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Photographing the Abandoned Davenport Pier, Davenport, California

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to get a picture of the abandoned pier at Davenport, California.  Here it is, at a distance:


And again:


Davenport is a tiny town along California’s Highway 1, just north of Santa Cruz.  There doesn’t seem to be much there besides a (pretty upscale) roadhouse, and a handful of smaller eateries geared towards the tourists.  We stopped at the Whale City Bakery for a quick bite, and to use their bathroom.  They seem to be the only people in the bathroom business in Davenport.  Great bread too.

As it turns out, it’s not that easy to get level with the Davenport pier.  This was my second attempt.  After my last failed attempt, I read an article online by one fellow who suggested approaching from an easily accessible alcove to the south of the actual pier.  The idea is that you wait for low tide, and then walk around the rocky outcropping there, and up the beach to the pier.

Yeah, I dunno.  I went down there to check it out as the tide was going out.  The rocks are really slick where the waves have been, covered with a slimy green algae.  Also, the ocean along this part of the coast is no joke.  It moves unpredictably and forcefully.  As a native of the California coast, I am familiar with the rogue waves that semi-routinely suck tourists off the rocks into the sea.  I really want that picture from the beach, but I’m not interested in being an idiot about it.  Also, I had the child with me.  So that was that.

Instead, I headed up to the lookout, and took the above pictures.  I also pulled out the Nikon and got a few pictures of the birds bedding down for the night on the piers.


Birds are cool.  Also, birds are hard to photograph.  Did you know there are entire groups on Facebook dedicated to crap bird pictures?  It’s true.  I’m in them.  As it turns out, it’s really easy to take a crap bird picture.  I know of what I speak.  I’ve taken a lot of crap bird pictures.

Here – I tried again:


If you squint, you can see birds there.  I dream of having one of those big birding lenses someday, to better take crap bird pictures with.  That, and someone to carry it for me.  I hear they weigh a ton.

Anyway, before leaving, I drove up to the ledge closest to the pier and scoped out the shot I’d like to take someday from the ground level:


As you can see, there’s a beach down there, a beach that other people have visited, judging on the footprints in the sand.

On my way back to the car, I ran into a few locals making the return trip.  I asked them how they got down to the beach.  They told me they scaled the cliff.  That’s not an exaggeration.  It’s a cliff.  They said that there’s about ten feet of rope that you use to lower yourself part of the way down, or haul yourself back up to the edge, but according to these two kids, the rest of the trip is free climbing.  “You need to be able to pull yourself with your arms,” said the girl.  “Also, wear good shoes.”

So yeah.  I don’t know if I’m going to get that dream picture.  I’m certainly not going to do it while I have the child with me.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to console myself with the lookout shot.  It’s a pretty fine view in its own right:



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Doing as the Tourists Do, Canadian Edition: Visiting Banff

Believe it or not, I’d never been to Canada before last weekend.  Wild, amirite?  I mean, it’s literally a two hour plane flight away.  So when the in-laws offered to take us to Banff for a few days over Z’s spring break, I said absolutely.

For those of you not in the know, Banff is a massive national park located in the middle of Canada.  In order to get there, you have to fly into Calgary (very nice airport, and surprisingly large for the apparently limited number of travelers it sees), and then drive about an hour.  If the Canadian flight crew was any indication, Canadians are unfailingly polite and chipper.

I wouldn’t know, because most of Banff appears to be staffed by Australians.  No, really.  I guess they are chasing the snow.  I also met a New Zealander.  But mostly Australians.

Any, here’s Banff:


Not too shabby.  Because I was traveling with a child and parental units, we didn’t venture too far from the tiny town of Banff most of the time.  All of these pictures were taken a few minutes away from the town center.  Here’s some more:



I bet this frozen lake is super pretty when it isn’t frozen, or even when it is partially frozen.  I wonder when the melting happens.  Late May?  June?  Although even frozen, the landscape still had a stark beauty about it.  I feel like I didn’t do it justice.  I don’t have a lot of experience photographing in the snow.

