Countdown to Africa


On February 26, 2018, we’ll be leaving on a jet plane bound for Tanzania, with a two-day stopover in Amsterdam. In Tanzania, we’ll be going on a 10-day photo safari with Africa Dream Safaris.  While most of our local adventures have much to do about what we find along the way, this trip is all about the destination. Rather than risk missing an opportunity to see big animals, we’re hiring an experienced guide. No doubt there will be plenty to see as we bounce around the Serengeti in a Land Rover. We’re hoping to share some of our experiences while on safari, but it remains to be seen where and when we’ll have internet communications. Stay tuned…


Happy Birthday to the Carrizo Plain


Fields of coreposis on the Carrizo Plain
Fields of coreopsis on the Carrizo Plain

On January 12, 2001, Bill Clinton signed a presidential proclamation establishing the Carrizo Plain as a National Monument. It was about 1987 or so when I made my first visit to this area. The Nature Conservancy sent me here with a mission to capture photos for fundraising to help purchase some of the property.  Since then it has become a National Monument, and I’d like to think my efforts helped to protect the area. Since my first visit, the Carrizo Plain has become one of my favorite places. It’s noted for spectacular displays of wildflowers in the spring. Spring of 2017 was considered a “superbloom.” Sometimes called California’s Serengeti the Plain represents the largest single native grassland remaining in California. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for some very significant native American rock art. In 2012 it was designated a National Historic Landmark due to its archaeological value.  You can view additional photos here. You can also read a previous blog entry from our spring visit here.

Paddling Big Break


While tradition seems to support ringing in the new year with a celebration as the clock turns over on New Years eve, I prefer to wake up to the New Year well rested with an early start, a clear head, and an opportunity to get out doors.  So today we strapped our kayaks on top of our rig and headed east to one of our local regional parks, Big Break Regional Shoreline. Local is a relative term, since it’s a 50 mile drive, but having recently heard that this is a good spot for a flat-water paddle we decided to check it out. We had very calm weather with mild temperatures and no wind. Big Break is located in the delta region of the the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, an area that is noted for rich farm land, with farming established at the time of the California Gold Rush. As time progressed, farmland that was originally above the level of the river has subsided and levees were built to protect the farms. In 1928 a big break occurred in the levee and the resulting flooded farmland is now a waterway with a variety of islands and wildlife. On today’s paddle we saw seals, otters,  egrets, herons, ducks and scoters. There were thousands of scoters scattered in a number of flocks and as they took to the air, flying in formation, they produced a sound like a loud wind, with thousands of wings flapping the water.

At one point in our paddle, I spotted a flock of ducks and I was curious to see how close I could get in my kayak. They seemed unperturbed as I approached, and I was paddling stealthily hoping not to upset them. As I drifted close I was surprised to discover that they were decoys. I had been sneaking up on some fake birds! A duck blind not far away should have been a clue.

We had hoped to land on one of the islands for lunch, but with the extreme high tide and the thick reeds we found that landing was not feasible, so we rafted up and ate on the water as we drifted lazily with the current.

If you plan on paddling here bring a dolly for your boat. The kayak launch is 1/4 miles from the parking area. We paddled a little over six miles over the course of the afternoon. You can view a track or our course here. You can view additional photos from our trip here.




Christmas in the Alabama Hills

Christmas eve found us in the Eastern Sierra setting up camp in the Alabama Hills. There were four of us and two campers. Our son Aaron and his wife Serena joined us for the overnight camping trip, about 45 minutes south of their place in Big Pine. Part of our mission was to see if we could create a photo of our two campers worthy for Truck Camper Magazine’s calendar. It will remain to be seen if our photos make it into the calendar but we had fun scouting a location, setting up camp and creating photos. The location we picked had a view of the crest of the Sierra’s with the peak of Mount Whitney visible to the west and an outcropping of granite boulders to the east, hiding some of the other campers in the area.

