Author Archives: Russel Ray Photos

About Russel Ray Photos

Photographer career began in sixth grade in 1966.

SNIPPETS (5/17/2019)

Snippets

SNIPPET 1

I finished my second video of the two Union Pacific steam locomotives, this one titled “They’ll be coming round the mountain when they come. They’ll be high up on the mountain when they come.” The scenery is just as beautiful as the train!

SNIPPET 2

The lead locomotive, Big Boy #4014, recently restored after sitting in static display at Rail Giants Museum in Pomona, California, from 1959 to 2014, derailed yesterday. The public didn’t know the extent of any damage for about thirty minutes. Fortunately, the train was entering the yard in Rawlins, Wyoming, so it was going rather slow. It took them a little over three hours to get Big Boy up on the rails again. We rail fans were tense for a time there.

SNIPPET 3

All the cacti that had bloomed in my gardens two days ago bloomed again yesterday. However, someone was late to the party but finally made it, but it was worth the wait. It’s a Trichocereus grandiflorus Thai hybrid.

SNIPPET 4

My neighbors have a huge loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica) in their back yard which I can see from my kitchen window. It is in full fruit right now, and the ground squirrels are all over it, seeming to forget that they are ground squirrels, not tree squirrels. Here’s one who has found an all-you-can-eat buffet about thirty feet up in the tree:

Ground squirrel eating loquats in the tree

SNIPPET 5

It rained all day yesterday, so I drank some macho juice and went outside to take macro pictures of raindrops on flowers. The first picture below is raindrops on the flowers of Asclepias physocarpa, a type of milkweed called the “Balloon Plant” because it’s seed pods look like balloons, albeit hairy balloons. The second picture is of the seed pods, of which this plant had three last year when it was just a wee plant; it’s now about ten feet tall.

Asclepias physocarpa

Asclepias physocarpa seed pod

SNIPPET 6

My road trip to Promontory Summit and Ogden, Utah, comprised five days and covered 2,282.9 miles (yes, I’m a little detailed). My two favorite scenic parts of the drive were the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona and Interstate 80 from Echo, Utah, to Evanston, Wyoming.

I bought a dash cam last July on that eight-day road trip, so eventually I’ll be able to share these two drives on YouTube. They were that great.

SNIPPET 6

Based on state license plates over the 2,282.9-mile drive, here is my considered opinion of drivers, best to worst:

  1. Wyoming drivers were the best but perhaps only because there were so few of them, right in line with Wyoming being the least populous state with a mere 544,270 people spread out over 97,000 square miles.
  2. Arizona—Interstate 15 went through the northwest corner of Arizona for only about 35 miles so I might not have a large enough sample to truly say anything definitive about Arizona drivers.
  3. Nevada—The speed limit was 70 or 75 mph, and Interstate 15 goes right smack dab through the heart of Las Vegas. I do believe most Nevada drivers also were gambling while driving.
  4. Utah—The speed limit on Interstate 15 in Utah is 70 to 80 miles per hour, mostly 80, only dropping to 70 in construction zones. Sadly, speed limit laws apply equally to the smart and the stupid, but I think the number of stupid people is far greater than smart people. The fact that so many stupid people are driving 80 miles per hour, and often up to 90 miles per hour, in heavy traffic, was a constant source of worry.
  5. California drivers were the worst. I think each person believes all roadways within 10 miles belong to him or her; female drivers were far worse than male drivers.

SNIPPET 7

Speaking of speed limits, it was interesting how each state handles them. California was 65 mph in or near cities and 70 mph in boondocks areas. Arizona was 70 mph and 75 mph, as was Nevada. Utah was 70 mph in construction zones, 75 mph through cities, and 80 mph in the boondocks, which was basically all of southern Utah. Wyoming was 80 mph. My thinking would be that California needs to get with the program!

SNIPPET 8

Gas prices were another issue of mine. When I left the confines of California, gas was $4.799 a gallon for the cheapest grade, usually something like ARCO 87 octane. In Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, gas was $3.049 to $3.159. Interestingly, almost all the brands were the exact same price, so instead of doing ARCO, I went with Shell, Union 76, and ExxonMobil.

As I determined back in the late ’70s when I got my first car, the major brands brought better gas mileage. What was weird, though, was that the major brand cheap gas was 85 octane. Theoretically, 85 octane should give you lower gas mileage than 87 octane.

Gas mileage using California ARCO 87 octane gas ranged from 30.9 mpg to 33.8 mpg. Using Shell, Union 76, and ExxonMobil 85 octane gas provided 35.2 to 40.7 mpg.

A new item this morning indicates that certain entities might be manipulating California gas prices, which I would believe since California gas prices usually aren’t $1.80 higher than surrounding states.

I filled up with Shell gas at a truck stop just south of Las Vegas where I paid $3.089. A few miles later I passed the first truck stop in California where the gas was $4.999. I saved $1.91 a gallon, calculating to $22.92 for my
12-gallon tank. That would buy a lot of margaritas!

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

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Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

An explosion of color in my cactus gardens

I live in my own little world

There currently is a flower explosion happening in my cactus gardens.

Here are some pictures of today’s color:

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Out & About—Historic trains in Ogden Utah

Out & About The World

Granddad, as well as my dad, worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad, granddad as a Road Foreman of Engines. Dad also was a Road Foreman of Engines but had just been promoted to Vice-President of Missouri Pacific Railroad when he killed himself. They found his body on January 18, 1961, in a railroad box car in a small, isolated railroad siding northeast of Palestine, Texas. They estimated that he had been dead for three days.

After dad’s death, mom moved us from Palestine to northern Utah, first Hyrum, then Wellsville, then Logan, and finally Brigham City. Brigham City is where I became a rail fan. Among other things, I used to skip school and hop the Union Pacific trains, riding in a box car down to Ogden and back. A cool 38-mile round trip. I’m the reason why you don’t see open doors on empty box cars anymore….

In May 1969, when I was 14 years old, I was living in Kingsville, Texas, with my paternal grandparents. They had adopted me 3½ years earlier. May 1969 was the 100th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. I wanted so badly to go back to Utah and help Union Pacific celebrate, but said grandparents would not take me. I was sad. Granted, it was 1,500 miles away, but nevertheless…. Still sad.

My stamp collecting helped me determine that historic events were celebrated every 50 years. I did the calculations and determined that I would be 64 in 2019 when the 150th anniversary rolled around. I had a chance to still be alive, so I put it on my calendar.

Fast forward to May 10, 2019. Guess where I was. Yep. Northern Utah participating in many celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Two historic steam locomotives were due to be in Ogden, Utah, to help with the celebrations My #1 goal was to get a video of the two locomotives leaving Ogden to go back to the steam shops in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Here’s the video I got:

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Picture of the Moment—Zoey the Cool Cat talks….

Picture of the Moment

I left at 4:18 on the morning on Wednesday, May 8, to go to northern Utah for the sesquicentennial celebration of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

I lived in northern Utah—Hyrum, Wellsville, Logan, and Brigham City—from mid-1961 (unsure of the actual date) to December 18, 1965.

Union Pacific #844 and #4014 meet in Ogden, UtahI visited the historic railroad depot in downtown Ogden, Utah, to see two historic steam locomotives re-enact the meeting 150 years ago at….

Promontory Summit, Utah, the place where the eastern railroad, Union Pacific, met with the western railroad, Central Pacific;

Buffalo on Antelope Island, Great Salt LakeAntelope Island, a huge island in the Great Salt Lake, where there is a very large herd of buffalo;

Red Butte Gardens on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City;

Lagoon Amusement Park, one of the few places that I have positive memories of my years ages 6-10 in northern Utah;

visited my oldest aunt and uncle in Provo, Utah. Mom was the oldest child, and this uncle was the second oldest. Aunt & uncle were the two who drove me from Brigham City, Utah, to Kingsville, Texas, in December 1965 when I was to be adopted by my wise old (paternal) grandmother.

and I chased the two steam locomotives from Ogden to Morgan to Echo to Evanston, Wyoming, on May 12.

I will have lots of pictures and videos to share in the coming days, weeks, and months.

I got home at 7:50 on the morning of Monday, May 13.

I’m not sure whether I got a “Welcome home!” or a different message from the little queen, Zoey the Cool Cat.

What do y’all think?

Picture of the Moment—Trichocereus grandiflorus Thai hybrid

Picture of the Moment

This is one of my favorites of the Trichocereus grandiflorus Thai hybrids growing in my gardens.

