Showing posts with label California. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter

Who is Matt Ritter?


Matt Ritter is a biology professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, very near my home in Paso Robles, California. I'm very interested in the plants that grow in my area, the ones I see in the streets, in the parks, and in the yards of my neighbors. I like identifying them and photographing them. That's one reason I decided to take a guided tour of the trees in City Park at the art festival there a few years ago. Matt Ritter led that walk. I saw how knowledgeable he was.  Afterward I visited the native plant booth where his book, A Californian's Guide to the Trees Among Us, was for sale. I purchased it. I've never been sorry. I've owned the book since 2011 and I use it several times each month.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter


Why I Like Dr. Ritter's Trees Among Us


I have many field guides for trees. So why did I buy yet another one? Dr. Ritter's book has gorgeous overview color photos of most of the trees. You see the tree's shape and usually a closeup of the bark, the leaves, and even the fruits or seed pods. Most tree pages have an inset that gives information about other trees that may be confused with the tree pictured. If a tree has many different species living in California, there may be an inset that helps you see the differences and identify the individual species.

Whereas my Peterson Field Guide to Western Trees has maps, color photos of trees and fruits, and detailed plant descriptions, it doesn't have the same kind of photos of entire trees. Trees Among Us shows photos of some of the large trees next to buildings so one can better see their actual size. The descriptions of the trees also are more interesting to those of us who are not botanists. In some cases we learn about the tree's history in California -- how it got here, how it's been used, or something else special about it. The introduction provides classification and other scientific information. If you live in California and love trees, you really need to get this book.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
A Catalpa Tree I Identified with Help from The Trees Among Us


California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora


Our Country Registrar has an office above the Atascadero Library, and my husband decided to fill out his early ballot in the library and then take it to the clerk. I had already turned my ballot in, so I checked the new books on the shelf. That's how I found Matt Ritter's California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora. I was quite excited and checked it out immediately to look it over. I fully intend to buy it when I have to return it.

This book describes the native flowers, trees, and shrubs one will be most likely to see when exploring California's forests, trails, and scenic routes. Habitats range from shrublands to beaches, desert, forest and everything in between. Plant entries are arranged by their habitat.  There are over 1000 color photos and photo collages (showing various parts of plants), along with maps showing the range of most pictured plants. You may see a field of wildflowers along with a close up shot of a single plant. As in Trees Among Us, there are stories and background information on the plants and their origins (if non-native) and their uses by native peoples. I did not find a lot of duplication between the trees in this book and the trees in California Plants. Trees Among Us concentrates more on urban and suburban trees than those that are uncultivated.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
California Plants has a lot to say about this wild mustard.


 At the back of the book there's a section featuring non-native plants. It includes many of the weeds I've found in my garden. You will also find a glossary, bibliography, list of online resources and botanical gardens, a tree identification flowchart, a wildflower identification color chart, and an index.

Although I have other wildflower books, The Audubon guides cover too much territory, have smaller photos, and separate photos from their descriptions. The Peterson Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers is arranged by color, form and detail. Most of its drawings are not in color but black and white. There aren't any photos. And there aren't any trees or shrubs. Dr. Ritter's book has everything -- not just flowers.

Plants of San Luis Obispo: Their Lives and Stories


This is similar to California Plants but limits itself to 206 plants found in and near San Luis Obispo. Like Ritter's other books, it has full-color photos, but no range maps. I have compared the entries for some of the plants that appear in both books, and they are not identical. Others I have compared are identical but an identical photo may be of better quality in one book or the other. In some cases the photos are different. If you have to choose, I'd go with California Plants, since it's more complete.




My Recommendation 


These books are all wonderful additions to any California nature lover or gardener's library. I'm a nature and gardening blogger and find them the most useful books I have for identifying what I see when I go on photo walks. These books are beside me when I start trying to figure out the names of the plants I've seen and photographed. These books would be welcomed as gifts by California hikers, campers, nature photographers, and gardeners who like understanding what they see.

