Saturday, March 24, 2018

Carlsbad Flower Fields Photography

     Last year around this time, a ton of rain had just hit SoCal, and we were reaping the photography benefits of it by photographing various "super bloom" locations.  Aside from detail photos at weddings, there is no better use for my macro lens than shooting flowers.  What I love most about flower photography is that it's slow-paced and low pressure.  The photos are for my own pleasure, so you know there are no consequences to not getting the shot.  If you happen to miss a few things, you can always try again. 

     The Flower Fields in Carlsbad were not new to me.  I'd heard of them before, but just never made the time to go.  Also, last year we had the super bloom, so there were plenty of places to shoot flowers for free.  This year has me paying $16 admission to The Flower Fields to get my flower shots. 😏

     The Flower Fields are open 9am til 6pm daily, and we were there before they opened.  If you plan on going during the weekend, I'd say arriving at 9am will allow you about an hour of sparse crowds to get the shots you want.  I was both happy and disappointed to see "do not enter" tape all around the fields.  My research on Instagram led me to believe that you could walk through the fields, but I think those were just people who ignored the signs to not walk into the fields.  Instead, there are little inlets that you can walk into, that make it appear like you're among the flowers in the field.  They are essentially Instagram/photo spots.  

     For this photo outing, I brought along my 28mm f1.8, 100mm f2.8 macro, and 16-35mm f4 lenses.  I was really happy that I chose these lenses.  They were the perfect focal lengths for what I like to shoot, and not once did I feel like I should've brought a different lens. 

     One thing I discovered in doing my research is that the field is just filled with ranunculus flowers.  I mistakenly thought there'd be a huge variety of blooms, but the actual fields are strictly ranunculus.  You'll see other flowers in tents, or in flowerbeds elsewhere on the grounds though.

     Some rows were in a single shade like red or orange, but my favorite were the multi-colored blooms.

     Here is one of the inlets that you can walk into for a photo op.  I thought it was pretty clever of The Flower Fields to do this.  It provides a better backdrop for photos, and keeps people from trampling all over the flowers.

     Right next to The Flower Fields are the Carlsbad Outlet shops.  There are plenty of places to eat there if you want to make a day of it.  In the distance, you can also see the ocean.  

     When I was done the flowers, I really wished I had someone to be in my photos.  Luckily, my friend asked this lady if we could get a shot of her.  So if you're a photographer, I highly recommend bringing someone along with you - preferably with a cute hat that has a bow on it LOL. 

     The Flower Fields are very kid-friendly.  There are a few retail and food booths, guided tours, a tractor ride, educational presentations for kids, and a gardening shop on your way out in case you're itching to channel your inner green thumb.  If you're planning to visit The Flower Fields, here's a quick reference guide for ya:

  • Tickets:  $16 for adults, $8 for kids 3-10 years old
  • Bring a cute hat and a model (or someone willing to be in your pictures)
  • Bring a long macro lens, a wide lens, and a good portrait lens
  • Check out Carrillo Ranch and the Carlsbad Outlets if you're looking to make this a day trip

     Happy shooting! 😊

Saturday, March 10, 2018

See Soupy Eat :: Clifton's Cafeteria

     It's not often that I get excited about food.  Don't get me wrong.  I like food, but just in general - I definitely don't consider myself a foodie.  When someone suggested we check out this place in downtown L.A. called Clifton's, I thought it would just be another hipster hangout - typical the movement to revitalize downtown L.A.  So so wrong.  First, Clifton's has been around a long time - since the 30s!  It also is an actual cafeteria (the largest of its kind in the country if I'm not mistaken), which made eating there a much more novel idea that it normally would've been. The more I found out about the history of this place, the more I looked forward to this visit.

     We parked at Pershing Square, and from there, it was a short walk to Clifton's.  Some nearby places of interest include Grand Central Market, St. Vincent Square, and The Last Bookstore.  

     I desperately had to go to the bathroom when we got there.  A little walk down some stairs and I also encounter this display.  This is an actual neon light that they found inside the walls (still plugged in) from over 70 years ago when they did their renovation!

     The inside of Clifton's is a photographer's dream.  I know I'm late to the Clifton's game, but I've never seen anything viral about Clifton's.  It definitely deserves some Instagram love!

     This place carried some good stuff!  Just to name a few, they had Stumptown coffee and Pinkberry available!

     The desserts and pastries were so cute - pricey, but cute!

     I'm coming back for this homemade chili!

     I loved their little cafeteria trays...and for $55, you can have one of your very own to take home! 

     These were called tasters (I think?) and were 4 for $6.  I need to come back to try these as well.  I love the presentation!

     For the main dishes, they serve their meats for about $6 for meat only, and $14.75 if you get 2 side dishes with it.  I heard they serve turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing at Clifton's, and anyone that knows me, knows I'm not leaving without my Thanksgiving dinner! 😊

     Oh man, I still remember how excited I was to eat this! Check out that little jar of whole berry cranberry sauce. 😋

     Just like any true cafeteria, you pay before you take your food to the dining area.

     This was called camp fire cake.  It looks like a giant toasted marshmallow and tasted like a s'mores cake - so good. 

     From what I saw, there are three levels (not including the lower level where the bathrooms were) at Clifton's.  I saw two main bar areas.  This one was at the main dining area.  

     I'm not sure why, but this dining area was closed off.  I read somewhere that this upper level is only used during the dinner service.  I'd love to come back and eat on this level.  Check out that lion - it'll be like eating on a safari! 😂

     So many cool spots for photography.  I want to bring people back here to shoot.  No one seemed to mind that we were upstairs unattended and taking photos which is a good thing!

     While the main dining area reminded me of rainforest cafe meets natural history museum, the second floor reminded me of haunted house victorian home meets safari.

     This giant fake tree goes through all three floors.  I have no idea what's on the third floor.  I'll have to come back for dinner to find out.

     This bar is gorgeous.  It reminds me of bars at a club.  

     It even has it's own meteorite!

Second floor looking down.

     To top it all off, there are all these nooks and crannies where you'll find the strangest things.  This one little alcove had this old TV and a giant crystal thing.  So weird and quirky.  Not too far away from this was a little room where you can sit and look at this diorama of a forest scene (very reminiscent of Yosemite National Park, I thought.)

     I don't know if these were here since the 1930s, but it just adds to the quirky nature of Clifton's.  As the signage in front of the restaurant suggests, it really is a "cabinet of curiosities". 

     Before you walk into the cafeteria, you will walk by a little gift shop area.  Just about everything in this gift shop was pretty pricey!

     I'm coming back for that jello at a later date! 😋

     After we ate, we decided to check out this place called St. Vincent Square.  It's basically this dead end little street that has fake facades for some small store fronts.    

     So many new eateries pop up in downtown L.A.  I made a mental note to come back to this one.  I don't know what it's called, but I've never seen it before.  

     And finally, The Last Bookstore!

     This visit to Clifton's reminded me that there are so many more undiscovered places in L.A.  Sometimes when you live in SoCal, you feel like you've seen it all, but then you realize there are hidden gems like Clifton's - who knows what else is out there?  Seriously, though - if you've never been, I highly recommend it.  Price-wise, it's no more or less than what food would cost at a regular restaurant.  The ambiance is so cool and different, and I think kids would enjoy eating here as well.