Thursday, October 31, 2013

Photo Blogging Challenge (October 2013): Fall

Well, I guess I'm getting a little better this month as this represents my fourth post of the month.  Double last month's posts, so I'll just have to give myself a pat on the back for that and hope that I can do better next month.

This month, PJ proposed the monthly challenge of Fall, so here are my entries for the theme, all taken in October.

1.  Fall Flowers

My neighbor down the street has an incredible front yard garden.  He grows all sorts of seasonal fruits and vegetables throughout the year.  Every year around this time, these flowers show up, so I call them Fall Flowers.  I have no idea what kind of flowers they are and every time I'm near his house, he's never out so I can ask him what kind these are.  I've been fortunate enough to photograph these a number of years in a row.  Last year, I got a shot that reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland.  This shot actually reminds me a little bit of it as well.

2.   Lucy

Lucy, or the lack of Lucky is a harbinger of fall.  I've featured Lucy before in this blog as well in photos, but this one definitely represents fall.  Lucy is a California Desert Tortoise, one that I've had a permit for ever since I got her over 10 years ago.  I can't release her back into the wild, mainly because tortoises that are in the wild tend to have respiratory ailments that they could pass on to the wild species.  

Lucy lives in our back yard and usually is out in the early spring, summertime and early fall, but right around this time she disappears into her burrow for good and we'll not see her again until sometime next March when it warms up for good.  I saw her a couple of day after I took this shot, but I'm pretty sure she's underground for good, hibernating until spring comes.

3.  The lone leaf

The next two shots are a couple that probably represent a traditional fall shot.  I found this leaf lying on these parkway rocks and like the way it looked, with the contrast of mostly grey rocks and bright yellow color of the leaf.

For the most part, our fall actually lasts a long time in Southern California.  We don't really get that cold, cold snap of air that most trees need to drop their leaves.  I have deciduous trees in my side yard and are still quite green and will be green for several more weeks. 

While we wait for some brief moments of color, further north, the leaves have all dropped and snow is starting to fall.  This leaf just tells us that it's getting a little cooler here.

4.  The first storm

Here's another traditional "fall" type shot of colored leaves.  I did not take this particularly for the leaves, but more for the storm that passed through earlier this week.  The nice thing about fall here is we can have just about any kind of temperatures during the week and it will all seem perfectly normal.  Earlier this week, when this storm went through, the high was a very crisp 56 degrees.  I can all hear the snorts of derision over that, especially for those who live in northern climes.  

Anyway, this storm that moved through our area, dropped temperatures significantly, as it had been in the 80s the week before.  It dropped some much needed rain and we had a light dusting of snow on the mountains at the higher elevations.  This is what our weather is like in the fall.  Mild, with an occasional cold front storm that will move through the area.

5.  Family Fall Festival

Last night, our school held its annual Family Fall Festival.  This year, the various clubs on campus were also invited to participate.  I advise the Photo Club on our campus, so we had a table set up where we could give information out to parents and students who were possibly interested in our club.  There was a gaming truck out in the front of the school.  Food and popcorn was being sold.

This year, the theme was at the movies and each club decided to represent a different movie.  Members from various clubs dressed up as characters from Grease, Despicable Me, Sandlot, and others.  The photo club took this theme a different way and decided they wanted to be paparazzi at a movie premiere.  One of my students took over 140 shots on her camera and I counted at least 7 or 8 other students all with their cameras having a good time being paparazzi. 

Many costumes were seen last night and I particularly liked these outfits worn by a couple of students.  The Cat in the Hat would have been so proud.

Well, there's my entries for this month.  Please head on over to PJ's blog to see other blogger's interpretations of fall.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

They're Baaaaacck!

One of the curiosities of living in Southern California is the climate is nice enough that many non-native species can call it home.  This might not be good for native species but in this case, it appears as if these Red Crowned Parrots have found a niche in our ecosystem without disturbing the native species.

These parrots, or more likely, their descendants have escaped from private hands over the years.  No one really seems to be sure when they first appeared in the Southern California area, but they've been here for at least 50 years. Based upon several websites I looked up while writing this, there appears to be several flocks.  I think that these probably came from Pasadena, about 20 minutes to the west of here.  They've been here a couple of times in the past and I'm sure they'll reappear sometime in the future.  As far as I'm concerned, I hope they don't permanently roost here.  They're very noisy.

Sadly, because of the caged bird industry, these birds are endangered in their native areas of northeast Mexico. Ironically, these birds, the product of the caged bird industry, are actually helping keep the genetic diversity of the species.  And because we, as humans, have imported so many non-native plant species where ever we go, these birds are also not competing with native species for fruit and nuts, so they not called an invasive species.  

How many birds can you see in this photo?  There were upwards of 40 birds in this flock that flew over our house late Friday afternoon.

The Concrete Jungle
The California Parrot Project
10,000 Birds
The Wild Parrots in Whittier, California

Friday, October 4, 2013

Flashback Friday

Look Ma!  I don't have grey hair!  This photo was taken in July 2000, the last time we camped as a family in Yosemite National Park.  We'd taken a day to drive along the Glacier Point road, stopping at the parking for Sentinel Dome and made the hike up to the top of the dome.

After hiking back, we drove over to Glacier Point, took in the scenery, looked down on the Merced River as it crashed over Nevada and Vernal Falls.  We looked across the valley to Yosemite Falls, booming with early season runoff.  Obviously, we took photos and enlisted the help of another tourist to get a shot of all four of us.

