Friday, December 23, 2011

Bosque Pano from last month's trip

Packages all wrapped now. Christmas cards all sent (albeit late). Now catching up on other things like the blog.  need to do this everyday.

Was reviewing some of the photos from our recent trip to southwest and happened onto this one of one of the cornfields in Bosque del Apache where the geese and cranes fly in daily to feed.  It is actually a 7 frame pano that I stitched together.  the 7 frames were actually 3 photos each done at multiple exposures then processed with a piece of software to blend together and capture a wider dynamic range of light.  Called HDR photography, it really helps sometimes to capture in a  photo both brightest and darkest areas.

The human eye can see 11 F stop range so HDR usually does +2 or 4 and -2-4 which captures up to 9 F stops so to speak.  I also enhanced the color with another adjustment software.  The size of the photoshop file was 350 mb so I reduced it to just a small number in photoshop.

This is probably way more than most of you wanted to know but I did think you would enjoy this pic!.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sunrise and Cassius

There's joy in the heavens this morning
Even though we are home now, the camera is still on.  Yesterday I looked outside as we were making coffee to see a rapidly developing sunrise.  Quick, where is the camera?  ok.  Tripod?  Out in car.  Yikes! it is going fast.  Only a few minutes.

Head out to back yard as the clouds deepen in color filling the sky.  but the trees mask a lot of the sky so where to find something in foreground to add.  Ah,  the little metal angel we stick in one of the flower pots on the deck. And voila!  a photo is born.  Cropping it in photoshop turned out pretty well.  might use it for our Christmas card.

This morning we arose and headed up to the ridge to meet our freinds, Barb & Dave and her daughter, Bailey who is visiting from Oregon.  She brought her beautiful St. Bernard dog, Cassius who posed for us.  We were going to use flash to fill in the front of Cassius while the sunlight was backlighting however, neither Barb nor I could get it to work, then other people came by and Cassius was, of course, the center of attention.  Still fun and I did get one decent photo.

Think tomorrow is a sleep in day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home for now!

If the ambulance is too late, they can use the hearse!
 View across the street from RV last night in Tempe.
After parking and stowing the RV in Tempe during a driving (and drenching) rainstorm, we headed west navigating the "free"ways and interstates of Phoenix, then LA.  Since we left so late in the day (4 PM after lunch, we hit the rush hour in Phoenix but missed it in SoCal. I had planned to take a snapshot with iPhone of the RV in storage but forgot 2 times.  Once during parking because of the rain, and second time  after we left the restaurant despite talking about it over late lunch.  Senior moment I guess.

I read to Sraddha while she drove the first leg into Riverside, then drove the remaining evening through the north side of LA on the 210 to Valencia just south of the grapevine and Tejon pass.

Using on of the hotel travel apps on the iphone I found an inexpensive Best western motel just off the freeway in Valencia. where we dragged our overnight gear into the first motel of the trip and collapsed in bed.  When I called ahead to the motel to confirm availabitlity and pricing (cheaper than the app said), we were also informed that a Starbucks was right across the street for the next morning pick-me-up.  A godsend for weary travelers and the first purchased coffee in weeks.  We had really been enjoying our morning post meditation beverage prepared in our own mobile "kitchen" since we departed the village mid November.  Strange to travel the way we used to for a couple of days.

Our breakfast at Tita's Pupusaria
in Buttonwillow
Early next morning we headed north, fortified with our coffee, over the Tejon pass as the light fog burned off revealing snow on the surrounding peaks.  I was driving so couldn't snap any pix.  About 2 hours into the day we hit Buttonwillow on Interstate 5.  What and where is BUTTONWILLOW?! literally in the middle of no-whereville.  However...

We wanted something other than typical fast food. During previous trips through the area, Sraddha had stopped here and discovered a little Salvadoran restaurant converted from an older fast food place which server "pupusa's" made fresh from maiz flour as we waited.We pulled off the highway, drove up and down the roads and found it.  Tita's Pupusaria.  Hmm. sounds intriguing. This salvadoran place in an old hamburger joint serves fantastic food. The fried plantains sweet and when combined with savory pupusa offers a wonderful complement. Being vegetarians, we ordered the pupusa con queso y loroco. The accompanying slaw has some oregano which flavors the whole dish. Great spot to stop en route between SoCal and NorCal. really fun.   I really couldn't finish it

Off we drove north and, after obligatory stops at Trader Joe's in Roseville, and the food co-op in Grass valley we made it home by just as the sun set.  Saw a red shouldered (as opposed to a red tailed) hawk as we drove down the last little road to our non-mobile home in the woods.

View outside front of RV in desert.
Sorry for the late post as it just has been very busy since we have been out for a month.

Will post some more stories of the trip as time permits.

then off again to recoup our RV in late February.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Last Day in Tucson

Time to think of returning home.  Been a wonderful inspiring time here in southwest, and I am beginning to smell the barn. Well, just figuratively, so to speak.

