February 2022 End Notes

Wow, February was an interesting and — who would have thought? — enjoyable month*. Which had to do with the weather, some travels, some local hikes, and how much I’m enjoying building my photo archive. All that and more, as usual, in my monthly End Notes… and all you have to do is continue reading! ;-)

Portfolio Additions

This month, the portfolio additions are mixed into the End Notes. The Desert Florals portfolio received quite a few updates, with images made recently, during our hikes in Death Valley and Anza Borrego. My Black & White Favorites gallery does not get a lot of updates on the other hand, because black & white work in general has turned into a bit of an outlier for me. But when I saw the moon in the clear blue sky high over the snow-covered Charleston Peak in Nevada from Dante’s View, I immediately thought of a monochrome rendition with stark contrast. I quite like that result. Last not least, the More Intimate portfolio grew again, and the latest addition is also the feature image for this post. :)

The Weather & On The Trail

February began like January ended: with more Santa Ana weather. Cold nights, warm days, clear skies, dry air. I didn’t think I could get even more tired of it, but then the winds picked up, it got warmer, and everything’s got electrically charged too. Royally annoying. Our trails became dry and dusty like they’d be in the middle of summer!

Luckily, we had one or two overcast days early in the month, and I was out on a trail that I had never hiked before. It was an absolutely treat. I’m grateful for the resilient plants we have, and the late December rains. On the north-facing slope of Mount Woodson, I found plenty of nature’s beauty to immerse myself in for a couple of hours, and it’s a place that I’m already looking forward to returning to, as spring progresses.

Best of all, along a section of the trail grows a plant that I had never heard of before, a beautiful shrub called Golden Currant. I had to spend a lot of time to photograph it, of course. Future plant portrait stuff. :) Back home I found that there are two varieties of the plant and the easiest way to keep them apart is by their fragrance: one has a spicy smell, the other no odor at all. Shuwen and I returned to the trail to sniff and secure the ID. :)

Ribes aureum var. gracillimum (Golden Currant), Poway, California; February 2022.
Ribes aureum var. gracillimum (Golden Currant), Poway, California; February 2022.

We did get a bit of rain in the second half of February. Finally! It also got crazy cold right after this storm, so we had some pretty intense temperature swings in February — from heat with over 90°F early in the month to freezing temperatures after this rainstorm. I’m grateful for it all!

We ❤️ Death Valley

In between these extremes, we went out of town for a couple of days, to Death Valley — twice! On the first trip, the weather was much the same as the one we left in San Diego: warm and with clear blue skies. But at least it’s Death Valley! A place so vast, abstract and fascinating that the weather doesn’t matter that much. It’s enjoyable no matter what.

We stayed outside of the park in Beatty, Nevada on our first trip, drove into the park in the morning, did some canyon hikes, and were out in the central basin most evenings before going back to Beatty for dinner. Canyon hikes are so enjoyable. No matter what time of the day and what light you have, there’s always something to photograph in them!

We enjoyed it so much that we decided to go back while the weather and our schedules would allow for it. :) On the second trip, from which we returned last night (which is the reason why these End Notes didn’t go out as usual, on the morning of the last day of the month), the weather was more mixed: clear skies and relatively cold, then windy and partially overcast. I’ve gotten my Death Valley fix for the moment!

But that’s Death Valley only, of course! ;) After the canyon hikes we did there, I was eager and am still eager to do more canyon hikes in Anza Borrego with Shuwen and our friends, while the desert hiking seasons lasts. On one such hike, between the two Death Valley trips, we hiked into Hornblende Canyon, where the Desert Apricot shrubs were in an astonishing bloom. They are quite fragrant, and in some spots in the canyon the sweet and floral aroma was almost a bit too much.

Dog Rescue

Not so exciting was that, upon returning to the car from one of our canyon hikes during the first Death Valley trip, we found a dog inside a car parked next to us! What the hell?! It was early afternoon at that point, and 87°F (30.5°C). The car’s owner had left the windows rolled down only about ~2 inches, and the dog inside was panting frantically. I tried the driver’s door and luckily, they forgot to lock the car! (this is about the only thing that speaks in their favor.)

I opened all the car’s doors. The dog, a girl, had entangled herself so heavily with her leash that she could barely move in the vehicle. After I untangled her, she drank half a liter of water that I offered her. When I tried to get her out of the car and into the shade she didn’t want to come out, too spooked and confused, perhaps. The wind was warm, but it did help to bring the temperature in the car down once the doors were open.

We ate our sandwiches for a late lunch and decided to wait. After a while, I gave the dog another half liter of water, which the poor thing also drank, entirely. After more than half an hour of waiting, still no one. Unbelievable! And no cell reception at all, of course. Now what?

