Sunday, February 28, 2010

DD Ranch

DD Ranch, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I live in Calaveras County where the economy is pretty strongly based in agriculture. In the last couple decades the agriculture has shifted to wine and agritourism. There are still a lot of huge family run cattle and sheep operations. It is kind of ironic, since I know of no steak restaurants in the county. And you can not get a lamb chop even in a grocery store! Fortunatly you can get local grown wine anywhere. And it is good!

This ranch sits on the western edge of the county right along Highway 4, the primary route into and out of the county. People use this barn as a sort of a waymarker; when you get to the DD ranch, you're here!

I have shot this ranch before, but I wanted to stop again because of the light and clouds on this day, and to try an HDR image. Oh, and if you are into geocaching, there is a cach in this image, but I am not telling you where!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dogtown Road Barn HDR

Dogtown Road Barn HDR, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I went to an Ed Tech conference today down in Modesto, CA. I do not get down to that part of the world very often so I knew the road to and from was going to be filled with photographic opportunities. I brought both a digital and film camera. I am looking forward to some of the film. Unfortunately that takes a couple of weeks.

One of the workshops I attended had to deal with disruptive technologies. The example used was how digital cameras eventually overcame film cameras. It was interesting because I have just recently, in the last couple months, gone back to film! I hope that doesn't mean I will soon go back to textbooks.

This old barn site on a very poorly paved road that leads through a mix of old school barns like this one, and multi-million dollar trophy homes. A mixture of old and new. Sort of like what some of us do in schools, mix the old with the new.

Friday, February 26, 2010

the office

the office, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I was in Sacramento today and stopped by the Capital building. I have not actually been in there for many years. I have shot outside of the building here and here, but I haven't been inside. The building is really beautiful- the old part, anyway. It is part museum and part working office building.
This is the treasurers office cir. 1933. They had a rope across the door and I was there with a tripod trying to get a shot. A worker asked if he could get by my equipment without disturbing the shot. I said sure, and can I follow you in? He looked puzzeled, and finally said sure, just dont touch anything! So I got to go in the office and get this shot! And yes, I thanked him, maybe to the point of being annoying!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

star plant

star plant, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I don't know. I was not feeling good about this shot. I thought at the time that it was rather boring, nothing going on, but it doenst cost anything to shoot. Not like the old days. So what the heck, I pressed the button.

Turns out I really like the shot. I loke the colors of the lichens (I think thats what the grey and orange stuff it.) A lot of texture in this shot. And to me anyway, it works. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring is coming.

Dandilion HDR, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I promise! Spring is coming! While many people in the country are still having snow days, spring is starting to show its green around here in the sierra foothills. It won't be very many weeks before weed abatment is in full swing and we all be preparing for the annual too long fire season. But for now I am taking every sign of spring that I can get!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mokolumne River

Mokolumne River, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This photo is taken from Electra Road, a very narrow road that runs from Hwy. 49 along the Mokolumne River up to the Electra Powerhouse. This is a very popular swimming area in the summer. You will also frequently find kyakers shooting the river here. There is lots of fishing here, and this particular trip found a number of folks panning for gold along the banks. My wife and I like to come here to just walk, it is fun to watch and listen to the river.

I came this day in search of photos. I have shot here in the past, but I don't think I have been here in the dead of winter. I wasnt sure what I would find. I ended up going with this HDR shot. It is a combination of 8 different exposures that are layered together in Photoshop. I am really happy with the results, though I think my laptop is still cooling off from the work!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tokay Colony Bird

Tokay Colony Bird, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I need a bird blind. A portable job that I can hold in front of me as I walk along with my camera. I have heard that birds recognize the human shape and are scared. But If you can hide behind something they are not afraid.

So I had an odd confluence of events today that had me not carpooling with my wife, and had no after school committments. So I had some daylight hours on my hands. I took a route home that I rarely get to take. I crossed a little creek I later learned is Bear Creek and I saw a number of these birds in the water. I turned around, found a safe spot along the road and parked. The sign said it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle, but didn't say anything about walking along the creek, so I stepped over the fence. Literally. It is a short fence.

I walked along this really nice, level, wide trail that parallels the creek. This is a very nice place to get out and stretch the legs on the way home. Count it as a score! But each time I got near enough to the birds to maybe get a shot they all flew further down the creek. So I walked further down the creek. It was a really nice walk on a really nice sunny day. But I was not getting a shot. I finally realized the shot was not going to happen, and turned around to make my way to the car.

That nice safe spot I left my car in wasn't such a great spot to get out of. Cars were going by really fast. When I finally got back on the road I was going the wrong way! At the first cross street I took a left turn to get turned around. As I was just about to pull back onto the highway I saw something out of the corner of my eye. This guy was about 15 feet from my passenger window, and not scared! Down went the window, up came the camera, and I got a bunch of good shots!

Turns out the car is a pretty good bird blind! .

