house is amazing with a large collection of biographies and other assorted non-fiction political type books.  If you wanted to read about United States government, or a person of interest in history, all you had to do was go downstairs at their house and you could find something there.

She doted on her three grandchildren.  I have many favorite photos, but this photo that I'm posting is by far and away my favorite shot of her.  Her health had just started to decline at this point, so she's using her grandson Andy, my middle child for support, which Andy willingly gave.  He was 16 years old at the time, just on the cusp of manhood.  We were on a walk along the shore of Lake Arrowhead and you can see the happiness in both their eyes as they experienced this walk together.

Unfortunately, her health continued to decline and sometime in the early morning hours on Monday, she passed away in her sleep.  She will be missed by all who knew her.  She was a great friend to her husband, a wonderful mother to her two daughters, a loving grandmother to my three children and the best mother-in-law I will ever know.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

America's Best Idea

I've been watching Ken Burns' film on the National Parks recently.  Today, I just finished episode 5 of the six that make up the series.  It is a very interesting series that goes through the history of the National Parks in the U.S. and I would highly recommend it for anyone, particularly if they have a great love of the outdoors.  The photography in the series is top notch and it's fun to watch and see if you can guess which park the photo was taken.

Growing up we did a lot of camping in National Parks.  Our first trip, in the summer when I was four years old was taken to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.  I remember very little of that first trip save the after the fact memories preserved in many of my dad's slide.  I do remember my parents getting mules for us to ride on and go around the valley floor.  We did most of the touristy things you did in Yosemite, including a stop in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to visit the Wawona Tree.

My dad used to tell us a story of his mom showing him a picture book of national parks with one photo of the Wawona Tree, a hollowed out tree that you could drive your car through.  He said his mom, my grandmother, used to tell him that she was going to go see that tree after she retired.  Unfortunately, she never did and I'm convinced that my dad made a pilgrimage for his mother that first summer after we'd moved out to California.

One of the souvenirs we brought back from this first camping trip was a Viewmaster and three disks of photos of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.  You could put a disk in the Viewmaster and view 3D images of the park.  It was almost like being there every time you looked at the photos. 

The following years, we ended up at many of the major national parks in the western United States.  One summer it was Lassen, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks.  We camped right at the base of Mt. Rainier and never saw the mountain as it was shrouded in clouds and very cold and we had nothing but rain for three days.  The ranger told us that if it got much colder it might snow, so we pulled up camp and headed over to Olympic rain forest where it didn't rain on us at all.

We went to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Wind Cave National Parks, with a stop at Mt. Rushmore.  Another summer, we went to the Grand Canyon.  One spring, we spent a week at the Stovepipe Wells campground located below sea level in Death Valley National monument.

Every so often, we'd head back to Yosemite, mainly because we loved it so much.  The scenery there is incomparable, the vistas breathtaking.  There are crowds, but we've learned over the course of the years that all you really have to do is get on a trail and hike for ten minutes and you pretty much have the trail and the area to yourselves.  Most people stay near the roads.

I have many fond memories of the National Parks and I also hoped that my children have good memories too.  As they were growing up, we went camping in many parks too.  This summer, my youngest and I will venture to Yosemite, providing we can get a camping reservation there.  If not, then our alternate plan is to visit Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Capital Reef National Parks in southern Utah.  We've been to all of these areas before and that's OK.  We know we will enjoy them again.

Photos taken at Cedar Breaks National Monument, North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A ball of bees

This morning at school, we were treated to a rare occurrence of a swarm of bees that had decided to spend the night hanging on to the underside of the eaves of our library.

Somewhere in the center of that swarm is a queen bee looking for a home for her flock.  That's about an 8 inch ball of bees with one thing on their mind and that is to protect their queen.  Interestingly, they were very non-aggressive.  While I was taking some of the shots this morning, I had a bee get entangled in my arm hairs.  I tried to blow it off, but that didn't work and so I had to eventually flick it off with my free hand.  I didn't get stung in the process, which was a good thing.

Mother Nature is a wonderful thing.  I kept looking at that ball and it would move about all the time.  It wasn't static.  It just made you wonder about the dynamics of all of those bees buzzing up there, flying perhaps, but clinging to one another with a sole purpose in mind.  Do we have the same fortitude to stick together like that in a team that large for a single purpose?  It gave me pause to wonder at the marvels of Mother Nature.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

This and that

It's a gorgeous day outside and what am I doing?  Sitting inside suffering from allergies.  We've had a high pressure system that' has formed over the desert and it pumps wind through the mountain passes.  This also kicks up a lot of dust, pollen, and just general crap that is not good on my sinuses at all. 

