Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Town Critters

It's drizzling as I write this, but the clouds were only just cruising in when I did my walk through Grandview Park earlier this morning. And a lovely morning it was, with the bonus of experiencing my second neighborhood coyote encounter since the shelter-in-place began. And the first was just a couple of days ago, so this week is looking pretty good so far.

The neighborhood cat on Monday, standing on a mossy concrete block strewn with wild cucumber, miner's lettuce, sorrel, and lilly-pilly berries.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, a raccoon ambled through my garden, knocking down a few miner's lettuce plants as it foraged for insects and whatnot.

Ten minutes after the raccoon visited, the neighborhood cat came through to reassert her domain.

On my Monday walk I had been slightly amazed to have crossed paths with no other walkers. That was a first for the duration of the lockdown. Also a first was seeing this coyote which had probably just ambled down from Golden Gate Heights Park. He took a detour up these stairs when he saw me, and I snapped a picture with my phone.

This morning I saw another coyote at the base of Golden Gate Heights Park, but she skedaddled back the way she came when I approached to take a picture. I wish I had more time to watch and follow them around. If it's a pair, I'd like to see if they're denned-up in the area. 

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Monday, May 11, 2020

Night & Day

Some images from a trip to Mono Lake in May 2013.

It seems like we're all living in a kind of night world these days.

Hobgoblins practice the dark arts of mendacity and treachery in the service of greed and selfishness. Elves band together to practice veracity and honesty in the service of sharing and community.

Night falls, but the sun also rises.

The face of the Earth moves into the light. Warmth and clarity return.

Life is renewed.

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Fire Season

Lupines in Burn Zone Near Yosemite, May 2013

The name of this blog can be understood in a couple of ways. It's about photography that is minimally processed and represents nature pretty much as I truly encounter it in the field. And it's also about expressing my own true nature with pictures and words. 

Nature photography is about having an encounter between myself and the world, followed by the response of letting it all in, and allowing it to have an effect on all of my senses. Immersing myself in the truth of that encounter sets fire to my soul and inspires my creative spirit.

That's the basis of artistic truth, and creative people take it from there to express, through myriad arts and crafts, what comes of that encounter and response, that marriage of subject and object. The expression of artistic truth isn't didactic. It's not trying to teach or explain or convince. It's a means by which the human soul expresses its encounter with the sublime.

So if we grant that there is such a thing as artistic truth, what do we make of other kinds of truth?

There's scientific truth which can be codified into physical laws which are the same for everyone. Then there's social truth which can be codified into civil and criminal laws whose logic must be adjudicated by a human being and which are the same for everyone only in principle, not in practice. And finally there is political truth, which can be codified into talking points whose purpose is to persuade and which are obviously not true for everyone.

It's interesting that "might makes right" even in the world of scientific truth, sometimes keeping ignorance in the forefront for generations before facts finally become incontrovertible. Until that factual apotheosis arrives, science can be a messy business full of all the slings and arrows of human frailty.

But for social and political truth, there is no final apotheosis of fact, and we're left, at their root, with "might makes right." The forms of might include the power to deploy or withhold money. There are the powers of persuasion, and not just with logic and evidence, but also with psychological manipulation, self-serving beliefs and outright lies. There are also the powers of charismatic force, of tribal bonding, and of course the most basic "might makes right" power of brute force. 

Human beings who aren't content to have their minds filled for them by unscrupulous or even well-meaning others must do their own due diligence on statements of "truth" by constantly reminding themselves to question their opinions and beliefs, to check whether the tracks that have led to those opinions and beliefs were laid on a factual foundation. 

Other human beings will just go along to get along.

There's a saying in journalism that if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out. Meaning you're always looking at the tracks and sign behind the statement that's being presented to you, no matter how trustworthy the presenter is, and figuring out for yourself if the tracks add up to a truth. If they don't, it might not even be a lie, but an opinion or a belief. And of course with an emotion like a mother's love, there really is no way to check it out.

In the end, social truth -- the law of the land -- isn't factually true. Laws are an invention used to organize society and have to be enforced with brute strength. Political truth is a battle of opinions and is enforced by social conventions such as lobbying, storytelling, and voting.

