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Several people in the past few days have asked me why the ocean stinks. The answer is simple. The red tide that I documented a month ago is back, and worse than ever. The culprit is the same, but now it is present in even higher numbers. I can't show you how it smells, but this is how it looks:

The brown discoloration is due to the high concentration of the dinoflagellate Akashiwo sanguinea. Since the marine lab brings water directly from right about where the waves are starting to crest, our water is also full of the cells. Water coming straight from the taps is tinged with brown, and filters clog like crazy. Animal care has been redefined as "flush, brush, and refill," as in flush tables, brush or spray globs of brown slime off the animals, and refill the tanks. Only with the water coming in brown, the Akashiwo cells start settling out almost immediately.

This latest bloom of A. sanguinea coincides with the first storm of the rainy season, which could be either good or bad. The first rain causes a big influx of nutrients from land into the ocean--this is good for the blooming dinoflagellates because nutrients are fertilizers. But rain storms come from clouds, and the reduction of sunlight would be bad for photosynthetic critters such as Akashiwo. So what's it going to be?

Akashiwo sanguinea isn't a toxin-forming species. However, it does form surfactants when the water is agitated, and the surfactant can be irritating.

Bloom of the dinoflagellate Akashiwo sanguinea at the mouth of Younger Lagoon. 15 October 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Bloom of the dinoflagellate Akashiwo sanguinea at the mouth of Younger Lagoon.
15 October 2016
© Allison J. Gong

See all that foam? When a strong breeze picks up the foam you can smell it. Imagine the smell of rotting kelp, perhaps not quite that pungent, combined with a vague hint of sewer. That doesn't look quite right but it's the best I can do. Since I can't share it with you here, you'll have to go to the beach and smell it for yourself.

People who live in other parts of the world often say that California doesn't have real seasons. I would argue that we do indeed have seasons, they're just . . . subtle. Certainly here on the coast the Pacific Ocean moderates weather so that we don't have to deal with temperature extremes. However, in the higher elevations the changes between seasons are more dramatic.

At this time of year the high Sierra becomes a destination for sightseers and photographers looking for fall colors. For a few weeks the aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) change from their green of summer into glorious golds, oranges, and reds. This year I have finally managed to get to the Lake Tahoe area in October. And, since I'm still in the market for a new camera, it was a great opportunity to test drive another candidate. This time it was the Canon EOS 80D, with an 18-200mm lens.

So, let's see how it did with the brilliant scenery.

Fall colors reflected in Red Lake, near Carson Pass. 8 October 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fall colors reflected in Red Lake, near Carson Pass.
8 October 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Fall colors and meadow at Hope Valley. 8 October 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fall colors and meadow in Hope Valley.
8 October 2016
© Allison J. Gong

And here's my favorite shot of the weekend, also taken near Hope Valley. The aspens in this location were at their peak colors. So gorgeous!

Fall colors in Hope Valley. 8 October 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fall colors in Hope Valley.
8 October 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Fall colors near Ebbetts Pass. 8 October 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fall colors near Ebbetts Pass.
8 October 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Fall colors near Ebbetts Pass. 8 October 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fall colors near Ebbetts Pass.
8 October 2016
© Allison J. Gong

While we were up at Ebbetts Pass I took some video of the aspens, hoping to capture the rustling sound of the trembling leaves. A short way down the hill from this location there is a herd of cows, and their bells are also heard in this video. Confession time: I took this video with my phone.

Fall colors near Monitor Pass. 8 October 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fall colors near Monitor Pass.
8 October 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Eh, okay, I guess. I took a lot of pictures with this camera, but relatively few of them really wowed me. It felt to me that the images straight out of this camera weren't as sharp as those out of the Nikon D7200. And some of the exposures were off, too. Photography is a function of subject, equipment, and user, with the user being the biggest variable. For me, a decision between these two cameras was based on largely on which one I felt most comfortable with. And in terms of both figuring out how to do things with the equipment and getting good images out of the camera, the D7200 wins hands-down.

That said, the Canon 80D did a great job photographing a hawk I spotted in a snag.

Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched in a dead snag in the high Sierra. 8 October 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched in a dead snag in the high Sierra.
8 October 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Taking off © Allison J. Gong
Taking off
© Allison J. Gong
Soaring away © Allison J. Gong
Soaring away
© Allison J. Gong

After all was said and done, I didn't feel that this was the camera for me. Even after working with it for a weekend it never became second nature to just pick up the camera and shoot. I found it much easier to figure out how to do stuff on the Nikon. That, combined with the fact that the images straight out of the Canon weren't as good, sealed the deal. My grown-up camera will be a Nikon.

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