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 .............

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Road Trip Second Installment

On the way to the wine country in the gold nugget hills of Murphys, there are signs advertising the Moaning Caverns.  I've been there a few times, but Diane had not even heard of it.  I'm sure she thought I was lost when we arrived at the site.  To my amazement, they have added two long zip lines running from the top of the hill where the cave entrance lies, to the bottom of the canyon.  But for another day ...

The cave entrance is VERY narrow and low ... I am immediately reminded of the last time I was here when I had a claustrophobic panic attack and ran out shoving everyone out of my way ... crying like crazy.  My friends know that is NOT me .... so to my great relief, we find we are the only two making the descent and will get a "private" tour on this day.  Barely wide enough for our camera gear, we have to duck down to make it down the first two sets of stairs.  Yes it IS this tight and the stair steps are barely 6 inches wide.
After going past 3 sets of switchback stairs, you are treated to the Chocolate Waterfall, which you see on your entire trip to the bottom.
Amazingly, as soft and gooey as these look, they are actually crystal formations, hard as rock, that do not break off.  The brown color is due to mud and minerals coming through the soil above.
About a third of the way down, you come to a metal spiral staircase that has been here since 1939.  Prior to that, adventuresome guests were lowered down on a platform, like lowering a bucket down a well.  Here's Diane on the staircase.
On the way down the stairs, you get a closeup look at the "draperies".  Where allowed, you can bang on these folds which produces wonderful deep melodic tones.
At the bottom ... 165 feet below ground level ... you are treated to gorgeous surroundings probably millions of years old.
What really amazed us was what you can see when the guide turns the lights out and moves his flashlight around.  Lots of ghouls and creatures come out of the rock formations, which of course is right up my alley!!
Expecting to stay about 30 minutes, over an hour later, we climbed back up the staircase and headed for Jamestown, hoping to catch the steam train museum open.  Unfortunately, we were too late, so made a quick stop at Jerome's Gallery.  My good friends Patty and Dan (of Jamestown Harley fame) suggested we stop by and take a look.  My oh my ... Jerome takes wonderful landscape images and prints them on canvas.  He showed us his entire process and was nice enough to tell us the exact location of the fall color prints he was currently working on.  Didn't take us long to schedule another Road Trip over Sonora Pass for Monday.  Hoping there isn't rain before then so we can some great images like his.

The next Raisin Hell Ranch shoot is tonight ... get ready for more spooky Halloween images!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Road Trip

The call of the photographer .....   My friend Diane finally retired from the same office I did, and since I previously drug her to my photography classes, she is hooked also.  Her project this year is Wine ... from grapes to the glass, so we headed off to Kautz Ironstone Vineyard in Murphys California.  Upon arrival, we met James, their head chef, who offered us wine and cheese.  Alas, we said, we are here for the pictures ... whereupon he gave us a special tour of the wine process area, as well as the caves.  We soon found out that NO tours were being offered that day, and so felt pretty special.  Upon his recommendation, we had poached salmon with aioli sauce and orzo.  It was awesome and I highly recommend lunch here.
The flowers of course are gorgeous ... they have caretakers JUST for the blooms.
An amazing place to have a picnic or spend the day, it is entirely surrounded by garden walkways.
Back in Murphys, we tried to turn around in a driveway when Diane shouted ... "there's stuff falling off that machine!!  Lets stop here!!"  And so we stopped at Val du Vino where we met Jeannine and Jonathon whose small family was processing grapes right in their little shed.  This is the entire operation!!  They invited us in, showed us the process and let us take all the pictures we wanted.
Up top they pitchfork the grapes into the machine that crushes and takes out the big stems.  The grapes and juice fall in the first bin, the stems in the second.  When the first is almost full, they wheel it into their building, add yeast and cover it up (this is red wine), starting the fermentation process.
After sitting for a few days, the grapes are then pressed and the juice filtered and placed in this tank.  You can see this vat is not full yet.
From here to oak barrels, 80% of which come from France and max out at 7 years.  The remaining 20% come from US Oak barrels which max out at 10 years, but give the wine a different flavor.
Around the side of their building, I couldn't help a few parting shots of fall color!!

From here we headed off to Moaning Caverns ... which Diane has never seen.  Do you know they have zip lines there now???  Next trip ......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nike Womens Marathon, San Francisco

As I have mentioned before, I am a runner.  It's an addiction, although as I get older, it takes more to keep it up, so I've become kind of a slacker!! The last couple months I have been trying to get back in shape for the Nike Womens Marathon.  My friend Ofelia, an ultra runner (30 miles+) gets picked every year in the "random" drawing for this event.  40-50,000 people apply but only 22,000 get to run.  For those years I did not get picked, I found a way to gain entry.

