Archive for the 'Announcements' Category

Crescent Moon News – Shawwal 1433

Today marks the 29th day of Ramadan 1433.  This is the critical day for sighting the new moon which will mark the beginning of Shawwal 1433, Eid Al-Fitr (The Festival of Breaking Fast) and the end of Ramadan this year.  A huge network of people experienced in sighting the new crescent moon has been mobilized across the Western Hemisphere.  Reports will start coming in within a few hours.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is highly unlikely that we would see the moon as the moon sets very soon after the sun and the sky might not darken sufficiently to see it.

Check back later this evening, approximately 8:30 pm PDT for further news.

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Humble Beginnings – Ramadan 1433

I was out last night and this evening in search for the new crescent moon that marks the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.  Last night, that would be July 19th, 2012, the moon was not seen.  It was only 12 minutes behind the sun and at the same time we had some fog to contend with.  Similarly, the moon was not positively seen anywhere in the world on the evening of the 19th.

This evening was a different story.  The conditions were perfect and the moon was easily seen.  Not that it made much difference, as the 19th was the 29th day of the previous month and was the critical day in determining when Ramadan would start.  However, it is my “thing” to be out there photographing the new moon, so out I went again this evening.

The moon was easily seen and a thought suddenly occurred to me.  For the longest time as I can recall the moons of Ramadan have appeared in a lack-luster entrance.  Quiet, humble and just there.  Suddenly it all made sense to me.

“Oh you who believe, Fasting has been proscribed upon you as it was proscribed on those who were before you so that you might increase in piety” ~ Quran.

Piety, this month is about piety.  Piety is never flashy.  Its not glamorous or forward or vain.

Its about humility, being patient, reserved, and quiet.  This evening it was quiet out there.  Few people, mild temperatures, slight breeze, very unassuming.  The moons of Ramadan have arrived showing us the very qualities that this month is designed to foster in all of us.  I am in awe.

Ramadan Moon

Ramadan Moon

To all my Muslim Readers – Ramadan Mubarak!  Make use of this month to come out as humble and pious as the moon.

To all Peace.

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Sha’baan 1433 Starts

This evening ended the Month of Rajab by the completion of 30 days.  Sighting the moon was not a necessity and yet it is still enjoyable.  Even more so with an afternoon like the one we had today.  Absolutely perfectly clear skies, moderate temperatures up on top of the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking a fog covered coast and the San Francisco Bay.  The conditions were perfect for sighting the new crescent moon.

Sunset was at 8:31 pm PDT and by 8:41 pm I saw the first glimpses of the moon. Incredibly faint, it faded in and out of my sight for a few moments until it became stable.  By 2o minutes in, it was a vivid white streak and an ever increasing colorful sky.

New Crescent Moon of Sha'baan 1433

Sha'baan 1433

This moon marks the beginning of the month of Sha’baan 1433 AH.  It is an important month that precedes Ramadan and is a month of preparation mentally, physically and spiritually.  To all my Muslims readers, Sha’baan Mubarak!

Peace to you All.

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Black & White Spider Awards – Nominee Selection



I just received notice that “Choices”, the photo above, was chosen as a nominee in the 7th annual Black & White Spider Awards.  This is an international competition of black and white photography that is judged by industry’s preeminent names and taste makes.

From among 8,223 entries this year, I entered only ‘Choices’ and it was picked among the 875 nominees in 14 different categories.   Here is what was sent to me:

Dear Youssef,

CONGRATULATIONS on being a Nominee at the 7th Annual Black & White Spider Awards with:


Nominee in Nature | Choices


8,223 entries were received from 72 countries and your work received a high percentage of votes overall. Certainly an achievement, well done!


The Awards Jury represents the industry’s biggest names and tastemakers who reviewed the entries online before making the nomination shortlist and honoring 180 title awards and 875 nominees in 14 categories. The Awards could not have wished for a better group of professionals to work with.


We will be promoting your nomination through our international network and PR campaign.


Congratulations once again on being a Nominee and we wish you a most successful photography year.


Best regards,

Basil O’Brien

Creative Director

If you are interested in seeing what “Choices” was up against the results are at the following link. Black & White Spider Awards.

Just thought I would share.


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2nd Place Awarded

This past weekend my work was awarded 2nd Place in the photography category at the Conejo Valley Art Museum Art Walk.  I don’t put too much behind contests as the results are so dependent on who is judging, however it was nice to gain the recognition.

