Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
Another diary with two parts: first, recording an ordinary week and then another photography exhibition - a big deal of small things.
We have a very nice patio, and we'd like to use it more, but it's not so easy. Winter is just a little too chilly, not cold, but not comfortable. Then, Spring arrives and we forget to take advantage. When Fresno Summer suddenly hits, the heat chases us back inside. However, sometimes, springlike periods pop in during early summer and that's just perfect. By now local fruit is arriving too, and breakfast outside is wonderful.
The break in heat also allowed us to take Marianne' mom out for an excursion. In her hundredth year, her heat and cold tolerance window is pretty narrow, so we do need to remember to take advantage. On this Saturday afternoon, we packed up the wheelchair and toured Fig Garden, a local shopping center. We window shopped at La Boulangerie, her favorite French bakery, fun even without a purchase. Dinner was outside too, a relatively rare treat for all of us.
On Sunday, Marianne and I splurged with a wine-tasting outing at Fäsi Winery, less than a half-hour from home. I had run across the place during a camera-store sponsored photo excursion, but had not had time to sample the wares. This time, I shifted the focus from pictures to wine. The winery owner is Swiss, apparently explaining the cows at the front entrance.
Mr. Fäsi also has vineyards in Switzerland and Argentina, and there were tasting offerings from all three continents. We did a routine white-to-red, five-tiny-sips process, but it was a slow day, so we also had time to chat with the couple serving us. That can be more fun than the wine itself. After some chit chat, more tiny sips showed up. I honestly can not tell you what our favorite was, but we were impressed enough to join their wine club and bring home three bottles. The club membership allows us to bring guests for free tasting, so now you have even less excuse for staying away.
Leaving after too much wine, we detoured into Tesoro Viejo, a nearby new housing development to get a cup of coffee and dessert. The huge project has over 5,000 homes planned, along with shopping, restaurants, schools, and even a fire station. So far, not much beyond a sales-office and cafe (and the fire station) have been built. Tesoro Viejo is the latest of the projects to spread Fresno north and, unfortunately, draw activity from existing urban neighborhoods like our own.
We did see one Open House sign and followed the arrows to an older, smaller development called Sumner Hill. Here, there were a few dozen homes, some of which had views looking out over the San Joaquin Valley and others over the Sierra Foothills and the mountains beyond.
The open house on Killarney Drive was ... interesting. It was a 4,500 square foot monster, built almost thirty years ago. The sales agent's father had built the home, so she had the entire history. Inside, the sprawling residence was definitely not to our taste: big, but in an incoherent, pseudo-castle style that was odd, at least to us. However, the view from the back patios was spectacular. The San Joaquin River ran from the Friant Dam on the north to Fresno on the south. Beyond the foothills, Sierra peaks were visible, from almost Yosemite to Sequoia National Park. Offered at $899,000, this may be a bargain (California standards) just waiting for the right buyer. Not us.
The rest of our week was so ordinary that I'm not sure what we did. That's when I look at what our cameras have collected to try to reconstruct if anything interesting happened. Not much. Marianne did capture a picture of wind-torn clouds that was worth noting. (No one else stops to look up, be we do.)
At home, I was busy taking pictures of local wild life. The June Bugs have been back for about a month. (How DO they know it's June?) These are the most lethargic little critters one could ever imagine. I took this picture with my iPhone, a couple of inches away, and the little guy never moved.
Our neighborhood hawks are back, perched every morning on the dying cypress in our back yard. They seem to be a permanent feature now, hunting from our tree and nesting in neighbor Clay's giant pine.
Meanwhile, under the roof of our back porch, a pair of doves have produced two chicks. The pair have been in residence for a few weeks now, and birds and chicks never seem disturbed as we walk to and from, just inches away. We hope the little ones learn to fly well before the squirrels or hawks discover them.
And that's our ordinary life. Next will be the results of a morning photo trip in the neighborhood.
A couple of Fridays ago, I took advantage of an excursion arranged by our local photography store to test out a "macro" lens. It had been forever since I tried much of the super close-up that is possible with these lenses and I enjoyed my test session. That's why I went out again, on a very pleasant Tuesday morning, with nothing more in mind than to click away, using my own years-old macro lens.
Some background. My camera shoots about 6,000 pixels by about 4,000, enough to print three feet by two with finer resolution than most printers make. With a macro lens, those pixels can cover an item as small as 1" by 1.5", a bug, perhaps, or a part of a flower. My little unplanned exercise revealed a different world of images down at this level.
(For this version of the web diary, I have chosen to present much larger "thumbnails" than usual to give a better feel for the details in the pictures. The linked images are still only about as big as most computer screens - 1,200 pixels wide or tall. This is only about 20% of the detail available in most shots. If anyone wants a poster, email me.)
Here are a pair of scenes where I show both macro-level detail and a more normal shot to indicating where the picture was taken. Remember, the detail picture is not just a "digital zoom" of the broader shot. Both were 6,240 by 4,160 pixels and either could be printed three or four feet wide. It's just a different world down close.
Sometimes the world changes, even if the shot is not as close as possible. Textures alone provide the interest: A knot on a tree that looks like an overhead shot of a green lava volcano, the pebbled-surface of the garage wall, shedding bark from a Crepe Myrtle tree.
Speaking of Crepe Myrtle trees, this is their season of maximum blooming. We have over a dozen around our house and the neighborhood has hundreds more. Even if these are not really macro photos, or even close-ups really, I had to add a couple, just to remember the color before the Fresno summer bakes all these blossoms.
Roses are about past their prime. The heat is cooking them. I did find a nice red blossom and I got in close with two different "aperture" settings. The "f2.8" image on the left shows just a small part of the rose in focus, while at f20, almost all is clear. A photographer can choose the difference. I kind of like the only-a-little-bit-is-clear version, because the eye will be drawn there. But, you can choose.
For the next several pictures, I stayed at 2.8 ("wide open") to see what might happen with a very shallow depth-of-field. The daisy was about two or three inches in diameter, with a center about one-third of that. As can be seen, the depth of field is only a fraction of the thickness of the center part of the flower, so the left-most detail shot fucusses on only the very tip top of the stamen. In the other two, the area of focus moves down through this flower-center pad. I have to say, none of this detail was obvious to me when I was looking at the flower, it all just appeared like magic in the (computer) darkroom. Pretty cool.
Daisy number two was similar, but different. I start with two whole-flower pictures, because I liked the light. Below that are four shots of the center pad and the focus moving down from the tip tops until nothing is in focus. Art shots. All art shots.
I also worked with a pair of Tiger Lillies. The first one, the yellow one, had nice shadows at one scale, but down smaller the grove of stamen seemed to float about the surface. The yellow and violet lily was worth showing by itself, but the individual stamen had perfect light as well.
There are more small things out there than flowers and tree bark. One of my favorite pictures was of a rough spider web inside an old, junky phone booth. Somehow, I considered it hopeful that something nice could come from such a place.
Finally, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, I found a footprint reminding me of Armstrong's on the surface of the moon. Down there on the rocks and boulder, a worker (ant) went about it's business.
So, what did I learn from my up-close photo experience (including this diary preparation)? There is an interesting world out there, we just have to look. Technically, understanding focus and depth-of-field was the most challenging. I need to work on getting better. More practice.
John and Marianne