JestrBob's Random Photos and Thoughts

Random Photos and Thoughts. Adventures in life as a Amateur Photographer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Restart and Reconnection

Every so often the camera which is in your hand and the scene make a connection. The camera comes up and in 1/60 of a second an image is taken. Without stopping you shoot several more shots.  Often with a pause waiting for the action to start again.

A few Saturdays ago I was lucky to make that small connection with my camera and the scene. While walking on a beach, I encountered three young men on surf boards. What was great was the tide was going out, and the surf while small was close in. This put the action well within reach of my X-200 zoom lens.

This is one of my 1st shots of the day. All I did was crop it slightly and change the light setting slightly.

Cropped and a slight color adjustment.

Sometimes one is just lucky to happen across a scene. This day I found these three surfers close in to the shore. The end result was something any amateur photographer should be happy with getting. The shots were done in groups of three and four shots. The delay was the result of my Nikon D60's speed limitation on writing to media. Not my choice and I tried to work around it. I missed some of the shots, but still I got some good action shots. The shots of the surfer in air and at start of an inverted 360. 

Below was the fourth of four shots. The surfer just started the upside down rotation and was completely in the air.

Starting an inverted 360 rotation

A few shots of riding the wave, and even a bailout shot

Surfing close to rocks just to the left


Here are some of the shots I took for art reference of the waves and surf.

I shot about 150 shots in just an few hours. And got maybe 12-14 good to better shots.  A few very productive hours.
Most of the shots will need to be cropped and a slight adjustment of color and contrast. A few didn't need much at all for my purpose.

After years of not feeling connected the the camera, it came alive for a little while. The water had that frozen effect and the surfers had the feeling of being on the edge of danger. They were surfing right on the edge of large and sharp rocks. For a few minutes I felt the thrill of a professional photographer making world class images at a surfing event. 

When I got back to the RV and downloaded the images to the laptop, I looked at them with the more critical eye. 

Good enough! I proclaimed.

I feel there is one or two images which might be worthy of printing and entering in amateur competition.

Later that evening I had made plans to try to capture an image of the Sun setting behind the lighthouse in the image below.

Lastly I used a program called The Photographer's Ephemeris to help locate an ideal place to try to catch a sunset behind this lighthouse.
Below is the printout which came from one of my favorite programs.

The legend is fairly self explaining. 

The map shows the bright orange line starting as the drop pin and disappearing in the left hand corner. I need to be someplace along that line at sunset. The bottom gives all the important times you might need.

The results of preplanning can give idea of a position which would work to capture the image you see in your mind's eye. However the weather didn't co-operate. As you can see in the following picture a dense cloud bank started coming in as the sun neared the horizon.

Sunset at Pigeon Point Lighthouse

I also should have moved to the left about 200 feet and would have done so but the sun disappeared into the fog.  

The Photographer's Ephemeris is copyright by Crookneck Consulting, LLC
The TPE can be located here.

The web app is currently free of charge. The IPad and Iphone apps are worth the money in my opinion. I have no connection with TPE or Crookneck Consulting. I just use their tool.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Five Years Later

My intention was always to return to this Photography Blog. It seems I had little time to do so. 

That's not really true. I did have time, and I made choices not to Blog. Yet, in the end those choices opened some doors to life, and closed other doors. Life has its up and downs. I am along for the ride.  

Maybe the bit of the truth is I lost my connection between myself, the camera and the scene which I was trying to image.  I was still taking pictures but felt little connection to the images. Writer call that their Muse. Do photographers have a Muse? 

I have not stopped working on the long ago promised Panorama-stitching article. It however will be pushed to the back burner. Maybe I find a better set of images to play. some that will not require so much editing, or I will drive and re-shoot the base images. 

So what's old?

What's new? 

That leaves to question to ask: Where do I go from here?

Those questions asked, in the last five years many things have happened to, and around me.

A year ago August (2014), I retired after 43 years of operating locomotives for one of the largest railroads. I can say I was glad to get away. Escape with some of my sanity and dignity intact is more like it.  Maybe like all old guys I worked with all so many years ago. I though things were going to hell in the hand cart. I would say hand basket but it was the railroad. The real problem was no one really cared. my fellow employees were more worried about the ever increasing number of efficiency tests and were constantly were looking over their shoulders as the testing kept increasing without reason. Managers had little knowledge of railroading and were following a business model written by a MBAs, which actually knew little about railroads or work for that matter. The constant fear of the micro managers, turned a potentially dangerous workplace into one that was truly dangerous.

