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Balboa Park Photos

Exposing the Soul of San Diego

A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues stumbled across a blog post that included a fascinating panoramic image of Balboa Park. The blog linked to a Flickr photostream of Candace Van Assche, a local photographer who had dozens of photos in her Flickr collection from Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. She has captured everything from Zoo pandas to the Critical Mass bike rides in new, compelling ways.

Through an email exchange, I discovered that Candace grew up in the Ozarks of Northern Arkansas and recently graduated from Arkansas State University with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree. A newcomer to the business side of things, she is just now beginning to develop a website to highlight her skills. Candace agreed to take a quick break from photo editing to answer a few questions about her artistic processes.

What do you find inspiring about Balboa Park?

Every bit of Balboa Park is gorgeous so it is easy to take good photos there. I often like to go there to test out new photographic techniques. Even if I completely mess up while testing something out, then at least I'll still have a nice day at the park.


What were you trying to capture about the Park in these images? How long did it take you to create them? What do you enjoy about the process?

It is hard for me to gauge exactly how long those two images took because that was the first time I tried out that particular technique. I would guess that each image required slightly less than an hour to set up and photograph all of the necessary photos, but then it took several frustrating days at my computer to process them all. I'm much better at it now though and I'm way more efficient. Now it takes me about 15 minutes to photograph the 90 images that I use to make these and then about an hour at my computer processing if everything go smoothly.

My favorite thing about doing these kinds of shots is that composing the image is completely different than anything else. Normally a photographer has to only think in terms of what they can fit into the viewfinder of their camera. So you can take a photo of a breathtaking sunset over some mountains, but completely hide the fact that the photo was taken beside some dumpsters behind a fast food joint. These photos are complete 360 x 180 degree panoramas so nothing is hidden. For these images, I need to find locations that are visually striking no mater which way I look. So this process works great in Balboa Park.

This coloring is so captivating. How did you get the pink color in the leaves?

Most of that effect came from the camera that I was using. I actually got a second camera body and took it apart and modified it to photograph into the infrared spectrum.

When I tell most people that I have an infrared camera, they think of thermal infrared like with night vision goggles, but this is different from that. It behaves (for the most part) like a normal camera except it photographs using light that is invisible to people. It can really make everything look remarkable and unearthly. Just Google "infrared photography" to see some of the amazing things people can do with this process. One of the most notable things about photographing with infrared cameras, is that vegetation looks white or very lightly colored. It is an extremely fun technique to work with.

How long did you watch the pandas to get these shots? Did you learn anything about them in the process?

I was very lucky to actually see them playing and eating that day. It seems that I only ever see them while they are asleep. There was a man beside me that was also taking photos and he said that he had been going to the Zoo several times a week for years and he had never seen them so active.

Even though they were being active and playful, they were moving much slower than I expected. I always imagined pandas playing to be like any other bear playing with lots of running and tumbling. Instead it was more like watching clumsy kittens playing in slow motion. It was extremely adorable.

I love this nighttime shot. What time of day do you prefer for taking photos in the Park?

I like to go to the park whenever there aren’t a lot of people. I enjoy feeling like I have the Park all to myself, and it also makes it easier to take photos when I don't have to wait for people to get out of my shot. Most of the time I take my photos in the early morning, after sunset, or while it is raining.

See more of Candace's images through her Flickr site.

Check out the Junior Theatre's 4,000+ photos on Flickr

The San Diego Junior Theatre is the oldest continuing childrens’ theatre program in the country. Since 1948, more than a million people have watched its productions. One of the theatre's first performances was The Rose and the Ring, featuring a young Dennis Hopper.

This summer, the San Diego Junior Theatre partnered with Balboa Park Online Collaborative to digitize and upload more than 4,000 images of its past productions to Flickr. The photos have been divided into sets for each of the different performances, spanning from Rip Van Winkle (1954) to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1983) to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999).

Some of the highlights:

Alice in Wonderland




The Music Man


Do you spot yourself, your parents, your kids, or friends in any of the photos? What are you doing now? Would you be willing to share anecdotes about your experience acting in a Junior Theatre production? Email me at mdougherty (at) or leave your comments on Flickr. 

