January 2011

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By Katharine

This week my grandmother turned 90 years young. She has always been a big part of my life, especially since she lived just a few minutes away from where I grew up.  She is by far the most outgoing and friendly person I know, and she has had a (big) hand in every family reunion.  Her birthday party last weekend was no exception – 35 of her closest family and friends all came together in Arizona (where she and my grandpa spend the winters these days) to celebrate her birthday.


We celebrated all weekend long – one night with a crab dinner (brought specially from Alaska by my uncle), during the day by lounging with drinks at the pool, some took the opportunity to hike in the desert, and it culminated in a Sunday lunch with good food, great toasts, and the best company.


Also, have you ever seen 90 candles on a cake??


Happy birthday to my Grandma – having such a wonderful and inspiring woman in my life has no doubt helped me become who I am today.

More photos

By Nathan

Our third night, New Years Eve, we decided to brave the cold and camp at Upper Pines, nestled between Glacier Point and Half Dome.  After cross country skiing, we headed to the campground and picked out the perfect spot – but all of them were covered in 6 inches of snow. So we had to pack down the snow in the area covered by our tent’s foot print, which was huge since we brought our 5 person car camping tent.  It was actually kind of fun and had the added benefit of warming us up from all the exercise.

After many camping trips I would have to say Katharine and I are somewhat organized in how we store our camping gear and splitting up the chores.  Katharine sets up the sleeping bags and pads in the tent while I setup the stove and food supplies.  In normal temperature we can probably set up camp and start cooking our dinner in 20 mins but in freezing temperatures and snow covered ground we probably took 30 mins.

Around 4:00 we left camp to see if we could catch the sunset.   After waiting in an open snow field the clouds rolled in and blocked out any remaining sunlight as it set.  Sadly we never had a very dramatic sunset any of the nights we were there. So we headed back to camp and cooked dinner and sat around the campfire to keep warm.

You can see how it’s harder to setup camp on a snow/ ice covered table

Around 9:00 we decided it was too cold to enjoy the night (or stay up for New Years) so we headed to bed.  At night the temperatures dipped down to ~25 degrees, freezing any water we had outside.  I woke up around 6 am because there was a sliding noise on the rainfly.  I laid in my warm sleeping bag debating whether to venture outside to see what kept falling on our tent.  Rain was predicted, but it didn’t sound like rain. Finally my curiosity got the best of me, and I opened the tent to find a new layer of snow on the ground.  Huge flakes were falling from sky building up on our tent then sliding off in big sheets.  It has snowed so much during the night all our foot prints from the night before were buried.

In anticipation for sunrise I woke Katharine up and we gathered my camera equipment and positioned ourselves on the road at the foot of Half Dome.  The snow continued to fall and the clouds were thick blocking out any sign of the sun.  I patiently waited with my camera covered in a ditty bag and Katharine read her book in the warm car.

While I was bored I did experiment with slow shutter speeds capturing the cabin lights from Curry Village.

3.2 seconds, f/3.5, 28mm

After waiting outside for over an hour my hands were cold and I finally conceded to the weather.  We also decided $8 would be a good investment for a warm breakfast at Curry Village.

After breakfast I broke down camp while Katharine caught snow flakes (just kidding…)

After the car was packed up, we rented snow shoes and headed to the Tuolumne Sequoia Groves.

The parking lot was snowed in except for a snow plow, a covered park ranger truck and a couple empty spots

We were the first ones on the trail, stomping our way down a freshly powdered path.  After a short distance other people joined the trail but we were able to stay ahead of them exploring the winter wonderland accented with large sequoias extending above the canopy.

As we walked we could hear small thundering sounds which we soon realized were due limbs overloaded with snow dumping it down onto the next branch until it all crashed to the ground at the base of the tree. From afar it was amazing to see the heavy snow collapse to the ground followed by a light cloud of snow settling seconds after.  But before long the rumble was right next to us and there was no time to escape, especially with snow shoes. The minor avalanches never hit us directly since we stayed toward the middle of the trail.  Although I did get nailed while videotaping our trek, once we figure out how to get videos on this website we’ll post it.

