Ag & Art in Yolo County

Needing to learn some basics about photography I called my friend Bill Reid to give me some pointers. He invited me to the Yolo County Art and Ag Project. We left Davis early on Saturday morning and made our way to Chowdown Farm near Esparto.

Bill Reid taking a photo of the classic barn at Chowdown Farm.
Bill Reid taking a photo of the classic barn at Chowdown Farm.

After the frustration of watching the video tutorial for the Canon Rebel T5i (narration so quick it may as well as been in Spanish), getting a private coaching session with Bill empowered me to take lots of photos and try different camera settings.

The farm had handsome Dorper sheep, a hardy breed from South Africa, interesting trees and outbuildings including a classic barn.Dorper ram

It was very kind of the farmer Brian to open up the property to painters and photographers through the Art and Ag Project.

Two artists painting at Chowdown Farm
Two artists painting at Chowdown Farm

My camera is sufficient quality to challenge me for a very long time. Fortunately it also has an automatic setting that takes super pictures without any effort.

When we returned to Davis I downloaded my photos and I was very satisfied. We also watched a video from YouTube (YEAH for YouTube videos!).

I bought this camera to be able to supply better pictures for this blog. Hopefully with the “burst” feature (taking several photos a second) and the lenses I will be able to bring you the color of le Tour de France.

Addo Elephant Park

Guest blog by Mara V. Connolly

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

I arrived at Addo Elephant Park, South Africa’s 3rd largest national park on Christmas day right at opening at 7am by myself in a borrowed car.  The park is unique, encompassing 5 of the 9 environmental biomes that South Africa.  The section of park I was entering is home to the bulk of the  550 strong elephant population, lions, spotted hyenas, zebra, kudu, black rhino, buffalo, and much more.  I was beside myself that you could actually drive yourself through such a park, amidst predators and animals big enough to topple your car.  I was about 2ks into the park taking a photo of a black headed crane when the borrowed car stalled.  Interesting.  The car never restarted and I quickly ascertained that I was dead in the water.  The park map had the park manager’s number who cheerfully answered my Christmas wish call for help!  He came along within about 30 minutes and promised to send a couple guys to help me and sternly told me to wait IN MY CAR.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

As I sat by myself waiting, I saw a massive Kudu cross the road in front me, a gorgeous bird of prey I later learned was a chanting goshawk, and 3 wart hogs chasing each other around a bush.  Several people asked if I was ok as I waved them off because nearly everyone thought I’d spotted something REALLY good to sit idle for so long.  Two wonderful brothers stopped and checked every fuse (they were electricians) and spark plug in the car ruling out a hoard of nasty reasons the car might’ve died.  As they had their heads under the hood and I dutifully stood watch, a Swedish tourist drove by asking us if we knew there had been lions spotted in the very spot we were early in the morning.  I later found out there was a lion kill only 100 yards from where I spent two hours!

Mara and elephant

Nothing we tried revived the car so the two awesome park workers were working on tying a rope to my car when a herd of elephant came over the hill right toward us.  The moment was one that crossed all culture and language.  6 adult elephants and 9 baby elephants paraded within a 100 yards of us.  We all stood mesmerized by the beauty of the scene.  After the elephants were out of sight, I got a tow out of the park and promptly signed myself up for guided game drives.  The gift of the car dying was that someone else drove me around all afternoon leaving me fully attentive to taking photos.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

photo by Mara V. Connolly

I had an EPIC Christmas day seeing over 400 elephant, and a variety of other creatures.  To put the day into perspective, I spent the next day on an even longer game drive and only saw about 30 elephants.  We did see two lions at a distance the second day which is a special treat as there are only 11 lions in the park.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

The other gift I received for now being on foot and having time on my hands that I wouldn’t have had if I’d driven the park was finding two “hides” where you are sequestered in a nearly hidden structure that allows you close viewing of a bird nesting area and a watering hole for elephants.  I happened to arrive at the elephant hide just as the herd of elephant that likely passed me in the car arrived to drink and frolic in the water.  Being at ground level so close to the herd was amazing as you heard all the sounds from grunts to calls to the sucking of water to simply hearing them walk.  The experience was special as you literally felt as if you were in the situation, witnessing the creatures first hand.

Photo by Mara V. ConnollyPhoto by Mara V. Connolly

The last gift I received for the car dying was that my accommodation changed as my friend could only find one hotel who would agree to picking me up from Addo.  What great fortune as the Zuurberg Mountain Inn also runs game drives and one of the guides picked me up and let me join the end of their drive back up to the top of a mountain above Addo.  An epic way to end an epic day.

