US National Parks Left To Visit
I have 28 of the 59 US National Parks left to visit. For the list of the National Parks I have visited, click here.
- Acadia National Park (Maine)
- Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
- Biscayne National Park (Florida)
- Congaree National Park (South Carolina)
- Denali National Park (Alaska)
- Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida)
- Everglades National Park (Florida)
- Gates of the Arctic National Park (Alaska)
- Glacier National Park (Montana)
- Glacier Bay National Park (Alaska)
- Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee and North Carolina)
- Haleakala National Park (Hawaii)
- Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
- Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
- Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)
- Katmai National Park (Alaska)
- Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)
- Kobuk Valley National Park (Alaska)
- Lake Clark National Park (Alaska)
- Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
- National Park of the American Samoa (American Samoa)
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)
- Virgin Islands National Park (United States Virgin Islands)
- Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)
- Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)
- Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (Alasa)
- Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho)
US National Parks Visited
I have visited 31 of the 59 United States National Parks. For the list of the 28 I need to visit, click here.
- Arches National Park (Utah)
- Big Bend National Park (Texas)
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado)
- Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
- Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
- Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)
- Channel Islands National Park (California)
- Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
- Death Valley National Park (California and Nevada)
- Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
- Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
- Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)
- Joshua Tree National Park (California)
- Kings Canyon National Park (California)
- Lassen Volcanic National Park (California)
- Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)
- Mt. Rainier National Park (Washington)
- North Cascades National Park (Oregon)
- Olympic National Park (Washington)
- Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
- Pinnacles National Park (California)
- Redwood National and State Parks (California)
- Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorada)
- Saguaro National Park (Arizona)
- Sequoia National Park (California)
- Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
- Yosemite National Park (California)
- Zion National Park (Utah)
Weekend Backpacking Checklist Backpack Sleep Tent (Optional) Ground Cloth Sleeping Bag Ground Pad (Thermarest) Water Water filter (If Required) 1 – 2 Gallons Water (variable) Very Important Papers Maps/Compass/GPS/ETC Clothing Waterproof Outer Layer Jacket Warm Jacket Inner liner socks Beanie Bear Bag or Canister (If Needed) First Aid First Aid Kit Moleskin Sunscreen Food Emergency […]
My Camping Gear and Equipment Note: This list is not necessarily a recommended list of camping gear and equipment. It represents the gear that I choose to use in the field. This list may be of interest to you. Each person should review their own needs and choose the gear that suits them best. Osprey Atmos […]
US National Parks Visited I have visited 31 of the 59 United States National Parks. For the list of the 28 I need to visit, click here. Arches National Park (Utah) Big Bend National Park (Texas) Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado) Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah) Canyonlands National Park (Utah) Capitol Reef […]
US National Parks Left To Visit I have 28 of the 59 US National Parks left to visit. For the list of the National Parks I have visited, click here. Acadia National Park (Maine) Badlands National Park (South Dakota) Biscayne National Park (Florida) Congaree National Park (South Carolina) Denali National Park (Alaska) Dry Tortugas National […]
My Camping Gear and Equipment
Note: This list is not necessarily a recommended list of camping gear and equipment. It represents the gear that I choose to use in the field. This list may be of interest to you. Each person should review their own needs and choose the gear that suits them best.
- Osprey Atmos 65 Backpack
- REI Igneo Sleeping Bag
- REI Arete ASL 2 Tent
- Thermarest Pro-Lite 3
- MPowerd Inflatable Solar Lantern
Weekend Backpacking Checklist
- Tent (Optional)
- Ground Cloth
- Sleeping Bag
- Ground Pad (Thermarest)
- Water filter (If Required)
- 1 – 2 Gallons Water (variable)
- Very Important Papers
- Waterproof Outer Layer Jacket
- Warm Jacket
- Inner liner socks
- Bear Bag or Canister (If Needed)
- First Aid
- First Aid Kit
- Emergency (Extra) Food
- Trail Snacks
- Hiking Pants
- Hiking Shirt
- Inner liner socks
- Outer layer socks
- Hiking Hat
- Hiking Poles
Best Photo Locations In San Diego
Finding the best photo locations in San Diego is important for people visiting or who people who are fortunate enough to live here.
Having spent the last 18 years in San Diego, I have had the opportunity to learn many of the best places to make images in town. This is a living list, is not complete, and will be updated over time. With that being said, please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment if you think another location deserves consideration.
This list is presented in no particular order, because ranking photo locations is entire subjective. That being said, I will try to leave what I personally feel are the best locations towards the top of the list.