Miniature snowmen we made on our lunch break

We walked through tunnel tree and stopped and had lunch as other people started coming down the trail exploring the hidden trails.  The temperature was rose above freezing, melting the snow as soon as it landed on us.  With a mile left to hike up hill we headed back to the car.

Since all our gear was wet we were glad it was our last day

We had a memorable trip and a great start to the New Year.

Check out the rest of our photos from the trip!

By Nathan

Day 2 started early in a hotel room just outside the park.  The night before we made sandwiches and filled our Camelbacks for our cross country skiing adventure.  Before the sun was up we hit the road at 50 mph going over hills and around the deserted corners, but then we came across the dreaded sign “Chains Required”.  Maybe it was just us, but we struggled to get our chains on the first time and messing with spring loaded metal cables in 15 degree temperatures is not what I want to do at 7am.  We pulled to the side of the road and untangled the chains.  At least this time it wasn’t in a parking lot full of people all doing the same thing trying to race each other into the park.  I took off my gloves and draped the chains over the tire trying to connect the hooks as fast as possible before my hands froze.  Miraculously the hooks engaged without me having to pull with all my strength and embarrass myself in front of Katharine.  It didn’t help that our chains were brightly colored and looked like toys more than life savers. (Well, they actually did look like lifesavers, the candy)

Sorry for the blurry photo but you can see how colorful our chains were

The second tire also went smoothly –  I guess the chains just needed to be worked in- and then we were on the road again.  Of course now we were traveling at 25 mph and the car was vibrating vigorously from the chains.  Soon we gained enough elevation to hit the snow line and found ourselves in a winter wonderland.  Driving at night was impressive but early in the morning with the sun reflecting through the trees it was breath taking.  We came across a look out point which gave us a great view of the Valley, El Capitan, and Half Dome.

1/125 sec, f/5.1, 18.2 mm (Katharine)

I did get to use the GorrillaPod to capture the morning light.

Something to keep in mind with a little tripod: you’re going to have to get close to the ground.

1/30 sec, f/20.0, 60 mm

We were headed to the Badger Pass Ski resort (downhill and x-country skiing), but to get there we had to pass through several tunnels which were guarded by massive icicles.  It looked like entering the mouth of a monster.  It also made for a short adrenaline rush as we passed under them hoping they wouldn’t fall.

1/15 sec, f/6.3, 33 mm

After winding our way through tall snowdrift-lined roads we arrived at the ski resort.  We opted for the 2 hour lesson which proved essential.  It looks so easy, two skies slowly gliding along in groomed tracks no less, but in actuality it’s pretty easy to fall and it takes a lot of effort if you don’t use good form.  After the lesson we continued skiing up the trail to the older Badger Pass slope.  The lesson didn’t cover the steep hill we slowly inched up and it most certainly didn’t prepare us for the “ride” down.

I think Katharine got the hang of it- sliding down somewhat controlled while standing up.

I tried a more tuck-and-roll method which entertained a few snowshoers waiting for me to get out of their way.  I am guessing this is why we don’t have any video and not too many photos of the event.  By the time we got to the bottom we had figured it out but it was time to head to the campsite for New Years!

By Nathan

Since I have never been to Yosemite, I didn’t know what to expect and especially what it would look like in the winter.  Since we were car camping I didn’t need to pack light so I basically brought every piece of camera equipment I owned.  It was a great chance to test out the new equipment that I got for Christmas: the GorrillaPod SLR and the Cotton Carrier .

The first day was right after a storm so the skies were clear which made it easy to photograph the amazing rock formations that lined the valley.

1/200 sec, f/11.0, 135 mm

My preference is taking photos of animals but in the winter it was hard to find any without hiking off the beaten path.  All we saw were coyotes and deer although we heard reports of a bobcat and mountain lion sightings.  Even though I wasn’t stalking animals and hiding in the brush the landscapes were breathtaking enough to keep my attention.

