Monday, March 31, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (March 2014): One

"One is the loneliest number number that you'll ever do.  Two, can be as bad as one.  It's the loneliest number since the number one."  My favorite bad when I was in junior high school was Three Dog Night.  I had most of their albums and knew most of the lyrics to most of their songs.

This month's photo blogging challenge by theme, P.J., is One.  To be honest, I really hadn't thought much about this until a couple of days ago, but when I looked back at the shots I'd taken this month, I came up with quite a few One shots.  As I write this, I'm still debating which of the seven original shots I've picked to use in challenge.  Whatever I pick, I'll warn you ahead of time, the last shot might make you cringe if you haven't already seen this on Facebook or Flicker.

1.  The first weekend in March, I went on a nice 3.5 mile hike in the foothills behind me.  The trail too me up into the hills off to the right of this shot and then back down behind me to this level portion of the Thompson Creek Trail.  The last part was a nice level walk back to the car, nothing too tough on the legs.  I found 9 geocaches on the hike as well, so it was a very successful trek.  Having your camera out all the time allows you to take candid shots like this.

2.  Most of you know I geocache.  In fact, I've started to geocache a lot recently, so almost every one of my shots seems to have a geocaching tag attached to it nowadays.  It's what I love about this silly game.  It gets me outdoors to all sorts of interesting spots.

Last weekend, my friend and I took a day trip down to San Diego.  We were working on a challenge cache that challenges people to find 10 caches of a similar type.  The catch is you have to find 7 different types, 10 times.  Fortunately not all at the same time as that would be ridiculous, but this day, we were working on virtual caches.

From the geocaching website: "A Virtual Cache is about discovering a location rather than a container. The requirements for logging a Virtual Cache vary—you may be required to answer a question about the location, take a picture, complete a task, etc... In any case, you must visit the coordinates before you can post your log. Although many locations are interesting, a Virtual Cache should be out of the ordinary enough to warrant logging a visit."

We were trying to find 10 virtual caches (we found 11 that day).  This virtual cache took us out along a beach south of San Diego to look at a naval communication set up.  We couldn't get really close, but we got out on a rocky jetty to take a shot of the installation and on the way back I got this shot of this one Marbled Godwit looking for food along the shoreline.

3.   As we worked out way around San Diego Harbor, we were very fortunate to have been there on a such a beautiful day.  The temperature was in the high 70s most of the day with a slight breeze blowing.  It was perfect for sailing as this one lone sailboat showed while we were looking for the answers for this virtual cache which was located on Shelter Island on the northwest side of the harbor.  We were looking for a marriage proposal that someone had sent to his girlfriend by way of those engraved bricks.  It was actually pretty clever and we enjoyed the time we spent there looking at the sailboat and other boats that were out on the water.  This particular cache ended up being our 8th virtual find for the day.

4.  Finally, in La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya), we found out 10th virtual cache of the day.  We actually ended up with one more virtual just to the west of this particular shot, but we spent quite a bit of time right here, mainly because the weather was, once again, perfect for the day and there was a lot of great scenery around. 

The gulls seemed to want to cooperate with me on this shot, although I would have preferred to have the waves splashing high on the rocks.  I just kept my camera focused on the point and every now and then out of my peripheral vision, I could see solitary gulls float by.  I caught this one gull flying over head and called it good.

To the right of this shot was as cove where there was a conglomeration of animals.  There was a ledge that had nesting cormorants, and another where there were gulls and pelicans just sitting in the sun.  Further down there were kayakers and snorkelers looking at the kelp growing in the cove and on several of the rocks, there were large congregations of sea lions basking in the late afternoon sun.  I caught a sequence as two of them started to squabble over a particular spot and it only ended when one of them got pushed back into the water.

5.  Finally, last Friday afternoon, a couple of friend and I went on a hike in Chino Hills State Park.  You might not know exactly where the park is, but if I tell you it's within a couple of miles of where the 5.1 earthquake hit Friday night, you'll probably have a better idea.  

We parked a car at one trailhead, then drove down to the other trailhead in Carbon Canyon and hiked up and over, finding 18 geocaches in the process.  Near the end of our hike, we startled this nice sized rattlesnake from its siesta at the side of the trail.  None of us got within striking distance, but it remained coiled up like this while we were in proximity to it.

I've encountered rattlesnakes while out hiking and geocaching in the past, but I've never seen one quite this color before.  Most of the ones I've seen are usually a much darker color, almost blackish, with a diamond pattern on their back.  Based upon what I've been able to find on-line, this one is either a Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake or a Panamint Rattlesnake.

