Thirty Years of Photography (Part IV 2015-2019)

Nikon D7200 Digital Camera

First off, I want to apologize for being so late on this last installment in my Thirty Years of Photography series – I had originally planned on having this all up by September of 2019. But then I went off to Yellowstone and had those 2,000 photos to dig through, and I decided that it would be best to put the new stuff up before continuing on this series. Well, September’s culling of images turned into October of editing, November of writing titles and descriptions (the hardest and least enjoyable part of photography for me,) and then there were holidays and before I knew it 2020 had arrived.

I’ll admit that I cheated a bit on this last installment. Since I started this website at the end of 2018 I had already written a 2018 in review and since this is a 30-year series that started in 1989, 2019 really doesn’t count because that would be the 31st year. You can, of course, see all of 2019 photos in my “Latest Uploads” blog posts.

Be sure to read PART ONE (1989-1999), PART TWO (2001-2009), and PART THREE (2010-2015) of my Thirty Years of Photography Series if you haven’t already.

So as they say, without further ado, I present the last entry in my Thirty Years of Photography series.

The Year Two Thousand and Fifteen

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Ronald Reagan Statue at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

In January of 2015 we were looking for a day trip, and we found it in a three-hour drive to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The museum’s proximity to us and the promise of seeing one of the few Air Force One aircraft that are on display inspired us to go. As a bonus, when we visited the world renowned Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles was closed for renovations and they had lent some of their rarest cars to the Reagan Library.

Air Force One at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Air Force One 27000, a specially modified Boeing 707, was used by Presidents Richard Nixon through George W. Bush.

Khrushchev's 1962 Chaika at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

This 1962 Chaika was the official parade car of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

"Pack'd" [1938 Packard Super 8 Parade Phaeton at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, California]

This 1938 Packard belonged to Argentine strongman Juan Peron.

Charles Paddock Zoo – Atascadero, California

Closer to home, the town of Atascadero, California, is home to a small zoo that I visit from time to time. Zoo photos are tough because I don’t want them to look like snapshots in a zoo, so I usually go for the close-up shots.

"Pyramid" [Aldabra Tortoise Shell in Charles Paddock Zoo, Atascadero, California]

Can you guess what this is? Click on the photo to see if you’re right.

"That's the Spot" [American Flamingo at Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, California]

The Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero has a nice flamingo display. The enclosure’s backdrop is perfect when the sun hits the birds and it goes into shadow.

New England Cruise

We took another cruise in 2015, this time on the Holland America ship MS Maasdam from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Monteal, Canada. This cruise turned out a bit less than stellar, though. When you get to the cruise dock and they tell you that there was a norovirus outbreak on the last cruise but “everything is under control,” take the refund and rent a car. Of course that’s easier said than done when you find out just a couple of hours before your ship is set to sail. Everything started off well, but the ambiance of the ship wasn’t helped with streaks of disinfectant running down all the brass surfaces. As the trip progressed it was obvious that they had not contained the outbreak. Not only were there announcements to report to the crew if you were getting sick, but crew members started disappearing one by one. First the cruise director was out of commission, then the excellent head chef who prepared our allergen-free meals seemed to have been replaced by one who didn’t have the culinary skill. There were unexpected shutdowns around the ship, too. Hot tubs were closed. You couldn’t even check out a game of checkers from the library. DVDs were no longer available as they were being reserved for the unfortunate guests who were stuck in their cabins.

"Everyone Has a Story" [People on the Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida]

We had a chance to take a walk around Fort Lauderdale before boarding the ship. This is one of those weird photos that I like for some reason that I can’t explain.

"The Promenade Deck" [Cruise Ship MS Maasdam on the Atlantic Ocean]

"Mother Emanuel" [Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina]

Left: This is the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church In Charleston, South Carolina, a historic church whose story goes all the way back to pre Civil War days. It’s a beautiful building, but our memories took a dark turn when only six weeks after our visit it became the site of the mass murder of nine people in a bible study group.

"Excellence" [Container Ship near Charleston, South Carolina]

The MOL Excellence was coming into port as we left Charleston.

"Door Number 15" [Front Door and Windows on a Colonial Home in Newport, Rhode Island]

We stumbled upon this house while walking about Newport, Rhode Island, near the marina. It was built in 1802 and has obviously seen some remodeling since then.

