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Golden Hour from the Montecito Hills

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Golden Hour from the Montecito Hills
The evening I took this shot the sunset was absolutely amazing, even before the clouds lit up with the colors. As the sun slipped closer to the horizon, the clouds seemed to swirl around it leaving just enough space to watch its descent and reflection on the ocean. In the center of the image you can just make out Stearns Wharf in the distance.
-Bill Heller


Fata Morgana: Virtual Reality Photo

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, in 3D.

Fairy Castles in the Santa Barbara Channel
We’ve had some beautiful sunsets lately. This evening a little over a week ago was one of the most spectacular. But the amazing show above may have distracted you from something much more elusive and intriguing happening at the horizon. Take a close look at the islands across the channel in the image. The rapidly changing weather caused a particularly interesting phenomena called a Superior Mirage. Where the mirages people are most familiar with (inferior mirages) reflect images as though they are mirror-like pools of water on the road, a superior mirage does just the opposite. The layers of air in a particularly strong inversion layer near the surface act as not only a mirror above objects on the horizon, but they take on the effect of a fun house mirror distorting and repeating images or even making objects appear to float above the surface. The name for these mirages when they become particularly complex is “Fata Morgana” an Italian phrase referring to stories told about the floating islands often seen in the Strait of Messina being fairy castles. Fata Morgana (or Fairy Morgan) incidentally refers to a particular fairy from the legend of King Arthur… but that’s a story for another day.

Be sure to zoom in and explore the image with the controls at the bottom, it is a large panorama with a lot of detail!

-Bill Heller


Queen of the Missions Sunset

Santa Barbara photo to start the week, by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Queen of the Missions at Sunset
The end to another beautiful day at the Santa Barbara Mission. The sunset this evening was absolutely amazing. The clouds were putting on a beautiful show long before the sun neared the horizon. It promised to be another amazing show, and when the colors really started it did not disappoint. The brightest glow like this only lasted for a few moments, but it was a fitting backdrop for such a beautiful example of historic architecture.

-Bill Heller


Lone Tree Sunset

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.

Lone Tree Sunset

Overlooking Haskell’s Beach in Goleta from the Sandpiper Golf Course, this little tree is standing watch at the edge of the bluff. This particular day was absolutely beautiful (come to think of it, most days are here), but in this case there was just enough moisture in the air to make this beautiful golden evening light, but not so much that we didn’t have an amazing view of the ocean and the fluffy white clouds above.

-Bill Heller


End of the Rainbow

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
End of the Rainbow
Friday after the storm, the late afternoon sun on the mountains was spectacular and the air was clear and beautiful from the rain. As the sun slipped below the remaining clouds there were several light rainbows appearing and disappearing moment by moment as the shafts of light played among the remaining clouds. It was an amazing afternoon to just enjoy our beautiful city at the end of the rainbow.

-Bill Heller


Christmas on Stearns Wharf, in 3D

Virtual reality photo of Santa Barbara by Bill Heller.


I always love wandering around Santa Barbara this time of year. Our city is beautiful any time of year but with the lights and decorations it’s even more spectacular. And with the reflections in the sand and the natural light show Stearns Wharf at sunset has to be my favorite spot this season.

Be sure to look around, it’s a large panorama and you can drag and zoom in.

-Bill Heller


Founding of the Santa Barbara Mission

228 years ago today…. Mission Santa Barbara, the tenth of the California missions, was established on the Feast of Saint Barbara, December 4, 1786. Padre Junipero Serra, who had founded the first nine missions, had died two years earlier. It was Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, his successor, who raised the cross.

Photo by Bill Heller photography

Here’s a closer look out our Mission Santa Barbara from this year’s Mission Week:

Mission Santa Barbara was founded on December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, by Father Fermín Lasuén, who had taken over the presidency of the California mission chain upon the death of Father-Presidente Junípero Serra. It was rededicated December 16, when the new Governor of California, Pedro Fages, could attend. Mission Santa Barbara is the tenth of twenty one California Missions and is known as the “Queen of the Missions.” It is the namesake of the city of Santa Barbara.

Mission Santa Barbara is the only California Mission to remain under the leadership of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M) since its founding. Today its parish is a church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Mission itself is owned by the Franciscan Province of Santa Barbara, the local parish rents the church from the Franciscans.

Santa Barbara was the third mission established in the land of the Chumash people, this one near the native site of Xana’yan, a Chumash village that existed in Mission Canyon. The neophytes (baptized Indians) were referred to as Barbareños (after the mission).

Early missionaries built three different churches during the first few years, each larger than its predecessor. The earthquake of 1812 destroyed the third adobe church of 1794. The present church, built in stone, was started in 1815 and dedicated in September 1820, it had only one tower. In 1831 a second tower was added, it fell in 1832 and was rebuilt in 1834. In 1925 another earthquake damaged the Mission and in 1950, cracks began to appear in the façade as some of the materials used in the 1925 repairs weakened the church and it had to be rebuilt again with steel-reinforced concrete. The stone facing retains the contours, dimension and appearance of the original.

The Neoclassic facade was inspired by a mission archives copy of the Spanish edition of The Six Books of Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman architect of 1st century B.C. The work is one of the most important sources of modern knowledge of Roman building methods as well as the planning and design of structures, both large (aqueducts, buildings, baths, harbours) and small (machines, measuring devices, instruments).

The appearance of the inside of the church has not been altered significantly since 1820. The original Moorish fountain built in 1808 is still intact near the entrance to the Mission.

The Mission church is filled with original and noteworthy paintings and statues, including a unique abalone-encrusted Chumash altar dated to the 1790s. The two largest religious paintings in all of the missions are at Santa Barbara. One painting, 168″ high by 103″ wide, depicts the “Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin.” It is thought to have originated in the Mexico City studio of Miguel Mateo Maldonado y Cabrera (1695-1768) and was acquired by the mission in 1798. “The Crucifixion” (168″ by 126″) is not attributed to a specific artist. Mission Santa Barbara has the oldest unbroken tradition of choral singing among the California Missions and of any California institution. The Mission archives also contain one of the richest collections of colonial Franciscan music manuscripts known today.


Thousand Steps Sunset

Santa Barbara View to start the week, photo by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
1000 Steps Sunset
A beautiful evening at Thousand Steps beach. The wonderful and colorful dance the sun does as it slips below the horizon is due to the large amount of the atmosphere the light rays travel through at the steep angle near the horizon. You probably already knew that, but did you know that the moment you see the sun touch the horizon on a day like this it has actually already set? The refraction of the atmosphere bends the light around the curvature of the earth so you see the image of the sun projected slightly higher than it is in reality. The same thing happens in the morning. When you see the sun peek above the horizon the leading edge is still below the horizon by slightly more than the diameter of the sun. The results of this atmospheric refraction result in about six minutes more daylight than simple geometry would suggest, which are always welcomed especially this time of year!

Oh and don’t worry, if you want to enjoy this phenomenon at this beautiful spot, it’s only a name, it’s a big stairway no doubt, but not even nearly one thousand steps.

-Bill Heller