Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jackson Hole II

I've been here for a week. It's been a hard week, worked hard, long days, early mornings. Been up for sunrise most days, the light is so beautiful. Of course this week the leaves are also turning, which makes the colors in everything so rich. The temperature fluctuations are crazy. In the early morning hours it's around 24º F (-4º C) and in the middle of the day it gets way up into the mid 70's (20's C).

Yesterday I went out early morning and drove up towards Oxbow Bend to a large prairie. I've seen horses and buffalo up there but in the dying light of the day. I wanted to get them at dawn. First up were horses. I could see a couple of off in the distance so we drove down a little, then realised that they were heading towards us... whipping the car back to a pullout the horses galloped into view before the sun even came up.

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As the sun started to ignite the long yellow grass I noticed that the buffalo which had been in the field behind had made a beeline for the road... and then crossed it... and headed into the field I was looking at.

There were hundreds of them. Beautiful in the warm morning sun.

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Many of them jumped the fence to take off into the field with the horses.

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Some just stopped and stared straight at me.

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These things are big. Big enough to stop traffic on the main road heading from Jackson to Yellowstone.

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Further on down the road, the horses had come to a halt and were relaxing in the sun.

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Every once in a while they'd all take off, galloping across the prairie.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jackson Hole

I'm writing this in a hotel in Jackson Hole, WY. This small town nestles at the foot of the Grand Tetons a truly amazing an iconic part of the US.

I'll be writing more about the place when I've had more than three hours sleep. In the meantime... a shot from sunrise this morning. Edited in Aperture + Color Efex.

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These were both taken shortly after sunrise

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More to come...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I've been to Cambria a whole bunch of times over the past seven or eight years. It's long been a favourite little getaway from the Bay Area. J and I are wont to go down there a few weekends a year. Door to door, our house to any of our 'preferred' hotels is about 3hrs. It's become quite a chic little place too with art galleries, antique stores, nick-nacks and boutiques.

Someone in one of the stores told us that this summer had been a disastrous one for them, 'one of the worst in memory' she said. I was trying to figure out why that would be so. The US dollar is so bad against just about every other country on the planet, a lot of Americans are staying closer to home than usual because it's just cheaper. But, I realised, that Cambria is no longer an inexpensive 'ride out'. Gas might be slightly down on what it was a couple of months ago but it's still high. Out on the central coast it's always more expensive than in the major cities - higher cost of delivery, I guess. The restaurants are not so cheap. The stores offer no bargains. It feels like the town priced itself up during the good times, rising ever higher upmarket and, now, now that rainy times are upon us and the economy, the place is just too expensive. 200 miles in a car that does nearly 28 to the gallon is still over 7 gallons. At local prices that is around 30 bucks. So that's 60, round trip. Two nights in a hotel, and you're not looking at much change from 300. Two dinners, without alcohol at about 30 each. Couple of lunches at 20 each. Other incidentals 'n' stuff and you're looking at about 500 bucks for a short weekend getaway. No wonder people are staying home.

Anyway. Aside from that. It's still a great town. Get a good coffee at Cambria Coffee. Great fudge from Erica at Cambria Fudge. Decent pasta at Lombardi's and great Thai at Wild Ginger. Not going to say where we stay, it's already hard enough to get a room there...

Around and about in town. Interesting bumper sticker. "George W. Bush is saving your ass, whether you like it or not". I still don't have a clue what that means.

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We often get feathered visitors on our hotel balcony. Especially when tempted by health bar goodness. This is a fine looking Stellar's Jay.

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Just down the coast, on the way to San Simeon, are beaches teeming with wildlife. One particularly beach has hundreds of snowy plovers. They sit on the beach in little depressions they make in the sand. Occasionally rising as one into the air to hang on the winds coming in from the sea.