"House of Worship" [Saint Saviour's Episcopal Church  in Bar Harbor, Maine]

One of our stops was Bar Harbor, Maine, where we visited the beautiful Saint Saviour’s Episcopal Church.

"Fill 'er Up" [Workman Aboard a Fuel Tanker in Halifax, Nova Scotia]

This gentleman was aboard the Algoma Dartmouth, a refueling ship tending to the Maasdam in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"Baldt Is Beautiful" [Anchor on the Corvette HMCS Sackville in Halifax, Nova Scotia]

This anchor belongs to the HMCS Sackville, a World War II corvette that was also in Nova Scotia.

Things went downhill for me in Sydney, Nova Scotia. We got off the ship and entered a peddler’s fair where locals were selling their crafts. I wasn’t feeling too good, and by the time we left I had to sit down on a bench outside. I sent my companion to find a bathroom, but before she returned I had to make a run for a dumpster. Unfortunately for me (and the sorry soul who had to deal with the aftermath) the lit was closed, and I only managed to open it a few inches before – well, lets just say my breakfast was left mostly on the lid. I returned to the ship, crawled into bed, and sent my friend on her way to explore the town without me. I make it a point to get a souvenir from each ship we travel on. I have three ship-shaped Christmas ornaments from prior cruises, on this cruise my trinket was a specimen cup cheerfully provided by the medical staff. I spent two days in bed (well, except for frequent trips to the head,) but by the morning of the third day I was feeling well enough that I was cleared to leave our cabin. I went to Cap-aux-Meules, Quebec, but this time my companion was the one who stayed in bed. That worked out, because she managed to avoid the brunt of the disease (although we’re pretty sure she got a mild case.) By the time we got to Saguenay we were both back up to speed.

Stateroom on the MS Maasdam
Stateroom on the MS Maasdam
"Starting Line" [Lobster Boats in L'Etang-du-Nord, Quebec, Canada]

What does a photographer do when stuck in bed on a cruise? Why start photographing everything in the room, of course. The above shots are a sampling of my photos from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Right: Lobster boats in the town of L’Étang-du-Nord on the island of Cap aux Meules get ready for the opening of lobster season.

"Yield" [Detail of the Pyramide des Ha Ha in La Baie, Quebec]

The borough of La Baie in Saguenay, Quebec, has an interesting memorial to the floods of 1996, the Pyramide Des Ha! Ha!

"Aluminum" [Pyramid des Ha! Ha! in Saguenay, Quebec]

The exterior skin of the Pyramide is made up of 3,000 yield signs. The interior is a monochrome contrast to the bright red and white signs that make up the exterior skin.

"Maasdam" [Holland America Cruise Ship in Saguenay, Quebec]

Above is the Maasdam in port at Saguenay. On the right is old Montreal.

Late Lunch -- Two Friends Have a Meal in Quebec City, Canada

Avila Beach, California

As you can tell I’ve done a lot of traveling, places that you’ve read about already and other places you’ll soon see. But of all the things I’ve traveled the world to see, the most amazing of them all was only a thirty minute drive from home when migrating humpback whales paid a visit to Avila Beach, California.

"The One That Got Away" [Humpback Whale at Avila Beach, California]

These two photos were taken from the Avila Beach pier – no boat required!

"Join Me For Lunch?" [Humpback Whales at Avila Beach, California]

The RMS Queen Mary and San Diego California

In late 2015 we took a couple of road trips south. The first to spend a night on the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, and the other to San Diego.

"The Gray Ghost" [RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California]
"The Crow's Nest" [RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California]

The RMS Queen Mary

"Stacked" [Grande Condominium Tower in San Diego, California]
"Santa Fe" [Talavera Tile at the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego, California]

A condo and the old Santa Fe depot in San Diego

Two Thousand and Sixteen

Lick Observatory – Near San Jose, California

With my family living in the Bay Area, we often find ourselves in San Jose. This year started with a visit to the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton just east of San Jose. It has expanded from the original building to include a mountaintop of domes.

"Keep Your Eyes on the Stars" [Telescope at Lick Observatory near San Jose, California]
"Skywatchers" [Telescope Domes at Lick Observatory near San Jose, California]

Florida Road Trip

For my 49th birthday in February we flew to the land of alligators and spaceships – Florida – where we rented a car for a week. Here are a couple of photos from that trip, but for many more plus the story of our road trip, see my 2016 Florida Adventure blog post. (But don’t leave now…I’ll have links to this and other stories at the bottom of this page.)

