Tuesday, December 30, 2014

French Park Historic District--Santa Ana

The French Park Historic District is a 20-square-block residential district northeast of downtown Santa Ana. Its streets are lined with large homes built during the late 1890s and into the 1920s and has a variety of home styles, including Victorian, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, English Tudor and Spanish Colonial Revival. This area was designated a local historic district in 1984 and renamed the French Park Historic District. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

It was in 1877 that William Spurgeon, J. H. Fruit and James McFadden, three of Santa Ana's most prominent citizens persuaded the Southern Railroad to extend its line from its terminus at Anaheim to Santa Ana. By the time the tracks were laid a year later, their company had plotted a 160-acre tract called Santa Ana East. It was located parallel to the railroad tracks.  A portion of this property was later subdivided and became Flatiron Park (now known as French Park).

The movement to preserve and restore the French Park neighborhood began in the late l970s. A new group of people with an appreciation for old houses began to move into the neighborhood. They organized the Historic French Park Association in 1980 and began working with the City of Santa Ana's Housing Services Division to upgrade the neighborhood.
This was my first visit to this part of Santa Ana.  I needed to be in the area this morning and extended my visit to include my own walking tour and photo shoot.  It was a beautiful crisp and sunny morning; quite for a Monday given the holiday week, but buzzing with the occasional gardener’s equipment and a few neighbors out for a stroll. 

I hope you enjoy looking at these images as much as I enjoyed seeing and creating them.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

ARTIC weather here, in the middle of a heat wave??

Well yes, sort of.  You see, ARTIC stands for Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center.  I think it’s one of those acronyms that was dreamed up before they put all the words to it…  Anyway, it’s been under construction for quite some time, and I’ve been watching the progress of that construction with great interest on a weekly basis each time I ride my bike up the Santa Ana River Trail.

Lately, the ARTIC had been taking shape (pun intended I guess given its unusual architecture), particularly the multi-colored lighting on the interior—which also happens to be visible from the exterior through the translucent building panels.  The ARTIC is now open later so I thought it was about time to plan a shoot and show off its beauty, as well as its proximity to Angel’s Stadium (the “Big A”), and the Honda Center (previously known as “The Pond”).

My planning involved several major components…where to position myself to get the desired composition, when to be there to get the best combination of lighting, and how to get to that point with the least amount of walking, and with the greatest amount of safety—the Santa Ana River Trail can be a bit dicey after dark.  I settled on my plan and scheduled my outing.  The results speak to a combination of shoot planning and the exquisite architecture of the facility.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Published in Environmental Health Perspectives' Journal

It’s been a busy and exciting month for photography.  My latest update is that two of my photographs have been published by Environmental Health Perspectives in their December Journal.  According to their website, Environmental Health Perspectives is a monthly peer-reviewed journal of research and news published with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The mission of EHP is to serve as a forum for the discussion of the interrelationships between the environment and human health by publishing high-quality research and news of the field.

Back in October I went on a photoshoot with another friend to the OCWD Groundwater Replenishment System facility.  The Orange County Water District is responsible for managing the vast groundwater basin that provides most of northern and central Orange County’s drinking water. As part of our groundwater management, OCWD maintains one of the world’s most advanced managed aquifer recharge systems to replace the water that is pumped from about 400 wells belonging to local water agencies, cities and other groundwater users. The most recent improvement to the District’s recharge system is the completion of the Groundwater Replenishment System in Fountain Valley.  This system now provides purified water sewer water via a 13-mile pipeline that terminates at two recharge basins.  This project, which began purifying water for recharge in January 2008, is a new source of very high-quality, locally-controlled water for year-round recharge.  This is particularly important now that other sources of imported water that have historically been relied upon for recharge, such as the Colorado River and the State Water Project, are becoming increasingly scarce.

Because this facility is so new and modern, and the topics of water use and conservation getting increasingly important, I was contacted by eps regarding the use of my photographs to accompany an upcoming article.  Below is a screenshot from their website’s homepage.  It features one of the two photographs they were interested in (you can see they gave me credit in the upper left-hand corner).  Below that is the cover photo for their article (and although it’s hard to read in this screenshot, credit is shown in the center, below the title).  I’ve attached their pdf-published article which makes for some interesting reading!

