Category Archives: Manmade

I’m pretty sure I’m not buying

Picture of the Moment

Recently—last night!—I discovered the publish-in-the-future function of WordPress, so if a post pops up on my blog at, say, midnight plus one minute, that’s not me!

I’m still sorting through the billions and billions and billions of pictures from my 476-mile journey through Southern California on August 12. Here is one of my favorites:

I'm not buying

I don’t know what they are farming out there, but I’m pretty sure that whatever it is, I ain’t buying….

I’m still exploring special Photographic Art effects for that picture because the vastness of the landscape, the beauty of the sky, and the barren “farm” is just begging for some very special effects.

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At least you can tell which way the wind is blowing

Picture of the Moment

Having lived in several large cities—Houston, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego—throughout my life, I am accustomed to large airports with planes landing and taking off every thirty seconds from 6:00 a.m. to midnight.

I find that many smaller airports don’t have quite the amenities of their big brothers, such as the Ocotillo Wells Airport about ninety miles due east of San Diego. Looks like this:

IMG_7869 ocotillo wells airport faa framed

No vending machines…. no outlets to charge one’s phone or laptop computer…. no water fountains…. no restaurants…. no restrooms…. no lounge to catch up on news, weather, and sports…. no hard surface runways…. no baggage claim…. no ticket counters…. no strip search to get into the airport….

….heck, no airplanes!

But at least you can tell which way the wind is blowing.

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San Diego Historical Landmarks — #1: El Prado Area Designation, part 17

San Diego Historical Landmarks

For the introductory blog post to San Diego’s historical landmarks, click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 1
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 2
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 3
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 4
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 5
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 6
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 7
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 8
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 9
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 10
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 11
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 12
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 13
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 14
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 15
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 16

El Prado Area Designation

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Our final building to visit in the El Prado Designation Area is the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Looks like this:

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego's Balboa Park

Also known as “The Fleet,” its mission statement is to inspire lifelong learning by furthering the public understanding and enjoyment of science and technology. I’m presuming today’s current crops of right-wing political religious fundamentalists (also known as Republicans) would not enjoy the museum. I, however, do.

The Fleet has more than one hundred interactive science exhibits in eight galleries, and that doesn’t include the major traveling exhibitions that stop by each year. Since opening in 1973, the Fleet consistently ranks as one of San Diego’s most-visited museums.

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego's Balboa Park

The Fleet is home to the world’s first IMAX Dome Theater; its unique configuration wraps the audience in images and provides the illusion of being suspended in space. Just because it was first, though, doesn’t mean it’s behind the times. The theater was renovated in two phases, 2008 and 2012, to update the interior, and install a modern sound system, a seamless screen, and a art digital projection system to the theater. Major funding for the renovation was provided by the Heikoffs. Renamed The Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Dome Theater, it now shows both IMAX films and planetarium shows on the NanoSeam screen, providing audiences with viewing experience like nowhere else in Southern California.

The Heikoff Giant Dome Theater show takes audiences from outer space to under water and every place in between. The theater also plays host to planetarium shows, including the monthly Sky Tonight show, led by an astronomer, and followed by outdoor telescope viewing, courtesy of the San Diego Astronomy Association.

Visit the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center online for current exhibits, hours, and admission costs.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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It would be just my luck that absolutely nothing would happen

Did you know?

I found out a few days ago that the historic Hotel del Coronado was sold in May.

Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California

The selling price? A mere $512 million. The last time it had sold was about ten years ago for something like $384 million, making it the most expensive real estate in the United States of America based on sales price at that time. The new sales price keeps it there. Nothing else comes close. There are some properties that are insured for more than that, but when it comes to sales price, the Hotel del Coronado is in a league of its own.

Hotel del Coronado

Known locally as the Hotel Del, it is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre, the wooden Victorian beach resort. It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States, and is both a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark.

The Hotel Del opened in 1888 and was the largest resort hotel in the world at that time. Throughout the years it has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities, as well as being featured in many books and movies. Arguably its most famous appearance was in “Some Like It Hot,” starring Marilyn Monroe. The dragon tree shown in the following picture is quite noticeable in the film:

Yucca which appeared in the movie Some Like It Hot

The Hotel Del also is one of America’s most haunted places, almost always showing up in various Top 10 Most Haunted lists. On November 24, 1892, Kate Morgan checked into Room 304, telling staff that she was waiting for her brother, a doctor, who was going to treat her stomach cancer. He never arrived, and three days later Kate was found dead on the steps leading to the beach. Her death was declared a suicide, the ruling being that she had shot herself.

Since that time, guests who have checked into the room (renumbered twice, first to 3318 and currently 3327) have reported flickering lights and floating objects.

Sadly, the hotel is too expensive for my budget. I would love to stay in that room, but it would be just my luck that absolutely nothing would happen.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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La Casa Tortuga in Borrego Springs, California

Out & About

Homes in the Southern California high desert are a little different from normal rural or urban homes.

