This rattlesnake decided to get in a standoff with my Jeep the other day while we were prowling around the outskirts of the El Paso Mountain Wilderness in Kern County. The Northern Mojave Rattlesnake is more commonly known as the Mojave Green because it often is a silver-green color that allows it to blend into the creosote scrubland it inhabits. It is considered to be the most deadly of all pit vipers because its venom contains a neurotoxin in addition to a hemotoxin. The venom of a Mojave Green is estimated to be as much as 16 times more potent than that of the Western Diamondback. Immediate treatment is required if you are bitten, so you don't want to mess around with this snake.
They are also more aggressive than Western Diamondback rattlesnakes (crotalus atrox). While other snakes will usually slither away if you give them a chance (stomping on the ground can help), the Mojave Green tends to prefer to stand its ground. This one refused to budge from the center of the trail for more than 15 minutes despite our remaining a good distance away once we spotted it. The upside is that I had more than enough time to grab a telephoto lens so I could photograph it from a safe distance. We didn't want to take a chance trying to drive over it, so we carefully chose a path around it where we would cause minimal damage to the plants.
The Mojave Green looks similar to the Western Diamondback. If it doesn't have the characteristic green color, the Mojave Green has a light stripe that extends from behind its eye to behind its jaw while on the Western Diamondback the stripe goes from behind the eye to intersect with the jaw, and the Mojave Green has 2 large scales between the supraoculars while the Western Diamondback has multiple scales, and near the tail where the diamonds fade the Mojave Green has narrow black rings that are often offset while the Western Diamondback has broad black and white rings that are fairly equal in width.
My husband had never heard a rattlesnake in the wild before. "That's not how I expected it to sound," he said. It's a buzzing sound, not unlike a large swarm of cicadas. It doesn't sound at all like a "rattle" if that's what you are expecting. You can listen to a Mojave Green rattle here on the California Herps website.
The snakes are out and about on warmer days this time of year, so be careful out there! Wear boots, watch where you're walking, and be especially careful when scrambling on rocks.
I guess it's fair to say that I took an extended hiatus from blogging, although it wasn't intentional. Writing for DrivingLine has made it a bit harder to find time to write for myself, but I think the biggest mental hurdle I need to overcome is that I don't want to post photos on my blog or upload them to my website before they are published on DrivingLine. There is nothing in my contract preventing me from doing so, but it just didn't seem like the right thing to do. I would never share event photos to my social media sites either, for the same reason. By the time the photos and article are published on DrivingLine, I've already turned my attention to the next thing on my plate and and honestly just haven't been making time to go back and even upload the photos to my own site. The reality is, that doesn't help me or my business. DrivingLine has a niche audience, so I know that I've been limiting my audience when I only rely on them to get eyes on my work. And I realized that I haven't even been blogging about all of the other client work and places I've been published, which frankly is pretty stupid of me. And to top it all off, I've put very little focus on any photography outside of the off road world. I need to find a way to make all this work better for me, which probably means making up a strict schedule of days to review my work from the previous month, a schedule of social media days, a schedule for blogging...Or something like that, I'll get it figured out. So if you don't read DrivingLine, don't give up on me yet please!!
I covered Tierra del Sol's Desert Safari at the beginning of the month. It was held at a new location on the Salton Sea and there wasn't an official trail run this year, so I concentrated on all of the fun at the new obstacle courses. My article on DrivingLine explains why they had to find a new venue and why the new trails weren't open in time for the event. There was a storm coming in, and the beautiful cloudy sky was a nice change from the typical solid blue sky we usually get here in Southern California. Overcast skies give a nice softbox effect with even light, none of the dreaded harsh light and bad shadows that I usually have to deal with when shooting natural light in the middle of the day in the desert. And you have to love those moody skies for some drama! The late afternoon light was so gorgeous that I really wished I could sneak away to do some personal photography. I only stayed one day this year; I had the flu and was miserable, so I went out shooting for DrivingLine in the morning and afternoon when the light was best, and I worked at the 4 Wheel To Heal booth the rest of the day.
Without a trail run I didn't shoot nearly as many photos as I normally would at this event. Since I was sick, I shot what I needed for the article and went home. Here is a slideshow with some of the images:
Or you can view larger images in the gallery on my website. In the gallery just click on any of the images to enter the lightbox where you can view them larger.
I didn't even stick around for the fireworks show this year, which I was looking forward to seeing in the new location. My photo of their fireworks show in 2014 was used on the Tierra del Sol website to promote this year's event. Prior to the event it had a countdown clock overlayed on it, and it looked really great on mobile devices.
It might surprise you to learn that I am a ham radio operator, as in full-on geek! It started with getting my Technician license so I could use a dual-band radio out on the trail. CB radio just doesn't cut it in some of the areas I travel, more Jeep clubs are moving to ham radio, and I wanted to be able to call for help if I ran into trouble when traveling in a remote area. After getting licensed I became fascinated with the technology, and I'm an autodidact; I can't stop learning new things, and when I decide to learn something I'm driven to learn it to a certain level of competency. I decided to study for my General license, which would give me HF privileges, and I joined the local ham radio club.
