Monday, 30 March 2009

Taking it a little more seriously: part II

Since late last year I think I've spent about $500 on photography. This includes the camera, accessories and books. At Phototronics, Hilo's wonderful little store where you can buy just about everything you'll need if you're going to spend a few months in the wilderness hunting animals, defending yourself from federal agents and taking a few nice landscape photos, I bought some filters. Those they didn't have I just bought online, although I needed to buy a step-up ring for them - an ND 0.9 filter and a graduated ND (0.6) filter were things I really needed for sunsets, sunrises and perhaps the odd waterfall.

All these were cheap, I haven't spent money on expensive gear. Not yet, anyway. All I want to do right now is to learn about taking decent landscape photos and how to use the camera and accessories to do that without bankrupting myself.

So when is the next step coming? That's an easy question to answer. Not yet.

Obviously the next stage is to buy a proper DSLR camera with lenses. That's expensive and having forked out a couple of thousand dollars recently on car (and vacation) related things, it's not the right time. In addition, my PC can't even cope with RAW images produced by the FZ28, so god knows what I'd do if I had photoshop dealing with RAW images from a mega-megapixel DSLR. That's why I only shoot in JPG mode right now, my computer can't handle much else. So I'd have to buy a new PC plus camera. That's a lot of money. Oh, and the software as well.

Still, I'm now finding the limitations in the FZ28. It's a great camera, don't get me wrong, and fantastic for anyone who's just starting to get into photography like me. The detector has enough pixels to create huge prints and the optics and electronics are damn good, especially for the price. Unfortunately, although I often find some nice spots to take a picture, many of the suggestions from my photography books don't always work. I can't set the aperture to f/16 or f/22 to get an in-focus large depth of field because the lense doesn't go smaller than f/8. I often want to shoot in low light or darkness (I work at night - I'm an astronomer after all!) but I can't set the ISO high because the noise performance is noticeably poor at ISOs higher than 200-400. There's no flash hot shoe so am stuck with the camera's own flash unit (which is nasty, but then again so are most camera's, cheap or expensive) and no way to use a cable release, at least not that I can find - I end up using the timer-delay which works but is a little time consuming and frustrating if you want to time a shot to perfection (can I figure out if that wave will hit the cliffs in precisely 10-seconds?).

Having said all that, I now have my graduated ND filter and want to revisit a few places where I've managed to take a nice shot or two but have been frustrated by the contrast between the dark land and a bright sky - Kilauea Iki springs to mind. Wish me luck!

Taking it a little more seriously: part I

It's been about five months since my camera arrived, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28. For years I've been thinking about taking up photography but simply never got around to it. My father was a keen amateur photographer and I wanted to follow in his footsteps but simply never had the time or money to do it. Late last year though I decided to take the first steps.

I bought the camera based on 1) the excellent reviews it had been getting, 2) it had most of the features a DSLR had and 3) I found one for just over $200! This would be a good way to learn about photography and not be too worried about spending lots of money on something I might not enjoy in the end. Still, when the camera arrived the manual scared the life out of me. Just how many settings could you put in a relatively cheap camera? This was going to take years to learn, especially if I was going to rely on self-teaching...

Slowly I learned the settings, but what really changed things was a late Christmas gift in February: two of Scott Kelby's books, The Digital Photography Book 1 & 2. I cannot recommend these books highly enough to anyone in the same position as me, a learner photography duffer. Within a week or two I actually understood how to use the camera properly, although there are still one or two things that mystify me!

Since then I've bought "Landscape Photography" by Tim Fitzharris (I just happened to find it in borders and it looked interesting) and have ordered "The Moment it Clicks" by Joe McNally. The latter comes highly recommended by Scott Kelby himself, the former has some of the most stunning landscape photos I've seen complete with tips on how to recreate those images yourself. My only complaint about Fitzharris' book is that his wording sometimes confuses me - he's clearly an artist and I'm not, so, for instance, I don't know how to translate "develop a scene", it means nothing to me. It's a superb book though and I'm definitely learning from it and it's worth the money for the pictures alone.

So, now I've gone as far as buying accessories, so I must be taking things up to the next level (which is several levels below even a good amateur photographer, but we all have to start somewhere). Unfortunately the FZ28 has an unusual lense size although I managed to find a circular polarizer and one or two other filters in a local store. For any photographer on the Hilo side of the island, visit Phototronics on Keawe Street in Hilo (opposite the now-closed KTA supermarket in downtown Hilo). A very "local" store with some photography equipment for sale that might surprise you. You can also pick up some ammo if you happen to be running short or some Elton John sunglasses. The owner is a great guy, so pop in and support a local business!

