Category Archives: Nature

Picture of the Moment—Finest and most bestest ever!

Picture of the Moment

My wise old grandmother had lots of hummingbird feeders throughout the trees in her yard, and ever since I got my hands on an SLR camera in 1966, I have been trying to get a halfway decent picture of a hummingbird in flight.

Yesterday I took my new Tamron 150-600mm lens to Balboa Park for a walk around the many gardens. I knew where the hummingbirds hung out so I was hoping to get a chance to try out the lens on those fast flyers.

I switched my camera settings to AI Servo focusing for to better track fast-moving objects, set it to use the 19-point autofocus system, and set it to take up to five pictures per second, and went to work.

Following is one of the pictures I came home with.  I rank it right up there at #1, bestest and mostest fine fine fine Russel Ray hummingbird photo ever.

Hummingbird in flight

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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Out & About—I guess they are planning for a population boom

Out & About

The first time I went to the Mojave Desert was during the Summer of 1973 when I went with two friends (Jaime and Larry) on a tour of the United States west of the Mississippi River. Since we lived in South Texas, a desert in its own right, the Mojave didn’t really interest me, at least not near as much as San Francisco, Oakland (home of the Raiders and A’s), Los Angeles, and San Diego. The only reason we were going there was to visit Death Valley, which has the lowest point in the lower states and the highest recorded temperature of 134°F (July 10, 1913).

Now that I am a couple of years older, I have a greater appreciation for the deserts, finding them quite interesting. For some reason, though, they still are quite hot, so i don’t visit them often.

In early February, I was in the western reaches of the Mojave Desert tracking trains that have to get through the desert to points east. Here are a few pictures of what I found in the Mojave Desert:

California Aqueduct & Lake PalmdaleCalifornia Aqueduct & Lake Palmdale

Seems kind of odd to build an open-air aqueduct in one of the hottest places on Earth.

The desert seemed to be one huge dumping ground. Trash was everywhere, and I’m not talking about litter. I’m talking about huge items abandoned as trash. The beauty of the Mojave Desert was ruined in so many places.

Sofa bed dumped in the desert

Trash in the Mojave Desert

Trash in Mojave Desert

Winfield’s Custom Shop had the most interesting advertising sign.

Winfield's Custom Shop

When Winfield says “custom,” I think he means it. Check out this custom police car:

Custom police car

Wind farms were everywhere. Many people find them ugly but I find them strangely fascinating and beautiful.

Mojave Desert wind farm

Notice the snow-capped mountains in the picture above. This is the high desert, and although it gets extraordinarily hot and has little precipitation, the mountain peaks are high enough that they can get snow on them in the winter.

I saw Edwards Air Force Base where the Space Shuttle would land when bad weather prevented a Florida landing at Cape Canaveral. More snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Edwards Air Force Base

My little hometown of Kingsville TX had numbered streets all the way up to 17th Street, paved with concrete and asphalt, and houses lining both sides of the street. Out in the Mojave Desert, it’s a little different.

233rd Street East

233rd Street East

You might be inclined to think, “Well, obviously it’s a new street.” Doesn’t matter. Every street from 1st Street East to 233rd Street East looked exactly like that. I guess they are planning for a population boom. I don’t think it’s coming. I did not bother trying to find 233rd Street West.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

A short history of (my) pets

Halls of History

I grew up with animals of every kind—ponies, donkeys, dogs, cats, a monkey, snakes, rats, skunks, opossums, raccoons, birds, mice, rats, fish, bugs. If it moved, it interested me.

I always considered myself a dog person, though, simply because my dogs would follow me around, roll over on command, sit, shake, and lie at my feet wherever I was. It was obvious that my dogs loved me. The other animals, no so much.

My first dog was a mutt named Bosco. I don’t have a picture of him. He was an alley dog, roaming wherever he wanted to go. One day he didn’t come home. I’m pretty sure he simply died; he was an old dog at that time.

I didn’t have another dog until I graduated from Texas A&M University and moved to Houston. I got two dogs, both purebred Beagles from the same litter. I named them “Union” and “Pacific” after the Union Pacific Railroad. Yes, I was weird even then. One day I came home from work and my apartment was open with fire, police, and apartment personnel rushing in an out. Union and Pacific had pooped in the bathtub (just like I had taught them to) but then had managed to turn the water on. The dog poop clogged the drain and the apartment flooded. I was upstairs, so water was leaking into the apartment below me and the roof in their unit collapsed. Fortunately everyone had insurance which covered us, but I either had to give up Union and Pacific, or move. I couldn’t afford to move at that point.

