Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another good reason to leave once I'm done?


A fire started less than 10 miles from where I live tonight. It's grown rapidly-they have a code red alert until tomorrow morning. The news explained that means danger of explosive fire.  Westmont College is on fire. Power lines are burnt and Santa Barbara is mostly without fire. 

Not helping the situation: the Santa Ana winds with wind gusts of up to 70mph. Watching the news guy, when the wind gusts it looks like I'm watching hurricane coverage. I don't like this. Nope. Not one bit. The good news is that it seems that most everyone has evacuated (even though homes have burnt.)

I'd like to think that the fire is not coming this way. I'd like to think. But still, I don't like it. And next year, I'll be somewhere else. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Notes on Infrared

I'm so glad I never got rid of my first digital SLR camera, the D70. While it may be only 6megapixels, it is better suited for the things I'm doing in class right now (infrared) than my newer camera.

The last time I shot infrared was on film back in the 90s. Now, I'm trying to shoot infrared (IR) with a digital camera, but did you know that most digital cameras have a special IR blocker built in? Yeah, makes things tricky, doesn't it?? So, you end up with a few options...
1. Have the blocker taken out...but then you won't be able to take normal pictures on that camera. In effect, you'd have a camera sensitive to both UV and IR light.
2. Use filters that block out regular light. And you know what?? You can't see through them!! So you better focus before you put that filter on. And get ready for much longer exposures.

So, why is my old camera better?? Well, newer cameras have bigger and better UV and IR blockers। So that means that you need much longer exposures to get anything to show up।  So my trusy old D70, the same one that I used on my little cross country trip comes in handy once again. I'm still getting a hang of how to get some decent looking IR shots, here is one of my first attempts..aloe in infrared.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


As seems to be my norm, I got to class late today, sliding into the first seat I saw as the teacher was handing out the first set of today's handouts.  As I looked around to see who else was in the class, I was happy to see many people I knew. I didn't expect that, and I'm glad.

We received a series of assignments, most of which were about infrared. Yay! This is going to be learning by playing, my favorite! Other things we'll be covering? Ultraviolet, fluorescent dyes and tracers, moonlight photography and star trails, and microscopic and polarizing filters. All of this in a short seven weeks.  Even though we've only had one class, I have a feeling that this class will only give me a taste of the possibilities and that I could continue playing with this type of photography for a while. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Evil Green chili peppers

Damn! My mouth hasn't  burned like that in years!!

It all started out innocently enough- you know it always does. You make plans to go out to dinner with friends. Tonight it was Thai.

You order something you can't pronounce. Something along the lines of phong pong tong phint phat (not the right spelling btw). And the waiter asks how spicy you'd like that. 

Forgetting that the Thai have an insane ability to eat things that would sear the flesh off of lesser beings, you say "medium," and continue with the evening.

Once the food arrives, you dig in...ooh, that's a spicy dish! But it's good. And even though your lips are tingling a little bit, you can still savor all the flavors from your dish.

And then, it happens. You accidentally bite into an  innocent looking piece of green pepper, but don't let it fool you! That thing is bent on destruction!  All of a sudden, the burning starts! Oh! Make it stop!!!  

But it doesn't.'s only the beginning!! It feels like some little devil with a blowtorch is inside your mouth searing every piece of flesh it finds-including your throat. Quickly, you reach for the Thai tea and drink a bit. 
Ahh...that's better...but only for a second. 

The burning starts again after the coolness abates!! They say that milk/dairy helps calm the fire, but I think they lied. Because all you can do at this point is gasp and say, "owowowowowwoswowowow!!!!" You try some plain rice-hoping that it will absorb some of the burning. Nope. It doesn't.  Apparently, nothing can save you now.

You now sit and wait. The tea is gone.  You know water won't help at all. And the rice was just plain useless.  The burning continues. You imagine layers of your mouth are being peeled away as the pepper does its job. You sit in pain, blinking, waiting for it to abate while everyone at the table looks at you, somewhat worried at the look of pain on your face. 

