March 2015 Wallpaper

Remnants of an old wall at the end of Duval Street in Key West, FL
Remnants of an old wall at the end of Duval Street in Key West, FL

I said I wasn’t (necessarily) going to do a monthly wallpaper, but I keep remembering to do one so here is the third for the year.  No promises going forward!

Kathy & I got away to Key West for a few days recently and I’m still working on the photos.  I’ll have a few stories to share along with some pictures over the next few weeks.

Our Photographic “Legacy”

Random photos while walking around Charleston, West Virginia
Random photos while walking around Charleston, West Virginia

In one of Brooks Jensen’s latest Lenswork podcasts titled “Your Photographic Will”, Brooks explores the idea of what to do with all of our photographs when we head for that big darkroom in the sky. Brooks raises some good points and has some interesting suggestions, including deciding whether we should give away, sell, donate or destroy our work while we are still around to do something personally with it.

Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, Charleston, West Virginia
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, Charleston, West Virginia

I’ve always found such discussion to be somewhat presumptuous, since for most of the photographers I know, I can’t imagine that anyone, not even our families, is going to give a flip about our photographs when we’re gone. Heck, for the most part no one gives much of a flip about our photographs while we’re here!

Kidston Island Lighthouse, Bras d'Or Lake, Baddeck, Nova Scotia
Kidston Island Lighthouse, Bras d’Or Lake, Baddeck, Nova Scotia

There are a number of photographers these days who are making a significant enough contribution to photography that their work is important enough that they need to think about such things. Brooks is probably one of those photographers, if for no other reason than being the editor and publisher of one of the pre-eminent fine art photography magazines around.  But for the most part, photography has become so ubiquitous and there are many photographers making reasonably good work these days.  The chance of anyone’s work achieving whatever level of acclaim is necessary to be considered important enough to worry about is pretty slim.

Random photos from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox
Random photos from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox

As much as I enjoy printing, I have never made a darkroom print, so I don’t have an inventory of prints that I have made over the years. Heck, I’ve never even been in a darkroom with someone else developing or printing, let alone done my own! Most of the inkjet prints I have made over the years have gone directly into a frame, been shipped off to a customer or torn up and tossed in the trash. I don’t keep a ready supply of prints hanging around in boxes.

Random photos from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox
Random photos from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox

I’ve given some prints away to friends over the years, but I’ve always felt a little guilty giving someone a gift that they were going to need to spend money to have framed. In our previous house I had made and framed a number of prints, but I made a conscious decision when we moved to our new place to start from scratch. I did keep and hang a select few of those prints, but many of the prints were from my early days of printing and not of a quality that I considered to be worth hanging on to. So I tossed most of those in the trash and either repurposed the frames or took them to Goodwill.

Walking around uptown Charlotte on a chilly February day.
Walking around uptown Charlotte on a chilly February day.

Recently I have been making some new prints of some of my work for specific locations in our new home. I have a few more to make and plan to do a blog post about them when I’m done. But those are prints done for décor, not for sale to anyone else. I have made “test prints” on my own printer but then shipped the files off to be printed by a lab on canvas or wood. There may be a metal or glass print in my future, but we’ll have to find the right photograph and the right location.

Walking around uptown Charlotte on a chilly February day.
Walking around uptown Charlotte on a chilly February day.

So as far as my own “Photographic Will” there’s not much to get excited about. My camera gear is probably worth more than my inventory of photographs. Other than a few boxes and binders of slides and negatives, most of my “serious” photography is on a single hard drive, backed up in multiple places, of course!

To Go Order?
To Go Order?

One of Brooks’ suggestions that I really did like was the idea of producing a printed book or a series of books of our photographs. There are many places to have books made, and they could be given away to family and close friends now, while I can enjoy sharing with them. I like that idea and am currently thinking of a few ways I could present my photographs that was meaningful to me while at the same time was something that others could enjoy too.

Random photos while walking around Charleston, West Virginia
Random photos while walking around Charleston, West Virginia

I’m actually kind of glad that I don’t have a lot of stuff to keep track of or worry about. Kathy already thinks I have too much stuff, but by a lot of people’s standards I don’t have much at all. She is definitely glad that it is all contained in a single room of our house. Except of course for the prints that I’ve been hanging on the walls. For that I think she is happy, or at least she hasn’t told me to stop. Yet!

