Scary Trees. My annual fall color road trip to the East Sierra’s brought the unexpected. First, the government shutdown meant 120 Tioga Pass through Yosemite was empty, and driving without any traffic at all on this pass was erie. Second, the Rim Fire added a burning smell soon after Groveland, and huge areas of earth lay scorched, some patches still smoldering. Without any traffic, I parked on the side of the road and wandered in silence through a burnt forest. This must have been a fiery hell.
First morning of Autumn. And the new Bay Bridge glows and reflects on the bay. The crisp clear air before daybreak is invigorating. As I shot this 3 minute exposure, a skunk wanders by on the rocks near waters edge. More at http://www.flickr.com/photos/99501200@N03/sets/72157635651628304/
The Los Vaqueros Watershed. And what vibrant colors during high-noon. This is a reservoir for water storage for drought or emergencies (for about a half million people), and an area of protected open spaces and recreation. Only a handful of fishermen and women were on the south east shore, and hiking north it was erie, even in broad daylight. The rattlesnake and mountain lion warning signs didn’t help, and that caused me to take it slow with my Keene sandals thru the brush to get some shoreline photos. On the north side entrance from Brentwood is the dam, but uninspiring. On the south entrance just north of Livermore, there are isolated, beautiful compositions of single, decomposing trees, textures, color and contrast. The marina btw, is immaculate, with BBQ stations and beautiful drought-tolerant landscaping. A nice unexpected find. I just wished the marina store had some ice cold beer!
Prelude to Daylight. This summer’s trip to Florence and other small hill towns in Tuscany and Umbria provided a special challenge: record heat. Most days were in the upper 90’s, with 4 days in a row at 102 in Florence. To beat the heat (and the crowds), I woke at 4:30 each morning, and began to wander the alleys, streets, and piazza’s in the dark at 5AM. I was surprised to be the only one out, even in a large city like Florence. The air was cooler but still t-shirt comfortable. I call this series Prelude to Daylight. By 7AM it was over–the sun was up, and people began to emerge into the streets. Then it became street photography time, photographing people during the hot afternoon hours, but looking forward to the next mornings shoot. As a side note, on this trip I left my DSLR’s at home, and only used my small Fuji X100 and XE-1.
Pedalfest, everything bike. From pedal-powered electricity for performing bands, to pedal-powered blenders for smoothies, pedal-powered “Cyclecide”,this was a bicycle celebration with over 25,000 attendees at Jack London Waterfront, Oakland. My favorite were the BMX stunt bikes, and the amazing maneuvers, speed and height these riders reached on such small bikes. I found a perfect spot under one of the ramps, and have a nice series of them void of any distractions. And some crazy looks! The Lungomare Pedalfest Pig Roast and New Belgium beer was also a highlight.
Rodeo in the Big Meadows. Bridgeport CA northeast of Yosemite is the seat of Mono County. It’s fertile green meadows extends to the foot of dramatic Sierra mountains. Famous for it’s Big Trout Tournament (the town is surrounded by 6 beautiful lakes), they also put on quite a rodeo. This was an unexpected event while passing through on the way to Stanislaw National Forest. The setting was truly spectacular, with great weather and friendly people, and the BBQ and cold beer perfect!
We pour doubles unless otherwise requested. Overlooking the Carquinez Strait is Port Costa, a quirky town of about 240 people, and you’ll find a one-of-a-kind biker bar called The Warehouse Cafe.The New York Times wrote “…the Warehouse Cafe is densely packed with kitschy memorabilia and has been described as a museum for drinkers. A round table was supposedly used by the League of Nations, and the stuffed beasts include a Cape Horn buffalo and a grimacing polar bear looming over a dead seal cub.” The huge concrete building was once a storage facility for wheat and potatoes, but once the railroad bridge was opened in 1930 the town of 3000 declined to a few hundred. Also check out The Burlington Hotel across the street, an old brothel with room names like Nell, Milly, and Fanny. There’s good live music Sundays–blues-rock and a cold wheat beer, now that’s a summer Sunday afternoon!
A Memorial Ride. Last weekend I attended a Memorial for someone who completely changed the direction of my life. 31 years ago Professor A. Doyle Moore was our senior year Graphic Design teacher at University of Hawaii. He paved the way for me (and 4 other classmates from Hawaii—we were “The Hawaiians”) to attend the University of Illinois Master of Fine Arts program, and that lead to a design career in Chicago. I wanted to take the long way there, the “Governor’s Highway”, route 50 and 45, stopping in small towns to appreciate the quiet, vast, open spaces and reflect on all the good times and people I met during that period. My first stop was Peotone, where I met Melanie, proud owner of the most beautiful barber shop I’ve ever seen. Then continuing on to Manteno, Chebanse, Clifton, Ashkum, Danforth, Gliman, Onarga, Buckley, Loda, Paxton, Rantoul (quite a nice air museum there!), and finally Champaign-Urbana. The trip included towns visited 30 years ago, and confirmed what I already knew—the midwest people are friendly, congenial, and more than happy to provide directions, tell a tale, or give a tip to see a site. I loved the quiet streets, endless site lines that seemed to go on forever, and the expressive sky. A fitting pre-Memorial drive.
Limantour Memorial Daybreak. Early morning hours at Limantour Beach in Point Reyes provides ample wildlife action and strange surreal landscapes carved out by the overnight surge. Pelicans fly-surf waves, along with ducks and gulls. And everyone is feasting on a variety of crabs on shore (and at 7AM I’m getting hungry for shellfish). The low tide exposes strange sand patterns that are normally under water at the very north end of Limantour, as well as pristine, foot-print free sand dunes. At this hour no one is around, except perhaps a big cat, coyote or some other animal, as I noticed the tracks leading from the shore to the dunes. Another animal enjoying the seafood buffet? By mid-morning the birds are gone, the tide rolls in, and the ocean hides what was once exposed–crabs, jellyfish, sand dollars, kelp, etc. And more people arrive in the parking lot as I leave. A perfect start to part 1 of Memorial Day, and its not even noon yet.
Pole Day at Indianapolis 500. A reunion. 25 years ago living in Chicago I attended the Indy 500 time trials with my dear friend Jim. It was about time to repeat the experience. The 3 1/2 hour drive from Chicago to Speedway can be boring, if you have nothing to talk about, but we had much to discuss. We relished each minute as we headed east, and the conversations and humor flowed endlessly. A rain delayed Saturday gave way to perfect track conditions, carrying into Sunday’s “bump day”. Immediately entering the race course we walked to turn 1 where you can watch at eye-level cars whipping into the turn at 225 MPH. No braking, full throttle around then bend, a blink of the eye and the car is gone. You are only 4-6 feet away from the driver at this spot and the wind will blow your cap off. Multiply this by 33 cars and you have the Indy 500, oval track madness. In August, Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma arrives here, and a road course is my favorite. Let there be summer!