Today, moon rise was at 5:00 P.M. When I arrived at my location, I consulted PhotoPills again to confirm the direction of the moon rise. However, when 5:00 P.M. arrived, I couldn’t see the moon. I took my first moon photo at 5:15 P.M. At that time, the moon was really faint against the late afternoon sky. Sunset wouldn’t take place until 5:51 P.M.
Since this was my first attempt, I wasn’t sure which lenses to bring. The first photo was taken at 600mm, which is only useful during the first few minutes at moon rise. This second one is at 200 mm.
Not long after, I was down to 122 mm just to keep the moon and foreground in the same frame.
The last time I posted a photo of Levi’s Stadium, the Blue Angels were performing a flyover for Super Bowl 50, which was almost exactly three years ago. However, that February was a bit different because California was mired in a drought .
Instead of lush green foothills capped with a dusting of snow, we only had green grass at the lower elevations. The hill tops just look absolutely dry.
Last night, another storm passed through the Bay Area. By late afternoon, large clouds crossing the skies were casting their shadows below on Silicon Valley. I knew that Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton had seen a dusting of snow, so I started scanning the horizon for that landmark.
After an extensive study of all the snow-capped foothills, I finally found it. The challenge was that the low clouds had obscured the observatory at times. Even after I found it, I could see it appear and disappear from view depending on the changing conditions on the peak.
During a recent hike to the Stanford Dish, I was amazed by the volume of trees stretching to the horizon. Usually, I see trees in isolation. However, this elevated view provided a different perspective. Maybe we’re living in an urban forest. We just don’t know it yet.
The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge connects the city of Richmond in Contra Costa County to the city of San Rafael in Marin County. The first time, I crossed the bridge, I was surprised to discover that San Quentin State Prison was located right on the shores of the San Francisco Bay. The prison is the set of buildings in the bottom left corner of the photo.
Made a return trip to Natural Bridges State Beach, which is the winter home to migratory Monarch butterflies. When I was there six years ago, the boardwalk was quite crowded and the trees had clusters of Monarch butterflies.
This time around, I didn’t see as many people. There were opportunities to observe the Monarch butterflies, but most of them were flying about. I even spotted a pair that was focused on procreation.
I was in Sonoma County to zipline at Sonoma Canopy Tours and decided to extend the trip with an excursion to Fort Ross, the Russian settlement along the California coast.
First, Sonoma Canopy Tours allows guests to bring a camera, including a DSLR. Make sure you have a secure camera strap with sufficient reach since your camera will be strapped to the harness at chest level. I was using a 24-70 mm lens, though a 28-300 mm would have given me more options for the longer runs. The big challenge is the lighting. Even early in the morning, the light was quite harsh with most photos featuring a mix of shadows and strong day light.
Sonoma Canopy Tours is located in Occidental, California. If you are heading their way, you might want to download your maps in advance for offline use. From Sonoma Canopy Tours to Fort Ross, I had one bar at best, with most of the journey spent with no data connection. No maps. No Yelp. It felt like time travel because I had to ask for directions and dining recommendations.
Fort Ross was an interesting detour. It was perfect for a side trip. The visitor center offered an exhibit on the history of Fort Ross, and a short walk led to the enclosed grounds of the settlement. There are a few sparsely furnished buildings that could hold your attention for an hour or so.
The real treat was the Sonoma County coastline. The first photo was taken at Duncan’s Cove at the Sonoma Coast State Park. The coast was magnificent that afternoon with blue skies, clear aquamarine waters, and strong surf crashing against the sea rocks.
In the weeks before the solar eclipse, I practiced taking photos of the sun. The first question was whether to use a telescope or a camera lens. While the telescope provided greater magnification, it was incredibly difficult to target the sun for two reasons. First, the solar filter rendered everything except the sun as pitch black. Without any contextual background, I had no idea whether the telescope was pointed too far left, right, up or down. The second issue was that the finder could not be used. Obviously, I could not look directly at the sun through the finder. Additionally, if I wore solar glasses, I couldn’t even see the telescope. Eventually, I was able to target the sun by looking at the direction of the shadows cast on the telescope.
However, this approach was too unreliable so I resorted to using a wider camera lens for the big day.