Sunday, January 31, 2010

2 ducks

2 ducks, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Oh my goodness it was cold this morning. I noticed a lot of ice when I went to let the animals out of the barn, so I got my camera which was in the trunk of the car. The lens quickly began to frost over, but not before I got this shot. The forming oce on the cens is what caused the light flair around the duck. Oh it was cold.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Chicken Ladder

The Chicken Ladder, originally uploaded by mhall209.

An historical monument of sorts, "The Chicken Ladder" is a wooden sidewalk of sorts built "back in the day" by residents of this street. The street is so steep that it is very difficult to walk up, especially in the winter with the ground is covered in ice or wet leaves. Because I was just learning how to use the old school medium format film camera I used on this shot you can not really tell how steep the street really is. My wife and I walk alot. We have to stop to rest a couple of times on the way up this one block stretch!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Chevy Truck

Chevy Truck, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I am experimenting with an old medium format camera my brother loaned me. I went on a walk with my wife and came upon this old truck. My brother is an avid photographer who specializes on shooting old cars in their current residential settings, so this seemed the perfect shot using his camera! The jusy is out on the color that results from this film. I can't quite decide if I like it or not. But I will keep playing with it.....

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Welcome Home

Welcome Home, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Another experiment with a medium format film camera. The house is an interesting old Calaveras County house. I cant really tell if it is occupied or not. It could be that some folks are living in it, or it could be that someone is fixing it up. Hopefully it is being fixed up, because behind all that junk is a really cool house!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

VW Van

VW Van, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Who doesn't love an old VW van? Well, OK I MAY be showing my age here, but I really love these old things. I came on this one on a walk with my wife while experimenting with this old film medium format camera. In this case, I really really like the color the film produces. It sort of gives it an old school look. It was really difficult to get this shot. When you look in the viewfinder of these old school cameras everything is backwards. You have to turn left to go right because you are looking in a mirror. And up is down and down is up and nothing is as it seems it should be! AArrggghhhh! Oh, and don't forget- nothing is automatic- apreature, shutter speed, focus, ASA. Did you forget something. And NO ZOOM! You have to actually frame the shot in the viewfinder! I think if I keep using this camera I might just become a better photographer!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mossy Budda

Mossy Budda, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This is taken in Harry's yard. I don't know if it is supposed to be budda or not, but it seemed like a good name. Harry is an older asian artist (anyone older than me is considered by me as older) who has become a sort of mentor for my son Steven. Harry is considered by many as the "Master Potter" of the area, and Steven loves potterey. In fact it turns out that Harry went to school with one of Steven's current professors. Small world.

I took this shot while at Harry's house of the opening of a kiln. The opening of a japanese wood fired kiln is an interesting event. The results are unpredictable and it is fun to see the anticipation on the artists faces as they first open the kiln and then layer by layer remove the work. Each piece removed carefully and lovingly, like it is a new born child. I have never seen anything like this process. And this budda sits on a little hill overlooking the whole process. Its just too cool.

Monday, January 25, 2010


mums, originally uploaded by mhall209.

These dark, rainy winter days leave little opportunity for getting out with a camera. I guess that means for the next little while I will just be buying cut flowers and photographing them. Might even score me some extra points with the wife!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Paperwhites, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I can't wait for winter to be over. Sorry, but all the years I lived in Los Angeles I thought I wanted to live where they had seasons. Now we live where we have very distinct seasons, and I have found that I do not like winter. No sunshine makes me depressed. Rain is good, but there is a limit to how much water our creek will hold, and I am not real fond of floods. (Remember in California winter is the wet season.)

But on the plus side, we get to force bulbs in the winter! A little bright spot in the otherwise very dark season. We picked these paperwhites up on sale right after Christmas. I put them in a pot on the kitchen counter and we have been watching. This weekend they burst open in the middle of a stormy streak where we couldn't get outside much. They really brighten the window.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Anagama Pots

Anagama Pots, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Today we went with our adult son to the opening of an Anagama kiln. A week or so ago our son Steven met with several other artists and loaded Harry's (pictured here) kiln with various pieces. They then stoked the fire for several days, and then let it cool. Today they opened the kiln to see the results.

In an Anagama kiln the heat is provided by wood, and the trick is to introduce ash into the chamber where the pots are. The ash mixed with the different glazes (or lack thereof) makes for really wonderful if not predictable results.

Harry decides exactly when the kiln is opened, and all the artists stand around like a bunch of little children on Christmas morning, waiting to be told when they can open the presents. When the giang gong is sounded the kiln is opened and for the next hour or so pieces are brought out of the kiln. Slowly and carefully. No two pieces are alike, and they are all wonderful.