Sitting atop a trash can in the turnout

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All rise and take air

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A turkey vulture comes to join the party

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Further along the coast there are elephant seals. I first photographed them there about 8 years ago on one of my first trips along Highway 1. I remember pulling into a turnout late at night, in the dark, just to stop and look at the stars. I got out of the car and there was the most unearthly sounds coming from the darkness. I found out later, when I got to my hotel, that the noises were made by elephant seals. Back in those days they beached in a little cove near a turnout. Now, the Friends of the Elephant Seals have built a walkway and protection barriers for the seals. Saving the public from the occasional encounter and, of course, the seals from the marauding masses. It's hard to get anywhere near them anymore. These were all shot with the D3 attached to the William Optics Zenithstar II telescope with a camera adaptor.

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Of course, one of the nice things about being down on the coast is that there is a lot less light pollution from towns. I took this shot with the D3 and a 24mm lens. Exposure wasn't too long at 15s at ISO 4000 and f/2.8. The dark lanes of the Milky Way and, toward the lower left, Jupiter, shining bright.

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From the balcony of the hotel, I shot this with the D3 and an 85mm f/1.4. 5 seconds, wide open at ISO 1600. The long smudge, towards the upper left is our nearest galactic neighbour - The Andromeda Galaxy.

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The next morning, as we were leaving, the moon rode high and dreamlike in the morning blue sky. Shot with the telescope.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008


After photographing the moon this week I grew curious to photograph the light of the moon...

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pushing the moon

Thought I'd try the Nik tools on a decent moon shot, tonight, taken through my telescope.

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Image taken with a Nikon D3, shot through a 120mm achromatic refractor. Eyepiece adapter with 12mm plössl eyepiece. ISO 400. Exposure of 1/125s. Edited in Aperture. Final finishing with Nik Viveza and Sharpener.


I have a 200-400 f/4 Nikkor on loan at the moment, I thought I'd give it a go on the recently waning moon. This shot was taken at ISO 400, f/11 at 1/250s. Imported into Aperture where I made my edit and where it was 'balanced'. Then, using Nik Software's Viveza, I managed to bring down the 'heat' of Tycho's ejecta. I then used Sharpener 3.0 on it to bring out as much detail as possible.

I'm going to have a go with one of my telescopes one of these fine nights. Tethering my D3 into the MacBook Pro makes short work of getting critical focus/exposure right through the telescope. More to come.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Perfect Burger

If you're ever in California, somewhere near San Jose, and you decide that you need garlic, chances are that you'll end up in Gilroy. Gilroy prides itself on being the garlic producing capital of the world* and they even hold an annual Garlic Festival in the town to proclaim their love of the fragrant bud. There are plenty of garlic shops that will sell all manner of garlicked products.

But there is another delightful secret there in town. At the corner of Monterey and Seventh is Baha Burger a tiny little 'drive in' that makes great little burgers. Old school burgers.

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The place was bought 40 years by a guy called Al Tamayo. He bought it from an Iranian student who needed to give the place up. Al, apparently, can't remember the student's name but it was something like "Bahadin" so now the place is called Baha Burgers.

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We see Al through the window when we order but we order from Marina, Al's daughter. Today we saw Al's wife through the window too - it's a family affair.

There's nothing fancy about the place. Vinyl seats, creaky tables, and some old gaming machines.

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But the cheeseburgers. Well, the cheeseburgers are worth the drive. Simple patties on plain bread buns with mustard, onions, tomatoes and cheese. The french fries are crinkle cut and delicious. And the shakes? Ah, yes, the banana shake is my favourite...

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* according to statistics on Wikipedia, Gilroy isn't even close to being the garlic capital of the world. China produces around 75% of the worlds output of garlic, the US, in comparison, produces 2%. Not that I'm knocking Gilroy... it's a great town.. it's just that China produces a frightening amount of garlic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

For those that dare II

In my ongoing desire to share the glories of my business travel I thought I'd explain my journey back from France to the Bay Area for your reading pleasure.

I got to bed Saturday night, Sunday morning at around 3:30am. My alarm went off at 6:15am and I leaped out of bed all panicky around 6:40am. I was checked out and on the road by 6:55 (I packed the night before... free travel tip, knock yourself out).

