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).




So many stars

I spent June meandering through the southwest corner of Utah. What a beautiful place. And wow, at night I could see SO MANY STARS! Before this, I’d never done any serious astrophotography. The second half of June was very dark at night because the moon was in it’s smallest phase, and it was only up during the day.

So many stars

I had fun shooting the stars. I got started after I was away from the lights at Zion and Cedar City. One night, I opened my back doors to look up at the stars while laying in bed, as I do from time to time, and I was blown away. I’d never seen the stars so well until I came out here to the remote parts of Utah. I think every person alive deserves to see the night sky in all its glory  least a few times in their life.



So many stars


So many stars

So many stars
That’s a planet above the moon. I wonder which one.


The Routine

It’s a strange routine shooting the stars. During the day or evening, I’d find a foreground that would work. Then I’d do normal stuff and go to sleep. If I wanted to get the milky way while it was vertical, I’d set an alarm on my phone to wake me up around 2am. Then I’d actually be up and go out to shoot around 2:30. I’d shoot for a while, and then go back to bed.


So many stars



So many stars




So many stars



So many stars


So many stars

It feels good to be out at night

During the summer when it’s perfect out at night, it’s fun to be out there walking around, shooting, and admiring the universe. Being out at night in places like this picture sure helps me feel wonder and tranquility.

Even without any moonlight, once your eyes adjust, the stars provide enough light to walk around in places without many obstacles. It’s a shame that most people now are so disconnected from the night. And by night I don’t mean the late hours, I mean the chance to admire all the stars and planets, to hear absolutely no sounds other than whatever breeze there is, and to rid themselves of being afraid of the dark.

The desert is silent at night, but in some areas with lots of trees and birds and other loud animals, they the loudest time of the entire day is a few hours before sunrise. They get crazy loud. When I was backpacking in Wisconsin I woke up around 4am one night and it sounded like a freakin’ animal party out there.

So many stars





So many stars


Stars night sky utah escalante astrophotography

So May Stars. WOW!

When you have a good dark view of the sky, the number of stars you can see is bewildering. You can see thousands. The milky way streaks across the entire sky – one huge thick line of more stars and who knows what.

It also is almost immediately obvious that one’s eyesight prevents seeing many more stars. If you get out a pair of binoculars, it reveals maybe 50 times more stars than you can see with your eyes. Then you might wonder how many more you’d see with a telescope. It’s wild.

A few weeks after those wonder-causing nights in Utah, I spent a week in Denver. When I went outside late at night and looked up, I could see maybe 30 stars. That’s it. Compared to the thousands I could see when it was dark, 30 or so stars is basically nothing.


Stars night sky utah escalante astrophotography


Stars night sky utah escalante astrophotography
I took this in Arizona before doing some research on astrophotography. The other ones are a lot better technically. This one has a lot of noise (and much of the noise looks like stars)