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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Capay Valley

I've been avoiding heading back out to Capay this week because I was hoping for some different weather (less harsh sunlight).  But today I gave up waiting and went back to see how it's looking.  This orchard, and many others, are in full bloom, but there are still many orchards just beginning to bloom.  I'll try again over the weekend, and probably midway through next week too, just to see what else I can get.  I'm happy with this one though.  I like the softness of it combined with the curve of the tree trunk pattern.  It caught me by surprise.  I'm always happy when I find a photo I wasn't looking for!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Canon School

Driving around the Capay Valley for the almond festival last weekend, we stopped to check out this inviting little schoolhouse along Highway 16 between Brooks and Guinda.  The gate was open, and the schoolhouse door was open (in an "off the hinges" sort of way).  The schoolhouse seemed in fairly good shape, and maybe getting some renovation.  I hope so; schoolhouses like these offer wonderful local history!  Painted on the side of the building is "Canon School District 1868."  Also in this photo, a rare sighting of Bill who is checking out a tiny out-structure.  We thought it was an outhouse, but he told me the structure protects a small pump.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Old and the New

Here's another stretch of old vineyard with a fresh new covering of wild mustard.  In the background is a newer more geometric vineyard.  There is a variety of vineyard configurations in the valley.  I imagine each vineyard style depends on the type of grape grown, although I don't know much about it.  It really is a science though.  Here at UC Davis you could get a bachelors degree in viticulture! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Napa Valley Graveyard

A grapevine graveyard like this one is so rare in Napa Valley.  The wine industry is big business, and vineyard land is utilized efficiently.  I stumbled upon this field on accident when I took a wrong turn looking for a coffee shop.  It was an exciting moment!  I think these gnarled old grapevine stems are so pretty.  It turns out there's a walking path right through this field.  Of course I tried it out!  What a wonderful way to spend a morning!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

At Home in the Orchard

I expected to see people wandering around some of the Capay Valley almond orchards during today's festival, but I'm not sure I expected to see so many grazing animals!  In addition to grazing cows, we saw horses, sheep, and goats!  I wonder if these livestock realize how lucky they are? 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Berryessa Wine Country

I've been giving a lot of thought to my 2014 calendar, if you can believe it.  We're hardly in 2013, but I need to have my new calendar printed by July!  I was thinking I wouldn't photograph a spring Napa scene this year because I included one in last year's calendar.  I'm really hoping to get an almond blossom photo for the 2014.  (Expect a lot of almond blossom photos this week, I think!)  I was searching through my files from last year, and I came upon a few Napa photos that I didn't post last spring.  This one isn't exactly Napa; it's up past Lake Berryessa, which is a route I can take to Napa.  After looking at my spring Napa file, I decided I just have to get out there this week.  I'm still not planning on using a Napa mustard photo in the calendar, but at least it will break up the monotony of all the orchard shots I'll be taking this week!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spring is in the Air

I just can't get enough of the almost spring look around here.  What a change for me from this time last year when I was so impatient with spring's gentle pace.  I'm learning to savor the sense of anticipating.  Bundle up in my warm coat and gloves each morning, but feel that spring is in the air.  Appreciate the little daily changes that signal the turn of season.  And let me tell you, there's nothing like change of season for a daily photo blogger!  Hooray for a new color palette!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Almond Orchard

This is how most of the Capay Valley almond orchards were looking last weekend.  They were in various states of not quite ready to bloom.  I doubled back to photograph this barn because I liked the red, white, and blue effect with the sky.  Looking at it now, it seems a little washed out, but I think the colors are about right.  In previous photos I complained that the sky color was too deep.  Here the blue sky still has a winter look to it, although it's getting stronger; this photo best reflects the changing of season.  The bottom half looks like spring and the top half looks like late winter. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Healthy Farm

The Capay Valley is known around here for its organic farming.  And in fact, the orchard filled with this wild mustard is part of a large CSA farm.  The mustard fields were buzzing with bees, and full of ladybugs.  At any given spot I could probably find three ladybugs in my immediate surroundings.  Ladybugs are a sign of a healthy agriculture ecosystem; they eat a tremendous amount of garden pests.  I'm not usually a primary color fan. My favorite three colors in order are (green, orange, and purple).  Still, I really like the primary colors in this photo, maybe because I don't photograph them very often.  Maybe because they're just so cheery!

Monday, February 18, 2013

And the Mustard...

