Santa Cruz Sojourn

January 28, 2015 at 11:18 pm | Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

I took another ‘day trip’; this time to Santa Cruz, CA. I only live about 35 miles away, so it’s not like an expedition  or anything. My intention was to tour the Mission there.  Alas, the Mission was closed. It is only open Thursday through Saturday, so that idea was thwarted. [I know that there are all sorts of modern conveniences, such as the telephone and the computer, to prevent things like this from happening, but I sometimes just like to get in the car and drive]. I’ll file this tidbit of information away for use in the future.

However, being Santa Cruz, there’s always the beach, the boardwalk, and the wharf for entertainment, so I knew it wouldn’t be a wasted day. While in the parking lot of the Mission, I saw the top of a quaint structure and decided to investigate before trying to find the beach. It turned out to be the town clock. After I took that picture, I tried to use MapQuest, which is the GPS that came packaged on my Samsung Tablet to find the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Santa Cruz Wharf. It worked just fine…unless you expect to actually arrive at your intended destination. After two failed attempts at finding Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Santa Cruz Beach respectively, I decided that using my innate sense of direction would better serve me, and I was right. I headed toward where I figured the beach was and found a beach, (and by default, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and the Santa Cruz Wharf), within minutes.
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Left: Town Clock.
Center: Santa Cruz Beach (aka: Cowell Beach).
Right: Cowell Beach w/ Santa Cruz Wharf in the background.

Before I headed to the boardwalk and wharf, I took a few more pictures from this location.
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Left: Lighthouse.
Center: Closer view.
Right: Closer view of the wharf.

After I took these pictures, I easily found the boardwalk, beach, and wharf. And, being mid-week, I found free parking nearby. My dislike of people in general and crowds, in particular, preclude me from ever visiting Santa Cruz for a weekend. I parked in a lot at the end of the boardwalk and walked to the main entrance, about a ¼ mile away. I entered the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and began the second chapter of my photographic essay.
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Left: The entrance.
Center: The “official greeter”…OK, not really, but he should be.
Right: The Boardwalk. None of the rides were open, but that was OK with me. There weren’t that many that I would have wanted to ride anyway, [Although I wish the concession stands would have been open…I really could have used a corn dog or two about then].

After strolling the deserted boardwalk for a few minutes, opted for a walk on the beach. It too was not crowded, which pleased me immensely.
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Left: In this image, you can see from where I took my first few beach pictures. On the left center of the picture, you can see that outcropping and slightly above that, the lighthouse. There is a little cove between them, and that is where I took those first photographs.
Center: Different lens setting (50 mm as opposed to 16 mm), same basic shot.
Right: Another picture of the wharf.

I  then turned around and took a few pictures of the boardwalk from the beach perspective.
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Left, center and right are pretty much self-explanatory.

I next started toward the wharf. Along the way, I played with my camera and took these fine exemplars of photographic excellence.
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Top Left: A shot of the lighthouse, taken with my 55-210 mm lens at 210 mm.
Top Center: The mighty Pacific.
Top Right:  Another shot of the wharf w/ a raft of sea lions cavorting nearby.
Bottom Left: A shot that was taken from the base of the pier.
Bottom Center: The underbelly of the pier.
Bottom Right: The beach on the other (north) side of the wharf. That point of land jutting out creates a unique surfing opportunity for surfers. Right next to that bit of land, the waves are considerably bigger than the ones on the beach. People come from all over just to surf there.

Next, I walked onto the wharf/pier. It is called both by the locals, but its official name is Santa Cruz Wharf.
According to The Shipping Law Blog:
A Wharf is a man-made structure on a river or by the sea, which provides an area for ships to safely dock. Some are very intricate, with multiple types of  berth over a large area, and navigable channels and others are more straightforward. A Wharf can contain quays and piers and will normally have buildings within it to service the ships (often warehouses and offices). Because of their abundance of unusual buildings and ready-made water features, unused wharfs are often converted into expensive retail and housing areas (for instance Canary Wharf and Butler’s Wharf in London).

A Pier is a normally wooden, structure which protrudes from the shore at a level above the water level, allowing ships to disembark passengers in the deeper water further out. The length of the pier may also provide berths for smaller boats.

What the heck, you decide which it is.

Whatever it is, wharf or pier, it celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Santa Cruz is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the nation’s largest. It extends from San Francisco all the way down to Cambria.
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Left: Can you see the spectral image within the sign mimicking me?
Center: More proof of the anniversary.
Right: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

As I walked onto the wharf/pier, I took these photographs at random.
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Top Left: View of the pier.
Top Center: The pier.
Top Right: Boat on display.
Middle Left: Shops and restaurants on the pier.
Middle Center: Ditto.
Middle Right: Woodie’s Cafe (where I had lunch).
Bottom Left: More of the pier (looking back toward shore this time).
Bottom Center: yet more of the pier (looking back toward shore again).
Bottom Right: For some reason, there is a stage on the wharf. There is no seating (at least permanent seating) and the area, where it is located, would only comfortably accommodate about 100-150 people, so they can’t be holding any big events there.

