Category Archives: travel

Coast Starlight

A new, expanded, edit from the previous post because I’ve processed all the photos now. This looks better on exposure.so if you want to view it there all fancy shmancy.

After a short visit to Los Angeles, we decided to take the train up the coast rather than fly to San José. It’s kind of nice to walk in to Union Station and actually wait in the grand old waiting room. Definitely more leisurely than flying. Also a lot more laid-back than rushing to catch a Metro line.

The first part of the trip winds out of LA through the backside of industry and big box stores. We sat in our seats on the second floor and snacked and lunched for this portion. It looks like most urban train rides, albeit with fewer stops. But there are still a lot of things worth photographing.

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Once we left LA, we had to go through the mountains and make our way past some agricultural land on our way to the coast.

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After a few hours, we finally hit the coast. We moved up to the lounge car for the bigger, better windows for this part as the train runs right along the coast—sometimes at sea level, other times up on a cliff—and you get to watch the waves roll by for hours and hours and hours.

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Before San Luis Obispo, we turned inland again and began to see hills and farms instead of water. The sun was also beginning to set as we started to climb back through the mountains into the Salinas valley. It would have been nice to get an ocean sunset. But a mountain one is also pretty nice. Once the sun set though, there wasn’t much more to photograph. The last photo here is from Paso Robles.

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Coast Starlight

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Riding from LA to San José. iPhone photos for now until I get through my DSLR memory card. Is a fun trip to sit in the observation car and watch LA turn to mountains, then coast, then have the sunset as you turn inland.

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A visit to LA

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A quick trip to LA to start holiday break. I’ve got longer writeups of my trip to LACMA coming down the pipe. But first a handful of photos of from my trip there, and to the La Brea Tar Pits next door.

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Train Museum

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Hitting the train museum on the way home from Packer Lake. Just like last year. Still very much a family trip rather than a real museum exhibition. As a father to two little boys though, this place comes pretty close to heaven for them. The cashiers at the gift shop have some hilarious stories about how parents have to drag their kids out kicking and screaming.

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Mount Elwell

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Most of Packer involves taking the same hikes and visiting favorite haunts. I photograph these of course but since they’re variants of the same thing, I can be more choosy about which photos I truly like and am not taking photos just to show where I went.

This year though we took a new hike to the top of Mount Elwell. New hike means I overdocumented it and have enough photos for a standalone post. We’ve avoided this hike for a long time since it looked nasty—hot, exposed, not pretty. Weather looked good this trip to avoid the heat and exposure so we decided to give it a try. Much to our surprise, the hike turned out to be very nice with a constant breeze, well-maintained trail, and excellent views.

So not just a new hike to say we did. But one to add to the rotation of hikes to return to each year.

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Packer Family 2013

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Family photos from this year’s packer trip. It really is a family trip and I do spend a lot of time taking photos of my family there.

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Packer Lake 2013

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Same trip as previous years. This may be the first year since I’ve started the blog though that I spent an entire week there. This is also the first time I’ve taken a TLR* hiking. Only a few of those photos are here but it was good to learn that I enjoy hiking with that camera.

*In this case a YashicaMat 124G

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Rhapsody in Rue

Welcome to the new world order of customer support. It’s been a while since I had a proper rant on this blog.

I haven’t been a big flier. But since we’re moving across the country and will now be flying between California and New Jersey multiple times a year, I’ve reluctantly accepted the reality that signing up for a frequent flier program made sense. Since United offers non-stop flights between SFO and Newark, and because we’d flown United for our trip out scouting the area, I figured I’d use that trip as a basis for starting my frequent flier account.

I figured it would be easy. After all, a recent traveler who liked the flight enough to convert to being a frequent flier is a satisfied customer right?

I gave United way too much credit. I can’t believe how quickly they converted me from being a satisfied customer to being as annoyed and pissed at them as possible.

The main issue is that the website is awful. Signing up for the account is fine. Transferring the miles is where the trouble begins. Website asks for the ticket number I want to transfer. Field is limited to 13 characters. My ticket number is 14 characters. This is annoying but not upsetting yet. I try both logical options and enter my ticket number without either the initial digit or the final digit.

Both fail. One number can’t be found. The other says that the names don’t match.

Name matching is actually a feasible issue. My ticket does not have my middle names on it because many websites are still stupid and can’t deal with multiple middle names. But I did sign up with United with my full name. No big deal though. United’s website says changing my middle name is simple and straight forward.

