Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
As usual, the best light came in the morning and the afternoon. This "best light rule" is a cliché, but alas, mostly true. Mike took pix of oaks in the meadows in the AM and a postcard view of Cathedral Rocks in the PM.
During the day he dayhiked along the Merced River in the vicinity of Happy Isles, seeing some nice backlit leaves.
Photos: Oak, Autumn—Yosemite, 2009; Cathedral Rocks—Yosemite, 2009; Backlit Leaves—Yosemite, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
We had scheduled a bicycle tour of Kyoto that started near the train station; fortunately, heavy rain resulted in a much more photo-friendly walking tour. We took a municipal bus to the older section of town and began to walk.
In this most Buddhist of cities, one of the more interesting stops was a Shinto shrine, where I took this photograph of dippers. Our guide demonstrated their use in a purification ritual the details of which I, alas, have forgotten.
Photo: Dippers—Kyoto, 2008
(Dipper information at Japan Society.)
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Mike made sure the night before that all he had to do was get dressed, go to the car and drive down to Yosemite Valley.
His first stop was the Cascade Falls picnic ground where he affixed camera to tripod for a shot of autumn trees. A short walk took him to the Merced River, low at this time of year with some nice reflections.
Next were some essential stops in Yosemite Valley itself: a) the grocery store for the morning’s New York Times, then b) Yosemite Lodge for a cinnamon roll and coffee, and the thawing-out of frozen fingers.
Photos: Trees (AM)—Yosemite, 2009; Boulder, Merced River—Yosemite, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Entering Rokkaku-ji the sound of Kyoto’s traffic gradually faded to be replaced by the patter of raindrops.
These figurines are puzzling. At first I assumed that they were meant to be Jizo representations, but after consulting with Professor Levine at UC Berkeley, I now think that perhaps they are emblematic of Rakan—a non-specific Buddhist holy person.
Photo: Rokkaku-ji—Kyoto, 2008
Monday, November 23, 2009
Mike pulled into the Crane Flat campground, just off of highway 120, in the early afternoon. He put all of his food into the bear boxes, set up his tent, then puttered around the empty (at that time) campground.
In fact, he was checking the bear box when he looked up to see three bears—a mother and two cubs—wandering around directly in front of him. OK. First, make sure everything’s in the box. OK. Second, where’s the camera? Ah, over on the table. OK!
He took a series of photos. (The best one is at the top.) Unfortunately, the lighting conditions were not that great: very contrasty light coming though the trees creating areas of light and dark extremes. The ranger finally ended up chasing them away, asking Mike to do the same if the bears show up again. (Yeah, right.)
In fact, they did show up again. This time Mike set the camera to overexpose, trying to lighten up the dark areas. Unfortunately, this created a very slow shutter speed situation, thus blurring the picture due to camera movement. Mike should have set the camera to a higher ISO as well. Of course the pix would have come out better if he had used a Nikon.
The Three Bears were pretty skittish: just the act of Mike’s walking over spooked them and they took off, one of the young ones climbing a tree to get away from the dreaded photographer.
Photos: Bears in Forest—Sierra Nevada, 2009; Bear in Tree—Sierra Nevada, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Mike arrives at the Crane Flat Campground in Yosemite around mid-afternoon. This is one of those large national park campgrounds with loops: Loop A, Loop B etc. But at this hour it’s virtually deserted.
Mike does a leisurely setup, then gets out his traditional arrival beer, then his book and sits down. The very interesting conversations of the ravens can be heard in the treetops high above —one of their phrases is particularly intriguing, sounding something like, "Punka punka punka." But Mike has stupidly forgotten to bring his Ravenese-English phrase book, so communication is very difficult—in fact it's impossible.
Punka punka punka.
Photos: Raven—Yosemite, 2009; Campground—Yosemite, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the Bolinas-Fairfax Road and explored the viewpoints to be found along the ridgeline of Mt. Tamalpais. This photo was taken using the Toyo-Field 4x5 camera securely fastened to a Bogen tripod.
Photo: Trees & Fog—Marin County, 1993
Friday, November 20, 2009
As Mike drove up towards Tioga Pass the mountains seemed to loom even more impressively than ever before—due to the light dusting of snow? There was ice on parts of the road (not dangerous though).
The light was very bright—harsh, even. Mike had to search for snow details away from the sun.
Photos: Tioga Mountains—Sierra Nevada, 2009; Snow & Grass—Sierra Nevada, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I was walking through the Ginza district back to the hotel, utilizing my trusty REI mini-compass, when I noticed these stone jars standing in front of a restaurant. My trusty Marmot Precip parka can be seen reflected in the background mirror.
Photo: Jars in Rain—Tokyo, 2008
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I've been thinking that the background color of the blog (light gray) was too bright (too much contrast between the background and the pix). So I've switched it to a darker gray. But then I had to change some text colors because they were dark gray and couldn't be seen.
