Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pretzel got a haircut

Pretzel got a haircut, originally uploaded by mhall209.

With the warming weather the goats needed a haircut. Fortunately I have a son who came home from college, took out the goat shears, and got to work. All I had to do is come home and bam, done. So the goats have fresh haircuts and fresh pasture. At this time of year they have free range along the Jesus Maria creek. Lots of fresh running water and tons of fresh green stuff to eat. The goats are living large!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

grey tractor

grey tractor, originally uploaded by mhall209.

It seems like it has been raining forever. A few days of rain, a few days of sun and repeat. I have been loving it. But the dry season is coming. Slowly the grasses are turning from green to brown. It starts in the lower elevations and slowly moves up the hills. This tractor is at about 1200 feet elevation. In another couple weeks the green will be brown. A couple weeks after that our house will be surrounded by brown. And then we start worrying about fire, and hoping for rain.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Bill, originally uploaded by mhall209.

On the main road into town there is a house with a bunch of old equipment out in the front. I saw someone in the yard so I stopped by to ask if it would be ok to take some pictures. That is where I met Bill. Bill seemed to think it odd that I would want pictures just to put on the Internet, but said sure, and proceeded to give me a tour. This piece seemed to have a special place for him, it is a giant fork lift. He told me it will lift 15 tons, and I believe him. It took a little bit to get it started, but he did. Clearly he was proud of it.

Then he brought me to his saw mill. It was the third one he built he said. He wasn't sure how long ago it was, but he remembered his kids "swamping for me as little bitty guys. And they are well into their 50's now."

After the saw mill and a few other choice pieces of old stuff, he asked "want to see my garden?" Silly question. His garden is clearly vi sable from the road, and it is awesome. It is all raised beds, about 4 feet off the ground, each about 3 feet wide and 15 or 20 feet long. They are built out of metal heat shields from an old saw mill that he welded together. All on a concrete floor he put in because his wife said he couldn't.

After the tour he told me where I could find other pieces of equipment he has stashed around. Go over this or that bridge, over the hill, up the dirt road, don't worry there is a place to turn around eventually. You get the idea.

And then he invited me back. I am going to take him up on that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Foundry WIndow

Foundry WIndow, originally uploaded by mhall209.

We took another trip over to Sutter Creek. It is not that big of a trip, we can easily drive over for lunch or dinner. But this time the light was a little better than past times. I used a borrowed old school film camera for this shot and just got the film back from the lab.

Using film is a challenge. First, you need to slow down and think about what you are doing. You don't get do-overs like you do with a digital camera, and each click of the shutter costs money. I don't get prints, just a CD, so it only costs about a dollar a click, but that adds up fast!

I started carrying both a film and digital camera and shooting both to see the difference, and on these rural scenes the film camera is way beyond what I can do with a digital camera. I just can't reproduce the color with a digital camera. I have heard people say that in the past, and I just scoffed, but now that I am actually trying it, the film rocks.

There are a couple problems though. I cannot replace the lens on the camera I am using. The only zoom abilities I have are my right and left feet. If I can not move closer I can not get closer. With the fences around, that's an issue.

The other issue I am up against is the ISO of the film. ISO is a sensitivity rating. For the last several months I have been using an ISO 400 film, which is great for low light, like cloudy winter days. With summer coming up I need a faster film, one with a lower ISO, like say 200. But when is is cloudy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon, you can't just replace the film. Well, you can, but that wastes the rest of the roll!

Well all that to say I really like this image. The light, color, and composition are what I was looking for.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chapas Concessions

Chapas, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Behind the school I work at are the county fairgrounds. In the back of that is a storage area where you can find those trailers that are set up at fairs across the state selling hot dogs, cotton candy, and who knows what all. This truck is parked back in a corner of that area. It is about 4 blocks from school, and so far not one student has recognized the truck. I guess you just don't notice things when they have always been there.

In the fall I will be teaching a digital graphics course that will focus on the use of digital cameras. It is not really a photography course, but sort of a desktop publishing class that uses original images. Between now and then I need to gather example images for the course, and I want to emphasize the school neighborhood, and see if I can get the kids to see "the hood" differently.

So the images in this blog will probably start to change in the near future. Less country, more inner city. We'll see if you notice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Enjoy a Coke

coke, originally uploaded by mhall209.

When we were teenagers my brother collected Coke advertising. He had quite the collection and people came from miles around to buy, sell and trade items. So when I was driving down the road and saw this, I thought of my brother. This is something he would have wanted back then.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Altaville School house

Altaville Schoolhouse, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This is a well maintained one room school house in town near where I live. Its one of those treasures that everyone knows about but no one pays it any attention. While I drive by all the time, I think I have stopped by here a total of three times ever. Once before we lived here and we were considered flatlander tourists. Once because there is a geocache (just to the right of the image). And once to take this picture.

I really like the colors with this film under these light conditions. They really pop.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Media van

Media van, originally uploaded by mhall209.

