December 2011

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The last lunar eclipse of 2011 promised to be a good one for the West Coast so I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and drove to Griffith Observatory to get the best view.  Katharine opted out of this early morning as it was a weekend right before finals.  As with any event in Los Angeles there are a thousand other people that had the same idea, so the Observatory was very crowded.

I had to park quite a ways down the road and almost run up the hill to get a spot before the eclipse was over.  I found the settings listed below to be the best for my camera and lens.  I got a few shots before it disappeared behind the clouds.

Canon 40D, 200mm, f/4.0, ISO 100, 2.5 sec

Canon 40D, 200mm, f/4.0, ISO 100, 1.3 sec

It also helps to have a nice tripod for the longer exposures.  I’ve really enjoyed using my Manfrotto 055XPROB.  It’s a heavy aluminum tripod so I don’t take it too often, but when I do I take advantage of the slower shutter speeds.

Once the moon went behind the clouds and the sun came up most people bailed which I thought was odd since they were in the perfect place to take other photos or just watch the sunrise over LA.

This was my first time to the observatory so I also took some more artistic shots of the telescopes, which looked more like cannons to me.

If anyone hasn’t been to the Griffith Observatory I would recommend it as a quick stop to get a great view of downtown LA and the Hollywood sign if you’re interested.

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As I am sure most of you know, we had a damaging wind storm a couple weeks ago, although it was not nearly as bad as a Midwestern tornado.  We were so busy with school we didn’t have any time to check out the local damage until a few days later.  I wasn’t as surprised by the damage but more the slow response by the city to clear the roads and restore power.  The entire morning I was driving around I didn’t see any utility workers.

I found this scene quite amusing, a tax measure sign leaning with two large trees in the background threatening a house.


Another scene I came across was a large tree that took down a power pole.  The power was off but the lines remained strung through the trees and across the road.


Other areas there was little damage to structures but the trees took a beating.

Decapitated Palm Tree

Katharine’s sister-in-law, Alex, was one of the many who lost power for several days.  She took refuge in our apartment as we studied for finals.  It was nice to spend some time with her before she moved across the country.  To Alex and Rick- we wish you good luck with the East Coast weather… suckers!

Besides Nathan’s super manly day, his trip to Iowa, and our camping trip, we’ve pretty much spent the Fall busy finishing up our Masters degrees. (Which we did finish! Yay!) So we were really excited when our photographer sent us the rest of our wedding photos, giving us a chance to think back on the day and procrastinate writing our theses. We’ll post some of the wedding photos later, but for now we wanted to share how we designed our own invitations.

One of the parts of the wedding that we wanted to keep personal and do ourselves was the invitations. We had already designed our own Save the Date postcards, which featured a silhouette of the two of us sitting under a huge tree. The silhouette was adapted from one of our favorite photos from a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2009.


For the invitations we wanted something pretty simple but still personal and adapted from our own photographs. After sifting through a bunch of invitations online, we decided to make a series of three different designs, one for each of our colors (blue, green, yellow). We decided to go with a national park theme, so we selected three photographs that we thought were distinctive and which would fit nicely at the bottom of a page.

Once the photos were selected, Nathan modified the images to be more like a graphic/sketch. First they were transferred to grayscale, then posterized, then further simplified so that only a few shades of color were needed.

Yosemite New Years 2011 – used for the RSVP card

We decided that the designs would be printed on pastel paper in blue, green, or yellow so we selected the colors of the design to be darker, but match the tone and hue of the paper.

Final touch was writing the text and selecting fonts!

Grand Tetons (where we got engaged) for the invitation

We used one design for the invitation, one for the RSVP card, and one for the Family Dinner invitation. We also used the same designs for the wedding day – as menus, place cards, and table numbers.

Grand Canyon for the Family Dinner Menu (Photo by Tom Alphin)


Table Numbers – Photos by Phoebe Joy

We doubt that many people knew that the designs were derived from our own photos, but we were just glad to remember a few of our favorite trips on our wedding day.

As most of you know I grew up in Iowa and every fall my dad and I would go pheasant hunting.  We didn’t always have the best luck finding the pheasants but it was always fun to tromp through the weeds and watch our dog work the fields.  Since my family has moved to California we haven’t both been in Iowa during hunting season for almost seven years.  Every year we would talk about it but one thing or another always came up.  This year we decide to go ahead and book a trip and let everything else work its self out.

Pheasant Walking Along Side the Road

I also wanted to visit Ken and Claire, who I haven’t seen since they moved from Los Angeles to Iowa.  While I was in college I would do construction work for Ken and help Claire organize family counseling workshops.  I also spent my Friday nights over at their house eating pepperoni pizza and watching TV.  I’ve learned a lot from them over the years and they have shaped my career and outlook on life.

While Ken and Claire were in LA they were working on the plans for the house they were going to build in Iowa.  It was fun to finally see their house after years of planning.  One of the incredible features of the house is the hand hewn wood beams.  The beams were made without any electricity by an amish carpenter in Missouri.  The drill that was used to make the holes were actually powered by a team of horses.  The beams look incredible and have an interesting story.

