Horsetail Fall February 12, 2017

Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

It was quite a weekend for me with two back to back trips to Yosemite National Park.   We begin on Saturday Feb. 11th; my friend Dali, and I headed out early for the park traveling route SR120 which was open when we left the Bay Area but, when we got near the gate to the park there was an electronic sign saying there was no access to the valley from that entrance due to a rock slide.  The Ranger told us there was an alternate route into the valley but it was a 2.5 hours journey from there to the valley. Unfortunately, that would have put us in the valley after 5pm and we needed to be in place, camera set up, and ready to start photographing  by 5pm or hours sooner knowing what the crowds can be like at this time of year.  So, disappointed we turned around and headed back home.  That was 8 hours on the road and nothing to show for it.  It’s not the first time!

Not totally defeated, and ever the optimists we knew we still had Sunday! We met earlier Sunday morning the 12th, and drove the slightly longer southern route to access the valley. The southern route is lower in altitude and usually open all year, but even this year with all the rain there were rock slides, and it was closed for a day the week before, and on “call ahead” status for days after before we left!   Fortunately, Sunday morning the road condition site said Open so, we forged ahead ever hopeful.  With a stop for lunch, and gas we made it into the valley without any delays, and hiked to our spot in plenty of time to set up and photograph what we had planned.

What would entice us and hundreds of other people to spend 16+ hours driving back and forth to Yosemite National Park in two day you may be wondering? If my post’s title didn’t give it away… Horsetail Fall!  🙂

In mid February for about two weeks (give or take a day or two) if the conditions are just right the sun will shine on the waterfall and light it up orange-red. It’s amazing it looks like lava flowing down the cliff face.

What are the perfect conditions to see this? There has to be water flowing. This waterfall is fed by rainfall, and snow melt, and there has to be sun to light up the waterfall.

In February having sun isn’t a given. I’ve been skunked in years past waiting and hoping the sun would peek out from the gray clouds to light up the fall only to be totally skunked. No light what-so-ever hitting the cliff face or waterfall.  It was still fun waiting and anticipating the event with hundreds of other photographers, and vowing to be back next year to try again. I did show up the following year, after year, after year.

Having water hasn’t been a given these last 6 years either. Being in California with the drought there were years it was just a trickle. This year with all the drought busting rain, and snow up in the mountains we knew there would be more than a trickle of water flowing but, we had to have sun too.  Thankfully, we had perfect conditions Sunday. Water flowing and Sun!

Here is an image from the peak of the phenomenon.  This is very nearly straight from my camera. I ran  this frame through Adobe Camera Raw for Lens and Camera Corrections, and I did correct the sky.  To capture the true color of the fall my camera washed out the sky. I added the blue back in the sky, and removed my dust spots, and I opened up the shadows a little bit.   Overall very few post development adjustments were added to this image.   This image was shot at 120mm.

Horsetail Fall February 12, 2017

I thought I’d try making a Timelapse from the stills I made.  It’s crude, and a bit jumpy as I zoomed in and out a few times to get a closer look, and I change the angle of my camera once during the shoot in the beginning.

Timelapse made with 145 still images.

If I’m going to do more Timelapse videos I’ll have be more disciplined about my set up and shooting.  I hope you enjoy it despite my shortcomings as a videographer.

This is the 7th year I’ve been photographing this phenomenon. So, was it worth the 16 hours on the road? OH YES! I’d do again. “)

Nikon Df| Nikkor 80-200mm| Delkin Digital Film| PS CC 2017

More to come…

 

 

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Wordless Wednesday 7/52

Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Nikon D700| Nikkor 200-500mm| Lexar Professional Digital Film| PS CC 2017

More to come…

Plan B is for the Birds

Copyright ©2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

My original Photography plans for last week-end fell apart mid-week when one of the friends I was going with fell ill.  Rather than go anyway which didn’t sit well with me or my friend Theresa we two switched gears and decided to go birding in the Central Valley to see what birds if any had arrived early.

I had read a few reports of early migrants in the area; we hoped to find one or two, and spend some time catching up with each other.

