Category Archives: Photos

Afternoon to Golden Hour: What a Difference 90 Minutes Makes

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The air has finally cleared up enough to see Downtown Los Angeles and the mountains. After several weeks of smoggy days, wildfire smoke, and occasional gloom, it’s nice to be able to see something other than a gray blur in the distance!

Also interesting: seeing how much the view changes from late afternoon to really late afternoon. These shots were taken at 4:22 and 5:52pm on the same day. Unfortunately I seem to have held my camera at two different heights, so the foreground jumps around, but the skyline and mountains are in nearly the same spots, and you can see not just different colors, but different details as the shadows move.

A quick note on cameras and cons

I brought my point-and-shoot Canon Powershot to Long Beach Comic Con on Saturday, using it for most of the indoor shots, without the flash. This may have been a mistake, as those photos were all blurrier than the ones I took with my phone. So on Sunday I brought the bigger FujiFilm camera…and had the same problem.

I think we’ve reached the point that, aside from optical zoom, the sensors on phones are good enough and the software is able to overcome the limitation of the optics when compared to point-and-shoot cameras, even the bigger ones. If I want better photos, I’m going to have to step up and buy a better class of camera.

One of these days I’ll get that DSLR…

County Fair-Pocalypse

On Thursday I took the day off from work and we went to the Orange County Fair. It was a particularly bizarre visit because Costa Mesa was beneath the smoke plume from the Holy Fire (so named because it started in Holy Jim Canyon) burning in the Santa Ana mountains.

The sky, except for clear blue patches to the west and south, was a yellowish brown. The sunlight was dim and yellow.

[Looking up at a log ride against clouds of brownish smoke.]

When we arrived, the entire ticket sales system was down. All the booths. All the self-serve kiosks. You couldn’t buy tickets for any of the rides, unless you could find one of the wandering cash-only ticket sellers, roaming the fair like quest-giver NPCs.

[Looking up at a Ferris Wheel against clouds of yellowish-brown smoke.]

We did eventually find someone who could sell us tickets. At that point, the sun emerged briefly through a break in the smoke. The deep red-orange disc was dim enough to look at comfortably, and lit up the fissures in the cloud a lurid red.

[Crowds at the fair, and rides, with smoke above and some blue sky in the distance.]

Fair food keeps getting more and more outrageous. Deep fried Twinkie dogs and Zucchini Weenies have been joined by triple-decker donut burgers, chicken-in-a-waffle-on-a-stick, and the donut chicken and ice cream sandwich. But for sheer “because we can” ridiculousness: deep-fried filet mignon. What a waste.

[Food stand selling fried...everything.]

It was early evening by the time we left, and as we walked to the gate closest to where we’d parked, we saw a bright orange line in the distance. Was it the glow of the flames behind the mountain? Or the flames themselves on top of the ridge? We were too far away to tell. But that line shimmered, and we watched a deeper orange glow appear and fade behind another part of the ridge. It’s hard to be sure, but I think it might be burning in the valley between the two peaks of Saddleback.

[Night view: Mostly black, with an orange line silhouetting the edge of a mountain.]

Eye(s) of the Tiger

Tiger staring through a chain link fence

The tiger was a lot closer to the fence than I expected, watching us tourists with a disdainful look as it lounged in the afternoon heat. The fence mostly blurred out of view, but I didn’t notice a dry leaf in front of its face to the left of its mouth, leaving a brown splotch in the camera’s view. The tigers at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park have quite a bit of space, and this isn’t the only shade, which makes me think they were people watching. It’s an intriguing thought. And a disturbing one!

Looking at the photo reminded me: Tigers and other large cats have round pupils, unlike housecats. I read an article a while back on a study that linked pupil shape to ecological niche: Horizontal pupils mainly appear in prey animals (sheep and goats, for instance), and vertical pupils appear primarily in ambush predators who are active in both day and night, and whose heads are low to the ground (like snakes and smaller cats). Horizontal pupils handle glare better and offer a wider visual field. Vertical pupils adjust to a greater range of light levels and, by narrowing the depth of field, offer better distance cues…but that effect is stronger when your eyes are close to the ground. Higher off the ground, the vertical slits don’t help as much, so bigger cats like lions kept round pupils.

Expanded from a post at Photog.social. More photos from trips to the Safari Park in this Flickr album.

Double Solar Halo

Thin clouds and contrails cross the sky. A bright rainbow-like ring circles a spot just out of view above the frame. A fainter rainbow-like line runs across the sky below it.

Two solar ice halos spotted at lunch today.

The 22° halo around the sun is really bright and clear, and not that uncommon even in Los Angeles. I’ve seen so many that I still take photos, but I often forget to post them unless there’s something unusual about the view.

The circumhorizon arc below it, on the other hand, I’ve only seen a few times, usually fragments. It’s faint, but it’s the longest and least wispy of these arcs that I’ve seen (though the best was probably this one from 2010).

The lower one could be an infralateral arc. It wasn’t quite long enough to tell in person whether it curved upward or was parallel to the horizon, and it’s hard to tell how much of the curve in the photo is due to lens distortion. But according to Atmospheric Optics, they’re a lot rarer than circumhorizon arcs.

It’s cool to be able to get pictures of these with my phone. There was a time I’d run to get a camera and hope it wouldn’t fade first.

Saturation enhanced. It was really hazy!