Amish Hand Hewn Beams

Ken is more of a big game hunter, but who can pass up a nice walk through the Iowa countryside?  The past few years have been rough for pheasant hunting due to loss of habitat and poor weather conditions.  The first place we went was our old hunting spot less than a mile from our old house.

Without Leaves on the Trees or Snow on the Ground, Iowa is a little bleak

My Dad and Ken

We surprisingly flushed two roosters within range without a dog but were not able to get either of them.

The second day we went to Highland Hideaway Hunting, which is a hunting reserve where you pay for a field to be stocked with pheasant.  It’s kind of like fishing you know the pheasants are there but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get any.  We were also fortunate enough to visit their pheasant operation.

I think the freed or wild pheasant like to taunt the caged ones.

The red thing on their beak prevents them from hurting each other.  Pheasant roosters have an amazing array of colored feathers.  I recommend clicking on the photo to see an enlarged image.

We also paid for two dogs and a guide which really helped comb the fields and find the down birds.  The guide and dogs were really good and watching well trained dogs work a field is always exciting.  Someday I hope to get a hunting dog that I can train and use in the field but of course that will probably mean I should live somewhere I can go hunting regularly.

During our hunt we asked Ken about the 20 gauge he had been using.  He told us a story about how his dad taught him responsibility and hard work.  When he was pretty young his dad branded a calf that marked it as his.  After raising and taking care of the calf it was sold to market and Ken got to keep the earnings.  He went right to the local gun shop and bought the 20 gauge that he still uses today.


I am always amazed by how well guns are made, the stories behind them, and the history they carry.  The shotgun my dad used during this trip was mine that I had bought.  During the one month winter break in college I returned home from California and did drywall with my dad.  Most of the money I earned that month I took and used to buy a 12 gauge semi-auto Beretta.  It has been a great gun but also has sentimental value to me as a reminder of doing drywall in the dead of winter with my dad.

Ken and Myself with Our Earned Shotguns

I was really hoping to get more photos during this trip but as I mentioned in my Quail post I usually get caught up in the hunting excitement and the time passes too quickly.  Next year I hope to have the discipline to pick up the camera and get some great hunting action shots.

While in Iowa we also had dinner and brief visits with some family friends where I showed them wedding photos and exchanged stories.  We were only there for a couple days but it was fun to reconnect with a few people and live out a dream to go pheasant hunting in Iowa.  I hope this dream becomes more of a tradition.



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In October I planned to go lobster fishing on Saturday evening for my dad’s birthday in San Diego.  Later I was also invited to go quail hunting in the morning on the same day near the Salton Sea.  Of course I had to do both, when do you get the chance to hunt birds in the morning and catch crab and lobster that night.


I had to wake up at wake up around 4:00 AM to meet Ken and his friends then head to the Salton Sea.  The drive is about 170 miles Southeast, past Palm Springs, in the middle of the desert.  We arrived shortly after sunrise and headed into the brush to scare up some coveys.

Usual Brush and Cover

Sometimes We Walk Through Vineyards to Reach the Hunting Areas

Other Times We Climb Over People’s Trash

Immediately we could see quail running in front of us in groups of 20 or so.  They were just out of reach, but as we came to a creek bed they took to the air and the morning silence was broken.  Quail love to run and without a dog it usually means they have a 20 yard head start when they take flight.  We put a lot of lead shot in the sky our first sweep through with little results.  Once we broke up the covey, the quail seemed to hide in the brush allowing us to get closer shots, which lead to a more enjoyable morning…for us at least.


Even though we had seen over a hundred quail throughout the day the heat was too much.  The peak temperature was 99 degrees for the day and I had already gone through 3 liters of water and a couple bottles of Gatorade.  I found wearing a shirt, hunting vest, camel back, and the cotton carrier (camera vest) was too much and didn’t allow my body to cool down.  Toward the end I was dehydrated and tired but not as bad as a couple years ago when I was also hungover.


I think my new strategy will be take photos ONLY in the first hour when it is cooler and the lighting is better anyway.  This will obviously be hard since I am always anxious to knock down some birds.  When I carry both a shotgun and camera it usually results in fewer and lower quality photos.  It’s also my excuse for my low bird count ;). Next year hopefully we can find a place closer and cooler.


After lunch I headed to San Diego, which was 130 miles Southwest.  I followed Google maps which sent me through Anza-Borrego State Park, a route that is shorter but the roads are narrow and windy.  When you’ve only had 6 hours of sleep, are dehydrated and have walked a few miles in the desert that morning, windy roads are not all that welcome.  But I made it to San Diego and had time for an hour nap before the other guys arrived for lobster fishing.

My dad, brother and I went lobster fishing last year after Thanksgiving.  This year my dad invited 3 of his co-workers to celebrate his birthday and share some the burden of pulling pots.  We had a 6 guys and one brought his young son who pulled his weight- loading the bait, pulling and emptying pots.


We caught a few lobsters, a lot of crab, a sea slug, a couple starfish, and a couple stingrays.


It was a lot of fun with more guys, which meant less work but also more stories while we waited between runs.  This year we didn’t get as many lobster probably because it was early in the season and they might have still been molting.  Next year we’ll have to go in December.


My entire day lasted about 22 hours, included 300 miles of driving, 386 photos, but it was worth it.

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