Painting is just another way of keeping a diary ~Pablo Picasso

Friday, December 28, 2012

Morning Fog and No Wind

On the road today, and our route took us through the wind farm near Rio Vista.  We had thick fog starting in Dixon, and it was just beginning to lighten as we approached the wind farm.  I thought it was a pretty cool looking scene with the morning light filtering in behind the turbines.  They were turning ever so slowly, but it didn't feel like there was any wind to me.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Festive Little Tree

This little tree lives in the shadow of a much larger tree along the edge of West Davis Pond.  It's just turning now, and the most beautiful Christmasy shade of red too.  It's right across the pond from the red tree I photographed in reflection a few weeks ago, so maybe it's a child of that tree.  Wherever it came from, it brings a festive splash of color to the pond edge. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Village

We had a lot of fun decorating gingerbread houses this week.  Four family members built homes for our little village.  In the upper left, Eric's Bavarian Half Timber home with University of Washington flowers along the front.  His people are smartly dressed.  Notice the hip belt on the gingerbread man, and the fashion forward dress worn by the gingerbread lady. And his door is open; cleary a very friendly couple!  In the upper right, my brother's traditional gingerbread home, tastefully decorated and landscaped.  Note the beautiful flower box and shrubs with tiny red berries!  The people are inside working hard.  This traditional Alpen Haus is home to both a doctor and a lawyer.  On the lower right, Anna's Fantasy Who-ville home.  Snow has piled up on this cute home.  You can't see the side windows but she has them shuttered with the little red and white pillow candies, so there's a Dutch feel to the side and back of her house.  The residents are snug inside, working on their novels.  And in the lower left, my California Dream Home.  The inspiration for the home was a palm tree cookie cutter I got at Sur le Table in Berkeley.  I had a row of palm trees out the front, but unfortunately they didn't hold up too well.  If I did this again, I would burn the cookies and then glue two together before frosting, just to add strength.  After a few hours all my palm trees snapped, and it looked like a hurricane had come through!  But the other California features are the stucco exterior, tile roof, and California poppies in the front yard.  I also included a California golden bear looking in the garbage can in the back yard.  And to complete the stereotype, my sunbathing residents, enjoying the balmy California weather in their bathing suits.  For those of you in the Midwest, that is how we dress around here.  Ha ha (Not Really!)  Also, the weather is not balmy, but hey, we can dream right? 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Cutie

My cat Luna just loves boxes.  And she also loves to nap under the Christmas tree.  This year we came up with the perfect combination: a little box right under the tree.  She can barely fit in the box, but that's what makes it all the cozier for her.  She spends about half her day in her Cuties box.  She does consider herself a cutie, so I think she's really happy with her Christmas present!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Things that bloom in December, Part 2

I've had my eye on this red hot poker plant all week, photographing it every morning.  I "discovered" it last January, and posted a photo of it in really amazing light. I never found light like that this week, but at least this photo shows the plant in full bloom; in the January photo the plant was definitely past its prime!  The color on the plant is so intense.  I'm really amazed that I never noticed it before last winter!  It's a winter only plant; during the summer months it just looks like a boring clump of tall grass.  Definitely a December beauty!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Things that bloom around here in December

It sounds like a Jeopardy category, but I'm amazed by the number of plants around here that bloom in the winter months.  So many that I could probably run a month long series on this.  I'm not planning to, but it's an interesting idea.   For today, tree mallow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Woodland Farm and Valley Oak

 Or...My 2013 New Year's Resolution

This photo was taken almost exactly a year ago.  I was browsing through my "seconds" folder yesterday and happened upon it.  I remember liking it a lot, but really objecting to that crooked telephone pole in the distance.  I remember returning to the scene to recreate the photo from a slightly different angle without the pole, and of course the light was never the same.  First off, today I happen to really like that pole.  But the other thing I realized when I was thinking about all the trouble I went through with this photo is that at this time last year I didn't know how to clone a little telephone pole out of a photo using Photoshop, and this is something I could easily do today.  This just seems crazy to me now.  And the fact is, I barely know Photoshop.

This really hit home for me yesterday too, because I had one of my favorite new photos printed at Blue Wing Art Gallery in Woodland.  (And I would highly recommend them for printing if you live in the Sacramento area!)  Al at Blue Wing corrected some of the issues with my photo.  On the one hand they were sort of minor, but on the other hand, they weren't easy fixes in Photoshop at all.  I was really in awe of this, and I know it's a little early for New Year's Resolutions, but I'm going to put some serious time into really learning Photoshop in 2013.

