December 2010 Vacation / San Diego – Part 2 of 5

December 20th = 336 Miles Driven; ~6 miles walked

San Diego Zoo

When we arrived at the Tiger area we thought tourists were throwing the tiger hotdogs or something.. then under the poncho we noticed it was actually a zoo keeper. The tiger seemed very used to the routine and acted like a dog begging for treats at the dinner table but was still very cool. The roar the tiger made was amazing and unique and nothing like what I thought it might sound like in real life.

The San Diego Zoo is famous for its Pandas and we happened to get to there right as they were feeding them. It was pretty amazing to see them take a large piece of bamboo and shred it into splinters into just minutes. Apparently they have bamboo vomit balls a couple times a years similar to a hair ball that is made up of all of the fine pieces of bamboo their bodies couldn’t process.

We wanted to ride the tram over the zoo… but due to the wind, fog,  and rain they closed it.

The Hippos were HUGE.. and we didn’t see them out of the water but they leaned up against the glass. Kat made several Hungry Hungry Hippo comments.

The warning signs around the zoo were pretty amusing.. lots of things bite.. a few thing charge.. and even a few things spray.

I had no idea lions sprayed…. 7-10 feet even…

California 2010 December Storms

About one or two in the afternoon the rain and wind were picking up and so we decided we had enough of the rain and decided to go to the one place where we hoped it wasn’t raining. The desert of Vegas… the complete opposite direction of where we planned to go and where we had just come from.

Unfortunately it took us about 9 hours to get there at times moving 30 mph or coming to a complete stop.

In an attempt to pass the time, we started exploring the XM radio.. and discovered XM 248. It was both entertaining and just stupid. When we first found out “Whoretalk” or something like that was on which was entertaining and a bit informative.. but every subsequent turn to the station was the ‘jerkbox’. Which is by far is the dumbest radio program I’ve ever had the displeasure of listening too..

End of Day Summary

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December 2010 Vacation / Joshua Tree NP – Part 1 of 5

A couple weeks ago my wife and I started a vacation in southern California sun with the hopes of escaping the -7 to 5 degree Fahrenheit that had been at our house in Anchorage for the last week; as well me meeting her family for the first time at the tail end of the trip up in Reno/Tahoe area. The plan was pretty simple; fly into Palm Springs, go to Joshua Tree, then San Diego, then Disneyland, and then work our way up the Pacific Coast Highway and 10 day later end up in the Reno/Tahoe area; with approximately 1150 miles to drive over 10 days..

The plan:

The Original Plan

Just prior to departure we looked at the weather forecast for the next 10 days.. and unfortunately it was almost all rain. We decided though we would make the most of it and go with the flow. I was still hoping to get a chance though to capture some good photos during our journey, with the important caviat of that my wife doesn’t have a whole lot of patience for me taking advantage of photo opportunities most of the time.

So after flying into the overcast skies of Palm Springs we drove to high desert of the Joshua Tree area that first afternoon and arrived at the north end of the park just at sunset.

Joshua Tree about Sunset

The next morning we started out from Twentynine Palms, CA (Random Fact: It is also where the Marines train for Afghanistan due to similar terrain) with the goal of general exploration of the National Park prior to the wind an rain kicked up. We took a couple short hikes off the road on the north end of the park.. in the higher elevations the sky was partly cloudy but windy and you could see the clouds moving across the valley below.

When we descended into the valley at times the fog limited visibility but still gave a nice look and feel to things and though it isn’t visible in this shot below at times on the Barker Dam trail visibility got down to a 20 yards in the fog and was a pretty neat feeling as it was almost dead silent. One thing to note about the Barker Dam trail is that the damn lack and the stream pictured in the brochures or web is almost completely dried up in December so isn’t as picturesque. There are also Petroglyphs on the trail, but they have been vandalized and painted over; most likely in someones attempt to make them more visible.

We then drove through Joshua Tree North to South from the Mojave of Colorado desert transition. The main difference seems to be the height of the vegetation and the Mojave was rockier. There were no Joshua trees in the Colorado desert that we saw.  Right at the transition point there is a neat batch of cactus at the Chollo Cactus garden that is worth checking out if driving through. It is only a couple minute loop trail walk.

An IR pano shot from a couple miles down the road from the Chollo Cactus Garden.

Our last stop in Joshua Tree National Park was Cottonwood Springs Oasis; which was pretty cool with large Palms coming out of the desert and a nice casual out and back trail that you get to see a variety of colors and desert plant life on. Our entire time in Joshua Tree we didn’t see any animals, including no snakes, but the signs all over the place do suggest there are quite a number of different types in the park.

By the time we got out of south end of the park though the park the dark clouds of the California storms were over the park. So with a couple hours of daylight we decided to head towards the Sultan Sea as I had read about the oddities around the man made sea and hoped to maybe get a glimpse of them.

We reached the north end of the Salton Sea by driving through the Mecca California area which seemed to be a mesh of tropical agriculture and desert.

We stopped at the first state park we came across, at which there was a visitors center and a beach. The beach was basically abandoned other than some RV’rs in the parking lot, but it was sunny at the time, but could see the rain storms coming over the mountains.

