Yesterday, a good chunk of my hometown burned down. My parents and their house are currently safe (at least when I wrote this in the evening of 10/9) but many of my friends lost their current and/or childhood homes.
It was so hard to work yesterday. My heart and my mind were back in California, and I felt helpless two states away. I was constantly reloading the local news site, checking Twitter and Facebook for updates, and texting my sister and my childhood friends. My heart is broken, you guys.
Also I have a vicious cold that keeps pretending like it’s going away and then coming back with a vengeance.
So that’s all for today, folks. Back to photos next week.
I don’t have much time to chat today but I wanted to leave you with this fat bee! Last weekend was the first time we’d seen the sun in a while (Holy rain/flooding, Batman!) and Cobalt and I took full advantage of it by going to Carmel-by-the-sea with our friend Mercury and our other friend C! We did this epic hike at Point Lobos to explore the beautiful forest and beaches near Carmel. The trails were very muddy (more like small creeks instead of trails) but it was all worth it for beautiful views of the coast. I found a bunch of fun anemones and crabs hanging out in tide pools too! But today’s picture is a cute bee that I found on the trail. These huge bees were hanging out with some bright yellow flowers, bending them every which way when the fat bees landed. I was amused and had to stop to do a quick photoshoot of bee/flower interaction.
Ahhhh how has it been two months again?! Oh I know… first the holidays happened and then school started up again! AHHHHHH! This quarter is equally as crazy as the first in some ways but also quite different in others. We only have two classes instead of four and we’re writing a few really long pieces instead of a bunch of tiny ones so the pace is quite different. One really fun part of this quarter is that I am working for Big Picture Science, which is a fun sciencey podcast based out of the SETI institute. You should check it out if you are interested!
This past weekend, Cobalt and I embarked on an epic day trip to Yosemite National Park. Over the past year, we’ve been to five other national parks and monuments and we thought we could sneak one more in before 2016 ends. Plus my family and I used to go to Yosemite National Park every summer when I was growing up and I was itching to get back.
Having spent at least a week in Yosemite when I went with my family, I had to do some careful planning for our short day trip. It helped that a lot of the stuff that I enjoyed seeing in the summer (Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, etc.) is not open in the winter so I had a shorter list of things to choose from.
It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from here so we left at 7:30 a.m. to make sure we would have time to spend in the park. Our first stop: Yosemite Valley. It’s often super overcrowded in the summer but there’s a good reason for it. It’s simply spectacular to be surrounded on all sides by huge slabs of rock, rushing water, and impressive waterfalls. Cobalt is not one for crowds so I figured that by going to the valley in December, he’d still get to see the awesomeness without being surrounded by people. It was kind of a dreary day — rainy and cold — but there were still quite a few people in the valley. We headed to the Happy Isles trail head to go see Vernal Falls. You can’t drive to the trail head so we had to park the car and hike in. We got a little lost of our way to the trail head and wandered around the Happy Isles for a bit but it paid off because we saw a deer family! Here is a picture of the buck. I think this might be the best deer picture I have ever taken. Enjoy:
We eventually found the trail head and wandered up the short trail to the footbridge below Vernal Falls. It’s a nice trail, with amazing views of the river crashing around below and waterfalls sneaking down the walls of the valley. In the summer, I enjoy hiking past the footbridge via the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls but it is closed in the winter (mist = ice = slippery!) and we had a lot of other stuff to see! So we headed back down the trail to the car where we had a quick lunch before heading back to see the rest of the valley.
The rain was starting to come down harder by this point but that didn’t stop our fellow tourists from having fun on the valley floor. We had to stop to take pictures of the Yosemite Falls because I loved seeing the people playing in the snow through the mist. There was so much going on! People were taking Christmas pictures in Santa hats or throwing snowballs at each other. Some people were even getting out sleds to slide around the icy snow.
After touring the rest of the valley mostly by car, we set off towards Wawona, which is on the southern edge of the park. To get there, you head up out of the Valley through a long tunnel. Right before you leave the valley, there is a “Tunnel View” parking area where you can get one last glimpse of the entire valley. It was a family tradition to stop and take a picture so Cobalt and I stopped and asked a family to take our picture.
It was pouring and starting to get dark by the time we reached Wawona but I had one required stop left. My family used to stay in Wawona when we visited Yosemite and we loved hiking the Chilnualna Falls trail. It’s about a 10 minute hike to the lower fall so we parked at the trail head and ran up the trail. It was incredible! We usually go in August, which is when the water is at a pretty low point but the fall was just gushing this weekend. Forget the rain, Cobalt and I got majorly misted as we scuttled down toward the fall. It was so great to see an old family favorite again. Can’t wait to come back here with my whole family one day (hopefully soon!).
Let’s get some humans in that photo.
How are you? What are you up to? This week, I have to report at the American Geophysical Union’s national conference. Should be fun but also scary!
A few weeks ago, Cobalt and I went whale watching with my classmate, whom we will call Mercury on this blog, in the Monterey Bay, courtesy of Sanctuary Cruises.
It was definitely an adventure. First of all, we were supposed to go watch whales on Saturday but we drove all the way out there and they canceled the trip because it was too windy. We made a quick call to get on the Sunday whale adventure and then then we went to brunch with the Sanctuary Cruises boat captain and naturalist. The food was delicious and we had a really neat conversation.