Negative Space

Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California
Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California

I was talking recently with a friend about some upcoming concerts here in Charlotte and what our interest was in attending them. Kathy and I love to see and hear live music, but find the cost of the tickets – especially for decent seats – and the crowds to be huge turn offs, so with rare exception we usually pass.

South Beach Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
South Beach Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

One of the recent announcements is for a jazz series, with several artists that I would like to see. Also just announced is a concert by Billy Joel. That would also be a great show, but based on prior events by big-name performers, chances are good that the cost of seats will be in excess of $100, but I’m just guessing. This runs counter to most people I know (shocker!) but I would be more likely to spend $100 (or $200 for both of us) on a nice dinner and/or a bottle of wine than on a concert, regardless of the performer. And I don’t part with that kind of money easily, so you get the gist.

Sunrise at Pounding Mill Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
Sunrise at Pounding Mill Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

At some point during the conversation it occurred to me that, for the most part, popular performers are those whose music has words. More often than not my preference is for music that doesn’t have words. And then I wondered how that translates to other parts of my life. For example, I tend to take photographs of scenes without people, but a large percentage of all the photographs taken on a given day – at least those not of food or cats – are photographs of people. I tend to seek peace and quiet, while a lot of people seem to like noise and drama. Different strokes, as they say.

Sunrise at Cone Manor, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, North Carolina
Sunrise at Cone Manor, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, North Carolina

This is not to suggest that music without words means that it has negative space. In most cases that is far from the truth. But I find that the introduction of words to music can be like people in a photograph. More often than not I prefer to leave them out.

Davenport Homestead, Creswell, North Carolina
Davenport Homestead, Creswell, North Carolina

The whole idea of negative space comes about when I think about my photographs. A lot of people are afraid of negative space, just like they are afraid of silence. But my favorite photographs are often those that have large areas of negative space. Not negative space in terms of “nothing,” but negative space in terms of sky or water or a solid color. Negative space, like silence, tends to make some people uncomfortable. I find it soothing and feel that it often adds balance. Not always, but often and under the right circumstances.

Full moon rising at sea, aboard Celebrity Solstice
Full moon rising at sea, aboard Celebrity Solstice

So what about those concerts? It’s too soon to tell but my guess is that we’ll opt for a few of the jazz concerts and skip the others. But who knows? We might decide that it is worth the money to see a big name like Billy Joel.

If It Ain’t Broke, Etc.

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

I’ve got a few words left on the subject of the Fuji, and on renting equipment in general. Then I think I’d like to just get back to our regularly scheduled programming. There have been a number of excellent comments on both of my posts regarding the X-T1, and those have led to a bit of extended reflection on my part.

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

I’ve always been a firm believer that everyone needs to find their own way of doing things. I’ve always felt that – for things that matter to me – it is always best to do a little research to see what is available, determine my preferences based on that research, then make a decision based on the results. Making informed decisions is important to me, whether it relates to the food I eat, the car I drive or the camera that I use. I don’t buy a lot of stuff, but when there is something I want it is important to me to figure out what best suits my needs and buy it. In general I only want to buy something once, and I tend to not be influenced by advertising, sale prices or reviews. If something suits my needs and I can afford it, I’ll buy it. If I can’t afford it then it hasn’t met all of my needs, one of the most important of which is that something be affordable.

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

One of the downsides of this kind of loyalty is that I tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to knowing what the options are. I’m not a “fanboy” about anything, but once I make a decision about something I stick with it until something obviously better comes along. But for better or worse I’m not always on the lookout for the “something better,” to the point where something better might actually be available but I don’t know about it.

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

When it comes to camera equipment, I have tended to pick a system and stick with it. I have purchased a couple of point & shoot cameras and I have gotten good results from them. But the dilemma I always have, especially when I travel, is that opportunities often arise where I wish I had my “serious” gear with me. As a result I have developed the philosophy that questions why I should ever take photographs with anything but my best equipment. I think that is a valid question, to the point where I carry my G12 as a backup but primarily use my 5D. Even if I only take one lens, I want to have my “good” camera with me. For a lot of folks, their phone is a good enough backup, but that’s not an approach that works for me.

