Sunday, June 30, 2013

Photo Blogging Challenge (June 2013): Bridges

As the title says, P. J.'s blog challenge for the month of June was Bridges.  One of the bloggers who participates in this monthly challenge suggested that any of us who live in California hunt down one of the Bridges actors, Beau, or Jeff, or find Lloyd's grave and take a photo of that.  Well, Lloyd was cremated and the resting place of his ashes are unknown according to Find a, so I decided to go a different route.

1.  The traditional bridge

About a week into my summer vacation I had planned to go geocaching with a couple of my friends.  We ended up taking two cars mainly because one of the guys thought he might have to leave early, so we ended up meeting at a geocache entitled Bridging the Gap, where the Union Pacific Railroad tracks run under Highway 18 out in the Mojave desert. 

This day was to be mostly car caching, driving from cache to cache with very little hiking involved, which ended up being a good things as the heat was getting to the point that we decided that even in the car, getting out all the time was strength sapping and we called it a day at around 1:00 in the afternoon.  My friend's car, fortunately, stayed relatively cool in the shade of this bridge.

The clouds really make the scene although I'm a little perplexed to what caused the streaks in the sky, but overall, I'm very pleased with how this image turned out.  And in reality, I had visions of grandeur that I would end up near San Francisco sometime this month so I could go on a bridge shooting spree, but it was not to be.  This would be my only traffic bridge that I would shoot during the month.

2.  The musical bridge

I've shot this particular bridge many times over the years including one other time from a different perspective for P. J.'s weekly challenge on Flicker.  Our family is very musical with all of us playing or singing at one time or another during our educational years.  My daughter received her college degree in violin performance.  My son played the piano and my other son played the viola and sang all four years of high school in his school's top choir.  My wife plays the piano, flute, guitar and clarinet, although the latter two she hasn't picked up in several decades.  I sing in our church choir on Sundays.

This is my son's old viola that he obviously doesn't play anymore since he discovered he enjoyed singing so much so it sits in its case, only coming out when I want to take another photo of it. The purpose of a bridge on stringed instruments is to keep the strings off of the finger board and to transmit the vibrations of the strings to the sound board.

3.  Lucy

Named after Lucille Ball, Lucy has been our pet for about 10 years now.  Lucy is a California Desert Tortoise, an endangered species.  I have a permit which allows me to keep her in our back yard, the only legal way to do so with endangered species.  

California Desert Tortoises have been losing their habitat mostly to development.  As more and more people move to California, the encroachment on their territory becomes more severe and their range continues to shrink because of it.  While out geocaching, I've run across empty tortoise shells but have never seen a live one in the "wild" so I count myself fortunate, that I get to see one almost every day in the summertime as she cruises around the yard in the early morning or late afternoon when it's not too hot out.

With more and more areas in the desert being turned over to wind farming or solar gathering, not to mention housing, development by humans continues to put more pressure on the native species of tortoises.  Unfortunately, domesticated species, which is what Lucy falls into, cannot be reintroduced into the wild, because the domesticated ones tend to have respiratory problems they could pass on to the wild species.

As a caretaker of Lucy, I view myself as a bridge keeping the species alive.  Should desert tortoises become extinct in the wild, I may be asked to give up Lucy so that she could become involved in a breeding program to help perpetuate the species.  I would gladly do that. 

4.  The Claremont Colleges

I live in a college town.  Actually, there are five colleges, a graduate school and a school of Theology within the city limits of Claremont, California.  There are two buildings on the Pomona College campus named Bridges - Big Bridges and Little Bridges.  Originally, I wanted a shot of Little Bridges, a converted chapel on campus because it's where my daughter performed in her orchestra when she was in junior high and high school, but the area was cordoned off due to construction, so I wandered over to Big Bridges.

Bridges Auditorium is a memorial donated by the parents of Mabel Shaw Bridges, a student  at Pomona College who died at the age of 22 in 1907.  Construction of the building cost $600,000 and was completed in 1932 with a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Arthur Rodzinski.  I found this billboard window outside the entrance to the auditorium and the reflection of the grounds beyond the front entrance I thought was very inspiring.  