Second Place Ribbon

2nd Place at Conejo valley Art Walk

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Taking The Stage

Annular Eclipse of May 20, 2012

Annular Eclipse

On May 20th 2012, the Moon and Sun came together in a show that did not disappoint.  However, it was the Sun that took center stage as it was the object of occlusion that was to produce sights that few have seen.  It was an exhilarating event that did produce the excitement promised.

However, the eclipse of the sun could not have happened with out the moon.  This month’s eclipse eclipsed the fact that what took place was the conjunction of the moon and the sun, an event that takes place in every lunar cycle.  Conjunction marks the moment when the moon passe directly between the Earth and the Sun. Most months the Moon’s plane of orbit places it either above or below the Earth’s plane of orbit around the Sun and thus an eclipse of the Sun does not occur.  Yet each and every lunar cycle brings a conjunction and the birth of a new moon.

Fortunate is the one who had the opportunity to witness the physical conjunction take place on this current lunar cycle, for most months it is an invisible event.  The moment the Moon passes that conjunction the moon is born and the angle between the Moon-Earth-Sun, known as Elongation, begins to grow until it is large enough that light from the Sun will start reflecting off of the Moon and the surface of the Moon becomes visible to our eyes.

Last night it was the Moon’s turn to take center stage and reveal itself as the fine crescent that it is when it is a new moon.  On a first day, the Moon is not visible before sunset and in most cases it will not be visible until close to 4/9ths the time between sunset and moonset.  Many factors are involved in the visibility of the new crescent Moon after conjunction. Elongation, Moonset lag time after sunset, Percent of the Moon’s Illumination (also known as the Arc of Illumination), its Altitude at the time of sunset and the Age of the Moon past conjunction.

Last night at sunset the Moon was about 25 hours and 45 minute old.  A very young Moon.  It had an Elongation of only 12°, a value that is below the accepted 15° that is needed for easily seeing it and it was only 1% illuminated, the actual minimum that is needed to be seen.  At best it was going to be a difficult moon to see even with perfect sky conditions.

When I arrived last night at my normal viewing location atop Russian Ridge  just west of the SF Bay Area at 2300 feet above sea level, the sky was not looking good.

Sunset on May 21, 2012 from Russian Ridge

Sunset on Rajab 1, 1433

The horizon was nearly completely covered in high clouds obscuring the sky and almost any hope of seeing such a young crescent moon.  To make matters worse, this new Moon was to mark the beginning of the 8th month in the Islamic Calendar, Rajab, a hallmark month, and one that is critical in establishing the beginning of Ramadan just two months away.  For a new Moon sighting to be accepted according to Islamic Jurisprudence, two adults must witness the new crescent Moon as a naked eye sighting without any optical aids.  I was just one man, who could only coax his 12 year old and 6 year old daughters to accompany him.

It was not looking good.  Nonetheless, I waited, scanning the sky back and forth, referring to an ephemeris for guidance as to where in the sky the moon should be.  I looked, I measured, I waited.  The light was fading so I decided to do the Sunset prayer up there on the ridge.  Once finished I continued to look.  Text messages were filling my phone quickly with questions asking if the moon had been seen.  My only reply, “stay tuned”.  I only knew of one other person out looking in our area and even though he did say he would meet me up on the ridge it looked like he was not going to make it.

As the optimal viewing time approached I looked even harder, but to my disappointment the area I needed to be clear, where the Moon should be was obscured by clouds.  I decided to just start taking photos of the sky in the vicinity of where the moon should be and then later after I returned home I could examine them closely for any tell-tale signs of a crescent.  It would not count as a sighting but I could still check.

Just then my eyes caught a glimpse of a thin white curved line just poking out of the clouds.  I looked harder and to my utter amazement it was the crescent Moon! It was exactly where I thought it would be hidden behind a thin gray curtain of moisture in the sky.  My daughters rushed over and asked where it was.  I pointed it out and my eldest saw it immediately.  It was 8:53 pm when we made that first sighting, and I pointed the camera at it and started to photograph.  In between the shutter releases I would reply to the text messages in the confirmation of the sighting.  It was still not a valid sighting as I was the only adult, a situation that I have fallen into many times in the past, especially for the month of Rajab.

All of a sudden, in the twilight, I heard some voices.  I looked back to see it was my friend and his family.  They arrived just in time.  I called out to them to hurry before it sets.  They came up to me and I pointed it out and all but one of his younger sons could see it clearly as it continued to sink closer to the horizon.  We had a confirmed sighting and my demeanor changed instantly from contented sadness to jubilation.  I can’t remember a sighting event where I was so happy to have another adult with me to establish a positive sighting.

