My April 2016 Photo of the Month is Figueroa Mountain Valley, an image made North of Santa Barbara during a clearing storm. Continue reading
April at Ocean Beach River Channel
Here is a collection of images I took in April at the Ocean Beach River Channel. My friends in the San Diego Photo Club photograph every bird possible in San Diego County, so I thought I would add a few images for my own collection.
As always, clicking on any of the images below will launch a slide show.
The Ocean Beach River Channel is where the San Diego River reaches the Pacific Ocean. There is a bird estuary on the South side of the River. Robb Field is a convenient location to park. The estuary is often affected by Dog Beach, especially on weekends. However, there were a few terns, willets, egrets and ducks to see.
An additional highlight was seeing the beautiful osprey nest in the baseball field in Robb Field. The nest is huge. It now hosts a family of Ospreys with some new baby osprey arrivals. On this night, it was amazing to watch the mother feed the newborns.
On any night, you are likely to see a dozen photographers lined up in the baseball field with their ultra-long lenses getting images. It is a great sight to see. I was a little more surprised to have most of the river channel to myself (there were a couple homeless people camping out on the rocks, which didn’t look comfortable and was a little depressing).
On some nights, it seems like you can’t see a bird anywhere. On others, they hang out in the middle of the channel, a little out of the way even for a long telephoto lens. Occasionally, you will have a great night where the birds seem to be walking right up to your feet.
I am no bird whisperer, and will always make landscapes my biggest interest, but it is always good to stretch yourself and photograph a subject you don’t do on a regular basis.
As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the images.
Skipping The San Diego Fair Photo Contest
I have decided to skip the 2016 San Diego Fair Photo Contest. I was a little hesitant to write this post, because I don’t want to take away the hard work done by the contest judges, or the many participants and ribbon-winners each year. I did feel I needed to share my thoughts though.
With the advent of digital media and the incredible popularity of photography in this age, the contest has become incredibly popular. There are usually over 4,000 entries across 34 categories. The photo contest at the San Diego Fair is both prestigious and accessible to photographers of all types and experience. This is a great thing!
There are major issues though. My frustration began with the first year of digital entries (2011), where many of us were elated to find out our images were accepted into the fair only to find out 5 hours later a mistake was made. Most of us received 2 fair tickets that went unused and a “sorry for the inconvenience.”
It costs $ 20.00 per entry (used to be $ 18.00) so turning in 5 images would incredibly, cost $ 100.00. This is listed as a processing fee, which is just astounding because it may be some of the most expensive data storage in the entire technology industry.
If your entry is accepted, then the costs don’t end there. You are given a 16 x 20 surface area for your print, never mind that most of the photography world has permanently converted to a 2 x 3 aspect ratio. The artist is essentially asked to crop an image they never intended to crop, or they have to use a black bar or other shadowbox effect to fit their image in the size allotted. And incredibly, I have read one of the judges criticize artists doing this! The contest itself created that problem.
I have also read judging critiques that seem to show a level of animosity and hostility towards digital work, processing, and modern artistic aesthetic. While I dislike gaudy HDR tone-mapping as much as anybody, I also don’t believe that film is inherently superior. I reject many of the arguments that I see that are condescending to digital photography. The vibrance and saturation sliders are not evil.
Your accepted entry also confirms that this is really a photographic print contest, not a photo contest. There is no doubt that your work is judged on composition and artistic merit, but I have seen articles online of judges criticizing print quality, incidental scratches or other marring that were probably due to mishandling, dropping, or any other issues bound to happen as your work is presented at the reception and during the fair. Somebody accidentally scratches your print? Well I hope you don’t mind losing out on a ribbon.
Because of these issues, most people resort to mounting their print to gatorboard or another rigid surface to try to keep the print as pristine as possible. This is pretty expensive. My last one cost $ 54.00, bringing my costs up to $ 72.00 for a single image! On top of that, the gatorboard makes your print virtually impossible to use in a frame in the future, so it is next to impossible to sell the print and recoup your costs.
If you work during the day, you also have additional ways to lose out. The hours to drop your work off are not easy if you have a day job, and while they do have late afternoon hours, the Fair just happens to be located at the epicenter of some of the worst traffic in San Diego County. If you are trying to make it home after work at a reasonable hour and don’t happen to live in Coastal North County, it just doesn’t work.
