US diaries-7: Epilogue

Am returning to India on July 11th.

Yes, I am excited to be back home and look forward to playing with my kid. But there is a tinge of sadness too. I had a great time here. Easily, it was one of the best trips of my life. I visited a lot of places and made a few friends too. Will miss them all. I will especially miss the wonderful national parks of US and those mammoth landscapes!

This post is a quick reflection on my trip in Twitter style. Few words. A photo or two, thats it.

My 3 favorite photos of the trip:

1. Tule elk shot at Limantour wilderness area

Tule Elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes)

2. Antelope canyon

Antelope Canyon

3. Tufa’s of Monolake

Tufa's @ Monolake after sunset!

Places visited and a one line description of each

  • Point Reyes (Limantour, Drakes beach, Bear Valley, Tomales point, lighthouse, Muddy hollow): An amazing place with a great diversity and a great place for birders.
  • Bryce canyon: Amazing hoodoos that can inspire your soul and a clear night sky that can transcend you to Neverland.
  • Grand canyon south rim: A geologists dream. Huge. Did I just say huge?
  • Antelope canyon: An awesome awesome awesome place to be in when the crowd is less.
  • Monument valley: An interesting place at the right time of the day.
  • Horseshoe bend: Sitting at its edge can pack you off to eternal bliss’dom.
  • Colarado river gorge: Unnoticed beauty with extremely inspiring rock formations.
  • Marin Headlands: A cyclists dream route.
  • Golden gate: Shot to death several years ago by photographers.
  • Yosemite (Toulemne meadows, Le Vining, etc): Wonderful. A big big bang bang wonderful. Did I say wonderful?
  • Monolake and its Tufa’s: A wonderful and ever-ongoing love story between a certain Mr Calcium and one Miss Carbonate.
  • Convict lake: Be there at 5.45 am.
  • Alcatraz prison: I went to the once most dreaded jail in the world and came back! Alive!

Most memorable moments
– Cycling in Marin in pitch dark of the night. Taking a detour on Conzelman road and photographing Golden Gate in pitch dark from an isolated area.
– Walking up the Sunset point in Bryce Canyon and being wowed by its beauty.
– First morning in Point Reyes HI hostel. Waking up early and seeing through the large window. Chilly morning. Rain drops. Dreamy mood!
– Driving through Toulemne meadows in Yosemite early in the morning.
– Driving through Point Reyes, esp the Pierce point ranch early in the morning.
– Being so close to a bear in Yosemite.

3 most admired things in US
– Amazon.com
– US national parks
– ownership of assigned tasks

Random thoughts from the trip
– Absolutely love Galen Rowell’s adventure photography and his go-light-on-gear attitude. A huge Galen fan now!
– David duChemin. I knew him before, but got hooked to his photography during this trip.
– Tenting is fun.
– Night photography is way too much fun.
– VR/IS/SR can never kill a tripod.
– US has as many problems as India does.
– US media is worse than Headlines Today in India.
– We Indians respect white folk more than we do our own folk. The spillover effect of a British raj!
– When you are in trouble, do nothing. Just wait until your head is clear. Most likely, the issue would clear by itself.
– Ghana deserved to win the game. Suarez snatched a goal and got away with a penalty. A sure goal != a chance for a goal.

Additions to my equipment during the trip
– Gitzo 3541LS tripod and Arca Swiss Z1 monoball head
– Nikon TC17E II
– Singh Ray 3 stop soft GND filter
– B+W Kaesemann polarizer
– Canon S90 pocket camera
– Eureka Nxt 2 man tent

Books purchased
– Mountain light by Galen Rowell
– Picture this: How pictures work by Molly Bang
– Photography and the art of seeing by Freeman Patterson

US diaries-6: Yosemighty!

Another week went by. Another trip etched into memory! 

Mono lake

Mighty mountains that are a geologists wonder , snow capped peaks that glow like an orange ball in the early morning sun, freezing cold lakes that have just begun to come out of their long hibernation by shedding their icy coats, innocently clear water in the lakes that can chill your bones, American black bears that stare straight at you with stone-cold eyes within 500 metres of distance,… Yosemite is a wonder! This time, we avoided the usually visited and much crowded areas in and around Yosemite and went to the Le Vining side which was very beautiful.

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US diaries-5: Lost in the dark

Last weekend, I visited the Marin headlands area.

Golden Gate in the night

My plans were simple

  • reach Marin before sunset and click pictures of the Golden Gate bridge at the twilight hour
  • stay in Marin Headlands hostel for the night
  • to reach Point Bonita before sunrise and click pictures of the lighthouse / Golden Gate

But, my planning ended there. I had not thought about transport, food, maps, directions,… blah blah. The minimalistic planning either made for a great trip or screwed things up depending on how you view it.