A peek into the past: Historic photos of the park

Our fabulous photographer Richard Benton goes to local swap meets to find historic images of Balboa Park's people and places. He discovered these two gems during a recent hunt:

Butterfly Man


Horses Outside, Artifacts Inside


Balboa Park launches Top Dog contest

Cosmos photo Remember that time you paid a hefty room cleaning fee so your four-legged pal could join you on vacation? It's time for your pooch to return the favor.

Balboa Park Central has just launched its "Top Dog" photo contest. The contest is designed to give park visitors an opportunity to demonstrate how much more photogenic their pooch is when photographed in one of the most picturesque settings in San Diego.

The grand prize is a Loews Coronado Bay Resort’s Su’ruff Camp package*, which includes:

  • One-night stay in deluxe accommodations at Loews Coronado Bay Resort 
  • Surfing lessons for one dog
  • Doggie board shorts (smaller dogs) or a surfer bandana (larger dogs) LCBR
  • Surf ‘n’ Turf pet room service meal, which features a mixture of beef tenderloin and salmon
  • Loews Loves Pets amenities, including dog bowls, dog treats, and Loews Hotels name tag 

Fetchlogo*Includes tax & gratuity. Based on availability. Excludes holidays and some blackout dates apply. Value is non-transferable. Winner must provide own transportation to and from hotel.  

The Grand Prize winner will also receive a family four-pack of Balboa Park Passports, good for two adults and two children. One first runner up will receive a $50 gift certificate to Fetch! Pet Care of San Diego Metro. One second runner up will receive a $25 gift certificate to Terra Restaurant.

To enter, email your favorite photo of your dog posing or frolicking in Balboa Park to by August 20, 2010, at 12pm. Photos must be in JPG format and can be no larger than 1 MB in size. Be sure to read the complete Contest Rules.

Include in your email:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Your email must include all of this information to be eligible. All entries will be judged by a committee from Balboa Park, who will choose the winning entries. The top five photos will be posted on Beginning August 24, 2010, visitors to the website will have one week to vote on their selection of the Top Dog in Balboa Park. The winner of the contest will be the person whose photo received the greatest number of valid votes from the public and who satisfies all of the Contest Rules. The Judges will tabulate the votes and announce the winner on September 1, 2010. All decisions of the Judges are final and binding.

Call for visitor photos: Contribute to the new

For some, July is a time for relaxing in Maui, Bora Bora, or across the bridge in Coronado. Not for us. We’re busy redesigning Balboa Park’s online portal. The new site will include rich cultural content including feature articles about the park, blogs, photo galleries, social media feeds, and interactive educational tools for teachers and students.

The thing is, we need photos. We have the largest institutions covered, but we’d like to have quality photos of everything that our park has to offer.

According to this map, Balboa Park is one of the most photographed places in San Diego. Do you have photos of the park that you’d be willing to share with us for the new site? If so, please email them to or provide the Flickr link in the comments section below. Please include your full name so we can include your name in the photo credit section of the site.

By sending your image(s) to Balboa Park you irrevocably agree that we may use your image(s) in all manner and media of Balboa Park and and that you have all necessary rights (including copyright, trademark and other proprietary rights) to make the image available to us for all such uses.

IMG_4369Most Wanted Images (but feel free to send us others)
Gardens: Alcazar Garden, Australian Garden, Botanical Building, California Native Plant Garden, Casa del Rey Moro Garden, Desert Garden, Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve, Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, Japanese Friendship Garden, Marston House Garden, San Diego Floral Association, San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection, Trees for Health Garden, Veterans Memorial Garden, WorldBeat Center's Children's Ethnobotany Garden

Recreation: Balboa Park Activity Center, Balboa Park Golf Complex, Balboa Park Senior Lounge, Balboa Tennis Club, Lawn Bowling, Morley Field Sports Complex, Municipal Gymnasium, play areas, hiking trails

Food: Albert's Restaurant, Balboa Park Food and Wine School, Café in the Park, Daniel's Coffee Cart, Dinosaur Café, Galileo Café, Home Plate Cafe at the Hall of Champions, Lady Carolyn's Pub, SDMA Sculpture Court Café by Giuseppe, Snack carts, The Prado, The Tea Pavilion, Village Grill

San Diego Air & Space Museum Launches 64K Archival Photos on with BPOC

4590865994_e5c20a5e22_m Balboa Park, San Diego––The Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC) is proud to announce that the San Diego Air and Space Museu has published over 64 thousand images from their vast archives on, making the SDASM the owner of one of the largest online collections of aviation images in the world.

