Thursday, March 30, 2017

Signs of Spring

signs of spring

It's great to see the first signs of life. The gophers also love these new shoots (to eat).

The buds on the trees are swelling. The magpies are collecting twigs for their unruly nests. The Canada geese have been arriving for a while in small numbers but now huge flocks are passing noisily overhead.

The pond was a sheet of ice in the morning, as this goose found, but by afternoon there were patches of open water and already the water boatmen were rowing around.

waiting for spring

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Prints of the Week


I like taking photos of the "unofficial" residents of zoos, in this case a sparrow at the El Paso Zoo. It helps that it was on an interesting plant. And although the background is almost blown out (white), there's a vague suggestion of trees.

trees flowering

A taste of spring in southern California in February. I didn't notice the background at the time, which can often ruin a photo, but in this case I like the pattern of crisscrossed sunlit branches.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Paragliding Q&A

Four young girls (maybe 10 years old?) discovered me kiting in the park. I was enjoying the warmer sunny weather and less crazy wind. (photo is of Shelley last summer)

What's that?
It's like a giant kite. But it also lets me fly off mountains
Fly for us!
I need a hill.
There's a hill right there. (pointing at the tobogganing hill)
Yeah but the wind is the wrong direction.
He can't fly off that. 
Actually, I have.
(Wide eyes)

Do you have a parachute too?
Yeah, I do.
No! Where is it?
It's the red handle on my right side.
(Thankfully they didn't try to pull my reserve out!)
Oh wow!
Is it scary?

Can it lift you off the ground?
Yes, if the wind is strong.
What do you do then?
Just hold on till you come down.

What if you let go?
(I let go of the brakes.) Nothing happens.
No! Let go of everything. Would it fly away?
No, it's like a kite, if you let go of the string it will fall down.

So you jump off mountains?
No, I run off mountains.
(I couldn't help giving my standard smart ass answer, literally true, but irrelevant to most people!)

Where do you fly from?
All over, Rockies, the US, ...
You flew from there today!?
No, I'm just practicing today.
But where did you come from?
I just walked here from my house.
But we saw you way up in the sky!
No, I've just been on the ground in the park here.
No, we saw you up there. 

We should help!
Uh, no, I don't think ...
Yeah, we'll hold it up.
To their credit, they grasped that holding it up would help me launch. Of course, I didn't need the help, but what the heck. I taught them how to pinch the back of the wing so when it launched it would slide out of their grip and not pull them. Of course, one of them had to see what happened if she hung on. I just waited until she gave up and let go.

But "helping" didn't hold their attention very long.

Drop it on us!

My goal of trying to keep the wing up in the light wind wasn't very interesting!

So I dropped the wing on them (very gently). Much shrieking ensued.

Thankfully the wind was light with no gusts. It was barely enough to keep the wing up. If it had been strong (like it has been recently) I wouldn't have wanted them anywhere near the wing or lines. But with the mellow conditions I could raise and lower the wing gently. I was very careful not to let any of the lines get caught on them. Their ideal scenario was that I would drop the wing on them, then they'd get out from under it and crouch beside it, and I'd raise the wing back up. I think they liked the feel of the giant (relative to them) wing moving so close them.

How long have you been doing this?
Two years.

How old are you?
25, (that's old?) more, 30, more, 40, more, 50, more, 60, less, 70, stop!
It was kind of nice that it seemed totally academic to them. I guess to them, it's all old.

C'mon, let's go, we should leave this guy alone. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Prints of the Week


I like the way the frog's camouflage blends in with the patterns of the water. I also figured it would go well beside the turtle blending in with the reflections. For a whole book of this kind of photo, check out Art Wolfe's Vanishing Act. I also like the eye and the way it appears to be looking at you.

I also printed one of the recent pronghorn photos.


I thought it was one male (horns) leading a group of females, but if you look closely, the second last one also appears to be a male, probably a younger one. Apart from the horns, the males have a darker stripe on the side of their neck. I like the shallow depth of focus (from the long telephoto) making the foreground and background blurred and making the pronghorn stand out more. Also nice that there are no obvious fences or buildings or other signs of "civilization".

Both prints 13 x 19 on Exhibition Fiber, Epson 3880 printer.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ground Handling, literally

Like many sports, there's nothing like getting out and doing some to give you an appetite for more. Since we got back from our last flying road trip I've been reading paragliding books and waiting impatiently for spring to come so I can at least get out ground handling. (In paragliding, ground handling (aka kiting) is practicing with your wing on the ground - bringing it up and down and keeping it in the air.)

It's finally warmed up enough to start thinking about getting outside. Of course, the snow hasn't gone yet, and the melting is making a mess. But I figured I could get out early enough that the ground would be frozen.

Saturday morning and Shelley is off with SAR, but it's cloudy and the wind looks strong. I check the weather and it shows 30 to 40 kph (18 to 24 mph) - too much for my skills. So much for that idea.

But then the sun came out. And I'm a sucker for sunshine, especially after a dark winter. Is the wind really that strong? I check Weather Underground for local stations and they show less wind. I grab my gear and head out.

The park is a mix of snow, ice, and mostly frozen mud, rapidly melting in the sun. Not exactly ideal footing. But contrary to weather reports, the wind is actually blowing up the hill which means I might be able to fly down it. But as soon as I get my wing out I realize it's too strong at the top of the hill.

I bundle up my wing and move down to the bottom of the hill where the wind isn't quite as strong. Of course, it's more squirrelly due to trees. But although that makes it frustrating, it's also good practice.

