Clearing Fog

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, California

One of my favorite scenic drives was when I visited California for the first time and took the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco on California Route 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway). Being the first time on the west coast, I fell in love with that drive. Whenever I traveled to the west coast on business, I always managed to get there a day or two early to hop onto the highway. There are so many things to see and visit that it is hard to pick one that is my favorite. It is no secret that I have a love of lighthouses. That being the case, it would be hard to leave off the Pigeon Point Lighthouse pictured here off of any list of places to visit on the Pacific Coast Highway. The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is arguably one of the most picturesque lighthouses on the Pacific coast. Built in 1871, the tower measures 115 feet tall that seems even taller as it stands on a rocky promontory above the Pacific Ocean below. It is located just south of San Francisco outside the town of Pescadero. This particular morning, we left Monterey with my brother-in-law and his family and headed to San Francisco. The weather was quite foggy and a bit wet when we left and, along the way, my brother-in-law hopped off the coast onto a major highway. Knowing that the Coastal Highway can clear at any time, I stayed true to my route and by the time we reached the lighthouse, the fog was clearing. Sometimes, perseverance for the shot works out.

The Other Side of Half Dome

Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is one of nature's most beautiful places. Yosemite Valley, where most visitors head, offers more natural wonders than just about anywhere else. From most spots in the valley, one can see El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome and Half Dome. All of these have been photographed many times over and it is very hard to get an original perspective. One of my favorite "off the beaten path" places in Yosemite is Olmsted Point. This location is about 45 miles from Yosemite Lodge on Tioga Road. Olmsted Point looks southwest into the valley giving a view of the northern side of Half Dome and a view of Tenaya Lake to the east.

On this particular evening, we had eaten dinner in Lee Vining (home to Mono Lake) and we were heading back to the valley. I just had to stop at Olmsted Point when I saw the beautiful glow of the setting sun on Half Dome's sheer face.

Merced Light

El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California

The Merced River is a 145-mile tributary of the San Joaquin River flowing from the Sierra Nevada to the central valley of California. The most famous section of the river is where it travels through the renowned Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. The Merced drops over the Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls and passes into the valley, where it flows in the pine forests that fill the valley floor. Visitors to Yosemite Valley can go almost anywhere along the Merced's banks and see the famous granite cliffs and formations. This image shows one of the most famous formations, El Capitan. It was early morning and the light started to bathe the formation and the opposite bank. It's no wonder that the Yosemite Valley is one of the most visited national parks in the US.

Beautiful Day on the Coast

California Route 1, California

One of my favorite drives in the United States is California 1. The road begins in Orange County to the south and ends north of Mendocino in the town of Leggett. The road is about 650 miles in length and I have driven it probably about 15 times or more. It was the first real scenic drive that I took when I started traveling on business to the west coast. There are sections that are more scenic than others and some have been designated as a scenic highway. My most favorite section is located in Big Sur and is an official National Scenic Byway. For about 90 miles from the San Carpoforo Creek to the Carmel River, the road winds and hugs the cliffs of Big Sur, passing various coastal parks.

On the day I shot this image, the weather was glorious as we left San Simeon for the drive to Monterey. Every pullout seemed to be screaming at me to stop and take a photo. If I had, it would have taken forever to reach our destination. I was compelled to pull over to get a shot of the Bixby Creek Bridge in the distance by my son, whose favorite author, Jack Kerouac lived in a cabin in the Bixby Canyon. He later penned his book "Big Sur" about his experiences there.

Nature's Cathedral

Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Rocks and Spires are a prominent group of cliffs and pinnacles located on the south side of the Yosemite Valley near the entrance to the valley. There are three main sections of Cathedral Rocks aptly named Higher, Middle, and Lower Cathedral Rocks. Adjacent to Higher Cathedral Rock are the Higher and Lower Cathedral Spires, the most impressive spires in Yosemite. Bridalveil Falls flows between Cathedral Rocks. Like almost every formation in the park, Cathedral Rocks beckons to photographers to capture them. While trying to get a different perspective of the formations, it is most likely impossible as Yosemite is probably the most photographed national park. Regardless, I and many others, continue to try to capture their beauty.