This problem also exists for picking up the gatorboard mounted-work you can’t sell after the fair. I was fortunate enough to have somebody drop off my work when my last entry was accepted, but incredibly, they refused to allow that same person to pick it up for me! I was out of town, and as a result, my $ 72.00 investment into the fair was thrown in the trash.
This contest is broken. The concept and the prestige make it very attractive to the local photography community. But it needs to be re-engineered and conducted in a way that is challenging, but much less expensive and with better accessibility to artists of all walks of life.
Do you want to try your hand at other contests? The local PPA club of SD County charges $ 15.00 per image for their contest, and that is pretty steep. Not recommended.
Poly Photo Club has an array of contests and you only need to be a member. Same goes for Darkroomers and both of those are highly recommended. I have several friends who have been guest judges and have said working with those clubs have been worth their time.
When I became the President of the San Diego Photo Club, I encouraged our members to enter the San Diego Fair Photo Contest and many followed suit. I was proud of all of the members who were accepted into the Fair last year, and a number of people who received ribbons. But was it worth the cost? I would say it wasn’t. Even with a first place ribbon, and a very small honorarium, the true winner is the San Diego Fair. You paid $ 20.00 for that ribbon, after all.
The San Diego Photo Club is working on a Fall 2016 Photo Contest and I think the only requirement will be membership in the club. I suspect it will be much more enjoyable by the club as a result.
A Pictorial Tribute To My Grandfather
Arnold Ray House (10/24/1938 – 04/13/2016)
Yesterday, my family said goodbye to Arnold Ray House, a great man, a wonderful husband, father, brother, grandparent, and great grandparent.
I will say a little more about my grandfather below, but I wanted to share some images from throughout the years.
Clicking on any of the images below will allow you to view as a slideshow. Don’t forget to read the rest of my tribute below the images.
It is really hard to adequately describe my grandfather’s influence on my life. He grew up an Okie, and while he didn’t have an extensive formal education, I can attest to the fact that was a genius in ways this world overlooks. He could build anything, fix anything, analyze anything, and his trade work made him an excellent mathematician. He began his work life as a teenager and bought his first home at the age of 21. How many Ivy Leaguers can say they accomplished that so early without any help?
My virtual second home as a child was the home he built in Angelus Oaks, the first of 2 homes he built himself. I have so many incredible memories of playing outside among the pine trees, enjoying the beautiful deck that spanned the length of the house, and even the futuristic (to a little kid) trash compactor he installed in the kitchen.
At one point, my grandfather decided to start his own business. It was called Arnold House Cabinets and operated out of Mentone, California. I remember hours of playing with his scrap wood and he allowed me to make all kids of creations. He had a nail-gun, which for a kid was like owning your own personal ICBM. He used to joke that where I needed a single nail, I would always drive 3. I used to issue my rebuttal that I needed every one of those nails, but I did concede that operating that nail-gun was pretty amazing.
My grandparents moved to Yuma, in the snowbird community of Fortuna Foothills. The area is a winter host to thousands who spend the colder months away from their primary homes in Canada and the Northern United States. I always joked that my grandparents had as many millionaire neighbors as somebody off Rodeo Drive, but it really wasn’t far from the truth.
Once again, a vacant lot of land became a beautiful home, the second he built by hand. He did literally all of the work himself except the trusses (which required a crane) and the drywall because his back was aching. I have no doubt that if his back wasn’t acting up he would have done the drywall too. He was in his late 60s at this point. He was still very strong.
My grandfather really enjoyed afternoons out on the patio with my grandmother. He set up a bird bath and feeder. Birds flocked to their property. With my grandmother, he admired the visitors and cursed those invasive Eurasian Doves. The bird feeder on my own patio came to fruition because of the time I spent with them.
My grandparents often played dominos on the patio, and I remember him frequently teasing my grandmother and saying she was cheating when he lost. Funny.
It was just recently that I had dinner with my grandparents, and my grandfather kept elbowing me to keep eating. I had way too many pieces of garlic bread. He always made me eat!
I remember recently going out with my grandfather on his ATV/golf cart vehicle. It was Arizona street-legal, complete with license plate. He gave me a lot of ribbing that I sucked at shifting gears in it, you know, us young people going soft. My grandfather was in his mid-70s at this point, riding around the neighborhood. Just remarkable.
In simple terms, my grandfather was one of the easiest persons in the world to have a conversation with. He knew a lot about everything. I have never met a person in the world who could strike up a conversation as easily as him. In his last couple days, be discussed all kinds of things: fishing, my car getting old, places he lived, things he made, and plans for the future. Those conversations were priceless, and I know my entire family feels the same way.
