Gisler Ave. connects to SART via a cool little bridge, seen here from on the trail itself.

Entering and exiting the Santa Ana River Trail in Costa Mesa

The length of the Santa Ana River Trail in Costa Mesa. Image from GoogleMaps
The length of the Santa Ana River Trail  in Costa Mesa (highlighted in blue). Image and map data from Google 2015; click for a larger version.

I live in Costa Mesa and love riding on the Santa Ana River Trail (SART), a multiuse paved trail open to walkers, runners, bicyclists, skaters, and more (pretty much anything non-motorized). If you’ve never ridden it before, you’ve got to: the Santa Ana River Trail runs more than 30 miles inland from the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Huntington Beach, where it connects up seamlessly with the beach’s bicycle path. And for that length it’s 100% car and crossing free – you have dozens of miles of paved trail to roll on continuously without stopping.  Insanely useful for getting places in central Orange County while avoiding cars.

But getting on the trail isn’t always intuitive, especially as the trail crosses  from one side of the river to the other within Costa Mesa’s borders. Starting near the ocean and heading inland, here are all the entrances from Costa Mesa:

The Santa Ana River Trail between Victoria/Hamilton and the beach is beautiful at high tide.
The Santa Ana River Trail between Victoria/Hamilton and the beach is beautiful at high tide.

I’ve also included two bonus entrances for people coming from Huntington Beach:

And I also point out where the bridge is:

PCH / southern end of Huntington State Beach

The PCH and Huntington State Beach entrance to the Santa Ana River Trail. Image and map data from Google Maps 2015.
The PCH and Huntington State Beach entrance to the Santa Ana River Trail; entrances are circled in green. Image and map data from Google 2015.

Continue reading Entering and exiting the Santa Ana River Trail in Costa Mesa

A portion of Newport Beach's skyline at night

Newport Beach at Night

Lately I’ve started bicycling longer distances1, and as I’m riding, I’m seeing more of my local area. So many of the bicycle paths lead to stunning views, not to mention the gorgeous little parks.

But now that it’s winter I’m out riding a lot at night. Night changes so much about the landscape, especially in urban areas where a single bright point-source of light (the sun or moon) is replaced by multiple small light sources, many of which are different colors and intensities. Combine the change in illumination with a requirement for long exposure times and you have a recipe for a dramatic visual change.

I wanted to try to capture some of that changed beauty, so I recently biked to a couple of my favorite vantage points in Newport Beach to try my hand at it.

A moonlit view of Lower Newport Bay (and partially Upper Newport Bay) with PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to the right and Newport Center's many tall buildings that surround Fashion Island in Newport Beach, CA.  Saddleback Mountain (Santiago Peak and Modjeska Peak) can be seen off in the distance, to the left.  This image is a minimally manipulated single-frame, long-exposure capture. (Marc Perkins/Marc Perkins Photography)
A moonlit view of Newport Beach’s Lower Newport Bay (and partially Upper Newport Bay) with PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to the right and Newport Center's many tall buildings that surround Fashion Island to the left. Saddleback Mountain can be seen off in the distance, to the left.
The view of west Newport Beach as seen from Ensign View Park (on Newport Heights).  Visible to the left is the Lido Peninsula and western tip of Lido Island with the Via Lido Bridge.  Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is visible in the foreground, as are many of the buildings on the Balboa Peninsula's western portion.  The two tall buildings on the left are the  the Vista Del Lido complex and the 601 Lido Condominiums; the two tall buildings on the right (that almost appear as one) are Newport: The Towers (3121 PCH) and Newport Surgery Center (3333 PCH).  This image is a minimally manipulated single-frame, long-exposure capture. (Marc Perkins/Marc Perkins Photography)
West Newport Beach as seen from Ensign View Park (in Newport Heights). Visible to the left is the Lido Peninsula and western tip of Lido Island with the Via Lido Bridge; Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is visible in the foreground, as are many of the buildings on the Newport Peninsula's / Balboa Peninsula's western portions. 2

But those are just general overviews; the image I’m happiest with takes just a piece of one of those and lets your eye linger on the details:

A view of west Newport Beach's Newport Harbor as seen at night from Ensign View Park.  In the foreground are buildings surrounding the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH); the back of the 2436 Pacific Coast Highway office building (that looks like a motel) is prominent, as is the Bayport Yachts round turret and Joe's Crab Shack.  Behind that are buildings on Newport Peninsula / Balboa Peninsula that front Newport Harbor, most striking among them is the multi-story Blackman Ltd. building at 3388 Via Lido Drive, with the parking structure at the Lido Marina Village on the right.  Behind those buildings and the palm trees lie two open-ocean oil platforms (one above the Blackman building, and one above the parking structure), which almost look as if they're floating in space.  This image is a minimally manipulated single-frame, long-exposure capture. (Marc Perkins/Marc Perkins Photography)
A closer look at a portion of west Newport Beach's Newport Harbor as seen at night from Ensign View Park. Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is in the foreground; behind that are buildings on Newport Peninsula / Balboa Peninsula that front Newport Harbor, most striking among them is the multi-story Blackman Ltd. building at 3388 Via Lido Drive, with the parking structure at the Lido Marina Village on the right. Behind those and the palm trees lie two open-ocean oil platforms (one above the Blackman building, and one above the parking structure).

All of these are single-frame exposures with minimal manipulation in post processing. A few more images can be found in my Newport Beach at Night album.

1 I’m trying to get in at least 80 miles a week, and am hoping to build up to riding a century in a few months.
2 The two tall buildings on the left are the Vista Del Lido complex and the 601 Lido Condominiums; the two tall buildings on the right (that almost appear as one) are Newport: The Towers (3121 PCH) and Newport Surgery Center (3333 PCH).

Gulf Fritillary: butterfly of many costumes

While out in the garden this weekend I spotted a gulf fritillary, Agraulis vanillae incarnata. They’re stunning butterflies:

A gulf fritillary [Agraulis vanillae incarnata] hides amongst blades of lemongrass [Cymbopogon sp.].  It looks like it's hyper aware; stalking prey (even though it's looking for nectar …).  The bottom of this species' wings have beautiful spots that reflect silver in bright light (as you can see in this image), but are white in the shade.  The forewings are also partially red. (Marc Perkins)
A gulf fritillary hides among blades of lemongrass.

What first caught my eye was the silver reflections of the spots on the bottom of their wings. In direct sunlight it looks like they’re metallic; very eye-catching. But when the same butterfly is in diffuse light, those spots look white:

A gulf fritillary [Agraulis vanillae incarnata] stands on a [Ficus] leaf.  The spots on its wings when closed are white in the shade (as in this image), but reflect light to appear a beautiful silver when illuminated.  When its wings are closed, the bright orange and red colors of the butterfly are completely hidden. (Marc Perkins)
A gulf fritillary stands on a [Ficus] leaf.

Compare the first and second picture, and you’ll see that in addition to changing from metallic to white, the butterfly can also choose how much color to show on its underside. When it spreads its wings (as in the first picture), the bright red/orange coloration of its forewing is revealed; but when it rests with both wings pulled together and upright (as in the second picture) it can completely hide the red/orange color, thus showing only brown and white/silver. It can also partially separate the wings, to reveal just a bit of color (as it liked to do when it was annoyed with how close I was getting).

And speaking of color, check out the top of those wings:

A gulf fritillary [Agraulis vanillae incarnata] stands amongst blades of lemongrass [Cymbopogon sp.] with its wings outstretched, showing off its bright orange colors. The bottom of its wings have silver spots on them, not visible in this picture. (Marc Perkins)
A gulf fritillary stands amongst blades of lemongrass with its wings outstretched.

This butterfly only held open its wings for a few seconds after each flight attempt, so spotting the true colors of the wings takes finding one in flight and then watching it land.

For a fourth, and final, view of the gulf fritillary, how about a head-on look?

A gulf fritillary [Agraulis vanillae incarnata] rests its foreleg on a blade of lemongrass [Cymbopogon sp.]. (Marc Perkins)
A gulf fritillary rests its foreleg on a blade of lemongrass.

Sleek and slim, complete with a coyly resting forelimb.

And in case you didn’t realize, all four of these images are of the exact same individual. It’s surprising how different it looks depending on angle and lighting.

The larvae reportedly only eat passion flower vines; I wonder which of my neighbors has one.

More pictures

To see more of my insect pictures, head to my Insects gallery.

It’s a bee!

It’s been a busy summer without much time for photography, but today I grabbed the camera and headed for my garden. I was happy to capture this closeup:

A bee (likely a honeybee; [Apis mellifera]) climbs a marjoram ([Origanum majorana]) inflorescence.  The bee's eye, antennae, wings, legs, and fine body hairs are all in focus, as are the pistils and stamen of some of the marjoram flowers. (Marc Perkins)
Bee on marjoram. Macro.

That’s a bee (likely a honeybee, Apis mellifera) on a marjoram (Origanum majorana) inflorescence.

Look at those antennae (I love the ball joint at the base), those big eyes filled with ocelli, veined wings, and all those lovely little hairs. She’s a beauty!

Many thanks to my good friend Hannah, who gave me a set of wireless flash triggers that played a key role in capturing this image.

More pictures

To see more of my insect pictures, head to my Insects gallery.

How to convert a child bike trailer into a cargo trailer: an illustrated guide

I’ve been trying to do more of my errands by bicycling, and one of my biggest holdups has been a lack of cargo room: it’s hard to lug home 80 pounds of cat litter in a backpack. So, a few months ago I started shopping on Craigslist for a bike trailer, only to find out that a good friend had one in her garage that I could have for free.

My Schwinn Spirit bike trailer before modifying it to had a wooden platform to carry cargo. (Marc C. Perkins)
My Schwinn Spirit bike trailer before modification.

That’s a Schwinn (Pacific Cycle) Spirit Bicycle Trailer, rated to hold up to two 50-lb kids (aka: 100 pounds of cargo!). I immediately fell in love with it, and even used it to lug home 80 pounds of cat litter from the pet store:

Two 42-pound bags of Fresh Step cat litter strapped in like kids into my bike trailer's child harness.  So cute! (Marc C. Perkins)
Two 42-pound bags of Fresh Step cat litter strapped in like kids into my bike trailer's child harness. So cute!

An unexpected bonus of the trailer is that whenever I have it attached to my bike, cars give me more maneuvering room. I bike on city streets in Orange County, CA, and am used to having only a few inches of space between my side mirror and the cars zipping past me. But when I’m using the trailer, most cars will actually change lanes before even attempting to pass me (or at least give me four or five feet of clearance), and I’ve had multiple people literally stop to let me go in front of them. Amazing.

But using the trailer for cargo has proved to be less than ideal, as the bottom of the trailer is just made of soft fabric: the kids’ weight is designed to be supported entirely by the harness (which is hung from a horizontal metal rod). So, unless I had cargo that was perfectly sized to fit into that harness (like the bags of cat litter), I was limited to low weight.

The Schwinn Spirit bike trailer has a lot of flat, open room in it once the child harness has been removed. (Marc C. Perkins)
The bottom of the Schwinn Spirit bike trailer (with the child harness removed) is just thin fabric: not good for cargo.

So, I wanted to modify the trailer to add a solid base to convert it to a cargo trailer, and while I found lots of DIY tutorials, they all involved removing the fabric. However, I wanted to keep the fabric on my trailer to protect my cargo from weather and prevent it from blowing around. Additionally, my guess is that the extra space I’m getting when I use the trailer is due to both the visual bulk of the trailer (it’s actually the same width as my handlebars, but makes my bike look much wider) and also because people think there are cute wittle children in the trailer and thus are panicked about the possibility of hitting them1.

So, what I ended up doing is removing the harness and adding a wooden shelf that fit inside the existing fabric, so my trailer now looks like this:

A view of my DIY bike trailer modification from the front looking in.  The shelf is high enough that it doesn't hit the fabric on the bottom of the trailer, but low enough to hold a large amount of stuff.  As a bonus, the shelf is hard to see, so drivers don't know there's not a kid inside :) (Marc Perkins)
My finished cargo trailer!

Read on for full instructions on how I built this!

Materials

Continue reading How to convert a child bike trailer into a cargo trailer: an illustrated guide

First tomatoes of the year: a lighting comparison

Michelle and I tend our backyard garden every summer, and one of our joys is seeing the first produce of the year slowly ripen on the plants. Just this week our first cherry tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are finally ripening, and so yesterday I took a few pictures of the glorious first fruits:

The first fruit of the year in our garden: two deliciously orange cherry tomatoes still "on the vine" (attached to the plant).  This plant is a "sun sugar" variety of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) that we purchased from Orange Coast College's ornamental horticulture department.  This picture was taken in the field using natural lighting to create an in-vivo look. (Marc C. Perkins)
Two ripe Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes still attached to the plant, photographed using natural light only.

The tomatoes were in some nice diffusely-lit shade, and that’s what you see above – I used a tripod to stabilize the camera, but otherwise didn’t need anything else.

But since I’ve been having fun experimenting with off camera lighting recently, I decided to pull out my lighting gear and try some “studio” style lighting on the fruits.

The first fruit of the year in our garden: two deliciously orange cherry tomatoes still "on the vine" (attached to the plant).  This plant is a "sun sugar" variety of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) that we purchased from Orange Coast College's ornamental horticulture department.  This picture was taken in the field using studio lighting (off camera flashes) to create a more dramatic look. (Marc C. Perkins)
The same two ripe Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes, photographed using “studio” lighting.

Those are the exact same fruits in the exact same position, but now they’ve been lit using the “invisible black background” technique I’ve described before1.

What a difference lighting makes! The black background makes the fruits pop out visually, thanks to less visual clutter, but I think it also makes the scene look more artificial (or as though it was taken at night). My favorite comment so far comes from my dad, who said that the fruit look like two “hot Jupiters”. Little tomato planets floating in space; I like it.

Footnotes

1 Two snooted flashes were setup, one on either side of the fruit, and I used my gray card to shade the background from the primary flash’s illumination. Both flashes also had great natural gobos: the branches of the plant itself.

More pictures

To see more of my plant-related pictures, head to my Botany and Mycology gallery collection.

Chainmail: Behind the scenes of getting a perfect black background

As I’ve posted before, Michelle loves to make chainmail. So, it wasn’t a surprise when she recently asked me to take a picture of her latest project1:

A european 8-in-1 copper chainmail bracelet with a sliding clasp.
A european 8-in-1 copper chainmail bracelet with a sliding clasp.

For the purposes of this post, note the background: it’s seamlessly black, with nothing at all visible. And that background was created with no work at all in Photoshop (other than removing a string I used to support the project) – it was created solely by careful placement of off-camera lights. As the method is pretty neat, I thought I’d show you how I did it.

The first technique most people think of for getting a black background is to, well, put something black behind the object. While this works, it requires careful lighting and spacing to ensure that the black object doesn’t become visible (as more than just solid black) in the image. I did just this outdoors with my amaryllis flower bud images, but I had to find flower buds with enough shaded space behind them to hang a black T-shirt on a spare chair well behind the depth of field of the image, and then whenever stray light hit the T-shirt you could see the folds in the fabric. Annoying.

For the maille bracelet I created a black background by putting absolutely nothing behind the maille. And I mean literally nothing: here’s what the maille looked like as I was setting it up:

A picture of the copper european 8-in-1 maille project seen in natural room lighting in my "studio".  The background has a colorful picture, lights, and other junk in it, which disappear thanks to the off-camera flashes which create an "invisible" black backdrop. (Marc C. Perkins)
The bracelet seen in natural room lighting in my "studio"; the metal rod on the right is the stand the bracelet is hanging from.

That is the exact positioning used for the final image you saw earlier, and yes, that is my living room wall 10′ behind the project. And a brightly colored lithograph. And IKEA lamps.
Continue reading Chainmail: Behind the scenes of getting a perfect black background

Chainmail projects: three pairs of earrings and two bracelets

Michelle’s been busy lately working on maille projects (and I’ve been slow on posting pictures of them – the last one I posted was her dragonscale bracelet), so here’s a post with some of her latest work.

A chainmail bracelet made by Michelle in a Japanese 12-in-2 pattern from 18 gauge 1/4" black and white anodized aluminum rings with 20 gauge 1/8" bright aluminum rings as connectors.  Taken on a concrete floor for a rugged background. (Marc C. Perkins)
A a white and black Japanese 12-in-2 bracelet.

This zebra striped bracelet is made out of black and white anodized aluminum rings (18 gauge 1/4″ diameter) held together by bright aluminum rings (20 gauge 1/8″ diameter) in a Japanese 12-in-2 pattern.

A pair of chainmail earrings made from anodized 20 gauge 1/8" niobium rings with a few bright aluminum rings woven in a byzantine pattern.  Made by Michelle. (Marc C. Perkins)
Byzantine earrings made from anodized niobium.

These colorful earrings are made from anodized niobium and bright aluminum rings (20 gauge 1/8" diameter) woven in a Byzantine pattern.

A pair of chainmail earrings made from blue anodized 18 gauge aluminum rings  and 19 gauge 5/32" bright aluminum rings woven in a dragonscale pattern.  Made by Michelle. (Marc C. Perkins)
Blue and silver aluminum dragonscale earrings.

These are made from blue anodized aluminum rings (18 gauge 1/4") and bright aluminum rings (19 gauge 5/32") woven in a dragonscale pattern.

A pair of chainmail earrings made from anodized 20 gauge 1/8" bright aluminum rings woven in a byzantine pattern.  Made by Michelle. (Marc C. Perkins)
Shiny Byzantine earrings.

Another pair of earrings made in a Byzantine weave, this time using all bright aluminum rings (20 gauge 1/8").

A european 8-in-1 copper chainmail bracelet with a sliding clasp.
A european 8-in-1 copper chainmail bracelet with a sliding clasp.

This bracelet is made out of copper rings (20-gauge, 3/16″ diameter) woven together in a European 8-in-1 pattern; I’ve got a separate “behind the scenes” post detailing how I created the all-black background for this picture.

More pictures

To see more pictures of maille, head to my Chain mail – finished projects gallery.

B-17 Flying Fortress Flyover

Yesterday afternoon while planting some tomatoes in the back yard I heard a distinctly non-modern sounding aircraft. I looked up to see this beauty flying by:

The B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber "Nine-Oh-Nine", tail number 231909, flying over Orange County, CA on May 12, 2013.  Taken about an hour before sunset, the plane's left side is clearly visible.  The vintage plane has been resored by The Collins Foundation to it's WWII (World War 2) configuration, after having served in nuclear bomb testing in the 1950's, being sold as scrap, and being converted into a forest-fire supression plane. (Marc C. Perkins)
"Nine-O-Nine" flying over Orange County, CA on May 12, 2013.

It’s a restored B-17 bomber nicknamed “Nine-O-Nine”, and it even has its own Wikipedia page. Long story short, it’s been around the block a few times: it served in WWII, participated in atomic bomb testing in the 1950s, was sold as scrap in the 1960s, converted into a fire suppression tanker in the 1970s, and then finally sold to the Collings Foundation, who restored it to WWII-era condition in the 1980s.

The pilot(s) were even kind enough to fly nearly directly over our house about an hour or so before sunset, giving me a great view of the bottom of the plane:

The B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber "Nine-Oh-Nine", tail number 231909, flying over Orange County, CA on May 12, 2013.  Taken about an hour before sunset, the bottom is clearly visible and evenly lit.  The vintage plane has been resored by The Collins Foundation to it's WWII (World War 2) configuration, after having served in nuclear bomb testing in the 1950's, being sold as scrap, and being converted into a forest-fire supression plane. (Marc C. Perkins)
Thanks for coming so close!

And, after a few loops over our house, it flew away:

The B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber "Nine-Oh-Nine", tail number 231909, flying over Orange County, CA on May 12, 2013.  Taken about an hour before sunset, a brick chimney and the roof of a house frame this picture of the plane flying away from the sunset.  The vintage plane has been resored by The Collins Foundation to it's WWII (World War 2) configuration, after having served in nuclear bomb testing in the 1950's, being sold as scrap, and being converted into a forest-fire supression plane. (Marc C. Perkins)
Flying away

And, fortunately enough for this photographer, it flew AWAY from the sunset, so it was nicely lit for my final shots 🙂

More pictures

To see more pictures of the flyover, head to my B-17 Bomber Flyover Gallery.

Moonrise tour of Point Sur Light Station

Point Sur Light Station1 stands on a 350 foot tall rock on the California coast about 25 miles south of Monterey.

Point Sur Light Station seen from along California Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway).  The station's buildings are all on top of the small hill / rock that rises from the ocean behind a grassy meadow on this blustery day. (Marc C. Perkins)
Point Sur Light Station seen from California Highway 1. The tall structure visible at the top is the water tower; the lighthouse itself is not easily visible from the highway.

Michelle and I were lucky enough to be passing by the light station in time for one of their rare moonrise tours (okay, I’ll admit, we planned our trip up the coast around the tour …). These tours happen once or twice a month at (you guessed it) the full moon. The tours start shortly before sunset, and end with the moon rising over the lighthouse.

The old entrance sign to Point Sur Light Station.  The sign is now on display in the museum at the station. (Marc C. Perkins)
The old entrance sign to Point Sur Light Station. The sign is now on display in the museum at the station.

The tour starts with everyone waiting at the entrance sign to the State Historic Park & Lighthouse. I was advised to arrive early to ensure a spot in the tour, and while arriving early turned out to not be necessary, it did help me realize just how windy it was going to be. The wind was constant, strong, and cold. I bundled up for the night, and was glad I did. Once the docents arrived everyone was let through the gate and drove to the base of the rock the lighthouse stands on (where one of only two bathrooms on the tour are found).

We soon started walking up the road that leads to the lighthouse. The road is not for the acrophobic: it’s a steep paved road about one car wide that’s chiseled into the edge of the steep rock face with no fence or barrier between the edge and a long drop to the ocean. The road by itself would be fine, but the constant seemingly gale-force winds made people stay far from the edge (and parents hold onto their children rather tightly). Here’s what it looks like:

The docents broke our moon rise tour of Point Sur Light Station into two groups; I was in the first, and in this picture we're looking back at the second group taking a break on the road up to the top of the rock the station is located on.  The road to the top has no fence, and the edge steeply drops off to the ocean.  It'd be fun to walk on if there hadn't been gale force winds. (Marc C. Perkins)
The docents broke our tour into two groups; I was in the first, and in this picture we're looking back at the second group taking a break on the road up to the top.

The road was a bit of a climb, but persevering paid off with our first view of the lighthouse peeking over the hillside.

The first view of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse that I got on the day was this one: the lamp room peeking over the hillside as we walked along the narrow roadway tacked onto the hillside.  The ocean and sun setting behind incoming coastal fog set the scene nicely. (Marc C. Perkins)
My first view of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.
Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse peeking over the top of the hillside it's built on.  This is seen from the road that climbs the hill to reach the lighthouse.  The day was incredibly windy, and the only barrier on the steep hillside is the vertical wooden beams you can see in the picture.  The hillside was covered in blooms, making it beautiful. (Marc C. Perkins)
Point Sur Light shining proud.

Any acrophobia I might have had disappeared entirely with this view 🙂

Even without the lighthouse peeking into view, the walk to the top was filled with entertainment: blooming plants lined the hillside, and the ocean was a beautiful seafoam green.

A hillside covered in blooming plants (yellow, red, and purple) provide foreground for the sandstone assistant keeper's house at the Point Sur Light Station.  Three families lived in this house at one time. (Marc C. Perkins)
Assistant Keepers' House.
The water of the ocean to the west of Point Sur Light Station was turned sea foam green thanks to the action of waves and high winds.  In this image the blooming hillside is in the frame, providing contrast. (Marc C. Perkins)
Seafoam green. I always thought this was a silly name for a paint color, not a real color!

The lighthouse itself was built in 1889, and is still a functioning navigational aid. The building and its interior are built in the classic lighthouse style of elegant functional simplicity.

Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse seen from the ocean-facing side.  A docent from the tour is walking out of the main door of the lighthouse, providing scale.  The lighthouse is built on the northern end of the rock the station is on; the stairway visible to the right leads to the rest of the light station. (Marc C. Perkins)
Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse. A docent from the tour is standing by the main door of the lighthouse, providing scale.
A view from the bottom of the stairway leading to the top of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse's lantern room.  I'm a total sucker for lighthouse stairways ? the white iron stairway contrasts beautifully with the wooden central beam and brick exterior (with light streaming in through a window). (Marc C. Perkins)
I'm a total sucker for lighthouse stairways.
A section of the black iron stairway that leads to the top of the lantern room of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.  I love the contrasty, beautifully textured iron. (Marc C. Perkins)
A section of the iron stairway that leads to the top of the lantern room of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.

Some of the most intriguing structures were pieces of cut glass embedded in the floor of the lantern room’s upper level. These were designed to capture the light from the primary source and diffuse it down to the lower levels of the lighthouse building, allowing the lighthouse’s main tower to be lit solely by the primary light. They’re miniature sunroofs if you will.

A set of light diffusing glass crystals placed into the floor of the walkway that surrounds the light in Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.  Photographed from underneath, these crystals are used to illuminate the walkway underneath the light by catching the lighthouse's primary light and diffusing it down to the walkway underneath. (Marc C. Perkins)
A set of light diffusing/diffracting glass crystals placed into the floor of the walkway that surrounds the light in Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.

In addition to being able to walk around in the lantern room and look at everything up close, we even got to climb out onto the walkway surrounding the lantern room and enjoy the view:

A view looking up the California Coast from the walkway outside the lantern room at the top of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.  The view was incredible, with low fog rolling in as the sun set, and the sea foam green ocean waves lapping up along the sandy shore.  The railing in front provides scale, but doesn't show how incredibly windy it was. (Marc C. Perkins)
A view from the walkway outside the lantern room of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.

The view was great (the sun was setting behind the coastal clouds), but even more amazing was how WINDY it was. The door to the walkway was on the leeward side of the building, and so there was virtually no wind there. But walk even a few feet from the door and you suddenly get slammed with a wall of wind. Walking through this wall took tremendous effort (as you can see if you look closely at this picture).

After the tour of the inside of the lantern room we got to climb above the lighthouse, and from there I think I was able to capture a bit of the feel of the night: the slowly rotating dual beams of the lighthouse sweeping over the broad expanse of the ocean while coastal clouds roll in at dusk.

A view of the Pacific Ocean with Point Sur Light Station's light house in the foreground.  The sun has just set, and low marine clouds cover the sky, while the light can be seen rotating.  The view from the lighthouse is just stunning.  This view includes almost none of the hillside, as opposed to #2. (Marc C. Perkins)
A view of the Pacific Ocean at dusk with Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse in the foreground.

A few minutes later we headed to the southern end of the station and watched the moon rise, with the Pacific Ocean, Highway 1, and the California coast as background.

The rising full moon is reflected off of the Pacific Ocean within view of one of the buildings at Point Sur Light Station (the barracks).  I love how golden light streams out of the building's windows, illuminating the native plants on the hillside.  This image is the ultimate summary of the station's moon rise tours: they're just gorgeous, and you should go on one if you can! (Marc C. Perkins)
Moonrise over Point Sur Light Station.

I could have stayed in that spot a long, long time (assuming I had a heater with me).

If you’re ever in the area, check and see if there’s a tour. As the moon rises the docents break out hot chocolate (available for a suggested donation of $1!2), and life is good.

Footnotes

1 Point Sur is a light station, not just a lighthouse, because it was built to be an independent facility. When it was built there was no easy road that connected it to Monterey, so it was in an extremely remote location. It housed multiple families at a time, and had all the facilities needed for independence: a blacksmith shop, woodworking shop, barn, water tower, and multiple houses.
2 Sadly, I missed the hot chocolate. The entire tour was difficult to photograph, as the tour was not aimed at photographers. The only time I could break out a tripod was as the moon rose, and since we only had about 10 or 15 minutes it was either hot cocoa or pictures, and you know which I’ll choose every time.
.

More pictures

To see more pictures from the light station, head to my Point Sur Light Station – Highlights Gallery or, if you’re really a glutton for punishment, head to my Point Sur Light Station – Entire Set Gallery.

Getting There

Point Sur State Historic Park & Lighthouse: Located along California Highway 1 about 25 miles south of Monterey, the entrance to the park is at a small gate along the west side of the highway. The GPS coordinates for the entrance to the park are N 36 18.578 W 121 53.165; it’s just north of the Point Sur Naval Station and near the California Sea Otter Game Refuge. See the park’s website for more information on location and schedules of tours.

The station is a state park run entirely by volunteers; it’s only open during guided tours, and there is no access at other times. You do need to plan ahead: if you stop by at a random time, you’ll get a picture much like the first one of this post and then drive on your way, never knowing what you missed. Parking is free (stop by the gate at first, and then drive into a small lot at the base of the rock once a docent opens the gate), and bathrooms are limited (there’s one at the interior parking lot, and one in the last building the tour goes through). There are no public facilities on the highway near the lighthouse.

The moonrise tour occurs only during full moons. As you gathered from the post, it can be EXTREMELY windy: I highly recommend a hat, gloves, windproof jacket, and warm layers underneath. I wore all that, and was cold; many people on the trip reported being very, very cold. Docents report that it’s less windy in the fall. The park runs other tours that meet during the day; these apparently go through more of the buildings.