Beware of photographers bearing alternative pictures

How I Did It

I don’t have much respect for photographers who spout that their pictures are straight out of the camera. All that tells me is that they haven’t explored all that their cameras can do.

In today’s world, even cameras are photoshoppers. For example, on all my Canon cameras (XSi, T2i, T6s), I can change the in-camera settings. I push the Menu button, scroll to Picture Style, choose it, and then I can choose Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Def. 1, User Def. 2, and User Def. 3.
For each of those choices, I can then set the Sharpness (0 to 7), Contrast (-4 to +4), Saturation (-4 to +4), and Color tone (-4 to +4). Other settings on the camera allow me to modify exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, or even add creative filters (Grainy B/W, Soft focus, Fish-eye effect, Art bold effect, Water painting effect, Toy camera effect, Miniature effect), crop the picture, and change the brightness.

One also should realize that the little computers that power our cameras are more powerful than the 1960’s computers that sent man to the moon and brought him back safely. Why not use that power? In order to use that power, though, computers require software to make them run. Just like I prefer Photoshop over Photo-Paint and PaintShop Pro, I prefer the Canon software engineers’ programming over the programming from the engineers at Nikon, Sony, and the others. It’s not always about price. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to let the Canon software engineers, who may or may not be photographers themselves, decide for me how I want my pictures to look. Ain’t gonna happen. What they have given me in their software programming is just the basics with which to start.

One of the best reasons for joining a photography club is to see what cameras other people are using and what their cameras can do. One of the little ol’ ladies in my camera club, 77 years old, uses no post-camera processing software. However, she has a Canon 70D. You should see her “post process” in her camera, both before and after she takes the picture, looking at and changing the histogram, the noise, the brightness, and anything else that suits her fancy for a particular picture or time. She knows every setting on her camera, and she knows how to use those settings, too. But she had always claimed that her pictures are “straight out of the camera.”

I pointed out to her one day that “post processing” really meant “after you take the picture,” not after the picture leaves the camera, and not necessarily using Photoshop on the computer back at home. I explained to her using her own camera and actions. She now understands, and since she has higher power connections in the camera club, the president asked me to do a “post processing” seminar for the camera club. We had around 200 people that morning; very few of them had ever explored their camera settings, preferring to think that they were expert photographers because they knew what P, A, ISO, Av, Tv, and M meant.

One of our younger male members loves sunrise and sunset pictures, but he doesn’t like getting up before noon, and by the time sunset arrives, he’s too busy with the wine & women. I showed him how to use the settings on his camera to get a sunrise/sunset picture at 2:00 p.m. any day of the year using his in-camera settings. Now he’s the happiest guy on Earth.

I enjoy post processing on my computer using Photoshop since I have a big computer screen, a fast computer, music to listen to, a cat in my lap, and a margarita on the desk. Trying to do post processing on a little 3-inch LCD screen with little buttons, out in the wild, is not my idea of fun.

So as I said, I don’t have much respect for someone who spouts that their pictures are straight out of the camera. All that tells me is that they haven’t explored all that their cameras can do or that their command of the English language is not yet sufficient to understand what “post processing” means.

Here are a couple of sunrise/sunset pictures of mine. Can you tell whether or not they are sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sunrise from the top of Mount Helix in La Mesa, California

Those two are fairly easy because you have a 50% chance of being correct since the sun is in the picture. As long as I didn’t actually put the sun in the picture (which I can do with Photoshop), you know they are either sunrise or sunset. But what do you do if the sun is not in the picture, like these three:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sunset in La Mesa, California on December 10, 2016, looking east

La Mesa sunset

Those pictures are mid-afternoon pictures. The clouds and whatever was happening behind them were creating some interesting effects with the sun. I used some in-camera settings to accentuate the effect and then completed the process at home in Photoshop.

So beware of photographers bearing alternative pictures in this new world order of alternative facts.

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Music on Mondays (2-20-17)—I once was a choir boy

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Each day after I have accomplished 90% of my goals for that day (I always was an A student), I reward myself by exploring the book “Top Pop Singles” by Joel Whitburn. I’m looking for music that I like but don’t have in my collection.

Radio used to be my preferred method of discovering new music but I haven’t listened to radio since CD players started appearing in cars back in the late ’80s. However, with YouTube, Spotify, and various music sites like discogs.com, it’s not difficult to have a listen to music without buying it. Now, with car stereo systems accepting flash drives, bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, I don’t see me ever going back to radio.