You may also be interested in my review of Nature's Everyday Mysteries. See all Book reviews on this site here.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
I identified this redwood by using The Trees Among Us




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Photographing the Salinas River: A Review

Watching the Salinas River Go By


The Salinas River was not part of my life until 1995, when my mother moved to a part of Paso Robles California only three blocks from river access. It was the first time I had lived near a real river. I grew up in Los Angeles County, and the only rivers I saw were mostly empty cement waterways that only filled after heavy rains. When we lived near Seattle for four months I was delighted to see some real rivers. I had always wanted to live near one, and now I live in Mom's house where the Salinas River is a short walk away. I love to watch it.

Photographing the Salinas River: A Review
An Ideal Place to Sit and Watch the Salinas River in Paso Robles, taken with Nikon Coolpix S9300

Getting to Know and Photograph the River


Once I had such easy access to the Salinas River, I began to study it and observe and photograph it on a regular basis. The Salinas is a subterranean river. That means I don't see it most of the year because it's flowing underground. If we get heavy rains, it becomes visible again for a few weeks and then disappears from sight. I try to make the most of the weeks when I'm able to photograph the flowing river. I have put many of my Salinas River photographs on puzzles, greeting cards, posters, postcards, and other print-on-demand products at Zazzle. You can see most of those products here. Among them are a poster and greeting card of the bench photo above.

I just made a new poster of my favorite river shot. The river always makes me feel peaceful as it flows by me. So I added a bit of text that reminds me of one of my favorite hymns: "Like a River Glorious"

Here is my new poster. For ordering information, please click the photo. If you'd prefer to have the poster without the words or if you want to change the words, it's easy to do once you click through to Zazzle and click to customize.



You can listen to the hymn here. Sample the many digital professional recordings of the hymn on Amazon.




The Day the Salinas River Came to Me


One January day I had been walking in the dry riverbed after some recent rains, hoping the river was visible again. I didn't see much more than a few puddles. I was walking away with my camera to return to the riverbank when suddenly the river first trickled and then rushed toward me. I was able to capture it on video. I also got some still shots. You can see the video and the photographs I was able to capture that day and also learn more about the river in this article: The Salinas River: Now You See It. Some of my products also feature photos you will see on that page.

What I Like about Photographing the Salinas River


Access to the river from Larry Moore Park is easy. It's also easy to find a parking place beside or very near this neighborhood park. I get some interesting sunset shots over the river if I walk the river trail at dusk. Here are a couple of them.

Photographing the Salinas River: A Review
Taken with my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS



Photographing the Salinas River: A Review
Taken with my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS

I can also find a wide variety of native plants, weeds, and trees to photograph beside or even in the river. I also see a lot of driftwood. I especially like this shot of a log in the river.

Photographing the Salinas River: A Review
Taken with Nikon Coolpix S8200


The sand on the bank also provides some interesting shots. In the photo below, you see footprints leading down to the river.

Photographing the Salinas River: A Review
Taken with my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS


Sometimes one may see some unexpected wildlife. Birds are common, but hard for me to shoot. Rabbits, though,  appear quite often at dusk. I almost didn't see this one. Do you see it?

Photographing the Salinas River: A Review
Rabbit Blending with River Sand, taken with my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS

After the winter rains, the riverbank can come alive with color, as in the shot below. I was looking down from the trail when I took this photo.

Photographing the Salinas River: A Review
Taken with my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS

No matter when I visit the river, whether it's flowing or dry, there is always something new to discover and photograph. My shots aren't as professional as my friend Mary Beth Granger's who gives us some tips in Challenge Yourself to Take Better Photographs, but I have fun.

My Photography Equipment


Photography is my hobby, and I get along fine with a point and shoot camera. My favorite was a Nikon Coolpix that fit in my purse or pocket, but somehow I lost it when I went out one day with friends and we made a number of stops.

Some of these photos were  taken with my Canon PowerShot, another point and shoot. It has a longer zoom than the Nikon did. The zoom helped me capture that almost hidden rabbit above. The Canon won't fit in my pocket, but I got a nifty case for it that will also hold my cell phone and extra battery packs and San Disks. Nothing is worse than finding out that your battery is dead just as you find the perfect shot you'd been searching for.

The case below is the one I chose to go with my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS. It's light and the strap is so comfortable that I don't mind having to carry the larger camera. When I still  had my Nikon, I could even fit it in the slot next to my Canon, though I think it was really meant for a lens. Now the PowerShot and the case go with me everywhere because every time I leave them home I find a shot I wanted to take and couldn't.

Did You Enjoy this Brief Look at the Salinas River?

If you would like to photograph the Salinas River from Larry Moore Park, here's a map to help you find it. My directions are from the Paso Robles Walmart parking lot. You can drive to the park from the southeast exit and park along Riverbank Lane. Or you can park just west of J. C. Penny, that white building on the map closest to the river. That diagonal path you see next to Penny's leads to a park entrance. When you reach that entrance, go straight toward the river. You can't miss it. 



I'll leave you with one last photo with a bit of wildlife. I couldn't get close enough, even with my zoom, to bring the ducks closer, but occasionally they do get to the river. This shot was taken with my Coolpix S8200 and it didn't have as long a zoom as my Canon,  which I did not yet own back in 2013 when this was taken. I didn't want to crop the photo to make the ducks show up better because it would diminish the view of the river.

Ducks Swimming in Salinas River





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Murder in Wine Country: A Review of Deadly Vintage by William Relling Jr.


I live in wine country and I love to read mysteries. This mystery takes place in the Santa Ynez wine country that I often drive through on the way to Santa Barbara. So, of course, I had to read it.


Why I Chose to Read This Book


Vineyards, ©B. Radisavljevic
I love reading mysteries, and I love living in wine country, surrounded by vineyards. I even had the opportunity to observe my neighbor's wine making process after harvest. So when I was searching the mystery section at the library for a new book to read, Deadly Vintage by William Relling Jr. immediately caught my eye. As I scanned the dust jacket, I became even more interested. When I actually read the book, all I had learned about the wine industry brought the book to life for me. I'd seen the machines that process the grapes in action (as you will if you follow the link above.) I am personally acquainted with the owners of many local vineyards.



Los Angeles Freeway Traffic, © B. Radisavljevic

Before reading Deadly Vintage, I had just returned from a trip through the Santa Ynez valley, so I was able to visualize all the places mentioned, including those in Southern California, where I was raised and spent a good part of my life. I have driven the same Los Angeles and Orange County freeways and experienced the traffic exactly as Relling, who lived in Los Angeles when writing the book, described it.

A Review of Deadly Vintage



This book is set in the Santa Ynez Valley in the fictional town of San Tomas. If you click that link, it will bring up a map that will show you  the scenery Jack saw during his investigation. The protagonist, Jack Donne, a former Treasury agent, is now a vintner. He works with his father, Raymond Donne, referred to as Dad in this first person narrative, who had been an architect in nearby Santa Barbara, before retiring to make wine. They have one full-time employee, Jesus Fonseca, who was born in Mexico. The other important family member is Uncle Gerry Donne, Dad's brother, a financial lawyer in Santa Barbara who handles the Donne Vineyards account, besides being a partner in the business.

The action begins when Ozzie Cole the son of another wealthy winery owner, Perry Cole, now retired, barges in on Jack unexpectedly and implores him to investigate the possibility that someone is counterfeiting his expensive wine and selling it in Southern California. Jack does not want to get involved. He has never liked Ozzie, though he respects him as a wine maker. Ozzie's two brothers, June (short for Junior) and Grant, are working together and competing with Ozzie, who has his own operation and produces expensive boutique wines. June and Grant make cheaper wines.

Uncle Gerry finally convinces Jack to work for Ozzie by sharing with Jack a possible connection between the person selling the counterfeit wine and a mobster who is well-known to all of them. A couple of days later, Perry Cole, who is living in a nursing home and is assisted by his long-time servant, Zeke Carlin, an ex-boxer, is murdered on Carlin's day off.

Ozzie is arrested for the murder, since Brad Fitch, the Lieutenant investigating the case, thought Ozzie had the knowledge, opportunity, and motive to kill his father, the motive being money. The Perry family lawyer, Daniel Wikert had let it slip to police that Ozzie stood to inherit almost all of Perry's sizable estate. Ozzie had also been trained as a medic in the National Guard, giving him the knowledge it took to kill Perry in the way he had died. Jack had also witnessed Perry leaving his father, still arguing loudly, the night before Perry was murdered.

