We made it to Bend, Oregon!

We drove into town and went straight for our hotel. We stayed at the Day’s Inn off 3rd Ave. It was adequate for a motel.

Because we arrived near dinner time, we unloaded the Pilot and then went for dinner. Lately, our family has been on a binge for Red Robin. Seeing on Google Maps that there was one in town near the Old Mill area, we went for it. The weather was a bit cloudy and cool. It did sprink a little rain on us as we drove into town.

After dinner at Red Robin, we decided to scope out Sparks Lake for a photo opportunity. In the mountain range, it was raining. It was good for the Honda Pilot to get washed, but there was no shot. I did find where I wanted to go shoot, well not the exact spot because I didn’t want to get out of the Pilot and get all wet. We then made the drive back to the hotel to rest and start our next day fresh. ┬áIt only took 30 minutes each way.

Sunday: we had the whole day to enjoy Bend. We woke up and went to the lobby area to eat breakfast. It wasn’t all that great. I think the Comfort Inn would have been better based on my experience in Utah. We packed the bikes onto the roof rack and made our way to the Pilot Butte. We drove up to the top. It was an awesome 360 view from up there. I somehow encouraged Matthew to ride down the hill with me. The road going up or down was like a spiral staircase. He was a bit scared and he took it real slow. I rode Julie’s new baby blue cruiser bike down instead of my Haro dirt bike. My butt liked the comfy seat of her cruiser. We managed to finally get to the bottom of the hill. Julie drove the pilot to the bottom with Hayley and recorded a video with her phone of Matthew and I riding down near the bottom.

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Researching the area, I noticed that there was a nice park in the back side of the butte. Driving around the butte to get to the park was well worth it. It was super nice. It had a couple of play structures for the kids. There was some super green grassy area with a paved trail around it to simulate a track. The sky was blue and the clouds were white and fluffy. There was also a covered area with park benches and tables to either have a picnic or a birthday party. It was just perfect. Afterwards, it was lunch time and I found a local pizza place that got great reviews.

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We made our way to the pizza place. We ordered the pizza and ate outside and it truly lived up to the reviews. They guys made each slice to order. The crust was great. Seeing that there was a 7-Eleven around the corner, I managed to satisfy my Coke Slurpee craving/addiction. As the day was warming up, it was now time to head to the main park I found, the Riverbend Community Park.

The Riverbend Community Park is a large park near and surrounding the river that cuts through the city. It has biking paths. It has some bridges that cross the river. There is an entrance/landing area to get into the river with paddle boards or inner tubes and the like. We got the bikes out and started to ride around. Julie was giving her bike a test run and she did well. In the end, we found that the Hampton Inn parking lot was a nice area to bike without interruption and not having to avoid people walking on the very same paved pathways. It was then time to put the bikes away and hang out on the large grassy area in front of the river entrance/landing. We got the kids in their swim costumes and put on more sunscreen. Warning: The river water is super cold! Adults were cussing once they touched the water because it was so cold. Being prepared, I did bring along my 6.5mm neoprene booties that I used recently in Kanarra Creek, UT. Boy, did they make the water feel warmer, until I got them confiscated by the kids. Eventually, Matthew had them both. I had to run in and out of the water because my feet would freeze. We were using squirt guns in the landing area. It was then time to leave this wonderful park and head back to the hotel to clean up before dinner.

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Keeping things simple, we yet again went to Red Robin. We sat in a booth that was one away from the previous evening! Luckily, we had a different waiter. Phew. The plan was to get to Sparks Lake early so I can truly find that spot and begin to photograph. After a 30 minute drive, we got to a parking lot. Got the kids ready for cooler weather and I got my camera gear. The “trail” was paved to the spot. There are a lot of people camping in the area. When I arrived, there were already several photographers in the area. I set up, the kids took some pics and then went back to the car. I stayed until about 9pm hoping for the milky way, but then had to book it back to the car. I did ask Julie to drive the Pilot out of the parking lot and see if she could drive toward the boat landing area. I remember seeing a picture on 500px where a car’s headlights light painted the trees and an island quite nicely. I was hoping Julie would help me. It was hard to see the headlights from that distance, but I did capture an image where the camera was able to pick up the light, but my eye couldn’t. Here is the link to the blog post. After she helped me, she couldn’t find the entrance to the parking lot she came from and it turns out she started driving down the road which lead to the entrance of the whole area. While driving and on the phone, she said she saw this orange car. I then told her she had to turn around and drive back. She was trying to leave me out there! She managed to make a U-turn and drive back. She then found the parking lot. Meanwhile, I was hiking to meet her at the parking lot and saw her headlights as she pulled into the parking lot. The kids for some reason got scared and told their mummy she can’t drive any more! In the end, all turned out well, and I got a few pics until next time.