The Crescent Moon of Rajab, 1433 (May 21, 2012)

Rajab 1433

This Moon was only 26.3 hours old past conjunction.  One of the youngest moons I have ever had the pleasure to see and photograph.  As thin as this moon was it most definitely took the stage last night.

So to all my Muslim readers, a Rajab Mubarak!

Peace to You All!

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Standing Firm

Spring seemed to come early this year, especially after an almost non-existent winter.  This seems to be the pattern in the past few years, the seasons seems confused, not unlike many of us with all that has been going on in the world.  We have all endured some very trying times in the last few years.  From loss of income and jobs to health issues and housing problems and mounting debt and wars, these tribulations have tired and tested all of us.  I could go on about the hardships that have befallen me and Organic Light Photography, but what good can come out of self-pity?  The important thing is that we are all still here, standing firm in the face of the onslaught, unwavering and resolute.  Doing what we are supposed to do, fulfilling our destiny and meeting our fate with patience and contentment.  I applaud all of you who have stood firm and weathered the storm.

Small Tree Standing Firm Against Onslaught of Water

Standing Firm

This was the sentiment I felt when I saw and photographed this photo titled ‘Standing Firm’.  The torrent of water rushing at this small delicate tree from all sides and its almost deafening roar would be enough to rattle any resolve. However, it has taken root in firm, unyielding, solid granite and with that as its foundation, finds the wherewithal to continue in its growth not bothered in the least by the madness rushing past it.

I do not find images to make photographs of; they find me.  They do so at exactly the right time when I need to see them and capture them that I may benefit from the message they are conveying and in turn pass it forward to all of you.  It is strange in that I have passed by this location more times than I can count and never once stopped to photograph.  However as it turned out this time, I was not passing by.  I decided on traveling up the Merced River canyon on a tip that wildflowers were blooming along the river.  Therefore, I made a day trip of it and discovered nothing of the sort in the way of flowers.  So, I continued up the canyon not intending going into Yosemite National Park at all, only to find myself at the park entrance.  It was still early in the season so I did not expect to see much in the Valley and again had no intention on going down into it.  Nevertheless, I drove in, pulled over at Cataract Falls, and walked around a bit.

The water flow was pretty heavy and I started to wonder where this water was coming from.  It then occurred to me that this water was probably the run off from Cascade and Tamarack Creeks that intersect Big Oak Flat Rd. that leads into the park from the North.  So, I decided to go up and take a look.  It was that wondering that brought me to make the Cascade Creek bridge over crossing a destination rather than just a place that I passed going into and out of the park.  It was not particularly crowded although many people were there stopping, looking and taking snapshots with everything from SLR cameras to iPads and phones.  No one bothered once to look down over the bridge while I was there making ‘Standing Firm’.

I was very excited about this photo and made it with both the large format camera on film as well as with the digital camera.  The version posted here, as well as other places on the web, is the digital version.  Once the film version arrives, I will post that one as well in the hopes of having more detail and texture throughout. The photo has potential as it has already been selected as the Editor’s Weekly Pick on, the premier nature photography site on the internet.

So with that, enjoy what remains of spring, get out there, and find some inspiration for your self.



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Tick, Tock….Tick!

Time has been in very short supply in my life as of late.  Teaching has consumed almost all of it.  It has had me so tied up that I failed to post the new moon of last month and only realized it this evening when I began preparing the image taken earlier this evening.

Last month, however, the moon was not seen on the critical 29th day due to bad weather, but none the less, I did photograph it the following day.  So for those of you interested in it here is last month’s new moon taken on January 24, 2012 marking the beginning of Rabi Al-Awwal.

New Moon of Rabi Al-Awwal 1433

Rabi Al-Awwal 1433

Today was a hectic day but I did manage to secure the afternoon off and make it out to see and capture the new moon of Rabi Ath-Thani.  With my four assistants in tow, we made it to the top of the local mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean just after the sun dropped below the horizon.  The usual quiet was broken this time by the peals of laughter and tom-foolery of my assistants.  It was not long before we spotted it.  The particulars: initially seen at 6:13 pm PST with an altitude of 6 fingers above the horizon (approximately 9 degrees) and just over the sunset point or possibly just to the right of it (a rare occurance here in northern hemisphere for the moon to be to the right of the sun at sunset).  Its limbs were at 4 and 8 pm as best as we could tell with our naked eyes.