Jack doesn't like Ozzie much, but he doesn't believe he killed his father. Jack smells a rat in Wikert, and also learns that the sleazy lawyer has connections with the underworld. Jack continues his investigation to not only uncover the counterfeiting operation, but also to find the real murderer.

The characters in this book are developed just enough to make me care about them. The plot moves in such a way that I'm not really surprised by the outcome, since the author dropped just enough clues to enable me to think with him. In fact, I was pretty sure who had killed Perry before Jack seemed to catch on. I don't like it when I've been trying to think with a detective or investigator and then at the end all kinds of new elements appear that change everything that seemed to follow logically before. I'm looking forward to reading the next and only other book in this series. There won't be any more, because the author committed suicide in 2004 when he was only 49.

I have linked to both formats of the book below, should you want to read it.



Understanding How Wine Is Processed


Croad Vineyard owner Martin Croad invited me to tour his winery during harvest day in 2011. He showed me all the machines used to process the wine, and I have included them, along with his explanation of what they do and a demonstration of each. Watching this video will help you to understand the plot of Deadly Vintage better, since the process of wine making, and the machines used, are important in the plot.



Recommendation 

I recommend this book to mystery loving wine aficionados or anyone who enjoys thinking along with investigators to solve murder mysteries. The book is even more fun if you are familiar with the Southern California area and can visualize where the action is happening.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Let Your iPad Mini Case Reflect Your Love for the California Central Coast

A Review of Zazzle's iPad Mini Cases

The Savvy Style Case



Let Your iPad Mini Case Reflect Your Love for the California Central Coast

 

When you have invested in something as important as an iPad Mini, you will want it to be well-protected from the daily wear and tear of use and being transported wherever you go. I know that my electronic items get a lot of wear and tear just from being in my purse or waist pack. It's easy for your iPad Mini to be rubbed or scratched without protection.

You can defend your iPad Mini with a lightweight hard shell made of plastic. You can choose between a matte or a glossy finish for most designs. You can clip the case right to the back of the iPad Mini to protect it. These cases sold on Zazzle were specifically designed just for the iPad Mini, so you can be assured of a proper fit. You will also be able to reach all your ports and controls when your cover is shielding your iPad.

 If you have a Smart Cover, this will be compatible with it. If you don't have a smart cover and want even more protection, an automatic sleep and wake-up feature,  and a built-in stand to fit any iPad Mini position, you might want to check out one of these Smart Covers from Amazon. The black one is shown below, but it also comes in other colors closer to the Zazzle design you choose. And you might think about a screen protector, too. Although the Smart Covers offer a lot of protection and extra features, the selection of designs pales in comparison with what Zazzle has.

Zazzle also has the Powis Hardcover Cases

These cases were designed to fit either the iPad Mini or the iPad Mini with Retina and are made by Powis Park in Berkeley, California. The case's  rubberized non-slip edge makes it easy to use in landscape view position. Its hard cover is made with premium book cloth, and the designs you choose are printed on recycled hardboard which is laminated on both front and back. When you are using your iPad Mini, the case is free-standing. When you are not using it, the custom design you have selected or chosen will show. You still can choose a glossary or matte finish. 

 Your case from Zazzle can be anything you want it to be. You can even design one with your own photo. For best results it should should measure 5.85" x 8.45" and allow for 1/3" bleed space on the edges. That is what would be outside the safe area in design view when you are customizing. Of course, it's easier to just pick one of the already designed cases below to show your love of your Central Coast beach or area. 

Let's Begin Our iPad Mini Tour of the Central Coast Beaches


 San Simeon and the North Coast Of San Luis Obispo

 San Simeon is famous as the location of Hearst Castle, that spectacular retreat build by William Randolph Hearst for his family and friends.


San Simeon also has a fantastic state beach with a long pier and lots of recreation opportunities. I took the photos for these cases there. Both types are displayed here.





About 14 miles north of San Simeon State Beach is Piedras Blanco, which is well known for it's lighthouse and as a place to watch the elephant seals who return to its beaches to breed each winter. Here are some of the iPad cases with scenes from these beaches along the north coast. If you love rugged beaches or elephant seals, you might consider using them to decorate and protect your iPad.