Anyway, here’s another mountain shot.  Mountains are marginally easier:



The kid was super pumped to see snow.  I guess he saw it once when he was a baby visiting Wyoming, but of course he doesn’t remember it.  For the most part, he’s a fair weather fellow who has only seen snow on television.  Canada provided him with plenty of the stuff.  He even got to see it fall from the sky:


I handheld this shot on the way out the door from dinner at a high ISO while there rest of my party tapped their feet in the car.  Go modern technology.

Anyway, you have no idea what a momentous event this was for a seven-year-old.  Snow.  Falling from the sky.  He wants to move there.  Who knows?  If Trump gets bad enough, maybe he will have an opportunity.

Although here’s the thing about Canada: It turns out it’s cold.  I mean, really cold.  I’m the sort of lady who likes her climates somewhere between 60 and 80 degrees Fareinheit.  Which is to say, super temperate.  Because I am a super weenie.  Canada is not super temperate.  Several generations ago, one branch of my family came to the U.S. from Sweden.  Another branch of my family came from a small town in eastern Europe.  I’ve never been to either location, but I’m willing to bet it’s pretty cold there too.  Which means at some point, my family was hardy.  Several generations of American citizenship has produce me, a total lightweight.  I bet I’d struggle to make it through a Canadian winter.

Although never say never.  Because Trump.

Anywho, Banff was beautiful.  I’d totally go again, if the opportunity presented itself.  We’re thinking of trying to drive up there over the summer sometime, which, coincidentally, is what my parents did for their honeymoon all those years ago.  In a van.  With some dogs.  Hey, they were hippies.  It was a thing.

Of course, we’re also telling people that we might go camping in Oregon over the summer.  If you ever read Big Dog and Little Dog, you’ll already have an idea as to how likely that is.  Stay tuned, sports fans.  I’m sure I’ll let you know where we come out on the matter.

Parting shot:



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Visiting Shark Fin Cove in Santa Cruz

I have been meaning to visit some of Santa Cruz, California’s famous beaches for awhile now.  It’s taken me longer to make it happen than I would like.  Santa Cruz is over an hour away from where I live, and requires driving over 17 at night.  I’ve never liked highway 17.

I finally made it out to Shark Fin Cove over Easter weekend.  This enabled me to leave the offspring with my parents.  The offspring always likes a good adventure, but sometimes it’s more relaxing to leave him at home.

For example, climbing down onto a strange beach over a rocky trail is less stressful with only adults present.  Here’s the shot from above:


I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that rock sticking up out of the water is the “shark’s tooth” the beach was named after.

The climb down to this beach was nowhere near as difficult as getting to the Tunitas Creek Beach.  Still, you have to duck under a pipe, and scramble down a path to get there.  The camera and tripod present an added degree of difficulty.  On the other hand, I saw several out-of-shape ladies in flip flops make a go of it, so it’s clearly doable.

The beach has several neat caves and viewpoints, depending on the tide levels.  I liked this one quite a bit:


There’s also some nice views from the rocks on the beach:


It was all very pretty, even with the smoggy, cruddy atmosphere, and the multitudes of tourists.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Santa Cruz, and I can’t even remember when the last time was that I went to a Santa Cruz beach.  I was thus truly saddened to discover that the rock formations at this one were covered with graffiti, and the sand with trash.  Do better, Santa Cruz.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

I also made a trip to see the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur:


It’s famous for a reason.

The moon was full, which helped with my bridge lighting considerably.  My dad gave me his Nikon d7200 for my birthday, so I used it to take a picture of this:


Pretty slick, right?

One of these days, I’ll do a full post on Big Sur.  As my bridge picture came out blurry, today is not that day.  I’m still struggling with how to focus the Fuji at night.  I’ve got a pretty good handle on how to do it with the Nikon (used in the moon shot), but my Fuji shots are incredibly hit or miss.  Literal shots in the dark.  Yuk yuk yuk.

