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Lower Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

There’s always more to discover about Yosemite. I’m writing a sequel to Indigo Sky, so I’m researching building a home there in the nineteenth century. In Indigo Sky, Rork, a successful artist and his wife, Leila, a dedicated mother and community leader, built a home in lower Yosemite and raised more than their children, they raised a village.

Building in Yosemite in the nineteenth century around one of those cedar trees.

About those lower falls:

Why See Yosemite Falls?  It’s a waterfall so high it has to take a break and rest twice in the course of its descent. It’s a 2,425 foot tumbler, tallest in North America and fifth tallest in the world. Ten times taller than Niagara or Shoshone Falls, nearly twice as tall as the Empire State Building, it’s about the height a 200-story building would be, if somebody ever built one. The lower fall is the shortest section of the fall, but it’s still 320 feet (98 meters) high.

Best Time to Visit:  In the spring, when water is roaring off the falls and the breeze it creates at the bridge underneath the falls will blow your hat off.

Worst Time to Visit:  In the early fall and late summer, by which time the falls have often dried up altogether. Visit the Yosemite Falls webcam during California daylight hours to see how much water is currently flowing over the falls. Watch the streaming version of the webcam. The webcam only shows the upper falls, but savvy outdoorsmen can infer that if the upper falls are dry, the lower falls will be as well.

Yosemite Nature Notes: Moonbows

On clear spring nights when the moon is full, photographers gather by the score at the lower falls to see the moonlit rainbows that span the water, a phenomenon known as a moonbow, the world’s most romantic portmanteau. Yosemite Nature Notes Episode 15 explores moonbow fever and includes lots of lovely footage of moonbows shimmering in front of waterfalls and starry skies. Even the most kitten-kicking of cynics should watch the first two minutes to see a few examples.

Can’t-Get-Enough-Yosemite-Nature-Notes Dept:  You can find the entire YNN series here, though the first thing you should watch after this video is the Making-of-the-Moonbows-Episode episode. Ranger Bob Roney, interviewed in the film, has his own Twitter feed, as does YNN creator Steven Bumgardner. Yosemite Nature Notes itself also has a feed.

Thank you Wikipedia: History of Yosemite

Click this for lodging, places to stay to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or even just for r&r.

Raise your hand if you have been to Yosemite at night looking for moonbows? Would you rate the experience as one of your top ten?

I’m writing that sequel . . .



I write, and I paint. Is it possible to do both? Really?

Wonder Woman 1942

Wonder Woman 1942 ( I used to own these, mom made me throw out all my comic books. Imagine?)

The Urban Sketching Handbook, Understanding Perspective by Stephanie Bower

The Urban Sketching Handbook, Understanding Perspective by Stephanie Bower

Comic book visuals that captured the hearts of America, mystified me. My pencil crossed the blank page pulling lines to create yesteryear’s super heroine, Wonder Woman. I don’t remember coloring the pictures. It would have had to be crayon, so I just used my pencil.

I sketch on location. Like my long time architect friend, Stephanie Bower. She takes groups all over Seattle, Italy, Hong Kong, Asia, and more. She teaches sketching and makes perspective easy. A great tool for drawing is her new book, Urban Sketching Handbook, Understanding Perspective: She says in her book,  How does perspective work? And where is that darn vanishing point? Understanding Perspective helps you bridge the theoretical world of Perspective concept with the real world of on site sketching. Stephanie shows you how in her book and online with her Crafty classes video.

Where is writing in this creative world of mine?

I didn’t get to choose between writing and painting until I decided to paint Bierstadt’s Domes of Yosemite. Captivated by how the painting came to life, although told as fiction, this true romance, Indigo Sky, is based on Bierstadt’s journey.

After extensive studies and writing workshops, I realized that I could never get this book written while I was still painting. My writing hijacked me, and held me prisoner until the ‘end.’ The time flew by.

Metaphors and similes, the tools serious writers need made a difference, I learned and I loved writing . . . Truly!!!


Indigo Sky

Invitation to Gail's Art Bash and book signing-Thursday, September 8, 2016, 5:30-7:30 PM

Invitation to Gail’s Art Bash and book signing-Thursday, September 8, 2016, 5:30-7:30 PM

Suspended . . . Coney Island painting project. The beach, Washington Baths, swimming, blackball, cool sand under the boardwalk, with friends watching Tuesday night fireworks, Nathan’s hotdogs, French fries and steamed corn.

Today’s blog sees the culmination of my book and my Coney Island project. Indigo Sky is published as an Amazon eBook, and will be out in paperback and audiobook by August.

Coney Island project to be installed at Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum on July 9, 2016. An art bash and book signing exhibition is forthcoming on Thursday, September 8, 2016. An invitation is at the left.

Knowing that I can’t write and paint simultaneously, my dilemma is to choose. Like notable American novelist Peter Selgin says, “It’s like choosing between two lovers.” One is like a water sprite leaping from rock to rock in a babbling brook—delightful, delicious and delectable. The other is serious, elusive with thoughts examining and imagining experiences and occasionally describing them.

Drawing a breath, is like drawing a line. My passion for painting and drawing is like breathing. My tools . . . pencil, paintbrush, and sketchbook are indispensable, like my morning coffee.

Choose writing, and I become a thinking machine. It’s difficult to raise up a world of words that express traits in my characters. My readers ask that I keep writing. I am torn, and still sketching and painting. My writing is waiting.




Buffalo monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Buffalo monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Indigo Sky, my soon-to-be published historical romance, is centered in the nineteenth-century, and partly takes place in Yosemite. While researching Yosemite again for my next book, I uncovered a prize in Yosemite—Buffalo Soldiers.

“Buffalo Soldiers” was a nickname given to the Negro Cavalry by the Native American tribes they fought in Yosemite. In September 1867, Private John Randall was assigned to escort two civilians on a hunting trip. The hunters suddenly became the hunted when a band of seventy Cheyenne warriors swept down on them. The two civilians quickly fell in the initial attack and Randall’s horse was shot out from beneath him. Randall managed to scramble to safety behind a washout under the railroad tracks, where he fended off the attack with only his pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition until help from the nearby camp arrived. The Cheyenne beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind 13 fallen warriors. Private Randall suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and 11 lance wounds, but recovered. The Cheyenne quickly spread word of this new type of soldier, “who had fought like a cornered buffalo— who like a buffalo had suffered wound after wound, yet had not died; and who like a buffalo had a thick and shaggy mane of hair.”

25th Regiment

25th Regiment

The term eventually became synonymous with all of the African-American regiments. During the American Civil War, the government formed “colored troops.” After the war, Congress reorganized the army and authorized the formation of two regiments of black cavalry with Infantry designations. Some took the job of protecting Yosemite, others in Yellowstone.



The late 1800’s saw civil rights issues  at its extreme. Discrimination increased as the number of African-American U.S. soldiers increased. Racial segregation plagued the nation, yet our soldiers  of color exhibited an attitude that reflected their “distinguished service,”  protecting their country. In 1886, uncontrolled fires traumatized parks and its inhabitants. According to the National Park Services, in the mid 1800’s, army regiments were dispatched to Yosemite. Four of the six regiments that patrolled Yosemite National Park were African-American–the Buffalo Soldiers, whose duties were evicting poachers and timber thieves and extinguishing forest fires.

Buffalo_Soldier_9th_Cav_DenverNot exactly current events, but some relatively recent history: The 1960 Western film Sergeant Rutledge tells the story of the trial of a 19th-century black Army first sergeant of the 9th Cavalry, played by Woody Strode, falsely accused of rape and murder. One of the characters narrates a history of the term “Buffalo Soldier” as coming from Plains Indians who first saw troopers of the 9th Cavalry wearing buffalo coats and caps in winter, and thought they looked like buffaloes. The movie’s theme song, titled “Captain Buffalo”, was written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston. In the last decade, the employment of the Buffalo Soldiers by the United States Army in the Indian Wars has led a few historical revisionists to call for the “critical reappraisal” of the “Negro regiments.” In this viewpoint, shared by a small minority, the Buffalo Soldiers were used as mere shock troops or accessories to the forcefully-expansionist goals of the U.S. government at the expense of the Native Americans and other minorities.

The Buffalo Soldier Cavalry Regiment was formed in 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was an active regiment until the Korean War in 1951. The last and oldest living Buffalo Soldier, Mark Matthews, died at the age of 111 on September 6, 2005 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. An honor reserved for those who have gallantly served our country.


“History is a source of strength,” says Pulitzer Price winning historian, David McCullough. “It sets higher standards for all of us.”

What era in American History surprised you?




Gallery270 Michael Massaia

Gallery270 Michael Massaia

Last week my visit to Gallery270 in Englewood, NJ proved to be magical, once again. Tom Gramegna, owner of the gallery sure knows how to pick the images to interest us viewers. Today’s blog though is not about that show, you’ll have to wait until another blog time.

On the left, here’s a tease . . .

Why photography? Goes back to my own stint as a photographer for my design and architectural work, then on to experimentation in the art of photography. Working with photo images led me to full-time painting those images. My work as an artist led me to Hudson River artist, Albert Bierstadt. His brothers were into photography in 1859. They traveled to Yosemite with Albert and took many of the images that Albert painted. In those years, cameras were big and bulky and travel was less than convenient. Only way to California then was by coach, the one with horses.

Coney Island parachute jump

Coney Island parachute jump 1950’s

The 1990’s saw an explosion of the craft with digital photography. Today, everyone is a photographer with the smart phone. It’s always easy and convenient to turn the phone into a camera. No more do I have to lug along my camera, unless I have a special project that needs professional work. I still use my Nikon D200 to take photos of images to paint. Like my Coney Island project, I have photos from 1986-2013 of Coney Island before restoration and after restoration. This one is the 50’s when I played in Coney Island.

I have a heart for the venue of photography and thought I would share some pieces of history and processes.


