Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The NaBloPoMo Challenge: Jan. wrap up - Feb. sign up

I survived the NaBloPoMo January 2012 challenge.

That means I posted every day for 30 days in a row. Was it hard? Not really. What may surprise you even more is that I posted at least once a day, every day, in December too. So that's 64 days of posting every day!

I did it mostly to learn one thing: Is it possible to post content of value, not just fluff and fillers, when posting so frequently. Turns out I think it is. But it definitely takes two things: Dedication and the ability to identify what I call bloggable moments.

If you want to join the challenge for February CLICK HERE and sign up on the NaBloPoMo blog over on Blogher. The focus is on "Relative" meaning both familial and in relation to concepts and objects. We have until February 5th to decide if we'll sign up this month. Even if I don't I think you should :)

In January I focused a lot of my posts on beginners' photography tips. In February I'll be focusing on how to increase the frequency of your blog posting kicking off tomorrow with learning how to recognize and identify the bloggable moments I mentioned earlier.

OK, I've already decided to sign up. If you're a blogger I hope you'll join me.

Sylvia White and The Art of Being an Artist

The ICA is the the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. I went there the past two Sundays in a row. Why? Because I was doing something completely out of my ordinary: Learning how to become a professional artist from Sylvia White, Founder and Director of Contemporary Artists' Services.

From 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM 40+ local artists took part in this two-part workshop taught by renowned gallery owner and art advisor for visual artists Sylvia White and hosted by The City of San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. It was titled "The Art of Being an Artist, career management skills for visual artists."

Sylvia has been advising artists on all matters related to the business of being an artist, marketing and exhibitions since 1979. Learning from her was both entertaining and educational. She was engaging, funny and brutally honest. Topics ranged from what name to use, pricing, who and how to approach people in the art industry, how to handle rejection, websites, resumes, artist's statements, and what "being" an artist means. She is a veritable fountain of information. 

Photo by: Chuck Kirman

If you're an artist who is ready to launch yourself and your work into the world but you have no clue how to do it, view Sylvia's services on her website. They range from private consultations to long term career planning. Working with her would be a solid fist step to start you off on the right track.

When I received an email invitation from the San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs to attend the complimentary workshop I responded immediately because I really want to take my series of 1000 miniature origami cranes public this year after I've finished hanging my "winter" set.

"The Four Seasons"

Sylvia asked us some tough questions beginning with the most basic: What kind of artist do we want to be? Do we want the prestige of having our work hung in major galleries and museums or do we want to be a commercial success?

For an artist this can be a difficult distinction to make. A lot of us were thinking and asking "Can't we want both?" to which Sylvia replied, "No." She said even if you're 49% one and 51% other you should make a decision about which you want more before you reach out to the art world. You will be ineffective trying to do both at the same time. There are many possibilities when it comes to building your reputation and career path ranging from juried art shows, galleries, museums, private art consultants and interior decorators and until you know your goal, you won't know who to approach.

Sylvia explained that if you achieve one (prestige or commercial success), you'll probably achieve both because they tend to go hand in hand.

She also gave us lots of hands-on advice about how to improve our websites. Or to back up, she stressed the necessity of needing a website at all. Because it's such a specialized field there are specific parameters she believes are best practices when it comes to web design for artists.

This is my improved website home page after attending Sylvia's seminar. Note how my name is not only present, it's prominent. I also made my menu more concise. Below is the before. . .

What a difference! I hadn't ever included my name at the top of the page because I've always felt my art is about my work, not me. Sylvia helped me to realize that my work is a part of me and that being an artist is not a choice. Put that way I felt more comfortable adding my name to the top of the website. My art is an expression of me so why shouldn't my name be on it?

She also made a point that people who are artists must create. The way we create our best, most authentic, work is when we're pleasing no one but ourselves. To allow the direction of your artistic expression to be swayed by a judge in a competition or the approval of any random person means that you are allowing others to alter your expression. I learned early on that in order to nurture my creativity I can't allow others to dictate how I express it. That's why I dropped out of college 3 months before graduating. The environment was so creatively stifling I just couldn't see myself pursuing Advertising Art as a career. So I reasoned, why bother getting my degree at all? It's a decision I've never regretted.