American Alligator at Florida Everglades National Park
"Beautiful Vehicle" [Space Shuttle Atlantis in Kennedy Space Center, Florida]

Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Another day-trip from home is the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is one of the premier birding locations in California, and it’s where thousands of sandhill cranes, Ross’s geese, and snow geese (along with ducks, raptors, and others) come for the winter. You can always count on seeing lots of long lenses, spotting scopes, and binoculars at the refuge

Photographers at Merced National Wildlife Refuge
Child Watching Birds at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge
"Geese With Flare" [Flock of Geese at Merced National Wildlife Refuge, California]
"Coming In for a Landing" [White Tailed Kite at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, California]
"Morning in Merced" [Sunrise at Merced National Wildlife Refuge, California]

Santa Margarita, California

Another great local locale is Santa Margarita. This is a small western town along Highway 58 that seems like you can drive through in about two minutes, but once you leave “downtown” Santa Margarita seems to go out into the hills forever. Shell Creek Road, about 20 miles from downtown, is well-known for it’s extraordinary bloom of wildflowers each spring. Many come to enjoy the view, others to just play among the pretty colors.

Leaping and Spinning in Santa Margarita, CA.
"Growing Like a Weed" [Girl Sitting in Wildflower Field in Santa Margarita, California]

Morro Bay, California

The town of Morro Bay takes advantage of the winds coming off the Pacific Ocean to host an annual kite festival. Just make sure you choose your lens carefully, this is not a place where you want to be changing lenses and exposing your sensor the blowing sand.

Morro Bay Kite Festival
Morro Bay Kite Festival

Alaska Cruise & Road Trip

For months we had been planning a trip to Alaska. We had tickets to board the Celebrity Millennium from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Anchorage, Alaska. Once in Alaska we would rent a car and tool around for eight days.

And then the company I worked for got bought out and I got laid off about six weeks before departure.

The first thing people asked me was if I was still going to Alaska. Well, what the heck else am I going to do? Because the trip required so much planning (you can’t just pull into a Motel 6 outside of Denali National Park) we had reserved and prepaid for virtually the whole trip. So off we went on cruise number seven. The first photo is from the Inside Passage just south of Skagway, Alaska. The iceberg pictures are in Disenchantment Bay near Hubbard Glacier.

"Cruising the Inside Passage" [Celebrity Millenium Cruise Ship in The Inside Passage, Alaska]
"Layer Upon Layer" [Iceberg in Disenchantment Bay, Alaska]
"Cold Feet" [Bald Eagle on an Iceberg in Disenchantment Bay, Alaska]
"Ice Water" [Iceberg in Disenchantment Bay, Alaska]

After our cruise we picked of our rental car in Anchorage. It was an interesting experience, renting a car in Alaska. We had a pass to drive the Denali Park Road, something that most people don’t get to do, but all the big-name rental agencies have a “no dirt road” policy. In Alaska there are a lot of potential dirt roads, so we went with a local company that didn’t have any such restriction. And so when we went to pick up the car we were given the keys to a lovely Chevy Sprint. One that was an absolute filthy, tobacco smelling, disaster. After our protests we were put into a Chrysler 300 that was in much better shape – well, except for the star-shaped crack in the windshield right in front of the passenger’s seat. And the completely useless windshield wipers that were so bad we had to stop at an auto parts store for replacements. And then there were the brakes that made a weird noise. I think maybe next time we’ll just get a Hertz car and not tell them we took the Denali Park Road.

Rental Car with Road Travel Permit

Denali Park Road

I haven’t mentioned it before, but I guess I’ll say now that my best friend and travel companion is autistic. That makes riding a bus for eight hours impossible, and so we got the special pass that let us take our car all the way into the park. That let us see things like this snowshoe hare tucked away under the trees, and it let us get out of the vehicle for photos like the one of the dall sheep.

"A Little Gray Hare" [Snowshoe Hare in Denali National Park, Alaska]
"Hello Dally!" [Dall Sheep in Denali Naitonal Park, Alaska]
Denali Mountain Morning Hostel

Our cabin at the Denali Mountain Morning Hostel (now called the Denali Hostel and Cabins) where we spent two nights. This was easily the funkiest place we stayed on the trip, but also the best.

"Down the Tubes" [Trans-Alaska Pipeline near Richardson Highway, Alaska]

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline parallels the Richardson Highway and is often visible from the road.