More to come...

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Terrifying tiki

You see tikis all over the place in Hawai`i, most often in hotel lobbies, bars and restaurants and occasionally in some homes. They're usually quite small although that's not always the case. This one is big. Really big. A little scary as well, although I think that's part of the idea. In any case, I suspect if I was a toddler growing up there I wouldn't be playing in the road as the sign suggests, I'd either be cowering in the corner too scared to go out or a long way away! I wouldn't want that thing staring at me...

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Changing Kilauea

One of the great things about living here is being close to an active volcano. OK, so it may be the last thing anyone in their right mind would want to live near, but for someone like me, who's fascinated by this planet and how it works, I'll live with the danger! Most people on this island live with that danger as well, not only from the Kilauea volcano which only impacts a relatively small part of the island, but from Mauna Loa which threatens a much larger area, both on the leeward and windward sides. Fortunately, Mauna Loa is not active at the moment, but it almost certainly will erupt again in the near future. Both Mauna Kea and Hualalai also present a risk - neither are extinct. On the other hand, Kilauea is most certainly active.

This evening I took another trip up to the Volcanoes National Park to see how things were going up there. The Halema`uma`u Crater (at Kilauea's summit) is still active as you can see in the picture above, the plume has been there for a year now. Recently, glow from the lava just underneath the vent has been seen at night, but I didn't have time to stay beyond sunset this evening otherwise I'd have tried to take a picture.

A close up of the vent was revealing - it's much larger than the last time I took a picture although it's not eating into the actual crater floor. It's the side of the crater that seems to be disappearing and making the vent larger. Reports are that just in the last few days there has been some activity around the vent which has caused some incandescence at night and interrupted the plume. I believe this was thought to be due to rockfalls into the vent. That sounds consistent.

Another change I noticed is the lack of steam coming out of the numerous steam vents. The picture above was taken about a month ago and shows steam rising from several vents hidden in the undergrowth. I didn't retake a picture today, there was so little going on.

180 degrees away from that view are the famous steam vents - you can park your car and walk right up to them (hence the fencing - you really don't want to fall down these vents!). The first picture was a month ago after some heavy rains, the last one taken this evening. Well, I guess that shows that the ridiculous amount of rainfall we've recently experienced really has tapered off. Perhaps spring is here after all!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Sunset at the end of the road

A silhouetted Kalapana. This is very close to the "end of the road" which was closed by lava flows in the 1980s. To the far left is the plume from one of the two current sites that lava is entering the ocean, although it's a long hike from here! I zoomed in on the plume in the picture below although it's a little noisy and not too sharp.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Wave watching

In "Fruitless pursuits" I mentioned that I was going to continue trying to whale-watch for the next month, but I think I'm going to give it up. I tried once more today but it was hopeless - the strong trade winds coupled with high surf has made it impossible, at least where I live! The whales typically leave the island around this time of year although they can sometimes be seen throughout April and sometimes into May, but they become harder to find, especially in these waters.

Normally I scan the ocean looking for the tell-tale "blow" when the whales breach. That's easy to do when the ocean is calm but difficult when the water is choppy as it seems to have been for weeks now. Maybe I'll pop down to the cliffs a couple more times, but I don't remember the last time I saw a whale around here at this time of year.

The high surf advisory for the east shores of the Hawaiian islands continues. There were certainly some big waves today! They don't compare to the massive waves the north shores of the northern islands get during the winter though. They're famous for that of course, the north shore of Oahu is one of the best, if not the best, professional surfing spot in the world, wave-heights of 20-30 feet are common during the winter, sometimes the waves are over 40-feet. I've been there once when they had massive surf and can tell you it's one of the most spectacular and unforgettable sights you can witness.

So, the waves here are just 10-feet high or so at best although I've seen a few higher sets. The pictures above show how spectacular waves that small can be on this coastline. I'd love to live on a house on the cliffs with an ocean view, but I don't think I'd enjoy a day like today. The windows at the very least would need to be washed continuously and dinner on the lanai would taste very salty!

