Monday, September 30, 2013


I wasn't going to bother going to this grass fire burning well outside city limits but listening to the scanner they kept sending different fire departments to the scene.  With all the commotion I just had to go take a look.

The fire was burning in a irrigation ditch along Tracy Boulevard about 3/4 of a mile from Howard Road.  The California Highway Patrol had set up a roadblock so I had to hoof it in to the scene. The fire was slowly moving through the heavy brush and trees of the ditch, a term i learned was called "skunking around." The 20 mile-per-winds were still driving the fire and smoke a decent clip as crews raced to either end to try and knock it down.

I left my fire resistant wildlands fire gear in the car (a brilliant move on my behalf) so I made my way along the ditch carefully as the flames moved in front of and behind me.  I had a good escape route down the levee to Tracy Boulevard but the smoke was making for difficult times. Between the acrid sting in my eyes and the near zero visibility at times for the blowing smoke I was just content to stand there and wait for an opening to shoot.

As the wind drive the fire through the ditch tule and trees began to ignite. the popping sound was a might unnerving but what was worse was a call for crowning condition, the fire was racing to the tops of the trees in the ditch. The flames licked outward from the tree tops send columns of smoke billowing into the sky. Exposures were tricky as I was shooting into a partially obscured sun by the rising smoke with the trees and other foliage in deep shadows.

I managed to get a couple of shot that showed the flame height and some that had crews battling the flames before the smoke covered everything too densely again.  Done with the fire I arrived back at the office, streaked with soot and smelling like an old campfire. My one lesson learned form this fire was to pack a bottle of Visine eye drops to ease the burning sensation form the smoke.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The return of Skateman

 It’s not often I find myself on a lonely country road, sitting in a car with a man wearing a red cape and SpongeBob SquarePants boxer shorts. Holiday SpongeBob SquarePants boxers to be exact. But I never know where my camera will take me and on Monday I was on a stretch of Midway Road west of town watching the return of Skateman.

David Goad brought his alter ego to life last year as he paid of Facebook wager to roller skate from the Hidden Lakes subdivision across town to the mall in his colorful costume with vintage style roller skates. Goad is raising funds for research on multiple myeloma, a rare form of cancer that his older brother Jeff has.

To raise funds this year Goad decided on a more daunting task, a roller skate feat not yet attempted, or at least no one has owned up about trying this before.  On Oct. 6 Goad will roller skate 4 and-a-half miles up the 12 percent grade of Patterson Pass Road to the top and back down.

I’m a hiker and I know what a 4 mile, 1,300 foot climb feels like.  It’s not easy. It can’t be any easier wearing roller skates, vintage ones at that. I watched Goad’s first training run up the winding Midway Road. Not a fun time at all. The skates vibrate on the rough road, there is traffic to contend with and the downhill leg is precarious at best.  Why do it?

I talked to Jeff’s brother in Chicago and in the short conversation with the two brothers I know the love they have for each other and each would suffer any burden for the other. Though David Goad’s task is daunting his motivation is sure to keep him going to the top.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


When I heard the call of a haystack fire at a farm just outside of town I grabbed my camera gear and headed out the door.  As bas they are haystack fires can make for some spectacular visuals.

The fire would go on to destroy 110 tons of alfalfa hay and burn for almost three days. A cause was never found as the fire burned so hot it would have destroyed any evidence of the fire's origin.

I was also treated to my first power line failure as a service drop above the burning hay melted through in a shower of sparks.  All in all some noteworthy images to be had from this fire.

Target practice

I was bored waiting for the start of a golf match so I though why not get in a little practice follow focusing? There were a number of dragonflies buzzing about so I aimed my 300mm along their flight path and fired away.
I learned two things right way; dragonflies are quick little devils and they never fly straight and level for more than a few seconds before they make a radical course change.  Anyhow it was good practice to keep my fingers nimble on the focusing collar.