Sunset on the Sunrise Highway II

I drove back out to the Sunrise Highway yesterday afternoon in plenty of time for me to search for possible locations for more photos, and it didn’t look all that promising because of the summer haze hanging over the mountains and desert.

I stumbled across this view from a little pull-off beside the highway, and I thought, “What the heck. I’m here. Let’s take an shot or two and see what happens.” I wasn’t holding out much hope, so I was pleasantly surprised with how this turned out.

This is likely a much better winter location with the setting sun illuminating more of the face of the mountains in the middle of the photo and hopefully less haze. There may even be some snow on the distant mountains (I’m at about 5,000 feet / 1524 meters elevation here).

I’ve added a new page to this website where you can check out a map of the locations of where I’ve taken my photos: Locations. Check it out. I’ll add photo locations to the map going forward and I’ll slowly retroactively add the locations of some of the other photos as well. (We don’t have rainy days in San Diego for rainy day projects, so I guess I’ll just have to add them on laundry day.)

Technical Info

This photo is actually seven photos stitched together into a panorama. (Putting it together just about killed my 7+ year-old computer! The finished raw file is 241 MB!) You can pixel peep at the full resolution image here.

Lens: 70-200 mm, f/2.8 L IS II USM
Focal Length: 105 mm
Shutter: 1/125
Aperture: f/16
ISO: 100

Sunset on the Sunrise Highway

It’s been a challenging week on a whole host of different fronts, and I needed a dose of inner peace (brought to you by Mother Nature).

On my way home from work, I could tell that the high clouds in the sky might make for a decent sunset tonight, so I loaded up the camera and headed east to Lake Cuyamaca. It’s only an hour from San Diego, but I knew that I was going to be pressed for time to get there in time for sunset. I barely made it.

I really didn’t have time to look for the best compositions, so I just set up my tripod off to the side of the Sunrise Highway on its way to the summit of Mount Laguna. It was just what the doctor ordered.

In addition to a pretty spectacular sunset, I was surrounded by songbirds—whose distinct tweets were unfamiliar to me—putting on an evening symphony, accompanied by chirping crickets in the background. It was soothing.

Not long after I took my last photo and was standing in the field simply enjoying the concert in the fading light, a pack of coyotes chimed in with their yaps and howls. They weren’t all that far away and I decided I didn’t want to end this glorious evening getting chased by a pack of coyotes, so I put away the gear and drove to Mount Laguna.

On the way up to the summit, a rather large coyote popped onto the highway not more than 75 feet from my car, scaring me once again. On the way down from the summit, there was a man standing beside his pickup truck on the shoulder, waving me down. I stopped to see what was up. He had just hit a deer (which was nowhere to be seen), and his bumper was smashed against his tire making his truck undriveable. There wasn’t much I could do for him and he thanked me for stopping.

Mother Nature can be soothing and unnerving, all in one night.

Enjoy the sunset over Sunrise Highway!


Recon Trip to Big Bear Lake

First lesson learned: Don’t go to a major tourist destination on a holiday weekend if you expect to experience much of anything other than crowds and lack of parking.

Up until yesterday, my only experience with the San Bernardino Mountains was either driving over the Cajon Pass on Interstate 15, or viewing them from a distance driving along Interstate 10. Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake sit high in the mountains, and it was time I explored one of them.

I left San Diego mid-morning yesterday headed to Big Bear Lake to check it out on a reconnaissance trip for future exploration and photography. The drive up went well, and California Highway 330 (CA 330) out of Highland was quite scenic.

The small town of Big Bear Lake was jam-packed with other holiday weekend travelers, and there was some sort of event or festival going on in the middle of town that made finding a parking place in this lifetime next to impossible. I slogged through the traffic and did a counterclockwise loop around Big Bear Lake.

I have to admit that I was disappointed in the lake. The water level was down (it’s a reservoir) much to the chagrin of waterfront property owners and, the water itself, was murky and not all that photogenic. (Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Lake Tahoe.) Still, there were plenty of people enjoying the lake on their personal watercraft, which made it even less photogenic to me. I didn’t take even a single photo of the lake.

I did, however, stop at the Big Bear Discovery Center, a visitor center run by the Southern California Mountains Foundation, and hiked one of its nearby trails. (Second lesson learned: Slow down when hiking at nearly 7,000 feet / 2,133 meter elevation after leaving your sea-level home 3.5 hours earlier.)

For the return trip, I drove California Highway 38 (CA 38) out of Big Bear, over the 8,443 foot / 2,573 meter foot Onyx Summit on my way back to Redlands. This was a little easier to drive and I think has more potential for future photography.

Would I go back? Yes, but probably on a mid-week trip during the off season, and certainly not on a holiday weekend again.

Here are a few snapshots from the day.


Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

As Memorial Day approaches, I thought it would be appropriate to remember its true meaning by visiting Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery yesterday.

I arrived at the cemetery about an hour before sunset on a completely overcast and gray day, so I thought the black-and-white photos reflected the mood of both the day and the location.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery sits high atop Point Loma with commanding views of both the Pacific Ocean and San Diego harbor. The first burial was in 1882 and, with over 101,000 graves, it is now closed to new burials (unless you’re the family member of someone already buried there). It became a national cemetery in 1934.

The Fort Rosecrans Memorial Day Ceremony will be held at 10:00 a.m., Monday, 28 May 2018.