The Alabama Hills is a recreation area managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Open to camping year round. Dog friendly and free of charge. There are no facilities though, so bring your own water.  Inclined to be hot in summer, we had mild winter temperatures, with the thermometer recording a low of 39 degrees overnight.

We’ve recently discovered Dutch Oven cooking and we put our oven to use cooking a savory Christmas eve dinner of chicken and rice. with chunks of chicken breast wrapped in thinly sliced ham and bacon. Breakfast was quiche with ham left over from an early Christmas dinner a couple of days earlier when our daughter and her husband rendezvoused with us on their way to Utah.

Untold Stories


I’m not sure what inspired me to take this photo. Usually I prefer creating beautiful images for clients, or I look to celebrate the beauty of the natural world. But here was this scene that was demanding to be photographed.  I had to stop and ask myself why I should photograph this. Is my fascination with an un-told story that demands to be captured? A public park used as the scene for car maintenance? Who was it? Was it one person or several? It was clearly somebody with a different value system than my own; a different ethic when it comes to how we view the natural world. I saw this scene as a challenge to create a visually compelling statement about the elements in the composition. And then I wonder if it’s the influence of photographers such as Walker Evans and his fascination with the mundane details of life that influences me? Is there something universally interesting here, or is it just my warped mind? And I took a bit of care in composing the image. I excluded a couple of used hypodermic syringes which would have told a whole different story or perhaps that’s part of the story also.

Fall Color Trip: Conclusion


Our last stop on our fall color trip, on October 12, before heading home was Lundy Canyon, where we found a brilliant display of aspen with fall color on the slopes above Lundy Lake. Lundy Canyon is usually a good place to see fall color; above the lake the aspen were loosing their leaves, but at the elevation of the lake, and lower there was plenty of color.

Our final leg home took us through Yosemite National Park on Highway 120 where we noted that the dogwood and oaks were showing color near the western park entrance.

Overall we logged 2322 miles over 15 days, exploring the Eastern Sierra from Sonora Pass to Big Pine, then on through Nevada to Southern Utah where we made quick visits to Bryce and Zion National Parks and Cedar Breaks National Monument. The highlight of our trip though was the two nights we spent camped on the edge of a canyon in Kaibab National Forest. Quiet, remote with a grand view of the sunrise over the canyons below.

One of the frustrations of the trip was our lack of internet access. My intention was to share stories and photos every few days, and it seems between the lure of all the attractions and a dirth of WiFi connections, given our proclivity to travel off the beaten track, prevented me from realizing that goal. For the future, we both agreed that less driving, more time on foot, and more down time is in order. Stay tuned, as I work through the 2500 photos I collected I’ll be posting more.


Horseshoe Bend


Five miles below Glen Canyon Dam the Colorado River makes a 270 degree turn resulting in a spectacular view. When we were planning our trip, this is one destination we put on our list of potential stops. Little did we know how many people we would find there at dusk. We made this visit on May 5, parking in the dirt parking lot and walking the .7 mile walk to the lookout point. If you have any fear of heights this will give you a good case of vertigo. It’s a straight drop 1000 feet to the water with no railing and just the jumble of sandstone rocks on the rim. Once I had my camera set up I was afraid to move. Not because of the height, but because with wall-to-wall people, if I had given up my spot there would be little chance of finding another location. Arrive early and stake your claim. This was as much a social experience as a photographic experience. While I waited for the sun to set I chatted with the folks on the rim, finding out about their trips, and attempting to give them advice when they figured I must know what I was doing. There was also a wedding going on, a couple of unruly dogs, and drones flying overhead, although the drones came down when an irate visitor started yelling at the drone pilots to warn them that they were flying illegally.

There are probably two options for the best lighting on this scene; late morning when the sun is high in the sky and shining down into the canyon, or dusk. At dusk you have the challenge of shooting into the sun with the canyon in shadow. To compensate I captured multiple exposures and blended them using a tool for high dynamic range photography (HDR). This is a good technique when a subject such as this displays an extreme range of light values from highlights (the sun) to the dark shadows of the canyon.