Friday, November 19, 2010

Ano Nuevo Island

I was fortunate enough to visit Ano Nuevo Island at the State Reserve on the southern coast of San Mateo County in central California on Monday, November the 8th, 2010. I was volunteering to restore habitat for Auklets by planting vegetations in the middle part of the island I was allowed to bring my camera and tripod over to take some photos and was so excited I messed up on about half of my shots but some of them did come out quite nice. I am still not absolutely happy about all of them because of the look of the clouds.

I have been fascinated with the island for some time as I always wondered what happened out there and who lived or got to live out there. I grew up surfing Ano Nuevo Cove and would stare at the houses for some time. The structures were built by the Army Core of Engineers for the U.S Lighthouse Service beginning in the 1870s. Two keepers lived out there with their families until the light and fog signal were discontinued in the 1940s. California Sea Lions have lived in the Keepers Quarters since it was abandoned and the Fog Signal Building is used by scientists to observe Northern Elephant Seals, California Sea Lions, Stellar Sea Lions and Northern Fur Seals. Two sea birds also use the island for critical nesting habitat and that was why I was out there. The Rhinoceros and Cassin's Auklets burrow into the earth to lay their eggs. The island is devoid of rodents or other land mammals that would normally prey on their eggs. During the lighthouse era, one of the keepers decided to import rabbits so they could hunt them on the island. These herbivores soon ate all the islands vegetation! I was there to restore the habitat for the birds by planting native grasses and vegetation. Money for the project came from a ship that wrecked off Half Moon Bay in the 1950s and is just now releasing the oil into the Ocean to such an extent as to harm all sorts of wildlife including these sea birds. The can ID the oil directly to this ship and that is why the ships company paid for the restoration. I was not able to walk too far from the zig zag seal fence, but I did keep an eye on the famous left hand wave on the north end of the island that will probably never be surfed again with out the aid of a jet ski and that is illegal. Great White Sharks frequent the island to feed on the pinapeds. The light tower is just a metal structure that was pushed over in the 1970's because it was rusting so bad, scientists thought it would fall onto some wildlife.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pigeon Point Lighthouse 2010 Lighting

The 138th anniversary lighting of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse occurred on November 13th, 2010 from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at the State Historic Park with 3,000-5,000 people in attendance. Several photographers stake out their tripod spot as early as 6:30 A.M. and are very tight lipped about their settings. The 115 foot 1872 brick masonry tower still has the original First Order Fresnel Lens built in Paris, France in the 1850s and originally installed in the 2nd Cape Hatters Lighthouse briefly before being shipped over to the west coast. Consisting of 1,008 glass pieces of prisms and lenses, the Fresnel Lens was designed by French scientist Augustine Fresnel.
I have to work during the lighting, but I always slip away just before the light turns on because the Coast Guard will not rotate the light for the first five minutes for photographers. After that, the rotating motor turns on and slowly rotates around. The effect for mariners is a white flash every 10 seconds as the beam of light sweeps by their ship. This is the signature pattern of Pigeon Point.
The first photograph I took was from on top of the Dolphin House hostel so I could capture the half moon and escape the hordes competing for "the shot". I used my new Nikon D90 with my 18-55mm Nikon ED lens at f/8 at 30 seconds. I used Lightroom 3 for my post production edits.

The second shot I got just before the light was turned off and again the rotation is turned off for photographers. This time I took it from behind the Carpenter's Building looking strait up with my Sigma 15mm Fisheye lens at f/8 at 30 seconds. Both photos are 400 ISO. I have to use LR3 to bring out the beams and undistort the fisheye. I like this photo for its simplicity.