Sunday, May 29, 2022

50mm or Bust

I thought I'd try something a little different on our usual hike on Saturday. Instead of snapping a few phone pix, I'd lug my trusty old Nikon D800E with a 50mm lens. 

Shortly after spooking up a jackrabbit near the beginning of our hike down the Old Mine Trail, we spotted a couple of deer lying in the grass. We kept waiting for them to get up and bound away, but they watched us pass with little sign of alarm.

Having the Nikon didn't really slow me down much, which is a shame in a way. Being out and about to do photography is one thing, and going for a hike is another. I don't see making a habit out of bringing the Nikon, but there might be a point-and-shoot in my future, a compromise between the DSLR and my phone camera.

One of these days I'm going to take a closer look at the possibilities for photographing this oak tree to better show off its beautiful shape. It's rare on Mt. Tam to see a single oak with so much space to itself.

The grassy hillsides are drying out, but the forest along the Matt Davis Trail is still getting a fair amount of moisture from fog drip. Whenever I pass this vine of poison oak on the Douglas fir next to my wife, I'm reminded of Tom Killion's woodblock print called Above Stinson Beach.

I don't know if it was because we were hiking so early in the morning, or if it's just that people are going elsewhere for the holiday, but we encountered very few other hikers and only a couple of trail-runners. 

After the Matt Davis Trail heads down to Stinson beach, the Coast Trail angles gently up along Bolinas Ridge where it plays cat-and-mouse with the rising and sinking fog. There was enough moisture in the forest to support a couple of helleborine orchids sprouting along the trail.

I wished I had a wide angle lens for the fog-bows. My wife's iPhone camera did a great job with them. Despite the very steep hillside, the sun was a little too high in the sky to make Brocken specters.

Saturday's hike was a first for me -- the first time I ever hiked as a retired person! Woohoo!

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Friday, May 20, 2022

Cat Nap

(Click on pix to view larger.)

When I stepped out back I saw that the cat was sleeping. She looked too cute to pass up, so I went back upstairs to get my camera. Of course, when I returned she was awake and looked up at me the moment I set foot on the stairs. 

I was determined to catch her napping, though, so I went for a 10-minute neighborhood walk and tried again. This time she was awake and watching a junco who was taking a bath in the water bowl (a drinking source for this and one other cat, and the occasional raccoon) maybe six feet away. She showed zero interest in stalking the bird.

I soon gave up trying to catch the cat napping and went down to hang out with her for a minute. The juncos were chirping an alarm the whole time, as they have recently been doing all day, including while bathing. There are two birds, and I'm as sure as I can be, without actually having found the nest, that they are nesting somewhere nearby. They took turns scolding the cat from a few feet away in a hazelnut bush that I planted years ago, when it was little more than a seedling I bought at Bay Natives Nursery.

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Friday, May 13, 2022

Layers of Time

The point of this post is to share the next three images, but I didn't want any of those to be in the top spot, so I'm including a shot taken from Mt. Tam last week. 


A few years ago I found this 1928 picture of the block I live on. It was pretty amazing to see what everything was built on. Who'd have thought by looking at all that dune scrubland that by 2022 a vacant lot (and one still exists) would cost more than a million bucks.

Back in 2015 I pulled a screen shot of the same area from Google Maps. I just stumbled on these pictures the other day, and one change since 2015 that I noticed right away is how much the hedge on the right has developed.

As you can see from a phone snap I shot just minutes ago, the Red Trumpet Vine has gone crazy during the last seven years. Hardly any of the original supporting hedge still shows.

Those big pine trees might be marked for death, which would be a shame. Just walking under them and smelling the fresh pine scent moments ago took me out of the city and up to the Sierra. Yesterday I watched a couple of crows chase a squirrel out of its top branches. Sometimes the crown fills with cherry-headed conures, which presumably feed on the pine nuts. I'm often amazed to see such big trees anchored in sand dune, and all the gopher tunnels around the roots can't help.

Speaking of layers of time, I joined the Navy on Friday the 13th of May -- 45 years ago!

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Saturday, May 7, 2022

Fading Glume

Click Images to Enlarge

The mountain was bathed in gloom when I arrived shortly after 7 a.m. I'd worn shorts but was glad I'd brought a long-john top as well as a wind-breaker. And gloves. It was only a week after my last visit, but as I took shelter from the drizzle beneath a rocky overhang along the Old Mine Trail, spring seemed to have reversed its direction to head back toward winter. Finally, a flash of sun painted the landscape and I tripped the shutter three or four times before the flash was over.

The wind was coming up, so I took cover behind a grove of trees surrounding Forbes Bench and photographed some cobwebby thistle. Red-breasted nuthatches called from the nearby woods.

I'd been shooting with a 50mm lens, but was glad I'd brought a long lens, 300mm, as well, when the hills south of the mountain started to pick up some interesting light.

Soon enough, the rising wind swept away the clouds and fog.

The sun was too high for my purposes by then, unfortunately, so I roamed around and was intrigued by more cobwebby thistle, here sporting a cup of crystal dewdrops.

I created a dreamy version of cobwebby thistle by overlaying an out-of-focus frame with a sharp-focused frame, then played with the opacity of the latter until the blended images appealed to me.

I'd been hearing the gobbling of turkeys nearby, but I was still surprised when a pair of toms suddenly emerged from the forest close behind me. The colors of these birds are just incredible. What if we could always appreciate beauty as much as, say, money? It's easy to get rich on beauty. All you have to do is let go of all your troubles, and beauty you hadn't even noticed before will magically flare up all around you.

As I followed the turkeys strutting their stuff with cobwebby thistle in the background, I noticed that last week really was "Peak Green." The glumes and florets of tall grasses bowing under the weight of seeds, dew, and wind, were already fading toward brown.

I got back in the car to check out another location after the gate out to West Ridgecrest opened. Three bucks were resting and feeding near a tall oak tree where many years ago I found a recently placed grave for someone's pet. 

The biggest surprise of the morning was finding this fruiting of Gomphidius glutinosus mushrooms. I photographed them in a bed of lichen with a couple of flax flowers and a blue-eyed grass.

Just a few feet away, this lone spotted coral root orchid, a non-photosynthesizing plant that relies on mycorrhizal fungi, rather than sunlight, to survive, bloomed from the douglas fir duff on the forest floor. 

As I packed up my camera gear for the last time I noticed all the birdsong in the air, and my Merlin app recorded chestnut-backed chickadee, acorn woodpecker, black-throated gray warbler, and hermit warbler. My feet were cold and wet from walking through all the dew-laden grasses, but the sun was shining. I gratefully hiked back to my car with no ticks crawling up my legs. 

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Friday, May 6, 2022

Street Scenes

On my morning walk today I noticed this nice little world between the cracks that illustrates a crack between the worlds of weed and garden. When it came time for my afternoon walk I decided to bring along my DSLR and 50mm lens to snap it up.

A very short distance beyond the street bouquet I admired the almost animal-like patterns of vine remnants clinging to a retaining wall.

Mother Nature's graffiti.

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