Thursday, August 30, 2012

Butterfly Watching up North

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

A friend of mine is getting ready to go to Pismo Beach, which is on the south central coast of California in San Luis Obispo County.  We had been to Pismo back in 2006.  Pismo Beach is known for a monarch butterfly  population who winter over at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. It is popular to view the monarch migration from October to February.

Here are some butterfly scenes when we were there in 2006. 

There was a flood from a hard winter rain.

The beach...

I hope she has a great time...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Climbing Stonewall Peak And Feeling Really Bad About Yourself Afterwards...

 by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

Approaching Little Stonewall Peak (left) and Stonewall Peak (right) from Julian
(between Julian and Descanso on CA79)

July 21, 2012: I tried to prepare the best I could to make the approximately 5.5 mile hike up and down Stonewall Peak in the mountains of eastern San Diego County.  This was my first attempt at such a challenging hike and I was trying it alone.  I knew the temperature was going to be in the triple-digits near home, so I thought it would be cooler up in the mountains.  It was only slightly cooler and I was still warned by the ranger that today was "pretty hot."  I was also warned about rattlesnakes out on the trail, but I did not see any.

I left Orange County about 8:30 am and arrived at the Paso Picacho Campground, across the road from the trail head, at about 10 am, just slightly behind schedule.  I had my cooler packed with drinks and protein bars, and a pack with bug spray and sunscreen and other miscellaneous items left over from my "China emergency kit".  I left a map showing where I was going on the kitchen table at home in case of the worst.

I parked the car, put on my hat, and filled the pockets of my camera vest with everything I thought I would need, including two large bottles of Gatorade.I love my 3 size too large camera vest, but without fail, I always forget what I put in each pocket.

There are two trails up the peak.  The red trail is longer (supposedly only "moderate" difficulty) but gives the better views of the 2003 Cedar Wildfire damage, the road below the trail, Lake Cuyamaca to the south, and skirts the base of Little Stonewall Peak. So, this is the trail I took up.

The two trails up Stonewall Peak

The views from the red trail...

Looking down on cyclists heading south on CA79

Lake Cuyamaca to the north

Damage from the 2003 Cedar Wildfire

More damage from the 2003 Cedar Wildfire

Even more damage from the 2003 Cedar Wildfire

The only people I saw on the red trail were at its lowest points; some horseback riders who politely passed by.  There is a small parking lot for horse-trailers at the northern base of Little Stonewall Peak.  The horse-camp of Los Caballos was destroyed by the Cedar Wildfire.  The riders reminded me that we needed to go horseback riding again sometime soon.

So, it was through the bushes, around the burnt out tree trunks, sitting on a boulder every couple of hundred feet or so, and conservingly sipping on my Gatorade. 

No way to get lost

Burnt out tree trunk
 As I approached Stonewall Peak's mesa, I started mentally breaking down.  I had already started physically breaking down in the lower legs, but surprisingly I was not sweating or panting as much as I thought I would.   I tore out my earphones because it felt like my head was going to explode and raising my camera with my sweaty, grimy, tired hands was becoming a chore.  But, I kept going.

At this point I was probably less than a half-mile from the actual peak. Looking carefully through the brush, I was able to see the steep stone steps leading to the peak, where there is a 360 degree view of the area.  I could not get a usable picture of the steps through the brush, but at this link you can see how awesome the stairs and peak are.  I also heard people, but with the surrounding boulders, brush, and trees, did not see any.  All I saw was someone's pack sitting on the floor.

I had strong conflicting feelings about myself at this point.  Extremely proud of myself for making it this far, I lost my new found pride when I decided not to hike the little bit more to the steps and take them up to the peak.  It had taken me far longer (4.5 hours)  to reach this point than I expected (lame excuse 1), I had a long drive home and I still had to make it down to the car and I had no idea how long that would take (lame excuse 2), I was running low on Gatorade (lame excuse 3), and I just did not have the emotional drive for climbing those stairs (lame excuse 4). So, in my mind I had to accept that I failed, even if the hike up and down the 1700' rise of Stonewall Peak was something I would not have ever attempted, no less than achieve, just a few years ago.

I started down the "short" (blue) trail, which is basically switch-backs all the way down.  I stopped frequently to sit on the hot boulders, my lower legs hurting.  Hikers were coming up the trail while I was coming down.  Some groups even had young kids.  In robo-hiker mode, I grunted a "hello" to the upward bound folks.  It took me two hours to make it to the trail head and the car.

