Cal-Fire Fire Retardant Tanker, something you don’t want to see….

…until you want to see it 😉

Cal-Fire Fire retardant tanker.

Whenever I hear a plane circling I instinctively turn on either the fire dispatch channel or I go to Just the other day I noticed planes (plural) circling so I went to yubanet just to see how far away it was thinking it was no where close. To my surprise, it was at our neighborhoods biggest fear, the Greenhorn campground.

The greenhorn campground is at the bottom of the tree covered hill we and our neighbors live on. Unbelievable, I thought, and I went ouside to see how close the smoke was. I couldn’t see through the trees so I drove down the street which lined this hill.

Now I could see the smoke and it was very close so a neighbor and myself started to knock on doors just to make people aware if they were not already. As we are knocking on doors we start to hear the sirens down on the road below, siren after siren after siren (a good feeling). When we make it to the last house (closest house to the fire), Cal-fires’s firefighting helicopter arrives. As it is making it’s drops we can actually feel the pressure from the rotor blades, that’s how close it was.

Here’s a list of the equipment used on the fire, these people with this equipment held the fire to just 10 acres.

17 engines, 4 water tenders, 3 dozers and handcrews are assigned to the fire. Cal Fire, Ophir Hill, Peardale-Chicago Park, Grass Valley, Nevada County Consolidated and North San Juan units are on scene. Also responding are a Placer County Type III,  Newcastle B41 and Penryn B38.

I went back home thinking we were okay but also knowing that you never know with wildfire so I went to get prepared to evacuate. There were several calls on the phone, one was the automated evacuation warning from Nevada County. The others were from my wife Arlene who was at work but had been alerted to the fire.

We were just under a warning because the fire was moving East and we are West but I called Arlene and asked her to come home. As it turns out, we were woefully prepared to evacuate (at least I was). All I could think about saving were the dog and cat.

They had the fire under control in almost record time. The air tanker never had to make a drop, the helicopter and over 100 ground personnel took care of it.

As it turns out, it was great practice. When something like that happens you almost do not have time to think. That’s why you have to get prepared before it happens.

The campground photo courtesy of & Carl Johnson

Photography as a hobby

Is it expensive? It doesn’t have to be but it will be.

The pro’s like Ken Rockwell will tell you that it’s not the equipment that makes the great shot but as someone who just started two years ago let me say this,….once you get the bug, it’s never ending. The quest to have your photos look professional will take you to better and better equipment and better and better editing programs and to learn better and better techniques.

Some profess “No Filter”, meaning no editing but even Ansel Adams manipulated his photography. Yes, if you wish to just wait for the “golden hour” of light and hope that something unique happens at that time,…well,…good luck with that. Editing to me is just as artistic as the taking of the photo itself.

Let’s start fresh. My wife, ( some of you know her as Arlene ) studied photography in Jr College back in the 70’s. Her mentor was a friend of the family who was a professional news photographer with the Sacramento Bee. He gave her some of his old Nikon equipment and she was off taking mostly black & whites of dew drops and flowers. All the way up until two years ago,..she took ALL of the family photos as well as her own favorite types of photos.

I would try to use her camera at times but could never figure it out in time and I never cared enough to learn how to use it. We upgraded her Nikon D80 to a Nikon D7000 one year when a photographer friend of our Son’s went to Canon. Arlene took a photo of a young buck in our yard and…..oh man, “that looks professional” came out of my mouth, (place BUG in me here)

This photo started the bug in me just to see if I could take something like this. I bought Arlene a new Nikon D7200 and a DVD by Michael the Maven on how to use it (this was now my quest, to learn how to use these darn photo taking computers).

Learning about light and speed and depth of field, iso and f-stop and camera shake. Finding out that “auto” is just a normal picture but …auto is hard to beat sometimes. I’m someone who learns by trial and error,…the instructions are just in case I cannot figure it out. Well, trial and error can be SUPER frustrating, especially when you are talking about number equations with speed, aperture and ISO.

“In Digital Photography ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The same principles apply as in film photography – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain.

Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds. For example an indoor sports event when you want to freeze the action in lower light. However the higher the ISO you choose the noisier shots you will get. I’ll illustrate this below with two enlargements of shots that I just took – the one on the left is taken at 100 ISO and the one of the right at 3200 ISO (click to enlarge to see the full effect).” –

Perspective is one thing. When I first took on this hobby, I joined a website called It is a social media type of world wide photographers site where you upload your photo and it has about an hour to move up three categories, (fresh, Upcoming and Popular). Not knowing much about social media at the time I didn’t get it but I was quick to learn. Even the greatest photos would not move up without a LOT of followers.

So, with my OCD, I obsessed about getting followers but what happened to me next as I was  looking at all of this photography, (some great, some not so good), was that I was honing my eye to what was bad, good, great and popular photography.

Next thing for me was to try and achieve good to great to popular which meant ….editing.

I started out editing on Apple’s iPhoto. The funny thing about that is, I go back now and every photo that I revert back to original, the original is better than the edited version. The next question that comes up when you start editing is called RAW.

“A camera RAW image is an unprocessed photograph captured with a digital camera. It contains the raw image data captured by the camera’s sensor (or CCD), saved in proprietary file format specific to the camera manufacturer.” –

This is what led me into more expense, a better editing program and a “full Frame” camera so that I had more editing options. Again, this is how my OCD mind works, do not try this at home but….it does work. I bought Lightroom 6 ($143 on Amazon) and started in on my 10,000 hours (I have about 1,000 in so far)

I bought a Nikon D600 ( beginner pro full frame camera ) and I started taking photos. The little things all add up. I learned about the law of thirds on the DVD we bought, (check it out, it really works), I learned about angles, where the light is (front or back) shadows, when to back light, to see everything in the frame and about camera shake and sharpness of focus.

To do all of this I went MANUAL. Complete manual. Set my own aperture, speed, iso and I also bought a completely manual lens which forces you to hone your focusing eye.

All the photos above besides Arlene’s deer were taken today with this manual lens. It’s a hard thing to pin down perfect focus, it’s a hard thing to beat auto but….what would we do without goals 😉

Do you want to know the best way to learn photography? Just get a camera, any camera, and go and take pictures 😉