Here in the southeast US, winter takes two forms. The first is “the leaves are gone and it’s cold,” and the second is “OH !@#$%.” This coming weekend appears to be “OH !@#$%” and it isn’t even officially winter yet! The forecast is calling for 8-12″ of snow and low temperatures in the 20s. We’ll see, but it looks like the confidence is pretty high. Yikes.
One of the things that Kathy & I have been talking about for this winter is what temperature to set the thermostat at. Now that we’re home every day we don’t want to leave it set at 65 degrees like we did when we worked. But we don’t want to keep it set too high, as we’d like to keep from blowing the gas bill out of the proverbial water. So ‘what to do’ has been the question.
Perhaps not coincidentally, I have found myself somewhat more sensitive to the cold this year (yes, I know that it hasn’t gotten cold yet!). While my philosophy has always been to make sure I am wearing adequate clothing before turning up the heat, I’ve been finding it necessary to resist turning it too high this year.
At one point I told Kathy – jokingly – that maybe we should think about moving to Arizona. But at some point yesterday we decided that even if the gas bill doubled – which it won’t – it would still be cheaper than moving to Arizona! Although I will admit to looking at cruises leaving this weekend to see if we could escape to the Caribbean! But we opted to tough it out here at home, and turn up the thermostat if we need to.
I don’t get bird photos like my buddy Don Brown, but once in a while I see birds. This flock passed over us one evening at the beach – I’m pretty sure they are some kind of geese, but looked too dark to be Tundra Swans or Snow Geese. Probably Canada Geese. They were going the right way, though – South! They were so high up that I couldn’t hear them squawking over the sound of the surf, but I’m sure they must have been noisy.
There were so many of them in so long a line that I couldn’t get them all in one shot. Who ever thought of shooting birds with a wide-angle lens?!?!
I mentioned in a previous post about how I happened upon this scene and wanted to share a few more of the resulting photos.
Kathy & I had made a day trip to Beaufort, SC and stopped by Port Royal on the way back. In Port Royal we had stopped at a little park with a boat ramp, boardwalk and an observation tower. It was really buggy there so we didn’t stay long, but while we were at the top of the tower I noticed that there were some fishing boats farther along the river.
We stopped in town and took a little walk, then when we were back in the car and getting ready to head back to Hilton Head, I decided to just go down one of the side streets to see where it lead. As it turned out it lead directly to the dock where the fishing boats were! And just in time to make some photos of a beautiful sky before heading back to our “home away from home.”
A technique that I love to use at the beach is motion blur. This can take the form of long shutter speeds on a tripod, or panning the camera along the scene or with a moving wave. It can convey a feeling of motion, simplify a busy scene or just look “pretty.” It doesn’t work just anywhere, and I’ve become pretty good about knowing when to use it.
I hadn’t tried using motion blur much this trip until I was reminded of it in a recent Instagram post by William Neill. Bill originally inspired me to try using motion blur years ago, and his work continues to inspire me.
Last night while we waited to see if the moonrise would be visible, I tried using a slow shutter speed on the water, the sky and even some sea oats blowing in the wind. A few of them came out OK, so I thought I would share.
Saturday marked the end of our second week here. It’s been interesting – we’ve been able to live in our rented “beach home” just about like we live in our “real” home. We’ve gone out to eat a few times but mostly eat in, have managed to keep our car trips to a minimum and spend most of our time doing the same kind of things we’d do at home. We take a bit of pride in the number of days our car doesn’t move from the garage, both here and at home.
Yesterday the local cable company upgraded the cable boxes and modems in our building to a new digital service. The upside for us is that the internet is now about 10X faster than it used to be, and we also have hundreds more TV channels to not watch! The picture is great! Unfortunately the content is the same, just a lot more of it.
At some point I realized that in the next day or two will have been “away from home” for the longest times in our lives with the exception of college and the 2 months or so that I lived in corporate housing when we relocated to North Carolina from Ohio.
The interesting thing is that we’ve settled into life here with nary a glitch. We talked the other day about how quickly this place seems like home. We brought a reasonable amount of “stuff” with us – mostly clothes, camera gear and electronics – and anticipated a few trips to Target or Wal-Mart to pick up things our condo didn’t have. But so far all we’ve had to buy is food, water and wine! It’s amazing how well we can live for an extended time with just the stuff that will fit in the car.
