We photographers all spend a certain amount of time looking over the lenses we don’t own, sort of in an “ask your doctor if this lens is right for you” way. 😉 Yesterday’s surfing took me down the rabbit hole of the recently introduced Tamron 18-300mm zoom lens. I’ve been thinking of renting a copy of this lens to evaluate its suitability as a do-everything lens for travel and wanted to check out some reviews. I was amused by a couple of the comments that seemed especially contradictory:
“Not as sharp as my Fuji lenses, but perfect for travel photos.” So…travel photos don’t need to be sharp?
“If you’re an amateur/occasional photographer maybe it won’t make much difference but if you shoot on a frequent basis, I highly recommend looking at other options.” I don’t take a lot of photos so I won’t know if the lens is good or not?
“A great Kit lens, but image quality and focus are lacking. The edges and corners are soft at most focal lengths, and it focuses poorly at the longer focal lengths, 200mm to 300mm. I was never able to get an image in focus of birds on a rock. The focus seems to be behind the subject. I even shot at 1/1000 of a second to make sure there was no camera movement. It’s a great kit and travel lens if image quality and critical focus at the higher mm lengths aren’t important to you.” Hmmmm. No.
This is the first of what I plan to be a series of posts under the category “Tourist In My Own Town!
Kathy & I paid a visit to the area of Charlotte near the intersection of North Davidson Street and East 36th Street, known to locals as “NoDa” as in North Davidson. Clever, huh? We went primarily to visit a wine bar and retail wine shop recently opened by a friend of ours, but decided to make an afternoon of it. It was a nice day, a little warm for spring with highs in the mid-80s, but the humidity was low and there was a nice breeze.
NoDa is packed with bars and restaurants, with a few retail stores and tattoo parlors mixed in for good measure. Kathy & I avoided the tattoo parlors! During the day it is pretty quiet, but I understand that things get cranking in the evening. We did our thing early and got out before the masses arrived!
We walked around a bit and I took some pictures. Then with time to kill we hopped on the light rail, took it out to UNC Charlotte, wandered around there then got back in time for our destination to open at 4:00. We filled up on wine and snacks, bought a few bottles for souvenirs, and headed home in time to enjoy the sunset from our porch.
Often, a non-photographer will ask me if I “Photoshop” my photos. My answer is usually something like “I don’t use Photoshop, but I do process my photos.” The follow up is usually some version of “why.”
As we photographers know, cameras today give us lots of latitude for exposure adjustments, which is what I use the most, along with straightening horizons (a lot!), removing dust spots (almost as much!), cropping, contrast & saturation adjustment, and more. And while it is possible to get way beyond reality, I tend to try – as we all do – to improve upon reality just a bit.
Ansel Adams is credited with the words “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” A bit modest, perhaps, but that pretty much summarizes – with a bit of humor – what we do and why.
Here are 4 photos I made at the summit of Haleakala that show what I mean. The ideal time to get even lighting in the crater is when the sun is directly overhead. But that unfortunately is one of the hardest conditions to photograph anything else! So I did my best to counteract the highlights and shadows in order to bring everything back to what my eye was able to perceive.
One of the fascinating things about digital photography is that it is possible to take way too many photographs, edit them down to a reasonable number and still have multiples of the number of photographs we would have had in the film days. That holds true for our traveling, and especially true for our trip to Maui.
According to my Lightroom catalog I took 4,654 photos with my Fuji camera, 160 with my Olympus point & shoot – exclusively out of the airplane window, plus about 78 with my phone. I typically use the phone only for food, wine, airplane window shots, etc. But they back up into Lightroom and get stored there. I have mostly gotten away from other storage methods like Gooble.
Out of those nearly 4,900 photos I processed 749 “picks.” Why such a difference? Because out of those 4,900 photos, many of them were “burst shots” of action, like crashing waves, elusive whales, or dancers at a luau. I generally chose the “best” one out of each burst, and while some of the others might be photo-worthy, there isn’t a lot of point in saving multiple photos with slightly different splashes, poses or expressions.
Out of those 749 processed photos, I have posted a gallery of about half of them – on my Adobe Portfolio page. And those 330 or so photos are still the equivalent of 10 rolls of 36-exposure film, probably about the amount I would have carried back in the Dark Ages!
So if you are really desperate for entertainment, feel free to check out my gallery. The page also contains links to photos from our other travels from the last several years!
One of the highlights of our visit to St. Petersburg was The Chihuly Collection, part of the Morean Arts Center. I’ve been familiar with Chihuly’s works for years, of course, having seen pieces in several locations throughout the country. There was an exhibit in Asheville some time ago, but we didn’t make it to that one. Our most familiar example is the ceiling in the visitor center at Makers Mark Distillery in Kentucky.
I suppose all of Chihuly’s works are portable in some way, although the large chandeliers and huge static pieces would require a bit of planning, effort and logistics. It was nice to see such a nice selection all in one place.
