Rinus Baak Photography: Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Rinus Baak Photography rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Tue, 18 Apr 2017 18:55:00 GMT Tue, 18 Apr 2017 18:55:00 GMT http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/img/s11/v28/u601105948-o443440908-50.jpg Rinus Baak Photography: Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog 120 80 Spring Break http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/4/spring-break Following the March Madness of Death Valley, I looked forward to Spring Break.  For our spring break Jane and I traveled to Tucson, Arizona, for some photography in the Sonoran Desert.  My primary objective was to find and photograph the fragrant white blossoms of the saguaro cactus.  By all accounts, I knew that it was early in the season for saguaro blossoms, but early April fit into our overall travel schedule.  So we packed our bags (mostly my bags stuffed with photo gear) and headed east to Tucson where Jane had found a quaint, out-of-the-way casita to rent.  The location, like the casita itself, turned out to be perfect.  We were only ten minutes from the Saguaro National Park visitor center and about fifteen from the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met some friends from the Photonaturalists Camera Club, Neil and Dali Solomon, who had been photographing birds near Sierra Vista, and spent our first day with them.  Together we toured the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum in the morning and enjoyed a night sky program at the Kitt Peak National Observatory.  Neil is an avid bird photographer and his images can be found at www.nsolomonphoto.com.  The program at Kitt Peak was fascinating and was highlighted with night sky observations through a telescope.  Pretty neat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were definitely too early in the season for saguaro blossoms.  The forest of tall, tree-like saguaro cactus with arms growing in all directions, displayed many buds but no flowers.  Many other cacti, however, were in bloom, particularly at the desert museum cactus garden.  There we found some extraordinary hybrid cactus varieties with huge, colorful flowers.  Although disappointed that there were no saguaro blossoms to photograph, Jane and I discovered a tall saguaro with nesting northern flicker woodpeckers.  Best of all, this saguaro was located only about a quarter mile from the casita, along the dirt driveway to the main road, and we visited that cactus on several mornings.  Another serendipitous discovery was a single blossom on a saguaro located right next to the casita.  This blossom was a favorite attraction for gila woodpeckers and we spent a lot of time watching and photographing, with coffee mugs in hand, the comings and goings of these striking birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saguaro SilhouetteSaguaro SilhouetteVertical Composition Of Saguaro Cactus Arms Silhouetted By Orange Sunset Sky, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona

 

                                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One afternoon we made a day trip to two local, old Spanish missions.  The first mission we visited was Tumacácori, a National Historic Park, about an hour south of Tucson.  The mission was originally founded in 1691 by a Jesuit missionary from Spain.  By 1848, after decades of hardship the mission was abandoned.  On our way back to the casita, we stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac, a historic landmark.  This mission was founded in 1692 by the same Jesuit missionary as Tumacácori.  The current church was completed in 1797 and has been in continuous operation since.  Mission San Xavier del Bac is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.  The inside of the chapel is exquisitely decorated.  The original mural paintings are beautiful and the altar and statues amazingly detailed.  Our visit to these old, original national historic places well worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This spring break trip was also planned to coincide with the full phase of the moon.  I wanted some more practice with night sky photography after only mediocre results in Death Valley.  My ability to locate where the full moon would appear in the sky was accurate, but the timing between moonrise and sunset was off.  The location I selected had a high mountains ridge in the foreground that resulted in the moon showing its face much later than I had anticipated resulting in a foreground too dark for proper exposure.

 

Even so, we had a great time and on the way home we decided to put the casita in the pending travel file for a possible future visit.  From the casita we were able to make early morning visits to the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum where we were rewarded with some outstanding photo ops with only a few visitors to contend with.  One morning, we had the hummingbird aviary almost to ourselves.  The woodpeckers flying back and forth to the saguaro next to the casita gave me plenty of opportunities to photograph birds in flight.  And last, but not least, was the relaxing atmosphere of this quaint, out-of-the-way casita where we watched the sun come up from the front patio with our morning coffee and go down from the back patio with our glass of wine.

Images from this spring break journey can be found in the National Parks, Monuments & Historic Landmarks gallery.  Look for the Mission San Xavier del Bac, Saguaro National Park and Tumacacori National Historic Park sub-galleries.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/4/spring-break Tue, 18 Apr 2017 18:53:25 GMT
Two Short March Trips http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/3/two-short-march-trips My March “madness” consisted of trying, for me, a new aspect of photography.  I traveled to Death Valley, during the full moon, to try my hand at “moonscape” photography, that is, photographing iconic locations in Death Valley by moonlight.  March is high season in Death Valley and I had made reservation at Furnace Creek Ranch far in advance of my trip.  It was good I did.  The valley was filled with tourists, speaking a wide variety of different languages, and Furnace Creek was totally booked.  Many of these visitors were also photographers that I ran into as I attempted my moonlight photography. Perhaps the most iconic landscape location in Death Valley is Manly Beacon at Zabriskie Point and that is where I concentrated my efforts and met fellow photographers from as far as Germany.

I was accompanied on this new adventure by Bruce Hollingsworth.  We like to travel and photograph together and he was also game to try something new.  I had researched the internet for information about how to go about this unique type of photography.  What I discovered was that reading about how to obtain well executed moonscape photographs is so much simpler than actually implementing the process during the dark of night.  Although my planning and preparation for obtaining moonscapes was good, my ability to create “keeper” images left a lot to be desired.  Obviously, much more practice will be needed before I can brag about my moonscapes.  I also attempted photographing the full moon.  Looking at my results from that endeavor, full moon photography is also a skill I will need to work on.  It is not that my attempt at this night time photography was a complete bust.  The resulting images were just not up to my expectation and standard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All was not lost, however.  There was a killer sunset in the valley that I was able to photograph and get some decent images.  Also, during a telephone call with Jane, I learned that the Anza Borrego Desert State Park was experiencing the best spring wildflower display in ten or more years.  So a short jaunt to Borrego Springs was called for.  The wildflower bloom was pretty impressive with flower displays in areas I had not seen any flowers before.  Of course, with this kind of colorful flower exhibit, and the associated publicity, hundreds of other people had also ventured to Borrego Springs to experience the remarkable phenomena.  I did manage to obtain some images without extraneous people in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My two short trips in March provided ample photographic challenges and demonstrated the need for more practice.  That means more trips!

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/3/two-short-march-trips Fri, 17 Mar 2017 16:51:49 GMT
Hawaiian Vacation http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/2/hawaiian-vacation Jane and I started twenty-seventeen with a super “vacation”, two weeks in Hawaii.  Jane and I have a special definition for “vacation”, it is a trip without any photography gear and all photos are taken with either a cell phone or small snap shooter camera.  We have lots of other trips in store for this year, but these two weeks were a “vacation”.  We were fortunate in being able to arrange a time-share trade for two consecutive weeks, the first week on Maui, the Valley Isle, and the second week on Kauai, the Garden Isle. 

 

We flew non-stop from San Diego to Maui and enjoyed the first week of our vacation in a one bedroom condominium at the Maui Schooner Resort in Kihei.  Jane was able to score a great price for an off-airport car rental.  Anyway, that is what we thought.  The price was really good, at least one hundred dollars less for the week than a convertible from the major car rental companies at the airport.  But the good price was not because of the location, it was because the cars were old and a bit beaten up.  Before departing the rental agency, we thoroughly inspected the vehicle and noted all the dings and scratches on our rental form.  You know how it is with car rental companies, they will charge through the nose for any little thing they can get away with.

So we were more than a bit shocked and concerned when a large, fresh ding appeared on the driver side door.  It was really bad looking, deep and with paint from the culprit vehicle embedded on our door.  Then, as I pulled out of the parking space at the resort, we heard a loud scraping sound coming from the front of the car.  We quickly got out of our seats to inspect what was causing this horrible noise. Turns out the front bumper assembly had become dislodged and the entire fiberglass unit was hanging down and scraping on the ground.  Immediately we could see the insurance deductible becoming part of our vacation cost.  We were able to, sort of, wedge the unit back into place, although we had to do that several more times over the next few days. 

