Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to All !!!!

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even Cooper .. but he kept his ball close just in case Santa might throw it for him,
The children were nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of sugar plums (or balls) dancing in their heads and pretending to be asleep.
 When on the back patio, there arose such a clatter - I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.  Away to the door I flew like a flash, tripped over my shoes and fell with a crash!  There on the once white concrete I spied, two huge horses with no sleigh in sight.  This smarty pants (Remy) had opened the gate and was happily munching on my grass.
I whistled and shouted and called them by name  .. On Remy .. On Showby (well actually there were a few expletives mixed in) ... GET OFF MY GRASS!!!!!  They ran from the patio to the concrete wall ... dash away, dash away, dash away all ... and they did as I chased them around the yard a couple of times and aerated the lawn.
I never did see Santa, but he brought my babies new toys to play with.  Everyone who knows Jessie, KNOWS she is growling in this image.
Santa also brought Caitlan back.  She has been at the Vet for three days ... surgery for several tumors and an emergency spay.  Unfortunately, the outcome doesn't look too good right now.  She is such a happy camper and doesn't understand why she has to lay down and be quiet.  She has a nice soft comfy bed which I nailed down this time.  She just wants to make her OWN bed!!!  Along with a heating pad just in case!!  
The horses too have had their share of Christmas problems.  Remy wasn't trimmed correctly and has very sore feet.  Clean and treat twice a day along with meds.  Showby has an upper respiratory problem ... also on meds.  So just call me Vet Nancy ... this is going to be my life for the next two weeks!!!!!

Hoping everyone had a great Christmas with their families!!!  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!!!!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth!!

DISNEYLAND!!  One of my favorite places to go.  Doesn't seem to matter how many times I've been there, I still love it.  Christmas is one of the best times to go if you don't mind the crowds.  The decorations are wonderful and the snow a sight to see.  We arrived Thursday night after a stop at Tommy Burgers.  THE most famous burger joint in L.A. ... they serve their special chili on their burgers and dogs.  Although loved by many, I can pass it up with no problem.  I love chili, but not this one!!!  Sorry Tommy!!

We stayed at the Red Lion Inn, advertised as being one block from Disneyland.  For $50 a night, I can't complain .. the room was really nice, microwave, coffee maker, safe ... but it was a 2.5 block walk to the ENTRANCE of Disneyland.  Here's Peter and his daughter Lauren that I go with every year.
We added to the group this time with Peter's friend Alex and his daughter Allie.
This is the first time in many years that we have seen Jack Skellington.  At 6'something, he was really a character, asking the kids all kinds of funny questions.
Due to the crowds, we rode some rides more often than usual.  The Jungle Cruise is always funny because of the bad jokes the "Boat Captains" tell.  Today was no exception.  Another great hilarious ride is the Canoe trip.  If you haven't done this one, it's a must!!
Lauen loves to ride the Teacups and make them spin!!!  which makes me nauseous!!  Allie got the honors this time.
At Christmas, the farm behind Thunder Mountain Railroad has reindeer ... and Santa if you are willing to wait in line with screaming crying kids.  In the back corner is this cutie ... which of course caught my eye!!
The Princesses are always one of our stops ... usually an hour or more wait (again with the screaming cranky kids), tempered by the fact that they are all dressed up in THEIR princess costumes and are cute as can be.  Here's Belle ... I'm sure I have 5 pictures of Belle!!!
The World of Color program in the California Adventure side is an amazing display of water and lights, including short movie clips shown against a background of fine water spray.  Amazing what you can do with water.
After the show, most people leave this side and head for the fireworks of Disneyland ... but after several hours of pleading and "betting you can't do it", I talked everyone into riding the Hollywood TOWER of TERROR!!!!!  Ooohhhhhhh ....  this one is good, although very short!!  In the end, we had walked 10 hours on Friday and 13 hours on Saturday!  Crazy huh??  But it's all worth the pain to be at Mickey's House!!!
With my newly acquired Annual Pass, I'll be returning soon .....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's a slow Christmas!!

