Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My latest toy, a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50 MM 1.8 G Lens.

Called a normal lens in the old days of photography, as opposed to a zoom
lens. Using this on my Nikon D70 with its’ smaller size sensor makes this
into a 75mm lens in 35mm factor, and in fact, this is an excellent portrait lens
per online reviews and photographs that I looked at in my research before
pulling the trigger and making the purchase.
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The D70 above with the new lens attached. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a lens hood inside the box as well as
a manual. The price I paid at Samy’s Camera in Costa Mesa was $219 for the lens and another $27.95 for a UV Filter.
Practice safe photography, always wear a UV or other lens cover when taking photos!

Basically I tried out the D and G versions of this lens plus I also shot with the f1.4 50 mm Nikkor which was way more money and a better lens, but beyond my price range that I am comfortable with. Having seen the results that a fellow
photographer and blogger, Paul, gets with his 50mm, I just had to get one.

I snapped this quick photo of fellow blogger, photographer and friend, Lee Murray, with no flash and this was the result.
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Below is a shot of my glasses where I wanted to see the shallow depth of field that I had heard so much about.
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I am pretty excited about this new lens and the first place to check it out will
be to go back to the El Dorado Nature Preserve in Long Beach, and put it through the paces.

I look forward to visiting with you again out on the backporch.

Bill McDonald aka Morongobill

Change of emphasis here.

Look folks, it is crunch time here on the backporch. With the demands of my
work and the odd hours involved, usually at night, and my problem with sleeping in the daytime, it is getting more difficult to be motivated enough to write here sometimes. I seem to also be veering off into another direction, more toward photography and how it can be utilized for preserving memories of the
endangered California deserts and wilderness, as mentioned here a few times in the past.

In addition, I have reached a point in my life’s journey where tilting at windmills is no longer a good use of my remaining time on this planet.

I am going to start doing what I want to do, when I want to do it, as often as I want to do it, until I tire of it, and move onto to something else. Good health
permitting, and that includes this irascible ankle that keeps reminding me of its’
existence; this will involve more trips to the desert, car camping until the ankle
gets better, and later- maybe even bicycle camping like our friend over at DryCyclist.com.

At some point, I may finally gather enough courage to fulfill my long held dream
of moving back to the desert, never to return to the city, at least that is my goal.

I am going to start by saying that one will never know when I will write here, or about what. Or how often. Maybe one day I will write something about rooftop solar. Maybe a week later, I will write about a trip up to the aerial tramway, or revisit the Korean Friendship Bell in San Pedro, perhaps after they clean off all the pigeon droppings!
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The world is my oyster, and you guys get to help me shuck it- and we will share
any pearls that we find.

That is all that I can promise to you long suffering readers at this time.

Bill McDonald aka Morongobill

Sunday, July 29, 2012

If you want to know why deserts are important, you need to go read this article.

The Necessary Truth of Deserts

I can not recall when I have read such an article as this.

For the best closing sentence that I have read in my recent memory, go to his blog and read the article. The sentence will make everything crystal clear, I assure you.

Bill McDonald aka Morongobill

Friday, July 27, 2012

Visit to the Korean Friendship Bell in San Pedro- in one word- disgusting.

A late addition to the post on 8/2/2012. There are questions raised now as to the Korean Bell of Friendship being given to the people of Los Angeles instead
of the people of the whole U.S.A. Here is a wikipedia article and a blowup photo
from the official plaque commemorating the giving of this friendship monument.

ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 30 12.00

In addition I have a followup post on this with further actions that I have taken

First a little background information. This monument was a gift from the South
Korean people to America in honor of our bicentennial celebration in 1976. I
was fully prepared to be awed by the bell and the pagoda that houses it. In fact, the condition of the whole building including the bell, gong and the eaves above, along with the floor is just as my title says- disgusting, with pigeon
excrement covering a lot of the surfaces.

Excrement that looks like it has been there a long while, and did not miraculously appear overnight. Before I show the photos that I took of the grounds and the pagoda(and the excrement covered places) I just want to say
how ashamed I am as an American, that we have let this monument of friendship between two peoples of the world, fall into such a sorry state. I don’t
know or care who let this happen, but it needs to corrected immediately, even if the person in charge has to go out with a firehose and wash away the crap
his or her self.

