Category Archives: Photography

Kayakers on the Bay at Sunset

Kayakers Sunset Bay by CatDancing
Kayakers Sunset Bay, a photo by CatDancing on Flickr.

We’ve had a few pretty sunsets lately, but most of them I haven’t been able to get out and photograph. So Sunday I decided to go down to the marina and hope for a few nice pictures. It’s always fun and calming to explore the bay shore at sunset. Many people gather there, especially when the weather’s nice, as it was last night. A lot of them will just park at the edge of the water (many places available for that) and watch the sun set and the planes come in at the Oakland Airport. I’ll usually park somewhere and then walk and take pictures from different vantage points.

There are always birds on the water and they look especially nice when the water is so calm. The sky didn’t have any clouds so, as sunsets go, it wasn’t very exciting. However, the golden color lasted a long time; it hung on to the Bay as if it wasn’t ready to go to bed quite yet.

A trio of kayakers were out on the Bay for the sunset and they made a nice addition to this picture. Here’s one of my favorites from the evening.


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Filed under Nature, Photography, Something Interesting I Saw, Walk

Sharing Pictures

visting relatives

Visiting relatives in 1963

I’ve been scanning and “restoring” quite a few old family pictures recently that were sent by a second cousin of mine in Colorado. Some pictures are of good quality, obviously taken by a professional. But, as is the case with most families, the majority of pictures were taken by family members. These are often of poorer quality with problems including being out of focus, camera movement blur, people too far away from the camera, not enough light, and other problems. It’s a bit disappointing to know that a group shot of relatives I’ve never met could have been better made at the time. However, I’m also very grateful to the photographer for having taken these pictures at all and, sometimes, having made duplicate prints to give to family members. If it weren’t for these, I wouldn’t have known what these relatives looked like. A bad photo from the past is much better than no photo at all.

Which brings us to the present. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Perhaps an iPhone doesn’t take as high-quality photos as a digital SLR, but if that’s all that you have with you, then it’s the best one for the moment. My daughter-in-law shares many photos of our grandson by email. I’m so thankful for these snapshots sent every few days. They may occasionally be dark, blurry, or funny-colored, but I still get to see what our grandson is doing. I’d much rather receive iPhone pictures often than professional or studio pictures rarely! Besides, even if the quality isn’t equal to a professionally made photograph, she’ll often catch a special smile or expression that is priceless! I’ll take that any day.

The picture at the top of this post was in this collection of photographs from my second cousin in Colorado. It shows my mother with her aunt and uncle plus two cousins and the wife of one of the cousins. All these relatives were visiting from out of state and are posing on our driveway. My dad not only took the picture but also printed it at home. He and my mom used the kitchen as a darkroom occasionally. The print is a bit grainy – probably the cheaper paper my dad would have used – and the back is labeled in my mother’s distinctive handwriting and turquoise-colored ink. Although I’ve long known that the quality of the prints my dad made could have been better, at least he made them. They often printed multiple copies for other family members, too. I’m sure this print was sent to Colorado relatives in the 60’s and it has now made it back to California for me to scan. I love that!

I’ve been thinking how some families were into snapping pictures and sharing and others weren’t. In a collection of miscellaneous photographs from this branch, there are one or two families that seems to pop up in the pictures more than others. Some years they used a family group shot to create their Christmas greeting. They obviously took pictures of their kids regularly, but not only that, they shared prints with more distant family members. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have seen these pictures and would have hardly known these people existed. I’ve never met most of them, but would like to do so someday.

The moral of all this? Take pictures of your family, your kids, your experiences, everything that interests you. Then share them with others, whether online, in emails, Facebook, whatever. Don’t forget to make prints of some of the most important pictures, too. Who knows what will happen to online content 30, 50, or 100 years from now. A photographic print may have a better chance of surviving than your pictures stored on someone else’s server.

Snap and share!

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Filed under Family History, Photo Restoration, Photography

Spider with her egg sack


Spider with egg sac

We have many of these cellar spiders in our house—too many, in fact. I feel that it’s partly my fault because I don’t like to kill them. I will catch and release spiders outside but more often than not I just let them be. Which means they’re left to multiply and build more messy webs. The other morning I found two in our kitchen and one had an object that didn’t look like a meal. I was getting ready for work so considered just leaving them alone, but I was fascinated by the object and thought it might be an egg sack. Ooooh! I’d love to photograph that. Long story short (errrr… sort of) I did pull out my camera, macro lens, flash and a large corning ware dish. I caught each spider and put the female in the dish. They can climb walls and many things, but have trouble with glass and ceramic. The white casserole dish made a decent photo studio and kept her in one place.

Close up of spider and egg sac

Close up of spider and egg sac

She was holding onto an egg sack and here are some pictures. I thought the pattern on the eggs was really something; they were certainly not what I’d expected. In many ways, these are uninteresting spiders. They don’t have much color, are extremely common, and leave their messy webs everywhere. As is often the case, however, there can be something interesting when you look very closely.

two spiders

Female and male cellar spiders

The second was definitely a male, possibly her mate although she wasn’t particularly interested in him. She seemed pretty upset to be in the dish. After I snapped several shots I released them both outside.