Before returning the vehicle to the rental company we cleaned up the ding with cleaning solvent from the condo to where it looked as old as all the other dings on the door.  We also manipulated the bumper assembly back into place as best we could and started feverishly thinking of ways to avoid paying for damages.  When we got to the rental place we were hyped and ready to do verbal combat with the agent.  When we explained about the bumper, the agent casually told us “you should have called and we would have replaced the car.  These are old cars and we know things can go wrong”.  What a relief that was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otherwise, our week on Maui was very relaxing.  We had a pool-side unit and spent a fair amount of time in the Jacuzzi and lounging around the pool.  One of the other guests at the Schooner Resort told us about Polo Beach and the ocean front walk in the area.  We enjoyed that hour-long walk along the swanky hotels and apartments several times.  We also followed up on suggestions from friends at home and snorkeled around Molokini Island with Trilogy Sailing and watched a slight-of-hand magic show in Lahaina.  Of course we could not return home from Maui without having made the drive up to the Haleakala volcanic crater (although we did not do the sunrise thing).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next week was spent at the Cliffs Resort in the planned community of Princeville, along the north shore of Kauai where we enjoyed the comfort and space of a large one bedroom, two bath unit.  Princeville is a bit remote from other population centers on Kauai so we planned most of our activities in and around very upscale Princeville.  For Kauai, Jane had arranged much better transportation.  We enjoyed top-down touring in a new, bright yellow Mustang convertible.  No problems with this vehicle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to exploring the beaches at Hanalei Bay and Wainiha Bay we also imbibed happy hour drinks at the Hanalei Bay Resort, about a half hour’s walk from the Cliffs.  We toured the entire island of Kauai via Sunshine Helicopters right from the Princeville airport.  The flight included Waimea Canyon, Na Pali Coast, and now famous Manawaiopuna Falls, aka “The Jurassic Falls”.  The bird’s eye view of the island’s steep, vegetation covered terrain from the comfort of the helicopter was very cool! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another very cool experience was our three hour tour of the Princeville Botanical Gardens.  The botanical garden was actually developed by a couple from San Diego, Bill and Lucinda Robertson, who had intended to retire on Kauai and instead spent years creating a fantastic garden.  Our guide, Harald, a former children’s book publisher from New Mexico, was extremely knowledgeable about all the various varieties of trees, plants and flowers encountered along the tour.  One of the tour highlights was a presentation of how cacao beans are processed into chocolate that included tasting samples of chocolate with varying cacao amounts.  We also found, by word-of-mouth, a five mile hiking trail through a mahogany plantation.  The area had previously been a sugar cane plantation and the trail took us past an old stone dam and canals built to float the cane to the processing plant.  Rain pelted us as we hiked back to the canary yellow convertible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concierge at the resort offered us a two-for-one price for a very expensive, all inclusive (open bar and shuttle service to and from), luau for agreeing to sit it on a timeshare presentation.  The sales person tended to be a bit narcissistic and talked mainly about himself and that he did not care whether or not we purchased a timeshare since he was retired and did not need the commission.  So after a half hour we let him know that we were not interested, and since he didn’t care, we should cut the sales session short.  That proved to be a very profitable half hour for us as we had a lot of fun at the luau and enjoyed several Blue Hawaiian cocktails (with Vodka instead of Rum).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a wildlife enthusiast like me, one of the more fascinating experiences in Princeville was our encounter with the Laysan Albatross.  It seems that the cliffs along the north shore of Kauai are the ancestral nesting sites for the Laysan Albatross and other sea faring birds.  Now, these birds instinctively continue to come to these cliffs to raise chicks even though the area is covered with million dollar homes.  The albatross have adapted well to their new surroundings.  We observed them exhibiting their natural behaviors in people’s front yards as we strolled through the neighborhood streets.  In addition to the albatross, we added several new bird species to our list.  The most common bird encountered was the red junglefowl, ancestral to the domesticated chicken.  They were everywhere on Kauai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, all great “vacations” must come to an end and after our week on Kauai we headed back to San Diego.  Upon arriving back on the mainland, we learned that San Diego had experienced more rain during the time we were gone than in any other similar period in the city’s recorded history of rainfall.  That news made our two weeks in Hawaii even more special.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/2/hawaiian-vacation Fri, 03 Feb 2017 17:11:55 GMT
Year End Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/12/year-end-blog December saw the last of my 2016 photography trips.  Jane had work commitments, so I traveled with my photo friend, Bruce Hollingsworth.  Bruce had wanted to return to the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico for another opportunity to photograph the migrating sandhill cranes and snow geese.  Jane and I had traveled to Bosque several times in the past and, in fact, Bruce and I had been there several times as well.  Since this was about my fifth or sixth trip to Bosque del Apache, I didn’t want to return with images that I already had in my portfolio.  So, this time I planned on obtaining some new, unique images by concentrating more on environmental compositions using shorter range focal length lenses rather than close range images using long telephoto lenses.  I also attempted to obtain more abstract images using a slow shutter speed while panning birds in flight. 

Normally, birds in flight are photographed at pretty fast shutter speeds, over 1/1,000 of a second.  I was attempting to photograph the cranes and gees at around 1/50 to 1/100 of a second.  When successfully executed, the image should result in the bird’s head being in focus, its wings slightly blurred, and the background an abstract blur of colors.  Sounds easy, but it is not.  Thank goodness for digital photography and an infinite supply of pixels.  I made several hundred attempts for each image that approached the standards I expected to achieve.  I had to sort through thousands of totally out of focus shots to find the very few keepers I was satisfied with.  Hope you agree with my choices.  You can view them in the Wildlife Refuges gallery and then clicking on Bosque del Apache.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way home, Bruce and I stopped for more photography at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.  Rather than wildlife as at Bosque, White Sands is a landscape photography location and I have always found landscapes to be extremely difficult to compose.  Landscape photography requires a serious amount of scouting to find an interesting combination of foreground, middle-ground and background.  My lack of landscape photography experience showed as I wandered aimlessly among the white gypsum sand dunes looking for that perfect landscape combination.  By the time the soft light of sunset arrived, I just ended up doing the best I could.  Same thing occurred the following morning.  It was dark when we arrived so finding a perfect location was out of the question.  Again, I reverting to doing the best I could with the potential compositions I stumbled upon.  My saving grace was a beautiful sky with colorful light and great clouds.  Images from White Sands are located in the National Parks and Monument gallery under White Sands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                            WISHING ALL WHO READ MY BLOG

                                                                     A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/12/year-end-blog Fri, 23 Dec 2016 19:31:13 GMT
Autumn Road Trip http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/10/autumn-road-trip This blog is a bit longer.  Our autumn road trip turned out to be over four thousand miles and traversed the length and breadth of six states, not counting California.  It was an invigorating and, at times, exhausting month long excursion with stops at nine separate accommodations along the way.  Since the blog is long, let me say at the beginning rather than the end, that the images from this trip are located in the “2016 Road Trip” gallery.

To avoid some of the heavier commuter traffic in Los Angeles County, Jane and I left San Diego at 4:30 in the morning bound for our first destination, Great Basin National Park in Nevada.  After the, now routine, six boring hour drive to Las Vegas, we left Interstate 15 and headed north on U.S. Highway 93, the Great Basin Highway.  Approximate 18 miles north of Caliente, we stopped at Cathedral Gorge State Park.  On previous trips, we always bypassed this small Nevada state park due to time constraints.  But on this road trip, we had time to investigate this off-the-beaten-path attraction.  Just a short mile or two off Highway 93, and hidden from view, was a spectacular geologic display of erosion carved cliffs and spires.  We did not spend a lot of time at Cathedral Gorge, but enjoyed very much marveling at the intricate features eroded into the soft rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Baker, Nevada, gateway to Great Basin National Park by mid-afternoon.  We stayed with Magaret Pence at her “bunkhouse”, a rustic but charming and cozy accommodation (www.greatbasinbunkhouse.com).   Staying at the “bunkhouse” turned out to be far more than just a nice place to sleep.  It was like an affable family affair as we enjoyed Margaret’s hospitality.

