Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

The forever trail

It was just supposed to be a short hike, a 3.5-mile jaunt called the sycamore Canyon Loop at Mount Diablo State Park. But one thing led to another and before you know it my hiking partner Alice DeLaurier-O'Neil and I were in the middle of 14 mile or so hike along Curry Point as we warmed up for next months climb to the summit.

We had expected the many colors of fall to be on the trees but we think we missed the seasonal change. We did find some of the red and yellow hues as we hike along the canyon.

The hike was a study of the different ecosystems Mount Diablo has to offer. From dry grasslands to groves of live oak trees we headed up along the path capturing the sites on our climb.

Near the end of the climb was the dry Frog Pond. Guarding the dry pond bed was dead tree that I swear resembled an angry scorpion.

One final push up the steep dirt trail and we headed along the last trail for our return march along the road to starting point parking lot. The summit building was tantalizingly close but with darkness approaching we turned for home.

The next hike will likely be the last of the year and the most challenging as we make that march from bottom to top and back.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I was assigned to shoot the downtown Halloween Parade this Saturday and I have to say it was the most fun I have had on assignment in a while.

Halloween costumes have certainly changed from my trick-or-treating days but the classics live on like the Wolfman.

I must admit I get lost whenever I stumble across a Disney theme costume. I just don’t do Disney.

The best costume for the day by far was a cardboard and duct tape “Transformers” costume that changed into a semi truck.

Big guns

I was shooting the Tracy High varsity football game last Friday night when journalism teacher Wayne Thallander was showing off his latest piece of photo equipment. It is a fresnel lens attachment for his electronic flash.

Using the same concept that allows lighthouse to send a beam of light miles out to sea the attachment focus the flash power to illuminate a subject much further away than normal.

It seems to work ok, I wanted to try to bounce the light off a low flying Russian spy satellite but I didn’t want to start another war.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Studies have shown that the eye is drawn to faces in photographs. It’s just a plain fact. So we try to get faces in our pictures whenever we can. Even if the subject isn’t a person.

Animals can be difficult; my experience with pet of the week has shown me that. The larger and more exotic the animal it seems the harder it gets. I was assigned to shoot a farm field trip and among the subjects were a llama and Texas long horn steer. Both did their best to avoid the camera but I was eventually able to snap a couple of quick portraits.

Road wrecks

There have been a couple of spectacular crashes lately that unfortunately are most likely caused by young drivers under the influence. The most recent was two-car hit and run accident that ended with a fire hydrant being sheared off.

The crash is terrible, fortunately no one was seriously hurt but the effort to get to the scene quickly was rewarded with the view of the geyser from the broken fire plug. The hardest part of getting the picture is trying to stay dry.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Morgan Territory Pt. II

Clear skies and cool weather called for a hike today so with hiking partner Alice DeLaurier-O’Neil I headed back to Morgan Territory outside Livermore.

This hike would follow a slightly different path heading out from the staging area along the Coyote Trail. This would be another 4 hour hike but with a greatly different view.

Last week’s hike was grasslands and rolling hills while today found us in shade lined grove glowing green with moss. Our hike had us descend into this quiet grove marked by the sound of falling acorns on the trail.

Photo opportunities were around every bend in the trail. From the moss covered landscape to weathered trees to the occasional manzanita tree standing as a red beacon among the cool green tones the hike was a fantastic photo shoot. Even a mysterious animal skull left on a log made for great picture.

The fall colors emerged slowly from the shade and eventually we reached the grassland areas from a week ago. The withered trees lined the trail with a Halloween look just right for the season.

Walking along the dirt trail we spotted fresh mountain lion tracks left in the mud from the Friday rain. Alice stopped to snap a few frames of the paw prints as they wound along our path.

From the lush greens to the dry browns today’s hike was a great study in colors and light. It is fun times with two more hikes scheduled for this year, a mild warm up hike and then the big one, a climb up Mount Diablo from bottom to top. I can only imagine what pictures I will take there.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What a way to start the day

I am not in the newsroom 10 minutes this morning when the scanner goes off alerting a structure fire outside city limits. I waited for the first engine company to arrive on scene and when the words “structure fully involved” I grabbed my camera and ran.

An abandoned farmhouse was burned to the ground and when I arrived the flames were still high. I grabbed a few shots of the crews working the scene around the flames and getting lost in the smoke. I arrived back at the office only to be told I smelled like an old garbage dump fire. That is just one of the perks of being a photojournalist.

Don’t rain on my parade

It is hard to believe but this is likely the first time in over 25 years that rain has dampened the Tracy High homecoming parade.

I had to slosh through the downtown parade route as it made its rain-soaked way along central Avenue and 10th Street.

There is nothing fun about shooting in the rain. I had a good mix of shots from students trying to make the best of the rain as they waited for the parade to the soggy floats and open top cars fighting the rain on the route.

All I know is I have a waterproof hat on order from REI and it can’t arrive too soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Long shot

I usually preach get as close as you can, shoot with as long a focal length lens as you can and shoot as wide open an aperture as you can when shooting sports photos. Two out of three isn’t bad for this picture shot at a Tracy High versus Franklin High soccer match.

I was shooting Tracy on offense that usually placed me even with the painted goal line for the Franklin goal box. The action in this picture was happening all the way in front of the Tracy High goal where the Tracy player (left) headed the ball away form the Franklin player and the goal on the corner kick.

All the action was flowing toward the Tracy goal and often thought about moving. Murphy’s 1st Law of sports photography states the action always occurs on the side of the field farthest away from you so I knew I was hosed no matter where I stood. Instead I just fired away with the 300mm f. 4.0 lens and 1.4 extender attached to the camera. The result is not bad at all and captures a peak moment of action.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Last day

Most of my assignments with the police involve accidents or crime scenes but today I finally had a chance for a few fun photos with them today. Police officer Dave McClanahan retied after 26 years on the Tracy Police force.

He received a police escort to work and was met at the door by friends and co-workers as he arrived for his last day at work. It is one of those assignments where a little bit of sadness is mixed in with a whole lot of silliness. I think I like those assignments the best.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Morgan Territory

The latest hiking adventure found me in the grasslands of the Morgan Territory Regional Preserve in the hills outside Livermore. Seven miles hiking through the grassy slopes lie ahead. This hike would find me on the trail with our newest hiking partner Cheri Matthews.

The territory is best described as a desolate place for good reason. A lone jogger and a couple of hiker with dog in tow were our only company on our four-hour walk.

As far as photo opportunities there were not as many as some of the other hikes but I tried to make the best of my time on the trail. Old withered trees were the most interesting item, as they lay scattered among the live oaks dotting the grasslands.

On the trail we noticed a series of paw prints that we guessed were from a mountain line passing through. Other prints were mixed in with the tire and sneaker tracks and were most likely from a raccoon.

Our hike took us close to the Los Vaqueros Watershed and its reservoir. We hiked to the gate before heading back to the parking lot. Along the way we took in the many trees, some bearing a mystery fruit.

Almost home we stopped to check for voice mail and make a quick text message. Our brisk pace on the trail got us back to the parking lot in time to see dozens of Mini Coopers arrive for a club meeting.

I hadn’t been on a hike in some time and it fell good to hit the trails again. I’m not sure where the next hike will take me but I am looking forward to more camera time in the field.