At the end of the second day Sylvia asked us to write a list of three things:
  1. Our 6-12 month goals
  2. Our 5 year plan
  3. One over-the-top thing we want to have happen with our art
We wrote them down, sealed them into envelopes, addressed them and exactly one year from two days ago she is going to mail them to us so we can see if we were able to achieve our goals for 2012.

One of my 12 month goals I'd like to share with you is to find somewhere in the Bay Area to exhibit "The Four Seasons" during the month of August. Specifically I want the exhibit to coincide with the Peace Festival held in Hiroshima each summer on August 6th.

I also met a lot of local artists which was really fun. At times we paired off, broke into groups or chatted during lunch so I wanted to share the websites of some of the people I got to know during the workshop:

Photographer: SusanCarnahan.com

Pet Portraits: MarvinPlummer.com

Oil Painter: NancyWaltersArt.com

Photographer: SusanHillyard.com

Bronze Sculpturist: MariaKoretzSculpture.com

And I still have a lot of questions to figure out. For instance I don't even know how to classify my work. What kind of art is my origami? Is it sculptural? Could it be considered fine art or is it arts and crafts? Would I call it mixed media or something else? And am I a contemporary artist? If people like my work I'm not even sure that any of these questions matter. I haven't found anyone to ask because there are precious few miniature origami crane artists in the Bay Area, or, well, anywhere for that matter. At least that I'm aware of. At the moment I'm a bit in the dark about all of this but I'm sure I'll figure some of it out by the end of the year.

I found you this highlights video of Sylvia presenting The Art of Being an Artist

If you would like to learn from Sylvia White you can find her at ArtAdvice.com. Her site is a wealth of information so take some time and read through it if you're an artist who feels it's time to emerge and let the world know you are an artist.

Contemporary Artists’ Services
1783 E Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001
Office Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11am-5pm
 ArtAdvice.com - Consulting

Sylvia White Gallery
1783 East Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001
Gallery hours: Wed-Sat 11am-5pm
SylviaWhite.com - Gallery

If you'd like to learn more about different art programs in the South Bay visit:

City of San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

The Center for Cultural Innovation

Monday, January 30, 2012

Attend TEDx Sunnyvale's inaugural event, virtually

Have you ever attended a TEDx event? Well, I'm bringing one to you, virtually! On Saturday TEDx Sunnyvale hosted our first event. As an organizer, I had a great time both helping to put it together and being there to experience the videos with our audience. While many (probably most) TEDx events include live speakers, our team decided to focus on sharing only videos to create a day filled with some of the best pieces from the TED and TEDx archives.

Image credits with links are at the end of the post.

Our theme was "Prototypes" beginning with need, moving to concepts, and sharing both success stories and the value of failing.

We planned for an intimate audience where attendees would have the opportunity to mingle and get to know each other and we could get to know them. We even had a couple of drops ins who joined us.

If you would like to replicate the TEDxSunnyvale inaugural experience here's what you'll need:
  1. A computer connected to the internet
  2. Blueberry muffins
  3. Coffee
  4. Sandwiches
  5. Water
Ready? Here we go. . . Just click on the name of each speaker to watch the videos we watched that day in the order we presented them:

Session One - Prototype Theory

Erin McKean - Lexicographer

Need is one of the greatest motivators that compels people to create prototypes. Erin McKean discusses how need will someday cause someone to create a better, more complete, dictionary. (16 minutes)

Jason Halpern - Entrepreneur
The Journey from Start to Finish ... is it Ever Finished? A candid discussion about why not all prototypes are successful – but regardless, you can learn from each success and failure. (13 minutes)

Tom Wujec – Build a Tower, Build a Team
Tom’s “marshmallow problem” is a simple team-building exercise that makes clear our thought process and perception of success and reward can lead us down the wrong path when it comes to creating successful, imaginative, prototypes. (7 minutes)

Dale Daugherty - All of us are makers
MAKE magazine publisher Dale Dougherty says we’re all makers and creators at heart. This belief led him to creating MAKE magazine and one of my favorite annual events here in the Bay Area, Maker Faire. (12 minutes)

Eric Whitacre: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong
The internet has created an opportunity for creative thinkers to come up with new ways to share traditional talents. In this fusion of old and new, composer and conductor Eric Whitacre leads a prototype, virtual choir of singers, from around the world. The results are breathtaking. (15 minutes)

Then came Lunch: Now is the time to eat your muffin and sandwich. If you want to recreate my experience make sure yours is a humus sandwich on wheat with water as your beverage :)

Refreshments were sponsored by Bellano Coffee and Tech Shop.

Session Two - Prototypes in Practice

Onyx Ashanti: This is Beatjazz
What happens when a musician becomes an inventor? You get Beatjazz. Onyx Ashanti's imaginative presentation made him one of TED 2012's full spectrum finalists. (7 minutes)

Nathan Myhrvold – Inventor
A new way to photograph food. Nathan Myhrvold talks about how the team at Modernist Cuisine, approached food photography in a whole new way creating vibrant images from a whole new perspective. (10 minutes)

Marcin Jakubowski – Farmer, Technologist
Practical prototypes are the ones that may change the most lives in the most significant ways. TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski created open-source blueprints for 50 machines he determined were the most basic and vital, some for a tenth the cost of their counterpart manufactured products. (4 minutes)

Zach Kaplan & Keith Schacht – Inventables guys
The Inventables guys, Zach Kaplan and Keith Schacht, demo some unexpected and fun new materials and designs. Some have the audience laughing and the responses from some public street interviews will have you laughing too. (16 minutes)

Sonaar Luthra: Meet the Water Canary
Unwilling to accept that to test safe drinking water had to be an expensive and time consuming process Sonaar created a device that will save lives in the aftermath of tragedies
. (4 minutes)

Commercials - The Fun Theory - Not TED related
What happens when you take an everyday object and transform it into a fun prototype that creates a fun and behavior changing result? (5 minutes)

Johnny Lee – Wii Hacker
Johnny Lee uses Wii Remotes to prototype an interactive whiteboard and a head-tracking system. Instead of thousands of dollars his prototypes can built for less than a hundred. (6 minutes)

JC Dill - Before our finale video, photographer JC Dill shared with us how she created her ethereal and unique Sublimation series of images that she generously brought and displayed for our guests to enjoy.

Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez - Entrepreneurs/Urban Farming
A bucket was the first prototype in design that led to a symbiotic, eco-friendly business model that in its own right is also a prototype of how seemingly random companies can work together to create a product and business model beneficial to all. (14 minutes)

Well that wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed our presentation. For me, the underlying connective thread was that you have to be aware of opportunities to improve the way things have been done in the past, one can't allow convention to stop you from being imaginative and you shouldn't allow fear to stop you from trying to bring to fruition an idea that others may not understand or believe in. As a maker, performer or designer you have to create, a lesson I learned today by art authority Sylvia White. It's part of you. It's in your DNA. It's what you do and who you are so don't let anyone stifle your passion to explore possibilities that present themselves to you.

Here's how we did it. TechShop San Jose allowed us to use their conference room to host our event.

For several weeks beforehand our team (Gordon, Dave, Brenton and I) met at a local coffee shop and sorted out how to build our website, we set up our Facebook and Twitter pages, located our sponsors, came up with a marketing plan, and made our video selections.

The day before the event Gordon and I met at the venue at 10:00 AM.

We wanted to check out the room set up and make sure we knew what we needed for Saturday. We soon discovered we didn't need my portable projection screen. Make that my tiny, portable, projection screen. LOL

Then we thought we could use the screen to block light coming in through a large front window. But we ended up filling the window with black paper donated by photographer JC Dill. It was a much better solution.

We pulled a bit of an all nighter so Gordon provided me with an impressive snack bar.

You know how they say a watched pot never boils? Well turns out a watched laser cutter still cuts. LOL. That's Gordon checking on our custom, wood, laser cut, name tags.

See that bright, white line on the left side of the picture? That's the laser burning through the wood.

TechShop has an Epilog Helix laser cutter.

It cut 36 name tags out of one sheet of wood.

Ta da!

The wood was just barely connected. The tags snapped apart.

The edges were blackened by the laser. We thought it looked cool!

The next morning Brenton and Dave were like Santa's elves snapping them apart and punching out the holes for the lanyard clips.

An unanticipated consequence of burning the tags apart was the singed edge was black because it was covered in soot. In all honesty we didn't have time to wipe down the edges of all of the tags so we decided to extend the "prototype" and "maker experience" to our guests by giving them a paper towel and the opportunity to finish their own name tags. Seemed like a winner of an idea and everyone was great about helping us out :) We had a great audience!

I'm really looking forward to working on our next event. If you can't wait until then there are plenty more videos to watch online. Go see for yourself. TED and TEDx are both overflowing with inspiration and with over 10,000 videos there are plenty of opportunities to be inspired by TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design). 

Thank you to all of our sponsors: TechShop, Bellano Coffee, JC Dill Photography, 37 Signals, LiveWorld and TEDxConstitution Drive.

Speaker Images Credits - Erin McKena, Jason Halpern, Tom Wujec, Dale Daugherty, Eric Whitacre, Onyx Ashanti, Nathan Myhrvold, Marcin Jakubowski, Zach Kaplan & Keith Schacht, Sonaar Luthra, Johnny Lee, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wood name tags made on a laser cutter

Last night my friend Gordon and I collaborated to make name tags out of wood. It was Gordon's idea to make them out of a sheet of cherry wood for our first TEDx Sunnyvale event. I was the designer, he did the production.

Admittedly, they weren't perfect. But seeing how the theme of our event was "Prototypes" I felt like I shouldn't focus too much on the end result but instead the fact that we were willing to try something new.

The smell of burnt wood was actually quite fragrant.

How did we, or make that Gordon, make them? On a laser cutter! I would love to get into all of the details tonight but I'm so tired I'm about to fall over and fall asleep. Which, for an insomniac like me, is pretty amazing! So I'll do a full recap in a day or two.

Shot with my macro lens: 45mm / F2.8 at 1/40 shutter speed.

Where did we make them? At TechShop. When they say "Build Your Dreams Here" they mean it. I'm dreaming up all kinds of things I'd love to make. Oh, and our TEDx event was a lot of fun and very inspiring. We had a great turnout and I hope everyone had as much fun as we (the organizers) did.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm an organizer for TEDxSunnyvale!

Recently I designed a piece of artwork to be used on a website banner for the new TEDxSunnyvale website. The reason I undertook this project is because I am one of the organizers of TEDxSunnyvale! What is TED and TEDx? In short, it's a gathering of people who want to change and improve the world by sharing ideas. I've blogged about them once before.

My apologies now for the overt copyright watermark. Because this was a design, technically for a client, I feel compelled to exercise more effort in protecting the copyright  of the images as enlargements.

As we designed our website we wanted it to represent the city of Sunnyvale so we asked ourselves: "What does Sunnyvale represent to us?"

First and foremost would be orchards because the area where Silicon Valley now resides used to be miles upon miles of fruit orchards. The most well know today would be C.J. Olson's Cherries. I even saw Martha Stewart mention them on her show years ago.

Next would be Moffett field located on the border of Sunnyvale and  Mountain View. Hanger One can easily be seen from HWY 101 as you drive through Sunnyvale. It's a military and civilian airport so you'll see everything from the Blue Angels to blimps taking off from Moffett Field. Thus the addition of the Zeppelin, which isn't a blimp, it's a dirigible. A diri-what-le? That's what I said when our fearless leader Gordon said it isn't a blimp. So what is the difference between a dirigible, blimp and zeppelin?

The term dirigible is like saying car. There are many types of cars but they are all cars. Blimps and zeppelins are like different models of cars. The one thing they do have in common is they are lighter-than-air craft that are steerable and have a power source.

A Rigid Airship has a metal framework with a fabric that covers it. Zeppelins are a brand of rigid airship made by the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin company in Germany.

