Penny for your thoughts

San Diego Zoo logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Scott #1340 HemisFairI remember the first time I went to a Zoo. It was the San Antonio Zoo, and it was the weekend that my wise old grandmother also took me to HemisFair ’68 in San Antonio.

I had known since my birthday in March that I was going to get to go to HemisFair and to the Zoo. It was a combination birthday present and school’s out celebration.

I loved HemisFair! That’s where I found out via a handwriting analysis that I was a little, hyperactive monster.

I was disappointed with the Zoo because I didn’t get to see the big cats. All of them were in their hideways for the day and would not come out just to see me.

When I moved to San Diego in April 1993, one of the first things I did was get an annual pass to the Zoo. A pass meant that I could go anytime I wanted, ensuring that I would probably see all of the big cats at least once a year.

Most of the big cats are easy to see in their romper rooms. However, one of the larger romper rooms holds the Malayan Tigers (Panthera tigris jacksoni). The mere size of their romper room means that they aren’t always visible from the three viewing areas. When they are out, though, pictures can be quite spectacular.

Following are three pictures of one of the Malayan Tigers that I took on my trip to the San Diego Zoo last Saturday. I’m not sure I like the intense look on its face and in its eyes, but I would give it a penny for its thoughts.

Malayan tiger at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Malayan tiger at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Malayan tiger at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Malayan tiger is an endangered species due to habitat fragmentation from development and agriculture, as well as poaching. An estimated 493 to 1,480 tigers were in the wild as of 2003, and only 54 located in 25 zoos as of 2004. Regretfully, the genetic diversity of the 54 zoo tigers are descended from only 11 mommies and daddies (called founders), creating a lack of the genetic diversity needed to ensure successful breeding programs.

Malayan tigers live about 15-20 years, so with breeding tigers in the wild numbering, at best, about 250 individuals, and unsuccessful zoo breeding programs, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when these beautiful big cats will be extinct.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Railroads: New meets old

Railroads & Trains logo

When I was growing up under the tutelage of my wise old grandmother in Kingsville, Texas, I used to sneak out and go down to the railroad yards. I had to be careful sneaking out, obviously, but I also had to be careful at the railroad yards since that’s where my granddad worked as a Road Foreman of Engines for Missouri Pacific. Missouri Pacific LinesMy dad and his three brothers also worked for Missouri Pacific at various times, so they could have friends there who might recognize me. It was dangerous, and I’m not even talking about possibly getting smushed by a train!

Railroad classification yards have always fascinated me. When I moved to Houston in 1977, I quickly found Englewood Yard and Settegast Yard. Both are huge classification yards, both now operated by Union Pacific, but formerly used by Southern Pacific (Englewood) and Missouri Pacific (Settegast). Unfortunately, we don’t have much of a railroad yard here in San Diego, , and the one we do have is not accessible to rail fans without, say, a 1200mm camera lens.

Up in Los Angeles, however, they have several classification yards. I think the huge Hobart Yard is the biggest, but there also are several huge intermodal yards, which is where trains, big rigs, and ships come together. Truckers who don’t want to drive cross-country can move their truckloads by train. Containers from ships travel the same way. Huge cranes lift the trucks and containers on and off the rail cars.

Intermodal rail traffic (trucks and containers riding on trains) is heaviest in the nation going into and out of Los Angeles, most of it handled by the Union Pacific Railroad. When I was up in San Bernardino at Railroad Days on April 13, I got to watch some intermodal cranes in action at the BNSF San Bernardino Intermodal Yard from the top of a bridge that spanned the rail yard. Here’s how it works in a 1:50 video:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Of course, I took lots of pictures and videos of trains. Following is a video of a BNSF freight train rumbling past ATSF 3751, the 1927 steam engine that I went up to see. I had the pleasure of riding in the consist being pulled by ATSF 3751 from San Bernardino back to Union Station in Los Angeles that day, and for just $40!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (4-21-14)–For the birds

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you have followed me for any length of time, you probably know that I have a huge collection of digital music files ranging the gamut from classical to pop to heavy metal, symphonic metal, rock ‘n’ roll, novelty, country, blues, jazz….  I don’t have any hip hop or rap because too often their lyrics are just plain gross, crass, or otherwise not appropriate for my virgin ears. Readers who might be wondering what my favorite music or groups are can see a list here: My top rock/pop/metal groups of all time.

I’m strange in that I listen to my music in chronological order. By listening to an average of 15 “CDs” each day, it takes me about ten months to listen to all my music. I just finished 2014 last Friday, and I’ve already been through the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and half of the ’60s this past weekend.Zoey the Cool Cat and five mourning doves

I noticed as I was going through that early music that quite a bit of it has titles involving birds.