My wife likes to wander the streets of San Andreas. This scene is next door to a house she particularly likes. We have to drive by every now and then to "see if it is for sale yet." I don't know what is supposed to happen if it IS for sale, but I do as I am asked and drive by. A actually hope it is not for sale, because then she would be depressed that someone else is getting her dream house. That wouldn't be fun. The house she likes is pretty cool. It is on a large lot, maybe a 1/2 acre, and built in the early 1900's I would guess. Not too big, its just right for a couple.

But I didn't take a picture of that house, I took a picture of this barn and van. I have no idea what thie story is behind the van. I remember seeing vans like this when I was growing up. They would be at things like the town Christmas parade or high school football games. People would stand on top with video cameras and film the event. I suppose this could have been one of those vans. I just love that the structure above the van is rust free. And dont miss the little stuffed bear on the dash board!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fresh Lunch

Fresh Lunch, originally uploaded by mhall209.

What do you do when you are driving down the road and come across a flock of vultures in the middle of the road eating a snake? Well if you are me you take out your camera and take pictures! There were a bunch of these birds, and they are huge! They were in no hurry to get out of the road. There are only three in the picture, but there were 5 or 6 of them to the right of this shot.
We see these birds a lot around here. It amazes me how quickly the carcass they are working on disappears. Weather it is a dear or a snake they take it down to nothing fast. Between them and the meat bees. Its the circle of life!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Locked Gate

Locked Gate, originally uploaded by mhall209.

There are a lot of locked gates around. It is really a good idea to respect a locked gate around here. Usually it is locked for a reason, and that reason is to keep you out. In my photography I come across lots of spots where I would really like to cross a fence, go through a gate, ignore a no trespassing sign. It would make a much better shot at times.

But back in my fire fighting days we didn't pay much attention to locks. We had a "big red key" (bolt cutters) that worked fine on locks like this one. But we always had law enforcement either with us or right behind us when we used them. We came across meth labs, marijuana grows, hazardous materials dumps, and explosives. Just a whole mixed bag of bad things! And that doesn't count the people and their weapons. I remember one place that had a shotgun leaning against every window in the house. You never know.

So if you ever find yourself in a rural area, respect the lock!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jesus Maria Barn

Jesus Maria Barn, originally uploaded by mhall209.

So my wife and I have had an interesting discussion; is this structure an old house or an old barn. The windows make one think it would be a house. I don't recall seeing barns with that style window on either side of the door. On the other hand, the door looks more barn like. The more I think about it the more I am leaning towards this being an old house. Hopefully someone will see the picture and clue me in.

The building is in an area that is, for lack of a better term, a ghost town. There are a number of old buildings like this one. There is an old cemetery up the road a little bit. I have heard there was a lot of gold pulled out of the creek here, which is about 30 yards behind where the camera was for this shot. Anyway, I would love to know more about this area.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Grass, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This grass caught my eye. I am a big guy, about 6'2". I usually look at grass from above, But this grass was at eye level. I was standing straight up, looking straight across at these grass seed heads. I was looking for an airy shoot, and I wanted to blur our the background. I wanted a little more green in the background, but that didn't happen. I would like to figure out why the background is so dark, but I am happy with the shot anyway.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garamendi McSorley Home

Garamendi McSorley Home, originally uploaded by mhall209.

The Garamendi McSorley ranch lies on Highway 49 between San Andreas and Mokelumne Hill in Calaveras County. I think it is the family ranch of U.S. Rep. John Garamendi. (Former California Lt. Governor), though I am not positive. You can see a sign from the highway marking the ranch, and there is an interesting looking old barn visible from the road. That is what I intended to shoot. (Uh oh, I used the name of a U.S. Congressman and the word shoot in the same paragraph! I hope the Internet police don't hunt me down!) But when I walked up the driveway to the gate I saw this uber cool old house. Much more interesting than the old barn.

The rust on the roof, and the glass windows are awesome. But what really knocks me out is the mail box in front! I really like this one.

And I really, really, really meant shoot as in shoot a picture! Really!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Boer Goat

Boer Goat, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I have posted a number of images of our goats. The ones we now have are angora goats, which in the real world are raised for their hair, known as mohair. We raise them for their weed eating ability. Unfortunately our flock has dwindled to just two animals, and they are not able to keep up with their weed consuming responsibilities. We need more goats!

This goat is a Boer goat. These animals are raised for their meat. They are becoming more and more popular in our area. I think the next addition to our flock will be a couple of these animals. They eat lots and do not need regular haircuts. And you have to admit, they are kind of cute, too! And don't worry, we are not going to eat them. Probably.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another Old Barn

Another Old Barn, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Now that I am looking, there are a lot of old barns in the areas I am. Sometimes they are right out in the open, and other times I have to walk over a berm or look between the trees. This one I had to go over the berm, through the weeds, and then look through the trees!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A girl and her frog

A girl and her frog, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Today my wife and I went to the Calaveras County Fair, AKA the Frog Jump. Our county fair is a take off from Mark Twain's story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" which was written in the gold rush days when Mark Twain lived in the area. For the last 68 years on the third weekend in May people come from miles around to competitively jump their frogs. The fair has all the other things a typical American county fair has; rides, animals, and exhibits. But here the focus is the frogs.

