Good Quote

Sunset at Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

He said, “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl

I came across this quote several years ago in a shop in Bryson City, NC.  It might even be the same shop where I found the frog, I don’t remember.

The Frog

Frog – The Frog Formerly Known as Prince

After recently commenting on Monte’s post, Monte asked me to show him my frog.  I’ve given him a corny name, but most folks who read my blog will get it.

I found Frog at a shop in Bryson City, NC this past fall.  I had previously photographed one of his cousins in Columbiana, OH.  It is his cousin’s photo that I’ve been using as my avatar, but I may need to change it now that I have my own.

Frog lives on our front porch.  He has a solar panel on the back of his head that will make his eyes light up at night.  I haven’t turned it on yet.  I’m waiting for someone to move into the house across the street. 🙂

Power To The People

Walk around the neighborhood on a winter morning

I’ve been working lately on having a camera with me on my morning walks.  It’s interesting what I see when I have a camera with me (duh!). 😉

Transmission towers aren’t exactly a glamorous subject (unless you’re into such things), but they do have some interesting lines and shapes.  This one is a regular subject, mostly because it’s always there, looks different in changing light and weather, and gives me a reason to trudge to the top of the hill.

It’s also a good camera test – to check focus and sharpness!

Now You See Them…Now You Don’t

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

I’ve been going back through old image folders looking for unprocessed photos that are worth spending time with.  I recently came across some photos from a visit to Chincoteague, Virginia in 2010.

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

The ocean was particularly angry one morning, and I remember standing on the beach shooting the surf while trying to keep myself and the camera dry from the salt spray.  In order to slow the shutter speed down enough to show the motion, I had stopped my lens down to – according to the metadata – f40.  I didn’t remember having a lens that stopped down that much, but sho-nuff the old Canon 100-400  did!

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

Of course, at f40 every dust spot on the sensor is going to be visible, and on some of these photos there were dozens, perhaps a hundred or more.  It’s a pretty safe guess that the reason these photos hadn’t been processed was because of all the spots.  I’ve never been meticulous about cleaning my sensor, and it shows.  But one of the advances in Lightroom that I am now able to take advantage of is the Spot Removal tool.  The technology has improved dramatically over the last 10 years, to the point where I was able to salvage this photos.  It involved a lot of clicking and a certain amount of adjusting, but a lot less futzing than I would have had to do back then!

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

A Matter of Perspective

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

One of the more recent additions to Lightroom is the “Transform” function, in particular the perspective correction tool.  I find myself making use of this tool a lot, as it “corrects” photos where I’m forced to shoot from an angle – side to side and up to down – and making them look normal.  I don’t generally use it to “cheat” but rather I like to use it when I don’t have a choice about where to stand.

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

I’ve been going back through some old unprocessed photos and came across a group of sunrise photos from 2010 in Belhaven, North Carolina.  One of the distinguishing features of the harbor in Belhaven is a break wall that separates the harbor from the larger Pungo River.  The break wall is a well-recognized landmark of this area, but the problem I always have with it is that it doesn’t run perpendicular to the places I photograph from.  As a result, there is always a perspective mismatch between the horizon line and the line of the breakwall.  They never looked right when I processed them, so I’ve always been hesitant to use them for anything.  Until now.

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

Looking at this photos, I wondered if the perspective correction in Lightroom could be used to “fix” the position of the breakwall so it looked “right” in my photos.  Lo and behold, it does!  There is a little bit of falloff in focus in the areas that are actually father away, but it’s hardly noticeable.  And yes, I could have done this a long time ago in Photoshop.  But that misses my point.  And of course, someone who lives there and is used to the view would likely recognize the change immediately.  But for most folks, they wouldn’t notice the difference.

I’ve attached a couple of photos as examples, including one “before & after composite.  I think it turns a photo that never looked quite right into one that looks pretty good for all but the pickiest few among us.  And chances are they don’t read this blog! 🙂

before-after

Tilting At Windmills

Wind generators off US 36 near SW Lakesite Road near Osborn, Missouri

From Wikipedia: “Tilting at windmills is an English idiom that means attacking imaginary enemies. The expression is derived from Don Quixote, and the word “tilt” in this context comes from jousting.

 The phrase is sometimes used to describe either confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. It may also connote an importune, unfounded, and vain effort against adversaries real or imagined.”

Here in the east we don’t have many, if any, opportunities to see wind turbines in the huge farms like they have out west.  There are a few in eastern North Carolina and I’m sure more in other locations, but I haven’t come across them in the numbers that we encountered out west.  I had seen photos of wind farms in the west, but seeing them in person made an even greater impression.

Seven Mile Wind Farm near Medicine Bow, Wyoming

Wind turbines are not without controversy, certainly, but I find them to have a graceful beauty, spinning like a dancer in slow motion.  I don’t profess to be an expert on wind turbines or any other methods of producing electricity.  But as someone living within 20 miles (technically 20.5 miles) of two nuclear plants, two coal plants and a few other types, I think I would rather see a few dozen (or hundred) wind mills on my horizon than the steam plumes from the cooling towers of nuclear plants.  They may not work here or make sense for an area as densely populated as Charlotte, but I see turbines as a viable alternative for producing electricity, particularly in rural areas such as Nebraska, the Dakotas and Wyoming where constant wind is a fact of life.

