Thursday, April 30, 2015

PB Challenge (April 2015): Friends and Family

When I saw the prompt for this month's Photo Blogging challenge, I thought it might be difficult, but then I remembered that Easter was right at the beginning of the month and I knew we'd be with family, plus I also hosted a geocaching event at the beginning of the month, so then it actually became even tougher as I ended up with quite an assortment of photos for the theme.

That being stated, I decided to go a little bit different route with this month's theme.  And so without further ado, I give you my five photos for the theme Friends and Family.

1.  Handprints in cement

I think these handprints are from when I was about eight or nine years old.  Mine is the one on the right.  Sometime during that period, my dad poured some concrete at our house in Santa Ana, CA where we grew up and had all three of us put our hands in the wet cement.  When they finally moved out of that house about 15 years ago or so, my dad pried up that piece of cement and brought it with them to their new house where it now sits on an island in the front yard.  It's definitely a reminder of when we were a lot younger and smaller and it's fun to look at.  You can see I really relished squishing my hands into the cement, whereas my sisters were much more dainty in their approach to the gooey stuff.  Boys will be boys I guess.

2.  The Calendar

I'd say close to 20 years ago, my two sisters and I decided to start a family tradition by giving my parents a photo calendar.  The past 6 years or so, I've coordinated the effort, collected the photos from various people and put the entire thing together on my computer.  It's worked out rather well and my parents cherish this gift each year and it proudly hangs on their refrigerator in the kitchen.  The first year, my dad wanted to actually use it to write calendar reminders in it, but my mom put the kibosh on that very quickly.  They also don't throw them away and my mom says she goes out in the garage where they are stored and looks through them from time to time.  She gets to see her grandkids grow up every time she does that.

When we started this endeavor, it was a lot easier because there was only three sources that the photos came from since the kids were small and the adults, my sisters and me were the ones who took the photos.  Now, with four of the grandchildren on their own, we have to really on photos from seven different sources.  That just means we have to start the process earlier each year.  Before, I used to send the "all call" for photos sometime just before Thanksgiving and I'd have the photos soon afterwards and it would be a done deal.  This year, we were slightly late getting the calendar to my parents, but they did get it before New Year's Day, so it's all good.  April of this year was my niece's and her husband's month, so they're featured on that page.

3.  University of Notre Dame

Some of you might not be aware of this, but I was born in South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame.  This all came about, because my grandfather taught at Notre Dame back in the early 1930s.  Because of this, my dad and two of his brothers also went to Notre Dame.  Some of my cousins went to Notre Dame and I also had a cousin who was a priest who taught at Notre Dame.  This cousin also married my parents and married my sister and her husband.  Notre Dame is a family affair with us and although I didn't attend there, mainly because it was out of my price range when it came my turn to attend college, I follow the college quite closely, especially for football.

Growing up in Southern California, that was sometimes very tough to do, mainly because many of my friends in junior high and high school were USC fans.  My best friend attended USC and during the 70s and early 80s, it was tough being a Notre Dame fan when they played each other because usually USC came out on top.  Yes, I was there in 1974 when Notre Dame was ahead 24-7 at halftime and I watched Anthony Davis run back the second half kick off directly toward the Notre Dame section at the closed end of the Colosseum in Los Angeles, which started an avalanche of points, eventually leading to a 55-24 loss to USC.  That was just ugly.

I was also there in 1988 with our entire family to watch #1 Notre Dame battle #2 USC.  Both teams were exceptionally good that year and my dad and I surmised that the winner of this game would become the national champion that year.  My dad took no chances that year as he was decked out in full Irish regalia, including his blue and gold Notre Dame tam-o-shanter.  That's when I finally realized that my dad was one of "those" people.  Those crazy alumni you always see.  I'd never seen him like that before, but he really wanted a win that day.  I don't believe he'd seen Notre Dame win in Los Angeles since 1966 when the Irish shellacked the Trojans 51-0 enroute to a national championship that year as well.  Anyway, to make a long story short, Notre Dame came out on top that year and our family went home very happy.  I haven't been back to see a Notre Dame/USC game in Los Angeles since that game.  I want that memory to last forever.  It was very satisfying.

4.  Father of the Bride

About a year and a half ago, I was up visiting my daughter.  I'm an early riser and my daughter isn't so I'd usually get up early, find some local geocaches and then hang out with her later in the day.  This particular day, my daughter's boyfriend asked me if he could tag along and go geocaching with me.  Sure, why not?  But I had a suspicion that he had ulterior motives, after all he'd been dating my daughter for four years at the time and we were pretty sure they were serious about settling down.

