Tag Archive | USA

The mundane can be beautiful

Walking around Hearst Castle in Central California there is so much beauty in the pools and the buildings that you could be forgiven for not noticing these little tiles, quietly hiding on the steps. I am sure most visitors hardly glance in their direction but it is often the attention to all the small details that add to the overall splendour of a place for me.

Whilst Hearst Castle more generally showed signs of superficiality, with the backs of façades left unfinished, attention to unseen detail fascinates me endlessly. Backs of cupboards, insides of drawers, carvings and sculptures hidden in places where few people will ever see them – all are signs of extravagant and heart-felt quality to me. The sign of a passionate craftsman is to demand perfect work in places only he and God can see.

Where would you build your dream home?

When you leave San Francisco behind you and follow the coast road South you eventually reach a place called Big Sur. In its vicinity the views are stupendous, every bay offers new delights to the eyes and the road bridges add to the magnificence of the surroundings.

Living at the bottom of a valley, we often dream of moving to a house with a view; it would be difficult to surpass the vistas in this area. Unfortunately, (or should that be fortunately?) these views are not for sale, yet every time we pass this stunning place the dream returns…

Beautiful Snow

Coming to this resort (in the Fall) for many years, we have witnessed it under a complete spectrum of weather conditions. We have admired Autumn colours under brilliant sunlight but have also marvelled at it’s transformation to a magical world by the depositing of 15 inches of snow in just one night.

Arriving from England, where the slightest smattering of snow causes the whole country to grind to a halt, we were impressed by how quickly all roads and paths were cleared. The range of equipment used to clear the different sized surfaces was fascinating.

Nevertheless, after a fall of snow the views became a twinkling, white wonderland. The trees, dusted with snow, looked like cake decorations and the white background filled the scene with its own peace and calm. I certainly hope we will return there soon.

Salt Lake City

Moroni on grey by webmink
Moroni on grey, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

I’ve visited Salt Lake City in Utah a few times, but I’ve only had the chance to explore its Mormon heritage once. The day I toured was not ideal for photography, so in the spirit of my photographic muse Galen Rowell, this photo captures an icon of the experience perfectly. The huge Mormon temple in the centre of Salt Lake City includes this representation of the angel Moroni, complete with trumpet. The background is the natural isolation of the grey sky and has not been artificially created.

Flight of the Pelican

Flight of the Pelican by webmink
Flight of the Pelican, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

One of the pleasures of walking along the shore in central California is seeing pelicans. There are often great flocks of them, and to British eyes this is a thing of excess and exoticism.

I caught this one flying in San Francisco Bay, just to the west of Alcatraz Island. There’s a pleasant symmetry to that – “alcatraz” is the Spanish for “pelican”.

Filoli Estate

Filoli Reflecting Pool by webmink
Filoli Reflecting Pool, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Did you know there’s a stately home near San Francisco – no need to visit Europe to see one!

Filoli is a 650 acre estate and grand stately home in 16 acres of formal gardens, to the west of I-280 level with Redwood City. It was built on surplus land by the man whose water company created Crystal Springs reservoir, the long narrow lake that fills the San Andreas fault to the west of the property. The rich gardens were subsequently filled by its next owner, a shipping magnate. It now belongs to America’s National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Yosemite Valley, Flooded

Yosemite by webmink
Yosemite, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

This is an unusual view of Yosemite Valley in California, taken during the spring floods. Yosemite Valley always has places that are beautiful and tranquil despite the enormous crowds around the visitor centre and the car parks. Just walk away for 5 minutes and you’re in wilderness country with bears and deer.

If you love waterfalls like I do, spring is the ideal time to visit – I always used to go in late May or early June after a certain trade show had brought me to San Francisco. You can see here the distant thundering of Yosemite Falls as the water descends the 740m in two stages. The lake in the foreground is formed by the flooding of the meadows on the valley floor by the Merced river. You can see the same view without the added lake.

Swimming with Turtles

Swimming with Turtles by webmink
Swimming with Turtles, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Now I don’t want to give the impression that every conference I attend is like a holiday. It’s not. Usually each day is full of event-related activity, and it might as well be held in an airport hotel in Detroit for all the glamour that’s available.

But just sometimes, there’s a bit of magic. I attended a standards meeting at a hotel in Hawai’i and got the chance one afternoon to practice snorkelling for an hour in the lagoon near the hotel. To my amazement, I was joined by a huge turtle, who swam nearby long enough for me to capture the experience with the digital camera I had with me.

Now I’ve shared this no-one will ever believe my speaking engagements are work. But honestly, most events don’t have gems like this. I hope another one will, though!

Crater Lake Sunrise

Crater Lake Sunrise by webmink
Crater Lake Sunrise, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

If you are ever able to spend a night at Crater Lake in southern Oregon, do it. It’s a large, deep lake formed in the caldera of an exploded volcano. Waking up in the comfortable Crater Lake Lodge back in late June 2002 to go out in the snow and enjoy the sunrise is one of the most sublime memories I can remember. No wonder earlier inhabitants considered it sacred.

Yes, there is still deep snow there in late June; it’s a mountain-top in the Cascades chain, after all, you’re at 2,100 metres above sea level. It gets more snow than just about anywhere in the USA and it persists into July. You can’t see in this photo, but the water of Crater Lake is quite remarkable as a result. There are no inlets or outlets to the lake, so it takes 250 years for the water lost to evaporation to be replaced by snow-fall (and rainfall) alone.

The resulting purity of the water and the exceptional depth (its half a kilometre deep, ninth-deepest in the world) means you can see 20-30 metres down into it, and as a result on sunny days it looks the most incredible cobalt blue colour I have ever seen.  It’s a small national park to go and be tranquil, rather than a high-activity destination, but it’s among my most memorable visits and I recommend it.

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