After my tour of the wharf, I decided that I would stay for the sunset, as the sky looked promising…but I still had about 2½ to kill. I found out that I could drive right on to the pier and park for a measly $1.00 per hour. This sounded like an excellent idea to me, as I was beginning to tire a little (it doesn’t take that much anymore), and I was quite frankly getting a little bored as well. I headed back to my car for a little break and to move my car to the pier. Along the way, I took these photographs.
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Top Left: The beach.
Top Center: I somehow missed the volleyball courts on my way to the pier.
Top Right: Arcade.
Bottom Left: Another arcade.
Bottom Center: Roller coaster.
Bottom Right: Panorama shot of the roller coaster (I almost got it all in).

On my triumphant return to the pier, I parked in a centralized location. I decided to concentrate my photographic endeavors this time upon the local fauna.
First, birds.
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Top Left: Haha! I bet you were expecting a picture of a seagull. Don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed.
Top Middle: Also not a seagull.
The rest are images of the seagulls promised above.

Next, sea lions.
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All pictures above are of sea lions in various stages of cuteness.

Every so often, some of the sea lions would venture out from underneath the pier and form a group, or more correctly, a raft and just float around for a while.
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I have no idea what they were actually doing, but the general consensus from the other observers is that it was some sort of a mating ritual. If that is the case, it seems to me that there would be more agitation in the water around them. Maybe, sea lions just aren’t as animated as humans when they copulate, or maybe they are just insecure when they sun themselves and go out in groups, or perhaps they are females, and like human females, all go to the bathroom together so they can gossip. I don’t know… (stereotyping is a bad thing).

And naturally, what voyage to the shore is complete without pictures of boats.
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All pictures in the above group are self-explanatory.

And then the sun started to set.
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No words needed.

I really enjoyed this little outing, and am looking forward to coming back to visit the Mission.
I would appreciate any feedback you can give me. Do you like the narrative? Do you like the way I present the pictures (you can click on them to view them full size, in case you didn’t know)? How can I improve these posts? Let me know in the comments section of whatever platform you used to read this post. It would really help me to make these more enjoyable for you.









Sunset Magazine Gardens, Menlo Park, CA

January 14, 2015 at 12:27 am | Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Some might think it odd to go to a botanical garden in the middle of January. However, if you live in the Bay Area, visiting Sunset Gardens is not odd at all. The climate here is ideal for flora, no matter the season.
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Left: The entrance to Sunset Magazine Gardens.
Center and Right: After you enter, you walk through a foyer and enter a shaded patio area.

Sunset Gardens is a year-round attraction, with thousands of visitors every year. It is located on 7 acres in the middle of Menlo Park, and is about 3 miles from my residence. I urge you to click on this link to read the history of the gardens.
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Left: This stately oak tree is one of the focal points of the garden.
Center and Right: I experimented with the Macro setting on my camera with these results. The focus could have been sharper on the picture on the right, but then, it could just as easily been operator error.

The citrus and cabbages were a sight to behold.
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Left: Grapefruit.
Center: Tangerines.
Right: Cabbages.

I changed to my 55-210 mm zoom lens and took some close-up shots of the cabbages with these results. It was a lot easier on me and the environment than using the Macro setting on my other lens and having to got on my knees in the flower bed to get the same pictures.
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Left, Center, and Right: Cabbages.

As I walked around the grounds, I couldn’t help but wonder at the splendor of these gardens, and how meticulously they are maintained.
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Left: Two more stately oak trees, which are also a focal point you can’t help but notice as you enter the gardens.
Center: Unidentified, but colorful, plant.
Right: Unidentified plants.

There is even a totem pole.
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Left: Totem pole from afar.
Center: Self explanatory.
Right: Totem pole.

Continuing my walk around the gardens, I took more close-up images. Again, I opted for my 55-210 mm zoom lens. In order to get close enough to get similar pictures using the Macro feature on my camera, I would have to trample the fragile eco-system.
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This is one of my favorite areas. At this point, you are halfway through the gardens, and you can sit on  the bench and reflect on the awesomeness of nature before you continue your tour.
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Continuing on my tour, the next thing you come to are the Azaleas, (at least I think they’re Azaleas, although they could be Magnolias, I’m not sure).
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Left: Azaleas (or Magnolias).
Center: Same as above.
Right: Do a 180, and there are those two majestic oak trees again.

Next stop is the cactus garden.
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Left: Cactus.
Center: Cacti.
Right: More cacti.

