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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

NBC use of my photo in Blog
NBC Los Angeles originally called the hostel front desk about the Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historic Park annual lighting this year on November 13th, 2010 and asked if we had any photos they could use. When the front desk said they had to ask me, NBC said: "Oh wait, I see some photos here on the Facebook Page." ( I then got an e-mail from the author who then said she got permission from the front desk to use the photo! So I promptly replied and said: "No. That is not ok." That is my photo and what are you going to do about it? She promptly called me the next day and apologized and said it was her bad and offered to take the photo off the blog. I said, well, I am ok with you using the photo as long as I get credit and my website is mentioned. She said OK and that is how I got it published. I see no web results because of it yet, but perhaps time will allow that. :D

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Blue Whale beached

A giant Blue Whale was beached at Bean Hollow State Beach just north of Pigeon Point Lighthouse and south of Pescadero. Here is one of the photos I took. The rest can be seen and purchased at I was at Pigeon Point Lighthouse when I read the Santa Cruz Sentinel News online about the whale. I thought: sunset, low tide and I've never seen a beached Blue Whale, the largest animal to ever live on Earth and then concluded that I have got to see this for myself. Just less than 5 miles north of me I arrived about an hour and a half before sunset and there were plenty of empty parking spots. Naturalists from the nearby camps were all carpooling to see the whales. As a surfer of 30 years, I noticed the Bean Hollow beach left rolling in pretty sizably and I sort of wanted to just go try and surf it, but alas I had to see this whale. Yes, the Blue Whale was a pregnant mother that died and then aborted her male fetus. A very sad situation indeed, but that made it all the more interesting to look at and photograph. When I pulled up I saw California State Park Ranger Frank Balthis with the KGO ABC channel 7 news van pulling up to a better location. I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and asked the naturalist where it was located. I was in a small cove just north of the big beach at Bean Hollow so everyone had to walk over to actually see it. The first thing you see is the young all white 20 foot male fetus that Frank said was about 6 months developed. It had either white placenta afterbirth or intestines from the mother beside it and in the water. One Sheriff walked up and did not realize that the fetus was not the big whale until he turned the corner around the small point and saw the 85 foot mother. The female was on her back pointed north and was missing most of its dark skin and had lots of large intestines alongside its body. Several large shark bites riddled the underside of the female. The very large and expanded neck pleats was a very interesting feature of the creature. I wondered if it was bloated up as it seemed to be about 5 feet off the ground and very wide, perhaps 20 feet. Baleen was on the beach in parts and I later learned that a Ranger had used a chain saw to remove a section for the Rancho Del Oso Nature Center where he lived. I was having some trouble getting my Nikon D90 camera to work after putting on my new 15mm Sigma EXDG Fisheye lens. I could see Frank, who is also an amazing photographer and owner of Nature's Designs photography, talking to the media people as they set up there video shots of the whale from he cliff top above. After getting my black Vans slip on shoes wet from a wave that caught me off guard with my tripod adjustments, I decided to ask Frank if he knows how to fix my camera error. Before I reached him I ran into Steve Van Zandt of San Mateo Outdoor Education Program and one of the first managers of Pigeon Point hostel and not to mention him as "Solar Steve" of the famed Banana Slug String Band. We talked about the waves and the whale. His friend was a funny guy who caught me off guard on several under the radar jokes. It was amusing, but I really needed to talk to Frank.
Frank did not immediately know, but suggested I talk to the video guy if he knew and he said that with out the manual, he would not know what to do. I was bummed that I did not have the manual myself, but then Frank said that it could just be the manual setting of the lens aperture could need some adjustment, and then: "vola" F/22 was the magic trick to stop the error reading. At this point, Frank said that I would be a good subject to interview for the newscast. I know that I owed Frank because just a week before the hostel was shooting its video for Pigeon Point Lighthouse and he just happened to be at Pigeon Point and I asked him if he could be interviewed for our website and he just nailed about 10 questions about the area that was so good, it was my turn to return the favor. Lisa was the story writer so she asked my why I was there and how I found out about the whale and so I talked to them for a few minuets at least. Lisa said I would be on the 11:00 Evening news and so I was. They only chose one bite for the short segment as I said: "I have always wanted to see the biggest animal that's ever lived. It's quite a specimen," says naturalist Jeff Parry. I didn’t mean that that was the biggest Blue Whale ever, but it kind of sounds like I did. Oops! They asked me what I do, but kind of wanted me to be a naturalist as I had told them I had done some work like that in the past. Well now, I really wanted to get some photographic shots of these whales! You can see it at:
I set up on the beach to the south with my tripod and aperture priority settings along with the 2 stop auto bracketing 3 shot sequence with the timer set to go off in 2 seconds with exposure delay on to minimize the shaking. I really should not have had the neck strap on, as it was blowing around in the light breeze but it was too much to take off at this point. I kind of just took several photos from the same tripod position but started out at f/11 and went up to f/22 incrementally as I bracketed my 3 shots for each f stop. I only adjusted the bracketing EV once as I didn't have much time to get all the perspectives before sunset, so I just set it to zero 0. About a quarter ways around the whale to the east looking west, the Jordan Swank, the program director for the Exploring New Horizons Outdoor School at Loma Mar showed up with a friend. Jordan is also an amazing wildlife photographer and recently featured his work at the Pescadero Arts and Fun Festival in August of 2010. Jordan was also my former assistant at Pigeon Point Hostel. He was amazed at the spectacle and joined in the photographing. I was able to get several perspectives of the Blues before the sun set into the Pacific horizon. As I walked back to the car, I talked to the news crew who where busy editing the story for the satellite feed up to the station. I gave them my photography web site address in hopes that they would publish it on air, but alas, no such luck. I went through 3 SD 2GB cards and had my work cut out for me back home at Pigeon Point. I use Lightroom 3 and Photomatix Pro to process the 3 auto bracket photos I chose in to tone mapped High Dynamic Range Images. With the diagonal fisheye lens, I had to Lens Correct transform with the distortion to fix the horizon curve of the photos. It almost works, but I am not really happy about it’s over all distortion. The only other real adjustment is just some detail, clarity, restoration, zero saturation and down vivid qualities. I am really happy with the photographs and I hope you are too.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Night of Lights at Pigeon Point

