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Tag Archives: Capturing the Shot

Prehistoric Pets – Fountain Valley, CA

Address:  18822 Brookhurst Street, Fountain Valley, CA 92708  [ Map It ]

Prehistoric Pets is a unique pet store in that they carry an unusual inventory of pets not readily found elsewhere as well as food and supplies for those pets. But you don’t need to be looking to buy some of these exotic pets to visit their store because they have a small zoo of sorts. For a $5.00 fee, you can walk through their miniature zoo and see some very unique critters.

Here you’ll find several American Alligators (and not the small ones either), rattlesnakes, pythons, boa constrictors (both small and really huge), turtles, tortoises, iguanas, geckos, chameleons, and monitor lizards to name just a few.

When you walk in the door, on the right you’ll find a large fountain containing many fish and turtles. On your left are the Galapagos tortoises. You pay the zoo fee at the front counter, and the zoo begins behind the small bamboo gate on your left. Go straight ahead to find the main zoo area or immediately to your right and follow the enclosures down and then around the corner (I almost passed this section by as most proceed right into the main area).

I spent about an hour walking around and just watching the various animals. It doesn’t look very big when you first walk in, but it’s laid out much like a maze — find a dead end, go back and find another section. Be sure to look around every corner or you’ll likely miss an entire section. Don’t be afraid to ask a staff member to point out where the different sections are or even go back to the counter and ask for a quick tour of the sections so that you’ll know exactly where they are. The staff is friendly and always happy to help.

Hint: Nothing is behind a closed door and all sections are accessible, some look like dead ends but really aren’t. So always be sure to look around each corner before turning around.

Capturing the Shot: Since these animals are behind glass, a polarizing filter for your lens is helpful in order to shoot through the reflections in the glass.

Photography is allowed and you can capture some unique photos here. I didn’t ask if flash photography was allowed since I wasn’t planning on using one. The place is well lit and I figured that, since many of these animals are venomous or can outright eat you, and only an 1/8th inch piece of glass separated them from me, it’s probably best not to anger them.

Posted in Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Lake Fulmor – Highway 243 – Idyllwild, CA

Address:  Lake Fulmor, Highway 243 (Lat 8051129, Lng -116.779569)  [ Map It ]


Lake Fulmor is a great location to photograph that mirror like image on a calm lake. You might have caught a glimpse of this lake as you passed by on your way to Idyllwild, CA. On Highway 243 with its winding road, this lake will only be within view for a second before you head into another turn on the highway, so it often gets overlooked.

The lake itself is man-made and part of a reservoir system for Indian Creek which flows into it. The creek turns into a trickle in the Summer months but in Winter, when the snows come, you can catch some great photos of the creek just north of the lake.

Lake Fulmor sits at about a 5,500 foot elevation, and is a rather small lake that only takes about a half-hour to walk around. Well used dirt paths mark the way all the way around. On either end of the lake, there are bridges, which provide some great shooting locations. The south side of the lake provides the most picturesque views with a pine tree covered mountain as your backdrop.

Capturing the Shot: Wide, wooden steps leading down to the water can be found at several points while walking over the south bridge (nearest the highway). Walk down one and check out the view from water level. I set my tripod up with two legs hanging off of the lowest step to touch the ground and one leg of the tripod placed on the step itself. Shooting with a shutter speed of 1/125 and an ISO of 100 will bring out the surrounding Autumn colors suitable for framing. An f-stop of f/11 will produce a nice depth of field to bring both the lake and nearby mountains into focus.

The north bridge is where Indian Creek meets the lake. When the creek is flowing, this vantage point allows for some great photos.

One notable landmark at the lake is an outcropping of rocks that protrude into the lake. These rocks provide for some great shots due to their contrast to the surrounding area. If you are adventurous, you can even climb on top of the rocks for some different views of the lake.

Opposite of the rocks is a wooden platform (pier like structure) that extends partly over the lake. This area too can provide a great location to shoot from.

The best photo results of the lake will come in the Autumn (multi-colored leaves) and Winter (snow covered trees) but really, it has no bad season. However, weather does play an important factor in capturing that calm, still, lake photo. Even the slightest breeze will cause ripples in the lake, destroying that mirror image. Still a good photo with minor ripples, you really want to to visit on a day when the winds are nil. The time of day that you visit also plays an important role. The best time to visit is in the morning between 10:00 am and Noon. Before 10:00 am, the Sun has yet to come over the mountains to shed light on the trees and lake. In the late afternoon, the Sun will be at the south end of the lake, so shooting from the north and down the lake will put the Sun right into your lens.

The highway leading up the mountain to the Lake Fulmor has many turnouts that you may not want to overlook. Take the time to stop at a few for some fantastic views (right side turnouts are often views of Hemet and the valley far below, and the left side turnouts reveal mountains and many rock formations). The small mountain town of Idyllwild is about 10 miles past the lake. If you plan your trip right, you can arrive at the lake by 9:00 am, do some exploring, take some photos, and then head off for Idyllwild for lunch before heading back down the mountain.


Note: Lake Fulmor is a designated “Day Use Area” requiring the $5.00 per day, Adventure Pass. HOWEVER, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA), which was passed by Congress to authorize the policy for collecting such fees, was recently struck down in part by the U.S. District Court, Central District, and the U.S. Forest Service was enjoined and barred from collecting fees from people who simply park and hike without using any of the developed facilities, such as picnic tables and restrooms. See Fragosa, et al. vs. U.S. Forest Service.

“On April 28, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., ruled that the United States Forest Service cannot charge fees to recreational visitors who park a car, then camp at undeveloped sites, picnic along roads or trailsides, or hike through the area without using the facilities and services.”

“Relying on a previous case, Adams v. United States Forest Service, 671 F.3d 1138 (9th Circuit 2012), Judge Hatter wrote, “Adams is quite clear. The Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking. If a visitor does nothing other than park, the fee is solely for parking and is, therefore, plainly prohibited by the REA.”

Don’t be duped or intimidated into paying such fees if you are simply visiting the lake and do not use any of the facilities.

Posted in Landscape Photography, Photography Tutorials Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Blackbird Airpark – Spy Plane Museum – Palmdale, CA

Address:  2503 East Avenue P, Palmdale, CA 93550  [ Map It ]

A while back I was looking for a movie set out in the desert using Google Maps in satellite view. As I was looking around I spotted what appeared to be an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane on the ground. As I zoomed in, sure enough, it was an SR-71 Blackbird, a long known about but super secret military spy plane that was recently declassified. As I moved into Google Street View, I saw the plane was even visible from the street. Upon further investigation, I found that it is an aircraft museum. This I had to visit.

Blackbird Airpark is a spy plane museum like no other aircraft museum. Here, they have several historical spy planes on display, including the infamous U-2 spy plane and the precursor to the stealthly SR-71, the A-12 single seat spy plane. Also, the ultra top secret SR-71 looking D-12 stealth drone.

If you want to get a close up shot of an SR-71 Blackbird, according to their website, this is the only place in the world to do so.

Staffed by volunteers, Blackbird Airpark is only open Friday through Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, but closed on weekdays. Admission is free but donations are appreciated..

Capturing the Shot: Because the planes are free standing and your head comes up to the landing gear, I mounted my camera atop a monopod and using my camera’s intervalometer, I set it to automatically snap a shot every 5-seconds, I then lifted the monopod high up in the air for a bird’s eye view of the planes for that unique shot.

Posted in Aviation Photography, Photography Tutorials Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |