Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Up Up and Away!!

Any visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico should surely include visits to Old Town, Casa Rondena Winery, the Sandia Peak Tram, the BioPark, and just about anywhere along the Rio Grande River.

But nothing quite says Albuquerque quite like the internationally renowned Balloon Fiesta.  Having grown up in Albuquerque, it was easy to take this spectacle for granted.  My first photoshoot of the balloons was in 1976, using Kodacolor film and my Pentax Spotmatic F.  A lot has changed since then.

Since the first “Balloon Fiesta” in 1972, which included only 13 balloons, the event quickly outgrew its original venue, and after moving several times has settled on a 360 acre venue (launch field alone is 80 acres) called Balloon Fiesta Park.  Today over 700 balloons, and remains the only major balloon event where the spectators are allowed on the grounds with the balloons and their pilots and crews.  

You can literally touch the balloon gondolas and feel the heat, and the roar, of the propane burners.  It’s hard to describe the combination of excitement and amazement, and the pictures barely do justice to the feeling of being there.  That’s why over 100,000 people pack the venue to be part of the action each day of the week-long event.  The attendance reported for the last day’s mass ascension was estimated at 130,000.

This annual event is in October, and now would be a perfect time to get your plans and reservations in place...but don't wait too long!

To see my entire collection of images, visit my website gallery at:  http://www.costamesaphotography.com/The-Southwest/New-Mexico/ABQ-Balloon-Fiesta/

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Grass Valley--not really in a valley, and more forested than grassland

Grass Valley, which was originally known as Boston Ravine and later officially named Centerville, dates from the California Gold Rush, as does nearby Nevada City. When a post office was established in 1851, it was renamed Grass Valley the following year for unknown reasons. The town incorporated in 1860.  Grass Valley is the location of the Empire Mine and North Star Mine, two of the richest mines in California. George Starr, manager of the Empire Mine, and William Bowers Bourn II, the mine owner, donated mine property which became Memorial Park.

Many of those who came to settle in Grass Valley were tin miners from Cornwall, England. They were attracted to the California gold fields because the same skills needed for deep tin mining were needed for hardrock (deep) gold mining. Many of them specialized in pumping the water out of very deep mining shafts. This followed the disastrous fall in tin prices as large alluvial deposits began to be exploited elsewhere. Grass Valley still holds on to its Cornish heritage, with events such as its annual Cornish Christmas and St Piran's Day celebrations.   Pasties are a local favorite dish with a few restaurants in town specializing in recipes handed down from the original immigrant generation.

We stayed just two blocks off of their old town historic center.  Very quaint businesses lined both side of Mill Street and Main Street.  This area, along with the historic area of nearby Nevada City are welcoming to a robust tourism trade.

The Empire Mine State Historic Park is an amazing combination of forested beauty and mining history…preserved for visitors and future generations to enjoy and appreciate.  Its 367 miles (yes, miles) of deep mine shafts form a maze that is impressive in its complexity and magnitude.  A model of the mine exists in the visitors center, and was once a closely guarded secret by the owners and engineers who managed the mine’s activities. 

It was in 1850 that prospectors found gold-bearing quartz in Grass Valley.  Traditional placer mining methods (water-washed) were ineffective, and instead “hardrock” methods were needed.  Many immigrants from Cornwall England came to the area to employ their special knowledge of this method in the local mines.  To move the ore-laden cars underground, manual labor was replaced with mules who lived in underground barns until they became too old to work.

The mine closed during World War II when many of its miners enlisted.  It reopened in 1945 but with gold pinned to its 1934 price of $35/oz, it was more costly to mine than the gold was worth.  The mine closed its final time in 1956.  The Empire mine was one of the largest, richest, and longest-operating gold mines in California.

To see my entire Grass Valley collection, visit my website gallery at-- http://www.costamesaphotography.com/California/Northern-California/Grass-Valley/

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Fullerton Arboretum--an urban respite

It was my first visit to the Fullerton Arboretum.  I’ve heard of it before, but somehow never made a photography outing there until now.  Have I been missing a treat!  This 26 acre jewel is packed with trails, trees, flowers, lakes and streams, benches to rest on, along with full facilities including a museum, classrooms, nursery, and plant sales area.  Not all of these were open today during my visit, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and the main attraction (for me anyway) was all the outside areas.  There is also a historical house on the property referred to as Heritage House.  Here's some history of the arboretum based on their website...(http://fullertonarboretum.org/home.php)

In the fall of 1970, a group of faculty members and a group of students at Orange State College (later to become California State University, Fullerton) began to discuss the idea of a arboretum to be developed on a parcel of land at the northern end of the campus. Most of the area was a field of wild mustard along with diseased citrus trees. A group called the Arboretum Committee was formed and to everyone’s surprise and delight won a Disneyland Community Service Award for its environmental efforts. In 1971 the Associated Students of Cal State College began a drive to raise funds for the future project. In the following year, after substantial lobbying by interested citizens, the California State University Trustees considered setting aside land for a future botanical garden, the first of its kind on university land in the state. This was followed by the formation of an Arboretum Society which began a series of fund-raising activities on campus to build a fund for the future botanical garden. Originally, planning for the project was passed to students and faculty at sister CSU campus, Cal Poly, Pomona where landscape design and related fields were part of the curriculum.