From the visitors center we found out the Salton Sea claimed the old 1950s resorts some time ago and when the sea gets low sometimes pop out of the water, but generally the salt and humidty has destroyed them. So opportunities to photograph salt encrusted travel trailers and buildings there supposedly no longer exist; or they didn’t want to tell us where they were. Check out Google Images and Flickr for examples of what I was looking for.

At the south end of the Salton Sea, near Niland, CA you can drive past the power plant and find Slab City. A small informal town on the site of  an old military base where people have setup on the old cement slabs of quanset huts. The town itself is a mixture of quite allaborate and long standing semi-permanent setups, people in their old sedans or vans living in them, and people in modern RV or 5th wheel trailers that have setup shop.

Most of the place is up on a gravely plateau that reminds me of a gravel pit.  The ‘city’ has no power, sewer, or other services; as well what looks like no forms of employment in the area; including Niland itself.  Though a good number of the ‘homes’ in some fashion or another having a directTV dish. In come cases it was even mounted to a 50 gallon drum.

You are officially in Slab City once you pass the old guard station, and between the entrance and the most famous landmark of Slab City you pass a series of signs / graffiti and other statements which probably help maintain the order of the town. Such as for example “X is a thief” , “Y is a Child Molester”, “Z is a doesn’t repay loans”.

The most famous landmark of Slab City is “Salvation Mountain”, a single mans dedication to his faith and possibly his insanity. The mountain looks like it has been artificially been built up over time using mud and straw to even contain rooms. There is also several broken down cars around it that have also been painted. The public is welcome, donations appreciated, and encouraged.. even if it is just some paint. The ‘mountain’ seems to mostly be painted in household interior and exterior paint.. which can’t be good for the environment.

We arrived Slab City right before dusk so we only spent a very brief amount of time there as our goal for the evening was San Diego. The drive in the dark and over the mountains being in strong cross winds and rain as we basically drove along the border of Mexico.

Day 1/2:

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Eagle River Nature Center on a Cloudy Day

Today I accompanied my wife on a nice 3 mile snowshoeing trip that she chaperoned for the school she works at. The area didn’t get direct sun but the fresh snow really made for some picturesque moments other than the just really bad light.

I unfortunately happened to leave my memory card for 5D2 in the car and so it was a decent trial of the new IR camera I received this week. The new one is a Canon T2i converted to 630nm. I chose this range as the previous 720nm one I more frequently ended up with zombie looking portraits because the makeup absorbed vs. reflected the light and the previous 630nm one I had seemed like a good middle ground.

So I snapped a few shots in the far from optimal conditions for IR photography and am moderately pleased considering the conditions for these results nearly out of camera though there is definite room for improvement.

While I was also out at the Nature Center I inquired about Snow Biking, which I got a pretty firm “No” to and generally biking is not allowed on the trails they maintain period. I pushed a little bit though pointing out that there are snow machine trails there too.. and then they said.. if Chugach opens up the area to snow machining there is no issue with snow biking those specific trails when run basically the stream path.

Another tidbit to share is that the person working the counter of the Eagle River Nature center is one of the ranger / guides that works out at McNeil River during the summer, Tony.


Posted in Daily Shooting

Basic New Website Framework in Place

Over the last several months I really haven’t had a lot of time to work on the website, but spent a few hours today to get it back to a mostly functional state. I believe using the new layout, though far from done, it is an a significant improvement over the old site design that wasn’t really that functional.

I chose to use SlideShowPro Director and Graph Paper Press’s “Modularity” themes for now until to get my functional, and for a few hours of playing with settings I am pretty content on the direction of the site.

Now that it is at least partially functional, I hope to start updating the blog at least every other week, if not more often.


Posted in General Information, Informational

Design & Layout still in progress

The new website design and layout of the new site design is still in progress and so working out a few of those things before making any additional updates. Homepage design and look and feel are what I am focusing on right now.


Posted in Uncategorized

New Website Build in Progress as of 7/30/2010

I am currently transforming my website into a photo-blog format website. In the mean time if you are looking for my galleries and examples of my work many can be found here.

The following are links to some of my galleries.

All Photos in my portfolios are available for purchase.  

Some additional examples of my photography can be found at:

Christopher S.
07/31/2010 12:14am

Posted in General Information

Welcome to Grilleflame Photography ; the Photos of Christopher R. Souser

Welcome to Grilleflame Photography,
The photography website of Christopher R Souser.

My goal is to convey thoughts and ideas that I see through imagery using journalistic and artistic styles of photography.

I focus on Jounalistic Event, Sports, and Studio photography as well as a good deal of nature photography because of the opportunities available in AK. I also have interests in capturing many other things in their natural state.

I proudly a 20 year resident of Anchorage, Alaska and am a licensed Alaska Business and active in the photography community.

I am available for hire for all occasions and types of photography work. Please check my services tab for additional information.

I can be contacted at or at 907-929-7231

Some additional examples of my photography can be found at:

-Initial Blog Entry for testing and general design of the page.

Posted in General Information, Informational