Every time I walk by this area, I am reminded of my own college and how similar these two areas look, most likely because there are many coast redwood trees around the outside of this plaza.  The coast redwood tree was the dominant tree on my college campus, Humboldt State University, located in northern California.

5.  The bridge to adulthood

On June 13th, my youngest son graduated from high school.  It was a gloriously warm afternoon and there was a slight breeze blowing as evidenced by his tassel flowing in the wind.  This is actually one of the few shots I have of him with his tassel as he ended up losing it sometime after receiving his diploma and reuniting with us after the ceremony.  He didn't seem to be too concerned about it, so I'm not concerned.

This fall he'll be moving out of our house and into the dorms at UC Riverside where he'll begin his college days as a physics major.  Both of his older siblings chose schools in northern California and his stated preference was far away from mom and dad too, but in the end he chose a school that was close enough that he'll be able to come home on weekends if he so chooses, although I would expect him not to do so very often.  With his older siblings both graduated from college, we'll soon be crossing over that bridge to the empty nest come September.

If you click on the link to P. J.'s page at the top you'll see how other bloggers interpreted the theme of bridges for this month.  I'm looking forward to next month's challenge.  Hopefully it will be something where I'll be able to use some of the shots I take while we're on our camping trip. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Getting into shape

In the past 6 days, I've hiked almost 10 miles total on three separate occasions.   Well, hiking probably isn't a very good word, more like walking on level ground, but it's a start.  I used to do a lot more hiking up into the hills and I've gotten away from that over the past year or so.  This past week, I decided that I needed to get some more exercise back into my life and I've started to go out on walks again.

Having the stamina back is a good thing.  Today was my longest walk, 4.6 miles on fairly level ground along a biking trail in Riverside - the Santa Ana River Trail.  I went out fairly early, starting at 8:35, and had put in 2.05 miles in less than an hour.  That doesn't sound like a very fast pace, but I was also geocaching at the time, so I did some stops to find the cache.  I got my heart pumping and the sweat was flowing so I felt good about it.

I do this for a couple of reasons.  With our camping trip coming up in 10 days, I wanted to build up some stamina for some of the hikes that I plan on doing with my kids.  Last year I was totally outclassed by my son at Bryce Canyon.  I expected to be.  He was 16 years old and I'm just old.  Still, I had stamina to do the same hikes he did, just at a slower pace.  This year, with all three of the kids, I figure we'll do some hiking.  Three years ago when my son and I were at Lassen there was so much snow in early July that many of the trails were still closed.  I'm hoping with the below average snowfall this year that the trails will be open so we'll get in some good hikes.

The second reason for this is I want to lose some extra poundage I've put on over the past couple of years.  This just makes sense from a health standpoint.  I'm not done with all that I want to do in the course of my lifetime and I want to be able to enjoy these activities fully.  I've seen a joke passed around the Internet recently that says, "I'm in shape.  Round is a shape."  I don't want to be that joke and so I walk and I hike.

And speaking of hiking - yeah, I know this will probably be a bad segue, but I wanted to do a shout out to an old high school friend of mine, Don Erickson.  I met Don in 7th grade.  We were in several classes together, throughout junior high and on to high school and we were both on the yearbook staff our senior year.  I can remember Don being a very free spirit, one who would climb the school's flagpole on a whim. (Yeah, I remember that).

After high school, as most of us tend to do, we lost touch. I was very disappointed when he didn't come to our 10 year class reunion as he was one of the people that I wanted to find out how he been getting on.  A couple of days ago, I discovered  that he's walking across the United States to support Organ Donor Awareness.  Right now he's somewhere in Pennsylvania.  You can follow his progress on the Facebook page that he's set up to chart his progress.  I've sent invites out to many of my friends from high school that I'm in touch with on Facebook, but I felt this might be a better way to reach a larger audience.  

My thoughts and prayers are with you Don.  Good luck and Godspeed. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Take me out to the ball game

I've been an Angel fan all of my life.  Since I grew up in Orange County, we would usually attend one baseball game a year at the "Big A" in Anaheim.  We'd sit up in the top deck and root for the Angels, usually over the Chicago White Sox or Cleveland Indians.  Being from northern Indiana, those were my dad's two favorite teams, so that's who we'd end up seeing all the time.

