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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Flight of the Fiery Skipper

Copyright ©2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

While #1 Grandson played quietly without me I took advantage and tried to catch up on emails and news at my desktop computer which is near a window that looks out on the backyard. Suddenly in the corner of my eye there was fluttering, and streak of color!

A Fiery Skipper was drinking the nectar from the tiny Lantana peddles! My camera never too far out of reach was in my hands quick as you like, and me making a mad dash for the backyard! Using a strip of lattice work on my patio cover as a blind I quietly positioned myself and took several images of the skipper at its meal. Most were sharp as a tack and show the skipper very well, but today I like this one the most. The movement shows their flightiness, and speed of the Skipper; how quick and nibble they are!

The image has an Impressionistic feel that resonates with my soul just now.

Flight of the Firery Skipper

No doubt in time I’ll be sharing one or two of those sharp as tack images I made, but today let’s be nibble and quick and fly with the Fiery Skipper! 🙂

Nikon D700| Nikkor 200-500mm| Lexar Professional Digital Film| PS CC 2015.5| image made 9/21/2016

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiery Skipper & Gear Review

Copyright ©2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I’m renting a Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G VR lens for a week to see if I like it well enough to replace my older 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D Micro lens. I sat in the backyard hoping the Skipper would show up so I could see how the lens handles close up imaging with my Canon 500D Close Up lens attached to it.

 

I really would like 24mm on the wide end, and having a little more reach couldn’t hurt.

I’ve shot less than 200 frames since picking up the lens late Friday afternoon; so far I am liking what I’m seeing.
It’s sharp, contrasty, auto-focuses quickly, and is pretty quiet. I don’t hear or feel VR (Nikon’s lens stablization) kicking in, but it must work b/c I was able to snap off a throw away low light shot made in my living room at 1/13s hand held and it’s pretty good…in focus and not blurry!

Fiery Skipper

It’s easy to carry. It weighs 1.56 pounds which is just a tick under my 17-35mm so,  the weight feels natural to me.  What I’m trying to say is; I’m comfortable holding it and my camera. There’s not much difference weight wise between having the 28-105 or this lens on the camera to me.

One bête noire is the focus ring on this rental lens is SUPER hard to turn. Doing photography in the dark means one needs to be able to focus manually. While photographing the Moon and planet conjunctions both Friday and Saturday nights it wasn’t easy rotating the focus ring with this copy of the lens. I’m hoping it’s just this rental unit and not a characteristic of the lens.  The rental copy has been well used. I can tell that because the gold lettering stating the lens specs is just about worn off, and the focus ring is a pain to use.

I haven’t uploaded last night’s images yet, but hope I was able to dial in a well focused shot.  I’ll be posting those images soon.

Fiery Skipper on Lantana

You won’t get graphs, charts, and scientific testing with my reviews. I’m all about how the lens feels, works in my hands, and how good or bad the images look. I’ll be printing several images as well as pixel peeping on my PC to see how well they look.

My kit this week will be Nikon Df| Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G VR

Canon 500D Close Up lens

B+W Polarizer

2 Singh-Ray Graduated Filters

2 B+W Neutral Density Filters

SB910 Speedlight

Cable Release

Either my Nikkor 20mm f1.8G or my 16mm f/2.8D Fisheye for ultra wide angle photography.

Iphone 5

Both images made with the Nikon Df| Nikkor 24-120mm f4G VR| Canon 500D Close Up lens|Delkin Digital Film| PS CC 2015.5

FWIW: I’ll be off line most of this week. I’m still behind reading posts, and will get further behind this week! I’m getting some posts ready in advance and scheduled, but won’t be able to comment or view posts easily.  Y’all have a great week! I’ll catch up when I get back. xx

More to come…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clark’s Grebes

Copyright ©2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I spent the week-end with old friends Theresa, Dali, and Alex birding up in Clear Lake. We went to see Grebes, we hoped dancing on the water.

We booked a boat with the same tour group we used last year Eyes of the Wild with Faith as our Captain. You can read that post here.

We booked early and Faith kept us abreast of the Grebe situation on the lake on and off up until our booking day. Last week she sent me a text message saying that courting had really slowed down, but she had a surprise. Babies were early and she’d found several pair of Grebes with babies! Did we still want to come up?

Did we still want to come up? OF COURSE WE DID!  We’d go to see the chicks alone! We had hoped to get up there again last summer to see Grebe chicks, but there was a huge fire, the drought, add to that predators, well, it all added up to a low number of Grebes and not too many babies so, we didn’t go back up last year. We went this time!

Here’s my favorite image today of the babies and their parents.

Grebe Family

Dad had brought the fish, made a perfect transfer of it to Mom, and the chicks were out and exposed from their Mom’s wings peeping their heads off to get that fish!  The morning light was lovely, and I managed to keep the shot in focus and made before the boat moved up or down with a swell!

This was such an exciting, wonderful,  beautiful sight to see!

We also saw a few dances. We saw Osprey pairs with chicks, and a really pretty sunset among the most notable things we saw this past week-end.

I came home with 1700 images to cull. I’ve made my first pass and deleted about 400 already.  I’ll try to break up the posts so I don’t bore you to death with images of Grebes all the time. 🙂

Nikon D700| Nikkor 200-500mm| SunDisk Digital Film|

More to come…

 

 

 

 

Sunset on Mt Diablo Range

Copyright © 2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I went for a short hike Sunday evening with friends, and found it super cold and windy up in the mountains above the valley floor.  There were so many beautiful wildflowers up there, but it was so windy I only made a few images of flowers. Macro photography and wind just don’t play nice with each other.

Nothing to do then, but find a composition and wait for Golden Hour, and hope that the clouds that rolled in don’t block up the sun and we get some color.

My fingers got so cold I couldn’t feel the heat from my hand warmers, and I was having trouble feeling my shutter button. After Golden Hour myself and a friend called it and started back down the hill to the car.  About halfway down the colors in the sky popped. I had to stop to photograph it.

Landscape Photography

I hiked down pretty fast after the sun sunk behind the mountains, and once in my car I cranked the heater as high as it would go, and waited for another friend who drove up with me. She and several others braved the cold and wind further up the trail.

I’m glad I didn’t hike back to the car earlier. I would have missed this!

Nikon Df| Nikkor 17-35mm| Delking Digital Film| Tripod| PS CC 2015 & On1 Photo 10| Single exposure

More to come…

 

 

Early Spring!

Copyright ©2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I had a walk-around the neighborhood Sunday morning and found Spring everywhere.

The flowering trees are in bud, and beginning to blossom while others are in full bloom!

A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost-

“Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.”~Robert Frost (from A Boy’s Will, 1915)

Flowering Tree in Full Bloom

The huge white flowering tree was a hive of activity in the canopy. The buzz of bees

was dizzying, and the warmth of the sun on my face when I looked up felt wonderful, healing, and nourishing.

The branches were heavy with blossoms,

Flowering Tree in full bloom

papery white, with lovely “look at me!” centers.

Blossoms on a Flowering Tree

Plus one more…

Nearly home I found a huge Sweat Pea vine spilling over a fence with dozens of busy bees.

Honey Bee and the Sweet Pea

Nikon Df| Nikkor 28-105mm| Hoodman Digital Film| PS CC 2015

More to come…