There's my five "Ones" for this photo blogging challenge.  Please stop by P.J.'s page to see how others interpreted the theme One.  As always, feel free to comment.  Don't worry, I won't bite. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Encounters on the trail

My doctor this week asked me what I do for exercising and I told him hiking, although I don't do enough of it.  I also told him I was going hiking this weekend in Chino Hills State Park.

I've been up there a couple of times in the past and I'd actually forgotten about one of my hiking trips up there.  I remember the hike, just didn't remember exactly where I'd been.  Now I know.  But I digress.

For this of you who do any kind of hiking, you know you can encounter just about anything out there.  I've seen deer, bobcats, lizards, butterflies and tarantulas while out on the trail.  Most of you already know too, that when I say hiking, I also mean geocaching.  They are kind of synonymous with me.

About the two scariest things that I've encountered while out geocaching are a mountain lion and rattlesnakes.  Please note the "S" on the end of rattlesnakes.  I've encountered more than one.

The mountain lion was seen in San Dimas canyon after a great walk back there to pick up a fantastically put together geocache called Curiouser and Curiouser.  As we were standing at the trailhead after a successful completion of finding the cache, I noticed what looked like a coyote up the trail walking toward me.  

As soon as I said, "Hey, look at the coyote up there," something told me there was something wrong with that coyote.  I couldn't put my finger on it until it made a left hand turn into the bushes and we saw the long sleek tail.  That wasn't a coyote, but a mountain lion walking toward us.  Since it was near dusk, we all decided that it would be a good thing if we headed out as quickly as we could and get back to our car.  Because of the light, I never did get a photo of the cat.

Yesterday, while out hiking in Chino Hills, I saw my sixth rattlesnake.  My friend was leading our group by about 10 yards or so ahead of us when we heard the distinctive rattle of this snake's tail.  There's always a little adrenal rush when you hear that, but my friend did a little jig and backed away quickly and the snake stopped rattling, although it never did uncoil and totally relax after that.  From what I've been able to find on-line, this one was either a Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake or a Panamint Rattlesnake.  I've never seen one quite this color before.

Anyway, this is more of a public service announcement, more than anything else today.  With the weather getting warmer, encounters with snakes will become more common.  Be careful out there.  As a ranger once told me at Yellowstone National Park, "If you cause an animal to stop and alter its normal routine, you're too close to the animal."  We kept a safe distance between us and the snake, snapped a couple of shots and then left it in peace.  Let's hope all animal encounters by you are like this one.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Odds and Ends

It's been awhile since I've written.  Things have gotten in the way, so it's an easy excuse.  Shakespeare club took a lot of my time and we're gearing up for all sorts of end of the year activities at school - yeah, our school year ends on May 29th, so we need to start preparing for those things now.  Oy.

Even my photography has taken a back burner.  I've been able to get out a couple of times, but not on a daily basis.  I knew this would happen, but I didn't think there'd be an entire week where I wouldn't pick my camera up at all.

I've been on Spring Break now for 5 days and this is the first day where I can honestly say, I don't have anything to do right now, so I can either go out and take some shots, or write a short blog.  Blog won out this time and I suspect that I'll be outside taking photos as soon as this gets posted.

And now that brings me to the reason why I took this photo.  Have you ever had one of those days where your brain just doesn't process information very well?  I've had quite a few of those days, but most recently last night.  We had a power failure last night - my wife was not amused as she was in the middle of grading papers.  The power failure caused my brain to think weirdly, which I'm sure most of you might have done something similar.

So here I am, sitting in the dark because my computer screen has just gone blank, and it's really dark in here.  My initial thoughts are, "I need to get the candles out."  So I get up and then my immediate reaction is to walk over to the light switch to turn the light on.  Yeah, talk about an incongruent moment.  I think some or our basic stuff we take for granted are so ingrained into our psyche, that we don't really think about them even when they aren't available to us.

I knew the lights weren't going to work, yet I went over to turn the lights on anyway.  So, I got the candles, lit them up and my wife decided that she'd rather wash the dishes by candlelight as opposed to grading papers.  I think the lights were out for a grand total of five minutes or so, so it really wasn't a major in convenience at all.  We lost power for two days once due to a windstorm.  That was inconvenient as well, but I'm sure there are other places that have a lot worse, so I'll not complain.

And so dear reader, if you choose to comment below, tell me a story where your brain went haywire like mine did last night.  I'd love to hear your stories.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (February 2014): Red

So it occurs to me that I need to blog more often than once a month.  My last post was for this same photo blogging challenge on the theme new.  This one is on the theme red.  The photos I posted for last month's theme, I thought were rather good, yet I only received 2 comments about them.  It's kind of disheartening when that happens which may be a contributing factor in me not writing more.  