We drove over to northeast Tucson to visit Sabino Canyon which is a natural desert oasis located in Tucson’s Coronado National Forest and is home to spectacular desert landscapes and abundant wildlife.

We saw many birds which made someone very happy.

Bear Canyon reflection pool in Sabino Canyon near Tucson
Sabino Canyon is well known in many circles, however, we elected to hike up Bear Canyon, its eastern neighbor.  While tourists flock to Sabino canyon, we saw very few hikers.  Due to time restraints and poor planning we didn't make it to 7 falls area, however we did get about 3 miles up the canyon (and back).  one of the most beautiful hikes ever.  Subtle colors, quiet pools of water, steep rocky canyon walls covered with Saguaro cactus.  What it must have been like 200 years ago.

We also visited Degrazia Gallery for their celebration of La Fiesta de Guadalupe featuring high school mariachi bands and ate a good chile relleno.  lovely simple living location in the Catalina foothills. Ted Degrazia was a local painter and quite the musician having completed his master's degree in arts with his thesis including paintings depicting various classical music pieces.  I didn't take any photos

We returned "home" late in the day as the clouds moved in.  Weather patterns changing and heavy rains expected Monday evening and Tuesday.  I filled up the water bottles with good drinking water from the campground tap while Sraddha worked on some business emails.  Also began to move  something around in preparation for home trip.  The campground only has electricity to offer and water comes from the taps in various places so we go fill up our gallon jugs every other day for drinking water and use the water stored on board in coach for washing and bathroom. We have been draining down our water tank in preparation for putting the motorhome into storage for 2 months. We thought we still had 1/4 tank of water, however, s the night turned dark, the RV water pump kept pumping indicating it couldn't draw in sufficient water to keep the pressure.  Back on go the shoes and out goes Kent with his trusty headlamp to break out the hose(s) to reach the water tap about 70 feet away to refill the RV water tank.  Such is the joy of RV living.  could be worse.  we could have been a lot further away from water tap or not even have a water tap.  we thought we could last for the whole week on one tank but found we needed just a bit more.  we did short showers everyday

Anyway. now we head up north towards Phoenix, first stopping at Boyce Thompson Arboretum before heading to an RV park in Apache Junction where we can drain the tanks, get a good shower, and prepare RV for storage.  I am concerned about the pending rainstorms and how that will affect our preparations.  We hope to clean and prep the RV and put in storage by Tuesday afternoon then head west. towards Barstow/Tehachapi.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Birds in Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Tucson Mountain Sunrise
And you ask, "what is the ASDM?" Answer:  Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  When you walk through this place you learn all there is to know (that you can in a few hours) about the Sonoran desert, a unique ecosphere area in southern Arizona and northern Mexico.  Filled with different cacti, animals, reptiles, insects, flora and fauna, too numerous to count or mention.

Great Horned Owl
We are staying at this campground in Tucson Mountain park beyond a little mountain range west of downtown Tucson.  Hardly any campers in the whole place and we feel the calm of the desert.  And the occasional army helicopter flying over but nothing like the interstate traffic or Tucson airport noise.  Very still.  Can hear the coyotes howling.

Prairie Falcon
We have visited the ASDM now 3 days in a row.  Monday afternoon went over, scoped it out and joined as members.  We figured it would pay for itself with 3 visits and, indeed, it has.  What a magical place!  Full of subtlleties and sublime beauty, even in winter.

Harris's Hawk really focused on prey
The stars of the show, however, are the birds (of course).  Hummingbird aviary and regular aviary.  But the best is the raptor free flight exhibit.  2 times per day the museum trainers fly birds without tether.  I decided to try photographing them.  On 2 different occasions so far I shot almost 1,000 photos and only 4 of them were worth showing in my opinion.  The rest were discarded as either blurred, out of focus, wrong light, etc.

Of course there are other birds which will appear in this blog from time to time.

Bosque Del Apache in the rear view mirror

Snow Geese at Bosque del Apache
New Mexico is in the rear view mirror now and we are basking in the (relative) balminess of Tucson's sunny 60 degree days.  We have spent a few visits to the Arizona Sonora Desert museum nearby and just looking at all the neat Saguaro cacti and other species unique to this desert.

Great Blue Heron
Last night I was invited to the Tucson camera club Christmas party and spent the evening visiting with new photographer freinds, one of whom may visit me up at the village sometime as he is interested in communities and has worked with communities his whole career.  We had a delightful conversation.

Yesterday we also hired someone to come out and wash off all the dust, dirt and grime from the coach and wax it also.  In addition he applied some UV protectant. This all should be done once per year anyway.  now she is ready to go to Phoenix for storage for a couple of months.

Snow Goose Landing
Spent much of today scouting locations for Saturday morning photoshoot of lunar eclipse.  As a budding photographer, I have been fortunate to be in places where the photographs just fell into my lap.  I know this one is coming and want to get a good shot.  We drove north and found 2-3 possible locations.  Will get up early in morning and head out around 5:30 for a 7 AM shoot in order to find the best spot.  The good news is that the moon is full and bright and we can see our way off the trail if need be.

