Roadtrip 2015 – No whales. Again.

After my disastrous experiences with trying to see whales up north I’d booked a whale watching boat trip for one of the days in San Francisco. The trip was pretty nice.

We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge twice ((obviously)) and coming back the weather was pretty good.

I saw plenty of birds, seals, sealions, even a few dolphins briefly.

Not.

A.

Single.

Whale.

To be fair, just before we got back into the bay, someone (even several people) allegedly saw a whale spout. We hung around a bit, someone saw it again, but I didn’t even see that.

So there’s that. The crew was nice and knowledgeable, though, explained a lot of stuff about the animals we saw and all that. But after a few hours I was seriously tempted to throw the captain overboard. Every now and then he’d go on the PA and shout “LET’S FIND A WHALE” followed by some other motivational bullcrap, always in the same, forced eager tone. Given my whale-related frustration on the trip that got old preeeetty quick.

But here, have a digest of the animals I did see. I liked that part, a lot of birds you usually don’t see and all that.

And that was it. Since Maui ((I’ll take you there in a few days)) was out of season my ((realistic)) chances of seeing a whale on this vacation where crushed. Again. But the day wasn’t over yet. In fact it got really awesome. I went back to the hotel to relax a bit. And, basically, wait. Reading. WP_20150523_001While that is always nice, it wasn’t the point. The point was, today wasn’t only my last full day in San Francisco, it was also the day I was scheduled to meet up with the lovely, awesome and delightful ((you should hear her laugh. ;-) )) Amira Makansi. If you don’t know her, she’s co-creator of the SEEDS book series, which you should check out.

Anyway, she took it upon herself to meet up with me, despite fighting off the remainder of what sounded like a pretty nasty cold and picked me up to have dinner in Japantown.

It.fried and smoked eggs, dumplings

fried and smoked eggs, dumplings

Was.

Ramen.

Ramen.

So.

WP_20150523_19_48_46_Pro

green tea crème brulée

Good.

And I’m not only talking about the food.

I really enjoyed spending time with Amira and hope to get to do that again. On either continent.

Bye, see you on Maui!

Roadtrip 2015 – Meeting up in San Francisco

After three days of constantly being shunned by cats and not being danced for by the bird, Cairn finally had to let me go. It was time to see new places and people, and give the cats a break from hiding. I waited a bit to avoid the worst of the traffic and stopped twice on my way from Sacramento to San Francisco. Once at my probably last chance to get Chick-Fil-A on this road trip. ((It was okay for chicken based fast food. Would not go out of my way to have it again.))

The second stop was right before going down past Vallejo, but nothing spectacular happened there. The weather was so-so, no animals, the view was mediocre so I did the next thing on my schedule. I crossed the Bay Bridge and entered San Francisco.

PxRoadtrip 103

Sadly it was still a little hazy, so the view from Twin Peaks, which was not exactly optimal. Driving up through those steep streets was VERY interesting though. Thank photoshop for clearing up the haze and thank automatic cars. I’ve driven stick all my life, but that …

EosRoadtrip 942 EosRoadtrip 952After that I headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf to check into my hotel. Took me only two rounds around the block to find the entrance to the $50-a-night-parking garage. I was rather happy that I’d only need it for one night. Next up, after freshening up at the hotel was a new exciting meet-up.
Justin, who I used to play Eve Onlin with, had immediately started preparing when he heard I’d be coming to California and forced his brother to join him on a 6 or 7 hour drive from Lake Arrowhead just to meet up with me. And get back home the next day because they had to be at a wedding. You should totally check out his stuff, he’s an amazing artist. And a really cool guy.
We met up in the hotel lobby and he admitted that it felt sort of like a first date. Well, yeah, it can be interesting meeting people in person for the first time. We got over that fairly quick, had a stroll along the Embarcadero, checking out the piers, the sealions until we got back to Pier 39 to eat at Bubba Gump’s. I’d totally recommend that. Depending on where you are (I assume) you’ll always get tourist trap prices, but the quality, service and atmosphere are worth it. Just check out the slideshow, you’ll see what I mean. Well, part of it.

The Coronarita was excellent and so was the food. And the company of course. After we finished stuffing our faces and got our souvenirs stowed away at our hotel rooms we ended the day in a nearby pub with a few beers.

And thus endeth my first daye in ye olde San Francisco. Or something like that.