La Jolla Cove
- La Jolla Cove may be the jewel of San Diego. The cove has rocky outcroppings making various designs and patterns that make perfect foregrounds for your landscape images. This location is fogged in during marine layer season. Look for approaching or clearing storms, or during winter evenings with high clouds. Be extra careful during periods of high surf. Unexpected large waves have drenched many a tourist and photographer. It is highly recommend you get to the cove extra early because of very limited parking. If you are coming on a weekend, it is likely best to park in the village (the bank building has plenty of paid parking) and hike down to the cove.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
- Sunset Cliffs is a beautiful location. Just South of Ocean Beach (O.B.) mostly along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, this can be a phenomenal location outside of marine layer season. Look to come here during approaching or clearing storms, or during winter evenings with high clouds. Parking can be limited on weekends. Look to park on the Northbound side of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard on the curb.
Harbor View/Lucinda Street
- A world-class view of Downtown San Diego is available at this Point Loma location. The street is steeply sloped facing downtown. The locals who live in the neighborhood are well used to photographers capturing an amazing view. That being said, it is important you spend your time there quietly and respectful of those who live there.
- Now celebrating it’s 100th anniversary, Balboa Park is one of the best ways to spend time in San Diego. There are numerous locations to make images, from landscapes to portraiture to street photography. Locations include the Organ Pavilion, the famous koi ponds, the Botanical building, the Bea Evenson Fountain, the Old Globe Theater, and the famous tower. You can also capture the North side of Downtown from the El Prado Bridge.
Scripps Pier/La Jolla Shores
- Scripps Pier is famous for various images taken under the pier with the waves crashing in. In addition, along the walk down from La Jolla Shores Drive, you have several compositions using the pier as a leading line in your photograph. To the south of the pier, there is an elevated sitting area with plenty of room for you to set up. The pier is not as picturesque up front. There are usually vehicles parked on top. The pier is an active research facility for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Keep in mind that east of the beach, you are on public property for UCSD, and you should respect the area appropriately.
Centennial Park/SDG&E Park
- Both locations in Coronado offer great views of Downtown San Diego.
- If you enjoy making photographs of birds and wildlife, then Santee Lakes is an amazing place. Thousands of ducks can be found migrating as well as year-round on the 7 individual lakes. Ospreys hunt fish out of the lakes, and you can find them eating their meal on power poles. Egrets are everywhere. Hawks are easy to find, particularly morning and evening. Dragonflies can be found in the reedy areas every hot September.
- The Oceanside Pier is huge, and if you want to include a cityscape in your image, you can walk out a great distance and look back. The beach is also fantastic, and I have made sunset images balancing the pier, some lifeguard towers, and people enjoying their day at the beach. Because of the size of the pier, this is a great twilight or night image as well. Just after sunset, wait for the lights to come on to make a more powerful photograph.
Torrey Pines State Reserve
- Torrey Pines is famous for being one of the best places to photograph the green flash. However, being some of the rarest pine trees in the world, you have many opportunities to balance the trees with the surrounding landscape. This photo location is best at sunset.
Coronado Tidelands Park
- The tidelands park can be an amazing photo location. The park gives you a view of the Coronado Bridge in San Diego Bay. Boats, canoes, and kayaks are often beached, giving you an amazing foreground for your image. Images in light fog can be spooky. Stormy sunrises can be amazing.
- Windansea is another local location with easy beach access, as well as plenty of rock outcroppings to give you numerous compositions to photograph. Parking at this photo location is also limited, so get there early.
Mount Soledad Veteran’s Memorial
- Mount Soledad is famous for it’s somewhat controversial memorial, but it is overlooked as a photo location. Parking is limited, but normally not impossible to get. While the memorial is supposed to be open 7 AM to 10 PM, I have photographed sunrises and evenings outside of those hours with no issues. This was a great location to get one of the last lunar eclipses. This location is a good sunset location in the Summer when the sun is high in the sky, but a separate peak with towers obscures the view at 270 degrees and is therefore not recommended for most sunsets.
- Bird Rock has several outcroppings you can photograph from. Same rules apply on the best days and times to shoot. Be very careful in this area along the rock. I broke a finger making this image. Worth it for the shot, but it is easy to get injured.
- Mount Helix is just outside of La Mesa and has a wonderful 360-degree view. This is a great location particularly at sunset for the view of San Diego to the West. There is limited parking, so it is recommended you arrive early.
El Cajon Mountain
- El Cajon Mountain is one of the most overlooked photo locations in greater San Diego. Also known as El Capitan, the massive piece of granite is an impressive sight. Easily seen throughout the county, but hard to approach for a photograph, my best advice is to look for Creek Hills Road and locate the El Monte Park trail. A great scenic overlook is about a half mile down the trail. Look for good clouds in the morning or evening. The rock glows a bright orange at sunset.
Again, this list of San Diego photo locations is not complete. Please bookmark this page and check back regularly for updates. Feel free to email me or leave a comment if you have further suggestions.
I recently trekked to Garrett’s Arch in Joshua Tree National Park. Garrett’s Arch is likely the largest arch in Joshua Tree, although another unpublicized arch could give it competition.
Garrett’s Arch is located in the Wonderland of Rocks backcountry. The trailhead begins at the Wall Street Mill parking lot, proceeding briefly before veering left towards the Wonderland Ranch/Wiley’s Market ruins. Proceeding behind it, you will pick up the Wonderland Wash and follow it.
At about 0.72 miles, you should reach Jaguar Rock. This is your first major landmark along the way. After Jaguar Rock, the wash will enter a valley. Proceed north. Keep in mind that the Wonderland Wash will veer North but to the left. This will take away from your destination.
Find the wash just to the right of Wonderland Wash, and you will pick it up through another canyon. Keep going until you reach Three Freak Brothers to your right. This is an easy-to-spot rock formation, and will alert you to the proper time to turn right. The immediate right requires bouldering. Keep North to the next turn and you will pick up the side canyon and save some energy.
Immediately, you should spot the Red Obelisk, another beautiful formation in the middle of the canyon. Once again, the canyon will open up to another valley. Keep going East, but veer North of the rock formations in the middle of the valley. After you pass, you will pick up your last canyon. Keep looking left in that canyon, and you will easily locate the arch.
Keep in the mind that the arch is in a difficult location. A moderate but dangerous and slippery rock scramble will get you to a ledge below the arch. There is another high wall that prevents entry to the arch itself. The arch is also covered in the back by a large growing tree, so seeing “through” the arch is obscured.
A wide-angle lens is needed from this location. You can also stand on the rocks in the canyon to get a larger image.
The mileage came out to 2.1 to 2.4 miles and is mostly easy, with some very minor rock scrambling.
The Hundred Billion Dollar Boondoggle
Right now, Californians are well on their way to making a huge mistake. The Los Angeles to San Francisco high-speed rail line indeeds sounds great on paper. The idea that in just a few hours, you can head from the South to the Bay Area with stops in the Central Valley, sounds appealing. Yet, time after time, history shows us that this expensive mass-transit project will not work.
The Big Dig:
Originally supposed to be a $5 billion dollar project and ended up over $20 billion dollars. If you think California has an accurate idea on the final costs of building this project, then I have some beachfront land to sell you in Bakersfield.
Will there be enough people using high speed rail to pay it’s own way, or will taxpayers indefinitely be subsidizing it similar to Amtrak? Will the rates be affordable enough to justify a train ride and eliminating one vehicle on the road?
Mass Transit Only Works In Certain Areas:
Only in regions where travel by car is irrefutably difficult does mass transit truly work. Communities like New York and Chicago are examples where it has worked. But larger regions with more urban sprawl such as Southern California have made mass transit practical for only a small subset of the driving population.
High Speed Rail is not without environmental concerns, including one of the canyons they wish to build to bypass the freeway in the Bay Area.
This past weekend, I journeyed to Yosemite National Park with long-time friend, colleague, and fellow photographer, Jeremy Long. We were looking to make an image showing Upper Cathedral Lake at sunset, with reflection from beautiful Cathedral Peak.
On paper, the hike did not look imposing. My map indicated it was about 3.5 miles each way. Despite not having ideal weather (the forecast called for clear skies), we were excited to make the journey and add a new image to our respective portfolios. This looked like a simple, single-day hike.
As we learn, time and again, it rarely works that way. The hike up the John Muir Trail (the reverse of how most people travel from Happy Isles to Tuolomne Meadows) was tougher than we thought. This was especially true for me, carrying much more equipment in my backpack than I needed.
I also found that the hike was quite a bit longer than written on paper. My GPS noted the distance to the correct side of Upper Cathedral Lake at 5.3 miles. The paper mileage was 50% wrong! In addition, we quickly realized that the proper image was taken way up on the dome outcropping to the south. Only, after Jeremy and I scoured separate sections of rock, we did not find the best spot. The reflection of Cathedral Peak was either obscured by the shoreline, or we were lined up correctly but there were trees in the way.
Eventually, we both found a large outcropping that appeared to be in the right spot. The bouldering appeared to be tough, and the light was growing dim. However, with sunset growing close, and an additional 5+ miles back to Tuolomne Meadows, it wasn’t ideal to take more chances.
We hiked back that evening tired, beat up, and sore. As always, one must remember to never trust the map. Besides the mileage, the hike was tougher than appeared on paper, and failed to take into account the extra work we needed to make the best image possible. We didn’t have the high clouds we dreamed of either, so in this case, we counted it as strictly a scouting trip.
The next time we go, we will be more prepared from this experience. And that is the whole point of scouting out locations. We know what to expect. We will plan for an entire weekend and camp at the lake. We will be there earlier, with more time to scale the rock outcroppings to reach our best location. And we will give ourselves that much more chance to make the image we are dreaming of.
The lesson is to never discount the work it takes to make an image, long before the perfect scene reveals itself to you. If your trip doesn’t go perfect, remember the value in the experience and the knowledge you have gained. It will give you an edge the next time you are ready to make that photography.