Author Archives: Russel Ray Photos

About Russel Ray Photos

Photographer career began in sixth grade in 1966.

150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad coming up in May

Railroads & Trains logo

Trains always have fascinated me since my dad and granddad worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Texas.

My favorite railroad flag is the Union Pacific, the nation’s largest railroad in terms of traffic, revenue, and track miles.

Union Pacific also has the nation’s largest roster of operating steam locomotives, led by Big Boy #4014 (due back on the rails in just a couple of months after sitting for 52 years at the RailGiants Museum in Los Angeles and the last 6 years undergoing restoration in Wyoming), Challenger #3985, and Northern #844. Once Big Boy is back on the tracks, it will become the world largest operating steam locomotive, taking that title away from Challenger #3985.

In four months, on May 10, I expect to see all three of these beauties in one location, at Promontory Point, Utah. That’s the date of the the 150th anniversary celebration of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

Here are some Photographic Art creations of the three locomotives for my new Double R Creations enterprise.

Union Pacific Big Boy #4014
132 feet long

Union Pacific Challenger #3985
122 feet long
Union Pacific Challenger 3985

Union Pacific Northern #844
114 feet long
Union Pacific Northern 844

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



Beware of people who dislike cats

I washed and dried the sheets yesterday.

Threw the sheets on the bed and look who shows up 3.1415926 seconds later.

I laid down beside her and she started licking my head.

After a few minutes, she stopped, so I licked her head for a couple of minutes.

Here’s her response.


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

Opinion—See & hear & do it now


Double R CreationsWith the start of my new business, Double R Creations, I’m in the process of combining all of my billions and billions and billions of pictures onto one huge 8TB SSD and then finally deleting the pictures that I won’t use—pictures that are too small, grainy pictures from decades ago, home inspection pictures, and stuff that I have saved for whatever reason. As my wise old grandmother told me in 1966, “If you haven’t used it in the past six months, get rid of it.” Her version of get rid of it was to have one of her famous semi-annual garage sales.

Here is something that I saved on August 26, 2003, and just re-discovered. I really like it.

Live It Up, by Ann Wells (Los Angeles Times)

My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister’s bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. “This,” he said, “is not a slip. This is lingerie.” He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached. “Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least 8 or 9 years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion.” He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you’re alive is a special occasion.”

I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death. I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister’s family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn’t seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special. I’m still thinking about his words, and they’ve changed my life. I’m reading more and dusting less. I’m sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I’m spending more time with my family and friends, and less time in committee meetings.

Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savor, not endure. I’m trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them. I’m not “saving” anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event—such as losing a pound, getting the sink Cameliaunstopped, the first camellia blossom. I wear my good blazer to the market if I feel like it. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries without wincing. I’m not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my party-going friends. “Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

I’m not sure what my sister would have done had she known that she wouldn’t be here for the tomorrow we all take for granted. I think she would have called family members and a few close friends. She might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think she would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, her favorite food. I’m guessing—I’ll never know. It’s those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew that my hours were limited. Angry because I put off seeing good friends whom I was going to get in touch with—someday. Angry because I hadn’t written certain letters that I intended to write—one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn’t tell my husband and daughter often enough how much I truly love them. I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is special.

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

Out & About—Hawk Watch in Ramona, California

Out & About The World

I went to Hawk Watch on 1/5/2019 in Ramona CA, courtesy of the Wildlife Research Institute.

In my 63 years 9 months and 26 days on Earth, it ranks as one of the Top 10 most interesting things I have ever done. Got to see gyrfalcon, pygmy falcon, peregrine falcon, American kestrel, ferruginous hawk, and red-tailed hawk.

I got bopped on the head by the wings of a diving peregrine falcon. Afterwards, we had a field trip where I got to see my first bald eagle nest in the wild and a juvenile bald eagle in the wild.

I took 458 pictures, so it will take me a little while to catalog all of them. Here are two pictures of the gyrfalcon, the largest of the falcons and, as far as I’m concerned, the most beautiful. It’s from the Arctic.

Gyrfalcon at Hawk Watch in Ramona CA on 1/5/19

Gyrfalcon at Hawk Watch in Ramona CA on 1/5/19

Hawk Watch occurs every weekend in January and February, and next Saturday, 1/12/2019, all those birds will be back, accompanied by some owls, including a Great Horned Owl. I guess you know where I will be next Saturday.

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

Did You Know?—California Safe House

Did you know?

Seen in Los Angeles on September 21, 2018.

California fire station safe house

A Safe House is a location, usually a hospital or fire station, where newborn infants can be surrendered within 72 hours of birth with no questions asked.

It’s sad that we need Safe Houses but the alternative is worse.

Safe Houses were created in January 2001 by the Safely Surrendered Baby Law in response to an increasing number of newborn infant deaths due to abandonment in unsafe locations. The law was made permanent in January 2006.

From January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2015, 770 newborns were surrendered in California, with 84 newborns surrendered in 2015 calendar. Unfortunately, 169 infants were abandoned during the same period, five of which occurred in 2015.