Great Basin National Park is situated in the southern portion of the Snake Mountain Range and contains Nevada’s second highest mountain, Wheeler Peak, at just over 13,000 feet.  Jane and I were hoping for our first glance at fall colors here.  We were not disappointed as we hiked park trails through great groves of golden, quaking aspen trees.  The Wheeler Peak Scenic Highway was ablaze with color as the sun backlit the aspen leaves into a luminous glow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of days hiking and exploring Great Basin National Park, we packed the 4Runner, hugged Margaret farewell, and started the drive to our cabin at West Glacier.  Our selected route through Idaho took us past Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  Again, we had passed this landmark on previous trips and not stopped.  So, with time on our hands, we made a short detour to enjoy this unique landscape.  This area of small craters and black fields of lava started forming only about 15,000 years ago when lava issued from a series of deep fissures, the last eruption occurring about 2,000 years ago.  That is pretty recent in geologic time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the lava fields we continued to West Glacier where we spent the next six days at our familiar, secluded haunt in the woods (www.glacierwildernessresort.com).  We used the cabin, with its homey feel and hot Jacuzzi on its deck, as home base, and day-tripped into Glacier National Park.  Weather was an issue that limited our hiking to just a couple of days.  We did hike to Avalanche Lake, a roundtrip of six miles and lots of elevation gain.  And, yes I’m bragging a bit.  Of course, we could not really complain about the rain, since we had not seen much of it in San Diego.

 

We are always sad to leave our cabin but we had to move one since we were not even at the midway point of our road trip.  Our next objective was the Slippery Ann Elk Viewing Area at the Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge, along the Missouri River.  On the way, we stopped in Great Falls to visit the Charles M. Russel Museum, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and the great falls that Lewis and Clark had to portage around during their expedition of discovery.  The Charles M. Russel Museum was excellent with its informative exhibits illustrating the life of “Charlie” Russel and life on the western frontier in general.  The gift shop had an extraordinary selection of artistic items created by local artisans.  Jane found an item to bring home that would enhance our collection of southwest artifacts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lewistown, smack in the middle of Montana, was our next destination.  There Jane had found a wonderful B&B for us to stay.  The Symmes/Wicks House was a totally restored Craftsman house located in a quiet neighborhood with huge, colorful maple trees bordering the streets (www.symmeswickshouse.com).   Carol Wicks, who had overseen the restoration and performed much of the grunt work herself, was our hostess and provided great conversation and scrumptious breakfasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Slippery Ann Elk Viewing Area lived up to its reputation to not disappoint.  During the annual rut, scores of elk congregate in the cottonwood trees along the Missouri River and emerge onto the meadows to feed in late afternoon.  Elk viewing is a popular activity with dozens of cars lined up along the dirt track adjacent the meadow area where elk forage in plain sight, paying no heed to the myriad of sightseers of all ages.  Numerous six and seven point, testosterone driven, bulls were competing for cows.  However, the iconic image of bulls with locked antlers escaped me.  It was not for the lack of trying, but the desired action of big bulls jousting was always too far away or hidden by shrubbery for a decent "shot".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our action packed visit to Slippery Ann (you have to wonder where that name came from, don’t you) and delightful stay at the Symmes/Wicks House, we continued on across Montana and into Wyoming to explore Devil’s Tower National Monument.  We made the hamlet of Hulett our home base for this part of our journey.  Exploring this National Monument was almost relaxing.  We toured the scenic route in the 4Runner and hiked the Tower Trail from where we watched several groups of climbers ascend the near vertical tower.  I tried my hand at night sky photography once more with very little success.  The sky was filled with brilliant stars and the Milky Way was overhead, but I was not able to create an image to my liking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Custer State Park in South Dakota is just across the border from Devil’s Tower and that was our next destination.  The objective at Custer State Park was to photograph the annual bison roundup, an event that draws visitors from across the U.S. and world.  It certainly was an event to remember, but relatively short for the time expended to experience it and less dramatic than expected.  The roundup is conducted to gather the bison into corrals to test for disease, inoculate, brand calves and cull the herd by auctioning off sufficient animals to keep the size of the heard balanced to the available food supply on the Park’s range. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on our inquiries from locals, we learned that to secure a decent spot in the viewing area in the Park we had to leave Custer at around 4:30 in the morning.  And, that is what we did.  At that ghastly hour of the morning, we joined the long queue of vehicles meandering slowly through the Park to the viewing area.  After more than an hour, we eventually reached the parking area where we joined hundreds of others to search for a spot to place our folding chairs during the dim, morning’s first light.  By around six we were snuggly settled with a blanket around Jane to keep out the chill.  The roundup, however, did not start until nearly ten and the most exciting part, bison stampeding across the prairie, lasted only about 45 minutes.  Although a tiny bit disappointing, it was exhilarating to be part of the throng participating in this uniquely American event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were in Custer nearly a week staying at a new and very comfortable vacation rental home on the outskirts of town where white tailed deer and wild turkeys roamed the yards.  While in Custer we assumed the role of typical tourists going on day trips to explore the scenic areas of the Black Hills, including Spearfish Canyon with its outstanding fall colors and waterfalls, the Cathedral Spires area where we encountered a lone mountain goat, Chief Crazy Horse monument, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial where we had lunch in the cafeteria where Gary Grant got shot in the movie North by Northwest.  While in Custer we also spent a pleasant evening with Bill Howard, an old acquaintance from years gone by, and his friend Shirley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a touristy stay in Custer, South Dakota, we set out for home, the long way.  On our 22nd day on the trip we drove across Wyoming’s barren and desolate prairie to Rock Springs, and the next day across the eastern edge of the Uintah Mountains of Utah, past the Flaming Gorge reservoir and dam to Vernal.  While in Vernal, we made a short trip to Dinosaur National Monument.  We were pleased to learn that the Quarry Exhibit Hall, with its thousand dinosaur bone fossils still imbedded in a natural sedimentary rock wall, was again open after extensive structural repairs.  Fossils excavated from these Jurassic period beds now grace many natural history museums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Vernal we set our sights on Richmond, Utah, where my sister Neli and husband Fred, reside.  To get to Richmond, we crossed over some high mountain passes where we encountered our first snow of the year.  The scene played out beautifully as we ascended higher up the mountain.  Patches of yellow from brightly colored quaking aspen trees, the symbol of Utah, were interspersed among the dark green conifers with white snow covering the branches and ground.  It was awesome.  All too soon we were back to lower elevations with green alfalfa fields, grazing cattle, and opulent ranch houses.

A visit with Neli and Fred is always entertaining as they recount memories that I was too young to remember.  We had a great visit with lots of cheerfulness, goodwill and laughter.  I will certainly remember one profound observation by Neli.  She confided that “you know you are getting old when your daughter becomes a grandmother”.  Neli and Fred are great-grandparents many times over.  After bidding goodbye to Neli and Fred we made a serious dash for home.  We stopped only in Mesquite for a night before droning on down Interstate 15, arriving back to San Diego, pretty much wiped out, after 26 days on the road.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/10/autumn-road-trip Sun, 16 Oct 2016 18:37:09 GMT
Two Weeks In Oregon http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/8/two-weeks-in-oregon For some years the allure of Oregon’s waterfalls and ocean vistas had been tugging at my camera bag.  So it was with much satisfaction that Jane and I finally made the trek up Interstate 5 over the “grapevine” and through the Central Valley, to Oregon.  The plan was to spend about a week in the Columbia River Gorge photographing the numerous waterfalls that descend from the Cascade Range into the abrupt and steep gorge created by the Columbia River.  Then, we would venture to the coast for another week of exploring and photographing along the northern portion of Oregon's 363 mile coastline.

