Ramadan 1430 Begins

Ramadan Mubarak to all!  This evening August 21st, 2009 at 8:06 pm PDT the new crescent moon of Ramadan 1430, was sighted by a group of over 30 men and women, not counting the numerous children as well at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, just west of Palo Alto, CA in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  We had clear skies with some dark thick marine layer atmospherics close to the horizon.  It was a fine crescent that was about 3.5 degrees in altitude above the horizon and at a true azimuth of 265 degrees.

The group of sighters started out at about 20 people and over the next 15 minutes it grew to well over 35 people.  As the evening progressed everyone became quite joyful that the Blessed Month of Ramadan was upon us.  As the moon approached the horizon, we packed up and headed off into the night with the intention of commencing our Fast for the next 29 or 30 days, until we see the next new moon.  So Congratulations to all for having another opportunity to benefit from Ramadan.  May all your prayers and fasting be accepted this month.

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Rajab 1430 Begins

Rajab Hilal 1430

Rajab Hilal 1430

The new crescent moon (or Hilal in Arabic) of the 7th month of the Islamic Calendar, known as Rajab, was sighted this evening at 8:40 pm PDT from Russsian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It was a perfect afternoon with subtle but stunning colors and atmospherics.  For moons, it just does not get better than this one.  More on the afternoon preceeding this photo in a later post.  Enjoy!

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Winter’s Last

Strange that it has taken me nearly all spring to bring out a photo of the last sunset of winter.  Although not entirely true, as I posted a version of this sunset in The Last of Winter.  It is amazing to me how different a few minutes can make in a photograph not to mention the few months that have transpired since I made this photo. 

Winters Last

Winter's Last

Time has a way of sneaking past you very quickly.  From week to week as I moved from show to show, filling orders made for photos of moments long since past, I had little time to work on new material.  When I do get the chance and inspiration to sit down and seriously work on new material, It is like I am looking at the scene for the first time all over again.  And although I can remember all the feeleings of elation and joy that coursed through me at the time I made the photo, seeing it again and now intimately working with it for hours to bring out those feelings I once had makes me realize how important photography is.  Not only is it a record of time, but for the photographer it is also a record of the experience.  So here it is, a recount of my thoughts as they come back to me as I look at this last sunset of the winter of 2009.

Wow, everything is really green this year.  The hills are looking good, wildflowers might be aboundant here this year – its to early now, maybe in a month or so.  I’ll need to come back.  Let me go over to my butterfly hill and see if the wild cucumber is blooming.  Nothing yet, but the hills sure are green.  What about down in the hollow down there, I can check if I see any poppy plants waiting to bloom.  None yet, Hmm.  Lets go back up and around to the trillium patch, wow I need to hike more, I’m getting winded to easily.  Hey what’s that – that tree is just glowing.  That back lighting is unbelieveable!  I only have a few minutes.  I don’t know if I can pull this one off.  Ok quick unload.  Let’s see.  Maybe the 300, yeah the 300 will do fine.  Let me check quickly with the digital, yeah about 100 mm I think the 300 will do fine.  I’ll need the ND – work fast.  Take care, don’t drop anything, but got to work fast.  Ok spin it around, get the dark cloth, Ooh that is nice.  I need the loupe, focus, tilting won’t help so check how much depth will I need, where’s that card….. f32 should do.  Wait let me get this sunset on the digital and zoom in on the sun.  OK got it.  Meter quick, the light is going fast, aaah… the lower right for the foreground, now the the sky, wait hit memory, now the sky – keep it plus one, there, its five stops brighter, no six – five and half, ok one stop up I need 4 stops of ND, good.  That 2 stop filter is bad all scratched up I need to get a new one – like I have $100 right now anyway.  Get the 3 in there, the 1 stop, adjust, oh this is going to be hard to see and adjust that tree is too high in the frame – ….let me see.  To dark, open the apeture, its still hard to see, hurry up the light is going ok there, that is good I hope, I wish it was as easy as it was with 35mm argh.  Ok f32 on foreground gives 1 sec.  Set it, close shutter, test it – good.  Uh! film, hurry…. holder, put film in, load in camera, wait, make sure everything is tight, back, tripod head, swings, good, put film in, pull the slide, cock the shutter, ok go.  Got it! quick, one more, get the film in – careful don’t move the camera, pull slide, shutter, and go.  Got it.  What a day.  That sunset is just awesome.  Let me get this tree on digital.  Get this big guy off, Ok, meter darn the light is gone, its totally different now.  Get it any way.  wow look at those hills , this is really going to be a great photo, that mist is pinking up real nice, zoom in and get that.  Wow its so nice out here.  Amazing tomorrow is the equinox, this was the last sunset of winter.  Its so quiet, so calm.  I hope the 4×5′s come out.  Well keep one behind in case exposeure was off.  It nice out here, alright lets load up.

