Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lake Balboa--it's in L.A....ever heard of it? Me neither...

A tip from a friend led me to photograph at Lake Balboa Park, renamed Anthony C. Beilenson Park in 1998 in tribute to Anthony Charles "Tony" Beilenson, a former Democratic Congressman from Southern California who served ten terms in the United States House of Representatives, from 1977 to 1997. The park  is an 80-acre water recreation facility, with the 27-acre Balboa Lake at its center.  This artificial lake is supplied with reclaimed water from the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant.

You sure we're in the right place??

Ya, I was wondering the same thing...

Lake Balboa is a district in the San Fernando Valley region of the city of Los Angeles, California.  The 2000 U.S. census counted 24,328 residents in the 3.13-square-mile Lake Balboa neighborhood  Lake Balboa is flanked on the north by Northridge, on the east by Van Nuys, on the south by the Sepulveda Basin and on the west by Reseda.

In the short time that I was there, I discovered quite a diversity of bird life, and was treated to quite a feeding display by a cormorant “choking” down a rather large suckermouth catfish!  It took several minutes for the cormorant to grip and position the fish just right in order to swallow it without the interference of the fins.  

In addition, there were geese, great egrets, great blue herons, and hawks…

This Great-tailed grackle was a rather curious fellow as I went by...

All of this action was observed in less than a two hour walk around the lake…thanks for taking a virtual walk with me…

To see my full collection of images from this day's shoot, visit my website gallery at:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Breitling Air Show in Huntington Beach...a first since the 90'

The Breitling Huntington Beach Airshow last year featured the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the Breitling Jet Team, a variety of acrobatic planes, an F-18 Super Hornet, and sundry other demonstrations.  It is the only beachfront airshow scheduled on the West Coast. It is also the first airshow to take place in Huntington Beach since the 1990s.

And of course the named star of the show was the Breitling Jet Team.  The Breitling Jet Team is made up of seven L-39C Albatros aircraft, Czech-made twin-seater military training jets that can also be used for passenger flights.  These magnificent planes represent an excellent compromise between performance, aesthetics, reliability and operating costs.

Below are several shots of the Thunderbirds.  The Thunderbirds have the privilege and responsibility to perform for people all around the world, displaying the pride, precision and professionalism of American Airmen. In every hour-long demonstration, the team combines years of training and experience with an attitude of excellence to showcase what the Air Force is all about. As the jets take to the skies and fly only a few feet from wingtip to wingtip, the crowd gets a glimpse of the awesome skills and capabilities that all fighter pilots must possess. The solo pilots integrate their own loud and proud routine, exhibiting some of the maximum capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon – the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet.

The next couple of shots are of the amazing Screamin’ Sasquatch.  The Screamin’ Sasquatch was a classic 1929 Taperwing, the plane of choice for barnstorms in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Today however, this plane has been highly modified in many ways, the least of which is  that it’s powered by two different engines.  Every control surface has been specifically engineered for the unique aerodynamic forces encountered during high-speed flight and portions of the aircraft’s structure have been converted from wood and fabric, to carbon fiber.  The cockpit has been moved 3 feet aft, in order to accommodate fuel tanks for both 100LL and Jet A fuel.  The cockpit is extremely modern and incorporates the MGL Avionics Stratomaster Odyssey touch screen system, which integrates all of the engine monitoring of both powerplants and the aircraft’s avionics systems – essentially combining a couple of dozen gauges into one screen.  The amazing thing is listening to this plane climb when the jet engine is engaged…and hence the name Screamin’ Sasquatch!

But one of my favorite demonstrations was that of a single F-18 Super Hornet.  This is the VFA-122 Super Hornet in action.  The Tactical Demonstration, or "Tac Demo" team flies as close to the "edge of the envelope" as safety and prudence allow.  The routine highlights the Rhino's maneuverability and slow-speed handling characteristics.  The "Demo" is designed to highlight the mobility, versatility, and power of the FA-18.  From the high "G" minimum radius turn to the slow speed "high-alpha" pass, the Demo flight puts the Rhino through its paces.

Lyon Air Museum’s C-47 Dakota, recently christened “Willa Dean”,  has had a long and successful service life. Transferred from the USAAF to the French in May of 1945, this aircraft continued to fly for the most part unmodified, unlike so many of its contemporaries. In 1967 it again changed ownership, this time transferring to the Israelis. There, it continued service without major modification, ultimately being sold to the civilian market where it found its way to Lyon Air Museum as one of the most complete and original C-47s currently in operation. “Willa Dean” now carries the colors of the 440th Troop Carrier Group’s 97th Troop Carrier Squadron, complete with D-Day Invasion Stripes.

