A lunar grin

Hi team! How’s it going on this lovely first Friday of March? I’ve been super busy as usual with this program. Some of my recent activities include: eating peanut M&M’s on the air for my internship, photographing a science rally for Science, and combatting a vicious cold! Now we only have two weeks left in this quarter and everything is going nuts (like my M&M’s!). All four of our huge assignments this quarter are due back to back to back to back and then back to back to back to back again with revisions. Yikes!

But even with all of this craziness going on, I couldn’t help noticing the moon these past few nights. In case you were wondering, yes I’m still obsessed with the moon. Two nights ago, I caught it chilling with Venus when Cobalt and I went to run some errands. Then last night, I saw it grinning through our back door as I was getting ready for bed. “Oh I see what you’re doing there, moon,” I told it. Then I ran to get my camera. But by the time I came back, the moon was already hiding behind one of the apartment buildings in our complex. “Don’t think you’ve won,” I told its faint glow, all I could see from behind the building. “We’ll meet again tomorrow night…” So tonight I sat on the couch scritching a sleepy Tarantula and doing homework, just waiting for the sun to go down. Finally the moon appeared, smile and all. A HA! Caught ya, moon!

Bee my valentine?

Hi friends!

I don’t have much time to chat today but I wanted to leave you with this fat bee! Last weekend was the first time we’d seen the sun in a while (Holy rain/flooding, Batman!) and Cobalt and I took full advantage of it by going to Carmel-by-the-sea with our friend Mercury and our other friend C! We did this epic hike at Point Lobos to explore the beautiful forest and beaches near Carmel. The trails were very muddy (more like small creeks instead of trails) but it was all worth it for beautiful views of the coast. I found a bunch of fun anemones and crabs hanging out in tide pools too! But today’s picture is a cute bee that I found on the trail. These huge bees were hanging out with some bright yellow flowers, bending them every which way when the fat bees landed. I was amused and had to stop to do a quick photoshoot of bee/flower interaction.

Enjoy!

Ahhhh how has it been two months again?! Oh I know… first the holidays happened and then school started up again! AHHHHHH! This quarter is equally as crazy as the first in some ways but also quite different in others. We only have two classes instead of four and we’re writing a few really long pieces instead of a bunch of tiny ones so the pace is quite different. One really fun part of this quarter is that I am working for Big Picture Science, which is a fun sciencey podcast based out of the SETI institute. You should check it out if you are interested!

Back to homework for me…….. :(

One rainy Yosemite adventure

This past weekend, Cobalt and I embarked on an epic day trip to Yosemite National Park. Over the past year, we’ve been to five other national parks and monuments and we thought we could sneak one more in before 2016 ends. Plus my family and I used to go to Yosemite National Park every summer when I was growing up and I was itching to get back.

Having spent at least a week in Yosemite when I went with my family, I had to do some careful planning for our short day trip. It helped that a lot of the stuff that I enjoyed seeing in the summer (Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, etc.) is not open in the winter so I had a shorter list of things to choose from.

It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from here so we left at 7:30 a.m. to make sure we would have time to spend in the park. Our first stop: Yosemite Valley. It’s often super overcrowded in the summer but there’s a good reason for it. It’s simply spectacular to be surrounded on all sides by huge slabs of rock, rushing water, and impressive waterfalls. Cobalt is not one for crowds so I figured that by going to the valley in December, he’d still get to see the awesomeness without being surrounded by people. It was kind of a dreary day — rainy and cold — but there were still quite a few people in the valley. We headed to the Happy Isles trail head to go see Vernal Falls. You can’t drive to the trail head so we had to park the car and hike in. We got a little lost of our way to the trail head and wandered around the Happy Isles for a bit but it paid off because we saw a deer family! Here is a picture of the buck. I think this might be the best deer picture I have ever taken. Enjoy:

I love how regal he looks…

We eventually found the trail head and wandered up the short trail to the footbridge below Vernal Falls. It’s a nice trail, with amazing views of the river crashing around below and waterfalls sneaking down the walls of the valley. In the summer, I enjoy hiking past the footbridge via the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls but it is closed in the winter (mist = ice = slippery!) and we had a lot of other stuff to see! So we headed back down the trail to the car where we had a quick lunch before heading back to see the rest of the valley.