One tip I learned at the Dali’ museum (which we visited before this but I’m going out of order) was to be sure and watch the video presentations. Although the video room at The Chihuly Collection comes near the end of the exhibit, it is still worth taking the time to learn more about the person and the process, both the artistic process as well as the actual making of the art. Quite the place!
As I mentioned in a previous post, once we found out that our cruise had been cancelled, we began looking for something interesting to do for a few days. We originally looked into a beach resort, but the temperature forecast – while warmer than North Carolina and a lot warmer than places farther north – did not seem to us to be warm enough for beach time. Maybe it was just a letdown from not being able to go to Cozumel? 😉
We settled on St. Petersburg for a number of reasons. We had never been there, it is on the water (Tampa Bay), has a number of interesting museums and looked to have some interesting restaurants. We found a Hampton Inn right downtown near the waterfront for a reasonable price, and headed that way after our time in Lake Wales.
We found St. Petersburg to be a youngish town, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of Fort Collins, but with water instead of mountains, sandals instead of hiking boots. There is a vibrant arts scene there, plenty of public space, a good selection of restaurants of all kinds, and a pretty open and accepting mindset toward people of all kinds, ages and preferences. We really felt welcome there.
After visiting a town, Kathy & I often wonder aloud about how it would be to live there. The downtown area has plenty of condos and apartments, and there were at least two grocery stores within easy walking distance of our motel. With the restaurants, shops, waterfront and museums, there would be plenty to keep anyone occupied. Of course we aren’t looking to relocate, but the hypothetical is still interesting. It looks like it would be pretty expensive, and one of the things we love about where we are is that it is not expensive, which allows us to do the travel we do. So we visit!
I’ll write separately about the museums, but wanted to share a few of the photos I made while wandering around the town on our various outings. We had lovely weather which helped a lot. There is nothing like a blue sky and sunshine to provide a feeling of warmth, especially when it is 25 degrees with snow on the ground as I write this!
We had driven past the entrance to Bok Tower Gardens several times, but it took us until the 4th visit to our friends Bill and Cathy to actually get there. It is quite a beautiful place!
The tower and gardens are the creation of Edward Bok, who was editor of the magazine The Ladies Home Journal. Ed gets most of the credit, although it appears that the money actually came from his wife, Mary Louise Curtis Bok. Mary Louise was the only child of newspaper and magazine magnate Cyrus H.K. Curtis, founder of, among other publications, The Ladies Home Journal (coincidence? 😉 ). With her daddy’s money Mary Louise founded the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She also did a lot of other good and charitable work, especially toward supporting talented young musicians.
The tower and gardens are on the National Register of Historic Places and the grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., son of Frederick Law Olmstead, Sr., known for his work with the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, Central Park in New York City and other important landmarks.
In 1925, Bok decided build a stone water-and-bell tower. He hired architect Milton B. Medary to design “the most beautiful tower in the world”. The 60-bell carillon occupies only the top of the Singing Tower, some of the rest contained large water tanks to irrigate the gardens, with Bok’s baronial study at the base. The 15-foot-wide moat surrounding the tower’s base now serves as a koi pond.
The Gothic Revival tower was built at the highest elevation of the site, south of a reflecting pool that reflects its full image. The tower is 51 feet square at its base, changing at the height of 150 feet to an octagon, with each of the eight sides 37 feet wide. It is built of pink Etowah marble and gray Creole marble, mined in Tate, Georgia, and coquina stone from St. Augustine, Florida.
The tower’s 60-bell carillon was cast by Taylor & Company, of Loughborough, England. The bell chamber is on the eighth floor of the tower, and just below it is a playing room that houses the clavier, or keyboard, that controls the bells. The bells are stationary, only the clappers move to sound them. The sixth floor is a studio for the carillon player. Recitals are given daily. We got to hear one of the recitals, with the carillonneur easily viewed via video feed to a sitting area within view of the tower.
We were very thankful to have visited the tower and gardens on a day that was relatively cool, with low humidity. I can only imagine how warm and sticky it would get on a sunny day, especially in summer.
For anyone wishing to figure out the sundial, we visited on January 9. By following the instructions below the dial, it is pretty easy to calculate the (approximate) time. Yes, the answer can be found in my metadata (convert from GMT). 🙂
I haven’t felt especially wordy lately so I haven’t been posting much. But I did finish processing the photos from our recent visit to Florida. I have posted a gallery on Adobe Portfolio of a selection of all of my photos from this trip.
When we travel I seldom go anywhere without my camera. Even in our hotel at breakfast I sometimes manage to find some interesting things to aim my camera at. One morning on our recent cruise I walked around the ship, looking for interesting little scenes. The car I posted at Christmas was an obvious subject, but sometimes it is the not-so-obvious things that make the most interesting photographs. I’m often aware of people looking at me and wondering what I am taking a picture of. Sometimes they ask.