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US diaries-4: Camping in the Canyons

Last week, from May 29-31, Adarsh and I had gone on a camping trip to the Canyon’s of the west – the Grand canyon, Bryce canyon, Monument valley and the Antelope canyon!

Antelope_Canyon

May 30th was Adarsh’s birthday. 31st was mine. Need I say that I had the best birthday till date!!!

On May 28th night, we flew down to Phoenix from San Jose and then drove to the places mentioned above. Well, we started on a shaky note at Phoenix when the car rental guy told that our already booked Nissan Sentra would be parked at J-8 and that this was the ONLY compact car available there. Upon reaching J-8, we were taken aback to see a totally worn out car with its bumpers and headlights literally falling off!!! We were for a minute unsure whether to take the only car or to cancel it, but decided to do the later. Just then, we noticed that we were looking at the wrong parking slot. The place had 2 numbers for some reason. And both the J-8’s had Nissan Sentra’s. One nice car from the car rental guys.. the other, a torn down car belonging to someone!!! Laughing at our blunder and the strange coincidence, relieved, we jumped in and quickly sped-off! The time was 12.15am on Saturday.

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Life begins at 30!

It’s 31 May and I turn 30 today!

Well, some confusion about it… in India, yes, I am thirty! In the US, I am still 12.5 hours away from that landmark.

As you are reading this, I would be camping in either Bryce canyon or Zion canyon (this is a scheduled post :-)) along with Adarsh Raju who celebrates his birthday on May 30 (today in US)!! 

Well, 2 guys in birthday mood and in the midst of the most beautiful places in the US is a lot of fun!! And my new acquisitions, the B + W Kaesmann CPL and the Tiffen GND should be helping me get better pictures of the place!!

More on it once I return from the trip!!

US diaries-3: Tule Elks

    Tule elks are the smallest sub-species of North American Elks that are found only in the grasslands and wetlands of California. Having gotten their name from eating the Tule grass found only in these parts, these animals roamed across California in huge numbers, believed to be at least half a million before the 1850’s.

Tule Elk

But the mad rush to hunt these wonderful creatures during the Gold rush and a decline in grazing land led to their count falling to as low as 28 in 1895 (source: wikipedia). They were even thought to be extinct, but for the effort of a good hearted California ranger called Henry Miller, who saved around 20 elks and reared their population towards recovery. Otherwise, these wonderful creatures would have been gone.. forever! Damning humans!!!

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US diaries-2: Vintage streetcars of SFO

They are old. They are slow. And they are small. Yet…, they are extremely popular!

You can’t miss them when you are in Fisherman’s wharf or in Pier-39 (or anywhere on the F market & wharves route). The beautiful vintage street cars!

Heritage street cars of SFO

 Having been sourced from all over the world, from places like Melbourne (Australia), Tokyo (Japan), Birmingham (UK), Milan (Italy), these street cars behold heritage status and have become an attraction by themselves! 

After having served in their respective countries / cities for several years, after almost being written off as junk, it is heartening to see these old horses being put to test again in this amazing melting pot (of street cars, if you will :-)) called San Francisco!

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US diaries-1: Prologue

Am starting a new series of posts covering my visit to the US of A. Blame it on my lack of imagination, I am plainly calling it “The US diaries”.

Golden gate bridge

I was initially thinking of writing in the day report style covering each day of actual travel (usually weekend).  But we do so many things in a day that a daily report post will be really long. Hence I intend to write short posts on just one subject area, for example, the Golden Gate and what we did there, etc. Maybe will link such reports together to stitch a timelined post. Let me see how it goes.

As the first in the series, this is just a prologue covering only a few details.

Destination: San Francisco (Emeryville actually)

Duration of visit: Apr-24 to July 11

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Westward bound

Am traveling in a few hours from now. This time to San Francisco.

Though its for work, I plan to do a bit of traveling around to scenic locations during the weekends and yes, birding and cycling a bit too! I plan to either purchase a used cycle or rent one for 3 months depending on which would be cheaper.

Its my first trip to USA and my third trip abroad(Canada and France being the first two). Naturally, I am excited. But that is purely for the travel part of it, unlike few years back.. when just like any other IT guy, I would have jumped up in the air for just visiting the US and getting my passport stamped with the US visa. (And would have gone there, traveled to a few regular spots nearby, saved money by not drinking expensive coffee and would have returned home to tell stories of how wonderful a place US is… bah). These days, any travel excites me. I hope it turns out into a memorable trip!

Over the next few days, I intend to visit a few places and use my 10-24 Nikkor extensively. And yes, have plans to purchase more photography / cycling accessories.

Traveling is fun! Wish me a good trip!

PS: If you are in SFO, would love to join you for cycling / birding / photography trips. Please let me know.