For Father's Day, my daughter bought me tickets to see the Angels play on Monday night against the Seattle Mariners.  We had tickets in the upper deck, but that didn't bother me in the least.  We were watching baseball the way it was meant to be seen - live.  In my opinion, TV doesn't enhance baseball at all.  For most of the telecast, all you see is the interaction between the catcher and pitcher.  

I go to the game to watch the interactions between the other players, to watch how they change their positions during the count.  There's a subtlety to the game that most people don't understand, because all they know is what TV shows them.  I got to point out things to my boys like why the Mariners played the infield in at one point and what the difference was between a K and a backwards K for a strikeout.  It was great to be at the park with my boys and texting my daughter updates during the game.

The Angels grabbed the early lead and Jason Vargas, pitcher for the Angels was pitching well.  In the third he gave up his first hit, a bloop over third base that just caught the line.  Then Vargas made his only mistake, got a pitch up a little bit that was drilled to left field for a two run homer, cutting the Angel lead in half at that time.

In the sixth, the Angels batted around and blew the game open, eventually winning 11-3.  While most people would disagree, I would argue that Josh Hamilton, who struck out twice in the inning, had the best at bat in the inning.  Huh you say?  His first at bat in the inning there were two men on and one out.  He took two strikes, then worked the count full and fouled off several pitches.  He extended the inning by getting the opposing pitcher to throw a lot of balls.  The more balls thrown by the pitcher, the better it is for the batter.  

Eventually, Hamilton struck out, but the number of pitches (8 or 9 by our count) that the reliever threw to Hamilton took its toll.  Albert Pujols drove the very next pitch to the base of the wall in right and the flood gates were opened as the next 8 batters reached base safely and the Angels had scored 7 runs by the time Hamilton was up again.

Most people would look at the strikeout as a failed at bat. Knowledgeable baseball fans know otherwise.  And yes, Hamilton is admittedly having a very poor season, but what I saw Monday night was encouraging.  He hit the ball hard, got two hits including a two run shot to centerfield and only looked bad on his second strikeout in the 6th inning.  That's good news for Angel fans.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yes, I'm very proud right now

The three shots below tell most of the story.

This is my youngest at his graduation ceremony last Thursday.  Somewhere between this shot and when he met us after the ceremony, he ended up losing his tassel.  Not a big deal in reality since he'll have a more important tassel in June 2017 when he graduates from college.  Then again, it's not really the tassel that matters.  I, for one, could not tell you where my high school or college tassels are.

He'll be heading to UC Riverside in the fall to study Physics.  His older sister bought him a couple of Sheldon Cooper t-shirts from the TV show, "The Big Bang Theory," which is a favorite of ours right about now, as a graduation present.  He claims not to want to emulate Sheldon, but figures if he's going to be anyone in the show, he'll be Leonard Hofstadter.

This shot is of my middle son at the Santa Cruz Wharf last Labor Day.  We had wandered over there after cleaning out his apartment in preparation for him to move back in the dorms for his last quarter at Santa Cruz before he went to study abroad in England beginning last January.  He came home from England Saturday evening and my wife and I met him at the gate after he cleared customs.  

Since his graduation from college happened while he was in the air coming home from England, he missed it, but he's a college graduate, nonetheless.  I chose this shot, mainly because it's a favorite of mine, but also because I like the fact that the pelican seemed very patient, even though we had it surrounded.

This third shot is from Friday evening.  My daughter had her Masters degree conferred upon her by Santa Clara University that evening.  She has a Masters in Education now and even more importantly, a district in Milpitas thought highly enough of her that she's going to be teaching 4th grade for them next year starting in the middle of August.

We are very proud of all three of our children and all of their accomplishments and we look forward as they continue to strive to become all they can be in the future.  I'll sign off now as a proud dad.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Time in a bottle?

