End to fire season…

There’s no doubt that this summer has been rough in the Rogue Valley (and the rest of southern Oregon).  The heavy smoke has been worse this year than most of us can remember.  The good news is that with the recent rains, the issue has been resolved for the time being.  Hopefully next summer won’t be as bad, but it does appear that this is the new norm for us.

We managed to make several trips to the coast to escape the smoke.  It’s about a 3-hour drive to either Brookings / Coos Bay / Florence depending on the route you take.  Finding a place to camp though was always an issue as so many others were also doing the same thing.  The good news in all of this was it forced us to try new areas such as Rock Creek described in the previous post.  These trips gave us better knowledge and insight to the wonders of Oregon’s beautiful coastline, some of which I hope to document in upcoming posts.

Now that the smoke has cleared in the Rogue Valley, things are returning to normal… and so is the photography.  We’re starting to get our spectacular sunrises / sunsets again that occur during the spring / fall / winter seasons.  The summer months are relatively cloudless (minus the smoke), so there’s not much to give additional details in the sky.  The rest of the seasons though can be spectacular.  The Rogue Valley in itself can be an amazing canvas to complement to colors in the sky… and it’s a great opportunity for all of us to enjoy such beautiful scenery.

View looking west from Marigold Lane in Medford.

The Importance of going off-line…

A recent camping trip taught me the reason why I need to stop checking my phone all the time.  We found a wonderful campground on the Oregon coast called Rock Creek.  The beauty there is amazing… it’s a small campground and limited facilities, but the scenery makes up for anything that is missing from our high-tech lifestyles. At first I was trying to check emails and news in the hopes my phone would connect… it never did.  I even rode my bicycle out to (and along) the highway fighting gale force winds along the way with the hopes that somewhere the phone would make a connection, but no such luck.  After a while I was resolved to accept the fact that for a few days, there were going to be no phone calls, no news updates, and no text messages.  It turned out this was a good thing.  I had time to practice photography, read some magazines we had brought with us, and just relax and enjoy the scenery.  

Rock Creek campground is adjacent to the ocean, about 1/4 mile inland up a small fern covered canyon.  The strong winds from the coast were coming up the canyon and made everything fresh, but rather cool to be out.  Still, it was so much better than the heat and smoke that’s affecting the Rogue Valley where we live.  On the last day, the strong winds died, and I was able to try some long exposures (such as the one below) to experiment with motion blurring the water in the creek.

After a few days of being off-line, we had to (reluctantly) leave the campground to head home.  When we finally got phone reception, we had found there had been a minor crisis at home with the watering, but it had been resolved correctly – and without our assistance.  And for catching up on emails / news / text messages… we found that yes, there things of importance there, but nothing that could have not waited for a few days.  What we got in return though was some time of peace and quiet, zero stress, and some wonderful memories of an extraordinary beautiful place that welcomes visitors, but at it’s own pace.

Rock Creek campground in Oregon. This was the view from our campsite.

Rediscovering the familiar with new eyes…

We had the pleasure of hosting my wife’s cousin (and her son) from Hungary early this month, and it is always interesting to see how they react to the local sights that are so familiar to us.  Of course we took them to Crater Lake, the Redwoods, and sections of the California and Oregon coast… always beautiful, but interesting to find what they thought was exceptional.  For instance in Bolinas, we went for a short hike on the Palomarin trail which starts off going through the Eucalyptus forest.  The Eucalyptus trees are not native to California, they were brought in from Australia.  The trees have adapted very well to the California climate, and are fast growers.  To us, these trees are somewhat ordinary… but for our guests they were amazing in size and beauty.  In looking at the trees again, I could see the beauty they were so enchanted with, and it made me appreciate something I had been taking for granted.  The same held true for other things (shells, seaweed, driftwood)… common to us, but new and amazing to them.  It’s so refreshing to have your eyes opened again…

Looking over the coast from the Palomarin trail (Bolinas is in the background).


From Spring into Summer…

Living in the Rogue Valley (Southern Oregon) the weather here is generally mild… we get only about 20 inches of rain a year, and the weather resembles more that of California than what most people think of Oregon.  Nature can pull a few surprises though… and this late Spring weather contained a few, mainly in the way of thunderstorms.

While thunderstorms tend to be brief in regards to rain, they can sometimes stall or move very slowly, and if you happen to be in their target, it can be a torrential downpour.  Such was the case the last week of Spring.  We had one storm pause over us and dump rain to the point that caused some damage in our garage due to water spilling in.  Fortunately, the damage was relatively small (though we’ll have to get some repairs done).  On the good side, it left us with one of the most beautifully intense rainbows I’ve ever seen.

View looking southeast from our home after the thunderstorm had passed. This is a very wide-angle view (15mm lens setting).

The other big change…

There comes a time in life when you feel a change is necessary.  For me it was this last year.  I’ve worked full time as an Engineer for over 35 years, and while I love the work (and more importantly the people I work with), there were so many other life’s interests that I wanted to try.  In my case, spending more time on photography is one of the big ones… as well as music, travel, hiking, sailing, bicycling (I used to do a LOT of the latter) and so on.  Having reached my 60’s, there’s the realization that the time left in front of me is not as much as I would like, and it’s important to spend more time on these things while I still can.  So last week, I retired from the work I’ve been doing for so long.

