Sunday, June 30, 2013

2013 Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt Part 1

For this summer I've joined Rinda's Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt. Rinda has a list of 21 items we should find over the summer, photograph them and then post about them.

My start has been very slow, and I am pretty sure that I can't do all of the 21 items. However, for me it's always important to have FUN while doing things like this, and not put any kind of pressure on myself. So far I have found four of the items.

#2 Theater for performing arts (not a movie theater)

This is the outside of the auditorium at our Junior College where every summer we go to the plays of the Summer Repertory Theater. The plays these students from all over the country put on stage are quite amazing. Yesterday we went to the opening night of "Shrek - The Musical" and we thoroughly enjoyed it. There was so much energy on stage, it was contagious. This was the hottest day of the year so far (102 F), I was taking this picture against the sun which was starting to set behind the building. The sky turned out completely white, so I layered the photo with a texture and then removed the textured from the building, people and tree again.

#7 A sign that is intentionally or unintentionally funny

During one of my walks through our neighborhood I discovered this sign. There are far less cats here than in my old neighborhood. There I always had cats in my backyard (perhaps you remember Geeda and even Ginger), but not so here. Instead, the bird population has exploded, and that is really nice as well.

#10 A bench that is outside

This bench you have already seen in this post, but I had originally photographed it for the scavenger hunt - so here it is. I still love this dad and his daughter on - perhaps their first - fishing outing together.

#19 A fisherman

I could have cheated and taken the same photo as above... OR if not a fisherman, then perhaps fisherGIRLS would work as well. However, my first thought when I saw these girls was "mermaids".

If you want to see what other photographers found, you can go to Rinda's link up post and check it all out.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Puppy Love

Because of serious allergies, we cannot have any pets in our house. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I had at least one dog and two cats.

So I befriend other people's dogs and cats. My friends' dogs love when I come to their houses because they know that I will play with them and give them some good belly rubs. One of my friends is a "puppy mom" for Canine Companions for Independence - the dog has her puppies in her home and she raises and looks after them for their first eight weeks, until they will be turned in to CCI and eventually start their training. It is one of the finest programs.

My friend currently has a litter of seven golden retriever puppies. They were not quite six weeks old when Kaefer and I stopped by and spend a couple hours with those super cute little dogs.

When we arrived, they were still snoozing - and for some, it didn't even look very comfortable. However, that changed very quickly when they saw where the fun was.

They loved to play with Kaefer's shoelaces and "opened" them repeatedly (future service dogs!).

There were four girls and three boys, and since they were a "C" litter all their names started with C. Each one had a different colored collar so that we could tell them apart.

They loved to play and explore, but also enjoyed a good belly rub.

After so much fun, they were tired again and returned to some more sleeping.

They look totally cute, but they are also a lot of work. These guys sure keep you on your toes!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Composing at the Lake

Waiting for customers

Recently I walked around "my" lake again. This time I wanted to take different pictures here than I usually do - no herons and egrets, no plants, no trees... but pictures of all the other "stuff" that I can find around the lake.

Since I had just gone through "The art of seeing" by Cathy Walters, I paid special attention to composing my image through my viewfinder and not later while editing. Now, don't get me wrong, I usually don't "snap" photos and then edit them later, I always have a vision and compose the image while taking it, but sometimes I feel time pressured or am not quite sure and then crop the photo accordingly in Photoshop. This time, however, I really wanted to have the finished composition in most cases, and I am happy to report that I succeeded in doing that. Not only did I allow myself more time for every single shot, I also had more fun and "saw" more.

I took several shots of these tables and chairs at the Lakeside Grill until I was really happy with the composition. I tried vertical and horizontal frames and felt that this one was more dynamic. I also like the monochromatic color.

The picnic benches were different. Since they were part in shade and part in sun, the exposure was a real challenge and I am not too happy about this final shot as there are still too many spots that are "burnt out".

The crow was another challenge - the black bird was in the shade, checking out the barbecue. I brightened it up in Photoshop, but it got the light blueish tint that I couldn't get rid off. However, I still like the shot for its "story".

photo of the week

What is it about boats that I find so attractive? I just love a boat on water - I took so many pictures of this rowing boat - from the side, from behind etc. - but this one kept being the favorite from the very beginning. There really isn't much to see, but you get the feeling of openness, the future before you... you know what I mean.

A little detail at the Lakeside Grill

This is one of those water distribution systems (I think). Actually, it's just a detail, the whole thing was much bigger - you probably know what they look like, you can find them everywhere (and if it's not for water distribution or regulation, please let me know in the comments). I am not at all used to this kind of "industrial photography" and I am not sure whether I really like it. It was interesting to try several shots, but to be honest, my heart wasn't in it.

I was delighted when I saw this guy fishing with his little daughter. Somehow it was so touching.

And seriously, who can resist these geese butts??? A different kind of water ballet.

And after all - even though I said so - I could NOT resist taking (tons of) pictures of my beloved black-crowned night herons.

Could YOU pass up a beauty like this one??? Yes, they have red eyes like this!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Over the recent weeks I was in a creative slump - scratch the "creative", there was no creativity at all. I haven't painted for weeks and even my photography was kind of plain. There was no inspiring bolt, just nothing. I actually think I need a break, but that still has to wait a little bit.

So I signed up for a very "simple" photography class that I found among Jeanne Oliver's summer classes. It's called "The art of seeing" by Cathy Walters.

There wasn't any new exciting information about photography for me in that class (and I hadn't expected that), but it gave me some good inspiration, and that was what I had been looking for. One of the projects (my favorite one) is to take 10 images a day (or whatever amount we like) for a week about our "dailyness". I very seldom take pictures of my "normal" daily life, so I dove right into it.

