Aboard Air Force One

Air Force One

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

I recently visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Located in Simi Valley, just north of Los Angeles, the presidential library provides a retrospective look at President Reagan’s life and administration. Having visited the library many years ago, as well as having lived through the 80s, my main focus was on seeing Air Force One, which was installed after my prior visit.

Walking through Air Force One was a unique experience. I had thought the interiors would be more luxurious. In hindsight, considering that it was a modified Boeing 707 that entered service in the 1970s, the tight, cramped quarters should not have been unexpected.


Le Mont-Saint-Michel

Le Mont-Saint-Michel
  1. Take the Ouigo Train to Rennes. From the Paris Montparnasse station, SNCF offers a number of direct TGV trains to Rennes. The lowest cost option is the morning Ouigo train, which costs about $20 for a one-way ticket. The regular SNCF trains are much more expensive and cost $80-100 for a one-way ticket.
  2. Download the Ouigo App. The Ouigo train I traveled on was clean and comfortable. I paid a nominal fee for the large luggage I brought on board and also opted for the seats with an electrical outlet. Installing the Ouigo app was essential since I did not have access to a printer. I could just show my boarding pass from my phone.
  3. Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel Bus. The journey from Rennes train station (Gare de Rennes) to Mont Saint-Michel is serviced by a bus that runs four times a day: 9h45, 11h45, 12h45 and 16h45. So, the morning Ouigo train (7h06 – 9h07) is perfect for catching one of the connecting buses. The noon Ouigo train (12h14 – 13h53), on the other hand, drops off passengers right in the middle of the afternoon gap. If you don’t want to wait 3 hours, then the alternatives are hiring a private car or renting a car.
  4. Tidal Schedule. The Mont Saint-Michel Tourist Office publishes a tide schedule, if you want to plan your visit around high tide. I visited during low tide and it was quite dry around the island, except for that sliver of water I found that created the perfect reflection.
  5. Hotels. Staying overnight at Le Mont-Saint-Michel offers a number of advantages. In the evening, once the crowds depart, the restaurants and shops begin closing and the streets empty. As the pace slows, I was able to walk around the island without having to navigate through a sea of fellow tourists. During these hours, it’s easier to compose photos with nobody in them.
  6. Shuttle Bus. The complimentary navette travels from the parking lot to Mont Saint-Michel, with a stop at the off-island hotels and restaurants. The bus (and pedestrians) both cause vibrations on the bridge as they pass by. If you are using a tripod for long exposure photos, you need to take that into account.†
Complimentary Shuttle Bus (Navette) at Mont Saint Michel

Louvre Pyramid

B&W Louvre Pyramid

I.M. Pei’s iconic pyramid marks the entrance to the Louvre museum. In the evening, tourists saunter around the courtyard taking selfies, while illuminated by the soft glow emanating from the pyramid. With the water fountain and reflecting pools, the Louvre is a photographer’s delight at night.


Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois

After departing the Louvre, I crossed the street and entered into Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois. This was not a planned destination, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unlike Notre-Dame or Sainte-Chapelle, this gem was quiet and contemplative with little foot traffic. Perfect for taking a few photos.

The brilliant stained glass windows greeted me as I walked into the church. Usually, I am completely focused on what is ahead that I forget to turn around and see the organ. This time I remembered.


Musée du Louvre

The Louvre Museum always presents a spectacular view. The challenge when approaching this location is dealing with the multitude of tourists that congregate here, even after the museum has closed. On a recent visit, the regulars were joined by numerous couples taking engagement and wedding photos, along with their photographer, assistant, and assorted flash paraphernalia.

Waiting for that brief moment for the scene to clear requires a touch of patience.


Notre Dame

My last memory of Notre Dame was on a cold Parisian winter night. I took a short walk from Saint Germain des Prés, and circled around the cathedral searching for an interesting vantage point.

The spire that reached high above the towers is now gone, lost in today’s devastating blaze. I am so saddened for the people of France and for Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris.


Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Tonight, I was inspired to re-edit a 2012 photo of the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The one problem with this photo is that the top of the fountain was cut off. As I recall, I was already at the 24mm end of a 24-70mm lens and was on a tripod as far back as I could be.

If I had more experience, I would have taken a vertical panorama , which would have solved that issue. Taking a RAW photo instead of a JPG would have helped too.


Percé Rock, Quebec, Canada

Old photo, new software. Percé Rock (or Rocher Percé in French) is located at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec, Canada. I drove there from Montreal back in 2003 armed with my first digital camera, a Sony Cybershot DSC-S85.

I noticed a white halo in an earlier edit. When re-processing the JPEG in Luminar 3, I experienced the same issue when using the AI Sky Enhancer filter to boost contrast in the sky. Turns out, this is not a difficult problem to fix, and I was able to reproduce the fix in both Photoshop and Luminar 3.

In Photoshop, I created a new layer and used the Clone Stamp tool with Sample set to Current & Below. Next, I sampled the sky next to the edge with the white halo, and cloned out the white halo. Next, in the Layer tab, I set the blend mode to Darker Color. Since I’m cloning out the halo from the adjacent sky, there will be no impact on the sky. Since the sky is darker than the white halo, the white halo is cloned out. Finally, since the sky is lighter than the rock, it has no effect on the rock. Thus, I was able to clone out just the white halo with an adjacent color.


Spring is Just Around the Corner

It was only a few weeks ago that the local hills received a light dusting of snow. Now, even though the air remains brisk at times, the signs of spring coming arrival are emerging around us.


Sutro Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge

While waiting for the Super Snow Moon to arrive, I was looking northward to see what was visible in that direction. On that clear afternoon, even Sutro Tower, a rail thin structure, was visible from Palo Alto.

What really surprised me was when I opened the photo at home. The Golden Gate Bridge is visible in the photo. It’s a bit easier to see the bridge in this enlargement, with the two towers, their characteristically red colors muted by the fading light, extending above the nearby hills.