Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Alimony (2001 - 2013)

I only got one chance to meet her -- which was back in 2011 at Dewey. That one visit left me with some wonderful memories of the Mamadog of Sass.

Alimony came from Florida, and after her racing career she was a brood mama to a single litter. My good friend Aimee's husband was browsing photos on Greytalk when he came across this photo:

Photo copyright Jennifer Thomas
(I'm going to venture a guess that he turned into a puddle after seeing this because this is a pretty darn cool picture!)

They made arrangements to have Alimony transported from Florida to Tennessee, then picked her up and drove her further north to their home.

Having known Aimee a few years since I joined Greytalk, I've read the many stories she wrote about Ali. So when she said that she was bringing Alimony, Ali's daughter Flower (who might be the pup in the above picture), Dazzle (who I had met at Dewey when Aimee brought her in 2009), as well as her husband, I was pretty damned excited.

I tried to take a lot of Ali pictures. I doubt she had encountered someone so interested in  photographing her (besides Aimee), so if she was a bit curious (or a bit annoyed) about me I wasn't surprised by this look:

I will always remember her ears (remember, Greyhound ears always amuse me):

I think she just sassed me:

Late Sunday afternoon when we were relaxing on the beach and watching Flower hole-digging, Ali came over to inspect her daughter's progress:

I guess the hole-digging wasn't to Ali's liking ("You're doing it wrong!"), so:

Ali took over digging the hole:

I caught her with this look on her face late Saturday afternoon. I've always looked at this and wondered what she was thinking:

I also tried to get her silhouette during the sunrise:

This is one of my favorite pictures of Ali, along with Dazzle, Flower, and Aimee:

This photo of Aimee and Ali together is Aimee's favorite of all the photos I took of them:

The Mamadog of Sass left a lot of people with a lot of awfully good memories. I know I have some.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Minty (2003? - 2013) and Hoover (2006? - 2013)

Both taken before their time from smoke inhalation from an overnight fire at home last week.

Minty at Dewey Beach last year:

Hoover at Gettysburg last year:

(Minty: Shot with the Nikon D600 using the 18-35mm zoom at 18mm; aperture-priority with aperture set at f/4; camera set shutter speed to 1/1250 second; matrix-metered; auto white balance; normal JPG.

Hoover: Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 70-200mm VR zoom at 70mm; program mode; shutter speed 1/250 second at f/8; -0.3 exposure compensation; auto white balance; shot in RAW and converted in Lightroom.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Comet Pan-STARRS comes to town

Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) is the first of two comets this year (the other is Comet ISON that will be visible this November around Thanksgiving) that can be seen without binoculars or telescopes. Up until last week it had been visible in the southern hemisphere. Around the time it made its closest approach to the sun on 10 March it became visible to us in the northern hemisphere in evening twilight. But because of where it was in the sky relative to the sun it wouldn't become visible until 30 minutes after sunset.

12 and 13 March would be the best days to see it from Los Angeles. I went to Point Fermin in San Pedro on the evening of the10th to see if I could find it, but I couldn't -- it was lost in the glare of the setting sun. The plan for the 12th was to go to a friend's place on Dockweiler Beach (which is just south of LAX airport) and watch it from there because you needed an unobstructed view to the west. Unfortunately, although the weather has been good for the past several days and the skies clear, the afternoon of the 12th had fog appear in Santa Monica Bay and begin to move onshore. So much for watching the comet from the beach.

The peninsula south of me, which is topped by a hill, would be high enough above the clouds to see the comet. But my wife pointed out that there were a couple of look-outs lower down along the road that follows the peninsula's coastline that were worth checking, too. I decided that if the look-outs were covered in clouds then I would drive up the hill to a park near the top. When I drove by both look-outs the fog had gotten thick and crossed the coastline, so both locations were out.

I made it to the hilltop park with a few minutes to spare before sunset. Already there was a small crowd of comet-watchers lined up along the western edge of the park with their cameras, telescopes, and binoculars:

I set up at the very end of this grassy area so I wouldn't bother the more-experienced folks. I carried my 18-35mm zoom and my 70-200mm zoom. Using the 18-35mm this was my view to the west:

I switched to the 70-200mm. After I watched the sun set beneath a solid layer of low clouds above the Pacific Ocean, I just caught a glimpse of a very young crescent moon just a few hours old:

But the comet was not visible -- at least not to the naked eye.

