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Seal Point Park

I went to a new park today, Seal Point Park in San Mateo. The closest point of land visible in the right of the following photo is Coyote Point Recreation Area (see yesterday’s post). I enjoy it when I can see one park or hiking spot from another. It completes the picture when I have seen a park both from within and from afar. Bonus if I have seen it from multiple viewpoints.

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Hazy day and San Francisco appears to be floating on a cloud.

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The park has a collection of wind sculptures. It wasn’t windy today but I am intrigued to see these structures in motion and will certainly return.

These dry black dead flowers are everywhere lately and I always notice what a cool shape they have. Wildflowers are blooming in other areas of the park.

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Obligatory bird photo of the day. I believe they are sandpipers.

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Looking west toward San Mateo as the sun goes down.

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Coyote Point Recreation Area

I love this time of year around here. There comes a time, after rain has been falling, where the green comes out. It always seems impossibly vivid after long dry brown summers and weeks of grey cloudy skies.

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Coyote Point Recreation Area is a small park on the bay where I sometimes walk after work. San Francisco can be seen across the water, if the visibility is good. There was nice light there this evening as the sun dropped behind the mountains to the west.

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Back to the green though, it was definitely the star of the show. Wildflowers are starting to come out too and the next few months will be wildflower heaven for hikers.

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Canadian Geese are so large and unafraid they are sort of like cheating at bird photography. I know enough to keep a reasonable distance from them though, as they can be nasty. Still, I find them quite beautiful with their black necks and striking white beards. And I appreciate their willingness to be photographed.

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As I was leaving, I was losing the light but as I looked back toward the park from my car, I saw a pelican fishing and had to try to get a shot of him. The pelicans are truly magnificent. I dream of the day I can capture a really nice close photograph of one.

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Trees – iPhone Photos Revisited

Someday it is going to stop raining here and I am going to take more pictures. We need the rain, so I can’t complain too much. But I really want to go hiking and photographing! Ah well, it will all be quite lovely when it finally does stop.

Today I’ve gathered up some of my favorite photos of trees around the area that were taken with my iPhone 5 over the last 4 years.

I’ve found that it is difficult to express the true size of the tallest, largest trees in a photograph. Since I’m usually by myself on my hikes and walks, I don’t have a person with me to stand beside the trees for scale.

Sometimes the detail of the peeling bark is quite interesting.

Currently I live in Burlingame, which has an ordinance against cutting down trees. My neighborhood is full of interesting trees, sidewalks be damned.

Moss growing on bark makes for interesting textures and color combinations.

Finally, here are a few of many photos I’ve taken of the same tree at Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve, which was my most commonly hiked park when I lived in Redwood City. This tree is at the top of the initial climb and it always seemed like a good place to pause and have a look around at the view, and snap a picture or two of course.

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Flowers – iPhone Photos Revisited

This was by far the most difficult collection for me to sift through. Flowers are my favorite painting subject, so I am constantly taking photographs of them. And here is yet another way in which the Bay Area shines – there are flowers blooming all year round.

Yes, I am that person who is walking around your neighborhood taking pictures of the flowers in your lawn. I am that person stooping down to take a photo of the landscaping in your office park. I am the person who hikes to the top of mountains and spends more time inspecting the ground for wildflowers than admiring the view.

I can’t wait to start taking photos of flowers with my DSLR. But looking through these iPhone photos from the past 4 years, I think, this is where the iPhone shines.  I have been continually impressed with how beautiful flowers can look in iPhone photos. For some of these I set the camera on HDRI. And for others I used a clip-on macro lens. But for the most part, I took these using the iPhone camera unassisted.

I have even trained my boyfriend to point out interesting flowers to me when we’re walking around the neighborhood together.

For this post, I really tried to choose from among my thousands of flower photos the ones that I felt were the best photographs, not simply the best flowers. Because flowers are really beautiful no matter how you frame them, but any beginning photographer can tell you that the composition and the background are imperative to creating a great photo.

Now I want to paint.

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Fruit and vegetables – iPhone Photos Revisited

I recently spent several months organizing my thousands of iPhone photos and one of the most abundant categories was produce. Farmers markets are in my top reasons to live here. As an East Coast native, I fully appreciate the abundant variety of fresh produce available for reasonable prices all year round in a way native Californians can’t quite understand.

I feel quite giddy whenever I go to a farmers market. And there are so many of them. They’re everywhere.

I didn’t know I liked strawberries until I lived in California. Strawberries were lackluster flavorless fruits people dipped in sugar to give them taste. The first year I was here, I ate a pint of strawberries for breakfast every single day for months.

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So many colorful peppers.

I was playing around with one of those clip on macro lenses for the big blueberry.

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Is it an alien? A strange desert landscape? Nope! Golden beets.

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Snails

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One morning it was raining and I was almost certain I would not be taking any photos that day, but I brought my camera with me anyway. I have already learned this lesson: Bring your camera anyway.

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While I was driving the 15 miles from my home to work, the rain stopped and the sun started peaking over the horizon. So instead of going straight to the office, I stopped at nearby Bedwell Bayfront park to see what sorts of birds might be congregating there in the early hours.

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There was quite a selection of birds, and I managed a few photos, but the best pictures of the morning featured an unexpected subject: snails. I noticed that there were many snails crawling up some dead stick-like weeds. This was the smallest thing I had attempted to photograph with my DSLR so far. Since I don’t have a macro lens, I had read about how to photograph small things with a zoom lens. I crouched down so that I was at the level of the snails, keeping some distance between myself and them. If I had been using my iPhone, I would have gotten as close as possible.

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From a distance of about 4 feet, I zoomed in on the snails and was able to capture several pleasing images with nice soft backgrounds. Here is another area where using a DSLR shines- the ability to create nice soft backgrounds. Occasionally I would do this with my phone, but it was not something I could reliably replicate.

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Why do snails climb after rain? I guess only snails can know.

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Mockingbirds

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Some birds seem to be more tolerant of having their photo taken than others. I appreciate these cheeky northern mockingbirds for being such cooperative subjects. They give this beginning bird photographer an ego boost.

A note on my bird identification: I am not a pro at figuring out what type of bird I am photographing. My IDs come from Google or Facebook or the one California wildlife identification book I own. So if I’m ever wrong, please let me know.

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When in flight, I could see the flash of white on the underside of their wings, which my reading tells me is one of the most notable characteristics of northern mockingbirds. Someday, I will learn how to take a great photo of a fast-moving bird, but today is not that day. So for now, the photos that come out well are of birds who are (almost) still. Seeing that in general birds are in constant speedy motion, I feel like I’ve won something every time I happen upon a bird who lets me take her picture.

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I walked up to the red berry bush, thinking about taking a photo of the berries, when a bird unexpectedly fluttered out from somewhere in its depths. She had no doubt been hunting insects for her dinner. I managed to snap several photos, trying out various settings, while she eyed me warily and hopped about. Soon after, she flew away.

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Egrets

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At the end of last year, I started seeing lovely white egrets visiting the bayside parks where I like to walk after work. First I saw one or two, then suddenly there were so many it was like an egret festival had descended upon the bay. I found myself fascinated by these beautiful birds.

Try as I might, I could not get a really good photograph of an egret with my iPhone. I’ve been an avid iPhone photographer of things I see while walking about in parks or my neighborhood or hikes for years. One can take quite nice iPhone photographs of certain things, as long as they do not require zoom and you have enough natural light. Getting close enough to an egret was not possible.

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I became slightly obsessed with this idea of taking photos of egrets, and suggested to Santa (my dad) that I would like a real camera. As luck would have it, Santa already had a DSLR currently not being used. So when Christmas rolled around, I found myself the proud new owner of a Canon EOS 40D and a Canon 28 – 135 mm lens.

It had been years since I last used a camera that was not part of a phone. The nicest thing about a phone camera is that you always have it with you. I’ve never taken so many photos  consistently as I did with my iPhone. Another benefit is that there’s not much to think about. The iPhone as camera is so unobtrusive, one can completely forget about the act of photography and focus in on the most important things like framing and composition.

The first time I took out the DSLR, it intimidated me. But I read the manual, watched some videos, and went out to my parks. The first time I saw my photos when I got back to my computer, I was hooked. I want to be a Real Photographer! I want to start a photoblog! Must take more photos!

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I made a point of going out to the parks before and after work every day this week. Not only are early mornings and late afternoons the only time I’m free, they are also the times of most beautiful sunlight. In my first week out, I took over 500 photographs of birds, snails, plants, and park scenes. As you can see from this post, I managed to capture several photos of the egrets that got me interested in upping my photo game in the first place.

I am inspired and gratified by this photography adventure on which I am embarking and I am going to take you with me, dear blog reader. Expect to see bay area nature and wildlife in this space. I live in one of the most gorgeous places of natural beauty on earth and I am going to capture what I see and share it with you. Welcome!