Our first “home” was the Comfort Inn in Troutdale.  Troutdale is situated at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge and it made a convenient location from which to make daily trips into the Gorge.  Troutdale also provided the many urban conveniences (restaurants, galleries, gift shops and grocery stores) needed to make our trip more enjoyable.  There are a number of very attractive waterfalls within about 30 miles of Troutdale and we attempted to see them all.  Of course, we did not realize, while optimistically planning this photo adventure, that all these glorious waterfalls start at a significant elevation above the Columbia River Gorge and that we had to hike up to them.  Some of these hikes were strenuous and exhausting, but the rewards of majestic, thundering water falls were ample.  Suffice to say that we got our daily dose of exercise during our visit to Oregon’s waterfalls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oregon coast is extensive and we planned to visit only the northerly portion.  Unlike the waterfalls, there was not a single, central location from which to day-trip.  Instead, we selected several advantageous locations along the coastline where the most scenic spots were to be found.  Jane found some great places that served as short term locations for our day-trips.  We stayed three nights each in Arch Cape, Tillamook, and Newport and found some very scenic areas to photograph.  Along Oregon's coastline, forested headlands terminated at wide, sandy beaches with jagged, photogenic sea stacks just offshore. 

Weather along the Oregon coast during our visit was similar to San Diego’s, lots of marine layer and overcast.  Those conditions made for cool days and drizzly nights but did not provide a very interesting backdrop for coastal photographs or sunsets.  We were disappointed several times as we waited patiently for sunset to occur only to find the sun obscured by overcast skies.  Not all was bad, however, and some memorable moments were experienced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After being immersed in nature for two carefree, tranquil weeks we faced the unpleasant task of heading home.  The journey home was a hard fought battle on Interstate 5 back to San Diego.  We paid the price of living in “America’s Finest City” as we toiled in bumper-to-bumper traffic, mile after arduous mile, with nary any relief until we left the freeway at our Scripps Ranch exit.

You can view images from this excursion by going to the Oregon 2016 Gallery.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/8/two-weeks-in-oregon Tue, 16 Aug 2016 13:53:26 GMT
If This Is Tuesday, We Must Be In . . . http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/7/if-this-is-tuesday-we-must-be-in Perhaps this familiar saying is better phrased as “If this is June, we must be in Europe” because that is where Jane and I found ourselves for most of June.  Planning for this journey had been in the works for many, many months and finally the day arrived that we headed for Europe again.  It was an ambitious plan, starting with a visit to family in Rotterdam and from there to Vienna, Swiss and Bavarian Alps, and various other stops along the way.

We had been diligently saving our airplane mileage points and were able to obtain round trip business class tickets to Amsterdam.  I don’t mind telling you, business class was a mighty fine treat, especially for the long flights across the Atlantic.  The overall tone for the trip was set with a very pleasant and relaxing sojourn to the Delta lounge at Lindbergh field for coffee and croissants, where we awaited our first flight.  We were full of excitement and anticipation for this odyssey to explore new portions of Europe.  Let me just say at the outset that all our objectives of this trip were realized and none of our misgivings materialized.  In short, it was a fabulous adventure.

We arrived in Amsterdam the following morning where my nephew Wim was waiting to welcome us to Holland.  He drove us to his home in Rotterdam where we stayed with him and Verula, his girlfriend.  Wim and Verula hosted us for several days guiding us to some unique places in Holland we had not experienced before.  They are also urban city dwellers and loved showing us the new and old of Rotterdam.  We visited a vast, modern, mixed use, market hall as well as the historic Delft Harbor from which Puritans migrated to the America.  Of course the highlight of our visit to Rotterdam was seeing my spry, 91 year old, brother and spending some quality time with him.  I sure hope to have inherited the same genes he has, because he is in seriously good health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our most enjoyable stay, Wim drove us back to Schiphol Airport for our KLM flight to Vienna.  As always, Jane had found us a wonderful little hotel right on the pedestrian-only, inner circle of Vienna. The Pension Aviano  served as our home base for nine days as we roamed the narrow streets and boulevards of Vienna. We marveled at the old gothic and baroque architecture of its historic buildings and visited castles, palaces, chateaus, parliament, and city hall.   We also enjoyed the cultural side of Vienna with the Vienna Boys Choir at their special venue The Muth, a Mozart string ensemble performance at the renowned Palais Auersperg, a presentation of Der Rosenkavalier at the old Vienna opera, and, last be not least, the Lipizzaner stallions at the historic Hofburg Palace.  In addition to all that, we also tasted the epicurean delights of Vienna, including scrumptious deserts, at such old and famous cafes as Café Central, The Landtmann, Tivolerhof, and Café Mozart, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armed with GPS, Google Maps and hard copy paper maps, we left Vienna in our rental Europcar VW diesel, and headed for the Bavarian Alps.  On our way, we followed the Danube River through the picturesque Wachau Valley, visited the Melk Abby, and spent a couple of days in Salzburg enjoying some more Hapsburg history and Mozart music.  Eventually, although not without some navigation issues, we found our way to Schwangau, Germany where we spent some days visiting and touring Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Romanesque, Neuschwanstein castle.  Reportedly the inspiration for Walt Disney, this fairyland castle is one of Germany’s most visited tourist attractions, for which we can definitely vouch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Bavaria, we traveled to the majestic Swiss Alps.  After lunch in Luzern we arrived at the Hotel Staubbach in the mountain village of Lauterbrunnen.  It is difficult to describe the grandeur and splendor of this region.  Lauterbrunnen is situated at the head of a very narrow, steep sided, glacial valley with more than 70 waterfalls thundering from the snow clad mountains above to the verdant valley below.  The view from our hotel room window included Staubbach falls, one of the Alp’s tallest waterfalls.  Surrounding the valley are some of Switzerland’s most famous mountains, including the Jungfrau, MÖnck, and Eiger, renowned for its challenging and dangerous north face. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We explored the Lauterbrunnen area for four days and then continued our travels over the snow covered Sustenpass and Passo San Gottardo, two of Switzerland’s highest highway passes, to Samedan in the Engadin valley.  There we explored numerous quaint villages, enjoyed lunch in St. Moritz, and rode several high speed gondolas to view the Bernina mountain range with its many glaciers and Mount Bernina, the highest peak in the eastern Alps, at over 13,000 feet.  After 3 days in the Engadin valley, we reluctantly started back to Vienna to return the car and catch our flight back to Amsterdam and home.  About half way back to Vienna, we stopped for a night in Hallstatt Austria, a World Heritage Site, where salt has been mined by the Celts since the early Iron Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was an extraordinary vacation for us.  From the historic culture of the Hapsburg Empire to the serene alpine setting of green pastures and snow capped mountains, we will remember this trip always.  After a month’s travel, however, it felt good to be home again, with its familiar daily routines.  Although this was a non-photography vacation, we obviously ended with a lot of pictures from the smart phone and snap-shooter.  You can see more images if you go the Europe 2016 Gallery.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/7/if-this-is-tuesday-we-must-be-in Sun, 17 Jul 2016 01:15:49 GMT
April Spring Break http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/4/april-spring-break If it is April, it must be spring break time.  And where does one go for spring break?  Florida of course!  That is exactly what the three of us did.  The three of us being Jane and me plus our photo buddy Bruce Hollingsworth.  We flew from San Diego to Miami for three weeks of bird photography and some sightseeing in the Sunshine State. 