We definitely wish to return to Bend some day. There is a lot more to do and photograph!

Shasta Lake and Dam

Our first stop was at the Shasta Dam and Lake.

What a sorry sight in terms of the water levels. There were islands in the middle of the lake that are usually covered by plenty of water. The water level along where the tree line was that California is in a serious drought. To make things worse, there air was quite hazy and smoky. The visibility was very limited. There were some surrounding forest fires going on. For almost the whole drive up to Bend, OR, we had the recirculating air on because it was soooo smoky.

The dam was cool. We ate lunch at…yes…McDonalds. It was right next to the freeway and was easy.

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Our next stop was going to be Klamath Falls and the little airport. I wanted to stop off at the airport because on Google Maps, there are several F-15 fighters. Turns out they are part of the national guard. One could barely see it and no picture was possible. It was a good place to stop off and use the bathrooms. We had to fill up on some gas and found a Chevron gas station to fill up at. The pump allowed us to use all of our Safeway Rewards to discount the cost per gallon. Not knowing the customs in Oregon, it turns out it there is a gas attendant who is supposed to fill up your tank, like the old days. Weird. Not sure why it is the law. Next stop, Bend, Oregon!

Bend, Oregon

During the Labor Day weekend, we decided to make a family road trip. Looking at Google Maps, we decided on Bend, Oregon. Close friends have told us how nice it is up there and this friend has a few friends that have moved from the bay area and live up there. We had to check it out for ourselves. My buddy says Bend, OR is like the suburbs here, but in a wilderness setting with a lot of outdoor activities and possibilities. Google Maps says it is 8+ hour drive up there.

This road trip was a test of many. It was a test for me if I could drive longer distances. This past summer I was able to drive 5-6 hours with a little stop off here and there to Bishop, CA. It was a test to see if the Pilot can handle longer distances. It was a test to see if the kids can tolerate a longer drive as well. I have some ideas to take a very long road trip next summer to Mt. Rushmore and see the National Monument out there. This would involve drives that are 8+ hours in a few stretches. Come early Saturday morning, we left at 6am to make our way to Bend, OR.

We packed the bikes in the back of the Pilot and put our small bags back there too. I could have put the bikes on the top of the Pilot, but I didn’t want bugs to get on them as well as they would make knocking noise all the way up to Bend when they rocked laterally. We brought a little porta-potty as well as an old gummy vitamin jar just in case. Of course, I brought my camera equipment.

The itinerary on the way up was to stop off at the Shasta Dam. Check it out and the lake. Then make our way up to Klamath Falls, a city inside the Oregon border that had a small airport, but according to Google Maps, there were F-15 fighters on the tarmac. I thought maybe I could get a photo or two thru a fence or something. After that, it was into Bend, OR. On the way back, we stopped off at Crater Lake. My National Park Annual pass expired at the end of July, and I had to renew. We had nothing else on the itinerary on the way back except to stop off for any bathroom breaks as well as lunch and dinner. On the way to Bend, it took 10 hours. On the way back it took 12 hours.

We had no real plans other than to check out the area. We saw there was a nice river that ran through the city. There was a very large park next to it where it looked like people gain access into the river as well as some paths for walking and/or biking.

Bend, Oregon, here we come!

Heading back to London from Roma

Our flight from Roma to London was not until 7:10pm. We decided to try to eat breakfast near a local place and then look for some Vespa Scooters to shoot in action or parked.

Instead of a wider angle lens, I just brought my camera with the 70-200 attached. I managed to capture some cool ones. There was a Vespa Museum at a Vespa and bicycle rental store. One the way back, I found one where it was painted in Italian flag colors. Very cool.

We made it back to the airport easily and with plenty of time. There was about 30-45minutes of editing I got in, but there was a lot more to do.