To see my entire collection from this shoot, here's a link to my website gallery:

Sunday, January 8, 2017

San Jose--in the shadow of its famous neighbor, San Francisco

A trip last year to Northern California began with a stop in San Jose.  LOTS to see in San Jose—much more than I would have imagined! 

Ever heard of Winchester rifles?  Of course, right?  The Winchester House is a California Registered Historical Landmark which was built by Sarah Winchester, widow of rifle manufacturer William Winchester.  This unique Victorian structure was constructed beginning in 1884 and continued without interruption until Mrs. Winchester’s death in 1922.  The continual building and remodeling efforts created a 160-room house covering an area of six acres.  The grounds and gardens have been carefully restored to the time when Mrs. Winchester had a full-time staff of eight gardeners.

Adjacent to the Winchester House was another not-so-obvious piece of history…albeit from nearly a century later…  Built in 1964, and closed nearly 50 years later in 2014, the Century 21 theater was granted historic status by the San Jose City Council.  Of the three dome-style theaters, the Century 21 is the oldest and the most intact.  The San Jose Century 21 was opened with the intention of using the 3-strip Cinerama process; but it actually only showed 70mm. The screen was later replaced with a flat model, but has remained intact as a wonderful throwback to the domed Cinerama palaces of the 1960’s.  The domed buildings are still visible, but were not accessible (and didn’t photograph well given our path to the Winchester House…)—so the sign will have to do!

Next stop was to visit the Japanese Friendship Garden.  The Garden was built as a symbol of everlasting friendship between the City of San Jose and its Sister City of Okayama, Japan in 1965 and is patterned after the world famous Korakuen Garden in Okayama. The gardens are beautiful, with water features, plants and gardens, lawn and picnic areas, and venues for special event ceremonies.  There was even a Green heron perched in one of the pools…

Not done yet…next up was right around the corner in Kelley Park, a 156-acre city park in San Jose.  It not only encompasses the Japanese Friendship Garden, but the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo and, the History Park of San Jose, which was really quite fascinating and picturesque!  History Park highlights Santa Clara Valley’s past. Complete with paved streets, running trolleys (except when we were there!) and a café.  This 14-acre site has the charm and ambiance of times gone by.

And to cap off the visit--a visit to the Municipal Rose Garden.  Rolling green lawns and colorful blooms of more than 3,500 plantings and 189 varieties highlight the 5 1/2–acre Municipal Rose Garden.  A one-time prune orchard, today is one of the most attractive gardens of its kind in the world, drawing thousands of visitors each year. San José's Municipal Rose Garden is also home to newly hybridized rose and new rose varieties. In fact, the All-American Rose Selections, a national independent rating organization sends the new varieties to the Garden for testing before release to the general public. The roses are tested in areas like health, amount of blooms, color, form and unique qualities of bloom, before being accepted as a new variety and released to the public.

The Garden has a natural grass stage surrounded by a cathedral of redwood trees and a view of the roses and was championed by early members of the Santa Clara County Rose Society.  In 1927, the San José City Council voted to set aside 5 1/2 acres of an 11–acre tract of land to the Rose Society which pledged to provide roses for the Garden. In 1937, the Rose Garden was officially dedicated.

In summary, San Jose is definitely worth your time to visit.  It's no wonder that it has a modern international airport within its borders.  This is a happening place!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary--a gem in the middle of urban OC

I'm amazed at the diversity of what can be seen and experienced in a morning walk in the center of the urban environment of Orange County--skimmer, rabbit, flowers, coyote, bullfrog, butterfly, wasp, great blue heron, hummingbird,!

The Irvine Ranch Water District’s San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary (SJWS) is a true hidden gem, located year the University of Irvine’s campus. The marsh encompasses over 300 acres of coastal freshwater wetlands, and includes nearly 12 miles of trails.  The wetlands naturally clean urban runoff from San Diego Creek and help to protect the environmentally sensitive Upper Newport Bay.

As those who follow my photography will recall, I’ve visited the SJWS before, and like many of the places I go to photograph, I’m continually amazed at its natural beauty and the fact that I will see something new every time I’m there.  I thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet on the trails this morning, hardly seeing anyone else out there.  You don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate the SJWS…this is a terrific place just to walk around and get lost in your own thoughts.  Of course, if you have a camera, bring it, you never know what you might come across!  