 

Roadtrip 2015 – Going to Crater Lake and beyond

After doing some research before my road trip I’d decided to make Crater Lake a destination, because, well…it’s absolutely gorgeous! Going there from Eugene, Oregon, via the west entrance, supposedly takes three hours, so I got up at around 2am, because hey, might as well try to catch the sunrise, right? And if the sky was clear, maybe some stargazing/taking pictures of a star-filled night sky? Armed with sandwiches and two large energy drinks I made my way Eastward and upward. Turns out google maps had lied. When you’re driving in the dark, in rainy-ish weather, and a totally unkown route, those 171 miles stretch to about six hours. And, the rain did come from clouds, so no pretty sky either. I did make a few stops for a couple of minutes each, at possibly pretty scenic stops out in the middle of nowhere. Clearwater falls was one of these stops, and even in the rainy twilight of 6am it’s pretty, so the detour was far from being a waste of time. EosRoadtrip 370

I also count myself very lucky that I did NOT hit that deer that tried to tackle me maybe 20 minutes later. It jumped at my rental car, I slammed the brakes and it passed maybe a foot or two in front of my car. I probably had a minor heart attack back then, but thankfully nothing else happened. I doubt I would’ve had cell signal up there, I was far away from every where and waiting for rescue and repair would have seriously messed with my schedule. Driving further along past weird signs I finally arrived at Crater Lake, marvelling at the snow that was still piled up on both sides of the road, and, up at the top, nearly everywhere. EosRoadtrip 383

Sadly I somehow messed up taking pictures when being at the actual crater rim. Even though I couldn’t so much as guess where the actual lake was for all the fog, the snowy slpes and trees where rather pretty. So here’s a view from the visitor center parking lot, up to the snowy crater rim.EosRoadtrip 394I did stay up there for 20 minutes or so, hoping it might clear up, but decided to turn back when it started snowing. No sense in getting stuck up there. I quickly grabbed a few postcards from the now open visitor center (seriously, who commutes here? wow!) And made my way further south stopping at Rogue River Gorge and a few other scenic stops along Rogue River Scenic Byway, where I spotted a pair of Turkey Vultures, and at one point I THINK a Bald Eagle carrying a large branch. Didn’t get a picture of that one, though.

At some time in the afternoon I arrived at Grants Pass, where I took a stroll from my Motel down to the River to see if there was anything I could tonight. But after kind of a long day I just ended up getting pretty good food and service at a Thai BBQ place. And asked to photograph the wedding of a local woman’s daugher by the end of the month.

Folks, if you see someone with a DSLR taking panoramic pictures of a bridge, the chances are pretty slim they’re actually a professional photographer looking for jobs. Here’s a few impressions of the town:

 

 

How an eagle ruffled my feathers…

I got to use my new photographic toy last weekend! And it was awesome.

Ok, if you missed it, I swapped out my about 9 year old 70-300mm USM lens for the current model. That is, for the one with the added image stabilizer. Then I suggested a local predator bird refuge as this weekend’s entertainment, the weather held and we went.

One of the self-proclaimed goals of the show, apart from educating about predator birds, is having the audience leave with a different hairdo than they came in. So I’ve had my hair and face brushed by eagles, hawks and owls in fly by, which also accounted for awesome pictures, if you know how to take them.

Apart from a fast lens and camera and knowing how to handle the focus settings, you have to anticipate some of the movements of the birds. That, and a lot of luck, I suppose.

So here’s some of the results.

This is pretty much the only decent picture I got of the saker falcon inflight. No wonder, considering they can achieve an airspeed of about 180mph ((unladen)). I guess I was lucky he hadn’t built up his fitness from winter break yet.

Emma, the female bald eagle, was among the most impressive bird they had. Especially when flying so close over or next to your head, that wingtips or tail ruffle your own feathers. Repeatedly.

Same would happen with a turkey vulture or with this great gray owl.

They also had a great horned owl that didn’t fly that day but instead enjoyed neck and chest scritches.

 

 

photography friday – in flight

This week’s prompt over at 52 Photos Project might have been made for me.

In flight. I have always been fascinated with flying and aviation. From my first visit to a local aviation museum, to my first flights in gliders, small planes and helicopters to the Red Bull Air Race I got to see in Budapest a few years back.

Then there’s of course birds and such. No matter if it’s just out there in the city or somewhere in the countryside, or at bird shows in a zoo, taking pictures of birds in flight, from seagull to great horned owls or even condors is something I could ((and have)) spend hours on.

So the question is, what shall I show you? Birds? Planes? Superman? ((because yes, flying like Superman or Condorman or any other flying super hero is something else I’ve dreamt of))

I’m not gonna go with the helicopter doing flips and barrel rolls, it doesn’t come over that well on pictures, anyway.

 

So choose your favorite picture yourself, here’s a couple of birds and planes!