To illustrate how both my wife and I felt last fall, driving down Highway 99 in California last fall, in our RV. We passed a northbound train pulling into Notarb Siding just north of Madera, California. The engineer had stopped his train so the cab was in the shade of an overpass. I remarked that I had done a the same thing so many times.

My wife spoke about the train, she smiled and asked me: 
"Do you know the best thing about that train is?"

Not knowing where this was going, I said "no ..."

She replied "You're not on it!"

Do you know what? She was 100% right.

And that folks is my new motto. 

The best thing about that train? I am not on it!

Also, along the way over the last five years, I helped bury our two mothers and two brothers and an older sister. Yes, brothers. They both were my wife's brothers.  Both had been my brothers for nearly 40 years. Both passed from complications of Type II diabetes. No, before you go there, neither one was obese or overweight. As it happens with Type II diabetes they didn't take care of how they ate, and how closely they monitored their BGL. High blood pressure and heart damage along with Neuropathy eventually took its toll.  My wife's Mother died several years after suffering from a major debilitating stroke. My mother slowly faded away, never fully recovering from breaking her shoulder and having a joint replacement surgery.  My older sister died from COPD. She beat the Doctor's date by living for over a dozen years after being told she didn't have very long to live. I will miss all five of them. 

On to some high points:
We, my wife and I, both earned our amateur radio licenses.  I took my Tech one day before Thanksgiving, she took hers a few months later When I took my General. Then I was surprised when 6 days later she took her General. I took the test to be a volunteer examiner. A few months later, I took my Extra Class test and passed. Over the next year I became an ARRL Instructor, and an ARRL Field Stocked VE. That means you will get to see blogs about photographs of radio operations and events. Some of them will be interesting, I promise.

Jestrbob's family bought an RV, and we've put nearly 4,000 miles on it last year.

Two 1500 mile trips, wood carving classes and lots of landscape and cactus photos.

Yeah, I am taking photos again, I really never stopped by found them less than inspirational.  I might even do a few blogs on that subject.  Really expect more than a few.  

Oh and most important thing I found was a renewed companionship of my best friend, a most able navigator, fellow artist and wife. Maneuvering a 35 foot motorhome while towing her car down a busy highway while towing a car is not a task one takes lightly.  She does make my task of driving much easy, and always seems to a jump ahead of me with the map. 

While I don't want this to become just another travel blog, it will involve some travel. I hope my focus stays on the art of finding stuff to image with my camera.  Stuff most people would just walk or drive by without seeing. 

So expect to see some new photos, the eventual completion of a panoramic article, and more of my random thoughts.

Yeah, did I say I was taking photos again?  I was waiting for that connection to happen. It did.

Note 1: I drafted this out a few months ago, and got around to revisiting it finally. I have an outline of the next article saved and just need to select a few photos, edit them and flesh it out a bit.

Note 2: I have also wrote an article for one of my Amateur Radio club's newsletter. It is being published in September!  Maybe the log jam in my mind has broken free.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Things That Fly

A few weekends ago, Karen and I loaded up ourselves into the car and had our 1st real weekend adventure of this year. A short 45 minute Sunday morning drive to Fremont and East Bay Regional Park District's Coyote Hills for their Birds and Butterfly event. Coyote Hills is set at the opening of Alameda Creek and the Salt Marsh of San Francisco Bay.

They have a "Butterfly Garden" which is a concentration of the different plants and blooms which are butterfly attractants, (either blooms which are nectar rich or plants which the butteries need to lay their eggs upon, or both).

I discovered capturing images of butterflies was hard to do. They are insects which move constantly and are subject to the lightest of breezes. Over the course of several hours I discovered a technique which seemed to work for me. Trying to follow butterflies from plant to plant didn't seem to be very successful and I found nothing but disappointments. When they landed, they seldom stopped long enough after you arrived on sight to snap any sort of picture.

So I stood back and watched and finally found a plant they would land on more often than not. They do not act totally random, but follow certain well defined behavior patterns. I picked a place where the lighting was optimal, set my camera to shoot one stop underexposed, and waited...

Then, finally an opportunity came flying in front of me.


After an adjustment of one of a stop, I had an image in which the colors are bright, the light yellow area is detailed and my image of a Tiger Swallow Tail Butterfly is something I can be happy with, for now.

A larger version is available on My Flickr Site:

I got several more good shots in a row. I started feeling good about the day, after so many failed attempts. My level of respect for other people which have made many magnificent images in the past went up intensely.

I stood Carefully wondering if more chances would be available, where I was standing.

I didn't have long to wait and soon a monarch buttery arrived. The butterfly landed and sat with the light coming through both sets of wings.

I shot several images in a quick series.

It was a matter of hoping for the best with no time to check the images between shots.

