Northern California Rattlesnakes!

Why rattlesnakes? Most people will be happy if they never encounter one in the wild.  But rattlers are beautiful and fascinating creatures if observed, unthreatened, in their own habitat.  A part of that fascination is their menace, but rattlers are not malignant or vindictive. Specimens in natural habitat are seldom aggressive and will quickly retreat if disturbed. They simply require the same healthy respect given by humans to any wild animal.

Through my work with Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation, I’ve been able to follow a lively rattlesnake population over several years time. I’ve observed baby and juvenile specimens of Crotalus Oreganus (first photo below, note the single rattle) .  I’ve been fortunate to see rattlers before and after molting, very large male rattlesnakes, and very pregnant females (last photo in this section). There are rattlesnakes under the old ranch house, under the porch, a rattler under the old stove by the barn, many more in the lichen encrusted stone fences. All the photos are taken with a 300MM telephoto lens, I’m careful not to get too close.

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The most startling observation I’ve made amongst the rattlers is the pre-molting stage, where the eye of the snake glazes over with an opaque, blue fluid. This fluid then disperses before the skin is actually shed. The snake lies quietly during the blue-eyed stage, as it cannot see, and is more susceptible to predation. Below is the snake in pre-molting stage. The final image is the skin I was able to collect one week later in the exact same sandy spot between the rocks.

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There is one book necessary to study rattlesnakes. It was produced by Laurence M. Klauber, a retired electrical engineer who became fascinated with catching lizards in the desert near San Diego. He observed and collected rattlesnakes for over 30 years. As his knowledge of these snakes grew, he published his observations. His engaging writings eventually came to fill a 1,500 page, two volume book, Rattlesnakes: Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind, published by the University of California Press in 1956. Klauber’s descriptions of the lives, history, and myths about rattlesnakes remains the foremost guide nearly 60 years later (also available in an abridged edition). Klauber maintained that he would never bring up the subject himself, but that “rattlers, despite—or maybe because of—their sinister reputations, would always bridge a dull spot in a dinner conversation”.

rattler May 9

Bay Area Book Festival Creates a City of Books

“There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book”—Patti Smith

I love books and I love living in a region that enhances that connection. We are blessed with an abundance of writers, bookstores, publishers, and readers throughout the Bay Area. Thus, it was a delight to partake of the 50,000 titles being given away at the central pavilion during last weekend’s Book Fest. I quickly amassed a heavy stack, despite arriving at the festival with a firm resolve  “not to bring home any more books” for my already over-flowing shelves. I frequently read non-fiction, and just couldn’t leave the festival racks without finding history and science books that I could not put down, like a child left to enjoy myself in a free-of-cost candy store.

The temple of books, called LACUNA, was very much in the style of Burning Man,  and like BM, celebrated the concept of a gift-economy. These books were on display to find new homes. I saw few people who could resist grabbing at least one book that caught their imagination, however fleetingly. They were all free, no check-out involved. The Berkeley plaza became a giant book rescue center. For a book lover, that was flat-out  FUN.

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Earth Day at Edible Schoolyard, Berkeley

The Edible Schoolyard Project promotes a transformative vision for what school kids eat. Even though they might not love vegetables, once they plant, nurture, and harvest their own delicious heirloom varieties, children see a bigger picture and their diets improve. Famed chef and founder, ALice Waters says, “I don’t want to tell children what to eat. I want to win them over with taste and pleasure.”

On Earth Day 2015, I was fortunate to get an intimate look at the gardens as a volunteer. In between thinning baby beets and labeling starts for the annual plant sale, I was able to take some photos. I love the handmade signs that the kids make to mark the vegetable beds.

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Why WordPress?

WordPress is easy to use and flexible enough for any type of website.     That’s why WordPress has grown in popularity until it now powers 22.5% of all sites on the internet. This includes major websites for BBC America, Time Magazine, Sony, Disney, Laughing Squid, LinkedIn, Lollapalooza, the Pixies, The New York Times, Smithsonian Institute, eBay, and more. Other WordPress users have created a multitude of exciting websites showcased here.

To make a website unique, your company needs content.  People only remember about 20% of what they read, but as much as 80% of what they see. 55% of website visitors spend less than 15 seconds actively reading text on a page. Original visual content remains the most powerful marketing tool.

Use WordPress so that you can update and maintain your own dynamic website. With it’s robust features, and intuitive back-end, it gives the client new control and flexibility. Collaborate with graphic designers, photographers, and illustrators to create memorable content that entices the viewer to stick around for more than 15 seconds.

 

Commercial Applications of Typographic Collage

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I have been able to incorporate typographic collage into printed graphic designs on two memorable occasions. Most of my collage work is created as fine art on canvas or board. Chronicle Books Giftworks and the Fillmore Theater, both approved type collages for the two printed pieces displayed here. Another project, for an Absolut vodka ad, sadly never got off the ground.

This collage approach was fairly controversial at Bill Graham Presents in San Francisco, and the poster probably ranks as one of the oddest pieces in the history of the fabled Fillmore venue. For a number of years, it was hanging in the upstairs balcony at the theater, one in a multitude of mind-bending posters from that grand tradition. BGP made me tone down the color quite a bit, which I was not happy to do. The randomness of the collage process resulted in the polka dotted guitar that appears behind the Galactic moniker, a good argument for letting your unconscious loose a bit.

The design for The Observation Deck, by Naomi Epel, printed beautifully and sold well, even pleasing the author.  My collage style was used on the cover of the paperback book within the boxed set. AIGA liked the cover enough to include it in their 50 books selection.

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collage ©Stefan Gutermuth 2015