Mandarin Duck- Male(Drake)

Copyright © 2013 Deborah M Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

Via Flickr:
Copyright © 2013 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

This duck is usually a resident of Asia not the USA. This one is the only one if its kind on this pond. Most likely it was a pet that was released or flew the coup. It’s known as the most beautiful Duck in the world and I agree! My friend Dali and I went to photograph him when we got wind that he was in town. Prior to this sighting I’ve only seen this duck in captivity. It’s very exciting to see one in the wild!

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 300mm f/4@ f/5.6| 1/250sec| ISO 1250| Manual Priority| Matrix Metering| Hand-held| On board camera flash fill; San Jose, CA; USA;

“The Soul becomes dyed with the colors of its thoughts.” ~Marcus Aurelius

Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac.  All Rights Reserved.

A group of friends from a Meet-Up group I’m in spent one night at May Lake specifically to photograph the evening and night sky.  My friend Michael and I drove up together.  Along the way we stopped at the Old Priest Grade Station Cafe for a late breakfast to help fuel our bodies for the hike to the Lake.   Michael and I split an Egg scramble skillet loaded with goodies, and a short stack of flapjacks.  The coffee was welcome and good, and the food delicious.   We talked with some folks who were traveling from Maine who were visiting Yosemite for the first time. They were pressed for time and wanted to know what they should see. I suggested Tunnel View as their “do not miss” place in the park. I wish I got their email to find what they saw and how  they liked the park. Hindsight is always better isn’t it. [sigh] What would you have suggested they see on very little time in the park?

We made good time from the Cafe to the May Lake turnoff and we found a great parking spot near the trail-head. While we were getting everything out of the car and ready to do the hike up  to May Lake we met a lovely family from San Francisco; Regina, and Jesse with whom we chatted about backpacking, hiking, and gear. They were having lunch and getting their gear ready for the hike up while their two little ones were having nap time.

We took our time hiking up to the lake enjoying the views and talking to passersby.  Regina, and Jesse with their two little ones caught up with us even. They each carried a child in their backpacks plus their camping gear! There wasn’t much further to go to reach the lake by this point.

It turned out we were first of the group to arrive, and there weren’t many backpackers at the lake so we had lots of choice spots to choose from to set up our tents.

Home Sweet Home…for the night

It was a nice flat space and moderately sheltered from the wind. It was breezy and got windy during the night I heard from Michael in the morning, but I slept through it. Michael set up behind me.

The view from my spot:

Once both Michael and I had our camps set up we did a little scouting; looking for possible sunrise and night sky locations. Here’s a look at Mount Hoffman and Hoffman Peak which rises above May Lake. The stats for May Lake are:

Elevation at trailhead:  8,710 feet (2,655 meters)
May Lake Elevation:  9,270 feet (2,825 meters)
Mt. Hoffmann Elevation:  10,845 feet (3,305 meters)

After the rest of the group arrived and set up their camps we headed up the May Lake trail to the granite plateaus to find a nice viewing location to shoot the sunset. Sunset was absolutely stunning (first photograph). The colors in the sky were so vivid,  and beautiful, it made the hike up with its steep and gnarly trail to that plateau, and beyond for further night photography, and the treacherous return trek down in the dark of night with head-lamps, and torches of course well worth it.

I have to give a huge “SHOUT OUT!” to Enrico who set up, and coordinated this Meet-up. Without him and the group I wouldn’t have gone, as I’m not brave enough to do this alone. Thank you Enrico for setting up another terrific backpacking adventure!  Here’s a photo of the group courtesy of Enrico.

  Left to Right- Tulasi, Milad, Wayne, Me, Michael, Sarita, and Enrico.

Best of 2011

I’ve been sorting through the years photos and have selected my best photos. Out of thousands of photos I narrowed it down to just 32.  I based these on technical merit, place, a special memory, friends I was with, or the emotion I felt at the time.

I hope you enjoy looking through them.

Copyright © 2011 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

White Kites…

Copyright © 2011 Deborah M. Zajac.  All Rights Reserved.

I’ve been trying for weeks to get a decent shot of a Kite that lives in Moss Landing without success. That Kite likes to perch on a tree out in a Marsh which is too far away for my longest lens. Here’s the best I’ve been able to get. It’s soft, and there isn’t much detail. I used a Nikkor 70-300mm VR on a tripod for this shot in mid November 2011.