Luckily, this particular trailhead was pretty close to Furnace Creek. I left all doors of the car open, made sure the dog was secured, and we drove over to the visitor center to alert a ranger. As we left the parking lot, the ranger’s truck was already on the street, with siren and flashing lights. Damn right, siren and flashing lights for a dog in distress! I loved it. And while I don’t want to wish anyone anything bad, I do hope that the owner got a highly educative citation. 🤨

New Plant Portraits

Following is a list of the new “Plant Portraits” that I’ve added in February. They are not part of the regular blog post notifications and weekly/monthly updates, anymore. Since I often publish them in batches, I figured it might be a bit too much  (the only place where they still show up directly is in the RSS feed for my site). I’ve sent out a “manual” notification of the last batch of three to email followers, but thought it might still be a good idea to include the new ones here in the End Notes, as well.

If you’ve seen them already: just keep on scrolling! Otherwise, here we go. :) First, an unexpected find in the desert: Crossosoma bigelovii, Bigelow’s Crossosoma (among many other common names), recently photographed in Anza Borrego Desert State Park:

Crossosoma bigelovii

Next, the most iconic plant in the sage scrub plant community, Artemisia californica:

Artemisia californica

Third, a familiar sight in the chaparral and in riparian woodlands, very showy in winter, due to its red berries:

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Fourth, another plant with red berries, Summer Holly:

Comarostaphylis diversifolia ssp. diversifolia

Fifth, a plant with red flowers!

Ribes speciosum

I also continuously upload more images to my plant photo archive, where browsing and most of all searching is very easy. You can search by scientific name, common name, location, color of the flowers where it applies, and combinations thereof. Give it a try! Or, if you can’t find the photo you’re looking for, you can always simply ask me, of course. :)

Archive Building

In “Pieces Falling Into Place” I described why I switched my online photo archive from this WordPress site to PhotoShelter, and I thought I’d include an update here: I enjoy building the archive on PhotoShelter, very much. It’s freeing to do everything in Lightroom and then upload the files (or update them), without having to think about where they should be “attached to” (in WordPress), the online categories to file them into, and most of all how they can be properly filtered, searched, found, and displayed.

The search in particular is what I really like about PhotoShelter. Since I’ve been mostly good about keywording my photos within Lightroom, those keywords can be searched, and PhotoShelter’s search feature is quite comprehensive! For example, here’s a search that returns all close-ups of blue herbs.

The possibility to search like this is one of the reasons why I’ve refrained from creating more finely grained galleries and stuck to a rather general folder structure in the archive, at least for now. Maybe at some point it will be useful to add a few more “themed” archive galleries, especially as I upload more photos (right now over >1600 are online, far from the >5000 that are here on the WordPress site). We’ll see. :)

Archive Additions

I thought about how I’d handle my “archive additions” from now on, since I’m using PhotoShelter for my online archive now. In the past, I had added these photos here, to visually enrich the monthly end notes. But unless the photos also go into a portfolio, gallery, or blog post, I’m not going to upload them to WordPress in addition to PhotoShelter.

After some contemplation, I decided to created an “unlisted” PhotoShelter gallery instead, which can be viewed here: (link will open in a new browser tab)

Archive Additions

This gallery is sorted by upload date and the latest upload is always at the top (all other archive galleries are sorted by capture date in reverse chronological order). The link doesn’t change, but I’ll replace the photos at some point (perhaps mid month?) and move the oldest ones out. The gallery is “unlisted” because the photos are also filed into their respective categories at this point. I’m hoping that this way, I can still get you to take a peek at the most recent uploads :) if you’re interested, but also keep things neat & tidy. I guess I’ll find out how that will work in the mid to long term.

I also considered embedded the images here. The photo of the Golden Current is a PhotoShelter embed — they’re easy and except for the (currently, auto-genereated) watermark, they don’t look any different. But what if I decide to remove an image from the archive? Broken embeds would remain, so I’ll have to choose carefully. The Golden Currant seemed like a pretty safe choice. :)

Site Changes

The Death Valley trips were a good opportunity to test my own site on slow cellular connections 😬 and the font rendition didn’t exactly make me happy — I was using a Google font (“ABeeZee”) for the body text, but on slow connections, even this small resource took a moment to load, making the text jump and blink when the standard font was replaced with the Google font. It’s not something that one would ever notice on a fast cellular or WiFi connection! I reverted to one of the “standard” system fonts, namely “Verdana”, which shouldn’t require loading of a remote resource, at all.

The other change is on the start page — I had used the WebP format for the logo and the three current images there, but this leads to problems for Mac users who are using the Safari browser and are stuck on a version of Mac OS that doesn’t support WebP (most likely, Mac OS Catalina). This only affects Safari because it uses the system to render images. Many users have switched to a alternative browsers to avoid this**, it’s not something that I can take for granted. So at least on the home page, I reverted to JPEG images for now.