I was supposed to go geocaching today, but at 1:00 this morning, I felt like I'd been run over by a truck, so I sent an email to my friend telling him I wouldn't be coming out his way.  It's just as well, as he said that it's been blowing a lot out his way, so it would have been more suffering anyway.

Earlier in the week, I got a flat tire.  That's the second flat tire I've gotten in five months.  I haven't had one in years, so I guess I was due.  I noticed it Thursday morning, but wasn't able to do anything about it until Friday afternoon as I had parent conferences on Thursday and was tied up until 7 o'clock in the evening.

So Friday afternoon ended up being a learning experience. The youngest learned how to change a tire.  I showed him what to do and he helped me with all of the things that needed to be done including loading the flat into the trunk so I could take it to our mechanic.

Our mechanic didn't take too long to repair it, however I got a nice photo experience because they had two classic cars sitting in their parking lot, a Ford and the Oldsmobile pictured.  I think this is a 56 or 57.  They just don't build cars like this anymore.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On to the SuperBowl

I spent most of the day watching football.  It was pretty much a wasted day, but I knew it would be.  Both games were tense affairs, one went into overtime, the other should have gone into overtime if not for a shanked field goal in the last seconds of the game.

Neither team that I really wanted to win came through today but that's OK.  I was hoping for good games and both were good, decided in the last seconds of one and overtime in the other.  That's pretty exciting, even if your team doesn't win. 

My team, the Miami Dolphins, are not in the Superbowl this year.  I grew up in Southern California, yet I follow the Miami Dolphins.  Go figure that one out.  In fact, I joke that I have three favorite teams.  The Dolphins and whoever is playing the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders that week.

I've come up with a theory on why people root for certain teams.  They are either indoctrinated by their family, or they glom on to the winning team at the time they become aware of the said sport.  The other two jerseys are my two sons' jerseys.  Obviously, I didn't do a very good job of indoctrinating them correctly, especially since one roots for a divisional rival. 

The Dolphins were just coming into their own about the time I was in 6th grade, so I started to follow them.  Two years later, they were in the SuperBowl against the Dallas Cowboys and lost.  Gee, I wonder why I don't like the Cowboys?  Actually, I was a Rams fan as well and the Cowboys used to beat up on the Rams in the playoffs on a regular basis in the 60s and 70s, so there are several reasons why I don't like them.

As for the Dolphins, the next year was the year of the perfect season and the rest is history.  I've followed them ever since.  Three SuperBowls in the early period cemented it and two more while I was in college.  It's been a long time since they've been to the big one.  I'd like to see them get back there again.

And my other favorite team (whoever plays the Oakland Raiders)?  It's probably because I've never really liked Al Davis, the owner of the Raiders.  It's a silly reason not to like a team, but then liking a team and "bleeding" silver and black or whatever color your favorite team happens to be is pretty silly too.

I just hope the SuperBowl is a good game.  Most in the past couple of years have been pretty good affairs.  And if it's not, then I hope the advertisers come up with some good commercials.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It rained today

It rained today.  That's not a bad thing, just that it messed with my plans a little.  Then again, in the long run, it was probably a good thing that it did rain.

The plan was for me to go geocaching with a friend of mine who lives in Camarillo.  That's about an hour and a half drive to the west of me.  I was also playing another kind of GPS game which took me down to Carson.  I left the house in a downpour.  

The drive down was interesting to say the least.  I had to come to a complete stop one time on the 605 because the California Highway Patrol (CHP) were doing a traffic break to help a car that had spun out to the side of the road.  

Once I got to my intended spot, I scored my virtual points and then called my friend in Camarillo hoping to hear that the weather was better there.  No such luck, so I made the decision to come back home.  On the way home, I passed five accidents, two of which might have been called Sig Alerts.  Sig Alerts are major traffic stoppages on Southern California freeways.  Fortunately, all the accidents were on the other side of the freeway, so my route home didn't involve any stop and go driving.  I was very fortunate.

As it turned out, I had a stressful week at school and usually when stress is released I'll get a nasty migraine.  Yep, today was no exception, so it was actually good that I ended up back at home.  I was able to rest, take it easy and recuperate.  I also took a walk and got, what I feel, are some pretty nice photos of raindrops on several different kinds of plants.

The first shot has really convinced me that I need to look into getting a macro lens.  Overall, I was pleased with how the shot turned out.  However, using a 200mm zoom lens for shots like that are ok, but I'd really like to get a lot closer so more detail can be seen in the droplet.  