You can bring your own frog or rent one. This little girl rented one. The way it works is you set the frog on the little pad, in the picture it is a small circle of carpet. Then you do whatever you can to coax the frog to jump! The distance is measured from the starting point to the tail of the frog when it lands from its third hop.

This was the first time I actually sat and watched the frog jump part of frog jump! I just wnated to get a couple good shots. Mission accomplished.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Old Truck

Old Truck, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I had an errand after school that took me down a road I had never been on before. I thought what the heck, lets just take this east and see where it goes. I hadn't gone too far when I found this truck. I don't recall ever seeing a truck like this before. I am not too sure which is more unusuall, the truck or the house behind it! A rather different looking house. The people who live there were in the driveway (the truck is in the yard) so I asked if I could take a picture or two. They were very nice and I got my shot.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Barn and Roses

Barn and Roses, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Take a left, take a right. I need to vary the old commute a little more often. When I do I find cool stuff. Like this old barn with roses. That green tree at the edge of the barn is an old cherry tree, and the cherries are almost ripe. I bet they are extra good! I will never know as I am not going to climb the fence!

I predict a detour in my future!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spring Fruit

Spring Fruit, originally uploaded by mhall209.

The ride home today was particularly difficult today. My wife and I did not carpool, so I had the car to myself. Sort of. I had these in the passenger seat. First fruits of the season! The road side stands are open! Do you know what it is like driving 60 miles with these just inches away. The smell! I so wanted to eat everyone of them. But I resisted and only ate a few.

Let the fruit season begin! Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tabeau Road

Tabeau Road, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This is the first barn I have seen with a painted orange room. Very unique. The weathered wood, the fresh green grass and trees really set off the very different roof. This is one of my favorite barns, also a new find!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Empty Barrel

Barrel, originally uploaded by mhall209.

In rural agricultural areas you come across strange things sometimes. This old barrel along a fenceline caught my eye. Seemes kind of fitting today. Att he end of the school year the students are all fresh and new, just bursting with life, and I feel like an old empty rusting barrel. Some days.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers Day at Lake Tabaeu

Lake Tabaeu Panorama, originally uploaded by mhall209.

After a great brunch at the Pickle Patch, my wife and I went for a walk around Lake Tabaeu in Amador County. The weather was iffy; maybe it was going to rain, maybe it wouldnt. This was the view from one section of the walk. In the end, we did get a few raindrops, but just a few.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Clinton Road Barn

Clinton Road Barn, originally uploaded by mhall209.

I found another old barn that just needed its picture taken. I don't know what it is about barns lately, but I notice them alot. This one was a little odd, usually the roofs are orange with rust, but this one has rust covered wood. And I have no idea what those little cream colored rectangles all over it are. But I do not better than to cross the fence line to find out!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

green duck

green duck, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Today was Cinco de Mayo. Woo Hoo. I did nothing to celebrate. Nothing. But I did come home and say hello to our ducks. This guy is actually sitting in a little drainage ditch, so he just barely rises above the grass.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gianini barn 2

Gianini barn 2, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This is one of my favorite barns, and it seems I can't really go anywhere without passing it. I like this view, a little different than the one a few days ago. I have one more view in mind of this barn, but parking and getting to that view is a little tricky. We shall see.......

Monday, May 3, 2010

green barn

green barn, originally uploaded by mhall209.

Another barn/shack I pass almost every day. It was another rainy day, and I got a break in the clouds long enough to pull off the highway and poke around a little. While I pass by here often I had never noticed all the stuff outside the barn. I would love to come poke around a little closer, but I am not fond of climbing through barbed wire. People tend to get a little crabby about that, and I'd just rather not.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gianini Barn

Gianini Barn, originally uploaded by mhall209.

This is an old family farm barn. It has been here for a really long time, and it is still used as a barn for a family cattle operation. I pass this almost every day, but have never stopped in part because there are very few places to safely pull over. But this morning, very early, I went out in search of barns to shoot.

This was a more difficult shot to get than I had planned. The sun had not yet come over the hills to the left, so it was a little dark. Perhaps I should have used a faster ISO, but on my LCD it all looked good. I did think to use a range of exposures; over exposing, underexposing, changing the aperature, and so on. In the end there was no really good shot straight off the camera, which was my goal. I had to bring it into Gimp and make some adjustments. Oh well. such is life.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

cement plant

cement plant, originally uploaded by mhall209.

The Calaveras Cement plant was closed in 1983, after producing cement since 1925. Since closing it has sat empty, and untill recently, untouched. A yeay or two ago they demolished some of the remaining buildings. (OK they blew them up.) It looks like they begam tearing these silos down but stopped. I have no idea why, But these silos are still standing along the side of the road. Fenced off, but huge holes in the walls.

As I was processing this photo I noticied two things, on one of the rails at the top of the silo sit a couple of birds. I cant tell what kind, but they are there, clear a day. And on the bottom, right at the edge of the pavement and grass, sits a Canadian Goose. Clear as day. Can you see it?