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

Looking for the Heat

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

It’s hard to believe that just a month ago Kathy & I were plying the warm waters of the Caribbean on a cruise.  This morning in Charlotte we tied a record low of 8 degrees.  I suppose there’s some justice in that.  But no matter, this being North Carolina we’ll be back into the 70s in no time.  I hope!

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

Those of you who are familiar with my work know that I love to photograph architectural details and other interesting lines and shapes while we cruise.  A person can’t drink umbrella drinks all day (Kathy says ‘oh, yeah?”), so I take pictures!

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

I’m working my way through some of the highlights, so as I process them I’ll probably throw a few out onto the blog, and at some point I may put together a gallery on my website.  In the mean time here are a few photos of warmer times.  Hope to see things warm up soon!

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

January 2015 Wallpaper

Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Well, it’s a new month and a new year.  I’ve decided to stick with the wallpaper idea for a little while, but I think I’m going to try something a little different and leave off the monthly calendar.  From my standpoint, I like to be able to change my wallpaper often, and while I can make my own wallpaper any time I want, having a calendar on there makes it a little hard for someone else to do that.

A number of people have told me that a particular photo is one of their favorites, and someone might want to keep it up all year long. And that’s fine with me!

If anyone misses the calendar and would like me to continue, I can probably do one of each, so let me know.  I’m pretty easy to get along with!

More About Home

Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina

“Happiness doesn’t lie in conspicuous consumption and the relentless amassing of useless crap. Happiness lies in the person sitting beside you and your ability to talk to them. Happiness is clear-headed human interaction and empathy. Happiness is home. And home is not a house-home is a mythological conceit. It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”

― Dennis Lehane

Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina

The holidays are often a time when we think a lot about what “home” means. People ask us – probably less now than they used to since they know us – if we are “going home or staying here” for the holidays. I always reply, confidently, that this is home. We live here, the kids live here, and just about all of our friends and family are here. We are “home” every day.

Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Last year at this time we had just moved into our then-new house, and that was the first Christmas that we weren’t in the house that had been our home for the previous 17 years. Our kids each have their own place now, so there is no sentimental “home” where they grew up. My parents and Kathy’s parents are both gone, and the places they occupied can now be visited only through Google Street View. So there is no “somewhere else home” when people ask us if we are “going home or staying here” for the holidays. This is home.

Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina

The above quote comes from an author that Kathy is familiar with, but I found it by way of a blog I have been following for a while. This Way to Paradise is written by a woman who has been “homeless” for several years, but traveling the world, mostly self-supported but sometimes depending on the kindness of friends and strangers, all the while blogging about it. And of course she’s written a book (I think I need to write a book ;) ). Although she has already seen more of the world at her young age than I will ever see, in many ways Valen’s philosophy echoes my own – that home is where we make it and that more often than not home is where we are. But that’s not to say that home is every place we are.

Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Evening on the beach, Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Kathy & I take a lot of comfort in having a “home base” to come back to after work and after every vacation. This may change when we aren’t paying our dues on the corporate hamster wheel, but for now at least we envision continuing to use our house as a jumping off point for future adventures. We have purposely made our house into a place that if we never left we would be perfectly happy to stay, and that makes it a terrific place to come home to. So far we have necessarily approached our travels as always having a finite end. Knowing that “home” is waiting makes it easier to return. And for the most part it is a place that one of us could live without the other if that were to become necessary.

Random photos from Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Random photos from Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Our friends Earl & Bonnie are starting an adventure of a different kind.  With a 2+ year head start on us, they have already experienced life without the need to escape the work world every day and have realized that they don’t want or need a fixed home base. So they have decided to literally sell all their stuff and put themselves and whatever is left into a travel trailer and head out to see the world. Whether that ever becomes our own solution remains to be seen, but Kathy & I wish them only the best and are anxiously awaiting their progress reports as they embark on their journey.

Clouds at Fort Fisher Historic Site, North Carolina
Clouds at Fort Fisher Historic Site, North Carolina

So the point of all this rambling is that I find the individual approaches to “home” to be a fascinating study. As Kathy & I develop our plans and speculate on the direction of our own lives, there is quite a bit of uncertainty about how our philosophies will adapt as our lives change, but isn’t that part of the adventure? Wherever we live, the last thing we want to do is to become so entrenched in what we have that we lose sight of what we want. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a house, a travel trailer or even a cruise ship. If we haven’t learned anything else over the last few years we have learned that no decision has to be final. As long as we remain open to other possibilities and flexible about the outcome, home can take many forms. But we each have our own ideal outcome, and that is what I look forward to seeking and finding, as well as to sharing.

Clouds at Fort Fisher Historic Site, North Carolina
Clouds at Fort Fisher Historic Site, North Carolina

Belhaven Sunsets

Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina
Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

As a general rule, I have gravitated away from trying to chase sunsets per se, as more often than not I end up waiting around for something that doesn’t happen.  I do enjoy spending time on a beach that faces away from the sunset, as the soft light on the water is often conducive to the motion blur photos I have become so fond of.

Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina
Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

Back in early November, Kathy & I visited Belhaven, NC.  One of our frequent destinations, we often use the location as a jumping off point for trips around the eastern part of the state, looking for fishing boats, old barns or sometimes waterfowl.

Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina
Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

For some reason though, I often find it worth my time to be “out” for sunset in Belhaven.  Something there just causes the conditions to be good for great color.  The downside is that there is not a lot of variety for foregrounds.  There are a few docks, but they are all on private property and I tend to respect that.  I do have a nice sunrise place where I have gotten permission from the owner to use her place when I am in town, and that has proven to be a good spot.

Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina
Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

The great thing about sunset in Belhaven is that the bed & breakfast we stay at is on Water Street, so it’s easy to head out the door, grab my gear from the car and head across the street to the waterfront. For the last several years I have used the back yard of an unoccupied house as my staging area, and that is the place I have taken most of my sunset photos in Belhaven.

Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina
Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

During our recent visit I found out that this house was recently sold.  I met the new owner, and he seems like a real nice guy, but I’m not sure I will be able to keep using his yard for my photos.  The next time I go there I’m planning to take him a couple of prints as a goodwill gesture, and hopefully he’ll grant me a perpetual pass to use his place.  We’ll just have to see.

Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina
Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

So what’s the deal with these posts?  I assume that they are leftover from a long-abandoned dock, and eventually someone is either going to build a new dock or just pull out these posts.  Something about them calls my name, and every time I go there I end up shooting at least a few frames of them.  They make interesting subject matter, to me at least.

Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina
Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

I hope you enjoy this selection of sunset photos from Belhaven, North Carolina!

Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina
Sunset over Pantego Creek, on the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

Photographs and stuff!