Occasionally pieces will get stuck together. Harry uses a wooden stick to ever so gently tap the pieces apart. He is clearly a master of his craft, and I am fortunate that he is a great mentor for my son.

Friday, January 22, 2010

White bird

White bird, originally uploaded by mhall209.

"Mr. Hall, bring your camera, hurry!" Some students were outside the classroom sorting the recycling and there was a commotion. Bring my camera? They never ask me to bring MY camera. They often want to use A camera, but they never ask me to bring MY camera. So I did as I was told and brought my camera.

During the wet season one of these birds often hangs out on our school's field. They poke around big pools of standing water looking for I don't know what. But they usually keep their distance. Usually they are in the middle of the field, keeping equal distance between the people in the school yard and the dogs in the yards around the fields. They are never close to the classrooms. But today this bird was about 20 yards from my classroom door. Perfect for a shot!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chris' Honda

Chris' Honda, originally uploaded by mhall209.

When my brother Chris was about 12 years old, he bought a brand new Honda 70 motorcycle. He rode it all over. OK, I rode it all over too. We lived at the time in a neighborhood that was surrounded by empty fields and so we could ride it a lot. For the last 15 years or so I have had the motorcycle. It has not run in probably 10 or 12 years, but it still sits outside. Someday we will get it running again. Today, it is covered in snow.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This is our Christmas tree for Christmas, 2018. We planted it about 5 years ago, and based on how fast it is not growing, I expect it to be ready in another 8 years or so. Anyway, I thought the little bit of snow on it from this weeks storms was interesting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

snow post

snow post, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Its been very wet and cold this week. We had no power for a while, and no Internet for a while as well. Made it very difficult to get a photo of the day. This is a post in the fence between our yard and the creek. I am struggling with this photo of the day deal. I feel the need (desire) to post every day, but some days I just do not have any quality images to upload. I don't like uploading junk, like this picture. But I do. I don't to work like this. I need to find a better way.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Pastery, originally uploaded by mhall209.

We are going to a friends house tonight for dinner, and we are bringing the dessert. I have posted photos of my pasteries before, but never of the pastery before it is baked. This is a cinnimon apple pastery with rasins and walnuts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

San Giovanni

San Giovanni, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I often try some night photography when I am in Monterey. I don't know why, because I am always disappointed. When you are doing night photography with no flash you have to do long exposures. And when you are shooting things floating on water they, well, move. That makes them not so sharp. I know this, but still I try.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Marine Life

Marine Life, originally uploaded by mhall209.

My wife and I trevel to Monterey a couple times a year. We really love it here, and think of retiring here. Someday. Usually when we come here and walk along the walking path from downtown to cannery row we will see lots and lots of marine mammels of various types. today we didnt see so many animals. We actually had to look for them. I mean really look! I did find a few laying around the rocks, staying out of reach of sharks.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Monterey Houseboat

Monterey Houseboat, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I came into Monterey this weekend for the California League of High Schools Conference. While my school district will not pay for anyone to be going to conferences right now, you can go on your own dime. I found though if you actualy present at the conference you can get your registration and room paid for. So heck I will take that deal!

My wife came along with me to this conference, something that she does from time to time, especially when the conference is in Monterey. Each time we come to Momterey one or the other of us points out this houseboat. It is always sitting there in the middle of the harbour. It always looks lived in, but I have never seen anyone on it. I love this houseboat. It is so tiny, and I love the idea of living in a space that takes up so little space. Don't get me wrong- I know I would go crazy AND sea sick living like this. I get sick just looking at a boat.

But I still love dreaming about this boat.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Flight, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I was going to take a different route home today, just to see if I could find something new and different to shoot. At the last moment I turned left, and took the usual way home. This bird was sitting on a fence around a vineyard, and he (she?) did not want me to take a picture. I would pull over raise my camera, and poof, the bird is gone. I would drive on find a safe spot to turn around, and the process would repeat. I got this shot on about the fifth attempt.

I dont know if this is an eagle or hawk. Do you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter Sunflower

Winter Sunflower, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I few months ago this was a beautiful vibrant sunflower! Now well, not so beautiful. But still interesting. SOmetimes, like today, this is how I feel in the classroom. Totally spent. A few months ago I was excited about a new school year, trying different things to reach these kids who are, how shall we say, less than academically successful. Days like today, I feel like this sunflower, totally spent. I gave it my best shot, I put everything I have into it, but its just not working.

But in a few weeks the seeds that this flower dropped will sprout, and grow, and bloom again. Just as beautiful as it was last summer. And tomorrow, I will wake up and go try again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Buck, originally uploaded by mhall209.