Within twenty minutes of the first sighting, this is what we were fortunate enough to witness.

New Moon of Rabi Ath-Thani, 1433

Rabi Ath-Thani, 1433

I would have had this photo up here on the journal much sooner, however about four hours after being up on the hills my oldest son, one of my four assistants, notices a bump on his right arm and goes to inspect it by lifting his sleeve.  To his surprise and all of ours as well, we discover a tick has sunk it ugly head into his arm and is feasting.  An adult female deer tick was the specimen as best as I can tell.  It was not engorged at all, as far as I can tell.  We pulled out our tick removal tools from our first aid kit and began working.  Those buggers really hold on tight.  It took a couple of minutes, but we finally got it to let go, only leaving a small mouth part still in the skin.  A few more minutes of work and we think we got all of it out.  However, this is nothing to take lightly and tomorrow we do plan on a visit to the doctor to make sure everything is ok.

As I worked, a sense of urgency came over me.  Time was of the essence in removing the tick.  The fear of infection with a myriad of illnesses, the least of which Lyme Disease, made it imperative that it be removed quickly and cleanly as soon as possible to avoid any infection.  We kept the bugger in a moist paper towel in case a test needs to be made on the tick to determine if it indeed is a vector for any disease.

Be vigilantly aware regarding the safety of what you love.  It does not take much, physically or with respect to time for your beloved to be taken away due to oversight or neglect.  While we live on a perfectly peaceful planet, there are elements that can bring great hardship and in some cases in very small packages.  Take care and make sure to stay safe while wandering.

Peace to you All.

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Heart Of Hearts Wins 2nd Honorable Mention

Heart Of Hearts 2nd Honorable Mention Award Winning Photo

Heart Of Hearts

This photo was made at the end of October.  I was photographing this colorful frosted edge Cottonwood leaf on a cold autumn morning in Yosemite National Park on the outskirts of a small Cottonwood grove along the Merced river.  It was a cold chilly morning and the leaves were still delicately frosted on the leaf face and along the edges.  I still use my old manual focus lenses from my 35mm film camera days, but now on a DSLR.  One of my favorite lenses is the 80-200mm fixed f/4 lens.  It has a single focusing ring and to zoom in  and out the barrel is move in and out respectively.  As I was working the camera was pointed directly down at the leaf.  As I was metering the leaf, I kept seeing the leaf size changing as the lens’ barrel kept sliding down changing the focal length.  Suddenly an idea hit me.  What would happen if zoomed in or out during the exposure.  I closed down the aperture to its smallest setting which gave me the longest shutter I could muster.  I started the exposure with the lens zoomed in to 200 mm and then about 1/3 of the way through the exposure I quickly zoomed out to 80mm and allowed the exposure to finish.  I must have made over 20 attempts to get both the zoomed out and zoomed in leaf well defined in the photo.  This one was my favorite.  My reflection about this photo is below.

Making photographs is an enigma to most when asked why the take photos, or at least it might spark some introspection. Photography, writing with light, is something that might be rooted deep in the need for us to share our experiences with others. It might also be rooted in the need to feel connected to what the photograph was taken of. It could also be rooted in the need to hold on to those things we find dear to our heart. When we look into our heart of hearts we just might find that photography fulfills all of these needs, regardless of what we photograph. In fact, even if the image is never really captured due to the absence of film or other capture media, the very act of tripping a shutter to trap the brief moment of light might be all that is needed to find fulfillment, reward and connection to the things that we love.

Heart Of Hearts has just been announced as the 2nd Honorable Mention on the NPN (Nature Photographers.Net) Editors Pick Awards 2011.  You can see it on the NPN website HERE.

Heart Of Hearts is available for orders on the Organic Light Photography website at this link, HERE


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Organic Light Photography Best Of 2011

It was a strange year of photography for me.  It seemed like I hardly got out at all, but the number of photographs made this past year speak to the contrary.  It was difficult narrowing down all the photos to just these favorites.  The other thing I noticed was that I did not update the website as I normally do, unfortunately time just did not allow for it.  I will try to do better this coming year.  So without any further delay, enjoy my favorite images from 2011.  And don’t forget to visit the website to see the other photos from the year in the “new images” section, HERE

Number 1:

I think by far my most favorite photograph of the year is The Gathering.  It was a whole family effort and it brings back a great memory of my four children, uh assistants, and I stomping around in the surf at the coast gathering and placing all these amazing rocks.  And I did not think I would even make a photo that day as the coast was completely socked in with a thick fog that never lifted.  ‘The Gathering’ has also been a big hit in the art show exhibit as well.  I am hoping for great things with this photo.