If you’re interested in seeing my entire photo collection from the shoot, you can at:  http://www.costamesaphotography.com/Categories/OC-Water-District/

Friday, December 19, 2014

Snow Land 2014--yes, snow in Costa Mesa!

Yesterday was “Snow Land 2014”, an annual event put on by Torelli Realty for the children and families of Costa Mesa.  It was the first time I’ve been there, and I was there this year as the official event photographer.  Although I don’t have a true count, there must have been easily over 1000 people there based on the number of photographs I took of children with Santa Claus! The count of smiles and laughs had to be in the tens of thousands!!

One of things I used to tell people that I enjoyed about refereeing soccer games was that I was literally out in the middle of the action, feeling the drama, and seeing up close the faces of determination, effort, and either the jubilance or disappointment of results.  I had this same sense when photographing a wedding for a niece several years ago, and I had it again yesterday when sitting up close and personal with all the children as they sat with Santa Claus as they whispered their Christmas gift wishes to him.  There were some unbelievable smiles of joy and happiness, quizative expressions of uncertainty, and the occasional horrified screams and crying—and that was just from me!!

Last week we had some big rains forecasted, but very lucky for us the rain came Thursday and played itself out by late Friday leaving nothing but blue sunny skies for the event on Saturday.  An outside company was at the park at the crack of dawn spraying a large play area with a blanket of snow.  When I arrived, the trucks were just pulling away having left a fantastic play area for the children that were to arrive soon.  

Also being set up when I arrived were a number of canopies and tables for various organizations and groups there to support the event.  There was face-painting, cookie-decorating, music from a DJ, music from a live-performing band, snow cones and other snacks, holiday decorations for sale, an inflatable bounce house…and I’m sure I’m missing other activities—all packed into a three-hour winter carnival!

My job was mostly to capture photographs of the children with Santa Claus, but there was enough time before Santa arrived for me to catch some of the snow play and other activities.  Again, being in the middle of all that excitement and fun, and being able to observe others enjoying it was a real treat…much like it was for parents who were there enjoying their own children.  The cool thing is that all of the photos with Santa Claus are being provided at no cost to the parents as part of the overall event—which itself was totally free to everyone!  Below are just a few of the photographs I created which will give you a sense of the overall experience.  I had a blast.

Oh yah, I just noticed something else when pasting in the photos… The Snow Sisters from Frozen were there!  (actually, I don’t know too much about them, but I’m told the line to see them was as long or longer than the line to see Santa Claus!!)

Rockhaven Sanitarium--a peaceful and beautiful place

The story of Rockhaven Sanitarium began in the early 1920s, when a young nurse named Agnes Richards was troubled by the treatment of mental patients, particularly women.  In 1923, Agnes purchased a small rock house in Verdugo City (northwest of Pasadena) and began Rockhaven.  With only 6 patients to start, Rockhaven was a small place, run by women, for women.  The unique and dignified approach to treatment attracted many others which necessitated expansion.  Buying neighboring houses allowed for that needed expansion as well as land upon which to build new facilities.

In the 1950s, Agnes’s granddaughter, Patricia Traviss, took over running Rockhaven, and later brought in Ivan Cole who transformed the grounds into gardens full of flowers and foliage.  In 2001, after more than 50 years at the helm, Patricia Traviss closed down Rockhaven and sold it to a developer.  Not wanting to see the site torn down, the City of Glendale purchased the site in 2008 with the objective of preserving the 3.5 acre site for public enjoyment. 

One of our photo club members helped make arrangements for a number of us to have access to the site this morning for photography.  As one walked the grounds and through the various buildings, it was easy to image the tranquil life that the women of Rockhaven must have enjoyed.  From a photography standpoint, the poor condition of the grounds and structures contributed to some very interesting images, but for the public to fully enjoy Rockhaven, much works need to be done. The Friends of Rockhaven is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that generates support for increasing awareness of the history of this important local sanctuary.  They utilize volunteer labor to maintain and repair the site and would welcome any support (financial or otherwise) if you are so inclined.

