San Francisco Vacation: Day 7

Today was our last full day here in San Francisco.  While it has been much fun, we are tired and ready to come home. 

Since we did so much yesterday around the city, we really didn’t do a whole lot today.  The day started with breakfast and coffee, then shipping one of our suitcases home via UPS to avoid an oversize charge.  Then we took a drive over to Golden Gate Park and spent a couple of hours wandering around enjoying the weather.

One of the stops was the the Japanese Tea Garden, but it wasn’t all that interesting.

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The afternoon brought a visit by our good friend David Rasch, who just flew in today for a conference.   It was great chatting with him while he was here, and little David finally warmed up enough to give him an unprompted goodbye hug as he was leaving.  

We’ve been slowly picking things up in preparation of packing or our return trip, and once David goes to bed I’m sure we’ll make sure everything is ready to go for tomorrow morning.  Direct flight to St. Louis departs at 1pm.

It’ s been a great trip!

San Francisco Vacation: Day 6

For not knowing yesterday what we were going to do today, it sure ended up being a packed day.

We kicked it off by sleeping in until nearly 7 and then going a couple blocks over to Crepe Vine for a declicioius breakfast.  As it was still early for touristy things, we drove to Alamo Square  – home of the “Painted Ladies” row of houses.  The neighborhood parks here in San Francisco are great.  David got to play on the playground for a while before forcing him to participate in the photo op.

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We made a drive over to the Cable Car Museum where we got to learn more about how the signature transportation system works. It was a short visit but definitely ranks up there as one of the neater things I’ve seen on this trip.   So simple yet so complex, very cool.  Here’s what the “powerhouse” looks like, with the motors that drive all 4 cable car lines.

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Before going back to the house for lunch and nap time, we took advantage of it being Monday and drove over to Lombard Street, aka the “Crookedest street in the world”.  This is the result of asking David to smile for me:

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Lunch and naptime came and went, so we figured we’d go to the aquarium a day earlier than originally planned.   When we got out to the car, we learned that this was the 3rd Monday of the month and we had parked on the wrong side of the street.  Result?  $53 ticket, thank you very much San Francisco!

Eyerolling and cursing behind us (ok, me..), we took in the neat but short Aquarium of the Bay.  David had an absolute blast.  From finding Nemo and Dorey, to staring at the “Jellies!”, he was completely beside himself.

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After telling all of the fish “goodbye”, we topped the day off at the Rainforest Cafe.  I have video I’ll post once we get back home, but let me just say that David went completely nuts with the decor and environment they have created in the restaurant.  He had an incredibly hard time peeling his attention away from the sights and sounds surrounding him.  I think this photo sums it up well:

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We hit a couple souvineer shops on the walk back to the car and headed back to the house.  What a day!

Tomorrow is completely open, no idea what we’re going to do.

San Francisco Vacation: Photography

Here I sit after day 5 of our vacation, having taken 1,217 photos and recorded approximately 35 minutes of video.  As is always the case, juggling the dslr and camcorder turn into quite an exercise. 

This time around though I’ve taken a slightly different approach to video.  Instead of trying to capture everything I can, I have been looking to record as many small clips when possible with knowledge that any video taken is going to be used as a part of a vacation DVD as a compliment to photos. What doesn’t go into a final video will probably just be posted here – so small standalone clips are preferrable.  This will greatly reduce the amount of boring video segments I have recorded – bonus!

Now that I’m spending less time holding the camcorder, I’ve had more time to be more thoughtful with the still photos I’m taking – which I enjoy far more than video.

On to the photo side of things, a few notes:

  • I brought 4 lenses with me: 10-22mm, 28-135mm, 50mm, and 100mm macro.  I left the 70-300mm at home due to travel constrains; there have a been a few times I wished I had it but it’s just too cumbersome to carry.
  • I typically only use the 10-22 for wide landscape shots and avoid it for people due to its distortion effects at lower than 20mm.  But on this trip I’ve relied on it for a very wide variety of shots, including people, and have been very happy with the results.  I’m surprised by that.
  • Shooting in a forest is difficult.  Shooting in a forest while moving 15mph even moreso.  I spend 90% of my time shooting in Av mode (aperture priority), so every few moments I was having to adjust f-stop and iso to keep motion blur at bay.    -1 to -2 exposure compensation seemed to be a  good override for the camera’s metering to preserve the forest feel.
  • Once again, such a great camera bag for travelling.  I switch lenses A LOT.
  • I’ve  been quicker to recognize what I see as the three types of travel photos: 1) documentary, 2) scenic with framing potential and 3) family-travel photos.  I usually spend too much time thinking about the first two, but this time I’m being more deliberate in getting good family-travel shots. Good, meaning technically good and giving us context and surroundings in the shots.  So far I’m pleased with the results.
  • I’m still not experienced enough with the flash (speedlite) to instintively use it instinctively, as with Alcatraz today.

Hope this didn’t bore any of you 4 readers out there 🙂

San Francisco Vacation: Day 5

What yesterday was to trains, today was to prisons.  Yep, today was the trip to Alcatraz!

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In true prison fashion, the day started very early.  We thought David was on his way to being adjusted to the time change, but he woke up at 4:30 again this morning.  It took us a while to get out of the house, but once we did we made our way down to Pier 39 to wander around before our Alcatraz trip.

Somehow we made our way back over to the sea lions on Pier 39, and let me tell you, you do not want to be in the area when there isn’t a strong wind to help clear the air.  I couldn’t get within 20 feet of the water’s edge for wanting to throw up from the smell.  Horrid.

All morning all we heard from David was how much he wanted to ride a train.  We crossed our fingers that riding a boat would suffice, and it did.  Here he is on the trip to the island, waving goodbye to the other boats and people.

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Less than 30 minutes later, here he is completely passed out as we started the tour through the prison.  We’re glad because this alowed us both to listen to the excellent audio tour. 

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Ana and I both enjoyed the audio tour much more than we expected.  It was a very good combination of stories/descriptions by both past guards and inmates.  They really made the place come to life. 

It was described that these few cells were the most desired in the building.   They got natural light, a view of the sunset, and they explained how on some evenings they could hear people in the city laughing and having fun. 

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David woke up just in time to experience walking into one of the 4 or 5 solitary confinement cells.  Yep, it was rather chilling to be standing in there.   Ugh.

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After the tour was over we headed to Hard Rock Cafe to grab a quick lunch, then headed back to the house and passed out.  There was a lot of walking; that combined with the cool air just took it out of all of us.

We’re still trying to figure out what to do tomorrow.  Either tomorrow or Tuesday we’re going to spend at the Acquarium and we’re tempted to drive back down to the redwood forest on the other day.  We’ll see!

San Francisco Vacation: Day 4

Today was all about trains.

After breakfast this morning we made the hour and a half drive from San Francisco down to Felton for a great train ride through a redwood forest.  The first order of business upon arrival was to get David a train whistle so he could sound like the engines we could hear in the distance.

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He’s starting to get the hang of it 🙂

We had some time to kill before our train was scheduled to depart, so we took a brief walk in the adjacent Redwoods State Park.  Wow, were we impressed.  Amazed is probably more like it, I’ve never walked around a forest in awe before and I think we would have spent all afternoon in there if the train weren’t awaiting us.

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The train ride was great, and David enjoyed it to no end.  It made a brief stop at the top of BearMountain for everyone to stretch their legs but David was furious that we were stopping.  “More Train! More Train!”

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Next up: Alcatraz.

San Francisco Vacation: Day 3

We got to sleep in a bit longer today – 5:30am!

After getting David some breakfast, we took a short walk down the block to get some coffee.   Here’s the view from a block from where we’re staying.

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After grabbing coffee it was only 8am, and most of the tourist spots weren’t close to being open yet.  We decided to drive over to the Golden Gate Bridge.  I missed an exit so we drover over (and back) when we hadn’t planned to, but that just gave us more time to admire the bridge and take photos.  Back on the south side we decided to take a walk on it:

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By this point it was time for lunch and a nap (ooooh vacations are nice) so we went back to the house.  A couple hours later we went on a cable car ride downtown, walked around for a while, had dinner, and ended the day with another cable car ride back.

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Tomorrow we go on a train ride through a forest and who knows what else.