Monday, March 25, 2013

Road trip

The nice thing about Spring Break is it lends itself well to short little road trips.  A couple of years ago, my friend Jim and I went on a three day whirlwind road trip to the Colorado River.  It was a pure geocaching experience.  We took I-10 eastbound to Blythe where we camped right on the river, then the next day we took several different roads south, eventually ending up in Yuma, AZ where we spent the night, then took I-8 home the next day.  

This week, I'm planning a solo trip up to the Bay Area to visit my daughter, whose birthday is this upcoming Friday.  The plan it for us to spend Friday doing all sorts of touristy things in San Francisco while celebrating her birthday.  I've been told by several people that the weather isn't going to hold out and we may get rain by this weekend, which will kind of suck, but I'm sure we'll find something to do even if we get rained out.  

Yes, I'll be geocaching on the way up and the way down and maybe in the middle too.  I may even guest lecture in my daughter's 5th grade class this week, although that's still up in the air at the moment. Right now, I'm planning my route north.  Since this is a road trip, the purpose is to avoid the Interstate as much as possible.  As the renowned reporter Charles Kurault once said, "You can travel clear across the country on the Interstates without seeing a thing."  

Back roads are where you find the good spots, the scenic spots and the well thought out geocaches.  I agree with my friend Jim who said that if Charles Kurault had lived to see geocaching, he probably would have been a geocacher.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Flashback Friday

Every now and then, I'll take a shot and think to myself, "I don't know why I need to continue because I already know I have the shot."  That's the way I felt about this shot.  I know I audibly gasped when I saw what was happening in my viewfinder.

The theme for that week in January 2012 was sound.  I'd asked my wife to get her flute out and play some songs for me so I could take some shots of her.  I kept playing around with different settings, but eventually, I just wanted to zoom in as close as possible and get some shots of her lips playing.  Just as I took this shot, I saw her breath condense on the mouthpiece of the instrument and I knew I had the shot.  I probably took a dozen more shots, but never caught her breath on the mouthpiece.   I love this shot, but perhaps it's because I love the person in the shot so much.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trying something different

My daughter helped me set up a garden two springs ago at our house.  We planted a variety of things, but the two things that did the best in the first two years were the sunflowers and the tomatoes.  The sunflowers did better the first year, the tomatoes did better the second year.  This year, I'm hoping they both do well.

In the past, at least on my 365 project, I've posted about my battles with tomato worms.  After several postings of worm shots, a friend of mine got tired of me ranting about my battles with the worms, so he bought me a Topsy Turvy.  The premise is the tomatoes grow upside down.  But the real reason he bought it for me was to get me to stop complaining about the tomato worms.

Tomato worms pupate in the soil, then just climb up the tomato plant to lay their eggs.  With this device, I shouldn't get any tomato worms this year.  I hope it works, because I really hate those things.  And besides, nothing's better than homegrown tomatoes, bar none.  If this thing really works, there's a spot in the same general area where I can hang a second one, so I can have two different varieties.  Right now I went with a beefsteak tomato.

If you look in the background, you can see the planter where I had our tomatoes and sunflowers last year.  This year, that planter is just sunflowers.  I amended the soil today and planted about six different varieties of sunflowers, all of which are supposed to grow at least five feet high.  One is supposed to have flowers that are at least a foot in diameter.  If all goes well, I'm going to have lots of sunflower seeds for the birds to enjoy later in the summer.

The second photo is a special photo, although it's not really much to locate.  That's Kathryn's nectarine tree.  My daughter planted that two springs ago.  She was working with her hands and she really needed to do something and so we decided that it was a good spot for a nectarine tree in the back yard.  The first year, it had a couple of blossoms, but we didn't get any fruit off of it, which is probably a good thing.

Last year, I think there were about 10 to 12 fruit on the tree, but we had a really nasty heat wave of over 100˚ for about 10 days in a row and the fruit just shriveled up and fell off the tree no matter how much water I was pumping into the soil.  With only two years of growth, it was probably a good thing.  This is the third year for the tree and hopefully some of those blossoms will give us some sweet nectarines to eat.

Looking at the photo, I see I need to do some pruning on the tree.  There are a couple of sucker branches down below that need to be removed.  The tree was a bare root we got at a local nursery. It's now about a foot taller than I am, so I need to address that as well to keep it under control.  That should be too difficult to deal with and we'll still have a good looking fruit tree.