I thought this shot would be appropriate for Flashback Friday, especially since very few if anyone can enjoy this vista right now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Photo Blogging Challenge (September 2013): Outdoors

When I saw this challenge show up at the beginning of the month, I really didn't give it much thought.  I haven't participated in a couple of months of the blogger's challenge and I actually feel quite badly about that.  I made a commitment to the group that I would participate and I feel like I've dropped the ball, so here's my five entries for this month's challenge of Outdoors.

1.  Veteran's Memorial

I found this Veteran's Memorial maintained by the city of Burbank on Labor Day while out geocaching.  Once again, this silly game takes me to a very memorable spot.  In fact, four of the five shots taken for this month's theme were taken while I was out geocaching, either by myself or with a friend.

Memorials were set in stone around this eternal flame obelisk for the various wars in which the United States has participated.  Plaques honoring Bob Hope, as well as the different branches of service were there, including the Coast Guard.

My friend and I were on a mission on Labor Day to find at least 10 multi-caches in one day as part of a geocaching challenge that's been set up in my area.  The challenge is to find at least 10 of a particular type of cache in a day.  However, there are seven different types of caches (icons) you have to find before you can claim the challenge cache.  I already have a day with at least 10 Unknown finds and also another day with at least 10 traditional finds, so this day was dedicated to Multi-cache finds.  Believe me when I say it's harder than it appears.  We had 17 multi-cache finds that we attempted and we got exactly 10 that day and spent most of the day doing it.

2.  Fire fighting 101

Usually, when people think about forest fires, or brush fires, they think disaster.  In most cases they're correct, but only because we have had about a century and a half of fire suppression that has resulted in areas that are supposed to be open, now densely foliated and ripe for huge fires like we've seen burn across the western United States over the past couple of years.  Only in recent decades have we learned the benefits that smaller fires have on the ecology of any region.  Giant Sequoias have those burn marks on their bark for a reason.

Several weeks ago, a small fire started about 2 miles west of my house in the Claremont  College's Robert J. Bernard Field Station.  Local fire fighters, including this water dropping plane, one other just like it and several helicopters quickly were able to get the fire under control and the fire only burned 17 acres of the 86 acres of what is mostly coastal sage scrub, a plant ecosystem that is becoming increasingly rare due to suburban expansion in Los Angeles County.  The Claremont Colleges are excited about observing how the area regenerates itself over the coming months and years.

3.  Zen

Another geocaching trip yielded this shot of a large cement Buddha.  I had been out geocaching in the local area and I found myself close to this virtual cache called Bronze Carriages.  The answers I needed took me inside the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in the area.  

Once I got the needed information for the geocache, I wandered around the gardens.  They are immaculate and very calming to the soul.  There were several signs as I entered the temple forbidding photography, so I honored the request and kept my camera shuttered.  This photo was taken outside the grounds in the parking lot where photography is allowed.  It's really too bad they don't allow photography as I think the place would be a Mecca for some photographers.  Still, it was nice just to enjoy the scenery without having to worry about "getting the shot."

I decided to process this in monotone because I think it brought out more of the texture of the figure than did color.  I was able to up the contrast quite a bit which really helped accent it.  The only think different I would do with this shot would be to PhotoShop out the chain in the lower part of the photo.

4.  Lemon Creek Egret

On the same day as I visited the Buddhist temple, I also found myself in a small park hunting for a geocache.  As I walked along the trail next to this small creek, I spotted this four foot tall egret wading in the waters.  I think it was casually waiting for small fish to swim by.  I missed several attempts it made, but got several nice shots, including this one just after water had dripped off its bill and created splash rings in the water.

My wife and I visited Yellowstone National Park on our honeymoon and something a ranger said at one of their ranger talks has always stuck with me.  He said, "If you cause an animal to move, you're too close."  That's good advice to heed, especially in that neck of the woods since getting too close to a bison, elk, moose, or grizzly bear could be fatal.

This encounter didn't endanger my health at all, but I got to experience that proximity rule.  The egret was perfectly happy to be wading along with me on the bank at a certain distance.  But at some point, I crossed that invisible barrier and the egret then quickly moved away from me to get me out of its proximity circle.  We were almost playing a little game of cat and mouse as I was trying to see how close I could get before it would move.  Invariably, it always seemed to be the same distance before it would move away.  I guess what this really tells me is I need a longer lens for these kinds of shots.  I can get closer with the lens yet still let the animal enjoy its solitude.

5.  Spruce Needles

Finally, here's a shot I don't normally take.  This past weekend, I went out hiking in the Deukmejian Wilderness Park with a caching buddy of mine.  This would be the first hike I'd been on since May because of the heat buildup from summer.  It's not fun to hike in extreme temperatures, so the fall, winter, and spring are really good times out here to enjoy good hikes.

Neither of us had been to this park before, so it was going to be a new experience for both of us.  The city of Glendale, CA has developed several trails in this park and placed benches in strategic spots long the trail for hikers to relax.  We enjoyed a 2.75 mile loop, found 7 caches in the park and had a great time.

But back to the photo.  As I noted above, I don't normally take photos of tree branches or needles.  However, there was something about the needles the light in the background that look intriguing so I fired off several shots, getting this one that I really liked.  I guess I just need to retrain myself to look at the smaller things and not concentrate on the pretty flowers all of the time.  There's beauty all around us, even if it's not pink or yellow and blooming.

Well, there you go.  My five photos for September's challenge of Outdoors.  Please stop by P.J.'s blog page to view other like minded individuals and their interpretations of Outdoors.