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

The situation that I have encountered recently, especially when we fly, is that I would prefer to not have to carry the weight of a bag that contains all the stuff I want for a vacation. I have a large rolling camera bag, but the airlines always insist on checking anything that has wheels, so I compromise by taking less stuff and using a shoulder bag or backpack that can stay with me. So the choice I have is between (a) occasionally having to carry a heavier backpack than I would prefer but having the equipment that gives me the quality that I want, or (b) buying equipment that weighs less but doesn’t quite give me the image quality I want. The great thing is that that divide is getting smaller and smaller all the time. Many folks have already made the switch, but I knew that I was going to have to see for myself.

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

One of the great things about being able to rent camera equipment is that it can help us to build first-hand awareness of what else is available. There is a pretty ready market for used equipment these days, so I suppose if we wanted to spend the money we could just buy a camera and/or lens, use it for a while then sell it and buy something else. But that seems a lot like trading cars too often – it costs you a lot more than it is worth. I think renting is just an economical way to try something out – both for fun and for knowledge.

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

I don’t consider this rental to be a “once and done” event, and it was never my intention to make a decision based on one rental. I’m certainly not closing the door on the Fuji or any other camera. There are many interesting cameras on the market, and new ones are coming out all the time. There are a number of very nice lenses for the Canon that might be worth looking at. I’ve never used a Zeiss lens, but have always felt that one (or more!) of those might give me the look that I used to get with my Mamiya lenses. It’s probably worth a try. I need to be careful to not let the equipment become a distraction, and I need to be extra sure that the cost of renting camera equipment doesn’t eat into my travel budget, but other than the cost I think it is pretty harmless. And it is a lot of fun!

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

So to conclude, I appreciate all the feedback and comments. It’s great to know that there are as many opinions as there are photographers, and I especially like it when we can trade thoughts and ideas about cameras and photography.

Test images from Fuji X-T1 rental

Conclusions and Decisions

Downtown Charlotte, NC from light rail overpass on Trade Street
Downtown Charlotte, NC from light rail overpass on Trade Street

I mentioned in my last post that I had rented a Fuji X-T1 for this past weekend. The last post set the stage for this one. I’ll cut to the chase and save the suspense, and say that I haven’t decided to make any changes, but I was very impressed with the camera. You can stop reading here and look at the pictures, or you can read on. :)

Parking garage, downtown Charlotte, NC
Parking garage, downtown Charlotte, NC

My intentions for trying out another kind of camera were simple. I had heard many good things about the compact cameras but had not had a chance to really experience one for myself. I don’t like to have multiple choices when it comes to equipment, preferring instead to have and use whatever camera I feel best suits my needs, and to use that camera for everything I shoot. It just doesn’t make sense to me to have to constantly choose between different cameras, especially where there was a clear first choice. Why, I reasoned, would I ever want to shoot with anything less than my best equipment? It just didn’t make sense.

Painted brick wall, Charlotte NC
Painted brick wall, Charlotte NC

I have been very happy with the results from my current equipment, to the point where I never really think about the gear, I just use it and it works. But I knew that if I ever did decide to change formats or brands that I couldn’t do so without trying out different options. As hard as it is to believe, the 5D Mark III is three years old, and while it isn’t close to being obsolete, that seems to be about the point in the product cycle where there is probably something new on the horizon. All of my lenses are first generation Canon lenses, and while they are certainly not obsolete, I can’t ignore the fact that three of my five main lenses have been replaced by newer technology. At some point it is likely that I am going to need to look at that, and possibly make some changes. It seemed as good a time as any to try out something new.

Lynx Blue Line light rail and Charlotte NC skyline
Lynx Blue Line light rail and Charlotte NC skyline

I decided to rent a Fuji X-T1 because I had narrowed my choices down to a Fuji or an Olympus. I have heard great things about both, but have read some really good things about the Fuji, and especially their evolving lineup of excellent lenses. I still cling to the opinion that a larger sensor is better, and reasoned that all else being equal the APS-C sensor in the Fuji would make it an attractive choice. So I plunked down my money and took my bet.

Electric meter, Charlotte NC
Electric meter, Charlotte NC

I went through LensRentals for the rental, and the whole process could not have been smoother. I reserved the camera and lens online and provided my payment and shipping information. The package arrived at my work address on Thursday as scheduled. I had the camera for the weekend, then packaged it up and dropped it off at the FedEx store on Monday. Done.