Slowly, finally, it doesn't burn as much anymore. The fire dies down, leaving your mouth tender (you don't realize but it will still be a bit tender tomorrow as well...)

Once you can talk again, your friend at the other end of the table says, "Hey, can I try that?"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Desert

Driving 5 hours to Las Vegas in the early August heat probably wasn't one of the better ideas I've had over the years, but it does account for my weekend. I had contacted my friend's little sis, M., who's been living there for the past few years, about doing a photo shoot with her and the lights of Vegas.

Driving out there, it amazed me that people would actually choose the desert as a place to settle (I'm talking the early settlers-before electricity and air conditioning.) I can't imagine what was going through their heads (I'm guessing that the sun had obviously fried that part of the brain responsible for better judgement- I can just imagine, "hmmm, over 100 degrees, it's hard to breath, there's hardly any vegetation, no water to be seen, but ooh, lots of sand and rock: Yep, good place to settle!")

M. doesn't live right in Vegas, so I got to see the more "normal" side of things there. While I didn't take very many pictures, a few thoughts did cross my mind (the first being about the settlers...) Some others...

1. The landscape looks alien. As I mentioned, there isn't much vegetation, but lots of rocks and sand. I imagine that the surface of Mars must look something like that. This is where I first wondered who the hell would choose to start a city/settlement out here in the first place.

2. I find it odd that with temps normally reaching in the triple digits in the summers, they don't have more shady areas created. In the shopping areas, the parking lots bake in the sun; there are no shaded walkways, no canopies, nothing. I don't expect trees as they would probably all die out there, but even something artificial to give people a break? Nope.

3. Vegas and the strip seem wholly unnatural to me. I understand that is the point-it was just weird to actually experience it. I felt like I was at Disney-with the crowds of people pushing and shoving their way around to get to the next "attraction." Only, unlike Disney, many were drunk and silly. It had its moments of amusement.

4. It was a bit overwhelming for me. I'm glad I was with people that knew how to get around because I felt totally lost walking around the strip and in and out of the casinos. Things look very much the same inside the casino. One hallway looks just like the other to a novice like me. One bridge is just the same as the other. I suppose being a bit dehydrated didn't help.

5. Despite the chaotic nature of it, I did find some things I loved-like the water fountain show at the Bellagio. Call me a sucker, but I love watching the water shoot and dance to music. Now, all they needed was some colored lights instead of the normal ones. I also loved the glass umbrella/flower ceiling inside the Bellagio-all the different colors creating a nice kaleidoscope on the ceiling.

6. I really only spent about 1 1/2 day there, but that was enough for me to know that I could never live there. I can't handle that extreme heat (as much as I complain about it being cold here, I'd rather be a bit on the cool side than risk my brain melting in that heat...) And I need green in the landscape. The browns of the desert just don't do it for me.

Here are some pictures I did take...
Heading to the MGM, I passed New York. Pretty cool

Coming from the parking lot at the MGM...
This is a corridor at the MGM. It was more than a bit
freaky, as far as I'm concerned. Reminds me of the Shining.

As I started my drive back to CA, these houses blend
into the background. Kind of depressing, isn't it?

This was a lot of the scenery.

Out in the middle of nowhere….