Night of Lights at Pigeon Point
Last night there was about 40 fishing boats between Ano Nuevo and Pigeon Point. Several were just off the lighthouse with bright flood lights along with the red and green. The half moon lit up the other side (as well as the valley). Stars north and South when the fog was wipers on high a few hours earlier. HDRI

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Smugmug Photos are now for sale

Please check out my photographs for sale at my smugmug site:
I have most of my landscape photos of Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, Ano Nuevo and France up on this site and a variety of ways to use the images.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I've signed up for but I have yet to upgrade to Pro level in order to sell my photos and make some $$$.$$ on them. I'll let you know when I get it up and going. For now, here is my profile:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Santa Cruz Surfer Statue evening potrait

This was my first attempt at this angle and the twilight was still not completly dark and the half moon helped illumiate the sky. I found this angle by climbing a fallen tree and a street light illuminated the statue perfectly, but I was not able to get all of the boardwalk in the background with out also showing the streetlight pole. Although the un-cropped photo is a decent compositon, I felt that the pole devided the image too much and was distracting. Thus, the first portrait image of the two I was happy with.

Santa Cruz Surfer Statue and Boardwalk night landscape

I was looking for a unique angle on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk during the twilight when I noticed the surfer statue was lit up by the setting sun in the day time. I found a fallen tree trunk to climb up onto to set the tripod and extended it as high as it would go. When I realized the street light would light up the statue in the twilight I waited. I wish I had a higher platfor to shoot from because then the reflection of the wharf and boardwalk would come itno play, but I think it turned out nice none the less. f/8 Apeture priority with 3 shots 100 ISO blended together with Photomatix Pro HDRI and a few Lightroom 3 adustments.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Reflection Twilight

This is one of my more popular photos. I want to do more of these with a better sky, but I think it turned out great with the reflection.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Wharf HDRI

Hay! It's my first real Flickr blog post. I really love this photo. It was my first attempt at HDRI night/twilight shot and I really wanted to get the lights and reflection done well. I think it came out great! Please let me know what you think!