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Car Mods and the View From Santiago Peak

Well this is going to be a little bit different kind of post than my usual new pics, how-to's, announcements or testimonials. This one is about my truck...

Wait! Come back, ladies! I'll be brief about the truck and then it's on to some pretty pictures that I was able to get because of the truck! I promise.

2000 4Runner with Gobi Stealth Rack

Okay, so I recently completed a big project on my Toyota 4Runner in order to make it more capable for the type of work I plan on doing and the types of trips I plan on taking. First, I installed a sweet roof rack from Gobi that replaces my factory roof rack rails with a very handy basket-style rack. It'll make it easier to carry big loads of gear and anything I don't want to keep in the car, like gas cans and/or my mountain bike.

After the rack, I personally installed 8 auxiliary lights for nighttime off-roading and camping. There are 4 lights up front, 2 in the back and 1 on each side. The lights up front pierce through the darkness as I travel through new territory. The lights in the back will serve as reverse lights as well as utility lights for when I need some illumination as I pack up gear, cook a meal or even help someone change a tire in the darkness (which already happened). The lights on either side can serve as utility lights as well, but also are great for illuminating the inside of hairpin turns going up and down switchbacks.

2000 4Runner with Gobi Stealth Rack

Installing the lights took a total of 30 hours over a very, very hot 3-day weekend last month. Totally worth it. I'll be taking a trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the next month or two where they will really come in handy.

Alright, enough about my truck...

Yesterday, I decided to spend my labor day off-roading up to Santiago Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. For those of you outside of Orange County, Santiago Peak is the highest peak in Orange County (actually, I'm not even sure it's technically in Orange County or Riverside County). It's the taller of the 2 peaks of Saddleback Mountain, the tallest and most prominent geographic feature to the east.

Basically, if you were driving from inland towards the Pacific Ocean, this peak is the last peak over 5000' before you hit the beach.

When I reached the top, I could see all the way out to Catalina Island off the coast and up to Long Beach in the north. The east and south were blanketed mostly by a late-summer storm, but still had great views. Actually, that summer storm made for a very interesting sky.

Here's the view looking south:

Looking South from Santiago Peak, Orange County, CA

Looking west towards the Pacific Ocean with Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo and others in the foreground:

Looking West from Santiago Peak, Saddleback Mountain, Orange County, CA

Here's a panoramic view of Orange County to the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to click the image for a much, much bigger version!

View from atop Saddleback Mountain overlooking Orange County

Anyone living in OC will recognize those radio towers atop Saddleback Mountain:

Radio Towers atop Saddleback Mountain

Here's the view looking west again. Notice Catalina Island off to the right:

Looking West from Santiago Peak, Saddleback Mountain, Orange County, CA

One of these days, I'm going to make this long drive to the top of Saddleback for sunrise or sunset. With the lights I installed on my truck, the dark trail will be a cake walk šŸ˜€

Featured on Online-Photography-Schools.org

I'm happy to say that my blog is now featured as a Top Blog atĀ www.Online-Photography-Schools.org! Online-Photography-Schools.com is a resource for finding all sorts of avenues to learn photography, from online courses to accredited schools. Check 'em out!

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Featured Testimonial & Student Images: Online Courses

Dr. Levine is a student of mine who has done my full lineup of online courses. Although he lives on the other side of the country, I had the great pleasure of meeting him when he came to visit Southern California and we did a 1-on-1 lesson at the beach. He recently completed the "How to Shoot in Full Manual" and "Filters for Nature Photography" online courses and had some nice things to say about them.

Image by Jeff Levine

Image by Jeff Levine

Both images copyright Jeff Levine
Taken in full manual mode with filters after completing the
online coursesĀ 

For the "How to Shoot in Full Manual" online course, Dr. Levine had this to say:

Nick provided me with the confidence and technical skills to advance in my photography. He is an amazing teacher and my skills have advanced to the point that others have requested the pictures that I have taken.Ā I only wish there were more courses for me to take.

- Dr. Jeffrey Levine

For the "Filters for Nature Photography" online course, he had this to say:

The quality of my pictures has improved significantly with the skills learned in this course. The technical knowledge and application of how to use filters has helped me create dramatic photographs. The course has been extremely influential in being able to take great landscape photographs!

- Dr. Jeffrey Levine

For information on these and other online courses, click here. Special thanks to Dr. Levine for the kind reviews and for allowing me to share his gorgeous photography on my blog. Keep up the good work!