Friends of Rockhaven
P.O. Box 573
Verdugo City, CA  91046

Please enjoy my photographs below.  My entire collection from today’s shoot can be viewed at:  http://www.costamesaphotography.com/SouthernCalifornia/Rockhaven-Sanitarium/

Another frigid morning in SoCal

For southern California, it was a chilly morning, but I “braved” it in order to catch the first light of sunrise, and hopefully the early birding activities.  I definitely hit on a great morning for a colorful sunrise!  I also was rewarded with an incredible variety of birds.  I spent a total of three hours scouring the place for activity, and when all was said and done, I was satisfied with the days catch!  I even saw a round stingray, although my focus was not the best…

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tall Ships Bring History to Life

This week, the Port of Los Angeles will be just one of three west coast ports bestowed with the honor of welcoming “tall ship” vessels to their shores. The Tall Ships Festival Los Angeles will showcase domestic and international ships, including some of the most acclaimed worldwide, including the official Tall Ships of the City of Los Angeles: Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson, The Twin Brigantines.

Although it was our hopes that the ships would approach the Port of L.A. from the north, only the Tole Mour came from that direction.  The remaining ships seemed to have already been moored inside the Port, and went out beyond the jetty to assemble for the formal parade into the harbor, kicking off the Tall Ships Festival.

Our vantage point for all of this was Point Fermin, which has its own history.  Built in 1874, the Point Fermin Lighthouse was the first navigational light into the San Pedro Bay. The design was used for six lighthouses built between 1873 and 1874, of which three are still standing, East Brothers in San Francisco Bay, Hereford Light in New Jersey, and Point Fermin. The Stick Style is an early Victorian architectural style and is simpler in design and decoration than the later high Victorian period. It is characterized by its gabled roofs, horizontal siding, decorative cross beams and hand carved porch railings.  And what luck today—they were open for docent-led tours…nice!  Although they didn’t allow pictures inside, they did take you up all five floors to where the Fresnel lens used to be positioned (now on display on the ground floor).

So the tall ships were magnificent, even though they were quite a distance away.  In between watching the ships assembling, there were a great many pelicans flying up and down the coast.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What's In Your Backyard?

It’s a theme I’ve used before because I continue to be amazed how much variety and beauty surrounds us.  This past week I wanted to go on a photo shoot to a location I’ve never been.  Used one of the more valuable shoot location tools available—Google Maps!  While scanning the general area around where I live I noticed the Fullerton Arboretum.  I’ve heard of it, but never made the effort to go there.  I was really impressed with what I saw there!

From a classical sense, an arboretum is simply a collection of trees, but more recently that term refers to a place where trees, shrubs, and sometimes herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes—a botanical garden of sorts. 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.  There is also a historical house on the property referred to as Heritage House.  Below is a bit of history of the arboretum from 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.

So I guess the moral of the story is, explore, discover new areas, and expand your "backyard" to include the variety and diversity of your surroundings.

I'm always happy to get comments, questions, or feedback.  CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com

Patience is a Virtue...especially when Hunting!

It’s really interesting to me to experience the evolution, or maturity curve that one finds themselves on, regardless of their pursuit.  You think you’ve arrived, and realize later that you’ve barely begun.  I can remember my first sighting of the Great Blue Heron…wow, what a moment.  I know where it was, and the circumstances of that impressionable first moment.  I got a picture that I thought was one of those file-it-away and move on moments.  Later I realized (duh) that these things have to eat, and there are some great photographic opportunities that were ahead on that maturity curve.

Learning to recognize the hunting habits was a big step in that direction.  I began to “hunt” myself in search of a Great Blue Heron catching a fish.  I was so thrilled when I found that moment, and was fortunate to create a photograph of it.  Surely this was the moment I had been seeking…the holy grail if you will of Great Blue Heron photographs.  But wait…I had read that they also feed on lizards and amphibians—really, there’s more??

So you can image that absolute thrill earlier this week when I happen upon a Great Blue Heron just after his conquest of a frog!  I almost couldn’t believe my luck when I took the shot and then zoomed in on my camera display to see what was in its mouth!  I recognized immediately the possibilities, but also recognized that I was on the wrong side of the action (from the sun).  I knew there was a choice to make…stay put and maximize my shooting, or quickly hike back to the trail, around the trees, back down to lake on the other side, and of course risk missing the rest of the action.  I could simply walk along the water’s edge for fear of scaring the Great Blue Heron away.  So after I had what I thought were the best of the shots from that angle, I hedged my bet and began to move “upstream” of the sun. 
As luck would have it (certainly was on my side that day), I was just in time to see it finish the washing ritual, wherein the Great Blue Heron repeatedly dips the frog into the water to wash it off.  