Blimps are like big balloons. There is no framework that holds the shape in place. When deflated they flatten like a balloon.

The final representation for our banner was inspired by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. They create commercial and military satellites, space probes, missile defense systems. We chose to feature a non-military weather satellite as part of our banner.

And of course it's Sunnyvale, so I felt we had to include a sun. In fact I began the design with the sun. With the collaborative efforts of the group I was able to refine it to what you'll see when you visit TEDxSunnyvale.com. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to be added to our mailing list just sign up when you get there. You can also Follow us on Twitter or Friend us on Facebook :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blog Tag... You're it!

Blogger HiLLjO, author of Daisy to Sunflower, tagged me in this meme of 11 questions. Here are the rules below!


1. You must post these rules.
2. Each person must post 11 things about themselves on their blog.
3. Answer the questions the "tagger" listed for you in her post, and create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
4. You must choose 11 people to tag and link to them in the post.
5. Go to each blogger’s page and mention that you have tagged them.

The 11 questions HiLLjo asked me were:

1. When was the last time you laughed? When my mom's cell phone accidentally called me (again). She accidentally calls me a lot.

Photo is optional. I just couldn't resist adding one.
2. Cried? Tuesday when I found out my friend Janet only has two months to find a bone marrow donor to treat her Leukemia or it will be too late :´(

3. What is your favorite food EVAR? BREAD! I love olive bread, sourdough, cheese bread, french bread, ciabatta, focaccia, naan, etc...

4. Cats or dogs? Dogs

5. How dependent on your mobile phone do you consider yourself to be? Not at all. Drives hubby crazy I leave it at home, let the battery die, forget to disable call forwarding to the house so when he calls me and I'm out the phone rings at home. LOL

6. Coffee or tea? Tea, particularly Samovar's Ryokucha green tea.

7. What is your favorite flower and why? I love wisteria because it's so beautiful.

8. What is your favorite song? The Heart of the Matter by Don Henley

9. Are you married? If not, do you want to get married someday? Yes I am married.

10. Do you write in cursive at all? Yes

11. Do you keep a journal on paper? No

The 11 Bloggers I am tagging are:

Robbie - Magnolia Jazz Blog - View Robbie's reply HERE
Roger - Born Chris
Carl - I MC Events
Dana - Stone Griffin Gallery
Gail - Louisiana Belle
Kim - Parisian Party
Koci - La Kocinera
Michelle - In the Kitchen with Michelle
Tiffanie - Corner Blog Mom
Tiffany - The Fancy Farm Girl

Your Mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer the following 11 questions:
1. Your favorite blog or vlog post you've ever written or recorded (share the link):
2. Favorite flavor of ice cream?
3. Do you dress up for Halloween?
4. Night owl or early riser?
5. Favorite movie genre (i.e. classic, action, horror, drama, comedy, romance. etc.):
6. Have you ever met any of your blog readers in real life?
7. Banana Slugs creepy or cool?
8. Which do you love more? Books printed on paper or eBooks?
9. Most favorite city you've ever visited:
10. Did you think donating bone marrow is painful because it comes from your spine? (It's not painful and it doesn't come from your spine.):
11. Which is your favorite social media website: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google Plus, other?

Something extra I'm adding myself: If you're reading this post and would like to play feel free to copy the questions, paste them into a comment and answer them there or post them on your blog and come back and leave a link to your post. I'd love to hear your answers too :D

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Web Badge to Help Janet Find Her Marrow Match

Yesterday I posted about wanting to desperately help my friend, 24 year old Janet Liang, find a bone marrow match in time to save her life. Last night I couldn't sleep at all. In fact I was up until 6:00 AM. That's what happens when I get upset. So I made this mini-slideshow web badge in the hopes that any of you with a blog or website sidebar might add it there until Janet finds the marrow match she needs.

Click on the badge and it will take you to Janet's video. Copy and paste the code below to share it, and the link to Janet's video, on your blog or website. Thanks for any help!

<div align="center"><a href="http://youtu.be/qSCyz8F_kuo" target="_blank"><img height="200" src="http://marrowdrives.org/patients/janet_liang/web_badges/janet-bone-marrow-drive-web-badge.gif" target="_blank" width="250" /></a><br /><a href="http://youtu.be/qSCyz8F_kuo" target="_blank">Watch Janet's Video on Youtube</a></div>

By request I also created a Canadian version of Janet's PDF Flyer listing OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network and the Héma-Quebec Stem Cell Registry in place of Be The Match here in the United States. Thank you Tamu at Heal Emru for offering to get them posted in Toronto, Quebec and Vancouver.

CLICK HERE to download the high resolution Canadian Flyer to Help Janet.

CLICK HERE to download the tear away tabs to add to the Flyer.

Or if you live in the United States CLICK HERE for the high resolution U.S. version of the Flyer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Am Desperate for Help

ETA: I had to come back and update this blog post because Janet passed away in September of 2012. All I know is in this post: I'm heartbroken. Janet Liang has passed away

I was stunned this morning to discover that Janet Liang, a 24 year old Leukemia patient I became friends with two years ago, had posted a new video on Youtube saying her doctors have told her she only has two months left to find a bone marrow match or it will be too late.

Janet in remission last year and this week after being told she's running out of time.

How can you help?

1. If you aren't already in the bone marrow registry please JOIN NOW. Registering is pain free and donating almost is.

2. If you are in the registry and are contacted please donate. A shocking percentage of those contacted decline to donate when told they are a patient's best match.

3. I know a lot of times we look away because a problem feels too immense or we feel too helpless to do anything about it but there are lots of things you can do to help Janet:
  • Email the link to this video http://youtu.be/qSCyz8F_kuo to everyone you know or add it to your email signature.
  • Blog about her. To learn more about Janet visit her website at: http://www.helpingjanet.com/
  • Tweet about or retweet this post
  • Join her Facebook Group for her latest updates: http://www.facebook.com/helpingjanet
  • Print and post the PDF Flyer and tear away tags to help motivate others to help
  • Print, post and share the QR code to this video <img src="http://qrcode.kaywa.com/img.php?s=8&d=http%3A%2F%2Fyoutu.be%2FqSCyz8F_kuo" alt="qrcode"  />
Janet desperately needs her story to go viral. Please help me share it to save her life.

Please watch this Youtube video titled "Finding a Perfect Match for Janet - Her Personal Plea." While she says she hasn't lost hope she tearfully opens with her fear of dying and that she doesn't have much time left. Janet was first diagnosed with Leukemia in 2009, achieved remission in 2010 and relapsed just before Christmas in 2011. I try to imagine how that would feel and it makes me want to help as much as I can, any way that I can, so I am reaching out to you hoping you will help me, help Janet.

This is Janet's Flyer. Please print and hang it whereever you can.

Print and post the United States PDF Flyer and tear away tags to help motivate others to join the registry.

If you live in Canada there is a new, high resolution, Canadian Flyer you can download to Help Janet.

Copy and paste the code below to share this mini-slideshow web badge, and the link to Janet's video, on your blog or website:

<div align="center"><a href="http://youtu.be/qSCyz8F_kuo" target="_blank"><img height="200" src="http://marrowdrives.org/patients/janet_liang/web_badges/janet-bone-marrow-drive-web-badge.gif" target="_blank" width="250" /></a><br /><a href="http://youtu.be/qSCyz8F_kuo" target="_blank">Watch Janet's Video on Youtube</a></div>

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where to find Banana Slugs in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Until two days ago I had never seen a banana slug even though I've lived in Northern, CA for over two decades. So hubby and I headed out with my friend Carl and his family to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in search of banana slugs.

The Anatomy of a Banana Slug

The weather couldn't have been better for slug hunting. It had been raining in the Bay Area for several days which all but guaranteed we would see the large, bright yellow slugs on our morning hike.

The rain did necessitate making a DIY rain cover for my camera. It was a good thing I did because it sporadically sprinkled throughout the morning and the cover kept my camera nice and dry. On a budget? CLICK HERE for the tutorial about how to make this inexpensive cover for your camera.