A quick recap of the itinerary goes something like this: three days in the southern portion of Everglades National Park; three days in Naples to photograph at the Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and the Big Cypress National Reserve; then three days in Bradenton to photograph at a small mangrove island rookery in the Braden River, stopping in Venice on the way to visit the Audubon’s Venice Rookery; some touristy stuff followed with a two-day visit to the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral; a quick tour of Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and then four days in Sebastian to photograph osprey at Blue Cypress Lake, snail kites at Lake Kissimmee, and other birds at a small mangrove island at the end of the Fellsmere Grade Road, near Stick Marsh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, we did have time for lunch and dinner.  Not so much breakfast, however, as we were on the road at dawn each morning to get that sweet early light.  Jane had done a superb job in arranging our VRBO accommodations.  There was plenty of space at each location for us to hang out and relax after our exhausting days.  Bruce is a bit of a gourmet cook and we let him practice his art at preparing some great dinners for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photography started out a little slow, actually.  Turns out that the El Nino storms that should have come to San Diego may have ended up in Florida.  Florida reportedly had the wettest winter in decades.  All that rain water, on the flat terrain, ended up flowing south to the Everglades.  That in turn made it possible for birds to forage and feed throughout the park, as opposed to a few “water holes” during a normal dry winter.  We were very disappointed as all park rangers and local birders told us “you should have been here last year”.  We did get a few good shots in the Everglades, including some interesting shots of baby alligators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography opportunities improved as we traveled north.  Shooting at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island was a turning point with a higher number of birds, although still less than during a normal dry winter.  Although the birds were not as plentiful, the no-see-ums were out in force.  Even though we were lathered up with repellent, we all ended up with numerous bites that turned into nasty pocks.  Non-the-less, we were able to enjoy the antics of a reddish egret as it danced around with spread wings to spot and catch its meal.

The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was also disappointing.  The Audubon volunteers were very apologetic and directed us to the most likely locations to photograph birds.  One bright spot were the feeders just outside the visitor center.  There both the painted and indigo buntings posed for pictures.  It also turned out to be the only location where we were able to catch a little blue heron in conditions suitable for photography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way to Bradenton, we stopped at the Venice Rookery administered by the Venice Area Audubon Society.  The rookery is situated on a small mangrove island in a small lake in the middle of an urbanized area.  The birds did not seem to mind to the hustle and bustle of commercial and residential developments around them.  Here we got our first real opportunity to see and photograph Florida’s famous bird population at a rookery.  There were egrets, heron, spoonbill, and ibis nesting on the small island, many with chicks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Bradenton, we had arranged three photography charters with Captain Bob Salyers (www.bobsalyers.com) on his photography friendly boat at a mangrove island rookery in the Braden River.  That also turned out exceptionally well with lots of birds in the air, on the nest, preening and courting.  In particular, the courtship and breeding behavior of the wood storks was intriguing and fascinating to observe.  While other birds were already raising their young, the storks were still engaged in their intimate mating ritual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We next traveled to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.  There we spend a couple of fun days touring the space center and reminiscing about the space age and man walking on the moon.  Jane had arranged for special tour tickets in advance, so we did not have to stand in long lines to get into the visitor center.  All three of us were impressed with the quality of exhibits, displays, and tours.  One of our tours included a visit to the actual control center that got the shuttle missions into the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next, and final, stop on this Florida expedition was Sebastian where we had arranged for four days of charters with Whistling Wings Photography (www.whistlingwingsphotography.com).   Before leaving Cape Canaveral, however, we made a slight detour to photograph at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Early in the morning of our visit, on the Black Point Wildlife Drive, there was no wind and water on the adjacent ponds was still and dark.  These conditions made for some very strong reflection shots, especially of a reddish egret foraging on the pond.

From Sebastian, Ron Bielefeld, of Whistling Wings Photography, took us to some very interesting locations to photograph from his boat.  We made several trips to Blue Cypress Lake, home to hundreds of nesting osprey.  He also guided us to Lake Kissimmee, about an hour and half from Sebastian, to photograph the endangered snail kite.  My understanding is that only a few hundred breeding pairs of these birds are left in the U.S.  At Lake Kissimmee, where we photographed the kites, Ron estimated that there were only about six or ten pair.  Since the number of birds hunting for snails was small, our “keeper” rate was commensurately low, and most of the birds were female.  I had my heart set on some great in-flight shots of the slate-blue males.  But that was not to be.  The birds kept too far from the boat for good in-flight shots and even the perched birds were just out of range for full frame images.  We also photographed at a rookery on small mangrove island at the end of the Fellsmere Grade Road, near Stick Marsh.  That provided another opportunity to find birds on nests with eggs and young.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sebastian we traveled back to Miami to end our birding journey to Florida.  We choose Highway 1 in order to do some sightseeing along the way, traveling through Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Hollywood on our way to the Miami airport.  We were in awe with the number of high rise condos and resorts along the way.  It was enough to convince us that Florida was not the place for us, even though there is a Walgreen or CVS drug store on nearly every corner.

Images from this trip our located in the Florida Birding gallery.  Enjoy!

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/4/april-spring-break Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:24:25 GMT
The Super Bloom http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/3/the-super-bloom According to the Death Valley National Park Service, it occurs about every ten to fifteen years.  The last one was in 2005.  We are talking about a “super bloom” of desert wildflowers.  Being one of the driest places on earth, there is precious little rainfall in Death Valley to germinate wildflower seeds.  But every decade or so, there is sufficient rain, at the appropriate time of year, to create a super bloom.  When I found out that this year was expected to be an outstanding year for wildflowers in Death Valley, I had to go.  Jane agreed that a super bloom was not be missed and came along as did my photo buddy Bruce Hollingsworth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time I found out about the explosion of wildflowers in Death Valley, the event had already made national news, and I could not get reservations in the Park.  We ended up staying in Beatty, Nevada, and made daily excursions from there into the Park.  That turned out well for us since there were spectacular displays of wildflowers along the Beatty Cutoff Road in the Park.  The preponderance of flowers was the Desert Gold Sunflower.  This plant has a single stalk with multiple blight yellow flowers and grows in a scattered pattern.  When seen from a distance, however, the multitude of yellow flowers form vast golden fields of color on the desert floor.

The super bloom was a heyday for botanists since many species of plants only germinate during these epoch events.  We observed many varieties of plants and flowers, but many were so tiny that we could not photograph them effectively.  That did not stop us from trying, however, as we pulled out all our various photographic equipment “toys” (including cell phones) and totally emerged ourselves into the experience of photographing this unique event.  Images from this trip can be found in the National Parks gallery under Death Valley National Park.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/3/the-super-bloom Mon, 07 Mar 2016 23:10:38 GMT
Chasing The Iconic Image http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/2/chasing-the-iconic-image I don’t know about other photographers, but I am always impressed with special, unique images that I also want to have in my portfolio.  In that sense, you could call me an “iconic image” chaser.  One of those iconic images is Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.  When evening sunlight illuminates the 3,000 foot high granite monolith called El Capitan, yellow and orange light is reflected back into the falling water of Horsetail Fall mimicking a lava flow.  That special condition can only occur when three natural elements come together.  First, the sun has to be in the proper location on the horizon.  That only occurs twice a year, once for about two weeks in February and again in October as the sun cycles through the seasons.  The sun's position is highly predictable.  What is not predictable is if the sky will be clear of overcast or clouds that block sunlight from reaching El Capitan.  So, the second condition is a clear sky.  The final condition is that there has to be water flowing off El Capitan to create Horsetail Fall.  Normally that only occurs in February when winter snow melt creates the waterfall.  In October the ephemeral flow does not occur.

