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Monday, April 23, 2012

April Photo Adventure: Fremont Peak State Park and the Mission San Juan Bautista

Recently my friend Carl and I realized we were CLUELESS when it came to how to use the built in cameras on our iPhones. I figured what better way to learn than sink or swim! So we challenged ourselves to go out and shoot using only our camera phones for this month's photo adventure!

To be honest I wasn't terribly confident the pictures would be worth posting. But I'm happy to report most came out surprisingly well!

Find fun iPhone photography accessories in the Photojojo online store!

To improve my odds of loving the photos I kicked my pictures up a notch by ordering a magnetic fish eye lens from the Photojojo website. It's equal parts convenient, addictive, drives your HQ (hip quotient) up, and is super fun. It oh-so-easily attaches to your phone with an affixed magnetic sticker. I'd planned to use it for just a few shots. But because the pictures looked soooooooooo awesome and cool, and it was soooooooooo easy to pop on and off, I ended up using it almost the entire day! I'll post a full review of the Fisheye and how it works on Wednesday. I ran out of room in today's post.

I also ordered a "Glif+" tripod adapter for Carl for his iPhone because he already had a table top Gorillapod tripod he wanted to try it out with.

Annnnnnnnnd we brought along our professional photographer friend  Orbie Pullen who gave us some iPhone shooting tips.

We headed out to San Juan Bautista in San Benito County at 9:30 AM. From San Jose it takes approximately 90 minutes to get there. It's located south and just slightly east of SJ.

We only had two destinations this month:

1. 3169 feet up at Fremont Peak State Park (Thanks Holly for suggesting this stop!)
2. The Old Mission San Juan Bautista

How to get there.
  1. The top left image is the sign you'll see when you turn off Highway 156 onto The Alameda heading south.
  2. The bottom left image is the fork in the road you'll soon run into. Bear left at the fork and continue on The Alameda. It becomes San Juan Canyon Road.
  3. You'll follow the winding road for 11 miles until reaching the parking lot for Fremont Peak State Park. Turn right at the circle and park in the lot.

You'll see this sign, a box of envelopes, and a pay receptacle. Take an envelope, fill out the registration information and insert your money. Before you drop it into the "Pay Here" box be sure to tear away the top receipt and put it on your dashboard so the park rangers don't give you a ticket.

There is also overnight camping allowed for an additional fee of $25 per night and there's an observatory you can visit at night! Upcoming events are listed on the Fremont Peak Observatory Association website. The observatory houses a large 30-inch reflecting telescope that the public can use.

Once there we broke out our new Photojojo gear and figured it all out. That's Carl with his new Glif+ on his tripod and me, testing out the fisheye capabilities of my new lens with my hand.

Orbie borrowed my phone and took this super cool tree picture.

This sign sits right before the trailhead. Walk up the paved service road a very short distance and you'll see the trail begin on your right hand side before the road curves to the right. From there the hiking trail will lead you to the top of the peak.

Along the way we saw many, many kinds of wildflowers. The few I took the time to photograph were:

Row 1: Filaree
Row 2: Lupine, Blue Fiesta Flower, Shooting Stars
Row 3: Owls Clover, California Poppies, Purple Vetch

As we hiked the path varied from dirt to slightly rocky, uneven areas.

Here's a great example of how the fisheye lens works. The left is an image taken with the built in camera. The image on the right is the same image taken with the fisheye lens. Look at how much wider, higher and lower the framing goes! The fisheye is a 180º view so you capture far more details than without the lens.

Orbie beat me to the top. Do you see him with his arms raised in the top image?

The top image is the peak we were hiking up to. The lower left is a view from the base of the rocky outcropping at the top of the peak. Once you start up this section you'll hit a short flight of concrete stairs, a short trail and then the rest of the way is all medium sized and larger rocks that you have to climb up, over and between to get to the top. Carl said it's called "bouldering" to climb this type of terrain. There aren't pictures because I needed both of my hands to make the climb. Safety first :)

Carl wonders "Can you hear me now?"

LOL clearly the pictures show we had a lot of fun both on the way up to the peak and once we arrived at the top. While on the north side of the mountain Carl wondered aloud if there would be any cell phone reception. The guys were really surprised that there was a very strong signal. As we made our way to the south side of the mountain we all cracked up. There were several huge broadcasting towers including a Verizon cell tower.

Ha ha, Orbie claimed the best rock to lie down on. Next time I'm calling dibs on it first :D Once at the top someone said "Hey we should have brought a picnic lunch with us!" Dang, that would have been a great idea. We were bummed we hadn't thought of it earlier. We'll bring one next time for sure!

The weather couldn't have been more perfect. Blue skies, sun and a nice, steady cool breeze the entire day.

I brought the stow-away-asaurus along that day just to show him to Carl. Once at the top of the peak he became my muse. I've named him Jojo. Here he was taking a break on an orangey-red lichen covered rock.

Orbie said "Hey, give me the dinosaur. I'm going to do something with it" As I handed it to him I half thought he was going to throw it over the edge. LOL. If he had I would have literally LMAO the moment he did it in shock, then I would have been really sad because I wouldn't have been able to photograph him the rest of the day. Instead he simply took the dinosaur and held him out towards the camera lens for this neat-o shot. Cool!

I wanted to create a Jurassic Park image of Jojo. This was my favorite.


