Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Getting There


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Another morning of nature and photography was in order, so I headed out to Bear Valley in Point Reyes.



The low clouds tinged with scarlet were just gray stipples a few moments before this shot. A cavalcade of coyotes cried out at what seemed like the exact moment the fire went into the clouds.



Life, in all its chaotic, fragile and stout incarnations.



This mossy old bay laurel tree had fallen over Bear Valley Creek, making a perfect home for a joyous, green hair-do of polypody ferns.



I headed up the Meadow Trail a ways to see if I could find any interesting fungi to photograph, but had no luck. The most striking thing I found were a couple of huge, excellent hazels. I can only hope the hazel growing in my back yard grows as large, and that after I've moved away, the new renters will let it grow. (This is not a photo of the hazels!)



Among the several grandfather Douglas firs towering in the forest, there are also some excellent, lichen-bearded trees that catch the morning sun along the Bear Valley Trail.



I was driving to Olema Marsh when the phone rang, subduing the music playing on the car's stereo. I didn't recognize the number, so I didn't answer, but it rang a long time and I finally caved. The caller hung up at the same time I answered, but called right back. 



It was a mix-up. The caller was asking for my father, who just passed away last Saturday, at my sister's home in the Chicago area. The caller was a truck driver who was supposed to pick up some "medical equipment" that was no longer needed (I'm guessing it was the bed, since any other medical equipment probably belongs to my sister and brother-in-law, who are both physicians.)



My sister was at work, swamped with patients, but like me, my brother-in-law is taking bereavement leave this week, so I was able to text him and my sister and put them in touch with the truck driver. My father, a lifelong journalist born in 1925, would have loved the awesomeness of a cellphone signal being instantaneously relayed to Olema Marsh from Orland Park.



I don't think I've ever "gotten over" the death of a loved one, but I treasure having some time to integrate the loss into my own life history, to let it settle into the wholeness of my own being. Life is an awesome gift, made infinitely more precious by the fact that, someday, it ends. 



My father's spirit rises to meet the sky. A cavalcade of coyotes cries out with yips and howls. 

I kiss my father's forehead knowing I will never see him again. I don't even know if he hears my last words: 

"Good-bye, Dad."

(Obit.)

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Natural Healing



Blue Forest



Living Rocks



Meadow's Edge



Winter Sedges



Redwood Sentinels


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Monday, January 20, 2020

20/20 Vision



The cat crossed the trail so quickly, it was almost out of the frame by the time the video kicked in. 

Hope you're having a happy 20:20 in 2020.

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Airplane Mode



Every now and then, Mt. Tam presents an opportunity, with sun on one side and fog on the other, to photograph glories. When I saw the right conditions on a flight to Chicago last week I looked for the anti-solar point out the window and voila.



Dropping into O'Hare, the deciduous woodlands of winter reminded me of a landscape scarred by fire.



The blue pond on the plain in the back (about a third of the way down from the top edge) has a power plant on its shore. I often wish I could take a GPS reading at various points of interest along a flight path so I could find them on a map later on. 



The Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains.



Snowy fields cut by a pair of large rivers.



Bay Area view toward Sutter Buttes.



San Mateo Bridge with incoming tide streamers.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

The Little Things



Family Get-together



Ordinarily I'd pull out my diffusing screen to block direct sunlight from striking the subject, but in this case I liked the way the morning light streamed in. I couldn't do a focus-stack (as I did with the first image above) because the sun would move during the time it takes to run the stack. So I stopped down to f/22 and shot a single frame before the sun's angle through the forest changed the scene.

I struck out in my search for mushrooms to bring home for the table. Nothing but a few small oyster mushrooms even tempted me, but I let them be. Even though the pickin's were slim, there at least were a few mushrooms finally cropping up here and there, enough to temp me to break out the Nikon. I felt like I couldn't just go home without taking some time out to set up a couple of macro shots. There's something very satisfying about getting down on the forest floor, in wet-knee country, and exploring the little things to be found.



Deer Mushrooms



Sulfur Tufts

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Phoning It In



I was thinking of the phrase "phoning it in" when I left my camera gear in the car to go check on the trail cameras, but I brought my smartphone just in case. "Phoning it in" means doing something with less care and effort that you might otherwise use. But I had an excuse other than laziness since I was planning to do some mushroom-hunting after checking on the trail cams. If I have my camera backpack on, I have nowhere to put any mushrooms I might find (for the table, that is). 