The Gathering Ano Nuevo State Reserve

The Gathering

Number 2:

I started out the year in a real funk.  I was having a very hard time “seeing”.  I went out one warm, we’re talking like 70 degrees warm, yeah California is strange, February day to the coast with my four assistants to play in the sand.  I wandered the beach while the assistants did what they do best, play.  I soon became enamored with patterns in the sand and started to work.  As soon as I made this photo, my youngest got caught by a sneaker wave and even though it was warm to a dry body, her little 5 year old wet body could not handle it and started to shiver uncontrollably.  We piled whatever clothes we could on her, packed up the camera and carried our little treasure for over 1/2 mile back to the car to warm her up.  She was fine, and my vision was renewed with Treasure.



 Number 3:

There are those times when you walk upon a scene where the light is just speaking to you in a very deep way.  This was one of those times.  The light falling on this small area of fallen Black Oak leaves was something I just could not pass up.  I look forward to printing this one very large and exhibiting Final Words in the show.

Final Words

Final Words

Number 4:

There is a place along the Merced River in Yosemite National Park that brings tranquility to my heart.  Its the place I think of when I need to go to my ‘Happy Place’ and its a place that I have been photographing for years with only marginal success.  This year, the photos I made there were exceptional.  The variety of colors and shapes made me think of an Autumn Garden.

Autumn Garden

Autumn Garden

Number 5:

This past spring was lackluster at best in California, at least for me.  The one photo that I came back with was from Carizzo Plain.  It was my first multi-4×5-sheet film stitched panoramic.  It brought my computer to its knees, then running Windows XP with only 2 GB of RAM.  The final photograph opened for me some great possibilities in both size and detail in my prints.  The final photograph, Remembering Spring, can be printed out at its native resolution of 360 dpi to the size of 50 inches tall by 100 inches wide!  It can go even larger than that.  I am looking for takers.

Remembering Spring

Remembering Spring


Number 6:

I have been photographing the moon, the new crescent in particular, for the last 20 years.  I go out each and every month to find it in the sky if not to photographing it as well.  Some months the sky sings with color and vibrancy as the moon sinks slowly to the horizon.  However on this night, color was not even a question, but the atmosphere and the company, Venus shown there to the left, made up for it.  To add to the ambiance, this moon marked the beginning of the new Islamic year, 1433 AH.  This scene made Starting Anew one of my all time favorite new moon photos.

Starting Anew

Starting Anew

Number 7:

Some friends and I have a tradition where we take our kids out for several days of camping and fun in the Sierra.  Most often we find ourselves somewhere along the Yuba River.  Years ago, I found a tributary to the Yuba river which came to this lush waterfall about a mile or some up this side canyon.  Each time we camp in the area, I try to make a photograph of it.  It has taken me quite a long time, but I finally captured that waterfall to my liking.  The Long Wait was a exercise in patience.  I guess good things do come those who wait.

The Long Wait

The Long Wait

Number 8:

Acquiring wisdom is a life long effort.  The longer we live the better the chances of becoming wise as we have more chances of learning the life lessons associated with wisdom.  I am always in awe of things that portray wisdom by virtue of their age.  Desert Sage and Tufa formations impart that awe to me.  My recent visit to South Tufa Beach along the Mono Lake shore was interesting in that I found a serendipitous juxtaposition of the young crescent moon with old desert sage and ancient Tufa.  I saw myself sitting before The Tufa Sage seeking the wisdom to navigate through life.  Knowing myself and how forgetful I am, I left Mono Lake with a sprig of the desert sage that I now keep in my studio hoping that the aroma would remind me of what I learned.  My studio now reminds me daily with the scent of desert sage to be cognizant that every event in life has a lesson to be learned and waxes my wisdom just a little bit more.

The Tufa Sage Mono Lake

The Tufa Sage


These are the eight photos from this past year that meant the most to me.  I invite you all to let me know which of these  photos are your favorite.  If you would like more information about each photo, the title of each was hyperlinked to the photo on the Organic Light Photography website where you can read my reflections about the photo and possibly purchase a print for your home, office or as a gift to a friend or loved one.  I thank all of my patrons and supporters for the continued support that makes this body of work and what is to come possible.

Have a Happy, Prosperous and Peace filled New Year.

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