Here's to a successful year for anyone out there who has a green thumb or wished they had a green thumb.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Break

Spring break has sprung!  I just looked and realized I haven't posted in a week, so I figured I'd get you up to date on things.  It's Spring Break and unlike many school districts our district has decided to have two full weeks off.  I love it for several reasons.

Everyone says Christmas break is great.  Bah.  Christmas break is a cruel break.  You spend the first week running around gearing up for Christmas and then spend the next week running around gearing up for New Year's.  If the actual holiday falls early in the week, then you might have three or four days in which to actually rest and recuperate. And, if the weather's bad, you still have to go out, because things need to get done.

But Spring break?  Two weeks with nothing to do.  Nothing to really shop for, and no place that you "have" to go.  The weather's nicer, the days are longer and if you get an occasional bad weather day, you can curl up inside with a good book and a good movie and just enjoy the day.

Since the break started, I've been out geocaching a couple of times, once by myself and once with my good friend Jim.  The latter was more enjoyable because it was with someone else, however I found more caches the first day.  But it's not about the numbers is it?

The front lawn has been mowed and the back lawn will be mowed.  The plan is to do that tomorrow and then work the garden soil and plant many different kinds of sunflowers.  Two years ago, we planted sunflowers and tomatoes.  That didn't work too well.  I've discovered sunflowers need lots of water, but tomatoes need to be stressed.  They need water, but you have to stress them out with long dry periods in order for them to produce good fruit.

The first year, our tomato yield was negligible, while we had glorious sunflowers as evidenced by the photos.  The next year, I figured the seeds that were dropped from the year before would sprout new sunflowers.  They did, but they didn't do very well, because I wasn't watering the area as much.  Great tomatoes that year, but the sunflowers were lucky to get 2 feet high or 2 inches in diameter.  This year, the sunflowers will occupy one area and the tomatoes another area.  Hopefully I'll get good yields from both.  

Taxes need to be done this week.  Then next week, I'll be taking a nice road trip up to the bay area to visit with my daughter and celebrate her birthday.  We're planning on going to San Francisco on her actual birthday and being tourists.  I'm looking forward to it since I haven't been to San Francisco in 25 years.  

Yes, there are things to do, but there's no deadline on them as long as they get done by the end of the break.  It's a much more relaxed kind of deadline.  This is the kind of break I like.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Out Early

The Sharpshooters International Photography Club published our weekly thread of photos on Facebook a day early this week.  Week 142 has some stunning shots covering all 6 heavily populated continents of the world.

Many of the photos I post here and on other photo sites are usually taken on walks in my neighborhood.  After seeing the photos from last week and seeing my photo in the thread, I got really energized and went on a walk last week for the first time in several months.  I saw my neighborhood in an entirely different light this past week. Fruit trees were blossoming and the nice thing about where I live, is many people have fruit trees in their front yards, so you don't have to trespass in order to get really good shots of fruit blossoms.

I wrote that I believed this was from a plum tree, but I went back today to inspect the tree a little bit closer and now I think it's an apple tree.  Either way, I'm very pleased with this shot.  

The club's thread itself is a treat.  We have another newcomer in the group and her shot of a motorcycle racer is stunning. You can see it here in the club's photo thread for this week, week #142.  Like us. Share us.  Enjoy. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Photos for free?

I got an email today via Flicker that has me quite conflicted. The email was concerning the photo I've posted here.  The emailer wants to use this shot in a book he's writing about geocaching.  No payment, just a credit in the book.

This is where the conflicted part comes into play.  I know I'm never going to be an Ansel Adams or Galen Rowell kind of photographer.  I enjoy the hobby and I enjoy trying to get better at this.  So even if I think I'm not going to be a full-time professional photographer, I still think I should be compensated for my work if someone wants to use it.

Would the writer of the book just give their book away for free?  Why is he expecting that I just give away my photo for free?  Perhaps I'm overreacting, but this bothers me for some reason.  What do you think?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Flashback Friday

This post is actually a reminder to myself.  Late in the year last year, I was taking part in the "Get Pushed" challenges where you would be partnered up with someone else on the 365 Project and they would push you to do something outside of your normal comfort zone.  I had been pushed by Harry Benson to take some star trail shots, a long exposure.

Life and the weather got in the way that week and I never got around to completing this challenge. And, of course, it's raining right now and very cloudy on the perfect weekend to attempt this again.  Monday there will be no moon in the night time sky, much like it was in this shot taken last December.

I'd taken this shot in the morning when I went out to get the paper.  Saturn was low in the sky, with a waning crescent moon and a very bright Venus just above it.  The next couple of days a storm came in, clouding up the sky at the perfect time for this kind of shot, much like what's happening right now in Southern California.  