Eventually that day he asked for our blessing to marry my daughter.  I don't think my daughter could have picked a finer young man to spend the rest of her life and my wife and I were both thrilled that he was going to be joining the family.  As you can see, all of this will be coming to fruition in the middle of July up in the Bay Area. I will fully admit that I will probably be very emotional about this and will probably be the one crying as we walk down the aisle.  But I know if I start to cry, so will she and it will just be a mess, so I will restrain myself and think of happy things.  Maybe I'll even crack a joke as we walk down the aisle.  I think part of me is sad, after all, I loved her first, but most of me is very happy.  He makes her happy and I like that.  I'm looking forward to when I can call him my son-in-law.

5.  Geocaching friends

Most of these photos have been about family, so I knew this last one had to be about friends.  Another part of geocaching that I don't always talk about is the number of friendships that have developed for me over the years since I started this crazy game.  Outside of my wife, I can say most assuredly, that most of my best friends are fellow geocachers.

This is Craig who I've known for three years, possibly more.  I don't think I can pinpoint the exact time I met Craig, as it's more of a gradual thing as opposed to a specific day.  Either way, Craig is a very good friend of mine and although this isn't the best photo of him, the only other one I had was of his backside carrying a tire while we were cleaning up a trailhead last weekend during a Geocaching earth day weekend event.  I'm sure he's probably glad that I didn't post that one.

Craig is the friend that I helped last summer hike the John Muir Trail.  He needed a ride to get up to the starting point in Yosemite Valley and I readily jumped at that opportunity.  In fact, I credit Craig with helping me get into better shape.  When he decided to do this hike, I was invited to come along.  I knew I wasn't in any kind of physical shape to do that kind of hike, but over the past year, I've lost weight, gotten into biking more and am just more physically fit.  If he'd been doing this trek this year, I probably would have gone on the hike.  As it is, there was a time in the last couple of years when I thought my hiking and backpacking days were behind me, but I don't think that anymore and I thank Craig for being that inspiration.  This year, he and I have another road trip planned for June just because we like to geocache and it's fun to go out on the road and explore new territory.  

And that about does it for this month's photo blogging challenge. I hope you have enjoyed this month's selection.  It's not my usual type of shots, but I wanted to do something a little bit different this time around.  To see other people's interpretation of this month's theme, stop by P.J.'s blog and click on the links at the bottom of that page.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The photo

Every now and then, I take a photo that I just really love.  Almost all the time, what I seem to like, isn't what others seem to like.  I'll get likes and faves on photos that I take that I'm not even sure should see the light of day.

Other times, I'll post a photo that I think is something that everyone should comment on and just ooh and ahh over.  That's the idealistic side of me thinking I'm brilliant when I know for a fact that I'm just an average photographer who every now and then has splashes of brilliance.  And the every now and then should actually read once in a blue moon.

Then, there's this photo.  I took this shot from the Harmony Borax Works in Death Valley last month while on Spring Break.  It was late in the day, the sun was low, so the light was perfect, not too harsh, which is what photographers really want.  I didn't really think much of it as I was probably already concentrated on other shots, some of which I haven't really processed yet.

I posted it to my flicker account and really didn't think anything of it.  I liked the shot in black and white and thought it was a good quality shot.  The next day, when I went back to Flicker, I was amazed at the number of views this photo had and also by a couple of comments.  

Someone, somewhere in cyberspace liked the shot and the shot went viral at least in my small little space of the web.  Not viral in the sense that it got millions of views, but enough that it seemingly took on a life of its own.  If one of my shots gets more than 200 views on Flicker, I figure I've posted a pretty good shot.  In the first 24 hours this shot was up, it had over 3000 views.  People were favoriting it left and right.  For whatever reason, this one seemed to have struck the right chord with a variety of people and once that happened, it got shared around and the shot got more and more views.  I'm sure I could self promote at this point and get more but I don't think that's necessary.

I think what I'd really like is a little more consistency out of my photos.  In the past 5 years, I know I've grown as a photographer.  I look back on my first year of my 365 Project that I did and I'm not sure most of those photos would see the light of day anymore.  But I'm not going to take those down because they help define how I've progressed.  I need those to keep me going.  And so it goes.

Oh yeah.  If you want to see the full size version of this shot, please click here.  There's my self promotion.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Photo Blogging Challenge (March 2015): Two

Once again, P.J. has posted his blogging challenge.  This month, the theme was two, in honor of this challenge going on for two years.  Last year, I thought I did fairly well when the theme was one.  This year, I felt like I scrambled, which is usually the case, but here, once again, I'm posting March's theme on the first day of April, apparently a day late and a dollar short.  For whatever reason, I kept thinking that I still had another day, but that wasn't the case as March has already disappeared and it is indeed April.  So, without further ado, I give you the month of March's Twos.