We entered though the South Border in Santa Cruz (the main entrance is in Felton) off Graham Hill Road. Parking is free. To get there just take the Graham Hill/Sims Road Exit off HWY 17. We then headed down the south leg of the Powder Mill Trail that runs along Powder Mill Creek.

We chose Henry Cowell  Redwoods State Park because I'd learned from friends that the best place to see the slugs is hiking in a redwood forest.

Aperture 4.1 - Shutter Speed 1/30

We had barely walked 30 feet into the park when hubby spotted our first banana slug of the day!

Aperture 4.0 - Shutter Speed 1/40th of a second

It was also the largest one we saw all day. I'm guessing it was at least 8" long. YAY!

Can you see the slug's teeny tiny eyes? They sense light and darkness.

It was larger and more yellow than I thought it would be. I was so excited and hoped it would be the first of many. Here's the thing, I love snails and slugs. I think they're super cool. In fact, I think they're pretty darn amazing. With such soft bodies and tiny eyes that sense light and movement on the ends of their long, flexible, optical tentacles they just seem too fragile to be able to survive. But somehow they do.

Aperture 5.8 - Shutter Speed 1/15th of a second

We knew it would be wet so both Carl and I wore rubber boots we thought would be waterproof. The thing is neither of us had worn them in years. . .

So imagine our surprise when we both split our boots open on the hike! Carl's was worse than mine. Not only did the leather split from the lower section of rubber on the upper, his rubber sole fell straight off! My upper cracked near the left ankle. Pitiful. LOL

Aperture 5 - Shutter Speed 1/60th of a second

We followed the Powder Mll Trail walking deeper into the forest. Photographing in a redwood forest is an exercise in constantly resetting your ISO, aperture and shutter speed. It's dark with small areas where light filters through the trees. But just inches or feet away nearby spaces are recessed in shadow. I often had to reset my camera even if I moved just a few inches in a different direction.

When we arrived at the creek the water was a bit more deep than ankle high so we turned back.

On our way back up we spotted banana slug #2. It was much smaller than the first one and very shy. It kept it's body contracted and kept drawing it's retractable, light sensing eyes back beneath its mantle.

As we walked along I couldn't stop taking pictures of everything. There were lichens, moss and mushroom growing everywhere.

This beautiful Eurhynchium oreganum moss was vibrantly green because it was soaking wet from the rain showers earlier that morning.

Every now and then I'll read something that uses the word "verdant" to describe lush greenery. It was the only word I could think of while walking through the park.

Aperture 4 - Shutter Speed 1/80th of a second

I love this picture. I'm not sure what causes lens flare but the emerald shades of the sun spots were unique (to me).

After arriving back at the trailhead, Carl and his family departed and hubby and I continued on exploring the northern leg of the Powder Mill Trail.

There was also an abundance of powdered ruffle lichen.

Aperture 2.8 - Shutter Speed 1/40th of a second

This was the fourth banana slug I saw. It was a beauty. In this photo you can see the breathing hole on its mantle which connects to a single, primitive lung. The hole, called the pneumostome, is also used for going to the bathroom and reproductive access. Talk about multi-tasking!

Aperture 2.8 - Shutter Speed 1/60th of a second

This slug wasn't shy and didn't seem to mind at all that I was only inches from its face using my macro lens to capture these close ups.

The challenging thing about slug photography is that the forest is dark and they are covered in mucus that creates shiny highlights along their bodies. Set your camera settings too bright and you'll get white "blown out" areas. Too dark, and you lose the vibrancy of their unique yellow color so even when photographing the same slug for just a few minutes I was constantly making small shutter adjustments as it moved along.

Aperture 2.8 - Shutter Speed 1/50th of a second

The optic (eye) tentacles and mantle.

Aperture 2.8 - Shutter Speed 1/50th of a second

Here you can see the striped "skirt" also known as the "fringe" that runs along the bottom length of the slug. It helps to propel it forward as it's foot, the back section of it's body, contracts and ripples. Though covered in mucus, I didn't notice any visible slime trail while watching the slugs move across the forest floor.

