We recently joined the rest of my extended family (mom, brother, his wife, their two kids and our nephew from my wife’s side of the family) for our annual-ish beach Texas beach trip. Usually, we go to Galveston, as it’s fairly-accessible from the DFW area (5-ish hour drive) and we’re familiar with it, knowing the best places to stay, things to see and restaurants to eat at.
This time, however, we decided to go further south, to the Corpus Christi area, and stay in Port Aransas. The onus for this change of scenery was to benefit my mother, as she grew up in Corpus and hadn’t been back in probably 30 years or so and wanted to see how things had changed.
For me, however, it was the perfect chance to try out my new PlatyPod.
The PlatyPod is a flat plate with legs that you can adjust in height and a screw mount for a tripod ball head that acts like a go-anywhere and not-take-up-a-lot-of-space tripod that can be wedged into the ground with its spiked feet or set on a car hood or roof with its soft rubber feet. There are also slots where you can thread straps for attaching to poles or trees or whatever.
As I was out early one morning shooting stills of the sunrise on the Port Aransas beach, I decided to use the PlatyPod and my iPhone tripod mount to capture a time-lapse of the sunrise. Using the spiked feet, I planted the PlatyPod into the sand, attached the iPhone, switched the camera to time-lapse mode and set back to let it record.
The results are awesome, as you can see below. The PlatyPod held the iPhone rock-solid and the low perspective gives the video, in my opinion, that “little bit extra”.
I recently posted some old-school-ridiculous ads from vintage Playboy magazines here and thought “Why not make this a regular thing?”, so today I present to you more vintage Playboy ads. This time, we’re setting the time machine’s controls to take us back to March 1977.
Wrangler really tried to step back from that rugged cowboy image in favor of something more “Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie and Clyde Meets Captain Fantastic”. Incidentally, 350 Fifth Avenue is the Empire State Building, but, alas, Wrangler has moved their headquarters to Greensboro, NC since this ad ran. Also, the slogan “Wremember, the ‘W’ is Silent”?
Gross. Nothing, in my mind, says “1970s Venereal Disease Vector” quite like these wooden hot tubs. Or, as I call them, “The Devil’s Chowder”.
In my previous dispatch, I covered the first half of our recent adventure driving from Portland to San Francisco, specifically the drive from Portland to Eureka, California. In this post, we’ll wrap it up with the drive from Eureka to the Bay Area.
On this day, we left Eureka and continued south on Highway 1 towards that night’s destination of Petaluma.
Our first destination was a drive down the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This scenic drive winds through the redwood forest and is a former alignment for U.S. Highway 101.
Unless you’ve visited Northern California and have been amongst the Coast Redwoods, it’s hard to comprehend how massive they are. While hiking through the forest, when coming across a felled tree, it was often quicker and easier to climb over it rather than walking all the way around it.
The visitors center at the park has a cross-section from a tree that gives you a sense of how old these giants are:
After leaving the state park, we continued south and soon found ourselves pulled in by roadside attraction signs, in particular, the Chandelier Tree in Leggett, California. This tree is one of the few remaining that one can drive through, so we did the touristy thing, paid our admission fee and got in line to drive through.
After leaving Leggett, we cut over to the Shoreline Highway (US-1) and began our epic, harrowing drive down the curviest road I think I’ve ever driven. This segment of the drive hugs the coastline and it constant turns with very few places where the speed limit exceeds 35mph. Adding to that, there’s few guardrails or shoulders, the road is narrow and, at some points, is over 600 above the rocky beach below. We stopped at a few places along the way, but were mostly-content to enjoy the view and try to stay on the road!
We got a much-needed respite from the scary drive when we arrived in the coastal town of Fort Bragg, where we spotted this somewhat-impressive railroad bridge over the beach:
This 527-foot-long structure is known as the Pudding Creek Trestle and was built in 1915 to carry lumber from logging sites north of town to Fort Bragg for processing. It was abandoned in 1949, but still stands as a testament to its solid construction.
Fort Bragg is also known for Glass Beach. This beach is famous for the large amount of sea glass that can be found there. The sea glass is the result of years of dumping trash in this area of town in the first-half of the 20th Century. Today, it’s a tourist attraction rather than an environmental catastrophe and is worth the visit to look for sea glass.
Our next stop was Mendocino, a well-known small town that sits on a headland surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean.
The most-interesting thing I learned about Mendocino during our brief stopover there was that it stood in for the fictional Cabot Cove, Maine, for filming of the 80s TV series Murder, She Wrote.
