Wednesday, December 18, 2019

What's in a Name - "Odinman" A story about Barrett Odin; My Great Nephew

"What's in a name?"


What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” - Wm Shakespeare; Romeo and Juliet

What exactly did our friend Billy Shakespeare mean by this saying in his famed play Romeo and Juliet?

This quote is rather profound and suggests that names don't hold any worth or meaning and they are just labels to tell one thing or person from another.  In the play, Juliet says this to Romeo to say that even if he had a different name, he would still be the man she loves.

To my darling Barrett Odin; No matter what your name would be I would love you the same but your mom and dad chose a really kick ass name!

I love it and I have since the minute he was born in December 2018.  He came early, extremely and dangerously early and was required to spend a lot of time in the NICU or as they call it, "The Nick-U". 

When I heard of his arrival, I waited a few weeks because I wanted to make sure he was strong enough for visitors and I flew the 1,300 miles to Nebraska to meet my new nephew.

He was so tiny and delicate but he was strong and I could tell that he would live up to the strength of his name because when you are named after the Norse God of Wisdom, Magic and Death; you've got something going for you.

When Barrett was getting close to his first birthday I found myself back in Nebraska and meeting him all over again. By now he is pulling himself up to furniture, making funny noises and showing a lot of personality.  I started to visualize a photoshoot of him depicted as his namesake Odin and I felt a plan start to come together.

Shortly before I left Nebraska to return to Reno I met Barrett Odin and his momma Kelsey in Lake Manawa, Iowa and with the help of my daughter Whitney, I took this shot of him in the middle of a wooded area.


It was terribly cold and windy but the light was great since it was cloud covered and I didn't have to contend with harsh shadows.  I was optimistic that this was going to come together nicely especially since the star of the show was a sweet, patient and tolerable sweet little boy. I think I got 10 good shots in before we had to call it a wrap.

His mom is very crafty, in fact she has a thing called "Kelsey's Krafts" and you should check it out on Facebook. She made the Superman emblem with an O instead of the S for "Odinman" which is what I named the photograph.

When I came back from Nebraska I had to take an immediate hiatus because of some minor surgery then finally picked up the project hoping to get it done before his first birthday.

I immediately did not like the background and decided that I would need to create a new background and also get pictures of a few other components of the composition like a spear and ravens.

First of all, I needed to find a spear that resembled the spear Odin took into war. The spear's name is Gungnir and was fashioned by elves. This spear is special as it was told that it never missed it's mark. I knew I needed to find an appropriate and fabulous spear to take a picture of and that's the first place I failed.  I finally had to use a stock photo which I manipulated to the nth degree since I could not find an actual spear close enough to being as cool as Odin's spear.

Second of all, I needed photos of Ravens. Odin had two ravens named Huginn and Muninn and these ravens would spy on Odin's enemies and bring their secrets back to him which I think is pretty cool.

Now, living in Nevada I see ravens all over the place and I was certain that this would be an easy part of the process but as fate would have it, I didn't see a raven for the next several weeks even though I carried my camera everywhere.

I went on a hike one day with a group and the woman leading said, "Don't be surprised if we see a lot of ravens on this hike".  We didn't see one, not even one so again, I had to resort to a stock photo of a raven.

Odin had an eyepatch since he traded his eye to drink from a well that gave him knowledge of the universe but I opted to leave it out. Odin also had two wolves Geri and Freki that I decided to omit since the thought of finding wolves to photograph did not sound appealing at all.

So there I was with all my components and I set them out on my Photoshop canvas and again realized that I hated the background so after thumbing through all my photos and not finding one that I loved, I decided to use another stock photo for the background.

In a nutshell, the only part of this photograph that I took was Barrett and that is it.  As I get the components together I will replace them with my own original work but until then, this is the result of my work.
I'm really happy with the way this turned out and when you ask, "What's in a Name?" Just ask this tough little guy here.  Aunt Liz loves you Barrett Odin and by any other name I would love you the same.

If you want to see my SmugMug website where the photo is in full resolution please click here

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Peace and Love,

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hawthorne, NV Yacht Club

"Hawthorne, NV Yacht Club"
See the UPDATE at the end, I was able to get info on the history of this boat.

Last weekend the Milky Way was in full bloom. 

I had some photography friends that I love invite us to Bodie, CA for some night shots which I wasn’t exactly excited about because everyone goes there to get their astrophotography and when you are there you are competing with 25 other photographers with their flashlights and flood lights.  

I prefer to find obscure subjects that no one else is capturing instead of producing "another" nightscape of the same old commercialized Ghost Town.

It sounds terrible and mean but the truth is that I like the people a lot and decided that I would relax and simply be there to enjoy their company if nothing else. He is the man I credit with my ability to go off Auto or Aperture on my camera and operate on full manual. He is an amazing photographer.

