Friday, March 14, 2014

Oh Boy! A Corona Flat Top

A couple of weeks ago I took a chance and submitted a bid based on a blurry eBay ad and a hunch. The thinking was a) I "need" a Corona flat top, b) the poor presentation might inhibit other (smarter) bidders, and c) it's just fun sometimes to let it all out and throw down a few bucks on the whirl of the eBay roulette wheel.

The tidy package arrived yesterday unscathed by its trip from Pennsylvania, and I whipped out my box knife with anticipatory thrill. Anxiously I unwound a few layers of bubble wrap from what turned out to be a pristine case with ("What the heck is that?!) a knob poking from a curved slot in the case. 

Inside a nearly unscathed 1936 Corona Standard flat top, from the second year of production ...


... and those marks it does have represent the patina of years of careful use; the decal on the paper table worn by the passage of many sheets of paper and the wear spot on the front of the frame where someone's right palm had naturally rubbed while hitting the space bar. 

Other than the detached carriage cord, everything seems to work, albeit with the hesitancy of decades of slumber. I'm looking forward to waking it up this weekend. 

Stand by for my first flat top typecast.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Island in Time

The Point Reyes National Seashore

Looking north on Tomales Point, with my beloved "Minnie Winnie" and the historic Pierce Point Ranch in the distance. The Pacific Ocean is to the west (left) and Tomales Bay to the east.
From my vantage point on the southern part of Tomales Point is does indeed seem to be an island, with Tomales bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. But when the Point Reyes Peninsula was dubbed "Island in Time" in the late 1950's by a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, the sobriquet also captured its transitory nature, and the opportunity to preserve it from the pressures of development.

A pause to look back on Tomales Bay on my way to a hike on Tomales point
A mama elk in the Tomales Point preserve

Tomales Bay from Tomales Point

Where the Pacific Ocean meets California

Papa elk

Despite the apparent scowl, I really am quite happy here
On the Pierce Point Dairy Ranch, established about 1850. The Tomales Point trail starts here.

An 8-mile hike rates a PB&J snack, cup of tea, and a dip into "The Martian", by Andy Weir

Sundown near Elephant Rock

A paddling adventure on Drake's Esterro
Drake's Estero

A break during paddling Drake's Esterro to contemplate a 6-mile upwind paddle to return to the put-in at Drake's Bay Oyster Farm 
A trail to the ocean. 
I think one of life's great pleasures is to experience the sensations of a walk through woods to the ocean. On the Bear Valley and Miller Point Trail you are rarely out of earshot of the rippling of a creek, birdsong, and the earthy dampness of deep woods. Then there is a hint of a breeze carrying salt air, and finally the woods open up to the immensity of the ocean and the rhythmic wash of the surf.

Looking north from Miller Point
On the last day of my visit I decided on a pilgrimage of sorts to Miller Point. California's Congressman Clem Miller was key in preserving Point Reyes from developers. By the time funds were available to purchase the land bulldozers had already plowed up roads and building pads, and homes were under construction. Plans had called for a highway from San Francisco, boat harbor, restaurants,etc.

Even once the land was secured from the real estate developers it was not safe, as the park service had plans for a "theme park" development akin to the Yosemite catastrophe, with a huge campground, boat rentals, snack bars, and shops. Fortunately the preservation movement managed to grab the reins. Now this lovely land of beaches, sand dunes, rocky shorelines, lagoons, open pasture land, and forested mountains is as it was when I often visited it in the 1950's and 60's with aunts and uncles, with high school friends, and later with my children. 
Eric at Kehoe Beach, 1975
On Kehoe Beach

Monday, February 10, 2014

Gray Day Camera Play - Pt. Reyes Station, California

My photographic soul is firmly influenced by the lovely and pure tones of work by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Sebastião Salgado. So when I succumb to a little devil whispering in my ear to pump things up beyond "pure" photography, I feel a bit naughty. 