Finally, for Protege, who wondered whether jungle would shield a house from big waves in "Jungle sale": the jungle just doesn't extend to the cliffs! A hundred yards back from the cliffs the jungle can be quite thick but it disappears quickly as you approach the ocean because all there is on the ground is hard lava rock. Ironwood trees can grow on that, but they don't offer a lot of shelter as I realised today!

This picture shows the ocean side of the $250,000 lot in "Jungle sale". It was taken a few weeks ago when the ocean was much calmer. Nice view, especially of the sunrise, but you wouldn't want to take a walk out in the yard during high surf. I wandered around the potential back yard today and got absolutely drenched by sea spray.

Attracted by the big city lights

This was taken a few weeks ago, the clouds were low but it wasn't raining for a change. It's a view towards Hilo from my home's upper lanai taken at night. It looks as though there's a big fire burning somewhere beyond the garden's trees but it's simply the lights of Hilo reflecting off the clouds. Yes, I had nothing better to do that night and no, Hilo isn't a big city...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Jungle sale

Anyone fancy a bit of jungle? It's cheap at half the price. What you'll get, if you buy it and then clear away the jungle, is a view of the ocean similar to my new picture up above in the header. Well, only if you're up at sunrise that is. At other times you'll have a house covered in spray from the ocean and just what that does to maintenance costs, well, I don't want to think about it. Oh, just in case you didn't realise, it comes without a house. You need to supply one yourself.

This evening I tried, once again, to spot late-season whales from the cliffs right next to this place, but gave up within a couple of minutes. I was drenched. High surf coupled with fairly strong trade winds means you're much better off looking for whales on the west side of the island. At least you'll have the setting sun to dry you off. Seriously, I parked my car about a hundred yards in from the cliffs and it was coated in ocean spray five minutes later.

Anyway, $250,000 for half an acre of land? That's almost double what I spent on my half-acre and house together, and it's just a little more than a stone's throw from this plot. Still, this jungle is right on the ocean, you just can't see the water without a machete and a lot of energy to burn. On the other hand, I'll be happy to rent out my weed whacker to the buyer for an exorbitant daily rental if they want and will happily charge double if they also want me to do the clearing. Well, maybe not, I have other things to do, but if they want to pay $1000 a day...

I prefer more orderly jungle, the type you see near Kalapana. I just love those tree-tunnels.

Incidentally, here's a question for Harrison Ford fans: I know that some of the scenes for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" were filmed on the windward side of the Big Island, but just where did they film? Some of the scenes look as though they could have been shot around Kalapana although I suspect the Hamakua coast is more likely. Anyone know the answer?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The end of the road is nigh

Perhaps I should have titled this "We're on the Road to Nowhere". I've seen this sign countless times over the years I've visited and then lived here, but have never stopped to take a picture. Almost invariably, it makes any visitor I take down this way giggle.

Never turn your back on the ocean

The phrase "never turn your back on the ocean" is well known in Hawai`i. The ocean is often calm, wonderfully warm, offers great swimming, snorkeling and diving opportunities but can also be deadly, especially to the inexperienced. Large surf and strong rip currents have killed several people in the past. Today I saw a close call.

I had the day off after working the weekend on Mauna Kea and in the late-afternoon visited one of my favourite places on the island, the Puna coast just north of Kalapana. The surf was high; there is a current high surf advisory for the east shore and in fact the last forecast I saw called for increasing surf later this week. That should be fun to watch! Anyway, I watched the surfers at Isaac Hale Beach Park and tried to take a picture or two but wasn't too successful, there was so much ocean spray reflecting the sun that the pictures didn't turn out very well. So I drove back to the south, towards Kalapana to see if I could take a couple of good pictures of the coast.

Well, I found a nice spot and took a couple of pictures of a family fishing on the rocks, but noticed that the images looked nasty when I reviewed them on the camera's LCD. My lense had sea spray on it, so was about to clean it when I noticed the father, who was doing the fishing, waving at his wife and child to get back. The following shots capture the event and apologies for the poor quality photographs. As ever, if you click on the images you'll get larger versions which might help you see what happens on the rocks!

Father setting up his fishing tackle with family watching. Nothing looks too untoward here except this is when I noticed the rubbish on my lense. I was about to clean it but saw that a large set of waves was heading this way. Uh-oh! I'm a long way from the family so even if I shouted a warning, they wouldn't hear me above all the noise from the surf.