Last not least, I downgraded my hosting with GreenGeeks from the “Premium” to the “Pro” plan, which saves me the exact amount of money that PhotoShelter costs. Since the archive search/filtering doesn’t eat CPU cycles here anymore, I figured I won’t need the added performance. I don’t notice any difference (I think…) and I hope you don’t, either! 😅

The Rest

In the backyard, there’s a hummingbird nest. Oh boy, another bird’s nest! I noticed it one morning, when a very energetic Allen’s hummingbird buzzed around me as I was getting water from our rain barrels. I’m not making photos of it, to draw as little attention to it as possible. The rain barrels are also partially off limits, and I blocked the gate on that side of the house as well. Keeping my fingers crossed!

I ended February with a talk to the San Diego Photo Naturalists, giving their members an introduction to Lightroom’s local adjustment features (now often called masking). I have a number of talks and presentations that are mostly “ready to go” (I continuously revise and update them, of course). You can find the full list here: Talks, Teaching, Presentations, Workshops, Judging.

Recent Sales

Last not least, thanks a lot to the art buyer from San Diego, California for the print purchase in February!

Your Support

And that’s it for the month of February. Thanks for reading if you made it all the way through. I hope you find the photos and words entertaining and worth your while. Perhaps so much that you can support me with a donation? I’m trying to cut out “middle men” as much as possible. No Patreon, no Substack, no Medium, no WordPress “easy” payment buttons — they all want their cut! My various subscription “plans” are all powered by PayPal — this way, most of what you decided to give actually reaches me.

But running my photography business also made me keenly aware of the many subscription-based services that are out there, in the WordPress plugin ecosystem and everywhere: a newsletter here for just $3/month, a podcast there for $5/month, and so on, and so on. In and by itself, a single $3/month subscription may not seem like much, but the sum of them all adds up quickly and, in my case, sadly made me drop a couple of newsletters when they went subscription only.***

So I’ve decided to add a new subscription plan — going with the food and beverage themed existing ones, and inspired by our recent trips where we’ve made stops at gas stations to not only put on gas, but also get a small thermos of coffee refilled, I’m calling this one the “Refill”. :)

If you care to take a look and consider supporting me, I’d be most appreciative. Thanks!


*) excluding the craptacular events that unfolded in Ukraine after this introduction was written. :(

**) I recommend Firefox or, if you need a WebKit-based browser, Vivaldi, which is based on Chromium (Chrome itself seems too hungry for data).

***) My blog posts and email notifications/follow options will all remain free and open to the public. A subscription via PayPal is voluntary and on an honor-based system.


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10 thoughts on “February 2022 End Notes”

  1. Dog saviors deserve a special place in this world, and careless owners as well (just in the opposite direction).

    Looks like you had a really busy month, people with old systems must be a real pain to accommodate. ;p

    Reply
    • Oh, you know Apple users: they’re always a bit of a pain to deal with. ;)

      With regards to the dog… it’s the lack of common sense that I find so very irritating. I’d like to think that no one’s an idiot on purpose… (on the other hand, this is still America, so… hmmm… xD)

      Reply
  2. Great write-up Alex as always! Loved the dog rescue story and the B&W moon shot over the snow covered mountains. Happy to hear you’re becoming sort of a Death Valley addict too.
    I might head out in that direction around March 10th too. Got a 4 day weekend. Maybe I’ll pay the Eureka Dunes another visit. Still don’t have a 4×4, otherwise I would head to Saline Valley…

    Reply
  3. I hate hearing stories of pets (or kids) stuck in hot cars. Not good at all. As you said, hopefully most do so out of simple ignorance, and hopefully the rangers were able to help them overcome that so there’s not a next time. Nice job on your part.

    Glad to hear you made a second trip out to Death Valley. And that San Diego skyline at night shot is quite a photo. I’ve never tried creating one of that style, what with my early bedtime and all. :-)

    Reply
    • Thanks, Todd. I don’t recall exactly when I made that photo of the skyline, but down here sunsets are pretty early even in the spring and summer. Winter is always an option if you need to go to bed early. ;)

      Reply
  4. Thanks for caring for that dog and telling the story. I prefer to think it was ignorance, too, but sometimes ignorance borders on evil. I’m glad you had fun in DV…and you keep finding new places to hike…and you found a new plant! We have a few Ribes here – R. sanguineum, is a major star of early spring. I’ve seen it planted in a pot on the terrace of a Belgian blogger. ;-) The one you found has a charming, almost cartoonish spirit – the leaves are so simple and the flowers are so bright and disingenuous. Nice!

    Reply

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