Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year - 2012


Monarch caterpillar

Don and I took a short trip up the California coast to Pacific Grove for a few days after Christmas. There we found a flock of Sanderlings feeding on the beach. However, there were numerous people and dogs also sharing the beach. But I got the idea that perhaps this group of birds might be a bit more tolerant of our approach to photograph them. When they were disturbed, they took flight but only went a short distance before returning to the ocean's edge to feed again. One time after a dog had disturbed them, I was able to catch the flock in flight as they moved down the beach a bit. Even though the birds were fairly co-operative, I found photographing them to be very challenging.

Monarchs have returned to our back yard again this year to lay their eggs on our Milkweed plants. In my second photo I photographed a Monarch caterpillar resting on a Mildweed pod. I like the juxtaposition of the caterpillar representing new life and the Milkweed pod with it's seed 'parachutes' that represent the end of the life cycle. Or perhaps the Milkweed also represents the  possibility of new beginnings.

I wish you a joyous NEW YEAR. May your troubles fly quickly by. Remember that even in less than ideal situations there can be blessings. If you look you will find them. And may you always be open to the possibilities of new experiences. Be on the lookout for small graces that come your way. Every day is a gift. Carpe Diem. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The difference a few minutes makes

Sunset at Morro Strand

These two shots were both taken at Morro Strand just minutes apart. I find watching how the light quickly changes facinating. The feeling each image creates is totally different - the golden sunset is warm and joyous, while the second shot is more reflective and has a poignant feeling to me. I like both renditions. I never tire of watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. 

May this Holiday Season bring you both Joy and a quiet sense of Peace.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011



I have so much to be thankful for every day. Living here on the Central Coast of California I am surrounded by amazing beauty and a plentitude of wildlife. I don't take any of it for granted. In life's lottery I have won the jackpot. I wish that each of you may find the same blessings and opportunities.

The other night when I took this photo I was hoping for one of those rosy, glowing sunsets. That didn't happen. But what I was given is equally wonderful - wispy clouds reflected in calm water and a golden mist just creeping in around the base of the Rock as the sun was setting.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pelican take off

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Elkhorn Slough in the Monterey Bay area. I was impressed with the variety and density of the wildlife there. On a 2 hour boat tour I saw large rafts of Sea Otters, Harbor Seals, more than 200 Sea Lions, beautiful orange jellyfish and numerous birds. There is a great advantage to being on the water when observing wildlife. They seem much more tolerant and approachable for photography. As we were cruising along I saw this California Brown Pelican standing on the bank. I focused on him and waited to see if he would take off. He did and I was able to take a nice sequence of shots of his lift off. I took a total of 11 shots. These three are my favorites.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

First snow of the season

First snow along HWY 395
in Tuolumne Meadows
Both these shots were taken on my Eastern Sierra trip earlier this month. As I drove north on HWY 395 into the edge of the storm, I could see the snow beginning to fall onto the mountain across from Crowley Lake. As I watched the mountain was momentarily illuminated by a shaft of sun. OMG! When I saw this I raced to the first available pullout and jumped out to take this photo. I feel very lucky whenever I am given the gift of light like this. Sometimes I am in the right place at the right time.

By the time I made my return trip, the storm had long since moved on and I was able to drive home through Yosemite via Tioga Pass. Tuolumne Meadows had a nice blanket of snow and I couldn't resist stopping to take some pictures. I had already taken some shots when I found this set of tracks heading into the meadow. Yes! I wonder what animal made them? I like how they lead me into the scene and then just disappear. When I gaze at this photo I am back in the meadow again. I can almost feel the cold air and the joy I felt in that moment.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mono Lake

South Tufa at Mono Lake

Last week Don and I took a trip to the Eastern Sierra to photograph Mono Lake and to look for Fall color. We had to take a longer route and drive up Hwy 395 because Tioga Pass was closed due to an early snow storm. The storm cleared the next day and we were lucky to have some lingering clouds to enhance our photography at South Tufa that afternoon. Mono Lake is simply an amazing place. It's stark beauty grabs my heart every time I am there. I think of this area as one of my spiritual homes. It is one of those places I try to visit every year and I never get tired of being there. As for Fall color, what can I say, there was very little. It looks like any color change is going to happen very late this year.    