Not a lot going on, which is why I haven't written much.  I joined the local ELKS organization and help out with BINGO every Tuesday night.  Oh my!!  These ladies are serious and grumpy!!  There has been lots of complaining since I arrived .... and here's why.  The first two times I helped sell the cards, I noticed several women taking 5 packages (12 games in each) and telling the cashier they only had 3.  That's increasing their odds by 24 cards.  The next Tuesday, I suggested we check everyone's "stack" to be sure we charged for what they were taking.  Sure enough, probably 10 people took more than they told us.  Grumble grumble!!!  Last night, we again checked EVERYONE'S purchases and were accused of only checking "some".  This time we caught at least 20 bingo sheets being taken "by mistake".  Now I would agree with that if there was just 3 or 4  ... but 20???   The ones that were complaining the loudest were the ones we caught.  On the other hand, we received one screaming (literally) complaint about not charging enough, and my co-worker got chewed out for it.  I'm ready to quit after 4 weeks.  After being told how to do my job by 6 of the bingo players and being yelled at for doing my job ... I'm thinking my attempt to help out isn't working, as it hasn't for anyone else because they desperately need help.  By the way, one lady won $1400 last night!!!  The payouts each night are a minimum of $4000, which is a lot of money ... but don't try to increase your odds and cheat everyone else out of their chance.

My photography project is due tonight.  Wish me luck.

Tomorrow is the best day of the month!!!  I'm going to Disneyland for four days!!!  I'll be thinking about my friends Patty and Dan on their Disney Cruise with their family!!!  I'm going with two friends and their daughters, both about 9 years old.  We go every year at Christmas and I'm so excited to be going again.  The construction work in California Adventurer should be completed so we can see the water show and experience two new rides!!!  AND I'm getting a yearly pass so I can go as many times as I want.  Pictures will be coming soon .........  Hope you are enjoying the Holiday Season!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Buzzards Roost

Most, if not all ranches, have names.  Our cattle ranch was "K Quarter Circle" Ranch, which happens to have been our brand.  Some homes have names ... my place is Buzzard's Roost.  Most people think it is because I have a carved wooden statue of a turkey buzzard sitting up high in one corner.  Actually,  it's because of the real thing!!!
Definitely not the most glamourous of birds ... in fact they are pretty disgusting.  Every year just before Christmas, hundreds of turkey vultures (or turkey buzzards) visit my house ... well thankfully, my neighbor's house.  Apparently they have migrated here .... seriously,  to Merced?  And MY neighbor's back yard?  ...

Here's MY back yard .... notice the very tall trees at the back of the property which are on the "neighbors" side of the fence.  This is the chosen spot for these guys to roost until their next migration in the spring.
This VERY cold morning when I went out to feed, there were several perched on my fence with wings spread, warming up in the morning sun.  This is a first ... they have NEVER ventured into my yard.  I foresee lots of running and screaming in my future ... trying to assure the big mess is in THEIR back yard, not mine!!  They have a wing span of around four feet ... if cold enough, their wings are fully extended.
These two were joined by two more walking along the top of the fence.  All total, there were 6 of these huge birds perched around my corral.  Thank goodness they are not hawks or I would be very concerned about my two small dogs.  These only eat dead things.
They are hard to photograph because they are so skittish ... even more so now since I ran at them waving my arms and screaming like a banshee to scare them back to the neighbors trees!!!   Really, I know I named this place buzzards roost, but I prefer they "roost" next door!!!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Life on Alcatraz

My project this year was "Weeds Can Be Beautiful Too!".  You are right ... it was bad, and got shot down by the instructor.  The only other interesting thing on my list was Alcatraz.  This place has fascinated me for years and I love spending time on the island.  So much history .....

To have a good project, the images should tell a story.  This one is about the effects this maximum security prison had on the worst of the worst criminals.  A new prisoner just arriving feels bad to the bone, but as time goes on, his demeanor and confidence diminish until he is a ghost of himself.  Of course, those who know me, know my philosophy ... if you can't do the time, don't do the crime.  Cuz if you do, you totally deserve to be here!!!   Anyway, on with the story ...