It turns out there’s also a lighthouse in Big Sur.  We tried to visit it, but it looks like you need to set up a tour to go see it at night.  As I said, a post for another time.



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Photographing Lover’s Lane in San Francisco’s Presidio

I have spent every Saturday for the last few months doing as the tourists do.  This means that once a week I drag my spouse, my kid, and occasionally my dog, to visit some local landmark I’ve here-to-for managed to avoid.  In this spirit, I set out to visit the Lover’s Lane trail at the Presidio in San Francisco, California.

The trail winds through roughly a half-mile stretch of Eucalyptus forest.  It’s a pleasant, non-challenging walk with only a mild grade.  Little Dog, who is more of a sprinter than an endurance animal, and more of a couch potato than a sprinter, found it to be very manageable.

I took a bunch of pictures, but only got one I liked.  So this post is going to be pretty short.

Here’s my keeper:


I think it’s not bad, at least in comparison to my other shots, which were overly busy and lacking in focus.  I find photographing groves to be a tricksy business.  It’s easy for the whole place to devolve into a dizzying mess of lines and contrasts.  Observe:

With all that light and shadow, it’s really easy to lose the point entirely, which to me is the path weaving through the trees.

I had a much easier time getting the picture I wanted once the sky became overcast.  Lower level of difficulty, in my opinion.  Fortunately for me, San Francisco prefers its weather on the cloudy side.  Just ask permanent resident, Karl the Fog.

If you ever make your way to the Presidio, take a stroll down Lover’s Lane.  The walk is easy, and the Eucalyptus lovely and serene, even if they aren’t native to California.

Until next time!


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Adventures in Children’s Media: Timmy Failure, by Stephan Pastis

Plot: Eleven-year-old detective Timmy Failure and his business partner, Total the polar bear (Total Failure, Inc.) tackle cases and schoolwork with a winning and winsome combination of luck and unearned self-confidence.

Child Enjoyment: 8/10  Timmy’s one funny dude.  Also, as a legacy several times over, the child is particularly and endlessly amused by Timmy’s friend’s “Stanfurd” aspirations.

Parent Enjoyment:  10/10  I’m the person who bought it, no pressure from the child, just had to have it.  I read it when the kid is not around.  I’m a fan.

Age Appropriate:  At six-turned-seven, Z is a little young to fully understand how an unreliable narrator works.   And boy, is Timmy unreliable, in all the best ways.  The child still find him hysterically funny.  Clearly, Timmy’s appeal knows no bounds.

Pain Factor:  Really low.  The book is witty, fast moving, embellished with charming pictures by writer/artist Stephan Pastis (of Pearls Before Swine fame) and laugh-out-loud funny.

Story Assessment:  Timmy Failure is the founder, president and CEO of detective agency Failure, Inc.  Once he brought on his business partner, Total the polar bear, the agency’s name changed to the snappier Total Failure, Inc., and there’s been no looking back.  No matter is too small for the intrepid duo.  Over the course of the first book they take on such stumpers as the case of the missing halloween candy, and the mystery of the T.P.-ed house.

The book consists of fifty-nine short, illustrated chapters, through which Timmy juggles his caseload with schoolwork, friendship maintenance, and the management of his long-suffering single mother.  His world is populated by delightful, well rounded characters, including best friend Rollo Tookus (of Stanfurd fame), female admirer Molly Moskins, and rival/sworn enemy Corrina Corrina, aka the One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered, aka the Weevil Bun (Evil One).

Timmy may not be a great detective, but he’s sure great fun.   Author/illustrator Stephan Pastis’s voice is distinctive and his narrative style  engaging.  Of course, I may be somewhat biased, as I understand from Mr. Pastis’s bio that he went to UCLA Law School (gooooo Bruins!), and ultimately gave up a legal career to become a comic book writer and artist.  In other words, living the dream.

But seriously.  Timmy Failure’s the man.  Just ask him.

