Jane and I scheduled a major bathroom remodel project to start after our return from Colorado in late June. The contractor, Rancho Kitchen and Bath (www.ranchokb.com), started work on July 2nd. We can't say enough good things about Rancho. The workmanship was outstanding, the workers friendly, the work finished ahead of schedule, and most importantly on budget. That means construction will be completed well in advance of our fall trip. Of course, I could not wait two months before taking some more pictures. So, Bruce Hollingsworth and I made a couple of short trips to while away the time. First, we plied our skills at Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach, California (www.bolsachica.org). From there we came back to San Diego for some shooting at Santee Lakes and the Tijuana Estuary. At Bolsa Chica we met some other wildlife photographers and one of them, Patrick O'Healy (www.ohealyimages.zenfolio.com), joined us at Santee Lakes (www.santeelakes.com) and the Tijuana Estuary (www.tijuanaestuary.com). After that, Bruce and I spent a few days further afield photographing Bristlecone Pines in the White Mountains and the Alabama Hills adjacent to Mount Whitney.
For me, Bolso Chica was a bust. This was partially due to my lack of skill in photographing small birds in flight, but mostly due to the lack of birds. The photographers we met at Bolsa Chica had come specifically to photograph black skimmers and they were pretty much skunked as well. It was pretty much the same at the Tijuana Estuary. We attempted to shoot some snowy plovers, but they are very small and difficult to approach for full frame shots. Our best bird shots, although not numerous, were at Santee Lakes. There, we spent some time photographing male and female wood ducks. In July, the males were not sporting there colorful breeding plumage, but were, nevertheless, very attractive birds. A little chumming with cracked corn brought the ducks within easy range for full frame shots. We also practiced our patience waiting for a perched osprey to spead its wings and fly off. It paid off! We had waited about 30 to 45 minutes, when it finally took flight. We got some decent images from that little trip. We concluded, however, that most southern California bird photography locations are best during the winter months when birds are migrating.
To set the stage for our next trip, I need to tell you that the Bristlecone Pine forest in the White Mountains is a long 50 minute drive from Big Pine (www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5129900). That meant early morning and late everning photography required an extensive drive up and down a steep, narrow and twisty mountain road in the wee hours of the morning and evening. Not only that, there are two major bristlecone pine groves. The second grove is an additional half hour on a steep, dirt tract. I convinced Bruce that it would be best if we were to camp out at the Grandview Campground (www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo/recreation/camping.../recarea/?...29) about five miles from the first grove. Bruce was up for it and had all the necessary camping gear we needed for our stay on the mountain.
I would say that our trip to the Bristlecone Pine forest was a success. The weather cooperated by supplying a very threatening stormy sky without actually raining on us. Both Bruce and I got some very attractive images of the trees. I won't go into detail about the age and hardiness of the bristlecone pine but only direct you to my images in the Summer Potpourri of Images gallery. The images did not come without a price, however. Bruce and I hiked at least a total of eight miles carrying are photo gear up and down the trails at elevations ranging over 11,000 feet.
At the campground, we chummed in some forest critters with bird seed. After some time, the critters became habituated to our presence and we spent several hours sitting comfortably in our camp chairs watching and photographing them. First came the golden-mantled ground squirrels. They would scurry around, squabbling with each other, and stowing away the seeds in their expanding cheeck pouches. There were also some much smaller Uinta chipmunks around. But these were shy, timid, aloof and never within camera range. That's when I decided it was time for the ultimate critter attractor, peanut butter. I pasted some of the nectar on the branches of a Utah Juniper tree and waited for the elixir to work. It did not take long. First, the golden-mantled ground squirrels availed themselves of the goody. Then came the Uinta chipmunks. These nimble creatures took a more direct route jumping from low ground bushes onto the branches of the juniper. It was quite a circus to watch.
The last stop on our trip to the Owens Valley was Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills (www.blm.gov/ca/bishop/alabamas.html). I don't mind telling you that I find landscape photography very challenging and the Alabama Hills are doubly so. With the exception of the Mobius Arch, we concentrated most of our time on photographing Mount Whitney at sunrise and sunset. On the second day of shooting, we were again fortunate to have billowy clouds over the mountain both in the morning and evening. The morning alpenglow shots turned out particularly well.
You can see images from these trips in the A Summer Potpourri Of Pictures gallery. And here is my commercial announcement: you get order prints of any image on my website directly using the "buy" link after selecting the image. If you would like blank photo-greeting cards of any images, please contact me via the "send message" link under Contact.
Jane and I are now looking forward to the completion of the bathroom remodel and our upcoming trip to the Purcell Mountain Lodge in the Canadian Rockies. Tell you about that adventure when we return.