1/125 sec, f/11.0, 33 mm

The Cotton Carrier harness worked great for hiking on the icy paths allowing me to have two hands to catch myself if I slipped or fell.  Some of the paths were being flooded by the melted snow creating free formed rivers under the snow.  It was nice not having a 5 pound camera swinging from my next as I jumped from snow pile to snow pile trying not to sink my foot in the freezing water.  I was also able to take some macro shots of the winter taking hold on the last green vegetation.

1/60 sec, f/5.6, 115 mm

On our next visit, I would like to spend more time setting up some of the landscape shots and now I know where all the view points are I won’t feel as rushed.  When we first arrived we were so excited we kept just pointing and driving from one view point to another “look at that”, “look over there” because everywhere you looked it was an amazing sight. And it was easy to think we could just get some of the shots the next day. But in the winter you can’t take the clear skies for granted.

Bridal Shower!

By Katharine

Nathan and I went to my parents’ house in PA for Christmas and my maid of honor Kara threw me a wonderful bridal shower! It was a pretty laid-back affair, but it had the most important thing: friends and family. Only one of my close friends couldn’t make it, and my grandmother hosted the event at her awesome house.


We didn’t play a lot of silly games because that isn’t our style, but Kara did ask Nathan a bunch of questions about himself and us beforehand so that they could quiz me to see how similarly I would answer. For any answer I got wrong, I had to eat a gum ball (which wouldn’t have been so bad except these were some really old gumballs haha). In the end, I thought I did pretty well. She asked what superhero he’d be – I answered Superman because I didn’t know many superheros which was exactly what he wrote. If stranded on a deserted island, we both would choose fire starter as our one thing to bring.  We both remembered that we had our first kiss while watching the Cosby show and I knew that if he had to compare me to an animal, he’d go with a mole. (I’m not really a morning person… and I’m super blind without my contacts.) And I knew his dream car was a Toyota Tacoma… although since our Yosemite trip I think we’ve decided a Subaru Outback would be better 🙂

Still, Kara and Nathan stumped me on quite a few and I ended up with one hell of a wad of gum! I guessed his favorite food was milk and cookies while he said steak and mashed potatoes. I didn’t know his favorite movie (Sandlot or Top Gun) although he later agreed my guess (Love Actually) was also good. If he were an animal, he would not be an eagle, but rather a hawk (I still contend that this was close enough, but Nathan claims he purposely did not pick eagles because they are known to be scavengers.)

And there were a few questions that Nathan answered very sweetly, reminding me why he’s such a keeper 🙂 For what outfit he most likes seeing me in, he answered “Boots, wool socks, hiking shorts, ice breaker shirt, gray hat and a backpack…because that means we’re on an adventure, having fun and just enjoying being together.” And his favorite thing about me? We’re best friends and I can be myself around her, she picks me up when I am down, corrects me when I am wrong, but loves me for who I am.  I could say the same about him!

The rest of the shower included my family and friends showering me with awesome kitchen gifts – thanks! and I got a great collection of recipes.  Plus, Kara made a kickass pumpkin spice cake which was delicious. yum! (and she could probably be a professional cake decorator, don’t you think?)


Afterwards, my friends and I headed to the only bar in Hockessin, DE (it is quite the place to be, let me tell you!) and had some drinks and fun catching up. All in all, it was a wonderful shower – Thank you Kara!

By Katharine

As planned, Nathan and I spent the second half of our winter break in Yosemite National Park. Generally when I plan trips for us, I like to have the basic schedule for each day laid out so that we can be sure to fit in the best parts. But for this trip everything depended so much on the weather conditions that we had to just wait and see how things would turn out.

We first entered the park on Thursday morning, a beautiful day with bright blue skies, but freaking cold!! The day/night before had left a fresh layer of snow on everything, giving it a bit of a magical feel. All the meadows were speckled with snowmen that kids had made throughout the previous week, but now they each had a fresh dusting making them sparkle. Soon we came upon El Capitan… what a sight to start the day off with:


As we were heading back to the car, we were surprised to see a coyote not far from the road. I think he was enjoying the fresh snow. Nathan thinks he was trying to trade photo ops for food.


