Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Arches--WOW! Arches National Park

The Arches area was first brought to the attention of the National Park Service by Frank A. Wadleigh around September 1923.  The following year, additional support for the monument idea came from Laurence Gould, a University of Michigan graduate. Finally in April 1929, shortly after his inauguration, President Herbert Hoover signed a presidential proclamation creating Arches National Monument, consisting of two comparatively small, disconnected sections.


In late 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a proclamation which enlarged Arches to protect additional scenic features and permit development of facilities to promote tourism. In early 1969, just before leaving office, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation substantially enlarging Arches. Two years later, President Richard Nixon signed legislation enacted by Congress which significantly reduced the total area enclosed, but changed its status to a National Park.

The colossal monoliths, outcropping, fins, bluffs, and fallen rubble are a testament to the ever-changing landscape, and their time humble the meager 80+ years that we might be around to witness it.  One can stand in front of the many iconic monuments, read their name, learn their geology, but standing there hardly allows for the comprehension of the wonders that abound in this national park.

Up high on a rock a lone individual sits in the sun, oblivious to those around him as he finds ways to connect himself to this magical setting.  From where I am I can't hear him, and that's another marvelous thing about these great outdoors...there is a solitude that blankets you.  Your eyes drink in an overwhelming array of sights, but somehow the body slows things down to give all the senses a chance to coordinate.

Everywhere one turns, a new and different experience.  On the cloudless day that we were in the park, the palette of colors was dominated by reds, oranges, greens, and blues.  Many shapes had names...Park Avenue, The Three Gossips, Sheep’s Rock, etc... and yet there were many where the imagination allowed for your own personal observations and naming.  This was part of the joy of touring the was reminiscent of those days as a child lying on your back looking up at the clouds and seeing many things...this was so similar.

A drive through this national park presents many opportunities to view spectacular geological formations from the roads and parking areas.  In addition, many miles of hiking were available to those who want to get away from the crowds and enjoy the peace and solitude that national parks are famous for. 

Our trip included a most special opportunity—a ranger-led tour through a permit-only area referred to as the Fiery Furnace.  This maze of vertical fin structures is navigable by squeezing through openings, straddling fissures and openings, and scrambling and climbing over a variety of physical obstacles.  This hike is not for the faint of heart, nor for those not accustomed to physical exertion.  It was difficult to judge one's readiness for the hike based on the video that the Park Service has on their website, and consequently there were a couple people on our group that would probably not go on this hike again given the chance.

What was supposed to take approximately three hours took nearly double that.  Yet, there was never a time when I got bored or ran out of things to look at or photograph.  The payoff for being in the Fiery Furnace is a view that few see--hidden arches, panoramic glimpses, rare plants, and an abundance of twisting and turning "paths".  That's the other thing...there are not really paths in the Fiery Furnace.  One really needs to be with a guide or risk getting lost.  What an adventure!

Arches National Park is a place I will return to again.  Like so many places one visits, a couple of days often is just not enough.  So it was here too.  Not only were there more things to see, but being the great outdoors, there are seasonal patterns that would change the conditions and present completely different experiences.

To see my entire collection of images from Arches National Park, visit my website gallery at:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Anticipating Moab, Utah

Reflecting on a fantastic week in Moab Utah, the "base camp" for photographic excursions around the area including Arches NP and Canyonlands NP.  I will share the highlights from my trip on a series of posts, beginning with this first post which will include the history of Moab.  Subsequent posts will expound on our adventures in the two national parks nearby Moab as well as “special places” that we also visited.  I drove through Moab over 35 years ago and was struck by its natural beauty.  It’s taken me this long to return…if you haven’t been, make sure it’s up on your bucket list.

This was a road trip that started in Albuquerque (after having flown in from the west coast) and headed north along Highway 550 which was quite beautiful but then quickly became a bit more treacherous with snow and slush.  I knew from having checked the weather, that our destination in Utah was to be sunny with clear skies, but how much further would we continue through this snow?  Thankfully road conditions improved after only a few more miles.  