Here are five of the individual songs I added to my collection this past week:

“Wild Women Do” by Natalie Cole, 1990
I always liked this song from “Pretty Woman” but not enough to buy the Soundtrack back in 1990. Over the years I forgot about it. Last week I re-discovered it and bought it.
It spent 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, peaking at #34.

“Time for Letting Go” by Jude Cole, 1990
Jude Cole had 5 minor hits from 1990-1993. This was his second.
I had never heard of him or his music before last week.
“Time for Letting Go” spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #32.

“Shelter Me” by Joe Cocker, 1986
Although I knew of Joe Cocker because of his covers of Beatle songs
(“With A Little Help from My Friends” and “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”), I never really liked his music enough to buy it.
I knew just enough about him to have an intelligent conversation
about him and his music. This song doesn’t sound like Joe Cocker.
“Shelter Me” spent 4 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #91.

“C’mon Everybody” by Eddie Cochran, 1958
Eddie Cochran was was just 21 when he died in 1960 in a car accident.
I was 5, and living in northern Utah,
so this type of “devil music” never made the radio stations there.
I’m only now discovering his music.
“C’mon Everybody” spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #35.

“Run To Paradise” by The Choirboys, 1989
The Choirboys had one hit. This is it.
It spent 7 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #80

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Out & About—Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park

Out & About San Diego

When I’m out in the world and find books sitting around begging for eyes to look at them, well, I have those eyes. I could be at one of those restaurants that has shelves and shelves of old and tattered books on the wall, and I’ll be standing over the booth where YOU are eating, looking at the books on the shelves above your booth. I’m not stalking you. Really, I’m not….

Several years ago I found a book in such a fashion. I noted the title, went home and did a Google search, and found me a used copy. On January 1, 2017, I found the book and decided that it looked and sounded interesting enough to read. The book is “The Historic Backcountry” by Christopher Wray. As I was reading through it I was creating driving tours of the backcountry. Then I discovered that he already has done that, too, in his book “Highways to History.”U.S. 80 Historic Route

On January 26, 2017, I set out on one of the driving tours, “Highway 80, El Cajon to Ocotillo.” Highway 80 used to be the main thoroughfare from San Diego to Arizona. Then they built Interstate 8, and Highway 80 became an also-ran. Now it’s a “Historic Route.”

The route is about 86 miles but that’s only if you are successful in not having to do any switchbacks, wraprounds, or U-turns, and if you don’t take any of the short side trips. My trip wound up being 131 miles, one way.

One of the first stops on the tour is the ruins of Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park.

Marshal Scotty's Playland Park, El Cajon, California

Marshal Scotty's Playland Park, El Cajon, California

Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park was founded in the 1950s by Frank Hobbs as Scotty’s Kiddy Rides in National City. It was named for his wife, Scotty. He moved it to El Cajon (some sources say Lakeside; the two city boundaries are there) when he bought the small Wally Park amusement park that was there. Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park opened on January 1, 1967.

It grew into a western-themed 25-acre amusement park offering 15 carnival rides (Tilt-a-Whirl, a 20-foot Ferris wheel, bumper cars, mini-boat rides….), the River Canyon Raceway go-cart track, a miniature train, the Raging River Innertube Ride which snaked 500 feet down a hillside, a roller coaster, pony rides, an arcade, shops, and facilities for volleyball, horseshoes, softball, swimming, and picknicking under the California live oak trees.

Ownership of Marshal Scotty’s changed several times between 1967 and 1986 when Bill Lee bought it. Lee invested $500,000 with the intent of developing it into a world-class water park. He’s the one who added the go-cart track and the water slide, at the time the longest water slide in Southern California. Lee filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990, from which Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park never recovered.

In 1995, the property and equipment were sold in foreclosure to United Leisure Corp. of Fountain Valley for $1.6 million. The company named the park Frasier’s Frontier ( some sources say “Frazier’s Frontier”) and established Camp Frasier, a day camp for children, on the property. In 1996 and 1997, Camp Frasier attracted about 200 campers each summer.

By 1998, United Leisure closed Frasier’s Frontier and Camp Frasier, and put the property up for sale. No buyers. It sat empty from 1998 to 2011. Rudy and Carrie Ludeke re-opened the the go-carts as Canyon Raceway on November 5, 2011, with operating hours scheduled as 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 2 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Canyon Raceway eventually closed but I could not find the date of closure.

