Life as seen through my lens…
Category Archives: About Me
About 6 months ago, a professional photographer and good friend of mine convinced me to enter some of my Yosemite Park photographs into a competition to chose the cover photo for the Yosemite / DNC Facebook page. For those that don’t know, DNC (Delaware North Companies) own and manage almost all of the commercially run lodging options in Yosemite National Park, and their page is fairly popular, with over 76,000 ‘likes’.
The page runs a quarterly contest to chose a seasonally themed photograph to be their cover photo for 3 months. The photographer who wins gets nothing other than bragging rights and a prominent name mention on their site, but it’s a hotly contested prize. The rules follow those of many such contests on Facebook, whereby you need to win the public vote to be in the top xx entries (in this case top 5) and then a panel of judges picks from the most popular.
My first attempt 6 months ago was for last year’s Fall banner. I ended up with 2 images in the top 5 (I entered 10), and had the popular vote, but another entrant won the judges vote. My second try was for their Winter banner. I entered 5 pieces, and again I got the popular vote, but again another entry was chosen. After two failed attempts to win over the judges with my work I almost stopped there, but something told me to have one last go for their Spring banner when they announced the contest a couple of weeks ago.
I don’t have a lot of Spring pictures of Yosemite, but I picked one that I thought would work nicely as a cover page image, and submitted that one piece. I shot out a couple of early requests to my ‘friends’ on Facebook to vote for me, but then largely left things alone (whereas before I was almost nagging folks to vote!). The last two days of open voting I wasn’t even able to see how things were going, as I was in the park with no real internet access, so it was a pleasant surprise to see my picture again had the popular vote when I got back home late on Sunday.
Then began the short wait to see what the judges would do, and this time I won, so for the next three months, if you visit the Yosemite page on Facebook, you’ll see my picture and my name up there on the top of the page.
Needless to say I have a huge smile on my face today, and I’ll be taking full advantage of the prize… namely bragging rights!
Reviewing some photos for a different project, I stumbled upon this one from 2009, and thought I’d share the story to brighten up an otherwise dull winter day…
This was the middle of Summer, and I was home alone doing some work in the yard while my wife was off volunteering at a summer camp and my kids were out. I’d been in and out of the screen door during the day as I worked on stuff out back…
Well at some stage this little devil slipped in through the screen door while it was open. I have no idea when it did so, but I spotted it as it was flitting around our skylights trying to get out (as you can see they have screens on them so there’s no way out up there). Try as I might, I couldn’t coax the little fellow to fly down and out of the door it came in through on its own, and it was getting more and more exhausted trying to get out through the screened skylight.
In the end I had up go up on our balcony (yes we have an indoor balcony) below the skylight, and climb up on a chair so I could reach it. Every time I tried to grab it, it’d fly away from me towards the side of the skylight I couldn’t reach, so ever resourceful I grabbed a broom and tried to coax it back towards me.
Each time I managed to get the bird close enough that I could reach it, I’d put the broom down to use both hands to grab the little bird, and it would seize the moment and fly back to the far end of the skylight.
This game of tag went on for 15 minutes or so, and with every round the bird was getting more and more exhausted.
Eventually the poor little thing gave up and just sat in the closer corner of the skylight, totally exhausted. It was so worn out by this stage, it just sat still as I carefully put my hands around it, and I then proceeded to carry it outside and put it on its favorite feeder, where it drank long and hard before flying off.
I learned my lesson from that and made sure I always closed the screen door as I continued my work.
The following day as I continued the project, I came in for some stuff, closing the screen door behind me. Walking back to it a few minutes later, I was met by the sight of the same hummingbird, beak stuck in the mesh of the screen door desperately trying to free itself!!! Thankfully that rescue was a lot simpler and quicker. Hummingbirds may be pretty to look at but they are bloody stupid at times! 🙂
This was taken fairly early on in the encounter as I was working out whether I’d be able to convince it to make its own way back out… later on it was a 2-handed operation and as I was the only one at home when this happened there are no pictures of me holding the little thing after I rescued it. I could have stopped and grabbed a camera and shot myself holding the little bird but the poor thing was traumatized enough without me taking further advantage of the situation.
On a positive note, the same bird gave me plenty of opportunities to photograph it in our garden in the weeks that followed. Perhaps that was its way of saying “Thank You”. 🙂
(You can see some of my other hummingbird shots, including more of this character, here.)
Yesterday was a fun day… my daughter (mother of these two adorable monkeys) had to work, and my wife was helping as a volunteer at a Girl Scout weekend camp, so I did my grandfatherly duties by looking after these two for the day. As the weather has been unusually warm and sunny (California – drought – all that fun climate change stuff), I decided to keep them happy and busy by taking them to the beach.
