It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years since I got my first camera. Things sure have changed a lot since then, more so because thirty years ago I was using a thirty year old camera! My photographic skill was far from honed, so you’ll see pictures here that range from “eh” to “ugh,” but I like to think that there’s a hint of what was to come in some of the photos below. Join me for a trip through memory lane as I share those early pictures with you, starting with the very first photograph I ever took.
The Year One Thousand Nine Hundred and Eighty Nine
Roll 1, Frame 1.
This is my cat Khan (named after everyone’s favorite Star Trek villain, Khan Noonien Singh) at my old trailer in Los Osos.
Taking selfies before selfies were a thing.
This is also from 1989 and still on that first roll of film.
My First Road Trip
1989 was the year I learned that I really love to travel. My brother was living in North Carolina and a friend had just moved to Denver. So I bought plane tickets to fly out of Denver and hit the road. I drove my ’85 Honda Civic from Los Osos to Denver to visit my friend, and from there I flew to North Carolina, then back to Denver and the drive home.
Everything was new and exciting on that first road trip. I just had to stop and take a picture of this dry washout somewhere in either eastern Nevada, the northwest corner of Arizona, or the southwest corner of Utah.
My first “wildlife” photo: a squirrel at Zion National Park.
Driving up I-15 in southwestern Utah I saw a sign pointing to Zion National Park off the next exit. There was no mileage on it, but I had a few days to get to Denver so timing wasn’t important. I had no idea how far off the highway the park would be, but I was out on the road for the first time and just had to go. I didn’t know if it was going to be 2 miles or 200 miles, and it didn’t matter.
I hadn’t been to a National Park before, and this trip forged my love for the U.S. National Park system. I continued north to I-70, then east to Arches National Park. I had never seen anything like it, and to this day some of my favorite destinations are the Utah National Parks.
From Arches I continued on to Denver, where I parked my car at the airport and flew out to North Carolina.
It’s been a really long time and I can’t remember where this grove is, just that it was somewhere between Arches National Park and Denver. It was the first time I’d ever seen white trees.
Once reaching North Carolina I traveled to the nearby states. This is “New” Cape Henry Lighthouse at the Colonial National Historic Park, Virginia. (Built in 1881. This photo was taken from the top of the old one that was built in 1792.)
Ruins at Jamestown Colony, Colonial National Historic Park, Virginia, and the road that meanders through Jamestown Island.
After spending a couple of weeks in North Carolina, I returned to Denver for the drive home. My favorite destination on the return trip was Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado.
I continued into Arizona with stops at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Grand Canyon National Park, & Meteor Crater.
Monument Valley. I’m almost sure this is in southern Utah, but it may be in the very north of Arizona. Either way, a spectacular site.
It was late in the day by the time I got to the Grand Canyon, so I only stopped for a few snapshots and headed off to Meteor Crater for the last stop of the day.
I shot 13 rolls of film on the North Carolina trip. What I didn’t know at the time was that my aging Aries Viscount was dying, and the shutter didn’t trip on about half the pictures. Roll after roll of film had large blank sections – especially tragic was Mesa Verde, where I took the time to photograph every ruin I saw but only came back with a few images.
One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety
1990 was another big year for travel. 1st I drove across the country with my brother, all the way from Paso Robles, California, to Durham, North Carolina. Then I took another road trip to Vancouver, Canada.
Yosemite National Park, 1990
When we set off on our cross-country trip our course took us through Yosemite. Being California Natives, we had been to the park a few times before so we thought we’d drive straight through with minimal stops. At the entrance gate we asked the ranger how long traversing the park would take, and when she said four hours we thought that was a serious overestimation. Since we wouldn’t be stopping it shouldn’t take but a couple of hours. So we went through, ended up stopping all along the way, and made it to the east gate in almost exactly four hours
The two photos of Saint Louis below are from the cross-country trip. The photo of my Honda in the Redwoods is from my trip to Vancouver.
Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri – 1990
Gateway Arch – St. Louis, Missouri – 1990
When traveling, I always check the map for the side roads. This is a little road that cut in from Hwy 101 through the forest and connected back at some point farther north.
North Cascades National Park, Washington – 1990
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – 1990
I’m going to call this Oregon. They may have been in Washington, but I think not.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon – 1990
Lassen Volcanic National Park – 1990
Lassen Volcanic National Park. This looks like Sulfur Springs – 1990
Kings Beach, California – 1990. “Mr. Video” was the old site of “Kings Beach Liquors”, the store my parents used to own in the late ’60s. My first memories were in the apartment upstairs.
Pinnacles National Monument, before it was a National Park. 1990
One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety One
The photos below are near the town I lived in between 1974 and 1999. The first three from Black Hill in Morro Bay, and the motorcycle photo was from the top of Cuesta Ridge between San Luis Obispo and Atascadero.
This is looking east towards San Luis Obispo. Hollister Peak is in the background. Nearly the entire farm in the foreground has since been reclaimed by native plants along Chorro Creek.
Morro Bay has been described as an enchanting seaside village. This photo shows its two most famous landmarks – The volcanic plug that is Morro Rock, and the stacks of the old PG&E power plant.
Looking over the estuary of Morro Bay towards Los Osos, where I lived.
Most of my friends wouldn’t take me for a biker, but for a few years in the late ’90s this cycle took me everywhere.
The photo of the mustard flowers was on Old Creek Road that goes through the hills between Cayucos, California, and Highway 46. I am lucky to live is this area. I’ve often said that if I had passed though an area like this in all of my travels, I’d want to move here.
The photos below are from the San Luis Obispo train station. I was heavily into trains in the ’90s and 2000s, and have more photos than I probably should of the subject. The locomotive below is painted in what was called the “Kodachrome” scheme, a name taken from the color slide film that Paul Simon didn’t want his momma taking from him. Of course, over the years both disappeared.
Another year, another road trip. This was my first time traveling with a companion. My cousin knew of my love for the road, and so he suggested that we meet at his home in San Jose and head north to wherever we ended up. Each night we arrived at a motel with no idea where we would be the next day. This was a great way to travel when I could tell my boss that I was heading on a road trip and would call him when I got back to town. I’m not sure that would work anymore. I’ve grown accustomed to having a plan and actually getting to my daily destination while there’s still light in the sky.
Lava Beds National Monument, California – 1991
World’s First Nuclear Power Plant, Arco, Idaho – 1991
Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho – 1991
Arches National Park, Utah – 1991
Delicate Arch from afar – Arches National Park – 1991
Delicate Arch from a-close – Arches National Park – 1991
My second trip of 1991 was to visit my brother back east. He had moved from North Carolina and was now living just outside of Philadelphia. I flew out to see him with the same cousin from the Idaho trip, and we made daily road trips from our Philadelphia base.
This is Penn’s Cave in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania. It was a slow day and it was just me, my cousin, and the tour guide driving the boat. We told him that he could skip the spiel and we would just enjoy the view, but it was not to be. He pointed his light as we passed by the named landmarks and droned on and on: “An Elephant’s Butt,” he would seem to say as we first saw a formation. Then, as we passed by he repeated, “An Elephant’s…(pause)…Butt.”
This shot is from Cape May, New Jersey, as we waited for the incoming ferry that would take us across the mouth of Delaware Bay to Lewes, Delaware.
Boston, Massachusetts – 1991
Lobster Sandwiches and Clam Tenders at a Boston McDonalds.
You learned about it in school and now here it is, the famous Plymouth Rock – landing site of the Mayflower. Just a bit underwhelming. See the line cutting diagonally across the left side? That’s where it had to be cemented back together after being dropped and broken in half.
The Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. – 1991
The Jefferson Memorial, photographed from the top of the Washington Monument.
Also from the top of the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial. The roundish pool near the bottom of the frame is now home to the World War II Memorial.
The Capitol Building from the top of the Washington Monument. When visiting the National Mall we asked someone where the Smithsonian Institution was. We were pointed in every direction. All of the buildings lining the mall between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building in this picture are buildings of the Smithsonian.
