Peregrine, Torrey Pines

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Peregrine in blue


It is dangerous to have an overt political opinion these days. You are bound to upset somebody you like and respect. My cohorts reach across the political spectrum and not all of them are totally doctrinaire or easy to figure. Many of them disagree with me. Guess what, we're still friends.

I got a big "evil Hillary" lecture from a good bud the other day but hey, that decision is easy compared to some conversations.

It is a little tougher to talk about guns.

Please understand that I have been a registered gun owner for over 40 years. I own several of them and believe quite strongly in the second amendment.

But do I think that means that citizens owning any and all types of weapons is legitimate, that our founding fathers would advocate for the right of Joe citizen to affix a shoulder fired missile, let alone a nuclear capped one, to his Dodge dart? Heck no.

There are practical limits to every right and I personally think that Obama and the left is on the right track in trying to ban "assault style" rifles.

Now what I find truly incredible is my conservative friends who think that those rights are absolute, that these types of weapons are exactly what the founders had in mind because the citizenry has the ultimate right, duty and obligation to take down tyrannical despots who may run afoul of our sacred constitution.

To those people I just have one thing to say; forget it. Walter Mitty, your posse is not taking down the government, they will grind you up and spit you out. You are heavily outgunned and outmatched, I don't care what you are packing. And the simple matter is that no matter how much the Bundy style wack jobs grouse about an overreaching federal government and their desire to bring it down, I got news for them, the rest of us can't stand you worse than you can't stand the government.

We don't think you have a right to graze your cattle on federal lands for nothing, to bulldoze indian artifacts, to take over federal land, to drive your atvs over forbidden trails and create all the environmental damage that you can muster. We keep the feds around to keep people like you in check.

Amazing that the John Cornyns of this world are more concerned with protecting the rights of people to own assault weapons to such a degree that we can't get the Republicans to even agree not to sell nasty arms to people on no flight or terrorist watch lists. That proposition is fine with me. One innocent man can't buy a gun, it won't keep me up at night, if we can keep the rest of these guns out of the hands of the lunatics.

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Torrey Pines Falcons

Yesterday I had to go to the coast to do some art business. Afterwards I decided to scratch my own artistic itch and take a little stroll down to Black's Beach to try to capture some pictures of falcons. My last attempt was pretty pathetic and I wanted to make amends to myself.

I paid the $12.00 State Parks fee necessary to get into the reserve and walked down the beach past the sunbathers, the Nikon D7200 with the heavy Sigma 150-600mm C lens hanging on a strap over my opposite shoulder.

I asked a Ranger sweeping the sidewalk for some tips on finding the nest but he said that he hadn't really been paying attention this year. I kept walking and crossed my fingers.

I didn't have long to wait before I saw the mother falcon and two progeny practicing their nascent flight and acrobatic skills, swooping in and out of the beautiful eroded canyons and cliff faces. I had read that the mother peregrine had four offspring this year, sometime in late May I believe.

There are 19 separate subspecies of Peregrine Falcon, most of the continent harbors Falco perigrinus anatum although DDT nearly wiped out the bird population in the eastern United States. I believe that it is the fastest bird ever clocked, with a recorded flight of 242 miles per hour, which makes it the fastest life form in the entire animal kingdom.

I took over 1750 shots yesterday and got some that I really love, mostly shooting at 1/2000th of a second.

As always, next time I will be even smarter and better prepared, I learn something with every shoot.

It will take me a while to process, cull and mull over all these.

The day was a little cloudy and gloomy but it didn't keep me from getting some good captures.

There were all manner of birds around of course, pelicans, gulls and crow abounded.

At one point I watched the falcons harass a gull and if I may be permitted to anthropomorphize, he had a very angry look on his face. Seriously.

After about an hour of watching the falcons cavort, they disappeared into the mist and I decided to go up top to the Torrey Pines reserve and put the smaller nikkor 70-200mm vrII lens on the Nikon and see what would happen.

So beautiful up there amongst the Torrey Pines, which happen to be the rarest pine on the continent.

Didn't see much but met some good folks and had a nice walk in the northern section.

La Jolla hovered in the distance.

Del Mar to the north.

It turned into a beautiful day.

I was having a lovely but mostly uneventful walk when I spied a lone peregrine prowling the Pacific.

I decided to head back to my van, and traffic and the tumult of real life when things started to get kind of crazy.

I watched my avian friend head for a stand of Torrey pines. I followed.

Where did it go? I followed it to the area where I had lost visual sight.

There was my bird, perched on a tree limb not 30 feet from where I stood. It stood docile and allowed me to photograph for minutes. What a wonderful blessing and opportunity!

It is going to take a while to assess this wonderful moment. I left the bird to his or her journey and continued on to mine.

