Lori Carey Photography

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lower Colorado River at Picacho

The lower Colorado River along Indian Pass in the Picacho State Recreation Area, California

After a day spent exploring the desert environs of the Cargo Muchacho Mountains and Indian Pass Wilderness, we took the amazingly beautiful Indian Pass Trail into Picacho SRA and reached the lower Colorado River just as the afternoon light was starting to turn to gold. What an incredible feeling to reach cool running water after a long day in the desert!

We camped along the banks of the Colorado and made it to Taylor Lake before sunrise before heading out. I just started processing the photos from this trip and have more to come...but I'm headed out on the trail again so I need to do some serious catch-up work when I get back.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the really cool couple we met in Gavilon Wash coming the opposite way in their jeep pulling an adventure trailer. Bill wanted to talk to them about how the trailer handled and we ended up talking about the jeeping life and exchanging trail condition reports for well over an hour (which put us a little behind schedule haha). They told us that they were supposed to be headed to Arizona (this was Thanksgiving weekend) but saw this trail and decided to see where it went, and their family had no idea where they were. After we went our separate ways Bill and I turned to each other and said that will be us in ten years, still doing what we love to do.

Indian Pass Trail is one of the prettiest trails I've done so far here in California and Picacho SRA has become one of my favorite places. The trail passes through a sacred Indian Site before heading down into Gavilon Wash. It is a hidden gem with amazing rock formations including arches, wild burros and desert bighorn, thousands of migratory waterfowl and several remote campsites along the banks of the river (as well as the main hosted campground accessible by a 25 mile long graded dirt road). The best part is that most of it (the prettiest part) is only accessible via 4WD (or boat for the boat-in sites). Unfortunately this park is slated for closure in the spring of 2012 due to California budget cuts. I'll be leading a trek out there in a month or so, let me know if you're interested in seeing this beautiful park before it's closed.

I'm really enjoying the photography community on Google+ and posting for the weekly themes has helped me get back on track with posting but right now my blog posts are pretty much duplicates of my G+ posts, with just a little more info, so apologies to anyone who sees both. Now that I'm getting the hang of things over there I'm going to work on doing a better job of making them compliment rather than duplicate each other.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


An inuksuk, more specifically an inunnguaq, stone cairn in the shape of a man in the Alabama Hills of California

I did a scouting trip to the Alabama Hills a few weeks back and challenged myself to stay away from the iconic images of Mt. Whitney and the Sierras viewed through the three or four arches that seem get all the attention from photographers. My resolve was strengthened when I saw all of the people and vehicles at the parking locations for the popular spots. Staying away from the iconic shots and finding a fresh and interesting point of view is tough, very tough, but more and more lately I just don't feel like photographing the things that everyone and their mother and sister and brother photograph and I'd rather come home with nothing than something that's already been done a million times.

While all the other photographers crowded around to shoot the same few arches that everyone always shoots, I set off to find my own point of view. I went exploring with a hand-drawn map in hand that I was fortunate to track down while trip planning which showed 100+ arches and other points of interest, and this little guy helped show me the way.

He's an inuksuk, more specifically an inunnguaq, a stone cairn in the shape of a man. They were used by the Inuit to communicate, marking the locations of trails, caches of food or important hunting grounds. They are among the oldest and most important objects placed by humans upon the vast Arctic landscape and have become a familiar symbol of the Inuit and of their homeland. You may recognize it as the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

I think he was a bit lost in the desert terrain of the Alabama Hills, perhaps on his way to more familiar terrain of the High Sierras, but he sure brought a smile to this traveler's face.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It is good to know the truth...

Canary Island Date Palm silhouetted against a sunset sky

...but it is better to speak of palm trees. ~ Arab Proverb

This one is for my husband who insisted that I needed to take this shot. Christmas Eve he joined me for an evening of shooting on the grounds of the Montage in Laguna Beach and while I was working a different scene he wandered off to do a little scouting. As the last light was just about to fade away and I started to pack up he called me over saying that I needed to come see this. Canary Island Date Palms are his favorite tree and he loved the twilight colors and the symbolism of the lone star in the sky on Christmas Eve.

The tungsten white balance I was using to shoot the Christmas lights made the twilight sky a beautifully dramatic blue. Because the sun had already been down for over half an hour at this point, the exposure was long enough to capture the movement of the star (20 seconds), but when I looked at it in post to try to decide if I wanted to try to fix it, I saw that there's a perfect little starburst around the oval shape of the star so I decided to leave it for now.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Predawn Lunar Eclipse December 10

August 28, 2007 full lunar eclipse as seen from San Juan Capistrano, California, USA.

