18 January 2015

San Diego - blue hour experiments

In addition to strolling through San Diego and visiting the zoo there was one more thing that we had planned to do in San Diego: experimenting with the blue hour and taking some night shots.

The first question was "Will we be allowed to carry the tripod in our hand luggage?" Or would we have to check it in which we really did not want to do. There are mixed answers in online discussions. Some people always check in their tripods because otherwise their carry-on would get too heavy with all the camera gear they bring. Others check in the legs of the tripod and carry the head in their hand luggage. Then, we read on the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) webpage that tripods - as part of photographic equipment - may be transported as carry-on as long as they fit in the overhead bin or underneath the airplane seat in front of us. Alright, there we go. And at least for these Virgin America flights from SFO to SAN and back we did not encounter any trouble.

The following four pictures are taken by Guido, obviously. He had to keep himself busy while I had engrossed the tripod.

Setting up the equipment

This part of the marina looked like a good location for some pretty sunset shots. So I thought. Well, I was wrong. At least on my pictures it looks like the sun simply disappeared behind the boats. That was it. I did not keep any of the sunset pics I had taken from this point. Lesson learned: it's important to have an unblocked view to the horizon where the sun sets in order to capture some nice reflections of the sunlight on the water.

Still hoping for a decent sunset shot 

But was all the waiting and "freezing my butt off" for nothing? Guido, who had taken some amazing blue hour shots of the San Francisco City Hall a few weeks ago, urged me to be patient. And indeed, about 45 min after the sun had disappeared we experienced some very beautiful colors by the remaining light.

f/8.0, ISO 200, 14sec exposure

A bit later the indirect lightning of the promenade gave it a totally different tone.

f/8.0, ISO 200, 80sec exposure

Following Frankie's recommendation on "15 best spots to photograph San Diego",  we explored the Crosby Street Park to get some night shots of the Coronado bridge. Well, the scenery must have changed somewhat since he had been there. The military ship on his shots was still there, but now hidden behind some ugly tug boats. Alright, after playing with the tripod placement here and there on the pier we managed to find a set up that we found decent. And again, I was glad to be fully equipped with gloves, scarf, hood, three layers of clothing and warm boots.

f/20, ISO 200, 60sec exposure

05 January 2015

San Diego - Zoo time

In general, I'm not really a fan of zoos. I rather want the animals to be in their wild, natural habitat instead of being locked-in and serving for human entertainment. Zoos will always argue that they help to preserve the planet's fauna and that due to their educational activities humans might better understand and appreciate the other living creatures.

Well, long story short, we decided to visit the San Diego Zoo at New Year's. This zoo is well-known across the nation and some even say it is one of the most beautiful zoos in the U.S. What I like about this zoo is that its 40 ha area is indeed set up in a comparably natural looking way with many small trails meandering through various "themes", AKA different continents and their inhabitants. The "Northern Frontier" also educates about climate change, the effects of polar ice shrinkage on polar bears and what each of us can do to limit our carbon foot print. (Not sure though whether the latter part of this exhibit receives sufficient attention!)

Ursus maritimus shortly after he had lunch

These two Mountain Lions also live near the "Polar Bear Plunge"

"Elephant Odyssey" and "Urban Jungle" (Afrika)

Rhino's New Year's cleaning?

White-breasted cormorants

Allen's Swamp Monkey

Homo Sapiens Sapiens and one of her favorite activities

Inhabitants of the Outback, Asia, South America, India

This Koala reminded me of the stuffed animal I had as a kid. It is one of - I believe - nine inhabitants of "Koalafornia" which opened in May 2013. Each of the Koalas have their own home tree including three heaters. They were not easy to spot, hidden behind leaves and branches. According to the Australian Koala Foundation's website that contains many more interesting facts about these nocturnal marsupials, they sleep up to 20 hours per day to preserve energy for better digesting their toxic, fibrous, low-nutrition diet.

Bactrian camel - not quite as handsome but certainly full of character

Guanako - too much champagne for New Year's?

Ganges-gavial crocodile, photo with courtesy of Guido 

San Diego, CA - Or where to say 'Good-Bye' to the year 2014

Which location is relatively close to Sunnyvale, CA (AKA not more than 1.5 flight hours away), has a high chance of nice weather at this time of the year, is not super expensive and offers interesting things to do?

The answer to all these questions for us was San Diego, CA and we decided to spend the last days of 2014 including New Year's there. We met our good old local friend Diogo and his wife Kathy for dinner one night and the next day we visited the tip of the Point Loma peninsula with Diogo. This is also a beautiful place for whale watching between December and March.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer, was the first European who set foot at Point Loma in 1542. Today large parts of the area are utilized by the U.S. Navy.

San Diego skyline and Cabrillo National Monument

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

We had a very relaxing time just walking around and absorbing the city's impressions.

Coronado Bridge and some kind of arts

Making fun of myself

Musician at Balboa Park

Many things we saw were simply entertaining, fun or just strange, some were concerning. I had looked up some statistics about homelessness in the U.S. when I travelled through the nation in fall 2014. Our visit to San Diego reminded me of the data I had come across as we walked by homeless people near the Metropolitan Transit Station, Chicano Park below the highway bridges and dozens of tents set up along National Ave.

Chicano Park below the bridge