We took the side-by-side and headed there early in hopes of doing some exploring in the back country. Jim's parents had actually lived in Bodie in the 1930's. We would love to know which house it was and if it's still standing so if you have a way of looking that info up, we would appreciate it.  Jim was taken to the house once when he was young in the 1940's or early 1950's but he can't remember much of it. He mostly remembers that they were visiting a guy who still lived there and of that he only remembers that the guy had a water barometer on the table that Jim thought was really cool.

As we approached Bodie we saw a haze forming on the horizon and started to realize that it was growing larger the closer we got. At one point in the distance to the south we could see that there was a large fire in Lee Vining on the other side of Mono Lake and the air was filled with smoke and soot obscuring the Milky Way "YAY!" oops, I mean “Bummer”.   

We were first to arrive and since it was only 3:00 and sunset is at 8:30 I called my friends to tell them about the fire. Fortunately, they hadn’t left Reno yet. I told them it was a bust and to not come. Then I called another photography friend who I knew was also going to Bodie and told her about the smoke. I was glad I was able to save my Reno friend the trouble of driving 111 miles to find that they could even get the shots.

My other friend was eating burgers in Lee Vining so we drove over there to get gas and at the restaurant, I jumped out of the car and ran in to surprise her.

It was a great surprise, her boyfriend doesn't know me and has never met me so I quietly walked in the restaurant, walked over to the booth they were sitting in and quietly sat down beside her. John, her boyfriend watched me the whole time with the funniest blank look on his face.  When she finally looked up she was so surprised and we hugged and laughed.

She knows I'm a burger snob and immediately asked me if I wanted a bite which is testament to our fast friendship. It's like we've known each other our entire lives.

I told her of the smoke and she explained to me the dynamics of the wind and the smoke and that she was fairly certain that the smoke was not an issue.  I just smiled and let her talk but I was certain that my experience in those hills was accurate; there would be no clear Milky Way shots in Bodie, CA that night.

Jim pulled up in front of the building and I hopped in the car, “I bet you $5,000 she goes to Bodie anyway”

He asked where I wanted to go and I said east, away from the smoke and to some dark skies. If nothing else, I would simply take pictures of the Milky Way in it’s full glory.

I knew of an abandoned boat somewhere on the shore of Walker Lake which is quite a generalization since Walker Lake is about 20 miles long but since we had no formal plans we let that knowledge lead us to Walker Lake, NV, over 50 miles to the east and north a bit.

About an hour later I sent the friend in Lee Vining a text and asked her if she’d driven over to Bodie anyways since I was fairly certain she would have to see for herself. The Bodie Hills are a cellular dead zone so I told her, “If I don’t hear from you I will assume you have gone back to Bodie to see for yourself”

Sure enough, she had gone back there and turned around. She sent me a text, “Busted, I had to go see for myself and we turned around due to smoke” I was actually kind of relieved since I would have felt bad if she’d gone anyway and got fabulous shots. How would I explain that to the other friends I had called in Reno and turned away?

It was about 6:30 by the time we found a road that even went around the lake (thanks Google Maps) so we off loaded the side-by-side and my camera equipment and started toward the lake.

After about 45 minutes of driving it was apparent that we would not be able to get to the lake shore let alone find an old abandoned boat since there was a railroad track between us and the lake.  I hadn't entered a railroad track barrier into our calculations so it started to look like we would not be getting anywhere close to the shore.  I had already relaxed and decided to just have fun. The goal now was to pay attention to all Jim’s turns so we could get out of this remote area in the dark and in the middle of the night.

At a weird intersection where you could barely tell that another road went left, Jim asked me if I wanted to turn off the road we were on.  I stared at the road that obviously didn't cross the raised railroad tracks and I told him, “Why not, let’s just have some fun exploring out here.”

After driving a while, we saw a truck by the lake shore kicking up some dust and that gave us hope that we could at least find our way down there at some point in time.  I could see a structure of some kind in the distance and pointed it out to Jim. It looked to be a semi trailer that had been abandoned although I had no idea how they would have gotten a semi down these sandy remote roads.

By watching the truck, we were able to find a small narrow road that crossed the railroad track and we headed down. 

We met the truck, gave a kind wave and drove on to the thing we thought was a trailer. About a football field away from it we realized that it was the boat I’d heard about.

The sun was just above the mountain range near Mount Grant so we quickly set up the equipment and the chairs to sit in while we waited.

I was so excited and felt overwhelmingly fortunate to have found this needle in a haystack. The circumstances that led us to this boat were ridiculous and we spent the next half hour gushing about our luck.

