January 2023 End Notes

With this sentence, the monthly End Notes for January 2023 begin. Yes indeed! I mean… please… after all this time, and so many of them written, how am I still supposed to come up with a witty and original introduction?! 😆 It’s the end of the month, and publishing the end notes is what I do then. Let’s get started!

The feature photo this month is from a fairly recent visit to Broken Hill, a well-visited and photographed landmark at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, with my photo club:

Conditions seemed to be promising — an incoming storm system provided clouds but alas, the colorful sunset that we had hoped for did not occur. I had the infrared camera with me because I wanted to photograph some of the Torrey Pines with it. I had not made “the switch” to my normal camera yet and since infrared photos benefit from direct light, I thought I might as well make a photo with the IR camera.

This photo was made just before the sun disappeared behind a solid bank of clouds of the incoming storm. I thought the framing, rather tight to avoid the very bright sky above, might not work too well, but once I switched the false-color photo to black & white, I felt like that it is probably the most compelling photo of Broken Hill I’ve ever made…

Weather & On The Trail

The month of January 2023 in San Diego ended with lightning, thunder and more beneficial rain. Before that, we had a few windy days with Santa Ana weather, a few mild and sunny days, plenty of rain during the weekend of our Death Valley trip (where we didn’t see too much rain, except on the drive in). The landscape is awakening and fresh green is showing everywhere. This has been the case in the desert east of us for quite a while already, and now spring arrives here as well. Bushrue is in bloom and so is Ceanothus verrucosus. Others shrubs are beginning to show buds, and fresh green lines the trails.

In the fall of 2022, I volunteered with the San Diego chapter of the California Native Plant Society to clean up a protected vernal pool site that had turned into a homeless camp. The homeless people were long gone, and a tremendous amount of trash was left behind. Over the course of two weekends, four full-size dumpsters were filled by volunteers, just in time before the winter rains arrived.

I happily agreed to document the return of life to the site with my camera, and on my very first visit in early January, I was lucky enough to witness these mating Variegated Meadowhawks laying eggs into one of the now “uncovered” vernal pools. It was heartening and positive to see the resilience of nature, and how quickly life returned!

In The Backyard

At home, we had an “invasion” of American Robins. I know that they’re among the most common birds in North America, but I have never seen even one of them before, in San Diego County, and what began as a couple of them drinking from the bird baths (they’re not interested in birdseed, only in the water) has turned into a flock that only seems to increase in size, descending into the big Brazilian Pepper shrubs, feasting on the berries. By now, it must be 50-60 birds that come and go, bringing lots of life, funny sounds and action to our backyard!

It’s not quite possible to accurately photograph the whole spectacle, but here are just ten of the birds, busily eating berries, in between two rain showers:

Combining the aforementioned weather with the birds, here’s “Robins and Rainbarrel” for you, a “field” recording that I made in on January 30th. :) Blends right in with some nice ambient music!

Robins and Rain Barrels, Rancho Bernardo, January 30, 1:21 PM

New Plant Portraits

It was about time to resume with my San Diego County Plant Portraits, in particular for the desert region, since that’s where the action is, right now. For quite a few of them, I’ve had photos for a long time, but during recent desert visits, I managed to get one or the other “missing” photo, like the one with the Physalis fruits. Here are the latest ones:

Palafoxia arida var. arida

Physalis crassifolia

Abronia villosa

Site Changes

Don’t roll your eyes at me now, but I have reverted from the stand-alone “Subscribe to Comments Reloaded” (StCR) plugin for WordPress to the commenting/notification system bundled with Jetpack. They have re-designed their notification mails and these do look quite good now. One of the advantages of Jetpack’s comment subscription is that one can directly reply to the notification email, and that reply will be added to the public discussion. The easier it is to participate in a conversation, the better it should be… I think. :)

One small disadvantage of StCR was that its subscription list needed some manual cleanup — not that it would happen much anyway, but I figured that no one would want to receive a follow-up notification to an ages old post. :) Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with StCR and I liked the plugin and the idea, but having one less plugin to think about seems beneficial. I’m sure that in a week or two I will remember, with a facepalm, “some other reason” why I had originally switched to StCR… ;)

Worth Your Time

Here are some articles that I hope you will find interesting:

In addition to the plant portrait mentioned above, I have also added this photo of Desert Sand Verbena to my “Freaks of Nature” gallery, which contains a small collection of photographs showing flowers expressing uncommon colors — in this case, white flowers on a plant that I’ve ever only seen showing pink ones!