In middle scene in first row above, the elephant seals are off in the distance and the emphasis is on the shore. Way in the background you can see the Piedras Blancos lighthouse. I could not get very close to it on the day I was there because it is only accessible to the public on interpretative tours at scheduled times. I hope to go back and take the tour sometime. If you look carefully, you can also see the lighthouse way back in the distance in the last scene above. This was taken earlier in the day than the other picture.

 As you can see, this can be a romantic place. I actually took the middle picture above on the evening of Valentine's Day, which I was celebrating here with my husband. This couple is enjoying the sunset together, perhaps after they've spent some time observing the elephant seals which are barely visible in the darkness behind them. This might be a great gift for one lover to give another. It also might work as an engagement present.

 Farther south are the beaches on the Cambria coast. Cambria is wonderful walking beach for those who like a bit of rugged coastline with rocks to climb and tide pools. You'll find seaweed and driftwood on the beach, and maybe some shells and interesting small stones. Here are some iPad Mini cases with scenes of the Cambria Coast and Moonstone Beach, one of our favorite get-aways.



 South San Luis Obispo County Coast: Cayucos


The first beach town south of the North Coast is Cayucos. It's a small town and I've only been to the beach there once, but I explored it for several hours in the late afternoon. The waves there make it popular with surfers.

 I loved all the interesting seaweed that came ashore. You can see Cayucos for yourself and enjoy all the sights and sounds in my photo / video tour of it I put together during the day I spent there. See the waves come in and watch the children play on the beach and the sea gulls explore the beach near them. Walk the pier with us, too.

These are some of the iPad Mini cases that capture the flavor of Cayucos. 


South County Beach Cities: Morro Bay


Each part of the coastline has is own unique character. Morro Bay is easy to recognize by its identifying landmarks -- Morro Rock and the smokestacks from a now inactive power plant. Its Embarcadero is lined with shops, restaurants, and art galleries. You will also see the fishing boats docked and moving around in the bay. Here are some iPad Mini scenes from Morro Bay.

 Morro Bay Fishing Boats and Smokestacks Case For The iPad Mini
Each part of the coastline has is own unique character. Morro Bay is easy to recognize by its identifying landmarks -- Morro Rock and the smokestacks from a now inactive power plant. Its Embarcadero is lined with shops, restaurants, and art galleries. You will also see the fishing boats docked and moving around in the bay. Here are some iPad Mini scenes from Morro Bay.

Moving South, We Next Reach Avila Beach, Including Port San Luis



At first I reached the smaller, more intimate part of Avila Beach that is loved by students at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Rather than being one big beach, it's a series of smaller coves. There is also an RV campground between the road and the beach, and I believe I also saw some tents there. 

Farther along on San Luis Bay Drive you will find Harford Pier -- a long pier with restaurants and a fish market at the end and an observation deck for looking out at the ocean below. The sea gulls are everywhere to entertain you, and occasionally you will even get to see a seal fishing or begging. You will also see people boating, fishing, and kayaking in the bay. It's a great place for nature photography. Here are some of the iPad skins I designed from my Avila Beach photos.

Pismo Beach


 Here are the iPad mini cases designed from the photos I took at Pismo Beach. This was my first visit to Pismo Beach, and I wasn't able to spend as much time there on this visit as I wanted to. First we parked where there was beach access at the end of a residential block. I took a very long stairway down to the beach. There were cliffs filled with colorful ice plant as I walked down, and I took a few pictures from that part of the beach.

 We moved on to a parking lot where there appeared to also be RV parking. I strolled along the boardwalk parallel to the beach as far as the pier. Since I've not been able to get to Pismo Beach during the migration of the Monarch butterflies, I have used a case designed by someone else who did get there.



I hope you've enjoyed our trip down the San Luis Obispo County coast as we stopped at each beach. I hope that you also found just the right iPad Mini Case to help you stay close to your favorite beach as you work. Please share this post if you think someone else might be interested these Central Coast photo iPad Mini Cases.

Let Your iPad Mini Case Reflect Your Love for the California Central Coast




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.