In my mind, I was going to go out and kite the wing effortlessly overhead. Ah, how our memory tricks us! I was soon reminded that ground handling in rough air is anything but effortless, at least for me. But I managed to keep it mostly under control and the skills started to come back.

Stronger spells of wind would push me towards the hill where the wind was stronger. But I found that I could turn and forward kite and walk the wing back away from the hill. I did that a few times, until I let myself get a little too far up the hill. When I tried to forward kite back down a strong cycle of wind yanked me off my feet, dropped me on me butt, and then proceeded to drag me up the hill. Usually, if you're below the top of the hill you're less likely to get dragged because it takes a lot of energy to pull you up the hill. But the wind was strong and it had warmed up enough that the mud on the surface was no longer frozen. Imagine a tug of war where you're sitting down facing away on slick mud.

I managed to hold onto the brakes and pretend I had some control. But every time I'd get the wing down a gust of wind would reinflate it and drag me a further. I lost one brake but as I went to grab it again I clued in that I should just grab some lines and start reeling them in. That finally stopped the wing from taking off and I was able to regain my feet. I looked down the hill at my hundred foot track in the mud. I was now wearing a lot of that mud. Even my helmet was plastered, although I don't recall sliding on my head! But hey, I got off without a scratch (other than a bruised ego), and how often do you get a sled ride up a hill!

When I was younger, my current age seemed unimaginably far off. But what little I did think about it, I never imagined that at this age I'd be out getting dragged around in the mud. On the other hand, I think that younger me would have approved.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Still Winter

Now that it's getting light out by the time I walk to work, there have been some beautiful mornings with low sun shining through fog on the river and reflecting off the floating ice. But even for a photo addict like me it's been too darn cold to stop and take photos. By the middle of March I'd hope to at least be photographing melting ice. But no such luck this week.

Saturday morning wasn't much warmer but I bundled up and headed out anyway. It wasn't quite as early as I would have liked because we went out for breakfast first, but it was still nice. It's surprisingly hard to capture the sun glinting off the ice. Definitely a case where you need to take lots of shots and hope for some you like.

sun on floating ice

sun on floating ice

The fog is also tricky to capture, it only stands out against a dark background.

ice and fog  on the river

ice and fog  on the river

There were a few Goldeneye ducks around although, as usual, they tend to swim away as soon as they see you. Or fly away. The fog wasn't helpful taking pictures of these guys.

Goldeneye taking off

Although there wasn't much frost on the trees, there was some on the grass and bushes beside the river. (Although the wind was busy blowing it off.)

frost and ice


In the back alley on my way home the pattern of light through a fence caught my eye.

light on snow

See all 18 photos as a slideshow or overview

Print of the Week


Taken at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. This is one of the kinds of photos that I like to print large - with both small details to look at close up, and larger forms and color to make it interesting from a distance. Interesting also because most agaves don't have such colorful "thorns".

17 x 22" Epson Exhibition Fiber, Epson 3880 printer

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Photo of the Day

cold March morning

Another shot out of my home office window. It may still look and feel like winter, but the days are gradually getting longer. 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Spring Mountain Ranch

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is near Red Rocks (where we climb) but we'd never stopped there before this trip. It's small but it has some interesting history (past owners include Howard Hughes). We also enjoyed the short walk through the park.

Spring Mountain Ranch

One of the things that made the ranch sought after was that it has water from a number of springs. The lake is artificial but is still a treat in the desert.

Spring Mountain Ranch

A hawk circled overhead, too high for good photos but I tried with the lens I had.


Some of the trees were starting to flower. (Ones that flower before they get leaves.) I love spring time!

tree flowering

See all 7 photos as a slideshow or overview

Wednesday, March 01, 2017



Pronghorn are one of my favorite animals. What's not to like about a cute animal that's also the fastest land animal in the western hemisphere and is related to giraffes. They have an extensive range from Baja Mexico to Saskatchewan. They are one of the rare conservation successes, at one time down to approximately 12,000 but now back up to over 500,000, although the Baja and Sonoran subspecies are almost extinct Unlike deer, pronghorn have trouble jumping over fences. Instead they go under/through fences. It helps if the bottom wire is barbless or removed.


Driving north on Highway 93 from Ely (bypassing the endless metropolis of Salt Lake City) we passed a large group of pronghorn lying in a field quite close to the road. Shelley was surprised I didn't stop, but I didn't have my camera ready and was already past by the time I recognized them. But I started having second thoughts so when I found a turn off I pulled over and got my camera and long lens out. Coincidentally, there were a few pronghorn across from where we stopped so I photographed them first. But there were only a few and they were quite far from the road. Still, one of them (a male) stood up and watched me closely.

I turned the car around and drove back to the large group. Of course, as soon as I stopped they started to get up and move away. Like hawks, they will sit peacefully if you drive by at 100 km/hr, but if you stop they get skittish. At least they had the courtesy to run somewhat parallel to the road. Usually they'd run directly away from you and all you get are butt shots.

They were a long way from the road and moving, and I was handholding a 900mm equivalent lens, so the photos aren't as sharp as I'd like. But it's still nice to get some shots of them.


This is one of the reasons I prefer not to travel on the interstates. You might see some pronghorn from the interstate, but stopping and turning around would be next to impossible. I enjoy Highway 93 from Las Vegas to Twin Falls, with it's wide valleys and low mountains. Of course, in bad winter conditions you are probably better on the interstates. We ran into a snow storm just before Twin Falls and followed a snow plow past several people in the ditch. Thankfully it was only a short part of our drive.

See all 9 photos as a slideshow or overview