I can't believe it's been more than four years since I could photograph a complete lunar eclipse, and this image was my very first attempt. Full lunar eclipses visible from North America don't happen often. I couldn't photograph the lunar eclipse last December because I had heavy cloud cover, and the one this weekend won't be ideal for most the country because it occurs after or just before sunrise in North America. Even here on the west coast totality won't be reached until right before sunrise (totality will be greatest at 6:32am and sunrise will be at 6:44am) which means the sky will already be light, so it will be interesting to see. Unfortunately we won't be able to photograph the entire eclipse through the last partial stages.

You can check the times of the stages of the eclipse in your time zone at EarthSky.

If you've never photographed a lunar eclipse before and plan to give this one a try (or if you've tried before and had problems with exposure), read my previous blog post Tips for Photographing a Lunar Eclipse for some tips on proper exposure.

The next total eclipse visible in North America won't be until April 2014 (there will be a partial eclipse in June 2012).

Feel free to share links to your shots here, would love to see how other photographers handle the approaching daylight in their shots.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guard tower at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California. There were originally 8 guard towers around the perimeter of the Manzanar War Relocation Center, staffed by Military Police with submachine guns. The National Park Service rebuilt this one in 2005.

‎Today I'm remembering the men and women who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago and reflecting on the sacrifices that led to the freedom we now experience.

A few weeks ago while shooting in the Eastern Sierras I made some time to visit the Manzanar National Historic Site, one of ten camps where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during WWII. They've done an amazing job with the interpretive center and I spent a couple hours inside absorbing everything, gaining a better understanding of the role that Japanese Americans played in the US war effort, and a lot of time contemplating about decisions we've made in the past and what the future holds in store.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I am surely up for Worst Blogger of the Year Award, not really sure why I've had such a problem with it lately other than just a hard time balancing everything (and in all honestly, not wanting to draw attention to my site while I work through cleaning up the mess I've made of it over the past couple years), but during this season of giving thanks I'd be remiss if I didn't take the time to thank Chase Jarvis and BronImaging for the incredible prize I won during the Chase Jarvis Live episode featuring Macklemore and Chryde. I won a Broncolor Senso Light Kit worth $4,390 and after a year in which I had to replace a camera, my computer tower, then one of my monitors, my router, my modem, a new laptop, $1000+ of repairs and upgrades to my jeep...well let's just say that winning a prize this nice was a very sweet surprise.

Here's a quick phone snap of what the kit looks like (no hipstamatic here haha!) -

The kit comes with a Senso A2 power pack, 2 Litos lamps, the 28x28 Flex softbox and a sync cable all in a very nice carrying case. It is gorgeous! It looks great and I can tell it will easily stand up to the type of abuse my gear usually ends up taking. Even my husband commented on how well it's made.

I will post some photos taken with the kit next week after I get back from the desert, which is where I'm headed at some ungodly hour of the morning tomorrow...again (sleep is overrated).

I'm grateful that so many knowledgeable people in this industry are willing to freely share that knowledge. The knowledge, inspiration and motivation I get every time from watching Chase Jarvis Live is enough of a gift, winning this prize was over the top. Thank you Chase Jarvis and BronImaging. If you've never checked out Chase Jarvis Live (#cjLIVE), I highly recommend it. I guarantee you'll get a serious dose of inspiration and motivation.

About the lack of blogging - I've come to realize that when I try to be everything to everyone, I end up being not enough to anyone, most of all myself. Time for me to rearrange some priorities.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It is no desert

Wooden cross along a trail in the Colorado (Sonoran) Desert in Riverside County, California, USA

I walked in a desert.
And I cried,
"Ah, God, take me from this place!"
A voice said, "It is no desert."
I cried, "Well, But --
The sand, the heat, the vacant horizon."
A voice said, "It is no desert."
~ Stephen Crane

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mission Bell Streetlights

This is the way I feel some days. San Juan Capistrano, California street lights are shaped like Mission bells.

I sometimes like to photograph unique street lights that give a sense of place. Several California towns, especially those that are home to one of the Missions, have street lights shaped like mission bells.

I recently learned that these beautiful mission bell street lights are manufactured by Sierra Pacific Electrical Contracting.

While the image above has some extreme processing to suit my mood that day, here are a few images that Sierra Pacific provided to me:

Photo courtesy Sierra Pacific Electrical Contracting

Photo courtesy Sierra Pacific Electrical Contracting

Photo courtesy Sierra Pacific Electrical Contracting

If you are interested in obtaining more information about these street lights you can contact David Loop of Sierra Pacific Electrical Contracting at #951-830-1825 or visit their website here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Launch Zone

The Santa Ana Mountains overlooking Lake Elsinore are home to a naturally occuring phenomenon known as the Elsinore Convergence. When the cool ocean air meets the warm air of the valley thermals are created, making this a favorite location for hang gliders and parasailers.

View from the hang gliding and parasailing launch zone along South Main Divide/Killen Truck Trail in Cleveland National Forest. The Santa Ana Mountains overlooking Lake Elsinore are home to a naturally occuring phenomenon called the Elsinore Convergence. When the cool ocean air from the Pacific meets the warm air of the valley it creates a multitude of thermals. This enables hang gliders and parasailers to reach altitudes of up to 15,000 feet, even though this launch zone is only about 1,400 feet. Conditions are ideal for 300+ days of the year, making this a world-reknowned location.

There was no one at the launch zone this day; it was a hundred degrees up here, even hotter down below and unusually hot along the coast. I think this was one of those rare days when conditions were not ideal!

View from the hang glider/parasailing launch zone along South Main Divide/Killen Truck Trail, overlooking Lake Elsinore, in the Cleveland National Forest, California, USA.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Modern Rock Art

Graffiti on rocks at hang gliding/parasailing launch zone off South Main Divide/Killen Truck Trail in Cleveland National Forest, California, USA

Thanks to T for reminding me yesterday that I have been extremely negligent in blogging. I got involved in a project that consumed my every waking moment for a few months. While I still got out to do personal shooting, I fell behind on processing, uploading and blogging. Time to play a little catch up.

The other weekend we took a ride out South Main Divide/Killen Truck Trail in the Cleveland National Forest on our way to explore a canyon in 100 degree heat (and I realized that hiking in 100 degree heat with a 20 pound pack on my back makes me cranky!). Although I've been out this way many times in the past I still try to challenge myself to see things with fresh eyes. This graffiti covered rock caught my eye as I continue to draw parallels between ancient and modern day rock art.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Border Monument No. 232

Border Monument No. 232, one of the boundary markers placed in the mid-1800s by the International Boundary Commission to demarcate the new international boundary lines after the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty of 1848 and the Gadsden Treaty of 1853. This monument is made of iron. Of the original 52 monuments only 7 were made of marble or iron; the rest were stone mounds built without mortar.

Border Monument No. 232 is one of the original boundary markers placed in the mid-1800's by the International Boundary Commission to demarcate the new international boundary lines between the United States and Mexico after the Mexican War in accordance with the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty of 1848 and the Gadaden Treaty of 1853. Of the original 52 monuments only 7 were made of marble or iron; the rest were stone mounds built without mortar. In 1888 the stone mound monuments were rebuilt and additional monuments added for a total of 258. This monument is made of iron. Another 18 were added in the 1900s as the border region population grew, for a total of 276.

No. 232 sits on the Mexican side of the border fence in the high desert near Campo, California close to the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. (I had to shoot through the fence.) It is a remote, harsh region and this article published on August 27,1894 in the N.Y. Times gives a wonderful description of the troubles encountered by the men who installed the monuments, including a very vivid description of what it's like to die from thirst in the desert!

Many thanks to reader Ben Corby for great discussions we've been having about the California border region and the information that led me to this site.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rant of the Week - Check Your Facts!!

If you shoot for stock you're probably all too familiar with the need to do the proper research for captioning and keywording because captioning an image "Bird In Tree" severely limits the number of people who will stumble upon your amazing shot and offer top dollar to license it. I know many stock photographers (myself included) who will not submit an image to their agencies until they are able to properly identify the main elements. If they are outdoor/nature photographers they invest in an extensive library of field guides. But do you put forth the same effort when writing for your blog?

It's a pet peeve of mine - people who hold themselves out as 'experts' in a field who slap together blog posts off the top of their head with little effort in the name of proliferation. More concerned with quantity of posts over quality, they skip the basics tenets of responsible publishing and their responsibility to their readers. It really angers me when someone politely points out a misstatement (or ten) and the writer reacts in a cavalier manner.