It was worth the wait! I look forward to my next visit with these wonderful creatures.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bernard Garbutt

I am privileged to be working with a new estate that includes a wonderful portfolio of watercolor sketches by the artist Bernard Garbutt (1900-1975).

Charles "Bernard" Garbutt was born in Ontario, CA, the son of a Canadian horse trader, and early on developed a keen interest in drawing and observing animals. He was to ultimately become a feature illustrator for the Los Angeles Times.

His skill and expertise eventually drew the interest of Disney and he was hired by the esteemed studio in the 1930's, he worked on story layout and animation for both Bambi and Snow White  as well as other projects  including Farmyard Symphony and Ferdinand the Bull.

Garbutt showing his drawing to a horse

Garbutt eventually taught animal drawing both at Disney Studios and Chouinard, and he worked out of the Los Angeles Zoo as a classroom.

Garbutt did at least one cartoon for Lantz Studio, Dick Lundy's Bathing Buddies. During WWII he was hired as an artist for Screen Gems Productions in Hollywood. He’s credited on the satirical WWII-oriented Song of Victory (1942). After Lantz, he retired from animation and wrote and illustrated children’s books, including Timothy the Deer, Up Goes the Big Top, Hodie and Hold the Rein Free.

I have some forty watercolors in this collection and they illustrate both the artist's keen perception of animal anatomy and his deft understanding of their behavior and body motion. A very skillful artist.

I plan on putting the entire collection for sale up on my gallery website www.blueherongallery.net in the coming days. They will be affordable.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Funny how time slips away


Seligman Train
What a train wreck this year is turning out to be, here in the United States and globally. Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Zika, Trump. Make it stop, Mommy.

The next six months should at least be entertaining, in a sick way. The Donald implosion will be legendary.

Firing your campaign manager at this stage of the game means the candidate thinks that he is in big trouble.

I run center left, also harbor the occasional conservative perspective, what can I say? But the post Orlando talk from the White House and Justice Department reminds me an awful lot of once when we were told that people in Libya were most upset over a movie. So opaque with the spin.

Girl with shawl

It has been very difficult without Nigel, our cat of nine or ten years. We are a small family and his absence hurts. I look for that familiar dark spot at my feet at night but it's not there. I carefully open the front door, waiting for the cat who has left us to jump out in the afternoon. Miss the cat who took such a delight in walking across our card games, rolling over so we could pet his white spot.

Leslie used to have an elderly surrogate Aunt who was in the silent movies and lived in Hollywood with her two little dogs, dogs that would often piss on the carpet. And worse.

And I used to think that she couldn't smell it, because she was old. But now that I am older what I realize is that she smelled it and didn't care because she was old and they were old and nobody was giving up on anybody.

We've both been hit very hard. Just a cat, some would say...Not just a cat, my friend. One of our favorite beings. Not quite sure how to proceed. Joan lost her cat and Corrie her dog. The terrible season.

It was Buzz's birthday on the eighteenth. I couldn't get a hold of him for a couple days and felt a weird vibe. Turns out that the day I felt strange was the day the tech fucked up his dialysis and sent him into a critical downspin. So glad that he is feeling better.

Clown with a monkey on his back

I got this painting out of the estate of a couple from the Hollywood Hills recently. It is quite large and signed Robinson ...57. I can't identify the artist, love the painting. An American German Expressionist? One hundred dollars to the person who can accurately reveal the author of the work.

Soul Man

Cosmic Twist

Strawberry Moon

600mm f16 1/320 iso 1600

I set up my tripod in the front yard last night to try and catch the strawberry moon. First full moon on the solstice since 1948 and I really don't have the time to wait around for another one. I am pretty deficient as an astrophotographer and so every shoot is a learning experience. This one was as well.

I was using my Nikon D810 with the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary telephoto lens. Wimberly gimbal head. I tried all manner of fstops and shutter speeds as well as iso combinations. Surprisingly I had decent luck with a variety of shutter speeds. At one point I stuck on my Sigma 1.4 teleconverter and started shooting at 850mm. Didn't lose a lot of sharpness.

850mm f13 1/640 iso 1100

I shot manual focus, focussed in live view, mirror up, efs and used a remote shutter release.

The intervalock pouch I recently bought from B & H turned out to be a total waste of time and money and I removed it from my Induro 314 tripod.

Not much else to report. Was sort of a hazy night, not optimal but I am a lot more comfortable. If you want to be a good photographer, you have to instinctively know where all your buttons are in the dark. I am getting there.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

It's different for girls

Fast Forward

© Leslie Sommers
Leslie and I, being holed out way up in the northern provinces, at the corner of recluse and forgotten, don't really get out much.

On the rare occasion when we do lift our heads out of our den we are often amazed to see that the worm has indeed turned, maybe passed us by, like Ma and Pa Van Winkle awakening after a long nod.