On Sunday, December 11, 1977, Dr. C. Eugene Jones presided over a formal ceremony which included a flag raising by Boy Scout Troop #74, music by the Orange Empire Barbershop Chorus and speakers CSUF President L. Donald Shields and City of Fullerton Mayor Duane Winters. The groundbreaking was led by Commission President Martha McCarthy, Teri Jones of the Friends and other commissioners. When trees were sought for foresting the grounds in the early 1970’s, a program called Trees for Arboretum Growth, TAG, was begun and hundreds of memorial trees were planted. Although the grounds were open to the public before that time, the official opening ceremonies and ribbon-cutting took place on Sunday, October 21, 1979.

For some years the Friends supported plans to build a Visitors Center on the grounds to include areas for community use, a museum and classrooms. A new nursery/greenhouse and plant sales area was completed in 2004. With support from the city, generous private donors and civic groups the long anticipated groundbreaking was held and construction of the Visitors Center begun in the fall of 2004, fittingly during the 25th anniversary year of the official opening of the Arboretum to the community.

I hope you enjoy this variety of photographs from my outing.  My full collection can be viewed on my website gallery at:  http://www.costamesaphotography.com/OC-Orange-County/Fullerton

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Huntington Library--an incredible, must see Los Angeles destination

If you have never been to the Huntington Library in San Marino, you owe it to yourself to set aside a day and head up there with a good friend or loved one.  The experience of it's vast gardens along with it's library of rich paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, and books makes this a top-5 destination of places to visit if you're new to the area.

“The Huntington”, as it is known by the regulars, is a collections-based institution established by Henry Huntington (1850–1927) with a focus on 18th and 19th-century European art and 17th to mid-20th-century American art. The property also includes approximately 120 acres of botanical gardens, most notably the "Japanese Garden", the "Desert Garden", and the "Chinese Garden".  According to Wikipedia, Henry Edwards Huntington, a landowner, businessman and visionary, was born in Oneonta, New York, and was the nephew and heir of Collis P. Huntington, (1821–1900), one of the famous "Big Four" railroad tycoons of 19th century California history. In 1913, after relocating from San Francisco to Los Angeles,  Henry purchased more than 500 acres of what was then known as the "San Marino Ranch”.  Huntington's interest in art was influenced in large part by his second wife, Arabella Huntington, (1851–1924), and with art experts to guide him, he benefited from a post-World War I European market that was "ready to sell almost anything". Before his death in 1927, Huntington amassed a collection, then worth $50 million.

I’ve made numerous trips to the Huntington over the years, and each time have enjoyed myself immensely.  Whether strolling through the vast and richly cultivated gardens, resting on one of many benches under shade canopies of its innumerable mature trees, or marveling at the many paintings, sculptures, or manuscripts, the Huntington is one of Southern California’s most treasured destinations.    I could go once a month and never tire of the experience…

My entire collection of photographs from the Huntington can be viewed at:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, CA

One of many place in Southern California that I’ve NOT been to is the El Dorado Nature Center…that is, until today!  Nestled between the San Gabriel River and the 605 Freeway, the El Dorado Nature Center is 105 acres with trails that wind around two lakes, a stream and forested areas. I was surprised at the extent and maturity of the forested areas considering the urban environment surrounding this oasis.  

I had no idea what to expect in terms of fauna and flora, and I’m sure like many similar nature preserves, time of year affects what one will see, and multiple visits are required to gain an appreciation for the variety and change that different seasons bring.  That said, there were still a number of photo opportunities, and today’s weather made for a terrific day to visit!

I still get excited when I see the Great blue herons!  They are so big, and the foliage around this one made for a pleasant composition.  After waiting nearly an hour to see if I could catch some in-flight photos, I eventually had to give up…even the bird yawned!

This cormorant was quite interesting to watch.  It swam around and occasionally dove under the water to search for food.  One time it came up with a MOUTHFUL!  It sure looks like the head of a bird!  I watched the cormorant swallow the whole thing!  (see the next picture)

There was a small waterfall, and since subject matter to photograph was limited to this point, I created a couple of images with a slow shutter speed to create a nice silky water flow.

I heard the characteristic chirping of an osprey while walking around, and at one point off in the distance I saw it perched high up in a tree.  I was able to get a little bit closer, and since I was fortunate to be using a telephoto lens, I’m able to give you a nice close-up photograph!

This Yellow warbler was enjoying these berries along with about 20 of his friends!  It was hard to settle on which bird to photograph…the additional challenge was that with them buried in the tree branches, they were typically in mottled lighting, so it took a bit of patience and luck to wait until one was mostly in shade (or sun).

The Great egret is another of my favorite birds to photograph…so elegant!

To see these and other images from my El Dorado Nature Center collection, visit:  http://www.costamesaphotography.com/California/SouthernCalifornia/El-Dorado-Nature-Center/

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Kellogg House in Santa Ana--a moment in time

From the Heritage Museum’s website, the Kellogg House, which is located in Santa Ana, was designed by Hiram Clay Kellogg and was built in 1898.  With its asymmetrical shape, faux tower, and prominently decorated dormer, the house is a late example of Queen Anne-style Victorian architecture.  