At this point, I did 180 degree turn away from the cactus garden and took this 150 degree panorama shot of most of the gardens. I would have taken an even wider angle than 150 degrees, but there was some clutter on the lawn (on the right as you look at the picture) and I didn’t want to include it in the final product. Have I mentioned yet how much I love this camera?
This panorama image includes the two oak trees seen earlier as well as the first stately oak I mentioned in the beginning. It also includes most of the building.

As my tour comes full circle, I get a closer look at that awesome oak tree, but from a different angle.
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Left: Oak tree.
Center: A closer look.
Right: The patio. A nice place to unwind after your tour. If you bring your own coffee or tea, or heck even a lunch, it is even more enjoyable.

Here are a couple of planters on the patio.
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Left: Planters.
Center: More planters.
Right: my first ever ‘selfie’. It didn’t turn out too bad considering the subject matter. My camera takes excellent pictures, but it doesn’t work miracles.

I love this place and come here about once a month. Alas, Time Warner (Sunset Magazine’s corporate overlord) sold this property last month to a real estate investment firm [the property sold for 77 million dollars, about 11 million per acre, so I can understand why they did it; but it still pisses me off]. These gardens are an iconic part of the South Bay and have been open for over 60 years. They are as close to Heaven as I will ever get. Walking through the gardens is like walking in an immaculately groomed park…without all of the kids, dogs and accursed frisbee throwers. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to enjoy them. Hopefully the new owners will take their time developing the property. I’d hate to miss spring and summer, and fall too, this year. If touring the Sunset Magazine Gardens is on your ‘bucket list’ you should move it to the top and check it off A.S.A.P. Don’t forget to stop by and say “hi” to me. Heck, I’ll go with you, and take you to lunch afterward.

Pacifica Pilgramage

January 7, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

This afternoon, I decided to take a road trip to Pacifica, CA to take a few pictures of the sunset. I left Palo Alto about noon and drove the back way (through the hills) into Half Moon Bay where I connected with CA-1. I drove south out of town for about 5 miles until I found a photogenic beach (unnamed) that didn’t charge a fortune for a day pass. It parked in the turnout and walked the 100 yards to the bluff overlooking the ocean and took these pictures.
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Left: A shot of the ocean. 16 mm wide angle.
Center: The little beach. Shot at 50 mm. (If you look in the distance toward the upper center, you can see some of the town Half Moon Bay).
Right: The same shot, only shot at 16 mm wide angle.

Next, I drove back toward Half Moon Bay and stopped at Half Moon Bay Golf Links for lunch. After a mediocre, and over-priced, hot roast beef sandwich I drove to Half Moon Bay State Beach. I drove to the entrance and pretended to be lost (sly devil that I am). I asked the guard for directions to the pier, which I already knew to be 5 miles north from previous experience. I thanked him for the “information”, then as a pre-planned afterthought, asked if I could just enter the park for a few minutes to take a few pictures (this ploy works most of the time, and today was no exception). He said “no longer than 10 minutes, or he’d be in trouble.” I said the that would be ample time for what I wanted to do, and proceeded into the park to take these pictures.
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Left: Beach. Taken at 16 mm.
Center: Ocean. Taken with the 210 mm lens.
Right: Ocean and beach. Same basic shot as the picture on the left, but taken at 50 mm.

My next little jaunt was to the aforementioned pier. I took these pictures there.
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Top Left: Parking lot of Pillar Point Harbor
Top Center: Sign outside the Harbormaster’s office at Pillar Point Harbor.
Top Right: Boats at Pillar Point Harbor. 16 mm wide angle.
Middle Left: Boats at harbor. 50 mm.
Middle Center: Traffic management at the harbor. 16 mm wide angle.
Middle Right: Same shot, but with the 50 mm lens.
Bottom Left: Duck taking a leisurely swim in the harbor.
Bottom Center: The sea gulls here are fearless. He acted as though posing for pictures were his job. (Taken from a distance, about 20 feet, with my 210 MM telephoto lens).
Bottom Right: Like I said, fearless. I took the picture of this sea gull from a lot closer, about 3 feet, using my 50 mm lens.

As sunset drew ever nearer, I departed the harbor and headed toward my ultimate destination, a beach on the north side of Pacifica that I had seen a few times before, but never had the time to stop. Along the way, I stopped at Montero Beach, another free beach. Basically, another wide spot in the road. I took these pictures there.
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Left, center, and right are basically the same shot, with the different lenses; 16 mm, 50 mm, and 210 mm respectively.

That didn’t take too long. I then drove to the Public Beach on the north side of Pacifica. I took these last pictures there.
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Top left, center and right: The setting sun reflected beautifully off of the cliffs, beach and rocks.
Bottom left, center and right: The sunset was a thing of beauty. I just wish there would have been a few more clouds to enhance the sunset’s majesty.

It was a fun trip, and I will be doing more “day trips” in the future; as I learn to use my new camera. I arrived back in Palo Alto at around 6:00 pm.

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