"River of Ice" [Matanuska Glacier near Sutton, Alaska]
"Glacier Trek" [Hiking on Matanuska Glacier near Sutton, Alaska]
"Not As Cuddly As I Look" [North American Porcupine in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska]

Left: Hiking on the Matanuska Glacier. Above: A porcupine in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

I knew this opportunity wouldn’t likely come again, so when we returned from Alaska we decided to make the most of my severance pay package and I decided to take a few months off for adventure. This made 2016 a good year for travel. We’d already been to Florida and Alaska, so we made it a year of road trips starting with a short camping trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

"Banana Boats" [Kayaks at Hume Lake Christian Camps, California]

These boats were at the Hume Lake Christian Camp near Kings Canyon National Park.

"White Water" [Kings River in Giant Sequoia National Monument, California]

I was gifted a very dark neutral-density filter, and so I used it to make some mid-day long exposure photos of the Kings River.

Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lava Beds National Monument

Soon after Sequoia and Kings was a longer camping trip, this time to Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lava Beds National Monument in northern California.

"Velvet" [Black-Tailed Deer in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California]
"Hell On Earth" [Steam Vents at Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California]
"The Dragon's Lair" [Skull Cave in Lava Beds National Monument, California]

Southwestern United States Road Trip

Then it was off with with our tent to the Southwestern United States with stops at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, Saguaro National Park in Arizona, and points between.

"At the Triassic Sawmill" [Petrified Tree in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona]

Carlsbad Caverns Natural Entrance
"The Witch's Closet" [Witch's Broom Formation in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico]
"Deserted" [Picnic Area in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico]
"Hula Yucca" [Soaptree Yucca in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico]
"Standing Watch" [Bird on Saguaro Cactus in Saguaro National Park, Arizona]

Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, California

Between our travels, I found time to take a few local shots as well…

"Church Altar" [Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, California]

This Greek Orthodox church in Santa Barbara would have been just as much at home on Santorini.

"Depiction of Christ" [Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, California]
"Classic Cinema" [Art Deco Movie Theater in San Luis Obispo, California]

The Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo is a classic art deco building from the 1940s.

Death Valley National Park

Late in the year we took another trip, this time to spend a few days camping in Death Valley National Park.

"Erosion" [Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, California]
"Monochrome Palette" [Artists Drive in Death Valley National Park, California]
"Getting Toasted in the Desert" [Woman Drinking Wine in Death Valley National Park, California]

San Francisco, California

We rounded out a heavy travel year with a visit to San Francisco, this trip sans tent. For the full story have a look at my Two Days in San Francisco blog.

Holy Virgin Cathedral Russian Orthodox Church, San Francisco
"Hillary" [Condominium with Hillary Clinton Campaign Poster in San Francisco, California]

Two Thousand and Seventeen

Santa Margarita, California

After all our 2017 travels, 2018 was kept mostly close to home – “close,” of course, being a relative term. I was still jobless, and it was time to save money and hit the pavement looking for work. That didn’t mean that we were totally grounded. San Luis Obispo County is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, and with all the traveling I’ve done over the years that’s saying a lot. If I didn’t live here and passed through on vacation I’d look around and want to move here.

"Air Raid" [Cropduster Helicopter in Templeton, California]
"I Won't Steer You Wrong" [Two Steer in a Field of Flowers in Santa Margarita, California]
"Amazing Graze" [American Bison in Santa Margarita, California]

"Skydance" [Clouds and Wildflowers at Carrizo Plain National Monument, California]
"If It Ain't Broke..." [Aermotor 702 Windmill in San Luis Obispo County, California]
"The Bird in the Foil Mask" [Anna's Hummingbird in Templeton, California]

We kept two hummingbird feeders at our house, one in the back yard near a pepper tree and the other hanging on our front porch.

"Raspberry" [Anna's Hummingbird in Templeton, California]
"Energy Drink" [Anna's Hummingbird in Templeton, California]

Poly Canyon – California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Tucked away up a canyon in San Luis Obispo are the ruins of a strange city, the Poly Canyon Architectural Design Village. For forty years, Cal Poly architecture students built experimental structures in the hills behind the school. There are about twenty structures there with such names as Shell House, Stick Structure, and Modular House. Some are made of concrete, some of wood and metal, all are interesting.