I’m a big Star Trek fan, and have been ever since I could remember. The original 11-foot filming model hung in the Air and Space Museum when we visited in 1991. Since then has moved to the gift shop where it deteriorated as it hung there for years. In 2014 it began a two-year mission of restoration, the Smithsonian staff bringing it back to it’s original condition and put on display in the Milestones of Flight exhibit.
Washington, D.C. – 1991
My favorite building, the Chrysler Building, sits in the center of this shot from the top of the Empire State Building. Also visible is the Pan Am building, for those of us who remember Pan-Am Airways.
Looking south from the Empire State Building – 1991
Upper New York Bay and The World Trade Center – 1991
This is my favorite photo from New York. I really like the contrast between the textured buildings and the concrete monoliths that were the Twin Towers.
Approaching Ellis Island. This is the where about 12 million immigrants, including my Italian father, entered the United States between 1892 and 1954.
The Statue of Liberty at dusk.
What do you do in Pennsylvania when you have a car and your brother is at work all day? Drive out to Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Harrisburg, of course.
One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety Two
1992 was spent mostly near home. And by “near home” I mean anywhere within 300 miles.
This tree is on Los Osos Valley Road between San Luis Obispo and Los Osos. I always thought of it as the brain of Los Osos. Do you see the cerebrum and brain stem?
One of my first night photos. This is in the harbor of Morro Bay.
The Lone Cypress(tm). On the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, California, this tree and the surrounding property is a private development. As such, the tree’s image is trademarked, and any artist who doesn’t have $50,000 to fight a lawsuit will just have to avoid selling pictures of the tree.
Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay – 1992
You won’t see this show anymore. Marine World in Vallejo, California – 1992
San Diego Zoo – 1992
These are the kinds of screwy shots that got me where I am now. Just shoot it and see what happens, and don’t let anybody tell you you’re a nut.
And here’s the setup for that picture at The Salty Pelican restaurant where I worked for the man who let me take all the time off for these travels.
Some more scenes from Morro Bay, California.
Finally, some photos from Yosemite National Park in the spring of 1992.
One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety Three
Many more local photos taken throughout California.
Montaña de Oro State Park near Los Osos, California.
Morro Rock taken from Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos.
This farm photo was taken near Hollister, California.
And the moon over some of the hills around Hollister.
This was shot with my favorite film – Kodak Ektar 25 print film. It’s big claim to fame was that it was the finest grain color print film, but I liked it for the high contrast prints it produced.
Getting all artsy at the Los Osos Community Park.
Try the weird stuff. Especially now that you’re not paying for film.
More along the back roads of San Luis Obispo County.
I believe that these two were taken on Santa Rita Creek Road.
This one was taken on Stenner Creek Road just up Highway 1 north of San Luis Obispo.
The American Motorcycle Association races at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francsico – 1993
I don’t take many pictures of people, and I took even less back in the nineties, but this shot is one of my all-time favorites.
Mother and child, shot on Kodak Tri-X film.
This photo is from Los Osos…
…and this one is from the Salton Sea
One Thousand Nine Hundred Ninety Four through Nineteen Ninety Nine
I don’t have many photos scanned from this period. I was mostly shooting slide film, plus in the late nineties all of my camera gear was stolen. My photos up until this time were printed so I could tell by the dates the photo lab put on the prints about when they were shot. With slides, I just have a box of them with no identification. Here are a few photos from the period between 1994 and 1999.
Upper left: Pismo beach or Avila beach. Lower left: Morro Bay. Above: Los Osos.
I’m going to say, based on my other motorcycle picture, that this was taken in 1993. I had two cameras so it’s conceivable that I had one with slide film and one with print film in them at the time.
I was heavy into model trains in the nineties. I have LOTS of train photos.
That’s the end of Part I – Go to part II, the new millennia when I move into the digital age.
Terrific! The images were well selected and the narrative was enjoyable. I look forward to seeing and reading parts 2 & 3.