Category Archives: Travel

A Matter of Balance

Balancing Rock, on Long Island near Tiverton, Nova Scotia
Balancing Rock, on Long Island near Tiverton, Nova Scotia

My barber always talks about shape and balance when it comes to a good haircut.  Three of my photos hang on the wall of his shop, and he always refers to those photos when he is talking to a customer about balance.  I’m also aware that he says this partly for my benefit when I’m there, but it also illustrates his point.  He also happens to be one of the biggest fans of my photography. 🙂

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balance, mostly in terms of managing competing priorities, but also how it relates to my photography.  Visual balance is relatively easy, I think, partly because it is subjective, but also because there is a pretty wide range for success.  Time balance is somewhat more difficult, and is really what I have been spending my time thinking about.

Balmoral Grist Mill Museum in Balmoral Mills, Nova Scotia
Balmoral Grist Mill Museum in Balmoral Mills, Nova Scotia

Whether at work, spending a weekend at home or on vacation, I struggle at balance.  It’s mostly because of the classic “only 24 hours in a day,” but is also because there are so many interesting things competing for my time!  I have to spend a certain amount of my day at work, because they pay me to be there.  And I have to spend most of my time there doing the things they want me to do, because that’s what they pay me to do.  Other than that, my time is mine, but within certain constraints, and subject to multiple distractions.  Those of us who work for a living and have interests outside of work – which I think includes just about everyone I know – constantly face the dilemma of competing priorities.

When we sold our house and moved to our apartment in May, I was looking forward to all kinds of time to work on some projects I had been trying to get to for a long time.  I promised myself time to write more on my blog, process more photos, update my website, make some prints and build a new computer.  I haven’t done any of those things – yet.  But the reason for that is that I have been doing other things that have had a higher priority.  A lot of it has been Kathy & me taking a collective sigh of relief from the drama of selling our house and moving.   And our new place is still mud and dirt, so there’s going to be a lot more time, I think.  Now that we’ve had a nice vacation and I have several thousand more photos to process, I had better stay glued to my chair for a while!

The 'Atlantic Guardian' scallop trawler, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
The ‘Atlantic Guardian’ scallop trawler, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

On our recent vacation, I faced a dilemma regarding the balance of time for photography and time to enjoy the other aspects of being in Nova Scotia.  With sunrise before 6:00am and sunset after 9:00pm, trying to photograph sunrise and sunset, especially sunrise, was going to be problematic.  I love sunrise, but it comes way too early for me most of the year, so I was satisfied to rise with the rest of the world at 7:00, have a nice breakfast and be on my way at a reasonable hour.  And I managed to sneak in a little sunset activity after dinner in a few locations.  It was enough to satisfy my photographic needs while enjoying the tourist side of things by having a nice dinner every night.  Did I miss some photographic “opportunities?”  Perhaps, but this wasn’t a photography trip, and there is way more to do in Nova Scotia than take pictures.  They have food and wine there!  This was a vacation with Kathy and friends.  So I accepted that, adjusted my mindset accordingly and we all came away happy and satisfied.  Good balance.

Either, Or
Either, Or

I chose to not take a computer with me on this vacation.  Besides the obvious weight and bulk, my opinion is that having a computer along provides a huge potential for distraction.  If it was just a matter of backing up my photos every night and putting it way that would be fine, but then comes the temptation to process a few “just to see what I got,” then there is some kind of software update, while you wait you open Facebook and before you know it you have wasted 2 hours while everyone else is waiting to go to dinner.  No thanks.  The people I care most about are with me, and those who aren’t can wait until I get home.

Boar’s Head Lighthouse, near Tiverton, Nova Scotia
Boar’s Head Lighthouse, near Tiverton, Nova Scotia

We deal with visual balance in photography, and I think that dealing with visual balance helps to deal with time balance, because it forces us to evaluate all of the possibilities and come up with the one (or the few) ways to achieve the balance we are looking for.  Just like I feel that visual balance is essential to good composition, I’m convinced that time balance is essential to a happy life.  How a photograph is balanced visually is a huge influence on how successful a composition is.  And that doesn’t necessarily mean that every photograph has to be IN balance, just that HOW it is balanced influences the success of the composition.  And the same principal applies to how we manage our time.  I’m working at finding that balance in my daily life, so I can find that right mix of time for work, time for me, and time for those who love me and who I love.  I hope to continue to work on that balance for a long time!

