Life as seen through my lens…
Category Archives: Photography
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.)
It’s all to easy to look at your life through your own eyes and draw a totally wrong (or at least badly distorted) picture of it, where others looking at the same life from a different vantage point might well paint a totally different (and much more flattering) image. How you see something depends on where you are looking at it from. Seems too obvious to state I know, but I saw something today that really hammered this home for me.
I grew up in England. I lived about 40 years of my life there, and while I had the benefit of movies, television, and the Internet to tell me that other stuff was out there, most of my first 40 years were spent in a small but (mostly) affluent country that thought it was the creator of the modern world.
Almost 10 years ago I moved to America. The land of the brave and the free has a lot to offer, but it also has a very particular view of its place in the world, one that is not necessarily supported by historical fact or by much of the rest of the world.
I suspect I’m right in saying that everyone reading this has one thing in common – we all live on planet Earth. The blue and green globe that serves as our collective home seems huge. So huge that our minds cannot comprehend the distances between us and the other objects that share the universe of which we are a part. Many that occupy this planet think we are we own it, and that we are the most wonderful, powerful, intelligent living things in the universe.
I’m not one of those people. The universe is too big and full of “stuff” for it to be even remotely likely that we have the only planet on which sentient, intelligent life has evolved. Just look at the clear night sky – even if you have a lot of light pollution where you are you’ll see many many stars. Just how many of those stars have planets orbiting them? How many of those planets have the right conditions for life? All we can really do at the moment is speculate, but I doubt the answer is zero.
What got me to write this was seeing a picture on Facebook; this picture (courtesy of NASA JPL)…
The small bright dot upper-left of center is us. It’s the Earth. It’s this HUGE planet that we live on, and it’s how we look from Mars. A few pixels in an image of a sky as seen from another planet. You can’t even make out the continents, let alone anything that mankind might have done on it. It’s a dot in a sky full of dots.
Next time it’s dark and the weather permits, look again at the night sky. If you are lucky you might see a couple of the other planets that orbit the Sun with us – perhaps Jupiter or Venus or Mars or Saturn. But with those you’ll see countless stars, each of which could well have it’s own set of orbiting planets, and any one of them could be home to beings, looking up at their sky. They won’t see us or our home, as we don’t see them, or their homes, but they might, just might see our star, the Sun, and be wondering if there is anything there.
One day we’ll know. Until then, I hope more people on this planet get to consider their lives from a different viewpoint. If that were to happen more, we might, just might, have a chance to find out who else is out there, and how we can all help one another to live better lives.
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.