Good Music

It feels like, the older I get, the more receptible I become to subtleties in music. Music that I would overall have deemed “harmless” or plain boring when I was younger. Michael Stearns created “Planetary Unfolding” in 1981 and even ten years ago, I would have probably dismissed it. It’s a good fit to be filed under “New Age” or “Space Ambient” and I really love the combination of the energetic, bubbling arpeggios in almost every track, with an overall very peaceful and calming atmosphere, positive and light. Maybe it’s just something that we need in our time? Give “Life in the Gravity Well” a try, or “As the Earth Kissed the Moon”.

Recent Sales

Thanks to the art buyers from New York, NY; Berkeley and Fresno, CA; Greensboro, NC; Charlottesville, VA; Duncan, BC, Canada!

If you made it all the way to here, thank you very much for your time and attention. I hope you enjoyed this month’s compilation. I should continue with the Death Valley travelogue, I know! I’m hoping to have the next article with many photos from Desolation Canyon ready soon.

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14 thoughts on “January 2023 End Notes”

  1. I see you are running a Robin drug den over there! ;-)

    The only thing I’ve noticed about Jetpack comments is the need to confirm a subscribe, which I turned off with StCR. Not sure if that is an option or not with Jetpack.

    Enjoyed the monthly update. Thank you for helping protect vernal pools!

    • You are right about the subscription confirmation. That, and managing them, is handled on wordpress.com so it’s more “locked in”. I can always switch back! xD

      Unlike those drunken Cedar Waxwings in Poland that I’ve read about, the Robins don’t seem be get drugged on those berries! Happy to hear that you enjoyed the post. Thank you, Mark.

  2. That does it. I will henceforth never think that infrared photography is just gimmicky. Your opening photograph here is just wonderful. I don’t even need to wonder what the scene looks like in a “straight” photograph. What you’ve made is just beautiful.

    • Thank you, Linda. I think of infrared photography more as a one-trick pony — but it does that one trick really, really good when the conditions are right! :) And for straight photographs… I’m not sure if those actually exist but I know what you mean. ;)

  3. I love the infrared photo from Torrey Pines. I guess it shows how much I’m out of touch but are you using a digital camera that is dedicated to infrared imaging or is it a setting on your regular camera?

    • Thanks, Alan! This is a dedicated camera that has been converted (the standard IR-blocking filter in front of the sensor is removed and replaced with an IR-pass filter). Companies like LifePixel, Kolari Vision and others do these conversion.

  4. Wow, that is a stunning opening photo, and plenty enough to make up for the lack of a witty introduction. :-) Seriously, though, it really is stunning. The contrast between the bright highlights and the shadows brings it to life and makes it sing.

    And speaking of singing, that rainbarrel created quite a drum beat for the robins to sing to.

    • That is quite a funny combination of sounds, isn’t it? I am shocked that you didn’t find my non-witty introduction witty itself! ;) But I’m happy to hear that you like the infrared photo. Thank you, Todd!

  5. Your capture of Broken Hill has to be the best I’ve ever seen Alex. Superb! And thanks for documenting the return of a vernal pool. I’d love to see more of that project. Hope you have the opportunity to use the images in some form to educate the public about these vanishing ecosystems. Great newsletter!

    • Thank you, Sandy! I think the CNPS San Diego chapter will put a website about the vernal pool site together. When it goes online and has my photos I’ll share a link, of course. :)

  6. I love the first photo – it’s a masterful use of infrared. It’s fun to see the dragonflies, too! Regarding WP comments, I don’t use any plugins and some months ago, WP started sending me duplicate emails for comments, which is so annoying. Not only that, but the two emails (also for replies, etc) often land in two different gmail categories – usually social and primary. And I used to get one email with multiple comments to a single post but now, I get a separate email for every single comment, which is also annoying. It all happened without me making any changes, as far as I know. My inbox is even more cluttered than it used to be. If there’s a super-simple solution please tell me! ;-)


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