It really hasn’t hit me yet that I’m retired… so many projects to catch up on (including a very long list of house projects).  I did promise myself that I would go sailing as soon as I could, and yesterday (my second day of retirement) I managed to get out to Applegate Lake (beautiful!) for some sailing there.  There’s something about spending time on the water that brings tranquility… After a few hours of sailing, all the pressure come off, and for the first time in a long time, I felt relaxed and at peace.  Its the best medicine possible…

The image above is from yesterday’s sailing at Applegate Lake (photo taken with the iPhone 8 Plus). This is a very beautiful lake on the north side of the Siskiyou Mountains not far from the Rogue Valley. The lake level drops during the summer, so late spring / early summer is the best time to go.



From Canon to Sony…

Ever since I was in College, I’ve been a Canon user starting with the AE-1 film camera. Not that I was a fanboy of Canon gear, it’s just that they had the right products at the right time for me.  When Digital Cameras emerged, Canon seemed to have a lead over Nikon, so I stayed with them.  It also was important as I had an investment in lenses by now, so changing would be difficult (and expensive). However in the last few years, Canon seems to have fallen behind Nikon… and now Sony.  When it came time to upgrade my camera (5D Mark II – which was now nine years old), it seemed that either the Nikon D850 or the Sony A7R III was the proper choice… either way it was going to be a difficult jump.

Both the Nikon D850 and Sony A7R III are great cameras, but I can’t afford both… so Sony was the choice due to the fact it was lighter (great for long hikes) and a bit cheaper for the equivalent setup.  Part of Sony’s weight savings is because it’s a mirrorless camera… less parts / smaller size.  The learning curve is a bit steep though… much more than I expected.  Not to say that it’s bad… it’s just there are a ton of options and configurations to get through. Once through it (and past a lot of image mistakes!) it becomes pretty intuitive to operate.  Technology has come a long ways in the last nine years, and I’m really impressed with what this camera can do.

In some upcoming posts, I thought I would offer some thoughts and impressions of what it’s like to switch from a traditional DSLR like Canon to a Mirrorless Camera like Sony.  No system is perfect… with some advantages being meaningful and important, while some disadvantages were surprising.

Sunset at Harris Beach SP (February 2018)

A ray of hope…

As you may have noticed, things have been silent for the last few years.  This was mainly due to the lack of time trying to manage full-time work, running a hay-farm, and life in general.  This is not to say that photography has stopped…. in fact quite the opposite… it’s expanded.  Now that I am in the process of retiring from engineering, there will be more time to work on this site.  There are many new things in the works… new photos, trips, and experiences along the way.  There’s also a back catalog of photos (a lot over the last few years) that will be added to the site… so many wonderful changes coming here… so please stay tuned!

The photo above is of Arch Rock at Harris Beach State Park… It was taken in February 2018 using the new Sony Ar7iii.

New camera added…

My main lens (a Canon 24-105L mm zoom lens) after 5 years of use, stopped working a few weeks ago and was sent in for repairs.  Of course while it was in for repairs, all kinds of photo opportunities showed up and I found myself really missing not being able to use a lens in the normal range (about 90% of the photos I take).  As a result, I decided to get a “bridge” camera… something above the normal compact/consumer cameras, but not as expensive as professional DSLRs (which would break the budget).  I ended up getting the Panasonic Limux FZ1000.

First impressions of the new camera are very positive.  The camera starts up fast, focuses incredibly fast, has good resolution… and mot of all can take 4k video (30fps) where each and every frame can be extracted as an 8 Megapixel photograph.  For sports and wildlife photography, this is a godsend.  No more missed opportunities… well… for the most part.  The images extracted are surprisingly good quality and have none of the video degredation that is normally seen with video captures (I always found them to be exceptionally soft and with a look that the photo was taken through a plastic window).  I’ve put an example below… still learning the process (i.e. I could have used a higher shutter speed on the video)… but it should give you the idea.

It’s a sea-change that’s coming to photography.

– Charles

A 4k video clip (and cropped on top of that!) from the new camera.

A 4k video clip extract (and cropped on top of that!) from the new camera.


We’re still here!

Despite that there hasn’t been much posted in the last few weeks, it is not an indication of lack of new material… quite the opposite!  There’s been a tremendous amount of work done recently not only in photos, but in video.  I recently purchased the GoPro Hero 3+ system, and have been experimenting with this extensively. Video is a completely different environment than photos… and the learning process is steep.  Some fun footage is on the horizon… but for now, I’ll leave you with a recent photo of a visitor at our bird feeder…


Overload on Spam…

Sorry to all of you who would like to post… but I’ve been getting way too much spam (hundreds per day) to keep up.  At first it was only a few, which was managable… but it quickly mushroomed to something that’s gotten out of hand.  I don’t want to ignore the real posts, but I can’t get through all of this and keep my day job.  I’ll look for some kind of spam filter I can use here, but in the meantime, the comments are off-line.  Those of you who would like reach me – please use the Contact page for now.  Thanks!

Best wishes to all,