La Jolla Tide Pools

I have visited La Jolla countless times, but oddly, I’ve never taken photos of the tide pools there until last night. They are easy to access and I’m sure I’ll be back. Luckily, I was there after low tide, but the tide was coming back in, and I had to dodge a few waves splashing on the rocks a couple of times.

SoCal Wildflower Bloom

Spring has sprung in Southern California! Yes, SoCal really does have seasons, as mild as they are.

This photographic expedition required a bit more effort, as the location was about 250 miles from my home, and I had to drive across Los Angeles to get there. That is never fun. Ever. I planned my trip to arrive in mid-afternoon to catch the late afternoon sun illuminating the flowers.

The drive took about four and a half hours, but it was well worth it. The blooms covered the hillsides in brilliant oranges, golds, whites, and deep purples in pretty much every direction. The scent from the flowers was sweet and pleasant without being overpowering.

I did have one hiccup, though. When I moved from my first location to go onto the next, my low tire pressure warning came on. My front right tire was down to 24 psi from its normal 37 psi. I inspected the tire and couldn’t find anything causing the leak, but I also knew that I didn’t want to try to have to change a tire on a road with no shoulder, and it was eight miles to the nearest town.

I abandoned my photography and headed to the first gas station that I could find to fill my tire with air. A second inspection of the tire didn’t reveal the cause, but when I went to fill the tire, the valve stem cap was missing. That was unusual because I knew I put it back in place the last time I filled my tires.

I also searched for some tire stores just in case a repair was needed, but it was now approaching 4:30 p.m., and the few that I could find closed at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.

After filling my tire back to its normal pressure, I drove another eight or so miles to the tire store, and my tire never lost pressure on that drive. I parked and did a third inspection of the tire with nothing found.

Based on all of my driving and the tire still holding pressure, I decided to head back to the flower fields to get some of the shots that I came for. But, after spending nearly an hour playing with the tire fiasco, I was now up against the clock with only about 45 minutes before sunset. I didn’t have time to mess with the tripod, so everything I took in Round 2 was hand-held and a bit rushed.

I drove the 250 miles back home and the air pressure in my tire never budged. It’s still at the set pressure this morning.

I know this may sound far-fetched, but when I returned to my car at the first location, there was another car with a couple of guys sitting in it, blasting music, parked right next to mine on the passenger side of my car in this very large parking area. Ours were the only two cars there. I can’t help but wonder if one of them took the valve stem cap off and partially deflated my tire as a prank.

Another, more sinister explanation, may be that they had something more devious in mind. Perhaps they parked so close to my car, lowered the tire pressure, and expected me to get out and check on it. If I did, they could hop out of their vehicle and assault or rob me. No one would have been around to stop them, and they know it’s a prime location for photographers with expensive gear.

They and their music got really quiet once I got in my car to drive off.

If you have not been paying attention, there has been a rash of such attacks in the San Francisco area, so be careful out there with your gear and your person. Here’s one example: I was Robbed in San Francisco While the Cameras Rolled.

I hate having to think in those terms. Keep aware of your surroundings and be safe out there!

These photos were taken on 2 March 2022 southeast of Bakersfield, CA.

Enjoy! (Click to enlarge.)

Yosemite National Park

Last week (16-19 November 2021), I made a quick run to Yosemite National Park. It was my first visit there since September 2009, and I was anxious to get out and capture some images.

I arrived at the Tunnel View around 3:30 p.m., just in time to catch the setting sun light up El Capitan and the rising near-full moon. The next day was a picture-perfect but essentially cloudless day. Thursday was overcast, and Friday morning, overnight rain showers were clearing.

Even though this was my fourth or fifth trip to Yosemite (the first in 1985), I learned the lesson that you really need to be intimately familiar with a location to take full advantage of the light at various times of the day. I thought that going to the Valley View location along the Merced River later in the afternoon would make for a good shot. Instead, I learned that the low autumn sun and high cliffs cast shadows that made for a very contrasty scene.

I also had to remind myself that I wasn’t simply there to “get the shot,” but that I needed to slow down and simply enjoy being in such a magical location.

Here are some of my better shots from my time there (click to enlarge any photo).

Exploring Arizona and Zion

Last week, I took six days to do a little photography scouting trip of some new locations and of some that I hadn’t been to in over 30 years. Here are some of the results of that recon trip.

One thing that was a bit of a photographer’s “nightmare” was the fact that I saw only one, puny, wispy little cloud the entire six days I was in the area. Just one. Blue skies are okay, but a little interest in the form of white, puffy clouds would have been nice.

[Note: You can click on the photos below to open a photo carousel. If you want to see the images at full size, scroll down and click on the “full size” link at the bottom right.]

Sedona, Arizona

I had never been to the Sedona / Oak Creek area which is known for its amazingly colored rock formations. The rock formations didn’t disappoint, but what did was their proximity to civilization. It made getting photos without buildings in them a bit more challenging.

I did make it to Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona, which I really enjoyed, but I didn’t make it to the west fork of Oak Creek, which I believe is quite epic from what I’ve heard. Next trip.

Grand Canyon National Park

My last visit to the Grand Canyon was in November 1981 when I was in the Navy driving my car from Newport, Rhode Island to Oakland, California so it could be shipped to Honolulu, Hawaii.

It was a brisk 21° F / -6° C when I arrived at the park on Wednesday morning, with constant 20+ mph / 32 km/h winds blowing. By late afternoon, the temperature warmed to a balmy 28° F / -2° C and the winds had died down, thankfully. The winds and extraordinarily dry humidity meant that there was little dust or haze in the canyon, which was fantastic.