Latched But Not Locked, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
Latched But Not Locked, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Oh, Canada!

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

Kathy & I just returned home from a fantastic 2-week vacation to Nova Scotia with our good friends Bill & Cathy from Ohio.  Two weeks – and we’re still friends!

Point Prim Lighthouse, Digby, Nova Scotia
Point Prim Lighthouse, Digby, Nova Scotia

We had a wonderful time, good weather and excellent food.  And I have a few thousand photos to process!  One broken camera was the only bummer of the vacation.  More to come on that, but (a) I didn’t drop it, and (b) it was my backup 5D that somehow lost it’s mirror.  We’ll have to see if it is worth repairing or not, assuming that repair is possible.

Port Medway Lighthouse, Port Medway, Nova Scotia
Port Medway Lighthouse, Port Medway, Nova Scotia

Today was catch up day, mostly spent getting ourselves physically ready for our inevitable return to “reality.”  I don’t think there is any way to fully prepare mentally.  So that’s going to hurt, but it is the price we pay.  Well worth it, I think, for a couple of weeks away.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Here are a few quick highlights to show that we were there.  I’ll have a bunch of things to talk about over the coming days and weeks as I get all my “film” developed.  Stay tuned!

A Little “Wining”

In the wine cave at Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina
In the wine cave at Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina

Kathy & I enjoy visiting wineries – they have wine there! 🙂

This past weekend we met up with Earl & Bonnie and visited Morgan Ridge Vineyards, located about an hour east of Charlotte, and just south of Salisbury.  I had come across a Groupon for a tour and tasting there, but had never heard of it before, so we decided to check it out.  It’s out in the middle of nowhere (for us) but was worth the drive and we had a nice visit.

In the wine cave at Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina
In the wine cave at Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina

After a nice buffet lunch prepared by their resident chef, we received a tour from owner Amie Baudoin.  One of the things we like best about visiting wineries is hearing the stories of the owners, and Amie told us some good stories and gave us the history of the place, from a farm run by her father to the present day winery, to their plans for the future.

Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina
Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina

One of the things I find interesting, and the thing that sometimes makes me a lousy photographic documenter of things like winery visits, is that for all of the photos I took (only about 50, since we had better things to do – like taste wine!) I didn’t take any pictures of Amie during our tour, and I didn’t take a single photo of the vineyards, the buildings or the grounds.  I kick myself after the fact, because you would never know I was there from the pictures I did take.  I just forget, I guess.  But I get so far out of “snapshot mode” sometimes that I do sometimes just forget.  I spend so much time looking for little details that I miss the big picture.  I will admit though, that when I am doing something like a tour I also spend time listening to the speaker, which I hope shows interest in what they have to say, and doesn’t just make me look like some distracted tourist with a big camera.

Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina
Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina

We’re getting ready to jet off to Nova Scotia in a few weeks.  I do need to put my tourist hat back on for that trip!

Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina
Morgan Ridge Vineyard, Gold Hill, North Carolina

Still Here

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

I thought I had better post a few words and some pictures just to prove that I am still alive and kicking.  Things have been a little hectic lately around The House of Dills.

After about 5 years of preparations, Kathy & I decided in February that this seemed like the right time to put our house on the market.  We began working with a Realtor to get things finalized so we would be ready for the spring sales market, which we expected would be a good one.  It’s amazing how much there is to do to a house to get it ready to sell – things you haven’t thought about or had just put off because you just hadn’t gotten around to it.  Despite having been “getting ready” for the last couple of years, there was still a last-minute rush to get things done.

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

In true Tom & Kathy fashion, we did the sensible thing and immediately headed out of town for a quick rest-up before we got started.  That was the weekend in February when we headed to Charleston, SC.  When we returned, we dove head-first into a 6-week period of repairs, staging and primping.  I also took photos for the listing, which I’ll probably share in another post.  By the end of March, we were ready.

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

Kathy & I had decided that we didn’t care to be hanging around the house for the first weekend that the house was on the market, figuring that most of our traffic would come that first weekend and we likely wouldn’t spend much time in the house anyway.  Another excuse to travel!  The listing hit the MLS on a Wednesday, and we immediately started getting calls for showings.  We went to work on Friday packed and ready for a weekend in Waynesville, NC, one of our favorite weekend getaway destinations.  By the time we were ready to come home on Sunday, our Realtor called to tell us that we had “multiple offers.”  Amazing.