We then drove deeper into the valley, stopping at various pullouts to photograph the amazing views. With the blue sky, fresh snow, cliffs, and waterfalls it was impossible to take a bad picture! We also took a break for a snowball fight.


Next, we visited the ranger station to get some info on what was open and where to rent skis/snowshoes, then enjoyed a couple hotdogs from the deli.

Our original plan for the day was to do a relatively long hike around the valley, but it was so cold and we were feeling a little sluggish, so instead we did a short hike to get some better views of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. By this point in the day we were happy to have our ice traction devices on our boots because all the paths were super slippery – They were a sweet Christmas present from my awesome Aunt Lisa! And I noticed they were the same kind that the locals were wearing. In any case, we made it through our short 2 mi hike because of them, and got to see some amazing views of the Falls.


The only bad part about doing this type of trip in the winter is that the days are soo short, and before we knew it, darkness was approaching. The ranger had told us it would be 13 degrees that night, so we had decided not to risk camping and instead planned to head back to our hotel in El Portal. However, while we were in the park, a rock slide had occurred on the road to El Portal and they had closed the road. We later found out that one huge boulder about the size of my car had fallen into the road. Luckily no one was injured! And lucky for us, there was one bar of cellphone service at the road block so we were able to find a new hotel in a different town that wasn’t too much farther away. The drive there was quite an adventure though… we had to go up and over a pass through the mountains and there was considerably more snow in the trees and on the road. The snow banks along the road were taller than my car!! Here’s what it looked like heading back the next morning.


But we made it safely to the hotel and got a good nights sleep so that we could get an early start in the morning.

By Katharine

Nathan and I are winners! Sadly not mega-million winners (although I did buy my first lottery ticket for the $350 million jackpot), but otherwise we are 2-for-2.

Last year we entered a national parks video contest where you had to submit a 2 minute video about your favorite national park. If you haven’t already seen it, you can check our our entry on youtube. We had a lot of fun on our trip to Sequoia NP to make the video, but the video editing part was exhausting. Still, it paid off when we won one of the 10 runner up spots! We got a lot of cool loot including a sweet camera, a national park pass, a gift certificate to Merrell, and the DVD set of the Ken Burns series on the national parks.

But this year, when we entered the Marina del Rey photo contest, we weren’t expecting to win. Especially because the winners were chosen at random, no skill required, you just had to complete the 10 (simple) challenges. We almost considered not submitting our entry because it was kind of a hassle, but we figured we might as well. And as luck would have it, we won the grand prize for the category we entered! And we scored another good collection of prizes:

– Overnight stay at the Marina del Rey Ritz Carlton with brunch at jer-ne

– 3 double-kayak rentals

– Dinner at Vu Restaurant

I guess we’ll get to have a sweet weekend get-away sometime, but I think we’ll wait until it gets a little warmer so we can take advantage of the pool and kayaking.

By Katharine

Now that it is officially 2011,  the year of our wedding (wow!) I am realizing there is a lot to do… Our wedding is exactly 7 months from today! Starting in December I began making a list of wedding related things that I thought we needed to work on once we finished final exams and got through the holidays. Now, here we are, and here’s our list, ready to be checked off:

1. Food Tasting with the caterer for the reception

2. Finalize guest list. Design, order/print, and send out save-the-dates. Get addresses!

3. Reconnect with the photographer we are considering

4. Decide where to register and start making a list

5. Continue researching hotel options for all our out of town guests – sign up for a block if possible

6. Start researching DJ’s

7. Continue researching / trying out other rehearsal dinner locations

I am pretty good at making To Do lists. I am less good at checking things off my To Do lists.

We are still going back and forth on some parts of our guest list and haven’t even begun to think about what we want our Save the Dates to look like.  (We are still in the process of sending out our year-end cards and thank you notes for Christmas.) As we began addressing all the cards, we decided to invest in a return address stamp, and when we were researching options, we came across this:

Sure, they spelled my name wrong, but still, Nathan and Katharine, from Los Angeles, right next to each other in their catalogue?? We considered it a sign that we should buy our stamp from them!