View on the way down
I made it back to the car and started guzzling the extra waters and Gatorades I left in the cooler, while waiting for the air conditioner to blow the hot air out of the car.  I filled an empty Gatorade bottle with melted and whole ice and guzzled some more.  With the rapid pace and large volume that I was drinking, I was sure I was gonna pass out from water intoxication.  Remarkably, I did not and when my legs stopped trembling, I pulled out of the parking lot and raced home, only barely pleased with myself.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Splitting our Blog

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

After reading Guy Delisle's Shenzhen: A travelogue from China, a graphic novel describing that author's experiences in Shenzhen and beyond, I decided to split my blog into two blogs so that I more widely discuss both local and foreign travels.

There is now:

Dalmdad's Experiences in China and Taiwan


Dalmdad's Photo and Travel Blog

We hope you continue to enjoy our writings...


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Details on the IPhone Camera

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

I recently saw this article about how the iPhone copes with only having a f/2.8 aperture.  I recommend the article to anyone who would like to know how the iPhone copes with a wide range of lighting conditions.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Remembrance of Binges Past

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

In a previous post, I wrote about my visit to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

What I did not mention in that post, but I personally found especially interesting at the cemetery was the USS Bennington Memorial, a 60 feet tall granite obelisk dedicated to the men who lost their lives in a boiler explosion on The USS Bennington (PG-4)  in San Diego Harbor on July 21, 1905. The monument was dedicated on January 7, 1908.  This memorial is different from the USS Bennington Memorial in Newport, Rhode Island, which honors those who died as a result of a catapult explosion on the USS Bennington (CV-20), a later US navy ship named "Bennington".

USS Bennington Memorial at Fort Rosecrans

I found the Benningtom Memorial interesting because it immediately brought back memories from 1985 of having actually been to Bennington, Vermont. During my early college years in Troy, NY, the legal drinking age in Vermont was 18, while 21 in New York. So, on occasion we would head out of Troy, on Hoosick Road to go the straight 31 mile trip to Bennington for some drinking. The Bennington Memorial at Fort Rescrans has a strong resemblance to, but is substantially shorter than, the Bennington Battle Monument, a 306 feet tall limestone obelisk which was completed in 1889.

Bennington Battle Monument (courtesy Wikipedia)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Visit to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

July 7, 2012: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA - I found out about Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in 2008, the first time we visited the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Old Point Loma Lighthouse is at the top of Point Loma, overlooking San Diego Harbor on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other side.

The active New Point Loma Lighthouse is located at sea level at the very tip of Point Loma.

New Point Loma Lighthouse
Both lighthouses are part of the larger Cabrillo National Monument.
Cabrillo Monument overlooking San Diego Harbor

There is something out there!

It was only just recently, in July, 2012, that I visited the cemetery. I had thought about visiting on Memorial Day Weekend 2012, but figured that while the cemetery would be all decked out in the colors of flags and flowers, it would be crowded with mourners and ultimately disrespectful to them for me to be roaming around the cemetary grounds taking pictures.

The cemetery is pretty much cut in half by Cabrillo Memorial Drive which spans the crest of Point Loma. One half of the cemetery faces the Pacific Ocean and the other half of the cemetery faces San Diego Harbor. I explored the Harbor-facing side.

The earliest burials were casualties of the Battle of San Pasqual, which took place east of San Diego, on Dec. 6-7, 1846, during the Mexican-American War.

View of inner San Diego Harbor from the harbor-facing side of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
Chain-link fences that used to be the harbor-facing boundaries have been replaced with with crypts, vastly expanding cemetery capacity, so as long as the remains are cremated.

Boundary Crypts
Desert Cruiser Waiting to Move On
Selective Colorization - Tree and Boundary Crypts

The cemetery is generally rolling hills, making the headstones form different patterns in different areas.  Cemeteries with raised headstones are actually being phased out for flat makers over which grass cutters may ride.  This is the way it was at Riverside National Cemetery, making photography there dull (though there are elaborate memorials there, such as The National Medal of Honor Memorial.

Heavily Color Saturated Treatment

As a final note, while I was roaming around the cemetery, I found out that I wasn’t the only photographer interested in the location.