The Ship to Hell
About to dock
Main Gate Confidence
Owning the second tier
Cell Block after 5 years
Defeated at 10 years
Desperation at 15 years
A ghost of himself at 20 years
To see the images better, double click on the first one and view them in a larger size.  These images were shot in two trips to the island.   My shoot, my dime, so a third trip was out of the question.  There was me, an assistant, lots of gear and the model.  Unfortunately, they frown on tripods ... someone could trip over it, so all of the ghost images were hand-held 2 second shots with me sitting on the filthy dirty floor and my assistant shooing people around us and away from the direction of my shot.  I would say there were no less than 300 people around us in the block at all times.  For the most part, people were very accommodating.  In fact, they took pictures of us taking pictures and thought we must be doing some "special" ... helped a little by the fact that we said we were shooting a documentary!!!  We had a great time ... of course I want to go back and shoot more, but my model said no way Jose.  Hoping I get a good grade .............

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Hoping everyone is enjoying this holiday with their families.  Thanksgiving is about being thankful for your blessings, big and small.  If at all possible, do something for someone less fortunate than you.  Happy Holidays!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Life on the Ranch

Over the years, I have shown my friends images of life on the ranch when I was a kid.  They have constantly said I should scan these images so they won't be lost.  Since I don't have any children or grandchildren to leave them to, I wasn't very interested.  I have to say though, that I love reading stories of peoples life in the "old" days of the gold rush to the West, and so decided to put some of the images up here along with the "stories of old" (even though I don't view myself as old!!) which I will eventually have made into a book.  I do have one nephew and one grand nephew ... maybe some day he will get a laugh out of seeing his Great Aunt when she was a kid.  All the images are black and white ... my mom had a small Kodak camera.

First up ... I was born!!!  At Miss Friese's Maternity Home in Lake Isabella California, 50 miles east of Bakersfield in the high desert on a cattle ranch.
My first introduction to grass ... yummy!!!  The yard is fenced because the cattle had the run of the place and I guess it kept us corralled.  I did at one point, escape ... and tried to follow my dad to the field (always a tomboy, even as a baby) ... whereupon I got stuck trying to crawl through the gate. Apparently no one heard me cry, and after awhile, I fell asleep.  When it was finally noticed that I was missing, they found me, still stuck in the fence!!!
Local transportation to Kernville where my mother's mother Grace lived and worked.  
Ranch life wasn't exactly easy.  My grandfather came from the Isle of Man with his two sons and bought two ranches in Lake Isabella.  Here he is seeding the fields to grow hay to feed during the months grass was not available.  There were a lot of local Indians who were hired on as extra help, but every time they got paid, they would buy the fire water ... and not show up for days.  When their money ran out, they would return to the ranch.
We also raised turkeys to sell to the local people ... my brother got in trouble big time when he got mad and threw a rock at one ... hit him in the head and literally knocked him dead!!  We had turkey dinner that night.  Here's my brother Dennis.  Every Easter we got to dress up and go to the Methodist Church.  As long as I can remember, I got a new dress for Easter ... my mother would buy the material and make matching outfits for us.  It's where my sewing knowledge comes from.
My mom's sister who lived in Bakersfield, had three children ... our cousins Patty, Mike and Tom ... who came to visit occasionally. This is Patty on the left.  Don't you just love the hair???
There were no trips to the grocery store like nowadays.  In fact, I don't ever remember going to the store when we lived in Lake Isabella.  I do know the nearest store was in Bodfish, as was my babysitter.  We had a milk cow that provided milk and cream, which I churned into butter.  My mom grew vegetables and we basically lived off the land.  I remember having a telephone ... two longs and a short ring meant it was for us.  You had to be careful what you said however, since it was a party line with three other families on it.  This is my mom and dad bringing home dinner!!!  Lots of pheasant to put in the freezer.
Lastly for today, here is where my love of Halloween comes from.  Like most kids, I loved dressing up in all kinds of fun outfits.  This outfit was actually just clothes I had, but my grandmother took an old mop and made the "kilt purse" that hangs around my neck.  I LOVED this and kept it for years until it literally disintegrated.
When I was four years old, the government decided to dam the Kern river, to provide water for Los Angeles I imagine.  Unfortunately, our ranch was at the bottom of the new lake.  They claimed imminent domain and we were forced to move.  Two suitable ranches were found, one in Merced with great corrals and a big scale for weighing cattle ... one in Carson Valley Nevada with a nice house.  My mom wanted the house, my dad the scales ... and so we moved to Merced in 1953-54.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Yosemite Nat'l Park - I Keep Going Back

