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Review: Cabrillo National Monument’s Above the fireworks

Review: Cabrillo National Monument’s Above the fireworks

On July 4th, I attended Cabrillo National Monument’s “above the fireworks” event.  It was a rare chance to be in the park after dark, and tickets are limited due to parking capacity! We had an amazing time and I was able to get some great photos of the fireworks over San Diego. There are 4 simultaneous displays going off at once to music broadcast over the radio. We didn’t bring one, but our neighbors were kind enough to turn their volume up.

San Diego bay fireworks
July 4th fireworks over downtown San Diego
Lighthouse at Cabrillo NM at night
Cabrillo Lighthouse after dark
Sunset from Cabrillo NM, home of the rare Torrey Pine
Sunset from Cabrillo NM, home of the rare Torrey Pine

I would definitely recommend attending next year- here are a few tips:

  • Arrive early if you are determined to sit in a specific spot.  The area near the visitor’s center and Cabrillo statue fills up quickly.  The traffic getting in is the worst when it first opens.  We arrived about an hour after opening and traffic was easy getting in.  We found a great spot up near the lighthouse, along the path through the bushes.  You could also claim a spot against the fence just in front of the lighthouse if you don’t mind standing for 20 minutes (place your chairs back against the lighthouse until the show starts).  You won’t have anyone in front of you.  This would be a great spot for photographers, and likely where I will be the next time I attend.
  • Pack blankets and jackets.  It is windy at Cabrillo so it gets pretty chilly after dark, and you are mostly sitting around waiting for the show.
  • Pack a radio.  They sync the fireworks with a local radio station.
  • When the show is over, wait until they close the park to leave.  The folks at Cabrillo do a wonderful job of getting all the cars out of the park efficiently.  The problem lies in Point Loma – you will hit Shelter Island/Harbor Island traffic leaving, no matter what route you go.  There are also detours in place, so we couldn’t get on the 8 where I wanted and that cost us about 40 minutes of traffic.  It took about 3x as long to get home as it should have.  We thought we could beat the rush, but we were in the thick of it.  So bring a flashlight, and enjoy the night view after everyone leaves.

In the end, it is at least 4 hours total for about 20 minutes of fireworks.  But you can occupy the rest of the time enjoying something rare – the park after dark!

Share the Experience Photo Contest!

Share the Experience Photo Contest!

Attention all outdoor enthusiasts! The Official Recreational Federal Lands Photo Contest – Share the Experience – is now open! They are seeking photos from amateur photographers that highlight the best of America’s federal lands, national parks and historical sites. The winner will grace the America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Pass in 2017.

Here is a basic rundown of the details.

  • There are six categories for photo entries: Adventure & Outdoor Recreation; Historical & Cultural; Scenic, Seasons & Landscapes; Every Kid In A Park; Wildlife; Night Skies.
  • The photos must be taken on the lands or within the facilities of these participating agencies: National Park Service; U.S. Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Photographs must be taken between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2016 and contest entries are accepted from April 28, 2016 to December 31, 2016.
  • Eligible to legal residents of the 50 United States and DC, who are at least 13 years of age or older as of April 28, 2016.  Amateur Photographers (less than 20% of your total income is from photography)only. Photographs must be taken by you and you must have the rights to the photo.
  • Prizes include more than $30,000 in cash and other great prizes sponsored by ACTIVE Network, Celestron and Historic Hotels of America. Winners will be announced Spring 2017.

For more information, or to enter, visit the Share the Experience website here.

Haleakala National Park for Photographers

Haleakala National Park for Photographers

So you are planning a trip to Maui and you want to capture some great photos of the stars and sunrise on Haleakala. What should you bring?

-A camera capable of taking long exposures. Any DSLR, GoPro, point and shoot with a manual mode, and even an iPhone (with the right app) will suffice. This trip I used an Olympus Tough TG-4 and a GoPro.  Photo above taken with the Olympus Tough TG-4, Live Capture mode. Exposure was only about 8-10 minutes since the sky was becoming lighter close to sunrise.  Arrive 2-4 hours before scheduled sunrise for dark skies and light trail photos.

-A tripod & camera mount. There are tons of options out there, from tiny Gorillapods to traditional Manfrotto tripods. Just be sure you have the mount you need for the camera.

-A cable/remote release. You don’t want to ruin your stable photo on the tripod by stopping the photo with an unsteady hand. Newer point and shoot cameras (including the TG-4 Tough) can be controlled with your smartphone. DSLRs typically have associated cable releases that cost $15.

-A headlamp, preferably with a red light option, to preserve your night vision and everyone else around you!

-Any time lapse tools. GoPro Hero 3 and newer have a Time Lapse Photo mode, which takes sequential timed photos, which you can import in the GoPro software to make a time lapse video. The newer GoPro Hero 4 models also have a nice Time Lapse Video feature, which will stitch all your photos together in camera and make an MP4 file in GoPro Studio. If you want all of the individual photos and a higher res video, you should use Time Lapse Photo mode.

-A snack and water. There are no restaurants in the park, so you must pack food in and out. You can grab pre-packaged food at local grocery stores the day before your trip, or stop at the 24-hr Zippy’s in Kahului before you head up the mountain. Also, at 10,000 ft elevation, you will become dehydrated much faster so be sure you have plenty of water, especially if you are sticking around a while.

-Something soft to sit on. The lava rocks are pretty sharp and if you get tired of standing you will be grateful for something to sit/lay on.

-A hat, gloves, jacket, long pants, closed toe shoes and hand warmers. It is very cold at 10,000 ft every night.  Even colder if it’s windy.  You likely won’t want to leave your camera, so you will be glad you have something to help keep you warm.

-Patience, an extra camera and something to keep you occupied!  Time lapse shots take a long time for nice star trails – 30 minutes minimum.  You will want a second camera for taking other shorter shots as the light improves.