Last night we ventured down to San Diego to see the British musician Joe Jackson play at the Spreckels Theater downtown.

We decided to forego Convoy and our normal asian fare on the way down and try a pizzeria in Golden Hill that Leslie had heard good things about, Luigis.

We wandered through the lovely old neighborhood, full of hip twenty somethings with a fresh sparkle in their eye. Pizza was pretty good but nowhere near as good as Bronx Pizza, our gold standard.

We headed west to the venue, passing a whole bunch of people living under the overpass in blankets and cardboard. After an interminable search for a parking spot, we made our way to the venerable old theater.

John D. Spreckels, son of the German sugar baron, was arguably the most important historical figure in San Diego, which owes much to his vision.  The owner of the Arizona and San Diego Shortline Railroad, he owned property all over town, including the Hotel Del and funded the Pan Pacific Exhibition. At one time he paid an estimated 10% of all the property taxes in San Diego County. Spreckels owned both newspapers in town and built the theater as the most modern commercial playhouse west of the Mississippi.

We walked through the ornate foyer, noticing the beautiful Gladding McBean ceramic figural friezes that doted the ceiling. The ormolu and wainscot of the theater was decorated in a french style braid motif. Our seats were about six rows up, to our immediate left were little areas of opera seats for the true patricians.

But my main observation was that there wasn't a single fucking person in the room under fifty and most well over the six decade mark. I turned to Leslie and muttered something about passing the rubicon or some invisible maginot line. But mostly I was worried. Did I look as old as all the other ancient codgers in the room? Possibly so. Gads!

We got into a conversation before the concert with a couple to our immediate left, they looked about my age, maybe a little younger, both Orange County transplants. Very nice. Luckily we steered clear of what I suspect might be the normal conversation in the room, listing our assorted ailments. We started talking instead about the music of our youth, best concerts and stuff like that and he was talking Sonic Youth and the Circle Jerks, X and TSOL. My little sister Amie's stuff.  I mentioned Tull and drew a blank from the guy.

When the old timers are waxing about their time moshing with Public Image Limited, you know that you are on the downhill slope.

Joe Jackson came out and started his performance solo at the keyboard, his second show of the short current tour. He was in a word, brilliant. A masterful performer, he was bright, acerbic, pithy, fabulous. He played about four tunes with symphony like piano virtuosity before the rest of the band came out and joined him and cranked the thing up.

The show was a mix of old and new, covers and his own material, the songs a poignant look at the human condition, as always. Tales of joy, bittersweet love and heartbreak. Tight, efficient songs without an ounce of fluff. At one point he reached into a hat he uses to choose covers and pulled out a song to play and launched into a great Steely Dan song off the Royal Scam. In Scottsdale he covered Bowie, Joni Mitchell in Holland.

And lo and behold. All of those geriatrics in the hall, hell they knew all the songs as well as I did, if not better. And we all rocked the joint.

This is a great band. Longtime band members Graham Maby on bass, Teddy Kumpel on guitar, and drummer Doug Yowell, who plays with impeccable time and an incredible ferocity.

If you know his music and have a chance, check out his show. If you don't know his music, check out his show. Some things only get better with age.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Swainson's Hawk

One of the cool sights from Yellowstone was watching this Swainson's Hawk hover for what seemed a mini eternity in the air and then suddenly plunge down to the ground after its prey.

What an elegant flier this raptor was.

It was hard to capture this event unfolding, I was in the car and things moved rather quickly. Sometimes you do what you can do and get what you can get.

Captain Hook's Wild Adventure

Hope I don't appear too callous but I can visualize a big new attraction coming soon to the Disney Grand Floridian.

It's a natural.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Trouble in the ranks

Interesting that President Obama is getting dissent from two normally erstwhile allies in regards to his Syria and Isis policy. A sizable number of career diplomats at the State Department have signaled their dissatisfaction with his fight against Isil and Assad. Fifty one career diplomats at State have signed on to a letter of dissent displaying their frustration with the status quo and urging stronger action against the Syrian regime.

CIA director John Brennan, in a rare candid moment, says that Isil is stronger than ever and that we have done little to degrade their effectiveness.
Brennan said the Islamic State continues to move forward. despite losing ground in Iraq and Syria. Efforts "have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and global reach," he told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Obama obviously doesn't want to get his hands dirty, so close to retirement...Obviously never gave two shakes about the Syrian people anyway. Jumping Jack Flash is a gas, gas, gas...