After stopping to take photos, see the sea and buy some chocolate, we returned to the harrowing highway southward. Unfortunately, there are very few places along this stretch of road to safely stop to stretch your legs, relax and take some photos, so we were happy when we finally reached Gleason Beach for a rest.
Once we left Gleason Beach, we headed inland towards Petaluma, where we would have some of the worst Chinese food ever, but have a great night at the Hotel Petaluma in the historic downtown area.
This day was always intended as a restful day of an easy drive through the North Bay countryside, stopping at a couple of local places before ending up for the night in San Rafael.
Our first stop of the day was at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese (my wife loves cheese almost as much as Wallace from Wallace & Grommit). Here, a rather curt worker begrudgingly sold us some cheese and sausage to sample and sate our hunger, so I don’t have a lot of praise to heap upon it, but I can say that they had happy cows that had a great view of the Pacific Ocean to look at as they ate their grass.
We then drove through the countryside, taking in the sights and losing count of how many foxes, coyotes and lynx we saw before coming across Tony’s Seafood Restaurant in Marshall, along the coast of Tomales Bay (incidentally, the San Andreas Fault runs right down the middle of the bay—luckily, it behaved itself while we were there).
Stopping for lunch and a couple of pints, I have to say that the oyster sandwich I had there is easily in my top ten meals I’ve ever had. The local oysters were incredible, with a vastly-different flavor than the Gulf oysters we usually get at home in Texas (probably because they have a much-lower percentage of petroleum!).
After lunch, we started making our way towards San Rafael. We wanted to check in early to rest and were pleasantly-surprised to find that the hotel—an Embassy Suites—featured an awesome Eighties hotel atrium!
After a light dinner, we settled in for the night, enjoying a deep, restful sleep to recharge our batteries for the final push into San Francisco.
This day would find us exploring the North Bay/Marin Headlands before venturing across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco.
Our hotel in San Rafael was adjacent to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center. This structure is probably best-known among sci-fi fans as the filming location for Gattaca and George Lucas’ THX-1138, his first feature-length film.
After pausing to admire the architecture, we drove into China Camp State Park, named for the historic Chinese-American fishing village that used to be located on the San Francisco Bay there.
After China Camp State Park, we headed back towards the Pacific and Red Rock Beach.
After Red Rock Beach, we traveled a bit further up the coast to check out the town of Stinson Beach before backtracking to Muir Beach:
We then headed south back into the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Our first stop was Point Cavallo at Fort Baker, which offers this great view of the Golden Gate Bridge:
It also offers snakes, but luckily this one was a harmless gophersnake, Pituophis catenifer:
We then headed up the hill terrain on the west side of the Bridge, where we were treated to a great view of the structure and the San Francisco cityscape:
We then headed across the bridge into San Francisco. After giving my wife a brief tour of some of the major sights in the city, we headed towards Fisherman’s Wharf, where we were staying for the next two nights.
As we were hungered, we settled on The Grotto for lunch, where we had a so-so meal, an excellent waiter and great beer.
After lunch, we went to one of my favorite places at Fishermans Wharf, the Musée Mécanique, which features old coin-operated amusements and arcade games, including this bit of nightmare fuel:
We then wandered around Fisherman’s Wharf for a bit:
We then checked into our hotel for the evening, the quirky Hotel Zephyr. Amongst the quirkiness:
We finished out the day with a small meal in our room and an early night of watching TV and getting some needed rest.
The last full day of our trip, spent entirely in San Francisco.
After visiting the park, we wandered over to Pier 45 to see the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien—one of only 2 remaining fully-functional Liberty Ships leftover from World War 2—and the USS Pampanito, another World War 2 vessel—a Balao-class submarine that served in the Pacific:
Next was a quick stop at the Pier 43 Ferry Arch, which originally housed hoists for loading and unloading rail cars from ferries, but is now a historic site:
A quick walk then took us through the most-touristy part of Fisherman’s Wharf—Pier 39. I accuse it of being the most-touristy due to the fact that it features these traps:
Both an Alcatraz Book Store and an Alcatraz Gift Shop
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company
A candy store
Hard Rock Cafe
A magic store
A Lids hat store
A least 8 San Francisco-themed gift shops
A fudge store
A sock store
A Sunglass Hut
A pretzel shop
A Dreyer’s ice cream shop
A Mrs. Fields
A “7D” theatre
A VR theatre
Seriously, there’s a lot going on here. Check out their site for a complete list of crap. The best part, of course, was more sea lions!