It was extensive!  It's got to be one of the first things to bloom around here in the almost-spring, and it really will be everywhere soon.  Painting every roadside in a cheery spring green.  I can't account for the blue in the sky here. We are getting a stronger blue these days, but not this rich.  I wasn't using my polarizer, so I'm not sure why the sky is so deep, but I really do like it.  The sun was hot, even though it was only in the 60s, and I had to go back to the car and get a hat!  So maybe it just comes from the heat?  Beyond this extensive patch of wildflowers the pervasive brownness is still visible.  It makes this photo deceptive.  It's not really spring, but you can feel it coming.   

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Beginnings

Next Sunday is the Capay Valley Almond Festival, and after getting my fill of snow last week, I'm ready to turn the corner in search of spring!  I headed out to Capay this morning to see what was blooming ahead of the festival crowd next week.  Hardly anything, actually.  But some early bloomers were visible in a few almond orchards.  I think it should be pretty colorful by next weekend, but here's a preview of things to come...

Friday, February 15, 2013


I can't resist photographing a tree ent when I see one.  This expressive tree stands guard just beyond the entrance to the Indiana Dunes State Park.  And sadly signals the end of my Indiana series.  I almost feel like I should get a tourism commission, I've promoted the Indiana Dunes so ardently this past week!  But now it's time to shift gears; I need to get out with my camera so I'll have something new to post. Spring is just around the corner here.  In two weeks I should have some colorful scenes.  Until then I'll have to assess my brown options ;)  Actually the blog is in a transitional phase right now, so bear with me if I don't post everyday.  I'm still figuring out where this is all going.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


The winter beach is a great place to go if you want to be alone...or alone with your sweetheart on Valentine's Day!  Most days I didn't see a single soul out here, and there's a nice peace to having the beach all to yourself.  On my first few days it was very cold and very windy, so the solitude took on a Lawrence of Arabia feel, because the blowing sand can really sting!  I was always trying to shield my camera.  One of the benefits to running such a long series, is that it has given me time to get my sensor cleaned.  I was worried I got sand in my camera.  I've never had so many sensor spots (I cleaned over 40 off this photo, taken my last day there).   There were plenty of calm days too, like the one I photographed here.  No wind, just peace and quiet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dunes Succession (Birthplace of Ecology)

OK, I admit I'm stretching this series a little, but I love the area so much and really want to share it.  I was still playing around with photographing snow fences at the state park when I took this photo.  I'm posting it though because it's a good example of a process called dunes succession that I mentioned in my post yesterday.  Succession is sort of like evolution from non-organic to organic matter, and dunes succession begins with marram grass which can grow in the sand just out of reach of the largest waves.  The grass has an extensive underground rhizome system and when it decomposes, it starts to change the sand by adding humus.  When the sand is sufficiently changed, it paves the way for new plants like cottonwood, Jack pine, ash, black oak etc. creating a cooler canopy, and the process continues.  The most mature dunes forest is beech-maple, which is what I started this series with in "Long Road Home".  The Great Lakes which were formed by melting glaciers have shifted over the years, and those forests which are miles from the beach now, were once beach themselves.  Anyway, it's a cool process, and we all learned about it in school here.  The once controversial idea was postulated by a University of Chicago professor (Cowles) in the early 1900's.  It became a famous idea, although not as famous as Darwin, but it did give this area claim to the title Birthplace of Ecology.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I stopped to take this photo because I was really fascinated by that dark blue line on the horizon.  The photo concept is supposed to be an abstract with bands of color, but beyond the abstract quality, I think this scene has a lot of great beach elements.  First, the ice shelf formation is pretty visible; the shelf itself, and the chunks of ice in the water that will soon be washed onto the shelf.  The other element I want to mention is the marram grass.  It's present on all the dunes.  Pale green in summer, and tannish in winter.  This is NOT soft grass.  I would not recommend running through it, or even walking through it for that matter.  (Think paper cut).  It is soft on the eye in a flowing-in-the-breeze sense.  And marram grass is the first step in a process called Dunes Succession. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow Fence

Snow fences were coming down both sides of the dunes at the State Park.  The other side includes a sledding hill, but I had better luck with composing this side.  And I learned a thing or two about walking in snow drifts on sand dunes!  I had to head up the dunes a bit to get this photo, and for a while I was walking right on top of the frozen sand.  Then all of a sudden I hit a different side of the drift and my feet started dropping deep into the dune.  With every step I was at least up to my knees in sand and snow!  I did pack my snow boots, and I was prepared to knock some snow off at the end of my photo shoot, but I really wasn't imagining having to clean so much sand off my legs and boots!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ice Shelf on Lake Michigan