The second shot was taken around the corner from my house, near the end of my walk.  This particular neighbor has lots of flowering plants close to the sidewalk and there was lots of raindrops.  I liked how the petals, which had fallen off the flower, were lying on the dead leaves from the parkway tree.  I used a program called Photomatix to tonemap the shot and enhance the veins in the leaves.  I think it gave it a nice effect.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Both of these objects originally belonged to my grandmother, were passed down to my father and have subsequently been passed down to me. My grandmother died when I was 3, so I have no memories of her outside of these objects.

The school bell is the bell used by my great aunt as she rang her students in for the day at a one room school house in rural Indiana in 1896. My father has a photo of that class, which includes a pretty 5 year old girl sitting on the front steps of the school - my grandmother. Her oldest sister was her first teacher. My parents used that bell to "ring" us in for dinner as we were growing up.

My grandmother later became a teacher, she married a teacher and her youngest son (my father) became a teacher. I have carried on the family "tradition," as I am finishing up my 29th year of teaching. My daughter is preparing to become an elementary school teacher. I guess it's in our blood. 

The book is a condensed biography from a ten volume set written by John G. Nicolay and John M. Hay, Abraham Lincoln's personal secretaries. The 10 volume set was published serially in The Century Magazine from 1886-1890 and then published into book format in 10 volumes from 1890-94. Nicolay died in 1901 in Washington and this condensed version was published two years later.

I have no idea whether anyone would be able to procure a copy of this book today, but I find it interesting because it is a first hand account of Lincoln's actions from 1856 until his death in 1865. You can feel the love that Nicolay had for the man throughout this work. It is a treasure that I will cherish forever and I hope that whoever inherits it from me will cherish it the same.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Four years ago, I started a blog with some geocaching friends entitled Electronic Breadcrumbs.  The purpose of that blog was to share our knowledge about geocaching and outdoor activities related to the use of a GPS.  Very quickly, it became clear that the group of people that we'd assembled wasn't going to be posting very many things on the site and I ended up being the main poster for the first couple of months and the only poster of anything afterwards.

The hardest part of that particular blog was trying to come up with new and interesting content on a regular basis.  In 2008, there were 116 posts over the course of the year.  Some of those were by others in the group, but the huge majority of them were my posts.  In 2009, I was down to 100 posts, still a respectable amount, almost two posts per week.  2010 saw 80 more posts and I realized sometime near the end of the year that Electronic Breadcrumbs was slowly running out of steam.  You can only talk about geocaching for so long before you run out of things to say and you start repeating yourself.  I tried to continue, but my last post, the 14th of 2011 happened on April 10th.

The other thing that caused the demise of Electronic Breadcrumbs was I was introduced to another website called 365 Project.  The purpose of this website is to encourage people to take photographs and post them on the site.  A true 365 project would be taking a photo every day for an entire year starting on January 1st.  I guess any day would work, but I thought I'd give it a try.  I was worried back then that I would lose inspiration quickly and end up taking many photos of my toes.  I learned quickly that there were a variety of subjects out that were just begging to be photographed.  I dove headfirst into photography last year and Electronic Breadcrumbs fell by the wayside.

On December 31st of this past year, I finished my first 365 project.  I completed it without using any fillers, taking at least one photo every single day for the entire year.  In fact, I am now at 383 consecutive days of taking a photo and always, that means more than one photo.

Last year, I took 7200+ photos during the project.  I was absolutely amazed by that stat, especially because I was usually so conservative with my photo taking when I was using film.  Digital is easy however and you don't have to worry about the expense of development.  If it doesn't come out, just trash it and move on.  I have just started my second year project which will cover 2012.  Hopefully, that will also cover an entire year, that is unless the world ends on December 21 as predicted by some.

The purpose of this blog is not just photography however.  I'm a very visual person.  If you look back over the old Electronic Breadcrumbs blog, you will find very few entries that aren't accompanied by photos.  A picture really is worth a thousand words.  I intend to write about daily happenings.  Many of the posts will be about techniques I used while taking my photo of the day.  I will probably include how I processed the photo with PhotoShop Elements or other programs that I have on my computer.   Just about any other subject that I'm interested in talking about is fair game as well.

I might not post every day.  In fact, I'm positive I won't post every day, but I would like to post at least twice a week, if not more.  Photos will accompany each new post.  Please, as always, feel free to comment if you have questions or if you just want to comment.  Feel free to disagree.  Let's keep it civil and get along is all I ask in return.