Thursday, August 29, 2019

Pismo Beach Getaway (part 2)

I never finished my Pismo Beach post from a couple weeks ago. I was so excited about finding the "Hidden Cave Pictographs" (last weeks post) that I couldn't resist sharing that with you!

Pismo Beach (part 1) was all about beautiful sunsets over the ocean, taken with my big camera and telephoto lens. This "part 2" post is (unless otherwise noted) all about cellphone shots. You can't beat a cellphone for convenience, and both cameras fill a different need.
That's our motel up on the cliff. My wife in the foreground, working on a puzzle, and you can just make out my granddaughter (Lilly) flopping around in the sand. Actually, I think she might have been digging a hole. Whatever, she's a perpetual blur of activity.


Pismo Beach is so beautiful, and so different from the S CA beaches I am used to. Even during their busy time, the crowds were light. The rock formations, cliffs and caves along the beach were an added bonus!

Some of the cliffs were off-white and chalky.

From inside one of the many sea caves in the area.



There are 107 stairs from the motel down to the beach. How do I know? Lilly counted them on EVERY SINGLE TRIP which is why the number sticks in my mind. Here we are heading back UP the 107 steps, which is significantly more difficult than the trip down. It was probably my idea to stop and rest on the way up 😉. 
One of my favorite shots. I came across these old stairs that at one time allowed people access to the beach from the bluffs above. The ocean and her tides had a different idea, making these stairs no longer usable. That looks like the moon, but it's actually the sun viewed through fog and clouds.

A nice skywatch shot. A pretty sky, and this pelican just happened to fly in front of me at just the right moment!

Gayle & Lilly on the Pismo Beach Pier.
Gayle & Lilly outside another amazing sea cave in the area!
Even on a cloudy, misty late afternoon, it's enjoyable to be on the beach.

Gayle & Lilly got up early on day 2, and noticed the tide was out. Off they went, hoping to find sand dollars. It's been many years since I've seen sand dollars on the beach. I never see them any more on the S CA beaches, but I remember seeing them when I was a kid. How about you... do you remember finding sand dollars along the beach?

Jackpot!!!!! Many sand dollars were found, and Lilly had a blast running around in the shallow water searching for them. 

Artsy-fartsy sand dollar art. I used a macro lens on my DSLR for the sand dollar photos.

A personal favorite... Lilly & Gayle posing in a local restaurant. Probably about as close as we will ever get to deep sea fishing, since I get sea sick the moment I set foot on a boat!

The Pismo shoreline and seacliffs are popular with kayakers. Shot with my DSLR and telephoto lens.

The view of Pismo Pier from our motel balcony. Another DSLR shot using my telephoto lens.

A pretty, late afternoon crescent moon (yup, DSLR/telephoto).

A very memorable trip... both fun and relaxing. Lilly had a blast! Thanks for joining us on our quick 2-night get-away to Pismo Beach!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Hidden Cave" Pictographs

Just out of the blue, I had this really nice individual contact me by email last week to tell me he likes my blog. He specifically mentioned my posts about rock art sites. Turns out, he is super knowledgeable about rock art sites in Joshua Tree and shared a couple locations with me. That's a big deal. Rock art sites are closely guarded secrets because there are so many knuckleheads out there that will deface them. So it made me feel good that this individual trusted me enough to share locations.

So earlier this week I went to visit one of the spots he shared with me. The "Hidden Cave" pictographs (also called "Indian Cave" pictographs) is one of the best examples of well preserved pictographs I've seen. The site has been described as "pristine", "amazing", and an "irreplaceable and sacred place". It's a small, cramped space under a huge rock formation, so a real challenge to photograph. You can just barely sit up once inside, and most of the photography is done while laying on your side or back. "Hidden" is a good description for the cave, because even if you can find it, people have taken great pains to hide the entrance by building a rock wall. 
The rock wall has to be taken down before you can crawl into the cave. To give you a sense of scale, that large boulder (bottom center) is too big and heavy to lift. I could only roll it out of place. I'm getting too old for this!

As you crawl into this hidden cave, and your eyes adjust to the darkness... hang on to your hat because you will be amazed!!
After removing the rocks and crawling into the cave, this is what you see looking back toward the entrance. Because the cave is not exposed to the elements, the pictographs are in excellent shape. Although the cave is small, it is chock-full of pictographs. There are so many it's difficult to document them all.

I knew in advance that the cave would be cramped and dark, so I brought a wide angle lens, a fisheye lens, and a couple small LED light panels. Also, a word about the photos. I used a program called DStretch to enhance the pictographs, and then blended those results with the original image in Photoshop. That way the images don't look so distorted and the pictographs stand out.
Here comes the sun!

