Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Culinary School at Sea

PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 4, 2007) - Civilian culinary instructor Jeff Hadley gives Culinary Specialists a demonstration on food presentation aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56). Hadley has volunteered his time to help instruct Navy culinary specialists for the past two summers. While deployed, McCain is under the operational control of Destroyer Squadron 15.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Bryan Reckard

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Mt. Tallac Sunrise on Fallen Leaf Lake

No one talked on the trail. Each photographer focused on the path ahead in the pre-dawn light. With only the pair of boots ahead to guide us, each hiker artfully dodged rocks on the groomed trail.

The sunrise came early last Friday. The last photographer arrived at the trailhead along Fallen Leaf Lake Road shortly after 5 a.m. The group hit the trail at half past the hour.

As photographer Tim Rains led the hike, I'm sure the last point during Thursday's workshop resonated in each mind.

"Famous photographers became famous because they were out there," said Rains. Great photographers like Ansel Adams captured breath taking photographs by taking the take the time to "get off the beaten track."

The brilliant red and blue hues of a Sierra Nevada sunrise waited each photographer. The 10-minute trek would soon bring the group to photographic treasure. The trail led us through a dry meadow and over a narrow rocky hill to the our photographic vantage point.

"Spread out and pick a spot along the beach," said Rains, as we approached the eastern shoreline of Fallen Leaf Lake.

As each photographer selected his shooting location, Rains encouraged us to pick a vantage point on the beach that incorporated objects in the foreground. Objects like a weathered tree stump, for instance, add depth to the photograph, said Rains.

As I set my tripod up on the rocky beach, Rains suggested that a polarizing filter would enhance color saturation and darken the sky to a rich, blue color.

The class quickly swung into action. We only had 15 minutes until the sunrise would illuminate the rocky face of Mt. Tallac. Hardly anyone talked as we focused on the coming sunrise.

I snapped several shops of the mountain in the pre-dawn light. Satisfied with my exposure settings, I turned the camera southward to the photograph the shoreline.

"Take your time, sit and look the area over," said Rains during the workshop. "You might discover something."

This technique has allowed Rains to discover geographic faces -- often set rock formations -- in his outdoor photographs. I found an old tree stump a fascinating subject.

The sun started to inch down the face of Mt. Tallac after I shot several quick pictures of the shoreline. I bracketed each series of pictures of the sunrise in increments of 1/3-stop. (Although Rains recommends 1/2-stop increments, I've my camera set for 1/3-stop increments.)

The peaceful morning was only interrupted by a water skier on the lake. A light breeze and wave action from the boat limited the quality of the reflection in our pictures.

At about 20 minutes past the six o'clock, I knew I had captured my sunrise when the image on the LCD monitor jumped out of the camera. I was rewarded with a fiery red reflection as the waves rippled toward the shore.

As we packed our cameras and tripods around 7 o'clock, Rains announced that he had one good shot. It may not have been a spectacular sunrise in photographic terms. But it was my first in recent years. (I took scores of Pacific Ocean sunrises with a Petre SLR as a sailor in the 1970s.)

A lively hike back to the truck punctured the cool morning. We talked about our photographs as red hues of the sunrise gave way to the bright morning sun over Fallen Leaf Lake.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Quiet Garden

I found this rustic chair in the restored garden at the Baldwin Estate in South Lake Tahoe. I love the quite solitude that comes from a colorful garden. Somehow, the lush vegetation with the yellow accent from the daisies in the foreground gives me a sence of peace. It's relaxing to read the afternoon away.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lake Tahoe Photography Class

found an answer to my quest to photograph the sunrise. It comes in the form of class tomorrow evening called Pho-TAHOE-ography and is led by local photographer Tim Rains.

The class meets at the Forest Service Visitor Center at Taylor Creek at 8 p.m. Thursday, August 9, 2007. The Visitor Center is located 3 miles north of the "Y" in South Lake Tahoe. Take Hwy. 89 past the Tallac Historic Site.

The Tahoe Daily Tribune said:

Thursday's program, The Sunrise Edition, will highlight Rain's interest in shooting early morning sunrises. He will also talk about his expertise in the Sunrise Myth and the science and practical application of capturing those great sunrise photos. The evening program will be followed by a field trip the following morning to capture the early morning light as it hits Mt. Tallac and is reflected in the still waters of Fallen Leaf Lake.
Looks like this is what the doctor ordered. Now I have to rise at oh-dark-thirty Friday morning!

