All posts by Tom Dills

Hot Stuff!

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

Tabasco sauce is one of those condiments that I think everyone has heard of, and that many people always keep on hand.  I’m not particularly a big fan, instead preferring sauces with more flavor and less heat such as Cholula (Mexico) and Pickapeppa (Jamaica, mon).  But when it comes to pepper sauce, I’ve got a bottle and suspect a lot of readers do too.

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

When I realized that the Tabasco plant and museum, located in Avery Island, was just a few miles from where we stayed in Lafayette, Louisiana, going there was a no-brainer.  Adjacent to the grounds of the Tabasco plant is Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden and bird sanctuary created by the father of Tabasco, Edward Avery “Ned” McIlhenny.  Jungle Gardens is a separate story and a separate post.

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

I learned a few things about Tabasco during our visit.  I hadn’t fully realized the time, effort and craft that goes into making hot sauce.  And I didn’t realize that there were so many varieties!  We got to try a number of them in the store after our tour, although I stopped myself before my taste buds got damaged!

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

All in all, the Tabasco story is an important part of Louisiana heritage, and I’m glad we had a chance to pay a visit!

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

A Toe In The (Photoshop) Water

Pink Plemmons General Store, Luck, North Carolina

For years I have been steadfastly avoiding the use of Photoshop for processing my photos.  No particular reason other than stubbornness and preferring to only use one program (Lightroom) for the work.  Recently, Adobe began sending out free special effects actions for Photoshop.  It sort of got me intrigued enough to download them and I finally got around to trying them out.  This is a photo that I took a few years ago but never really liked the “straight” version.  I’m not sure how much I really like this version using the “Watercolor Artist” action, but it is starting to grow on me.  Like any recipe I’m going to need to work with the options a bit to get a “look” that suits me.  But in the mean time it’s something interesting to look into, and it may even motivate me to spend more time catching up my Photoshop “chops.”  I only have a 10~ year learning curve to catch up on! 🙂

Yes, It’s Rocket Science!

Docents in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

As a kid I was a real space geek, and followed everything about the space program that I could get my hands on.  As part of our recent trip to Alabama and beyond, Kathy & I spent a day at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and took the bus tour.  It was a fascinating experience and brought back a lot of memories.

Space Shuttle replica “Pathfinder” on display at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Saturn V rocket replica on display at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Saturn V rocket replica on display at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

It would be possible to just tour the exhibits at the museum, but it was really special to take the narrated tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center grounds, with visits to several operating facilities.  We visited a the Payload Operations Center, training center with mockups of some of the actual ISS modules that are used to recreate situations on earth to help the astronauts deal with problems or answer questions aboard the station.

Payload Operations & Integration Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

The Payload Operations Integration Center is the “mission control” for all of the scientific activities that are happening on the space station.  The folks at the various workstations monitor these operations remotely, as we learned the the majority of experiments happening on board are not actually handled by the astronauts themselves unless hands-on is required.

Astronaut toilet in the International Space Station exhibit at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

The Environmental Control & Life Support Systems facility deals with the systems required to sustain life aboard the station.  A lot of the work done here deals with developing systems to maintain the environmental and sanitary needs of the crew aboard the ISS.

Exhibits at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Docents in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

The entire day was great, but the highlight for me was the visit to the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, which is a huge building that houses an actual Saturn V rocket along with tons and tons of memorabilia from the early days of manned space exploration through the Apollo moon landings.  One of the things I thought was really cool is that they employ retired scientists as docents, so it is not unusual to find yourself talking to one of the heros of the space program.  In fact, I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of my photos is of Brooks Moore, who headed the Astrionics Laboratory and is actually in the black & white photo in the picture of the old computer hardware!

An actual Saturn V rocket on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
An actual Saturn V rocket on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
An actual Saturn V rocket on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Apollo 16 command module on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

It was a great day and an excellent way to highlight our visit to Alabama!

Moon rock on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Redstone Missle Test Stand, a National Historic Landmark, at the Marshall Space Flight Center at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

Cyprus Impressions

Cyprus trees at the Tupelo-Bald Cyprus Swamp on the Natchez Trace Parkway

While visiting the cyprus swamp on the Natchez Trace Parkway, I did a few impressionistic photos of the trees using camera movement to blur the trunks.  These are two of my favorites from that session.  I love how the motion simplifies the composition by making it all about the lines of the trees and removing the distracting details.

Cyprus trees at the Tupelo-Bald Cyprus Swamp on the Natchez Trace Parkway

No Foolin’

Interstate 10 bridge at the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area Welcome Center near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

I’m a little late to the April Fool’s party so I don’t have anything funny.  But wanted to post that we are safely at home now and enjoying the spoils of our own house – quiet music, comfortable chairs and our own place!  We loved the travel but are happy to be back to home base.  It won’t last long, but we’ll enjoy it while we can!

A Thing For Cyprus Trees

Cyprus trees at the Tupelo-Bald Cyprus Swamp on the Natchez Trace Parkway

I have a thing for Cyprus trees.  The shapes are interesting, and I love how they live against all odds of nature.  We found these in a swamp along the Natchez Trace Parkway today.  I know there’s a rule about taking landscape photos in harsh sunlight, but I keep forgetting…. 🙂

Cyprus trees at the Tupelo-Bald Cyprus Swamp on the Natchez Trace Parkway
Cyprus trees at the Tupelo-Bald Cyprus Swamp on the Natchez Trace Parkway
Cyprus trees at the Tupelo-Bald Cyprus Swamp on the Natchez Trace Parkway

Postcard from Natchez, Mississippi

Historic Rosalie Mansion in Natchez, Mississippi

Kathy & I spent a couple of nights in Natchez, Mississippi before starting off on the Natchez Trace Parkway.  Natchez sits on a 200 foot bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  We spent a lot of time walking and watching the barge traffic on the river.  The river is high and a few roads are closed, but we didn’t see anything serious.