Birds….

Hmmmm.

Zoey the Cool Cat and I like birds, so I thought birds would be a good topic for today’s Music on Mondays post.

1948
“A Little Bird Told Me”
Evelyn Knight & The Stardusters

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

1959
“Poisoning Pigeons In The Park”
Tom Lehrer

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1960
“Wings Of A Dove”
Ferlin Husky

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1962
“Let’s Turkey Trot”
Jan & Dean

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1963
“Surfin’ Bird”
The Trashmen

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1964
“Feed The Birds”
Julie Andrews

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1964
“Sparrow”
Simon & Garfunkel

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1964
“Little Red Rooster”
The Rolling Stones

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That takes us through 1964. Since this was so much fun, I think I’ll do it again somewhere down the line. Off the top of my head this morning I can think of “Blackbird” by The Beatles (1968), “Silverbird” by Mark Lindsay (1970), “Hummingbird” by Seals & Crofts (1972), “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974), “Bird Noises” by Midnight Oil (1980), “Free As A Bird” by Supertramp (1987), and “Free As A Bird” by John Lennon/The Beatles (1977/1995).

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Placing a stamp frame around your pictures

How I Did It

I have had a few requests both here and at Facebook to know how I put a stamp frame around my pictures. I told the Facebook people that I would do a tutorial on that today. Since my wise old grandmother taught me to keep my word, well, here it is!

I have asked Zoey the Cool Cat to help us, and while she wasn’t enthusiastic, she agreed. She prefers to be out looking for Easter eggs, or at least the birds that laid them. I keep telling her they are rabbit eggs, but she’s not buying it; she’s smarter than that.

First, most photo editing programs have a stamp frame as part of their offerings. I haven’t liked any of them because they are too perfect, and stamps are anything but perfect. Following are two stamp frames, the perfect one and my imperfect one, so you can see the difference.

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Notice that the imperfect one has ragged, torn, frayed edges where it appears to have been separated from other stamps.

First we need to find a stamp shape that you like. For this tutorial, let’s use an oversized stamp size, like Scott #2542, a U.S. postage stamp released on August 31, 1991. I get my stamp pictures from Arago (http://arago.si.edu/) but you can download it from my blog here by right-clicking on the image and saving it to your computer.

Scott #2542

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You could learn a lot by paying attention hereThe method I’m going to teach you here works for any shape, so pay attention! There will be a test on Monday, and I want everyone to get a perfect score!

I will be using Photoshop CC, but this method probably also works in Elements and any other program that works with layers and masks, such as Paintshop Pro, Gimp, etc.

Once you’ve downloaded and saved your stamp, open it in Photoshop. We want to delete the stamp picture while keeping the stamp frame. To do that, click on the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

Rectangular Marquee Tool in Photoshop

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now simply draw a rectangle around the picture. You don’t have to be exact but make sure you get all of the picture within the box. When you let go of your mouse button, the box will turn into a moving dashed box, what we call “marching ants.”

Marching ants

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Hit the Delete key and a Fill window should pop up:

Pop-up Fill window

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you haven’t used the Fill window recently, the default in the Use dropdown box will probably be Content-Aware. We want to change that to White.

Fill pop-up window

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Click on OK and your picture should magically disappear, being filled with white.

Stamp frame

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now we’re ready to insert our picture. Open your picture in Photoshop; it will show up in a new tab. Zoey the Cool Cat graciously has given me permission to use a picture of her.

Copy the picture you want to insert into the stamp frame. There are many ways to do that, but first you have to tell Photoshop what you want to copy. It doesn’t know that you want to copy the whole image unless you tell it. Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool again, simply draw a box around the whole picture. You don’t have to be exact at all as long as you are outside the picture on all four sides because Photoshop will snap the marquee to the picture borders.

Picture to be inserted in stamp frame

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now tell Photoshop to copy everything within the marching ants border, either Edit ►Copy or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + C.

Switch to the tab that has our stamp frame so we can insert our picture into it. Make sure you still have the marching ants border from when we deleted the eagle picture from the stamp. If you don’t, no problem. Simply use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to draw another box where you want your picture to be.

Now paste your picture into the marquee box. To do that:
Edit ► Paste Special ► Paste Into.
The keyboard shortcut is Ctrl + Shift + Alt + V:

Edit, Paste Special, Paste Into

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That should give you something that might look a little weird, depending on the size of the picture you are inserting. If your picture is bigger than the box you’re inserting it into, you’ll see just a portion of the picture and a bounding box showing you how big the picture is. If you don’t see all of your picture but you don’t see a bounding box either, simply click on the Move Tool (red arrow below) and then click on Show Transform Controls (yellow arrow).