Monday, September 26, 2011

Life is a journey not a destination

A few weeks ago I took an outing and drove down this stetch of Hwy 41. I have long wanted to stop and photograph this twisting road. And I finally took the time to do it. I love roads like this one. To me this road speaks of the way things used to be - when roads were made by following the lay of the land - when the journey was a destination itself. This is a road that would never be built today. It makes me happy to gaze at this picture and imagine myself there again. I'm glad I can still find roads like this one to travel in San Luis Obispo County.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Remembering Nancy

Fossil Nautilus

In memory of Nancy Rotenberg 1946-2011. I had the priviledge of taking a workshop with Nancy several years ago. Her spirit touched me deeply and she is one of my photo 'heros' and a mentor to my heart. She was an exceptional person and photographer. She lost her battle with cancer a few days ago.

She wrote one last note to all of us.
"I have had a good life. I was privileged to receive love and honour and the spirit of all things beautiful. Please do not be sad that it was short---it was full. I leave with all the images that I have seen and experienced and all the hearts that I have hugged. Enjoy your dance, sweet souls, and remember me when the dolphins sing and the flowers wrap their arms around each other and breezes blow wise words to your hearts. Have open hearts--it is where the light and love will shine. Namaste." Nancy

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How I worked on my BARN OWL image

red eye before and after   original uncropped photo

Last Sunday I was lucky to have the opportunity to photograph a Barn Owl roosting high in the branches of a eucalyptus tree. I put on my longest lens and upped my ISO to 2500 in order to get a reasonable shot of this lovely creature. But for most of my shots his eyes were closed. And in my best shot of him with his eyes open he had a bad case of "red eye" from the flash I was using. Hmmm! So I decided it was time to perform some magic - that is Photoshop magic. I 'fixed' his glowing red eyes, but the shot still lacked impact. He was  surrounded by some very brightly lit branches which detracted from my vision of how I wanted him to appear in my final photo. I cropped the image to make him larger in the frame and then did some serious 'cleaning' of the branches and foliage around him. Then I cloned the open eyes onto the cropped image to complete my work.

Above are the before and after versions of my BARN OWL. I used Photoshop tools and my skill using them to create an image which matched what my heart was seeing when I took the shot. Is it better? You be the judge. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Santa Barbara FIESTA

Last weekend I took the train from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara with some photo friends. We went down to enjoy the festivities of the annual Santa Barbara FIESTA. What a delight! We arrived mid morning just in time to see the Childrens Parade. The streets were filled with color, dancing, music and good things to eat. It was a pure joy to experience. And when the day was done we took the train back home - no driving or trying to find a parking space. I would do it again in a heatbeat.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

End of another month

I love to watch the Harbor Seals along our Central Coast. It makes me smile to see them lift their heads and tails in an effort to stay dry as the tide rises. In the end the tide inevitability wins and they are forced off their sunny perch and into the water. I have always wanted to capture this behavior and I finally got the chance this July. I wish the light had been a bit more forgiving, but I am happy with the action of the water and the way the seals are posed. I hope this shot makes you smile too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A favorite view of ZION

Zion Clearing Storm
It has been a while since I posted. My Feartured Artist Exhibition in the Gallery at Marina Square in June went extremely well. I feel honored to have so many of my friends support me for the show.

I have felt photographically "flat" lately. So in an effort to reinspire myself I have gone back to work on a few of the photos I took in Zion last May. We were fortunate to be there at the edge of some stormy weather. It had just stopped raining and the sun was starting to break though to illuminate the red cliffs in the distance when I took this shot. I like the 'pathway' between the cactus that leads my eye into the scene.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June Photo Exhibit


I have been given the honor of being the Featured Artist for the Gallery at Marina Square in Morro Bay during the month of June. I currently have about 40 photos on display at the Gallery for the exhibit. About 10 of them are new images I have not shown before. You are welcome to join me for the reception on Friday June 10th between 5-8pm. Please come and see me and my work if you are in town then. If you can't make the reception, just stop by the Gallery any day between 10am and 6pm.