I hoped by renting the Nikkor 300mm f4 I would have better luck. I’d be able to use my Tamron 1.4x Extender with it and have a bit more reach.  With that in mind I took the rental lens with me last Saturday to Merced National Wildlife Refuge with my friend Rainey. We made a detour on the way to try to find some birds at another park and along the way we spotted this Kite perched on the branch. I was busy clicking away when I noticed it opened its beak, and then I heard it call then in came this other Kite!  Oh, how I hoped I nailed the shot with its beak open!

While this photo isn’t as sharp, or have as much detail as I would like it to have I’m thrilled it’s decent and I did get the shot with its beak open. You can see  a little more detail, but it’s still too far away for this lens plus extender.  Also when using an Extender  there is generally a loss of sharpness. With my aperture wide open and focused on the perched Kite I missed the opportunity to get them both in focus.  I was focused on the perched one.

I’m learning though. One thing I’ll do differently the next time is stop the lens down to f8. I expect the clarity will improve a bit.

A brief word on the Nikkor 300mm F4 lens. This is the 3rd time I’ve rented this lens . Each time I rent it I want one of my own! It’s a great lens.  It produces wonderful colors, and superb details if you can get a bit closer, and the Bokeh is yummy. I do wish it had image stabilization though. Hand-holding this lens isn’t easy so I’m using a tripod, or a pillow when I am shooting out of the car window.

Right after I took the picture above the perched Kite took flight. I got a little of his profile, and the sun peeked through the fog and overcast morning for a little while which lit up its chest nicely.

I do love the thrill of the chase so, I’ll continue to look for Kites maybe the next time they’ll be a bit closer.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 70-300mm VR & Nikkor 300mm f4 w/ Tamron 1.4x TeleConverter

August Hiking Stats

August 2011 Hiking Report

August got off to a slow start. I got home from Glacier Nat. Park and was ever so lazy! Unpacking, doing laundry, catching up with snail mail, bills, and then work kept me off the trails, but I got back in the groove. The countdown to Clouds Rest began!

The month was fantastic. With not just one hike up to Clouds Rest but TWO, and I finished the month with a Backpacking class which was fun, and it’s something I’d like to do again in the future.

The photo above was taken on the morning of my second night hike up to Clouds Rest in Yosemite Nat. Park. I made it up to the top, and across the scary narrow span. Below I am looking back at the Narrow Span. I walked across this in the dark with only the aid of my head lamp and what ambient light there was at 4:30 a.m. Unfortunately, on this hike too I suffered from altitude issues beginning around 9,000ft, but they weren’t as severe as my previous hike up the week before.

Having safely crossed the Narrow Span and making it onto the  somewhat wider slab I set up my camera to take a series of shots of the sky, and took a nap. I woke up right before the sun was about to crest the mountains and I was hoping for Alpine Glow. I moved my tripod and camera over to a place I would be able to shoot Half Dome lit by the morning sun and waited. In the very top photograph the sun had just lit up the tops of El Capitan, Sentinel Dome, and Half Dome.  It was a gorgeous morning.  It’s an amazing view, and as for me… I’ve never trained or worked so physically hard to achieve a goal like this before. It’s been an amazing journey. I cross this goal off my 2011 list with a heart full of thanks for those friends who hiked with me, supported me, and encouraged me all along the way. Especially Heman, who put up with me interrupting his sleep at ungodly hours as I got up to train or came in late from a night shoot, and being gone a lot. I couldn’t have done it without you! ♥

8/4-7.98mi, 1,962 ft, 3h3m, PG&E trail to Vista Point

8/8 -6.32 miles, 2,197ft 3h22m, Peak Trail- The Steep Route- o&b

8/8- 2mi, 20ft– W. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz stroll b4 dinner

8/10- 10.85mi, 2,252ft, 4h58m, Mount Madonna Several trails to make a loop

8/12- 4.30mi, 920ft, 1h36m, PG&E Trail to Wildcat Loop Trailhead & Back

8/13&14- 14mi, 3,099ft, 9h25m,  Trail to Cloud’s Rest Yosemite Nat. Pk

8/17- 6.50mi, 2,169ft, 3h12m, Mission Peak-The Steep Route w/Seth

8/23&24- 14.2mi, 3,687ft, 12h30,  Trail to Clouds Rest Yosemite Nat. Park

8/27&28- 10.83mi, 476ft, -REI Backpacking class Point Reyes Nat. Seashore Coast Camp

Total Miles Hiked- 76.98

Total Elevation Gain- 16,782ft

YTD elevation gain- 64,540! Can I make 100,000ft in 2011? Don’t bet on it! 😀


Mount Madonna Surprises

I had the pleasure of hiking with the “Wednesday Hiking Group” today. I haven’t hiked with them in a really long time due to work. Today I didn’t have work scheduled so I met them.