What’s left of the amusement park is private property behind a chain-link fence, which is why I only have two pictures of it. However, in researching for this blog post, I found out that for the past two Halloweens the property has been open as “Marshal Scary Scotty’s Scare Trail.” The 2015 flyer said about the park that it is

“….haunted by past park employees! This year, see the Bumper Car carnage, try to stay in one piece through the Slaughter trailer and the hunted [sic] park offices, visit the frighting [sic] ferris wheel….and don’t forget to brace yourself as you walk through the remains of the death coaster. Marshal Scary Scotty’s Scare Trail is packed full of spine tingling, heart pounding effects that are so real they will keep you screaming for your life as you try to find your way out.”

Marshal Scary Scotty's Scare Trail

Notice that for 2015 the Scary Trail was “Sponsored By Saving Horses Inc.” Apparently they plan on donating proceeds to a charity each year because a post for 2016 said, “Our Charity this year is: Lyonhearted Foundation.”

I guess you know what I’ll be on the lookout for come Halloween 2017.

The movie, “Scavenger Hunt” was filmed here in San Diego, in the locker room of the San Diego Chargers, at the San Diego Zoo, downtown San Diego, Crown Point, La Mesa, Pacific Beach, the Embarcadero, and, of course, Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park. It had an all-star cast: Richard Benjamin, James Coco, Scatman Crothers, Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morley, Richard Mulligan, Tony Randall, Dirk Benedict, Willie Aames, Stephanie Faracy, Stephen Furst, and Richard Masur. It was released on Christmas Day 1979 with its premiere right here in San Diego.

Here is the movie from YouTube, which I will be watching later today:

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Out & About—Natural springs in a desert city

Out & About San Diego

Not too far from me—in fact, directly across the street—is Collier Park. It’s a quaint little park with tennis courts, a boarded up unused building, a non-working drinking fountain, some picnic tables, a creek which somehow always has water in it (this is a desert), some very tall very old eucalyptus trees, and some unpaved trails bordered by California pepper trees. Pretty much the only people who use the park are tennis players from the high school not too far away and people playing with their dogs.

Collier Park currently is being renovated. Since renovation often means “historical destruction,” I decided to do a little research and get some pictures just in case what was there would be no more.

Collier Park is named for Colonel David Charles Collier, a distinguished San Diego citizen and early La Mesa developer. Collier is perhaps best known for organizing the Panama-California Exposition at San Diego in 1915. However, he also built a railroad line to Ocean Beach in 1909 which led to a real estate boom at the beach.

Colonel Collier bought East County lands in 1905, which included the natural springs and what is now Collier Park. By 1907 he had established a bottling works on the site. Those bottling works are the Spring House. From everything I can find, apparently the bottling works are still in existence inside the Spring House.

La Mesa Spring HouseCollier Park La Mesa, California

La Mesa Spring House, Collier Park, La Mesa

Spring House ca. 1912La Mesa Spring House, ca. 1912

The natural springs made it a seasonal stopping place for the Kumeyaay Indians. By the 1860s, rancher Robert Allison owned most of the southern part of La Mesa, and his family used the springs to water their herds of sheep.

Water still springs forth from the natural springs, which is why there is water in that creek all the time. Here’s the little drainage line that comes out of the Spring House, draining that natural spring water into the little creek:

Natural spring drainage in Collier Park, La Mesa, California

In 1910, Collier donated a portion of what is now Collier Park for public use, and by 1920 the City was developing the site for use as a municipal park.

Natural spring creek and spring fountainCollier Park La Mesa, California

The red brick structure in the picture above is the Spring Fountain. Originally it was located at the La Mesa Depot of the San Diego & Cuyamaca Eastern Railroad, as seen in this picture from 1912:

Spring fountain at La Mesa Depot, ca. 1914

Water for the Spring Fountain was pumped from La Mesa Springs about a mile away. The Spring Fountain was in use until the 1960s when it was moved to Collier Park.

Renovation plans indicated that the Spring House was to be destroyed but the citizenry appeared to have rebelled, and those plans of destruction appear to be on hold while the City tries to figure out what to do. I vote for opening it up as a tourist attraction. It wouldn’t be on the scale of Disneyland but I think quite a few people would stop by to see natural springs smack dab in the middle of a thriving city.

Collier Park La Mesa, California

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Friday Flower Fiesta (2-17-17)—Meet the Schitt Family

Friday Flower Fiesta

The aloe season is peaking right now, and with all the rain we have had this year, it’s turning into quite a stunning display.