The trail is 1.1 miles long and will take about an hour to complete. If you go, be prepared by bringing:

1. Water
2. At least a snack
3. In sunny weather wear a hat and long sleeves. There is no shade at the top of the peak
4. Use sunscreen
5. Wear good walking/hiking shoes
6. Bring your cell phone for emergencies
7. Stay on the trail because there's poison oak on the mountain
8. Bring a pen to fill in the parking fee envelope
9. Go to the bathroom down near the entry area because there are no toilets once you're on the trail.

Another comparison between with and without the lens. From the top of the peak you get an amazing 360º view. To the east is Hollister, to the west is Monterey Bay, to the north is San Juan Bautista and Gilroy, to the southwest Salinas and further south are the Santa Lucia Mountains of Big Sur. Disappointingly we weren't able to see Monterey Bay because of the haze. Maybe next time.

The group photo was taken with Carl's new glif+ and his auto-timer. The glif+ came in very handy. Photojojo also offers a 30 foot shutter remote control for the iPhone. It, combined with the glif+, would be a winning combination.

We stayed on the peak until after 1:00 PM and were getting pretty hungry. So, we decided it was time to head down to go find lunch.

The lower image is a shot I took as we began our descent. I was kind of blown away to spot succulents and fern near the top of the peak.

On the drive down the mountain we spotted two AT&T trucks. Orbie said to take a picture of them with the fisheye lens so I did. Pretty cool!

We headed to downtown San Juan Bautista to grab a bite at Jardin de San Juan. They have a huge outdoor patio that can be rented for weddings and special events. Above is part of the outdoor seating section. In the Youtube video below is a shot of the event area further out on the far patio.

Our phones needed re-charging so the food pics are from my GF2 camera.

Carl ordered some guacamole and chips while we waited for our meals. It was very good. When our food arrived I barely took the time to take a couple of pictures. I had nachos and a fresh strawberry lemonade. It was the BEST strawberry lemonade ever! It looked so good the guys each ordered one after they saw mine :D The nachos were delish but the portion was huge. Even after climbing a freaking mountain there was no way I could eat the whole thing. I'd say this is a dish to share with a friend. I would definitely go eat here again.

After lunch we walked a few blocks over to the Mission San Juan Bautista.

I'd heard of it for years but had never been there before. What to see while you're there? There's the Mission itself plus the gardens and grounds surrounding it, the Stables and Plaza Hall (across the plaza lawn), and a gift shop (located near the intersection of Second and Mariposa) where you can pay a small fee to go inside the Mission itself and view the interior garden.

You can just barely see it but there was a graceful morning dove sitting at the tippy top of the cross in the foreground. So fitting.

It's amazing to me that the Old Mission San Juan Bautista (named for St. John the Baptist) has had an unbroken succession of pastors since its founding on June 24,1797. It is the current parish church for San Juan Bautista. The home page of the www.OldMissionSJB.org website says its founding priest Friar Fermin de Lasuén:

...began with a group of leather-jacketed soldiers and a few Native Americans watching a tonsured Franciscan priest raise his eyes and hands toward the sky...

"In the name of our blessed Father, and the saint whose feast we commemorate today, St. John the Baptist..."

Inside the Mission everything is beautiful. Trompe-l'œil paintings adorn the walls and doorways and there are paintings and sculptures everywhere. This right nave (aisle) side alter created a particularly beautiful, seasonal vignette with the fresh Easter lilies blooming at the feet of Christ.

Alter candles surround the Blessed Virgin Mary in front of the left nave side alter.

The interior is timeless. While inside I was filled with reverence and an awe similar to how I felt when, over a decade ago, I walked inside Chatres Cathedral just outside of Paris, France.

This is the center nave. 

Beyond the painted arches is the stunning reredo, the decorative area behind the altar, that contains six statues of: St. Anthony of Padua, St. Dominic de Guzman, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Isadore of Madrid, St. John the Baptist, and St. Pascal Baylon.

The Holy Spirit (dove) floats above the font.

The framed sign (to the right) in the Bapistry room reads:

"This is a reproduction of the entry of Fr. Fermin de Lasuen's baptism in the registry of the Church of St. Vincent, Vitoria, Spain Presented to the Parishioners of San Juan Bautista by the Parishioners of San Vincente June 1st 1997 our Bicenteenial year."

A room of priest's vestments (ceremonial attire).  

To finish the photo tour here are two views of the interior garden. The one on the left is a statue of the Virgin Mary.

There is so much more to see here I'm going to have to go back someday and dedicate an entire post to the Mission. Even though I'm not Catholic I'm very intrigued by it and would enjoy learning more about its rich history.

To give you a better idea of the image results you can create with the Photojojo fisheye lens here are more side by side comparisons both at Fremont Peak State Park and The Mission at San Juan Bautista. I couldn't fit them all in this post so I created a slieshow for you on Youtube.

I'm over the moon with the fisheye lens and would say it's a must have if you use your phone to take cool, quirky, creative and unique pictures. It's definitely the best $25 I've spent in a very long time. The wide angle let in a lot of light in the dimly lit Mission but shot equally well in full sun up on Fremont Peak. It exceeded all of my expectation.

Both Carl and I agreed this was one of our best excursions ever! We had a great time with Orbie and Jojo the dinosaur. They added a lot of laughter to our outing.

To go where we went and to do what we did here's everything you'll need to know:

Fremont Peak State Park‎ - website, and here
San Juan Canyon Rd
San Jn Bautista, CA 95045

Jardines de San Juan - website
115 3rd St.
San Juan Bautista, CA 95045

Mission San Juan Bautista - website
406 Second Street
San Juan Bautista
CA 95045
831-623-4528 (Gift Shop/Tours)

Photojojo - website

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