Last year I was gung ho to photograph the “fire fall” and made reservations to stay in Yosemite National Park for several days during February when Horsetail Fall would light up.  It was a disappointing venture.  Due to the continuing drought in California, there was no water flowing from the small watershed atop El Capitan to create the fire fall.  With double the enthusiasm, I traveled to Yosemite again this February to chase the iconic image of Horsetail Fall on fire.  I had called a Park Ranger ahead of time and knew that water was flowing in Horsetail Fall.  With reassurance that the critical element of water was present, I had only to hope that the sun would not be obscured by clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, lucky me, for two of the four evenings that I was in position to take my iconic shot, all the elements worked in my favor.  I was at the right place, at the right time, the sky was clear and Horsetail Fall flowed like lava.  It was a very special feeling to see this unique, natural phenomenon let alone photograph it.  But let me also mention, that I was certainly not the only one experiencing this rare event.  There were throngs of photographers and onlookers.  To be set up at a location from which the waterfall could be photographed required an arrival at least three hours before sunset.  I brought a sandwich and folding chair to await the golden hour and got my iconic shot.  Images of the fire fall are located in the National Park gallery under Yosemite National Park. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/2/chasing-the-iconic-image Fri, 26 Feb 2016 17:04:56 GMT
February In Barrie, Ontario, Canada http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/2/february-in-barrie-ontario-canada  

Yes, Jane and I ventured into Canada during the dead of winter.  We traveled to Barrie, Ontario, to photograph and video snowy owls.  The owls were obviously smarter than we were.  They came south for the winter from the extreme cold of the arctic tundra.  We, on the other hand, left the warm climes of San Diego to experience the cold north.  Average temperatures in Barrie during February range from 29 to -11 degrees Fahrenheit.  Average snowfall is about 15 inches in February.  With some trepidation, Jane and I packed all the warm clothes we had and loaded up on chemical hand warmers to stave off the expected cold temperatures and snowy conditions.  The weather, however, turned out far less extreme then we had anticipated.  Temperatures were balmy, by Canadian standards, and snow had pretty much melted away while we were in Barrie.  Temperatures were actually in the low 30’s and 40’s during the day and snow was only found in patches on the fields where the snowy owl hunt. 

The unusually warm weather created some problems for our photography.  Without a cover of snow, the owls were able to find plenty of prey among the open farm fields and were less inclined to be in the open where we could find and photograph them.  Above normal temperatures had warmed the plowed farm fields, turning the furrows into soft, spongy clay that stuck to our boots like glue.  Considering that weather conditions could have been much worse, Jane and I did not complain too much about the mild temperatures.  We brought most of our chemical warmers back home, ready for a future cold country adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our local guides had scouted the farm fields before we arrived and knew where some the snowy owls had established territories.  However, the milder conditions meant we still had to diligently search for them, traversing miles of back roads to locate the few cooperative owls.  Most of the photography was “birds in flight”, one of my more challenging endeavors.  None the less, I did manage to bring home some keepers and you can see those in the Snowy Owl Gallery.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/2/february-in-barrie-ontario-canada Mon, 08 Feb 2016 23:26:56 GMT
One Trip Two State Parks http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/1/two-state-parks We did not waste any time in starting our 2016 travel schedule.  Early on New Year's Day, January first, Jane and I headed north on Interstate 15 to photograph at two separate state parks.  The first was the Valley of Fire in Nevada and second was Snow Canyon in Utah.  The Valley of Fire proved to be a fun place to hang out and explore.  With the help of a newly acquired Garmin GPS from Santa and coordinates found on the internet, we were able to find and photograph many obscure arches and colorful eroded formations.  In addition to amazing geologic features, we also encountered a small herd of full-curl bighorn sheep.  Although pretty shy, they did allow us to approach close enough for some good images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our explorations in the Valley of Fire, we headed further north to St. George, Utah, and Snow Canyon State Park.  In St. George, the weather turned on us and we had to cope with several days of dark, rainy skies.  Rain turned to snow at higher elevations and we were able to capture snow on the Red Mountains surrounding Snow Canyon.  By the way, Snow Canyon was named for Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, early Mormon pioneers in the St. George area.  It actually seldom snows in Snow Canyon.  So, even with inclement weather we were able to make pictures of a unique and seldom seen setting.  We also had an opportunity to photograph some Ancestral Puebloan rock writing among the rocky ledges adjacent the Santa Clara River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures from this trip are located in the State Parks group under Valley of Fire and Snow Canyon.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/1/two-state-parks Mon, 18 Jan 2016 22:11:04 GMT
End Of Year Hurrah http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/12/end-of-year-hurray Twenty-fifteen was a most successful year with lots of wonderful travel experiences and, let me not forget, a total backyard redo.  It is hard to say which we enjoyed more.  The backyard is a pastoral sight to behold each time we look outside.  Since we really are home more than away (hard to believe), that investment will be appreciated many years into the future. 

To celebrate the end of 2015, we decided to enjoy a long weekend visiting museums and attractions in Los Angeles.  Some might say that it is not possible to have an enjoyable stay in busy Los Angeles, but Jane and I did very much enjoy our exploration of the City of Angels.  Our home-away-from-home for this long weekend get-away was the Hotel Angelenos, just off the I-405 at Sunset Boulevard.

We did have some specific objectives.  First, we wanted to tour the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and enjoy a performance in this acoustically excellent venue.  Our second objective was to spend some time at both of the J. Paul Getty museums, the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.  Other than that, we meandered about a bit, visiting the La Brea Tar Pits, Santa Monica, downtown, and Larchmont Village where we had an excellent lunch at Louise’s Trattoria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For night time entertainment, we ventured to the nondescript Gardenia Room Restaurant and Lounge.  This little know gem of entertainment is a classic piano bar lounge where we enjoyed the musical production “Little Things You Do Together” performed by Vincenzo Lodato, Angela Wolcott, each of whom have performed in numerous Broadway productions, and Nancy Dussault, perhaps better known as Murial Rush from the TV series “Too Close For Comfort” and an original co-host for the Good Morning, America program.  I go for this kind of up-close and personal style of entertainment, just three vocalists and a piano.  

To cap off 2015, Bruce Hollingsworth and I traveled to Morro Bay on California's central coast.  Our objectives were to photograph migrating monarch butterflies at a grove of cypress and eucalyptus trees in Pismo Beach and giant elephant seals at their Piedras Blancas colony.  Morro Bay is situated about half way between these photo locations.  

Early morning light was best for photography at the elephant seal colony and late morning light best at the monarch grove when the sun was able to penetrate the tree canopy.  Our days were planned around these time sensitive events.  We were up before dawn to be at the seal colony when the sun broke over the distant hills to the east.  Then, an hours's drive back south to Pismo Beach to catch sun lit clusters of monarch butterflies clinging from eucalyptus branches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afternoons were spent looking for photo ops around Morro Bay.  There we found a long, wide, sandy beach filled with shorebirds and we were able to creep close enough to capture images of the diminutive sanderling.  We also photographed along the Morro Bay State Park boardwalk.  There we photographed the even smaller blue-gray gnatcatcher.  Our leisurely stroll along the boardwalk included a surprise when a cautious coyote came sauntering towards us through the sparse brush adjacent the boardwalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting CoyoteHunting CoyoteHealthy Adult Coyote Hunting Through A Thicket Of Brush Blue-Gray GnatcatcherBlue-Gray GnatcatcherBlue-Gray Gnatcatcher In Winter Plumage Perched On Flowering Bush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a short, five day, trip, this turned out to be a productive venture.  I certainly added some "keepers" to my collection of images.  Images from this trip can be found in the Piedras Blances gallery in the Wildlife Refuges group and the Butterfly gallery.

BEST WISHES FOR ALL IN 2016

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/12/end-of-year-hurray Thu, 24 Dec 2015 18:07:18 GMT
If This Is October, We Must Be In Costa Rica http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/10/if-this-is-october-we-must-be-in-costa-rica October found Jane and me in the high altitude cloud forest of Costa Rica.  We were on a hummingbird photography tour with David Hemmings, a Canadian wildlife photographer (www.naturesphotoadventures.com).    Neil Solomon, a fellow photographer from the Photonaturalists Camera Club, had turned me on to this opportunity to photograph some new species of hummers and he and his spouse joined us on this adventure.  Gene Davis, an old photo-buddy, had also signed up.  So it was almost like a private group of friends enjoying the remote outback of Costa Rica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the trip highlights was a peak at the caldera of an active volcano.  Before heading to our photography destination, we made a side trip to the Poás Volcano.  It is only one of Costa Rica’s many active volcanoes along the Ring Of Fire.  Fortunately, only steam was escaping from this caldera during our visit, although there were many signs giving evacuation advice should a more serious eruption occur.

