Friday, October 9, 2009

Before there was email...

There was the Pony Express!

The Pony Express mail service operated for only 18 months from April 1860 to October 1861 before it fell victim to the transcontinental telegraph.

Riders would gallop along a 1,966 mile route from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California where upon the mail would be taken upon a steamer to be sent down to San Francisco. Because the mail was delivered by riders on horseback rather than stagecoaches mail could be delivered between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts by ten days.

The Pony Express Monument in Old Sacramento, California commemorates the first Eastbound ride which started at this exact spot at 2:46 a.m. on April 4,1860, when Sam Hamilton started his first lap of the 1,966 mile trip to St. Joseph, Missouri.

Old Sacramento, California is located on the Sacramento River and is minutes from the State Capitol. It has the highest collection of "Gold Rush" era buildings and is registered as a National and California Historic Landmark.

Kudos to the young men of the Pony Express who endured inclement weather and treacherous terrain to deliver mail, while today I sit at my computer and send electronic email to thousands of people all over the world in a blink of an eye!

Text and photo copyright by Sam Antonio

Canon 50D, Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 Lens

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Friday, October 2, 2009

"Little Church, Big Faith"

My friend, Denmark, and I took a quick day trip to Yuma, Arizona which is just right over the California state border. I had read about this church before our trip and mentioned we should stop by to take a look. I spotted it on our way to the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground along Highway 95 and we decided to photograph it on our way back.

Our timing couldn't have been more perfect as we came back to photograph the church right at a spectacular sunset. The church sits in the middle of a field away from the highway down a dirt road. I only noticed it because there is a sign off the highway that reads, "Stop, Rest, Worship."

The story behind the small church (it seats about 12 people) is that a local farmer built it to honor his wife and its only official service is during Easter. It's open to the public and there is a guest register you can sign.

Roadside lists it as one of the smallest churches in the world. I see it as a refuge for the world's problems and a resting place from the hot Arizona weather. A tiny gift from a farmer with a huge heart.

Text and photo copyright by Sam Antonio

Canon 50D, Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 Lens

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Another Perspective on Bosque del Apache!

Get ready for an experience of a lifetime! Arriving 40 minutes before sunrise, I waited in the cold pre-dawn for the daily ritual of the fly-out of the snow geese. The geese roost in the ponds overnight to protect themselves from predators and then fly-out in mass in the morning just as the sun rises to go to their feeding areas.

Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM


Mention the word "Bosque" to any bird photographer and they will instantly know you are talking about the mecca for bird photography in the United States. Every year from November to February, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is home to thousands of migrating sandhill cranes and snow geese for the winter. Located in San Antonio, New Mexico and a little over an hour drive south of Albuquerque, Bosque del Apache will enliven your senses and put your photography skills to the test.

It is also home to professional and well-funded amateurs photographers who migrate to Bosque for unique photo opportunities. In particular, the breathtaking experience of the predawn fly-out of tens of thousands snow geese.

As primarily a landscape and cityscape photographer I chose to go to Bosque to challenge and expand my photography skills. After my first day of shooting it became apparent I had some shortcomings. Bosque is one place where your camera equipment is as important as the person behind it. This is where top-notch professional camera bodies and fast super telephoto lens dominate. While the Canon 600mm f/4 lens is a popular lens with bird photographers, most photographers I talked with used the Canon 500mm f/4 lens because of its lighter weight and ease of use on the credit card (for the price of one Canon 600mm f/4 lens one can buy 18 iPhones).

The longest lens I was shooting with was with my Canon 100-400mm, but with limitations comes creativity. Most photos you see of Bosque del Apache are sharp portraits of the wildlife. My approach was to portray more environmental portraits of not only the wildlife but also man and nature.

Overall, I had a great time shooting at Bosque minus the cold weather (at dawn it was in the mid-teens). Now if Santa would kindly deliver the Canon 600mm f/4 lens for Christmas I would consider going back and braving the cold!