Images by John 'K'

Life as seen through my lens…

Category Archives: Travel

Wake up (early) and feel the sunshine

This time last week I’d just about got home from an impromptu visit to Yosemite to catch photos of a spray moonbow (rainbow in the spray of a waterfall caused by the light of the full moon). There are apparently only 4 waterfalls in the world where this can happen when the conditions are right, and we have one a bit over 3 hours drive away. The conditions were right last week, so pretty much on a whim I decided to take a chunk of time out of my week to go see this for myself.

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Shooting the moonbow meant I was up late into the night (and into the following morning), and as the Yosemite Valley is a magical place by the light of the full moon, I proceeded to journey around the valley to get moonlight shots of my “happy place”.

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Before I knew it, it was 4:30 in the morning and I was up on Glacier Point looking down on the valley, so I decided to stick around for the sunrise which was only a bit over an hour away.

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Cold and tired I sat in my car and napped for an hour before dragging myself from my dreams to go and watch the sun rise.

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I was not disappointed. The scene started to get lighter as the sun neared the horizon, and then as it emerged above the line of distant mountains just behind Half Dome the warming rays of the sun hit my face and warmed my body and soul.

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For a person who is spiritual (not religious) it was a very moving experience. I’m sure if I were a religious person I’d be putting a religious spin on this, but regardless, it was a wonderful way to start the day with a fresh appreciation of the beauty that is there if you only take the time to pull yourselves away from your daily distractions for a while to appreciate it.

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If you ever get a chance to witness a sunrise in a place of beauty such as Yosemite National Park, do yourself a favor… make the effort to get up early and experience it for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it… and you can always make up the lost hours of sleep later!

Moonbow at Lower Yosemite Fall

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On a last minute whim, I took a 3.5 hour drive yesterday afternoon to go to Yosemite National Park to try and catch a picture of a moonbow. A moonbow is a rainbow formed in the spray of a waterfall from the light of the full or nearly full moon. According to the internet, there are only 4 waterfalls in the world that have the right conditions for this to happen, and after finding out about these very recently I wasn’t going to miss the chance of capturing one.

It seems that half of the photographers in California (and beyond) had the same idea, because as it turned dark, the best vantage points for seeing this event were packed with photographers and their gear.

When conditions are good, a bow can be seen in the spray from both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, however yesterday the conditions for a moonbow in the spray from the Upper Yosemite Fall were clearly missing, as was the moonbow (there was a little splash of color in a small section of mist, but not a full moonbow by any stretch of the imagination, and nothing that could be seen with the naked eye).

The story at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall was totally different though. As I joined the 50 or so other photographers that had taken up position in the viewing area at the base of the fall, the moonbow was clearly visible as a silvery arc in the spray. There wasn’t quite enough light in it to have the human eye see color, but a long camera exposure can overcome this so you can see the moonbow in all its rainbow-colored glory!

This month’s full moon will likely be the last one this year that will lead to a decent moonbow in Yosemite Falls, as because of the low snowpack in the Sierras, it is expected that the volume of water will drop off enough before next month’s full moon that there won’t be enough spray to make this happen…

“Hello, is Mommy there?”

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Yesterday was a fun day… my daughter (mother of these two adorable monkeys) had to work, and my wife was helping as a volunteer at a Girl Scout weekend camp, so I did my grandfatherly duties by looking after these two for the day. As the weather has been unusually warm and sunny (California – drought – all that fun climate change stuff), I decided to keep them happy and busy by taking them to the beach.

After an hour’s drive we arrived in Half Moon Bay where we parked up and spent a few hours on Poplar Beach. You have to pay for parking there, but it’s not that expensive, and the parking fee has the advantage of serving to keep the numbers of visitors down, so while we didn’t have the beach to ourselves there was a lot of room to run around and play.

Poplar Beach is long and sandy, and the sand is good for making sandcastles too, so both little monkeys set to the task of sand construction with their sand toys…

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It wasn’t long before the lure of the waves became more interesting than the sand, and so after a few rounds of wave-tag, I had two rather wet little monkeys.