That day happened to be laundry day in my house. Is there anything more boring than doing laundry (well, cleaning the house, I guess, which I am totally in unfavor of - mildly put)? But with Kaefer's happy colored shirts and my colorful clothes pegs it turned into a joyful task.

I love to hang-dry our clothes, at least in the summer. Sure, it is more work, but hanging the clothes actually holds something very meditative.

My least favorite part of laundry is probably folding the clothes - as you can see from my pictures, I skipped the ironing. I don't do it, period (here goes your image of the German housewife, right?)

Tell me, do you like to do laundry or is it a dreadful chore? Which chore do you like the best and which one would you avoid if you could?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

After the Party

Every other Thursday evening we meet with our German friends for "Stammtisch". Stammtisch in Germany is the big table in a pub where the locals meet - no one else would sit there. The table is usually marked by a big heavy ashtray that carries the name "Stammtisch". However, we German-Californians meet at our houses. Every time it is hosted by someone else, everybody brings something to eat and there is always a big bottle of wine that the winemaker in our circle "donates".

Last Thursday it was our turn. We had a really lovely time, sitting outside, eating, drinking, talking and laughing a lot. Afterwards, it looked like this:

I layered this photo with Kim Klassen's texture "kk_daisy" after I had rotated it by 90 degrees to the left. I used blending mode Linear Burn at 100% and brightened up the image a little bit. Done.

This is for Texture Tuesday - free and easy for the entire summer.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Angels are Bowling

Usually thunderstorms are rather rare in this part of coastal Northern California. There are not more than two of them in a year at the most, and almost all of them happen in the winter. Even then, they are short lived – a little bit of lightning, two or three thunders and that’s it. Nothing remarkable at all and a far cry from the thunderstorms I experienced in Germany and East Asia.

However, this year is anything but a usual year.

Last Sunday night I woke up to rolling thunder...

Want to read more of this? Please head over to Vision and Verb where it is my turn to write today. 
Enjoy the story!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Shadow Play

I haven't been here for over a week. Kaefer had surgery last week, she got all her wisdom teeth out, and I took the chance to spoil her a little bit. She is back to her "old" self by now and doing very well.

In the mornings, when I am sitting in my kitchen which faces northeast, I like to see all the shadows the early sunlight throws on the wall and kitchen counters.

But it also plays with the light in my "pantry" which is just an open shelf. It's the combination of shadow and light plus the morning silence that I really love. It's the time when I am usually at peace and the entire day is waiting for me.

This blue bottle stands in one of my kitchen windows and I love the little glow the sunlight turns it into.

photo of the week
What do your mornings look like right now?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Places of my Heart: Bryce Canyon National Park

There are some places in the world that are so beautiful they take your breath away no matter how often you visit them. Bryce Canyon in Southwestern Utah certainly falls into this category.

Its name is misleading - Bryce Canyon is not a canyon at all, it is not formed by a river. It is a formation of pink/sienna cliffs; or to be more accurate, a series of amphitheaters eroded from the cliffs by the weather. It  is the highlight of the Grand Staircase, a series of step-like uplifted rock layers stretching north from the Grand Canyon.

Bryce Canyon, at an altitude between 7000 and 9000 feet above sea level (the air IS thinner here), eventually eroded into interesting formations, the oddest and most remarkable among them the so-called hoodoos.

In this picture, taken during the day, they are pink (sort of). But look at them in the morning, right at sunrise and see how they change color.

This changing of the color goes on during the entire day. The hoodoos and other formations (pinnacles, spires, crevices etc.) also have different colors within themselves which can make quite spectacular sights.

I visited Bryce Canyon in late September, but mostly in the winter. The white and pink/sienna colors create a beautiful contrast.

If you don't have much time, you can drive along the road at the rim and admire the "canyon" from above. That alone will be an unforgettable experience. However, there are a few trails leading down into the center of the hoodoos, the most famous ones being the Queens Garden Trail and the more challenging Navajo Trail. Both remain open during winter; however, especially the Navajo Trail is still quite a challenge because there are many parts where the sun doesn't reach and the trail can be very icy. Even with good hiking boots I sometimes got down on all fours in order to proceed. Be prepared for a strenuous hike, especially on the way back up to the rim (carry enough water!!).

However, it is worth it. Navajo Trail is one of the most beautiful hiking experiences.

Right beneath the rim where you can see the trail winding down

It is very steep

The constant changing of the light and colors is fascinating

It's hard to believe that anything would grow here. 

Looking up!

When you have reached the bottom, it is a very comfortable and beautiful hike. From here you get a completely different perspective of Bryce Canyon. You have time to explore the rock formations and trees (with your eyes only, please!).

From here you can stay on the Navajo Loop and return to the rim or you can connect to the Queens Garden Trail and return through some spectacular scenery.

Up on the rim you will see many mule deer as well as lots of chipmunks and ground squirrels. There is an abundance of birds in the park. I will always love the ravens.

Close to the very end of the Rim Road near Rainbow Point you can see this beautiful rock arch.

Here's a view beyond Bryce Canyon - the entire area is simply breath taking. Those mountains in the back you can see for ever when you approach Bryce Canyon via Highway 12, one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Utah - but that would be another blog post.

Bryce Canyon faces East and South, so one thing you shouldn't miss is the sunrise there. Yes, it means getting up early, and in winter it is freaking cold. However, it is something you will never forget. The best view for a sunrise (in my humble opinion) is from Inspiration Point. From here you can see the sun creeping over the mountains and how first a little bit of the amphitheater is illuminated and gradually more and more, until the entire formation is covered with the most beautiful light you can imagine.