The giants of the desert

Here, a view of the open road and a few other travelers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I just experienced my first earthquake!! Sitting here at work, all of a sudden, I feel kind of light-headed and then, it seems like the floor is moving. Hmm...occasionally, my body does that to me, but only for about a second (like getting up really fast). This instead continues, and I notice that things that aren't fixed down are swaying. Ok, now I know that's not just my head.
I ask my co-worker, "Was that an earthquake???"
CW (offhandedly): oh yeah, but that was nothing.
Me: That was my first earthquake!!
CW: Really? Wait till you get a rough one where everything shakes. You better hang on then.
Me: No, that's when I run outside and throw myself on the ground.
CW: well, just don't go under anything that can fall on you, like power lines.
Me: (silence)

So, there you go...two years and I have finally experienced my first earthquake.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


of blue waters and dolphins.  The little house looked out over the ocean, with ocean a constant presence from the porch. Standing in the warm, shallow water, a tiny yellow and black tropical fish kept us company before heading off to the safety of the rocks nearby. And then the dolphins came...playing in the deep water just to our left. And then one came up to check us out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


What's this?? That bright light coming through the window this morning? could it gosh, yes, I think it's the sun! Hello sun, It's been a while. You disappeared as soon as May started. Yes, you hung around really well in April, and then, May *poof*, you were gone. Where'd you go? I missed you!! And I'm glad you're back. Thank you!! I love waking up to having you peeking through the window. It makes it so much easier to get up and get going...the days you're not here, well, those days seem to just weigh me down like the mist that hangs over our heads; all I want to do then is mostly sleep, but I can't. But with you around? Well, take this morning. I opened my eyes, and there you were, shining down through the window and I got up-didn't fight or fuss, or pull the covers over my head. Noooo....just yawned and stretched and got up. And the alarm hadn't even gone off yet.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

on the theme of dogs..

What will they come up with next?

I just saw this article that basically states that Yeah, they did a study!! I mean, what will they find next? That cats meow to communicate? And that different barks and meows convey different things?? Get outta here!! No way!!
That is just freakin' amazing!!

I think they might be on par with some others...smoking cigarettes is addictive!!  Playing drinking games leads to high blood alcohol level!!  Parents of newborns don't get very much sleep! I mean, really!! Where do they come up with this?  Here are few more suggestions for studies...presented as questions of they can find-- the Answers! 

Does eating reduce hunger (or drinking water reduce thirst???)
Will riding a bicycle get you somewhere faster than walking? What about driving a car?
Do people that work inside near windows ever look outside?
Does eating a big meal make people sleepy?
Does rain fall from the sky?

This list could go on... got any suggestions for more ridiculous stories? 

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A while back, I went up to Knapp's Castle with a friend of mine (more info here and here.) I'd never been and I thought it would be a fun little hike. Well, little is right, as the walk from the car to the ruins was very short, but it was still a fun little trip. We made our own little adventure by going back to the car over the hill instead of heading back to the trail.

This is the first view as we walked up the path

This used to be part of the entrance, or part of a chimney?

The view from Knapp's Castle. Can you imagine what it must
have been like living here, waking up every morning to this view?

Digging around, my friend found buried treasure-ok,
not necessarily treasure, but a little cache for people
to find and then sign and leave it for the whoever finds it next.

C. signing. He's now part of the saga.

We climbed a nearby hill to this view.
Here, C. surveys the layout. My car is parked down
there somewhere. We decided to take this route back down.

And finally, almost back to the car.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

film vs. digital

Spending the afternoon in front of the computer, sorting through various files ranging from my first digital camera, to my current camera and some images scanned from film, I find myself with mixed feelings on the whole digital vs. film debate.

The instant gratification of digital lures and delights me. Viewing an image within seconds of having pushed the shutter release still thrills me--"ooh, ooh, let's see!!" These days, images flash around the world as they are happening; we see our world evolving as it's happening. No more waiting for film processing-just load and send anywhere in the world. Wondering whether your pictures of your great-aunt Betsy's 100th birthday party came out or having the lab ruin the pictures from your amazing vacation is also a thing of the past.

But will it last? Film has a certain durability that, so far, digital hasn't proven as technology constantly outgrows itself. Yesterday's technological breakthrough becomes today's relic-quickly discarded as technology moves on. While we can still create stunning prints from 100 year old negatives, I'm not so sure about digital images from even 10 years ago.