Saturday, June 4, 2011



The last Monarch chrysalis in our backyard finally broke open and this beautiful male Monarch emerged two days ago. His first flight was to my finger as I was trying to photograph him. My heart skipped a beat when he flew to me. I gently put him onto this flower and he flexed his wings for me allowing me to capture this portrait of his full glory. Moments later he took off, circled our yard twice and then was gone. It has truly been my priviledge to be a part of this Monarch story. My message to each of you is to plant Milkweed and experience the magic of Monarchs for yourself. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Change of Plans


As you know we were supposed to be going on a photo trip to Monument Valley and the Slot Canyons in Arizona, but unfortunately we never got to complete our trip.

We were staying in Escalante, Utah for a few days before our official trip was to begin when my husband Don noticed a large number of ‘floaters’ in his right eye. He described them as an “army” of floaters. The next day (Thursday) he began to see a gray curtain start to obscure part of his vision. This curtain grew until he could see almost nothing from his eye – very scary. We cancelled the rest of our trip and started making frantic phone calls to find an ophthalmologist to see him. We finally got an appointment in St. George the next day (Friday the 13th). I drove Don to St. George and we saw the doctor about 1pm. He confirmed that Don was having a retinal detachment. By extreme good fortune the Retinal Specialist from Salt Lake City was in the eye center that day. He is only there 3 days a month. (I think someone was watching over us) So Don was able to get in to see him and have a more thorough examination. We were told there was a 72 hour ‘window’ for Don to get surgery in order to have the best result. The specialist was able to set us up to see the on call Retinal surgeon in Santa Barbara the next day. So Saturday we got up early and I drove 9 hours straight from St. George Utah to Santa Barbara. This was also our Anniversary day – definitely NOT the way we were hoping to celebrate! We arrived in Santa Barbara at 2:30pm and Don had surgery at 4pm. The surgery – a Vitrectomy - went very well, but the recovery time is LONG. So that is where we are now.

We did have a couple of days to photograph before this happened and I'm sharing one of the  photos I took on the morning of May 12th. Calf Creek Falls is in Utah near Escalante.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Some MAY thoughts


May is truly a lovely month. In the Sierra all the rivers and waterfalls are running wild and free and the wildflowers are in their glory. My thoughts always turn to Yosemite in May. I was married in the Park 23 years ago this month. Don and I usually return every year to renew our love for each other and to breathe some of that rare mountain air. If I close my eyes and open my heart, I can relive the joy and excitment of our wedding day. This year looks to be one of those exceptional Springs. And I will miss it. We are off to have a different kind of Anniversary in the deserts of the Southwest. I wish I could be two places at once. Life is always about making choices. And even when the choice is between two very good options, there can be a sense of loss. I will return to Yosemite in my mind this year for my Anniversary. Next year I well BE THERE. 

"Snow waters rush in a misty cold dance
Turning the light into rainbows
Falling and free, alive to the chance
Of giving back into the life flow."

taken from SIERRA HIGH
© Alice Cahill

Wednesday, April 20, 2011



I have always loved edges – edges of day; edges of land, sea and sky; edges of time and life. We are all living at the edge of creation. Change and newness all happens at the edges. In the middle things are comfortable, but the edges are dynamic. I am fortunate to live at the edge of the land where it meets the sea. And I am constantly drawn to the edges of weather.  I experienced EBB TIDE at the edge of the sea, at the edge of the day, at the edge of a storm.   

And I love John Muir and his musings. He blends a deep spiritual and sensual feeling for Nature together in a way that delights me. His words are always an inspiration. He is the spirit of EARTH DAY to me.

"The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. "

— John Muir



Friday, April 8, 2011

Last photo of my March miracle Monarch

My little Monarch is gone. She emerged on March 1st and I last saw her on the morning of March 31st - my March miracle Monarch. It was quite a journey watching her entire life in our backyard. She was a survivor to the end. She braved the many rainy days we had and seemed to enjoy the warmth of the sun when it finally came out by flapping her wings and climbing high onto the Hummingbird Sage where she lived. I treasure the days she was with me and she will always have a place in my heart and memory.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I have been juried into Beacon Art Show 4

Good news! My photo called "INVITATION" is a part of an exhibition called Art and Soul being held at the San Luis Obispo United Methodist Church. The show runs from April 1st to May 1st and the opening reception will be held Friday, April 1, from 6-9 pm. Please come and enjoy the show. There are 113 works from 97 local artists being shown.