After a long day of direct instruction (not my favorite part of the year) and then meetings, I was about to give up on getting a good shot for today. But there was a visitor in the yard! I put the car in the garage and grabbed my camera. Douh! Battery was dead. Grabbed a new battery, and got this shot as the guy was going over the fence. The timing was good, but man, do I need faster glass! This lens I have is just not doing it. Anyone got a couple grand they want to toss my way for a new lens?

Monday, January 11, 2010


scooter, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Picking up my wife this afternoon at her elementary school I noticed the bike rack. Usually there are a number of bikes here, and kids all over the place as part of their afterschool program. Today the place was very quiet, no kids, and no bikes. Just this scooter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Rooster, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Our chickens usually do not cooperate with photographic experiences. I don't know if it is the clicking of the shutter, or a big guy holding something up to his face that scares them, but usually if I have a camera in hand, the chickens run away. Today was different. Maybe it was the first day of sunshine in a while, maybe it was that I let them out of their yard, or both. But today, the chickens let me take their pictures.

This is our rooster. He is about 2 years old and serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever, aside from harassing our hens. Oh yea, he eats a lot too.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Snowball, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I did some yard work today that resulted in some blackberry bush trimmings. Most all of our yard waste goes to our goats, and blackberry trimmings are their favorites- thorns and all! Snowball (the angora goat pictured here) managed to get berry branches wrapped around her neck and body. The berry thorns act like magnets to her long mohair coat. She seemed hopelessly tangled, but she had no interest in having me help her out. If I approached she would run away. So I watched as she ate her way out of her entangelment. She was quite resourceful, she used her horns and hoofs, and can stick her tongue out like nobodies business!

Friday, January 8, 2010


Papas, originally uploaded by mhall209.

We did some harvesting at school this week. Well, actually, I sat in my room while students did some harvesting. The potatoes were killed by frost just before our winter break, so this week the students went out to see if the plants lived long enough be harvested.

They did. We have lots of potatoes. Huge potatoes, and so far I can identify three different types. I wasn't involved when these potatoes were planted last year. In fact, I think these are leftovers that just appeared from unharvested potatoes last fall. Pretty cool freebies.

I am reading the book "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer, and as a result I am rethinking my diet. I had decided a while ago to try to eat less meat and more fruits and vegetables, but this book has really got me thinking about what I eat, why I eat it, and where it comes from. (Warning- if you really love eating meat, and don't want disturbing images in your head about where the meat comes from, don't read this book!) I think I will be eating a lot more of these potatoes in the future.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Tractor, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I drive past this tractor a couple times a week at least on my way to or from work. It sits there at the edge of a truck farm and never moves. Ever. The crops come and go, but the tractor never moves. It has the job, it seems, of pumping water from a well to irrigate the row crops between it and the river behind it. (A diverting chanel, actually.) It is old, rusty, and apparently reliable. If it stops working, bad things happen to the crops around it.

It reminds me of my roll in the classroom. I need to stand in the back of the room, and not move. My classroom is a computer lab. I got to design it, pick the furniture and everything. It was inspired by my visit to the Googleplex in Mountain View a few years ago. When I designed it, it was going to be awesome! Unfortunately, the people who installed the furniture didnt talk to the person who designed the room, and the furniture was installed like it would be in a classroom. A traditional classroom. In rows. Not very Google-like. And it can't be fixed without great expense.

And so each day after I finish any direct instruction, I get to stand in the back of the room, like this tractor. Overlooking my students. If I move, kids go off task. You know which ones. Not all of them. Not even most of them. Just a couple. Those few that really, really need someone to remind them of what they should be doing. Every day. All day. So I stand there, like this tractor. Old and rusty, but reliable. If I move, bad things happen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Closed Campus

locks, originally uploaded by mhall209.

When school is out of session many teachers still come to campus to do work in their classrooms. Changing the decorations, rearranging furniture, or just plain "getting ready." On most vacations I will go in to the class for a day or two with various things that never seem to get done during the school year.

Over the winter break this year my wife and I (she is a special ed teacher in another district) decided to share a ride so that we could work in the classroom for a few hours. I was going to drop her off at her school, and then go to my school. Arriving at her school found an empty parking lot. Bad news. No custodian meant the alarm was on, and she would not be able to access her room. We both went on to my school. Same thing, no custodian meant no classroom work.

When vacation was over and we all were back at work I found myself in front of the school in the dark of the morning with students and teachers alike. Waiting for someone to open the door. Apparently the custodian staff has been cut to the point that we can't get into the building before school like we used to be able to. The floors get cleaned less often, the trash emptied less often, and of course the teachers get to be in their rooms less often.