No matter how many times I have been to Yosemite National Park, I can't keep from returning.  It just doesn't matter how often you have taken that particular shot, it's different every time.  This time of year, as the thermometer starts to drop, lots of photographers head out to find great fall color.  Sometimes the colors are incredible ... and sometimes not.  This was a NOT time.  It has been cold enough for some trees to turn, but with the windy days, all the leaves have already hit the ground.  The rest of the trees are still very green, and with the snow storm that just hit this morning, they won't be able to show their stuff this year.
As the sun starts to drop in the sky, the photographers take up their spots on the bank.  We were too late ... so we moved on to Pohono Bridge.
This shot is where Hwy 140 meets Hwy 120 which goes over Tioga Pass.  This spot had all of the fall color.  There were a few other small trees, all right along the road.  Seems the flood a few years ago wiped out all the color producing trees that were near the river in the valley.
Pine needles were falling in the wind like rain (I'm still picking stuff out of my hair!!) resulting in lots of litter in the water.  I know ... it's trash ... but it's kind of pretty trash!!!
One shot of Half Dome ... you've seen this before.  I'm planning a winter snow trip so should have better images of Half Dome covered in snow.
Lastly, in the Half Dome meadow, there were thousands of seed pods that had just broken open.  Millions of seeds along with lots of fluffy cotton to fly them to their new destination ... and cause us sneezing from hay fever!
Nature can be soooo beautiful.  I'm glad I am able to capture such a tiny part of it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cooper and Cupcakes!!

Definitely not made to go together, my little dog Cooper and cupcakes have been the items of the last few days.  Cooper is a little terror.  Doesn't matter how cute and innocent he looks, inside resides the little guy with red horns, egging him on to destruction.  His favorite pastime is to lift the rug (or pillow or pile of crocheting), push his ball underneath ... then bark until you come and get it OUT from under the pile!!  After 35 times, he's still loving the "game" while I'm totally fed up!!!!!
Notice the dirty feet ... this from running roughshod all over the horse corral in the mud!!!  What fun!!!
Here's a shot of his ball ... or rather what's left of it.  Unfortunately they don't last long ... not that he cares because soon this will have all the green fuzz chewed off, and he'll be left with a few pieces of rubber which he will continue to play with until I throw them in the trash.
Stuffed toys do not fare much better ... this is (was) a mouse, now minus the nose, two eyes, two arms, one leg and all the stuffing!!
What can I do ... just take a look at that face again!!!

So since my friend has been ill and I am joining the camera club tonight, I'm baking cupcakes for her turn at snacks.  Every month you submit your best photos (or not) that a guest judge will evaluate.  Most points at the end of the year wins something ... I'm not sure what.  It does sound like a good way to get exposure and critique of your work, as well as ideas for shoots.  Think my cupcakes will win???
Marshmallow creme, Coffee and Chocolate!!!  
Thursday is an all day trip to Yosemite for fall color and reflective waters.  After that, senior pictures .... and I've completed my school project "Alcatraz".  Will post those images soon!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gold Country

Off on another photography road trip ... to the gold country of Sonora and above.  I'm looking for fall color to photograph and where better than at 9000 feet atop the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The BIG fuel tank comes into play here, in both a good and bad way!!!  Remember the 52 gallon tank??  I've got over a half a tank, so more than enough to make the trip up and back.