This is a skimmer which just finished dragging it’s beak along the water…

Just can’t resist photography a cute rabbit!

In addition to the wildlife that is abundant, there are many beautiful varieties of flowers and native plants.

This guy was exciting to see.  He looks quite healthy…after sizing me up, he went about his business looking for smaller game (whewww!)

I heard the deep croaking of this frog well before I was able to find him.  Tucked deep in a thick growth, I felt lucky to spot him.

Graceful and beautiful…fluttering and unpredictable…eventually this butterfly settled down and posed for me.


This was a somewhat anticlimactic photograph of a Great blue heron with his big catch!  I stood there and watched him hunt for nearly 30 minute…

I never tire of photographing hummingbirds…they are so beautiful, and in combination with flowers make for gorgeous compositions.

Swallows are the most difficult birds for me to photograph.  They are small, and their flight “pattern” is completely erratic!  This was a lucky catch.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Bolsa Chica--a place of wonder!

I never get tired of going to Bolsa Chica…and many of you know that based on the periodic postings I make here.  Not only is Bolsa Chica wide open, uncrowded, just inland from the beach, but every time I go there, I see something new, or I see something familiar but in a whole new way.

Again, yesterday was no exception.  The “star” of the show yesterday had to be the Least Terns.  They seem to be always nesting, but yesterday there were clouds of them choking the sky with their masses of swirling and chaotic flight.  There were also the constant food runs and the terns would fly overhead to get fish, and then fly back to the nests.  These are very entertaining birds to watch, and good practice for improving panning skills of subjects in motion!

Another highlight was photographing the clapper rail.  Even better was the fact that I was able to photograph it with a longjaw mudsucker on its return trip from a feeding excursion.  Usually hidden in dense cover, the clapper rail stalks along the muddy edge of the marsh areas.  I’ve seen the clapper rail only once before, although they are making a return to the Bolsa Chica area and can be seen more frequently…and yesterday was my bonanza!

Also a joy to photograph are the skimmers (the bird with the bright orange beak).  They’re most interesting to see when they skim across the surface of the water, but yesterday all I was able to capture was them in flight. 

Another not so easy bird to find and photograph is the green heron.  About the same size as the black-crowned night heron, the green heron is more colorful.  The oranges and blues are reminiscent of the Great blue heron.

I also saw two American kestrels in flight (or fight) above the tops of a dead tree.  This was from some distance away so it’s not the best image to show the intricate markings on the kestrel.  And of course I got a nice photo of an osprey in flight.  These are beautiful birds, and avid fishermen… 

One afternoon...only several hours...and so much enjoyment!  Feel free to leave comments, or even better, let me know next time you're in the mood to see Bolsa Chica!!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Trip Home...

Leaving Moab was bitter sweet.  Such is the case with most travel--you love being where you are, and you treasure returning to the place you call home.  But well before getting there, our journey still has some pleasant surprises ahead as we venture the 7 hour drive back to Albuquerque.  This of course is the home I grew up in, but as a Southern California transplant, I'll still have an airplane ride ahead of me to what I now call home.

Our return road trip deviated from our way up to Moab, this time passing Shiprock New Mexico and then dropping in to Gallup New Mexico where we picked up Interstate 40 for our final leg into Albuquerque.  That last leg was not without its photo opp as we passed a vista of Laguna Pueblo, accessible from a raised turnout from the highway….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our first stop was in Monticello Utah.  This is one of those necessary stops prompted by drinking too much morning coffee...  Anyway, to a photographer, any stop is a photo opp, and while wandering around the filling station, I noticed a scene out back that beckoned for the creation of a photograph.  A church, surrounded by trees, cast against a mountain with snow--does it get any better than this?  For a photographer sitting in a car itching to press the shutter release, NO!

Ok, on to Shiprock...  The town of Shiprock is named after the nearby Shiprock rock formation, and is home to the annual Northern Navajo Fair, held every October.  Shiprock is a key road junction for truck traffic and tourists visiting the Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Shiprock and the Grand Canyon. The town lies at the intersection of U.S. Route 64 and U.S. Route 491 (formerly U.S. Route 666).  We stopped just long enough to get a couple of photos of the famous rock formation.

A short distance down the road, there was another amazing rock formation--and only the most discerning eyes will recognize that it's not Shiprock--it's Cathedral Cliff!