Tioga Road Beauty

Yosemite National Park,California

Many of the visitors to Yosemite National Park enter the park from its western entrances as it is the closest to the major California cities. The western part of the park is also home to the famed Yosemite Valley where many of the major attractions are located. Many visitors stay in the valley and never travel to the eastern side of the park. That is a shame as there is a lot to see and has a unique beauty of its own. To drive from the valley to the town of Lee Vining (home to the famed Mono Lake), the only choice of roads is Tioga Road. The trip is about 75 miles one way and the road peaks at nearly 10,000 feet at the Tioga Pass. This is one of the most scenic drives in America and is only open in season which is generally late May to October, depending on snow. We left around noon to explore Tioga Raod, making stops along the way and ultimately having dinner in Lee Vining. When we left town, is was approaching sunset and the light was phenomenal. Along the way, we stopped along the road to take this image. I highly recommend taking this road the next time you are in Yosemite.

Disappearing Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

If I had to pick one city in the US that I would like to visit, it would be San Francisco (sorry San Diego, you come in second). It probably stems back to my first time there years ago when I visited an old friend who had moved there from Philadelphia. I stayed with him at his place for a week and we walked all over the city. My best memory of it was a Sunday morning when we took the ferry to Sausolito to have brunch. I enjoyed it so much that I try to take the ferry there every time I visit San Fran. This visit was no exception. It was late morning when my wife and son boarded the ferry and headed across the bay. As we passed Alcatraz, the fog began to roll in. For anyone who hasn't experienced this, it is a sight to behold. I snapped a few photos before the Golden Gate Bridge disappeared.

The Lone Cypress

17 Mile Drive, California

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and a wonderful New Year. I know it is a sacrilege, but I spent the time off to spend with family and decided that I wouldn't even pick up a camera during the holidays. I took more photos in 2011 that I have ever had in one year and just decided too take a short break. Now that we are entering a new year, I feel recharged and ready to go. Today's photo is the famed Lone Cypress on the Monterey Peninsula's Seventeen Mile Dive. The Lone Cypress, also known as the Monterey Cypress, has sat on its rocky perch for over 250 years with supporting cable around it to keep it from falling. It is one of the most famous trees in the world and has become the official symbol of Pebble Beach.

Seventeen Mile Drive is one of my favorite drives and I always look forward to it. I remember how excited I was the first time I was to visit the Monterey Peninsula in 1982. Little did I realize that the week I was supposed to visit, the U.S Open was held there and the drive would be closed. I was crushed but have more than made up for it since then as I visit whenever I travel to San Francisco.

Mosaic Reflections

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. One of my favorite drives in the United States is the magnificent Pacific Coast Highway in California. I've done that drive, or at least part of the drive, at least a dozen times. One of my must see stops on the road is the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Built in between 1919 and 1947 by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, the "castle" contains 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo.

This image is of the a diving "board" of the indoor pool that is ensconced with mosaic tiles. Definitely a place to visit.

Sunlit Treetops

Sequoia National Park, California

I would like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you as you visit family and give thanks for all that we have been blessed with. I have been writing this blog for about 6 months and would like to thank each of you for your visits and kind words. In the process of starting my blog, I have discovered a wonderful group of photographers that are truly a community that gives and shares. Thank you all. Sequoia National Park is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California. It is about a 4 hour drive from Yosemite National Park. The park is famous for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman tree, the largest tree on Earth.

Sequoia is not nearly as visited as it's more famous cousin to the north, but it is a beautiful place to visit and an unspoiled treasure. The lack of crowds, even during the summer months, allows you to roam freely amid these majestic trees. I headed to visit a grove near our hotel and spent a good two hours walking the grove taking in my surroundings and the serenity. I didn't once see another person despite the beauty of the sunrise streaming through the trees allowing me to be one with nature.

Spiderman's View

Transamerica Building, San Francisco, California

After my post last Friday of the Balancing Upside Down Elephant, I decided to end this week with an unusual image. The Transamerica Building is an iconic part of the San Francisco skyline. There are thousands of images of the famous pyramid shaped building from every angle (okay, I admit to taking some of those more common shots). I also wanted to take an uncommon shot of the building and this is it. I have a little history with The Transamerica building. In the 1980's I visited San Francisco for the first time for some business meetings that were held there. It was then that I fell in love with the city. When I first looked at the image, my first thought was the perspective Spiderman would see if he tried to climb the building. I'm not sure why that popped into my head but it is probably because as a kid, I loved to collect and read comic books (baseball cards were a close second). I don't know what happened to the comic books of my youth but I still have a fondness for them today.

