Sundial Bridge

Bridge lines
Last weekend our family and three other families headed up to Trinity
to do some camping. On the way up we stopped in Redding, CA to see the Sundial Bridge. One of the dads had read about the bridge and wanted to see it since it was on the way. (It was literally a couple of blocks from the freeway we were on.) Simply put, the bridge was impressive. If you are ever near Redding, it is worth stopping at. It’s only a couple of minutes off I-5, has plenty of parking, and is great spot for taking pictures.

The bridge is a pedestrian only bridge that spans the Sacramento River in the middle of Redding. It gets its name from the fact that the bridge actually is a massive sundial. There are markers on the North end that show the time as the shadow of the spire moves during the day. The accuracy varies because any sundial is really only accurate at Summer Solstice, but it was still pretty close last week.

I’m not going to go into all the details of the bridge, if you want them them you can visit the Wikipedia entry. Aside from the stunning design and engineering, one thing I thought was cool was the surface of the bridge – it’s glass. We were there during the day so didn’t get to see the bridge lit up, but I imagine it’s pretty spectacular.

I was also impressed that a city actually had the foresight and political will to build such a fabulous landmark. I can’t imagine the debates and battles that took place to get this project approved, but it was worth it. I’ve driven through Redding several times over the years, but only ever stopped for gas or food. Now I’ll stop by the bridge every time I drive through. It’s a great place to hang out and relax. This bridge is in itself an attraction. It drew our families, and I’m sure will continue to be an draw others for decades to come.

When we were there it was over 100 degrees, so the water looked really inviting. At the North end of the bridge you can walk under the bridge and wade in the river, but even in 100+ degree heat the water is too cold. The Sacramento River is fed from Lake Shasta, which is primarily snow runoff. I was surprised by how cold it was. I could only stand in it, ankle deep, for about a minute. While the kids tried to see who could stay in the water the longest, I wander around taking pictures.

You can see this image on Zooomr with a geotag. Here are a few more shots:
Glass over water
Sundial Bridge
Sundial Bridge
Into the sky

Along the tracks

Tracks 1
I’ve always had somewhat of a childish fascination with trains. I’ve only ridden a few real trains in my life, but there’s something about trains that pulls at me. Maybe it’s because as a very young child I played around train tracks and spent a bit of time watching them go by. There were tracks very close to where I lived, so I’d go down there with my friends and see what happened if we put some coins on the tracks, or maybe a lawn chair. Looking back, it was quite dangerous, but that’s what boys do – flirt with danger to see how far they can go. We were lucky no one got hurt or killed. I remember running across the tracks in front of oncoming trains. Not too smart, fortunately I’ve grown up and stick to walking abandoned tracks.

This shot is along a stretch of track that, after some 60 miles, connects to the same tracks I played on as a child. I took a walk along the tracks last week just to get away from my desk for a while and take some pictures, something I don’t do enough of these days (walks and taking pictures). The tracks haven’t had trains running for nearly 10 years, but freight and commuter trains could start running soon.

Some people are worried about the traffic congestion that trains will cause because the tracks cross the main street that runs East-West through our town, but I don’t care. I grew up hearing and seeing trains running and miss them. Every place I’ve lived has had trains running. It was part of my childhood landscape, and something that is missing from my kids childhood. I didn’t realize it growing up, but do now that I drive by dormant tracks. Trains are an important part of our society and our history. They tie communities together in a way that freeways don’t. I can’t wait for the trains to start running, I’d like to shoot some photos.

This shot is on Zooomr.

Here are a couple of more pictures I shot that day:
Fair Warning

Tracks 2

And here’s a shot taken at night of a rail crossing that I did not take, but think is really cool.

Cracked Rear View

Cracked Rear View
Not much to say about this shot, just an old Chevy flatbed truck sitting in a field collecting dust and spiders. I’m sure the truck has seen more productive days, as have I. This summer seems to be slipping by, and I can’t really say where it’s gone. I’ve definitely not had as much chance to take pictures as I was hoping. The days just some how seem to fill up then slip away. I sort of wish I had more days like this old truck – nothing to do and no where to go.