Finally, three years later, I did move. My Houston rent had gotten to a dollar a square foot, so I picked up and moved back to College Station where I was hoping to get a job with Texas A&M University so I could get that awesome state-supplied health insurance. I did. That was when I bought a duplex and got two dogs, Penney, a Long-haired Dachsund, and Sugar, a Chow Chow/Besenji mix. The only Chow Chow part of Sugar was her purple tongue.

Penney and Sugar

One day when I was preparing to leave on my motorcycle, Sugar jumped up on the seat. I took a few minutes and left her on the back seat and drove around the neighborhood fully expecting her to jump off and run home. Nope. She stayed. Happiest dog in the world.

Sugar the motorcycle riding dog

Since she was so happy, I took time out each day to take her for longer, and faster, motorcycle rides. Eventually she rode with me on the highway at 65 mph from College Station to Waco, a distance of about 90 miles. She was the best backseat rider ever, keeping her head pinned to my side and watching the road to determine which way she should lean into the upcoming curve.

On April 15, 1993, I left College Station on a suicide journey (see my unsuccessful suicide journey post here). I gave Sugar and Penney to a friend and never saw them again. I also lost contact with the friend, so I don’t know what happened to Sugar and Penney, or how long they lived.

From 1993 to 2007 I was too mobile and too into work to have a pet, although I did have several aquariums, even a 300-gallon aquarium full of African cichlids. Then, on Thanksgiving Day 2007, a black cat came to visit. Jim and I gave it food and water. It ate and drank, and left. Didn’t even bother saying “Thank you!” or “Goodbye!”

On Christmas Eve, it came back. Imagine that, a cat that knows human holidays!Sophie the Black Cat

Jim and I gave it food and water again, it ate and drank, and stayed. We named her Sophie.

We moved 8 months later and took her with us, all the while trying to make her into an indoor cat. Didn’t work. When darkness came, she would howl like a coyote until we let her out. She always came home, though, until the morning of September 20, 2007. No Sophie. A phone call at 7:30 a.m. No one calls me at 7:30 a.m. It was the worst phone call ever. A neighbor a couple of blocks over had found a black cat that had been hit and killed by a car. She had moved the cat out of the road, saw the collar tag, and called me. I went to retrieve the body and give it a proper burial, out near the house we had just sold, her old neighborhood.

Sophie grave

I was so devastated with the loss of Sophie, and how she died, that Jim and I immediately went to the El Cajon Animal Shelter to get another cat. We wanted an older cat that was an indoor cat, but I also wanted a cat that would let me hold it and pet it. We found Zoey, but she wouldn’t be ready to adopt until the next day. We were there 10 minutes before they opened, signed the adoption papers and paid the adoption fee, and brought Zoey home. Three hours after she arrived in our home, I captured this picture:

Zoey the Cool Cat

That was when I renamed Zoey, adding “the Cool Cat” so that she became Zoey the Cool Cat.

At first, having a 100% indoor cat was difficult. One of the reasons why I never considered myself a cat person was because cats like to jump up on things, climb on things, climb up things, and study gravy by knocking anything and everything to the floor. About the same time that I was getting really frustrated, a new show made its debut on cable: “My Cat From Hell” featuring Jackson Galaxy. I will admit that I judged a book by its cover and as soon as I saw Jackson, I said, “No way!” Yes way.

I learned from Jackson that cats are vertical animals. They like to climb. Once I was able to accept that and help Zoey the Cool Cat (ZCC), she and I became much better friends. I catified my house so that ZCC has vertical places she can go with no questions asked. I even have a special cat shelf in front of a window in each room. She loves them.

Zoey the Cool Cat on her window shelf

I also found out through Jackson Galaxy and “Pets Rule” at SeaWorld San Diego that you can train cats. I had never believed that. ZCC can go anywhere she wants except the top of the railing on the balcony (don’t want her falling off), the grand piano (just no), the leather sofa (don’t want cat claw holes in the leather), the kitchen counters (that’s where I prepare food), and the top of the refrigerator. Actually, she can go to the top of the refrigerator if she can figure out how to get there without making an intermediate stop on the kitchen counters.

Cats will react to a loud clap and a loud NO, usually by jumping down and hiding. Jackson taught me to wait about a minute and then give them a treat to let them know that I still love them, but it’s far enough away from the clap/NO so they won’t connect being bad with getting a treat.