Wind generators off US 36 near SW Lakesite Road near Osborn, Missouri

We were fortunate enough to come across a few sites at times when it was conducive to making photographs, and I hope I’ve done a reasonable job of presenting them.

Wind farm along US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming

Been There, Done That. Let’s Do It Again!

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

I know this may seem like boasting, but Kathy & I had a very good year.  Kathy is the recordkeeper and spreadsheet queen around here, and by her count we were away from home for 125 nights during 2019.  The two questions we get asked most often by friends and neighbors are “how long are you home for?” and “where are you off to next?”  We love it!

Charlotte, NC
Harvey Firestone Park, Columbiana Ohio
Train station in Landrum, South Carolina

Yes, it has cost us some money, possibly more than our financial advisor thinks is prudent.  But I’m the financial guy and manage the flow of funds, and with the good year the markets have had I feel confident that we’ve done the right thing.  We didn’t retire to sit home and watch Jeopardy or Faux News.  We retired to spend time together and see the world.

So – no apologies.

Highlights of the past year:

  • 4 cruises for a total of 43 days
  • Added 18 new states, for a total of 32
  • Over 19,000 photos
  • Almost 20,000 car miles
Marigot, St Martin
Old Town, Fort Collins, Colorado

I admit that traveling over a third of the year might be overdoing it.  I suppose the reaction (or over-reaction) to retirement is normal and to be expected.  But having the time to do anything we want means we want to do everything!  Frankly, the biggest challenge has been keeping our weight under control because of all the eating out.  We essentially broke even for the year, which should probably be considered a win.  But we’re always looking for ways to manage that, since being able to sustain that amount of travel requires being healthy, and one of the best ways to be healthy is to maintain healthy eating and exercise routines while away from home.  We do great at home, but find old habits hard to break when we’re away.

Grenada
Clifton Hall Great House in Barbados

So, what’s in store for 2020?  We’ve got a few weeks scheduled in Florida in February, where we’re going to go “cruise ship hopping” and spend some time near the Everglades.  Sometime in April we’re going to head toward the Southwest to bag a few more states and explore Route 66.  We’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary in October with a – what else? – cruise.  But there are a lot of empty spaces on the calendar which we’ll be filling in as we get closer.  The year is young!

Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood Shak in Lake Wales, Florida
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

I’ve included a few of my favorite photos from 2019 in this post, and as I’ve been doing lately, I have added some more galleries to my Adobe Portfolio site.  This should cover most of the highlights from the year.  So stay tuned!  I think 2020 will turn out to be another interesting year.

Cleveland, Ohio
Bike rack shadows in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Costa Maya, Mexico
Cruz Bay in St John, USVI
Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Dale Chihuly glass ceiling in the tasting room at Maker’s Mark Distillery
Indian River Inlet Lifesaving Station Museum, Rehoboth Beach, DE
Waynesville, NC
Pool Deck on Celebrity Summit

The Gift Rock

The Gift Rock

The road to our neighborhood leads past a shopping center before ending at a traffic circle.  The entrance to our neighborhood as well as a fitness center feeds from the traffic circle.

The Traffic Circle with Rock

About once a month, an inattentive truck driver misses the entrance to the Wal-Mart, doesn’t notice the “No Trucks” sign and ends up in the traffic circle.  The traffic circle was not meant to accommodate semi trucks, but that doesn’t seem to deter the drivers.  What they should do at that point is back up the 100 or so yards and turn into the Wal-Mart entrance, and sometimes they do.  But more often than not overconfidence prevails and they try to swing their rig around the circle.  When that happens, they invariably snag one of the boulders that was placed around the circle specifically to deter such activity.  The rocks usually end up right at the curb, but sometimes they get drug out into the road.

The Traffic Circle with Rock

This most recent time, someone helpfully placed construction tape around the rock as a warning to drivers.  Then someone came along and added some Christmas bows.  The rock is too heavy to move, so it will sit there until someone hires a contractor to move it back.  In the mean time, we have a Gift Rock!

Where the trucks are supposed to go!

Views of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

El Cuartel de Ballaja (The Ballaja Infantry Barracks Building)

I never get tired of walking around Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Kathy & I spent two days there prior to our recent cruise on Celebrity Summit.  Every time we go I photograph things I have seen before, plus there is always something new to find.  For this visit, we concentrated on the two forts, Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro, both part of the San Juan National Historic Site and managed by the U.S. National Park Service.  So we were able to use our newly-acquired lifetime pass for admission and gather the appropriate stamps in Kathy’s Passport book.  And of course we managed to wander around town a bit.

Castillo San Cristobal

As I have been doing, I have posted a more complete collection of my photos from Old San Juan on my Adobe Portfolio site, with just a sample of some of the more “artsy” photos here.  Take a look and tell me what you think!

San Juan Puerto Rico
Castillo San Cristobal
Castillo San Cristobal
Castillo San Cristobal
San Juan Puerto Rico
San Juan Puerto Rico
San Juan Puerto Rico
Hotel El Convento

Photographs and stuff!