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Six Flags Discovery - A day trip

For the July 4th weekend, we decided to go on a day trip to Six flags with the cousins. It is 90 minutes away and in all our years of living here, we never visited this theme park.

It is a combination of Sea world, Disney's animal kingdowm and Universal all in one for a third of the price. Granted there are some give and takes for the price but the end result when you have a bunch of kids running around on a sugar high, a great place to spend the day!

We went in as soon as the park opened and stayed there till the park closed. Pretty much on our feet the whole time. Here are some pictures.

There was a seal show. The seals did a good job but the people in the show were too loud and annoying. The volume was too loud. Hope the seals dont hear the same frequencies we do at the same volume!

Then the little dolphin show. It was amazing. There was also another big dolphin show called Drench, but we missed it. The little dolphin show was better than the ones we have seen at Sea World. 

These 4 female dolphins were so synchronized and trained. They did a hoola hoop on their nose, threw a ball up with their "hands" and caught it in their mouth.. amazingly well trained.

Then we moved on to land animals. The tiger show was something we have never seen before. Five bengal tigers, jumping across 10 foot concrete slabs, climbing up 20 feet in one leap.. 

and diving into water and swimming! Have not seen that one before..  

 The butterfly garden was beautiful. Lots of large and small butterflies, well maintained, multiple security guards to make sure folks did not have both doors open to let butterflies out.. it was nicely done!

This one was the size of my palm!

Then we saw "feedom".. a Bald Eagle that was rescued. She posed for pictures a good 50 feet away. Was happy to get this "portrait" of her. Truly majestic and regal! On a good note, the extender and lens are fixed and seem to work okay after the repair.

The highlight though, was the fireworks. In all our life we have watched a lot of new years, disney, 4th of July fireworks. This was the best. Nice seats on a gallery. Very decent crowd. Great view of the fireworks launching pad across the water. The quality of the fireworks was also great. It was very well organized.

Tried  a slo-motion video of the first part of the fireworks on the new iPhone 6 plus. However not sure if it uploads as a slow motion video.. it is on my youtube as a separate video.. 

Was too tired to even take the canon out after the long day.. Sometimes the best camera, is the one you can hold!

Loved this day trip. It was really a pleasant day, less crowded rides, happy kids and parents after being on our feet the entire day. Cannot ask for much more!

Strongly recommended for a day trip!


Time to be thankful..

Thanksgiving as a festival always eludes me. The whole Indians-Pilgrims-Turkey-Corn thingy doesn't strike a chord. 

Since getting married though it has been a means to celebrate Sangeetha and my birthday at nice locations as this holiday falls between our two birthdays. 

People tell me "this is a time to say thanks and be thankful for the good things in your life". If there is one thing to be thankful for in this life, it is family!

For the last 16 years we have mostly spent this long weekend with the cousins family at parks, theme or national..

This year was no different. We went to Yosemite Falls for two days. Got to see some wondeful sights, get way more exercise than we bargained for and had some fun times playing board games in a cozy cabin!

The pictures are promising so far..

San turns 29 again today! I am thankful to her parents for their first creation, who gave me a second chance in life and has made a better person out of me than I would have thought possible.

Here's to San, second chances and family!


Start with the clouds

It has been a good three months since the India trip. There has been a lot more traveling, all work related. Interesting places, experiences, people! A lot to write about.

However, work dicates I keep my travel locations confidential. It is a funny request given I meet so many familiar faces at various international airport waiting lounges. Also, there are only a handful of fab locations in the world one can go to these days, if you group it by country!

For now, the request has to be honored.. so let's start with the clouds!

This picture was taken somewhere at 33000 feet above an ocean, with the iPhone 5S

Think that is generic enough!

Now don't start asking me which ocean.. 

While I was going through iPhone pictures, came across another recent one taken at Big Sur where we went camping a few months ago. 

Both photos were sent through Photoshop for the same reasons. The first photo had way too many light spots from the plane window. So eliminated them on the middle of the picture. The second one had raindrops on the windshield which showed. Removed most of the drops that showed up on the road (you can still see the drops on the tree and sides). 

Here are two photos taken with the 5D Mark II the previous evening at Big Sur.

Have now found a new treasure trove of pictures on my iPhone. 

A friend who works at Adobe just got me a copy of the latest Lightroom! 

Apparently presets are a breeze with Lightroom. Will tell you how it goes soon.. 


A trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park

The long weekend that comes after a long long time every year came and went. We HAD to go somewhere on a long drive to relieve all that pent up stress of the routine between January to the end of May. 

We decided to visit Lassen National park after a six year gap with the cousin family. We had a ton of fun over the two day trip. 