I never messed with tone and color in the film, darkroom, and wet chemistry days. It was challenge enough to expose and process to get that sweet range of gray scale tones with black and white film, and keep the temperature and strength of color processing chemistry just right.

But digital temps one to play. Post-processing sliders and presets in tools like Lightroom make it easy to try out effects beyond the norm. In-camera tools, like the Sony Nex-7 Picture Effects are also fun to experiment with.

So today while Hilda explored the used book store in Point Reyes Station, I explored the main and side streets of town, pumping up what otherwise would have been quite flat and lifeless images on a gray overcast day.

The Nex-7 provides a Picture Effect called "HDR Painting", which builds an HDR image from three photos taken in quick succession, then pumps that image up by enhancing detail and warmth. Pretty sophisticated math is going on during the few seconds the camera takes to process each image. Totally letting go, I took a couple of those over-the-top images and further pumped them up with added saturation and contrast presets in Lightroom.

I like to think Ansel would smile rather than cringe at the results.

These three photos were taken at Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station. Established in 1942, Toby's has grown to include a farmer's market, art gallery, coffee shop, gift shop, community center, children's playground, and more that I can't recall just now!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Flash Flood

Point Reyes Station, north of Olema
Winter in Northern California is normally a time of cool, restoring rains. But accustomed this winter to unseasonably warm and dry weather, Hilda and I saw no reason why the fine days should not continue for the week of trailer camping we had planned. We would spend that week at Olema Campground, a favorite spot of ours for several decades. It lies at the south end of Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco. To the west is Point Reyes National Seashore with miles-long ocean beaches, hiking trails, and paddling opportunities such as Drakes Estero, a tidal estuary opening onto Drake's Bay.

It was a planned weekend paddling meetup at Drake's Estero that drew us here. The rest of the week we would spend exploring old haunts, paddling on our own, and just being away from the to-do list. There was something in the weather forecast about sprinkles on the Saturday, but in the midst of a historic drought it was hard to imagine rain.

The south end of Tamales Bay
The rain began Wednesday night, continued through Thursday, Thursday night ... by Saturday we had forgotten kayaking plans and drifted into a pleasant milieu of reading, napping, eating, napping - completely delightful and then ... but let me tell the tale through some of my journal entries ...

Rainy Saturday at Olema Campground
At 9am Olema Creek begins to take over the campground
An hour later the water continues to rise - time to leave
Spanish moss near White House Pond, a popular paddling put-in in the marshes at the south end of Tomales Bay

Our two very fine travelling companions, without which nothing, and they know it.


Friday, January 31, 2014


It was a gray morning after weeks of bright sun. Any salt crust on the kayak left over from the Elkhorn Slough paddle was being rinsed off by the steady drizzle - there would be no playing in the water today. I took my oatmeal to that magical 55-inch window and pulled up a Netflix video, "Forests" to fill some quiet moments while planning what I expected would be a totally indoor day.

Enthralled by lovingly-photographed scenes of our northwest coast and woods, I was jarred by the appearance, in bright white bold font, of the words


I admit to being a bit annoyed at first, thinking, "How can I turn this off?!". But soon once again reminded myself of how precious our senses are, and how we take them for granted, etc.

How to best relate to those who have lost those gifts? Empathy is impossible, certainly not with pity. Perhaps simply by being aware of the preciousness of those gifts, and making best use of them. So ...

Minutes later during a lull in the sprinkle I leashed up the dogs and we headed out on a long walk with ears tuned not only for [BIRDS CHIRPING], but also [WIND RUSTLING] and [WATER GURGLING].

Of course the lull didn't last long, we got well dampened, so at home the doggies got well dried after kitchen-sink baths, and we all snuggled into the recliner in front of the wood stove for a bit of quiet time filled only with


"Moving Art: Forests"; directed by Louis Schwartzberg

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Singing the Songs of Pete Seeger

Even with buzzing strings and lost chords, the finest way to celebrate and honor this man is to sing his songs. The songbook pictured is the second we have owned - the first has fallen to pieces from much joyful use.

Splish Splash Piddle Paddle

Two weekends of paddling adventures on Elkhorn Slough and Lake Clementine have provided a needed break and made good use of our lovely weather here in Northern California. Normally January days would be gray, cool, and drizzly - time for inside work, reading and workshop projects. But while the eastern US is snowy and frozen, California is in a declared drought. We could ring our hands and fret about water shortages and wildfires this summer, but meanwhile, let's go places and play.

Elkhorn Slough, January 18-19, 2013
So last weekend I got up at 3 am and drove our happy little 1986 4-cylinder Toyota motorhome to Monterey Bay. There at Kirby Park on Elkhorn Slough I found about fourteen folks unloading bright-colored kayaks and organizing dry bags, binoculars, lunches, and figuring out what clothes to wear. It turned out that t-shirts and shorts were perfect for the warm, clear day.

Elkhorn Slough on Monterey Bay, Northern California
After warm greetings with friends I've been paddling with for several years, we headed out onto the water. Happy conversations initially echoed across the water as folks got caught up with who's been doing what, but soon we settled into contemplative appreciation of the slough environment.

Snowy egret
Elkhorn Slough, about seven miles long, is a tidal estuary on Monterey Bay, and a recognized birding area of international significance. Prior to the mid-18th century the Ohlone Coastal Indians had made their home here. The first Spanish contact was made by members of the Gaspar de Portola expedition, who named it El Estero Grande in 1769. By the second half of the 19th century Moss Landing, at the mouth of the slough, became a steamboat port for loading grain and sugar beets, and salt was harvested from evaporative ponds, or "Salinas". In the early 1900's a whaling station was active for a while, oysters were farmed, and dairying, still an important activity, was established. Hunting clubs also became an important activity. Areas of the slough diked for farmland during that time are now being restored as wildlife habitat.

Loading up at Kirby Park
Birds were scarce during our visit, possibly discouraged by the shotguns that were blasting all around us - the timing of our trip could have been better with regard to hunting seasons. This is certainly not to put down hunting and hunters - it is the licensing and other fees, and the resource work of hunting clubs, that fill a big slice of the resource pie that supports wildlife habitats like this one.

And the shotgun blasts certainly did not discourage the sea otters, who were everywhere, happily engaging in sea otter nooky. Seals (or sea lions) also happily lazed in the sun or followed us around in the water, oblivious to the hunters.

Paddling the upper Arm of Elkhorn Slough

Upper Arm, Elkhorn Slough

Sanderlings in evening light, Moss Landing

Harbor seals begging

Killdeer on the Lower Arm, Elkhorn Slough

Curious seal

Sea Otter

Dairy barn and paddlers on Elkhorn Slough
 Lake Clementine, January 25, 2013

 Lake Clementine is a reservoir on the North Fork of the American River near Auburn, California. It was built in 1939 to contain debris released by hydraulic gold mining. "Hydraulicking" as the mining technique was known, made use of water canons to release small amounts of gold from large amounts of ancient river sediments. The huge amounts of debris generated made its way down the rivers to clog irrigation canals and cause river flooding in California's Central Valley, which has been a major agricultural resource since the 1800's. With debris containment its only purpose, Lake Clementine maintains a constant water level, popular with skiers and wake-boarders in the summer, but generally calm and quiet for paddling in the winter.

Lake Clementine on the North Fork of the American River
Pre-launch prep near the dam on Lake Clementine
Tony is happiest when afloat - photo by Jim Snyder
The gentle pace of the paddle, a Meetup led by Sven, allows time for exploration of side channels. Photo by Jim Snyder.
Heading up Lake Clementine - about an 8.5 mile round trip paddle
Debbie exploring a secret landing - photo by Jim Snyder