I took my photo "INVITATION" last July at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove of Redwood National Park in Northern California. This bridge takes visitors from the parking lot over the road and into the main Redwood grove. I arrived very early in the morning just as sun was trying to shine through the fog. When I turned around and looked back over the bridge, my breath caught. Such lovely light is a rare gift.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Monarch story

Nature is not always kind. On March 1st I observed a new Monarch starting to emerge. But after watching a few minutes I realized that she was stuck halfway out of her chrysalis. The chrysalis had not cracked open like I’ve seen others do. As her wings expanded she became more and more trapped. I tried to help, but I was unable to assist her out. The next day I found her on the ground out of the chrysalis, but her wings were permanently crumpled up. She could not fly. She has been in our yard for almost two weeks now. Today she is still alive, but just barely. I tried to put her onto flowers so she could eat, but her crumpled up wings are now ravaged and holey. It is so sad. She has such a strong will to live.  Here are the photos of my sad little Monarch with the strong life force. I honor that force and her by sharing these photos with you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Calm after the storm

At last our rains have returned. After a dry and suuny January the past few weeks of February have brought us cold and rainy days. The drama of the storms makes for some interesting photography. One lovely morning I was out early and captured the first rays of golden light illuminating the Rock. The skies were still dark and the water was glassy. This combination only lasted a moment and then it was gone. I am learning to appreciate each gift like this more and more.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

My wish has come true. I have seen my Monarchs go full cycle from tiny caterpillars to become beautiful butterflies. I have waited in my backyard for many hours watching and hoping for this wonderful transformation. And yesterday I finally saw and photographed an emergence. It is still a miracle to me. About two days before this event the chrysalis begins to change color. And in the last hours before the butterfly emerges the chrysalis gets very dark and the wings of the butterfly inside become visible. Then without fanfare the bottom of the chrysalis cracks open and the Monarch inside slowly emerges. In a matter of moments it is out and holding onto the empty shell of the chrysalis. For the next few minutes it pumps the fluid it has in it's abdomen into its wings until they expand to reveal their full glory. Once the wings are full size it still takes about an hour for them to harden. The new Monarch then climbs up to a good launch site where it practices flapping its wings and takes off. I can only tell you that my heart lifted with joy as I saw a Monarch take its first flight. We have successfully 'hatched' 8 Monarchs so far and we still have 9 chrysalises and at least 6 caterpillars to go.   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A great 'catch'.

Last weekend Don and I participated in the 15th annual Morro Bay Bird Festival. There were so many great field trips and lectures that it was hard to choose among them. On Sunday we opted to take the Bay Cruise for photographers. Morro Bay is rich with birds and other wildlife at this time of year. My best "catch of the day" was of an Osprey with a fish it had just caught. It is interesting to see how the Osprey carries the fish. It is so very aerodynamic.

On the Monarch front, about 8 caterpillars are still munching away on our Milkweed and we now have 14 Monarch chrysalis jewels hanging from various plants and twigs in  our yard. They could start changing into butterflies any day now. I keep checking them daily and I really hope I get to see at least one transformation.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


It has been my delight this New Year to watch the progress of our Monarch caterpillars. After a caterpillar has eaten its fill of Milkweed and increased to a  mature size, it sets off in search of a nearby plant and crawls up into it. There it to settles into in a "J" shape and hangs down from a branch to await its transition into a chrysalis. So far we have had 6 caterpillars go into their "J". After about 3 days they make their big change. I missed seeing the first 4, but yesterday I spent hours in our backyard waiting for #5. And my persistence paid off. I was able to observe and photograph the entire process. It is truly amazing. Once the skin cracked open it only took 4 minutes for the chrysalis to emerge. At this stage it was pliable and wiggled until the old skin fell off. It then took another 30 minutes for it to attain its final form. And somehow a beautiful Monarch butterfly will emerge in a few weeks. I hope I have the good fortune to see that too.