1.  Two antennae
Although, you'll have to look closely at this one to see the second one.  Look at the nose of the butterfly and you'll see what looks like a yellow bulb, the second antenna slightly out of focus.  I love taking photos of butterflies and have been known to stalk them for hours trying to get a decent shot of any that come in range.  Several years ago, I learned the main differences between moths and butterflies.  Most people will say butterflies are colorful and moths aren't, but that's not necessarily the case.  The big differences are two-fold.  One, butterflies are out during the day while moths are out at night.  Second deals with their antennae.  A butterfly's antenna is smooth with a round bulb at the end, while a moth's antenna tends to look feathery.

2.   Two butterflies
Oh boy, here we go with an entire series of butterfly shots.  No, but I like this photo for a variety of reasons.  First off, it was taken with my iPhone.  While not the greatest photo in the work, I've been fairly impressed with the lens on this phone and I understand the lens on the iPhone6 is even better.  The second reason I like this shot is this is a new butterfly species for me.  These are Pacific Orange Tips.  I would suspect the one in the upper left hand corner is probably a male since it was pestering the other one to no end.  Either that, or it was defending its territory for some reason.  I took this shot, while geocaching, up in the newly created San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

The national monument is still being administered by the U.S. Forest Service, and thus, geocaching is still allowed in the monument.  I can imagine sometime in the future, if the National Park Service (NPS) takes over administration of this park, the geocaches will have to be removed.  I understand why the NPS takes the stand that it does, since it views geocaches as litter, but they also seem to be more open to geocaching, which I think is a good thing.  Time will tell on this one.  And ironically, I was out hiking a couple of weeks later in the Simi Valley area and spotted another Orange Tip there.  I guess, once, you see one, they decide they don't have to hide from you any more.

3.  Two peaks
I'm in the middle of my second week of Spring Break.  At the beginning of the first week, I went camping with my friend in Death Valley National Park, where this shot was taken.  We were actually geocaching all three days.  "But wait a minute," you say.  "I thought geocaching wasn't allowed in national parks?"  This is true, but there are certain types of caches, virtual caches and earth caches that are allowed, because they don't have any physical container, to litter up the landscape.  Virtual caches take you to a place and you have to answer a couple of questions about the particular place.  Earth caches are geology based virtual caches where you also have to answer some questions based upon the geology found in that spot.  It's a more specialized type of virtual in a way.

These two peaks, of which I have no names for them, are in the Greenwater range in the southern part of Death Valley.  The wildflowers were pretty much spent down at the lower elevations, but here at around 2500 feet or so above sea level, there was still a profusion of blooms.  Desert mallow, mesquite and five spot mallow were all to be seen in abundance at this site and others as we traveled into the park.  Once we got further down in elevation, we stopped see a whole lot of any kind of vegetation, as the park is pretty stark.  

4.  Two states
Part of the allure of geocaching has always been that it takes me places I might not go just because.  Just over that rise is Pahrump, Nevada and just down to the right off the edge of the photo there is a geocache that hidden out there.  That particular cache was the first cache I've ever found in Nye County, Nevada.  It might not mean much to you, but I think it's kind of cool when I find caches in new places I've never been before.  I can guarantee you that unless I had family living in Pahrump, I would have never visited there.

I've found geocaches in 8 different states.  I've found a geocache in every county in California.  Am I nuts?  Probably.  But, the silly game keeps me out of trouble for the most part and I've made some very good friends who have a like-minded interest in being outdoors and using billion dollar satellites to find pieces of Tupperware hiding in the wilderness.

5.  Two different systems
I can remember way back in the 70s when there was a push for the United States to go metric.  Everything started getting printed in both feet and meters or miles and kilometers.  That's where we went wrong.  If we are ever going to convert to the metric system, which by the way, is one of the most logical systems there is, then we have to jump in with both feet and don't turn back.  And the government is going to have to lead the way.

All the government would have to do is to stop posting signs in two different systems.  Why do we need to know that Badwater is 282 feet below sea level?  Isn't it enough that we know that it's the lowest point in the western hemisphere?  If the sign just read 85.5 meters below sea level, people would get the point.  Eventually, the "Old Schoolers," the ones who complain about anything and everything would eventually die out and everyone who has ever lived wouldn't know any better and we'd all just use the metric system.  Do you need to know the temperature in Fahrenheit?  No, not really.  Celsius is actually pretty easy to use.  If it's in the 10s, it's cold.  If it's in the 20s, it's pretty mild, while the 30s is getting pretty warm.  40s?  Yeah, that's where Death Valley is in the summertime, most of the time.  Death Valley is also a big draw in the summertime, especially for Europeans.  Why?  It's one of the few places that can hit 50 degrees.  That would be 122 for us non metric people.

So there you have it.  Another month of photos dedicated to the number 2.  Please stop by P.J.'s page here to view other's interpretations of the theme Two.