Looking at my own images, I sigh, knowing that by scanning in my slides and negatives from even 20 years ago, I can have better quality images than the ones I shot just 5 years ago on a new 7MP digital camera. Of course, today's hand-held cameras go up to 39MP, which would certainly outrank a scanned 35mm slide or negative (if you have an extra $40K burning a hole through your pocket.)

Another thing I consider is the electronic components of digital photography. When I first started learning photography, I bought myself a completely manual film camera (ok, so film was the only thing available back then...) that worked without batteries. That camera worked no matter what-as long as I pushed the button, the shutter clicked. I even dropped it a few times and never had a problem with it.

These days, my teachers tell us to be ready for something, anything, to go wrong- and have backups. Batteries die, flashes don't work, cameras drop (and break); but for anyone shooting digitally, I'd say backing up your files ranks at the top. I've heard stories of students losing all their work because their computer or hard drive crashed. Ouch. It would be like having all your negatives go up in flames-you can never get those back.

Of course, digital has its benefits (as I mentioned before- one of my favorites is the instant gratification!!) It also affords one so much flexibility in manipulating the images that it becomes fascinating to play with an image and create all sorts of effects without ever distorting the original. Using traditional film and processing, this would not be possible (for example, in cross-processing, you can never go back and re-process.)

Digital capture also freed many people to experiment in what types of shots they are taking without having to worry about the cost of processing. I mean, how amazing that someone can take hundreds of pictures without worrying about the processing cost? This serves as a double edged sword though, because along those lines, potentially less thought is given to what is being photographed, with the idea that "i'll just delete what I don't like." Photography, at its core, is about seeing and communicating that through the medium, not just clicking away; that prohibitive cost of processing also made the photographer think a bit more about what images he/she recorded.

So, both have their advantages. I'm certainly not about to give up my digital camera because the technology has not yet surpassed film. But I'm not getting rid of my film cameras either.

P.S....I've turned on word verification because it seems spam is picking up a bit (and I don't need no stinkin' spam!!) 

Friday, March 07, 2008

ze shops

With my mom visiting on my break, we headed down to Ventura the other day-along Main Street (as an aside, I never realized how many towns have Main streets. I used to think it was just a Disney thing, having grown up in Florida and visited the ol' Mouse many times...but no, many places have a Main Street. It's kind of amusing...)

It's a really cute area, filled with all sorts of little shops and boutiques...I did manage to take a few pictures.
This is along one of the little side streets...

The sign in this window amused me...

Here is a close up- I like those hours!

At another shop, we found some rather amusing "flowers."

At another store....she sold sea shells

And for Matty…

Monday, February 25, 2008

good point

On the way to school this morning, one of the radio DJs talked about the Oscars last night and the commercials played on TV. She said she saw commercials promoting tourism to California-visit California!

And then she pointed out the obvious...why are they showing these commercials in California? Aren't we already here if we're seeing these commercials on the local tv station?? Hmmmm..Or were the commercials part of the national showing? I don't know (didn't see either the Oscars or commercials.) But I do remember seeing a Florida promotional commercial when in Florida and thinking the same damn thing!!

Any ideas? `Cuz I just don't get it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday? Already?

Ever have one of those weeks that the days are all jumbled in your head?
This week, Monday felt like Wednesday, Tuesday felt like Monday, Wednesday felts like Friday, Thursday became Tuesday and now, Friday? Already? I've had to try and remember what day it actually is all week.

Class is almost done-we had registration this week and one of the hassles of being in upper division is how much longer registration takes. Lower division, the classes are set, you know what you're taking next and you just go to do the paperwork. Upper division, you get to choose your classes. They do try to limit the confusion by making us fill out sheets with our preferred classes for the remainder of our time in school, but it's not set in stone. Not only that, but some people don't fill them out, others change their mind in registration and so go over their schedules with the folks at registration. (I also think that if they posted the damn classes available online the week before, it would really help, but do they do this? nooo...only the non crucial classes.)