The rain was starting to come down harder by this point but that didn’t stop our fellow tourists from having fun on the valley floor. We had to stop to take pictures of the Yosemite Falls because I loved seeing the people playing in the snow through the mist. There was so much going on! People were taking Christmas pictures in Santa hats or throwing snowballs at each other. Some people were even getting out sleds to slide around the icy snow.

The upper Yosemite fall sits above the mist on the valley floor.

After touring the rest of the valley mostly by car, we set off towards Wawona, which is on the southern edge of the park. To get there, you head up out of the Valley through a long tunnel. Right before you leave the valley, there is a “Tunnel View” parking area where you can get one last glimpse of the entire valley. It was a family tradition to stop and take a picture so Cobalt and I stopped and asked a family to take our picture.

The mist covered up the valley minutes after this picture was taken.

It was pouring and starting to get dark by the time we reached Wawona but I had one required stop left. My family used to stay in Wawona when we visited Yosemite and we loved hiking the Chilnualna Falls trail. It’s about a 10 minute hike to the lower fall so we parked at the trail head and ran up the trail. It was incredible! We usually go in August, which is when the water is at a pretty low point but the fall was just gushing this weekend. Forget the rain, Cobalt and I got majorly misted as we scuttled down toward the fall. It was so great to see an old family favorite again. Can’t wait to come back here with my whole family one day (hopefully soon!).

Let’s get some humans in that photo.

How are you? What are you up to? This week, I have to report at the American Geophysical Union’s national conference. Should be fun but also scary!

Whale you needn’t

A few weeks ago, Cobalt and I went whale watching with my classmate, whom we will call Mercury on this blog, in the Monterey Bay, courtesy of Sanctuary Cruises.

It was definitely an adventure. First of all, we were supposed to go watch whales on Saturday but we drove all the way out there and they canceled the trip because it was too windy. We made a quick call to get on the Sunday whale adventure and then then we went to brunch with the Sanctuary Cruises boat captain and naturalist. The food was delicious and we had a really neat conversation.

On Sunday, we tried again. The winds had died down so we headed out to the bay in search of whales. Although the Monterey Bay pretty much always has some sort of whale-related activity going on, we went at sort of an awkward time. The humpbacks that spend their spring, summer, and fall feeding in the bay were on their way south for the winter and the gray whales that pass through the bay in early winter were just starting to arrive. We hoped to see some straggler humpbacks or earlybird gray whales and we were not disappointed (as my picture at the top hints).

Not long after getting into the bay, we saw humpback spouts! They were huge. Humpbacks take a few breaths of air before diving deep into the ocean for about 5 minutes. Then they surface and start the whole process over again. Our whale-watching trip turned into a waiting game. When the whales were up, we took a bunch of pictures, hoping to get shots of the spouts or the tails (like the one at the top). Then the whales would dive and we sat around, letting the waves rock the boat back and forth (note: not a great feeling) until the whales decided to surface again.

Once when we found the whales, they were surrounded by hundreds of long-beaked common dolphins. Seriously, the ocean was suddenly churning with dolphins everywhere. They swam toward us and played around the boat. So fun and such a new version of photography.

Photographing dolphins is one of those “shoot first, look later” types of experiences. Just set up your camera to have a pretty fast shutter speed, make sure it is on continuous shooting mode, and then go. Click click click click click click click click. The more pictures you take, the more likely you had a shot of a dolphin above the water. I think I took at least 1,000 pictures while on the boat (a feat normally reserved for weddings). Something else I struggled with: Do I use the zoom lens zoomed in or not? Zooming in meant that I got a fairly high resolution picture of a dolphin but it also decreased the likelihood of actually having a dolphin swim in the field of view when I took the picture. I kind of did a combination: zoom in… no dolphins… zoom out… ALL THE DOLPHINS…zoom in…

Baby dolphin! :D

Mercury and Cobalt tried other approaches. Cobalt recorded videos, both with our GoPro and with his cell phone, and Mercury had a point and shoot camera and her iPhone. I think they both got some pretty nice shots/videos at the end of the day. Basically I think the lesson here is take a lot of pictures/really long videos with whatever device you have and plan to do some editing later. :)

Taking pictures of humpbacks was a bit easier because there were only two of them and they hung out together. As soon as we saw the spouts, we knew to point our cameras in their direction and take a bunch of pictures in a row with the hope that they would flip their tails at us when they headed back down into the water. At one point, both whales dove together and gave us a beautiful view of the two tails diving in sync and I am pretty sure almost everyone on the boat missed the shot (whyyyyyyy) because we were just recovering after the dolphin extravaganza and hadn’t quite gotten back into humpback mode. There was a collective sigh of amazement/exasperation as the tails disappeared beneath the water together.

