Saturday, February 27, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Today was my last full day on the Central Coast.  Tomorrow I head south to catch a plane to points east.  If all goes well in a few days I will be back home in Sicily.  I couldn't have asked for a better day to end my trip.  It started out with torrential rains and ended with beautiful rainbows.

My day was filled with family visits, and creature comforts such as a manicure, pedicure, shopping, and Mexican food.  While I'm in Sicily I do miss my Mexican Food dearly!  Italians cook fantastic food, but shredded beef tacos do not grace their menus (and I'd be a bit frightened if they did).

It is easy to see why I love San Luis Obispo and the Edna Valley where I grew up.  Yes, I used to live in this beautiful place, and still get to "come home" every now and then since my family is still here.  I hope one day to move back, but I doubt it will be soon since I am a military wife and there aren't any Navy bases nearby.  Until then I will soak up as many visits as I can.

 It has been a fantastic trip spending time with family and getting to live the American lifestyle for a bit.  We Americans have it pretty good.  Life over here is convenient.  It is easy to take for granted.  That is something I've definitely learned living overseas - not to take the ease of living in America for granted.  Our freedom and wealth (even in these hard economic times) as Americans was and still is hard fought and I don't ever want to forget that.

During this trip I've seen a lot, some that are as familar as the back of my hand, and others that I hadn't taken the time to see and enjoy for many years.  The way I see the world around me has also changed with living overseas.  I have acquired a new focus on seeing and experiencing the world around me that I hope I will never lose.  There is so much to see and do in this big world and I'm trying to cram as much into this life as possible!

So tomorrow I say my "see you laters" to my dear family and this amazing place.  I will hold them close to my heart as I travel back across the ocean to my husband who has been gracious enough to let me loose to travel for nearly two months without him.  I miss him and can't wait to see him!

I doubt that I'll have time to post again until I reach Sicily so I will see you again in a few days when I reach the other side of the ocean.  Ciao!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rios-Caledonia Adobe

On our way home from San Francisco my mom and I stopped in San Miguel at the Rios-Caledonia Adobe.  My parents' business had participated in the renovation of this historic building and mom needed to take a few pictures for the company portfolio.  I walked around with my camera until I my memory card was full (it was almost there from all of the San Francisco photos).

More from San Francisco

Our third and final day in San Francisco started near the Ferry Building. We wandered a little while and then met up with my cousin and her family for brunch. It had been several years since we last saw each other so it was great to catch up a bit, see how here daughter has grown and meet her new little boy.

Reflections of the City 

After brunch we walked out on a pier near the Ferry Building and through the Ferry Building shops

The Bay Bridge in the fog 

The fog clearing around the towers of the Oakland Bay Bridge 

Lovers' Locks on a San Francisco Pier
A European tradition that is apparently catching on in the States

Various mushrooms on sale from a vendor in the Ferry Building

Artisan Cheeses for sale in the Ferry Building 

Cafe Art from the Blue Bottle Coffee Co. 

 At the Counter of the Blue Bottle Coffee Co.

 New Orleans Style Iced Coffee, YUM!

Streetcar in San Francisco 

After spending the morning with family we had plans to go to Baker Beach and the Botanical Gardens but the weather didn't cooperate.  The fog rolled in early and fast.

My last glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge before it was consumed by fog 

After driving around for awhile we headed back to the hotel.  We decided to walk from our hotel in Union Square to Chinatown and then through the North Beach neighborhood to Lombard Street.  We had pictures in mind that we wanted to take there, too.

Eventually we made our way to Lombard Street and climbed a few steep blocks to the base of the curvy section.  I had hoped to take time lapse pictures of cars coming down the curves, but again my plans were not meant to be.  The photos that I'd taken inspiration from were obviously shot from an angle that was inaccessible to me.  Either the bushes had grown too tall or the photographer who inspired me was shooting from a lift of some sort.  Either way, most of the lights coming down the hill were not visible and there weren't many cars, either.  Oh well!  It just wasn't meant to be this trip.

By this point in the evening we were exhausted.  We had walked quite a ways so we decided to catch the next cab we saw.  Soon we were zipping back to our hotel ready for another good night's sleep, our last night in San Francisco.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

San Francisco, Napa Valley, and in between

On my second day up north Mom and I ventured out of the city and up to the Napa Valley so I could spend a bit of time visiting with my in-laws.  It was a beautiful day a gorgeous drive. As we left the city the thick San Francisco fog was just starting to break.

 Toll Plaza Clock, Northbound on the Golden Gate Bridge

As we drove across the bridge I opened the sunroof of the car and starting clicking away, watching the towers of the bridge whiz by above the car.

