All posts by Tom Dills

A Touch of Spring

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

Here in the Piedmont of NC spring has been springing for several weeks, and we are almost into early summer.  The dogwood have been out for a week and the hardwoods are unfurling their new leaves.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

Several weeks ago Kathy & I visited South Mountains State Park for a little hiking and sightseeing.  The park is west of Charlotte, about halfway to the “real” mountains, and a slightly higher elevation, so spring was a couple of weeks behind us here.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

One thing I love about spring is looking through the woods and seeing just the hint of green.  I think that “Spring Green” is a shade of color unique to new growth leaves, and to me it speaks as much about the seasons as the fall colors do about fall.  Coupled with redbud and the occasional other early bloomers, they make for a hopeful sight after the gray of winter.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

These photos won’t do much to show off my nature photography skills, but they do a reasonable job of showing the spring that we saw as we explored the park.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

Lightroom Update

Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis Minnesota

I don’t usually get too excited about software, but the most recent update to Lightroom has me pretty intrigued.  Most of the changes were cosmetic in nature, related to the layout of certain menu items.  But Adobe has introduced some new and improved Develop profiles that I really like.  I’ve never been able to come up with black & white conversions that I was consistently happy with, but some of the new profiles are pretty sweet.  I might even give Monte a run for his black & white money!  The color profiles are pretty nice too.  I’m still working and fiddling with them, but I think I may have found some new tools!

Means of Expression

Bus station in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

It always interests me to see how people tend to refer to their equipment in more specific terms the newer or more expensive it is. I was reading a recent blog post that was commenting on the age-old (at least 10 years!) argument about whether phones were “real” cameras. Never mind the argument (which I think is silly), but the writer stated that “there are significant differences between my iPhone 8’s camera and my OM-D E-M5 Mark II, not to mention some newer full-frame cameras.” Well, no sheet, Sherlock!

The thought that went through my mind when I read that sentence was that, if he were shooting with a 3-generations old Android phone (like me) or a hopelessly obsolete mirrorless camera (like me) he might not have been so quick to mention his gear. Is that what is referred to as “humblebrag? As in, “I had a hard time finding a suitable parking place for my Porsche?” Anyway, my weird thought twists on this Saturday morning.

I hope everyone has enjoyable holiday week/weekend, whichever holiday (if any) they choose to be observing.

Bus station in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

Galley Tour on Celebrity Summit

Galley tour on Celebrity Summit

Another highlight of our recent cruise and part of our chef tour was a tour of the galley.  We have done galley tours before on numerous cruises, but ordinarily they are held in the morning, and the most exciting thing you see is someone making gravy!  For this tour we were taken through the galley during dinner service, and it was quite an experience!

Chef Stephen on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit

It’s been a long time since I worked in any kind of restaurant environment, and I’m not sure I actually qualify to say that I worked in any kind of restaurant!  But the things we found most impressive were how clean and organized things were, and how friendly everyone was, especially while they were busy.  I took a lot of photos on this tour, and these are just a few, to give you a “taste” of the experience!

Escalator from the dining room to the galley
Executive Chef Kuldeep Singh on Celebrity Summit
Dessert station!
Dessert station!
Dessert station!
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit

Chef Tour in Nassau

Chef Stephen

In my earlier post about the Conch Guy I mentioned that we had taken a tour in Nassau with one of the chefs from our ship.  In addition to the fish market, we visited a roadside vegetable stand, a couple of guys cutting up coconuts for juice and meat, as well as a distillery.  Here are a few more photos from that trip.

Chef Stephen at a roadside fish market

Our guide was Chef Stephen from Jamaica, and he explained a lot about the different things we saw and how they were used in island cooking.  While we or the chef weren’t permitted to bring anything back to the ship due to health regulations and ship policy, Stephen used many of these same ingredients and themes when preparing the meal that we had back on the ship that evening.

Roadside produce stand
Roadside fish market
Roadside produce stand
Roadside produce stand
Roadside produce stand

In a separate post I’ll share photos from our galley tour.  But unfortunately I was too busy enjoying the food to take any photos at dinner!

Sampling fresh coconut and coconut water
Sampling fresh coconut and coconut water
Sampling fresh coconut and coconut water
John Watling’s Distillery
John Watling’s Distillery
John Watling’s Distillery
John Watling’s Distillery

The Conch Guy

The Conch Guy

One of the ports on our recent cruise was Nassau, in the Bahamas.  We did a shore excursion there that involved touring some of the island’s fish and produce markets with one of the chefs from the ship.  One of the stops on our tour was at a roadside fish market where fishermen brought in their fresh catch.  Coolers after coolers with fish of all types – including snapper, grouper, mahi and lobster.

Roadside fish market stand during our Chef’s Market Tour shore excursion in Nassau, Bahamas
Roadside fish market stand during our Chef’s Market Tour shore excursion in Nassau, Bahamas

Also at this stop was a tent where a man was shelling conch for conch salad.  If you aren’t familiar, a conch is a sea creature that grows in those beautiful pink shells that everyone likes to collect.  He used an ax to punch a hole in the shell in just the right spot, then dug the conch out of the shell with a knife.  The conch was then chopped up, marinated and mixed with veggies for a salad.  Delicious!

The Conch Guy
The Conch Guy
The Conch Guy
The Conch Guy

Watching the conch man work the shells was as interesting as eating the conch.  Kathy asked him if he ever cut himself.  He just smiled and said, “sometime, mon, but not in a long time!”

Conch salad!

Oh, There Were People in San Juan, Too!

Trio On A Bench

Cedric commented on my last post about how the lack of people contributed to the “Tranquilidad” of the scenes.  Of course not all of my photos were devoid of people, as the people are a large part of what makes San Juan special.  Here are a few photos “with” people as a counterpoint against those without.

Painting a Fine Line
Afternoon Walk
Three Dimensional
Wrong Way
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Scenery near El Morro Fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Lunch at Barrachina, allegedly the birthplace of the Pina Colada. In San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

An Unexpected Visit to San Juan

This Way!

Kathy & I recently returned from a cruise to the Caribbean.  We’re getting pretty good at the cruise thing – this was our 23rd cruise – but we’re still practicing!

An Address I Could Live With!

This cruise was on Celebrity Summit.  Celebrity has become our favorite cruise line, mostly because they just know how to do good food and good service.  While all of the lines are good, we’ve come to really like Celebrity.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

Summit is one of Celebrity’s older ships, but we chose it because it is one of their smallest, at just 2,000 passengers.  The ship we were on last year was over 4,000 passengers, while we saw a ship this time that was over 6,000!  While I would love to experience one of those ships, that’s just a shipload of too many people!

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

This cruise was supposed to stop at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, but Punta Cana doesn’t have a  dock for the cruise ships so it is one where they need to take passengers ashore using tenders.  The seas were too rough there for tendering, so we ended up in San Juan, PR instead.  While we looked forward to Punta Cana, we love San Juan and were not at all disappointed to end up there.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

Kathy & I spent our time in port walking around Old San Juan.  We had lunch (and Pina Coladas!) at a nice restaurant that claims to be the birthplace of the drink.  More to come on that, but for now, here are a few random photos from our time walking the streets of the old city.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

A Few More

Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina

Nothing to say today, important or otherwise.  I just processed a few more photos from the same folder as the last post and thought I would share.  Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend.  Staying warm where it’s cold and dry where it’s wet. 😉

Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina
Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina
Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina
Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina
Views of uptown Charlotte around the Imaginon Children’s Library in Charlotte, North Carolina