The other problem with night time shots like this is you're also dealing with the cold.  If it were to clear up tonight or tomorrow, that would mean we'll have really cold night time temperatures.  Well, cold is relative since our really cold would get down into the high 30s.  Still, sitting out in the open for 2 to 3 hours while you're taking star photos is not something I'd like to do very often in 30 degree weather.

This challenge is something that I will do, but I'm probably going to hold on to it and attempt it sometime this summer.  I can drive up to the high desert, find a spot near some Joshua Trees and wait for the evening to unfold, or I can attempt it when we go on our annual summer camping trip.  

And even thought Spring Break is right around the corner, it's going to be difficult to do, because the moon will be progressing back to full during those two weeks reflecting a lot of extra light into the shot that I really don't want to have.  I know Harry is a reader of this blog, but he's out of the country right now.  I'd just like to let him know that I intend to keep this challenge.  It's just not going to happen this month.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I'm a Sharpshooter

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message via Facebook from a guy who invited me to join the Sharpshooters International Photography Club.  I thought about it for a fairly short time and decided to accept his invitation to join the club.  Two days ago when it was announced by the club organizer that I'd joined I literally received emails from all around the world.  

I know I'll never get all the places listed here, but the group comes from a variety of places, including, but not limited to Japan, California, Georgia, Michigan, Kentucky, South Africa, Canada, Florida, New York, Louisiana, Romania, Croatia, Denmark, North Carolina, Slovenia, Connecticut, Argentina, New Jersey, Mississippi, and Vermont.  And this is just for this week's photostream.  I'm sure there's more places that I don't know about yet that we'll see in later weeks.

As you can see, six of the seven continents are represented with the group, the only one not there doesn't really have many permanent residents anyway.  One of the first things I said to the organizer was I was a little intimidated by the quality of work within the group and he assured me that he felt I'd fit in quite nicely, which was very nice of him.  I hope I live up to his expectations.

The photo I submitted to the group this week is of this group of windmills that I found while out geocaching in the Mojave Desert, near (of all places) Mojave, California.  You can see the windmills continue off into the distance.  There were more behind me and to my left and right.  Since these are all relatively new, my guess is that some company is jumping in with both feet into wind energy as an alternative to creating another dam on another river.  

Please stop by the Sharpshooters page on Facebook.  Like us. Here's a link to the photostream for this week.  Please share it with your friends.  There are some very talented artists in this group.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


On Sunday, I walked around Claremont Village area looking for a new photo opportunity.  I passed a couple of guys who appeared to have just started singing for their supper.  Just as I passed them I bumped into a fellow teacher from my school.  He was in the Village with his mom and brother shopping and I ended up talking with them for about 15 minutes or so.

My friend asked me whether I was out shooting photos for my 365 project and I told him yes, but I wasn't sure what I was going to take yet as nothing had really struck me as photo worthy, although I kept hearing these two guys behind me and I thought I might at least get some street photography shots out of it.

I took my leave of them and continued my walk, getting some still life shots of a couple of interesting things I saw. When you walk in alleys, you sometimes get all sorts of things you wouldn't normally see just walking on the sidewalks.  By the time I worked my way back around to where these two guys were, I had decided that I was going to introduce myself to them and ask them to be part of my 100 Strangers project.

Both were cool with being part of the project, but neither was very talkative since they were really into their music.  The guy playing the guitar was Ken and the guy in the wheelchair was David.  Ken was a little more hesitant about having his photo shot, saying as I was taking a couple of shots that I wouldn't get anything good because "I'm not photogenic."  In a way, he was right as the photo above was the only shot I got where he had his eyes open, but I feel like I caught his personality with the shot.  I really like that he was not looking at me, but at David as if getting ready to lead David into a harmony, or perhaps to get him to play harmonica.

David was singing harmonies with Ken, but also played the harmonica.  He was non-stop talk, but not really talking about much of anything outside of the music.  I listened to them for a little bit, dropped a couple of bucks into the guitar case and moved on.  I think the only thing that I'm really disappointed about with this shot is you can't really see the cigarette smoke.  It's more pronounced in the original photo, but the smoke seems to have been wiped away when I processed it to black & white.  I need to work on this.

So my worries of not getting another stranger photo were for naught.  I wasn't worried, but this definitely was the longest dry spell for me with the 100 Strangers project.  In a couple of weeks, I'll be heading up to the bay area and San Francisco.  Who knows what or who I'll encounter when I'm up there.