On another front, the Obama Administration quietly blocked a congressional resolution to aid Israel in their missile defense, leading to this letter from the Conference of Presidents ( note: My mother worked at a high level in this organization for a number of years.):
On Thursday, leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called the Obama administration rejection “very troubling” and “a disturbing departure from the prior practice of this and previous administrations.”
In a statement, Conference of Presidents Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman, asserted that “in a time of escalating threats to Israel from the arsenal of more 150,000 missiles and rockets supplied by Iran and stockpiled by Hezbollah, including sophisticated precision guided weapons capable of targeting hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians in major population areas in Israel, the belligerent threats to Israel posed by Iran’s ongoing development and testing of its long range missiles in blatant violation of internationally imposed restrictions and the ever present peril of renewed rocket and missile attacks on Israel from Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, the decision by the Obama Administration to oppose the overwhelming bipartisan Congressional support for increasing Israel’s ability to defend its people is very troubling.
“President Obama and senior US military leaders have repeatedly acknowledged that assuring Israel has the necessary military resources to counteract missile and rocket assaults at a time of increasing instability in the Middle East promotes US national security interests in the region,” the statement continued. “Israel’s missile defense systems have also provided a valuable contribution to America’s own missile defense program and security.
The public and formal objection to Congress increasing the budget for Israel’s missile defense is a disturbing departure from the prior practice of this and previous administrations. This could risk emboldening the forces of terror and instability and heighten concerns among friends and allies of the US in the region,” they concluded, urging the administration “to promptly reconsider its stand.”
This is just another salvo from the President against his favorite nemesis. He rarely misses a chance to stick it in Israel's eye, even after enabling Iran to perform a major rebuild on its missile capabilities.

Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts

Slower New York outtake from 1974.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


The President visited Orlando today with a plea to stop gun violence. Laudable. But missing the real point somehow. The deranged shooter pledged allegiance to Isis before his horrific rampage.

This callous, murderous rampage wasn't random and I don't think it can be viewed as merely the act of a crazed homophobe either. There was definitely a cultural if not a theological component, a fact that liberals are loathe to admit for some reason.

The senseless and brutal tragedy was the result of an ideological war between the west and radical Islam. The unfortunate victims were in no way responsible and deserved better. To view it through all of these other lenses to fit your favorite narrative is myopic and intellectually dishonest.

There is a common thread that links San Bernardino, Boston, Chattanooga, Orlando and Ft. Hood and it is no way coincidental. And its not the fact that the perps of these disgusting acts were all brunettes.

Tell me, when exactly in the last 1300 years has the religion of peace actually been one? The killing started in about 621. A mere look at the daily, violent internecine struggles between its own factions and adherents, let alone us kafirs and nonbelievers leads me to the unfortunate belief that violence and desensitization is somehow woven into the religion's followers' DNA.

True, he was not an immigrant or refugee. Like many of the other islamic terrorist perpetrators, he was homegrown. In my mind that makes matters even worse. A man who would not allow his wife to drive, who hated the freedoms granted in the west, anathema in his father's native land. Obviously certain creeds are proving impossible to integrate into the western model.

What's the answer? I have no idea. But I do know that we have to keep our eyes open and be willing to be honest with ourselves about the essential nature of the threat.


Great idea

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Coming Back to Me


Let's be frank, I take lots of pictures. Not to some of your satisfaction evidently, but we can talk about that some other time. And I should let you know, Google only gives you so much space, which I guess I must admit is absolutely free. Tough to bitch about free stuff.

In any case in the old days you could specify how many weeks of material you wanted to keep live on the screen but alas, no more. The old days are over. Now you get so many blogs on the screen and that's it. And so ladies and gentlemen, with great regret, the natives will soon be bumping Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons off these pages.

this photo makes a dandy screensaver. you have my permission...

You will have to look for them, go through the incredibly taxing job of hitting older posts or god forbid, putting "Yellowstone" in the search engine.

Of course some of you still haven't figured out how to put www.blueheronblast.com in the URL bar. You older ones. You complain that I don't send you the blog, well, bookmark, follow or look for it. Sometimes I forget. It's not really too hard. Ask an eleven year old.

So to commemorate absolutely nothing except my love for my wife and the rest of you, I am going to flood the blog with extra pictures of recent vintage, that never quite made the initial cut, for whatever reason, unless somebody calls uncle.

The Pow Wow of course was mind blowing for me, being a visual and tribal type.

And one can't have a native dance without pretty girls and a drum circle.

Oh Yellowstone, how do I ( I do) miss your crisp clear air, your teeming Chinese hordes...

Why is it so darn hard to get you out of my head?

Man has it been a good and satisfying year for me. Business has been pretty good, I have a great wife, great friends and I have been scratching my artistic funny bone deep.

And there is so much more fun to come.

Thinking of starting another mosaic novel with a few writers. Have talked to one. We used to do that on this blog, a long time ago.

Utah next.

Once again, thanks for reading and appreciating what I am putting out there. Boy do I love you.