So we came home, settled on the offer that looked the best and seemed like it would have the best chance of closing, and signed.  Now we’re waiting.  In NC the buyers have a period of time – the Due Diligence period – when they can pretty much just change their minds and walk with minimal consequence, and that period expires next week.  We have every indication that the buyers really want the house and that we will get through with no issues, but you just can’t be 100% certain.  You really can’t start heavy-duty packing just in case the house has to go back on the market.  In the mean time we have been organizing and getting ready to pack and move, so we’re ready to go once we get the green light that the deal is going to go through.  It’s a frustrating process, but one that I suppose will benefit us when we decide it is time to buy.

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

Here are a few photos from our weekend to Waynesville.  Just so you’ll know I’m still around and doing a little photography.  We’re planning to move to an apartment on May 23, and we’ve already got plans to head out of town on May 25 for another getaway weekend, so all is good here!

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

The “Other” Charleston

Along a street in Charleston, West Virginia
A Few of My Favorite Things!

Kathy & I spent this past weekend in Charleston, West Virginia.  Why Charleston?  We met up with friends from Ohio with whom we are planning a vacation this summer, and it is roughly half-way for both of us.  It was a planning weekend for us, easier than trying to talk on the phone, or Skype, or send e-mails back and forth.  A friend of Kathy’s remarked that “only we would take a vacation to plan a vacation.”  Well, duh! 🙂

Investment Opportunity
Investment Opportunity

It wasn’t really a photography weekend, but I did take a camera.  I almost always have at least one camera with me, and although I didn’t carry it to dinner, when we went out for breakfast or lunch, or just for a stretch, I took it along just in case I saw something interesting.  I don’t think I came back with any prize-winning shots, but it was good exercise.

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

I’ll eventually get around to writing more about it, but I’ve been on sort of a “one camera, one lens” kick the last couple of months.  I bought one of the Canon 50mm 1.4 lenses a few months ago, and I don’t think I’ve taken it off my camera!  I just love the simplicity of the single focal length, and have really enjoyed the discipline of having to work a little bit to refine a composition, rather than just twist the zoom ring.  It really makes me think about what I am shooting and what I’m trying to show.  At first I was afraid the 50 would be a little wide, but I’ve gotten used to it.

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

I think I could have represented Charleston in a more favorable light had I gone a few weeks later, but things were still pretty brown there.  The trees were just starting to show some buds and the grass – what little we could see downtown – was still pretty brown.  And the whole place had that “could stand a good rainstorm” look that cities get when the snow has just finished melting.  Not that they’ve had a lot of snow, but that was sort of the look it reminded me of.

Close-up of the sculpture at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, Charleston, West Virginia
Close-up of the sculpture at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, Charleston, West Virginia

In just a little over a week, Earl and Paul & I are going to go shoot some birds at the Carolina Raptor Center.  I suppose I’ll have to take the 50 off for that, but I’ll probably put it back on as soon as I’m done!

Along a street in Charleston, West Virginia
Along a street in Charleston, West Virginia

Oh. And There Was Food!

I can never get too many shadows!
I can never get too many shadows!

In the comments to my last post, Paul gently chided me about the fact that, in a post about our visit to Charleston that I didn’t talk about the food.  Sorry!  It was one of the most important things we did that weekend, but frankly I had been planning to write more than one post about our weekend, and one of them – this one, in fact – would be to talk about the food.

Supply Side
Supply Side

Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale

Our visit to this place was rather a fluke, as the day we arrived it was pouring rain, the town was full of people attending the Southeastern Wildlife Expo, which we knew was happening but had no idea it was such a big deal.  It’s a big deal.

Anyway, the bellman at our hotel told us that we needed to go to a place called Bubba Slyes Deli, located right around the corner on King Street.  So off we went, only to find that Bubba had called it quits just the day before and the place is now closed.  Practically next door to Bubba’s is a place called Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale, which sounded like an impossibly interesting name.  They didn’t have a wait, so we went in.  Overall it was decent faux southwestern food, but it hit the spot and the beer was cold, so mission accomplished.

