Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bolinas Moon

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I reached Pantoll gate well before 7 a.m. on the off-chance it would be open early. It wasn't open, though, so I parked and roamed around the general area to look for compositions among the fir-tree silhouettes. Only two more weekends of being able to sleep in (well, sort of) and catch the sunrise.

When I heard the gate squeak open, I jogged back to the Jeep and headed up the mountain to catch the setting of the Hunter's Moon. In this shot and the next one, I blended exposures of the Earth and Moon to retain detail in both, trying to render the scene as it appeared to me. If I hadn't, either the Moon would appear as a bright white disk, or the Earth would be completely black. 

I wanted to photograph the moon behind the layered fir tree but couldn't line it up. There's a steep hill to the left of my position in this frame, and by the time I moved far enough to the left to line up the moon, I could no longer see the tree. In this image, the rising sun is just grazing the tree's top branches and spotlighting the hills beyond.

Meanwhile, looking east, a pretty sunrise tried to steal my attention from the moon.

This moment held the perfect balance of sunlight on the foreground (Earth) and the background (Moon), with some nice atmospheric pastels in the bargain. 

On Friday evening I looked at the moon from our bedroom window and thought, "That's strange, I thought the moon was full tonight." But I quickly dropped the thought from my mind until I saw the untarnished full moon on my way to Mt. Tam the next morning. I still didn't give Friday night's "weird" moon a second thought. I simply figured my eyesight had been distorted somehow. I didn't put two-and-two together until my wife asked me if I'd seen the penumbral lunar eclipse.... 

As the moon dropped behind Bolinas Ridge, its face had lost almost all of its detail due to the bright sun and hazy atmosphere. I'd hoped to get a dramatic telephoto shot of it on the horizon, but it was too washed out. So once the drama was over I drove up the hill and mosied around Rock Spring to look for birds. Whereas last week acorns had been raining from the oaks and whacking the cars parked below, this week the rain was down to a drizzle, and the ground was chockablock with chocolate-colored nuts. 

I wondered why there were so many robins flitting about in the in the area. I presume their beaks aren't adapted for the job of breaking into acorns, and I didn't see them eating any, but I never saw just what they were eating. I found one web site that claims acorns are on a robin's menu. The question made me think about how we acquire knowledge, and I thought about how biologists are able to tell us so much about animals that we've never seen for ourselves. Someone had to have spent an awfully long time devoted to very focused observation. Even if I were as time-rich as I needed to be for that kind of work, I'm not sure it's for me. But wouldn't it be great to find out....

There's quite a bit of thistle in the area, and because I was in no rush to be anywhere, I photographed it. When I got home and looked it up, I found it's called Mt. Tamalpais Thistle. The Marin Flora lists it as occurring around the headwaters of Cataract Creek, among other places, which is right where I was.

This cosmic dandelion-like plant (mountain dandelion?) was the last intact ball of fluff in the whole meadow, waiting for a liberating wind.

The West Ridgecrest gate opened early, so I walked back to the Jeep and drove out to pick up the trail camera. I couldn't resist photographing this madrone full of ripening berries nearby. Talk about "nature's chaos." How would you like to put together a puzzle of this image?

The little bit of rain we had earlier in the month has given the grass a start for the season, putting a faint green tint on the hills. Alpine Lake is fairly low, but I've seen it quite a bit lower. Hopefully we'll have a wet winter and get it filled back up.

I stopped by the Lily Pond to set out the trail camera but changed my mind when I couldn't find just the right place to put it. Several red admiral butterflies stopped by the edge of what remains of the pond to wet their whistles.

A handsome little Pacific wren, hardly bigger than a walnut, bopped around nearby...

...looking for spiders....

It looked pretty dark through the viewfinder (shooting the 300/4 + 1.7X at 1/200 sec. @ f/6.7 and ISO 3200), and I lost several sweet shots when my lens failed to focus. I lost several more when I tried to manually focus. I just couldn't keep up with these little guys. By the time I decided I'd found the focus and was ready to trip the shutter, they were already gone.

There was a slight trail hazard on the path. I'll bet this made a heck of a sound when it fell, even if Pacific wrens were the only ones around to hear it. The snag took out a couple of small bay laurels on its way down.

The was a spongy polypore fungus already growing at the broken base of the snag, and look who'd already found the treat. The banana slug noshed on the fungus for a short while before heading off to shroomier pastures.

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