Horseshoe Bend / Page, Arizona

This was my first visit to Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona, and I could have timed it a little better. I should have set my alarm about an hour and a half earlier to get there before the rising sun turned the scene into an exposure nightmare. Even so, I’m pleased with the way this image turned out under the circumstances. (This is a single exposure; not an HDR image.) Definitely bring your wide angle lens. This was shot on my 16-35 mm at about 20 mm on a full-frame camera.

I opted to skip nearby Antelope Canyon on this trip and will save it for a re-do of the Horseshoe Bend photo under better conditions.

Early morning at Horseshoe Bend

Zion National Park, Utah

The last time that I was in Zion National Park was on another one of my Navy cross-country trips in the 1980s, and it was just a quick pass through the park (in the days when you could drive your car all the way into the valley).

I entered from the east side of the park this time, and most of the images below are from that side of the park.

Out Playing

All the years that I’ve been playing with my digital photography, the vast majority of my images were taken on my 24-105 mm lens, and I didn’t own a wider angle lens than that. Until just before my trip to Switzerland.

I finally broke down and purchased a 16-35 mm f/4 lens.

I thought it would come in handy for those narrow streets in centuries-old cities like Luzern, and it did. But I didn’t have enough time to play with it properly before the trip, so I went out tonight around San Diego to get a little practice using it.

I knew that the perspective would be affected, especially at the 16 mm focal length, and I’m learning to leave a little more space around the edges of the image to allow for perspective correction in post-processing.

On the whole, I’m quite impressed with my new toy. Uh, I mean tool.

San Diego skyline from Waterfront Park

Star of India at the San Diego Maritime Museum

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

Apparently, poppies hate wind. So do I.

Each spring, poppies and other wildflowers blanket the 1,800 acre / 728 hectare Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve near Lancaster, California. It’s something that I’ve wanted to see since moving to California. The poppies were right at their peak last week, so I drove up on Saturday, 20 April 2019 to check it out for myself.

When I arrived (and for a good part of my trip up), there was a constant 25-30 mph / 40-50 km/h wind blowing and, when that happens, the poppies’ petals roll up into themselves.  I can only imagine what the view would have been like on a calm day with the poppies fully opened. But, as you can see, it was still pretty impressive.

Some of the photos were actually taken outside of the poppy reserve itself.

Of course, the constant high winds made for steadying the camera and changing lenses on the dusty trails a real challenge.

Switzerland 2019

I just returned from ten days touring Switzerland, spending time in Luzern, Interlaken, Bern, and Fiesch. Of course, so many parts of Switzerland are so stunningly beautiful that it just takes your breath away.

While I was there, it snowed in a good chunk of the country, leaving about a meter of fresh snow in some places at elevation. That made for some blindingly bright white winter scenes. Unfortunately, the cable cars that would take you to the mountain tops ran only well after sunrise and stopped running well before sunset, so I was stuck photographing in midday sun. I’ll still take it.

This was my first time flying with my DSLR and everything went well in terms of getting through the security screenings and being able to keep my camera with me. I didn’t have my tripod with me, but did use a table-top tripod for a couple of night images.

If you want to see additional pictures and read my travelogue about the trip, please check it out on my travel site, Travelin’ Dan.


Anza-Borrego Desert in Bloom

After a rainy winter, the Anza-Borrego Desert is coming alive with blooming wildflowers in different areas of the park. There were maps of the flower “hot spots” available at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park visitor center.

The 20-30 mph winds made any macro photography of the flowers impossible—they were just bouncing around way too much.

These photos were taken along San Diego County highway S2 near mile marker 31.0 east of Borrego Springs. There was very little activity along Henderson Canyon Road where I photographed the super bloom a few years ago.


Joshua Tree National Park

My cousins from Chicago flew into San Diego and they always wanted to see Joshua Tree National Park, so we made a quick run up there this Presidents Day weekend.

We were on a very compressed timeline, but we packed a lot into just under 24 hours, completing the Park Boulevard loop from the town of Joshua Tree to Twentynine Palms, heading down to Keys View, and then exiting the park to the south through the Cottonwood entrance station.

This was a good photo recon trip for me, and I’ll definitely go back to explore more. Enjoy!


The Eastern Sierra and Pacific Northwest

It’s October and that means it was road trip time (I’m in a rut—this is the third year in a row that I’ve taken a road trip the first week of October). If you really want the gory details of the entire trip, you can read about them here. Suffice it to say, it was an ambitious trip, starting in San Diego, working my way up the Eastern Sierra, and then all the way to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point in Washington on the Pacific Ocean and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Circumstances made this photographically challenging. On the shores of Lake Sabrina, I was buffeted by 20-30 mph winds. Complete overcast and low-lying clouds in Olympic National Park just brought a dullness to the landscape. Being able to access Rialto Beach and the Hole-in-the-Wall only during low tide in mid-afternoon had me shooting directly into the sunlight. And high winds and intermittent drizzle on Lassen Peak was the perfect end to the challenge. But I guess that landscape photography wouldn’t be as interesting without all of those challenges, right?

One thing I learned (or more specifically, re-learned) along the way is that it’s time to upgrade from my decades-old aluminum Bogen 3001 tripod (with three axis head) to a carbon fiber tripod with ball head and quick release plates. Any recommendations?

You can click on the images below to enlarge them.


Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains

Olympic Peninsula

Northern California