This area of New Mexico is vast, and it's barren.  It's a part of the country that gives one pause...why would people live here...what do they do...what are their stories...  So many questions, and from the highway, so few answers.  Yet, there they are, there they live, and a photograph forms the question...why?

Finally we hit Interstate 40 and Gallup New Mexico.  Gallup was founded in 1881 as a railhead for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad and is known as the "Heart of Indian Country" because it is in the middle of the Navajo reservation and home to many tribes.  This town has a rich cultural history and is a destination unto itself, but for us today, it would only be our lunch stop.  A quick search of special spaces to eat took us to a local café mostly frequented by the locals—Jerry’s Café.  I was in the mood for the quintessentially New Mexican green chile cheese burger.  I was not disappointed!  Will our bellies stuffed, we were prepared for the next, and almost final leg of our journey.

One very special photograph remains to be captures...  A year ago I had been on a drive to Albuquerque from the west coast and nearing Albuquerque noticed a small town on a hill just north of the highway.  Sitting prominently was the church…I learned later that this town was Laguna Pueblo.  At the time, I wanted to stop and create a photograph but I happened to be in the left lane and was blocked by a truck from escaping to a pullout that I was unprepared for.  Today’s trip would be different as I was on the lookout for this same pullout, and I stayed in the right lane so as to not miss it.  As I could see the pueblo appear, I was  excited to be finally getting a second chance…  After satisfying my last photographic interest, we dropped in to Albuquerque along its famous “nine mile hill”…  

There is no real summary for this amazing trip other that the fact that with travel comes adventure, and if approached right, involves some amazingly positive experience.  This was one of those trips that allowed me to enjoy the company of a very old friend (i.e., I've known him for a long time) and enjoy some amazing photography and scenery with him.  A week is a short time, but the memories will last my lifetime.  Moab awaits my return!

Canyonlands National Park--4 parks in one!

Canyonlands National Park is also near Moab, but rather than the two-mile drive out of town to Arches, Canyonlands is about 20 miles away.  Canyonlands is approximately five times as large at over 500 square miles and preserves a landscape of canyons, mesas, and buttes created by the Colorado River, the Green River, and their respective tributaries. Legislation creating the park was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 12, 1964.

The park is divided into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the combined rivers—the Green and Colorado—which carved two large canyons into the Colorado Plateau.  The Island in the Sky district attracts the majority of park users and is the most accessible by automobile. The Needles district is the second most visited. The rivers within the park and the remote Maze district each only account for 3 percent of park visitation due to it's remote and vast network of unimproved roads and trails.   The Needles, Maze, and Rivers districts are all generally visible from the Island in the Sky district.
Our trip exclusively explored the Island in the Sky.  From the many turnouts, panoramic vistas of different landscapes were enjoyed and gave understanding to the vastness and variety of topographies that make up the park.  As far as the eyes could see in many directions…rivers, monoliths, earth scared by desert storms, winds, and time...  As magnificent and grand as these vistas were, there were also many beautiful details.  Rocks, plants, birds and other details competed for attention with the more dramatic scenery in the distance.

As we arrived at the rather unassuming park entrance (sans the normal visitors center), we saw a couple getting ready for their own exploration on mountain bikes.  The Islands in the Sky would be an enjoyable biking experience for most people due to its relatively flat paved roads.

Although Arches National Park boasts having the majority of arches in this part of Utah, Canyonlands is known among photographers for another very special and scenic arch--Mesa Arch.  What gives Mesa Arch such an avid following is its combination of stunning vistas through the arch as well as its orientation to the rising sun.  We were content to arrive just after sunrise, but it not atypical for there to be as many as 20 or 30 photographers in a relatively confined space, pre-dawn,  jostling for just the right spot to photograph the sunrise through the arch.  In the far distance are mountains and mesas, and somewhat closer in view is the Washer Woman Arch, named for its similarity to a woman washing garments by hand.

It was easy to be mesmerized by the sight of Mesa Arch and its setting.  Every subtle angle looking quite different and therefore compelling that more photographs be taken.  But alas it was time to move on and see what other surprises might await around the next corner...

Canyonlands seems more a wilderness than a park, and feels much less improved and "directive", leaving the exploration and enjoyment more in the hands of one's own time and curiosity.  I feel that we barely scratched the surface of the character and diversity of the park, and therefore shortchange the descriptions and narrative for those who haven't been and might consider visiting...  I can with certainty however, that if you're ever given the opportunity to visit the area around Moab, this park should be included in your plans.