For me, Photoshop is a little like the old Rumsfeldian quandary in Iraq.  With Photoshop, there are the "known knowns", the "known unknowns", and then there are the "unknown unknowns" of which I'm becoming vaguely aware.  My goal is to use a less heavy-handed approach to processing photos in 2013.  I'm not super excited about the work.  I would much rather be out shooting photos with my camera than sitting at the computer and working on photos.  But I'm excited about the possible outcome. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On the Fence

...and a little further.  Yes, it's from my dog-walking route!
Just a sampling of some of the cool lichen that grows around here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

And the Season Turns

Fall comes late in the Central Valley, and it takes a lot longer for leaves to drop than in other places I've lived.  Just a few trees holding their leaves today, but there's still some great color.  This is also West Davis Pond, but a section I rarely visit because it's usually dry and not that interesting.  Luckily the water level is still high here.  I'm so glad we took a short detour to come upon this gorgeous scene!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Charlie Brown Tree

This must be some sort of pine, but I don't recognize it.  It's the only one of its kind on my walk along West Davis Pond.  One of these days I'll remember to bring my tree identification guide along and figure out this type of tree.  It's got an interesting shape.  Besides, I think it needs me... :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Mockingbird in an Oak Tree

My local variation of a classic Christmas carol!  :)  
Actually mockingbirds are ridiculously easy to photograph.  I think they are mesmerized by the sound of the auto focus beep on my camera; studying it in hopes of imitating it.  Sometimes when I'm photographing birds I have to turn the auto focus beep off, which I don't like to do.  Even though I can see the camera focusing, I'm reassured by the sound of the beep.  And the mockingbird is too, I guess.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
A mockingbird in an oak tree...

Friday, December 14, 2012


It's a theme I seem to be stuck on, but here's a slight variation.  The pond ever so choppy.  I know it will be hard to work through my redux issues if I keep taking the same photo.  I'm starting to realize that one of my issues is that things are getting busy this month, and I'm not having as much time for photos as I'd like.  The dog-walking route is one constant in my day.  Anyway, I am thankful that the water level remains so high at West Davis Pond, because I really like looking at these reflections.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Return of the Green Heron

Residents around West Davis Pond can rest easier tonight.  Our local super hero, the Green Heron, has returned for another year!  There are so many things I love about this bird.  For one, his ability to take so many different shapes, and to wear so many different outlandish hairdos.  I love his fearlessness.  When the Wood Ducks fled, our hero alighted to a nearby tree, and struck his typical Zen pose.  He has a knack for picking particularly photo-friendly trees.  Alas, all super heroes have their weakness, and the Green Heron is no exception.  He has a weakness for positioning himself behind a branch when a camera is near.  I managed three blog posts about him last winter, and I hope to double that this year. 
It's a's a wait, it's a bird!  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reflection Redux

Between the fog and the high water from last week's rain, there were some interesting scenes at West Davis Pond yesterday.  I expect these ink blot patterns to be here for a while, so I'll continue to experiment with them.  I think reflection redux could just as easily apply to the lousy photo mood I'm in right now though.  It's my usual problem.  Every photo I take or look at seems like something I've already seen.  Like there's no original photo left to take.  I know it's just a mood, because I've been here before.  Many times!  I'm trying to work through it, and I'm determined to post everyday even though I'm not in the mood...just to let myself experiment and take a lot of shots each day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Wood Ducks

The Wood Ducks are back and so is our fog!  Thick this morning, but not so thick that I could sneak up on the ducks at the south end of the pond.  This was my only shot of them.  Full of mystery, don't you think?! :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fall in the Walnut Orchard

Here's the companion photo to yesterday's almond orchard.  That photo inspired me to drive my old orchard loop through Winters.  Very different lighting, but then our weather has cleared.  The walnut trees are a lot bigger, and all have that huge graft at the bottom.  All the harvesting went on last month, so now is the time to get fresh walnuts, if you're a fan of them like I am.  They're a great source of Omega-3, but not that stable, so if you do buy walnuts it's really important to buy this year's crop, and to store them in the freezer to preserve their freshness.  And while I'm venturing into food blogger territory, I would also advice soaking them overnight in salt water.  This will deactivate enzyme-inhibitors which sometimes make nuts hard for people to digest.  Enjoy!  :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fall in the Almond Orchard

Driving to Woodland the other morning, I just couldn't help but admire the color and saturation of this almond orchard.  And this is going to sound a little silly, but one of the things I'm proud of from my 2 1/2 years living here is that I can tell one orchard from another.  Almonds are related to the apricot family; they flower and leaf out early in the spring.  They seem to hold their leaves the longest too, but they don't grow nearly as big as the walnut trees.   I have to take a back road route to drive through the orchards and I guess I've never driven this way so late in the fall.  So glad I did!  Love, love, love this color!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Parking Under the Gingko Tree

On a rainy fall day
In midtown Sacramento.
A very pretty proposition.
(Yes, it is still fall here!)

The car parked
in front of me
was completely covered
in gingko leaves.
It looked like
a parade float.
At first I thought
it hadn't moved all week,
but now I'm thinking
it had only been there for
a day...or two.
I sure wish
I could have
from the inside
of that car!