But now I’m on to it.  No sooner is this frog swallowed, that the Great Blue Heron returns to a more central area of the lake to begin its hunting again.  I have to tell you that I’m not really that patient as a photographer, choosing instead to constantly move along, hiking around wherever I happen to be photographing.  But feeling like I had just discovered gold, I knew what the Great Blue Heron was up to, and I was going to get in on more of the action.  It was a good thing I was by myself, because after standing in the sun, poised for the next capture, and having 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes…go by, anyone else (and I was tempted) would have said “let’s  just move along, nothing going on here”.  By I was by myself, and I had the time, although I wasn’t sure how much more patience I had.  Turns out that after 35 minutes (yes, I was looking at my watch), the Great Blue Heron finally made its lightning fast striking move, and no sooner had it recoiled, that it turned and took flight.  I wasn’t even sure it had found anything, but was happy just to get some bird-in-flight shots.  Once it stopped, I could tell that it had in fact caught something…and yes, another frog!!

This time not only am on the right side for the sun, but I witness the Great Blue Heron making a move to get a more favorable grasp on the frog.  In an amazing flip and grab move, the frog goes airborne, and the Great Blue Heron snatches it back again…wow!  It once again goes through the repeated washing cycle, and finally works it up the beak until it makes one final swallowing move.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Been There, Done That? Really??

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a nature reserve in the city of Huntington Beach, California.   It is designated by the California Department of Fish and Game to protect a coastal wetland, with its resident threatened and endangered species. "Bolsa Chica" means "little bag" in Spanish, as the area was part of a historic Mexican land grant named Rancho La Bolsa Chica.   The Reserve is also called many other names, including Bolsa Chica Lowlands, Bolsa Chica Wetlands, and Bolsa Chica Wildlife Refuge.
I’ve been to Bolsa Chica numerous times, but it is one of those places that’s different every time you go there.  For a fairly spartan wetlands area with mostly graded paths and channeled waterways, Bolsa Chica supports an amazing diversity of life.  And each visit to this backyard gem bring new opportunities for discovery…new birds, new activities, new experiences.  If you take your time, stay alert, and remain open to the possibilities, Bolsa Chica will open up her magic to your senses, and if you’re really lucky, to your camera as well.

I think we all have our “Bolsa Chica”.  By that I mean, those special places you like to go, that every time you’re there it’s different?  I’d love to hear your stories about such places and what about them makes it special for you…  

And if you’d like to see more of my images from Bolsa Chica, check out...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yuma, Arizona--A Special Place for a Special Reason

Have you ever been on a trip and either drove through a town, or stopped at a town and wondered to yourself, “why did people settle here”?  I ask myself that question a lot.  Sometimes a place is so beautiful in terms of obvious natural beauty that the answer is self-evident.  But what about those places where the answer is less obvious?

A recent example of this for me was Yuma, Arizona.  Yuma is tucked tight against the Arizona/Mexico border and is connected east and west by Interstate 8.  I’ve passed through Yuma several times, even stopped for gas, and have wondered, “why here”?   

I had an opportunity to address this question a month or so ago when I went to Yuma to visit for the first time.  One of my sons recently took a position there as an elementary school teacher, and this was my first chance to visit him there.

I knew I would take photographs on the trip so as I do with most of my photo shoots, I did some pre-planning; reviewing the “things to do” lists featured on tourist sites as well as researching this history of Yuma.  It is in this research that one learns why this seemingly desolate spot in the middle of an otherwise desolate desert would be chosen as a place to settle.

Early settlers traveling west had many barriers and obstacles to their journey, one of which was the Colorado River.  It turns out that Yuma was the only practical crossing point on the lower Colorado River and because of that, assured its importance as a transportation hub going back as far as records have been kept.  Some cities are formed because of their natural resources, but Yuma was established because of its critical and strategic location.  This aspect of Yuma’s significance, along with my Civil Engineering interesting in structures, and bridges in particular, drove my interest to photograph the railroad bridge.

The Southern Pacific was the first locomotive to cross the Colorado, on Sunday, September 30, 1877.  The railroad crossed the Colorado at Madison Street and was actually the third constructed at this site. The previous two, wooden framed and including a swing span near the Arizona shore to accommodate the steamboats of the day, were washed out in floods. Today little remains at this site—shown here is the present railroad crossing approximately .5 miles upstream.