A few weeks ago when I was in the high desert, I found La Casa Tortuga. Looks like this:

La Casa Tortuga

At the left frame, you can see some colorful signs. They tell you how far you have to go to escape the desert heat:

Where to go to escape the desert heat

La Casa Tortuga means “Turtle House,” and they had lots of turtles in the front yard:

Garden turtle

I would expect them to have desert tortoise garden art since the desert tortoise lives in the high desert. However, that looks like a Galapagos Tortoise to me, although I’m no biology expert on garden art….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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But there’s no one recreationing….

Out & About

One of my goals on my 476-mile journey through Southern California a couple of weeks ago was to visit the beaches on the east and north shores of the Salton Sea.

Bombay Beach at the Salton Sea in California

The Salton Sea is a shallow, salty lake located directly on the southern stretch of the San Andrea Fault. With a surface area of about 376 square miles, the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. The level of the lake is about 226 feet below sea level, and its maximum depth is a mere 52 feet. Salinity is about 44 grams/liter, higher than the Pacific Ocean but still below that of the Great Salk Lake.

Salton Sea State Recreation AreaGeologically, the Salton Sea is an endorheic rift lake, meaning that the lake basin formed as a result of subsidence related to earthquakes, and that waters come in to the lake—from the New, Whitewater, and Alamo Rivers, as well as creeks, agricultural runoff, and drainage systems—but don’t flow out. In other words, it’s a pretty stagnant, nasty lake, and a good whiff of the air confirms that.

The sea was created by engineers of the California Development Company in 1905. They attempted to increase water flow into the area for farming by creating irrigation canals from the Colorado River into the valley. They cut into the bank of the Colorado River to further increase water flow and prevent silt buildup. The resulting outflow from the river overwhelmed the canals, and the river flowed into the Salton Basin for two years, creating the sea, before repairs were completed.

Corvina BeachIn the best days of the Salton Sea, the ’50s and ’60s, traffic on Highway 111 would back up as campers and boaters crowded the entrance to what was then California’s second busiest state park; it even had more visitors than Yosemite National Park. More than 400,000 boats crowded the Sea each year.

As the agriculture industry in the Imperial Valley grew, agricultural runoff caused the sea to become saltier and saltier. Fish began dying when algae fields depleted oxygen from the water. Birds then contracted botulism by feeding on the rotting fish. Tens of thousands of dead fish and birds washed up on the shore of the Salton Sea each year.

In 1992, over 150,000 Eared Grebes died, a wildlife disaster that overwhelmed the facilities of the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. Their disposal incinerator ran 24 hours a day for many months.

Brown pelicans in flightA smaller Brown Pelican die-off in the late nineties received massive media exposure, bringing the plight of the Salton Sea into living rooms throughout America.

In the summer of 1999, algae fields depleted the oxygen in the lake, causing 7.6 million Tilapia to die from oxygen starvation. Their rotting carcasses rimmed parts of the Sea for over ten years. The stench was a smell that had to be experienced to be believed.

I stopped at every campground and beach. Those 400,000 boats from years gone by? I saw one boat. Looked like this:

Abandoned boat near the Salton Sea in California

And all those people? I saw only one, and that’s when I looked in my car’s rearview mirror.

Salton Ssea State Recreation Area

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Sun God: The biggest and most colorful bird ever

Out & About

These past few posts about larger-than-life public art reminded me of the Stuart Collection at the University of California San Diego (UCSD).

I went digging in my huge collection of cataloged but unprocessed pictures and found the UCSD Sun God.

Looks like this:

Sun God at the University of California San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sun God was created by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) a French sculptor, painter, and film maker, and was the first work commissioned by the Stuart Collection. It also was her first outdoor work in North America.

Although born in France, she lived in New York from 1933 to 1951 and again in the 1960s. She lived and worked right here in La Jolla from 1992 until her death in 2002.

Sun God at the University of California San Diego

The vibrantly colored “bird” is fourteen feet tall and stands on a concrete arch fifteen feet tall on a grassy area between the Faculty Club and Mandeville Auditorium.

Sun God is a landmark on the UCSD campus and often is the target of various embellishments: giant sunglasses for the summer; a cap and gown for graduation; and earphones and a radio/tape player, turning the statue into a “Sony Walkbird.”

Sun God is the host of the annual Sun God Festival in the Spring, now the largest event sponsored by the UCSD Associated Students. Unfortunately, the Festival has become quite rowdy recently, resulting in many safety-related accidents and injuries. It’s also presumed that drugs and alcohol play a part in the Festival, a presumption that played out sadly when a student died of a drug overdose after attending the 2014 Sun God Festival. It looks like some changes are coming to the Festival for 2015.

Sun God at the University of California San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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