Thursday, June 30, 2011

Naughty dogs

The Tracy Animal Shelter described a mix lot of puppies available for adopting at the shelter as bad boys and naughty girls. When I asked them why they were misbehaving the answer was they were bad because they keep pooping on themselves.
Maybe they will come with a package of Pampers if you adopt them.  Could help.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What the hell?

Just checking the calendar to make sure we are still in June...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Road rage

Quick, where's the turn lane?  Where the hell  are any of the lanes?
For those who have had to endure the nightmare of Grant Line Road during the construction every time we see the light at the end of the tunnel we realize we have reached another dead end in the never-ending saga of horrible driving conditions on the road.  Last time it was the poorly placed and confusing  lane marking that gave residents and visitors to the road a slalom course to navigate their way through the construction zone.  I guess the city elders felt the best thing then was to remove all the lane markings and see what happens.

Yep no lane markings.  No turn lane arrows, no lane dividers- the only lane assignments are small plastic tabs set down to mark the lane boundaries.  I guess that is what they are there for.  You can't tell and its not like the city or construction company is going out of the way to place signs, markers or even a flagmen to help drivers steer their way way through this blight.  You are on your own if you are stupid enough to try and tread the roadway.
Nice job of removing the lane marking, wouldn't want to make it easy for drivers.
I was heading to a scanner call on Holly Drive yesterday and I had to cross Grant Line Road.  Heading north at the intersection there were no markings to distinguish which were the right, left and straight ahead lanes.  I sort of  knew where they should be and as I started to cross the intersection the driver next to me in what was the left turn lane was going straight through too.  He figured out in time and stopped to let me go first before we crashed.  A near miss that should have never happened in the first place.

I returned to the office and angrily called the city to complain.  Why were there no lane markings in the intersection I asked?  the answer came back they were doing road work and paving.  No shit- really?  I would have never guessed.  then I was told it was the contractor who must have forgot to replace the road marking which was supposed to be done at the end of the day.  I drove back at 5:00 pm and not a soul around.  I took the pictures showing the unmarked pavement and headed out to another assignment.
It's not like we need to know which lane we are supposed to be in.
I managed to find a city councilman and vent my frustrations.  Not sure why someone in city engineering would pass the buck of responsibility on to the contractor.  it's the city's road and in the end they are responsible for the road conditions.  If someone gets hurt or killed in an accident because of their sloppy work I am sure they will blame each other instead of figuring out why the job wasn't done right in the first place.

Driving to work today I saw a series of small left turn arrows placed in the road marking the intersections.  It seems my venting fell on someone's ear as they marked it for drivers this morning.  It is sad that it took an angry call for the city to make sure the right thing happened.  I am just glad no one had to get hurt first for it to happen.
Will this road construction ever end?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Holy crap!

A new type of photography was announced with the introduction of the Light Field Camera.  I'm not sure what it looks like details are sketchy but its selling point is "shoot now focus later".

With this camera you can change the point of focus and or depth of field at will whenever you like on a computer.  Sounds too freaky.  I messed around with the examples on their website and I am intrigued.  it sounds like it would virtually make an out of focus image a thing of the past.  Stay tuned when I get more details I will post them here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Crowd control

Walking up to the stage area for the first summer concert series I knew I had a bit of a challenge in front of me.  Construction at Lincoln Park forced a venue change moving the concert series to Civic Center Plaza behind city hall.  Gone was the city's community stage replaced with a  platform for the band to play from.   Tracy native Megan Slankard was scheduled to open the concert series with a 7:00 p.m. concert.  Shadows splayed across the stage as the trees rustled in a light breeze just behind  the stage.   Hello trouble.
My biggest challenge shooting the concert would be controlling the background.  A hodgepodge of colors, brightness values, tones and exposures awaited the band as I looked for shooting angles.  Nothing looked promising, every direction I could shoot from looked like it had issues with either exposure values, or too much going on in the background.  The community trailer gave me a solid one color background while at Civic Center Plaza I was faced with trees, light poles and buildings.  It was a mess from every vantage point.  The stage had two large sets of speakers on either end which gave me a narrow opening to shoot the band.  I was getting locked into some unfavorable shooting positions.

