Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Shadow Knows

We have three cats, but only two have made an appearance here as yet. That's because the third cat is a classic "fraidy" cat.

His name is Shadow. He is named Shadow because during the first month he lived in our house, he never left his hiding place under the bed. Well, I suppose he wandered around in the dead of night to eat and use the cat box, but no human eye met his during that first month. Looking for an all black cat hiding under the bed, there were times when we were not sure he was still in the house.

There is a line between domesticated and feral, and Shadow travels back and forth. The first time we allowed him out of the house, he disappeared for a week. He had been gone three or four days when a neighbor called and said she had Shadow's collar. She found the collar in her kitchen, just inside her "doggie" door. Her dog, one of those small, yappy, ankle-biters, had chased the cat through the house. The collar apparently snagged on the door and came off as Shadow escaped outside.

We got Shadow and Cardiel from a guy in Galt who rescues cats. The two couldn't be more different. Cardiel is a lap-cat who loves to nuzzle; Shadow only allows hit-and-run contact. When Shadow deems a human "safe," he lunges to make a glancing blow and scampers back out of reach. He repeats this several times, retreating a little less each time until, finally, he is within petting range. Shadow and Cardiel do sometimes display a familiarity that the third cat, Zipper, would never allow.

And sometimes they play like siblings.

But mostly, Shadow is a loner, his fight-or-flight instinct stuck on flight.

Day 22 of 365

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Found Objects

The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something.
It is either an addiction or the effect of the cold medicine. I was too sick to get out of the house to take photos yesterday (although I was not too sick to harvest some ripe Honey-Dos). The cloudy day certainly didn't inspire any outdoor adventures. But the days continue one after the other and I'm feeling guilty for filling three days of photos with one day's photography.

I've got to wonder whether addictions are necessarily all bad. Maybe some are even necessary. Last night I wandered into my office and didn't leave for hours. Despite the ravages of the common cold, I found myself immersed in Photoshop's fascinating collection of filters and modes.

Ordinary became extraordinary and the surprise fed a need in me to do it again and again and again. I had taken photos of two items on my desk. An LED lamp and a bike light. The Photoshop junkie did the rest.

Nothing that's this much fun can be good for you.

Day 21 of 365

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sick Day

Went to bed at 8:30 p.m. last night and didn't get up until 11 a.m. today. Probably ought to be in bed now, but I've got too much to do. Theraflu to the rescue.

So today, while I'm between sick-bed tasks, I'll post more of the photos I took Sunday. Looking out today on still another overcast day, it's amazing how productive I was in that brief period of sunshine.

In the early 1960s, my mother was active in Democratic Party politics. She had been drawn to volunteer politics through the Stevenson campaigns of the 1950s and was active in the California Democratic Council that grew out of the Stevenson "clubs."

In 1964 (?), my mother helped elect an attorney named David Negri to represent parts of the San Fernando Valley in the Assembly. As a reward, she was offered a job in the Capitol. She flew to Sacramento, and left me and my brother with our housekeeper. She was gone for a week.

When my mother returned, I asked her if she was going to take the job. I was ambivalent about leaving our home in the Misssion Hills area of the San Fernando Valley.

"No," she said. "Too many squirrels."

Years later, when I was working for The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau, I realized she wasn't talking about the squirrels in the trees.

Day 20 of 365.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Savings and Loan

I climbed out of bed and into my sweat clothes. I can't run yet. I'm saving that for my New Year's gift to myself. But I figure I can walk. At least I'd give it a try.

Yesterday, when I went for a morning walk the sun was starting to break through the clouds after a night of rain. I took my camera and soon found myself taking more photos than walking. I cut short the walk because I'd been out more than an hour and had not walked a mile.

When I looked out my office window this morning I could see I wasn't going to have that problem. Kodak moments would be unlikely in the fog.

I left the camera at home and walked the route I take for my 2.5 mile jog. I spotted a couple of locations that might make interesting photos if the sun comes out in the late afternoon. But for now, I've got some photos from yesterday's walk that I'll use today.

Call it my Savings and Loan. Bank on good days to cover the bad. Too bad it doesn't work that way with money.

A neighbor's gravel driveway with its fall blanket on a winter morning.

The after Christmas pre-sale on spring flowers.

Survivors of the storm.

Finally, a novelty treat.

The fruit of a strawberry tree

And a sweet Photoshop glowing edges treat.

Day 19 of 365

Sunday, December 27, 2009

After the rain

It rained last night but by the time I went for a walk with the camera the clouds were beginning to part.

Branches were heavy with the night's rain.

An orange tree offered juice with the fruit.

A bejeweled bush

Sparkling after the rain.

Day 18 of 365

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Colors on a cloudy day

I walked The Dog this morning. I really need the exercise since I won't be able to start running again until New Year's Day. While I was out I saw a couple of things I thought might be interesting photos. So after I put the dog in the house, I grabbed my camera and went back out.

The morning sun was struggling to burn through the clouds. With some Photoshop magic I could restore some of the detail in these berries, but silhouetted branches against a gray background only goes so far.

So I made my own color and imagined a brick mural for the shapes I found. It took a little more work than simply selecting one on of Photoshop's effects, but it doesn't change the fact that the original image was just not very interesting.

Still there is no getting around the fact that abrading a photo with Photoshop's filters can strip the image down to its essence. The end result here is what I imagined when I took the photo.

But even on a cloudy day, reality can be bolder than any Photoshop tricks.

Day 17 of 365

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Gifts

The Wife is in charge of holiday gifts. The gardener and his helpers, the letter carrier, the newspaper delivery guy and for the first time this year . . .