I could hardly believe we had cell reception but I got a call from the friends in Reno, they had also gone to Bodie and agreed that the smoke was too much. I have spent years suspecting that no one listens to a thing I say and this evening was proof of that. They asked where we had gone and I told them our route. They wanted to come back to where we were but I explained to them that the road was 4 wheel drive only and it would have taken them over two hours to get to us. Civil Twilight was about to start so I knew they would never have made it in time, even if the road wasn’t so terrible and remote.

When the sun set over the mountain and all that remained was the small sliver of moon we sat in silence and enjoyed the peace around us. 

That is until…..

I started to hear a roar of high pitched sound that kept growing louder and louder. Jim didn’t hear it but I was certain I wasn’t mistaken. We hadn’t seen any insects and since there was a breeze I was pretty certain the mosquitos would have left us alone but this sounded like a swarm of insects was headed our way.  I continued to listen and realized that this was not the sound of  wings buzzing, this was the vocalization of a swarm of bats.

Jim didn’t believe me till the first bat showed up at our little campsite and fortunately, they dissipated and got busy eating insects. I have way too much hair to be comfortable with a swarm of bats in the area.

That drama was averted and we sat in our chairs to relax and wait but as soon as Nautical Twilight began we heard the first howls. A few seconds later, we heard the second set of howls and uncomfortably closer than the first.

This went on for several minutes and it was apparent that some coyotes were coming to see what we were up to. It seemed that our fortune was limited to the finding of boats since it looked like we may have been in the accidental path of their hunt.  I finally stopped, stood up and started making noise and moving around. Jim thought I was nuts but I had imagined a coyote coming up and grabbing me in the neck as I sat all comfy in our rocking lawn chairs. After shining my light into the open desert for a few minutes, they finally went away and we didn’t hear them again for the rest of the time we were there but I'm pretty certain that they were keeping an eye on us.

This is the draw back of finding dark skies for astrophotography, you are sitting in pitch black conditions.

The Milky Way came out as predicted and it was stunning. Jim light painted as I took photos and we hung out there for the next four hours. 

When I was done, we had to try to find our way out in the pitch black. 

It took an hour and 15 minutes to drive the 17 miles back to the car. Fortunately I have hiking apps on my phone and I turned it on when we made the first turn off the main backroad. We were able to follow that recorded trail back to the main road but even with that, Jim made a few wrong turns.

Just make sure that if you decide to go on an adventure like this that you are prepared to vacate the area in the dark. You don't want to have to spend the night out there, it can get cold in the desert at night and the fauna can be a bit hostile.

We were done and had the side-by-side loaded about 2:00am so we got a hotel and stayed in Hawthorne, NV the rest of the night .  

Since we are gluttons for punishment we stayed out another night and moved further east about 50 miles to another ghost town for some more night shots.  

I processed my first photo and we are thrilled with the result. This is a composition of 25 shots that are stacked and merged to give the photo depth and definition and reduce visual noise.

I'm offering the printed photo for sale on my website or my SmugMug account by clicking here

For more photos and stories, check out my website at 
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Thanks to Facebook and the fact that I posted the photo on a page that shares photos; a woman named Patricia C commented on the photo with a question wondering how I found the boat in the dark. I assured her it was still light out and she confirmed that it's even hard to find in the daylight.

She informed me that it was once a barge that went from Smith Valley to Walker (or so she has been told)

The barge is estimated to have been abandoned between 1928 into the 1930's when the railroad tracks were installed. With the use of railcars they of course abandoned the barge.

She also told me that the lake level was once 110' and is now 65' which explains the massive amount of shoreline you have to navigate to find the boat in the first place.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Salty Sad Story and the Threat of Extinction

On our 4th and last day visiting Death Valley, CA our only goal was to drive the 27 mile one way trip through Titus Canyon and to visit the abandoned Ghost Town of Leadfield near the middle of the route.
We saw this beautiful rock formation
right before the heavy driving began
The sign at the beginning of Titus Canyon Road
Mostly scary warnings

If you find yourself in Death Valley you must do this drive. If you visit the canyon from the valley side you will miss the best part of it.

The drive that began with a winding road perched precariously on the ledges of steep mountains tested my driving skills but our trusty 2005 Jeep Wrangler who I lovingly call "Felipe the Jeep" did a great job. My husband in the passenger side faired well also even though it was hard for him to not be at the wheel and to trust his wife to stay on the narrow and rocky roads.
The Leadfield sign, a sad warning to the gullible,
who seeks fast and easy money.
The view of Leadfield from the opposing hillside

The colorful view west and just left of center is the slot
path out of the canyon
The colorful view east of the mountain ledges we had
arrived on

Looking through the canyon, this picture does
no justice, the walls were hundreds of feet high

Even though we took our time and enjoyed every minute of the drive it ended all too soon and we were left with several hours of daylight to burn up.