As luck would have it, I came across the scene above and kinda wished I'd had my Nikon with me. The trees and rocks were showing off their full winter jackets of moss, and a universe of water droplets on the leaves in the trees above was sparkling in the morning sunshine. It almost took my breath away when I walked up on the scene, whose layered depths are definitely lost in translation to 2D.



I found this foil balloon in some nearby branches. 



Too bad I couldn't find a better subject to include with the nice light striking the madrones.



The Mt. Tam folks are still busy chopping down Douglas fir trees along the edges of meadows. The oaks are left alone, but without a little judicious gardening, the firs would eventually crowd out the increasingly rare grasslands. There was a crew working out along Bolinas Ridge on Saturday, way north near the McKennan Trail but on the east-facing slope. It looks very different out there than when I last saw it, very much more open.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Morning Mist



I started to leave the house without my camera gear since I was only thinking about checking up on the trail cams, but when I pulled out of the garage and saw there was still some weather coming through I went back up to get it. 

Although I stopped at the usual location at Sunset Point, I don't think I've ever photographed this scene before. I was drawn by the flat yet bright quality of the dispersed light on the misty landscape. It's usually much darker and duller if it's overcast, and if it's clear it's streaked by sunshine. My attention also wasn't particularly drawn to the usual view of the San Francisco skyline because there wasn't any -- view, that is. It was almost completely socked in. So I had a moment to contemplate other scenes. 



Eventually it did begin to clear. I began to notice the calls of acorn woodpeckers at this point and couldn't recall if they had only just started as the sun came out, or if I simply hadn't noticed them before.



But even as it cleared, you still couldn't really make out the city through the bright, hazy sunlight.



Meanwhile, from the same location, I was inspired by some recent impressionistic photos by Jackie Sones (on The Natural History of Bodega Head blog).



Even when the view to the east was still full of clouds, the sun did break through the cracks here and there, lighting up a clear blue sky to the west.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Foxy Woods



It's pretty rare for the cams to record a gray fox while the day is still bright enough to capture a color image.



It's also rare that a fox will stop long enough for the cam to capture a clean, sharp image.



Although there was this one main game trail, the area was crisscrossed by several other smaller trails that were also used by both deer and fox. This fox is on the main trail now but will take a detour, only to cross it later, as shown in the next shot.



The main trail goes up to the left of the big Douglas fir, but the fox took a different route. The fox(es) were caught coming and going off the right side of the frame several times. Next time I go up I might move a cam or two to try to catch them in the detour.



This time the fox stays on the main trail until it passes the large Doug fir. Here it's 9:12 p.m.



And here, at 9:13 p.m., we have the same fox. You can even see that the video lights from Cam #2 (which remain on for a specified length of time) are still on in the background. 

Although I synchronized the cams to my wristwatch, they are synced to the minute, not the second; the video only records for 20 seconds.



This frame looks a lot like the next one, but I believe these are two different foxes. One passes at 6:40 p.m., and the next capture is at 6:46 p.m.



If these are a paired-up male and female, I might catch fox kits here in the future. And just because I want to share a couple more trail-cam shots that don't have a theme of their own, I bring you...



...the Mini-Buck...



...a Mini-Buck in pretty light...



...and a passing hobo!

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Antlers Aweigh!




I put four cams out in the same general area in late December to get a sense of which trails the animals were using. I'm not talking about hiking trails, but game trails, although a pair of intrepid off-trail hikers did flash a peace sign at one of the cams. 

I was surprised by how frequently the trails were used by presumably the same few deer. The SD cards recorded so many frames I thought for sure there would be a lot of wind-blown branches, or birds or squirrels, but it was almost all deer, and also several gray fox, with a few varied thrush, gray squirrels, and a tree-climbing mouse thrown in.

The buck above passed through on the afternoon of Jan. 9 while there was a bit of water on the lens. (BTW, this is Cam #2 as shown by the 0002 in the lower right of the info band). 

And the very next day...



...he was down one antler! I'm pretty sure it's the same buck. He's even passing by within a half-hour of the previous day's time: 1:48 p.m. vs. 1:18 p.m. 

I read that a buck's antlers will drop when their post-rut testosterone levels drop. 

This wasn't the only buck who lost a new year's antler...



...except this guy lost the antler on the other side of his head.



Here's the same guy being caught by Cam. #3 a couple minutes later. I believe this is the same buck that was caught, with his antlers still intact, in the shot below.




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