Friday, June 29, 2012

Capture the Fireworks like a Pro!

Capture the Fireworks like a Pro!

With 4rth of July approaching I was thinking of my plans to capture the fireworks next week.  Last year I had scouted our places around Shoreline, Mt View, and stationed myself close enough to fill my frames beautifully with the colors in the sky.  For my last years images, click here.  So for this year, I’ll be expanding on the fireworks theme and will add other elements when I capture the 4rth. Click here for my 2012 images.

If you plan to go out and try to capture the beauty of the 4rth at night, here are some photography tips how to successfully bring back stunning images.

The Photography Essentials:  your camera with manual controls, a wide angle lens or wide angle to medium tele zoom lens, a cable release or wireless release, a stop watch, a sturdy tripod. A piece of cardboard to cover your lens (see below “creative”), lens cloth, a flashlight.

Camera:  it is important to be able to manually control your exposure settings.  Since you want to capture the unfolding colors a longer exposure is necessary.  The camera should not have a lag time (a draw back for Point-and-Shoot cameras).

Shutter speed: Set your camera on manual and dial the shutter speed to bulb.  This will allow you to keep the shutter open for a manually determined time.  With your cable release you can then open the shutter with each new firework burst and leave it open until the colors fade.  Start with 3-5 seconds and experiment from there.

Aperture or f-stop:  Select ISO 100-200 and f/8 to f/16.  The smaller aperture (higher f-stop) intensifies the colors and prevents over exposure.  This is where you need to experiment between shots.

White Balance:  Choose Daylight as a starting point.  If you like warm colors, change to Clouds.

Focusing:  Set your camera lens on manual focus and focus on ‘infinity’.  Typically, there is a range in the infinity setting and it is important to review your image and maybe pull back just a tiny bit for finding the best “infinity’ point on your lens.

Noise Reduction:  Longer exposures can overheat your sensor and that leads to ‘noise’ in the image.  However, the noise reduction adds time to the ‘writing’ of the image on your memory card and you might decide to live with the noise for being able to shoot more rapidly during the ½ hour of the typical fireworks display.

Creative Images:  After photographing single blasts and being comfortable with the setting and the looks of your images, try to do a double exposure by opening your lens with the cable release but obscuring the lens with the cardboard.  Then with 2-3 consecutive blasts of colors, ‘open’ the lens by removing the cardboard and thus capturing more than 1 blast – experiment until you get the perfect amazing color show in the sky.  This is essentially a multi-exposure controlled by blocking and removing the cardboard from your lens.  See what amazing blasts you can capture.

Last but not least:  bring a blanket to sit on or a low chair, gather your friends and bring a picnic – after finding the perfect spot there is typically waiting until the show begins.  Munch away until the sky lights up!

Have a great 4rth!



"Only leaving dust behind"
New Cheetah Image - from last Sunday.

Only 3 'Photo-Blind' tickets left for the Cheetah event!!  
Check out the Reno Balloon Festival and Cheetah Run in September 7-10.

Don't miss this fantastic photo opportunity!  See all details here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Madame Coco's Treasure Trove

Madame Coco, the Queen of the antiques in San Andreas, California

Wikipedia describes San Andreas, CA, as follows:

“San Andreas is an unincorporated census-designated place and the county seat of Calaveras County, California. The population was 2,783 at the 2010 census, up from 2,615 at the 2000 census. Like most towns in the region, it was originally founded during the California Gold Rush. The town is located on State Route 49 and is registered asCalifornia Historical Landmark #252.

Settled by Mexican gold miners in 1848 and named after the Catholic parish St. Andrew, the town has been a noted mining camp since early days. The gold from the initially discovered placers gave out after a few years, but the discovery of gold in an underground river channel in 1853 revitalized the camp and it soon became a town. Mining of the channels was lucrative enough for the town to completely rebuild after fires in 1858 and 1863. The gold discovered here contributed greatly to the success of the Union during the Civil War. In 1866, San Andreas became the seat of Calaveras County. It was said to be a rendezvous location for Joaquin Murietta. Notorioushighwayman Black Bart was tried here and sent to prison.

The post office was established in 1854.[2] Settled by Mexican gold miners in 1848 and named after the Catholic parish St. Andrew, the town has been a noted mining camp since early days. The gold from the initially discovered placers gave out after a few years, but the discovery of gold in an underground river channel in 1853 revitalized the camp and it soon became a town. Mining of the channels was lucrative enough for the town to completely rebuild after fires in 1858 and 1863. The gold discovered here contributed greatly to the success of the Union during the Civil War. In 1866, San Andreas became the seat of Calaveras County. It was said to be a rendezvous location for Joaquin Murietta. Notorious highwayman Black Bart was tried here and sent to prison.