The group split into two groups at 3.25miles. The Rabbits took a shorter route that would loop them back and give them a 6.5mile hike, and the Big Dogs continued on to complete a 10.85mile hike.

There were 5 Big Dogs, and I’m happy to say I was one of them. On the way back we took the Bayview Trail for a bit and there beside it was some wild Foxglove. I’ve never seen it in the wild before. It was a lovely surprise.

Foxglove Photograph by Deborah M. Zajac



Foxglove Photograph by Deborah M. Zajac


A little later we saw some pretty Pacific Pea.

Pacific Pea Photography by Deborah M. Zajac


The fog hung thick in the Santa Cruz Mountain Range today, and several times we got rained on. It was definitely the place to hike on hot sunny day in the valley.

It was great seeing some old friends, and meeting new people today. I hope it’s not long before I can hike with the group again. There was another neat surprise during this hike I’ll share soon!

I’ve made my Hike Stats public if you’d like to see them, and the route map go here.

Info on Mount Madonna County Park is here.


July Hiking Report

Scenic Point.  (For a description of the photo above scroll down under the Hiking Stats.)

The highlight of my hiking in July was a trip to Glacier National Park. A beautiful and scenic wonder.

July 2011 Hiking Report

7/2 –   4.8 miles, 500ft. 2 hours, Redwood Regional Park- Stream trail,

7/5- 7.98mi,2,347ft,  3h 2m  – PG&E trail O&B

7/10-11 mi, 1800 ft, 4h40m– Woods Trail,Barlow Rd,Mt Umunhum Rd, Bald Mt trail- Out and Back

7/15- 7.90mi, 1,896ft 3h 00m – Vista Point Out & Back

7/15-3.6,mi  ft.not much, time not long– Mirror Lake, Yosemite Nat. Pk

7/17- 3.35mi, 250ft, 1h– PG&E trail to Wildcat Loop-PG&E trail

7/21- 9.77mi, 1200ft, 5h– Iceberg-Ptarmigan Trail, Many Glacier,Glacier Nat Park

7/23-7.8mi, 2,853ft, 4h40m– Scenic Point, Two Medicine,Glacier Nat Park

7/23- GPS coordinates at Trail-head 48.480005-113.361676

Total miles hiked-

56.2 miles

Total ft climbed-

10,821ft- does not include any guesstimate for Mirror lake hike.

 19 days to Cloud’s Rest!

Photo information

This is Scenic Point. I am on a ledge which is about 5ft wide seeking shelter from the wind along with my fellow hikers, and Pat Hagan our guide.

Looking this direction you can see the road into Two Medicine and above that Hwy 49 I believe. Looking further out toward the plains is where you’d find the towns of Kiowa, and Browning… I think.

I sat on this ledge and had a quick lunch. A Hairy Marmot peeked out of the rocks on the ledge and was hoping for his lunch too. I’m sure many people feed them, or just happen to leave big crumbs behind.

I want to come up here again. Hopefully, next summer. The deeper I hike into this park the more I fall in love with it.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 17-35@ 28mm| f5.6| 1/200 sec.| ISO 200| Manual Mode| Hand-held

Here’s the Hoary Marmot

Photograph by Deborah M. Zajac

This is a ledge that I was sitting on just under the point up at Scenic Point in Two Medicine Glacier Nat. Park.  I’ve cropped off the tip of my boot from this photo. The ledge was only about 5 feet wide. The trees you see down there…that’s 7,000+ foot drop!
While having lunch and resting from the climb up this Hoary Marmot popped out.
He didn’t seem too shy. I’m sure he’s quite used to people.
It was the first time I’d ever seen a Hairy Marmot or any other for that matter. He’s cute!

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 17-35 @ 35mm| f5.6| 1/320 second| ISO 200| Manual Mode| Hand-held