Friday, December 31, 2010

Peregrine Falcon

Over the last several weeks, my brother J has been watching a Peregrine Falcon that often perches on the cell phone tower at the fire station where he works. The days that he's been there have mostly been quite overcast and dark, and I was eager to get a chance to drive out there and photograph the bird in decent light. Thankfully today (his last day at that particular station) was lovely, and when I he told me the bird was there late this morning, I headed out there right away. I was there for maybe 20 minutes or so, and the falcon turned this way and that, stretched and scratched itself (hey BK, those pics are for you!) before flying away. Good timing! I could have stood there and watched it all day, so it's probably good that it left. The ground swirled with pigeon feathers, and pigeon wings and entrails were hanging off the tower (gross). J says there are lots of pigeon parts and dead pigeons under the tower.

Pretty cool! This is the first chance I've had to photograph a Peregrine. I've only ever seen one around this area before, and it was at a distance and moving fast.

I still don't know how people get really crispy clear photos. When I win the lottery I need to buy new Nikon lenses, because I'm pretty convinced that the old Tamrons just don't quite cut it with the D80. However, since I shoot for reference, it's all good.

The background looks different in the first one because there were no clouds right then... that's not something I altered in the photos, fyi.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

San Diego sunshine

Christmas, to me, means going to San Diego. That's where many of my relatives live, and where I was born, and where I have been every Christmas except one. It's hectic and crazy and about 1000 miles of driving (and let me just say that driving up and down CA isn't nearly as enjoyable as getting out of CA!). My mom made a funny comment down there, she said something like it's really so wonderful to see everyone, but it's not a good Christmas experience. Perplexed and befuddled, I asked her what she meant by that. She said "well it's just so hectic and crazy." Well yes, I agreed, it is, but to me that IS Christmas, it's all I've ever known. What a revelation. It was especially insane this year though.

The drive home now ranks at the worst drive back from San Diego ever. (I remember when I was a kid the transmission on the old Suburban crapped out along the way, so that might have been the worst drive TO San Diego, but I'm not sure that counts, I was very young). 500 miles in 11.5 hours. Los Angeles was a parking lot. And then about 50 miles south of Los Banos (me driving, Mom passenger, in the minivan) the tire pressure warning light came on. Eh, no biggie, that light has been on the fritz for years and comes on for no reason at random times. Well, about 15 minutes later, hurtling down I-5 at 80mph the right front tire blew. Thankfully it didn't jerk the car around, and I felt it right away and since I seem to be the queen of flat tires I knew what was wrong and got over on the shoulder ASAP with no damage to the rim. There was no way I was going to try to limp home at 55mph on the spare "donut" tire, so about a half hour later the AAA tow truck arrived and we got towed to a Walmart tire store in Los Banos. They put on a new tire and we hit the road again. What an adventure.

Now, I thought I got rid of the tire curse when I sold the Taurus. I had 14 flats in the 15 years that I drove it, and probably 4 or 5 "goose eggs" on tires that I got fixed before they blew. I thought the curse was on the car but I have to wonder if it's on me. I hope not. I made it to Georgia and back in Jan's car with no problem, and I made it to Wyoming and back in the Avalon just fine. So I hope this was a fluke. But, it is now 15 flat tires in my life.

Anyway, here's a little sunshine for you, these are a few pics I took in San Diego.

Pacific Beach:

Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach:

A Willet:

Pacific Beach:

Okay, gull ID is not my strong point, but I think what we have here are Heermann's Gulls (the dark ones with the dark orange bills), a Western Gull (the light one with pink legs), and a California Gull (the light one with yellow legs). And yes I totally had to look that up, and I'd never heard of a Heermann's Gull before.

Brown Pelican. I took all these pics with the little pink camera. Not too shabby! Cropped photo, of course!

La Jolla:

Seals in La Jolla:

99.99% of the people there probably thought this was just another gull on the street light. It's actually an Osprey. :-)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to all...

...and to all a good night.

In keeping with tradition, I had to subject the animals to the hat today:

The tree:

My incredibly adorable niece:


Olin loves it when Mom puts her moose collection out. Teehee! ;-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the winter solstice lunar eclipse

It was cloudy and gray for much of the day yesterday, so imagine my surprise when I went outside shortly before 11 at night and found a startlingly clear crisp night. Too bad Sacramento and Elk Grove are a dingy orange glow on the northwest horizon! I bundled up and went out with The Beast camera and the tripod, and sat on the back patio shooting photos until my fingers got too cold and it was too hard to keep the lens from fogging up (foggy lens = blurry photos!).

I'm glad I got to see the eclipse, it was pretty amazing. I know a lot of my friends didn't get to see it though. So I'm posting a lot of photos. These were taken between 11:04pm and 11:53pm Pacific time. All were shot with a Nikon D80 and a Tamron 200-400mm lens. Most were taken at 400mm, a few at 200mm. Shutter speed varied from 1/1000 of a second (the ones where the shadow area is totally black and the moon appears gray), to 4 seconds (where the entire shadow area is visible and bright). This was the most horrible shooting angle, it was nearly straight up. That makes it hard to see the viewfinder!

These photos are uncropped and unretouched. They are huge, 1680 pixels wide. If you want to use one as a new desktop picture, go for it!

I must say, as much as I like these photos, none really quite capture how it looked to the naked eye. When you look at it, you see the detail on the shadow area as well as the bright area. The camera, in my relatively unskilled hands, tends to want to pick one area or the other. I never was able to get the balance that I wanted. Oh well. Enjoy the range of pics, some of which are more accurate than others.

This is a really fast shutter speed, so it picked up the detail on the bright part of the moon but you don't see the shadow area at all. Neat pic, but this is NOT how it really looked.

This, on the other hand, is a much longer exposure, so while it sure brightened up the shadow area, it totally blew out the bright part. This is also NOT how it really looked.

Again, neat pic to see the detail on the moon, but not how it looked.

Still a little dark.

The shadow area is a bit on the dark side, but the bright part is still overexposed. Arg. In real life you could still see "the man in the moon" on the bright area too.

Not bad...

That's pretty good!

That's pretty accurate.

Too dark, but cool picture!

WAY too dark, this was definitely one of the 1/1000 shutter speed pics. Neat though to show much much of the moon was in shadow at that point.

A little dark.

This must have been a couple seconds of exposure. Not that bright in real life but I LOVE this photo!

A little bright.

WAY dark, but neato!

That's pretty close, a little too red though.

Pretty close...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Got Treats?"

Posted with permission, though the recipient won't see this til Christmas. The drawing is off to Colorado in the morning! :-) I am sooo happy with how this turned out!

"Got Treats?" (Joker and Kid Rock)
colored pencil and graphite on gray Stonehenge paper
10 by 10.5 inches
sold, custom commission

Here it is framed, though this isn't a particularly good photo as far as showing the accurate colors:

And for anyone who's interested, these are all the colors that went into it (plus graphite):

Of those, these were used on the chestnut pinto horse:

And these were used on the buckskin, there is hardly any difference! Almost the same color palette but in different proportions:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 15 work in progress

Getting there! So much for the buckskin being quicker. ;-) Believe it or not there are three more colors to add, plus some final "tweaking." This is probably the last WIP pic you'll see. Next time it'll be done. I'm not sure if I'll post it before or after Christmas (I'll have to ask the person who commissioned it, since it's a gift).