Cabrillo National Monument on Pt. Loma, La Jolla, & The Birch Aquarium

January 13th, 2012 | Posted by Steve in California | Lighhouses | Museums | National Monuments | National Parks | Parks | United States of America

I think this post will have some better photos than the previous post.  I doubt if many will make it into print, but I think you will find some of them visually pleasing.  These were all shot Dec. 21, 2011.

Our first stop the next morning after our trip to Balboa Park was the Point Loma light house which is now part of the Cabrillo National Monument.  Pt. Loma is a long, narrow peninsula.   Rising over 400 feet out of the water it juts south from the mainland forming the western boundary of San Diego Bay.  The Federal Government & the U.S. Navy control the last couple of miles of it.  The cutoff from private land to federal land is pretty obvious.  To say that any of the private land is expensive is an understatement.  The views of Coronado & San Diego to the east, the ocean to the west, & Mexico about 15 miles to the south are nothing short of remarkable.

Driving onto the federal land is no problem, but if you want to get anywhere it is.  On one side is the Navy Annex while straight ahead is the National Monument controlled by the National Park Service.  I think I surprised the Ranger at the entrance shack when I showed my lifetime Senior Pass.  That card has paid for itself a few times over now.  I expect it to continue to pay for itself in years to come.

I last visited this area in the mid 1980s when the children were very young.  If my memory is any good a very nice visitor’s center has been built since then.  We went there first to see the displays.  Near the visitor’s center is the Cabrillo Monument statue shown in the first photo.  Coronado, North Island & San Diego are in the background.

On this trip I took two lenses with me, the 15mm f/2.8 fish eye & the 24-105 mm f/4.  I probably use these two lenses for 95% of my photos.

The first photo is shot at 24mm on the 24-105mm f/4 lens at a setting of f/6.3, ISO 640, 1/2500th of a second.  I keep a UV Haze filter on the lens.  With the filter the lens has a very slight vignette on the 24mm setting.  I say this because a few of you out there use this lens also.  The vignette has been cropped out of the photo.  In the past I used the Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.  It was a very good lens, especially for the value, but it had more vignette at 28mm with a filter than the 24-105 has.

Near the visitor’s center and up a small hill is the light house.  It operated from 1855-1891 when a newer light was installed lower on the cliffs.  The view from the light house at the top of the point is really great.  This next photo is with the fish eye & is simply a record shot for those of you who would like to read a little more information about the place.

The building and grounds has been kept in very good condition, at least over the last few decades.  The last time I visited I don’t recall if the main structure was open to the public, but it was for this visit.  Some of the rooms have been restored with period furniture.

This 3rd photo is looking north east & shows the light house very well.  I have a polarizer on the lens this time.  It is still f/6.3, ISO 640, but the polarizer drops it to 1/1000th of a second & the focal length is 28mm.


The next photo is shot from the interior looking straight up to the base of the light.  I love these spirals and I have done this type of thing before, but at first forgot to do it here!  Fran took one of these, a very good photo, and proudly showed it to me.  I complimented her.  Then she told me she did it because I’ve done this thing before!  It made me think some things are not seen because (like me in this case) no one looks up.  OK, back in I went and took this shot.  It is a 24mm focal length & ISO 640. It is an interior shot with available light so the time dropped to 1/30th of a second.

At the top of the staircase on the 2nd floor is this bedroom recreation.  It is glassed off, some of the glare shows at the left.  The window is the same one showing in the exterior photo above.

Also at the top of the stair is a narrow ladder leading up to the light itself.  At the ceiling the access to the light is restricted by a grate.  I put the fish eye on the camera, stuck the lens through the grate and got this reward.


After leaving the lighthouse and the Cabrillo National Monument we decided to lunch in La Jolla.  We drove overland arriving near 11 am.  Despite it being a week day it was a holiday, sunny, and beautiful.  La Jolla, of course, was a bit crowded.  For those of you unfamiliar with the San Diego area La Jolla is about as swanky as it gets.  It is a part of San Diego sitting on some cliffs & beaches that command a curving stretch of the Pacific shore line about 7 miles long.    Anything under a million dollars there is either an itty-biddy tear down or a small condo.

Here are 3 views of the coast taken from approximately the same place.  Birds and seals control the rocks right below the fancy restaurants and shops that would be at home on Rodeo Drive.  Way in the background of the vertical is at least one multi million dollar home.  Some of those dots out on the water in the first one are swimmers and kayakers.  There are floats keeping them away from the rocks.

La Jolla has been a resort town since the last part of the 19th century.  There is a tourist shop with a stairway hollowed out of the rock leading down to a sea cave.  Passage is currently $4.00 each.  The stairs are wet, slippery, and look like they are over 100 years old.  Despite any optical illusion the next photo is looking down the stairs.  After that is a view at sea level inside the Sunny Jim Sea Cave.

By the time we were done with lunch and touring La Jolla it was time to head a bit north.  Still in La Jolla is the University of California, San Diego.  Attached to USCD is the famous Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Stephen Birch Aquarium.  This next photo shows the statues of some breaching whales near the entrance to the Aquarium.  The effect with the fountain at the whale’s tail is very good.

Inside hanging from the roof is this [casting?] of a shark’s jaw.  It must have a 5 foot maw.  I have seen these things elsewhere.  The size & the appetite it implies never fails to amaze me.  Outside on the patio is a “petting” tide pool and this view of the Scripps pier.

Inside the exhibits flash photography is prohibited.  Most of the exhibits are dark.  They are so dark it was very hard for the camera to distinguish contrast and thus focus.  I had to crank the ISO up to 3200 to get anything.  I could have gone to 6400 to buy another stop, but I knew the electronic noise would be bad enough at 3200 so I stayed there.  In spite of the fast speed and the lens on f/4 or 4.5 most of the photos were blurred and had to be thrown away.

They were blurred because the fish were moving and many of the shots were at a very slow speed of 1/10th to 3/10th of a second.  Condensation on the front of the tanks will also cause a little softening of the focus.  An animal photo is only deemed good if the eyes are in focus.  After that the composition has to good to make a photo noteworthy.  I don’t suppose these are noteworthy, but they are interesting.  Unfortunately, I forgot to get photos of most of the legends so I can’t tell you what all the fish are.

This last one above is a Pufferfish, sometimes called a Globefish.  Dried, empty, & puffed up with its spikes sticking out I have seen them for sale in tourist shops.  In water if the fish feels threatened it expands into a ball with its spikes sticking out to deter predators.  If that isn’t enough the fish is riddled with a neurotoxin which will kill anything that ingests it.  The Japanese call it Fugu.  If properly prepared they find it to be a delicacy.  Fugu chefs are trained a couple of years before they are allowed to prepare the meat commercially.  Carefully cleaned muscle meat of the fish is edible and it will give the diner a ‘buzz’.  If organ meat is eaten the diner will relax, stop breathing and die.  A few people in Japan die every year from eating the wrong part of the fish.  These are usually people at home preparing the meat without the proper training. The Japanese have a proverb about Puffer.  It goes something to the effect of:

“He who eats Fugu is crazy.  He who doesn’t eat Fugu is crazy.”

Here are a few more fish photos.  The one with the black spot is a Threadfin Butterfly fish.


These last 3 are my favorites.  On all of them I was using manual focus to get the shot.  The aperture was f/4.5, which gave me a very shallow depth of field, but allowed a faster exposure.  The first was the only decent (meaning focused) photo I got of a Stingray.  This guy had a 5-6 foot wing span.  The photo kind of says “who couldn’t love a face like this?”  It is at 67 mm focal length, 1/160th of a second.


This next one of a jellyfish is a bit dramatic.  The lighting is courtesy of the aquarium.  Over a period of a minute or two the lights in the tank changed across the spectrum then repeated.  This was the only one I could get that isolated a single Jellyfish.  It is a very short telephoto at 88 mm focal length, 1/320th of a second.

The last photo of this post is the only good one I got of a Seahorse.  Its eyes were in focus and it was turning to me in about ¾ profile.  Still at ISO 3200 it is a short telephoto at 105 mm, 1/40th of a second.  Originally shot horizontally, I cropped it left and right to this vertical format, which also gives it a little more of a telephoto look.

My next post will be photos from Austin, Texas shot last weekend.





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