I stood in line for 2 hours waiting my turn.

I was done in 10 minutes.


So, now it's Friday. Somehow. It's all a bit suspicious.

I have to run up to school, print out one last sheet before I sit and start my write-ups. That will be the majority of my day today. I'll be analyzing how different colors print on different papers (thrills the scientist inside of me, as in "oooh, look at that!! Cool, there is a difference!) That has been my class this session-all about color and printing color. Like, did you know that your eye only sees 3 colors and then processes those three colors into the hundreds and millions of colors we "see"? Pretty cool, huh?

Well, I've gotten a late start and I need to get going. Hope you all have a great day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Could  I possibly be getting used to living here after over a year?

The past few days brought awesome weather-it was actually hot and sunny-you know, what people think of when they think of Cali!! Both mornings I woke up to bright sun, eagerly opening the shades to let it inside. 

This morning, as I woke up, something wasn't right. The sun wasn't trying to sneak in around the shades. The light filtering through was dim. I got up, wondering if it was rain. I looked outside to gray mist. 

"oh, it's just the marine layer-it should clear up later this afternoon," I thought to myself, opening the shades and getting my day started without much worry. 

And then, I realized--since when does it not bring me down if I wake up to grayness? Since when does it not send me scurrying back into bed with thoughts of sleeping until the sun comes back? Since when do I accept it as par for the course that it should be misty after a few hot days? I might be getting used to living here after all.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Smile with the morning sun...only one little bird

El Gato curls up with a book

While outside, the first flowers of spring bloom

Friday, February 01, 2008

First day of February

Mornings are generally quiet around here, the low hum of the 101 present in the background as Ms. Kitty eats and then goes outside. This morning, after some unusual sounds outside, kitty runs back in, ears up at full alert, eyes wide, tail down and twitching. I hear some yelling outside. What the hell is going on?

Still in my pj's, I head outside, the street seems quiet. I head back in and hear more yelling. I head back out and look again. At the opposite end of the road, it seems to be a minor accident, a red minivan is pulled over to the side of the freeway entrance, brakelight broken. A man in faded jeans, a plaid shirt, baseball cap and wire-rimmed glasses is in the middle of the road, on his cell phone and picking up pieces. He yells and rants, his agitation obvious. He even get mad at cars that need to get by, gesturing at them with an angry wave of his arm as if they are in his way.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

After the Rain

With the rain falling for days, I've been lethargic at best. It's as if the solid gray skies invaded my head and induced me to sleep as much as I could. 

And I did. 

Yesterday, I woke to sun pounding on my windows, berating the shades for blocking the windows. The lethargy lifted at least a bit. Enough to get me going.

For now the rain is done.

Friday, January 25, 2008


This is the 2nd or 3rd day in a row of rain. Good rain. Not your meager little drizzly pathetic sort of rain (which ought to not be considered rain at all really) but a good downpour complete with thunder and lightning, and power outages!


I say that with full glee, because I honestly believe in a good violent downpour every once in a while. Let the rain come down and wash everything away. Ok, so maybe it's not quite that dramatic  but it certainly is needed.

Last winter, we didn't have much rain at all. The consequence? The Zaca Fire, starting on July 4, and burning for months, finally being contained in September and controlled at the end of October. Dude, that is a long burn. And I am not a fan of breathing all the crud that the wind blows our way from those fires. Nosirreee!

So, this winter, we're getting rain. Up in the hills/mountains, they're getting snow. Earlier today I marvelled at being able to see the snow caps when the clouds cleared for a bit. Within a few hours, the 

Although I am not a fan of the cold and damp, for whatever reason, this we're having now feels right. And good. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Life in a Small Town

The shops are all dark, having closed for the day hours ago. Many restaurants are also dark as I pass by. A man unchains his bicycle outside the empty restaurant with its lights still on. As I continue, I pass a window that, with its lights all on, seems out of place. But it is empty, having gone out of business recently. A lone police car glides by and turns down a quiet street.