In the 'old days' of print media there were fact-checkers, proof readers and copy editors who went over everything with a fine-tooth comb before it went to print. In this age of on-line digital media even the major publishers admit that their on-line copy editing standards are less stringent than those for print (source: Magazines and Their Web Sites, a Columbia Journalism Survey and Review). It's no wonder that the rest of the on-line publishing world picks up on those sloppy standards.

Not only does a blogger jeopardize their credibility when they publish incorrect information, if they make damaging statements about another person or company that are blatantly false they can potentially put themselves at risk for being sued. Anyone can sue for libel or defamation if they believe you have damaged their reputation, and if the plaintiff can prove that you made false statements and you don't have libel insurance or a large publishing house backing you up, you could be in a world of hurt just trying to defend yourself.

Legal issues aside, it's about ethics and responsibility to your readers, especially if you hold yourself out to be an expert. There is no excuse for an 'expert' to write an entire blog post built upon an incorrect premise because they didn't check their facts.

So to the woman who told me that she didn't care that she had made many completely incorrect statements about a company in her post that was meant to give advice to new professional photographers because she just didn't like the company after having a bad experience with them....you just might want to give that a little more thought.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm Mobile

 Airstream Flying Cloud travel trailer parked near Wiley's Well in the Sonoran Desert, California.  License this Image

My blog is now formatted for reading on mobile devices. You can scan this QR Code with your phone to bookmark my site -

I also recently changed the feed for my blog, so if you subscribed longer than a month ago please re-subscribe as I will not be supporting the old feed. If the feed is titled Lori Carey Photography - Searching For the Light, you have the current subscription.

I am also trying out CommentLuv from Intense Debate on my site to see how I like it. When you leave a comment here on my blog, CommentLuv will offer a selection of your latest blog posts or tweets that you can include at the bottom of your comment. A little luv for me, a little luv for you. <3

Friday, February 18, 2011

Staying in the Know

Abstract sunset photo showing a beautiful transition from day to night

Yesterday's post got me thinking that here I am with an MBA and 20+ years in the global corporate world (and much of that at the executive level) - stuff like tax laws and legal issues are second nature to me and I have a good comfort level with it. I try hard to stay on top of things because I understand how important it is. If I can miss something like a change in disclosure requirements, how on earth do people with little background in the business world and little experience with legal and tax issues keep up or even know where to look?

It's not enough to keep up with the craft, the technology, the marketing and the trends. The moment you agree to take money in exchange for shooting photos, sell a print or license an image for publication (or start a blog!) you become subject to a myriad of laws - tax laws, trade laws, contract laws, intellectual property laws... and as the old saying goes, "Ignorance is no excuse".

Participating in on-line forums for photographers isn't enough; although sometimes people will post a heads up when an issue affects photographers, most photographers aren't qualified to give advice on these topics and there is a LOT of incorrect and bad advice given out. I can't tell you often I see things like on-line debates around the confusion between the right to TAKE a photo and the right to PUBLISH a photo and especially how that applies to model releases. And laws may differ from state to state; what applies in New York does not necessarily apply in California or Idaho. At best you should hope for links to expert sources and do your own research.

Consulting your own accountant or attorney is usually the best answer when you have a question, but if they don't know enough about your business and you don't have them on retainer they are probably not going to give you a call to let you know that you are affected by a new law that was just enacted (hands up if you got a call from your attorney about the new FTC rule requiring disclosure from bloggers).

I find that blogs by respected experts are one good way to keep up. For example, Carolyn Wright's blog PhotoAttorney is a great way to stay up to date on intellectual property issues. If you blog, find a blogger or two who have a good reputation in the field of blogging. I have a list of websites on various topics that I try to visit on a regular (weekly) basis to see what's going on (and obviously wasn't paying enough attention to the sites about blogging!)

Twitter is a fantastic source for current, relevant info. But even if you have hashtag searches set up in TweetDeck or a similar tool for topics of interest the amount of information can be overwhelming. Twitter always make me feel that if I turn my back for a day or two I'm going to miss something important. I need to shut down TweetDeck regularly or I find that I can (and do) spend hours clicking links and reading cool stuff. And there is a lot of junk and repetition. Finding a way to sort through the massive amount of information to find the gems is the key to making Twitter work for me. And if you're doing all the talking and not listening it won't help you at all in this regard.

Recently I've been paying a lot of attention to two sites that aggregate the daily top posts and tweets related to the field of photography - The Dan Bailey Photo Daily and The #togs Daily. I like that they highlight top stories in several categories and make it easier to find articles of interest.