Mara V. Connolly is a professional photographer, coach, facilitator, resume writer, and leader.  Her life purpose is to be radiant illumination igniting passionate possibilities. You can read more blog posts from Mara at http://maravconnolly.com.

Boulders Penguin Colony

photo by Mara V. Connolly

Guest blog by Mara V. Connolly

During my recent trip to South Africa, we traveled to Cape Town where on the eastern side of Cape Peninsula lies the Boulders Penguin Colony, a part of the Table Mountain National Park system that includes Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, and Table Mountain.

Boulders is home to a declining, and endangered rarity of land-based African Penguins, often called Jackass Penguins as they bray like donkeys.  The Boulders website stated that in the 50 years from 1956 to 2009 the worldwide population of African Penguin breeding pairs declined from 150,000 to 26,000;  an 80% decline over 50 years attributed to human interference from habitat destruction to oil spills. Boulders colony also declined from 3,900 birds in 2005 to only 2,100 in 2010.  (http://www.sanparks.org/parks/table_mountain/tourism/attractions.php#boulders)

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

photo by Mara V. Connolly

For 550 South African Rand (about $5.50 US at the time) you gain entrance to both Boulders Beach where you can lounge and swim amidst penguins who also appear to be vacationing from their colony a couple of beaches down the way, and the Boulders Penguin Colony itself that you view from boardwalks.

photo by Mara V. Connolly

We arrived just after the park opened at 7am to having the place all to ourselves.  We started at the colony and were amazed at the flurry of activity going on with hundreds of penguins and cormorants making a racket of noise.  The “braying” of the penguins had me in amazement because when I closed my eyes and listened, I envisioned a whole herd of donkeys, yet when I opened my eyes, a whole beach of tiny little penguins belting out ‘hee hawing’ is what confronted me!  Watching the penguins’ transition from beach to the ocean was awesome and mesmerizing.  They are go from being intensely awkward and limited on land to graceful and powerful instantly by tipping over and freeing themselves in the water.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

After a thorough investigation of the colony we headed back to the beach which was now thoroughly crowded a short hour later.  Still, an incredible experience climbing over boulders to the outer beach area with curious penguins watching us as much as we were watching them.  Floating about in the frigid ocean with penguins gliding around you is an experience of a lifetime.

photo by Mara V. Connolly

Mara V. Connolly is a professional photographer, coach, facilitator, resume writer, and leader.  Her life purpose is to be radiant illumination igniting passionate possibilities. You can read more about her leadership adventure at http://maravconnolly.com.

Photography on the Delta

Guest Blog by Bill Reid

Walnut Grove Bridge taken from dock with sun setting behind.
Walnut Grove Bridge taken from dock with sun setting behind.

Google Earth Walnut Grove, California and you can’t miss the dock to the north of the bridge where these pictures were taken. Everyone has Google Earth, right?  The stroller we recently bought for our future granddaughter has an iPad holder!

Joking aside, You don’t need an iPad or fancy SAT NAV to get to the River Road, just follow your nose south from the intersection of Broadway and Freeport Boulevard in Sacramento and enjoy the scenic route through the Sacramento River Delta. The scenic route is about 30.4 miles and 44 minutes on a relatively curvy levy road (state highway 160).  A faster route down Interstate 5 to Twin Cities Road is also a pleasant drive at 28.5 miles and 36 minutes.

The River Road south from Sacramento is one of my favorite local drives. I still remember one of the first times I drove it in an old VW convertible in the late seventies. No NAV then. Those were the days of typewriters and whiteout.

Boat dock at Walnut Grove with bridge beyond.
Boat dock at Walnut Grove with bridge beyond.

One morning early in the new year, I decided to take photographs of the sun rising over the River for a website I’m building. I left a little too late and missed the best light so returned later in the day for some sunset shots.

Walnut Grove is a pleasant stop along the Sacramento River.  There is ample parking and a selection of restaurants with tables outdoors, even an art gallery or two. I enjoyed an ice cream while waiting for the sun to set.

The boat dock is accessible to the public although children must wear life jackets. There is a lift for handicap access and there is a portable toilet. The boat dock affords a good vantage point for photography with ample space for tripods and equipment.

I have returned a few times since to test different equipment and media. In the age of tablets, digital cameras and smart phones, I am going back to using film, but that’s another story. The light is different on each occasion and the sunsets can be spectacular as the weather changes.

Bonus Photo: Walnut Grove bridge (in color).
Bonus Photo: Walnut Grove bridge (in color).

Bill is an architect by day.  He lives in Sacramento with his wife, Claudia.  His images can be purchased on his website:  www.breid.photoshelter.com