Going north on highway 395, just past the turnoff to Mammoth, there’s a parking area with one of those "photo-op" icon signs. Mike never could see why this was designated as a photo-op, since the view to the east is of an uninteresting field. But now he understands. The photo-op is to be found by looking south! Here we find the Sierra crest (today, with a light dusting of snow from a recent storm) with pine forests in the foreground . . . tailor-made for a three-shot panorama.
Then, it’s a left turn just before the town of Lee Vining to begin the climb up Tioga Road into Yosemite. More snow on the mountains, and an almost artificial-looking cloudless blue sky.
Photos: Sierra Crest Near Mammoth—Sierra Nevada, 2009; Tioga Road—Sierra Nevada, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Mike had the Upper Sage Flat Campground virtually to himself. As he was packing his gear away in the chill 26º morning this little family group appeared amidst the, yes, sage plants.
Of course, Mike had to stop and switch lenses for some telephoto shots. Then it was off to the Starbucks in Bishop and the Wi-Fi there.
Photo: Deer—Sierra Nevada, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
As Mike drives back down from his bristlecone pine visit he arrives at the turnoff for the Death Valley Road to, yes, Death Valley. He hesitates a moment, then turns onto it and heads southeast, aiming for the intersection of the Eureka Valley road and the Saline Valley road. In a little over a half hour, he arrives.
Oh yes, Mike has been here before. Once out of the car, he sets about reconstructing his earlier Fritos & Beer shot, taken in 1994. The current photo is shamelessly artificial, since the bitter wind is certainly not conducive to a leisurely outdoors lunch. Mike had said in 1994 that "Not even a single car passed by the whole time I was there; I remained in splendid solitude with my precious Fritos & Beer." The same situation obtained in 2009, even if the Fritos & Beer was consumed sitting inside the car.
On the way back Mike stops and takes some pix of an atmospheric ranch entry road, complete with skull.
(. . . as an afterthought, someday Mike must actually drive down the Saline Valley Road. Not in an Infiniti, though.)
Photos: Fritos & Beer—Death Valley Road, 2009; Skull & Road—Owens Valley, 2009; Saline Valley Road Sign—Death Valley Road, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
From the Owens Valley floor Mike travels east up into the high altitude world of the White Mountains, home of the famous Bristlecone Pines. The road traverses a dry sparse mountainous landscape, finally arriving at a grove of bristlecones. The temperature is in the low 30s with a stiff breeze blowing.
Mike spends some time hiking around the ancient trees, trying to concentrate on compositional and exposure issues, shivering all the while. He can’t help but admire the bristlecones’ obvious indifference to whatever the weather brings. The oldest tree here has been dated at 4,789 years old.
Photos: Bristlecone, Backlit—White Mountains, 2009; Bristlecone Roots—White Mountains, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Mike drives down from his campsite into Big Pine, stopping at a gas station store to get a pre-packaged cinnamon roll and some gas station coffee. Yum! Down on the valley floor it isn’t quite as cold as his campsite, but it’s still pretty chilly.
The Owens Valley floor, that is. Mike drove by Owens Lake on the way up, stopping at the (chemical?) factory for pix. He could see some lakebed activity—probably the Los Angeles dust mitigation project. (Earlier photo of Owens Valley is here.)
Driving east from Big Pine he crosses the Owens River, takes some pix of a dirt road on the valley floor, mountains in the distance. It’s not going to warm up today, he decides.
Photos: Factory—Owens Valley, 2009; Road—Owens Valley, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Out of the tent at 6:30 AM: 26º. (For a Californian, this is insanely cold.)
Mike drives up to the reflecting pond at Glacier Lodge to find it frozen over. Very difficult subject matter: sunlight on the crest and dark shadows below. Large icicles have formed on fallen trees over Big Pine Creek.
After photography, Mike drives back to camp, throws some food items into his car, and heads on down towards Owens Valley, his heater going full blast.
Photos: Pond, Glacier Lodge—Sierra Nevada; Icicles—Sierra Nevada
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Mike arrives in the small town of Big Pine and turns left, heading up into the mountains. The road curves through the foothills, then continues to climb . . . and climb . . . and climb. Finally: aspens and conifers and campgrounds. The first campground he comes to is closed for the season. Uh-oh, he thinks. Luckily, the next campground (the Upper Sage Flat Campground) is still open . . . and completely vacant as well.
As the sound of Big Pine Creek echos around him, Mike picks a nice open area for his campsite, hoping that it’ll be slightly more sunny than the more secluded, creekside spots. Of particular interest is some abandoned rusted-out equipment (mining? irrigation?) in the ditch adjacent to the site. Temperature is in the 50s. After setting the tent up, Mike goes for a short day hike. Temple Crag looms in the distance with the Palisade Glacier group at the crest.
After his obligatory first-night-camp scramble/omelet, Mike reads a bit in the car, then heads over to the tent. It’s now 35º. He tries to read a bit in his sleeping bag, but eventually the frigid air on his fingers persuades him that it’s time for lights out.