No other cars pass.

It's barely 9:30.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Return

After meeting up with a friend to catch up yesterday, the hours passed quickly, bringing me home much later than originally anticipated with the final packing still to be done.

4:30am came much too quickly as I rose, showered and staggered into the kitchen, my mom already up and commenting that it's a quarter of five and will I be ready in time. Squint and grunt seem to be common responses from me in those dark pre-dawn hours.  

A harried search for the car keys proves fruitless even after checking my luggage to make sure I didn't accidentally pack them. The spare keys come handy and we're on our way, catching all the red lights that seem to last forever when there is no opposing traffic. 

The rest of the trip goes smoothly with all the holiday travel finished and a half-empty plane allowing me to stretch out and claim the whole row for myself.  No change of planes, just a couple of stops along the way and soon, we're hitting turbulence as we descend to LAX. Again, the throngs of people in LAX amaze me. It really is its own little world, isn't it? 

Now, I'm back in California, and again feeling torn between two worlds. I don't know that that will ever go away.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Heading to LAX, I took the Airbus. It’s really worth it but the early wake up call is harsh. I like it because I can look out the window at the ocean until I fall asleep.

I saw a car with tires that were mostly rim. It was weird. I wonder if it helps with mileage or if it’s just for looks. And how quickly it would deflate with a nail in it.

I can’t believe the amount of UGG boots I am seeing. However, I am happy to report that some of them are a bit better looking than the stereotypical beige with the white fluff. The black and dark brown ones could almost pass for normal shoes.

Speaking of shoes, I am amused by women wearing tight little pumps or slip on high heels while trying to maneuver their luggage. While some women have no problem with this, you can also tell the ones that are uncomfortable because, rather than taking normal steps, they seem to shuffle along, taking half steps, not yet having mastered their own shoes.

The sight of an airplane whooshing overhead as it comes in for landing, seeming as if it will land on the road, still thrills me. However, as a passenger, my favorite part is the take-off.

Taking off from LAX, the airplane heads west first, out over the Pacific before looping back and heading inland. The view from up high affords a particular view I always look to see if I can catch a glimpse of some sort of marine life. Today I was not disappointed. At first thinking it a shark, I looked closer and realized I had just caught sight of my first whale in the Pacific. Gorgeous.

I wonder about fellow travelers and passengers as I see them in the airports-like the woman that just walked by wearing a full length fur coat-in Florida. Granted, it is cold and my fleece is barely enough to keep me warm, but overkill in both senses of the word doesn’t appeal to me.

Florida is still one of the top states people go to die. At least half of the passengers on my plane to Tampa were elderly and the airline had a staggering 11 requests for wheelchairs. Amazing.

I so appreciate the airports that give their travelers free wi-fi internet access. It always seems to be the smaller airports though. Imagine a world where LAX would allow free internet!!

So far, I haven’t seen one single pair of UGG boots in Florida.

I finally saw the UGG boots here in Florida at PBI..and they were the ugliest I've seen yet-with the white fur in a line/square pattern on the outside of the boots. UGGGGLY!!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

good beginnings

New Year's Eve was great. Time spent with friends, drinking and laughing till the wee hours of the morning until sleep won me over.

New Year's Day...big breakfast with friends and mimosas before sitting around the big fire outside, watching the birds and squirrels and tasting different types of chocolate before heading home.

Today...another good day. Hiking and joking around about the mountain dogs and snakes that will get you. Not quite as funny and enough to inspire a wariness...jokes about the mountain cat, but still...good times. 

Tomorrow, I fly off to Florida to visit for a quick week. While last week, my mom had to turn on the AC at night, this week is a different story with temperatures dropping into the 30's tonight, but recovering back into the 60's tomorrow. Maybe the 4th or 5th it'll be warm enough for the beach again. I could use a little dip in the ocean.