About 35 minutes or so after sunset I finally saw it about using my wide-field binoculars. It was about three or four lunar diameters to the left of the moon:

It's the tiny white smudge just to the left of center in the photo. Its tail is pointing up.

I still hadn't seen it with my naked eyes; the binoculars were the best way to spot it. And even then it was best to avert your eyes from it in order to find it.

Once I was able to track it I adjusted some camera settings back-and-forth seeing what I could get:

I decided to zoom out to 70mm to get a sense of context of how the moon and comet appeared in the sky with the town of Rancho Palos Verdes in the foreground:

I made an adjustment or two as the pair of sky objects sank towards the fog that covered the ocean:

It was fortunate that I had a fast lens with me because it allowed enough light in to keep my exposures relatively short, and so minimized the chance of smearing the comet's image in the photo. I don't have a motorized mount to let me track an object across the sky.

I decided to take one last context shot before the comet and the moon set:

As both objects got closer to the fog bank, they turned increasingly rusty in color:

Just before both disappeared I watched the moon's image diffract into odd shapes:

Then, it was over, and I went home.

The following night I returned to the park, and brought my 300mm lens along with the 70-200mm. This time it took me longer to find it because the comet had moved some distance from the moon and so was harder to find. I didn't take quite as many pictures this time; the moon and comet being so close together was the thing to see. But this is what the comet looked in my 300mm:

But seeing it as the only object in the picture doesn't give you a sense of context. I switched back to my 70-200mm and shot a vertical format picture, then converted it to black-and-white using Lightroom:

It was interesting to see how much more stuff you can see in the b&w photo.

Comet Pan-STARRS is moving to the northwest and higher in the sky as it recedes from the sun. The past couple of days there have been high clouds to the west at sunset, so it hasn't been possible to photograph it. But I'm happy with what I have. Now I wait until Thanksgiving when Comet ISON arrives. It's going to be a bright one, if it stays true to predictions.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Unexpected departures

Within the span of a week I have learned of the passing of two sighthounds that I have chanced to photograph: one Greyhound (Arrow), and one Saluki (Parker). Both died unexpectedly.

Arrow was a Greyhound that I met after he'd been returned to Fastfriends in 2011 because of food-aggression issues that became too much for his initial adopter (who loved him very much) to overcome. He was a striking brindle boy -- maybe I should say "half-brindle" because he carried most of what little stripes he had on his left side. His head was split right down the middle: stripes on the left half, nothing on the right.

He went to the foster home of a long-standing volunteer, who diligently worked on his issues. Eventually, the volunteer adopted him to add to her pack.

It was today when I saw a picture of Arrow roaching for the camera that in the caption were the words "final picture." I was puzzled at first, then I realized and understood what she was saying, although I did not (and do not now) know the circumstances of what happened to him. The suddenness of his passing took my breath away. His stay in his new home was much too short, but I try to dwell on the fact that he was home and with people who loved him.

Parker was a Saluki that I am pretty sure I had seen at a previous Solvang Greyhound gathering. His owner introduced herself to me last year, and reintroduced herself to me this year. She told me that she was writing a travel piece about the gathering for the website Dogster, and so asked me for permission to use some of the photos that I was to take during the Gathering. I had photographed Parker being blessed by Fr. Gerald Barron of Santa Ines Mission in Solvang during the Blessing of the Hounds on Friday:

Later that afternoon, at the pizza dinner, Parker and his owner sat close to us. I grabbed a few shots of him as he was curled up on the grass underneath the party tent where we all ate:

He was a little shy and kept to himself.

Towards the end of last week I was told that a few days after returning from Solvang, Parker had died from hemangiosarcoma. He was full of cancer, but he gave no outward sign that he was in trouble. His owner will still write her travel piece, only now it has turned into a remembrance story. Perhaps a couple of my pictures will accompany her article in Dogster.

I've been thinking tonight about these two. Perhaps there is some comfort in that their passings were short, but I think that it is small comfort nonetheless. There are two big holes in two different households now, and though there will be others to take their place, their holes will not be filled.