Photos: Temple Crag & Sierra Crest—Sierra Nevada, 2009; Campsite near Big Pine Creek—Sierra Nevada, 2009; Abandoned Equipment—Sierra Nevada, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
I recently purchased an Olympus 40-150mm zoom lens; in 35mm terms, this translates to a range of 80-300.
Although by modern standards the lens is not anything to particularly brag about (and, in fact, is sold with Olympus cameras as one of their inexpensive “kit” lens) still, it has by far the most “reach” of any lens I’ve ever had. So this is something new for me, and being something new, is requiring trial and error experimentation.
One thing is clear: a high shutter speed is required, not so much as to capture moving subjects as to eliminate camera shake. For this hummingbird shot in my front yard I used ISO 400 combined with a shutter speed of 1/400th second.
As an aside, you would think that there are enough Mexican Bush Sage plants in the front to feed an army of hummingbirds. But no. Our front yard serenity is regularly interrupted by frenzied Hummingbird Wars: aerial acrobatic combat featuring charges and counter charges. Someday somebody is going to get hurt.
Photo: Hummingbird—Marin County, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Taking highway 14 north to highway 395 is the most scenic route out of Los Angeles, taking one to both the desert and the mountains.
After passing through the ever-increasing sprawl of Palmdale-Lancaster you arrive at the railroad town of Mojave, now with wind turbines in the distant hills. From Mojave the route can go either west, over the Tehachapi Mountains to Bakersfield, east to Barstow, or north, through Red Rock Canyon and up towards Owens Valley.
Mike headed north.
Photo: Union Pacific No. 4036 & Wind Farm—Mojave, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
That’s annoying. If one searches the phrase, "What Would Ansel Adams Do," Google returns 264 results. So I have not come up with an original phrase.
In those results, of course, others have weighed in on the theoretical question of what digital file format Ansel Adams would use, were he to be photographing today. For example, Mike Stensvold at the Outdoor Photography website has the following theory:
If you shoot RAW images rather than JPEGs, you’ll have more and better material to work with in the computer, including richer tonality in highlights and dark tones. You can double-process a RAW image, once for the highlights and once for the dark areas, then combine the two perfectly registered images in Photoshop to get a greater range of detail. And RAW images can be processed to color or black-and-white—you’re not locked in to one or the other. Adams would have shot RAW.
Well, in this I have to agree. The analogy I use is that JPGs remind me of Kodachrome slides—great if exposed perfectly, but if not . . . um, there’s not that much you can do to rescue them. (And, actually, my Olympus C-8080 took JPGs that were, mostly, exposed perfectly. See above photo.)
RAW files remind me of negatives (Adobe has created a common RAW file format they call DNG: digital negative.) They’re for the tweakers out there in PhotoShopland. As a tweaker, I like to say, "The negative is the score, and the print is the performance."
Oh, that’s right, that’s not my saying: it’s another wonderful Ansel Adams’ phrase. That’s annoying.
Photo: Hali & Tuffy—Marin County, 2006
Friday, November 6, 2009
I took this photo early in the morning during one of my AM forays to the Melrose Starbucks.
Once I returned to Marin, I googled "Gardener 10th,"and I’m embarrassed to admit that I—up to this point—had no inkling of "the global vinyl marketplace." Here’s what I found:
In a constantly evolving culture, as we find explosive growth in the global vinyl marketplace, one name that has stood the test of time is Hong Kong toy pioneer, Michael Lau. MINDstyle is proud to announce Gardener 10th by Michael Lau his first ever USA exhibition.
Gardener 10th by Michael Lau is a celebration of his amazing body of work! The event surrounding his 10th anniversary provides an inside look into a unique subculture and an intimate portrait of the man responsible for a collectible figures revolution. Vinyl toys are here to stay, and Michael Lau has masterfully created a blueprint that will be followed for years to come.
How very Los Angeles! The whole concept of "a collectible figures revolution" could have come directly from the pages of a William Gibson novel.
Yes, it’s true: Vinyl Toys Are Here To Stay!
Photo: Gardener 10th—Los Angeles, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Who among us can say, with any degree of certainty, exactly what they were doing on this date 45 years ago?
Well, maybe some can . . . and maybe there are some that weren't even born 45 years ago.
Anyway, as it so happens (as it was meant to happen) Mike has documentary evidence of what he was doing on November 3, 1964. Yes, he was kneeling on the grass outside some barracks in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, getting a first-hand look at the capabilities of a psychological warfare unit. Wow!
And not unlike Marcel Proust's childhood memories of madeleines, Mike's Fort Bragg memories are confined to tastes: Fanta soda and hoagies.
(The next stop on Mike's Army tour was Fort Carson, Colorado.)
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Founded in 1985, Sportie LA has emerged into the ultimate spot for athletic footwear and apparel. With our flagship store located on world-famous Melrose Avenue, Sportie LA offers the most extensive selection of shoes and clothing.
Two shots: a merge that I took in 2007, and a recent detail taken in October, 2009.
Photos: Sportie LA—Los Angeles, 2007; Sportie LA—Los Angeles, 2009