Friday, October 10, 2008

A San Fernando Valley Gal in the Tehachapi Mountains

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I blithely left for Cub Lake this morning in my little knit hoodie under my lightweight Timberland fleece jacket, sans gloves and scarf confident that the attire was more than ample for a mid-October morning. I certainly wasn't cold in the garage getting into the car. Besides, I’m still in California, after all—only 120 miles from our house in the San Fernando Valley. Even before I stepped out of the car, I knew I had made a big mistake. For a second, I stared disbelieving at the sign in front of me. What are those things hanging off the bottom of the sign. Icicles? No. That can’t be possible. It’s October 10th. Sure enough, the trees, park benches, and playground equipment were all decorated with icicles. And we are talking substantial chunks of ice, not wimpy little things hinting at winter. The lake is a little lower than we are and there is a great deal of moisture down there, but this wasn't computing. I got out, still thinking I could tough my way through the cold, but I didn’t last long tromping around on the cruchy grass. A short walk and only a few frames later, I gave up and returned home for a late, hot breakfast.

Even though we are likely to have a couple more more warm weather spells, I have a lot of adjusting to do—not to mention the investment I have to make in that second battery (to keep in a pocket after it gets really cold here), heavier jackets, gloves, and a warm hat. I know all your folks up north are snickering at me, but ice in October is just not something I have ever had to cope with. The truth is, I haven't coped with much ice, period. I am about to get an education.

[The UPS truck just arrived a few minutes ago and I now have my Eye-One Display. Since I haven’t started to experiment with calibrating this monitor, the shot above is a shot in the dark, so to speak. I suppose it’s clear what I will be doing this afternoon.]

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Coyotes Don’t Sing No Lullabies

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Yesterday, I was certain that my post for Wednesday would be about the excitement, questions, and frustrations presented by my brand new monitor. It’s not as if those things weren’t much on my mind when I went to bed last night—especially since I had dragged my feet and never made the final decision on a calibration device. That means I have this shiny new screen on my desk, yet now I wouldn’t dare nail down the processing on a color image. (Today’s shot was processed quite some time ago, then saved as a jpeg, this morning. I will risk putting this up and deal with the embarrassment later.) I must make a decision and commit to the further strain on budget before this day is done. (Yes, I have winged it all this time, spending hours of hair-pulling and calibrating to dozens upon dozens of test prints.) Being convinced that I don’t have it in me to go through that again, I will finally add a calibration device to the long list of equipment. Does better late than never count here?

When I could no longer hold my eyes open to stare at all that glorious real estate on my desk top, I fell in bed with hopes of slowing down my racing body and mind to get a good night’s sleep. (After all, the new goal is to get up before the sun does.) I was making a little progress in slowing my brain and, I think, drifting off, when several ear-splitting high-pitched screams split the air. It sounded as though a dog were being torn to shreds. “What’s that?!”, I cried as I jumped up. “It’s just coyotes,” The Husband calmly replied. I was stunned that he was unruffled. Wide awake now, I knew as he was right, but I couldn't clear my mind of stories about neighbors' cats and small dogs that had fallen prey to coyotes .

The singing persisted. The pack, and judging by the racket—it must have been a quite a large pack, was just outside our bedroom. Now, coyotes are common place in Los Angeles—especially in any foothills area. In Shadow Hills, I heard their singing on many occasions. But in the past, they have been further away, and if I ever heard this many of them, their distance from me muted the sound. It’s not a sound that is easy to ignore when it’s that loud and that close. It’s eerie and just a little disturbingly primal. I wasn’t frightened, but it is a sound that if loud enough and close enough does tend to set your teeth on edge. Within a few minutes, it even got to The Husband, who dealt with the situation in a quite straightforward manner. He stomped to the door nearest the bedroom, flung it open, stepped out on the porch, and yelled at the pack—telling them in no uncertain terms to “knock it off”.

Whatever the occassion for the friendly singalong in our field, it took the coyotes quite a while to wrap up and move on. Yes, while The Husband was forceful, he wasn’t altogether successful. I even had the impression that the pack stuck around for a time chewing over the unseemly outburst from the porch. I lost track of how long the racket continued. It frayed my nerves a bit. The sound coyotes make is called singing, but believe me when it’s outside your bedroom, it won’t lull you to sleep. Thank goodness they eventually moved on but they left behind them an air of uneasiness.

The experience convinced me that I prefer my coyotes one at a time, in broad daylight, at a comfortable distance, and definitely not yelping and howling.

(Note: If you are curious about the sound that I finally fell asleep with, I found a
link for you at National Geographic. To prepare yourself for the full experience, scroll down to “hear a coyote”, turn up the volume on your speakers until the noise is ear-splitting, close your eyes, imagine that you’re in bed and that it’s quite dark outside, and listen for a while. Have a nice nap.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rosy Outlooks

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I am not able to view the world through rose-colored glasses with all the scary news today, but the sky outside my window really was that odd color this morning. Honest. That's not Photoshop stuff. I had no intention of stepping outside in my jammies before the sun warmed things up out there, but how could I say "No" to a rosy sky? I scorched the oatmeal a tad, but it was worth it.

You know, this getting-up-before-sunrise thing is not half bad.

(By the way, I was surprised to see that I have been breezing along, since the start obviously, with the clock in my still newish 40D set incorrectly. The EXIF shows that this was shot at 6:34 PM yesterday. Don't you believe it.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Foggy Mornings and Brighter Days

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Whudda thunk
that it would take fog to help clear the fog? That statement is a bit of an exaggeration, but it's true that a different type of challenge in shooting (photographing scenes shrouded in fog) has been a major contributor to helping me break free of my creative block—at least temporarily. Anyone who has been at this photography thing a long time knows, far better than I, that this is one of the accepted solutions for getting un-stuck.

I don't take credit for being smart enough to employ that technique. Rather, I can thank a splendid convergence of forces, namely unfamilar-to-me foggy mornings and a subject on the minds of the two Pauls (I linked to their posts a couple of days ago) and Amy Sakurai. The thoughts expressed and the images displayed spurred my curiousity and I began experimenting. Ultimately, a couple of the shots lured me into one of those digital darkroom sessions, where I became curious about split-toning, a technique I have played with on only rare occassions.

As enamored as I am with my possible relationship with fog (now that I live in a valley in the mountains, fog is unlikely to remain unfamiliar), there are other conditions where the haze may be lifing. It is looking more as if we may sell our house in Los Angeles and that means we have a possibility of being able to stay here.

I have already confessed that I do not take to a lifestyle that doesn't include roots. I went through that period early in life and found that it didn't suit me. I crave roots. These last few weeks have been a bit disorienting and not just because the scenery is new. Physically, this is a beautiful place to live. Whatever direction I turn, there are scenes that lift my spirit and speak directly to my dyed-in-the-wool western heart. Yet even while I drink in the wide open space, I have struggled to hold back and resist falling too much in love, in case we aren’t able to stay here. I fall in love easily, I like falling in love. But, this time I had too much of an investment, and I haven't had the courage to risk falling in love only to say another good-bye so soon.