After an hour’s drive we arrived in Half Moon Bay where we parked up and spent a few hours on Poplar Beach. You have to pay for parking there, but it’s not that expensive, and the parking fee has the advantage of serving to keep the numbers of visitors down, so while we didn’t have the beach to ourselves there was a lot of room to run around and play.
Poplar Beach is long and sandy, and the sand is good for making sandcastles too, so both little monkeys set to the task of sand construction with their sand toys…
It wasn’t long before the lure of the waves became more interesting than the sand, and so after a few rounds of wave-tag, I had two rather wet little monkeys.
After a change and a short drive down the coast-hugging Highway 1, we stopped at Pescadero State Beach. This beach has a nice mix of rock-pools and sand, and has some nice sheltered rocky coves for when the wind is blowing. In the summer this beach can get very fog-bound and cold, but on this mid-winter day it was warm and sunny, so in their swim costumes the little monkeys took to the beach for round two of some beach fun.
Both having been unexpectedly soaked in the waves at Poplar Beach, neither of them was interested in the water, so instead they made more sand castles, and also explored (climbed over) some of the rocky terrain.
The day was getting long, and so after a couple of hours here we bundled back into the car for a little drive further down the coast to Pigeon Point Lighthouse where we stretched our legs and explored the area around the lighthouse. We even saw a couple of spouts from migrating whales out in the Pacific Ocean.
It was here we found the telephone box. One of the things about California’s Highway 1 is that a lot of it’s run has no cellphone coverage because of the surrounding terrain and the remoteness… so at various stops along the route you can find working phone boxes. Watching the two monkeys explore the booth made me think that their generation will likely be the last one that really knows what a ‘traditional’ phone looks like. These curiosities will likely disappear for good, resigned to history like the VCR, cassette tape, and other pieces of tech that we have left behind in our never ending drive to improve the devices we live with.
Anyway… after exploring the lighthouse we headed for home, but first a stop for some food, and for that we stopped at Cameron’s Inn Pub and Restaurant in Half Moon Bay. This California-ized British Pub is the perfect place to stop and enjoy a drink and some food, while immersing yourself in all of the best parts of a British Pub. It’s kid-friendly too, which with a 2 and 4 year old pair in tow was a blessing! After a lovely meal (they do some wonderful English food, which for an ex-pat like me is a real treat), we explored an old London double-decker bus before getting in our car for the hour long drive home.
Accompanied by music from Disney’s Frozen, played from the internet on my smartphone, through the speakers of my car, we sat in the expected queues leaving Half Moon Bay along route 92, and got home just as both little monkeys were ready for bed… after a quick bath to wash off the sea water and sand that had accumulated through the day, both were in bed and snoring within minutes – the sure sign of a fun day with Granddad.
We tend to fill our lives with “busy stuff” just to keep ourselves occupied. I am as guilty of that as the next person, but every now and again I force myself to get away from all that “stuff” so I can make time to enjoy the wonderful things around me.
On one such escape I found myself at the beach by Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a few miles south of Pescadero on California’s Highway 1. On this unusually warm sunny winter’s day I left my car at the side of the road and started walking along the trails that weave through the vegetation. Sprinkled along the trails are benches such as this one where you can sit and enjoy the scenery.
The view from the bench is perfect for reflecting on what is important – the ocean, the rocks, the beach, the wildlife, and the lighthouse – all metaphors for how we should all be living our lives. I could have sat there for hours enjoying the view, but then I would be missing out on much more beauty that the Pacific coastline has to offer.
As much as anything else, this little excursion taught me that I need to do this more often. Rather than just doing “busy stuff” I need to get out more and enjoy the beauty that this wonderful planet we all call home has to offer.
As we have done for the last few years, my wife and I stayed at Howard Creek Ranch in Westport, CA, for New Year. It’s a wonderful place for getting away from things and reflecting on what is truly important. One of the things we were reminded of during this trip is the importance of clear communication, as without clarity the best of intentions can be seen as something other than what was intended. Even after 33 years it is possible to make incorrect assumptions, and that old saying of “familiarity breeds contempt” becomes shockingly true.
The old me would make assumptions about what was meant when something was said to me. That needs to change… along with many other things about me, and as I work my way into my second half century the time has come to do something to turn the old me into something better… not that the old me was bad, but there is certainly room for improvement, and I intend to start making changes for the better.
Along with that will (hopefully) come some more attention to my presence here on the Internet, and perhaps some changes in how I treat my hobby, with a view to making something more of my photography. Wile I don’t necessarily want to change careers, it’d be nice if what I did at least became self-funding, and to help that along I’m going to have to become more comfortable about putting my thoughts and creations out here on the world wide web.
I’m not sure what will come of all of this, but hopefully some of it will be good!