Also, when you find cats somewhere you don’t want them to be, pick them up and put them someplace where it is okay to be, along with some loving words, a soothing voice, some petting or head butts, and a treat. You can get them to go where you want them to go by leaving treats there. Just don’t leave too many; otherwise, they’ll think that’s their eating spot.

Make it easy to get up and down. It’s more easy for cats to go up and not so easy for them to come down. I have catified my home so that it’s just short jumps from here to there, both up and down. In the window shelf picture, it’s a short jump up to my desk and then another short jump to get to her window shelf. She comes down the same way because they are short jumps. ZCC prefers those spots where she has to make a short jump. So, floor or bed? Bed. Floor or chair? Chair. Chair seat or chair back?

Zoey the Cool Cat

One thing it took me a little while to discover is that ZCC, and most cats, prefer the old and smelly to the new, so I never have spent money on a cat tree or cat toys. If I want to spice up ZCC’s life, a box or sack from the store is all she needs, and her favorite cat toy are the red rings from the gallon milk jugs. She’s easy.

Red Rings

Zoey the Cool Cat and her red ring

Zoey the Cool Cat and her red ring

Zoey the Cool Cat in her new sack

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Friday Flower Fiesta (3-3-17)—The Flower Fields are now open

Friday Flower Fiesta

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch opened on March 1 and will remain open through May 14.

Carlsbad Flower Fields

Carlsbad Flower Fields

The Flower Fields comprises 50 acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus, a stunning flower that comes in many colors and can get up to 12 inches in diameter.

Ranunculus at the Carlsbad Flower Fields Ranunculus at the Carlsbad Flower Fields Ranunculus at the Carlsbad Flower Fields

Along with the main flower fields, there are smaller displays that vary each year. In the past I have seen cymbidium orchids, poinsettias (blooming!), a sweet pea maze that the children always enjoy, and a 300-feet by 170-feet American flag created out of red, white, and blue petunias.

Sweet pea maze at Carlsbad Flower Fields

Poinsettia

IMG_5466 orchid triplets faa stamp

The Flower Fields are open to the public seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Prices for adults, $14; seniors 60+, $13; children 3-10 yrs, $7; children 2 yrs & under, free. Season passes are available from $16 to $30. Along with the Sweet Pea Maze (which is almost always there) are other things to do once you get tired of of walking around. Of course, wagon rides through the 50 acres are available at $5 for adults and $3 for children 3-10 yrs. I think this is the only place I ever have been whee adults are defined as anyone age 11 and over.

Smoking and alcoholic beverages are not permitted onsite. Bicycles, hoverboards, and drones also are not permitted.

Map to the Carlsbad Flower Fields

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Cold & wet—not my kind of weather

Out & About

I spent a couple of hours in La Jolla yesterday taking pictures and videos of the splashing waves of the King Tide as well as wildlife that was enjoying the cold, wet weather, something that I was not exactly doing myself.

I know that big waves can be destructive but they sure are fun to watch.

Spring tide in La Jolla CA 1/11/17

One of the better photos of the crashing waves because it also shows the harbor seals and, at the lower right, that little pup seemingly wondering if it’s safe to go in.

Spring tide in La Jolla CA 1/11/17

The stairs down to the beach, except that when the tide is this high, there is no beach.

Spring tide in La Jolla CA 1/11/17

There were many birds and seals hoping to get their 15 minutes of fame in a WordPress blog.

Harbor seal pups at Children's Pool in La Jolla CA

Bird at the Cove in La Jolla CA

About six months ago I bought a new Canon Rebel 760D because it has a tilt/swivel screen which makes it easier to take pictures and videos from weird positions, and auto focusing for videos. I haven’t really learned to use the auto focusing yet. Either that or it just plain is abysmal. That’s one of the reasons why I was out taking videos yesterday, to find out exactly what I have and how to use it. Here is a 55-second video of the crashing waves at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Snippets (12-28-16)—You’re a little different….

Snippets

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

snip-pet: a small piece of something
Snippets: mini blog posts

SNIPPET 1

When two of my hard drives crashed concurrently in early October, my main concern was retrieving over a million photographs and videos. Fortunately, I got them all back, albeit at a cost of a couple of grand.

Now I’m in the process of cataloging all of them, deleting duplicates, and then, instead of backing up to an external hard drive, which is what I was doing when both drives crashed, I’m going to do backups to the cloud where there are multiple redundancies to prevent crashes and losses.