Grandma, Change my Diaper

Grandma, change my diaper. I can't stand it anymore! Grandma wasn't amused.

Beef Stew with Sundried Tomato Pesto

Yes, I'm cooking. From recent posts, it may not seem that way. Except for two meals, I really haven't prepared anything unique.

As you can see from by blogs this week, photography and hiking (the two go hand-in-hand) have occupied much of my time. After shooting the Glen Alpine Resort in the full noon sun, I thought it'd be nice to shoot during the "magic hours" when brilliant images flow out of your camera.

Even skilled photographers have difficulty shooting when the sun is high in the sky. Images easily wash out. You can only add so much compensation to a picture that features a corrugated tin roof before it's underexposed.

There are two magic hours -- one at sunrise and the other at sunset. The quality of your photographs will amaze you when you shoot 30 to 60 minutes after the sunrise or before sunset. It's also called the golden hours because of the warm, saturated colors associated with the beginning and end of the day.

With sunrise just after 6 a.m., I haven't managed to wake up early yet. I'm enjoying a week of sleeping in until 7 or 8 each morning. I may rise early tomorrow or Friday morning.

It's much easier to eat an early dinner and catch the setting sun. We left camp at 5 O'clock and walked through the Tallac Estates. Shooting in the late afternoon sun was a good exercise in adjusting for lighting challenges of the late afternoon.

I shot a few semi-successful pictures directly into the sun as it dropped into the trees over the Pope House (see photo to right). I certainly need to improve.

After our stroll through the Tallac historic site, we drove up to the Angora Ridge Lookout to shoot the sunset. I posted my most successful photograph yesterday here.

So much for photography. Let's turn to beef stew. This is a food blog, after all.

A richly flavored stew is the perfect dish for a lazy day in camp. A sturdy cast iron Dutch oven, plenty of hot coals from the fire and a little patience is all you need to turn a chuck roast into tender cubes in a rich gravy. This recipe has a nice Mediterranean flare it it with the addition of sundried tomato pesto and pepperincini peppers.

You don't need top heat for this recipe. Bottom heat is sufficient since the stew is gently simmered over a hot fire for one to two hours. Control the heat by adjusting the concentration of coals under the pot. Add hot coals under the pot if the stew isn't simmering.

If it's simmering vigorously or boiling, remove coals and set them aside. You should see a gentle simmer, with bubble barely breaking the surface.

I use 2 to 3 pounds of chuck roast for my stews. The amount depends on the quantity of meat in the package. Adjust the amount of beef stock or broth accordingly. You don't need a lot of extra gravy with this stew recipe since it doesn't call for potatoes or carrots.


2-1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups beef stock or broth
4 tablespoons sundried tomato pesto
6 pepperincini peppers, stems removed and chopped
1 large bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

Pre-heat 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven over a hot fire. Lightly season cubed beef chuck roast with salt and ground black pepper. Dredge seasoned beef in flour. Shake off excess flour and set aside. Reserve remaining flour.

Add half the olive oil to the hot oven. Brown beef in in hot oil in 2 batches to avoid overcrowding. Remove each batch of beef to a plate after it is browned. Use the remaining oil for the second batch. Saute onions in hot oil until tender.

Return browned beef to Dutch oven. Add beef stock or broth, sundried tomato pesto, pepperincini peppers, bay leaves, crushed red pepper and thyme to Dutch oven. Stir, replace lid and set inside oven. Gently simmer for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until beef it tender.

Prepare a slurry by whisking the remaining dredging flout into cold water. Remove lid and pour slurry into stew. Immediately stir until thickened. Replace lid and return to oven and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Thin with beef stock or broth is too thick.

Total cooking time for the stew will be approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Serve over mashed red potatoes or penne pasta. Serves 6 to 8 (1-cup) portions.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sunset over Glen Alpine Creek Basin

The last rays of warmth bath Glen Alpine Creek Basin as the sun sets behind Cathedral Peak this evening. I shot the photograph from Angora Ridge Lookout. At 7:25 p.m., the sun had just slipped behind the peak, which overlooks the south-western shore of Fallen Leaf Lake.