This photo was made
after my windshield wipers
pushed all the leaves
and water
to one side.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

West Davis Pond

Ok, maybe it's a bit much to look at.  Sort of mesmerizing though. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More Rain Today

I learned a new weather term this week, "atmospheric river".  It sounds bad, but we ended up getting a lot less rain than I was imagining.  Probably an inch or two a day, and only five or six inches in all.  No flooding here, but West Davis Pond is as high as I've seen it, with all the little islands underwater.  More rain in the forecast for today and tomorrow.  I'm enjoying monitoring the pond levels...with my camera :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

This Year's Growth

Here's another view of the new growth at the top of a persimmon tree,
including some hard to reach persimmons.  So pretty.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Drying Room

The process of making hoshigaki begins with peeling and stringing the persimmons.  Ideally they dry outside first for a while, but this process is very dependent on the weather.  Only one stand of newly peeled persimmons was outside when I visited.  This drying room was the intermediate step.  The door was open and a fan was running, and when I got here, each persimmon was being individually worked by hand.  After they dry here for a while they move to a third room which was much more temperature-controlled.  There the persimmons lose their orange color completely, and when they're done they look like they're coated in sugar.  The finished hoshigaki is very sweet and chewy; not tough like a dried apricot, more like a gum drop. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Persimmon Tree

Otow Orchard is generations old, and the trees are so pretty.  They have this great gnarled old look to them, but they're neatly trimmed each season, and the year's new branches come out stick straight.  With the beautiful orange persimmons it just makes for such a great abstract. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Otow Orchard

Otow Orchard produces and sells a lot more than just persimmons and hoshigaki over the course of the year including seasonal vegetables, although they seem to primarily be a fruit producing orchard.  I got a chance to walk around the orchard and of course the persimmons stood out, because of their beautiful fall color.  I'm told that last week the trees were all covered with these bright orange leaves.  Yesterday most of the trees were bare; only a few were still holding their leaves. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I'm very excited about this series of photos from Otow Orchard ("Oh Toe") in Granite Bay.  I've dried persimmons at my house using a food dehydrator, but it's nothing like the process used here.  Hoshigaki literally means dried persimmon, and at Otow Orchard they preserve the Japanese art of drying whole persimmons.  It's a time-consuming process with each persimmon peeled, hung, and then massaged, and rotated every few days for three to six weeks.  A real delicacy!  You can expect to see more persimmon photos in the coming days...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


This great cloud pattern stretched across Sacramento yesterday afternoon.  A precursor to today's rain. It reminds me of a show going on at the Viewpoint Gallery right now called Linear.  All the photos in the show consist of horizontal lines within three themes: water, sky, or linear, which was basically anything not water or sky.  Clouds in the show really did look like lines; these clouds are much "fluffier", but the linear pattern is still really cool.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sharing a Quiet Moment

While all the other koi fish in the pond swam aimlessly about, this handsome golden fish tried hard to make eye contact; he kept sticking his forehead right out of the water.  I think he was smiling at me!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Japanese Tea Garden

It was back to the airport in San Francisco today, but not before a little sightseeing.  Here is the pagoda at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pine Cone on Fallen Leaf Lake

Yesterday we went up to Lake Tahoe to cut our Christmas Tree in the Tahoe Basin National Forest.  I took so many family photos that I completely forgot to take a blog photo in the forest.  But after we got the tree we took a short hike to Fallen Leaf Lake.  The Aspen leaves are long gone, but I did find this pine cone floating by.  With this interesting reflection pattern, the pine cone sort of reminds me of the storm spot on Jupiter. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Morning Fly-In

I'm told that the geese at West Davis pond don't migrate, but they did disappear this summer when the pond dried up.  Lucky that we can enjoy their antics all winter though!  They don't seem to have any predators at the pond, so over the 2 1/2 years that I've lived here I've seen this goose population double.  They get their breakfast at a field about a half mile from here, and then at some designated moment, they all take flight and return to the pond.  They provide fair warning; the fly-in is a very loud event.  After a few minutes they settle down, and then all is quiet on the pond again.   Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog friends!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Decorating Early

Mother Nature did a little pre-Thanksgiving holiday decorating this morning.  
We got this great drizzle (a la Pacific Northwest), 
leaving water droplets glistening like holiday lights. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rorschach Test

The water level at West Davis Pond varies so much during the year.  This summer the whole pond was nothing but a mud flat.  Now that we've had a few good rains it's starting to fill.  There is just a month or so when this photo is takeable.  Soon this entire area will be completely flooded.  I like this middle stage; I always think the reflection looks like a window view into the plants' exposed roots. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Walk in the Rain