Guess what? Another brick wall, Charlotte NC
Guess what? Another brick wall, Charlotte NC

The following is not a review, and I am still evaluating as I go. But several folks have expressed an interest in my thoughts, so here I go.

First Impressions
  • While small, this feels like a well-built camera and lens. Heavier than I expected for the size and heavier than it looks, but very light compared to my Canon.
  • The top dials are laid out in a way that really makes sense, and I liked being able to adjust shutter speed, ISO and aperture with a dial instead of a menu.
  • I had a little previous experience with Fuji’s menu layout from using my X-10. The menus are very similar, and for the most part I was able to figure everything out without looking at the manual.
Roof of transit center, Charlotte NC
Roof of transit center, Charlotte NC
In Use
  • Because the camera is so small relative to my hands, I felt like I could never really get a comfortable grip on the camera, and I kept hitting buttons I didn’t mean to hit.
  • The biggest issue I had was that the battery died after about 200 frames. In hindsight I think it might have been because I had IS set for continuous (had not thought to change it) and even though I had the EVF set up for eye detection, I hadn’t thought about the fact that hanging around my neck that it wouldn’t know the difference between my chest and my eye and be on constantly.
  • The second biggest issue I had was trying to use a polarizer with the EVF. I’d be interested to hear some feedback, but I had a really hard time judging the effect of the polarizer because the camera kept adjusting the exposure – as reflected in the EVF – in real time.
  • My rental came with a standard neck strap, which was too short for me and not nearly flexible enough. It would not stay on my shoulder securely and kept getting in the way. I would definitely buy an Upstrap or a wrist strap.
Shadow on a brick wall, Marion, NC
Shadow on a brick wall, Marion, NC
Files
  • The first photos I looked at were from walking around my neighborhood at dusk, and were taken before I learned how to set up the camera. The files from the shoot on Saturday, and more from Sunday and Monday, were quite impressive.
  • The in-camera JPEGs are very nice. So nice that I could almost shoot JPEGS all the time with this camera, if it wasn’t for the next point.
  • Lightroom does an excellent job with the RAW files, and even offers the ability to mimic some of Fuji’s in-camera film profiles. This gives the ability to get the results of the in-camera processing with the flexibility of RAW files when needed. I like this very much. I could easily create a Develop preset in Lightroom and would take care of 95% of the adjustments I would make.
  • The RAW files are SHARP and show very little noise. Using the Adobe profiles for the Fuji RAW files, I needed to do very little additional adjustment. I used virtually no noise reduction on the files, even at higher ISO, and they take sharpening very well.
  • The camera seems to have an exceptionally accurate metering system, and it nailed the exposure just about every time. The only adjustments I made were for completely personal preference.
  • I did not make any prints yet, but am convinced that the files will make a 16×24 print with no problems.
Brick wall, Marion, NC
Brick wall, Marion, NC
Conclusions
  • If I were to own one, I would need to buy one of the accessory grips.
  • This would definitely be a worthy “first choice” camera when I decide that it’s time to replace what I currently use.
  • The Lensrentals experience was a good one, and I would not hesitate to rent from them again, either to try a lens I intend to buy or to just try out something I’ve heard about
  • I didn’t expect to be so “wow-ed” by a camera that it would convince me to banish my Canon gear to the closet, and I wasn’t. But it was very nice, and if I was starting from scratch I wouldn’t hesitate to consider the Fuji, although I would probably try out some of the competition.
  • I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, but the files from this camera have a certain “look” that I really, really like. It isn’t sharpness or color or contrast, but something. I’m still working on it and will explore it some more and report back.
Another brick wall, Marion, NC
Another brick wall, Marion, NC
Decision
  • I’m sticking with the Canon for now (as of today at least!), but it wouldn’t take much to convince me to buy an X-T1.  If I were to buy another camera, there is a very good chance that this might be it.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte NC
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte NC

More to come, as I continue to process more photos and think more about my experience!

Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte NC
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte NC

Trying Something New

Transit Center, Charlotte NC
Transit Center, Charlotte NC
Back in the Day

Ever since I sold off my Mamiya 7 film rangefinder and its three excellent lenses, I have hoped to one day return to the simplicity of being able to carry all my gear in a small fanny pack. I used to be able to carry the equipment (and film!) I needed for entire weekend in one small bag. I love my Canon gear, and have always been happy with the results. The Canon bodies and numerous lenses I have owned over the last 10 years have served me well, but it has been interesting to note the gradual expansion in the amount and weight of my equipment over that time.

Roof trusses at Charlotte Transit maintenance building and offices, Charlotte NC
Roof trusses at Charlotte Transit maintenance building and offices, Charlotte NC

At first I was able to carry all of my digital gear in a reasonably-sized backpack. Soon, however, it became necessary for me to carry my equipment in a Think Tank rolling bag. For a while I was generally successful with the idea of making room in the rolling bag for something new by retiring something old. But a couple of years ago I finally reached the point where my bag wouldn’t hold what I had, and I started having to leave things at home. Perhaps coincidentally, at just about the same time I got to the point where I was getting tired of carrying that much stuff.

1BAC Building, Charlotte NC
1BAC Building, Charlotte NC

While having a wide variety of lenses at my disposal gives me the ability to pretty much shoot anything I want to shoot, the need to constantly make a decision about what to take or leave home distracts me from the creative inspiration to actually make photographs. I’ve been saying for a long time that the problem with carrying multiple lenses is that it increases the chances that I will have the wrong one on my camera. I found that carrying one or maybe two lenses is all I want to do, and I have gotten used to leaving the other stuff at home.

One of my regular Charlotte subjects - NASCAR Hall of Fame
One of my regular Charlotte subjects – NASCAR Hall of Fame
Recent History

I have had a number of “Point & Shoot” cameras over the years and have been quite impressed by their image quality. In fact it was a Canon G5 that convinced me back in 2004 that digital was the “way of the future.” I have been watching the evolution of compact cameras ever since with great interest, and was very excited when the interchangeable lens compact cameras came on the scene. Starting with the early Olympus “Pen” cameras in the so-called Micro 4/3 arena and evolving to a large lineup of small cameras with varying sizes of sensors, there are now many choices. My early experience in this area was when I bought Kathy an Olympus E-PL2 camera and a couple of lenses. That camera is a great size, and the lenses are amazingly small and light. I tried using that camera myself, but was never really happy with the image quality. That really tarnished my opinion of the camera and I never really gave the format any serious consideration. In hindsight, that opinion was probably a result of lower-quality lenses.

One of my regular Charlotte subjects - NASCAR Hall of Fame
One of my regular Charlotte subjects – NASCAR Hall of Fame
Fast Forward

Probably because of my earlier experience with the older Olympus camera, I have remained skeptical of the advances in quality of the compact cameras and the various photographers that have been singing their praises. The conventional wisdom, perhaps somewhat influenced by the marketing budgets of Canon and Nikon, has held that small sensor cameras just can’t produce the image quality of a full-size, full-frame, high resolution SLR. For anyone wanting to make prints larger than 13×19, it seemed that the SLR was the way to go, the larger the sensor the better. That was and still is pretty tasty Kool Aid.

Random electric meters, Charlotte NC
Random electric meters, Charlotte NC

Recently, I have been hearing and reading more and more stories, from people whose opinions I respect, who have had great things to say about the newer cameras on the market. Most of these cameras are from Fuji, Olympus and Sony, although there are others. Surprisingly, the entries from Canon and Nikon have been pretty weak and generally haven’t seemed to push the right buttons for people, and the general consensus is that those companies are not taking the market for these cameras seriously.

Random brick wall, Charlotte NC
Random brick wall, Charlotte NC
And Now

A few months ago I decided that the only way to find out how good these new cameras have become was to try one or more of them out myself. For me the choice seemed to be between Fuji and Olympus. So a couple of weeks ago, looking at a long holiday weekend off from work, I decided to try out a Fuji X-T1 for a few days to see just what all the excitement was about. I haven’t made any decisions but have reached several conclusions. The outcome of my little experiment will be the subject of my next post. For now, here are a few of the photos I have been working on from my time with this interesting little camera.

Random shadows, Charlotte NC
Random shadows, Charlotte NC

A Day in St Martin

Grand Case, St Martin
Grand Case, St Martin

The second stop on our recent cruise was the island of St. Martin. St. Martin is an island that is divided roughly 61/39% between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the two parts roughly equal in population. It is the smallest sea island divided between two nations with inhabitants and the division dates to 1648. The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern French part comprises the Collectivité de Saint-Martin (Collectivity of St. Martin) and is an overseas collectivity of France. Collectively, the two territories are known as “St-Martin / St Maarten”. Sometimes SXM, the IATA identifier for Princess Juliana International Airport (the island’s main airport), is used to refer to the island.

