A Short Trip to Santa Barbara


I am just back from Santa Barbara where Mary and I attended the opening of Beautiful My Desire, the “New Directions” exhibit one of my prints was selected for. Wall Space Gallery, where the show is hung, is a photography only gallery space owned and operated by Crista Dix. Crista works hard to bring quality photography to public attention. She is someone I’d love to work with, but it has to be the right situation and I have been trying to figure out what of my work would appeal to her. She has a good eye and is quite savvy when it comes to the business of presenting artists. I have found her to be a straight shooter with advice and was looking forward to getting to see and talk with her again.

Afternoon respite on the veranda at the Indigo Hotel.

Afternoon respite on the veranda at the Indigo Hotel.

The show opened on Friday, January 4th so we took off on the 3rd to get ourselves down there and have a chance to look around and relax a bit before the opening. We planed this to be a multi-day trip so we could attend the show and take a leisurely route back home along the coast. We got a pretty early start on a beautiful morning, stopping in Paso Robles for lunch and a bit of a leg stretch before moving on to Santa Barbara. We got into town around 4:00 PM and checked in to the Hotel Indigo. Most hotels in Santa Barbara are pretty pricy in any of the decent locations. This one was actually pretty reasonable. It was located just around the corner from Wall Space and right in the middle of the downtown/wharf area. It is reasonable because it is “European Style” – that is tiny. The room really wasn’t much bigger than our motor home – just shaped a little differently. It was probably 12 x 12 and with the king size bed in there, left maybe 2 feet of space to walk around. A small closet with drawers, and desk filled out the room. The bathroom was also the shower. That is, you swing a glass door away from the wall. It buts up to the toilet and you pull a curtain across to make the shower. While it is small, it really works quite well. The 1st floor rooms all had small but nice patio’s to help expand the room. On the 2nd floor we had a view of the train station that runs quite close to the hotel. This really was not a problem. Only a couple of trains run by during the day and evening and it was actually quite nice to hear and feel the train as it stopped and then passed by. Everything was clean and new and actually very nice. I wouldn’t want to spend a week here, but a couple of days was very nice. There were several public spaces to hang out in as well. Two balcony/patio’s on each floor were prefect to hang out in on nice days. There was also a reading room and a meeting room for business. The lobby and halls had nice art and floral arraignments, and a new restaurant had just opened in the same building. A very pleasant place to spend our days while here.

2nd floor landing.

2nd floor landing.

After unpacking we decided to walk over to find the gallery. Crista had moved locations some time ago into the current spot and it had improved the walk by foot traffic to her space. The fact that it is next to several wine tasting rooms I’m sure helps things as well. It took a little time to actually find her space. She is on the 2nd floor and had no sign at street level that I could see. When we walked in, she was knee high in boxes from unloading late arriving prints. She was just finishing mounting the show and we got a nice little preview. I didn’t want to keep here, so we left to check out the Art Walk in the downtown area and find some dinner.

Because of the Art Walk, The Museum of Art was free and open so we got a nice look at the an exhibit of Impressionist painting on loan from the Armand Hammer collection. We found a frame shop gallery showing some really nice landscape photography. My only complaint was that it was all printed on canvas. I really don’t like that look for photography. Another gallery was showing paintings of California done in a sort of asian style. The galleries we chose to visit we pretty far from each other and we tired pretty quickly. Fortunately the Tupelo Cafe was before us at the right time. Crista had recommended an Italian spot, but it was getting late and we just wanted something light. Afterwards, we headed to our little room and crashed.
resturantFriday dawned another beautiful day, and with the help of fresh french press coffee and breakfast in our hotel restaurant, we headed out on a typically Mary & Dave excursion. Our first stop was the Andree Clark Bird Refuge just a few miles from our hotel. It’s quite a nice spot, but on this day there were more homeless than birds, so we had a short visit before moving on across the street to the Santa Barbara Cemetery. This location is up on a bluff with a grand view overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is quite large and we found interesting compositions both inside and outside some of the crypts and mausoleums. On this trip I am testing out my new camera. I got a Canon 6D recently and was itching to see what it could do. The important improvements from my previous 5D is the larger sensor – now 20 mp as opposed to 11. Also much improved low light sensitivity. I shot a lot at ISO 10,000 and the results were very impressive. Normally I would shoot at ISO 50 or 100. There is still obvious noise, but in many cases, the images are still quite usable.

Santa Barbara Cemetery.

Santa Barbara Cemetery.


0069_cem2From there we headed over to a place Mary found while researching Santa Barbara. Frog Alley is actually a rock retaining wall on Paterna Road. It is a little know spot in a hilly residential area of Santa Barbara. I don’t know how she finds these places, but she leaves no stone unturned looking for them. As with other places like this, it got it’s start from someone placing a frog statue or stuffed animal or some other frog trinket on the wall along the street. Others see these pieces and decide to make their own contributions. Over time, it has grown to literally hundreds of placed items. While we were there, a car stopped in the road and two young girls jumped out of the backseat rushed to the wall and placed several little frog figurines, giggling the whole time. I really enjoy looking what people create. This is old style social networking at it’s best.

Frog Alley in Santa Barbara.

Frog Alley in Santa Barbara.


0102_frogs3Back down the road a bit, we found the Santa Barbara Mission. By this time it was mid-afternoon, so we walked around the grounds photographing for a time before heading back to the hotel to have a little rest before the opening.

Santa Barbara Mission.

Santa Barbara Mission.



0119_mission4Before I left San Francisco, Crista had agreed to meet with me before the opening to look over the rest of my Nomads project. I already knew that the project really wasn’t her thing, but she knows people and can make recommendations and offer suggestions. I also brought along some new abstract sand dunes I’ve been working on. So while Mary rested up at the hotel, I walked over with my portfolio and had a nice meeting. I was hoping for maybe a half hour, we ended up talking for at least an hour and some good things may well have come from it. I also got to meet her father, Jim, who has been a big part of her success over the years.

A little later we returned to the gallery for the opening. Ann Jastrab, the juror for the show what there. She runs the RayKo Photo Center here in San Francisco and has been a great supporter of my work. She is great fun to shoot the breeze with. It was good to see everyones work on the walls and I got to meet several of the other photographers. After hanging out there for awhile, it was again time to eat. Crista recommended the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company out on the wharf as a good place for dinner. It’s really just a shack, but oh the food was good. The evening was very cold, but no wind still allowed for a pleasant walk back to the hotel.
0911_shell1In the morning we started our return trip home. On the way up to Morro Bay our destination for the afternoon, we stopped at the Monarch Butterfly preserve in Pismo Beach. This is the time of year to see them here, but due to the lack of sun and cool temperatures, they were not too active. They were all gathered in just a couple of trees. Quite impressive, but not real photographable.

Monarch Butterfly Preserve, Pismo Beach.

Monarch Butterfly Preserve, Pismo Beach.

Next to the preserve is Pismo State Beach and Campground. We decided to walk down to the shoreline for a little exercise. Even though it was cool and cloudy, there were quite a few people out and about. An interesting effect was visible in the sky. A large light ring circled the sun and was very prominent and very weird.


0147_sun2Arriving in Moro Bay, we found our motel and then found lunch. The beer was the highlight of the day, but the  big rock ain’t bad. The weather got dreary as we kicked around town a bit, but it later started to rain, so we packed it in for the day.

0168_moro1After a quick continental breakfast in the lobby of the motel, we headed out. It was still raining a bit when we left, but soon began to clear. We stopped often to photograph along the way to Monterey because of such dramatic lighting. Another stop at Moonstone Beach for a nice walk and more photos.




0262_sur3We had to stop quite a few times for photos along the Big Sur coast. It is just too compelling a sight to not stop. It took several hours of driving and stopping before we reached our last stop before Monterey – Point Piedras Blancas where Sea Lions had come ashore to pup. There were hundreds of females either about to pup or already pupped. Most every one we saw had a pup attached or very near to a teat. Only a few males could be seen. It was quite amazing to see the interaction among the group.




0205_lion1The wind was up here and very cold at that. We stayed for a while then finished our drive to Monterey. We had thought we’d go to the aquarium there in the afternoon, but we were so late in getting there that we decided to wait till Monday, get there at opening and take our time. It really made sense to do that. We felt refreshed in the morning and the aquarium was quite empty for a good long while. We headed straight to the jellyfish first. There were a couple of different displays of them in different parts of the building and both were fascinating.

0317_aqu2I especially enjoyed photographing the long sinuous tentacles of one variety of jellyfish. They looked like lacy strips of cloth. Using my 6D ability to shoot and focus in low light, I shot some really nice images. I spent most of my time at the various tanks.


0380_aqu5To finish our visit, we stopped at the seahorse and penguins tank with a final visit to the huge fish tank. It’s always a cool scene.
0398_aqu6But it was time to head back to S.F. and we returned home all the way along the coast via Highway 1. The day was very sunny making the drive pleasant but much less dramatic. It was not only a fun little trip, but may well have some lasting developments. I’m very happy I made the trip down. Later this week, I need to drop off my prints for the City Hall show. One of my images is being used for the announcement card for the show, as well as the poster, and I am looking forward to picking up a bunch.

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