I understand that budgets are tight. I understand that you cant spend money that you don't have. But I don't understand how we can improve our schools when they are locked up.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


apples, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I work in an inner city school, and live in a very rural mountain setting. Between the two lie miles and miles of agricultural land. Rangeland, orchards, poultry and dairy farms, vineyards, and finally as I near work, row crops. If you have seen my photostream in Flickr (which you can view by clicking the picture) you have seen some of the pictures I capture in this ag land.

In the last couple of weeks I have noticed this particular apple orchard. It stands out because it seems that the fruit was not harvested. The leaves have dropped, but there is a lot of fruit still clinging to the branches. It has a sort of Charlie Brown Christmas feel to seeing the trees with all of these yellow green balls hanging from the bare branches. As I walked through it, I could really feel the depth of the place. It was a strange experience.

A few weeks ago I was working on a grant proposal that focused on developing the literacy skills of my students. Today I learned that the grant was funded. I am getting some apples for my classroom!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The first day back at work.

Toadstool, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Today we started a new semester. I knew there would be a number of changes to my day as some of my classes were switched. I was to have fewer students and I was going to no longer have some of the students who were not being successful in my classes. But thats all I knew. Would I keep the same students? How many of them? When would I have them? Would I have any new students? There were a lot of questions coming in to work today, none of which I could do anything about. I would just have to wait and see which students I would be working with. It matters because I have a project based class where students design and implement their own projects. If I don't know which students I have I don't know what projects we will be doing!

One of the projects my students work on is an organic garden. The garden is really important to them. I struggled with this garden when I took it over this year when another teacher left. I didn't quite see why we have a garden. We are supposed to be a standards based school, and I don't know about too many organic gardening standards for the 9-12 grade levels. But to the kids it really matters. They fight about who gets to turn the compost. They care about what type of peppers get planted and if we should plant lettuce or peas. They rarely eat the produce, but they seem to be passionately concerned about what gets planted. And when it gets weeded, and by whom. I wondered this morning if we would still have a garden crew.

What I have found so far is that the garden gives them two things. It gives the students a place to move around. They work, and talk. They work hard, because if they don't their peers will fire them and they don't get to work next time. "We don't need any slackers, you ain't coming with" one of them will say. The grammar is not good, but the work ethic is. They take pride in their work in the garden, something many of them don't often seem to do at school. I usually don't have a student who says "Look here Mr. Hall, this is my history paper. I wrote this." But they write about the garden. Thats the second thing the garden gives them- something to write about for which they care. They write about what they did and why they did it. They write about what they are going to do. They write about what worked and what didn't work. And they write about what they could do better next time.

I think those are two pretty good reasons to have an organic garden in a high school.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Sunday mornings in our house often means I make huevos rancheros. My wife loves them, and I think they are pretty good as well. The actual recipe changes through the year. In the fall I like them the best. Home grown eggs, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and peppers. Now that it is January, only the peppers are home grown. Preserved in the freezer. Everything else is store bought. This morning the meal was good, but not as good as when real fresh eggs are in the hen house.

My New Years resolution this year is to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat, and to move more. Like in exercise. At first thought this seemed drastic. More fruits and veggies? Less meat? I love steak, it is one of my favorite meals. And who but a rabid vegan can not love bacon? I think if I eat like I did this morning I can pull this resolution off. But it would have been better with bacon.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Duck, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Last spring our college aged son brought home 5 ducks. Just because. One of the ducks died fairly soon after, but the remaining four ducks-three female and one male- have thrived. Each morning someone goes out to our "barn" and lets the ducks and chickens out. If you manage to do this before the sun comes up you are greeted with a few quiet quacks. The later you go to let them out, the louder the quacks become. Around eight o'clock in the morning the quacks turn into a full fledged scolding! The scolding does not end until you are back in the house.If the ducks see you again that day they are sure to remind you of your lateness with another scolding.

I really enjoy these ducks and photograph them regularly. I like the texture of the feathers and the S curve of their necks and heads. I am seeing that each of them have a different colored bill as well.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 1, 2010

January 1, 2010, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This year a neighbor invited my wife and I to a New Years celebration. We decided that I should make apple pastries for the event. I call it apple strudel, but I suppose that there are strudel purists in the world who would take exception to that title. It is basically butter, flour, and yeast surrounding apples, raisins, butter, cinnamon, and sugar all under a layer of sugar. And it is good.

I usually only make this at Christmas and New Years, so I thought it might be a good choice for my first picture of the new year.