 

 

Most of the photography was accomplished at and around the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge (www.paraisoquetzal.com) located at nearly 9,000 feet in the cloud forest.  Dave set up his multi-flash equipment at one of the lodge's hummingbird patios where we were able to get some pretty fantastic shots of hummingbirds feeding at various flower arrangements that were part of the setup.  My favorites were when several hummers were photographed together in one shot.  Suffice to say that I was able to add several hummingbird species to my list of bird photographs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather did play a role during this photo tour.  Several times the morning clouds were so low that photography was not possible and in the afternoon, rain played a similar role.  Never the less, trudging through steep, muddy terrain, with heavy telephoto lenses on tripods, and hampered by slick exposed roots creating constant trip hazards, we were able to locate (with the help of two exceptionally talented local guides) the very photogenic Resplendent Quetzal.  This colorful red and green trogon-like bird with its long tail feathers prefers to perch deep in the shelter of moss covered foliage of Costa Rica’s rain forest.  This, of course, made locating and photographing this target birds a real challenge.  One morning, we intrepid photographers, under the guidance of our talented local assistants, were able to scramble along an extremely steep, slippery hillside to photography the elusive bird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane and I very much enjoyed our stay in Costa Rica.  I had been once before, but this was the first for Jane and she’s game for going back at some future time.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/10/if-this-is-october-we-must-be-in-costa-rica Wed, 21 Oct 2015 21:18:21 GMT
September Road Trip http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/10/september-road-trip Three thousand five hundred miles and twenty days, that was our Montana/Wyoming road trip for September.  It was a very diverse trip with stops at several wildlife locations for photography.  During the journey we enjoyed seeing a wide variety of wild animals and birds, including: big imposing bison, delicate pronghorn, big eared mule deer, white tailed deer, big-rack elk, full-curl bighorn sheep, high altitude mountain goats, nervous prairie dogs, free roaming wild mustangs, a scurrying black bear, nesting bald eagles, migrating Canada geese and sand hill cranes, noisy Steller’s jays, a lone burrowing owl, chirping meadowlarks, a cautious muskrat, tiny painted turtles, an unexpected osprey, elegant trumpeter swans, a fleeting Clark’s nutcracker, a colorful varied thrush, the aquatic dipper, fishing mergansers, along with various ducks and other LGB’s (little gray birds).  It was quite the menagerie of American wildlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first stop was in rural Charlo, Montana where we had rented a small, remote cabin (www.vrbo/3435680).  From there, we day-tripped to the surrounding wildlife habitats, Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, Kicking Horse Reservoir, McDonald Lake, and the National Bison Range.  We spent most of our time at the Bison Range (www.fws.gov/refuge/national_bison_range) because it had by far the most photogenic subjects.  There were bison, of course, but also pronghorn, deer, and elk, all fairly close to the road.  At the Kicking Horse Reservoir we unexpectedly encountered some muskrats in a small pond adjacent to the reservoir.  From a distance, through the field glasses, we could see them clearly swimming in the pond.  When I got closer to photograph them with the long lens, they quickly headed for their shore-line burrows.  I managed only one keeper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also at this small pond, and others, we noticed several little snouts sticking up out of the water.  After several careful observations, we concluded that they belonged to small turtles.  Some further research yielded a surprise.  It was not any run of the mill turtle, but what we found was the small, painted turtle. indigenous to western Montana.

From this remote retreat in the Mission Valley, west of the Mission Range and south of Flathead Lake, we headed to our own cabin in West Glacier, Montana (www.glacierwildernessresort.com) from where we day-tripped into Glacier National Park, but mostly just kicked back and relaxed for about nine days.  In Glacier, I concentrated my photography on panoramas.  I wanted to practice to see what makes the best panoramic composition.  My conclusion, I need more practice.  I did learn a lot and that always means I need to purchase more gear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left our place in Montana and drove to Wapiti, Wyoming to spend a few days with Don Getty and Joan to photograph the wild mustangs at the Bureau of Land Management, McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area.  Don had assured me that he had never been skunked photographing the wild horses there.  Well, he was not skunked this time either.  We went out to the Management Area on three separate days and saw horses each time.  The second day out, however, proved to be a trying one.  We did not spot any horses until we had been driving on bumpy and dusty dirt tracks for nearly four hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wild Horse Herd Management Area is immense, nearly 110,000 acres.  I don’t really know how big that is, but it sounds big and we spent hours driving the dirt tracks looking for horses.  Finding them we did and the photography was great.  There are suggested rules about keeping an appropriate distance from the wild horses so as not to impact their natural behavior.  The horses, evidently, don’t know about those rules because they came so close to us, that we had to change our behavior.  The photography was good and the companionship with Don and Joan was outstanding.  Jane and I shared a wonderful time with them.  Inevitably, however, it became time to head back to San Diego so we embarked on the long, two day drive home after an all-around great road trip.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/10/september-road-trip Thu, 15 Oct 2015 17:28:22 GMT
Silver Salmon Creek Lodge – Déjà Vu http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/8/silver-salmon-creek-lodge-d-j-vu This August Jane and I found ourselves once again at the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.  It was Déjà Vu all over again.  We were there in 2013 and decided to make a return visit.  Dave and Joanne Coray and their friendly staff are outstanding hosts and we had a wonderful stay at this cozy lodge.  Access is by bush plan from Anchorage with a landing on the beach along the shores of the Cook Inlet.  The journey started with adverse weather conditions in Anchorage resulting in our flight being delayed several hours.  After arriving at the lodge, however, we enjoyed several days of sunshine.

As it was in 2013, the objective of this short, 5-day jaunt, was to photograph the Alaska Coastal Brown Bears, aka as grizzlies.  In August there is a Silver Salmon run which draws the bears to the creek for some high energy fishing.  Salmon migrate from the Cook Inlet to spawn along Silver Salmon Creek and its tributaries.  This time bears were not as numerous as during our trip in July, 2013.  But there was plenty of photo action with bears splashing after the swift fish.  We also were able to observe and photograph young cubs play-fighting as their mother fished for their dinner.  As always in the Alaskan wild, Jane and I had a great time enjoying the diversity and beauty of nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On this trip, there was also the opportunity to sail out to Duck Island on the lodge motorboat.  Duck Island is very small, about the size of a city block in San Diego.  Small as it may be, it is a haven for seabirds, particularly horned puffins.  Photographing from the boat, with substantial surf and swells, proved to be difficult resulting in only a few keepers.  After landing, some good shots of puffins perched near their burrows, doing what puffins do, were possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoy the images from this return trip to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge as much I enjoyed obtaining them.  You can also refer back to the 2013 gallery to see what difference a month makes in the life of a grizzly.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/8/silver-salmon-creek-lodge-d-j-vu Mon, 24 Aug 2015 22:43:08 GMT
July Doldrums http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/8/zen-test If it’s July it must be home improvements month.  Yes, most of July was spent redoing our backyard.  The project started June 15th, right after we returned from Montreal and the Canadian Grand Prix, and was completed on July 23rd.  It all began when one of the pipes to the pool sprung a leak and we had to tear up some of the backyard hardscape for the repair.  Never hesitating to make a big project out of a little one, we opted to just redo the entire yard.  The final results are wonderful, and breathed new life into our enjoyment of the backyard.  It was a comprehensive project and included replacing the wooden, termite infested, patio cover with an aluminum one; replacing cracked pool coping and tile; and installing artificial turf to replace the aged hardscape.  And last, but not least, we also decided to add air conditioning to our home.  We are loving it all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography wise, things were a little slow in July.  One bright spot, I was published again.  Nature Photography ran my story about the Black Bears of Anan Creek and Watching Backyard Birds choose one of my images for its August cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did manage to get some night photography practice.  I call it practice because my images don’t quite come out the way I would like.  First, I wanted to get a full moon setting over the ocean.  In San Diego, with its almost perpetual evening marine layer, that turned out to be a bust.  Then, when I tried for a full moon rising over the city skyline, the morning was overcast.  So those ideas were a total flop with no actual shots at all.  I did make it out to Borrego Springs, with its dark night sky, for some Milky Way photography.  I considered the results mixed so I will try that again. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, in early August, I did get some nice images of butterflies in the wild when I went out with the Photo Naturalists Camera Club to the Bird and Butterfly Garden at San Diego County's Tijuana River Valley Regional Park.  It's amazing what I will photograph when I'm hard up.  Can you believe spiders and grasshoppers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that the July doldrums are over, I’m looking forward to a more robust photography schedule for the remainder of the year. That will start soon with another trip to the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) backyard butterflies construction milky way photography publish remodel travel http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/8/zen-test Tue, 11 Aug 2015 00:07:13 GMT
Grand Prix of Canada http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/6/formula-1-in-montreal June found us in Montreal, Canada.  Jane and I had become interested in Formula 1 car racing some years ago.  Our good departed friend, Lee Robinson, was an avid fan and got us interested.  Each Formula 1 season, as we watched races on television, we would daydream about actually going to a race.  That dream came true this June.  We chose the Grand Prix of Canada because we longed for that international flavor that is Formula 1.  We certainly got that in Montreal where the primary language is french.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a great time browsing the restaurants and sights of Montreal.  But, of course, the real treat was going to our first Grand Prix race.  We had purchased weekend tickets for Friday practice, Saturday qualifying, and Sunday racing.  Jane, the travel wiz had found comfortable accommodations near a metro stop that went directly to the race course.  We had not been in crowds like that since we were at the Fourth of July near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.  We had a hoot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane and I each have our favorite drivers.  Jane favors Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Ferrari.  My unsung hero is Valtteri Bottas, driving for Williams.  We both like Fernando Alonso.  He was previously with Ferrari but now drives for McLaren with a car that is not competitive.  Unfortunately, none of our favorites did well in this race with the exception of Valtteri Bottas who finished third and made it onto the podium.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Canada Formula 1 Grand Prix Montreal cars racing http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/6/formula-1-in-montreal Wed, 24 Jun 2015 19:34:37 GMT
Great Basin National Park http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/5/great-basin-national-park Little did I know, before embarking upon my latest photo journey, that there was another great desert in the western United States.  I have frequently photographed in the iconic areas of the Mojave and Sonora deserts, and the desert-like Colorado Plateau.  But I had never thought of the area between the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch Mountains as a desert.  But that vast geographic area, defined as the Basin and Range Province, is known as the Great Basin Desert and that is where I spent the first week in May photographing.