On the bright side of things it was still daylight so i could break out the long lenses with the extender and try and get some crowd control that way.  My quickly formulated plan was to shoot with as long a lens as I could standing as close as I could and shooting the lens as wide open aperture as I could.  Hopefully that would minimize the background issues into a blur. I still had the exposure problems to consider.

Half the stage was in shadow and half was in a nice low fading light as sunset near.  The shadow area would be tinged cyan from the shade and the fading light would bring a healthy amount of yellow to this party.  I figured I would correct as best I could in Photoshop exposing for the faces and let whatever backgrounds highlights wash out as they may.

I had some harsh sidelight from the low setting sun but I managed the exposures as best I could.  I had some skin tone wash out a little but overall the exposures were decent.  I had to take into account the black stage and speakers wanted to overexpose the scene to begin with if selected a wide shot and included them.  My best shooting angle turned out to be form the right hand side of the stage with the 300 mm lens and 1.4 extender.  I tried some wider stuff with the 70-200mm to include other members of the band in the frame but the tighter the better seemed to work.  I worked the scene back and forth from left to right changing shooting positions and lenses to look for the best combination of background blur and exposure.
Of all the shots the one at the top of the page is my favorite.  I caught a nice moment as she played and the background is decent.  A little bright on the left hand edge of the frame but the low sun angle gave me no other choice.  I'll be looking back to when the move the concerts back to Lincoln Park.  The lighting was better and the community stage made for a better scene.  I worked the scene as best as I could and came up with some decent shots considering the amount of background control I had to exert.  Here's hoping my next assignment is a littler bit easier to figure out.


This was part of a wildlands grass fire training session at Tracy Airport with Tracy Fire and Cal Fire agencies.  While we were there Tracy Fire brought a bag full of confiscated fireworks to burn for a future fireworks safety story.
These were illegal fireworks, most of them confiscated from trucks delivering items to the prison outside of town.  Our plan was to light them off in the dry brush to show the dangers these fireworks can cause.  We had variety of items to work with from Roman candles to rockets and an ominous looking Dyno stick to fire off.

We started off with paper tanks that spewed sparks and rockets that took erratic flight paths before detonating in a shower of sparks.  A few started fires in the dry brush but it seemed more dangerous not knowing where these fireworks would head and how much incendiary material would come out of them.

After launching several fireworks and setting a few small fires we broke out the big Dyno stick.  Styled like a stick of dynamite it looked like trouble waiting to happen.  To make matters worse the fuse was missing so the decision was made to ignite it with a flare.

I focused on the stick not sure what to expect and to everyone's surprise as soon as the flare's flame touched the stick it erupted in a cloud of smoke and small explosions.  Thankfully the fire crew were wearing wildlands fire fighting protection gear including gloves and eye protection.  If this would have been a child or young adult they could have been seriously injured.
This was a good reminder of the dangers of illegal fireworks.  They can seriously injure or maim an unwary user or set a fire with devastating results.  It is best to leave the fireworks to the professionals at one of the many cities in the area that are hosting fireworks displays for the public.  Even the so called safe and sane fireworks should be treated with the up-most care and respect as they can cause serious injury as well.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A splash of color

Alice made a great call when she selected a section of the Sunol Regional Wilderness as our Sunday hike.  We would be heading to Little Yosemite along Alameda Creek.

It wasn't a very long hike-the loop we took was just about 4.5 miles but for a good stretch we hiked to the sound of the creek racing through the rocks.  It has been a welcome sound these last hikes to hear and see so much water after a couple years of drought.

The Little Yosemite area is a section of the creek where it tumbles down among boulders and trees in a secluded area.  We scrambled around the rocks looking for just the right spot to photograph the creek.

The sunlight glinting off the water made for tough exposures as we studied the rocks and leaves scatted through the creek.  A myriad of colors burst through against the grey stone boulders and green moss covered rocks in the stream bed.

The return stretch of the hike took us up out of the creek's canyon into the grasslands as we trekked nervously keeping an eye out for slumbering snakes.  Wildflowers made one last stand against the summer's heat as they dotted the grass along the trail.

Summer is upon us and the temperatures will force toward the coast for cooler hikes.  We are planning one trip soon to Yosemite to capture the waterfalls before they fade in the summer heat.  Then we will be coastal for the summer duration.