I left for T’s house early (6:30am) so we’d get to the Refuge in the morning when the birds are more active.

We found the first pond completely sans water. Fish and Wildlife have just started filling the ponds we discovered. Many of the ponds we’re used to seeing full of water were bone dry, but it is early in the season!

Just as we were starting the auto-route we spied a Doe and her Fawn in the tall grass. I didn’t get an image of them together. Mom decided her male Fawn was too close to the road and moved to higher grass.  Honestly, I think she looks young!

Doe  Deer Female

The Fawn has two little adorable antler nubs.Fawn Male

Early arrivals: There were quite a few White-fronted Geese on the little islands in the ponds that had water.

White-fronted Goose

Northern Pintails, and Shovelers are showing up, but I didn’t make any images of the Shovelers they were too far out. You see a Northern Pintail in image above giving me a one wing salute. 🙂

Among the usual suspects here were thousands of Dragonflies,

Dragon Fly

Pied-billed Grebes

Pied-billed Grebe

Night Herons; most were deep in the foliage, but one was on Sentry duty,

Night Heron

We saw a female Harrier flying low in the distance hunting, a few Red-tail Hawks, and as we approached the tree the Bald Eagles hang out in there we saw there was a Peregrine Falcon perched on a snag surveying the land.

Copyright © 2016 Deborah M. Zajac ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Once the Eagles return I doubt we’ll be seeing this Falcon in this tree. 🙂

Plan B turned out to be a great day, and it was lovely  hanging out with Theresa. You can find her images on flickr here.

Nikon D700| Nikkor 200-500mm VR| Lexar Professional Digital Film| PS CC 2015.5

More to come…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gray Flycatcher

Copyright ©2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I went birding on both Saturday and Sunday this past week-end hoping to find two birds I’d never seen or photographed before. I got lucky with really good looks on the first bird on my list: The Gray Flycatcher.  A “lifer” for me!

Gray Flycatcher

There were other birders there looking for the same bird which made the experience more fun and exciting. It also helped to have several pairs of eyes, and ears on the lookout.

Gray flycatcher

It’s migrating south, and this one is further west than it’s regular migration route.

Gray Flycatcher

He was pretty far away from me, and in the shadows of the trees so I boosted my ISO to keep up my shutter speed to prevent blurring, and these images are cropped.

Sunday I went back to look for the second bird on my list, but I was not successful.  I’ll have another go this week-end if I hear it’s still in the area.

Nikon D700| Nikkor 200-500mm| Lexar Professional Digital Film| Tripod|

Note to self- take the bug spray! I got eaten alive by mosquitoes!

More to come…

 

California Quail

Copyright © 2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

When I was setting up my rig a few weeks ago in Santa Cruz to photograph Hummingbirds a California Quail jumped up on an old weathered post not too far from me surrounded by lovely flowers.  I moved pretty quick to finish setting up my tripod w/Sidekick and mounting my camera hoping it would stick around!

California Quail on Post

“You lookin’ at me?”…

California Quail- The Look

A little Morning Stretch…

California Quail-Morning Stretch

Seeing and photographing this Quail first thing in the morning made my day. They’re so quick, and skittish that I’ve only been able to get a few good images of any.  The rest of the images I made this day were icing on the cake.

Nikon D700| Nikkor 200-500mm VR| Lexar Professional Digital Film| PS CC 2015

Wishing you all a great week-end!

More to come…

 

 

 

Horsetail Fall 2016

Copyright 2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I shared with those of you who read this blog regularly that I was heading up to Yosemite National Park on Friday to photograph something other than birds. That something was Horsetail Fall.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you’ve probably read about my past experiences trying to photograph it. The last few years during a major drought has been even more of a challenge.

This waterfall is fed by rainfall, and snow melt. Twice a year IF the conditions are just right magic happens. There are two conditions that must be present to make that magic. They are water flowing down Horsetail Fall, and Direct Sunlight.  If one of these two elements is missing there’s no show.  This phenomenon lasts about a week for the best lighting of the fall, but you can see it for about 2 weeks.  It happens in February, and again in October. October is a real rarity though because by then there usually isn’t any water flowing.