Most people don't realize how large the Great Lakes really are.  Lake Michigan is over 300 miles long and almost 120 miles wide, making its total surface area roughly 22,300 square miles!   Now that we're living in California, people will sometimes wrongly compare Lake Tahoe to Lake Michigan, but in terms of surface area 115 Lake Tahoes could fit over Lake Michigan.  Even though the winters on the Great Lakes are extremely cold, Lake Michigan doesn't freeze over.  But ice does form on the lake.  Waves and wind bring the ice to the east and southeast sides and bit by bit these pieces of ice start to form a shelf over the water.  This photo was taken the first day I headed out to the beach.  We were just starting a cold and snowy cycle, so there is lots of exposed sand in the foreground, which makes the shelf easier to see.  This is one of the smallest shelves I've seen out here; the shelf can extend hundreds of feet over the lake.  Because this ice is really a patchwork of ice chunks, it's actually very unstable.  Warning signs are up all over the place for people to STAY OFF THE SHELF ICE! One final comment on the photo:  the winding water in the foreground is a small creek draining into the lake.  I thought it made a nice "lead in" so I photographed it too.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Indiana Dunes State Park

In yesterday's post I mentioned that Northwest Indiana has two different park systems.  The Indiana Dunes State Park is the other.  It's got a huge beach and many different trails to hike.  It also has several huge parking lots, so in the summer this beach gets very crowded, especially on the weekends when all the Illinois people come over.  Illinois didn't set aside beach early on like in Indiana, so if they want to go to the beach they come here.  On the day I took this photo, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, and somehow things we're feeling pretty bleak for me.  I was wanting to take this sort of stark photo to reflect my mood; I think I've mentioned that I'm always happiest with photos when they convey a strong mood.  When I took the photo and saw it in the screen on the back of my camera, it just made me so happy because it completely captured my mood.  It sounds so silly, but all of a sudden I felt understood.  My camera understood me?  It was a funny thought to me even then, but I guess I felt like I had spoken and been heard. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

This dunes area of Northwest Indiana is lucky to have its beaches protected by two different park systems.  This photo was taken in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Beverly Shores, not far from Kemil Rd. (February 6th "Long Road Home" photo).  It was taken right after one of our heavier snows so the sand is mostly covered here.  The browner patches in the foreground are thin layers of blowing sand; there is always a lot of blowing and drifting along the shoreline.  When we lived in Michigan a few years ago, we had a Japanese exchange student staying with us during the month of February, and he really wanted to see Lake Michigan so we drove here.  I asked what he thought, and he said "Water, snow, sand, and wood, all in one place.  Very mysterious!"  I really loved that comment.  It's a beautiful place, even in the winter.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Well, no guesses yesterday, so I'll just give it away...I was in Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan last week.  All my photos are from Indiana.  I was there helping some family members move, but tried to find a little time each day to head out with my camera.  This farm is on a back road that I take to the beach.  I  like to imagine myself living somewhere like this, but I'm sure I would never want to maintain it.  As I've mentioned before though, I do love a red barn.  This one looks very "Indiana" to me.  As we were driving through rural Illinois I was drawn to all the white barns.  Especially with the white sky and ground.  I wish I would have had time to do some photography there too, because I really wanted capture one of those white "Illinois" barns as well.  Maybe next time.  Obviously there was some snow falling when I took this picture.  I was wondering if anyone minds that big snowflake in front of the barn entrance.  To post a comment you just click on the "comments" tab below the photo.  I know I'm getting a lot of hits each day, so don't be afraid to leave a comment! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Long Road Home

I can't believe how busy the month of January (and early February) has been for me.  I started the year in Arizona, spent a week in Oregon and Washington, and ended the month in yet another state.  Three others actually.  And since I began my Arizona series with a road, I thought I would start this series the same way just for fun.  Where did I go?  We call this Kemil Road, but that's hardly a hint, because the official name was changed several decades ago.  Did it snow while I was in this state?  Yes, everyday as a matter of fact!  I like the way this photo composed, because it looks like the bottom of an hour glass.  Like snow just keeps sifting through some opening up at the top and piling up at the bottom of the photo, so it's a good metaphor for the week.  As for the location, here's a hint and a bit of foreshadowing for blog posts this week:  If you drive down this road another mile, you'll be at a beach.