Oops! That wave was a little high. In order to try and counter the effects of the dirty lense, I zoomed in a little. I hoped that would put the stuff on the lense so far out of focus it wouldn't have an effect. It did seem to help in the next shots although now I had no time to make sure all the settings were correct. So let's just see what happens.

The next wave was big and the father had seen it. He immediately went back to his child to keep him away from the cliff's edge. This guy never turned his back to the ocean and a good thing too because the shit was about to hit the fan.

Not the next wave, but the one after. In those few seconds the family had decided that they were not in a good situation and ran quite quickly away from the cliffs. I'm so glad they did, as this wave was a monster.

Can you see the spot where the father was originally going to fish from?

Forget that spot - his family, who were now much further back from the water, would have been in trouble if they hadn't retreated so quickly.

The family were fine if a little wet. I drove back that way right after the waves and they were all together. I'm more than relieved that the father was alert and didn't forget the first rule. Never turn your back. Unless you're running away of course...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Sleepy astronomer witnesses UFO weapon test

Finally! After years of observing the night sky and not seeing one alien space ship, I get to see the government test out one of their UFO alien spaceship laser-blasters on a tree near the Visitor Center on Mauna Kea.

They thought they could get away with this by testing the alien atomiser in the middle of the night when all the astronomers were either on the summit or asleep, but they didn't figure with me. I caught this test while trying to take a picture of the Milky Way above Mauna Loa, but now I know the government's secret. It's also obvious that everyone who works at the Visitor Center is either a government official keeping secrets - or they're aliens.

Actually, it's part of the panorama I tried to take at around 1:30am on Thurs night. Someone in a pick-up drove up to the Visitor Center just as I was trying to take a 60-sec long exposure. The laser-like lights come from the vehicle's headlights facing me for a few seconds and then doing a U-turn. What they were doing up at 9000 feet in the first place in the early hours is beyond me...

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mauna Kea's parking lot

Please excuse the noise in this photo, it was taken after the sun had set and it was a longish exposure.

The summit of Mauna Kea is one very crowded place in the evening. Although the number of astronomical observatories at the summit of Mauna Kea has remained steady due to agreements reached in the past, the number of astronomers visiting the summit has declined quite noticeably in recent years. I suspect this is due to a number of factors, for instance some observatories offer remote observing, i.e., the astronomer is at sea-level or at least amongst civilisation elsewhere and controls observing via the internet (and ultimately, the phone). Other factors include the financial situation we're all aware of and instead of visiting the summit with a student and postdoc, a professor often now just sends a student and relies on the observatory staff to do the training and ensure that the data the inexperienced student collects are good.

That puts quite a load on the observatory staff although on the whole we're happy to do that, although sometimes I've had to bury my head in my hands when even simple astronomical concepts aren't understood. Airmass and seeing are good examples.

In the meantime, I can't help noticing that the number of tourists visiting the summit is increasing despite the downturn in the economy. This is probably a bad thing for the summit's environment, but a good thing for the local economy. In fact, I'm surprised by the number of tourists I see at the summit these days because tourism in Hawai`i is declining at a frightening rate. I'm not sure how to understand these conflicting observations.

Just as a final note, the tourist vans you see in the picture above are only about half of the tourist traffic on a typical evening. The others are on the the summit ridge. You can't see most of the vans in the picture below, they found a good hiding place!

A window on the weather

The snow drifts on the mountain were several feet high in places. The sun has started to melt these over the last couple of days but in the shaded areas, such as this, the snow has turned to ice and won't be melting anytime soon. This drift is about three feet high and is now solid ice.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


Nothing much to say in this post, just a bunch of pictures from the summit featuring ice. It's been a particularly wintry season on the mountain although hopefully the last storm has passed and spring will start to take over.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Stormy summit clouds

The weather has been poor the last few days at the summit with a lot of snowfall. Tonight it finally cleared although the remnants of the storm are still at the summit. This evening, for instance, the clouds were at summit level and looked angry, but the colours were amazing as the sun set behind them. We were hopeful of a good night, because the clouds generally start to descend once the sun has set, and they did indeed try to. Unfortunately, as I write this (midnight), the clouds are back and the summit is in thick fog. The forecast is encouraging for tomorrow night though. It'll be good to get back into the swing of things, it's been quite a while since I last did some observing.