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oak Leaf

Oak Leaf, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I thought about calling this "Left Overs". I have been out looking for the first signs of spring- flower buds, birds, signs of sunshine, and what not. We have some daffodile buds, they should bloom in the next day or so. But this left over oak leaf caught my eye, and my lens. At first it looks like mid winter. Only one leaf left, everything else had long been dropped. But if you look closely you will see those leaf buds are growing! they will leaf out soon, and that one old leaf will be out numbered with lots of new green growth! A sign of spring on its way!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kennedy Mine

Kennedy Mine , originally uploaded by mhall209.

This is some of what is left of the head frame of the Kennedy Mine, one of the deepest gold mines in the world. It is in Jackson, Ca, the town just north of where I live. The mine was closed in 1942 because of the war effort. (A concept I still don't understand. I would think a nation at war would need all the gold it can get!) You can read more about the mine here.

The point of this photograph is that it is one of my first HDR attempts. I went out on a photo expedition this morning to some of the nearby gold rush towns in my area. It was a drizzly, rainy morning. Not rain, but not clear either. This structure is quite a distance from where I was standing. You can get a sense of scale from the telephone pole in the center of the photo. I knew the exposure was going to be tricky because of the foggy haze, so I made about five different exposures, hoping that I could do something with them. Recent lessons had me with my tripod, and I used a delay for the shutter release just to be safe.

Once home I opened all the images in Photoshop CS4 and ran the HDR script. I think the results are pretty good. The image is not as sharp as I would want in a perfect world, but the tonal range is far better than any of the individual images I had taken. I think I will be doing a lot more of these HDR images.

Friday, February 19, 2010


pretzel, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Pretzel is one of our angora goats. We started raising these goats when my younger son was in 4H. We started with two goats, and Pretzel is one of the kids from one of those original goats. She got her name from her ability to stick her head through any hole in a fence to get at something good to eat. For a long time she had no hair on her chest because she rubbed it all off straining through fences!

She is a little odd because her horns look more like those of a male goat than those of a female. A typical female, or doe, has horns that curl back in a 'C' shape, sort of what you think of with a wild ram. A male, or buck, has straighter horns that sort of twist out sideways. Pretzel has horns that cant decide what gender they are!

For the record, angora goats produce mohair. The best mohair comes from the first shearing of the young kid goats. When they are young, quality goats produce fine, curly mohair, which are the properties people want for yarn. As the goat gets older, the mohair becomes more coarse and less curly, making it less desirable. Pretzel is old, her hair isn't worth much. But she loves to eat star thistle, and that makes her a very valuable animal around here!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

bird cage

bird cage, originally uploaded by mhall209.

OK, this will be the last bird picture for a little while anyway. This guy (or is it girl, who knows) was deep into the dormant berry bush, making a sort of bird cage. Except the bird was able to fly on and out of the cage at will. It reminded me of the old Brier Rabbit story from my childhood. Amazing how the bird could fly in and out of that mess and not seem to be concerned by the thorns at all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

3 birds

3birds, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Another bird shot. Messing with the shutter priority here. I had to bump the ISO up, because this was shot pretty early in the morning with low light. The birds are pretty fidgety, so that means a fast shutter speed. So I have to put up with a little noise from the high ISO setting. I figured that is better than the harsh light that results from using the flash. I was able to stop the action of the one bird singing, and there is no blur, so I guess thats the way it is.

Now, if I had faster glass........

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

yellow top

yellow top, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Continuing with my short little series of bird photos. Again, using a tripod really makes the difference in the image quality. I have always kind of resisted using a tripod thinking "I can hold it steady." Yea right. I found though that even the act of releasing the shutter creates a little lens motion, even with the tripod. Maybe I need a better tripod, but I have a pretty good one- it was around $100. Not the best out there by far, but it should be reasonable. I had to use the shutter timer for this shot to eliminate the shake. I think what I really need is an electronic remote shutter release. They are not too much money.

That and faster glass.

Monday, February 15, 2010

sparrow 2

sparrow 2, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Having a couple mornings free to wander around with camera was nice. But there was not much to shoot! Lots of these little birds around. They seems to be partial to the bushes next to my chicken yard. Could it be that they are waiting for the chickens to go inside so they can steal some chicken food?

Remembering to bring the tripod has been very helpful in getting these shots.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

one sparrow

one sparrow, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Two lessons learned from the last few days; It is complete waste of time to go out with a camera with a long lens and no tripod and it is a complete waste of time to to go out intending to photograph birds if you bring your dog with you when that dig is a bird dog. So I went out this morning with my big lens, my tripod and without The Dot. It was a much more successful morning- photographically speaking. (Dottie was not overly pleased with the situation.)

I did not get any shots of the birds I wanted to shoot- a covey of California Quail that Dottie flushed out yesterday. No quail, but plenty of other birds this morning. Maybe I will find the quail this evening or tomorrow, a day off!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Dottie, originally uploaded by mhall209.