Today, Yuma continues to have much to offer in terms of its strategic location, its commerce-centric role in Southern Arizona, as well as its natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and its cultural heritage.  If there was a lesson to be learned, it wasn’t so much that Yuma was a special place, but it was that everywhere is special in its own way if you’ll only take the time to discover why…

To see more images in my Yuma collection, visit my website gallery at:  http://www.costamesaphotography.com/Arizona/Yuma/

If you have comments or feedback, drop me a line at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What Are You Trying to Communicate?

Magic, beauty, rage, simplicity, love, loneliness, compassion, awe, inspiration…  These are just a few of the myriad of ideas and feelings that we can have in response to our environment and what’s in front of us.  In general, as an artist, a photographer, is attempting to capture, portray, and communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings to the viewer, expressing them in a static, flat, and graphic medium.
In so much of life, communication is everything.  Getting clarity around the message you have to convey first, and then finding a way to have that message received without interference, nuance (or “spin”), or diminishment.  Our five senses each bring their own unique contribution to communication, but our challenge as photographers is to accomplish this entire feat with an image.
It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Apparently this phrase had its origin in the early 1900s but is likely traceable to even earlier philosophers.  It’s a phrase that we as photographers gravitate to because it adds weight to the value of what we do from a visual/pictorial standpoint.  Writers have axioms like “the pen is mightier than the sword” to evoke the power that that form of communication has.  Curiously enough though, pictures were the first graphic, or written language.
So as we think, plan, envision, pre-visualize, and compose our images, what is in our mind from a communication standpoint?  Is it something overt that we are trying to use an image to evoke, or is it the other way around, where we have an emotional reaction to a scene and simply want to “bottle it” by committing it to a photograph?  Either way, the communication must be clear and uncluttered, much as the image itself must be clear and uncluttered.  Photography is not an additive art like painting where a canvas begins blank and paint is added.  Rather photography can be thought of as a subtractive process, where an entire scene is systematically reduced through selective decisions and composition, until only the essential elements for the communication are included.  Of course, for that to be taking place, the photographer must have in mind what the message is, consciously or subconsciously.
As viewers of other photographer’s work, we transition from being the “sender” to being the “receiver.  Now we must attempt to derive the message that the artist was intending to communicate.  The various elements and characteristics within the image are all clues for us.  Spending time in this mode will not only give us an appreciation for the skills and artistry of other photographers, but will also help us improve and hone our own communication skills when we return to being the “sender”.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Gift

One of my very good friends, in life as well as in photography, had a book sent to me that he had come across and thought I would enjoy.  It is called “500 Cameras—170 Years of Photographic Innovation” by Todd Gustavson.  I’d not heard of the book, but one look at its contents and I could see that it was a treasure trove of both the pictorial and narrative history of cameras. 

In my study, I have up high on a shelf those cameras which I have used in my life, along with several I’ve received from my parents, and a couple more that have been gifts.  Beyond this small collection of cameras, I really know very little about the history of cameras, or even the history of photography for that matter.

When we get that first camera, or maybe that first “real” camera, it’s easy to think that that’s the beginning.  But I realize of course that in the larger context of my photographic knowledge and experiences, I’ve really only started in the middle.   And as much as I strived to move forward, improving my skills, understanding, knowledge, and techniques, I recognize that there is at least an equal amount of learning that lies behind me, i.e. in the history of photography.  In pursuit of my photographic passion, I seek out lectures, videos, tutorials, articles, etc, from current masters and artisans, but have come to the realization that I’m missing much in the way of foundation.  For it is this foundation which provides the stronger context to better understand equipment, techniques, and the very art and language of design that’s needed for impactful image creation…what we simply call photography.

There is a certain respect and reverence that I believe one should have for those who have gone before…carving paths, breaking down barriers, solving technological problems, etc…, and that respect can best be given by learning more about the early pioneers of photography and how they approached there craft.  Learning about their tools and their inherent challenges will no doubt stand in stark contrast to the almost miraculously versatility and power of the hardware and software tools we now have at our disposal.

Every now and then it takes a little kick, or jolt, to move us off our “automatic” frame of mind and get us to look at, and think about, things differently.  Receiving this book from my friend will help me do that…what a terrific gift to receive.