The other reason is February has been an incredibly busy month for me.  I participate in our school's Shakespeare club and our performance happens this Wednesday during school hours and then again on Thursday evening.  Seeing middle school kids memorize Shakespeare has always been amazing, even more so when I get involved in the process and it takes me forever and a day to get all of my lines down.

But on to this month's theme - RED

I really haven't thought about the theme that much this past month (Sorry P.J.), but when I looked at my shots I came up with six that I think will work quite well with the theme, so here we go.

1.  "K" Line
A couple of weeks ago on the 365 project, I was pushed to take a shot of some real live trains.  I'd been posting shots of the model trains when I went to the Great American Train Expo in January and my push partner wanted me to think bigger.  Coming home from a geocaching trek out in the desert, I stopped at this overpass in Colton, as it's right on the edge of a huge rail yard next to Interstate 10.  This shot ended up being one of the ones I posted for that particular challenge.  Many people at 365 weren't quite sure if it was a real shot or if it was another model train shot.  I assure you, these trains are huge, nothing that any of us could pick up by hand.

2.  Monorail Red
Back when I was in college, I worked at Disneyland.  It was one of those great summertime jobs that worked out well with my schedule while I was in college.  People always ask me where I worked when they find out I worked there.

I worked on the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, Mike Fink Keel Boats, worked one Christmas and New Year's on Pirates of the Caribbean and the last summer I was there, I worked on the Monorails.  

Each ride had its own special appeal and you had a different thought process with each ride.  Someone asked me once if I ever went back to work at the park, which ride would I go to and without hesitation, I would choose the canoes.  I don't think I really appreciated it at the time, but when you think about it, there's not too many places and/or jobs where you can get an 8 hour workout and get paid for doing it.

When we went to the park a couple of weeks ago, I told them I had worked on the monorails and they asked whether I wanted to see the new look of the cockpit.  I'd driven the old Mark III monorail and this was the much improved Mark VII.  The driver now has the ability to go through an array of video displays keeping tabs on each riding compartment, including a rear display.  One time when I was driving, the train ahead of me broke down and I had to park my train over the motor boat cruise for about 20 minutes or so while they tended to the train in front of me.  Those cameras would have come in handy since one of the guests inside my train decided to jump out.  I'll never understand why people will do such stupid things in order to "save" themselves five or ten minutes of time.

3.  The Happiest Place on Earth
As noted above, we went to Disneyland over President's Day weekend.  My daughter flew down with her friend and she took me to Disneyland for my birthday.  Needless to say, it was one of the best trips I've had to the park in recent memory.  When we first entered into the park, we headed over to City Hall, so I could get my birthday badge, which I wore proudly the entire day.  I don't care how old you are, it's always nice to get birthday greetings from total strangers.  I started to seek out other people who share my day and wished them a Happy Birthday as well.  I don't think I should be that amazed in once sense, but it was quite fun to notice all the people who share my birthday.  

Later on, the younger set decided they all wanted some kind of hat to commemorate the occasion and a stop at the Mad Hatter's shop next door to Alice in Wonderland was in order.  Both my daughter and her friend got matching Minnie Mouse ears that they wore proudly throughout the rest of the day.  My son bought a Peter Pan hat and later in the day a small child even called him Peter Pan.

4.  Upland Station
Last weekend, I took the Metrolink train into Union Station on a reconnaissance mission.  At school, I run a photo club and the teacher across the hallway runs an art club.  We've talked about taking a field trip into downtown Los Angeles on the train for both clubs and we wanted to scout out locations ahead of time.  Since the plan was to leave from the Upland station, we met here Saturday morning.  While I was waiting for her to arrive, I walked around and took some photos, catching this one of the station and the light clouds in the sky.  I thought the red tile roof worked as a nice color contrast to the rest of the shot.  I submitted this shot and the Monorail Red shot to the Yahoo weather app as well, but neither one was accepted.  

5.  Go for Broke Monument

Located in the Little Tokyo district in downtown Los Angeles, the Go for Broke Monument highlights the contributions of all Nisei veterans of World War II. Most of these veterans were interred in concentration type camps for the duration of the war, yet still felt the need to enlist and serve their country of birth, the United States of America.

The memorial includes the names of all who served with the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service (MIS), 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 232nd Combat Engineer Company, and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.

Old Glory just looked awesome from this angle.  I almost wished I'd brought my wide angle lens along on this trip, but I think this shot worked out well, even though it's kind of tight overall.

Well, that's another month of shots posted for the theme.  Please stop by P.J.'s blog to see other takes on the same thing by wonderful photographers.  And, once again, please comment below.  I really won't bite.