After a lunch at one of my favorite places to eat1 at Fisherman’s Wharf—Chowder Hut—we retrieved our car and made our way back towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
Our goal was to see the Fort Point National Historic Site—a Civil War-era fort that was preserved during the construction of the Bridge by building the bridge over it rather than demolishing it. Having visited the Bridge a few times, including walking most of the way across it, I’d always been intrigued by the Fort, but had never had a chance to visit it before.
After Fort Point, we took a relaxing drive around the city before returning to our hotel for dinner from Boudin Bakery Cafe, followed by packing and getting ready to return home to Dallas.
Before heading to SFO to catch our flight, we drove down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building to visit the shops there.
Opened in 1898—a survivor of the 1906 earthquake—this ferry terminal has served the crossbay transit since then, though it’s now both a ferry terminal and a marketplace.
Of course, my interest in urbanism, including the new urbanism of the 1960s, directed my attention across the street to the giant mix-used cluster of skyscrapers that is the Embarcadero Center:
More-interesting than the skyscrapers, to me at least, is the adjacent Vaillancourt Fountain. This fountain, which has a legacy of controversy due to its unfinished, modern appearance, punctuates the plaza between the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero Center. Having visited it a few times now, I’m still undecided whether I like it.
After the Ferry Building, we made our way out of the city and down the 101 towards SFO. Our last stop before the airport would be lunch at Little Lucca in South San Francisco. I cannot stress how good our food was here. It’s a tiny shop with no seating and the line forms early and is long, but it’s so worth the wait. We each got a sandwich, but being that they were the size of my forearm, we couldn’t eat it all and should’ve split it.
This video does a nice job of demonstrating just how huge these sandwiches are!
After lunch, we made our way to SFO, checked in for our flight, relaxed a bit and caught our flight back to Dallas.
All-in-all, it was a great adventure. The problem is that every time we go on an adventure like this, we get home and immediately feel the need to travel again. Luckily, we already have a couple of more trips in the pipeline—an extended family trip to South Texas (mainly Corpus Christi and Port Aransas) to take my mother to visit her hometown for the first time in almost 25 years—and a long weekend adventure to Colorado to explore the mountains and see Nine Inch Nails in concert at Red Rocks.
For a few years, we’ve been talking about doing a drive along the Pacific Coast from Portland to San Francisco. My wife has spent a fair amount of time in Portland and I’ve spent a lot of time in San Francisco, but we’d never connected the dots in between, taking the time to see the rugged Oregon and Northern California coastline nor the towering redwood trees that the region is famous for.
We finally decided to take the plunge once the world had forgotten about the pandemic, so we booked a flight, rented a car, booked some hotel rooms, confirmed our dogsitter’s availability and packed our bags.
As you probably know, other than doing software stuff, photography is my second life. So this would be a combination vacation/photo-adventure, so we made sure to plan a route that would maximize photo opportunities. I’ll be sharing photos from this journey for a long time on my daily photo site, 75CentralPhotography, so be sure to follow me there (I’d keep an eye on the Oregon and California categories).
However, this site isn’t geared towards sharing my photography, but more about random, ephemeral things, so I thought I’d share our route, as recorded by my GPS logger (along with a few shots I shot on my iPhone for context). I log my travels when out taking photos to ensure that I can later add a location to every photo I take and you can read more about this process at my rarely-updated photography blog here.
Our first day entailed first flying from our home airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, to Portland International Airport. So, naturally, I fired up my GPS logger and was surprised that, for the most part, I was able to get steady GPS signals.
It’s always amazing to me, every time I fly out west and have a window seat, to see just how unsettled the western half (or even two-thirds) of the United States is. Lots of area to get lost or start a cult or militia or some other crazy group, or just see some amazing scenery.
We got up early the next morning and headed out. Our first stop was Multnomah Falls, east of Portland on the south bank of the Columbia River. The falls are 620 feet tall and are well-worth the visit:
We then reversed course and went back through Portland on our way to Cannon Beach, most-famous for being the location where the final part of The Goonies was filmed. It’s also famous for the 235-foot-tall sea stack known as Haystack Rock:
After leaving Cannon Beach, we drove down the coast a ways before heading inland a bit to the Tillamook Creamery for a cheese snack, then head back out to the coast to Cape Meares for a quick stop.
Other stops included Pacific City Beach:
Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint:
Before arriving at that evening’s destination, Otter Rock. We stayed at the Inn at Otter Crest, which would’ve afforded us a great view of the sunset over the Pacific had it not been overcast at sunset, but otherwise offered great views of the rugged coast as well as a tasty pizza and local beers for dinner.