Aperture 2.8 - Shutter Speed 1/60th of a second

Here you can clearly see the sensory tentacles (below the eye tentacles) pointing forward towards the camera. They are used for feeling and tasting. The mouth is on the underside of the slug and isn't visible when the slug is upright.

If you look closely as you walk along the trail you can see a multitude of mushrooms both on the ground and growing off the sides of trees and stumps.

At times it seemed more like we were walking through a tropical rain forest than a redwood forest in Santa Cruz. I kept imagining this must be what Costa Rica looks like, only it would be much warmer and more colorful. The sound of running water breaking the quiet and solitude made me get why people like to hike. I just wish I enjoyed the process more. I couldn't stop worrying about twisting my ankle and picking up ticks. LOL

Here you can see the slug's "keel," the ridge going down the center of its back. 

This was the seventh slug. He was curled up on a bed of redwood pine needles. I say he but really should say he/she because slugs are hermaphrodites meaning they carry the sexual reproduction organs of both the male and female. The odd thing is they are able to self fertilize and mate in pairs. Sometimes the slugs are unable to separate leading to a process known as "apophallation" the amputation of the male sex organ, which is large and resembles a ruffled jelly fish tendril. After apophallation the slug becomes a "female" for the rest of its reproductive life.

More than the typical ground mushrooms, I really thought the bracket mushrooms growing off the sides of trees and stumps were stunning. They reminded me of corals growing off rocks in the ocean.

Aperture 5.8 - Shutter Speed 1/60th of a second

I couldn't resist photographing this fallen branch covered with beard and powdered ruffle lichen. So gorgeous!

The striped fringe (aka skirt) is clearly visible along the bottom of this slug.

And this was the last slug I saw. Number eleven. It kind of looks like I used a flash to take this picture but I didn't.

We were there for around four hours and I can't wait to go back again. If you've never seen a banana slug and live in the Bay Area you should go too. Just remember the slugs are nocturnal and need moisture so they're most likely to be out after it rains and/or early in the morning just after daybreak before the morning mist and dew evaporate.

Hubby was hungry so we headed back to the car to have lunch in downtown Santa Cruz.

There were a few traumas that day, like the tick I spotted crawling on my bare wrist and I think I pulled a groin muscle when my back foot slipped as I was crouching on an incline to photograph one of the slugs. My right leg hurt the rest of the day but was fine the following morning.

Huevo's Rancheros for Brunch at Saturn Cafe

I really wanted to go to the Saturn Cafe for lunch. It's a vegetarian and vegan diner. Hubby wanted to go to a place across the street called Surf Dog so he could get a beef hamburger. So, at his suggestion, I went to the Saturn Cafe and he went to Surf Dog and we met up again after lunch and walked down the street until it was time for hubby's afternoon, cafe mocha break.

Cafe Mocha with Soy Milk at Hoffman's

We decided to try the mochas at Hoffman's Bistro and Patisserie on Pacific Ave. because we'd just seen them on an episode of Chef Robert Irvine's Restaurant Impossible. I'm happy to report that we received very good customer service, the mocha's were delicious and I got an apple strudel made from scratch. It was definitely the best strudel I've ever had! I want to go back and try out the restaurant for lunch sometime soon.

Henry Cowells Redwoods State Park
Operating Hours
Day Use Area
Sunrise to Sunset

Day Use (Main) Entrance Address
101 North Big Trees Park Road
Felton, CA 95018

South Boundary Entrance
Graham Hill Road at Nepenthe Drive
Santa Cruz, CA

Saturn Cafe
145 Laurel St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Hoffman's Bistro and Patisserie
1102 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Technical Photography Details: I was shooting with my Lumix GF2 camera body and had brought along the LUMIX G VARIO HD 14-140mm / F4.0-5.8 (zoom lens) and LEICA DG MACRO-ELMARIT 45mm / F2.8 (macro lens). By the end of the day I realized I need to get a small monopod. There was no way I was going to lug around a tripod in the rain while hiking but shooting freehand in an area with as much shade as a redwood forest, that requires longer shutter speeds than normal, made it ultra challenging to take clear shots without any sort of support to steady the camera against. Most of these images were shot using ISO's of 400 and 800.