As I have continued to rummage through my photos, I stumble across some gems that have special meaning to someone or I just like.  This photos happens to be one of them.  These two shots are the two favorite shots I have of all three of my kids when they were young.  

I took the first shot of them at Cedar Breaks National Monument back in 2001.  Obviously, the composition needs work, but I don't really care about that. This shot represents the last time that all of the kids went camping with me.  My daughter decided after this camping trip that it wasn't for her and my older son followed suit four years later.  Only the youngest still camps regularly with me.

This upcoming summer, it looks like all of them are going to go camping with me again.  I'm really looking forward to this and yet, at the same time, haven't planned anything out.  Back then, things were planned out pretty much to the minute so they wouldn't get bored.  Now, we'll just enjoy the hikes, get some geocaching in and just enjoy each other's company for about a week in a variety of spots in California.

The second shot was taken in 2000 when we camped in Yosemite National Park.  I took this shot after we had finished hiking all the way up to the top of Vernal Falls and back down again.  You can see they were tired.  The youngest wasn't quite five in this shot and he walked the entire way up the Mist Trail to the precipice of the waterfall, 3 miles round trip.

As I look at these two shots, I realize that these photos were taken during their age of innocence.  A lot has changed in the last 12 years.  My daughter was just hired by a school district up in Milpitas, California and will be embarking on her own teaching career, starting with a 4th grade classroom in the fall.  

My older son graduates from University of California Santa Cruz, but will not go through the ceremony.  I believe it actually happened last week.  He didn't go to the ceremony, because he's studying abroad in England right now.  He comes home this Saturday.  I'm looking forward to seeing him again.  I suppose he'll be spending most of the summer with us while he looks for a job.  Eventually, I expect him to move out on his own as well, much like his sister has already done.

My youngest will graduate from high school this upcoming Thursday.  He's on the brink of adulthood and will be studying Physics at UC Riverside in the fall.  He'll be living in the dorms there, so essentially, we'll be "empty nesters" although he's not fully gone yet.  All three of them are getting ready or have already started to create their own lives away from my wife and my life.  That's the way things work in this world.

You can't save time in a bottle, but the memories live on in these images. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fullerton Arboretum

This past Tuesday, I went geocaching in Orange County.  I  only found two geocaches, which doesn't seem like a whole lot for a 6 hour tour behind the "Orange Curtain" but there were extenuating circumstances.

My friend Jim and I had decided to come down and get some caches and play a couple of other GPS games that we play from time to time.  We scored points in the other games, plus found one cache before lunch, then headed over to the Fullerton Arboretum, located on the campus of Cal State Fullerton.

Cal State Fullerton isn't a well known school unless you follow college baseball.  They are quite often in the College World Series, as they are again this year.  I attended the school for a year and a half while I was getting my teaching credential in the early 80s.  The campus was smaller and looked a lot different than it does now.  New campus housing, a new baseball stadium and the arboretum are all new additions to the campus in the past 30 years.

I don't know why I should be surprised about this, since my own school, Humboldt State University looked a lot different when I visited there several years ago.  Change happens.

The cache we were looking for in the Arboretum was a 5 stage multi-cache.  That means we'd have to find four different points, gather clues from each point, which would then lead us to the final cache.  We also needed to bring a QR reader along because the clues were in the form of QR codes.  I had a QR code reader on my iPad, so I brought it along.  With my cell phone, iPod, iPad, camera and GPS unit, I was a well geeked out techie on this little hike.

Once we got over to the first stage, we started looking around for the first QR code.  Unfortunately, we didn't find it, so we could have been done for the day, but the cache page gave us some other clues that gave us an idea of what we were looking for so we started walking through the Arboretum.

We weren't really sure what we were looking for the first time around, so we ended up wandering.  We actually walked right by the cache and one of the clues, but didn't spot them on the first time around.  We were actually enjoying ourselves with the butterflies, hummingbirds and the large expanses of native vegetation.  There were large displays of Mediterranean type vegetation as well as areas devoted to desert environment and African savannah.  Pretty much any plant found in California was represented here plus several other areas as noted above.