The post office was established in 1854.”

Last weekend, I drove to San Andreas to support a  fundraiser event at PAWS, Performing Animals Welfare Society, ARK 2000 and to visit with the elephants again.  You might remember my Travel Tidbits from my March 2012 visit at PAWS that introduced me to the compassionate work of the co-founders of PAWS:  Pat Derby and Ed Stewart.  I will tell more about the fundraiser event in my next Travel TidBits. 

The small town of Andreas stretches for about a mile along Highway 49 which meanders along the Sierra Foothills.  In the middle of town, my attention was captured by an old row of facades with a sign of ‘Wells Fargo’ over well weathered wood.

Old ironworks in the open windows showed the places where money changed hands through narrow slits over wooden counters.  In my imagination I could see bearded men in black suits and white shirts sitting inside counting money being paid for gold nuggets extracted from the ground.  Looking though the bars, my imagination was shattered and it looked like great-gandma’s attic.   

The wood looked worm-eaten, and the bushes had grown over the window.  The glass that had been there was long gone and the wind and weather could enter at will. 

The “Jail” door invited me in and so I entered a world where time had stood still since 150 year.  It was Madame Coco’s treasure trove.  I thought she must have grown up in this town and must have been a collector all her life.  But she only had come to San Andreas about 20 years before – then maybe in her 60ties - attracted by the peaceful little town almost forgotten along highway 49.  Now she was the queen of antiques, real old tools, old containers, old gadgets and other stuff.

Come with me and explore the wonderous isles of long forgotten goodies from the 1800.

Maybe Mom and daughter once strolled through town with the new baby in the pram and the beautiful doll in the daughter's small pram.

Did Mom use the Primex in her kitchen?

And Dad used the tools in the yard?

Maybe morning coffee was brewed in this cattle and the blue cup was taken out in the barn steaming in the frosty air.

Mom used to store the treads and needles in the Singer box and sit by the fire and mend the chothes while Dad stuffed his pipe from the Old English Tabacco box.

The shelf was ready with all kind of paraphernalia and remedies for the ills and cuts that occurred in daily life.

And if the harvest was good, there may have been a reward from a small bottle with distilled goods.

As I left Madame Coco's treasure trove, I passed by the saloon as I said Good bye.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane....   You can see more images from Madame Coco's Antique store on my web gallery.

Til next time,


"Only leaving dust behind"
New Cheetah Image - from last Sunday.

Only 4 'Photo-Blind' tickets left for the Cheetah event!!  
Check out the Reno Balloon Festival and Cheetah Run in September 7-10.

Don't miss this fantastic photo opportunity!  See all details here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Elephants-long term survival?

Will elephants still roam earth in 20 years?

By Cyril Christo, Special to CNN
June 15, 2012 -- Updated 1055 GMT (1855 HKT)

