Saturday, March 25, 2023

A Few of My Favorite Photos

Our unusually wet California spring has kept me indoors much more than I'd like. One long rainy afternoon, while scrolling through my decades-old Google Photos collection, I noticed how many of these nearly-forgotten pictures made me smile or simply pause and think about what they meant to me when I first snapped them and stashed them away. So, before I lose them again in my little corner of the Google cloud, I decided to share some of them with you. I hope you enjoy them.

Backyard Wonders 

My wife is what some might call a master gardener and landscape designer. She's transformed the boring slab of grass that was once our backyard into an ever-changing collection of hardscape elements, decorative plants and produce-yielding greenery. As you can imagine, it's a great place to have our morning coffee! And I've learned to keep a camera handy to capture the various blooms and birds and bugs that seem to pop up out of nowhere. Here are some of my favorite morning-coffee photos.

This dragon fly landed on the bloom of an aloe cactus and just froze there, allowing me to take my time shooting several pics. This is the best and shows the creature's amazing, fragile detail.

One chilly morning I discovered this ordinary garden sage transformed by the heavy dew. What looks like extra fuzzy leaf texture isn't real. It's actually zillions of dew drops!

This perspective-challenging image consists of a juicy, ripe kumquat in the foreground, a fully-loaded naval orange tree far behind it and a 10-feet tall pencil cactus (milk bush plant) in the back left, behind the bird bath. The receding orange colors caught my eye.

Speaking of oranges... When I was a kid, I loved to crawl under the Christmas tree and watch the lights and colors from the ornaments bounce all around the inside of the tree. It was magical. The morning light bouncing around the inside of our fully-loaded naval orange tree often has the same magical appeal as those Christmas tree crawls. So... I crawled inside and took this photo.

This is an extreme close-up of our bougainvillea's long-lasting colored bracts (modified leaves) and one of its short-lived, tiny white flowers. Most people see these plants as giant bushes heaped with color. The bracts come in red, purple, pink, white and all sorts of hybrid shades. But those tiny flowers are always white and frequently overlooked. So I hereby feature one!

Sometimes the early morning sun sneaks up behind a bloom and showcases its overall form and delicate veins. Such was the case with these backlit beauties. Left: red vriesea bromeliad. Right: red canna lilly.

Nature Pushes Back

(Above) Our nearby wetlands often look like this from late February through May. These "daisies" are found on bushes that can grow up to 7 or 8 feet tall. Rabbits and foxes are in there, as well as blue herons and egrets. That "private property" sign and border fence don't mean much to these hardy flowers. They will pretty much go wherever they please!

This stop sign is at an intersection along our local bike path. The landscaping crew who maintain the path have worked hard to cut back a bougainvillea bush growing at its base. The bougainvillea had other ideas. This stealthy and determined plant managed to snake its way up through the hollow sign post and burst out the top.

This is what's left of a breakwater near a local beach. It's about 15 feet tall and formerly was a wall of solid steel with rocks piled on both sides and a big wooden beam on top. Such breakwaters are set up perpendicular to the ocean to help prevent beach erosion. I've been watching this one deteriorate for several years now. Once a mighty man-made wall, it's now almost completely gone. The tide pool rocks at its base are covered with barnacles, mussels, crabs and a starfish or two hidden deep in crevices. The ocean will soon reclaim this spot entirely.


The photo above is an accident. My intent was to sneak up on a large flock of grounded seagulls and capture them clumped together watching the waves. As I knelt and focused and held my breath to click my picture a rowdy dog came from out of nowhere, startling them into mass flight. At first I was angry at the dog. But when I saw the results, I realized that this was one of my best photo accidents ever!

This pair of mallards and their reflection creates an amazing visual symmetry. Like so many photos of members of the bird family, they are as much about form and composition as they are about the content of the image.

A young heron resting between meals.

I'm often struck by how casually birds seem to intermingle. Here a heron and a pair of egrets hang out together watching ducks and coots. No segregation here!

This is one of several burrowing owls that live in the dunes along the bike path near the ocean. These guys seem to enjoy watching bikers passing by. I guess they're confident of their ability to fly away if bothered. 


Okay, a confession... I have a mild obsession with pelicans. And I have taken way too many pictures of them to show here. But if you'd like to see some of them, check out this video and this pelican-philosophizing article: A Lesson from the Humble Pelican: Find Your Unique Mission, Then Soar! 

And finally... another kind of "bird." I walked past this soaring bird of paradise that appeared to be trying to escape the confines of its yard. There's something dramatic about this bright flower on a pure blue field of sky.


Below are some favorites that I couldn't fit into any particular category. 

That's me (left) walking in the Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert at over 16,500 fee elevation in the Andes. I was in South America to teach a PM Basics workshop for some of the ALMA team based in Santiago, Chile. [ALMA stands for Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array — In other words, it’s an array (collection) of radio telescopes (66, to be exact!) that was under construction in the Atacama desert.] My client/scientist host (right) decided to take me to the "high site" before the workshop to provide some perspective on this crystal-clear sky-viewing location which hadn't had any measurable rainfall in over 400 years! We visited this spot at sunset to hear the rocks and sand creak and crackle as the cold of night fell upon them. It was amazing!

This man is an artist in Santiago, Chile enduring an outdoor market where he is trying to sell his creations. He personifies the problem many artists face: It's much more interesting to create art than it is to try to sell it!  

The sun ducks behind a palm tree at a secluded local beach. At moments like this the Pacific ocean can feel like it's on the edge of the earth.

An overcast day at the beach can be more interesting visually than a sunny day. Such lighting highlights the steely grays and blues and shiny reflections on the rocks. 

Here are a couple of shots of the "superbloom" near Lake Elsinore, CA in March of 2019 following an unusual wet rainy season. Miles and miles of poppies blanket the mountain slopes and hillsides.

Amaryllis flowers everywhere! We lit a backyard fire in honor of our own amaryllis superbloom!

A couple of amaryllis close-ups showcase their bee-tempting stamens & pistils.

Just a small sample of the many, many flowers my wife keeps going in our colorful back yard.  Here are (top left) our short-lived clivia, (top right & bottom left) our ever-blooming canna and (bottom right) our red bottle brush tree blooms. 

A California scrub jay gets rowdy in our bird bath. 

Speaking of rowdy... This goose (?) at a local park protests... something or other!

The essence of sunbathing!

Our local bike path, daisy-lined in Spring, shoots arrow-straight toward the ocean.

Another warm CA day ends with gold and red tones at sunset. (This photo was shot and saved "clean," with no color sweetening or post processing whatsoever.) I could "feel" those incredible warm colors as I rode my bike home through the balmy ocean breezes.

======== Related =======