Perfect Sunset, Perfect Location

Where else on Earth can a sunset be better than over the Pacific Ocean? The conditions were absolutely amazing as the sun set and the haze lifted. Above the clouds started to take on the oranges and pinks of the setting sun and then the Pacific Ocean (which was quite calm this afternoon) started reflecting the colors back up. The color seemed to stay for 10 – 15 minutes and I walked up/down the beach getting various angles of the pier with the clouds above. For this one I did break one of the ‘cardinal’ rules but I couldn’t decide what I liked better – the clouds or the receding waves at my feet – so I decided to give them both appropriate attention.

Photo of the Day – Santa Monica Beach Sunset

Santa Monica Beach Sunset

The temp in Chicago is -2 degrees right now with wind chills in the negative teens. Ten days ago when I took this picture the temperature in LA was 80 degrees. What a difference a few weeks can make. I’ll be putting this as my screen saver until we break 40 in Chicago!

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Happy 4th of July!

I’m off to Michigan this morning for a long weekend. It’s actually the third week in a row that I won’t be in the office Thursday or Friday because of some sort of travel. I don’t know what I’m going to do next week when I’m actually in the office for five days – stir crazy!

Photo of the Day – Fireworks over Navy Pier

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This is the first time I’ve tried to shot fireworks – I went downtown last night and tried to compose the Navy Pier fireworks with the city in background. Unfortunately, to truly catch the city in the background it will take a boat. For my first try I’m pretty happy – I’ll try again in the future and will try to improve on a few things.

Here’s the advice (from varying articles) that I used for last night’s shoot:

1) Shoot in Manual Mode and manually focus to infinity
2) Shoot with an aperture of f/8.0
3) Shoot at the lowest ISO possible for your camera (on mine it was ISO of 100)
4) Utilize a shutter release so that you can manually time the exposures – here is the issue you have trying to let the camera expose:
a) The camera will expose for the darkness of your focal point (say 15 seconds or so)
b) If you leave the shutter open that long the fireworks will be completely washed out; therefore
c) It is imperative that you set the time manually at 3 – 6 seconds to capture the burst of the firework without losing the detail.

Things I think I can do better next time:

1) The buildings look a little blurry to me – not sure if they were like that when I was onsite and looking on the back of the camera. I did my best to determine my focus was good and thought I was in good shape but clearly something slipped leading to some fuzziness in those buildings.

2) Possibly a wider angle lens and just zoom in a bit – I felt this image was a little soft on the edges and it was completely ‘wide open’ at 18 mm. I have a 10 – 24 mm that would have allowed me to get a lot wider. My thoughts initially were that I was going to use the zoom on this lens (Tamron 18 mm – 270 mm) to get some detailed shots of the firework. I tried but outside of one shot was unable to predict where the fireworks were going to explode.

3) Bring headphones – I always, always get caught with randoms who want to chat my ear off. I’m all for talking but when I’m trying to focus on the task at hand I don’t need to hear about how high and drunk you are. Of course, it was capped off when he told me he had to drive all the way to Peoria (2 hours or so) after the 311 concert tonight (that he was late for). He did mention he was ‘sobering’ up as he smoked a joint in front of me….I guess it isn’t alcohol but still impaired in his ‘sober’ state.

Hitting the Pause button on Life

I like how photography allows us to hit the pause button on life – to freeze a specific moment in time to be remembered always. Yesterday that became abundantly clear as we looked through family photos and pictures of my grandfather. Some pictures I had never seen like him on his Navy boat heading off to World War II or pictures from him and my Nana’s wedding. Just snapping that shutter freezes the moment just as you saw it and it will never be like that again – it may be similar but that exact moment will never exist again.

Photo of the Day – Santa Monica Morning

Every time I go to LA on business I try to stay near the ocean so that I can wake up early and take some pictures along the beach before it gets too busy. Often there are a handful of other people – fishing, working out or walking their dogs – but for the most part it is calm and peaceful. The smell and sound of the ocean is fresh as it welcomes in a new day – it certainly puts me in a good mood before I have to go spend the day in meetings.

