April 27-29, 2016
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
is another multi-purpose diary, another something-to-keep-John-busy
diary. As always, it's for our own record, but family and friends
are welcome to tag along. This episode has been prompted by three
days as an art-widower for me. Marianne is attending a three day
class over at the "Fresno Art Hub", a gallery and work-learning space a
couple blocks from home. This is a fairly ambitious class with
three full days of trying to learn as much as possible.
Here are some first-day pictures.
My plan is to use these three days to see what I can put on (digital)
film. This sort of forced exercise is useful to me, even if
nothing great (digitally) develops. I started right away, in the
parking lot! There is an old patch of cactus there and now is the
time for these hardy souls to sprout a few new buds and flowers.
Nice shapes and colors and good practice for my "small" camera - a SONY
"point-and-shoot" that really can be used for nice work, if the
operator practices enough.
Otherwise, I have been reviewing a local tourist guide to find nearby
places I am unfamiliar with. Fresno gets a bad rap as a place
where not much happens, but I can't join in that chorus without at
My first try was "Simonian Farms." The tour guide writeup
described a museum-like establishment that also sold fruits, nuts, and
veggies. Well, mostly it is a parking lot, surrounded by old farm
equipment and a big fruit and nut market, filled with other old stuff;
bikes, gas pumps, tools, etc. (I probably need to go back,
because I discovered that I really had not taken anything inside worth
the effort. Next time.)
the old tractors, was a tower of ragged wood, a monument to the
Japanese internees of the 1940's. Mr. Simonian, from an Armenian
immigrant family himself, erected it in honor of the local Japanese who
taught him so much about farming, and generally did not reveal the
hardships Americans had dealt them.
of Japanese, my next goal was originally the Clark Bonsai
Collection. My Fresno-area tour guide website said it was located in
Hanford, about a half-hour south of Fresno, but further research
revealed it had been moved to Woodward Park, in Fresno itself.
Now, it shares park space with the Shinzen Friendship Garden.
This sounded like I could get two tourist badges for one stop.
Shinzen has unusual winter hours, 4pm to dusk, about 7:30pm, except on rainy
days. As luck would have it, rain was on the horizon when I left
Simonian Farms, so my Japanese garden stop was very brief. I will
need to come back for more time and more sun.
My original goal, the Clark Bonsai Collection, was also an
almost-bust. It turns out to be open only on Friday, Saturday, and
Sunday. I had to make do with peering over the fence, enough to
see what I could not examine close up. Another need to return. (See next diary.)
Thursday (28th) was my most ambitious day while
Marianne was busy with art classes. I started the day with a visit to
the camera store to pick up my rented "safari lens". The goal,
like on the zoo day, was to practice photographing animals, in case our
bucket-list African safari ever materializes. This time, it would
be a session at Project Survival CatHaven in nearby Dunlap,
California. Like most people around Fresno, we had passed by
CatHaven many times in our trips to Sequoia or Kings Canyon National
Parks. Every time we passed, we would say: "We need to stop sometime."
This was the time.
I unpacked my gear and trudged from the parking lot to the
administration building and joined two other visitors waiting for the
guided tour. Our guide, Nick, led us through the formalities and
gave us a five minute slide show giving background of Project Survival
and CatHaven's role in it. Basically, CatHaven's mission is
education in support for wild cat survival. Project
Survival operates throughout the world supporting initiatives that
increase survival rates for the wide range of wild cats from Siberia to South America..
For the next hour or so, Nick showed us each of the wild cats, some
half the size of a regular house cat and others much, much
bigger. Do I remember all the names and facts he provided?
Not at all, but his enthusiasm and that of all the others we met was
wonderful. I'll use my pictures to re-tell some of what I did
learn. (Errors are my own, not Nick's.)
postscript: When I arrived with the big 150-600mm zoom lens on my
camera, I joked about practicing for a real safari. Nick asked if
I had actual plans, or was it just a bucket-list item. I had to
admit it was more a dream than a plan. He called Wendy over and
she explained that Wendy and Dale organize photo safaris every November and there
is still room for this year's trip to see the migration in
Tanzania. Who knows?
is run by Dale, seen here as a climbing toy for a new leopard, and
Wendy, greeting one of her old tiger friends. Other staff seem to
be knowledgeable and enjoying the application of that knowledge,
both to the treatment of the animals and to the education of the public like me.
wish I could remember what each of the cats are and what every story
is, but I was way too busy learning how to operate my new lens and capture eyes behind heavy screens.
Besides, there are over 30 cats, each with a name and story.
you know that "panther" is simply another name for a black leopard or
cheetah or any other cat. And, do you know the difference between
a large cat and a small cat? It's not the obvious. Small cats purr and large cats
roar. Really. Big cheetahs purr, so they are "small cats",
no matter their size. There is an important legal difference here too,
because small cats are considered "pets" and can go in public and
CatHaven does just that to provide education in schools and
elsewhere. Nick noted that, in the final analysis, the cats
themselves decide if they like the public exposure and some individual felines
do and others do not.
This white leopard absolutely enjoyed posing and I enjoyed taking her picture.
two lions share a large pen, but each has its own bedroom loft.
The crew must have faith in the cage material separating them from the
curious or hungry large cats. These large animals appear quiet
and docile, but Nick was careful to emphasize the need for rigorous
procedures keeping workers out of harm's way. It doesn't always succeed.
My favorite was this blue-eyed Siberian tiger.
Back to the real world. The second part of my photo-Thursday
would take me into Kings Canyon National Park. The highway into
this area had only been open about ten days, after almost a year of
closure due to the Rough Fire last summer and fall and due to winter
snows. This is one of the most beautiful canyons we've ever seen,
and I was curious about how much damage the massive fire had done.
And, that's it. Marianne is done with her class and we will start
our normal life again. Of course, we will have to learn a
bit about Tanzania. Stay tuned.
Here's what I saw.
Much of the forest is still closed, as are all campgrounds. The
Cedar Grove lodge toward the end of the Kings Canyon Highway, where we stayed last year, is also
closed, but should reopen as summer approaches. Unfortunately, Kings
Canyon Lodge, an historic small private motel and gift shop, had been
destroyed in the Rough Fire.
The forest damage is extensive. Fighting it cost the US Forest Service over $3million. In some places, burned and unburned
trees still stand together. Elsewhere the path of the fire
is revealed by deep scaring. Nonetheless, nature is recovering,
starting with colorful wildflowers among the black limbs and trunks.
This spectacular view of the junction of the North and South branches
of the Kings River shows just how rugged the mountains are and one can
imagine the difficulty of fighting the massive fire.
Eventually, I passed the fire damage and was greeted by the roaring
river. I could have taken these pictures for hours, but did need
to turn around for the two-hour drive home.
This pair of pictures illustrates the difference between a fast and slow shutter speed.
The slow-speed technique is fun and always a bit mysterious about how it will turn out.
John and Marianne