Tag Archives: 2019

Keepin’ It Real – Roatan Island Art

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

One of the paradoxes of cruising is that while the ships visit beautiful islands, their very presence can detract from what makes the islands beautiful in the first place.  Each day we were in Nassau, for instance, there were 5 ships in port, with total passengers of more than 18,000!  The entire island of Roatan, Honduras has a population of 50,000.  And when there are 3 ships in port, that can add another 8-12,000 people just to the area around the port.  Many of those people buy stuff, which is great for the economy, but it can make it hard to enjoy being there.

It’s getting to the point where if you’ve seen one port you’ve seen them all.  We joke about it here in the states – every strip mall has a Subway, a dry cleaner, a nail salon and either a CVS or Walgreen’s.  Throw in a Chinese restaurant or pizza joint and they are the same everywhere.  On cruises – in the event that you have money left over after all the spending opportunities on the ship – you get a “Port & Shopping Map” for every port, which directs you to the so-called “ship recommended” places to buy diamonds, tanzanite (which I think was invented for the cruise passenger!), fancy watches, color changing t-shirts and tote bags, booze, chocolates and on and on.  But enough – I want to talk about something fun.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

Kathy & I make a point of seeking out places in each port that are off the beaten path, locally-owned & operated and provide a flavor for the place itself.  Sometimes it is a nice local restaurant, a beach or just a tour.  Where we can, we like to find shops selling things that we are happy to bring home.  We found such a place on Roatan, Honduras.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan Island Art is a small craft shop located on the “main drag” of Roatan, about 200 yards from the cruise terminal.  I found it on Google Maps and am glad I did, because it isn’t listed on the “Port and Shopping Map.”  But it should be!  Yeah, you have to walk past all of the “ship recommended” shops and actually leave the port area.  Once you say “no, thank you!” to 300 taxi drivers wanting to take you on an island tour, you get to a part of the street with a number of restaurants and the straw market.  Directly across the street from the straw market in a colorful and whimsically designed shop is Island Art.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

Everything in the store is sourced and hand-crafted by Yourgin Levy, his wife and sons.  Yourgin is a native Honduran and is intimately familiar with the indigenous wood, stone, shells and other materials he uses in his work.  He speaks passionately about his island, his crafts and his family, and told us that he got his start selling his jewelry on the beach.  With encouragement from his wife, family and others he worked hard to get a storefront to sell his goods.  The items in the shop and the shop itself reflect the passion he has for his work and his island.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

I was especially impressed by the different kinds of wood that Yourgin uses in his work.  I don’t remember all the names now, but cedar, mahogany and rosewood were common.  These woods are not easy to work with, even with power tools!  And the results are just beautiful, with Yourgin’s passion for Roatan showing in each piece, and especially in his descriptions when he tells you about them.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

Kathy and I ended up buying a couple small items, a sea jade necklace and a wood wall hanging, mostly because it was the first stop on our cruise and we didn’t want to chance running out of room in our luggage or breaking something on the way home.  On a future cruise which stops in Roatan I would definitely plan on buying something larger, like one of the beautiful hand-carved sailboats, a cutting board or serving tray.

Whatever you choose to do on Roatan – and you should do something because it is beautiful – have your driver drop you off at Roatan Island Art.  Or just walk there from the ship.  And when you get there, take the time to talk with Yourgin and experience the passion and love he has for the island of Roatan and for Honduras.  I’ve written this because in my own heart I feel strongly that this man and his shop deserve the publicity.  Go there!

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

All Aboard!

Central Park area aboard Symphony of the Seas
Ice skating show at “Studio B” aboard Symphony of the Seas

Spending a week (or two) aboard a cruise ship with 6000 or so of ones closest friends can be a little challenging, especially for someone who tends to be a little introverted.  Yeah, that’s me.  Kathy too.

Royal Promenade aboard Symphony of the Seas
HiRO show at the Aqua Theater on Symphony of the Seas

We’ve been on enough cruises to know how to find our own space and can usually do so pretty reliably.  During the day there are always a few spots on board that are out of the way and quiet.  That usually involves a lounge or the library, but could also mean a sun deck away from the pool or the Promenade, where there is no food or bar service!  Of course we could always retreat to the balcony of our own stateroom.  We found such places on Symphony of the Seas, but there were also places where it was so noisy that individual voices pretty much disappeared.  Those places were never our first choice, but sometimes finding a comfy seat in a noisy place was preferable!

In Cozumel, Mexico aboard Symphony of the Seas
Symphony of the Seas in Costa Maya, Mexico

We have come to really enjoy cruising.  After this last cruise, which was actually two separate cruises that we sailed back to back, we’ve been on 25 cruises!  And we have two more booked, one for later this year and one more in January next year.  Needless to say it is an important part of our travel plans.

Sunrise and arrival in Nassau, Bahamas aboard Symphony of the Seas
Sunrise and arrival in Nassau, Bahamas aboard Symphony of the Seas

I’ll have more to say and photos to post about some of the specific ports and experiences from this recent cruise soon.  And I still have some posts to write from our trip to Florida.  I’d better hurry up though, because it won’t be long until we embark our our next adventure.  Stay tuned!

Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas

Birds, Birds, Birds!

White Ibis at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Kathy & I spent the day yesterday exploring the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.  I was channeling my buddy Don Brown just a little bit, as he is one of the best bird shooters I know.  I was handicapped a bit by a 200mm lens on my Fuji, not really long enough for serious wildlife work.  But I came away with a few shots that are reasonably well exposed, acceptably sharp and representative of what we saw.

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

The most amazing thing we saw I wasn’t even able to record!  we walked back a trail into a wood, and soon found a group of egrets lounging in an area well off the beaten path.  There were easily a hundred or more there, but the brush was so thick that there was no way to make a photograph.  But the sound!  I said it sounded like the morning after a frat party – lots of guttural sounds and weird noises.  It was quite an experience, but you’ll just need to take my word for it!

White Snowy Egret at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida
Little Blue Heron at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Chasing Train Stations in Florida

Train station in Lake Wales, Florida

I’ve written previously about how Kathy & I like to seek out train stations on our travels through different areas.  I hadn’t paid too much attention to train stations when we planned this trip to Florida, but almost by happy accident I realized that southern Georgia and Florida contain many examples of train stations.  Here more so than in other states they seem to generally be in pretty good shape, many of them currently used as museums, social halls or offices.

Train station in Homerville, Georgia

While we were visiting the station in Avon Park, a volunteer at the museum there told us that the Silver Star passenger train passes through there daily, and that it would be there within the hour.  He also mentioned that there is a station in Sebring that hadn’t come up on my search, even though the Sebring station is an active Amtrak station.

Train station in Dundee, Florida

While we were in Avon Park, a CSX freight train came through, then we drove to the Sebring station in time to catch the Amtrak train making its stop there.  We aren’t usually fortunate enough to actually see trains while we are at these stations, so to catch two on the same day was a real treat!

CSX freight train passing the train station in Avon Park, Florida
Amtrak’s Silver Star arriving at the train station in Sebring, Florida
Amtrak’s Silver Star arriving at the train station in Sebring, Florida
Train station in Trenton, Florida
Train station in Trenton, Florida
Train station in Trenton, Florida
Train station in Homerville, Georgia

Gone Fishin’

Gone Fishin’

Kathy & I are in Florida for a few days trying to escape the (relative) cold of home.  We’re currently in Captiva Island waiting out a wet and windy day.  But I’m not looking for sympathy – even at a chilly 62 degrees it’s a lot warmer here than at home, and even warmer than those of you farther north!

Scanning Old Photos – Thoughts from the Process

My First Car – Probably traded it in on a tricycle

As I went through all of these old photos, I had a number of random thoughts which I’ll attempt to remember and summarize.  I’ll probably miss some.

Volume:  In a lot of the older albums, there would be 3-4 photos from each birthday, a dozen or so photos from the family vacation, a handful of photos from Christmas and that was it. Today we take 30 photos of our salad.

Volume 2:  It was interesting that sometimes an entire year’s worth of photos would appear to have come from a single roll of film.  And not 36 photos, usually 12-20.

Volume 3: The amount of space devoted to storing old photos is amazing.  I was able to clear off three shelves of albums and boxes, and the digital photos will all fit on a USB drive.  And we really didn’t have all that many photos, comparatively.

Argus C3. I still have it. I’m pretty sure this was taken at Morton Overlook in the Smokies.

Emotions: My parents have been gone for 30 years, Kathy’s about 6, so grief isn’t something we usually deal with these days.  And it didn’t bother us too much to look at photos of them.  In fact, it mostly brought fond memories and good feelings.  The hard part for me was tossing out the school photos and professional portraits of the kids.  I guess it is similar to the emotions that made us spring for the entire package of photos from Sears – we couldn’t live with the idea that some of those prints would be thrown away, so we bought them all!  Many of those photos were still in the original envelope.  Scanned now, but never looked at in the interim.  Sears made a mint off of us, but they are now out of business anyway.

My brother Bob & me, 1964

Family: When I look through these photos and realize how many of those people are gone, and how many of them are still around, it reminds me to not forget about the actual people.  Saving the photos is one thing, but remember that there are still relationships.  We need to care for the relationships as much (or more) as we do the photographs.

Evolution: One of the thoughts I had during the process was the fact that our generation is sort of acting as an “interface” between the analog and the digital.  People younger than us have never used film, and people older than us don’t generally use digital technology as much as we do.

Evolution 2: The idea of us being stewards of the old was something that occurred to me.  I realize that digital files will eventually be replaced by something as foreign to us now as the idea of computers was to people in the 70s and even 80s.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the really old photos still have a value as “artifacts” whether or not we know the people.

I know exactly where this was taken, and it is still there.

Remember: Even though we take a lot more pictures these days, it’s important to be sure we are diligent about recording the people, places and things that matter to us, not just the foods we eat or ourselves in front of some random landmark.  And be sure to save those photos somewhere within our control, and not entrusted to a faceless corporate entity that ultimately cares more about our money and our data than our memories.

Scanning Old Photos – The How

Epson FastFoto 640

We knew that the job of scanning nearly 100 years of family photos would be a big one, and it was.  It’s a little difficult to determine the actual number of photos we’ve scanned over the past few months, but I am estimating it at 7,000 photos.  The folder where they are all stored is showing over 14,000 files in 108 folders, and I know that the majority of the photos were scanned front and back, which is where I get my 7,000 estimate.  Close enough for jazz/government work/horseshoes & hand grenades/choose your metaphor.

Me sometime around 1981. Konica Autoreflex TC – I still have it.

Thankfully we didn’t have to scan 7,000 photos on a flatbed scanner. One of the benefits of not starting this project earlier was that in early 2017 (I think) Epson introduced their FastFoto scanner, which I suspect has answered the need of a lot of folks in a similar position to ours.  The FastFoto scanner is a high-speed photo scanner with a document feeder, designed specifically for scanning stacks of small prints but also capable of scanning prints and documents up to 8.5 inches wide.  Rather expensive at $500 (the current model is $600) it proved to be a real time saver.  It will literally scan the front and back of 30 4×6 prints in about 30 seconds, applying auto-rotation and auto-correction (if desired) and saving the photos to your computer.  We used Dropbox, figuring that we’ll be able to share them that way.  I also set up a backup to my photo hard drive where our own copies will reside permanently, out of the so-called Cloud.

Me & Kathy, probably 1982

We decided early on that our goal was simply to turn the photos into digital files to be shared electronically.  The default output of the scanner is a 300 dpi JPEG, which is good enough for our purposes.  I did not intend to get into retouching or repairing damaged photos – the goal was to scan them just the way they are as best as we were able.  The scanner does a great job of reproducing the actual photograph, but for photos that were obviously faded or discolored we were able to selectively turn on the auto correction and it did a good job of restoring colors.  There is virtually no chance that anyone is going to want to turn these photos back into prints, but at 300 dpi there is plenty of resolution to print them at the original size.  We could have scanned at a higher resolution and saved them as TIFF files, but no one but me would care about that, and I don’t.  Our mantra was that we were not trying to do Library of Congress-level archiving, and that good enough was good enough.

Kathy & Scott, 1985

In order to get familiar with the scanning process, Kathy started with albums of our own, that were newer and easier to work with.  And we had boxes and boxes of loose prints from the point in our kids’ lives where things got too busy to bother with albums.  That part of the process was pretty easy for one person to handle.  As she got into the older albums from her parents, it became clear that having one person remove the photos from the album while another handled the scanning would be much more efficient.  We set up the scanner attached to my laptop, situated where I could work on my desktop computer while she made a pile of prints.  In about 3 weeks we had knocked out about 20 albums.

Family photo, 1986

There were a number of photos and documents that either would not come out of the album pages, were too stiff to take a chance on feeding through the scanner, or too large for the document feeder.  I even  scanned the pages of a 60-inch growth chart and used Photoshop to stitch the pages together!  Just using the flatbed for a few dozen photos drove home how worth-it the purchase of the photo scanner was.

Happy Hikers, 1987

I still have binders and boxes of 35mm and 220 slide film that I’ll need to address at some point, but clearing off those shelves of years and years of albums has been a big load off, both literally and mentally.  The slides take up a lot less space and they aren’t going anywhere.  So we’ll get to those at another time, maybe next winter.  In the meantime, it’s just about time to go out and make some new digital photos.  Stay tuned!