Other than ordering the stamp, the only thing I think we’ve done so far is decide where to register, but we haven’t actually set up any registries.

We do have a 3-day weekend coming up, but we were thinking of using that to go to Vegas. And the following weekend we will be in Arizona for my grandmother’s 90th birthday… so I think that means we better make good use of our weeknights this month if we expect to accomplish even half of this list!

By Katharine

Happy New Year!

This year we decided to send out cards to our family and friends to share some of our adventures from the past year. We have been making photo books through iPhoto which we really like, so we thought we’d make our card the same way. We are really happy with how they turned out – we managed to fit a bunch of photos that represent what we did this year. It was so hard to choose which to include!


Apparently I need to get Nathan some shirts that aren’t blue!

By Nathan

Every year we fly to Pennsylvania and spend Christmas with Katharine’s family, and every year I catch a glimpse of a red fox running through their backyard.  Their kitchen and living room have large sliding glass doors that act as the perfect wildlife blind overlooking a small creek bordered by trees and a small open meadow, half of which is overgrown with by multi-floral roses and tall grasses.  During the winter the trees have lost their leaves and expose the animals that are running through the meadow and along the creek.  Of course since I only visit once a year my view of the East Coast is a cold and dormant environment.

Armed with my Canon DSLR 40D and 70-200mm telephoto with 1.4x extender I was prepared to get a photo of the elusive fox.  My goal was to spend a couple hours each day waiting outside for the fox to pass by.  Of course the first day I was there I was peering out the window and saw my target crossing the creek.  I ran for my camera and out the door but by the time I got in position he was gone.  Every morning I diligently scanned the brush outside as I drank my coffee, contemplating how I was going to get the perfect shot.

On Sunday evening a large storm hit the area but only dropped a few inches of snow at Katharine’s parents house.  The next day I put on several layers of clothing and hid under their deck waiting for the fox.  The temperature was hovering around 25 degrees but felt much colder as the wind whipped up the snow and blew it in my face.  After waiting perfectly still for almost 2 hours as my hand froze to my metal camera body I became bored.  I began to photograph the song birds at the bird feeder which of course was easy pickings compared to my ultimate goal.  After a while the sun started to set dimming the light beyond my cameras limits so I headed inside.

Tuesday was our last day so I went to sleep early to wake up before sun rise and position myself to catch the fox on it’s morning hunt.  I figure with the wild cold winds the day before maybe the fox would have stayed in it’s den but would try to venture out today.  I walked along the creek and found many fox tracks running back and forth but they seemed to all pass a large tree near the edge of their property line.  I figured this would be the spot so I put the tree between the creek and myself and waited.  The sun started to rise and every few minutes I would slowly peer around the tree and look for any movement.  One hour went by without any signs of life in the meadow.  After 90 mins passed I took another look around the tree and to my surprise I saw movement in the tall grass.  It was slight but I could tell it was something bigger than a rabbit or cat.  I took aim with one eye through the camera and the other watching the grass.  Nothing was moving, where did he go, was I just imagining things?  Then I saw it again just for a few seconds.

Can you find the fox?

I saw a dark foot slowly lift from the snow pause then step forward.  I knew it had to be the fox- I waited a minute until his small red head peaked out of the brush. HA, I screamed in my head!  I finally got him!  My finger squeezed my camera and my shutter sounded like a machine gun rattling off several photos.  The fox, already cautious, paused and looked up toward me every time my shutter blades closed.

I paused and he paused then he took another step and I took another photo then he would pause.  We continued this game back and forth as he crept down toward the creek.  I couldn’t believe how close he was getting, and then he moved so that the tree I was hiding behind blocked my view.  I rolled around to the other side and looked around the tree, but he looked up, saw me, and bolted.  I quickly swung to the other side of the tree but he was gone.  Dang!  If only I had waited maybe he would have come closer.  I will always wonder, but for this trip I was more than satisfied that I got so close and was able to get a photo that can be recognized as a fox.

Hopefully next year I will have the patience to let him walk out into the open meadow or come to the creek for a drink.  It was quite a rush and I can see how it could be fun to be a wildlife photographer.

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