The weather hasn’t been ideal, but we’ve had a number of really nice days. For this time of the year, a couple of nice days each week is about what we expected. It’s warmer than home and a lot warmer than a lot of other places we could be! It’s easy to accept a rainy day or two when we’ve got so many to work with.
Thanksgiving will be a little weird this week, but we don’t do a lot of major family stuff and we never travel over that weekend, so it isn’t too big of a deal. We have a couple of steaks and a nice bottle of wine and will celebrate in our own way. We might even turn on the TV and watch the parades…likely with the sound off, of course!
I’ve said previously that Kathy would make a very good photographer if she was willing to carry a camera and learn a few basic skills. I’m extremely fortunate that she is willing to tag along with me, and on occasion carry a camera and/or lens. Once in a while she points something out to me and says, “like this.” Here are a few of those “like this-es” that she has seen lately that I might (probably) have walked past. Not because they aren’t photo-worthy, but because she’s seen something I haven’t seen.
Like a lot of folks, Kathy & I have always looked forward to having the time to take extended vacations unencumbered by corporate “PTO” allowances and other restrictions. There is always some kind of limitation, of course. Now, instead of a PTO allowance the limitation is primarily funding! While we were working and had the privilege of occasionally being able to work remotely, we thought that we might be able to “live at the beach” or some location other than our house for an extended period of time. We reasoned that “working remotely” was not location-specific, since as long as we were connected to the network and available by phone it didn’t matter where we were. Unfortunately, we were never able to convince our bosses that working from a condo at the beach wasn’t being “on vacation.” Our bosses for some reason had visions of us sitting in a lounge chair by the pool drinking Mai-Tais while we were supposed to be working. So we fixed that situation – we quit!
One of the things we have always wanted to do was to spend a month or more “at the beach.” Our beach of choice has become Hilton Head Island, SC. Not that we think it is better than any other beach or that it has some special meaning for us, but it has the atmosphere we prefer – a little more upscale, nice beaches, good restaurants and great places to stay. Because we have been here so often, we know our way around, have a rental company we like to use and just have a comfort level with the place that comes from familiarity.
As we planned our post-retirement travel, we decided to book a rental for a couple of weeks at the beginning of November. We reasoned that it was late enough to hopefully avoid hurricane season and avoid a lot of the crowds while still being warm enough to enjoy being outside. We don’t typically spend a lot of time in the water anyway, so being able to swim was not a make-or-break factor. The rates here in the offseason are very good. The weekly rates in the winter are a fraction of what they are in the summer. In fact, we soon discovered that the monthly rate for the place we were renting was only a little more than the rate for two weeks – no brainer! We gladly paid the extra and are here for the month. Even if we go home early, the cost of the extra two weeks will be covered after just a couple of nights.
Over the years we have toyed with the idea of owning a second home, either at the beach or in the mountains. We actually started down the road toward owning a “retirement” place in the mountains, but fortunately our better sense prevailed and we didn’t do it. I’ve never considered real estate to be an investment anyway. For me, housing is an expense, despite what the real estate folks say. The more my housing expenses are, the less money I have to spend on travel! If I factor in all of the costs involved with owning a property I have never actually made money on real estate. The last thing I want is to own a second place that I can only visit occasionally – that just takes time and money away from doing other interesting things. In many ways, if I could rent my present home instead of owning I might consider it to be a prudent use of capital! Owning a property isn’t just a financial responsibility either – it can be a mental or physical hindrance as well. Owning more than one just multiplies the responsibility.
So anyway, we’re starting into our second week in Hilton Head, and so far we seem to be enjoying it a lot. We both agree that it’s too soon to know how we’ll feel after a month but we’re glad that it is longer than just a week. We’re kinda done with 7-day vacations! We have a comfortable place to stay with a view of the beach, and the area we are in has a network of walking paths that we can use when we’re not on the beach. We have our computers with us, I figured out how to have all my photos with me so I can work on them when I’m so inclined, and we have books on our Kindles for quiet times. It’s almost like living at home but with a different view. The furniture isn’t quite as comfortable but the location makes up for it! And when we’re done we can lock the door and head home without worrying about hurricanes or messy renters. If we decide to come back – and we will – we can come any time, and if we decide to go somewhere else – and we probably will – we can do that too!
Taking full advantage of our recently won freedom, we’re heading to Hilton Head Island tomorrow. We originally planned to go for a couple of weeks but got a deal on a place for the month. My intentions are to take and post a photo per day. We’ll see how that works out! 😉