Tourist accommodations and facilities are few and far between in this inhospitable and isolated area.  U.S. Highway 50 traverses this ocean of ranges and basins and is known as the “loneliest road in America”.  My destination was Great Basin National Park (www.nps.gove/grba), the only national park in Nevada.  I had never been there and was motivated by its remoteness and the potential of photographing inside Lehman Caves that are included in the park.  The first week in May turned out to be a bit early to visit Great Basin National Park.  One of the park’s primary attractions, Wheeler Peak, is some 13,000 feet high and the road up to the high elevation trail heads had not been cleared of snow.

This was a photo excursion that was shared with Bruce Hollingsworth.  Plans for the trip had been made well in advance and I had arranged to stay at the “Home On The Range” in Baker, Nevada (www.endofthetrailer.com) only about six miles from Great Basin National Park.  For the area, this was by far the best accommodation available, two bedrooms, full kitchen, super-fast wifi, and a wonderful “trail boss”, Margaret Pense.  Since we were early in the season and the high elevation roads were not open, Margaret had great suggestions for other day trips which Bruce and I gladly accepted.  So besides photographing in the park, we also explored Cottonwood Wash, an area of Desert Archaic petroglyphs on the National Register of Historic Places, and Crystal Peak, a white, volcanic, rhyolite tuff, mountain in the Wah-Wah Wilderness Area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best tip Margaret had given me, though, was that the Park Service offered private, after-hours, photo tours of Lehman Caves.  I had submitted an application, paid the fees and Bruce and I were escorted into the cave, with tripods and flashes, after hours, by Dustin our assigned Park Ranger.  We spent three hours with Dustin photographing to our heart’s content.  WOW!!!  How fun was that?  All in all, we had so much fun that Bruce and I discussed the possibility of a return trip to this isolated part of the American west.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Crystal Peak Great Basin Desert Great Basin National Park Lehman Caves Nevada Wah-Wah Wilderness Area Wheeler Peak http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/5/great-basin-national-park Sun, 10 May 2015 00:44:09 GMT
Grand Staircase - Esacalante http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/4/grand-staircase---esacalante In 1998, some seventeen years ago, Jane and I rented a four-wheel drive Blazer in San Diego and spent two weeks touring the backroads of southern Utah.  That vacation included travel through the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, created less than two years prior to our trip.  Recalling the adventure and the amazing scenery of that first journey, I had wanted to revisit and photograph the landscapes and arches of the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument.  And, that is exactly what I did in April, 2015.

The original plan was that Jane would join me on this excursion.  Then, while I was deep into planning the routes and photo locations, Jane had a change of heart and decided she would prefer to stay home.  Bruce Hollingsworth, who frequently joins me on photo trips, had commitments that prevented him from coming along.  During my research I had come across Jens Munthe, the author of a book descibing many of the arches found in the Monument and that I wanted to photograph.  Since I did not think it wise to wander in the desert looking for arches by myself, Jens kindly offered to guide me to the photo sites I had selected.  In the meantime, Bruce had cleared his calendar and was able to join me after all.

The Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument is a vast, 1.9 million acre, wilderness.  There are only a few washboard encrusted dirt roads.  For our excursion into this immense, remote area, I had selected to stay four days in the small community of Escalante and concentrate photography along the primitive Hole-In-The-Rock Road.  Accommodations were at the Circle D motel (www.escalantecircledmotel.com) a very nice, refurbished property with a very energetic and helpful host.  After exploring along the Hole-In-The-Rock Road, we moved to an even smaller community, Cannonville, to photograph along the Cottonwood Wash Road for three days and stayed at the Grand Staircase Inn (www.grandstaircaseinn.com).  Also an adequate accommodation but don't stay on the third floor if you have a lot of gear like we did.  There was no elevator but the staff was very helpful and informative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am so grateful to Jens for all his advice and help during the planning and implementation of my trip.  Even though there were now two of us, Bruce and I concluded that we would not have found all the arches and slot canyons we photographed if it had not been for Jens.  On our very first day out, Jens led us to three very photogenic arches that had not even been on my radar.  The most fascinating site we visited, however, was the Peek-A-Boo slot canyon.  This excursion began with a moderately challenging hike along a poorly cairned trail.  Thanks to Jens, we had no trouble locating the slot entrance.  The difficulty was in actually entering the canyon which required scrambling up a steep, 15 foot, slick-rock dropoff.  After some hardy attempts, none of us could struggle our way up the dropoff, especially with camera gear, even though handholds had been carved in the slick-rock sandstone.

Fortunately, Jens knew of a back way into the canyon and that is where we ended up entering it.  Peek-A-Boo is not a very long canyon but it is a very, very narrow one.  Even turned sideways, there were spots where we had to push and scrape ourselves through the confining red, sandstone walls of the canyon.  The ultimate reward for all this strenuous effort was the ability to photograph a double arch inside the slot canyon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As per usual, not everything was perfect.  We had several days of very strong winds with gusts up to 45 MPH creating dust and aggravation as we hiked along sandy trails or attempted to set up for a photo shoot.  We tried as best we could to protect our camera gear from the swirling sand and dust but still had to use compressed gas in a can to blow the grit off the cameras, lenses and tripods.  We also had snow.  Not much, but enough to keep us off some of the dirt-clay tracks we had to traverse to reach our photo sites.  None-the-less, the venture into the canyons of the Grand Staircase was amazingly successful with new discoveries and amazing photo ops every day.

Images from this journey can be found in the Grand Staircase - Escalante gallery.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Cannonville Cottonwood Wash Road Escalante Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Hole In The Rock Road Utah arch arches natural bridge slot canyon travel http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/4/grand-staircase---esacalante Sun, 26 Apr 2015 22:37:39 GMT