Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One More Mission

(Clickable links are in light text)


Barbara and I have made it a habit to visit every old mission we pass by on our travels through the southwest. When we lived in San Antonio, we had a good base for visiting all of the Spanish Texas missions, and later living in California, we made at least brief visits to the west coast missions. Now, with the girls in Arizona and the time Charles was in New Mexico, we have probably seen the great majority of the surviving missions. Still, we come across one now and then that we haven't seen before.

These encounters are often accidental rather than the results of purposeful trip planning. We had driven from Palm Springs over to the coast to get some certified documents from the San Diego County Clerk, and were having lunch listening to the waves and watching for whales. We were not at our intended restaurant destination (see "stochastic travel" below). We were originally headed for the Chart House Restaurant, but found it closed for lunch that day. A nearby restaurant, (The Beach House in Cardiff), looked interesting so we gave it a try. As it turned out, it was excellent food, and we had nothing between us and the water except sand, some pelicans and a few surfers.

As we finished our lunch, Barbara was talking about our route back to Palm Springs. She had earlier noted on the map a mission south of Temecula that neither of us remembered visiting, so . . . . off we go. The Mission San Antonio De Pala used to be way off the beaten path, but now is almost in the shadow of the new, huge De Pala indian casino.

We were at De Pala during a wedding - sorry for the fuzzy picture-. The simple chapel is much less majestic and ornate than many of the missions we have seen, but it was perfect for this small wedding. I liked the garden, as I have always, and still, wanted to have a home with four walls around a courtyard with all the rooms opening onto the central patio. Of course, this only works well in a warm climate with limited rain, but I can still dream.

I am not Catholic (understatement), but I do appreciate the historical story of these structures, and the significant role they played in North America. Willa Cather wrote a moving book around the subject - Death comes to the Archbishop. Wandering through the buildings and gardens, I try to recall more of her devout, dedicated and uplifting Father LaTour and Father Vaillant and ignore the corrupt priests they encountered and, more or less, overcame.

Travel Note: Several years ago at a radiology meeting in Barolo, Italy, Barbara and I ran into Bill and Barbara, physicians/friends from my last residency. We did a single day of wandering through the Piedmont, without much direction and no specific destination, but just a general idea of how to get back when we ran out of time. Bill in turn had a friend who referred to this unstructured exploration of unfamiliar territory as "Stochastic" travel (if it's been too long since your last chemistry course, click here for a definition of stochastic). I highly recommend it; odds are you will find something interesting.

(For information and more pictures if the De Pala Mission click this link)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Technique vs Art

(left click on any picture to enlarge)

I am a reasonably good photographer. By that I mean that I know how to use focal length and f-stop to control depth of field, understand that if you increase the size of the CCD chip from ¼ inch to ½ inch that you quadruple the sensitivity of the camera for low-light and fast-action scenes, and that you can change the gamma-curve of an image with PhotoShop to bring out shadow detail without losing highlights. I can make a reasonable photographic log of our trips.

Barbara has not had the opportunity to learn and practice these technical aspects of photography, yet she is a much, much better photographer than me. She understands people and how to use them in a photograph, and she understands light, color and pattern. It drives me nuts, but it’s true, and I prove my point right here.

Yesterday, Barbara and I went to the Concours d'Elegance in Palm Springs. Not yet the equal of the Pebble Beach Concours, but still a major classic show, they spread these classic and collectible automobiles (worth from a few tens of thousands all the way to $20M) over four fairways of the golf course.

My picture above is pretty typical of what I “saw” at the event. Barbara’s pictures below are what she “saw” at the same event.