Move Tool and Show Transform Controls

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now you should see that stamp frame, a portion of your picture, and the boundary box telling you how big your picture is:

Stamp frame, picture, and boundary box

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If your picture is too big, the part that is not in the frame will be at the right and bottom. If you want to maintain the ratio of the height to the width (the aspect ratio), hold the Shift key down and click and hold that bottom right little square. Now move that square up to the bottom right corner of your picture border within the stamp frame. If your picture doesn’t have the same aspect ratio as the stamp, simply reposition the picture until you’re happy. Let go of the mouse and reposition the picture simply by clicking on it and moving it around.

Zoey the Cool Cat stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If your pictures always have the same aspect ratio, you can create a stamp frame that will always be correct so that you won’t have to do any fine-tuning position adjustments. If that’s the case, as it is with all the pictures from my Canon 550D camera, you can also create an Action that does everything automatically, which is what I did. My Action means that it takes about two seconds to put a stamp frame around any picture.

Remember earlier when I said that this method works for any shape? That’s how I created my Zoey the Cool Cat soccer ball:

Zoey the Cool Cat soccer ball

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you find a nicely framed picture on the Internet, you can delete the picture and use just the frame by following this tutorial.

Let me know in a comment if you have any problems while following this tutorial and I’ll help you.

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Monarch—Caterpillar to butterfly (WARNING: graphic content)

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love it when it brings new knowledge into my little head, like the Internet and new genome techniques. I hate it when it tries to control my life, like cell phones and cable television.

Yesterday at dawn, I went to Balboa Park to get some “golden hour” pictures for my San Diego Historical Landmark El Prado series.

At the two entrances to the Botanical Building are two large bushes. They always look rather scraggly, like this from yesterday:

Scraggly bush at the entrance to the Botanical Building in San Diego's Balboa Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

They look like overgrown weeds, so adults tend to pass right by them. Children (my friends say that I’m a 10-year-old child trapped in a
59-year-old body) notice very quickly that these bushes are unique. Throughout the year one can find these little critters all over the two bushes:

Monarch caterpillar

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Do you recognize that little one? Sure, it’s a caterpillar, but more importantly it’s the late stage (called an instar) of a monarch caterpillar. That little one is so big that it probably started pupating the moment I got my picture and left.

Here is a picture of one that is just beginning to pupate:

Pupating Monarch butterfly

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you see a caterpillar hanging upside down and curling up like that, take a look 24 hours later and you’ll probably see a chrysalis, also called a pupa. Looks like this:

Chrysalis of a Monarch butterfly

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Keep an eye on that chrysalis for the next two weeks and you might be lucky to see a monarch butterfly emerge.

Monarch out of bounds

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

(If you’re interested in creating the “out of bounds” effect like above, see my post here: http://russelrayphotos2.com/2013/10/22/how-to-create-the-out-of-bounds-effect-in-photoshop/ .)

Most people know that the Monarch caterpillar feeds only on milkweeds but that plant in the red circle in the first picture does not look like any milkweed I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s not a milkweed. According to the little sign at the bottom of each bush is this:

Calotropis gigantea

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sure enough, that’s not a milkweed.

Ah, but not so fast, grasshopper!

See what it says in the bottom left corner? Asclepiadaceae. That’s the subfamily. That’s where modern genetics and genetic coding (genome) comes into play. Except in the rarest of cases, we didn’t use to have subfamilies. This plant would have been noted as being in the Apocynaceae family, also known as dogbanes. Ah-ha! Guess what other plants are in the dogbane family? That’s right, boys and girls! Milkweed! Milkweed and this crown plant also are in the same Asclepiadaceae subfamily. That means they are very closely related, according to the folks decoding those genomes. That explains why the monarch butterfly loves this plant!

Although it is a scraggly bush, along with the monarch caterpillars, chrysalises, and butterflies, the flowers are very beautiful, albeit small and well camouflaged with the leaves. Flowers look like this:

Calotropis gigantea flowers

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Botanical Building, according to sources, is the most photographed building in San Diego, and when you’re casually traipsing through Balboa Park, you can’t possibly miss it. Looks like this:

Botanical Building in San Diego's Balboa Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lastly, in the second picture, you might have had problems (like I did!) determining which end of the caterpillar is the front end and which end is the back end. After looking at a goodly number of the caterpillars, I determined that the back end has shorter antennae. Of course, the back end also is the end that poops. Here is a caterpillar checking out its poop:

Monarch caterpillar and its poop

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you don’t like using words like crap, poop, and the S word, frass is a term we use in the home inspection industry. Frass is an informal and loose definition usually used when referring to the poop of insects. Since it is a loose and informal definition, I give you permission to use it when referring to human poop, now also known as human frass.