We stay at Parc 55 hotel, close to BART and a short 3 blocks to the start line.  After registering, we headed off to Niketown to see the latest in running gear.  Always a very expensive trip, the only thing under $50 is the flip flops!!!  New purchases in hand, we set out for Max's Restaurant, just off Union Square.  On the way, we spied a new cupcake bakery, Caka ..... After a great pasta dinner, and a short stop at the bakery, we headed back to the hotel.  The sun was just setting ... nice golden hour for pictures and eating the best cupcake I've ever had!!!  BTW, this is an I-Phone picture!!!  They say the best camera is the one you have with you .....  I can't say that for the rest of the pictures though!!!
Up at 4:30 am. we are at the start line by 6:15.  Even though the run goes off at 7:00, I don't get to the start line until 7:11 ...  which is okay, cuz everyone's bib had a chip that starts YOUR time when you cross the line.  Throughout the course, they have pads you cross, so if you cheat and take a shortcut, they will know.
Past Fisherman's Wharf we run by historic Crissy Field.  As you can see, you are always in a crowd.  Between walkers and very slow runners, it's an obstacle course the entire way.
Past Golden Gate Bridge ... to where the hills start.  You've seen those steep San Francisco Hills???  Well we have to run (ok, I walk) up those hills!!!  So when you go down the other side to the ocean, you get to make up the time!!
I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted ... it was very hard to get my phone out of the little pouch ... and with a big water bottle in one hand and GU (running food) in the other, I just didn't take the time.  Not that I care about my time to complete the race, but once you get going, you just don't want to stop.
And once you get in the zone of running (trying to ignore the pain!!), you just keep going and going.
The finish line is a madhouse ... people pushing and shoving ... so I just found my way around the back so I could sit down, rest and try to contact Ofie.  Here's the "coveted" box.  Personally I'd rather have a huge medal to hang around my neck ... LOL ... but the necklace is very nice.
NOT a good picture, but here we are at the finish.  Poor Ofie was sick with the flu ...
So here are the spoils of our trip ...  a really nice running shirt ...
and the necklace up close ... the back is engraved also.  Every year it is a different shape.
I'm not as sore today as I thought I would be.  In fact, I feel really good.  Unfortunately tomorrow will probably be a different story.   I'm always worse the second day!!!  It's when I wonder why in the heck I do this stuff!!!!!  Until the next one ........

Friday, October 14, 2011

This Blog Contains Adult Material and May Be .... It's Halloween Time!

A slight deviation from the Nike Marathon Run this Sunday .. my friend and instructor Jeff Gwartney creates the advertising images for the adult side of Raisin Hell Ranch Corn Maze just outside of Fresno.  It's that time again, so off we went to have our pants scared off!!!  They do have a corn maze for children, as well as a bounce house, pumpkin patch and lots of great food.  But we are here for the SCARE!!!  (Be sure and click on the image to get the full impact!!)

We arrived before dark so we could walk the maze while an employee described each scene, making it easier for us to imagine the scenes to capture.  They have everything, including an amazing number of actors that play their parts really well.  The main character is Chupacabra ... and he is running amuck in the corn field.
Look out or he will grab you!!
Scenes are about every 20 yards or so apart ... there are totally blacked out buildings and NO lights in the corn field.  VERY   S C A R E Y !!!

You get to go to "Chucky's" birthday party ....
And dinner ... had we arrived earlier, we might have saved this poor soul ...
Luckily we slid by his "lovely" wife ...
and beat a hasty retreat so WE wouldn't be dinner ...
Thankfully I brought my wrist flashlight .. helpful in getting your camera to focus ... and in finding our way through the maze.  Four went in ... only three came out!!!  but we had an AWESOME time.  Be sure and stop by the Ranch this Halloween.  You won't be disappointed!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Running, Running and Running some more!

I've been out of contact for the last couple weeks because I've been running a lot.   I'm training for the Nike Womens Marathon this Sunday October 16 in San Francisco.  It takes up sooo much time to get in shape for a race ... not that I really race, I more like jog.  For me, it's just the fun of being with 24,999 people in the streets of San Francisco.

It's very hard to get in this race.  Used to be first signed up, first to enter.  Now they do a random drawing.  Unfortunately, I have not been drawn a couple years.  What they want is for you to join "Team in Training" and get sponsors to the tune of $5000.  If you don't get the sponsors, they charge your credit card.  Now I don't know about you, but $5000 to enter a race is a little extreme.  I know it's for a good cause, but really!  I've found there are ways around this which have also cost me some money, but not as much by far.  Here is a picture of my "registration" for this year.
It's a Nike watch that I purchased for $200.00 (which allows me in the race).  It works with a pod you wear on your foot and a satellite which will give you time and mileage.  Nice big numbers ... I don't wear it to run however.  I prefer the Garmin GPS model.