Our third day’s journey found us doubling-back a bit to visit Depoe Bay and the coast north of there before heading back south to our day’s destination, Coos Bay.
Depoe Bay is known for its 6-acre harbor that is purported to be the world’s smallest navigable harbor. Interesting fact about this harbor is that it was was damaged by a tsunami resulting from the same 2011 earthquake in Japan that caused the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.
One of the more-scenic stops for the day was the Devils Punch Bowl—a large rock formation along the coast near Otter Rock:
After leaving the Devils Punch Bowl, we continued south towards Newport, stopping for a bit in Beverly Beach:
Reaching the outskirts, of Newport, we stopped at Yaquina Head to see the lighthouse and surrounding coast.
We then drove the rest of the way into Newport, where we stopped to view the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
We then stopped on the Newport Bayfront for lunch at the Rogue Brewery and the view the local residents:
After lunch and a couple of pints, we got back on the road to our next stop, Cape Perpetua:
A quick detour then took us to Sealion Beach, which lived up to its name with an uncomfortably large number of sealions lying about:
We finished our day by checking into the very-quirky Itty Bitty Inn in North Bend, which features themed rooms and some awesome murals:
Followed by a couple of pints and dinner at the 7 Devils Brewing taproom in Coos Bay
Day 4 of our adventure would find us wending our way down the coast from Coos Bay to Eureka, California.
Our first stop was in Port Orford, where we took in Battle Rock and the nearby scenery:
Continuing south, we stopped at Gold Beach:
Where we encountered this bit of Lovecraftian nightmare fuel:
And then on to Sisters Rock:
We then stopped at Meyers Creek Beach for a view of the sea stacks there:
And then onto Ariya’s Beach at Gold Beach, Oregon:
The next stop, Natural Bridges, Oregon, offered an amazing, dramatic view:
Finally, we crossed the border into California and got our first good look at the giant Redwood trees we’d been yearning to see:
After exploring the Redwoods for a bit, we rolled into Eureka for the night, stopping for a bit to view the channel that leads from the Pacific to Humboldt Bay and it’s accompanying jetty:
That concludes the first part of our epic drive from Portland to San Francisco. Next time, we’ll cover the conclusion of our journey, driving from Eureka to San Francisco.
People kid themselves when they say “I only read Playboy for the articles”, so I’m going to modify that a bit and say “I only read vintage Playboys for the ads”.
I recently came across a trove of vintage issues of Playboys and its been fun to flip through them and appreciate the ridiculousness of the ads more than anything else (though I must admit that the “boomer humor” comics occasionally elicit a groan from me, when they’re not making me cringe).
So, today, I present to you, some weird/ridiculous/strange/whatever ads from the August 1979 issue of Playboy.
A full 42 years before Apple introduced Spatial Audio, Bose was giving it to us via this fake-wood-grained box.
From back in the day when Canadian Mist (which I admit to occasionally drinking) came in a glass bottle, and not the plastic bottles that it comes in now.
I’m sorry, but I’m not drinking something called “Dry Sack”. And to be juvenile, I feel like this might be related to the two different jock itch ads in the issue:
The reverend should’ve stuck with VW. Also, I can’t imagine that the good reverend would be pleased to know he appeared in Playboy.
“Row on row of precision gauges”…”husky” wheels…”12,000-mile/12-month warranty”. The AMX had it all!
If you drink too much Canadian Mist or…um…”Dry Sack”, you too could be an olive-dropper!
Who is this Bruce Jenner you speak of?
Hope you like film grain.
When you’re finished shooting your grainy photos on your Minolta, take your film down to the Fotomat in the parking lot at the Woolworths! In a week or so, return to pick up your prints and prepare to be disappointed.
For years, I’ve geo-tagged my photos on my photography site, 75CentralPhotography. In fact, I one wrote about my geotagging workflow over there…the workflow is a bit outdated, but still works and is still relevant.
Recently, I was thinking about ways to enhance the browsing/user experience of the site, when I hit upon the idea of including a map with each photo showing where the photos was taken, since I already had all this GPS metadata embedded in each photo.
The first step was figuring out how to extract the GPS data from the photo’s embedded metadata. Luckily, the site is built on WordPress and WordPress is built using PHP. And PHP has a built-in function for extracting EXIF and IPTC metadata from a given image, exif_read_data(), so I just needed to pass in an image path and it would return the full image metadata, then parse that to extract the longitude and latitude of where the photo is geotagged, which I could then use to place the photo’s location on a map.
