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 (

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.

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.