In Summation: The adventures of Timmy Failure are full of humor and heart.  We love him at our house.  I’ll bet you’d love him in yours.

There are currently seven books in the Timmy Failure series, and a Disney feature in the works.  My particular book is a twofer (Mistakes Were Made, and Now Look What You’ve Done.)  You can buy the chronicles of Timmy Failure’s adventures at Amazon, or anywhere else that books are sold.  He’s that big a deal.

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Photographing Pier 7 in San Francisco

It turns out – and I’m not kidding, I had no idea either – there’s a Pier 7 in San Francisco.  I dragged my little family out there after a long day to check it out.  Yes, even the dog came, although she stayed in the car, because it was raining and Little Dog cannot be bothered with that sort of nonsense.

Many of the more famous piers in San Francisco have lovely buildings in front of them demarcating their location.  Pier 7 does not have such a building.  When we showed up at the intersection, in the dark and the rain, my husband looked at me and said, “Are you sure there’s a Pier 7?  Because I see a Pier 5, and I see a Pier 9, and there’s nothing in between.”

Fortunately for our marital relations, Pier 7 really is a thing.  The internet did not lie to me.  Here’s the shot most people come for:


It’s a picture-perfect view, complete with vanishing point perspective, of the pier leading towards the Transamerica Pyramid.  It’s almost like they planned it that way.

This wasn’t the only nifty shot to be had, however.

Who knew?  I certainly did not know.  And it was less crowded than the more famous piers, which is always a plus.  The rain probably helped in that regard.


Take a moment to appreciate the funky smears in this picture where I tried and failed to wipe the water off my filter.  I would just like to point out, though, that I remembered to put my filter on, because rain.  This may be a first for me.  I may or may not have remembered to do it right away.  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

And that’s Pier 7!  You can find it conveniently located between Pier 5 and Pier 9.  But without the fancy signage.

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Photographing the Bay Bridge and San Francisco Skyline, as Seen from Treasure Island

As it has been a holiday weekend, I am distanced from my lovely desktop and all of the content contained therein.  I am thus at the mercy of whatever is available on my laptop.  All this is to say that this post will be delightfully short.

The photo below was taken from Treasure Island.  Treasure Island is a small manmade island that connects to the two halves of the Bay Bridge.


We stopped by a few weeks ago on a lark, on our way home from somewhere.   It was a beautiful view.  Here’s a longer exposure:


I think I prefer the sky on the shorter exposure, and the smooth water on the longer one.  I understand that there is a way to combine both worlds through photoshop or some such.  I have yet to delve much into photoshop, so this melding of the worlds will have to wait for another day.

I have been sitting onto this post for awhile, because there’s another angle on this shot that I had hoped to capture before posting.  One of my hobbies is haunting forums and whatnot looking for interesting local places to photograph.   Recently I came across this pretty rad shot in one such forum, wherein the photographer had captured the San Francisco skyline by shooting under the Bay Bridge towards the city.  I wants this picture.  I NEEDS this picture!  I cannot figure out how to take this picture…yet.

As it stands, I have engaged in several reconnaissance missions to try to track the mysterious location down.  I’m pretty sure it was taken from Treasure Island’s sister island, Yerba Buena Island.  Much of Yerba Buena Island is Coast Guard property.  It kind of looks like the only way to get at the location in question is to trespass.  Obviously, I’m not super keen to trespass on government property.  Then again, it’s a pretty spectacular angle on the skyline.  What to do?

I have been giving some thought to contacting the Coast Guard through their unofficial Facebook page and feeling them out on the subject.  Never let it be said, dear readers, that I don’t make every effort on your behalves.  If I am ultimately successful, you’ll be the first to know.


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Doing as the Tourists Do: Taking a Drive Down the PCH

The Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH, as they are fond of calling it in Southern California), runs down the western length of the state.  It is famously scenic, and a must-see for first time visitors.

