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NateKat · February 2012

February 2012

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2012.

By Katharine

At the beginning of the year I started researching different trips we could do, and especially tried to find some interesting opportunities for wildlife photography. I expected to mainly find information on bird migrations or the like, but instead discovered that there is an elephant seal rookery in the Pismo Beach area. Although you can see seals there at any time of year, Jan-Feb is best because the females give birth while the males fight to gain and protect their harem. I decided to design it to be a full photography trip, adding a stop at a grove with thousands of wintering monarchs and some exploration of the beautiful coastline. We invited Nathan’s parents since they are always up for new experiences, so they met us in LA and we made the 4 hour drive up the coast on a Friday night.

If you’ve never seen a picture of a male elephant seal, there’s not much to prepare you. They are huge, weighing up to 6000 pounds, and their noses are just ridiculous.

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The females and babies have the more traditional cute seal face though.

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The rookery at Piedras Blancas has a boardwalk overlooking the beach, allowing us to get a great view of the action. These seals were definitely the most active and interesting animals that we’ve seen. The males were constantly moving around protecting their harem of females, threatening other males and chasing them off. We saw a couple fights where they attack each other with their teeth until one retreats into the ocean. And their chests were covered in rough scar tissue, proof of previous battles.

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The females meanwhile were mostly trying to avoid advances from the males, constantly barking and fighting among themselves.

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They also flip sand on themselves, probably for sun protection. Many were nursing their pups although they only do that for about a month before leaving the beach and their pup behind to fend for itself. Generally once they’ve given birth, they breed again and head back into the ocean for another 9 months.

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The pictures give you an idea of these incredible animals (more at the end of the post), but you really should check out the video… watching these huge animals move across the beach is quite a sight. Also, nothing can prepare you for all the crazy sounds they make, nothing can describe it.


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So, if you ever have the chance to visit in the winter, it’s definitely worth the stop. We are already planning to go back again next year, maybe a little earlier when there are more births and the males are fighting more to decide which females they can claim for their harem.

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Baby Shower!!!

We were so excited to get to celebrate the upcoming birth of a new family member recently – Nathan’s cousin is pregnant, due in early March, so soon we’ll have a new cousin-once-removed!

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Debra and Nathan, 28 years ago!

My mom made one of her signature cards using old photos

The afternoon shower was filled with lots of family and friends, good food, the cutest gifts, and of course games.

Soon to be Great-Grandma’s Guessing How Round She Is

Mother-in-Law Won

Spooning cotton balls blindfolded, harder than it looks

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We are definitely looking forward to meeting the new baby!

Since our first hike of 2012 ended up being so snowy and icy, we decided to stick to the lower San Gabriels for our second hike.

We decided to do a classic hike in our ‘backyard’ to the top of Echo Mountain. If we had more time, we would have liked to continue on to Inspiration point (see Modern Hiker’s descriptive write-up), but we only had a couple hours.

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The hike was a great workout with 1400 ft of gain, and at the top of Echo we got to explore the ruins of an old mountain resort that was accessible by a very steep railroad in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

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This was the first time we really got to appreciate living in Pasadena and being so close to some local trails. It only took about 10 minutes to get to the trailhead, which was really nice since we had so little time. Once daylight savings begins, I’m hoping we can even do some hiking on the weeknights every now and then.

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By Katharine

In January, I had to go San Francisco for a weekend conference, so Nathan came along too. Nathan had visited the city before, but it was a first time for me and I figured Nathan would enjoy the chance to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge and other sights.

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I made a list of the top things I wanted to see, but it was tough to fit them all in around the conference. Still, we were lucky to have a rain-free afternoon/evening so we walked through Chinatown, climbed the steps to the top of Telegraph Hill (Coit Tower), had seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf, and rode one of the world famous trolley cars. The steps up to Telegraph hill were a nice work out and the houses and gardens were beautiful, plus the view from the top was great, but my favorite by far was the trolley car ride, something about it was just exhilarating that night!

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Coit Tower 1933, which was funded by Lillie Coit who is the matron saint of the San Francisco Fire Dept.  The fire engine just happened to pull up when we were leaving. (photo by Katharine)

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Nathan used the time I was attending the conference to get some closer shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, but unfortunately it was pouring rain and pretty foggy.

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Check out the rest of the photos from our trip – San Francisco is definitely a beautiful city!

After planning months in advance we went to Mammoth with some co-workers for a long weekend.  Sadly the weekend we went there was no snow!  Last year around the same time they had over 15 feet of snow, but this year there was barely enough snow to cover the rocks.

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During lunch we watched a snowboarding competition where they made it look so easy.

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The biggest surprise of the weekend was how fast Mercedes skied even though it was her first time. She is fearless!

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At the end of the day we rode the gondola up to the top of the mountain.

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The view was amazing, but it was unusual to see all the mountain tops without any snow in late January.