I see Mama wearing a beautiful hat and with all her children gathered around.

I think they are going on a spring outing to a botanical garden somewhere.

Trichocereus are some of the most popular cacti because of their huge, magnificent blooms.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Did You Know?—Perfection creates perfection

Did you know?

It’s hard to believe that my last blog post was March 26. I guess I have some splainin’ to do.

Since I have been extraordinarily bored in my third attempt at retirement (the first two were equally boring), I have been out & about looking for things to do. I found it! A long-time acquaintance, now a 3-time author, hired (uh-oh; there goes retirement) me to do the final editing and design layout of his fourth book, titled “Spiny Succulents.” Right up my alley.

Spiny Succulents, by Jeff Moore

I got his final draft on January 28. At 358 pages and over 1,300 pictures, I’m still working on it. Close to being finished. Just Index, Table of Contents, minor changes, and a final read-through, and that’s it!

After I get back from my trip to northern Utah for the 150th anniversary celebration of the driving of the Golden Spike and the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad, I’ll be writing my own book. Two books, actually (that should keep me busy for a while in retirement!). The first will be Nature’s Geometry: Flora with Nature’s Geometry: Fauna being a natural follow-up.

Both will be picture books mainly, so I will be able to combine my love of nature, photography, and books. I’ll be looking at stars, circles, triangles, symmetry, and spirals.

It was spirals that got me interested in doing the books because then I can add my love of mathematics to this endeavour (I misspelled endeavour for my Canadian friends).

I have been enraptured by spirals in nature ever since I discovered my first spiral succulent back in 1973. It was an Aloe polyphylla:

They grow high up in the mountains in Lesotho in Africa. They like it cold, often being covered in snow for half the year. I grew one in a terrarium from 1978 to 1993 in Texas, adding ice to the terrarium each day to mimic it’s natural environment. I now have another one, a juvenile that is not spiraling yet, also in an “ice terrarium.”

Aloe polyphylla in an ice terrarium

Spirals in nature are quite predictable by using the golden ratio that exists in the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. The Fibonacci sequence begins with 0 and 1. Succeeding numbers are created by adding the two previous numbers. So the sequence would be:

0   1   1   2   3   5   8   13   21   34   55   89   144   233   377   …

Yesterday in my gardens, I found a mammillaria which perfectly illustrates the sequence and shows the spirals very well.

Mammillaria exhibiting Fibonacci influence

See the spirals? Very beautiful.

Since I know a lot about Fibonacci number sequencing, I’m expecting to find a total number of spirals that equals a number in the Fibonacci sequence. Look what I found:

Spiral count on a Mammillaria

There are 13 spirals (red) going counter-clockwise, and 21 spirals (black) going clockwise. Total of 34 spirals. Here is the Fibonacci number sequence again:

0   1   1   2   3   5   8   13   21   34   55   89   144   233   377   …

And there we have it!

13   21   34

As one gets into the higher numbers, problems creep up, most often related to events that interfere with how Mother & Father Nature wish to do things—extreme weather events, pests, diseases, and damage from humans. That’s where standard deviation comes in, but I won’t get into that here.

What all of this tells me about my mammillaria is that Mother & Father Nature are very happy, no extreme weather events have interfered with its growth, no pests have tried to eat it, no diseases have ravaged it, and humans (me!) have not damaged it.

So, basically, I have a perfect plant.

Well, duh.

It’s my plant growing in my gardens.My wise old grandmother

“Perfection creates perfection” my wise old grandmother used to say……………

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Out & About—The top 10 most important trees in Balboa Park

Out & About The World

Now that I’m retired, I have more time to go exploring each day.

This past Sunday I took a walking tour of the ten most important trees in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

Number 8 on the list is one of the four Dragon trees (Dracaena draco) in the Desert Garden just across the street from the San Diego Zoo, the tallest one in the following picture.

Dragon tree (Dracaena draco)

These four were planted in 1914 for the Panama-California Exhibition of 1915-16. That tallest one is about 25 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 3½ feet. It has been named Frank Allen Jr. in honor of the man in charge of designing and installing the landscape for the 1915 Exposition.

Dragon trees are members of the asparagus family.  They are indigenous to the Canary Islands where the Guanche people used its sap in their mummification process.

Quite popular in Southern California landscapes in the 20th century, they rarely are planted today.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post