Playing tourist today in my birthplace…

Pacific Beach, near Crystal Pier

My heart belongs to Fallbrook, but San Diego is where I was born and where I got my fashion sense! Sandals, wrap-around everything, with sun-streaked and wind-swept hair. 91X on the radio, playing Nirvana, and my car’s convertible top down. Near perfection!

Pacific Beach by the Pier

One more, just because it’s pretty.

And it reminds me of when I used to shoot hot rock stars on the beach…


Fallbrook Peacock

I had just taken the road that veers off Mission, near the Valley Fort, when I had to wait for this gorgeous bird, as he crossed the road. But I’m fine with that!

It’s not often–even in Fallbrook–that you see such an elegant peacock on the loose…

Overlooking Banning, California

Two crows, Banning California

Coming home from Idyllwild, on the road to Banning, I pulled over to let a couple of cars pass. Posing nearby on an outcropping of rock were a pair of crows. I only had my iPhone with me, and frankly even if I’d had another camera, unless it was sitting on the seat ready to go, I was probably better off with the iPhone. Most wild creatures aren’t in the habit of staying in place until you get your camera out! I shot through my windshield, and they were kind enough to hang on long enough for me to get a few frames.

As they both flew off I was suddenly reminded of an old friend. Tim Jeffries Szukala hated crows! He would wince when he would hear them calling to each other, and he was convinced they were bad luck. It was almost comical watching him shake his fist at them. Tim was a big part of my life for a few years–he was in the very first band that I ever shot, Cesjacuzzi–but I hadn’t talked to him in years, and only recently heard that he passed on earlier this year. And watching those two crows fly off made me suddenly miss him. A lot. I wish I’d seen him more over the years. I wish we’d kept in better touch. I wish he was still around, and I could call him, and ask him to come over and change a lightbulb. I wish I could hear him play one last drum solo…

When Cesjacuzzi was winding down, we could all sense it, but no one knew that the last gig would actually be the very last gig forever – and I missed it. I had gone to almost every show for years, but that one show I missed, and it was the last.

I don’t like regrets, but I have a few. I regret missing the last gig my first favorite band ever played, and I regret not keeping in better touch with a friend that I really and truly loved. Tim was a great guy! And a great drummer! And as I watched those two crows fly away, I remembered just a little bit better why I loved him the way that I did.

On Instagram…

I finally joined Instagram, and wanted to share a little of what I’m posting!

Riverside, CaliforniaChristian Science Church, Riverside, CaliforniaThe Mission Inn, Riverside, CaliforniaWild flowers in Idyllwild, California.The view to Banning, California.

Idyllwild GateiPhone Photography

There’s a certain looseness shooting with an iPhone that I really like. No real editing–other the option to apply a filter or two–and no pressure. Just fun!

If you want to follow me on Instagram, just go to

Abstracted by iPhone, #3

Abstract // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsAbstract // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Abstract // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Art is everywhere. Even if all you have at the moment is just an iPhone camera…

The method? Shade to slow the shutter speed way down, a little camera movement, some interesting fabric, and then tweak the color balance in post – and voilà!

Jury Duty in Riverside, California

Riverside Courthouse // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’ve never served on a jury before. It’s not exactly something I wanted to do, but it’s definitely a civic duty and I believe in our judicial system, and since Riverside County seems to summon citizens exactly once a year without fail, it was really only a matter of time before I was selected.

Honestly I enjoyed the trial itself – it was a quick one, only a few days – and the process was fascinating. But once the trial was over, and jury deliberations started, that’s when it got ugly. I was sort of stunned by how easily some of my fellow jurors threw the judge’s instructions out the window – and how some were more interested in following their gut reactions, rather than just rely on the evidence. To say it was an eye-opening experience is to put it mildly. I still believe in our system, but I’m even more grateful that it’s 12 jurors, and not 6 or 8!

Riverside Courthouse // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I took these images on the first day, with my iPhone at lunch. The courthouse was built in 1904, and was modeled after the Grand and Petit Palais in Paris – so it’s absolutely beautiful! And it has orange trees growing in front, reminiscent of Riverside’s heydey – and they were in full bloom. Orange blossoms may be my all-time favorite scent – just pure heaven. And the area around the courthouse is equally as beautiful – it’s right in the middle of downtown, just blocks from where I used to live.

Riverside Courthouse // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Overall the experience was stressful and not fun, but I’m glad I was able to do it. It felt good to see the system working, and it felt good to be a part of it. But if that was my one and only time behind those closed juror doors, that would be fine with me!

Oh, and the newspaper headline in the image above is NOT from the trial I was on. That was the headline on the local paper the first day I served, and it just jumped out at me, so I shot the image in front of the courthouse. I am extremely thankful I wasn’t a part of a trial with an ending like that!

My current favorite iPhone Apps

I finally found an iPhone To-Do List App that I may like for more than five minutes…

It’s called Done, and it’s very very simple, which is exactly what I wanted. Just a simple little To-Do List that’s easy to check off, and has categories of tasks. I didn’t want to assign contexts, or due dates, or anything else complicated – and I really didn’t want to have to pay a monthly fee to use it. And this is important, I wanted it to be elegant in how it worked, and look like a native iPhone App – so many of the new Apps look like the interface was designed in the dark, by a first-grader. No thanks! I wanted a simple elegant interface that fits in with everything else on my iPhone. And I think I found it! It would have been nice if it was able to sync with my MAC, and the developers claim that’s a future feature, but in the meantime it’s not a deal breaker for me.

Oh, and it’s only $.99 in the iTunes App Store. You really can’t beat that!

And while we’re talking Apps, my current favorite is Shazam. If you hear a song and want to know who the artist is, just launch Shazam, hit the Tag Now button, and and Shazam will “listen” and then deliver up not only the name of the song and artist, but also links to purchase it on iTunes, and maybe even a link to the video on YouTube. Very, very cool and you can download it for free!

My other favorite App is only of interest to photographers. It’s called PhotoCalc and I love it for the Sunrise and Sunset times! But it also has a really handy Depth of Field calculator. I can input f/1.2 with a 50mm lens, with the subject 3 feet away, and find out that my total depth of field is exactly 0.1 feet – in other words, just a little over one inch. My focus better be spot on, if I’m shooting under those conditions, and knowing exactly how narrow the depth of field, instead of just guessing, can be really helpful. I’ll admit it, most of the time I just go on instinct – I mean I know 1.2 is extremely shallow, and that in a close up portrait if the eyes are in focus, the nose will be out of focus – that’s a given. And I know that if I want the nose and lips in focus, I should back away from the subject just a little, or else go to 1.8 or 2.0. I know all that. But sometimes it’s cool to know exactly how many inches, or feet, you have. There’s also a Flash Exposure calculator and a reference section with info on the Zone System, the Sunny 16 Rule, and film types – very old school, and I like that! PhotoCalc is $2.99 and totally worth it for the Sunrise and Sunset times alone – if knowing when the light is best is as big a deal to you, as it is to me…

Ocean by iPhone

Ocean in San Diego // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’ve said it before, when I don’t want to carry my real camera, I love my iPhone! It’s fun. And sometimes I get images I love – like the one above. I love the ocean, so that helps – and today was beautiful – there were grey clouds hovering, with patches of sun peaking through. Just the perfect fall day to visit the beach!