On Sunday, we tried again. The winds had died down so we headed out to the bay in search of whales. Although the Monterey Bay pretty much always has some sort of whale-related activity going on, we went at sort of an awkward time. The humpbacks that spend their spring, summer, and fall feeding in the bay were on their way south for the winter and the gray whales that pass through the bay in early winter were just starting to arrive. We hoped to see some straggler humpbacks or earlybird gray whales and we were not disappointed (as my picture at the top hints).
Not long after getting into the bay, we saw humpback spouts! They were huge. Humpbacks take a few breaths of air before diving deep into the ocean for about 5 minutes. Then they surface and start the whole process over again. Our whale-watching trip turned into a waiting game. When the whales were up, we took a bunch of pictures, hoping to get shots of the spouts or the tails (like the one at the top). Then the whales would dive and we sat around, letting the waves rock the boat back and forth (note: not a great feeling) until the whales decided to surface again.
Once when we found the whales, they were surrounded by hundreds of long-beaked common dolphins. Seriously, the ocean was suddenly churning with dolphins everywhere. They swam toward us and played around the boat. So fun and such a new version of photography.
Photographing dolphins is one of those “shoot first, look later” types of experiences. Just set up your camera to have a pretty fast shutter speed, make sure it is on continuous shooting mode, and then go. Click click click click click click click click. The more pictures you take, the more likely you had a shot of a dolphin above the water. I think I took at least 1,000 pictures while on the boat (a feat normally reserved for weddings). Something else I struggled with: Do I use the zoom lens zoomed in or not? Zooming in meant that I got a fairly high resolution picture of a dolphin but it also decreased the likelihood of actually having a dolphin swim in the field of view when I took the picture. I kind of did a combination: zoom in… no dolphins… zoom out… ALL THE DOLPHINS…zoom in…
Mercury and Cobalt tried other approaches. Cobalt recorded videos, both with our GoPro and with his cell phone, and Mercury had a point and shoot camera and her iPhone. I think they both got some pretty nice shots/videos at the end of the day. Basically I think the lesson here is take a lot of pictures/really long videos with whatever device you have and plan to do some editing later. :)
Taking pictures of humpbacks was a bit easier because there were only two of them and they hung out together. As soon as we saw the spouts, we knew to point our cameras in their direction and take a bunch of pictures in a row with the hope that they would flip their tails at us when they headed back down into the water. At one point, both whales dove together and gave us a beautiful view of the two tails diving in sync and I am pretty sure almost everyone on the boat missed the shot (whyyyyyyy) because we were just recovering after the dolphin extravaganza and hadn’t quite gotten back into humpback mode. There was a collective sigh of amazement/exasperation as the tails disappeared beneath the water together.
All in all it was a fun adventure, though after multiple attempts at taking pictures of humpbacks, drifting aimlessly for 5-10 minutes, then taking more pictures of humpbacks, etc, we all started to get a little seasick. But it was still a rewarding experience and I can’t wait to go out in the spring when maybe we can see some other whales (and maybe orcas?!?!??).
Here are some more fun pictures below:
One last note about the pictures: if you’re going to go whale watching, don’t spend the whole time behind your camera of choice. Look up every once in a while and really notice how neat these animals are. It’s a pretty cool experience. :)
On the school front: whew. I can’t believe it’s been 10 weeks since I wrote in here. It feels like it’s been a year. This is one intense program. I learned a lot about writing through my classes and my newspaper internship. I also learned a lot about photography at the internship. I even learned how to use Canon DSLRs! I still prefer my Nikon, mainly because my fingers know exactly what to do to change all my settings.
If you’re interested in seeing what I was working on for the past 10 weeks, feel free to check out my writing portfolio. There are a few assignments that are still to come but whew. I did a lot! :)
I know I say this in almost every post but I really miss this blog and I really miss photography when I get too stressed out to go exploring. I’m really going to try to make more time for pictures during the next quarter. I’ll try to post more on here too, maybe with less words when I’m especially stressed.
Soooo this Science Communication Program is epic! I have so much homework already and I’ve only had one day of classes so far. In addition to classes, I am working two days a week at a local newspaper where I get to learn how to report news! Plus, they let me play with their fancy cameras and lenses! I photographed the announcement of Adele Fresé as the new police chief of Salinas and the Salinas High School Homecoming parade.
If you’re wondering how it is to go from working in a lab to working in a newsroom, I’d say that it’s definitely different though I’m finding some similarities as well. Obviously there are fewer pipettes and microscopes but there are other tools of the trade: big fancy cameras, reporter’s notebooks, and digital recorders. Plus there are people! I get to talk to people! Overall, the general feel is the same. I am fairly independent: when I get to work, I make myself a to do list for the day but instead of writing down experiments, I am creating a list of stories! More soon!
Anyway, this weekend was the International Airshow in Salinas and my job at the paper meant that Cobalt and I got media passes to attend the show! I surfaced from my giant pile of homework for a few hours so we could go see planes, monster trucks, and skydivers! I’m sad we didn’t get to stay longer but alas, homework calls. I’ll leave you with some pictures before I dive back in! :)
How was your weekend?! In other news, I am exhausted. I have never had to commute to work or school before. It’s different; there is a lot of driving. How long is your commute?