The Dot has been a part of our family for about 10 or 11 years. She was a stray that arrived at the home of a friend of ours named Juanita. Juanita loved animals, especially dogs. She was an avid hunter and raised bird dogs, even in her 80's. Someone thought Dottie looked like one of Juanitas dogs and brought The Dot to Juanita. Juanita called us because we had just put our old dog down, and it was love at first site.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Nestle, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Nestle was one of the two first animals we aquired when we moved into our house 13 years ago or so. Her litter mate disappeared years ago, But Nestle has remained. Our tiny fixer-upper house had a mouse problem, and Nestle was part of the solution. She is quite the hunter, and like cats do, she leaves us "presents" on the patio. These are always fun to find in the summer in your bare feet!

She has seen many other animals come and go on the property; chickens, turkeys, cats, pigs, sheep and goats to name the ones I can think of now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


tom, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Another sign that spring is on its way! On the way home tonight we watched a turkey fly across the road. Yes, wild turkeys actually fly. We could see a whole flock of turkeys on te other side of the road, so we found a safe spot and turned around. In all there were about 50 birds, and five or six toms strutting. Its really a beautiful thing to watch these guys strutt. The funny part is the hens dont seem to pay a bit of attention to the toms.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


hummingbird, originally uploaded by mhall209.

The first hummingbird of the year. In a parking lot of all places. Long story short, I need faster glass.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

flowering pear

flowering pear, originally uploaded by mhall209.

These were the most wonderful flowers I have seen in a while. It has been dark, rainy, and dreary for some time. You know, winter time. But today I stopped at the store and noticed these flowering pears blooming. Then on the way home I noticed the cherry trees blooming. That means in a few short weeks it will be Strawberry time! Then cherries! Then blueberries, peaches, and well, you get the idea- spring is almost here!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rodents on Stilts

Rodents on Stilts, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Coming home from the store today I found some deer in the barnyard finishing the hay I had left out for the goats. While I don't like this happening, there is not much I can do about it, short of cutting back on the goats' rations. I took out my camera and started shooting. The deer seem to be a little sensitive to the sound of the camera. The deer run away when the shutter releases. I followed the deer around a little, and got this shot of doe and fawn as they stood along the berm that contains the Jusus Marie Creek that is our property line.

I used my digital SLR for this shot. This is the only shot of the series that was at all sharp. With the telephoto lens I have I really need a tripod to get a good shot, but I didn't want to take the time to get the tripod out. I can't seem to learn this lesson. I know I need the tripod. But I rarely take it out.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Streetcar, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Last morning in San Francisco. I am really loving coming here. I get to spend time with my brother here, something we never did untill recent years. We didnt have much to do with each other for about 15 years. We didn't get along well as teenagers, and right out of high school he went off to Europe and we just never had the chance to connect. Well, we are connecting now, and I am really enjoying the time we have together.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


horn, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I am in San Francisco for the weekend. When we are here my wife and I walk, and walk, and walk. I have been working on my "shoot from the hip" technique with my camera. You know- hold the camera at the hip, don't look at the viewfinder, just shoot. You get much better candids this way. When they come out of course. You also get a much higher percentage of junk. But this one came out well. Taken on Market Street at about 2nd.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Orange Street Car

Orange Street Car, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I arrived in San Francisco for the weekend on Friday afternoon. I came in after work, my wife had the day off so she and my son came in on BART and were to meet up after taking in a museum or two. That left me a while to relax from the crazy drive in to town. I love coming here, but I really, really hate driving in this town. The main streets have busses, taxis, electric street cars like this one, cable cars, bikes, and of course pedestrians. And each of these groups have different rules to follow. No left turn, except buses and taxies, and bikes on Thursdays. It is an insane town in which to drive.
So we walk a lot.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Soft Tacos

Soft Tacos, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Around the corner from school is the county fair grounds, which always provides some photographic interest. Every Thursday is the flea market, or as my students call it, "the pulga". There is a motorcycle and go cart race track, occasionally a Mexican circus. In the back, behind the barns, is a storage area and this is the part I go by everyday. Today the gate was open, so I pulled in and took some pictures. Going through my photo stream to link to, I see I really need to spend more time at the fairgrounds!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hogan Sunset

Hogan Sunset, originally uploaded by mhall209.

We can't seem to get our selves to the gym after school, but this is a second best. Today we stopped at a walking trail at the New Hogan Dam. It is a little over half way home from work. I have taken some shots here before, but this time I had an old school medium format film camera that my brother had loaned me, thus the delay in getting this post uploaded. Anyway, this is the sunset that day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Saint Patricks

Saint Patricks, originally uploaded by mhall209.

The Catholic Church in Jackson, California. I have never been inside, but my wife and I walk by often. It seemed like a good subject to shhot with the medium format camera I have been playing around with.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gold rush buildings

Gold rush buildings, originally uploaded by mhall209.

We are fortunate to live in an area that has a lot of history attached to it. During the 1850's this area experienced a huge population growth when gold was discovered. People came from all over the world because they had heard you could jst pick gold up out of the creeks. There was a lot of gold in the area free for the taking. There are still a number of relics of that era still here. These buildings are not unusuall in the area. This is an image of some buildings on a back road in Jackson, California. My wife and I often go for walks in this area, and this was a good opportunity to try out the film camera my brother loaned me.