I have not chosen a cloud storage service so I’m open to suggestions.

SNIPPET 2

I am enjoying going through all the uncatalogued pictures and finding some gems, such as the following two. Feel free to provide your own caption.

A seal praying that Trump doesn’t destroy the worldSeal praying that Trump doesn't destroy the world

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

When one of the gang realizes you’re a little different
and still comes over to say hello.Seals & pelicanPictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

SNIPPET 3

Joey Thaidigsman, freshman computer science major at the University of California at BerkeleyJoey Thaidigsman, the IT Director of Russel Ray (which comprises Photographic Art, Russel Ray Photos, and House Key News) is a freshman Computer Science major at the University of California at Berkeley. I’m proud to tell you that he earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average for his first semester. He wants to go into artificial intelligence. Hmmm. Maybe he IS artificial intelligence. I’ll keep an eye on him….

SNIPPET 4

Since Trump is intent on blowing up the world, Jim and I figured we would go out in style, so Christmas Eve afternoon we traded in our 2015 Honda Civic EX-L, which we bought on February 6, 2016, for a 2017 Honda Civic EX. We switched from a white exterior with beige leather interior to a “modern steel metallic” exterior (very dark gray, basically) with a black interior. The white/beige showed too much dust and dirt all the time, so we’re going to try the darker colors for a couple of years.

I think it’s the second most fun car Jim and I have owned, behind the 1998 Pontiac Trans Am. The other cars were a 1989 Saleen Ford Mustang GT, 1991 Honda Civic, 1998 Toyota Avalon, 2000 Honda Accord, 2002 Nissan Maxima, 2003 Toyota Camry, 2005 Nissan Altima, and a 2015 Toyota Corolla (which we still have).

It has two USB ports for the stereo system, great cruise control, dual-zone heating and cooling (convenient since, in 22½ years, Jim and I have never agreed on comfort temperature), and a moon roof for those starry starry nights.

2017 Honda Civic EX

2017 Honda Civic EX

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

SNIPPET 5

Hope everyone is having a great holiday season! Best wishes for health, happiness, peace, and prosperity in 2017 and beyond!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?
Visit
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Sunrise, sunset

Picture of the Moment

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

We have been having beautiful sunrises and sunsets since mid-October.

My home office faces east, and, like my wise old grandmother, I get up before the sun does. Thus I see the sunrise every day. Following is the sunrise of December 2:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I wasn’t prepared for that sunrise so I had to take the picture through my home office window (only slightly dirtier than the windows in a coal mine) and through the screen. So all the smudging will forever prevent me from using that picture for anything other than a snapshot for a blog post.

Here’s another from October 24 through my home office window:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California, on October 24, 2016

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen might be that of December 5:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was prepared for it, so the window was open and the screen had been removed.

The only sunrise that might compete with it is the sunrise on September 17, 2012, that I watched from the top of Mount Helix, also here in La Mesa (Mount Helix is a mountain 900 feet tall—if they are taller than us, we call them mountains here in San Diego):

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

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have billions of sunset pictures because I have to make myself all beautiful and go out into the world in order to get sunset pictures since there is a mountain behind me blocking my view to the west. My favorite sunset pictures usually involve water or boats, like panorama of San Diego harbor on November 7, 2016:

Sunset on November 7, 2016, San Diego harbor

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My favorite sunrise and sunset pictures usually have a lot of colors in them, like these three:

Sunset in San Diego California

Sunset at La Jolla Cove, 10-17-12, La Jolla, California

October 17, 2012, sunset in La Jolla, California

Top picture: Sunset at Imperial Beach, California, on November 5, 2011
Middle picture: Sunset at La Jolla Cove in La Jolla, California, on , October 17, 2012
Bottom picture: Sunset at La Jolla Cove in La Jolla, California, on , October 17, 2012

La Jolla’s sunset on October 17, 2012, was pretty spectacular throughout the course of about two hours, and if you’re ever in San Diego, go visit La Jolla. Such beauty throughout the is to be experienced, photographed, and shared.

We all know that the sun sets in the west but occasionally here in La Mesa, California, it can look like it sets in the east. Here is the sunset from last night, December 10, but looking east instead of west:

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

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was not prepared for that sunset so, again, a grainy smudgy picture unsuitable for anything other than a snapshot of a sunset.

And lastly, here is what a certain queen in the house thinks about all my sunrise and sunset excitement:

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat