Thursday, November 10, 2016

Catalina Island Birthday

     When my birthday rolled around this year, I was quite excited to celebrate it on Catalina Island.  I've always known that the Catalina Express gives you a free round trip ride on your actual birthday, but each year I kept telling myself I'd take advantage of it, and never do!  Well, this was my year!  

     It had been raining off and on in SoCal the last few days, so I was worried it would be all rain on my birthday.  However, I prayed to the photography gods, and they answered.  We only experienced a little rain while there, and it was mostly when we were indoors.

     So when it's your actual birthday, the Catalina Express gives you a blue birthday ribbon when you pick up your ticket at the counter.  You basically wear the ribbon and there are all these freebies and discounts you can get on the island.  Here I am, excited to see what free goodies I had to look forward to!

     This picture of this dude waving at us is the last thing I shot before I got sea sick again! Grrr. I basically had to close my eyes and mentally check out in order to not throw up. :-/

     One of the things I really love about Catalina is the lack of commercialism.  There are mostly mom and pop type stores on the island.  I think the Vons was one of the few chain stores I saw.  I wish I had gone inside it.  It was very dated looking inside and was definitely a throwback to a simpler time - y'know, like the 80s LOL. 

     One of my friends recommended this place, but it didn't open early and we were more interested in photos than eating.

     Since I had already eaten the fish and chips the last time I was here, we decided to eat somewhere else on the pier.  We ended up at a place called Eric's on the Pier.  

     Not exactly the instagram-worthy breakfast I was hoping for, but in its defense, this was a very tasty bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich. 

     Our first official stop was the Catalina Island Museum.  They show you a short video in the beginning in this cute little movie room.  I was excited to see/learn more about the island and its short history.  Little did I know, the video was far better than anything I saw in the museum about the island.  It was not expensive - quite cheap actually, compared to other museums - but for a small place like this, I expected more for $7.50.  My advice is to skip it, unless you're really curious.

     Wrigley is a big deal on the island, dating back to when the Cubs owner bought the island and had them do their training there.

     Even though I've been to Catalina a few times, I've never been inside the Casino, which is the iconic building that has become synonymous with the island.  Our tour guide was Frankie, or as he would say, Frankie "Avalon". 

     This is inside the theatre.  I think they actually still show movies here.  They showed us another film clip about the island.  I kid you not, it was basically the same information that was in the video from the Catalina Island Museum.  

     If you ever take the tour, lag behind a little, and you'll be the last one in the theatre.  You'll be able to get a clean shot of it without all the other people.  Speaking of people, there seemed to be few people on the island, but when we arrived at this tour, all of a sudden the place was brimming with people.  Apparently, Sunday is the day the cruise boat docks in Catalina.

     My friend Matt snapping a shot of the ballroom ceiling.

     When the tour took us outside on the balcony at the Casino, I was able to see the Descanso Beach Club.  I had looked it up on Yelp earlier and was excited to have lunch here.

     To my disappointment, the menu I saw on Yelp was for a restaurant at the beach club that was not open while we were there.  I'm not even sure why it wasn't open, but we had to settle for the bar area.  After having our table stolen by a group of cruise people, we reluctantly sat down and ordered from the bar menu.  Actually, I take it back.  We didn't sit down an order.  Apparently, you have to go to the bar to order food.  I wouldn't have known that had one of the waiters not come by to give us menus and tell us this.  

     I had these beef nachos.  They were okay, but definitely not the fancy birthday lunch I was looking forward to.  The Descanso Beach Club was a bit of a walk from Crescent Street, which is the main street in Catalina.  To walk back to grab some lunch would've put us off schedule... and y'know, I couldn't have any of that. 

     I really enjoyed using my 70-200mm f2.8 II.  The focus is so quick and the lens is super sharp.  I haven't had a moment of buyer's remorse yet!

     After lunch, it was a quick stop at Lloyd's of Avalon for my free birthday scoop of ice cream!  

     Thanks, Lloyd! :)  By the way, because you are wearing your birthday ribbon, everyone on the island tells you happy birthday.  I think the local residents are aware that this is a thing that the Catalina Express does.  If they're doing it to promote more traffic to the island, then it's working.  I'm already looking forward to coming back next year.  Even the people at Disneyland aren't on their game as much as the Catalina Island locals!

     Pecan freakin' praline. Yum. 

     Next up, we rented a golf cart to get around the island and take some photos for three hours.  I actually appreciated the overcast weather and clouds.  It made for some nice even light.

     I discovered some new vantage points that I hadn't been to before.  I think the last time I went to high elevation on Catalina, it was by taking a taxi cab so we were only able to get to one viewpoint.  I highly recommend renting a golf cart to get around!

     There are some gorgeous homes here.

     We came across a family of deer crossing the road.  They were so cute.  It made me miss my doggies. :) 

     This was our ride.  We saw some pimped out golf carts with chrome rims and everything!

     This little guy kept staring at us.  It was both cute and creepy at the same time LOL.

     I only brought three lenses with me on this trip - the 28mm, 50mm, and the 70-200mm.  I think for the most part it was enough to get me by and cover the types of photos I wanted to take.  I brought the 28mm mainly for wide shots and selfies.  The 50mm was basically for an all-purpose lens, and the 70-200mm was to get in closer when we were at higher vantage points.

     I've got to give it to myself.  I always send out postcards when I'm out and about.  If I sent you one, I hope you know I took many wrong turns before finding this postal drop box! :) 

     We returned the golf cart at 6pm, and our return boat was at 7:30pm.  We decided to use the time we had to take some shots near the water at blue hour. Oh yeah, meet my friend Ben. :) 

     So I've been having some bad luck with my gear lately.  A few weeks earlier at a wedding, I dropped my 135mm lens.  Then while feeling sea sick on the way to the island, I dropped my mark III and the rear multi-controller button fell off.  Then while trying to take blue hour shots, my 50mm lens decides it doesn't want to focus.  I spent so much time fiddling with it that I pretty much missed most of blue hour.  These two pictures below are all I have, and they are slightly blurry because my lens just did not want to focus. Luckily, the nice people at Canon were able to help me, and so far, it's working fine again.

     Overall, I had a great time, and really enjoyed getting away for the day.  You should definitely consider going on your birthday! :) 


  1. I've seen a movie at the casino while waiting for the boat back. It's old school beautiful.

  2. Yeah, I heard the movies they play are recent! It looks like a cool experience. Maybe next year I will watch a movie there on my Birthday :)