All in all it was a fun adventure, though after multiple attempts at taking pictures of humpbacks, drifting aimlessly for 5-10 minutes, then taking more pictures of humpbacks, etc, we all started to get a little seasick. But it was still a rewarding experience and I can’t wait to go out in the spring when maybe we can see some other whales (and maybe orcas?!?!??).

Here are some more fun pictures below:

Hey! How’d this bird get in here?! Though it’s kind of a cool shot… The birds were having a field day with the dolphins. I think they were hoping to get a snack of whatever the dolphins were eating.
The benefit of having a fast shutter speed: even if you miss the dolphin (see the stripes underwater at the bottom right?), you still get cool splash photos.
We saw a lot of sea lions out there too but I liked this picture the best. I just love the sea lion in the water next to the buoy: “Uh guys? Is there room on there for one more?”

One last note about the pictures: if you’re going to go whale watching, don’t spend the whole time behind your camera of choice. Look up every once in a while and really notice how neat these animals are. It’s a pretty cool experience. :)

On the school front: whew. I can’t believe it’s been 10 weeks since I wrote in here. It feels like it’s been a year. This is one intense program. I learned a lot about writing through my classes and my newspaper internship. I also learned a lot about photography at the internship. I even learned how to use Canon DSLRs! I still prefer my Nikon, mainly because my fingers know exactly what to do to change all my settings.

If you’re interested in seeing what I was working on for the past 10 weeks, feel free to check out my writing portfolio. There are a few assignments that are still to come but whew. I did a lot! :)

I know I say this in almost every post but I really miss this blog and I really miss photography when I get too stressed out to go exploring. I’m really going to try to make more time for pictures during the next quarter. I’ll try to post more on here too, maybe with less words when I’m especially stressed.

What have you been up to?

Fly away

Soooo this Science Communication Program is epic! I have so much homework already and I’ve only had one day of classes so far. In addition to classes, I am working two days a week at a local newspaper where I get to learn how to report news! Plus, they let me play with their fancy cameras and lenses! I photographed the announcement of Adele Fresé as the new police chief of Salinas and the Salinas High School Homecoming parade.

If you’re wondering how it is to go from working in a lab to working in a newsroom, I’d say that it’s definitely different though I’m finding some similarities as well. Obviously there are fewer pipettes and microscopes but there are other tools of the trade: big fancy cameras, reporter’s notebooks, and digital recorders. Plus there are people! I get to talk to people! Overall, the general feel is the same. I am fairly independent: when I get to work, I make myself a to do list for the day but instead of writing down experiments, I am creating a list of stories! More soon!

Anyway, this weekend was the International Airshow in Salinas and my job at the paper meant that Cobalt and I got media passes to attend the show! I surfaced from my giant pile of homework for a few hours so we could go see planes, monster trucks, and skydivers! I’m sad we didn’t get to stay longer but alas, homework calls. I’ll leave you with some pictures before I dive back in! :)

Potassium and Cobalt inside a plane (on the ground)!
This plane was making all sorts of fun swirly trails in the sky
Swirly! Also the sun was not behaving…. Get out of the way fat sun! You’re too bright to photograph!
The US Army Parachute team or the “Golden Knights” dropped from the sky at the beginning of the show!

Fat plane tail
This is one big plane but it looks like a giant whale mouth swallowing all those people. Nooooooo!

How was your weekend?! In other news, I am exhausted. I have never had to commute to work or school before. It’s different; there is a lot of driving. How long is your commute?

Back to homework….

With the cat in the car?!

Cobalt and I have moved to California! We migrated across the country with a (rather large) Uhaul containing all our stuff, two cars, and a cat! Luckily my parents flew out to Colorado to help us make the move back to CA! My dad and Cobalt drove the truck (with my car towed behind it) and my mom and I drove Cobalt’s car (with a cat inside).

Cobalt can tell you all about the newfound respect he has for people driving large trucks and/or towing cars but today I’m going to tell you about moving with a cat. Tarantula is a pretty chill cat so the vet thought she wouldn’t need sedatives for the drive. Instead she gave us a sample of “Composure,” which Cobalt describes as “cat-herbal tea,” and told us to give Tarantula half a Composure treat for every 12 hours of traveling.