The interior of the house has several unusual features that reflect Kellogg’s keen interest in ships. Most prominent is the mast, salvaged from a ship in San Francisco, that stretches from floor to ceiling in the center of the house. The spiral staircase surrounding it features a landing overlooking the oval dining room that is reminiscent of the bridge of a ship. And the wooden-railed circular opening in the attic floor, through which the mast extends to the roof, suggests a ship’s crow’s nest.

The house was originally located in downtown Santa Ana at 122 Orange Street. When the city of Santa Ana condemned the homes in that neighborhood to make room for new development, the family donated the house to the Museum. It was moved to its current location in 1980. In 1985 the house was restored and opened for tours in later that year.  The house is now used for hands-on education about the Victorian era for more than 18,000 children each year. A variety of other activities, including public tours, tea parties, and wedding photo sessions, also take place in this lovely old home.

I was part of a small group that had the exclusive run of the place which gave plenty of opportunities for unobstructed image compositions .  

To see the full collection (as part of my larger Santa Ana collection), visit my website at:  http://www.costamesaphotography.com/California/OC-Orange-County/Santa-Ana/

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Special Places around Moab, Utah

One objective of this particular journey to Moab was to bypass the iconic locations visited by the bulk of visitors to this area and instead, visit those areas of beauty known mostly to the locals.  The two nearby national parks would just have to wait until the end of our trip (which we extended specifically for that purpose).  Our “special places” itinerary included Negro Bill Trail, Hunter Canyon Trail, Corona Arch Trail, and Porcupine Rim/Castle Valley Overlook.  These were indeed special places and offered many unique opportunities for photographic possibilities.  Negro Bill Canyon was named after an early settler in the area, William Granstaff, who came in 1877 as was one of the first non-native-American inhabitants of the region. 

Just the drive alone to get to the trail head was worth the trip.  The road snaked along the Colorado River, taking us past a beautiful pedestrian/bicycle bridge and numerous steep rock cliffs.  The Negro Bill trail is approximately two miles long and leads along a perennial stream (a rarity in the desert environment) to Morning Glory Bridge, the sixth largest rock span in the U.S.  Unfortunately our late arrival in Moab prevented us from hiking to the trail’s end before needing to meet up with the group at the local brewery...bad luck, huh?

A couple days later we headed to Hunter Canyon Trail, which begins at Kelly Spring and leads up a canyon surrounded by steep sheer rock cliffs.  Ponderosa pines, junipers and oaks are abundant and feed off of a running creek that offered us several opportunities to photograph “water falls”.  The springtime visit highlighted the brilliantly green new foliage against the deep red cliff faces.  The Hunter Canyon is also known for its abundant camping opportunities.  Campsites are nestled up against trees, along the creek, and even tucked into a roadside cave!  It became quickly obvious why this destination was chosen and why it's such a favorite among the locals.

One of the more interesting scenes to photograph was this 3-foot waterfall.  It wasn't visible from the trail, but was audible.  Noisier than smaller falls, it called out for attention so we scrambled down to a spot with a great view of it...

Several miles away, and another destination worth visiting was Corona Arch, a partly freestanding arch with a 110-foot by 110-foot opening located 1-1/2 miles up Bootlegger Canyon.  The Corona Arch Trail is outside the national park and is not difficult and can be completed by any healthy adult or child—provided that you don’t wait until late afternoon to start, which was again was the only available time we had--hence we didn’t make it all the way to the this arch either (I mentioned that brewery, right?).  A large campground, sufficient for multiple RVs was not too far away, and with the smell of campfires and cooking, this hike had plenty of ambiance.  In addition, numerous hikers were out on the trail with their dogs simply to enjoy the late afternoon walk.  This trail is definitely worth a return visit, particularly since we missed out on the climaxing view of the arch.

The world famous Porcupine Rim is a must-do on any mountain bike bucket list and is a classic Moab ride. The route takes you along the most spectacular overlook vistas of Castle Valley.  So guess what—it’s GREAT for photographers too!   If you've ever heard of the Slickrock trail (and every mountain biker has), this is the road you take to get there.  But our destination is well past this as our early morning destination and included a bit of a drive, uphill the entire way.  We drove across some frozen dirt roads that had ice and snow on them (and which would have been very muddy had the temperature been lower).  The combination of cold, morning sun, and the smell of high desert scrub gave great celebration for being alive.

This was an incredible destination, well worth the effort getting to it.  The vistas of Castle Valley were spectacular and breath-taking.  Photographers vied for outcroppings to compose their images, and patiently took turns waiting for clear views, or in my case, utilizing them to help convey a sense of scale.  Just off the trail, the snow-covered ground treated us to that unmistakable crunching sound of walking on frozen snow as we sought out additional details to photograph in that beautifully warm low-angle morning light.

To see my entire Moab, Utah collection of images, visit my website gallery at:  http://www.costamesaphotography.com/The-Southwest/Utah/Moab/