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We spent the rest of the weekend watching the NFL playoff games and playing Uno. We also made a stop at the Mammoth Brewing company tasting room for a sampling of their local beer. And we were very well fed… Claudia and Felipe cooked for us throughout the weekend, which of course was amazing.

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All in all we were pretty bummed about the snow, but it was fun to get away.

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By Katharine

One of our goals for 2012 is to summit Mt. Whitney, so to prepare we are starting to hike more regularly. The first hike of the year we tried was Mt. Islip in the Angeles NF. Apparently taking the fall off made us a little rusty on preparation… It was a warm day in LA but at an elevation of 7000 ft at the trailhead, it was cold and very windy. Right when we got there another group pulled up, got out of the car, but decided to just skip it and head home because it was too cold.

We decided to give it a shot even though we only had our fleeces, but as we started up the trail we were surprised to see snow. I hadn’t thought there would be any left from a November storm, but the trail was pretty shaded and the high elevation must have kept the temperatures low enough.

The snow was hard packed and crusted over with ice

This small sunny area was more what we were expecting

We didn’t think to bring our spikes/crampons so we carefully shuffled over the icy parts. Some were along rather steep drop offs and by the time we got about three quarters up the mountain to Little Jimmy camp, we had run out of time and the snow/ice was only getting worse. So we decided to call it a day and turn back. The hike down made us a little nervous, but we got back to the car safely. Now we know to always bring the spikes just in case!

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And don’t think the irony of the mountain being called ‘Islip’ was lost on us as we slipped over the snow and ice.

By Nathan

Right before Christmas I bought the Canon 7D as a graduation present for myself!  Since most of my photography is of the outdoors I spent some time outside in the morninings getting more familiar with the camera.  It is very similar to my older 40D but I do enjoy some of the improvements such as the higher resolution sensor, better LCD screen, faster focusing and 8 frames per second.

I haven’t had a chance to really use the video feature yet, but from the short time I did use it, it was evident I need to shoot the video from a tripod.

This year the weather was pretty mild in Pennsylvania except for a few showers.  We took advantage of the weather and did a 5 mile hike in Fair Hill with Katharine’s parents.  One thing I’m working on is using the camera in full manual mode.  Before I would usually use shutter priority since I like taking photos of moving objects.  Manual gives you more control over the camera, but it can also lead to a lot of of poor photos when you’re first starting out, but I think I’m getting better.

Canon 7D, 28-135 @ 28mm, 3.5/f, 1/200 sec, 600 ISO

Since I’m an avid wildlife photographer I usually spent hours staring out the window of Katharine’s parents’ house waiting for some sort of wildlife to come by.  Last year I spent hours waiting for a red fox, which I finally saw and got some photos of.  Because there was no snow it was harder to determine the foxes common routes.  One evening while running out the front door to photograph a deer I saw the fox running through their front yard but he was too fast for me to get a crisp photo.

One afternoon Katharine and her mom spotted a hawk sitting in a tree in their backyard.  I quickly ran outside with my camera and snapped a few photos.

Of course there were lots of branches in the way and the hawk was still at a good distance.  It didn’t seemed to be disturbed by my presence so I crept down the deck stairs to get a closer look.  I then realized in my rush out the door I didn’t put any shoes on and the rain soaked ground wasn’t going to do me any favors in my wool socks.  Like any dedicated photographer I took my socks off and preceded to stalk the bird barefoot in the wet grass and cold mud.

After 15 minutes of playing a game of “red light green light” as the hawk looked away, I got pretty close.

This was the final photo before he turned and took flight.

As you can see I should have had a faster shutter speed to catch the quick movements as he leaped from the branch.

I did however catch one frame while his wings were at the peak of their extension, which I think is a little clearer.

Katharine has already planned a lot of trips for 2012 and I’m looking forward to expanding my photography portfolio.

 

There are some events you hear about, but you’ve never seen it done – like fish stocking!  We’ve always heard “oh this lake is stocked every year” but who sees it, how do they do it?  During our visit in Pennsylvania the timing worked out that we got to see the White Clay Creek get stocked with 2,000 trout!  The White Clay Fly Fishers raised the money for the fish stocking and were there to help introduce the fish into the creek.

Katharine’s Dad, Paul, White Clay Fly Fisherman

The trout were netted out of a truck and into large buckets.

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The fly fisherman lined up in a bucket brigade and passed the fish down to the water’s edge.

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There they were transfered to floating barrels which had small holes to allow water to flow in and out while they moved down the river.

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There were actually two locations the fish were introduced but we just followed these barrels down the river.  The fish were then netted again and placed in areas they may normally be found.

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By introducing the fish in smaller quantities throughout the stream it improves their chances of survival and has less of an impact on the creek’s habitat.

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Most of the fly fisherman were older but it was fun to see the younger generation get in on the fun.

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These types of events are always interesting and fun to see the behind the scenes of how people support their hobbies and interests.