Monday, November 30, 2015

Travel Ideas in San Diego - Ride the Coaster

OK, I admit this might seem like a simple idea.  But if you have not taken the San Diego Coaster from San Diego to Oceanside, you have missed a treat.  The ride is about an hour long.  It's a beautiful coastal ride on a quiet, comfortable commuter train.

I recently took the ride while visiting friends in the area.   I flew into the airport, but took the Coaster to Carlsbad, where my friends met me.  I so much prefer this over a taxi or just having them meet me at the airport.  The ride cost $5.75 one way.  There is also a fee of $2.25 for a shuttle bus from San Diego Lindbergh Airport to the Santa Fe train Depot.

But as a nice quiet journey to reflect, it cannot be beat.  Also, there is free wifi onboard.  That is a bonus.  Next time you are in San Diego, just take the coaster for a day trip.  Oceanside has lots of shops and restaurants in walking distance of the train depot.  The depot is also about two blocks from the beach.  It's a trip you will long remember.

For more information, go to:  Also, check out my YouTube video on the link below.


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Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Greatest Photo I Ever Took. Paris Y2K Eiffel Tower Fireworks.

The recent tragedy in Paris got me thinking about my greatest conquest in the City of Lights.  As we #Pray4Paris, I want to share my experience in one of the greatest cities in the world.  Paris shall remain unbowed.  The citizens of France will not yield to fear.  Her greatness is manifest throughout the city.  In honor of the brave citizens of Paris, and in memory of the lives so violently touched, I share my story:

in the fall of 1999, the world was worried about the Millennium bug.  There were stories that computers around the world would not be able to process the change from 1999 to 2000 and fail.  In particular, there was a concern about the old computers controlling the missile silos around the world holding the most destructive weapons.

This being a concern, I decided to ride out the millennium in the coolest place i could think of, Paris, France.  It was here that I would take the greatest photo of Paris ever created.  Of course, I am biased, but I hope you agree, that it’s a pretty darn good photo.

My trip starts in Bamberg, Germany where I had served in the US Army several years prior.  I had not been there in awhile, so I thought, as long as I am on the Continent, I will visit some old friends from Christmas.  Since that is a different story, I will skip the merriment.  On December 30, I left Bamberg on the over night train to Paris.  

Arriving in Paris in the morning, I made my way to the Hotel Frantour Eiffel Suffren.  I was able to get a top floor room with a view the the Eiffel Tower.  Today, that hotel is the Hotel Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel.  It has gone through a major renovation.  The location is ideal for enjoying Paris’ main attraction.  Once checked in, I walked around the area for a good vantage point. 

All of Europe had suffered severe rain this month, and the Seine was at incredible flood level.  I checked out several locations near the Pont de Bir Hakeim and Voie Georges Pompidou.  I decided the best spot would be Trocadero Plaza above the fountains.  I had packed food, and used the restroom before staking out my spot.  I was ready to spend the next 13 hours in that one spot, braving a cold drizzle until the fireworks began.  Six hours into my cold miserable wait, the Gendarmes came and rousted all tourists away from the Trocadero Plaza.  It seems, the media was also planning on using that spot and did not want any crowds in the way of their coverage.  

I was pissed and relieved. it was turning much colder, and I really did not want to spend the next few hours exposed.  I went back to my hotel and slept the next four hours.  I awoke with an hour before midnight.  Since it was already past midnight in Moscow, and the Russian missiles had not flown past us on the way to the USA, I decided to go out and find a decent vantage point.

I remembered the flooded Seine along Voie Georges Pompidou near the Bridge.  

I crossed the bridge which was not filled with hundreds of revelers.  There would be no decent vantage from the bridge to photograph.  I walked along the Seine away from the Tower until I saw the spot I had seen earlier that day.  There was a wall along the road down to the river level.  The road was flooded near the wall.  If I jumped up on the wall, I could walk down to the spot where the wall disappeared into the flooded Seine.  

Here I sat down, set up my tripod, and Olympus OM 10 camera.  I had a manual trigger cable, and I was shooting slide film.  I had experimented with night photography before, but I was out on a literal ledge with this project.  The challenge was to get far enough away from the nearby crowd in order to get the photos I wanted without getting bumped around.  Also, I was not sure about the timing of opening the aperture.

I took a couple of practice shots at openings of 4 seconds and 8 seconds.  Then I waited.  From the hotel to the location, it only took me about 30-40 minutes to set up.  It was about 10 minutes to midnight, so i was excited and anxious.  I noticed that there was a metro train crossing the Pont de Bir Hakeim.  The bridge was in the foreground with the Eiffel Tower looming behind.  If a train crossed while my aperture was open, it would be a complete blur.

Momentarily, it began.  The fireworks started low at first just above the lower observation deck.  The they worked their way up the tower.  Explosions of fireworks went off to the immediate right of the tower from my field of vision.  I began taking shots with varying times for opening the aperature; 4 seconds, 6 seconds and 8 seconds.  Soon there were gigantic booms large balloon like fireworks in the open space to the right of the tower, as flames of fireworks shot off the tower in unison.  Throughout my efforts, trains kept crossing the bridge.  Some would slow, but others did not stop.  I could only hope I could get one decent shot that was not a blur.

And then it happened.  As i was taking two shots back to back, a train crossed from right to left, and stopped mid way across the bridge.  I took a shot; six seconds.  I took a second shot 8 seconds.  Upon releasing the trigger from my second shot, the train started up again and continued its journey.  For a brief moment, I was able to capture two pictures of the Eiffel Tower in full fireworks illumination with the commuter train frozen in view.   What so pleased me about the photo, was that you could actually see the passengers on the train.

When the fireworks were over, the Eiffel Tower lit up with sparkling lights that stayed on all night.  On the observation deck level, the new year, 2000, was displayed in lights.  My friends from Germany had sent me on my journey with two bottles of white wine.  I could not wait to open the bottles and share my wine with 1.5 million of my new found friends celebrating the new century all over the city.  Well, not all 1.5 million; just the group along the Seine. 

I made my way back to my hotel a few hours later.  That morning, I went back to the Trocadero in order to get a photo of the Eiffel Tower displaying the new year.  It was my best New Year’s Party ever.  And the best part was that the millennium bug was just an excuse for the computer companies to sell us a bunch of new technology.  We were never in any real danger. 

I stayed one more day in town enjoying sites, then travelled by train to Salzburg, Austria.  Another favorite city from my past.  That, however, is another story.

Paris is eternal.  Until this madness stops, lets keep sending out #Prayers4Paris.


The entire slide show can be seen on my YouTube Channel.  Click here:

YouTube Vid - Greatest Paris Eiffel Tower Fireworks photo I ever took

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I love Big Air Kiteboarding

I have been absent awhile. Lots of main job type work kept me off of blogger. I subsequently had a boo boo with my MacBook Pro, so I have not been able to work on videos.

For lunch today, I ran down to Kanaha Beach Park to watch the kiteboarders. Using my iPhone 6, I was able to catch a few kitesurfers catching big air. My clips are short, but I like this one the best. This guy flew nearly 50 meters on a big gust of Maui wind. 

I suppose I will have to start doing this myself. But I will wait until I'm ready to invest in a GoPro. By then, I will have no excuse to sit on the beach anymore. Enjoy this clip. 



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