The trash guy.

More guilty pleasure with Photoshop's glowing edges filter.

Several of The Kid's best buds moved into a rental house in East Sacramento after graduation from high school this year. The square image is a painting The Kid did for the household for Christmas. "I don't like this feeling." Ah, to be young and invulnerable to common sense.

Since I'm working in a strict 16:9 format, I created this background from The Kid's painting. I think this would make a really nifty wrapping paper.

Cardiel Cat was out in the front yard today. He climbed about 10 feet up this tree before he figured out that there wasn't a squirrel in sight.

Cardiel Cat, forever on the lookout for new adventures.

Day 16 of 365

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It was the day before the night before . . .

It was 30 degrees when the sun came up this morning. I went looking for Jack Frost. This time I took the telephoto-macro lens.

The berries on the bush in the front yard were just warming up when I stepped outside. I spent several minutes trying different compositions and variations in lighting. While I'm doing better at getting the macro lens to focus, I'm lucky I don't have to pay for the out-of-focus shots I got.

Having taken my fill of berry photos, I returned to the frosted groundcover that I shot yesterday with the 50-mm lens. This photo was the best of the lot. Low light and a slow lens add up to an extremely narrow field of focus. I need to sit down and experiment with the camera's aperture priority setting so that I have some control over the depth of field. Maybe I'll get the tripod out.

Another re-run from yesterday. This is a macro shot of one of the "stars" that I found so fascinating against the dark evergreen backdrop.

I love Photoshop's glowing edges filter. It doesn't work on every photo. But when the conditions are right, the effect is gorgeous -- one-click magic. It's so easy I feel guilty using it.

In the back of the skatepark is a tree that's overgrown with ivy. Hanging in the ivy is a weathered wood picture frame. I've been trying to take a picture of this for two days. Yesterday and this morning, I took photos with the light from behind. This afternoon I went back out just before the sun set.

The concept of a picture frame hung in a tree and overrun with ivy is perfect. But composing this shot was a real ordeal. Maybe I'll try this again.

Day 15 of 365.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SK8 in black and white

It was cold but it was sunny. That was enough to get me out of my office this morning and into the backyard again.

Our lot is nearly a half-acre, and most of that property is in the back. There's enough room for a lawn, a pool and a complete skatepark.

Here are photos from March 2007, the skatepark's heyday.

At the time, this ramp was a year old and had just undergone a major facelift by the kids. I took the photos from atop a second ramp that was built two years earlier. The second ramp is visible in some of these shots. That ramp is gone today, the lumber carted off by one of The Kid's friends to build a cabin in the Sierra.

In the years since, The Kid and his friends have replaced the plywood skin with Skatelite sheeting and improved the transitions. Amazingly, the structure is still sound, but it makes for a forelorn scene in the dead of winter.

Walking around the skatepark this morning was like visiting a ghost town or the ruins of some lost childhood. The scene was so stark that I felt only black and white images could do it justice.

I titled this image "skate porn" but The Wife objects and The Kid doesn't understand. Still, that's what I thought when I saw the magazine in the debris next to the ramp -- a relic of youthful fantasies.

This scene brought back memories of my college photography classes. Black and white says so much more than color.

What is the story behind this picture frame? What package of cause and effect would leave it discarded in The Kid's skatepark?

Day 14 of 365.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lucky 13

The 13th came on a Tuesday this month. It arrived with blue skies and a brisk breeze.

Day 13 of 365, that is. Not December 13. The number 13 when associated with a date always triggers a detour. Please follow along.

When I started part-time at The Sacramento Bee on Monday, Oct. 20, 1980, the chief of the copy desk was an old, gray-haired man named Hugh Bale. He was gruff, but more bark than bite. As the top copy editor, he was the arbiter of all English usage in The Bee. He could be overruled from above, but no one below him on the copy desk could challenge his edicts.

By November, I was working three or four days a week anxious to please in the hope of turning the part-time work into a full-time career. Listening to Hugh Bale and his edicts was a focus of my attention at the time.

"Friday the 13th has arrived on a Thursday this month," I remember him announcing on Nov. 13, 1980. He said it to no one in particular. And in December it arrived on Saturday and in January it arrived on Tuesday. Each month Hugh Bale would deliver the same edict with the same stony seriousness as his edicts on the hyphenation of compound adjectives. It was so. He had a wonderful, wry, understated sense of humor.

Each 13th I raise my No. 2 pencil in salute to Mr. Bale. I still blush with embarrassment with every typo I fail to catch in my writings.

The 13th day was the first cloudless day since -- well, since I started this 365 photo campaign. It is really hard to get inspired on days muted in grays and mist. The arrival of the morning sun chased me out of the house and into the backyard.

I loved the contrast between the evergreen shrub and the fall colors on these saplings. I had to run this through Photoshop to get the yellow stars to pop out the way I imagined them, fireworks on a deep green sky.

The power pole in the far corner of our backyard.

Photoshop sizzling high voltage with glowing edges overlaid with the hard light mode. Hot!

The Wife planted a pool in the backyard about four years ago. It has a rock waterfall. On top of the waterfall is a garden Buddha statue I picked up from Target or some other equally inappropriate place to find Buddha statues. Next to cats, this statue will be one of my favorite subjects over the course of this journey.

The Buddha in repose. This is a macro shot turned on its side. Glad I figured out how to get the macro lens to work.

The Wife planted the pool beneath a 60-foot tall Modesto Ash tree. We've trimmed it back a few times, but we still have to cover the pool with a net from October until the New Year. This photo is the reflection of the statue in the water as seen through the leaves and the black net.

Day 13 of 365