California, here we come!

Posted on December 2, 2011 by Holly Hayes
Part of: California and Vegas Road Trip

Tap, tap. Blow. Is this thing on? Tomorrow we leave for California, so the blog is back!

Off to California!

We're heading out on a road trip for three weeks or so, with a rough itinerary as shown above. The main goal of the trip, besides having lots of fun and enjoying the sunshine, is to take photos for my new website ("Go Historic," which hopefully you'll finally get to see in Jan or Feb 2012). It covers historic and cultural stuff of all kinds, so that means old houses, modern architecture, art museums, bridges, ghost towns, and all kinds of fun stuff besides churches!

Los Angeles will be the main focus of the trip; we'll spend as long as a week there. I've been through a couple of times but never properly explored it - being a movie fanatic, that just seems wrong! And it's been quite awhile since David's last visit. So I'm determined to see all the studios, museums, and movie locations we can pack in.

We'll also take maybe a week getting to L.A., with stops planned in southern Oregon, the Redwoods, the San Francisco area, and the Spanish missions along Highway 101. After L.A. we'll play it by ear, but we have general plans to dip into Arizona, stop over in Vegas, and enjoy some snow in Utah on the way home.

IMG_7607a Emma assumes her usual pre-trip position.

It hasn't been too hard to get ready this time - after getting used to long trips overseas, a few weeks in the same country in our own car seems like a piece of cake! So preparation has been pretty easy, except that I made it a bit harder on myself by getting some new equipment that comes with a learning curve. It's great stuff, though, which I think in the end will help me do my travel and photography tasks better. [Warning: If gadgetry bores you, begin skimming now!]

Macbook Air

The first new gadget is a Macbook Air laptop (right). It's beautiful, but more importantly it is super-thin and super-light - only 2.96 pounds! And every pound counts when you are lugging around so much equipment.

It also comes with iPhoto, a program with a lot of cool features that should make my photo workflow (and therefore blogging workflow) a lot faster. For example, I can upload photos directly to Flickr or Facebook with a couple clicks, which saves me a ton of steps! Yay! Maybe I can blog and make it to bed by midnight now!

But I haven't used an Apple computer much before, so it's a bit of a new world! Even the most basic things work differently than I'm used to, so it took a day or two of exploring to get comfortable with it. Also, since my main computer is a PC, I had to do some research and workarounds to make sure my external photo storage drive will be compatible with both computers. But I think I've got it all under control now, and I'm looking forward to putting it to work soon!


Another new addition to the family is a wide-angle lens (14 mm), which is not hard to use but will take some practice to use the right way. It does a great job of keeping things straight if you're careful, but things can get pretty wild if you hold it at the wrong angle! It's great fun, though, and I think it will really be useful for all those big buildings in California. And now that I think about it, dinner plates! Here are some test shots at home today:

Evening view from the porch

Cat and entire bookshelf, taken as normal from eye level - but it looks like I'm a giant! Neato!

Cat with unusually skinny-looking face - I haven't tested yet if that works on people! I was right up by her nose for this one; it's very cool the way it creates depth.

3-D paw.

Backed up a bit, which the cat prefers.

The giant flash (not my photo or camera model, but gives you an idea of how it looks).

And finally, I got an external flash in case I might need it on the dark December days of our trip. At this point I'm a bit skeptical, and may end up returning it if I don't use it. I actually haven't used a flash for years; my camera doesn't have one built in.

That has been fine, because mostly I hate how flash pictures look. But sometimes it is so dark that I can't take a picture at all, and that's lame. Plus, there are situations in dim light where a flash can fill in the shadows and look really nice - if you know what you're doing, which I don't!

I just got the flash from Amazon today and have only tried it out a little bit. So far the jury's out. It's easy to use: just slide it on the top of the camera, lock it in, and shoot as normal. But it's a huge accessory that definitely attracts attention, which I don't like - David said I looked like a wedding photographer, and it's true. And I don't know how to make pretty pictures with a flash yet.

Here's my attempt at using bounce flash (an indirect flash off the ceiling). Nice, yes?

OK, I'd better get back to packing! Next time: actual travel photos!