The weather was perfect. There was lots of snow in the ground at 7000-8000+ feet altitudes. There was plenty of water gushing down the cascades and waterfalls. It was just perfect!

Ice had started melting and it created caves that had a nice bluish glow with the light reflecting from the other side!

Last time we visited this park, it was mostly snowed out and we could not go on any trails as they were all closed. We drove through the loop and came back. This time though, things were different. 

There were snowball fights, adventurous trekking, the kids all grown up and at an age where watching them interact and play is a joy in itself. Even the driving to and from the park was pleasant compared to the usual because we decided to put the younger kids in one vehicle and the older kids in the other vehicle!

We could clearly see the hot sulfur springs for a change!

and watch the sulfur meet the water which makes for some amazing hues..

We made one mistake, or rather the park authorities did. While trying to get to the Kings Creek falls, there was a trail that was closed. Given all the snow, we were off the trail walking in snow. Two families we crossed in the opposite direction told us "just follow the footsteps on the snow".. turns out we wandered off on a closed trail that was very dangerous. We made it in one piece to the falls and back where a rock slide had recently crossed the trail. It was quite and adventure with the kids. 

What were we thinking!

For some strange reason, I did not haul my tripod on the trip. So fancy falls pictures to show. Did get a few shots by placing camera on a rock tripod I built at the base of the falls.. 

Here are the only decent shots of the different falls I managed to get.. Did get a lot of pictures of the kids in action.. but they go on other Social Media!

That last shot almost cost me the camera! 

On day two we visited all the "vista points" and let the kids play in the snow some more. We also went on a beautiful trail around Manzanita lake and around the Lily pond. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Here are some pictures from those two hikes.

That we learned is Lichens.. not moss! It gave the giant trees a flourescent hue that was fantastic.

Lake Helen, although frozen provided other entertainment .. like me doing Triangle pose on snow/ice in front of the family! 

The beautiful Manzanita lake..

There were a lot of ripples.. but given my tripodlessness, opted to take the shot at a very high shutter speed to avoid the ripples.. this was taken with a 1/4000 or 1/8000 speed with ISO at 400. While driving back I realized that to get the entire reflection, a better idea would have been to use the full ND filter instead of the graduated ND filter and go a good 1/2 a second or 1 second at f22 with ISO 100. That experiment will be for the next trip or next reflection shot that comes our way!

The famous standing boulder at Bumpass hell..

Now for some pictures with the kids in action to add more beauty to the scenery..

and last but not least, the ghost cat.. 

and one of our best outdoor family portaits in recent memory (thanks to BB for the click)!

Strongly recommend Lassen as a weekend trip from the bay area, if.. IF it is not snowed out and you can get accomodation last minute at Red Bluff, which is 45 minutes away from park entrance. This is a lot less crowded than Yosemite and a lot more fun in our opinion!


Pinnacles National park - a day trip

We went on a day trip to Pinnacles National park (Monument as it is called) with the cousins. The weather report said 85 F and we thought it would be nice weather to go on a 2+ mile hike and maybe another 2+ mile hike.

The park website promised interesting views, including a network of bat caves. 

 The first trail to Bear Gulch was great. The rock faces were really colorful..

 we got to descend into the caves through narrow crevices and the temperature drop was a palpable 30+ degrees. There is water running under those caves and it is really cool down there!

It was not easy to take pictures without a tripod but the bouncing lights off the water and rocks did make for some interesting pictures!

We were hit by 106 F heat as we exit the caves through a near vertical staircase carved into the side of the caves. It truly reminded me of the Batman movie when we looked up towards the exit!

Poor bats, no wonder they are blind. We were blinded for a few seconds when we went from nice cool darkness to scorching heat and bright sunlight! 

We went on to see a beautiful resevoir which was abuzz with all types of dragonflies!

and one type of butterfly in the 100's or thousands! This guy posed for me without realizing it. Caught him with a 400 mm Zoom (which is why the background is all Bokeh'ed out).

It was an enjoyable trip. Next time we shoud hit it earlier in the year when peak temperatures are closer to 70's or 80's. The park pamphlet promises views of great falls and rock formations, but guess those are longer hikes and will have to wait till the adults are in better shape. The kids seem to be doing fine with the trails. 

Even the little one managed to walk for 4 hours with a countable "daddy, please thooki(carry) me!" instances.

Will definitely recommend this place for  day trip. 

ps. Apparently the caves will be closed soon for bat baby season.. so check before you go.

pps. Take a flashlight. It is dark in those caves and another visitor in front of us said they saw snakes in the caves which is not surprising. We used one flashlight and one iPhone app to navigate the caves. Two or three flashlights would have been better.