Grand Case, St Martin
Grand Case, St Martin
Grand Case, St Martin
Grand Case, St Martin

Unfortunately, most cruise ship passengers don’t bother with all those details. They mostly know that it is either a place to shop and get good deals or go to the “nude beach.” But Kathy and I know better, and we know how to make the best of our visits there.

Grilling fish at a restaurant on Orient Beach in St Martin
Grilling fish at a restaurant on Orient Beach in St Martin

The best way to see St. Martin is with a knowledgeable guide. Ship tours are OK and you can always get a taxi from the port and they will do just fine. Whenever Kathy & I book a cruise that stops at St. Martin, the very next thing I do is get in touch with our friend Joyce Hanley. Joyce is a native of Nevis living on St. Martin. We have toured with Joyce numerous times. This time she even took us to her house to show us her garden with numerous native plants, vegetables, and even coconuts. It’s always interesting to see what they look like on the tree, and not the way we see them in the grocery store. And coconut water? Forget that stuff you buy in the store…hack off the top of a coconut with a knife and drink up. Good and supposed to be good for you!

Real coconuts in St Martin
Real coconuts in St Martin
Real coconuts in St Martin
Real coconuts in St Martin

We’ve been to St. Martin numerous times, and while we love to tour and see something different every time we go, there is only so much we can do when we are only there for the day. This is another place where a longer visit would be the way to go. The best way to get to St. Martin from Charlotte is to fly, and one of the great places to go on St. Martin is Maho Beach. Maho sits literally on the end of the runway to the airport, and when they planes land they clear the beach by just a few dozen feet. That makes for quite a sight. I’ve never gotten the nerve to actually go out on the beach directly below the glide path. I guess I need to spend more time at one of the nearby bars to work up my “courage.”

Plane landing over Maho Beach in St Martin
Plane landing over Maho Beach in St Martin

We’re not big shoppers, so we spend most of our time walking around the small towns taking photographs. Sometimes we will slip into a shop or gallery, and there are a number of great restaurants where you can sample everything from local dishes to French cuisine. We stuck with local dishes this time and had lunch at a great little place in Marigot, on the French side. We also spent time walking around Grand Case, another beachfront town on the French side that is known for nice hotels and great restaurants. That would definitely be a place to return to, although I think I would need to learn a bit more French to really get along. Even more than many nationalities, the French appear to be more willing to treat you well if you make the effort to learn their language. I can’t say I blame them.

Flamboyant Tree in St Martin
Flamboyant Tree in St Martin
Grand Case, St. Martin
Grand Case, St. Martin
School kids in Grand Case, St. Martin
School kids in Grand Case, St. Martin

I’ll probably wrap up the cruise photos with a post with any stragglers that I didn’t fit into a previous post. I just finished up a weekend with a rented Fuji X-T1 and once I process a few photos from that experiment I will post some photos and some thoughts. Suffice it to say that I was very impressed with that little camera and am looking forward to working with the files and making a full evaluation. More to come on that!

Monte Stevens' boat (NOT!) at a marina at Oyster Bay, St Martin
Monte Stevens’ boat (NOT!) at a marina at Oyster Bay, St Martin
Marina at Oyster Bay, St Martin
Marina at Oyster Bay, St Martin

A Day In San Juan, Puerto Rico

In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette

On our recent cruise, Kathy & I spent a day exploring San Juan, Puerto Rico. While a number of cruises originate in San Juan, not many cruise lines stop in San Juan these days. It is a little too far for most ships to reliably make it in two days from Florida, and it probably isn’t as popular as St. Thomas or St. Martin because the shopping isn’t right next to the dock. Since the second favorite pastime of cruise passengers (behind eating) is shopping, most of them don’t like to venture out of sight of the floating buffet line, so having to walk a block or two in a “foreign” city is beyond their comfort zone. Cruises from Florida that do call on San Juan typically only spend the afternoon and evening there before moving on to a more popular island.