The state of this monument is just an absolute total disgrace.
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Totally disgusting and unnecessary.
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Yes that is pigeon crap on the floor above. Does that look like it built up overnight?
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One of the culprits below, up in the rafters. Watch out below!
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More evidence, if any more was needed.
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Another view, hard to see the beauty of the place for all the pigeon droppings.
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The view after I shooed them away. They were up in the eaves and all over the tile roof of the pagoda.
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A view of the rooftop as I approached the KFB, scouting out photographic opportunities.
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Might as well put up one thing that wasn’t coated with the pigeon droppings.
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I will leave you with this shot, taken at a far enough distance to spare you the more disgusting up close and personal details.
A hint of what the place would be like if people cared enough to honor it with a good cleaning, and keep it clean. But even
this angle doesn’t spare your eyes. What a waste!
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Bill McDonald aka Morongobill

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Nikon D70 returns to the El Dorado Nature Preserve accompanied by the Nikon Coolpix P510.

Another day, another visit. This time I brought my big camera and the new kid
on the block, the P510. Today, the results were much better. This first photograph will be almost full resolution so that a lady I met there can down-
load the image. The rest of you can as well, just right click the photo in your browser and follow the prompts. This was taken with the P510.
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This was the same flower that I tried to photograph the other day with the D70. The flower has started fading but the
beauty is still there. The next shot shows the D70 as I took it with a shorter zoom and the attached speedlight.
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Below is a shot of the north lake taken with the D70. Check out the crane in the tree.
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Below shot with the P510’s big zoom!
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This little guy was taken with the P510 also.
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As was the one below.
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Another D70 shot. It does well with landscapes. Today I used the full matrix metering mostly.
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Very inviting, isn’t it? Let’s go hiking!
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D70 of course below!
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This duck was easy to shoot with the fast D70. You push the shutter and the shot is taken instantly, unlike the P510.
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The rest of the photos are from the P510 but first, let me explain the last
comment above this picture. I went over this in a video which I will try to put up here, but I will repeat it now. I wasted about 15 minutes or so attempting to film
these ducks as they were feeding close to shore. Every time I had the shot and pushed the shutter, the pic would have their heads underwater. I shot it when the head was above the water, or so I thought. With the D70, what I saw in the optical viewfinder when I pulled the trigger was what I got. So the processing
speed of the camera engine plus the electronic viewfinder slowness are the
obvious difference between the cameras. When shooting static objects, and when not in direct bright sunlight, the P510 was the better choice of camera today.
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I know that I am one handsome turtle!
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I am surprised that the camera got the depth of focus right here. If you blow it up the bird and the limb in front of it are
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I believe that even the most advanced camera systems would have a rough go with the lighting and the water in the above
photograph. The P510 did pretty well, I think.
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Don’t bother me!
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Grooming or man that feels good!
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Maybe if I just ignore them, they will go away!

North Lake inside the El Dorado Nature Preserve in Long Beach.

Well this was a fun little excursion and well worth the $5 parking fee. Let me
know when you would like to go do some photography in the preserve! I will
be happy to show you around if I am not working that day.

Bill McDonald aka Morongobill


Concentrated Solar Plant funding via Securitization- plus the new and “improved” Western Solar Zones- the beginning of the end for western wilderness?

How serendipitous to have all these articles come out at the same time, and that they fit so neatly within the framework that I have laid out all along on these scribbled pages! What am I talking about? You will see, have patience,
little ones.

For the longest time, I have been suspecting that the parasites on Wall Street
were planning something big, a new way to extract money from this obscenely
expensive, so called green renewable energy land rush taking place on our
federal lands; having participated in the stimulus portion, the free money from
the taxpayers in other words
, the Wall Street Wonders couldn’t help but worry that they would be up the creek without a paddle after that ended, and
had been feverishly wracking their avaricious minds trying to come up with a
way to keep the money flowing in, and they have succeeded.

Why come up with a new approach when a tried and true old friend is standing
by to serve you again? Of course I refer to securitization, the same scheme used with home mortgages to inflate the housing bubble, and ultimately to almost bring down the whole global financial system, when combined with derivatives, after all they do go hand in glove after all.

You can read all about it in a piece by John Farrell here at the Renewable Energy World site. Now I have read many of Farrell’s articles and he is a good
advocate for rooftop or distributed power generation, but I just had a feeling
about the source for the information in his article. He referenced this blogger's article which explains the nuts and bolts of securitization using the money that you pay a movie theatre for your ticket, a good primer on how all this works, and I suggest you look at that to up your understanding of the process.

So far, so good. Actually too good, I felt. So I did further research on solar financing in general and discovered a few other juicy tidbits of information, hot
off the presses. This article flat out states the federal solar tax credit pays for itself, and links to another white paper that purports to prove it. Then I found
another paper which says, in effect, don't count on securitization just yet. Basically a daisy chain of articles, pros and cons on solar issues.

