Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Road Trip: Day 5 - Heading Into Death Valley & Ballarat

We started the trip in the desert and then headed along the coast and into Yosemite, which was a welcome reprieve from the arid heat and sun of the desert, but by day five we were back in the desert. That's not to say that I don't love the desert though, because I do. It's still so foreign to me. The landscape just doesn't seem real. This day the heat started to take it's toll. It was so unbelievably hot. It actually reached 117 degrees while we were in Death Valley. You wouldn't think that there would be all that much in a dry and dusty place with temperatures routinely breaking the three digit mark, but there's actually a lot out there. Ghost towns and abandoned ruins litter the area. Small towns scattered here and there. And the occasional random piece of folk art left along the side of the road for all to enjoy.

One such piece of folk art is known as the Fish Rocks. These rocks near Trona, California, were painted sometime back in the 1930s, and over time additional less tasteful graffiti accumulated. Eventually the boy scouts painted the rocks their natural color, covering up the graffiti including the faces. Then, in the 1970s, two young girls repainted the faces on the rocks. They were subsequently arrested for the act of vandalism, but never charged because the residents in nearby Trona were actually quite happy to have their beloved fish back. 

Not too far past Trona, and just outside of the Death Valley National Park limits, lies Ballarat. It's essentially a ghost town now, although it would appear that there are at least one or two inhabitants. A sign posted near the entrance to the town lets visitors know that they can basically do whatever they want here. It's another 'free zone.'  

I'm not entirely sure how much truth there is to this claim, but apparently this truck belonged to Charles Manson, who's former camp, Spahn Ranch, is fairly nearby.

Inside Charlie's sunbaked truck.

The Ballarat Cemetery. 


I'll be honest, the heat and the unrelenting sun, were really killing my desire to take photos. I loved being there and the surroundings were nothing shy of breath taking, but come on! How do people live out here? Of course while I sit here in my tiny Cleveland apartment soaking up as much air conditioning as I can, there is no doubt a huge part of me that would give anything to be back out in the tormenting heat of the desert, traveling aimlessly in a cheap rental car.

Photos taken with a Canon 6D, using a Canon 20mm f/2.8, Canon 135mm f/2.0, and Canon 35mm f/1.4.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Road Trip: Day 4 - Yosemite National Park

I love all of the National Parks, and Yosemite is without a doubt one of the most well known, however until I watched the Ken Burns documentary 'The National Parks: America's Best Idea', I honestly didn't know much of anything about Yosemite. Everyone knows what the Grand Canyon looks like, and Old Faithful at Yellowstone, but for whatever reason I couldn't picture Yosemite very well, aside from maybe that view of Half Dome that you always see. So even though Yosemite was one of our assumed stops (our plans tend to change and leaving everything sort of open ended is our favorite way to travel), I really didn't know what to expect. 

Yosemite really isn't that far of a drive from San Francisco. The drive was rough though. We were both tired and all I really wanted was to find a rest stop that we could sleep at for a few hours. That's not asking too much is it? Well apparently it is because there are seriously zero rest stops within a hundred miles of Yosemite. We drove up a winding mountain road for what felt like hours before giving up and turning around to head back into the small town we had passed at the bottom of the mountain. Shortly after I turned around and started heading back down the mountain, I stopped at a turn out to get something out of the back of the car. When I got out I looked up and saw the night sky like I had never seen it before. It was honestly like seeing stars for the first time. I had no idea that you could see so much with the naked eye. I just stared up in amazement. There were so many and they all felt so close and so bright. The ribbon of Milky Way streaking across the sky. It was humbling. 

I called Kaylah to come out of the car and see it. We stood and studied the stars for a moment and then pulled out the cameras and tripods to see if we could capture it. The photos do no justice at all. I guess it's just something that you have to experience for yourself. Hard to believe that at one time the sky looked like this all over. No wonder why ancient civilizations were so fascinated with astronomy. 

After a rough nights sleep in the parking lot of an H&R Block, we picked up some caffeine and snacks that we called breakfast, and then headed back up the mountain and into the park.

Even before making it all the way into the park, Yosemite had won me over. I became lost in it. 

There are so many waterfalls.

There are certain places that tug on my heartstrings. Places that I feel an unexplained connection to. Places that fill me with a sense of peace and homecoming. I don't know what it is about Yosemite that makes me feel this way. Maybe it's some primal desire to return to nature. Whatever it is, I'm ready to go back.

Photos taken with a Canon 6D, using a Canon 20mm f/2.8, Canon 135mm f/2.0, and Canon 35mm f/1.4.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jeff Comes In From Maine For A Day Of Clevelanding

One of my best friends lives in Maine. He's been there for a while now after moving from Northeast Ohio. Once or twice a year he comes to Ohio to visit. The last time was in the winter although we still rode bikes, it wasn't the most enjoyable ride. It was bitter cold, and we could only tolerate it for about ten miles. This time the weather couldn't have been more perfect. We vowed to ride as much as we could, which turned out to be thirty-eight miles.

