Red roof tiles, stairs and funky art.

nemesisToday has been fraught with frustration. Largely because of my nemesis on the left here. I am still puzzling over how it is possible that I could pick the one day in two months that the cruise ship comes into Santa Barbara to be my one day to explore the city. Curses, curses, curses.

Courthouse2Well, I did make it to the courthouse in spite of them but before I had finished capturing it’s amazing beauty my battery ran out. And I immediately realized I had forgotten to charge the spare. So, one caution about the M3 is that it is a real battery hog and you may need three to get through a day of serious shooting. The tile roof shot is taken from the clock tower which also offers great views of the town.

I waStaircases also impressed with this spiral staircase and the gallery was my first peek inside. Unfortunately the battery crapped out before I finished shooting the exterior.


So, because of the cruise ship I couldn’t get a shuttle going back to the waterfront where my hotel is. After waiting half an hour I finally jumped into a pedicab which cost me $5 to go 6 blocks. Then I had to Wait around for two hours for my battery to charge. Fortunately I had stopped for brunch after leaving the courthouse.

I finally set out with a fresh battery to explore Stern’s Wharf. A dismal tourist trap if every there was one and the Funk Zone which has Bicyclepossibilities but is losing its Funk to trendiness. I finally stopped into a wine tasting room for a little attitude adjustment. I did find a little funk, including this bicycle sign and its shadow.

StairsAnd somewhere on my walk I found these stairs that spoke to me of the essence of Santa Barbara. I can see now that one or two days is not enough time to get to know this city. Guess I will just have to come back again, and again, and again. Don’t think I would want to live here though. SLO town is more my speed.

Tomorrow I have to start making my way home and it looks like I need to get over the pass on Friday so I don’t know if I’ll have much time to photograph. Well, I do have to post an image for the 100 days project. And you can bet your boots that the M3 batteries are all charged up.

More Missions

Door_InezI had a busy day of touristing yesterday and was too tired to process any images so had to make up for lost time this morning. My first stop enroute from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara was the Santa Inez mission in Solvang. There I found the kind of detail I love in the old missions. Solvang itself is fascinating with a Scandinavian theme but I decided to save that for another day.

I arrived in Santa Barbara too early to check into my hotel so I just kept following the signs to the mission there and soon found myself in the right place. Santa Barbara is said to be the most SB_mission2beautiful of the missions and you can see that this may be true.

I’ve included a closeup of the detail of the architecture to show how intricate it is. They say the padres had only one book on architecture and it featured SB_mission3Roman columns and such. I don’t know if this is true but it does make some sense as this does not look very Spanish.

While looking for the mission I kept seeing signs to the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens and I still had time to kill so I headed up the hill for my next stop. I was pleased to see a few flowers blooming but overall I have to say I don’t think it was worth the $10.00 price of admission this time of year. Still, how often do you see California poppies blooming in February?Poppy

Today’s adventures will take me to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, said to be the most beautiful public building in the U.S. Then I will traverse State Street, the main drag of Santa Barbara and after some down time at the motel I will check out the Funk Zone. Should be another great day for photography!

Sea Otters

Sea_Otters3Sorry, I had to take a day off from the blog yesterday. I didn’t have many great pictures anyway because it was either pouring rain or we were inside. But today I had a chance to revisit the Sea Otter haunts in Morro Bay with the big girl camera and long lens. Pretty happy with the results. Here is a mama with her baby riding on her sSea_Otters4tomach. I think this one is about ready to solo.

These two were just coming up from a good romp.



And this next one is having a nice nap.





Here are mama and baby floating side by side.





ButSea_Otters this one is my hands down favorite. Otter love.

I did go back to the elephant seals as well but it was so windy I decided I had enough elephant seal pictures.

Tomorrow I make my way to Santa Barbara so should have some good things to share. Stay tuned.

Elephant Seals

Today was mainly about Elephant Seals. Though we learned something about Whales and Butterflies as well. It was poElephant_Sealuring down rain when we set out but by the time we arrived at our first destination it was clearing up but too muddy for our bird walk. So we proceeded on up the road to a less muddy place where we found few birds but lots of young male elephant seals separating themselves from the herd to avoid confrontation with the alpha males. This one won the prize for cuteness.

Slumber_PartyAfter a delicious lunch and a talk about whales we proceeded to the main elephant seal rookery where we found mamas and baby’s as well as alpha males and wanna be alpha males.  This first shot looks like a slumber party of females without pups.

But of course the babies are cute as can be too so hereElephant_seal_pup is one to prove it. Life is harsh on the beach though and the survival rate is not high. This fellow had been nursing but stopped to take a nap. We learned that the moms do not feed while nursing and lose 450 lbs before leaving the pups to wean. A newborn pup weighs about 75 lbs and grows to 300 lbs before Mom cuts off the milk supply.

Elephant_Seal_fightBut things got pretty exciting on the beach just as we were about to leave. To Alpha males, also known as Beach Master’s got into a fight over territory. It was still going on when we had to head out to our next appointment at the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay. There we saw a video about Humpback whales before proceeding to the Embarcadero for dinner.

As if we hadn’t had a full enough day we headed back to the motel to see a video on Monarch butterfly migrations.  Tomorrow will be another busy day even though our whale watching trip had to be cancelled due to dangerously high surf conditions.

Birds, Butterflies, and Beach Towns

Ruddy_DuckIt was another full day today starting with a bird walk at a place called Oso Flaco, or Skinny Bear. We saw Scaup, Ruddy ducks, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shovelers, a green heron, juvenile black crowned night herons, and white pelicans as well as some shore birds and a few black phoebes. The Ruddy ducks proved to be the most photogenic Racoonthough. And then there was this marauding mammal that snuck into the picture.

Next we had a real treat with a visit to the Monarch Butterfly grove in Pismo Beach where the Pacific butterflies come to hang out for the winter. We even got to see some mating behavior. I have in mind to do something artsy with Monarchsbutterflies but it isn’t going to happen tonight so this view of the clusters where they hang together will have to do for now though it is awfully hard to see that this is really a tree covered with butterflies and not a bunch of dead leaves.

ShorebirdFinally, we had lunch in downtown Pismo Beach and then strolled out on the Pier and around town looking at the shops and taking pictures of the signs. By this time I was almost too tired to enjoy it. The first picture here is an artistic look at the shadow of the pier against the patterns of the waves in the sand. The shorebird just ties it all together. Then we have a great painterly rendition of the Splash Splash2restaurant. Splash has been providing our catered meals throughout the week.

We ended the day with an very fascinating talk on falconry and owls with live bird examples. Nobody told me to bring my camera and I was too pooped to go back and get it.

Tomorrow promises to be another very full day but a trip to the Elephant Seal rookery will definitely be the highlight!

Of Sunsets and Sea Otters

Thsunset1is is the sunset that was happening last night as I was finishing yesterday’s blog. This, by the way was shot from my hotel room balcony.

This morning was spent in classroom mode learning about Sea Lions, Elephant Seals and Monarch Butterflies. Then we took a field trip to Morro Bay and had a walk along an Estuary which was interesting but not to photogenic for the short telephoto lens on the M3.

The next stop was along the Bay to look for sea otters. We were in luck and Sea_Ottersfound 15. It was still pushing the envelope for the M3 and how I was wishing for my 150
-600 lens. But with a little cropping and finessing I did come up with some sea otters that looked like sea otters oughter. (Sorry, couldn’t resist). But I still hope to have time to go back with the big girl camera before heading home.




And then there was this Brown Pelican wBrown_Pelicanho actually showed up to try and steal the otters food.

And the sun had just set when we got back to the hotel so here is another pretty sunset picture.


Tomorrow we have a bird walk, a trip to the Monarch butterfly grove and some time in downtown Pismo Beach.

Two out of three

OK, so I only made it to two missions today. Now that I have had a chance to look it up I think I was only about a block from the third but it was not well signed and traffic was insane and I was more interested in lunch than the mission. Hopefully, I will have a chance to catch it on the way home.

So, the first stop was San Antonio de Padua. An interesting mission in that Rosarioit is located on an Army Base. Kudos to the Army for letting us get in. Unfortunately for me the mission is currently undergoing a massive rehab so the front gallery was all closed down. I did get a look in the chapel and around the gardens so all was not lost. The best part was meeting Rosario, the mission cat. He was very friendly and showed me around for awhile until I decided to go a different direction than he had in mind.

I wanted to say that the reason I like to visit the missions is because they have an interesting history and unique architecture which is fun to photograph. Such as this rooftop bell structure. roof_bell_SAP I understand that Native Americans were not treated well by the missionaries and I am not intending to glorify or romanticize them. I just think they are interesting. And isn’t most of history about some oppressor oppressing some innocent people? And how can we do better if we do not study the history that has gone before? And sorry, but I don’t think I should be held responsible for what my ancestors may or may not have done to your ancestors. OK?

SM_BWOK soapbox moment over. The next mission on my route was San Miguel. Here I foundGate a classic gallery which seemed to cry out for black and white. And then I snuck around to the cemetery where I found this awesome gate.

View_SeacrestI did eventually find lunch in a cute little seaside town called Shell Beach. The Shell Beach Brewery was in fact the name of the restaurant and they didn’t even mind that I ordered wine with my meal. Then I checked into my hotel for the next five nights. Check out the view from my room. If you like that wait till you see the sunset pictures I just shot!