Now what does all this have to do with desert solar and wilderness destruction?
I thought you would never ask. You know when you research some of these links on the net, you find papers published by organizations such as the
US Partnership for Renewable Finance. They are part of a larger trade group called ACORE, you can read about them on their site American Council on Renewable Energy. I visited their site, it is nice, they obviously are a trade group, a lobbying group in Washington, involved in many facets of the renewable energy scene- but, I still wasn’t quite sure about them or their motives. So I did a google search with this parameter:

BrightSource+ACORE go ahead, do the search, I will wait for you. Did
you find the information that you need to know on the first page of the results?
I found all that I need to know, that’s for sure. So BrightSource Energy, an
ACORE member, is going to standby while this group tries to formulate a financial policy leading to the potential “E-Z” FINANCING of residential and
commercial photovoltaic systems on rooftops, which would be a direct competitive threat to their own business model? Don’t forget BrightSource
Energy builds concentrated solar power plants, that’s what they do, not rooftop.
But still not satisfied, I googled:

SCE+ACORE and of course, Southern California Edison is a member also.
Hhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. The B.S.’ers and SCE are both
members. How many other concentrated solar developer/players are members?

Look, I subscribe to the theory that says where there is smoke, there has to be a fire somewhere, you know what I mean? All these big players in the ongoing desert destruction otherwise known as renewable energy development on federal lands, seem to be members of this ACORE group. My guess is if I had
googled most of the big names, I would have gotten similar results.
Knowing that some of you might be harder to convince, I also googled another
big name in concentrated solar power and soon to be a neighbor to the Ivanpah Solar field, First Solar. Guess what, they are an ACORE member also!
Satisfied now?

So why would all these players be interested in promoting rooftop solar via solar securitization? My guess is they aren’t. This is just the “stalking horse” to
test the waters(or muddy them) while their main attention is focused like a laser beam on applying just this model to their business- the business of providing the funding needed to complete their core mission, which is building
their specialties, giant scale solar and wind farms on the cheap public lands, courtesy of the Obama and state administrations, all made possible up to now by soon to be expiring almost free federal financing programs, and in the future
if this securitization scheme works, by long suffering global investors, scared by
the Eurozone crisis etc and desperate for decent and relatively safe returns on their capital investment.

Again, my educated guess is that the financial securitization scheme is being perfected as I write this, and they are floating a trial balloon about home power
being the main use for this, as a misdirection perhaps, to make everyone reading it think wow, this is great! I; on the other hand, being suspicious as hell of these folks, believe that the ultimate goal is to provide the easy financing to develop all the lands that the feds have just put on the table.

Speaking of the federal lands, the Departments of Interior and Energy have at
long last released their new guidelines, the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), you can read about it here and make sure read the comment section. Shaun over at the Mojave Desert Blog has an interesting article about this where he points out a very disturbing fact about this latest development, I hope he will forgive my quoting the lines here:

A proposal to exclude solar energy development from critical desert tortoise connectivity areas was added late last year, but the proposal appears to have  been significantly weakened by industry lobbying, and now only amounts to words of discouragement from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that developers can ignore.”

You can surf right over to read the whole article at the link below:

Desert Solar Policy Codifies Status Quo

So do you see now what I am talking about? Is this serendipitous or what? How
about the chances that all these things can occur at the same time? Since when does Jupiter align with Mars, in such a neat fashion?

I stand by the title of this post. I believe any reasonable person will agree that with the release of all this land, and a new(actually old reliable) funding mechanism, global investors yearning for what they perceive is a safe harbor
investment that will actually pay them a return, the global financial mess, worries about global warming and climate change driving groups that should know better right into the very bosoms of the energy promoters, governments
interested in job creation allegedly, and the moneyed interests eager to inflate
the next bubble, and a diffident and disinterested public showing no interest in their preservation- our desert and other wilderness may very well
be, as we say in chess, reaching the endgame point.

Bill McDonald

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Nikon D70 and I visit the El Dorado Nature Preserve in Long Beach, California.

The weather was perfect with temperatures in the 70’s and clear skies, and the
lighting under the forest canopy was excellent considering that I was visiting
during the middle of the day with the sun directly overhead. This was the good
news. The bad news was that the battery was low and the camera settings were wrong, and I had a whole bunch of blurry photos. I also had the midrange
zoom, the Nikkor 70-300 as the only lens which limited some of my choices.

In hindsight, the kit lens, a short zoom, would have been the better choice.