We proceeded north, through Farmington New Mexico and into the southwest corner of Colorado.  Skirting past Durango, we turned due west and headed into Mancos where we enjoyed a lunch break.  I could have spent all day exploring this small, quaint, and very scenic town, but Moab was calling, so we hit the road... 

The anticipation was palpable as we began our final approach as we descended towards Moab. For a while now we've been seeing the La Sal Mountains on the horizon, but as they loom larger we realize we're almost there... next stop Arches and Canyonlands National Parks!

Wilson Arch located outside Moab (from the south):

According to Wikipedia, Moab is located just south of the Colorado River, at an elevation of 4,025 feet, and is 18 miles west of the Utah/Colorado state line.  Moab’s population was 5,046 at the 2010 census and attracts a large number of tourists every year, mostly visitors to the nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The town is also a very popular base for mountain bikers who ride the extensive network of trails including Slickrock Trail, as well as off-roaders who come for the annual Moab Jeep Safari. 

The Biblical name Moab refers to an area of land located on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Some historians believe the city in Utah came to use this name because of William Pierce, the first postmaster, believing that the biblical Moab and this part of Utah were both "the far country".  However, others believe the name has Paiute origins, referring to the word "moapa" meaning mosquito.  Some of the area's early residents attempted to change the city's name because in the Christian Bible, Moabites are demeaned as incestuous and idolatrous. One petition in 1890 had 59 signatures and requested a name change to Vina.  Another effort attempted to change the name to Uvadalia.  Both attempts failed.  Moab was incorporated as a town on December 20, 1902.

During the period between 1829 and the early 1850s, the area around what is now Moab served as the Colorado River crossing along the Old Spanish Trail.   Later, other places to cross the Colorado were constructed, such as Lee's Ferry, Navajo Bridge and Boulder Dam. These changes shifted the trade routes away from Moab.   Soon Moab's origins as one of the few natural crossings of the Colorado River were forgotten. Nevertheless, the U.S. military deemed the bridge over the Colorado River at Moab important enough to place it under guard as late as World War II.

Moab's economy was originally based on agriculture, but gradually shifted to mining. Uranium and vanadium were discovered in the area in the 1910s and 1920s. Potash and manganese came next, and then oil and gas were discovered. In the 1950s Moab became the so-called "Uranium Capital of the World" after geologist Charles Steen found a rich deposit of uranium ore south of the city.  With the winding down of the Cold War, Moab's uranium boom was over, and the city's population drastically declined. By the early 1980s a number of homes stood empty and nearly all of the uranium mines had closed.

 To see my entire Moab, Utah collection of images, visit my website gallery at:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

When is a Full Moon a Supermoon?

The full moon of November 14, 2016 was not only the biggest, closest and brightest supermoon of the year, but it’s also the closest supermoon since January 26, 1948. This full moon instant happened in the morning hours before sunrise.  The moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034.

Astronomers call this sort of close full moon a perigee full moon. The word perigee describes the moon’s closest point to Earth for any given month. Five years ago – when the closest and largest full moon fell on March 19, 2011 – many began using the term supermoon, which we’d never heard before. In the following years, we heard this term again to describe the year’s closest full moon on May 6, 2012, and again on June 23, 2013, and again on August 10, 2014, and yet again on September 28, 2015.  The full moon last month on October 16, 2016 – was also a supermoon, but this November supermoon was even more super because the time of full moon fell even closer to the time of the moon’s closest point to Earth.

So when the alarm goes off at 4am you question why you thought it was such a good idea to wake up early and head out to photograph the setting of the supermoon…  But once out on the sand at the Huntington Beach Pier, it became clear…wow! 

And after the moon finished setting and the sun came up, the beach began to get populated with surfers.  I believe in Heaven, and I sometimes wonder if it’s pretty close to where I live…

To see more images from my Huntington Beach collection, visit my website gallery at:

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.