Landscape

Rim of the World

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Rim of the World Vista Point in Stanislaus National Forest

The Rim of the World Vista Point is located along Highway 120 in the Stanislaus National Forest. On a cold, winter morning, I stopped by on the way to Yosemite National Park. Barren tree trunks still scarred the land six years after the devastating 2013 Rim Fire, which consumed over 250,00 acres of land. The morning fog clinging to the ground gave this vista point an apocalyptic ambience.

Leo J. Ryan Memorial Park

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Leo J. Ryan Memorial Park in Foster City

During an early morning trip to the Leo J. Ryan Memorial Park, I was rewarded with a brilliant sunrise. The still lake in the quiet hours of the morning created a perfect reflection of the houses and morning skies.

Leo J. Ryan Memorial Park was dedicated in 1979 to honor U.S. Representative Leo J. Ryan, who served as a U.S. Representative for the 11th Congressional District of California from 1973 to 1978, when he was murdered in Guyana by members of the Peoples Temple. At the time, the 11th Congressional District covered parts of San Mateo County.

Mount Umunhum New Year 2020

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Morning Colors

Happy New Year. I revisited Mount Umunhum this morning in anticipation of the first sunrise for the new year. I committed a total rookie mistake by showing up at exactly sunrise, so I missed an opportunity to capture the skies as it glowed in pink and purple hues.

The first clicks were some experiments in color tones. In the direction of the sun, the skies radiated a warm, orange hue while the foreground hills shared a monochromatic dark blue palette.

San Jose

The cluster of tall buildings made Downtown San Jose an easy landmark to locate. Mission Peak and its large antennas are the first range of mountains in the background. Further back is Mount Diablo.

Lick Observatory at Mount Hamilton

Another easy landmark to locate is Mount Hamilton with the domed Lick Observatory close to the summit. While the winter rains have turned parts of the foothills green again, we haven’t seen the storms and cold front from last year that dusted Lick Observatory with a layer of snow.

This is the southern end of Silicon Valley. There are no dense residential developments or office parks in this part of town. Instead, this reminded me of the photos that I’ve seen of Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, where picturesque residences dot the hills in an idyllic sun-drenched rural paradise. La Bella Vita.

Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park

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Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View is a vista point located off Wawona Road in Yosemite National Park. From this vantage point, El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall are visible.

I stopped at Tunnel View three times over three days during the winter and the view was different each time. The best capture was during my initial visit when the morning fog was still dancing along the valley floor. While El Capitan was partially obscured by the clouds, I thought it added to the atmosphere of the photo. Half Dome was covered in snow while Cathedral Rocks had a light dusting of snow.

I used a 10-stop Neutral Density filter to smooth out the flow of water cascading down Bridalveil Fall.

Autumn Leaves

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I love this time of the year when the leaves change color. That last gasp of warm reds and calming yellows signal the imminent arrival of winter. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, yet we haven’t experienced our first major rain of the season. Soon, the weather reports promise. Soon.

Mercury Transiting the Sun

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Mercury Transiting the Sun

For the past week, the mornings had been foggy and overcast. If the weather pattern did not change, I would have to wait until 2049 because the 2032 and 2039 transits of Mercury will not be visible from North America.

When I saw blue skies this morning, I hurried outside to set-up my observation station. First, I used an Orion StarSeeker III 127mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope with an AstroSolar filter. Believe it or not, it is difficult to locate the sun because the sight is not usable. You cannot safely look at the sun through the sight. And, if I wore solar safety glasses, then the sight itself is not visible.

For the image below, I used a 300mm lens and a 2x teleconverter. With a wider field of view, it was easier to find the sun. The camera, lens and tripod were also a lot more stable so I had an easier time focusing on Planet Mercury. With the telescope, focusing was more challenging because of the vibration.

Moonrise Over San Francisco Bay

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The 4% crescent moon rose over San Francisco Bay two hours ahead of sunrise. The low tide exposed the mud flats during the early morning hours. If you look closely, you can see three faint dots in the morning sky.

In this closer view, Auva and Porrima from the Virgo constellation flank the moon while the planet Mars is at the lower right. The sunrise lit up the vibrant morning sky due to all the smoke from the Kincade fire that traveled down from Sonoma County to the peninsula.

Details: D700, 70-200mm f/2.8, ISO 2000, 70mm, f/5.0, 2.0sec

Le Mont-Saint-Michel

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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

Musée du Louvre

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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

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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.