Today I'm officially starting the I Love November Club on my blog.  If November is your favorite month, then you can join.  No dues.  Just camaraderie.  Novemberphiles unite!   And if it's just me, then that's OK.  I'll enjoy long walks in the wet leaves all by myself :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monterey Bay

It's a rocky beach along the Pacific Grove shore of Monterey Bay.  And the waves were nonstop here during our visit.  Here's my long exposure version of water, rocks, and predawn light.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Anna's Hummingbird

This Red Bottle Brush was just one of the many plants at Butterfly Grove that was specifically planted for the wintering Monarch Butterflies.  It was pretty cold yesterday though, and very few butterflies had left the tree.  This little Anna's Hummingbird had the flowers all to himself. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Monarch Sanctuary

We just returned from a trip to Monterey this weekend.  One of the things I really wanted to do was visit the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove.  Western monarch butterflies winter here, and also in numerous other groves along the California coast.  The grove consists of a combination of Eucalyptus and Monterey Pine which provide the perfect habitat for the butterflies.  They hang in these huge clusters throughout the winter months.  There are only about 2000 butterflies here right now, which isn't really that many.  Butterflies will continue to arrive until December.  In a good year they will get about 8000; this is still magnitudes less than the eastern monarch's winter sanctuary in Mexico.  That would be truly amazing to see!  One word of warning before visiting here:  they fence off the grove, so visitors have to look through binoculars to get a good view of the butterflies.  This photo is with my 200mm lens, and even still I had to crop.  This would have been a good weekend to rent that 400mm lens again!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Calaveras County

We had an early morning drive out to the Calaveras County Fairgrounds on Saturday for a big cross country meet.  The fog was so pretty.  Wish I had time to stop and do a lot of photography, but we were in a hurry.  I definitely want to come back here with my camera one morning soon!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gathering Moss

Some beautiful trees along the shore of Lake Hennessey just dripping with moss.  Must be perfect conditions here with all the fog and water. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lake Hennessey

Driving past Lake Hennessey on my way home from Napa Valley I witnessed this battle taking place.  Sunshine and fog staking out their positions on the opposite shore.  Sunshine won out as I made my way up and over the Berryessa Hills.  I wore my sunglasses the rest of the way home.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tree of Past Loves

Driving through downtown Calistoga on my trip to Napa Valley this week I happened upon a stretch of trees covered in tags.  I just happened to pull up next to this one, labeled "past loves", to get some photos.  Other nearby trees were labeled "favorite quote" and "best decision I ever made".  The Best Decision Tree had almost as many tags as this one.  I couldn't help but imagine that a lot of those tags must hold the names of current loves.  :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Heard it through the grapevine

OK this is my last grapevine photo.  I just really liked the red leaf.  And the stems.
And maybe the title is a good segue for tomorrow's photo.
(In a Motown sort of way).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Napa Grape Harvest

October was grape harvesting time in Napa Valley.  I did see some vineyards with grapes still on the vines, but they were the exception.  The thing that struck me though was that the entire valley smells like an open bottle of red wine.  I came across the Berryessa Hills and entered the valley pretty far north in Rutherford, and the fermenting grape smell filtered into my car as I descended into the valley.  Getting out of the car, the wine scent is overwhelming.  I was able to see grape crushing taking place at one of the wineries, and it was an open air event.  With over 500,000 acres of vineyards in the county, there's a lot of wine-making going on here right now!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Napa Valley Fog

The morning fog was thick in Napa Valley when I was here yesterday morning.  I'm no viticulture expert, but I understand that this pattern of morning fog and midday sun is part of the wine-making process here.  This vineyard was probably 20 feet away from me when I took this photo, and yes it really was that foggy!  I think it's a nice low contrast image.  Not at all in my style, but that's part of what I like about it. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Carson River

For all my Carson River photos this year, I think this is probably my first big picture
photo of the area. Here it is.  I love this place!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Late October Aspen

I was surprised by the number of Aspen leaves still on the trees when I was in Hope Valley last Friday.  And also by the color.   During my trip up here in early October I called the leaf color lemon-lime.  This week it's more like pumpkin orange.   This photo was taken about a mile downstream from where I took yesterday's photo, but on the other side of the river.  No frost here whatsoever.  I like the browning around the edges of the leaves.  It really makes them stand out.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Frosty Morning

The overnight lows were in the 20s around the Hope Valley area this Friday, and it felt as cold as it looks!  Everything on this side of the river was covered in frost.  Such a change from a few weeks ago!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thin Ice

When we got our first rain, the Tahoe area got its first snow.  Yesterday was my first chance to get up there since the snow earlier this week.  Snow everywhere above about 4500 ft., but probably less than a foot left.  I only found two little patches of ice.  I'm not sure what cause this patch of ice along the edge of the Carson River to form with these cool patterns in it, but I'm sure glad it did.  I thought it was so pretty!