I took this shot on my last trip to LA. I woke up pre-dawn and walked down to the Santa Monica Pier. There were a few people running along the seashore – I think it may have been a beach bootcamp class. Their were some tractors out combing the beach as well making sure it would be well manicured when the beach goers came out later that afternoon. I liked the way empty lifeguard stand seemed to lead the eye out to the pier.

Wouldn’t it be nice

I cycle in and out of phases with music – most of the time it isn’t huge swings in style but mainly from ‘classics’ like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys to more modern day music by Mumford and Sons, the Lumineers and Kings of Leon. However, whenever I’m on my way to California I always listen to the Beach Boys and whenever we go down south to Florida I always listen to Jimmy Buffett. It seems some music just ‘fits’ with certain atmospheres – the Beach Boys and California is what matches in my mind.

Photo of the Day – Under the Pier and Dreaming


I stayed in Santa Monica because my meeting wasn’t until around noon and I knew that driving back into downtown LA wouldn’t be bad with traffic (relatively) at that time of the day. I took advantage of that proximity to the beach by getting a lot of beach shots. I think I may stay downtown the next time though and check out more of the sites – I’ve heard cool things about the train station and also have been able to find some decent viewing points of the city thanks to fellow blogger Rommel who has a bunch of recommendations for catching the LA Skyline.

Where has the time gone?

It’s the end of summer – I start to feel it right around Labor Day and with the kickoff of the College Football season it seems like it’s officially over. I looked out my window this morning and realized the leaves were starting to change colors already – fall is right around the corner. Fall is my favorite time of year anyways with football back and baseball playoffs to look forward too but it does mean that another cold, frigid Chicago winter is right around the corner. I’ll soak up the next six weeks of hopefully temperate weather before the first snow and then get ready to bunker down for a long and dark winter.

Photo of the Day – The Pier

It helps in the winter months to look through pictures from California and realize it’s only a plane ride away to summer like weather. This photo was taken in December – I believe the temperature in Chicago was around 0 but in California it was in the 60s/70s…not ‘warm’ by their standards but I was in tee shirt and shorts loving life.

Big game tonight – Go Blue!

End of the Line

Tough day in the office today but always made better by going through some travel photos and remembering that its that same job that keeps me there way too long some days that provides the opportunity to hop on airplanes and go all across the country to experience so many different things.

I was out in California on a business trip and headed over to one of the most famous piers in the country – the Santa Monica Pier. Now the route doesn’t actually end there (it ends a few miles away in Los Angeles) but they moved the official sign there since most people when they would drive cross country would inevitably wind up making there way out to the pier because why would you drive all the way across country and not visit the Pacific Ocean. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Thus the pier became the ‘End of the Trail’ ten or fifteen years ago.

It really is a pretty nostalgic place – I spent a good amount of time playing in an arcade – it’s been a long time since playing Rampage, Street Fighter and Pacman all without switching the cartridge or CD. Using the actual pizza greased joystick was actually a nice little treat – paying $.75 per game not so much. Apparently inflation has hit the arcades as well!

Photo of the Day – Get your Kicks on Route 66

Very California

This is another picture I took while out in California on a business trip as I watched the sun go down over the Santa Monica Pier. I showed it to my wife who said – that looks ‘very California’ so I thought it made a nice name for the post.

Photo of the Day

We just got back from a few days in Washington DC. I must have walked 12 – 15 miles yesterday trying to take pictures of the city. It was very cloudy out but I got up at 4 AM and hit the streets hoping for a sunrise. My initial plan was to take some pictures go back to the hotel and shower and then head back out. My wife had a meeting there in the morning and I was going to get her some coffee so she wouldn’t have to get it on the way to the meeting. Unfortunately I was a bad husband and hit my groove and just started bouncing from monument to museum to library taking pictures of the architecture – because the weather didn’t really cooperate I only got one morning of sunrise (out of three mornings) – everything else was just blah and overcast. I guess that is why it pays to get up early because the weather doesn’t always cooperate fully.