Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer Photo Class, Cabrillo College, CA

Wanting to learn more about using manual mode in my cameras and some new techniques, I sign up for an Art Photography in the Field class through Cabrillo College Extension taught by Nick Borelli. Our instructions were to bring our camera equipment along with a tripod and wear good walking shoes.

Since I started photography using an Olympus OM-1 film camera, I was already familiar with manual mode, but over the years I got lazy after buying fully automatic digital cameras. Consequently, the class didn't go well at first as the controls for aperture and shutter speed were not exactly obvious on my current Sony cameras, which have great picture quality but an inscrutable user interface. Fortunately, all was revealed in a YouTube video.

Our first assignment is to capture the motion of ocean waves.
Tripods and shoes - check

Back lit waves breaking on the Davenport cliffs

Longer exposures reveal the motion of waves breaking against an arch in the cliffs 

As the light fades Nick tells us to use longer exposures to capture motion.
Scott - a photo friend

golden hour light

The class lined up at cliffs' edge

The ocean pours in circles through cracks

in even lower light wave motion reveals itself more

The next morning we are up before dawn to catch first light over the Capitola wharf.
The early alarm was worth catching this shot

The fog rolls in and as the whole class groans, Nick encourages us to work with the fog to take advantage of whatever weather conditions Mother Nature presents us with.
Wharf disappears into the fog

back lit sunflowers

flat light helps showcase color

After brunch, we move to Nicene Marks to practice taking photos of bright sunlight and deep shade in the redwood forest.
Fern lined stream

Shade & sunlight

back lit leaves against blue sky

It's been a fun class Nick - thanks for teaching us to slow down and better appreciate the world around us before hitting the shutter.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wrap-up New Zealand

Below is an interactive map of our approximate route through New Zealand and the places we stopped. To see a listing, click on the square on the upper left.

These are some highlights (in chronological order):

Coromandel Peninsula

Beautiful sunny beaches, stunning scenery, and fun hikes. Plus it's only a few hours drive from Auckland. 


A must stop for fans of Lord of the Rings. The tour is well worth the price of admission. Release your inner Hobbit!

Flightseeing the Southern Alps

A great way to see this fabled mountain range is from the air - especially on a clear day.

Milford Sound

There's a good reason why Milford Sound is listed as a "must see" in New Zealand. We were lucky to be there on a rare beautiful day.

Abel Tasman Track

Again it's easy to understand why this beautiful track always ranks high on the list for New Zealand hiking.

Hot Springs

There's no shortage of good hot springs especially on the North Island. We certainly did our best to try out as many as we could.

Overall the varied landscape is what impressed us the most about New Zealand. Yes, bigger mountains and more impressive glaciers can be found in Alaska and the Yukon, but to see them takes weeks of driving versus just a few hours in New Zealand. Don't like where you're at? Just drive a few miles down the road and it's completely different. The contrasts are amazing.

From sunny beaches

to ice and snow covered mountains

then through ferny forests

and even desolate volcanic deserts.

Then there's the Kiwi's themselves. We thoroughly enjoyed 99% of the people we met. In fact, we found fewer grumps in New Zealand than usual.

Most Kiwis live up to their  reputations as being both quirky and easy going. We especially got a kick out of the Kiwi bland of humor, which appears to be an earthier version of the traditional British tongue-in-cheek dry wit.

Once back home, a question we often get asked is "Was New Zealand THE trip of a lifetime?"  "No" we generally reply, "but it was certainly ranks up there as ONE of the trips of a lifetime."

In short, we had a blast and hope to return.

Nice place - it needs a little modernizing, but we'll take it!