Since the law was enacted, abandonments have decreased from 25 in 2002 to 5 or fewer in ever year since 2010, inclusive.

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

Out & About—Death Valley National Park

Out & About The World

My paternal grandmother adopted me in December 1965 when I was just three months short of 11. For Christmas 1968, we were going to go to Huntington Beach, California, to visit her oldest living son (my dad was the oldest son) and his family. We were going to drive. I asked if we could drive through Death Valley. The first answer was, “Yes.” The final answer was, “No, because it’s too hot and the car doesn’t have air conditioning.”

After graduating from high school in May 1973, two friends and I took a driving tour of states west of the Mississippi River. Our intent was to visit every city of at least 100,000 population, every national monument, every national park, and every national forest. We almost made it. We skipped Death Valley National Park because it was too hot and we were sleeping outside in tents.

I tried to visit Death Valley many other times but never made it, until July 30, 2018. It was everything I expected, and more, living up to being the hottest, driest, and lowest national park. It’s also an International Dark Sky Park, and I can personally attest to its darkness and the beautiful stars above.

International Dark Sky Park

I got to Panamint Springs, the western gateway to Death Valley, at 8:30 p.m. on July 30. Panamint Springs is an unincorporated area of Inyo County. Its population is unknown but probably is in the low double digits. My car’s temperature gauge said it was hot outside:

118°F outside

I had been sleeping in my car at night but at 118 effin degrees, I didn’t think that would be a good idea. There was a small hotel but it had no vacancy. However, there was a campground in back, and there were some cabins there. One was still available. $150 for the night. It had air conditioning. I was an easy sale. I got to my cabin, turned on the air conditioner, unloaded the car, and checked the outside temperature. Still 108 effin degrees.

When I woke five hours later, I took a shower. If you’ve seen Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” movie, you’ll understand why I thought of that movie when I saw the shower curtain:

After taking a shower, I watched the sunrise:

Sunrise in Panamint Springs in Death Valley

Afterwards, around 6:30 a.m., I started loading the car. Fortunately, the temperature had fallen. Thank goodness for overnight cooling!

100 effin degrees outside

As I was pulling away, I got a picture of my cute little cabin:

My cabin for the night

A drive through the campground showed that there were people who actually camped out in their tents!

Panamint Springs campground

Not knowing when I might find another gas station, I filled up at the only gas station in Panamint Springs…. with NO BRAND gas. Never had seen that before!

No brand gas

The scenery was beautiful in its own way on the drive to the Death Valley Visitor Center:

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Devil’s Corn Field was quite interesting to a plant person like me. The plants are Arrowweed (Pluchea sericea), and native Americans used its straight woody shoots for their arrow shafts. Arrowweed spreads by rhizomes, and the desert winds cause the sand to accumulate at the base of the Arrowweed, causing the field to look like bundled corn stalks left to dry in a midwestern corn field.

Devil's Cornfield

The visitor center was named Furnace Creek Visitor Center, an appropriate name since it was 113 effin degrees at 9:15 in the morning, 190 feet below sea level.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley

The best of Death Valley was yet to come: Badwater Basin, Salt Flats, Devil’s Golf Course, Ashford Mill Ruins and the Old Harmony Borax Works, and lots of beautiful hot, dry, desert scenery.

Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in the North America. Interestingly, Mt. Whitney, peaking at 14,505 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the lower 48 states, just 84 miles away from the lowest point.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley

Badwater Basin in Death Valley

Salt Flats—Ten to twelve thousand years ago, there was a lake here, Lake Manly, about 100 miles long and 600 feet deep. As the area turned to hot, dry desert and the water evaporated, only salts were left behind.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley

Salt Flats in Death Valley

Devil’s Golf Course—Named after a line in the 1934 National Park Service guide to Death Valley: “Only the devil could play golf on its surface.” It is another part of Lake Manly. One can drive out to the salt flats, park the car, and walk around on lots of salt. Yet not a single margarita in sight!

Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley

Old Harmony Borax Works—The search for gold in Death Valley produced few fortunes, leaving borax, the White Gold of the Desert, as the valley’s most profitable mineral.

Harmony Borax Works was the valley’s first borax operation, operating from 1883 to 1888.

San Francisco businessman William T. Coleman built the plant in 1882 to refine the “cottonball” borax found on the nearby salt flats. The high cost of transportation made it necessary to refine the borax here rather than carry both borax and waste to the railroad, 165 miles distant across the desert.

Old Harmony Borax Works

Old Harmony Borax Works

Old Harmony Borax Works

Old Harmony Borax Works

Old Harmony Borax Works

Ashford Mill Ruins—Gold ore from the Golden Treasure Mine, five miles to the east, was processed here for shipment to a smelter.

Ashford Mill Ruins

Ashford Mill Ruins

Lots of beautiful hot, dry, desert scenery on the drive out of the park.

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Beautiful hot, dry desert….

But it's a dry heat

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