I'm glad I brought my fisheye lens. Although the images have the fisheye distortion, it gives you a sense of the inside of the cave and the myriad petroglyphs on the walls and ceiling. As you can see, they are almost all done in red pigment. It appears there may be a couple done with black pigment. One site said they thought this cave was likely used for female puberty rituals, both because of the red pigment used as well as the shapes of the pictographs themselves. But who knows. That's one of the interesting things about rock art... nobody seems to know what the symbols mean, but there are plenty of theories!

Below is a random sampling of some of the pictos. Wouldn't it be cool to know their significance!? The variety is amazing.










The photo below is the only one from the surrounding area I'll be sharing. 
Directly adjacent to Hidden Cave pictographs is this large boulder. See all the white chalk? Looks like rock climbers visit here frequently. Wouldn't they be surprised if they could see inside the cave only a few yards away!

So after nearly 2 hours of crawling around on the dirt floor of a cramped and hot cave, laying on my back and side getting photos, sweating like crazy (remember it's August in Joshua Tree!), it's time to crawl out from under my rock and re-build the stone wall that keeps Hidden Cave Pictographs so well hidden. After a good 20 minutes, the rock wall is rebuilt and it's even stronger than when I found it. I take pride in my work, stand up (slowly and stiffly... did I mention I'm getting too old for this??) and pack away all my camera gear. As I put on my backpack and get ready to leave, I'm thinking... where's my hat and sunglasses?? Yup, you guessed it... THEY'RE IN THE CAVE!!!

I'm exhausted, and it crosses my mind to perhaps just leave them inside. But no, I need them, so I begin tearing apart my big beautiful rock wall, rock by rock, squeeze back into the cave, grab my hat and sunglasses, squeeze back out, and rebuild my rock wall for a second time! Now I'm even more exhausted, and kicking myself for being so forgetful.

I'll leave you with a couple Joshua Tree sky shots from this outing. As the sun sets behind the desert rocks, the Joshua trees slowly turn to silhouettes!


Linking with Skywatch Friday.
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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Pismo Beach

This week we're jumping from the desert to the beach. We wanted to take our granddaughter somewhere before starting school, so we took a two night "mini-vacation" to Pismo Beach. We live in S CA, and Pismo is in Central CA... cooler temps, not as built up or crowded. Much nicer in my book. My big dilemma was whether or not to haul along my big camera and a couple lenses or just rely on my iPhone. I doubted I would have the opportunity to do any serious photography. On the other hand, if there were great photo opportunities, I would be kicking myself. So after a little grumbling, I took my DSLR, 100-400mm tele lens, and 17-35mm wide angle. Just in case. You never know.

Turns out, I'm really glad I took it.
My wife took this photo of me taking pictures. I had spotted this bench on the far corner of the motel property and it looked like a perfect spot for some sunset shots. But things were cloudy and a little foggy, so I wasn't sure I was going to get anything good. I think it was about this time I heard my wife calling me (she was at the pool with Lilly). She was calling my attention to the sun becoming visible from behind the clouds. It looked very cool, and looked more like the moon than the sun. In the photo above, you can just make out the sun if you look closely.


I was focused on the cool looking clouds and fog rolling in from the distance and hadn't even noticed the sun.


I think it was at this moment it struck me: So glad I brought my DSLR and a couple lenses along on this trip!! No more grumbling.

Do you see the arch? I call this "Pismo Arch", although that may not be its real name.

A closer view of Pismo Arch. This area was loaded with birds. Actually it looked like bird real estate was at a premium. It looked to me (a total novice) like cormorants and pelicans were the dominate birds. I found myself waiting for birds to fly by so I could get some shots without birds in the frame!

On the second afternoon, things started out a little cloudy and foggy. I like the mystery created by the fog, and rarely get to take photos in conditions like this.
Then I noticed the sky start to open up.
For a moment, there was a well defined hole in the sky with a ray of light. Very cool!


Lens change (telephoto to wide angle). After the clouds burned off, we had blue sky for a while. I managed to get both a bird (not too hard) and the moon in this shot. This is looking the opposite direction (down the coast toward the Pismo Beach pier).

As sunset approached, the sky went kind of crazy. Orange/purple/red/gold all seemed to blend together. And everything, including the hills and the water, took on the sky colors.



It was an amazing show. Even the people down on the beach seemed to stop in their tracks to watch the sun drop behind the hills and enjoy the sky colors.

Except for this lady, who was busy flying her kite!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!