It all comes screaming back.  Photography - memories & life on a piece of celluloid – amazing.

Enjoy Summer!  Peace.

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The Last Of Winter

On Wednesday afternoon I decided to take a hike on the very last day of winter. The buzz is that the wildflower bloom this year is early with flowers blooming up and down the state, maybe not as extensive as in years past but definitely blooming. On a good year, Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, the place where photography first took hold in my heart, is THE wildflower location on the San Francisco Peninsula and I wanted to see if anything had started there.

It was a day where you did not know where you ended and the sky began. The air was so soothing that you could not tell that you were actually outdoors. It was perfect. As I hiked along I realized the flowers were nowhere to be found. But nonetheless, the hike was great and the scenery, as always, was comforting.

At about one mile into my hike I detoured and headed to the ancient oak grove that resides on Russian Ridge. As I approached the grove, the sun was getting close to the horizon and I realized that this was the very last day of winter – March 19th, 2009. It was as perfect a sunset as one could hope for.

Winters Last Sunset

Winter's Last Sunset

I then noticed this live oak basking in the last rays of the winter’s sun. It was backlit and was poised against a distant hill that was in the shadows. It immediately caught my eye and I dropped my pack and pulled out the Large Format camera and began to work. Once I finished I also captured this image digitally as this oak was still waiting to leave. Still in its winter slumber, the early warm temperatures and life giving rains were not enough to coax the leaves to come out – but I am sure they will be out to play in the sun very soon.

Waiting To Leave

Waiting To Leave

I then turned to the sun, that golden warm torch in our sky as it sank lower in the western sky I waited until it was just moments away before it bid us, and winter, a farewell and tripped the shutter once more.

Last Moments of Winter

Last Moments of Winter

Then I just stood there and watched the sun slowly vanish beneath the horizon – silently and without any fanfare. And suddenly, the last of winter was gone.

The air, laden with moisture, began to chill as the cold wind off the Pacific raced up the canyons and ravines filling it with a delicate mist that began to enshroud the mountains below me in mystery. Mixed with the final rays of the sun, the mountains blushed as Spring began knocking on the door asking to be let in.

Blushing In Pink

Blushing In Pink

Light has always amazed me. It is everywhere in our world as it surrounds us, but at the same time it is invisible until it interacts with the objects in front of us. Then those objects reveal their many shades, tainted if you will, by the light that showers them. Sometimes they glow while other times they come on harshly and force us to look away as if they are trying to tell us to leave them alone. No matter what however, without light they could not manifest themselves for us to see. Without light we would be in perpetual darkness, lost without direction or the courage to step forward. Blinded and bereft of the beauty that appears due to light’s countenance. As spring is now upon us, the days will soon be vibrant with new life basking in the warm light and calling us to come out and play. Let us join the beams of light as they mingle with the Earth and be happy, we all need that.

Peace – Youssef

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Ramadan 1429 Begins

Today was the first day of fasting for the month of Ramadan this year.

Enjoying the afternoon

Enjoying the afternoon

I lead a trip up to the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the northern Santa Cruz mountians on Sunday after noon with about 20 people attending. We spent about two hours along one of the ridge trails in the preserve waiting for the sun to set so that we could start searching. We had a good time while we waited.

It was another perfect day for moonsighting. The sky was clear and visibility was excellent. Although it was clear and sunny we had mild temperatures in the upper 60′s.

As the sun began to set, we all anxiously waited to start searching. Although the sunset was quite impressive with its deep orange color, we had to really stop ourselves from looking to prevent the green spots from appearing in our eyes which would hamper seeing the delicate crescent moon.

Finally the sun had vanished below the horizon. It left us with sublte pastel colored skies.

However, try as we did, we could not see any sign of the new crescent moon. Even though is was a 30 hour old moon, its age determine from the moment it is in conjunction with the sun, it was low on the horizon, only about 3.5 degrees in altitude, and was only in the sky for 20 minutes after the sun set. Most 30 hour old crescents are easy to see in the sky after sunset, but this one was to low ont he horizon and set too soon after sunset.

In the end, no one in North America saw the crescent moon that evening. Making the month of Sha’ban a 30 day month and with Ramadan beginning on Tuesday September 2, 2008.

With one day now complete we look forward to a blessed month ahead of us.

Peace – Youssef

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