I know not everyone is able to share this sentiment, but from my perspective, 2021 was actually quite a fantastic year. I admit that we were quite fortunate to have not faced a lot of the trials that impacted others. Luck, circumstance, perspective and attitude make a huge difference, of course, as do flexibility and acceptance. Kathy & I are happy, positive people with a good outlook on life, a sense of adventure, and it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy.
What matters to us most are three things: (1) are we healthy?, (2) are our family and friends healthy and safe? and (3) can we pay the bills? The first two have gotten a little complicated lately, but we deal. The “New Normal?” Nah, that’s just Life. And in the words of (Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon made famous by) Mr. Sinatra, “as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream. But I don’t let it, let it get me down ’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.”
This is not intended to be a political or philosophical post, but I think what gets a lot of people down is that they pay too much attention to shit that doesn’t affect them. Kathy & I remain peripherally aware of current events, just enough to know what big things are happening in the world. We spend very little time on (anti)social media, stay mindfully aware of and avoid the hysteria boobytraps that lurk there. Yes, we’re aware of all the boogeymen (and boogeywomen?) out there, but for the most part the idiot politicians, celebrities and bazillionaires (real and imagined) have very little direct impact on our life or our happiness. And hand wringing about things that are out of our control is pretty much pointless. Play on!
We’ve traveled, mindfully and – where necessary – carefully. We drove over 22,000 miles, visited 12 new states, met some new friends and caught up with some long-time friends. We even took our first cruise in nearly 2 years. And I took over 16,000 photos – not quite as much as 2000 but almost! Some of the precautions and protocols inspire a forehead slap or an eye roll. But if it needs to be done to do what we want to do? Roll with it and move on. Complaining about it just makes you look like another idiot – not the image we want to present to the world.
So anyway, I took some photos. I don’t generally feel the need for a “My Year In Review” retrospective, but it is sometimes interesting to go back and look at what I saw and aimed my camera at. I don’t try to a “Best Of” or even a “Favorites” post, because as we discussed on Joe’s Blog a few weeks ago, the selections tend to change every time we look. I’ve long contended that for most people the quality of the memory is more important than the technical quality of the photograph. Which is why you see so many cell-phone-out-of-car-window photos, selfie sticks and other various head scratchers.
I chose a group of photos that show my year. I didn’t even limit them to 21 (as in the year 2021). Some of them are pretty good technically, some of them might even be OK artistically. But mostly they say, I was here and this is what I did/saw/felt/experienced. And ultimately it doesn’t get a lot better than that.
Kathy & I send our sincerest wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, amazing and fulfilling 2022!
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I had actually visited New York many times prior to this most recent trip. I went to Peek’n Peek to ski, visited Buffalo, Corning, Watkins Glen, Troy and even Lake Placid. But those visits were all before I started getting serious about photography, and many of them, including Lake Placid, were Before Kathy, and I wanted to take her there. While I had some photos that would have worked – they’re our rules, after all! – we decided that another swing through the state would be the right way to do it. Plus we wanted to visit the Finger Lakes.
Departing Burlington, we swung around the south shore of Lake Champlain, crossing into New York near the town of Moriah. Moriah’s claim to fame is as the home of Johnny Podres, 1955 World Series MVP for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Your trivia for the day. 😉 The rain and fog were still with us, but as we drove north and west the skies finally began to clear.
Our first destination was Lake Placid, and we arrived there in time for a late breakfast and a few photos of the fall color on the lake. We didn’t stay long, since we had a long day ahead and didn’t want to linger at the beginning. Also, the town was in the process of some major road work in town. Main Street was torn up and loaded with piles of dirt, rocks and road equipment, rendering the normally picturesque town pretty rough looking. Another technicality is that the lake in town is actually Mirror Lake, and that Lake Placid is out of town to the north. We did stop to see the Olympic ski jumping site on our way into town, but didn’t try to take a tour.
Leaving Lake Placid and heading west through Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, we crossed a bridge over the Raquette River near Piercefield and were greeted with a lovely park overlooking the river, complete with still water reflecting the fall color of the trees along the riverbank. The skies were clearing but still mostly cloudy, providing us with ideal conditions for photos. It made for one of those unplanned stops we were glad to have taken the time for.
Our ultimate destination was a lodge on the west shore of Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes and central to the Finger Lakes wine region. I had a chance to do a little early photography before heading out to explore the area attractions. We visited three wineries, bought souvenirs at two of them, visited a distillery and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport. We took a boat cruise on Saranac Lake out of Watkins Glen. That was the seventh boat cruise of our trip – do you get the feeling we like boat cruises? 🙂
One of our days there was dedicated to a drive to Rochester, where we visited the George Eastman Museum and, most importantly, met up with two of our long-time photo buddies Paul Maxim and Ken Bello. We had lunch with them and Ken’s wife before driving along the shore of Lake Ontario through Webster (Where Life Is Worth Living) and ultimately returning to our lodge.
New York made for our 49th state visited. Number 50 is Hawaii, and we have plans to visit there in February. After that? We’ll have to see, but there is a lot more of this country we want to see, we have friends to visit all over, and we might want to see a little bit more of the world. 🙂