“We have already seen impressive engagement from the public interacting with the images on Flickr, and it’s really just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the fact that the San Diego Air & Space Museum counts over two million images in its library collection,” said BPOC Director Rich Cherry. “ I applaud the museum for being proactive in this arena and jumping on board with us for such an ambitious project.”

Granting public access to the collection online with allows anyone from researchers and school students to aviation enthusiasts, veterans and the general public to view, tag and comment on the images, thereby adding valuable content and context to the collection. SDASM plans to have over 100,000 images digitized and posted online by the end of the year, including foreign and domestic military and civilian aircraft, the Flying Tigers, the Ryan Aeronautical Archive and the entire Pacific Southwest Airline (PSA) archive.

“We are very excited about getting this special collection online. This has been a goal of ours for a long time, and it is fulfilling to finally see it come to fruition,” said Jim Kidrick, President and CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “Sharing this incredibly unique image archive with the world is really what the mission of the museum is all about!”

4590866596_c88c9631dd_o After working for ten years to digitize archival images one by one, the SDASM archival team of Alan Renga and Katrina Pescador were able to step up those efforts with a new highly specialized rapid capture station, purchased by BPOC as part of its greater mission to implement new technology, training and web development programs throughout Balboa Park. The rapid capture imaging station is built around a high end DSLR Canon 5D camera rather than a flat bed scanner, which most museums have used for digitization work in the past. In the new, fully portable setup, the camera is attached to a copy stand, which stabilizes the camera and eliminates the need to adjust the exposure. An attached laptop then automatically processes the images. Since the camera is locked in place, archivists can quickly change out images, digitizing upwards of 700 images per day in some case.

The SDASM is one of several cultural institutions within Balboa Park currently working with BPOC to digitize archival images, video, audio and publish their collection data online. The Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego Hall of Champions and the San Diego History Center (formerly the San Diego Historical Society) all plan to launch similar online collections in the coming months.

Behind the Scenes: Art Alive 2010 at San Diego Museum of Art

We're loving the behind-the-scenes coverage of the florals arriving at the Art Alive installation at the San Diego Museum of Art. Check out SDMA's Facebook page for more pictures.


Balboa Park Goes Hollywood, Gets Airtime from KTLA

Check out this fab feature on our lovely Balboa Park by the KTLA roving reporter Gayle Anderson:


Balboa Park Shakes in the 7.2 Baja Quake

Reality Stars Plunge into Polar Bear Exhibit at San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park


Thanks to celebrities (and their reality show film crews) like Tori Spelling, Candice Cameron and Denise Richards, the opening of the San Diego Zoo's new Polar Bear Plunge exhibit was about as wild as it gets, nevermind the earth's largest land predators romping around.

The VIP event for celebrities, donors, media and other special guests last week was held to highlight the new eco-friendly enhancements to the Polar Bear Plunge. There was an eco-chic green carpet where celebs like Tori Spelling her two kids posed for photos (with at least a 5-10 person entourage from her show Home Sweet Hollywood in tow), hands-on demonstrations of melting polar ice caps, hors d'oeuvres served on recycled plates and even gift bags with sustainable coffee and biodegradable stuffed polar bears.

IMG_1598 Oh yea, there were real polar bears there, too. They romped out into the enclosure, lolled on the rocks, pawed at carrots and ice blocks, and even wandered over to the window where one trainer was waiting with some yummy treat to hand out after the bear stood tall and waved his huge paw toward the crowds. Check out the rest of the scene in our photo gallery.

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