Was it a case of Mother Nature was being good to me, or was it just my patience and perseverance being rewarded?

I walked around the small informal butterfly garden a while longer and discovered in a sunny corner a milkweed plant.

Soon I discovered it was a favorite of the monarch butterflies.

In about 20 minutes or so I saw at least 10 more monarch butterflies visiting the milkweed plant.

I shot nearly 100 images some good and some not so good, while standing in one spot.

It is said: "When you are having fun, time flies".

I discovered several hours had passed. Karen and I took our picnic lunch in the shade of a one of dozens of wonderful trees. Nice heavy wooden tables and a cooling breeze, neatly cut crass and view a dozens of families which had came out to the park to enjoy the day.

After our lunch we decided to walk down over the wooden walkways into the Alameda Creek Estuary.

We walked slowly once we left the parking lot area. After a bit, I spotted several Damsel Flies flitting about and noticed they seems to all wanted to land on a small reed poking up out of the water. I wondered would the same technique work with them. After a few long seconds of standing still, the reward came to me.

Onward, we walked. Taking our time to look across the marsh and through the thick reeds whenever we could.

There were lots of different birds and waterfowl: ducks, geese, pelicans, egrets, and sparrows, and swallows.

One of the most interesting was an egret, which we saw across the bit of open slow moving water. I got a few shots, but nothing I really felt was impressive.

The surprise came on the way back when we came to open area where we had seen the female egret. We heard a loud series of squawks, and and flutter of wings.

It was smaller bachelor male had intruded on what I surmised was someone other male and its mate's nesting territory.

The display from the male was impressive and the intruding bachelor swiftly retreated onto the path in front of us, before leaving the area on wing.

The last significant shot came while we were sitting, cooling down from our walk. The air on the estuary was warm, but not unpleasant. There was a slight breeze but amongst the reeds, little air was moving. We finally found a nice small pier out over the water were the breeze was cooling and refreshing. We could see flights of gulls and pelicans coming inbound, on the low glides over the water. Between us and edge of the reeds, swimming and diving was a very interesting duck. It had a bright blue bill. We both sat for 30 minutes and talking in soft mummers, enjoying the show and the company of each other.

Finally the blue billed duck came close enough to get a good image. I was again pleased with one of the images, after many attempts to get a good shot. Later, at home, the birds in question were identified as a pair of Ruddy Ducks.

That ended our day on a perfect note. We made our way to the parking area packed our gear and made our way home in the early evening.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What's It Takes

After a Long dry spell, I am back.

Yesterday, I dropped by one of my favorite wineries. One of the managers of the Tasting Room/Sales Office was busy putting up photos entered in their annual show.

This show is a big deal locally with very nice prizes. It draws both Profession, and the Semi-professional, as well as the Amateur Shutterbugs, like me. [Well selling one photo 40+ years ago doesn't not make a professional, nor selling a hand full of posters. I doubt earning a honorable Mention in the "professional" Category in a local county fair makes one a true profession, either.]

So I wandered around looking at the photos as Richard put them up trying to achieve what was the best look for the over all show. While waiting for my wine order to be processed. [I belong to their wine club. Nice deal 30 busks a month for a red and white selection. This month's red selections was an excellent Fog Head - Pinot Noir, from the coast. Maybe we will try out the Chardonnay selection soon.]

Richard noticed I walked through the exhibit and how took the time to look at the different images. Richard broke down to ask me what I thought. Talk about the can of worms being opened.

Over the next 20 minutes, I spent talking about the different photos, and what was wrong and right about them. I pointed out how the judge's bias showed, and my own humble opinion of the judges picks was not exactly flattering. I pointed out several other images which were far better executed and edited correctly, the n the ones the judge had selected.

This judge picked Birds, Pets and Children in the the standard "Cute" poses. Two the Bird in the wild which were his picks, were excellent and would have made my cut. The two children poses, and the two pet shots wouldn't have made it as winners either, had I been the Judge. One of the images which wasn't a winner, was last years Best of Show, in the division I took a second place. It was actually better than my own image, and that judge did a proper selection.

Which picture would I have picked out of the lot for the best of Show? It would have been either A great shot of El Capitan, from the floor of Yosemite Valley, Winter time Snow covered with the face of the towering cliff, reflecting the light of a Brilliant Red Sunset, and the cliff's image in turn reflected onto a large pool of still, cold waters of the Merced River or an Image of a Highly polished brass trumpet in the foreground with a alpine meadow filled with flowers and surrounded by different shades of evergreen trees.

Richard thought that it might have been photo-shopped. I examined the photo very closely, in the reflected surface of the trumpet's horn, I spied an image of the Photographer, his camera, and the deck of the building and the image of everything else which was behind the photographer. I could see more mountains and evergreen covered slopes which matched with some of the background in the image. Verdict: Excellent image.

I would have been hard put, to pick which was the better image. I think the better of the images was the Trumpet.

So, what makes a photo work in a show and what doesn't work. Well you have to get the judge to notice your shot. It has to contain color or motion which says 'look at me' and it has to continue to draw the attention of the judge/viewer back into the photo. It must be well composed. If it is color the colors must be clear and the edges have to be well defined and not muddy.

What did this judge pick as best of show and Why Didn't I like it?

I'll try to explain:
Picture a Newsweek worthy cover photo. Three firefighters at the edge of Blazing Inferno. Just enough smoke to give the feeling of the size and the foreground has a roaring Mass of Flames. The Focus of the image the Fire, itself. The two fire fighters are knelling or squatting down and have their attention focused on the fire, working with a hose and stream of water, trying to knock down the Fire. Some far, so good. Everyone and everything is busy looking, working, or leading to the same thing, the focus of the image. The third fire fighter who is standing in the image, isn't paying any attention to the Fire or the other two fire fighters and seems to be looking in an other direction at something outside the photograph. The third Fireman breaks the image's focus, and because he is standing, is really the dominate leading figure.

Two firefighters pointing at the focus and the one standing looking away at something out of the frame. This is a common defect of leading a persons attention out of the image, it usually doesn't work paintings and images and in this photo is just more proof of the rule of thumb.

I wish I had access to the images for this blog, but don't. I hope My descriptions work for you. Next time you go to a show or photo exhibit, look at the images and see if you can see bias in how the their were judged. Good judges try very hard to put away their bias. Bad judges allow they to color his choices. Look at the winning images, are they technically correct. Are they interesting. Are they 'standard shots" which are common? Do they contain enough elements of being unique to make you want to look at them a second time.

For those interesting in viewing the Photo show can find direction here:

It was one of the better images as was a very striking image of El Capitan, in Yosemite, all touched with a Brilliant Red Sunset in the winter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Anise Place to Visit

The weather is cooling down a bit so I end up less active.

In recapping some of my adventures, I end up a bit closer to my own back yard. The Fransisco Bay area has some of the best places to visit. One recent weekend my wife and took a drive and visited one of the East Bay Rec district park, Coyote Hills.

The park/preserve is right up along the edge of the bay, and has a small seasonal marsh, as well as some chaparral type hills. The three hour hike is lovely and really more like a walk. The trails are not completely flat, but are not excessively aggressive either. Make sure to carry lots of water even, if the day is cool. Always carry a wrap of some type as the wind can also be very cool and as you walk around the to the water side of the hills, you'll find you may need a jacket or sweatshirt.

The photographic opportunities are varible by the season, and as in most cases you'll have to slow down and find the opportunities to get some interesting shots. The hills are often frequented by hawks and vultures which might fly low enough to get an interesting shot. There was also lots of waterfowl and birds, are well as lizards and other animals in abundance. We saw Coyote Scat, by didn't encounter any.

Make sure to carry a close up or macro lens with you. Take the time to explore all the stands of flowering weeds. We saw an abundance of these:

They are generally very hard to get to sit still for more than a minute and are not very approachable.

And Back to the subject. Everyone wonders what I spend some much time looking at when I go for these walks? this time was well spent with a close-up filter. I caught this small wasp on this anise blossom.

No no matter where you go,
take your camera and take your time.
Slower is better.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Soap Box Time or How I Lost a Little of My Mind.

Drafted in May of 2009.

If you take the time to read this, Maybe you'll understand just why it took so long to write and publish. Do I think I am being petty or shallow? No. But then maybe I an just too close to the subject.

I haven't written in a while. I would say I have had too many irons in the fire, or too busy juggling things, but that not entirely true.

This really has been a burr under my saddle for a while. This blog entry has been half written a few times and discarded each time or put on a back burner.

I have to lay a little foundation, so you can understand my gripe.

At the end of October last year, the company for which I work, eliminated my assignment. This allowed me to make a seniority move onto a different job. (It is called bumping) So after careful consideration, I went on job which started work about 13 hours earlier in the day. I used to start at 7:00pm, and now start at 6:00am.

This is the 1st time in about 10 years I've had evenings off.

A chance at something more of a social life.

Now I can add one more little item to the mix of my life.

A year ago April I bought a new Digital Camera, retiring my 35mm Nikon F2S2 camera. After nearly nine months of taking pictures and exploring digital photography on line groups, I decided to look into a local photography group. I thought I had found a good, viable, friendly local group.

I asked what I considered some sensible questions:
  • How many active members do you have?
  • What sorts of activities do you have during the year.
  • How experienced are your members?
  • Do you have guest speakers or presentation work shops classes.
  • What sort of community involvement do you have.
  • Do you have a written set of bylaws?
  • If you collect dues or donations is the club a registered none profit club with a tax number?

I found a small group which appeared on the surface to be ideal. The active membership claimed by the club officers was 25-30 members. They claimed to have a good mix of experienced users to beginners. They had monthly photo themed contests. The husband and wife team appeared to have it all together. The meetings seem to relaxed, informal. The initial meeting we attended had several good handouts which would be good for user from Novice to Advanced. Most clubs have some very nice information on line. Their handout were pretty standard information stuff.

So we filled out the application and my wife and I joined. She is novice photographer, with an art background. I am a amateur veteran film photographer with 30+ years of experience. in 35 and larger formats. For example: I once made glass plates with a painted on emulsion, and used a lens off a enlarger to make a 4 x6 negative.

Now on to what went wrong.

  • The membership was over stated, in the 4 monthly meetings we attended I saw only three or four other people. Two guest showed up and never came back.
  • The husband and wife team were ill prepared for the meetings and seemed to be in the habit of leaving materials at home.
  • Their promises to e-mail material always seem to fall short of the mark.
  • Even the results of the monthly photo contests never made it to the next meeting.
  • One month the theme was to be "Photojournalism" and a handout was supposed to be made available to explain just exactly what the theme would encompassed. The handout, at the meeting was left at home and would be e-mailed out as a PDF file. The week before the monthly competition wasto be over, the file was once again requested. This time no one even bothered to return any calls or answer e-mail. Then later it came out the file was non-existant.
Then the real slap in the face came.

Our local county fair came, I picked out three of what I felt was my better photos would fit the categories for the local fair. This is the 1st time in over 36 years I entered anything in the local fair. The fair entries went in and were judged.

I was mildly surprised. The categories I entered had some fairly number numbers of participants. One category had over 100 photos. I took a second place in one category and third in another. One of the Club Members took a best of show for a photo. Surprising she seldom had any entries in the club competitions and her participation was during meetings always seems minimal and very cliquish.

The Club web page did well they congratulated the member for the winning Best of Show. She deserved it with an excellent digit photo. the entire show was over 2000 photos. The club web page even congradulated the Club President for getting an award for a painting she did. The Club president husband, got acknowlegement for taking a third place.

What about my Second and Third place awards, you ask?

Completely and absolutely ignored by my so called "Club".

The part the had me confused: the photos were done well enough one of the shows Judges blogged about the photos, and they appeared in his newspaper column as well.

So after 5 months, I decided not to waste our time and effort with a club which really consisted of a husband and wife team, and three other people. Five if you counted myself and my wife.

Enough Venting I finally got it out of my system.

Move on, Bob to the point of this entry.

So the question for today:

Is joining a local photo club worth the time and effort?

My answer is: Yes!

Luckily there are several local clubs, and I think I will attend a few of their meetings.

Will I be so quick to join?
Maybe not.

The old saying: once burned, twice shy,
would be wise to consider.

While I was stewing about this article, I have been busy taking pictures and hope to resume Semi-regular blog entries again.

Coming soon: a blog entry on how to make Panoramic shots.
When: I don't know. and Who's on First?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sipder Girl?

DSC_4210, originally uploaded by jestrbob.

A few weeks ago I wrote here about our trip to the Pinnacles National Monument. This area is a true multiple use facility. Campers, backpackers, hikers, and equestrians, road and mountain bikers, .birders and wildlife watchers. there are even groups that watch and count butterflies all enjoy access to this area which is about 2 hours south of California's Bay Area. The area is well documented botanically (but no collection of flora is allowed). This time of the year it is loaded with wildflowers.

Here is a fine example of multiple use. A group is using this steep face to practice rock climbing. The people below are coaching her which hand hold to use and aiding her selection of path.

This photo is a little like Life. One person is working to achieve a goal. Often times it takes a good safety line, and dozens of coaches and fans to cheer you on from the side line as you reach for the next step.

So as life deals you those issues which force you to stretch yourself to the limits and pull yourself up to a next step, never fear because someone his ready to help you.

In this case the young lady decided to drop down and try again another day. It wasn't a loss or failure, but a victory. You're not always ready for the next step and just making the attempt is often good enough.

Hey, Tomorrow is another chance.

So the image I want to try for is still out there waiting the next time I have the right settings on my camera and with the experience I gained from today, I can make a better tomorrow.