I hope you enjoyed all the photos of my trip. I hope this gets you to think about heading to Roma or the very least, go on vacation!

Some pics of Julie out and about during out trip to Roma.

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The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica

After we had breakfast at the Vatican Museum part and toured the museum, we went over to St. Peter’s Square.

We were greeting with tons of people in the square. There were tons of chairs set up as well, but there was a crew breaking it down. The line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica was way too long to stand in for hours in 90 degree weather with no shade! We decided to come back early in the morning to beat the line and not have to wait so long.

We arrived early the next morning. The line was much shorter and got in within 15 minutes. There was a metal detector as well as an x-ray machine to screen bags and such. This is where the dress code was strictly enforced. In the Vatican Museum, it wasn’t. There was a guy who made the women cover up. He even looked at my camera backpack and said I have to check it in. I told him it has all my lenses. He let me through in the end. Phew.

It was tough to shoot inside the basilica once we were in. The available light was minimal. I don’t like higher ISO settings due to noise, but I had no choice. I did use my 70-200mm f/4 with VR to help and the VR did. The infamous Virgin Mary holding Jesus was roped off and I had to shoot from a distance. The 70-200 lens allowed me to do so.

There were a bunch of masses taking place at different times during the morning. I’m not sure if they were preaching different topics. Most of the clergymen had green robes. There was only one clergyman who had some red. I’m assuming red means higher up on the chain, and based on the Da Vinci Code movie. We did not see the Pope.

Patrick, from Philadelphia who I met out near the “wedding cake”, said to definitely go into the grotto where they have the past Popes buried. No pictures were allowed in there, and it was cool to see the history, and the art they were buried in. At the end of that section, it leads you outside where we saw another long line. This line was to pay to gain access to the 300+ steps to walk up to the top of the basilica. With the line being too long, and the sun rising right in front of the entrance to the basilica, there wasn’t going to be any good photography shot at that location. We decided to forego that part. Maybe sometime in the future.

Enjoy!

Breakfast at the Vatican Museum

In planning for the trip to Roma, I wanted to gain early access into the Vatican Museum so I can shoot the spiral staircase without people in it. Eating breakfast at the Vatican Museum allowed me to just do that.

The weather was nice and warm in the morning. The sky was blue. We ate in the Pine Cone Courtyard. The perfect green grass was trimmed with perfection. The gold/brass colored orb in the middle of the courtyard was a cool thing to look at and photograph. St. Peter’s Basilica was peeking behind some of the structures in the back of the courtyard. All in all, it was perfect.

Exploring Roma!

We decided to wake whenever. Without kids on the trip, there was no natural alarm clock! I think we woke around 9am. This was the latest we had ever waken up since having kids!

We set out to explore the city. We tried to head to the Colosseum to tour inside it, but it was a zoo there. Too many people! We decided against it and thought it wasn’t worth the wait. We then proceeded down the main street and see what we can stumbled upon. I photographed some cool old ruin areas and the Veterans War Memorial the Romans nick name the “Wedding Cake.”

We visited the Pantheon near noon time and there was a cool light beam inside cutting through the Oculus of the dome. It has a nice looking fountain outside that I later was told it was Egyptian!

Nearby was the Piazza Navona. Also swarmed by tourists in town, it was difficult to get a good shot of the fountain without people in it. I tried to wait like Scott Kelby suggested, but the place was so busy, it was tough to be patient. I eventually got a few shots off, granted they were in the middle of the day.

Being about lunch time, we stumbled upon Cafe Bianco. They had a 12 Euro deal that included bruschetta and salad, pizza or pasta, and a drink. The bruschetta was the best I’ve ever eaten, granted I haven’t eaten that many. I usually don’t eat tomatoes, but these were so bright red and sweet it was super nice. The pizza I had was great. I don’t care for thin crust pizza, but this was not too thin and the end crust was nice and doughy. Perfect. I had a Sprite which had Le Bron on the can. Julie had pasta and it was very good too.

We then made our way to Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Unfortunately, both were heavily under construction and was no shot. The whole city was under construction. Being in the heat all morning and in the early afternoon, we decided to make our way back to the hotel to clean up and rest.

For dinner we went to a different restaurant. We both had pasta, but Julie’s roseotto was not very appealing. My spaghetti was fine. The down side was we both got bitten by suspected mosquitos. Now let the itchiness begin for the next week! Rats!