Interested in visiting New Zealand? Try this page on travel tips - it's got all the stuff we wish we knew before we went.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

North Shore Oahu, HI

Our plane from Auckland lands in Honolulu late at night. After customs, wrangling our luggage and picking up a rental car, it's almost midnight by the time we start driving to the North Shore. Coming from  New Zealand, the wide streets and highways seem downright spacious. Both of us are tired, plus Peter has picked up a stomach bug. Fortunately we make it to our Airbnb apartment in Pupukea in one piece. It's early December and we hope to watch one or two of the big wave surfing contests.
Light fades in Pupukea

Peter recovers in our North Shore apartment

Peter takes a day or two to recover from his bug and as he is getting better, I come down with it. It's a good thing we've booked enough time here to rest and recover by our next flight home.

Our very sweet landlady, Gina is a working nurse and looks in on us from time to time. She tells us about a Maori couple she once rented to from Waimea Inlet in New Zealand close to Nelson. Both she and the Maori couple wondered if they could possibly be related as Gina's mother is Hawaiian.

At the time I just thought it was an interesting coincidence, but while recovering from my bug I watched the YouTube video seen below. A thousand years ago, the Polynesian peoples dominated the Pacific Ocean with settlements as far apart at the Marquesas, New Zealand, Hawaii, Easter Island, and even as far as South America. They supported a vast trading network until (if I remember correctly) around 1300 AD . Then suddenly the trading network collapsed and each individual settlement became more isolated with each evolving separate cultures and languages.

Gina is delighted with this history and to learn -Yes - she and the Maori couple could actually be related.

After days of one or both of us being ill, the stars align between our health, the weather and surf conditions.  The Van's World Cup of Surfing is now on and taking place at the nearby Sunset Beach.
Sunset Beach

Smokin' waves for the surf contest

The photographers and media have already arrived and set themselves up.

The crowd is waiting and surfers scheduled for the first heats prepare themselves. The great Kahuna blesses the waters and then the horn blasts -  the contest is on!
Brazilian surfer waits

Competitor watches the waves

Kahuna's blessing

Crowd watching contest

A favored Brazilian takes off on a good ride, followed by Kelly Slater. We are of course cheering for our  Santa Cruz home town favorite Nat Young. Between heats, we make friends with an industrious grom, who is busily collecting signatures of the top surfers on part of a broken surfboard as well as skipping school. With this kid's dedication to surfing, he could become one to watch in the future. Who knows?
Brazilian has a good ride


Kelly Slater takes a wave

In the final round, the crowd favorite, Mick Fanning, paddles out and puts in the best showing of the day with a breathtaking ride though a long tube.
Mick paddles out for the final round

Coming out of the tube

and adding a fancy turn.

The crowd (including us) all go wild at such a spectacular ride.  Everyone is standing up, waving and whistling as Mick comes to shore. He's not only won this contest but is a nice guy. He humbly welcomes his fans and poses with all wanting a photo.
Notice admiring grom on left

thrilled fan

and of course selfie shooters

At 35 years old (ancient for a pro-surfer), Mick Fanning proves Old Guys Rule for at least today.
Dream on - my sweets - dream on.

That evening we walk down to Sunset Beach as the clouds take on different colors.

The next morning, our last day on Oahu, we both feel well enough for some exploring and drive around the north eastern side of the island. In Laie, we cruise by the Mormon Temple. Next we make a rest stop at a roadside store and then back to the Turtle Bay Resort. The last time we visited this resort in 2010, we watched film crews shooting scenes for the movie Soul Surfer, the movie about Bethany Hamilton, the Kauai surfer girl who lost an arm to a great white. Despite a horrible injury, she continues surfing. Recently, she placed 3rd in a surf contest in Fiji.
Laie Mormon Temple

Tiki bearing flag

Turtle Bay Resort

We enjoy a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe and then explore the beach beyond.
Beach east of Turtle Bay Resort

Volcanic reef

Sandy lagoon inside reef

Finally by our last night on Oahu, we are both feeling healthy again. Of course, we have to watch the sunset at Sunset Beach.
Peter snaps this shot of a paddle boarder catching a wave

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Retired and enjoying life.