Except it isn’t. Deleting my middle names results in United requesting my tax records and marriage license. Fuck. That.

This is also the second time that United’s website information has been flat-out incorrect. Which means that I’m beginning to feel lied to. Which is how I start to get upset.

I figure I should at least exhaust the help options before getting upset though.

Mistake. The online help is designed to piss you off. All it does is send you to the webpages which weren’t working in the first place. In other words. It’s completely useless.

So I fired off a bunch of ranty tweets and went to bed.

These actually got a response and all seemed well. United’s twitter representative was friendly and responsive and it seemed like everything had been taken care of. While nothing showed in my account yet, I know these things do take a while.

One week later? Not so much.

Again, I should have expected as much. This time the information from the twitter representative pointed me toward the customer “service” phone line. That line involve talking to voice-recognition software and wading through the response tree. After I navigated to where I wanted to be, the computer told me that my transaction could not be completed and kicked me back to the beginning.

I have no idea why it failed. This is even worse than the website. At least the website offered lame excuses. Phones just wasted my time.

This time, the Twitter rep managed to get someone, a real person, to call me. And, from the department of famous last words, things appear to be all sorted now. I’ll know for sure in 48 hours but having talked to a real person, I’m much more confident.

Yay.

I’m still not sure if shoving all communication for customer support onto social media is a good strategy. I’m very glad social media is responsive. But it encourages ranting in order to get a response. Since I’m not the type to rant prematurely, this means that I end up getting really upset—not the customer experience any brand should want.

Human Zoo

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A white person relaxing, a person of color working. Tale as old as time. A non-white person in the service of a white person. This photo cements stereotypes, perpetuates an imbalance in the power dynamic, is reminiscent of centuries of colonialism (and indentured servitude) and serves as a good example of both creating a centrality of whiteness and using “exotic” people as fashion props.

Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart

The criticisms of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition are completely valid. At the same time, I can’t help but be amused by them. This type of imagery is nothing new. And it’s not just in advertising or fashion shoots. When most people go traveling, these are the kinds of images they end up taking.

When we travel, we fall into the trap of exoticizing our explorations. Everything is different and not like home. “Look at this weird food.” “See how differently people dress.” “Check out this crazy landscape.” We all do this. And we take photos of ourselves* next to the exotic items. When we travel, we treat the world as our freak show.

*Or our good-sport traveling partner.

There’s a reason why you have to pay to photograph people at many Indian reservations. It may feel like nickel-and-diming to you. But it’s also a reminder to think about who you’re photographing as well as a statement that too many photographers have treated the Indians as exotic props.

As much as National Geographic has been a fantastic proponent of good photography to everyone, its photojournalistic travel photos have inspired too many travelers who think that travel photography is all about taking photos of the locals without regard to them as humans.

—My aside to Un surtido de fotos mexicanos

Travel photography is not about pretty pictures which show that the rest of the world is different than your home. If you’re going to take photos like this, you need to tell us more about the situation. Tell me a story about the trip besides “I saw this.”

This is what separates National Geographic from travel porn. One uses pretty pictures to tell a story and educate. The other is just interested in appearances and exoticizing. The difference between the two is often context* although photos such as the Sports Illustrated ones, or many of the travel photos I see on Facebook, have very little alternative context available.

*The Tech Awards used National Geographic images as wallpaper and, as a result, reduced them to travel porn.

Many of the images without alternative context involve photos of people. It’s easy to take a photo. It’s much more difficult to interact with someone. And the resulting images are always tough to look at because of the resulting power dynamic.

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Don’t treat people as if they were zoo animals.

This applies even if you’re not traveling.

*From the [internet photographer] brainstorm.

This is not an “only take photos of people who look like you” thing but is instead a “how are you presenting this person” thing.

This is not about only taking photos when  you’re an insider either. This is about telling us what’s truly interesting about something and why we should care. If you’re an insider, enlighten us. If you’re an outsider, reframe the situation using your new perspective.

Context matters. Don’t be another annoying tourist who crosses must-see-items off of a checklist without caring about what you’re seeing. Don’t reduce your city to being gritty just because there are homeless there. Show us, and tell us, what interests you. Have an opinion. Especially nowadays when we can probably find “better” photos of what you’re showing us online.

Tripod Holes 3

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