I don’t have much information on the truck, other than it’s a 1940’s flatbed. It’s a pretty big and can haul a good sized load.

I think that’s about it for this post. Here’s an alternate shot of the truck, taken last year.

Owl’s Barn

Old Barn
Last week we spent some time visiting with friends and family on a ranch in the lower Russian River valley. I guess ranch isn’t the right word, it’s vineyard land with several varieties of wine grapes. Anyway, this barn is on the ranch and is a moderately famous barn. I’ve seen photos of it at an art show in Emeryville and it’s been in calendars and postcards. It’s usually shot from farther away and from the opposite side, but when I was there the sun was setting and the light coming through the barn made the shot better from this side. This shot is on Zooomr here, there is an alternate shot here.

The barn isn’t really used for vineyard operations, other than for storage. It’s now home to some owls. The floor is littered with the bones of small animals eaten by owls. My kids (who studied owls in school) were quite eager to tell the adults about the dietary habits and digestive functions of owls. It’s very fascinating, but I’ll spare you the details. I’m sure Wikipedia has ample information on the subject. I don’t know much about rodent anatomy, but others in the group could point out various bones of various creatures. Later in the evening we saw an owl fly over, I assume it was eventually heading for the barn.

Other than getting out to take pictures, it was a great evening spent with family and friends. One of those evenings you wish you could have everyday.

Here are a few other shots from the same day:
St. Helena

Daisies and Vineyard


On the vine


Window to the past

Window to the past
I went downtown last week to check out telephoto zoom lenses at the local camera shop and took this shot on my way back to the car. It’s a wall that divides an empty lot. Many decades ago a building stood on the lot, thus the windows, but it burned down probably before I was born. To my knowledge the wall has not been earthquake retrofitted and has lasted through a few large to moderate earthquakes. It is connected on both ends to buildings so isn’t just free-standing. I’ve always thought it was a cool, old architectural artifact from a by gone era. I’m kinda surprised no one has built anything on the lot, it’s in a prime location downtown. Businesses use it for reserved parking, but that’s
ok. I hope it remains a empty lot with the lone wall for a long time. Hosted on Zooomr with a geotag so you can see the location.

About the lens, I pretty much decided on the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Autofocus Telephoto Zoom Lens. I looked at a cheap Tamron lens, but was not impressed the few photos I shot in the store. This Canon lens costs quite a bit more than the Tamron, but has Image Stabilization. I do like to shoot in low light, especially late in the day, so I figured I would use that feature. It’s not a professional grade lens like the L-Series, but it is in my budget and has gotten a lot of good reviews. Since I’m just a hobbyist and mostly take family photos, I figured this lens would work well. My daughters like to perform in school plays (which have marginal lighting) so the image stabilization should come in handy. One daughter is on a swim team, so I should be able to get some good shots of her at the meets. The best price I found was Adorama, if you recommend an different site please let me know.

While I’m on the subject of lenses, Raoul Pop has a great review of the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Zoom lens. It’s a little out of my price range (right now), but maybe someday I’ll get an L-Series lens. When I get my lens, I’ll post a review.

Shedding Skin

Shedding your skin
As summer warms up, manzanita bushes in Northern California start shedding their bark. Having grown up in the middle of these bushes, I pretty much ignored what was right in front of me until I started taking pictures and the ordinary became extraordinary through the lens. Last week as I drove up my in-laws driveway I noticed the bark peeling off the bushes and thought “How cool”. Something I grew up with became the focus of my shooting. For this shot, I converted to Black and White in Picasa and adjusted the brightness and contrast quite a bit. It’s hosted on Zooomr. Most of the year the bark is a deep red color, almost burgandy. In the summer it peels off to expose fresh green bark. I have an alternate shot that shows the colors.

As I wrote this post I started remembering scenes from my childhood. I clearly remember peeling the bark of the bushes during the summer and trying to see how big of a piece I could get. I spent many hours every day in the summertime amongst the manzanita bushes on our property. They made excellent forts. At my grandparents house in the Sierra Nevada foothills the manzanita bushes were much bigger and provided a canopy for taking walks in the summer. More on Manzanita bushes can be found on Wikipedia.