These pictures were actually taken mid-day (a deadly time for photographs, sadly) as we drove home from Ano Nuevo, where we saw the elephant seals.  Still, I think, the scenery is sufficiently spectacular that it shines through the subpar lighting.

Here are a few angles on the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, as viewed during the day:

There were a number of people parked at this particular pullout appreciating the view.

Funny aside:  for whatever reason, strange men approach me almost every time I’m out taking pictures to tell me about their camera equipment.  No hellos or anything.  They just launch into a laundry list of the things they own at home, things they used to own, things they want to own in the future.   I don’t know what that’s about.  Am I supposed to respond with a list of my own camera equipment?  It’s a mystery.


We next stopped to check out Tunitas Creek Beach.  The picture above was taken part way down the “path” connecting the highway to the sand.


Scenic, amirite?

Funny story:  The parks website mentions that the “Tunitas Creek Beach currently has no facilities and is only accessible via a steep, eroded trail.”  This is no joke.  Getting down to this beach was not easy, especially with my camera and tripod slung over my shoulder, but it had nothing on getting back up again.  Someone had tied a rope at the top which I didn’t notice coming down.  It turns out this rope is a necessary element to the return trip, in that you have to haul yourself up the steep grade using it.  This is a tricky enough process in and of itself, but as I said, I had hand carried both camera and tripod down the beach, which meant that there was only one way it was getting back again.  The other thing I’d brought down to the beach was an uncoordinated six year old.  This was one of those “not funny then, funny now,” parenting moments.  But hey, we all made it in the end.  Moral of the story: when climbing down a cliff to a beach, put your camera in a backpack, in case you need both hands free to haul yourself and your offspring back out again.  Also, bring your spouse.  Spouses are good at schlepping. Or so I hear.

And finally, the place I was most hoping to hit when the light was right.  Fortunately, the stars aligned.  These pictures were taken in one of the fields of wildflowers lining the highway:



How pretty is that?  Sadly, I forgot to turn my face recognition back on, so a bunch of the pictures were rendered blurry and unusable.  The Fuji is not the easiest camera to use to capture a twitchy child anyway; I find the Nikon much easier for that purpose.  Or maybe I’m not yet smart enough for the Fuji.  I can see it going either way.  However, I ended up pretty pleased with the pictures I did get.

And there it is!  Take a trip down the PCH and make a day of it.  There’s no end of beautiful things to photograph along the way.


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Photographing the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Clara

A number of months ago, I came into a little bit of money and bought a nice camera.  I thought long and hard about it before I did, and decided that the only way to justify buying this nice camera was if I really intended to use it all the time.  So, I’ve been using it all the time.  “All the time” for me is “every weekend.”  This is a substantial step up from my previous habit of only taking pictures while on vacation.  I don’t go on that many vacations.

I’ve been finding the process more fulfilling than anticipated, at a time in my life when, it turns out, I could really use some fulfillment.  A cool byproduct of the camera-ing is that it has encouraged me to think about the beauty of the place where I live.

The pictures below were taken at the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Clara, California.  I’d never heard of it before an internet search turned me onto it.

It’s most well known for its olive groves:

Not too shabby, am I right?  It also had all the pertinent religious stuff, of course:


But it’s really all about the lurvely foliage:


The child is always happy to mug for the camera.

Okay, funny story about this next picture.  When I arrived, these people were doing a protracted, incredibly hokey maternity photoshoot in the middle of the longest row of trees.  They posed with everything from the ultrasound photo to a soccer ball (no, really).   I waited over an hour for them to leave, and they never did.  I ended up snapping the picture below with them in it and clumsily editing them out.  Still pretty, but ah, the picture that could have been.



The child humors his mother.


Again with the humoring.

When I got home that night, I was disappointed with my pictures, as I always am.  In the light of day, however, I have to say that the beauty of the place really shines through.  It’s a magical little location, buried deep within the urban sprawl that is Santa Clara.  If you happen to be in the area, I encourage you to check it out.  I think you’ll find it well worth the effort.



The money shot.