Around the Bend

Mered River, Yosemite National Park,California

When I was planning last year's vacation to Yosemite National Park, the biggest challenge was how I was going to fit in all of the parts of the park that I wanted to photograph. Since I was the only photographer in the group and we were only there for three days, I had to be totally organized to make the best of our visit. Researching on the internet for the best locations to shoot proved to be extremely challenging. Not only are there are so many places to see and photograph in the park but knowing what time of day to shoot at each location was proving impossible. It was then I found the book "Photographing Yosemite Digital Field Guide" written by Lewis Kemper. I found the book to be exactly what I needed. Not only does the book outline tons of locations, it also provides photos from most of the locations as well as the best times to shoot. Armed with this guide, I found it easy to plan my short time in the park. I would highly recommend this book for anyone that is interested in shooting in Yosemite. You can buy the book on for $13.59. Note that I have no affiliation with the author.

This shot was taken from just after dawn from Sentinel Bridge (one of the locations noted in the book). It shows the Merced River going around the bend just past the bridge. While I was hoping for the golden glow of the sunrise, I wasn't too disappointed in the clouds as I think they add an air of drama against the rock formation.

It's Lonely Up There...

Kings Canyon National Park, California

One of my bucket list items is to visit and photograph all of the national parks in the United States. I have visited California many times and I never seemed to have enough time to visit Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park. Both parks are contiguous with one another although a bit remote. When I planned our family vacation to Yosemite last year, I decided to finally visit them. Kings Canyon possesses the deepest canyons in North America amid the rugged Sierra Nevada. In fact, it's canyons are deeper than the Grand Canyon. The park was virtually empty so we had the run of it. I am told that the crowds visit it's more famous neighbor to the north, Yosemite. That's a shame as the scenery, while not quite as well known, is still outstanding. To find out more about the park, see its NPS webpage.

As we were driving through the northern portion of the park, I noticed this lone tree on the side of a mountain. I wondered how long it has been there. I am sure it has endured years of storms; rain, snow and ice; and a climate that ranges from scorching heat to subzero temperatures. The conditions when I took this shot were not ideal: it was mid-day; the sun was shining brightly at a bad angle and it was extremely hot. I threw on a ND filter to cut down on the light. While I would have loved to capture it during the golden hours, I was still happy with the result.

Waiting for the Ferry to Sausalito

Ferry Building, San Francisco,California

I am a very big fan of San Francisco. I first visited there in 1981 when my brother Bob went out west. One of my old friends had moved to San Francisco and we stayed with him and his wife for a few days. They took us on the ferry to Sausalito for a wonderful brunch on the water. As a result, every time I visit I try to make it there to relive the wonderful memory. This photo was taken last July while we were waiting for the ferry to depart. We were eating our "Salumi Cone" (believe it or not it is a meat cone) from Boccalone, I noticed the atrium ceiling and the nice light and shot off a quick hand-held HDR sequence. The Ferry Building has been renovated to it's former glory.

For those of you who are not familiar with Boccalone, it is owned by Chris Cosentino who is featured on a number of shows on the Food Channel. The "Salumi Cone" was also featured on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" television show.

Before the Crowds

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

One of my favorite places to photograph is in Yosemite National Park. It's rugged scenery contains memorable granite formations and has been attracting visitors since its discovery. The park itself is about the size of Rhode Island and contains hundreds of lakes; miles and miles of hiking trails; and two rivers. Located in the Sierra Nevada of California, it is about 4 hours  from San Francisco. Walking in the footsteps of John Muir and Ansel Adams leaves you feeling like you are treading on hallowed ground. The best time to capture Yosemite Falls is very early morning before the crowds show up. This photo was shot at 5 am and as you can see, I was the only one out and around (except for a bear at the other end of the meadow). The day was a bit cloudy so the early morning sun was not to be seen. Nonetheless, the majesty of the falls can easily be seen.

The photo was taken from the Sentinel Meadow & Cook's Meadow Loop hiking trail.