Shot settings: f/11, 1/250 second shutter speed, 47 mm focal length, ISO 200 in manual mode.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Glen Alpine Resort

My son and I hiked to Glen Alpine Springs this afternoon. The springs is the site of a preserved hotel and tent cabin resort that dates back to 1884 (and possible earlier). The hotel closed in 1966 after being passed through several owners.

Nathan Gilmore first explored Fallen Leaf Lake in 1863. He soon discovered Soda Spring and established a cow camp there. Gilmore operated the resort until his death in 1898.

Gilmore's resort drew its clientele from San Fransisco and Virginia City. "Guests of the resort traveled by steamboat (on Lake Tahoe) to the Tallac Resort and then by stagecoach or automobile, and were served elegant meals on china in the dining area," says Forest Service literature.

After a disastrous fire destroyed the dining room and kitchen in the early 1920s, then owner E.G. Galt enlisted the help of frequent guest and architect Bernard Maybeck to design a new resort. Among Maybeck's designs is the Assembly Hall that's next to Soda Spring. Today, the hall houses a historic interpretive center.

The four Maybeck buildings have been preserved and are included in a private historic preserve. The Dining Room (larger hall to the left) and Kitchen are still used for special events.

The Glenn Alpine Springs website includes this description of Maybeck's designs:

The famous Bernard Maybeck style: the "arch" -- the rounded roof eves resembling thatched roofs, industrial metal roofs, window sashes and doors, lots of windows, native granite rock buttresses both inside and outside the buildings at Glen Alpine Springs. They stand today as a tribute to the renowned architect's attention to build fireproof buildings as requested, but also show his purpose to blend the intimate relationship of topography and materials in site planning.
The kitchen features a large wood-burning range. Gourmet meals are still prepared in the kitchen, which dates from 1922. (I wasn't able to get a picture without the reflection unfortunately. Note the bottle of 409 that is visible through the reflected benches.)

The resort site is operated by Historical Preservation of Glen Alpine Springs, Inc., P.O. Box 694, Glen Ellen, California, 95442.

The site is only accessible by a one-mile hike from the parking area at the Glen Alpine Trailhead next to Lilly Lake. The trail follows the service road and includes two moderate climbs. The refreshing view of Modjeska Falls, named after a Virgina City actress who performed at the resort in 1885, is found at the mid-point of the hike.

Forest Service directions: "Take Highway 89 north approximately 3 miles from South Lake Tahoe to Fallen Leaf Lake Road. Watch for bicyclists and other cars on this narrow, one-lane road. Continue until you see the Glen Alpine trailhead sign and turn left. Trailhead parking is across from Lily Lake."

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This Ain't Camping -- Max Yasgur's Farm at Tahoe Valley Campground

A bit of culture shock. That's how I'd characterize this year's camping trip to South Lake Tahoe.

A few years ago, I wouldn't have been caught dead rocking to David Crosby and Stephen Stills lookalikes on a camping trip.

But this year is different. We're spending the week at the Tahoe Valley RV Campground in South Lake Tahoe.

As a card carrying member of the dirt camping crowd, I've had to adjust to flowing water, electricity on demand and hot showers.

max YASGUR'S FARM, a musical revue band that plays the tunes of the Woodstock era, including many ballads from Crosby, Stills and Nash, entertained campers this evening.

After dinner, we walked over to the big white entertainment tent and took a seat. The band started around 7 p.m. and played the tunes of the 60s and 70s for three hours.

It was a fun evening of music and good, family oriented entertainment. I'll have to try this more often.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lake Tahoe Blue

The grandeur of Lake Tahoe has always amazed me. Its beep blue color makes it the jewel of the Sierra Nevada. The waters of Fallen Leaf Lake in the foreground are blue. This picture was shot from Angora Ridge, near the old lookout.

Eldorado National Forest rangers placed the Angora Lookout on the narrow Angora Ridge in 1924. Lookouts had an almost unobstructed 360-degree view of the forest in the South lake Tahoe area. This structure was built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The original lookout cab was converted to a residence after this one was completed.

The Angora Fire scorched the trees to the left of the lookout. The ridge formed the eastern flank of the fire. Firefighters used the ridge road as a natural fire break. Fortunately, the lookout was spared.