We’re looking forward to kicking off our 2018 wedding season next month but, in the mean time, wanted to share a little from an off-season adventure we had this month. We spent a week in Southern California – which happened to be perfectly timed to miss single-digit temperatures here at home! – and it was so wonderful.
This was the first time Seth and I have been to California together since our honeymoon seven years ago, and it was also the first time since before we were married that we went on a trip without a DSLR (i.e. a large professional camera). This was a bit of a tough decision, as we’re sticklers for image quality and up to this point have dealt with the inconveniences of toting around heavy gear to get it. But it was such a relief on this trip to travel light, and I’m so happy with what we were able to capture even with less high-end equipment.
Just skip to the photos if this technology talk doesn’t interest you! But for anyone who wonders, I was using an Olympus OM-D EM-10 Mark II paired with 14mm and 35-100mm Panasonic lenses. (And Seth used his iPhone 8, sometimes with Moment lenses and a gimbal.)
Especially with the smaller lens, my gear was so light I hardly knew I was wearing anything! And although there were a few times I missed the low-light capabilities of our professional equipment, having a (literal) weight off my shoulders was more than worth the photographic limitations during the hours we spent hiking in the desert and walking through the city and along the beach. I was also really pleased with how well the Olympus + Panasonic set-up performed in most settings.
Don’t worry: We won’t be giving up our beloved Canon gear when it’s time to get back to work! But here’s a look at how we fared without it:
day 1 • 01.10.18
We caught an early-morning flight out of cold Kansas City and spent some of our time on the plane watching “Dunkirk,” which I joked was a 4D experience thanks to turbulence we experienced over the Rockies!
We stayed with my cousin’s family and took some (early) first-birthday photos of her son to earn our keep! (Some of you may remember the newborn photos and film I did for them last year.)
Our first day in Encinitas, we visited the Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens — which gave us our first awesome view of the ocean this trip.
day 2 • 01.11.18
Once golden-hour arrived, it was time to head to Moonlight Beach for Clark’s first-birthday portraits. I don’t think I could ever get tired of shooting sessions at the ocean!
day 3 • 01.12.18
After going out for breakfast, Seth and I headed back to the coast to visit the shops along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 101).
day 4 • 01.13.18
San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Escondido, CA)
This site is separate from the San Diego Zoo, and since we’d been to the main zoo on our honeymoon, we thought we’d try the Safari Park this time. We really enjoyed it and thought a lot of the experience seemed much more like viewing animals in the wild than in a zoo.
After the Safari Park, we made the two-and-a-half hour drive to Twentynine Palms, missing an exit on the way. This added some time to our trip but also led us to a Gateway Drive – which happens to be the name of the street we live on! So that was a surprising little piece of home away from home.
Finally, we made it to our destination and had to shop for that day’s dinner and the next days’ hiking snacks … and for some reason, I always find grocery shopping on vacation exciting enough to document!
day 5 • 01.14.18
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree was a highlight of this trip for sure! It wouldn’t have been on our radar if my cousin hadn’t suggested it, so we are so glad she did. We’d initially planned to spend just one day there but ended up stretching it to two!
Joshua Tree contains two desert ecosystems — the Mojave and the Colorado — and is named for the region’s distinctive Joshua trees. It’s also known for its rugged rock formations, including Skull Rock (above right), located in the Jumbo Rocks area.
One of our first Joshua three sightings! Seth couldn’t resist striking an impression-pose (above left).
After exploring rock formations for a while, we drove to Keys View, which is the highest point in the park. It’s perched on the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains and provides panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, as well as of the San Andreas Fault.
Then it was time for a trail-mix snack while taking in the views from the back of our car.
Hidden Valley Trail was one of my favorite hikes. As the sign above says, legend has it that this valley was a hideout for cattle rustlers in the 1800s. They’d drive stolen cattle from Arizona and stolen horses from elsewhere in California to this location, where they could rebrand them in hiding. Today, it’s more a place for hikers than for stolen livestock and offers a nice 1-mile loop surrounded on all sides by big rocks.
For a funny visual, imagine us scrambling to get these shots of the two of us without the help of a tripod or a remote — just a 10-second timer and a well-placed rock for supporting the camera. I’m pretty pleased we were able to capture what we did without twisting any ankles in the process!
Our last hike of the day was the Barker Dam Trail. The dam was constructed by early cattlemen and is a gathering place for desert wildlife.
Hiking past the dam, we actually lost the trail for a little while … right before sunset! That could have resulted in more adventure than we were after, but fortunately, we did find our way and made it back to the trailhead in time for a coyote sighting (below left) as the day’s last colors filled the sky.
day 6 • 01.15.18
Joshua Tree National Park
Our second day in Joshua Tree began with a stop beside this impressively large specimen. With Joshua trees growing only half an inch to three inches per year, this guy has obviously been around for a while!
Our next stop was Seth’s favorite in the park: Cholla Cactus Garden. Cacti cover nearly 10 acres in this part of the park.
The cholla has been nicknamed the teddybear cactus, and it is pretty cute, as cacti go!
Our last hike in Joshua Tree was the 2.6-mile Mastodon Peak Trail. Its namesake, Mastodon Peak, offers panoramic views of the southeastern part of the park.
This trail also passed by Mastodon Mine, one of more than 700 in Joshua Tree that were used for mining gold (via ore). This one was operational in the early 1900s, until faulting severed its main vein.
We drove back to San Diego after leaving Joshua Tree, and upon arriving at our Airbnb condo, we found a faithful friend within walking distance:
day 7 • 01.16.18
San Diego, CA
This leg of the trip started with whale watching, an exciting first for us both.
Whales! Our ship captain said our cruise was especially “epic” because a young gray whale jumped nearly all the way out of the ocean several times, which he’d only ever seen a few times before. (Unfortunately I wasn’t quite quick enough to get a shot of the whale, but the above right photo shows the splash it made re-entering the water.)
After the cruise, we spent the afternoon at Balboa Park.
And that night, we walked from our condo to the San Diego Bay and Gaslamp Quarter.
day 8 • 01.17.18
San Diego, CA
We began our last day of vacation at Richard Walker’s Pancake House, where Seth was pretty stoked about this German apple pancake!
After breakfast, we went to La Jolla Cove to soak in a beautiful last bit of California sun before our flight home. The ocean that day was the most stunning I’d ever seen it, which definitely didn’t make it any easier to come home to a cold Kansas City!
– motion pictures –
See below for a slideshow of our adventure!
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