The race starts at Union Square, zigs down to Embarcadero where you head to the Golden Gate Bridge.  From there, up some nasty hills by the Cliff House and head into Golden Gate Park where you roam around for a few miles, then hit the Great Highway on the Pacific Ocean.  If running the full marathon (which I'm not), you go another 7-8 miles along the coast and back to the finish line.  I'm doing a half marathon this time, 13 miles.   It's pretty spectacular to see 20 GORGEOUS Firemen (I swear they have a contest to get the best looking guys) ... all wearing tuxedos, holding silver platters in which rests our "medal" for finishing ... a Tiffany necklace, designed just for the race.  I have 5 of the 7 they have awarded.  Here's four of them.  Since they are becoming so popular,  I should find the other one.
Wish me luck!!!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Last Day of Golden Spike Rally

Sunday morning after another great breakfast of toasted jalapeno bread, fruit and coffee, most of the RV'ers packed up and took off for places unknown.  It was the perfect time for Patty and I to take off on a photographic trip back to Virginia City .. ok, we went to check out the stores too.   A two block uphill walk found us on the main drag, "C" Street.  The buildings are all very old ... built in the 1800's ... with a wooden boardwalk the entire length and nary a level square foot.  Check out the electrical lines.
With rare exception, each building has a balcony in need of repair and paint.  Most of the building fronts are very ornate.  Every entrance has columns and paint similar to this.
You can see the old signs naming the former occupants of the building.  The one on the right sold hardware, stoves and metal.  The left one was the Crystal Bar.
I think every other building was a saloon ... You can see the Silver Queen on the opposite side, reflected in this window.  From the Red Dog to Buckets of Blood ... there was no short supply of whiskey for the miners.
On the way to Virginia City we saw lots of old mining and farming equipment, so on the return trip, I stopped for a few photo opps.  This orange thresher probably saw lots of wheat in its day.  Now it, as well as a couple old trucks, are homes for pack rats.

One of the important pieces of mining equipment would be the stamp mill used to crush the ore so the gold could be extracted.   The metal pieces hanging down move up and down "stamping" the rocks.
There was even an old wood stove ... probably pretty pricey originally since it had a beautiful design on the side of the oven.  There must have been a handle sticking out .. the words say "turn up to bake".
Sadly the day is gone and we returned to the RV park where we began to pack up for the trip home.  I'm so excited to have met so many nice people and look forward to seeing them again at the next Golden Spikes Rally.  Steam trains ROCK!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Virginia and Truckee Railroad - Outhouse Races(?)

On Friday we rode a small "kids" train in Mills Park and toured the State-owned Railroad Museum.  There were 23 grown kids on that train having a ball.  There are so many great stories, including Leland Stanford's railroad car which carried the golden spike to Promontory Utah when the East met the West in railroad world.  Not only do they have THAT car here, they also have one of the cars that was attached to it for the not-so-rich passengers.  Unfortunately the State has cut budgets tremendously leaving them severely short of funds.

Another story from the barn was this car.  Apparently when we saved the French in World War Two, they sent a railroad car full of gifts to each State in the United States (back when they liked us).  First I ever heard of this ... but here is the car sent to Nevada.  They called it the Gratitude Train ... or a 40-8 train.  Each car was capable of carrying 40 men or 8 horses.  So lets find out what happened to California's car!!!
Here are my friends Patty and Dan (Dan trying to throw Patty from the train!!) that I'm visiting and traveling with.  
Saturday we headed out to ride the Virginia Truckee Railroad steam train (privately owned) from Carson City to Virginia City.  Did I mention I LOVE steam trains????  It's crazy I know, but there is nothing better than sitting back hearing that engine work up the hill.
The scenery was beautiful too .. we saw four herds of Mustangs grazing on the hillside.
We arrived just in time to be in the middle of the Outhouse Races Parade down main street.  Yes, you read it right.  Anyone can enter ... just bring your outhouse, one inside rider and two strong men to race it UPHILL!!  Here's the Flapper Crapper ... nuff said!!
After catching the parade, we headed to the Red Dog Saloon for a great BBQ lunch, then too soon back to Carson City.  I made friends on the way up with Tim, the brakeman(?) ... who let me stand on the platform the entire trip for pictures.  He told me stories and answered lots of questions about the history of the railroad and these cars in particular.  Here's old Number 18 ... a hundred years old.
As I was taking the above image, Tim walked up with a big smile and said "I bet I know what you'd like!" ... (well he got one of the two) and he proceeded to take my camera and help me up to the cab.  I took the engineers seat and he took my picture!!!

 I'm so excited at this point I can't stand it ... and he says ... "jump in that other seat and pull hard on that rope!"  Okay, I know this is the train whistle and I just can't stand myself ... I jump up on the seat and give it a hefty tug!!!   OMG Tim totally made my day ... a day I will never forget!!  Only thing better was if I could have taken Tim home with me!!