On Friday it looked iffy by the time we arrived in the park. Clouds began rolling in during the afternoon but, Golden hour looked great, and kept my hope alive that there was still a chance that the Sun would light it up and color it red.  We were already beginning to see a bit of orange minutes before it would be turning brilliant red!

Horsetail Fall February 19 2016
Copyright © 2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Do you see all those clouds behind the mountain? BTW-That’s El Capitan at the top left of the Horsetail Fall for those of you unfamiliar with Yosemite’s mountains.  I took this image at 5:26PM and at 5:30PM just when the color should have been turning a brilliant red like lava flowing down the mountain…the lights went out. Just as if someone had blown out a candle. POOOOF! All the light was gone. The sun had sunk into a low cloud bank and hundreds of us moaned in unison.

Yes, there are hundreds if not thousands of people who come to see this phenomenon each year.  We drove home defeated once again by Mother Nature and the low Cloud Bank.

Last year I was skunked entirely. There was water, but no sun at all. The clouds rolled in and foiled all hope the one day I had to go up to try to get the shot.

2014 I gave it a miss completely. There wasn’t much water at all flowing the week the sun lined up and the day  I could have gone there was no sun.

My friends and I looked at the weather, and cloud report for Sunday the 21st and thought it was worth trying again.

I spoke with the family about it, and they said it was perfectly okay if I left before Big Baby Boy and A. They had come up for the week-end to hang-out with us and #1 Grandson, and were leaving on Sunday.  I gave lots of hugs and kisses to the family and left to meet my friends to try again for that shot at Horsetail Fall.

On the way up the clouds started rolling in. I hoped they stayed high and no thick cloud bank in the west blocked up the Sun again!

We got to the Secret Spot only to find nearly 50 people!! My secret spot since 2010 is no longer such a Secret Spot! Many people are looking to get away from the maddening crowd on Southside, and Northside Drive.  So, my two friends and I set up our rigs and hoped.

We got color but not brilliant color like we got in  2012, and 2013 ,but at least we didn’t get completely skunked like last year.

Horsetail Fall 2016

I’m so grateful for an understanding family! Without their love and support I wouldn’t

have been able to spend 16 hours on the road trying to get “the shot”.  I love you, and thank God for you everyday. ♥

It wasn’t the shot I was hoping for, but it was fun trying, and if you don’t try you don’t get the shot!

I’ll be trying again next year for the shot I have in my head…if the conditions are right.

Nikon Df| Nikkor 28-105mm @ 105mm| Delking Devices Digital Film| PS CC 2016

More to come…

 

 

Harbinger of Spring

Copyright © 2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

This has been a fantastic birding season so far!  The Vermilion Flycatcher,  the Red-tailed Hawk with its prey, the elusive Loggerhead Shrike, the Bald Head Eagle I didn’t get a photo of, the pair of Ring necked Pheasants, and the sweet Hermit Thrush on my fence all were amazing, and exciting sightings, but in Winter is there anything better than a Harbinger of Spring?

I heard Cedar Waxwings were showing up, a sure sign that Spring is on the way!  I’ve had Robins in the Ginko tree out in the front yard, and in back yard lately so, I’ve been looking for the Waxwings because, they usually arrive with the Robins, and last year there was a flock of Waxwings in the Ginko trees a few houses away from me. That was a first for me.  You can read about that here

Last week-end my birding friend and I stayed local and found some!

Cedar Waxwings

Soon they were taking turns flying down to the bush with  luscious, ripe red berries   beneath this tree.

Cdear Waxwing Feast

… and one was shy,

Cedar Waxwing

I spent some time photographing the Robins that also were there to feed on the same berries, but I’ll save those images for another post.

I’m off to Yosemite National Park today to photograph something other than birds, and my son and his girl-friend are arriving early Saturday morning for the week-end. It promises to be a stellar week-end!

I’ll catch up with all your posts when I return.  I hope you all have a wonderful week-end!

Nikon D700| Nikkor 200-500mm VR| Lexar Professional Digital Film| PS CC 2015

More to come…