  • Elephant figures are dramatically decreasing due to poaching and black market ivory trade
  • Christo says in 10 years time, if slaughter continues most of Africa's elephants will be gone
  • The world faces losing the "lynch pin of ecology of an entire continent"
CNN Editor's note: Cyril Christo is a photographer and filmmaker whose documentary, "A Stitch for time," was nominated for an Academy Award in 1988. Since 1997, he has worked with his wife Marie Wilkinson to investigate and documente the relationship between the indigenous human and natural world on five continents. See more of their conservation photography.
(CNN) -- At the start of the 1980s there were over a million elephants, during that decade 600,000 were destroyed for ivory products. Today perhaps no more than 400,000 remain across Africa, according to Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington, who is widely recognized as an authority on the subject. It is a tragedy beyond reckoning and humanity needs to pay attention to the plight of the elephants before it is too late.
In the last few years an epic surge in poaching has resumed the killing thanks to the penchant for ivory in the Asian market and especially in China where ivory is now selling for over $1500 a kilo.
Recently Julius Kipng'etich, the head of the Kenya Wildlife service,made a plea at the Library of Congress in Washington DC in an unprecedented appeal for the world to save Kenya's and Africa's elephants from the plague of poaching that has in recent years seen the decimation of tens of thousands of elephants.
It is an appeal that follows from Kenya's determination to torch about ten tons of ivory last July near Tsavo National Park in a show of disdain for the destroyers of elephants and disgust at the resumption of poaching. If this level of killing continues, if elephants continue to be slaughtered for trinkets and statuettes, in ten years time, most of Africa's elephants will be gone and an ineffable symbol of majesty and wonder and the lynch pin in the ecology of an entire continent will have been consigned to oblivion.
The recent Senate Hearing in Washington DC called Ivory and Insecurity -- The Global Implications of Poaching in Africaunderscores the significance of this issue.
For while wildlife is at stake, Dr. Ian Douglas Hamilton, founder of Save the elephants, and John Scanlon the Secretary General of theConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Senator John Kerry, underscored not only the implications of elephant and wildlife poaching, but also the criminal syndicates who make billions on the illegal wildlife trade and its impact on local populations in Africa, global security and even terrorism.
An urgent and concerted international will is needed to fund law enforcement to protect what remains of the elephant population of the world.
Growth in human population is a major concern. Millennial old elephant migration paths have been disrupted. Climate change is a menace to the elephant and all life.
But the wanton shooting of the innocents to satisfy vanity has reached a level of madness no-one can ignore, perhaps made most clearly in the recent destruction of 400 elephants in the Central African Republic by armed militia from Sudan.
At the start of the 1980's there were over a million...Today perhaps no more than 400,000 remain across the continent.
Cyril Christo
The killing of elephants is not just a wildlife issue. The world now understands that it is a global issue. Not long ago The UK's Independent newspaper proclaimed that the loss of biodiversity was the greatest threat to humanity.
How amidst NATO's missile defense problems in Europe, a possible nuclear Iran and the economic failings of modern nations, unemployment and inflation, can the future of the elephant be so urgent?
It is not on the radar of the media nor is it a priority for most people. The answer comes from our ability to affirm life in its moral, ethical and I would urge humanity to consider, in its spiritual dimensions.
The elephant helped us walk out of Africa perhaps 60,000 years ago. We learned from tribal elders in east Africa that elephants, because they knew where to find water, helped humanity survive. It was alongside them that we populated the New World.
They are central to our evolution. Elie Wiesel of the Foundation for Humanity has even said that to save the elephant is "an urgent moral imperative."
In Nagoya Japan in 2010, world environmental ministers agreed on a global strategy to combat the loss of biodiversity. Those countries in Asia that are the driving force behind the mutilation of the greatest land mammal on terrestrial ground must join the battle to save the elephant in Africa and the elephant in Asia and the planet's other endangered fauna such as the rhino and tiger and all the other species that are being so ruthlessly ransacked . In so doing they will save face.
In a society fixated on growth and money, the TEEB, (the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) has plainly demonstrated the irreplaceable value of biodiversity which yearly provides trillions of dollars of value. The forests, oceans, whales and elephants of the world must now enter the balance sheet of ultimate consideration.
We have reached the point as a global civilization where we must fight for life and the meaning of life and much of that stands in the body of the elephant, and other fellow species, the forests and the oceans of the world. This battle must not be lost. Elephants are one of the pillars of existence. We must never tell nor have to tell the children- "This is where the wild things were."
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Cyril Christo.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hummingbird Nest

I am sharing this story with a heavy heart.  Last year I had the privilege to observe a hummingbird nest at the Baylands for over 6 weeks as Mother Anna Hummingbird tended to her nest, her eggs and then her beautiful 2 little children.  Today, the habitat has been eradicated for unknown reasons and this year I have not seen any hummingbirds.  I had so hoped that Mother Anna would come back.... and have visited the Baylands faithfully.  Although the nesting and breeding of the snowy egrets and night herons was fun to follow, I miss these little guys!

So here is my story from Spring 2011:

It is June and today, the world has two new Anna hummingbirds that were the celebrities at the Baylands from late May to the end of June.  Observed by many, two hummingbird chicks fledged from the tiny nest hidden in a pine tree. After keeping her eggs warm, and then caring for the tiny hummingbird chicks for well over a months, Mother Anna Hummingbird perched on her empty nest and one wonders what is going through her mind.  It has been such an incredible journey from seeing her sitting on her eggs to the minute the chicks took flight.  But I am getting ahead….

It was late May that I visited the Baylands with a friend and saw the hummingbird nest first.  An Anna hummingbird had built it in a pine tree carefully crafted on top of a bunch of white-dotted pine cones.  As described elsewhere, hummingbird nests are round, 1.5 to 2.0 in diameter nest and built of very small twigs, lichen and other mosses, and often lined with downy feathers or animal hair.  The nest materials are bound together with spider silk or other sticky materials.  It’s an intricate work of art that is used for one clutch of eggs and then abandoned although sometimes the hummingbird will re-use part of the nesting materials.  For days, I would visit and see her patiently sitting on her nest.  Every so often, she shifted position or left her nest to feed but returned quickly to keep her eggs warm from the often cold wind blowing at the Baylands, specifically in the evening.

Being a busy place with many visitors, soon there were a bunch of photographers and other nature lovers gathering to follow the progress of the nesting hummingbird.  Although well camouflaged by the other pine cones, once detected one can easily observe the comings and goings of the nesting mother.

