Sunday, November 15, 2009


There is such beauty in the tree filled forest and we love our tree lined streets and mature tree filled neighborhood. But trees drama filled our week and today when I look at the trees in our yard, they come with a price tag, and a mighty big one at that!

When we buy these cute little trees in 5 and 10 gallon black plastic pots, we don’t picture them as 20-30 ft. giants, dropping binfuls of leaves, piles of spikey things, or pods with seeds that explode all over the yard.
We plant them close together in a grouping that look so nice, and don’t foresee that they will grow up bumping into each other and jabbing each other like siblings sitting next to one another in the back of a car.

Did you know that a tree greater than 40 inches in diameter needs permission by way too many people to be cut down? Did you know that a 20-30 foot giant can cost several thousands of dollars to remove? I learned this week that removing a tree, can, like many other home improvements, lead to problems you could not even have imagined!
Our locust tree, with its bright golden autumn foliage has seen its last days. Half dead, with brittle branches, it stood waiting to be taken down.
The city however, has its own ideas. “Was an arborist consulted?” they asked. “How do you know it is dead?” “Can it be saved?” With these answers in hand, they were to meet as a staff group to assess this request and in 2 weeks a verdict would be handed down. Perhaps they should reconsider this process to be one in which a staff committee decides whether and where a tree should be planted.

What they failed to ask was, “Do you know what is under it?” “Did your pipes come before the tree, and if so why on earth would the previous owner plant a tree right on top of the gas and main water pipe?” If they had asked the right questions, they could have made my $40 permit worthwhile and have avoided a lot of unnecessary anguish.

Dear Mr. P, the previous owner who so lovingly designed the landscaping. What were you thinking? That tree roots could wind their way around the big pipe and feel secure? Perhaps that pipes would hold the tree up to be stabile? Maybe that gushing water in the pipes would hold good karma for a growing tree? Whatever the reason, it worked, because this tree grew to be a giant and under it still stood, the big white pvc pipe that carries water in to our house. And on the day of its death, the stump grinder took the remains of its stump and the great white pvc with it, sending a fountain of water high up in to the air to proclaim its removal. And thus the saga began.....

Plumber A, B, C , and PGE. Huge hole dug and big white pvc repaired. Other pipe unknown as to whether it carries gas or not - further investigation needed. Tree company disclaimer - not responsible for any lines under the ground. Cost - unknown. Moral of the story -- don’t plant trees on pvc pipes and find out what lurks beneath those roots.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Beyond the Iconic Yosemite

They say you get inspiration from others and this weekend was particularly so. I was excited about the Yosemite photography workshop since last year it was one of the best weekends I had ever had. It seemed hard to top that but I was optimistic; at the least, Yosemite would be ablaze with color. We started our drive to the Sierras early in the afternoon and the skies were a bit ominous looking, but the forecast was for clear weather. I had been checking every day and on Tues. finally took the chance and cancelled my lodge room in favor of a campsite, saving a lot of money but thinking that I may regret this decision come midnight when our toes are freezing. We arrived after dark and in the brisk cold night air, set up our little backpacking tent among all the heated and lit RV’s. We must be a bit crazy sleeping out in the winter!

Entering the Girls Club was like an old reunion. It was so wonderful to see some of the same faces from last year; we had all left last year with a sense of comaraderie and excitement in becoming better photographers. I felt like an upperclassman in high school, a bit more confident this year and a little more well versed in the technicalities of photography. It kind of felt like the veil of uncertainty was becoming more and more transparent. After the short lecture, the announcement was to meet at 6:30am in the cafeteria for breakfast. Back at the campsite, we didn’t waste any time in making some simple sandwiches for tomorrow, getting our stuff together and running to hide in our down bags.

A bit after 7, I awoke to Ray saying my alarm hadn’t gone off. Darn!
Groaning about how early and how miserably cold it was, I quickly dressed and tried to put contacts in with frozen fingers and in the darkness of the bathroom which didn’t appear to have any lights. “Is this fun?” I asked myself. I have never gotten up this early at Yosemite and there was a peaceful stillness around. Driving past the meadow, we could see the mist lifting like fog on the ocean and granite peaks towered gray and cold. The park, void of visitors, felt like it belonged to us alone. 6:30 sharp and everyone was assembled, drinking coffee, eating oatmeal and looking out at the morning sky. Morning shooting would take place in the meadow where the mist was rising and everyone, adrenaline running was ready to go. I tried to remember the lessons I had learned previously, the first shots were discards, the second ones looked vaguely like the ones I shot last year. I was not impressed with myself. My fingers were numb, as were my feet and though the colors were spectacular, they didn’t translate as such in my camera. It was a welcome break to go back to the Girls Club to warm up.

If you only learn one thing in this class, it would be that the lighting at mid day is not good for photos. We learned about exposures and apertures and saw some beautiful images shot by the Yosemite photographers that we all aspire to become. The afternoon session was a bit more successful for me, as deep within the cobwebs of my brain, the
connections between exposure, aperture, and ISO started to come together and translate into what I was doing with my camera. This black box that I trust to capture all of the beautiful images I see with my eye, has so many buttons and knobs, many of which I still don’t have the vaguest notion of what they actually do.

Sat. morning, not any warmer, but with more time to get it together. The lights are fixed in the bathroom and I remember to put my gloves on as soon as I get up. It is going to be a better day. Again we meet for breakfast, and then head out to the meadow. “Look deep”, says Keith
I remember the previous nights talk on patterns, shapes, and colors. The field is brown, filled with spikey strawlike grasses that are covered with frost. The air is grey, moist, and mysterious. I begin to shoot and find a myriad of shapes and forms of all colors shimmering in the rising sun. Oooh, aah, nice, sigh. I think as I shoot, and the images on my screen are pleasing to the eye. I move to the river and see a world under the water and collages on the surface. I am so excited, I can’t stop. There is more, and more and more. Finally, I do a jog around the area to unstiffen my toes, and continue shooting. What a great morning it has been! In the afternoon, I see light of colors--gold, green and blues. Reflections in running water, ribbons of colors in slow motion, and the muted colors of dusk in the autumn. In the evening I enjoy the critique of my photos from the past year and I learn so much about how to improve upon them.

Sunday morning, a repeat of the previous, though today I am eager and anxious to get out there. We are now all comfortable with each other and it is fun to be a part of the group. Today we are out in the meadow and in a deep discussion with Mike, finally, finally understand the value of a histogram. Ah ha! So that is why my pictures are grainy. What a valuable lesson it was. Moving on to the woods and the reeds, I look for interesting subjects and into the water and ground for pictures that are unique and that convey a sense of emotion to me. Before you know it, the session comes to a close. I have enjoyed the friendships created and I have learned that photography is not just about a picture of what you see in front of you, but is an artform that conveys emotion, feeling, and an interpretation of what your eye sees. There is so much beauty around us and using this art form, I can translate it into something that is uniquely me. I thank my lucky stars for having found this opportunity with Keith and Mike, our instructors, Yosemite, the most beautiful studio in the world, and the warm and friendly group of people I met.