The best places to see these magnificent plants is at the San Diego Zoo and in the median all along Camino del Sur in the Black Mountain Ranch and 4S Ranch areas.

Here are some pictures from this year’s display:

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

Aloes in San Diego

One of those above looked like a family, so I made a family reunion picture out of it.

Folks, meet the Schitt family:

The Schitt Family

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You can see the sunset from the Sunset Seat (uh, der)

Out & About

When Douglas Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2011, he turned it into a political and family newspaper, but only his politics and his family. I had subscribed to the paper for 17 years, but one day when the paper arrived, the whole first section, including the front page, was about his family, their high society doings, a relative’s wedding…….on and on. I canceled my subscription that day. While newspapers everywhere are hurting, I noticed this morning that subscriptions have fallen to 250,000 in a city of 1.4 million.

Even though Manchester sold the paper in 2015, I have not returned. He forever soured me on the Union-Tribune. Sometimes I miss it because I rarely am ahead of current events, which means I don’t know about what is going to happen in the near future. It has to happen and make Facebook so I can find out about it, or I have to accidentally stumble upon it. Such was the case with the Sunset Seat in Del Mar, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 28, 2015:

Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

The Sunset Seat was carved out of a dead Torrey Pine. Bark beetles are playing havoc with the Torrey Pines in Del Mar and in the Torrey Pine Reserve. Torrey Pines grow in only two areas of the world, here along the coast and over on one of the Channel Islands. From where the Sunset Seat is, there are beautiful views of the canyons, Torrey Pines Beach, and trains.

View from Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

The Torrey Pine that became Sunset Seat was in the process of being cut down when a Del Mar resident asked the tree choppers to take a break while she made phones calls to try to save the tree. The result of her phone calls is the Sunset Seat, where one can sit and just enjoy the views. The bird watching over the Sunset Seat is a red-tailed hawk, the official bird of Torrey Pines Reserve.

In March 2016, the City of Del Mar a cluster of bark beetle traps to try to abate the damage being caused by the bark beetles. The funnel traps release a specific pheromone to lure the bark beetles. When I was there it was obvious that the traps were doing their job.

Bark beetle traps at the Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

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Out & About—Cajon Pass, Mormon Rocks, and the Blue Cut Fire

Out & About The World

My wise old grandmother was the epitome of efficiency. She never just went for a drive, or went for a walk, or went out just to go out. I’m the same way. I always have a purpose for going out, and I always try to get several things done in one long trip rather than making several short trips.

So when I’m out and about and run across something interesting that’s not on my list of things to do, I have three choices:

1. Stop and do it.
2. Ignore it.
3. Make a note of it and come back some other time.

I usually prefer to stop and do it since I’m rarely on a schedule, just trying to get things done on my list.

When I was out in the Mojave Desert last week on Highway 138 heading to Cajon Pass, I was zooming along at 69 mph when suddenly I came upon the Mormon Rocks. Look exactly like these:

Mormon Rocks

The mountains are rugged and the desert floor is flat, so to have those suddenly pop up in front of you is like something out of a Stephen King novel… “The Stand” or “The Dark Tower.”

The Mormon Rocks basically are at the intersection of Highway 138 and Interstate 15. According to Wikipedia, “In 1851, a group of Mormon settlers led by Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich traveled through the Cajon Pass in covered wagons on their way from Salt Lake City to southern California. The Mormon Rocks are where the Mormon trail and the railway merge.”

The Mormon Rocks are visual evidence of the San Andreas fault that runs through the area. They were so big and enormous that I couldn’t get them all in one picture, so I took 17 pictures and then used the Photomerge function in Photoshop to create two panoramas:

Mormon Rocks

Mormon Rocks

The vegetation in the pictures, coastal sage scrub and chaparral, is black and leafless because a wildfire roared through this area in August last year. Scrub and chaparral tend to be brittle, dry, and oily, perfect for wildfires.

Here in California we name our fires, kind of like the southeast names their hurricanes. We don’t consider fires to be people, though, so we usually name our fires after some landmark in the area where they started. This wildfire is known as the Blue Cut Fire since it started on the Blue Cut hiking trail.

The Blue Cut Fire was first reported on August 16, 2016, at 10:36 a.m. A red flag warning, also known as a fire weather warning, was in effect with temperatures near 100°F and winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour. By August 18, the fire had burned 37,000 acres of land and destroyed 105 homes and 213 other structures.

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