How do you make sure that you are always in the know? Do you have any tips to share?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Disclosure Policy

Old wooden signpost on a trail in the Mojave Desert

As of December 1, 2009 the FTC started requiring bloggers to disclose any compensation they received related to their blog, and quite frankly I missed the announcement. A casual remark in an article in a photography magazine prompted me to do some research, and because I have affiliate links and have received forms of compensation from third-party companies as a result of information posted in my blog, I am required to disclose that to my readers.

I now have a link in my side-bar to my
Disclosure Policy
which states:

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me, Lori Carey. Every post and page is my own creation unless I state otherwise in the post.

When I review or endorse a product or service, it is something that I personally own and use that I think may be of interest to other photographers and adventurers. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

From time to time I have been asked to beta test a new version of a product. If the Non-Disclosure Agreement allows me to blog about my experience with the product I will only do so if I am permitted to be 100% honest in my review - good and bad. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own - no one pays for me for a favorable review. If I am compensated in any way I will disclose that in my post, and any compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog.

I have a couple affiliate links on my site. I am an Amazon Affiliate member and I have linked to a few trail guides that I recommend. These are my favorite trail books in my personal library. If you purchase any product at Amazon through the link on my site I receive a (very) small percentage of the sale...usually not even enough for a cup of coffee... but any monies received are used to help offset the cost of running this site. There is no mark-up, you pay the same price you'd pay if you went directly to amazon.com. If you've found information on my blog that has helped you and you want a great way to say thanks, next time you plan to purchase from Amazon you can click on my affiliate link and help support my site.

I also have an affiliate relationship with All Things Jeep. They have some really neat Jeep-related and logo'd products. As with Amazon, if you purchase anything from them through the link on my site there is no additional mark-up to you and I receive a tiny percentage of the sale.

My website is hosted by SmugMug and from time to time I may recommend them or I may write a how-to post. I've been a Pro member with them for four years and if there is every anything wrong with my site it's probably entirely my fault because I have a bad habit of always needing to play with things. During the four years I have been with SmugMug I have received two camera straps and a couple stickers and you'll see those straps on my cameras. These were not given to me in return for saying great things about SmugMug, they are available to all SmugMug members (and they are very comfy, so if you are with SmugMug make sure to get yours!). If you use my Discount Code to give them a try you receive a $5 discount and I receive a $10 discount off my renewal, but in all honestly they usually have a better discount offer available.

I have developed many personal relationships with people as a result of the information I share on my blog. I value those relationships greatly and take great pride that people trust and seek out my opinion. If you ever have any concerns or questions about information I have posted please feel free to Contact Me.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Twilight Phenomena

Minotaur Rocket Streak - Minotaur rocket with streak payload launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on September 22, 2005.  This is a classic example of the Twilight Effect, which occurs when the ice crystals catch the light of the sun which has already set and is below the horizon.

No, not vampires!

Shortly after I moved to California we were having dinner one evening when I looked out the window and saw the most amazing sight in the evening sky. I had no idea what it was so I did what any photographer would go - grabbed my camera and started bracketing like crazy, then ran to the computer to find out what it was.

It didn't take long to find the news about the spectacular twilight launch of a Minotaur rocket from Vandenberg Airforce Base. The twilight phenomenon shown in my image can occur when a launch takes place approximately 30-60 minutes before sunrise or after sunset when the sun is still below the horizon. Ice crystals in the contrail - unburned fuel particles and water drops that freeze in the less-dense upper atmosphere - reflect high altitude sunlight and produce a rainbow of colors, and high altitude winds can twist the exhaust plume creating a corkscrew effect. The result is a breath-taking sight that can be visible for hundreds of miles. Although Vandenberg AFB is located on the California coast about 140 northwest of the Los Angeles the contrail in my image above was seen as far away as Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

The twilight phenomenon is relatively rare since it has to do with the timing of the launch and the weather. The sky in the area must be clear and dark and the sun must be below the horizon. As the missile rises out of the darkness the twilight effect may occur. Out of over 1,800 missile launches since 1958 at Vandenberg, only a very small number have resulted in the amazing light show.

Tomorrow morning early risers in SoCal may have the opportunity to see and view another launch that may result in the twilight effect. Vandenberg is scheduled to launch a Minotaur 1 rocket carrying a national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office on 5 February at 4:26am.

Don't be discouraged if you don't live near Vandenberg. I'm approximately 200 miles south in coastal south Orange county and most launches, including day time launches, are clearly visible from my backyard in the WNW sky. I took the photo above from my backyard.