It was shortly after lunch time and we were hungry so we decided to find a place to eat some dehydrated food in our JetBoil. Remembering that Mesquite Springs was a dozen miles up the road to the right, we set our sights on lunch on a picnic table in this popular camp site.

Upon our arrival we discovered that this particular area of the park was closed for some unknown reason. We weren't sure if it was a result of the 2015 flood that nearly destroyed the area around Scotty's Castle or something else but there we were, hungry and looking for a place to cook in Death Valley.

There was a ranger station up the road a bit and even though there weren't any picnic tables, there was a nice cool ledge for me to cook on and to sit in the cool dry breeze and eat.
My husband Jim enjoying my cooking
At the ranger station we read how the flood closed the castle and the rules of the park which we probably should have read before we entered but more importantly I found a park guide book.

We were excited to see that we had checked off nearly every sightseeing location along the east side of Death Valley except a small attraction called "Salt Creek" which promises a 1/2 mile flat walk where you can witness the rare Pupfish that only exist in two locations in Death Valley and no other place on earth.

No other fish can live in the conditions that this eco system provides. Pupfish can live in water that is four times more salty than the ocean and can live in water up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here is a Wikipedia Link if you'd like to find out more about these rare little fish.

I was excited to go especially since I found out it was spawning season. The male Pupfish take on a blue and golden color during the season and it promised to be a sight to see.

The Pupfish are listed as ENDANGERED and if you combine the two areas of Death Valley that they live in, they would be considered CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.

Upon our arrival, we found several signs telling tourists to stay on the boardwalk and observe from a safe distance to not disturb the delicate ecosystem of the creek but only a few dozen feet onto the boardwalk we saw this sight.


I became more and more outraged as I neared this atrocity.

A family of five had decided to leave the boardwalk, remove their shoes and the parents allowed their children to wade, frolic and splash in this delicate ecosystem.

It was sad to watch as nearly a dozen other tourists simply walked by and said nothing while this family negligently harmed this area.

My husband knew I was outraged and my mind ticked as I wondered what to do about this situation.

From the distance you see in the picture above, I yelled out to the family, "We are expected to stay on the boardwalk for the protection of this ecosystem!"

Immediately, the father yelled back, "OK! Kids, get out of the water, come on, back to the boardwalk."

I took this picture and waited to make sure they left the water. As I walked by I thanked the father and he responded, "Sure, no problem."

We went on to enjoy the walk and since the family did not catch up to us on the walk, I assume that they left the area.

There were several things wrong with what happened here and I hope you will realize the damage we can do with our negligence and ego.

1.  Did these people have bug spray on their bodies that could have effected the water they entered?

2.  More than likely, these parents had applied sunscreen to their children or themselves that could have altered or poisoned the ecosystem.

3.  Even if you have soap film or lotion on your body, these toxins can seep into the ecosystem unknowingly.

4.  If you have walked in other areas of the park and picked up pollen, seeds, larvae, etc. you could unwittingly deposit them into this delicate system that has flora and fauna specifically adapted to the life that exists here now.

5.  No one said anything till I came along and told these people to comply with the rules. This does not have to lead to anger. If you simply state fact, without emotion, you will get a positive result.  We all have a responsibility to take care of our world and the risk is worth the reward.

6.  Leave No Trace does not just consider whether or not we are leaving trash or using trash receptacles.  There are 7 Leave No Trace Principles that include:
     a.  Don't make any new trails, stay on designated trails
     b.  Noise, keep your voice down so others may enjoy the silence of nature
     c.  Click for more information on the "7 Leave No Trace Principles" or visit

7.  Teach the children. What these parents were teaching their children was not the preservation of the environment but to be selfish and destroy. They taught them to disregard the well thought out rules of the area. They taught them that it's ok to go wherever you want without regard to it's effect.

8.  Now everyone who visits the area has to see the footprints of others who were here before and some may even feel that they are also allowed to leave the walkway.  This is a terrible legacy to leave behind.

I could go on for pages but I won't.

The moral of this story...

They tell us it takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to save a national treasure.

Don't be afraid to speak up when someone is harming our natural resources.

Speak kindly and use facts, not emotion. Imagine how differently this may have gone if I simply yelled, "Get your filthy kids out of the creek!" or "Hey stupid, you're killing the fish!" both of which are thoughts that crossed my outraged mind.

Teach the children and fellow adventurers how to be ethical and principled in nature so confrontations become unnecessary.

We went on to enjoy the Pupfish and I hope that the thoughtful presence of our generation and future generations to come will allow for the enjoyment of this treasured ecosystem and others like it.
Not good focus but here is a male and female in a spawning knot

A male Pupfish looking for a female to dart after

A lizard near the creek who was just as curious about me

One of the signs along the walk path
For more photos and stories, check out my website at
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Peace and Love,