For now I hought I would share a few more photos from Bosque with you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back in Tucson...early

Icicles on bike rack
Woke up at 4 AM for photoshoot last Sunday morning to a very cold morning with a dusting of snow and some icicles hanging on back of bike rack. Had checked the weather forecast the night before which predicted some snow coming so checked again and it forecasted 2-4 inches of snow Sunday night into Monday morning. Hmm...the workshop finishes Monday morning.  Do we risk staying? I headed out to Bosque for morning shoot, stopping, with several other guys, at the crane pools in northwest corner of reserve.  As light developed, we could tell weather was moving in from the south. In fact the morning sunrise was not happening.

Snow Geese Blastoff with Cranes Ready for takeoff
As daylight unveiled, the light was flat and we wondered if we could get any good photos. It was 26 degrees with a little nor-easterly wind so nice for takeoff photos. Decided to focus on practicing shooting the takeoffs and managed to get one "ok" shot of some geese blasting off with cranes readying for takeoff.  Other photos were dark and flat.  Around 8 AM, I rechecked the forecast, bid everyone farewell, and headed back to the motorcoach where Sraddha already was packing up.  We headed out a little after 9 AM with weather moving in.  Staying on the interstate to Hatch, NM, then taking shortcut to Deming we skirted across the front of the storm getting a few snowflakes enroute to Tucson, which we reached about half hour before dark.

Good thing.

Friends Subaru in Socorro.  we missed this by leaving early
The next morning, we got a call from one of the men, I had met during the workshop who said they were snowed in and couldn't leave in their Subaru until Tuesday!  The interstate was closed and even the road into Bosque was closed.  They were just staying in the motel and processing photos.  and we are in Tucson under partly cloudy skies. I compared the weather. Lesse.  23/9 temps in Socorro, NM and 49/29 in Tucson.  We learned a lot about life in the right lane here.  Motorcoach and really cold temps do not mix well.  Yes, if we were stuck, we would survive but might have some issues with something breaking.  Yes we would not freeze but might be stuck in Socorro for a few more days.  While not the worst thing to happen, we would not want to drive the motorcoach on snowy roads and we now have a week in Tucson to enjoy the Sonora desert and I can spend some time catching up on photos, sleep, and other aspects of natural world.  We will return to Bosque because it is a magical place, in fact would love to spend another week there, but not in this cold temps unless we are staying in a motel where it is warmer at night and we are not fighting the elements.  Either I am getting wiser, or just plain older.  that is yet to be determined.  More posts soon as we are heading over to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum which is 10 minutes away to explore.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hunkered down in Socorro, NM

Blastoff at Bosque
Currently hunkered down Thursday afternoon in Socorro at the RV park waiting out the high winds along with others in the same boat (or similar motorcoach, anyway). High winds gusting up to 50 and we have our slideouts slid in to protect the awnings from wind damage. Good time for shower, lunch and blogging while I await the beginning of the 4 day photo workshop later in the day.

Cranes Landing for breakfast
Morning came around 4 AM as it will for next 4 mornings also as we arose early to great the geese and cranes at Bosque when they took off in search of food.  Called the "Blast-off" and is unlike anything I have seen before.  We arrived at the Bosque del Apache Flight deck observation platform around 5:45 AM with sunrise expected around 6:30.  However, the birds don't wait for the sun rays to great them.  Dawn beckoned in the east slowly and we could see some good clouds along the lower part of horizon portending potential good things.  As you can see on the left, we were not dissapointed.  We heard the snow geese honking and rustling and the cranes trumpeting their unique sounds.

Red Tail Hawk thinking about food.
By 6:15 the observation platform was full of photographers waiting and taking pics of the increasing color in the sky reflected on the pond before us. Soon, the rustling of the geese increased and suddenly, WHAM! they were off in the air.  hundreds, even thousands of them took off, flying every which way, circling in group, flying by.  Wow.  The cranes nonchalantly stayed calm, cool, collected, not yet ready to ascend the morning skies in search of breakfast.  I marveled at this morning ritual as ageless as the species of birds we viewed.  I have been told the flocks are less then previous years by veteran photographers, although the visitor's center staff begs to differ.  perhaps they will come later, perhaps they went elsewhere in search of food.  Still hundreds, if not thousands of birds flying in the air is truly amazing.

Snow Goose landing
Later in morning we cruised around the farm loop north of the blast off location in search of birds feeding in the in the fields.  Last night I had made the acquaintance of another photographer, Harry, who told be of a good spot to watch the cranes land with sun at our backs.  We drove there and spent over an hour shooting birds and they would come in hoping to catch the right light, right focus and right angle.  I shot over 400 photos this morning.  Back is sore because I wasn't using a tripod, merely tracking them as they descended the skies.

Add caption
It was most interesting to watch how the geese and cranes landed.  The way they moved their wings and wingtips.  Amazing

White Crowned Sparrow
Then enroute back to motorhome we saw this little White Crowned Sparrow