So, the pictures are 1) the true summit. The snow is almost pristine but I see some people have trekked to the summit already.

2) The twin Kecks with angry looking clouds behind them. I believe it takes something like 15-minutes to fully open a Keck dome (please correct me if I'm wrong), so no chance of opening now with the threat of optics-damaging fog all around.

3) Finally, the JCMT sits down in Submillimetre Valley with fog blowing through and the colourful but threatening clouds not far away.

Sunrise from HP

It looks a little like the surface of the moon, doesn't it? A really powerful zoom lense catching the moon as it sets behind a nearby cinder cone. Actually it's the snowy summit of Mauna Loa at sunrise photographed while I was standing just outside the HP dining room at breakfast. Not a bad view while eating your bacon and eggs...

Mauna Loa is to the south, and of course the sun is rising to the east, but it isn't quite high enough to rise above the terrain - the shadows in the sky are quite spectacular though.

Night sky from HP

Looking south from Vacation Resort Hale Pohaku on the slopes of Mauna Kea at around 1:30am. The sky wasn't that great but the Milky Way and some of its dark lanes are visible. Mauna Loa is silhouetted in the far distance with a much closer cinder cone just to the right. Below these is the Visitor Center which looks a little brighter than it really is!

The summit is covered in snow again although the roads have been cleared, at least they were until it started to snow again late this afternoon.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Has it got a drawbridge and a moat?

An Englishman's home is his castle. Except this is near Kalapana on the Puna coast in Hawai`i. I'm sure there are wonderful views of the ocean from the battlements.

Caption contest?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Sad day for Hawai`i

The Hawai'i Superferry has been forced to shut down after a legal decision by the Hawai`i Supreme Court - the decision was based on arguments related to the environment. This was potentially the only alternative transport option for anyone wanting to travel between the Hawaiian islands, other than via an airline. So now the only option is to travel by air again. Can someone explain to me how that is more environmentally friendly compared to one or two large ships?

Hundreds of jobs are going to be lost and Hawai`i will once again be a state that investors and companies will want to avoid. That might be just great for those that want to return to an economy based on coconuts, pineapples and taro but this is hardly the time to shut down a company that was actually becoming successful and helping the local economy.

So what's next? Shut down the airlines? If the argument is truly about the environment then that's the obvious next step.

When will it end?

After a few "dry" days the local TV stations and the NWS have been forecasting doom and gloom again for the Big Island - another big storm is heading this way. A flood watch was issued last night and is still active although so far we've had no heavy rain at all, in fact it's been a typical British-type drizzle all afternoon and evening, and I'm used to that! I'm getting even more used to heavy and flooding rains which have been going on for weeks here and we may just get some more overnight. Just when will this cycle end?

During the last month I've spent a little time learning about photography, especially since I was given a couple of excellent digital photography books as a late Christmas present. It's really whetted my appetite although the weather just hasn't been cooperating. I'm back at the summit this weekend and was hoping to try out some of the techniques I've been attempting to learn (it's frightening how many mistakes I keep making though - this is going to be a long process) but the forecast for the summit is dire, and it's been snowing there most of the day, so there's a good chance we won't even be able to get there. I suspect I'll be posting photos from the last month here very soon, and if it goes on like this, from the last year! I think I might do a "don't do this sort of thing when taking photos" post.

Well, you learn by your mistakes I think.

Still, looking on the bright side, the weather might give me an opportunity to see if I can apply any of the knowledge I should have by now to photography of flora, but I'm getting to that age when memory starts to fail.

What was the question again?

Monday, 16 March 2009


Normally I wouldn't dream of presenting such a poor-quality and out-of-focus picture like the one below, but this is an exception so read on!

After spending the last month on vacation I tried to get back into my work routine this morning - up at 06:30 or thereabouts and then the usual stuff before heading into the office - I don't know if other people are like me, but I'm quite happy getting up at 5am on a weekend but on a workday I find it tough to wake up. Don't get me wrong either, I'm one of the lucky people who actually enjoy my job!

Anyway, just before leaving I heard a real commotion outside in the yard. The local mynah birds were making a big fuss but it wasn't the usual performance - they spend most mornings having a dancing party on my tin roof which annoys the hell out of me (and I swear they know that). This time there was real alarm in their calls. I ignored it at first but after a few minutes looked out of the window to see what was going on. I saw a couple of mynahs near the top of a tree looking very worried and fussing like nobody's business.

I finally figured out what they were looking at and was stunned to see this in the trees about 20 yards away:

It's an `Io or Hawaiian Hawk. It's endemic to Hawai`i and an endangered species. I've seen them before, but only flying around at extreme altitudes looking for prey and then only very rarely; I'd never seen one this close. I'd estimate it's length to be about 18-inches which would make it an adult.

It had caught some prey - just what, I don't know - and was starting to feed on it. It took me a minute or two and then realised I really should try and take a picture, so ran downstairs and grabbed the camera. I took a couple of very hurried photos through an extremely grubby upstairs window, hence the poor quality picture. I couldn't get the camera to focus properly and was in a rush to get any sort of shot before the bird spotted me and flew away. In fact the picture above was taken just as he or she saw me and that was that, off it went.

What a thrill though and I feel really privileged that this `Io visited my garden. It made up for all my recent whale-watching failures!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Fruitless pursuits

This has been a strange year when it comes to whale watching. February and March is usually the time the humpback whales are in my local waters just off the cliffs, but I've only seen one and that was just as I arrived at the shoreline and before I had a chance to get the camera ready. I've been hearing them at night though, so know they're still around, but even their calls are becoming rarer, after all, it's time for them to head back to the Arctic for food after breeding and giving birth around the Hawaiian Islands.

I'm going to try for the next month to see if I can take a photo of one - hopefully breaching but a fin or tail slap would do just as well - they do that in the bay around here but never when I have a camera with me...

Unfortunately my favourite whale watching spot was taken by fishermen, so not wanting to disturb them I went back to my sunrise photo spot. The site taken up by the shore-anglers is great because I can look into the bay to spot whales, but the other spot is right in the middle of the bay's shoreline, so there's a huge expanse of ocean to scan and it's easy to miss a whale on the surface. Oh well, my fellow whale watcher in the picture above gave up shortly after I took the picture and I gave up half an hour later when it started to rain.

Still, it's a wonderful place to just sit down and watch and listen to the ocean. Nothing relaxes me more.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Free car insurance?

I saw an advert on the goggle box this evening about car insurance (for my American readers, goggle box = TV and car = auto; I hope that clears things up!). I think it was made by a company called 21st Century although I might be wrong. It claimed that on average I would hope to save around $400 on my insurance bill compared to Allstate.

Allstate have also been running adverts saying that I might expect to save something like $300 on the bill compared to Geico. This sounds wonderful especially as I'm insured by Geico.

So, all I need to do now is wait for the next company (let's call it Company X) to advertise that I can expect a $300 savings on my bill compared to 21st Century and if I have my calculations right my car insurance will be free! Perhaps, though, I should wait for the next insurance firm to undercut Company X and then it sounds to me as though they'll be paying me to be insured with them.

That'll be too good a deal to miss I think.

Puna sunrise

The weather finally cleared overnight. Although the other islands are suffering from heavy rain and thunderstorms, the windward Big Island was glorious this morning, so I finally bit the bullet and got out of bed well before sunrise to take a few shots at the nearby cliffs. I've been wanting to do this for several weeks but the weather has been so poor the opportunities have been somewhat limited. So Mr Mad Guy here was on the cliffs to watch the pre-dawn sky on a Saturday morning.

This panorama is of the ocean and Puna coastline just south of Kaloli Point in Hawaiian Paradise Park. It's also one of my whale watching spots although I saw none this morning. It's coming towards the end of the whale season here in Hawai`i although there are still whales around. I saw one yesterday just as I arrived at the cliffs for sunset but it disappeared into the ocean depths before I'd got the camera out.

Looking north from my spot you can see all the new housing that has been built in the last few years. Most of these houses didn't exist when I first moved here over a decade ago. The views are wonderful, especially in the morning when the sun rises and you can really understand why people want to live here. Apparently, the housing here is relatively cheap, although I don't think so. The 0.5-acre plots of land on the cliffs are selling for $250,000 (and that's for a quick sale) and remember, that's without the house. I think my half-acre plot cost $15,000 a decade ago although I'm a few hundred yards back from the cliffs.

I would love to live in a little place like this right on the cliffs, although I'd be continually scared about a tsunami. The only thing lacking here is a beach - perhaps one day, if enough rich and retired Californians continue to move here, they'll build one! Given the economic climate these days though, that's probably not going to happen...