Old Connections
Old Connections

Hall’s Chop House

This was the real reason we ventured to Charleston in the first place.  Long-time food & wine buddy Stefan Stanton, formerly a manager at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte – our favorite hometown restaurant – is now a full-time surfer dude and occasional waiter at Hall’s Chop House, reputed to be one of Charleston’s top restaurants.  And what a place!  It was partly due to the anticipation of seeing Stefan again (it had been a year since he left Dressler’s), but from the moment we walked in the door, the people at Hall’s – including it seemed most of the Hall family – made a point of welcoming us, introducing themselves and basically making us feel like the most important people who had ever showed up at their place for dinner.  And what a nice feeling after too many less-than-enthusiastic chain restaurant experiences.

The service from everyone from the bartender to the bus boys – and most especially our waiter – was superb.  Stefan introduced us to their sommelier, who recommended a couple of excellent wines, making it easy to choose from their enormous and outstanding selection.  Hall’s specialty is dry-aged beef, and while I have had it before, I have never had dry-aged beef like THAT before!  It is fairly rare to find a restaurant that dry-ages their own beef, knows how to pick it and – most importantly – knows how to cook it.  I had a dry-aged Ribeye that was easily the best restaurant steak I’ve ever had.  Kathy had a filet that she could have cut with her fork, and it was delicious.  And the dessert – let’s just say that you can’t go wrong with any of the desserts!

Stefan is clearly loving life, and it was great to connect with him and experience Hall’s.  He seems right at home there, and I swear that if I could find a way to marry into the family he might just have a job for life!  Overall, Kathy & I agree that our dinner there was probably the best restaurant experience ever.  We don’t have the resume for that to mean very much, but we’ve been around enough to know what’s good, and Hall’s Chop House is beyond good.  It was truly fabulous.

A?
A?

Caviar & Bananas

Another unlikely-sounding place, this is officially a gourmet market and café, and is located just a little out of the way from the tourist traffic, near the College of Charleston.  We went there for a late breakfast on Sunday, which explains why I don’t write about my Sunday lunch – we didn’t have any!  Their signature dessert – which I did not have but should have – is Caviar & Bananas.  It’s described on their menu as “Bruleed Bananas, Sweet Tapioca, Local Honey, Brown Sugar, Marscapone & Almond Tuile.  Yummy!

Basil

Recommended by our buddy Jon Dressler, we visited Basil, a Thai restaurant just up King Street from Hall’s, for dinner on Sunday night.  Believe it or not, neither Kathy nor I had ever eaten Thai food before.  So, trusting Dressler, we went.  It was great!  I know that I am probably very inaccurate to say that it is a lot like Chinese, but I thought it was a lot like Chinese, with some different spices and flavors.  The wait – even on a Sunday night – was over an hour, which we passed across the street in the bar at The MacIntosh, which looks like a nice restaurant itself.  Next time!

There is a Basil restaurant in Charlotte, also.  We’re going to have to ‘give Thai another try.’  We really did like it!

Jack’s Café

Practically next door to Caviar & Bananas on George Street, is this Monday-Friday, breakfast-lunch only place called Jack’s Café.  It’s nothing fancy, but Jack himself has been running the grill for nearly 40 years.  Good, fast diner food, served with a smile at a reasonable price, it’s sometimes just the ticket.  The cheeseburgers are supposed to be excellent, so we’ll probably need to go back for lunch.  Next time!

So there are the highlights of our Tour de Food in Charleston.  Every person who goes as their favorite places, and we now have a few more of our own.  The next time we go, we’ll definitely make room for a return visit to Hall’s.  And some day (Paul) I’ll get to Hyman Seafood! 🙂

Hanging On
Hanging On

Sidetracked

 

Barista at Caviar & Bananas in Charleston, South Carolina
Barista at Caviar & Bananas in Charleston, South Carolina

I’ve been away, but I haven’t gone far.  We’ve had a few things going on over the last couple of months that disrupted the little bit of posting momentum that I had back in January.  I forced myself to spend a little time on the computer to process a few photos and throw a few words onto the blog so everyone knows I still love them!

Tree and brick wall, Charleston, South Carolina
Tree and brick wall, Charleston, South Carolina

A few weeks ago – seems like months – Kathy & I visited Charleston, SC for a weekend.  February probably isn’t the ideal time to visit Charleston, and the particular weekend that we went was cold and windy.  We spent a lot of time dashing from shop to shop, looking for shelter from the cold, and even dodged a little rain & snow on the first day there.

Charleston County Courthouse, Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston County Courthouse, Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is a photogenic town whenever you visit.  I did some photographing while we were there, and while I certainly didn’t capture the “classic” Charleston, I feel like I captured what I saw and felt while we were there.  Add some color from a few flowers and trees, a little warmer weather and the results would be totally different.

Stairs and shadows, Charleston, South Carolina
Stairs and shadows, Charleston, South Carolina

One of the things that has kept me off the computer is a little “reading project” that I got myself into.  When we took our cruise in January, I decided that I wanted to read the Harry Potter series.  I had never read any of the books, never saw the movies, and our kids were too old by the time the books became popular for them to bring “Potter-itis” into our home.  So I got the first volume as an e-book from the library before we left, started in on it, and I got hooked.  I quickly finished the first book while onboard, and quickly downloaded the second volume.  I just finished #5 of 7 and decided it was time for a little break.  It’s great reading, but it sucked me in and wouldn’t let go!

Wrought iron shadows, Charleston, South Carolina
Wrought iron shadows, Charleston, South Carolina

We’re headed to “The Other Charleston” this coming weekend – Charleston, West Virginia.  We’re meeting Bill & Cathy, our friends from Ohio, there to make some travel plans for this coming summer.  I’ll definitely have a camera with me and hope to have some time to wander around, so I’ll be interested to see what that Charleston has to offer.

A B C D - Door bells, Charleston, South Carolina
A B C D – Door bells, Charleston, South Carolina

Snow Day

Random photos in St Thomas USVI from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox
Random photos in St Thomas USVI from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox

Considering that last Friday I was enjoying a sunny and warm day in St. Martin, I didn’t have much hope that today would be a better day.  But with the forecast of impending inclement weather, my office closed at noon.  What a deal!

One of the things that is interesting – and sometimes frustrating – about living in a place where it hardly ever snows, is that no one really knows what to do when the weather gets “bad.”  Those of us from up North, at least for a few years after moving here, scoff at the locals who run out for milk and bread and prepare to hibernate until the temperature gets above freezing.  After a few years we realize that we also don’t remember how to drive on ice and decide it’s a good excuse to stay home, or go home if we are out.

Random photos in St Thomas USVI from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox
Random photos in St Thomas USVI from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox

The difficult decisions are for the schools and for the parents who have kids in school.  I hadn’t been at work for 5 minutes this morning when I heard a couple of Mommies wringing their hands about how bad the weather was going to be.  Then at about 8:00 we got a little bit of sleet and freezing drizzle, and the brave talk about hanging around until noon was gone.  The schools went from dismissing 2 hours early, to dismissing at noon and then “we’re closing NOW!”  And the roads weren’t even bad, although they look a little slimy out there as I write this.

Rope shadows on Celebrity Equinox in St Thomas, USVI
Rope shadows on Celebrity Equinox in St Thomas, USVI

I’ll take a little time off however I can get it.  And I’m obviously putting it to good use – writing a blog post and processing a few photos.  Some of my favorite activities!

I hope everyone has an excellent last weekend of January.  Spring is right around the corner – sunny and warmer tomorrow!

Random photos in St Thomas USVI from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox
Random photos in St Thomas USVI from our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox

Home Again

Sunset aboard Celebrity Equinox, somewhere in the Atlantic
Sunset aboard Celebrity Equinox, somewhere in the Atlantic

I’ve been away for a little while, but it looks like everyone has behaved.  Kathy & I just returned to Charlotte from Fort Lauderdale, disembarking our cruise ship this morning after 10 days in the Caribbean.  Sitting in the airport this morning, I looked at the weather forecast and thought seriously about hopping the flight to San Juan instead. 🙂

I’ll have some photos to post once I get them downloaded and processed, but for now here’s one I took with my tablet and processed with Snapseed.  The Nexus 10 has a pretty decent camera, but it’s a little tough to hold a tablet still in the breeze on the deck of a moving ship.  The colors are a little juicy, but that’s the whole point of Snapseed, right? 🙂

I had intended to post this from the airport this morning, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the photo into the post from my tablet.  Strange.  I guess I’ll need to do some research.

More Snow….

Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA

As I sit here on a beautiful North Carolina day, middle of December, trying to decide whether I need a coat to take a walk this afternoon, I thought I’d post a few more photos from our Thanksgiving weekend adventure to eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.  These were all taken in the vicinity of the Kidd’s Mill Covered Bridge near Reynolds, PA.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA