Category Archives: Photography

Monsoonal Flow

As pretty much everyone in North America west of the Mississippi knows, it’s been hot as Hell all week.

In this neck of the woods there’s also been some moisture coming up from a tropical storm off of Baja, so it hasn’t been a dry heat.

As the moist air hits the coast it rises a bit and starts to form clouds – as it hits the mountains, it rises a lot and starts to form thunderheads.

As much as we could use the rain (we’re in a massive drought, bordering on outright emergency conditions), all we usually get is lightning – which, added to the heat and drought, is threatening to make this a brush fire season that’s worse than last year, and last year was the worst EVER on record.

Going to be a long summer, folks.

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Filed under Photography, Weather

More Freakin’ Lizards

California may be officially “open” again, but some of us are still about 99.99% up to our eyeballs in work between this and that and the other thing, so while I’ll be looking for new and different things to start sharing after 15 months of birds, flowers, lizards, and various celestial objects, that may take a few days to get to.

Again I’ve changed my nickname for the semi-tailless, completely left feet-less, dude on the left. I think “Warrior!” was the last thought I had, but it doesn’t just roll off the tongue when I’m chatting with him, so currently I’m going with “Monsieur Badass.”

Normally he’s more hiding near the tires rather than out in the open.

I don’t think this is Doctor Lizardo. My gut feeling is that this dude’s smaller, younger, different markings, and he looks to be still on his first tail. But it could be him and I might be clueless and making this up as I go along.

Then Monsieur Badass made this face right after sucking up a half-dozen ants that were foolishly trying to scoot along that groove between the bricks and concrete in front of him. Okay, that explains why he’s here instead of next to the tires. It’s dinner time!

Mmmm… Ants. There are lots of them around and they’re not real bright about changing course when the ants in front of them are running full tilt into the gaping maw of a tiny dinosaur relative.

That also explains the faceoff in the driveway between the two of them – those are Monsieur Badass’ ants, go find your own! And, in fact, about two seconds after I took this last picture, M. Badass did chase this dude away.

It’s a lizard eat ants sort of world out there.

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No Context For You – June 14th

Is that my finger in the way?

In the way of what? My chin? Someone else’s chin? A different body part? A flesh-toned non-body part?

What’s that ribbed pattern? Was something large and corduroy-like following me?

So many questions.

Indiana? Ohio? Missouri? Maryland? Pennsylvania? New York? Vermont? New Hampshire? Florida?

Oh, dear god, not Florida. At least there’s one answer.

Panic? Don’t panic? (There’s a good one…)

Maybe that’s an arm and an elbow-y thing.

Don’t panic. Yet.

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Crescent Moon & Venus & Mars – June 13th

A tale of three pictures in one sky, and the different camera equipment needed to tell those three stories.

I thought that the Moon would still be close enough to Venus to be captured in one frame using the 75-300 mm zoom lens – NOPE! Too far apart tonight. So I had to go back into the house and get the camera with the 18-55 mm “normal” lens. Zoomed in to 55 mm, you can just get the Moon at top left, Mars directly below it, and Venus just quite not setting in the lower right. Good thing that gap in the trees is there and my front yard is a bit elevated. What a glorious thing a flat western horizon would be!

The Moon is about three days past new, so along the terminator line you can start to see some nice shadows in the craters. This is using the big lens at 300 mm.

But if you wait for it to get a bit darker and then you overexpose the Moon, you can spot Mars directly below it. Also using the 300 mm zoom lens, just using a 1 second exposure instead of a 1/100 second exposure.

The Moon is on it’s merry way up toward the zenith and full moon in ten days. Venus is climbing away from the Sun while Mars is sinking toward the Sun. Keep an eye on July 10th and 11th! Venus, Mars, and the just-past new crescent (AGAIN!) Moon will all be piled up in a wonderful conjunction. This June arrangement is just a rehearsal!

 

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Crescent Moon & Venus – June 12th

Looking at how often I post variations of this exact shot, with the two or three or four-day old crescent moon and Venus or Saturn or Jupiter or some combination of them all, you would almost think that there’s some pattern here…

As the prophecy (i.e, the astronomical ephemeris) foretold, the Moon has passed Venus to the west of the Sun.

Tonight I remembered to go out about 45 minutes earlier than last night. It worked (of course).

In the not-quite-dark-yet dusk, the Moon was a crescent, two and a half days (ish) from full moon (which caused that partial and annular solar eclipse on Thursday morning, remember?) with lots of Earthshine.

It was wonderful, clear, cool, a tiny breeze and the stars starting to come out. I could hear two parties going off in the neighborhood – probably graduation celebrations.

As Venus was headed toward the horizon somewhere far beyond Santa Barbara, the Moon was perched atop this tree, with some large hawk or raptor of some sort having just glided in to roost in the tree just at the lower right.

As it got darker, even though the Moon was sinking down into the coastal haze, the Earthshine got easier to see.

I’m grateful that it was clear two days in a row – given the week’s forecast for hot, Hot, HOT weather every day, we might be able to luck out for the rest of the week. Of course, it’s also predicted to be 117° to 120°+ all week, so that’s a mixed blessing.

If you can get a chance to see these two planetary objects over the next couple of nights after sunset, take it! Just go out and sit and watch for a bit. (Put on bug spray…)

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Harassing Moon

Yesterday morning the Moon was out there harassing the sun, causing a partial solar eclipse for many on the US East Coast and into Great Britain, with a few lucky folk way, way up north getting to see a short annular eclipse. Google it, there are some great photos.

Having finished with messing around with the Sun, tonight the very thin crescent moon was threatening Venus.

I caught it a couple of minutes later than I should have. It was pretty low, but there was a little bit of gap between those trees that I could just peek through from the driveway.

Any earlier and it would have been too bright to see the moon – I know, because I went and looked!

It was beautiful and clear. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a couple of nights like that to take pictures over the weekend?

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Nice Depth Of Field

The color saturation’s pretty good too. Some days it’s better to be lucky than good.

FYI, things seem to be heating up a bit so far as the schedule is concerned, so you might be seeing more of these “one picture, one caption” posts for a while.

We’ll see.

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Filed under Flowers, Photography

Big Clouds, Mid-Sized Jets, Tiny Hummingbirds

Big clouds. Broken. Puffy. Probably VFR conditions breaking through that deck, but I don’t know if I would push my luck and go through on a check ride.

More clouds to the north but a different pattern. Can you see the tiny hummingbird?

Now can you find the tiny hummingbird? How about the mid-sized jet? A Southwest 747 to be exact, going straight in to Burbank Runway 8. Small compared to the clouds, huge compared to the hummingbird, mid-sized compared to a 747.

It’s all perspective.

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Filed under Birds, Flying, Photography, Weather

Bird Pictures In Mind Only

Two experiences today where I was either without a camera (and it happened really fast) or I had a camera and something happened too fast to move, focus, and shoot.

Experience The First – Death From Above

I had done my usual Sunday morning COVID-based grocery run and pick up of breakfast. As I pulled into the driveway and got out, I saw a pair of red-tail hawks circling a quarter-mile or so down to the south, maybe 500′ above us. I locked the car and walked around to the trunk, popped it open, and for whatever reason I looked south for the hawks and couldn’t see them. As I looked, I heard the cry of a hawk directly overhead (exactly like the sound effect used in every Western since the first talkie hit the flicks), looked up, and saw one of them with wings tucked, in a full dive. “Death From Above” indeed!

Across the street, perched on a telephone wire, was a mourning dove. The hawk at the last second in an eyeblink extended his wings, hit the brakes, extended his claws, and that mourning dove EXPLODED into a cloud of feathers. Out of this fluttering mass of feathers emerged the hawk with its lunch, struggling a bit with the weight of its prey, but as the hill drops of pretty swiftly it made it off with no problem into the trees a couple of houses down.

As I was picking up my jaw from seeing that, the other red-tail hawk swooped in low from behind our house, crossed to where the kill had been, and perched on the power line transformer on top of the pole. I have to wonder if it went there since it was very close to where the kill had just happened, the hawk logic being that where there was one fat, slow bird, there might be others. This time I did grab my camera (as I took the cold food and hot breakfast into the house) and spent several minutes taking pictures as the second hawk scanned the neighborhood for its lunch. It finally flew off to look elsewhere, just as the memory card on my camera filled up. (RAW files will do that…)

Pictures will follow this week (probably) as I get time to process them.

Experience The Second – Buzzed By Fighters

After replacing the memory card with a new one, I was out taking pictures of the hummingbirds. There’s a whole drama thing going on with them (again, pictures to follow one of these days) but at one point the very territorial male Anna’s Hummingbird was chasing a Rufous Hummingbird away from one of the feeders.

I had been taking pictures of the Anna’s and through the lens saw the Rufous zoom through the field of view toward the feeder. The Anna’s took off like a Spitfire scrambling to take on fleet of German bombers during the Battle of Britain. The Rufous did a hard right and headed right toward my face with the Anna’s, neon red neck feathers on full display, right behind them. They went past my left ear just slightly under Mach One, just like a biological Top Gun dogfight.

It was awesome!

I don’t know if a newer, faster, better camera would have caught it (it might have – they’re pretty good these days, especially at the high end, while my two are like fifteen years old) but my didn’t even try, so no pictures for you, sorry!

“Pics Or It Didn’t Happen!”

Don’t even start with me…

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A Tale Of Two New Lizards

It’s getting crowded under the Volvo…

Last weekend I saw two lizards soaking up photons from the hot driveway, one of which is (I believe) the legendary Doctor Lizardo, and the other a darker, almost jet black lizard with a missing tail, who I was thinking of calling “Stumpy.” Then earlier this week I saw a third lizard out there, a smaller, light tan colored youngster, along with “Stumpy.”

Today was again a busy day for lizardkind on the hot, hot driveway.

I was going out to get the trash cans when I spotted this guy.

I was quite surprised that he didn’t bolt immediately as I retrieved the rolling trash barrels. My path from the street to the back yard gate goes within a couple of feet of him, and when they’re empty and being dragged across the bumps in the lawn and up onto the driveway, they make a LOT of noise.

Be he was cool – then he sat right there while I went back into the house and got my camera. Perhaps he’s been chatting with Doctor Lizardo who is also not an instant bolter.

His tan color is definitely lighter and more brown than almost all of the other lizards in the yard.

His look reminds me of a soldier in a desert camouflage uniform, so I might call him “Khaki.”

On closer examination of the pictures, I can see some bluish stripes of scales along his back. He also has a black patch behind each of his front legs.

Just before sunset, I was confused by this guy. He was out away from the car, not moving, not running away. My first thought was that he was dead, but then I saw the head moving.

I again went back into the house, got the camera, and found him still there when I came back out. Very odd. And he looked…awkward.

In looking back at the pictures from earlier in the week, it all became clear. He’s not just missing part of his tail – he’s missing his feet and part of his legs on his left side. I didn’t see it earlier, but in the pictures from last weekend, so is the second lizard there.

This is “Stumpy.”

His coloration appears much lighter and more brown in this lighting, where in the sun he appeared quite dark and more black. (Do these lizards have the ability to make short-term changes to their coloration? I didn’t think so, but now I wonder.)

He’s not missing just his tail, but also much of his left-side limbs. That’s got to be a serious survival disadvantage.

Yet, if it’s the same lizard I think it is, he’s the guy that’s been out several times over the winter and dashing to hiding through a crack under the garage door when I get too close. I noticed the tail problem but never the missing feet, so I can’t say if the foot issue is recent or I just never noticed it.

He never moved a muscle except to swing his head around to watch me, even though I was starting to get pretty close. In fact, I got so close that I couldn’t focus the telephoto lens. I was down on my knees about three feet away and stumbled when I tried to scoot back a foot or so. The he turned and took off under the car and down the driveway that I lost sight of him immediately.

I hadn’t at that time noticed his feet, but his almost completely motionless state made me think that he was hurt, right up until he took off like a bat out of Hell. Then when I saw the pictures, I was even more amazed that he could move like that with that physical issue.

I won’t call him “Stumpy.” I’ll call him “Warrior,” because he is!

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