Let’s discuss what happened:

  • Day 0:
    On the day we moved all of our stuff into the Uhaul, Tarantula got to spend the day and night with our friend Titanium. Titanium’s cat Meow and Tarantula had previously met and weren’t huge fans of each other (see below) so we gave both Meow and Tarantula half a Composure. The day passed relatively smoothly with Tarantula and Meow meowing at each other through the door of Titanium’s spare room, where Tarantula was staying. Tarantula seemed a little loopy though and even missed the litter box (this is something she has never done!).

    Flashback to 2014 when we introduced Tarantula and Meow. There was a lot of hissing and growling followed by Tarantula taking over Meow’s stuff, including this chair.
  • Day 1:
    Our first day of driving was the most epic – we had planned to end the day in Winnemucca, NV (~13 hours driving with no cat/big Uhaul truck). Mom and I picked up Tarantula from Titanium’s house and set her up in a giant cat carrier the backseat of the car. The carrier contained a litterbox, some toys, and a bowl of water. After the loopiness of the day before, we decided to try no Composure first. As soon as we got on the road, Tarantula spilled her water all over herself, the litterbox, and the toys making a wet, crunchy mess in the backseat. Then she howled miserably for the next hour and a half while Mom and I desperately tried to reach a rest stop. Once at the rest stop, we gave Tarantula a third of Composure and let her out of the cat carrier while things dried. She liked this much better because why be trapped in a stinky cat carrier when there are humans to cuddle? She finally fell asleep in the back of the car between some boxes and backpacks, which was great for all of us because it’s kind of stressful having a cat meandering around the car while you are trying to drive.

    She slept like this for hours. I don’t get it.

    We stopped in Salt Lake City where some family friends met us at a park and brought us dinner! Loopy Tarantula got to escape her car prison and hang out in the park on a leash. Don’t let the picture fool you, she’s not that great on a leash.

    After dinner, we locked her in her cat carrier once more and she fell asleep for the remainder of the drive to Winnemucca. We arrived about 12:30 am (!!!) and Tarantula spent the night exploring our hotel room and trying to convince us that she needed to leave the room to see what else was beyond the door.

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  • Day 2:
    The second day of driving was relatively short (~8 hours). Mom and I decided to give Tarantula a small chunk of Composure before getting in the car because we didn’t want a repeat of the howling incident. We also put her in her cat carrier again, much to her disappointment. Tarantula then proceeded to cry for the next 100 miles or so before passing out and waking up close to my parents’ home town where we stopped for the night. She spent the next two nights hanging out at my parents’ house, which she loved exploring, minus the “scary” ceramic cat she found in the living room.
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  • Day 4 (we skipped Day 3 because it was Labor Day and everyone deserves a day off – even kitties):
    This day was the best driving day ever! We only had a 2.5 hour drive from my parents’ house to our new apartment! Cobalt drove the truck and I drove the car containing the cat! Because it seemed to take Tarantula an hour or so to calm down after taking the Composure, Cobalt and I fed Tarantula the tiniest sliver of Composure with her breakfast (~an hour before we left) with the idea that she would sleep during the drive. FALSE. She was unhappy about being in the cat carrier again and spent the first hour and a half mewling at me and trying to break out of the cat carrier. Somewhere in the middle of a huge traffic jam in San Francisco, she finally calmed down and we arrived at the new apartment an hour later. I set her up in the bathroom while the movers helped us drag all our belongings out of the truck and up three flights of stairs. She tried to stage multiple escapes until we unpacked one of our desk chairs, which I rolled into the bathroom for her. She jumped up onto it and promptly fell asleep. Once the movers had left and we had organized the boxes a little, she was allowed to escape and explore her new home!


She’s a California cat now!

Before we get to your comments, I want to talk about the fate of this blog. As many of you know, this blog was wearing a few hats for a while – it was both a photo blog and a science blog. I found the whole thing a bit confusing so this blog is going to go back to what it is best at – showcasing photography! Never fear, my science readers. I have made a new home for science-y posts on my website! It’s not too exciting now but I am sure it will be filled with interesting stories soon enough… I start my Science Communication Program at UC Santa Cruz this week!