In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
NO a la pena de muerte

Kathy & I love San Juan, and our original itinerary called for us only being in San Juan from 3:00 to 10:00. A medical emergency a few hours out of Fort Lauderdale required us to return to port in the middle of the first night, making it impossible to get to San Juan as scheduled. As it turned out, it also made it impossible to get to St. Kitts, scheduled to be our second port, on time. So we ended up in San Juan on the day we were supposed to be in St. Kitts (follow all that?). ;)

In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette

Being in San Juan instead of St. Kitts was an easy trade for us, because we know our way around town pretty well and enjoy walking there. I was originally excited about the possibility of photographing the Christmas decorations around town after dark, but our schedule change put us there only during daylight hours. Being the type of people who go with the flow, we made the best of the time we had and had a nice day there.

It is traditional for a ship's crew to paint the ship's logo on the dock the first time a ship visits a port.  This was Silhouette's first visit to San Juan, and these two guys were tasked with painting the logo.
It is traditional for a ship’s crew to paint the ship’s logo on the dock the first time a ship visits a port. This was Silhouette’s first visit to San Juan, and these two guys were tasked with painting the logo.

One of the highlights of cruising into or out of San Juan harbor is sailing past Castillo San Felipe del Morro. The fortress is now a U.S. National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been given many other historical designations. The fortification, also referred to as el Morro or ‘the promontory,’ was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborne enemies. The water at the entrance to the harbor can be especially rough, and the waves crashing against the shore make for an imposing sight, whether from the sea or the shore. It is always amazing – and quite a relief after two days at sea – to feel the ship enter the calmer water of the harbor.

Passing Castillo San Felipe del Morro on our approach to San Juan Puerto Rico during our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
Passing Castillo San Felipe del Morro on our approach to San Juan Puerto Rico during our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette

There are as many ways to enjoy San Juan as there are people, but Kathy & I frequently start our visit at the Paseo De La Princesa , which winds around below the walls of the old city to the original city gate. From there we enter the gate and work our way up to El Morro. After enjoying the sights and sounds (and breezes!) at that highest point, we work our way back through town to the port.

In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette

I took quite a few photos in San Juan, but don’t think I got anything that will be artistically significant. I did manage to get some new views of familiar subjects. I think because I had been thinking in terms of a late afternoon and evening visit I had some preconceptions about what I would shoot, so I spent most of the day reacting to what I saw instead of on a course that I had pre-visualized beforehand. Sometimes that serendipity can lead to new and interesting things, but often it doesn’t.

The Plaza de Armas of San Juan in San Juan Puerto Rico
The Plaza de Armas of San Juan in San Juan Puerto Rico
The Plaza de Armas of San Juan in San Juan Puerto Rico
The Plaza de Armas of San Juan in San Juan Puerto Rico
The Plaza de Armas of San Juan in San Juan Puerto Rico
The Plaza de Armas of San Juan in San Juan Puerto Rico

We spent some time hanging out at Plaza de Armas, one of the main squares in San Juan and originally designed to serve as the main square of the city. In addition to a fountain with four statues, the plaza is home to a large number of pigeons, which spend their time doing what pigeons do – looking for handouts of free food and making messes. The pigeons make for an interesting photo subject when someone tosses seed in the air and they all scramble to get their share.

In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette

Kathy & I never mind sampling a bit of the local cuisine, and often look for interesting places to have lunch while spending the day ashore. Pizza and beer isn’t exactly a native Puerto Rican dish, we did have local beer, so I think that counts for something! Plus it was really good pizza and salad, so we felt like it did the job and were happy to have given it a try.

Plazuela de la Rogativa (Plaza of Religious Procession) in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Plazuela de la Rogativa (Plaza of Religious Procession) in San Juan, Puerto Rico

In general, San Juan is just a pretty nice place to visit, a good place to spend a day, and we enjoyed it very much. As it often does, a day spent in a nice place convinced us that we need to come back and spend more time there. Perhaps I can brush up on my Spanish and think about spending a week or so there sometime in the near future. It’s an easy flight from Charlotte, although it can be tough to get a good deal on airfare. And it can be a little pricey to stay and eat in the Old San Juan area, but I think it could be worth it in order to have more time there for dining, sightseeing and photography.

In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette

More Pictures of People Taking Pictures

Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise

This is a fun little project I started a while ago.  Sunset on a cruise ship is a target rich environment for POPTP.

In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
In San Juan Puerto Rico on our December 2014 cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette on our December 2014 cruise

Photographs and stuff!