"Underground House" [Poly Canyon Architectural Design Village in San Luis Obispo, California]
"Welcome Home" [Poly Canyon Architectural Design Village in San Luis Obispo, California]

Templeton, California

My brother loaned us his 55mm macro lens, so I spent some time in our garden photographing some of the smaller inhabitants of Templeton.

"Copper Blades" [Gorgon Copper Butterfly in Templeton, California]
Jumping Spider in Templeton, California
"The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" [Jumping Spider in Templeton, California]

2017 Solar Eclipse Road Trip

By June of 2017 I was back at work, but that didn’t stop us from taking a few days off and heading up to Oregon to see the solar eclipse. You can read all about that on my 2017 Total Solar Eclipse blog post.

"Corona" by Darin Vople -- 2017 Solar Eclipse In Independence, Oregon
"Spiny Alien Invaders" [Dry Teasel Flowers at E.E. Wilson Game Management Area, Oregon]

Paso Robles Custom Car Show

Every year Paso Robles hosts one of the state’s best custom car shows. It’s always a great place to get some nice industrial art photos while practicing how to stay out of reflections on shiny surfaces.

"It's a Bird! It's a Plane!" [1955 Chevy Bel Air Hood Ornament at Paso Robles Car Show, California]
"Classic" [1955 Chevy Bel Air at Paso Robles Classic Car Show, California]
"Cruisin' with Bob" [1957 Ford Thunderbird and Big Boy at Paso Robles Classic Car Show, California]
"Golden Gazelle" [Chevrolet Hood Ornament at Paso Robles Classic Car Show, California]

Morro Bay, California

Morro Bay is a bird lover’s paradise. Each winter thousands of species of bird come to spend the winter. Just another reason why I think I live in the best place in the country.

"Puff Ball" [Western Snowy Plover at Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California]
"A Stroll on the Beach" [Long-Billed Curlew at Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California]

Nevada / Palm Springs, California, Road Trip

By the end of the year I had accumulated a few days of vacation that I had to use before the end of December. Where’s a good place to go in the middle of December? Las Vegas, baby! Las Vegas is a great launch point to explore the Nevada desert. One of my favorite state parks, Valley of Fire, is just a day trip away and in my opinion a far better destination than the much closer Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We also went to visit Hoover Dam and took a walk along the historic railroad trail.

Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
Paris Las Vegas Hotel

The Treasure Island Hotel and Casino and the Paris Las Vegas Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada

"Sedimentary Layers" [Sandstone Rock Formations in Valley of Fire State Park, California]

Valley of Fire State Park

"Tunnel of Love" [Historic Railroad Trail in Boulder City, Nevada]

Historic Railroad Trail

After spending three nights in Vegas we turned south to visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, California. This is an excellent zoo that not only has a nice collection of animals, but it is one of the few places where the plants are identified as well.

African Wild Dog at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Desert, CA.
"A Puma By Any Other Name" [Mountain Lion at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Desert, California]

We went to see the animals, but most of my photos were of the incredible G-scale model railroad. This train layout covers 3/4 of an acre and has nearly 1,000 of mainline track, 3,000 feet of track if you include all of yards and sidings. This train set is a reason to visit on its own, but be sure you check the schedule because they close the layout down in the hottest months of summer.

Model Railroad at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Desert, CA.
Model Railroad at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Desert, CA.

Atascadero, California

And the year ended with a rare visit to Atascadero Lake by a pair of bald eagles. It seemed that every day for a couple of weeks Facebook would have posts from nearly every photographer in town. Some were apparently so excited by the ducks that they failed to look right overhead.

Photographers at Atascadero Lake
"Two Heads Are Better Than One" [Wildlife Photographers in Atascadero, California]
"Tranquility Base" [Bald Eagle at Atascadero Lake Park, Atascadero, California]

Two Thousand and Eighteen & Two Thousand and Nineteen

At the end of 2018 I published a year in review, a month-by-month overview of everything we did that year. Since that would be the last year of my 30 Years of Photography Series, it would be a bit pointless to rewrite what’s already been complete. And since this series started with 1989, 2019 would actually be the 31st year, so I’m going to omit it here. Take a look at the blog posts in the archive to see what was new for 2019, and I’ll be continuing to post my new photography and stories as they are made.

Thank You!

Thanks for reading all about how this whole thing started. See below for the links to the blog posts referenced above, and don’t forget to sign up for updates to stay up to date on what I’m doing!

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