Monday, November 25, 2013

Spare the Air

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I could have spared the air if I'd biked to work today, as usual, but I've taken the week off. Instead of giving the air a break, I drove out to Mt. Tam to see what nature was up to. I've been thinking about doing a post on Redwood Creek, which I consider the southern border of Mt. Tam, but I want to traverse the creek from Muir Beach to Muir Woods as the salmon do, and Muir Beach remains closed. They've even pushed off the date for re-opening from November 27 to December 14, so that post will have to wait. It's just as well, because we still haven't gotten enough rain for the salmon to start heading up the creek.

Another thing I'd planned to do was illustrate the change in temperature -- to photograph some of the first frost of the new season. I figured it would be coldest in the bottomland along Redwood Creek, but I didn't see any significant frost until I climbed 2,000 feet above sea level to arrive at Rock Spring. 

Hoarfrost on yarrow leaves.

When working on the ground in the presence of thistle, it is best not to steady oneself by extending one's arm  earthward and using a bare palm to hold one's weight.

Frost on the hedge nettles.

This pink checker mallow was a surprise. Its delicate blossoms were almost the only thing in the entire meadow that wasn't either a shade of brown or green.

I was worried the rising sun would eliminate all the frost before I could photograph it, but the shade lasts a long time this time of year. I was still finding frosty vegetation at 10 o'clock in the morning.

After my frost pursuit at Rock Spring I drove out along Bolinas Ridge since the gate had been opened early. I kept my eyes out for bobcats to no avail. I had one of my best bobcat sightings ever at about this time last year. Also at this time last year (and the year before), the fungi were fruiting in abundance. Almost three years ago to the day, I photographed the sunset that appears on the cover of my book, A Circumannuation of Mount Tam. (Riddle: If God can make a rock so big that He can't lift it, can Blurb made a book so expensive that no one can afford it?)

I set my camera trap in a new location near Set 1 to see what might turn up. Aside from a flock of wild turkeys in the Muir Woods parking lot and a couple of roadside deer, I saw very little wildlife on this trip. 

Very little fungi, too.

This time three years ago, Cataract Falls was going gangbusters. This year, not so much. I even hiked down to Laurel Dell to check it out. At this time eleven years ago, I was already photographing bubblegum slime mold. I was looking forward to getting some rain this week, but the last time I checked, the weather forecasters were "backing away" from their predictions of a good soaking.

I know Mother Nature wants to deliver rain to her children in the Bay Area, and I feel like I need some rain to get my own creative juices flowing again as well. Maybe I should have spared the air today, after all. Hope it's not too late.

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  1. what are the patches of orange in the grassland photo (hints of green)?

    1. I wish I could say they were patches of California poppy -- but it's just bare dirt where the grass has dried up and thinned out, and there are also small patches where coyotes have been digging.

  2. This winter I vow to be brave and get out there for some frost fotos. These are wonderful. It doesn't have to be too cool before I am wearing gloves while hiking. It is a constant off and on process with the gloves while taking pictures. This fall while scrambling in and out of ravines, grabbing onto things for support I decided I need some more durable gloves. I took my Mechnix shop gloves from the garage with me on an outing one day and discovered that not only did they keep my hands warm, were very grippy with rocks and limbs, but that I could manipulate the controls on the camera with them on! Well it makes sense since they are designed with mechanics in mind so as to be able to thread a nut onto a bolt. I thought of passing this on to you after reading your thistle episode. I'd say they are thistle proof but don't plan to put that to the test for you.

    1. I usually buy a pair of thin nylon gloves just to keep a layer between my hands and the cold tripod. I can shoot with them on. There are other options for colder weather. Check out: