Category Archives: California

California Highlights 2019

It’s Easter 2020 and we’re currently living in harrowing times with much of the world engaged in attempts to manage the spread of Covid-19. Like many countries, the UK is in a state of semi lockdown with large sections of the population confined to their homes or at best a short distance from same. So, like many others I’m currently filling my days with various chores around the house and garden. I’ve even managed to spend some time editing photos from my trip to California in November 2019. These are now on-line and can be viewed here.

California Highlights Diary

It was originally my intention to post a small selection of images during the trip so that friends and family could keep up with progress. Alas, long days and nights of photography meant that my plans never came to fruition. Nevertheless, I did manage to write down a few notes each day as a reminder of the locations we’d been too.

Day 1

We arrived in the city of South San Francisco mid afternoon, and having left our baggage at the motel we headed to a location called the Wind Harp. This 92-foot tall sculpture is located on the side of a hill known as Point San Bruno Knoll that overlooks the San Francisco Bay.

Wind Harp, South San Francisco

Day 2 was a travel day as we made our way to Yosemite National Park. We made numerous stops along the way. A highlight was the visit to the St Joseph’s Catholic church in Mariposa. We even managed a guided tour of Mariposa County Courthouse.

Mariposa County Courthouse

Days 3 to 5

We spent 3 days in Yosemite with early starts each morning as we wanted to visit as many locations within the park as possible. On my previous trip in 2013 we were blessed with snow on one of the days. Unfortunately, whilst snow provided lots of photographic opportunities around the valley floor it prevented us getting to some of the more iconic locations high above the valley. This time weather was more suited to driving to the higher viewpoints, and we even managed to photograph Half Dome at sunset from Glacier Point.

Half Dome at Sunset, Glacier Point

Days 5 – 7

We spent the morning of day 5 in Yosemite before making our way to Mono Lake. Our route took us over the Tioga Pass with short stops at Olmsted Point and Tenya Lake.

Mono Lake is a saline soda lake formed around 760,000 years ago. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake. Our first evening at went well with  beautiful sunset followed by a long period of afterglow.

Sunset Afterglow, Mono Lake

On the second evening  a few of use drove to Lake Mary near Mammoth Lakes. It was a clear night with the Milky Way plain to see with the naked eye.

Milky Way, Lake Mary, Mammoth Lakes

Days 7-9

We left Mono Lake and began the long journey to the town of Lone Pine. This was to be our base for visits to the Alabama Hills and Bristlecone Pine Forest near Bishop.

The Alabama Hills, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada just west of Lone Pine, is one of Hollywood’s favourite filming locations. The beautiful rock formations and natural arches of the hills bordered by a vast open plain rising majestically to the mountains beyond has been a prime filming location since the early 1900s.

Lathe Arch and Mount Whitney, Alabama Hills

After sunrise on day 9 we began the drive to Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley.

Days 9-12

Our time in Death Valley followed the usual pattern of rising before dawn to capture sunrise in the Mesquite Sand Dunes then breakfast. After breakfast we’d head off to photograph locations such as the Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater, Zabriskie Point and many others in between.

Fan Clouds at Sunset, Zabriskie Point

We left Death Valley and headed westward to the town of Ridgecrest for an overnight stop before travelling to Morro Bay. We had chosen Ridgecrest because it gave us good access to the Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark. The Trona Pinnacles are an unusual geological feature in the California Desert National Conservation Area. The landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, rising from the bed of the Searles Lake basin.

Unfortunately, we mistimed our arrival with the result that the sun had already set. Nevertheless, we did manage to capture some afterglow photos 😉

Sunset at Trona Pinnacles

Day 13

We left Ridgecrest on our way to Morro Bay where we spent the late evening photographing sunset over the bay. It’s known for Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic mound at the end of Morro Rock Beach.

Morro Rock at Sunset, Morro Bay

Day 14

On day 14 we travelled northward stopping along the way to capture as many photo opportunities as we could.

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur

Day 15

Day 15 began with a visit to the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum. The Carmel Mission as it’s more commonly named was first built in 1797, and is one of the most authentically restored Roman Catholic mission churches in California. The Basilica Church, a registered National Historic Landmark, is the centerpiece of the Mission.

Carmel Basilica, Carmel

Day 16

Our final full day in California was spent in San Francisco with a short trip across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sea Fret, Golden Gate Bridge

Images were GPS tagged and edited in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC

Note: I don’t allow comments on Blog pages, but am happy to receive your thoughts on the photos and/or the tutorials etc. Just send an email to ilyons@msn.com 

California Highlights

photoventures My last post mentioned that I was traveling to California on a photo trip. It had been my intention to post a small selection of images during the trip so that friends and family could keep up with progress. Unfortunately, posting images wasn’t to be, and on my return home a backlog of work prevented me from addressing the absence of images. Thankfully, I’ve managed to clear that backlog and have found time to upload some of the photos I’d hoped to post during the trip. These are now on-line and can be viewed here.

The following is a small selection of the images contained within above gallery along with some background information on their location, etc.

Days 1 and 2

Days 1 and 2 were spent in around the city of San Francisco. Thee we visited the Embarcadero centre. This provide a huge number of architectural photographic opportunities.

Bronze Sphere, Embarcadero Centre, San Francisco

After lunch, we headed off to Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge. Construction of the Bridge was completed in 1937.  The bridge spans the Golden Gate strait, a mile-wide, three-mile-long channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to Marin County.

Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point, San Francisco

In the evening we travelled across the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island. From there we could photograph sunset over the city and bay area.

Bay Bridge at Sunset, San Francisco

Days 3 to 6

Day 3 was a travel day as we made our way to Yosemite National Park. We made numerous stops along the way, but the visit to the St Joseph’s Catholic church in Mariposa was the most memorable. The church dates back to 1862 and is located on a little hill overlooking the south end of Bullion Street. Its design and New England steeple makes St Joseph’s one of the most photographed and familiar landmarks in Mariposa.

St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Mariposa

As we walked around the graveyard it was noticeable that many of the graves contained the remains of Irish immigrants.

Graveyard, St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Mariposa

Day 4 was our first full day in Yosemite. It was an early start as we wanted to visit as many locations within the park as possible in the course of the day. The autumn colours and lighting provided lots of opportunities, and even though it was Sunday visitors were not as high as we had expected. Luck was on our side.

Mule Deer, Gates of the Valley

During the day we visited many locations along the valley floor including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, Merced River and many more. As sunset approached we made our way to Lower Pines meadow to capture the colours of sunset on the Half Dome.

Sunset On The Half Dome, Lower Pines Meadow

As the sun set and we began to pack our cameras one of the group remarked on the opportunities we had been blessed with. Little did we know that the following day would proof even more rewarding.

Day 5 began badly. We awoke to rain and heavy cloud cover. So different to the previous day. Nevertheless, we’re not in the habit of giving up easily. Our first stop was Tunnel View and it was from here that we realised that weather was worsening rather than improving. In fact, it was snowing. As I looked down into the valley through the mist and cloud I recalled the great black and white images from Ansel Adams. Maybe all wasn’t lost after all.

Gathering Storm, Tunnel View

Even down on the valley floor the snow was getting heavier and…

Snow at Valley Floor

Right through to lunchtime it snowed but there were signs that it was easing. Maybe things would be better after lunch.

Clearing Storm, El Capitan

As the clouds began to clear and temperature increased it became obvious that we were being blessed for a second day, but we would need to work fast to make the best of the quickly changing conditions.

Rising Mist, Sentinel Meadow

As the snow melted we decided another quick drive up to Tunnel View was required, and what a view we got.

Clearing Storm, Half Dome

To say that I’m pleased with the photos I captured in Yosemite would be an understatement.

Day 6 should have been another chance to visit Yosemite, especially the locations we’d not managed to get to on the previous two days. Unfortunately, the previous days snow meant that the Tioga Pass (our quickest route to Lee Vining) was closed. Pass after pass over the Sierra Nevada mountains was closed but after close to a 10 hour drive we finally reached our destination at Lee Vining. Given the late hour we literally dumped our baggage in the motel and headed off to Mono Lake in the hope that we could get a few twilight photos.

Twilight, Mono Lake

Days 7 and 8

Days 7 and 8 were spent photographing Mono Lake at sunrise and sunset with a visit to the ghost town of Bodie in between.