These are just a few of the memories, and I have no doubt I will revisit this post over and over again to add more detail.
This past week has been very sad for our entire family. My grandfather was somebody who had an ease, amiability, and strength that I can only hope to emulate in my later years. He left this world in good spirits, but he leaves an incredible void for everyone who knew him well.
Grandpa, thank you for being a great man, a great example, and a wonderful human being. I am going to miss you greatly. I will do my best to follow in your footsteps.
A Morning Clearing Storm at Figueroa Mountain
This morning, I spent a stormy Spring morning up at Figueroa Mountain north of Santa Barbara near Los Olivos, California. While I was a little late for the California Spring wildflower season in 2016, I knew that California Poppies tend to bloom late and I could take advantage of the storm clearing most of the Southern California. Below is a gallery of images I made and some notes on how I made them.
I left my home in San Diego a little past midnight and got some rest at the Gaviota Rest Area on US Highway 101 (I was far from alone, many were there doing the same thing!). At sunrise, I left for Los Olivos and proceeded North on Figueroa Mountain Road. This road came to my attention many years ago when Google revealed the location of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, which is indeed right off the road.
As Figueroa Mountain Road winds its way up the mountain, it is a very narrow paved road, sometimes with only space for a single vehicle. During Spring wildflower peak season, it can get very hectic, and you have to watch for vehicles rather than look at the hillsides.
I was here past peak, and I knew it. But with California Poppies being late bloomers and the storm, I thought I could make some cool images and the weather did not disappoint. Everywhere I turned, there were things to see, if I only I could find a turnout!
Even the turnouts turned out to be difficult once I found them. Because of the storm that blew through, a lot of it was extremely muddy and my Honda Civic Coupe was not built to handle it well. Mud caked all over the bottom of my boots and I gained a couple inches of height just from the mud.
The storm seemed to have two major clouds layers. The lower cloud layer, which I drove through, was low to the ground and hugged the lower canyons. There was also an upper cloud layer that was above the mountain. At the ridge-line, there were many compositions of the canyon below which were amazing to see.
One of the best spots had light rays shining right through an oak tree off the mountain. I found a turnout about 1/4 mile away, but by the time I got there, most of the mist was gone. I didn’t get quite the image I wanted, although I like the color and black and white I selected for this gallery. Still, I have another image that will stay in my mind forever.
I wanted to close with a shout-out to Jeff Sullivan, who posted an excellent blog post on Figueroa Mountain on April 3. I was a little late for peak wildflower season, and staying only until the morning meant I had closed poppies, but it was a great refresher after not having visited in several years due to the persistent California drought. Thanks Jeff!
Thank you very much for reading, and I hope you enjoy the images!
Hollenbeck Canyon In April
The California Chaparral is overlooked throughout Southern and Central California, but it is a unique plant community and ecosystem only found in this area of the world. Adapted to a mild and dry climate, many of the brushes and woodlands are unique.
The main goal this morning was simply to hike and get outdoors. We started our hike at 7 AM just as the sun was hitting the higher nearby points like Otay Mountain. It was cool, in the low 40s, but it was very good hiking weather. The trail begins at a parking lot off Honey Springs Road and climbs a small hill before dropping into Hollenbeck Canyon.
Our destination was a grove of oaks that Alex has photographed many times. Indeed, it was a beautify and shady grove, and was a nice way to get out of the sun as it moved overhead. One highlight was getting to use Alex’s Rokinon tilt-shift lens. It makes perfect panoramic images with no parallax. I might need to get me one!
Leaving the grove, we took an outer loop that took us back to the parking lot. There was a lot of evidence of its ranching past, from a corral to miles of fence line. It was too late for good Spring images. Despite the 2015 – 2016 El Nino season, much of Southern California did not get nearly as much rain as hoped.
Alex has trained with the Chaparral Institute, and he pointed out that the incredible frequency of human-created wildfire has taken a huge toll on the chaparral environment accustomed to 30 – 100 years between major wildfires. There was also a lot of invasive mustard along the trails, undoubtedly carried by human traffic. Finally, he pointed out that we know of these chaparral grasses are actually invasives that have out-competed native California grasslands.
I am looking forward to visiting Hollenbeck Canyon more (when it is cool), especially next Winter when our Spring wildflowers get started a little early in February.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the images!