The ride started out with just Jeff and I, as Kaylah waited for UPS to drop off a package and Jason did whatever it is that Jason does. The first stop, if you can call it a stop, was this old school that is currently being demolished. I had always wanted to get into this place. The architecture is unlike anything you see in modern construction. I spoke with the crew that was working there and thankfully they're actually saving some of the ornate architectural details.

Jeff and I rode around for about fifteen miles before stopping at Kaylah's so that she could join our ride. Next we biked over to Noodle Cat for some steam buns. After throwing down a quick lunch we met up with Jason and cruised around downtown for a few more miles and eventually ended up at a secret beach (or secret pile of rocks and debris) just east of downtown.

Carving our initials into some driftwood.

Heading back to the bikes.

From there we went straight to Koko Bakery, where we met up with Brandon. We were tired and needed snacks and/or bubble tea.

We sat on the ground outside eating some rolls that they had given us for free. We don't know what kind of rolls these were but they were good, we dubbed them honey buckets, although I'm pretty sure there was no honey in them what so ever.

Since it was Wednesday, our final stop was back over on the westside in Hingetown, for their Wednesday concert series, and of course for food truck food.

There, we met up with some other friends and ate tacos while listening to live music. We covered a lot of ground and stopped at a lot of great places. Always feels good to spend a day with friends, taking advantage of so much of what Cleveland has to offer.

Photos taken with a Canon 6D, using a Canon 50mm f/1.4 and Canon 20mm f/2.8.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Road Trip: Day 3 - San Francisco Briefly

From Monterey we continued north into San Francisco. We had wanted to spend more time here, obviously, but we ended up getting here a little bit later in the day than we would have liked. Our time in San Francisco might have been brief but it was still a lot of fun. Our first stop was was the Camera Obscura and Sutro Baths ruins.

The Camera Obscura. It's basically a giant pinhole camera that you can go inside of. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we got here, but the building itself was worth the stop. It's something straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.

Probably one of the coolest fishing spots I've ever seen.

The Sutro Baths was a massive and beautiful building built in 1894. Sadly, the business was never all that successful and in 1964 developers bought the sight in hopes of tearing down the baths and building high-rise apartments. A fire ended up destroying the building and the plans for high-rise apartments was thrown out by the city, and the ruins of the baths and the surrounding area became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

At this point the fog started to thicken. 

And the fog followed us getting thicker and thicker as we drove around the city. The idea was to go see the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset but by the time we got to the bridge it was dark, or so we thought. We drove across the bridge without being able to see the bridge itself. The fog was so dense. I've never seen anything like it. This is the only photo that I got of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's actually a long exposure with extensive editing in Lightroom. Standing there looking at the bridge with the naked eye it looked more like just a few street lights hidden behind fog in the middle of a moonless night. Little did we know that the sun hadn't actually set yet. We drove away from the bridge heading north and after about half an hour we drove out of the fog to see that there was still light in the sky, the sun had just set.

I wish I could have spent a lot more time in San Francisco. Definitely a city that I would like to return to. Hopefully next time I'll actually have a chance to photograph the bridge.

Photos taken with a Canon 6D, using a Canon 20mm f/2.8, Canon 135mm f/2.0, and Canon 35mm f/1.4.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Road Trip: Day 3 - Big Sur & Monterey

Continuing up the coast things just seemed to get more and more beautiful. The fog followed us along the coastline and around each bend was another amazing view. We stopped the car and got out to take photos almost every chance we got. The entire stretch of Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur and Monterey was unreal. The entire place looked like a painting.

Bixby Creek Bridge, a place I had wanted to visit for a long time.

Looking down from the bridge.

Kaylah and I were both anxious to stop at a tidal pool but until this point our timing had been off and we would always get to one at high tide which made it difficult to find interesting little sea creatures. Thankfully we got into Monterey with a couple hours left before high tide. We walked around in the water without finding much for a while. 

I loved shooting the tidal pools even if it meant standing in surprisingly cold water. This photo was a long exposure with a neutral density filter. It gave the water this soft and foggy sort of look. I should have taken more photos like this but the waves kept threatening to knock over my tripod.

Finally, I spotted this incredible starfish. It was so bright and I was so excited to call Kaylah over to see it. 

Anemones are ridiculous. There are so many different kinds and they're all beautiful and fascinating to me. I can't wait to get back to a tidal pool and spend more time finding all of these amazing things. The world is a crazy place.

Photos taken with a Canon 6D, using a Canon 20mm f/2.8, Canon 135mm f/2.0, and Canon 35mm f/1.4.