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After a change and a short drive down the coast-hugging Highway 1, we stopped at Pescadero State Beach. This beach has a nice mix of rock-pools and sand, and has some nice sheltered rocky coves for when the wind is blowing. In the summer this beach can get very fog-bound and cold, but on this mid-winter day it was warm and sunny, so in their swim costumes the little monkeys took to the beach for round two of some beach fun.

Both having been unexpectedly soaked in the waves at Poplar Beach, neither of them was interested in the water, so instead they made more sand castles, and also explored (climbed over) some of the rocky terrain.

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The day was getting long, and so after a couple of hours here we bundled back into the car for a little drive further down the coast to Pigeon Point Lighthouse where we stretched our legs and explored the area around the lighthouse. We even saw a couple of spouts from migrating whales out in the Pacific Ocean.

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It was here we found the telephone box. One of the things about California’s Highway 1 is that a lot of it’s run has no cellphone coverage because of the surrounding terrain and the remoteness… so at various stops along the route you can find working phone boxes. Watching the two monkeys explore the booth made me think that their generation will likely be the last one that really knows what a ‘traditional’ phone looks like. These curiosities will likely disappear for good, resigned to history like the VCR, cassette tape, and other pieces of tech that we have left behind in our never ending drive to improve the devices we live with.

Anyway… after exploring the lighthouse we headed for home, but first a stop for some food, and for that we stopped at Cameron’s Inn Pub and Restaurant in Half Moon Bay. This California-ized British Pub is the perfect place to stop and enjoy a drink and some food, while immersing yourself in all of the best parts of a British Pub. It’s kid-friendly too, which with a 2 and 4 year old pair in tow was a blessing! After a lovely meal (they do some wonderful English food, which for an ex-pat like me is a real treat), we explored an old London double-decker bus before getting in our car for the hour long drive home.

Accompanied by music from Disney’s Frozen, played from the internet on my smartphone, through the speakers of my car, we sat in the expected queues leaving Half Moon Bay along route 92, and got home just as both little monkeys were ready for bed… after a quick bath to wash off the sea water and sand that had accumulated through the day, both were in bed and snoring within minutes – the sure sign of a fun day with Granddad.

Mission accomplished.

A place to sit and reflect…

We tend to fill our lives with “busy stuff” just to keep ourselves occupied. I am as guilty of that as the next person, but every now and again I force myself to get away from all that “stuff” so I can make time to enjoy the wonderful things around me.

On one such escape I found myself at the beach by Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a few miles south of Pescadero on California’s Highway 1. On this unusually warm sunny winter’s day I left my car at the side of the road and started walking along the trails that weave through the vegetation. Sprinkled along the trails are benches such as this one where you can sit and enjoy the scenery.

The view from the bench is perfect for reflecting on what is important – the ocean, the rocks, the beach, the wildlife, and the lighthouse – all metaphors for how we should all be living our lives. I could have sat there for hours enjoying the view, but then I would be missing out on much more beauty that the Pacific coastline has to offer.

As much as anything else, this little excursion taught me that I need to do this more often. Rather than just doing “busy stuff” I need to get out more and enjoy the beauty that this wonderful planet we all call home has to offer.

Stepping back in time

For the past 7 years my wife and I have been repeat visitors to this place. We’ve now stayed at Howard Creek Ranch Inn (HCR) 15 times and we will be back there for more visits this year. Why? Because it’s at the north end of Highway 1 on the Pacific coast, so easy access to everything that Mendocino County has to offer, but more importantly it oozes rustic charm, and with no cellphone or (reliable) internet service it gives you that much-needed occasional break from our hectic connected lives. Oh, and the breakfasts are wonderful too, as are the hosts (Sally and Sunny Griggs).

I took this photo of the farmhouse at HCR on January 1, 2014, but the timeless look of the place on a slightly foggy afternoon made me want to have a little post-processing play… Click through and view this full screen for best effect.

If you do happen to visit Howard Creek Ranch, please mention me to Sally. 🙂