Site: Half Dome, Yosemite

Site: Half Dome, Yosemite by Ansel Adams

Group f/64 was a small group of 20th-century San Francisco photographers, like Cunningham and Adams, who shared a common photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen through a particularly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the Pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century, but moreover they wanted to promote a new Modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects.

Succulent by Imogen Cunningham 1920

Succulent by Imogen Cunningham 1920







Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

The term f/64 refers to a small aperture setting on a large format camera, which secures great depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and therefore a selection of relatively slow moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life, but in the typically bright California light this is less a factor in the subject matter chosen than the sheer size and clumsiness of the cameras, compared to the smaller cameras increasingly used in action and reportage photography in the 1930s.

Digital photography has come a long way since it started to catch on in the 1990s. While even your high-end smartphone may take pictures that look like crap, a real digital camera can make even the stodgiest photographer forget about film.

The Hasselblad H4D-60 is probably the most expensive digital camera in the world. This DSLR camera has an astonishing 60 megapixel 40 x 54 mm sensor. Aided by the Absolute Position Lock processor, Hasselblad’s True Focus system allows the photographer to focus on the composition without constantly fiddling with the focus. The camera has a capture rate of 1.4 seconds per capture and shutter speed ranges from an 800th of a second to 32 seconds.

This pro digital camera costs in excess of $40,000, but that price will also get you membership in the Hasselblad Owners’ Club. The exclusive club promises to hook you up with a considerable network of professional photographers to increase your exposure and expand your client base.

Do you take photographs,  and with what, camera or phone? What kind of camera? Do you have one of those $40,000 digital cameras? No kidding . . .






Domes of Yosemite 24x36 Acrylic on Canvas Ingis Claus

Domes of Yosemite 24×36 Acrylic on Canvas Ingis Claus


“Indigo Sky,” is my book on the take of the life of Hudson River artist, Albert Bierstadt, his adventures journeying west to California in 1863, and his painting of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. This image is my painting of Half Dome, an Ode to Bierstadt.

Here’s some fascinating facts about the area.

halfdomeIMG_0564Half Dome was originally called “Tis-sa-ack“, meaning Cleft Rock in the language of the local Ahwahnechee people. Tis-sa-ack is also the name of the fourth route on the formation, ascended by Royal Robbins and Don Peterson over eight days in October 1969. Tis-sa-ack is the name of a mother from a native legend. The face seen in Half Dome is supposed to be hers. Tis-sa-ack is the name of a Mono Lake Paiute Indian girl in the Yosemite Native American legend. John Muir referred to the peak as “Tissiack”.

Others say Ahwahneechee. Native Americans named Half Dome “Face of a Young Woman Stained with Tears” (“Tis-se’-yak”) because of the colonies of brown-black lichens that form dark vertical drip-like stripes along drainage tracks in the rock faces.

In 1988, Half Dome was featured on a 25 cent United States postage stamp. An image of Half Dome, along with John Muir and the California condor, appears on the California State Quarter, released in January 2005. Starting October 2010, an image of Half Dome is included on the new revised California drivers license in the top right-hand corner.

In 2014, Apple revealed their new version of their operating system, Yosemite, and Half Dome was the default wallpaper on the new OS.

Half Dome is also an element or inspiration of various company and organization logos, including that of The North Face, Sierra Designs, & Mountain Khakis outdoor product companies, the Sierra Club environmental group and the Sierra Entertainment game studio.

Have you been to Yosemite? Be careful near those bigger-than-life waterfalls. Stories have it that some have fallen in!!! And never found . . .




…History says it takes a village, an army, the world to save the planet. Devastation of the earth

Floating planet

is happening at an alarming rate. After lifetimes of disposing, denigrating and devastating our waterways, our parks, our forests, we, as a human race, are reviewing and working on mending our ways. Hopefully. Are we getting smarter? Are we learning about greening our planet? Oil spills into our ocean, rivers, lakes, wildlife kills in our parks, desecrating our rain forests.

Rain Forest

And what about air pollution? What formations do you see in the clouds, the sky, the flowers. Pollution affects cloud formation. In the case of aerosol pollutants, if the air pollutants reflect the sun’s light, the cloud cover increases. If they absorb it, cloud growth is stunted. Look at the cloud masses.

Typhoon clouds

In the 70’s we tried to get industries to stop filling the air with the end products of mass production. And for awhile, a short while, manufacturers stopped the smoke, the ground fill, the medical waste. Who is in control, the government, the people, commerce? It always seems to boil down to the who gets the mega money.

What do the once beautiful waterways, parks and forests look like to you?

Polar bear walking in water

The ice the polar bears walked on to find fish is melting. Now they have to swim for their dinner, or starve, or become vegan.

Mother of two cubs in snow




Oil around rig

Oil floats around a rig at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Photograph: Jae C. Hong/AP.

The White House says the BP oil spill is probably the greatest environmental disaster the US has faced, but the true impact on surrounding ecosystems could take years to emerge. Experts say the unprecedented depth of the spill, combined with the use of chemicals that broke the oil down before it reached the surface, pose an unknown threat.

Yosemite waterfall

How would you express your views on “Place and Politics” as an artist, a writer, a philosopher, from your life/your travels?

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