A Wedding Photographer’s Travels: Destination California

I have been told by clients and friends that I should explain a little more about my travels when I do a travel blog. I guess, a wedding, is pretty self explanatory, but people want more info about when and where I am and what I might be up to when traveling. Although, I won’t make it quite as detailed as someone coming over to my house and sitting through a photo by photo explanation of each slide projected on the wall, I’ll do my best to give a basic outline.

My trip to California was spurred by a Chapter One shoot for Maura and Tim. We shot at a local park near Anaheim and then spent the rest of the day shooting at the Disneyland Resort. It was an amazing time and I had a lot of fun and afterward I decided to head a little north of Southern California to check out the sights.

After two days at Disneyland, I woke up reasonably early and headed out of town. I noticed that the Richard Nixon Library and Museum was close by when I was scouting out Google maps and how I was going to head north to Death Valley. I really wanted to visit the Ronald Reagan Library as well, and since I was so close, I decided to spend a few hours here first on my way out of town. Overall, the Nixon Library was pretty fantastic. They had just gone through a major renovation so I was there within a week or two of all of the refurbishments and I was quite pleased. I really wanted to see the actual Marine One helicopter that President Nixon left the Whitehouse in because it’s pretty much a piece of American history in itself. Between the Nixon and Reagan museums, I also got to see two replicas of the Oval Office. The one at the Nixon Museum, you could actually walk through and even sit in the desk which I watched a few other tourists do. I really appreciated the docents at the Nixon Library for their personal touch and wonderful information that they shared. To be clear, both the staff at Nixon’s and Reagan’s libraries were so extremely friendly and helpful, I was surprised and happy at their willingness to share and their commitment to really be helpful. These people clearly enjoy their jobs and it really shows.

Nixon Museum CaliforniaAfter I left the Nixon Library, I headed north to Death Valley up through the edge of the Mojave Desert. My goal was to end up in Badwater Basin by sunset so that I could not only shoot the sun setting but also do a little astrophotography, something that I have had no experience with before. I’ve got to be honest and admit that the astrophotography I produced was dismal at best. I was in the middle of a giant salt bed in the desert and although I had flashlights and a headlamp, I couldn’t see crap after dark and I did a terrible job of achieving focus. I did learn a lot though and I hope that I’ll be a little more prepared next time. Altogether, Death Valley and the east side of the Sierra’s was a very interesting landscape. Around every corner, the earth was a different color and shape. The salt in Badwater was sharp and it tasted like, you guessed it…salt! The sunset was beautiful and the sunrise was even better, except I had to share that view with some other tourists. I was the only one out there in the middle of the night though 🙂

badwater-basin-salt-photographer

After leaving Death Valley National Park, I drove for about seven hours around the Sierra Nevadas to Sequoia National Forest. I stayed in a wonderful little cabin which is part of the John Muir Lodge. After camping the night before in the desert, it was great to have a bathroom and shower again. They also had a very nice general store with some really reasonably priced beer and pizza which was a wonderful surprise after being price gouged the previous night in Death Valley. I arrived just after sunset, enjoyed the food, beer and watched the stars from outside of my cabin.

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I’m the type of person that likes to push myself to experience every little bit of life that is possible when I’m traveling. A normal person will do one or two things in a day and feel like they have accomplished a decent amount. If I know that I’m only in a certain place for a brief time, which is usually the case when I travel, I will literally pack every moment of the day with sight seeing and then get up and do the same thing the next day.

The next morning, I awoke early and headed out to see the big trees. The trees were beautiful, impressive and smelled delicious. Of all of the things that I have seen in my life, one of the most, if not the most fantastic sight that I have seen is the look out from Panoramic Point. The road to the trail is only wide enough for one car so it can be a little tricky as it winds up the mountain but from there, it’s a short hike and the view is glorious. It didn’t hurt that I was there in the off season and by myself the entire time.

 

King's Canyon Panoramic Point

Driving through King’s Canyon took a large chunk of my day and I finally made it to my little canyon cottage in Topanga just before sunset. I’m so glad that I pushed myself to get there before I lost the sun because I might have been really lost if I couldn’t see where I was. It took me a good twenty minutes to actually find my cabin but it was well worth it. This accommodation fit me very well. The shower and hot tub were outside along with the toilet so it definitely is not for everyone, but I loved every minute of it. Plus, they had really good wifi which I had not had for a few days.

I ended up staying a day and a half longer than I was originally expecting, so it allowed me to do a lot more. Instead of waking up and rushing to the airport, I was able to enjoy nature for a little longer. I was greeted by a variety of birds outside the cottage as well as a coyote.

I’m really glad that I got to visit the Ronald Reagan Library. I enjoyed the Richard Nixon Library as well but the sheer size of the Reagan Library and the ability to walk through Air Force One really makes it stand out. The museum is full of wonderful exhibits, great docents and the view from the cafe can’t be beat. You also can see an actual piece of the Berlin Wall!

Ronald Reagan Museum HangarRonald Reagen Museum Photographer

The rest of my day I spent checking out pop history, visiting some landmarks that were special to me and celebrating the lives of some people that I admire. Part of the Reagan Museum, was an exhibit on how technology effects pop culture and vice versa. It was pretty cool to see The Rocketeer helmet and Marty’s hover board from Back to the Future II.

I wasn’t interested in going on a studio back lot tour but there were a few places that I had always wanted to see. I did a little bit of research on Google and found my way to Buffy’s house and Sunnydale High School from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then I went and saw Daniel’s apartment complex from the original Karate Kid. Geek stuff, I know, but it was really cool for me.

I went to two cemeteries. One to see Walt Disney and the other to see Natalie Wood. They were both quite interesting. The Forest Lawn Cemetery is remarkable and the artwork there is on par with some of the best museums I’ve been to. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures but there is an amazing giant stained glass recreation of Leonardo’s “The Last Supper,” which really has to be seen in person to appreciate. I also saw some trinket’s left for Michael Jackson outside of his mausoleum but only family is permitted inside. I had also heard that Marilyn Monroe was very close to where Natalie was buried, so I took a minute to find her grave as well.

I rounded out my trip with a visit to the Getty Villa and Museum and about an hour at the beach.

I would have loved to visit Griffith Park but it didn’t happen because of time but it’s a must on my next trip to Los Angeles. Thanks for following along.

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