Life as seen through my lens…
Category Archives: Hobbies
Wow. Has it really been nearly 5 years since I posted here? I need to fix that!
My photography remains a hobby but I have moved from a place where I’d shoot anything and everything around me to one where other aspects of my life have left me with less time to shoot and process and promote. I am relatively(?) active on Facebook, but Flickr (where I used to be really active) has become more of a means for me to share large bodies of work I create for certain groups through volunteer work (such as Girl Scouts). I’ve also chosen to close down my SmugMug account – the expense of keeping it live was not worth it. There are other ways for me to sell my photographs and I just didn’t have the time to keep it up-to-date. Plus, with SmugMug and Flickr being owned by the same company now, it made no sense paying two subscriptions to the same company when all I really want to do is share my pictures.
Anyway – going forwards I will try and update this site with some sort of frequency – it certainly won’t be every day. It is more likely to be weekly at best, but I will endeavor to keep it coming!
On the subject of photography and photographing things I love, this time of year a very special thing can happen at Yosemite National Park. Known affectionately as the “Firefall”, for a short time window in the second half of February the light of the setting sun shines at such an angle that it hits a seasonal waterfall that flows from the top of the cliff to the east of El Capitan and makes it look like a stream of lava or embers is flowing down the rock face.
For this to happen, you need water in the seasonal waterway that feeds Horsetail Fall, you need an unobstructed sky to the west so the light from the setting sun can actually reach the water, and you need for there to be no obstructions such that the water actually flows into the waterfall. With the recent weather we have been having here in California, there is plenty of water to feed the falls, but thanks to the extreme cold weather we have been seeing recently, the water has frozen and the falls are not falling!
To add to that, there has been significant snowfall in the Yosemite Valley itself, which has led to limited parking opportunities, and anyone wanting to see the “firefall” will have to park back at the Yosemite Valley Lodge (close to Yosemite Falls) and will have to hike a couple of miles in the snow to the best viewing spots; Mother Nature is doing her best to carry out some crowd control for this now overly popular event. This event draws many spectators every year, most of which are photographers. To get a good photograph of the event you need some serious gear including tripods and long lenses, and something to sit on, as to get a good view you need to get there fairly early in the day. Lugging all of that, across deep snow, for a couple of miles, and then back again in the dark, is likely to put off many visitors that would have made the trip in milder weather.
For those that do make the effort, if everything aligns, it is a truly magnificent sight that is hard to comprehend even if you understand all of the elements involved in making it a reality.
I will be watching conditions in the park closely over the next week. If they change I will likely find myself heading there this year to try and get a shot or two, but if conditions remain as they are as we get closer to March I’ll forgo it this year. Once you get past February 24 the angle of the light from the setting sun changes such that it doesn’t hit the waterfall any more and the “fire” is extinguished, until next year!
This time last week I’d just about got home from an impromptu visit to Yosemite to catch photos of a spray moonbow (rainbow in the spray of a waterfall caused by the light of the full moon). There are apparently only 4 waterfalls in the world where this can happen when the conditions are right, and we have one a bit over 3 hours drive away. The conditions were right last week, so pretty much on a whim I decided to take a chunk of time out of my week to go see this for myself.
Shooting the moonbow meant I was up late into the night (and into the following morning), and as the Yosemite Valley is a magical place by the light of the full moon, I proceeded to journey around the valley to get moonlight shots of my “happy place”.
Before I knew it, it was 4:30 in the morning and I was up on Glacier Point looking down on the valley, so I decided to stick around for the sunrise which was only a bit over an hour away.
Cold and tired I sat in my car and napped for an hour before dragging myself from my dreams to go and watch the sun rise.
I was not disappointed. The scene started to get lighter as the sun neared the horizon, and then as it emerged above the line of distant mountains just behind Half Dome the warming rays of the sun hit my face and warmed my body and soul.
For a person who is spiritual (not religious) it was a very moving experience. I’m sure if I were a religious person I’d be putting a religious spin on this, but regardless, it was a wonderful way to start the day with a fresh appreciation of the beauty that is there if you only take the time to pull yourselves away from your daily distractions for a while to appreciate it.
If you ever get a chance to witness a sunrise in a place of beauty such as Yosemite National Park, do yourself a favor… make the effort to get up early and experience it for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it… and you can always make up the lost hours of sleep later!
On a last minute whim, I took a 3.5 hour drive yesterday afternoon to go to Yosemite National Park to try and catch a picture of a moonbow. A moonbow is a rainbow formed in the spray of a waterfall from the light of the full or nearly full moon. According to the internet, there are only 4 waterfalls in the world that have the right conditions for this to happen, and after finding out about these very recently I wasn’t going to miss the chance of capturing one.
It seems that half of the photographers in California (and beyond) had the same idea, because as it turned dark, the best vantage points for seeing this event were packed with photographers and their gear.
When conditions are good, a bow can be seen in the spray from both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, however yesterday the conditions for a moonbow in the spray from the Upper Yosemite Fall were clearly missing, as was the moonbow (there was a little splash of color in a small section of mist, but not a full moonbow by any stretch of the imagination, and nothing that could be seen with the naked eye).
The story at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall was totally different though. As I joined the 50 or so other photographers that had taken up position in the viewing area at the base of the fall, the moonbow was clearly visible as a silvery arc in the spray. There wasn’t quite enough light in it to have the human eye see color, but a long camera exposure can overcome this so you can see the moonbow in all its rainbow-colored glory!
This month’s full moon will likely be the last one this year that will lead to a decent moonbow in Yosemite Falls, as because of the low snowpack in the Sierras, it is expected that the volume of water will drop off enough before next month’s full moon that there won’t be enough spray to make this happen…
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.)