Unfortunately, my friend Diane and I didn't see any color until we were at about the 7500 foot mark.  These gorgeous trees on the river really stood out.
A little further up, almost to the top of the pass we found this creek.  You can see snow in the background, I'm guessing from a big storm a couple of weeks ago.
In the bottom of this little canyon was this very large dead tree.  It took me about 30 minutes of scrambling to get to the base of the tree for this image.  Little did I know how hard it would be to climb back up!!!
Finally we reached the top of the pass.
From here, the real story starts ... I have over a quarter tank of fuel, I'm good.  We start back down the pass, which is VERY steep, to stop at the places we passed on the way up.  After about a mile, bells start ringing in my truck!!  I'm OUT OF FUEL!!!  and we are 60 miles from nowhere.  It can't be!!!   I had over a quarter tank .... so we coasted the rest of the way down the pass till we hit a flat spot and after rolling for a few yards, the fuel tank came back up a little.  As we drove along not using the accelerator at all, it came up a little more.  On an uphill stretch, it came back up to a quarter tank and I breathed a huge sign of relief.  Having seen the tank before installation (it has two compartments with a flow through section), it dawned on me that the fuel had run to the front of the tank because it was so steep ... the intake is in the BACK of the tank.  By then, photography was the last thing on my mind.  I just wanted more fuel ... so we hit it back to Mi Wuk for a big drink of diesel.

Lesson learned ... big tank or not, don't drive in the mountains without a FULL tank.  We're planning another trip to get images of the places we missed .....  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chainsaws and Screams

Back from our second shoot at Raisin Hell Ranch ... a little worse for wear this time!!  Racing around a corn maze, going through all the staging areas carrying heavy cameras and equipment isn't for the couch potatoe!!  The ground is very uneven, and besides stepping in holes and crawling through corn stalks to place lights, they have dug out sections and placed mattresses on the ground that you can't help but walk over.  A couple "claustrophobic" rooms have you pushing through a 15 foot long section with two huge balloons on either side that touch in front of you and close behind you as you shove your way through, ducking so the hanging body parts don't hit you in the head.  Yup ... these guys do it up right!!!!!
You are accosted and scared all along the route ... and we are not exempt from the fun, since some of the actors didn't know who we were or why we were there.

Shooting in the dark provides lots of challenges.  There are umpteen number of settings on your camera that can produce the same number of images ... mostly bad!!!   Setting up flashes with colored gels in order to produce creepy lighting takes time and patience.  Especially when, as with all electronic equipment, ghostys crawl in and make themselves at home in your camera so it does not sync with the flash.  They suck up your batteries and try your patience!!!!!
The screams from this staging area could be heard at the far end of the fields.  The maze is set up so movement-activated sounds let the actor know someone is near, allowing them time to set you up for a great scare!!!  The men screamed as loud as the girls!!!  We even got to be part of the fun .. while in the maze, we would stop shooting, hide our lights and let people pass.  Every so often I would reach out and touch someone ... who would freak out!!!  I laughed and laughed!!!
One of my favorites was the gas chamber ... when you walked up, the guy with the gas mask opened the door for you to walk through ... then slammed it behind you.  It is filled with so much smoke that you CANNOT see!!!   We put our lighting director inside with the flash and took several images.  When I went in to find her, even with my flashlight, I couldn't see her at all.  I finally ran into her, grabbed her by the neck and drug her out!!!
At the very end of each maze, a guy wielding a running chain saw, chases you out the gate.  A REAL chainsaw, but with no chain, so the noise is deafening.  You can imagine being in pitch black with a guy screaming at you, chasing you through the field.  He showed us the damage created when people didn't make the turn and ran into the wall (no humans were hurt or injured in this production)!!!

At 11:30 p.m. we headed out ... the lines to get in were clear out to the parking lot.  It is a great place to take young children during the day for picking out pumpkins, hay rides, tractor train rides, birthday parties and picnics.  When the sun goes down, it is the perfect place to spend a spooky, scary Halloween night!!!!  Can't wait til next year!!!!  Happy Halloween .............