The twilight effect for pre-dawn launches is usually more subtle than for evening launches, but if you're interested in heading out in the wee hours for the possibility of seeing and photographing what could be a truly breathtaking sight, Brian Webb's Space Archive site is my bible for Vandenberg launches. It has a wealth of information, including a page devoted to photographing launches, and up-to-the minute Vandenberg launch information. Get on his mailing list if you want to know about future launches, it is a great resource.

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity! My alarm will be set. If we're fortunate enough to have another amazing twilight effect and you get photos, feel free to link to them in the comment section.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mt. Soledad Controversy

20110106_1664. The Mt. Soledad Memorial's Latin cross is surrounded by six concentric walls with plaques showing the names and photos of soldiers, including other symbols such as Stars of David, and is dedicated to the memory of World War I, World War II and Korean War veterans. It sits high atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, California.

In 1913 it was a simple redwood cross on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean high above the San Diego community of La Jolla, California. The land was designated a public city park in 1916. Vandals destroyed the cross and it was rebuilt in 1923.

In April of 1954 the cross, which had been damaged during a storm was replaced with the current 29-foot concrete cross sitting atop a 14-foot base, and it was dedicated to Korean War Veterans as a war memorial.

20110106_1629. The cross atop Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, California was declared unconstitutional in a court ruling on January 5, 2011. Because the land on which the war memorial sits in currently owned by the Department of Defense, the courts ruled that it goes against separation of church and state.

In June 1989 two atheists sued in U.S. District Court claiming that the cross violates the federal and state constitutions. The court ruled that the cross did violate separation of church and state and issued an injunction forbidding its presence on public land. The land was subsequently sold to a private party in 1999. The Mount Soledad Memorial Association landscaped the property and installed the concentric walls holding plaques memorializing war veterans.

20110106_1622. The latin cross at the war memorial on Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, California is the center of legal controversary. The courts ruled on January 5, 2011 that the cross is unconstitutional and needs to be removed, overturning an earlier decision.

The case remained in the court system over the following years with reversal after reversal until President Bush signed into law a bill authorizing the transfer of the property to the U.S. Defense Department as a war memorial. The ACLU and the Jewish War Veterans challenged the law in federal court. In July 2008 Federal Judge Larry Burns ruled that the law Bush signed was constitutional because the cross is part of a war memorial and as such its secular meaning transcends any religious meaning.

On January 5, 2011 a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Burns’ ruling. Because the land is now owned by the U.S. government, the cross was ruled to violate the First Amendment and reports were that the city of San Diego were already calling for the removal of the cross. Somewhat surprising because the decision disregards the decision made in Salazar v Buono, in which the court decided the Mojave Desert war memorial cross could stay.

Mt.Soledad had been on my to-do list for a while and I realized I'd better not waste time getting down there to photograph it before the cross was removed for good.

It is a scenic and peaceful location with benches at the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I saw plaques memorializing entire families of war veterans, husbands and wives, Jimmy Stewart (did you know that he went from Private to Colonel in four years? I didn't until a gentlemen pointed it out to me. Stewart, who ended his career as a Brigadier General, remains one of the few men to achieve such an accomplishment.) and former President Richard Nixon. I saw a plaque honoring a Jewish man with the Star of David, and rather than offending me I saw it as a sign of someone who was proud of his heritage and faith. Isn't that what tolerance is supposed to be about?

I had a solid religious upbringing in the Episcopal church, but when I see a cross at a war memorial I think of sacrifice made for something greater than one's self.

20110106_1631. American flag and latin cross at Mt. Soledad war memorial in La Jolla,California

In the ruling Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote "“The history and absolute dominance of the Cross are not mitigated by the belated efforts to add less significant secular elements to the Memorial,”

“This result does not mean that the Memorial could not be modified to pass constitutional muster, nor does it mean that no cross can be part of this veterans’ memorial. We take no position on those issues.”

"Separation of church and state" can be somewhat misleading to those who haven't taken the time to actually read the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Liberty Institute is defending the Mt. Soledad cross (and the Mojave Desert memorial cross) and has a petition on-line to ask President Obama to appeal the 9th Circuit Courts decision calling the Mt. Soledad Memorial unconstitutional at Don't Tear Me Down.

20110106_1649. Mt. Soledad war memorial in La Jolla (San Deigo) California sits high atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

More photos in my gallery here.