Only scientific truth and artistic truth can claim to be factually true. Scientific truth is objectively true, while artistic truth is subjectively true. And the road to each of these truths can be labyrinthine, to be sure, but in the end they are the most worthwhile to pursue. Only these two truths touch eternity, and to touch eternity while existing in time is to experience the sublime fire of true knowing.
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P.S. The idea for this post was sparked by a video my wife shared with me yesterday regarding the "Plandemic" conspiracy. In a world where the president of the United States is, in addition to anything nice or otherwise that you might say about him, also a gaslighting con-artist, can we be surprised that an unhinged conspiracy theorist could have a #1 book on Amazon and successfully run her con on otherwise intelligent people? 

Although I spent a few hours reading about this intriguing story on NPR, Retraction Watch, and Science Magazine, the most comprehensive source debunking the claims made in the video that I found in one place is here (at, and it has no paywall

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Friday, May 8, 2020

Half Dome, Ice & Snow

From Glacier Point, May 2013

From Olmsted Point, May 2013

From Washburn Point, May 2013

Tioga Pass, May 2012

Snow Plant, May 2013

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Just learned the bad news that any imaginary idyll of being quarantined in Yosemite is coming to an end, as Aramark is laying off and evicting employees and suggesting they seek refuge in homeless shelters.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Killdeer Nest

A killdeer tries to lead me away from its nest on a colorful coastal plain at Salt Point in May 2011.

Being very careful with every step I took, it didn't take long to find its little treasure trove.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020


California Poppy Petals

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
(Screenshot of Webcam Image on 4/25/20)

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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Cam Check

Sunday was a beautiful day to get up on Mt. Tam and check my trail cams.

This morning my wife dropped me off with my ebike at the gate across from the closed Pantoll parking lot, and from there I rode up to Rock Spring, hiked out to the cams, then rode back home to San Francisco. I'd thought about trying to ride the whole round-trip, but I wasn't sure I'd have enough battery power to pull it off. I rode home trying to save power by using "battery off" mode on downhills and level ground and found I still used maybe 2/5 of the battery. Would 3/5 have gotten me up the mountain from home (about 22 miles each way)? I think it would have been pretty close. Something to try another day. I found several working electrical outlets near the Mountain Theater and thought I might use one next time to recharge the battery while I hike.

Bright-eyed foxes and other usual suspects. Still no Bigfoot appearance.

Here's that big dusky-footed wood rat again. He showed up quite a few times at this cam site. Nice ears.

Early morning light on a field of False Lupine.

I liked seeing how the weather changed on April 16. Here it's about 8:30 in the morning...

...and here it's ten hours later.

Lots of turkeys gobbling on the mountain today.

Serpentine Onion 
(or sickle-leaf onion, Allium falcifolium)

This jackie must have been moving pretty quickly, tripping this cam at 8:30...

...then this one two seconds later.... 

No, not quite. I do reset the time on each cam when I change batteries, but they are not actually synchronized to the second.

I just love how perfect this fox's fur looks.

I also love how happy this coyote looks.

Phone shot of a mossy oak tree glistening with dew in the morning light.

Lots of spotted coral root taking over the native orchid duties from the calypsos.

Nice antlers coming in. 

First fawn of the season.

Pretty great camouflage.

Had to stop and feast my soul on beautiful Bolinas Ridge one last time before heading home. Such a beautiful day, not too hot or cold, and not even too windy yet. The green is still refreshingly beautiful, but it's fading, and I won't be surprised if it's brown the next time I get up there. A whole spring is going to come and go while we're all taking shelter from the coronavirus, but with a little luck they'll open the mountain up soon.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ascent to Glory

California Light, San Francisco's Sunset District

The Ascent

Skyline from Grandview Park


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I've been bringing my phone camera along on all my walks since the stay-at-home went into effect, taking a picture a day from about the same spot looking out toward Mt. Tam from Grandview Park. Occasionally I'll see something else along the walk that I want to photograph.

Once before today I thought I might have a chance to see a glory but that one fizzled out as the fog rose too high. This morning, though, the light and fog came together just right. 

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Lucky Dogs

Yosemite in April, and only a lucky few who get to enjoy it this year. Can you imagine being able to shelter in place in Yosemite Valley? I think I could handle that for quite some time.

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