As I was trying to find out which end was the front end, I came across an interesting 39-second video on YouTube that pretty much confirmed my thinking:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Must be nice to be able to eat and poop at the same time! And on that note:

THE END

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Friday Flower Fiesta (4-17-14)

Friday Flower Fiesta

Last week’s Friday Flower Fiesta featured Photographic Art of flowers that I have uploaded to my Flowers Gallery at Fine Art America in preparation for being an approved vendor at the fundraiser May 3 for Cat House on the Kings.

I am going to stick with that theme for this week, so all of the following Photographic Art flowers are at Fine Art America, which means they are for sale there.

OrchidOrchid

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

OrchidOrchid

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OrchidOrchid

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FuchsiaFuchsia

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MoonflowerMoonflower

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Time To BloomTime To Bloom

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BeautyBeauty

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PassionflowerPassionflower

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Pink & YellowPink & Yellow

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

LilyLily

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Whenever I upload something to Fine Art America, it automatically posts to Facebook, so I usually get at least one LIKE on Facebook for each post…. usually Jim……. :)

This final Photographic Art flower, however, was one that I initially didn’t like, but something struck me about it so I kept it. It is my least favorite of those in this Friday Flower Fiesta, but over at Facebook it is my most popular Photographic Art creation. Go figure….

Pink Lily

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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San Diego Historical Landmarks–#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 8

San Diego Historical Landmarks

For the introductory blog post to San Diego’s historical landmarks, click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 1

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 2

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 3

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 4

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 5

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 6

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 7

El Prado Area Designation

View Larger Map

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Next up on our west to east meandering on El Prado is a guy on a horse. Looks like this:

El Cid

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That, my friends, is El Cid, neé Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (1043-1099), a Castilian nobleman born in Vivar del Cid and military leader in medieval Spain. He was raised in the court of the Spanish Emperor Ferdinand the Great. El Cid became famous for his military prowess and helped enlarge Castilian territory at the expense of the Muslims. El Cid remains an idealized figure in Spain, and has been immortalized in plays, film, folk tales, and songs, most notably “El Cid,” a 1961 film starring Charlton Heston.

So why do we have a larger-than-life statue of El Cid in San Diego’s Balboa Park? El Cid died almost 450 years before San Diego was founded by Juan Cabrillo.

Well, it turns out that there actually are three El Cid Campeador statues like this one, the other two being in San Francisco and Buenos Aires. The first El Cid Campeador statue was a 1927 bronze sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973), one of New York City’s most prominent sculptors. In 1932, she became the first woman artist elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

That first El Cid Campeador was installed in Seville, Spain, in 1927. The El Cid Campeador statue in Balboa Park was donated by Mrs. Huntington in 1930 through the Hispanic Society of America.

El Cid Campeador

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Hispanic Society of America was founded by Anna’s husband, Archer Huntington, in 1904 in New York City.

Okay, so we know famous people, Archer Huntington and Anna Hyatt Huntington, are connected to the El Cid Campeador statue here, but why?

Believe it or not, I couldn’t find the information on the Internet, so I turned to my library of, gasp, actual books. The book that finally gave me the answer was San Diego Trivia 2 by Evelyn Kooperman (San Dieguito Publishers, San Marcos CA, 1993, p. 534).

The siting of El Cid has him riding towards the San Diego Museum of Art, which will be our next stop on this San Diego Historical Landmarks tour. The San Diego Museum of Art was designed by William Templeton Johnson (1877-1957), a noted San Diego architect who designed many notable places in the San Diego area, including the La Jolla Public Library, La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Trust & Savings Bank, Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park, and the Francis Parker School where I occasionally teach chess!

Through the magic of cross-referencing, I discovered that Johnson was friends with Mr. and Mrs. Huntington. When that friendship started, though, is what I want to know. Did it begin in America, or did they meet in Seville in 1929?

Interestingly, El Cid Campeador was not the first statue donated to Balboa Park by Anna Huntington. Diana was donated in 1927 and Youth Taming the Wild in 1935. I do not recall ever seeing those two statues so my mission, and I choose to accept it, is to find them!

Huntington’s 1927 donation leads me to believe that the Huntingtons and Johnson met well before the 1929 Exposition in Spain. Alas, my work here is incomplete and my curiosity is piqued. Perhaps some research in the new San Diego Central Library or with the San Diego Historical Society, located in Balboa Park, will shed some light on this.

Stay tuned!

El Cid Campeador at sunset

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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