The code I used to get the GPS coordinates
First, I needed to get the attachment ID for the photo. Since I only post one photo for each blog post, I knew I could use the handy catch_that_image() function that returns the id of the first image in a post when called from within a post:
However, since catch_that_image() only returns the attachment ID and exif_read_data() needs a relative path to the image file, I needed to get the path to the file from the attachment ID. Luckily, WordPress offers the get_attached_file() function to do just that:
Now that we have the relative path, we can finally pass that to the exif_read_data() PHP function to get the EXIF data back as arrays.
Finally, we can extract the latitude and longitude from the EXIF data using a custom getGPS() function:
Before we can display the map, we do three things:
Check to make sure that the photo actually has GPS data (as extracted in the previous step)
Add these coordinates to custom post metadata in WordPress
Check to see if a custom zoom level has been defined for a particular image in custom post metadata, else set the default zoom level of the map.
We do this as for some photos, there may not be any contextual information available for a map to display, such as a photo taken in the middle of the ocean, which would result in a blank map.
The code that does this is some simple PHP:
Now that we have that, we can embed the leaflet.js map:
First, we use an HTML <div> tag to set the display <div> for the map:
<div id=”mapid” ></div>
Next, we define the map and set the view and zoom level:
I was recently looking through some old photos in my Lightroom archive and came across a set of photos I took 15 years ago about a lost piece of Dallas-area culture.
The Good-Latimer Tunnel was built in 1930 for Texas State Highway 559 and the Texas & Pacific Railroad. In the 1960s, vandals began to tag its walls with graffiti. By the late 1970s, the City of Dallas had grown tired of cleaning the tunnel, so they began to organize several days each year wherein the street would be blocked off so that artists could paint the tunnel walls. Unfortunately, this came to an end in 2007 when Dallas Area Rapid Transit tore down the tunnel to build a new rail line.
A few weeks before demolition began, I made a trip to Deep Ellum to document some of this artwork. While some of it has been previously published on my website, 75CentralPhotography, most has never seen the light of day until now, seven years later.
I was recently playing around with Photoshop’s Content-Aware fill, trying to replace a drab Chicago sky with something more interesting on a phot of the 1929 Carbide & Carbon Building (now in the process of being renovated to the Pendry Chicago Hotel) and accidentally made this piece of abstract architectural art:
Last year, I wrote about a small photo EXIF data viewer I’d built. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really given the project much thought since then, especially since it was written to run on Windows and late last year, I switched back to MacOS.
Recently, however, i’ve been toying with idea of porting it to MacOS, especially since Microsoft’s Xamarin lets you write .NET code and compile it with MacOS as the target OS. However, to do so, I needed to rewrite for the Windows platform.
The first problem is that the original was written in Visual Basic.NET, which is great for rapidly-building applications, but is not a modern language and is on its way to being deprecated by Microsoft.
The second problem, and this is somewhat-embarassing considering that I’m a software development manager and solutions architect at my day job, but the application was poorly-built (I threw it together in a couple of hours). No modularity. No proper design patterns. Logic intermingled with UI. Lots of global variables.
So, to port to MacOS via Xamarin, I’d need to rewrite the code in C# (since VB.NET isn’t supported) and I’d need to make it more modular, so that the processing/backend was abstracted away from the user interface. This way, I could use the codebase that extracts the EXIF data in my Mac version without modification and will only need to build the UI elements for MacOS.
At any rate, I’ve started making my first stabs at writing the Mac version, but until then, the Windows version is available on GitHub here. You can download the installer here.
I welcome feedback, contributions and pull requests!
For the last couple of years, I’ve been undertaking the arduous task of digitizing the thousands of slides and negatives that I inherited from my father. While they are mostly treasured family memories and reminders of great days gone by, there are the occasional photos that pop up where I say to myself “Why did you waste a shot on this?”
History lesson time for the kids: Before smartphones and digital cameras, we had to use film to take photos (the hipster kids will already know this). So, you only got, typically, 24 or 36 photos per roll of film and you had to pay and wait to actually see them. So, unlike today where you’re really only limited in how many photos you can take by your device’s memory or battery, back then, you were limit by cost (initial purchase of film and, once you’ve used it, developing and printing expenses) and by how much film you could carry—a bunch of film canisters could take up a lot of space!
That’s why when I’ve been going through these photos that my father took, I wonder what compelled him to take some of these photos.
So, for your enjoyment(?), here are a few that perplex me.
My “best guess” is that the first few are somehow related to my father’s work in the East Texas oilfields as these appear to be oil field service companies, though why he felt he needed photos of them is a secret that died with him.
The last, however, is perfectly obvious as to why he took it:
They misspelled their own company name on their own truck!