An old friend

Last Saturday in the afternoon I felt a spontaneous urge to get out and take a good long walk with Toni. The skies were pretty clear and boring at the coast, but I saw nice clouds towering over the mountains in the east – Laguna Mountains was an obvious destination. Traffic permitting, I can reach the Laguna Meadows trailhead along Sunrise Highway in about an hour.

Black Oak on a knoll at Laguna Meadows, Mount Laguna, San Diego County, California. April 2014.
An Old Friend — bare Black Oak on a rocky knoll at the meadows, Laguna Mountains, California. April 2014.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten Toni’s leash at home. I keep one leash and collar in the car so we’re always ready for a walk – but I had the car serviced, and thus emptied all the stowaway places and removed everything from it. Bummer!

Within the first ten or fifteen minutes of walking, Toni went after three squirrels (she’s part Shiba Inu, a breed that is known for strong prey drive, especially for little rodents) and I was becoming a bit annoyed… :-} So I built an improv collar and leash from my belt and the strap of my camera bag. It sure must have looked funny – a little dog with a gigantic black collar and weird looking leash, and a guy constantly pulling up his pants… ;-)

Once I reached the little pond called Water of the Woods I slowed down and wandered around off the trail, just taking in the landscape, and looking for new and different angles and points of view. The meadows are exceptionally dry for this time of year, a direct result of the California drought. Usually, Big Laguna is filled to the brim and overflowing at the little earthen dam, turning the meadows below it into a soggy bog – this year however, the water level is as low as one would expect it in October or November, after a long summer.

This bare Black Oak on it’s little rocky knoll is unavoidable as a center of attention between Water of the Woods and Big Laguna – it stands free and relatively isolated, and I’ve hiked past it many many times, in different seasons and by day and night. Some nearby granite boulders with morteros are evidence that this place was popular among the Kumeyaay too, long before we came along.

Also, since my D800 is still in repair because of the broken 10-pin connector, I’ve been using the D700 (another old friend), and it’s surprisingly different. I wouldn’t have expected that. The D800 has a 100% viewfinder, the D700’s only covers 95% – I’m so used to the precise framing that is possible with the D800, I was puzzled how sloppy my compositions were with the D700 when I imported the photos. A twig sticking into the side of the frame here, a little rock cut off at the corner there – those little things that destroy balance and harmony in an image.

This is all the more painful because I has to crop the images, reducing the D700’s “low” 12 megapixel resolution even more (and needless to say, I threw away more pixels by going with a 4:5 crop for the above photo).

And it’s also quite noticeable just how much better the data of the D800 is: the shadows of the D700 are really noisier than the D800’s. Granted, that’s complaining on a very high level, but it sure does tell me how spoiled I am by the D800 sensor and it’s image quality… :)

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