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Filed under Nature, Photography, Something Interesting I Saw, Spiders, Uncategorized

Christmas Dogs


Christmas dogs

These are the dogs at my workplace: Dutch, Chloe, Buster, and Lexi. We love ’em!

(This is a composite from three shots. Boy! It’s tough to photograph a group of lively dogs!)

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Filed under Miscellany, Photography

Lunar Eclipse on the Winter Solstice


Moon partially eclipsed

I’ve seen quite a few lunar eclipses, but this was the first that also coincided with the winter solstice. Not that they really have much to do with each other, but they’re both “astronomical” events, I suppose.

I didn’t expect to see it as we’d had predictions of rain and cloud cover for some time. When I left my clogging class in San Jose for home, the clouds were very thin and we could see the full moon through them. By the time I got home there was a nice big hole in the clouds and the eclipse had started.

So I hauled all my stuff into the house and grabbed my camera, 200mm lens, tripod, and heavy coat to spend some time outside. One nice thing about a lunar eclipse is that it can usually be viewed from your own back  yard. It’s nice to have a warm house with other comforts close by on a cold night.

lunar eclipse

Lunar eclipse in totality.

Back to the photography… The 200mm lens really isn’t long enough to fill the frame with the moon so these shots have been cropped considerably. It can be hard to focus at night but I recently learned a cool trick. I turn on my camera’s live view, enlarge the image, and then fine tune the focus manually. It works really well! These moon shots still aren’t as sharp as I’d like, but I think that’s more a limitation of my optics. Still, it’s nice to have some of my own pictures of the eclipse.

During a lunar eclipse, the moon appears red because the light is reflected from the earth and must pass through our atmosphere, particles and all.

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Filed under Night, Photography, Something Interesting I Saw, Uncategorized


Melting ice cubes

We had a bag of ice cubes in the freezer that had solidified into one chunk, so I pulled it out and put it in the sink. My son sprayed some hot water on it and then commented that it looked like an interesting photo subject. I set it on the windowsill to get some backlight and snapped a few shots. I liked this square crop the best. This is a color photo, by the way.

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Filed under Miscellany, Photography, Something Interesting I Saw

Mare Island Night Photography

Mare Island

Night Photography Meetup on Mare Island

Not too long ago I was on Mare Island in Vallejo with 12 others from the Bay Area Night Photography Meetup group. What a fascinating place that is! It was once a naval shipyard. Currently you can find old buildings and cranes no longer in use, buildings converted to warehouses, a museum, some older beautiful homes (used to be for the officers, no doubt), new homes built to look like they were part of the old, an elementary school, a lot of open space, a golf course, an old cemetary, unused train tracks, and so much more. I could go back every day for a month and discover new things. The building above is the museum and was holding a special event that night. This was taken at twilight but with the longer exposure it looks like daytime.

corrugated building

Corrugated building on Mare Island


Nature takes over

We started off exploring some during the day, then met back at the museum to compare notes and maybe head somewhere to catch the sunset. I had a ball exploring the old buildings and can’t wait to return. The above was an especially interesting steel hut. I can’t imagine its use. I also loved seeing the areas where nature was clearly taking over. In other areas, new homes had been built. I came across some old homes that had been moved to a new location and were still up on wheels. Touro University has 40 acres on Mare Island. The whole island is a mixture of old and new.


A flock of pigeons taking off together

Exploring further I came to the emptier side of the island. The sun was getting low in the sky when I caught these pigeons taking off in unison.


Mare Island buildings in early evening

After the sun goes down is when it’s really fun to explore and see what you can catch with the camera. Colors seem to be more saturated when shot with a longer exposure. Buildings are odd colors from the varieties of lights. Shadows are deeper.


Light painting the tracks red

At one point I tried a little light painting. I liked the reflected light on the railroad tracks so I tried to make it stand out more with my red flashlight. Of course, what really showed up was the light of the flashlight, but I liked the result. The exposure above was a little over a minute long.

As I headed back to the museum and my car I was gazing up at the structure overhead and did exactly what I had tried so hard not to do – I tripped on a curb and went down with the camera. My new camera now has a definite mark on it, so I know it’s really mine. Other than that I don’t think either of us were hurt. (Maybe my pride was a bit.)

gate shadows

Gate shadows

Then I spent quite a while in front of this gate trying to get a good shot of the shadows. Most of the time I had to wait for a pickup truck to move. He was sitting opposite me with his headlights on, probably waiting for a friend. I wonder if he wondered what the heck I was doing just standing there as I wondered what the heck he was doing just sitting there at the stop sign. It must have been 10 to 15 minutes before he finally moved on and then I was able to get back to shooting. This is the shot I like the best. Overall, it was a fun evening and I was pretty happy with some of the pictures I came home with.

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Filed under Night, Photography