Exploring at Torrey Pines SNR

Now that I have my new California State Parks annual pass, I’ve been putting it to good use by visiting a number of the Southern California beach state parks. Yesterday, it was back to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve north of La Jolla.

With its expansive beach at the base of towering cliffs that are capped by North America’s rarest pine tree, the Torrey pine, and its extensive trails, Torrey Pines SNR is perhaps one of the most visited parks in the San Diego area. This was meant to be a little bit of a reconnaissance trip. I had been there a couple of times previously, but there’s much more that I needed to explore.

Unfortunately, San Diego’s renowned “May Gray” arrived a little early, with the overcast sky muting the otherwise brightly colored sandstone cliffs. It wasn’t the best day for photography, but I did learn a little more about the park.

These photos were taken from the north viewpoint on the Guy Fleming trail, several hundred feet above the surf. (Check out the people on the beach for scale.) For grins and giggles, I took a cell phone video of the view (apparently I have difficulty walking and panning at the same time around the 25 second mark—sorry).

Lastly, as I was driving out of the park, I heard the rather loud sound of a piston engine aircraft overhead. I looked up and saw a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress overhead lumbering up the coast. By the time I was able to pull the car over and snap a photo with my cell phone, it was just a speck in the sky. Still, it was amazing to see and hear that piece of history in flight.


Here’s the cell phone video:

Carrizo Badlands

The last week or so, we’ve been having a bit of rain here in San Diego and, as the most recent storm cleared this morning, there were some interesting cloud formations around the area. I thought it might be interesting to see if the clouds made it over the mountains into the Anza-Borrego Desert.

They did, but they weren’t as dramatic as they were over the city. Still, it was good to get out and enjoy the desert while it was only 68° F / 20° C. I arrived a bit early for the late afternoon sun, so I just hung out for a couple hours watching the light change. I need to throw my collapsible nylon chair into the trunk to make the waiting time a little more pleasant.

One of the things that always strikes me when I’m spending time in the desert is the complete lack of noise, save the blowing wind and the crunch of the sand/gravel under my feet. It does wonders to clear the mind.

A few of the Ocotillo plants were in bloom (but without leaves), and the only real wildlife I saw were a few small finches flitting about.



Red Rock Canyon State Recreation Area

I went on another of my infamous Sunday afternoon drives through the country today—a mere 520 miles in eight hours and forty-five minutes (driving time; 12 hours total time).

Red Rock Canyon State Recreation Area (near Cantil, California, not the Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas, Nevada) caught my attention on my last trip to the Eastern Sierra in November. I just didn’t have time to check it out on my way to or from Lone Pine.

I wanted to get to the area in the late afternoon in hopes of having good light on the colorful rocks, so I dallied a little along the way, first stopping at Portillo’s for lunch in Moreno Valley, and then checking out the location of a facility in Riverside where I have a meeting at in April.

I arrived at the park a bit later than I wanted to, and really didn’t have any time to explore the area for some killer compositions. I drove through the campground and snapped the photos below along the entrance road. There were a number of dirt/sand roads that are probably worth exploring on a return trip, but perhaps in my four-wheel drive pickup truck instead of my car.

From a photography perspective, being there for sunrise may be the better alternative given the layout of the cliffs. It could still be a challenge to get decent exposures, however, as many of the cliff faces are simultaneously in both direct sunlight and shadow.

For my return trip back to San Diego, I opted to take California Highway 14 to Interstate 5 through Los Angeles. I was pretty pleased—it was only an hour and fifteen minutes to drive the 70 miles from CA 14 to the I-405/I-5 merge in Irvine. Through the heart of L.A. Not too shabby! I’ve spent over four hours in traffic trying to get across L.A. on previous trips.

So here are my hastily taken recon shots of Red Rock Canyon State Recreation Area. On a fun side note, it was interesting that the dozens of vertical eroded rock formations between the layers reminded me immediately of the dozens of statues carved over the doors to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

For grins and giggles, here are the statues at Notre Dame:


Salton Sea Sunday Sunset

Sort of.

You can see a sliver of the Salton Sea in this sunset, and that’s because my timing for the drive from San Diego to the east side of the Salton Sea was thrown off by some unplanned vehicle maintenance (buying and adding a quart of oil to the engine and topping off the air in my tires).

This was taken along Niland Marina Road and, had I not had the delay, I would have made it to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area for a photo with more of the Salton Sea in it. Next time.




Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills

My trip to the Alabama Hills last month really inspired me, so I decided to return for the three-day Veterans Day weekend. It was a short trip, but a rewarding one.

Saturday’s sunrise wasn’t as spectacular as the one for my trip in October, but decent nonetheless. I also took a little detour up Whitney Portal Road to Whitney Portal—at about 8,400 feet / 2.560 meters—and enjoyed a chilly morning amongst the pines and some sheer granite cliffs. Spray from a cascading creek froze into icicles on fallen branches in the cold mountain air.

You’ll see one photo that’s my attempt to replicate the famous Ansel Adams photograph, Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, taken in 1944. I found it amazing that 73 years later, I could stand within 100 yards of where he likely took the photo, and it appeared pretty much the same. There were no houses, strip malls, or other development in the intervening years to interfere with the shot. Think about that for a minute. Pretty amazing. (Getting to the exact spot where he likely took the photo would have required navigating through a couple of barbed wire fences. No thanks.)

I never tried doing a panorama shot before, so I tried during Saturday’s sunrise. I’ll do better at leveling the camera next time, but I’m pleased for a first attempt.