Just east of Sonoma we decided it was time for a bit of breakfast.  We saw this little place along the side of the road and flipped a u-turn to go back and check it out.  The Fremont Diner was a great find!

 An old International Pickup that sits out front of the Fremont Diner

The fields around the diner were planted with rows and rows of grapevines and the area between each row was overflowing with mustard.

Most of the fields were full of flowering mustard but along the Yountville Crossroad in the Napa Valley we came upon a field full of beautiful orange flowers.

After a good visit with my husband's family my mom and I headed back toward San Francisco.  We made a last minute decision to stop in the Marin Headlands to take in the nighttime view of the city and the Golden Gate Bride.  Absolutely spectacular!

The north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco and the Bay Bridge in the background

We were up on the hill shooting the city for quite awhile before I remembered one of my Christmas presents that happened to be in my camera bag - my star filter!  I really love the shots where I used the filter, the next one is my favorite from the evening!

Eventually we decided to pack up our gear and head back to our hotel, hungry and tired, but happy about another fantastic day in Northern California!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

DPA Workshop in San Francisco

Last weekend I took my first photography workshop.  It was a fantastic experience!  I signed up through Digital Photography Academy and the workshop was taught by Josh Anon.  I learned a lot during the workshop and am now trying to put those things into practice while shooting and processing my pictures.  I would definitely take another Digital Photography Academy workshop and would jump at the chance to work with Josh again.

We (my mom and I) started our workshop bright and early (well, not so bright, the SF fog was thick) at 7:30AM at Pier 39.  This is how much I LOVE photography and want to learn - I was there even a few minutes early!  (and for those of you who know me, I'm NOT a morning person).  After a brief  introduction with our instructor and an overview of some the equipment we'd be working with we set off shooting.

During the course of the morning Josh would do a few minutes of group instruction, point out possible subjects to take note of, and then set us loose.  While we were shooting he would come around to each of us and ask about what we were trying to achieve and why we were using certain settings.  Often he would show me a better way to achieve what I was trying for and explain to me why certain settings would work better than others.  Throughout the course of the day I learned a lot about my camera, some things I had wondered about and others I had never even considered.

Early Morning Reflection on Pier 39

My attempt at a zoom-blur

Zoom-blur a really cool technique where you focus in on a subject like a flower and then set the shutter to like 1/15th of a second or maybe even a bit longer and then as you press the shutter to take the picture you quickly zoom out.


The photos below are from the Musee Mecanique:

After the Musee Mecanique we headed through the area of Fisherman's Wharf where various restaurants and vendors try to lure customers with a fantastic display of fresh seafood.

Waiting on Ice

Around the back of the vendor area is where all of the fishing boats dock.  Some are new, shiny, and colorful; others are old and weathered.

We walked quite a ways during the workshop, from Pier 39 to Hyde Street and back again.  We were having a blast but we were wearing down.  The remainder of the class was held at Boudin on Pier 39 where we ate a bit of lunch and reviewed everyone's shots from the morning.  Josh picked out a few shots from each person and showed us what we did well, and what we could do better.  I found it very helpful to have the critique of my pictures and to see how he might edit them.  It was also fun to see how the rest of the people in the workshop saw the same sights I did and how they captured them in a completely different way.  I always find it amazing how two people can stand at the exact same place, point their cameras in the exact same direction, and come up with incredibily different interpretations of the scene.

As the afternoon grew late our class had to end.  I wish the workshop could have been a couple of days longer!  I feel like there is so much to learn about photography and I want to keep improving!

After the class my mom and I wandered Pier 39 for a little while longer and did a bit of shopping.  Chocolate Heaven is a mainstay stop for my family on any trip to San Francisco.

 Fog rolling in around the Golden Gate Bridge

One more attempt at a zoom-blur of a sculpture and flowers near Pier 39

After the workshop Mom and I decided that we were going to try oysters for the first time.  She had done a bit of online research and discovered that Swan Oyster Bar in San Francisco was one of the best places for oysters on the west coast.  We plugged the address into the GPS and found it without a problem.

Parking was another situation entirely.  We drove around for at least 30 mintues until finding a space and then made our way to the oyster bar excited and a bit nervous only to find out that they had closed...about 30 minutes previous (right about when we had arrived and started trying to find parking).  We were bummed but a little relieved.  Trying new foods can be a bit scary, especially when that particular food is raw and slimy!  Since oyster trying was a bust we decided on Indian food instead.  It was delicious.

After dinner we headed to our hotel room and crashed, exhausted!  It had been a long day, but oh so much fun!