I reshot the Roman Forum in twilight hour. I also attempted to shoot the Colosseum slightly earlier than the day before. The light was better.

Roma!

My wife and I had what we consider a second honeymoon to Italy. We went to Roma for 5 days, 4 nights. I had done some research ahead of time picking out what sites I wanted to capture. We stayed at the St. Regis Hotel. I used my hotel points for the stay.

We arrived in the mid afternoon and we managed to visit several sites in the early evening. It helps out quite a bit when the sun sets around 8:30pm and without kids. On family trips with the kids, I only manage to get 1/3 of the things I want to photograph or do, but on this trip it seemed like we managed to get almost all of it done in one afternoon! I remember thinking to myself that I may have booked too many days for this trip!

We went to Termini train station to try to look for a cellular store that sells PAYG sim cards WITH data. WIND was the carrier and at the hotel it had a strong signal–stronger than Vodafone. It was a bit pricy at 25 Euros each, but we got 3 GB of data for the month. I used about 1.5-1.75 GB of data in 5 day’s time! I mostly was using it with google maps which performed very well. It was so good that it suggested which bus lines to take so we can get to one place or another or simply back to our hotel. It didn’t give us one wrong turn. I’m not sure about the Apple Maps. I gave up on that app long time ago, when it came out actually.

It was about time for dinner, so we walked out of Termini Station and started to make our way to the Colosseum area. We found a Chinese restaurant that we had to try. One of our things we do is eat at a Chinese restaurant in a new country or town we arrive at. The lady inside was nice. The food was good. One of the young waiters dropped a few things nearby us. He wasn’t having a good day. One plus was they offered free wifi, but the security code was crazy random. We needed it because our data wasn’t going to be active on the WIND sim cards until about 1 hour after we bought it (7:30pm). We finished dinner about that time and I started to get the texts from the carrier that things we a go!

We made our way to Colosseum and there was still a lot of people hanging around. It was really neat to see. I had already knew that there was some scaffolding up fixing the taller side. Luckily, there was still a part that looked good and I was able to photograph. I used my tripod and timer to take our picture together.

We then went over to the Roma Forum since it was near by. By then the sun had set and the scene was a bit dark. There was a girl there hanging around waiting for my camera to finish a 4 minute exposure. She started asking me questions about long exposures. I always have to be careful that I’m not getting distracted and then there is someone else I’m not aware of attempting to steal my gear. Also the wife might have been getting jealous I was talking to another woman!

Photowalk in London with Matthew

Matthew and I finally had a chance to head out on the town. London town that is! The last one we had together we did one in San Francisco. This was very exciting because we both were in a town we had at our disposal to explore.

I mainly wanted to take sunset pics of the Shard from difference angles, but we set out at 3ish pm when the sun was still high. Matthew wanted to shoot the London Eye. We made our way and shot it. There were different angles we shot it from which was cool. It was approaching about 5pm and we were going to go to chinatown to eat chinese food, but nearby the Waterloo I remembered there was a pizza place. Pizza Express to be exact. If my memory serves me right, my first time to London back in June 2003, I was there eyeing a pretty girl. The interior has changed since I remember. This time I shared the time and place with my son, Matthew.

After dinner, we walked right across the street where they had some food trucks and a little festival. The trucks were tiny compared to the ones we have in the states. It was cool to see. One thing we don’t have are beer trucks! The Brits know how to raise the level! There was a DJ there that we got them to pose for us. It was fun and smelled very good.

We made our way to the Shard, and we got there around 7pm. The sun was still high, but some sprinkles started. London sunset time was at 8:49pm. We found the traditional red phone booth to shoot with the shard in the background. We had fun doing so. Then we made our way to another area I found. We found it, but then Matthew had to go pee. Some of the local restaurants in London have a policy where they allow customers only to use the interior bathrooms. Luckily, the guy at Gaucho Restaurant allowed us in. It is a fancy restaurant that I’ve been to before, but near Piccadilly Circus. This allowed us to hang around the area for longer. In doing so, we found more of the book benches. I photographed them all with my iPhone and sent them to the wife as she is collecting them. I guess there are 50 in total and we are up to 10! It was getting late and the wify wanted us back. Craig arrived today and it was good to see that everyone is now in town.

Enjoy!

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~Greg