This is a 100 acre or so oasis of wilderness with a stream and 2 lakes, in an
urban area that I have meaning to visit for a long time, and today I took the plunge. Here are a few photos from the excursion.
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Blurred to all get out but I do like the “accidental art” above.
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It is interesting how the light through the canopy illuminates the ferns.
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Macho, macho ------------ tortoise!
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A delicate bouquet and bokeh.
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California live oak grove above.
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Delicate flower.
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You don’t want none of this!
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Public service message to the local squirrel population.
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The metering worked in camera this time with a challenging scene to deal with, bright light and shadows.
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I will see you next time and you better have some food with you.
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That’s it guys. I am not pleased with my or the camera’s performance. The
battery almost died and I made the wrong lens choice. Now for sure, I will
return soon as I took many photos of ducks and squirrels that ran right toward
me( the furry ones) and preened contentedly within feet of me, and I failed to
get the shots. Here is the best duck picture that I took as a parting photo.
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Hope to see you soon.


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Nikon Coolpix P510 on the mountain, final verdict. Plus meeting up with a fellow blogger/photographer, Paul Lester.

Yesterday, it was my pleasure to show fellow blogger and photographer, Paul
Lester, a little of the southern California desert, in particular, the Palm Springs
Aerial Tramway and Mount Jacinto State Park. Paul is the photographer who
shot the amazing image at Joshua Tree National Park the other evening that I raved about in a reply to a reader’s comment here. You can view that image
on Paul’s fine blog here and his post about shooting up on the mountain here.
Warning! Be prepared for great photos and writing, the site may be habit forming!

We met at the tram station around 0900- no I wasn’t late- and yes I was playing Pink Floyd DSOTM on the Morongomobile’s Entertainment Center, with my desert rat hat I was easy for Paul to spot, plus being a pound or too overweight possibly, the added bulk made recognition easier, I am sure.

After introductions, we made our way up and into the rotating tram cars, which
they so kindly arranged to leave right when we were ready to sally forth, and the shooting(with cameras) began. Paul was cranking out the shots with his
big Nikon digital slr and I was too busy trying to stay balanced on the rotating tram floor and to get shots off with the extremely slow and frustrating P510.
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Taken as the tram car pulled away from the station. In the next shot, that is Paul framing a shot, fyi.
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Yes, those cliffs are tall and yes, it is a long way down!
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The view looking back.
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On the ascent, I noticed several subjects worthy of further looks in the future
for photographic study, but due to the unsure footing and the sheer sloooooowwwwwnnnnneeeeesssss of the P510 focus and processing, I
passed on taking the shots, but will do so with my Nikon D70 digital slr or any
of the many film cameras still owned, admittedly covered with dust; the most
ancient and classic ones fully capable of taking the shots.
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Above, the view  as your tramcar is about to dock up with the base station atop the mountain.
Below a view seen as walk out the back of the tram station up the mountain.
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Below are a couple of shots that do speak to the P510’s strength, the super zoom lens.
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After Paul spotted this little guy, we played peek-a-boo for a while.
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Let me just say for the record that Paul has the quickest eye spotting things
that I have seen in a long time. He spotted both of these critters, plus numerous birds, and other photographic opportunities way before me, if I saw
them at all.

We ended up walking a couple of the nature trails, taking photos and shooting
the breeze. Here are a few pics of the area.
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The guy in the photo above was a pretty good story teller. Never did tell us what a “midden” was. Look it up, I ain’t
telling either.
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I like this shot below.
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Same area.
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Also tried a couple of still life observations. Oh my God, we took the same shot! Look at Paul’s blog post!
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Okay, I confess. When I saw Paul photographing this I also took the shot Winking smile
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First let me say, I must have got hung up on pine cones.
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That’s about it folks. Just a couple more things. I really enjoyed meeting and
visiting with Paul, who like my father, seems to have never met a stranger.
It seemed like right away I was visiting with an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile,
when in fact, this was the first time we met in person. I hope to meet up with
Paul again, and next time, I look forward to showing him( and any of you readers with the interest) the wonderful and scenic Mojave National Preserve
and Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Who knows, there might be someone
reading this who could be the next “Bighorn Whisperer.”

Finally, the long awaited final verdict on my newest camera, the Nikon P510.
Grade overall: C+. For shooting bighorn, just for that reason alone, I am keeping the camera. But for anything with movement, such as shooting Blue
Jays etc: F. For video I give it an A- due to wind issues and the lack of an audio
jack for hooking up wind-resistant microphones. For other photography including closeups, it gets a solid B. Overall, I give the Nikon Coolpix P510
a solid C+ overall.

Having said all that, if you want to shoot bighorn sheep that are far up the hillside, run, don’t walk to the camera store and pick up one of these cameras!

Folks, again may I suggest that you go checkout Paul’s fine photography blog
where he discusses life, in writing and through the camera lens.

Hope to see you again out here on the backporch.