Tomorrow, fingers crossed for sea otters. I think Road Scholar is going to keep me busy so I hope I have time to process my pictures and post a blog.




Of Tule Fog, Foggy Memories, and Memorable Missions

Welcome to day two of my winter escape to California. I rolled out of Williams at about 8:30 with a full belly and a full gas tank. I had not even gotten on the freeway before a bright sunny day turned into pea soup. Which was ironic as I had decided not to go back to the wildlife refuge because it wasn’t foggy, on my side of town.

But I was committed so off I went down the highway remembering the challenges of forecasting how deep into the valley the fog would spread after making its way through the Carquinez Strait and into the Sacramento Valley. This during my two year tenure as the Agricultural forecaster for the Northern Sacramento Valley. I also spent  three years pitching fire weather forecasts out of Sacramento so there was much to contemplate and cogitate upon while watching for trucks looming up out of the fog. Not the least of which was why the heck I ever left California in the first place.

It did occur to me that this was the stuff of which 20 car pileups are made so I was greatly relieved with visibility improved around Sacramento and even more relieved when I had to pull out my sunglasses near Stockton. Given that the lanes in that area appeared to have been laid out by a drunken engineer I can’t imagine what it would have been like to negotiate in fog.

Bench_SJBBut you want to see pictures. I finally had a chance for photo ops in San Juan Bautista, home of the first mission (of the same name) on my route. Unfortunately the place was overrun by school children. But I managed to sneak a few pictures around them. First this bench with turquoise doors and windows under the gallery porcBells_SJB_Textureh. then of course the classic mission bells shot which I grunged up a bit using Topaz Texture Effects. The town itself was interesting and full of nineteenth century architecture. I may try to stop on my way back and see if things are a little quieter.

Soledad_doorNext stop was Nuestra Senora de la Soledad where things were a little more in keeping with my idea of what a mission visit should look like. I especially liked the Gregorian chants playing in the background. This first image is of the chapel door. A complete restoration was required at this mission after having been abandoned for 100 years. The remains of the adobe walls of the original church have been given a roof structure to protect them from further decay.


Somehow the original bell managed to survive and it hangs just outside Soledad_bellthe chapel. I tried a couple different treatments on this one. If you would like to see it in black and white go to

Tomorrow I have three more missions to  visit before joining up with my Road Scholar group. Tonight I am ready to crawl in bed and sleep like the dead.

On the Road Again!

Today is the first day of a two week adventure in California. Clear sailing over the Siskiyous set the stage for a great day. Unfortunately, the only glimpse I got of Mt. Shasta was in a place where it was not safe to pull over for a photo so that op went by. I finally decided to pull off the freeway at Willows and see what I could find to photograph.

What I found was grain elevators. Who cGrain_Elevatorsan resist the shapes and textures of a grain elevator? Not me for sure. Here is the first one I stopped at done in a Platinum tone black and white treatment in Topaz Black and White Effects.

The next grain elevators were metal and Grain_Elevators2cried out for a cool tone treatment so I went with a Cyanatone, also in Topaz B&W Effects. I toned it down some using decreased saturation in Photoshop but I still think the toning is a bit overdone. I’m also not crazy about the jet streak in the sky but it could be argued that the diagonal line adds something.

I checked in to Granzella’s Inn in Williams and then set out for the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. Now, it should be said that the Sacramento Valley Wildlife refuges are a worthy destination iSnowy_Egretn themselves but for this trip they had to be just a fly by. I made three laps around the auto tour route and came up with this handsome Snowy Egret who seemed much more interested in his/her dinner than me and my car blind. And for once the sun was coming from the right direction.

MeadowlarkThen there was this Western Meadowlark just hanging out on the edge of the lake, actually there were several, along with some Brewer’s blackbirds. I still can’t get over the detail in the feathers that is coming out of the 7D Mark II. Wow, just wow.

Tomorrow I make my way from Williams to Salinas or wherever I land en route to Pismo Beach where I am due to start a Road Scholar trip on Thursday. Mostly, making tracks is on my agenda for tomorrow but there should be at least one Mission on my route and who knows what else may turn up. Check in tomorrow or, better yet, subscribe to this blog and find out!

About this Blog

For many years I have dreamed of retiring from my day job so I could travel and do photography. Well, I managed retirement, I have managed to do a fair amount of photography but the travel piece has not really fallen into place, until now.  I had to get a few other pieces of my life in place before traveling could begin in earnest.

So hang onto your hats. Here comes a new blog about my travels. With pictures, of course. I head out tomorrow on a two week adventure in California which will serve as a test run for this blog. Hoping to find a better image for the header and maybe change it as I go. This one is a closeup of the side panel of a 1935 La Salle found at the Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa, NM.