I picked up Brett down town around 7:05 and we headed down into the south of Perpignan and the freeway down towards Girona. We pulled into Girona around 8:15 and dropped Brett off in front of the main train station. I pulled back on to the main freeway to Barcelona and clogged it.

I pulled off at a gas station on the outskirts of Barcelona to fill up the rental car. It was a Renault Laguna. New one. A funny thing about French car designers - they like to do things differently. It took several minutes and the assistance of the garage attendants reading the manual in Spanish in order to find the gas cap release. Who know. You just push it and it opens. I pressed on to Barcelona and El Prat Airport. Dropped the car off and legged it to the American Airlines check in desk.

There was a huge line for check in for the main cabin and only about 12 people in line at the business desk. Excellent as, for once, I was traveling business. I looked up at the board and it already showed a 90 minute delay on my flight. Great. Time passed, the main cabin check in line dwindle and mine barely moved. I swear every single person in line before me on the main cabin line checked in before I did.

The flight passed reasonably without incident. Apart from the wailing bairn a few seats behind me. By the time we landed at JFK we were three hours overdue. My layover time which seemed generous now seemed paltry.

As soon as the doors opened I ran to the immigration desks and got in line. JFK being my first point of entry into the US meant that I needed to pass immigration and customs. Of course they aren't in a hurry and really don't care that much about potential missed flights. I eventually got through and headed for bags. One would have thought that given all the time in immigration the bags would have come through. But no.

Finally got bags and joined everyone else in the line for flight reassignments. They judged that I was worthy of a shift to a Delta flight. Which ran from Terminal 3. I was at Terminal 9. I hoofed upstairs and took the Airtrain over to Terminal 3, my least favourite terminal at JFK. There was a business class check in so I managed to skip the lines and got my back checked and boarding pass. Now for security.

Because I had now changed away from my American Airlines regular tickets and was now on Delta my return leg to SFO showed as a one way ticket. The TSA deem holders of one way tickets to be somewhat suspect. If you are flagged as suspect you get 'SSSS' printed on your boarding pass. (There is some debate as to whether SSSS is random, but each time I get a one way ticket I get SSSS). Being suspect means that you get a much more thorough search - which is exactly what I need after being on the road for about 12hrs at this point. A man in a headset talked to someone who was clearly watching us on camera. He searched me to the instructions being given to him on his headset. Rather bizarre.

Finally got onto my flight to SFO. Tried to eat. But fell asleep. Tried to wake up, several times, but couldn't. Finally arrived at SFO and waited interminably for my bag. Almost got into a fight with some kid on the airtrain,

"Is this train going to the airport?"

"Yes, it's the loop train... it only goes to the airport"

We pull out and move away from the airport (but it's a loop, it'll loop back) and he says,

"Ah, so you were wrong".

"What? What did you say?"

"You're wrong, it's going the wrong way"

"It's a LOOP!!!! It can't go the WRONG WAY"

I was so angry I could have punched him. Seriously, if you ask directions accept what people tell you. Or don't ask.

I finally made it to the car and staggered into my house a full 26hrs after I had left my hotel in Perpignan. Joy for traveling. Monday came around and I could barely walk, talk or phrase a sentence. Not sure that I've ever felt as tired. The combination of Beijing followed by Perpignan took it's toll.


Every year the worlds greatest photojournalists gather for a week of meetings, conversation and occasional imbibing of French beer in the southern French mediaeval town of Perpignan.

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The festival is run by the inimitable Jean-François Leroy who is known throughout the community for his drive, passion and commitment to the craft and art of photojournalism. Once a year he prepares a full week of screenings in the open air of the Campo Santo. This year the screenings celebrated the stories of the past year, current work and a recap of some of the work shown over the previous twenty years. Aside from the screenings are panel discussions, exhibitions and agency portfolio reviews. This year attracted 3000 people from the photojournalism community.

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The light in the south of France is just incredible. The evening light slowly warms up the buildings and on one particular night the clock tower overlooking the Campo Santo was bathed in sunlight but with strong storm clouds in the background. As the evening drew on large storks came to sit on the tower.

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