California Dreamin’

Sometimes when I think of California I’m reminded of this part from the movie “Pumping Iron”.  It’s a documentary about bodybuidlers from back when Arnold was in his prime. One of the bodybuilders – Franco Columbu – grew up in Italy, and lived in Los Angeles  (as did many of the top bodybuilders). He explained that in Italy, people use the expression “Go to California”, a bit like people say “go to hell”, but less insulting. They considered California to be a dreamy/magic place that no one actually goes to. So he explained that when he goes back to Italy to visit, and people as him where he lives, and he tells them California, they’re not sure if he’s serious or if he’s just fucking with them.

California Dreamin'

Map of Travels

California Dreamin’

This map shows September and October (but not the trip to Toronto).  I drove down to LA from southwest Utah in one day, because it was so damn hot everywhere around here except right on the coast.

California Dreamin'
High tide in Isla Vista (West of Santa Barbara, where UCSB is)

Since then, I’ve floated around the area, spending most of my time in Santa Barbara and Encinitas. I spent a lot of time at the beach in both towns. After a few weeks in hot and dry parts of Utah, my first few swims in the ocean felt incredibly refreshing.

California Dreamin'
The beach in Santa Barbara

The van is so awesome to have at the beach. I can drive there in the morning, make coffee and stroll around on the beach drinking it, then go have breakfast, then come back to the beach for a while, then back for lunch and doing stuff on the computer, and so on.

California Dreamin'
Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Spent a lot of days here.


Personal Photography Projects

So, taking pictures of the van can get pretty repetitive. Particularly when I’m editing them. Stuff like the interior van pictures can really get to feeling like I’m doing the same thing over and over again. I notice this particularly when I’m editing. I have started editing less/quicker, which helps quite a lot with that.

I’d like to challenge myself to get more creative with what/how I shoot the van pictures, but that would usually require more setting a tripod and everything for shots that include me. And I just don’t get too excited about doing that often.

California Dreamin'
A morning in Isla Vista

When I switched camera systems, I more lenses that I can use to shoot in ways I couldn’t before with my small set. Most of them are really cheap and old lenses, but they still work very well in most situations.

Once I got the new camera and old lenses, I wanted to practice shooting with them, so I went out on the beach in Santa Barbara that allows dogs.  More recently I’ve been shooting surfers. I want to start approaching these kind of things more as projects, which means sorting and culling the pictures into a complimentary group, shooting regularly until I feel I have some good stuff, and then having an end of that project. (which, of course doesn’t mean I would totally stop shooting that kind of thing). I think this will be good practice for me to get better at photography. And it’s fun.

I’ll be doing more of these kind of projects. I’d like if some of them here and there are things I can either make money from, share with the people (or owners of what) I’m shooting, or share in some other way besides just here and on Instagram.



Doggies at the beach

To test out how well I could manually focus with the brand new camera and the lenses as old as my dad,  I shot some dogs running around on the beach. It worked fairly well, but it’s pretty tricky and I deleted a LOT of pictures. These dogs running around in pretty close proximity are probably as fast as anything I’d ever shoot.

There’s a bunch more in the “Happy as a Dog at the Beach” post



And the next thing I’ve been shooting is surfers. I’ll probably make a post of the surfer pics. I have a lot more shooting to do first though.



Mexico Planning

I’m planning to head into Mexico this winter. It’s mainly to get down to warmer weather, but also because I think it will be more fun and challenging than staying in California or Arizona.

I don’t know how long I’ll stay down there. If it goes really well, I’ll stay down until late spring.

Things to Learn more about first

I have a lot to sort out before crossing the border, including to  learn:

  • More Spanish. (I’m currently at about a 2-year old vocabulary level, so, almost nothing)
  • A bit about the geography to have a better idea of where I want to go
  • How to not die in Mexico (or get robbed and left naked in the desert). Learn if or how much I should be concerned about this kind of possibility
  • Learn about the laws and rules related to camping (and whether they are actually enforced)
  • Legal stuff like the visa, how best to deal with Police and Federales/military checkpoints


California Dreamin
Hendry’s Beach in Santa Barbara


Photography Projects in Mexico?

I also want to go into this leg of my travels with some ideas/plans in mind for specific photography projects. The kind of things I’ve been thinking about so far are:

  • Mexican beach happenings
  • The Life of Dropout Surfers
  • Little Mexican towns
  • Families in Mexico (if possible, with whatever interesting stories of theirs I can understand.)
  • Indigenous culture in southern Mexico (if I make it down that far)
  • The Life of Dogs in Mexico (to compare and contrast with the U.S.)
  • ?????? I don’t know ?????

I could also try some things for practice, like taking portraits for people or families for free (or in exchange for one or two of their home-cooked meals).



Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

I’ve decided to start doing some personal photography projects, so you may see posts like this every now and then here. I’ll still do the regular travel posts as well 🙂

So far, my favorite town along the California coast has been Santa Barbara. When I came back to Southern California to get out of the heat wave in Utah, I went back to Santa Barbara. Well, actually, I thought I’d give Los Angeles another try, and I lasted about 16 hours there before heading out.

Santa Barbara has a couple nice  beaches. One of them is called Hendry’s Beach.  I’d just gotten a new camera and some new (but actually really old) lenses. I wanted to test them out – particularly to test focusing manually with the new camera and lesnes. I found good subject matter for this on the beach and decided to make a little personal photo project out of it.

On part of Hendry’s Beach, dogs are allowed off-leash. It’s essentially a dog park and beach combined. The dogs love it here. They run around, splash and play in the water, socialize, and play lots and lots of fetch.

I shot a whole bunch of photos of the dogs out there, over about 7 different days. My daily routine looked something like this:

  • 7am – wake up. Drive over to the beach (about 1 mile from the area I’d sleep in)
  • 8am – have breakfast
  • 9am – make coffee (Lattes made with real Espresso!)
  • 10am – meander out to the beach. Take pictures of some of the dogs there. Alternate the photo shooting with sitting around on the beach, a times practicing Spanish words that I’m learning and have written in a notebook that I bring along.
  • 11am – back to hang out in the van
  • Rest of the day – repeat cycles of walking around on the beach, taking dog pictures, sitting down on the beach and practicing Spanish, going back to the van to eat, sort the pictures, etc.


The pictures:

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Yes, that is a WOLF. I initially thought it was a coyote, but it’s a puppy wolf.

It’s a pet, or… is sort of. A guy brought it to the beach most days and one day I talked to him about the wolf. It’s just a puppy and has another 100lbs to grow. The guy said that he’s taking it to a sanctuary in Hawaii and is waiting for the quarantine period to end before flying it out. I asked how he came to have the dog, and he said he breeds them. I don’t understand why he’d breed a dog and then take it to a sanctuary, but I didn’t want to keep asking a lot more questions.

The wolf was nice to all the other dogs, and was very submissive. When some people tried to pet it, it was shy and backed away. It had no interest in fetching. It just ran around the beach, went in the water, and socialized with dogs.