Lots of changes going on here – including a new layout for the blog! Ooo so crisp and clean! I hope you like it as much as I do!

Your turn! Have you ever moved with a cat? What did you do?! Was your cat pretty chill like Tarantula or more skittish? Btw – if you want to leave a comment and you don’t see the comment field below the post, there is a button on the top of this post now.

And it’s June!

Hellllooooo everyone. Sorry I’ve been away forever. Part of it was lab/work but part of it was that I had been away for so long, it was hard to get back into it. Every time something cool happened to me, I thought “Oh ho! I should post this on my blog!” and then I thought “… but it’s not Tuesday and that is my day of posting and I just remembered I have this super important thing to do right now that may or may not actually be important but I have to do it right now and I’m lazy and I’ll just post something about it next Tuesday…” Well guess what – it’s Wednesday and I’m posting! Plus it’s summer and there are a lot of crazy things happening so I kind of have no excuse to post anymore.

So I thought I’d post a list today of some exciting things and then we’ll pick one of them for next week.

  • The Bolder Boulder is an annual 10K here in Boulder on Memorial Day. This year, Cobalt spend the spring getting in shape and then ran the whole thing in under an hour. Whoa! Call me impressed.
  • A dose of Science Policy, please! At the end of April, I got the opportunity to go to Washington DC to spend a day on Capitol Hill talking to the kind representatives and senators (read: mostly their staff members) from Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri about funding for NIH. The NIH, or National Institutes of Health, funds biomedical research and it (and its basic research friend, the National Science Foundation) gave me the funding to attend grad school, which was extremely useful. During my trip to the Hill, I got to be a scientist who knew statistics like 1) how many jobs the NIH funds in the Congressperson’s state/district and 2) how much money we spend to treat vicious diseases vs. how much we spend to do research on how to cure them. It was an amazing and inspiring experience and I loved every second of it. We young scientists were paired with Biochemistry faculty members from around the country. My faculty member and I had a Fitbit battle all day (lots of walking between House and Senate office buildings). I totally won but it might be because he was crazy tall and because I was in a suit with a skirt and had to take at least two steps for every one of his. Anyway, there’s clearly a lot to talk about here so I will post more on this in future posts.

    Potassium with Boulder’s representative, Jared Polis
  • Add to that a strong dose of Science Communication! Since the last time I wrote, I officially accepted a position in the UCSC Science Communication program for the fall! So Cobalt and I are moving to CA this September and I am (finally) gonna be a banana slug! I am excited and terrified all at the same time but I think it’s going to be a fun adventure. P.S. If any of y’all know anything about housing in the Santa Cruz area, any advice would be greatly appreciated! Stay tuned for fun updates coming from here soon!
  • Exploration part 1 (of ??)! Because Cobalt and I are escaping from Colorado this fall, we decided that we really need to make this last summer count and explore the whole state/area before we go. For those of you who don’t know, while Colorado is pretty nice year round (depending on your fondness for random snow storms any time between September and May), summer in Colorado is amazing. Our first adventure took place last week – we went down to NM to see some of our friends/Cobalt’s family and then headed up into southern CO to see Mesa Verde, Durango, and Telluride. Turns out that that part of Colorado is beautiful! Cobalt and I took the most ridiculous route back to maximize seeing prettiness. It was amazing. More posts on this soon too!

    Cobalt and I had fun taking pictures of Mesa Verde’s Cliff Palace through the lens of a viewfinder.
  • I started getting a monthly subscription to Scrawlr Box, which is an art supply box that comes from the UK. It’s awesome (and well worth the money)! Every month, I get cool pens/pencils/etc and a “Scrawlr Challenge,” which challenges to me actually use all my new stuff to create something! The challenges so far have been “Spontaneity” (which included tea to paint with!), “Manga Yourself” (which included a Gelly Roll pen woooo 7th grade!), and “Write ScrawlrBox” (which has been by far the most challenging for me but also the most fun). It’s been really inspiring and great for me to flex my creativity a little bit.

    This is the result of my “Write ScrawlerBox” Challenge. Let me know if you want to see the results of the other challenges (warning, there is definitely a shark theme).

Soooo what’s going on with you guys? Anything amazing lately? What trips do you have planned for this summer? What did you do for Memorial Day? Any of those things up there sound like something you want to learn more about? Vote for what I talk about first in the comments!