Somewhere along the way I found myself "involved"; I got certified by the National Weather Service as a SkyWarn Weather Spotter, and then I became a VE (Volunteer Examiner), which allows me to be a part of the team that administers licensing exams. Then it was just natural to go all the way while the information was still fresh in my head and prepare for my Extra exam. I haven't sat for it yet, but I plan on taking the exam in the month or so. I now know more electrical engineering, circuitry and antenna theory than I ever thought possible, as well as some pretty cool stuff like space weather.
Many people think only grumpy old men enjoy ham radio, but the South Orange Amateur Radio Association has nearly 250 members of all ages and about half of them are younger than I am! It's a great group of people and they are very helpful to new comers.
Every year the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) hosts Field Day at the end of June. Amateur radio operators across the country make contacts for a 24 hour period under simulated emergency conditions. It's part practice to keep up with skills, and part demonstration to the community how amateur radio is used to provide communications when the grid is down. Of course since I live in earthquake and wildfire country, this event got my interest on many levels, and since I spend so much time off the grid I knew I would learn skills that I might need in the future.
We set up operations at Gilleran Park in Mission Viejo, California. We were allowed to take 3 hours on Friday for set up, and the time was used to set up our portable towers and communications tent.
Entry classes are determined for the event by how many radios are used and their source of power. We were 3A, which meant we would have 3 radios operational for the duration of the event. One was dedicated to voice contacts, one was dedicated to CW (Morse Code), and the third was for whichever the operator preferred.
We took turns in shifts working the radios and assisting with logging. We also had a GOTA, or Get On the Air station, for newly licensed operators and members of the public to make radio contacts under the supervision of a mentor.
Mission Viejo RACES was there demonstrating their radio technology, including television and mesh networks. They also had a table of emergency preparedness information for the community. We had a food tent to keep people fed throughout the 24 hour event. We had an educational session led by MV RACES, and we held an exam session for 20 people, including a 12 year old girl who passed her Extra exam!
The turnout was fantastic. I have seen so many clubs complain about how few members show up for Field Day but we had over 100 people participate, a real testament to how well SOARA is run. It got a little hectic for me trying to work the event, attend the test session, and take photos. I was glad for some down time when most people left for the night and only a few of us stayed to work the overnight shift. I put the camera down and got to spend some time on the radio. And then our comms tent started flooding around 2:30am. The park forgot to turn off the sprinkler system for the night and we had to shut everything down while locating the sprinkler controls and turning them off. We had close to an inch of water on the concrete slab where our tent was located by the time we managed to get all of the sprinklers turned off. Water and electricity is not a good combination! There is no better way to practice operating under emergency conditions than to handle a real situation. We found a broom in someone's motorhome and swept out most of the water, set up the big fans to dry it out, and dried off all of the equipment. We were back up and running in an hour and half, not bad considering. I laid my head on a table to close my eyes for "just a minute" and was out cold until 5:30am.
I was absolutely exhausted the next day but I had such a great time with good people that I wish Field Day took place more than once a year.
Wish me luck on my Extra exam, I'm hoping my head doesn't explode from trying to memorize the mathematical calculations!! I'm ready to be done with it and put the studying behind me so I can concentrate on the learning.
Yeah I know I've really been slacking off on the blogging. I am trying to get back on track!
Last weekend I attended the Nitto Tire Auto Enthusiasts Day at Angel Stadium. The event was presented by DrivingLine, the automotive enthusiast magazine I shoot and write for. I spent most of the day in the DrivingLine booth handing out copies of the magazine (it was crazy hot and the crowds were unbelievable!) but I managed to sneak away to shoot some of the drifting demos that were going on all day.
Whenever you shoot something new you should always spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish and what shots you want to get. Since I had never photographed Formula Drift, I gave myself two goals. The first was to capture as much tire smoke as possible while still keeping the sponsor logos visible, which is much harder than you can imagine if you've never shot it before. All of the best track action occurs when you can hardly see through all of the smoke. I love this shot of Vaughn Gitten Jr. completely engulfed in tire smoke.
The second was to get an action shot with all five cars in it. I was shooting from elevated position, so I had the luxury of being able to see and shoot the entire track. It was wild trying to constantly zoom in and out to compose shots as I was panning with the cars as they drifted around the track, but I managed to get the shot I wanted. Vaughn Gitten Jr., Tanner Faust, Mad Mike Whiddett, Odi Bakchis and Matt Powers drifting together as a group around a pole.
I would have loved to be the one lone cameraman I spotted inside the track to get the shots showing how close the cars come to each other and the wall, but after my close call at King of the Hammers last February I was probably better off shooting from the platform this time!
All the rest was gravy, enjoy!
I'm not sure who was driving the Ford Mustang RTR-X that made a few appearances out on the track. I know that Vauggn Gitten Jr. owns the RTR (Ready To Rock) brand, but the driver was wearing a different helmet than the one Gitten was wearing while in his race Mustang. It sure is a gorgeous vehicle!
The toughest thing about shooting drifting is dodging the smoke and debris. Even on an elevated platform I had to often turn my back when the cars drifted right in front of me because the smoke was so thick and filled with bits of rubber from the tires, and I still managed to get a piece of debris in one eye. The track I was shooting had no dirt, which would make things even messier. For a good look at what it's like from a photographer's perspective to shoot an actual race with smoke and debris plumes heading directly at you, take a look at this video!