Hummingbird typically lay 2 white eggs.  What looks like eggs below the nest, are actually the pine cones that support the nest.  The wall is built up and even if Mother Anna is not sitting on the nest, the eggs were not visible and well protected by the downs deep inside the nest.  The incubation time for hummingbird eggs is typically between 16-19 days. 

As her adoring fans watch her every move, she has an audience almost all day long and cameras click to capture the moment of course waiting for the chicks to hedge from their eggs.

And then the long anticipated day arrives in early June and I see 2 small beaks reaching up to Mom as she is feeding.

From that day on, Mother Anna is busy going back and forth between searching for food and feeding her growing babies.

Just for a little while, she seems to rest on a branch from where she can monitor her little offsprings.

As we observe the nest and the chicks and wait for her between feeding, our eyes often go up to her favorite perch since she has just a handful places that she likes to rest.  It is amazing how fast the baby hummingbirds grow and very soon, we see the quills (inner backbone of the feathers) grow and mark the tiny wings.

When the little ones hear the mother coming, they raise their heads with beaks wide open to receive the nourishment.  Every day they grow bigger, more active, and their feathers develop.

Mother Anna approaching the nest.

A week later, they fill the nest like peas in a pod.  Now we often see them looking around at this new world with shiny eyes, and soon they are starting to preen.

And always, Mom is not far away with another meal delivery!
As she approaches the nest she often hovers a bit before settling down to feed.

June 22

June 25 - Mother above the nest.

Leaving the nest, we see her flying high up against the sky and away to gather nectar and pollen for her young brood.

Chicks start to preen

They are spilling out of the nest - it's near fledging time!

Towards the end of June, her success  in nurturing her chicks shows:  The little ones are having real feathers and are starting to flap their wings to practice and exercise their young muscles because soon after they fledge, they will flap their wings 400-800 times per minute! 

 Practicing their wings

June 26
Ever more, when they hear mom approaching, they open their beaks wide and are competing for the food!

As the chicks mature, we observe a mom after one feeding plugging on the downs that line the nest.  Is she already collecting nesting materials for her next nest?  Hummingbird can have up to 3 clutches of eggs during a season although June is probably the latest that she would be breeding during the year.  Of course we will never know.  It is such a privilege to follow the development of this little family!

And then on a Sunday evening, after much practice the stronger chick all of the sudden lifts off the nest and flies for the first time to a branch not far from the nest.  Along the way, it perches on a cluster of pine cones for a tiny rest.  As we observe, we cheer for this is the first time for most of us to observe such an event. 

 The first is leavng the nest - see how it grabs on to the beak of his/her sibling before letting go.

Lift off!!     First Flight

Sitting in a higher branch in the pine tree, Mom now feeds both of her chicks in alternating feedings:  one in the nest and the other in the branch.  After leaving the nest, many birds continue to feed the young until they are ready to fend for themselves.

For the next 2 days, I visit the nest in anticipation of the 2nd chick to fledge.  Tuesday, heavy rain drenches the trees and the world is wet around the nest.  The little one is now more actively exercising its wings but it takes until Wednesday morning that it fledges from the nest and rests on a very near branch:  Mom is there shortly and continues to feed her young.

Next step is a higher branch where mom easily finds it – but then both of them disappear into the thicket of the tree.

2nd little hummer fledged.

And then it is all over!

Before “our” little Mother Anna Hummingbird leaves us to pursue life without the celebrity status that she enjoyed, we see her one last time perched on her most favorite branch high above us.  

We wish all three of them a beautiful and long life!

Til next time, 

All images:  2012 Copyright M. Raeder-Photography

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Full Moon over the Baylands

Another full moon - actually a day after the full moon on June 3 - and I had to go out and see what I could capture.  The day had been stormy, a late rain blew over the Bay Area with dark clouds and I was doubtful whether it would clear for the evening.  At sunset the clouds were still menacing and the wind made it a cold evening.

Sunset at the Baylands

But as is so typical, after night fall it calmed and the sky cleared.  Prior to the moon rising, the bright light in the sky wasn't the moon, but the approach of an airplane gliding over the bay towards San Francisco.  The night lights from San Jose were reflected in the clouds above.

Finally my patience was rewarded and the moon made its way over the clouds.

Reflection of the night sky in the water ways of the Baylands

I love being out there in the evening with only the sound of the birds settling for the night and the stars above.  Even in our crowded Silicon Valley there are places near by for meditation and silence.

Til next time,


Did you ever want to see cheetahs run at full speed at 60 miles per hour?  This is a great opportunity right here in California.  Combined with the colorful Balloon Festival in Reno --a perfect photo opportunity is set.  Date: September 7-10, 2012