Mono Lake is located near to town of Lee Vining. It’s famous for the spectacular “tufa towers,” calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed by interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. Photography is best around sunrise and sunset.

Morning Mist, Mono Lake

Evening Light, Mono Lake

Bodie is located down a dusty, bumpy, slow 13 mile long road off of State Highway 395. In 1859 gold was discovered near what is now called Bodie Bluff. A mill was established in 1861 and the town began to grow. Initially there were about 20 miners but this grew to an estimated 10,000 people by 1880! Mining ceased during the 1940’s. What remains today is state protected in the form of a State Park. For the most part, it’s possible to photograph the exterior and interior of building from outside but controlled access is provided to a few.

The Metzger House, Bodie

Lamplight, Wheaton and Hollis Hotel, Bodie

On day 8 we left Mono Lake and began the long journey to the town of Lone Pine. This was to be our base for visits to the Alabama Hills and Bristlecone Pine Forest near Bishop.

Days 9 to 10

An early start on day 9 as we wanted to capture sunrise through the famous natural arches in the Alabama Hills. However, even before the early morning light hit the arches we were rewarded with the beautiful red/pink glow on Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Peak.

Sunrise, Lone Pine Peak and Mount Whitney

Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine

While Mobious arch is probably the best known and certainly easiest to access of the arches there other less well known arches. Maybe the fact that climbing up to them is the reason for them being less well visited. One such arch is Portal Arch. It’s not very big and some might think not worth the steep climb required to access it.

Portal Arch, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine

As the sun began to drop on late afternoon opportunities for interesting photographs. The light and shadows on rocks and trees attracted a fair amount of our attention.

Sunlit Tree, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine

After sunrise on day 10 we began the drive to Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley. Along the way we stopped at Owen’s Lake to photograph some of the birds to be found there and reflections.

Yellowleg, Owens Lake

Days 11 to 13

Our time in Death Valley followed the usual pattern of rising before dawn to capture sunrise in the Mesquite Sand Dunes then breakfast. After breakfast we’d head off to photograph locations such as the Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater, the Racetrack, Zabriskie Point and many others in between.

Photographer in the Dunes, Mesquite Sand Dunes

The Racetrack

Ubehebe Crater at Sunset, Death Valley National Park

Day 13 began with the usual early visit to the Mesquite Sand Dunes. After breakfast we began our journey to Ridgecrest where we overnighted before travelling on to Morro Bay. At Ridgecrest we visited the Red Rock Canyon State Park and Trona Pinnacles.

Days 14 to 16

On day 14 we left Ridgecrest on our way to Morro Bay where we spent the late evening photographing a sea otter feeding and sunset over the bay.

Sea Otter Feeding, Morro Bay

Sunset, Morro Rock

Next morning (day 15) we were back down to the harbour at Morro Bay for sunrise.

Sunrise, Morro Bay

After breakfast we began our drive along the Pacific Highway. Our overnight would be Monterey.

Elephant Seals, San Simeon

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Off to California

I’ll be departing tomorrow for California on an 18 day photo tour. The tour was arranged by Roger Reynolds at Photoventures. As usual Roger has planned the tour to explore a wide variety of the most iconic locations not just in the state but perhaps the world.

Map (Copyright of Wildernet)

We’ll begin our tour in the city of San Francisco with its iconic waterfront that looks out onto ‘The Bay’ and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. From there will move on to Yosemite National Park; a location I’ve had on my ‘must visit’ lists for as long as I’ve been taking photographs. We will also visit Mono Lake, and the ghost town of Bodie, a location that offers a real taste of the old pioneering ways. From there we’ll journey south to the Alabama Hills and the Bristlecone Pine forest.  Death Valley, one of the lowest places on earth is also on our itinerary. Our final few days will take us back west to the Pacific coastline were we’ll photograph locations such as Big SurMorro Bay and Half Moon Bay.

Most of our overnight stops will have an internet connection. So, all being well I should get a few of each day’s favourite photos on line. All photos will be imported into a Lightroom catalog that I’ve set up for the trip. This will allow me to quickly and easily apply metadata such as keywords and geotagging information to images without having to resort to standalone applications, and of course any develop adjustments will also be carried out in Lightroom.