After walking all the way around the Arboretum once, I think we both figured out what kind of signs we were supposed to be looking for, so we tried some secondary paths that we hadn't walked on before but we still came up empty.  Needless to say, I was getting frustrated.  My friend Jim wasn't nearly as frustrated and kept persevering suggesting we go back to the beginning again and check out some things that we might have missed on the first two go arounds.

Once we got back to the first stage, I found something that we hadn't noticed before: a magnet on the back of a sign.  Now why would there be a magnet unless it was meant to hold something?  The something that this magnet was supposed to hold wasn't there, but it gave us a glimmer of hope that we were at least on the right track.

We took another path that we hadn't tried before and I spotted one of the signs we were looking for about 12 feet from where we had walked a couple of hours earlier.  The QR code was attached to the back of the sign, which was read by my iPad and it told us where the final was supposed to be.  We'd bypassed stages 2 and 3.   We hiked further up the trail and found stage 2 as well, but without a QR code, so we decided to head back to the final and see if we could find it.

It didn't take too long to find the final cache, so although we didn't do the cache as intended by the cache owner, we'll take credit for the find, since we did find the final.  Overall, it was a fun cache.  It got us into an area we hadn't been to before, so that was a good thing.  If all the codes had been where they were supposed to be, we probably wouldn't have stayed there as long as we did, so in a way, that's also a good thing.  Hopefully, the cache owner will see our logs and replace the missing QR codes so others can enjoy the full experience.  

As it was, we never did find one of the stages, but we found the stage that counts.  In other words, sometimes, you're good and sometimes, you're just lucky.  In this case, I'd say it was a little bit of both.

Monday, June 3, 2013

New photo challenges

For those of you that didn't see my post on Facebook, I just completed my 30th year of teaching, 29 at the same school.  It's getting to the point that I've been around so long that I've been teaching longer at my school than three of the other teachers have been alive.  It's just something that I've noticed that I have many more years behind me in this profession than I do in front of me.

I'm in the first week of summer vacation and I've accomplished a whole heck of a lot of nothing so far.  Well, not really, it just seems like it.  Friday, the first day was pretty much spent sleeping.  The recharge on my batteries was something that I really needed.  For the most part, with a couple of errands, mowing the lawn and other "honeydoos" that I've accomplished, I'd say this summer is a smashing success right now.

I haven't picked up my camera much so far, but I know that will change.  Near the end of last month, I ended my 365 Project.  For the first two years, I made sure I went out every day and took at least a couple of shots with my camera.  I used the best one of the bunch to post at 365 and sometimes posted others in my reserve album.  The third year, I used the reserve album as my main album, but  I decided that I wasn't going to be so uptight about it this year.  I wanted to post great photos every day, not just average stuff I'd taken on a particular day, so I resorted to filler shots when I either didn't pick up my camera, or didn't like what I'd taken so far.

Eventually, there came a point where I decided that the process behind 365 was done in my mind and I ended the project.  This doesn't mean that I've stopped taking photos.  On the contrary, I'm just posting them in a different format on Flicker now.

I'm involved in several different projects over at Flicker.  One project is a 52 week challenge.  Take and post a photo each week based upon a theme.  The tomato shot above is this week's entry into the "Smartphonography" challenge for this week.  Not having a smartphone, I got explore my iPad a little bit and use some of the camera settings on it.

I'll continue to work on my 100 Strangers Project.  With 37 stranger shots taken in 10 months I've been averaging 3.7 strangers per month.  When I first started, I figured I'd have that project done in less than a year.  Well, it just goes to show you that taken shots of strangers is a much more difficult task to undertake than I realized at the time.

I'm also involved in a monthly blogger photo challenge.  Last month's challenge was a night time challenge.  The month before was all about transportation.  This month, the theme is Bridges, so expect to see some bridges near the end of the month.  And, as always, there will be my weekly entry for the Sharpshooters International Photography Club.  As you can see, I'm still quite busy, photographically.

I've been going through some of my archived shots and dealing with them.  I've already looked at several PhotoShop tutorials on things that I want to try.  If you click on the Flicker link above or here, you'll be taken to my photostream.  Feel free to add me as a contact so you can follow along there.