Tag Archives: photography

Driving in Scotland

Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry, Scotland

Kathy & I seem to enjoy planning vacations almost as much as we enjoy going on them.  There is something about doing the research and learning about a new place that gets us excited for the journey itself.  I know we drive our travel agent crazy (sorry, Robin!) because while she is an expert on all the places we go and has lots of good recommendations, we almost always end up telling her what we want to do instead of relying on her expert advice.  What happens is that by the time we have done our research we have ended with our own preferences, so even though her recommendations might be as good as, or probably better than, our own choices, our confirmation bias gets in the way of her good advice.  That sort of happened to us with Scotland.

Our visit to The Falkirk Wheel in Falkirk, Scotland
Our visit to The Kelpies at The Helix Park in Falkirk

When we decided to visit Scotland, we were torn between taking a group tour or doing the planning and driving ourselves.  There were a number of group tours, but our impression was that the big groups were way too big on huge busses, the small groups were really expensive, and that none of them went where we wanted to go.  We always prefer to set our own agenda when possible, so none of those sounded like viable options.  Some people might suggest that it’s a control thing and I suppose that’s true to a degree, but I think that we just like to do things our way.  I guess that’s the same thing, isn’t it?  We did learn later on that there were probably some ways to do smaller group tours that might have been more to our liking, but we had already made up our minds and didn’t want to be confused with facts!  So we relied on our travel agent to make the air, Edinburgh hotel and rental car arrangements, and we did the rest.  I think it turned out to be a good solution for us, even though there were many other solutions that might have been just as suitable.

Urquart Castle from our cruise on Loch Ness about the Jacobite Queen
View along the A87 between Kyle of Localsh and Sligachan, Scotland
Talisker Distillery in Carbost, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A lot of the places we visited are places that tours often visit, such as distilleries and castles.  A few of the places are not going to be on a tour bus agenda, however.  Quite a number of places were along or at the end of a long single track road, certainly not suitable for large busses.  We spent a lot of time on those narrow roads and got pretty good at knowing when to stop and wait or to tell when the other guy was waiting.  That system worked pretty well over there, but the drivers in Scotland have a lot more patience and courtesy than we see over here!  Also, we drove past some beautiful countryside where there simply wasn’t a safe place to stop, regardless of vehicle.  So in those cases we just have to picture the scenes in our memories, as we weren’t able to make photographs.

The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
Greyfriar’s Kirk and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard church and graveyard in Edinburgh

Driving in Scotland wasn’t too hard for me.  I’m ambidextrous, and when I thought about it ahead of time, I was pretty sure that driving on the left side of the road in a right-hand drive car would be like “driving in the mirror.” For the most part that was correct.  The roundabouts were sometimes tricky, especially at first, and they have a lot of roundabouts in Scotland.  The ones with multiple lanes could be especially vexing, and some of the towns could be a little tricky to navigate.  But Kathy is a good and experienced navigator, and with the help of Google Maps we drove over 1000 miles and only took a few wrong turns.  I will admit that having all of the signs in a language I can read helped a lot, so for any future trips to non-English speaking countries I’m inclined to let someone else drive!

Our cruise on Loch Katrine aboard the steamship Sir Walter Scott
Our cruise on Loch Lomond aboard the Lomond Princess

Around Edinburgh

Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh

Some of the sights from the streets of Edinburgh.

Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Spectators enjoying Guitarist “Adam Kadabara” performing during the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Spectators enjoying Guitarist “Adam Kadabara” performing during the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Apple Store in Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Waverly Train Station in downtown Edinburgh

Computer Update

Sunset at the Yacht Basin – Southport, NC

This past weekend I took the final steps on my transition from OSX to Windows that I wrote about in my last post.  I had kept my two external hard drives in OSX format until I was certain that everything was working properly in Windows.  After a couple of weeks of confirmation I made the commitment, purchased the full version of GoodSync, and copied all my files to the newly-formatted-for-Windows external hard drives.

Torrence Creek Greenway, Huntersville, NC

The computer transition came off without a hitch.  The machine is working well, actually better than it was before.  I hadn’t realized it, but my video card had not been working with Lightroom.  Now it is, and everything else seems to be happy and the machine is just plugging along.  Other than the obvious changes in menu choices and settings, it’s not been too hard of a change.

Norfolk Southern Maintenance Shop Building – New Bern, NC

The only problem I’ve had is not related to the computer.  I mentioned in my last post that my printer had not been working with my “Hackintosh” and that I was counting on the move to Windows to resolve that.  In fact, the switch did resolve the issue.  My computer loaded the drivers, found the printer and runs just fine.  My problem now is that the printer – which was already starting to run low on ink (at $900 a set!) – is now demanding a new print head, a $430 investment.  The printer has two such print heads and I replaced the other one about 2 years ago.  So I’ve decided that investing another $1,300+ in a printer that is 10+ years old and way too large for my current needs is not a wise use of funds.  I ordered a brand-new, smaller Canon printer from B&H for less than the cost of the print head  – before a $200 rebate – and will attempt to responsibly dispose of the old hulk.

Southport, NC

If anyone is interested in a “free” Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5100 let me know, but act fast, this offer ends soon! 😉

Helen, Georgia

A Return To Windows

Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas USVI

Long-time readers will recall that a little over 3 years I embarked on a project to build my own computer.  With my son’s expert assistance (as in he did all the hard work) I built a PC from parts and installed Apple’s OSX on it – a “Hackintosh.”  I had been a Mac user for a long time, originally purchasing a Powerbook, then an iMac and more recently a MacBook Pro.  I needed a new computer then and liked the idea of building my own, and was intrigued by the idea of running OSX on it.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

For those who like messing around with computers, building a computer can be a fun and interesting challenge.  For people like me who mostly just want to have a reliable and reasonably competent tool, the time and effort required to keep up with software updates and the workarounds required to run a non-native program on a computer got to be more than I was interested in doing.  More recently I started running into problems with the App Store telling me that the software was up to date, but the part that Adobe CC looks at to determine if I am able to run the latest version of their software thought it was an older version.  The steps required to fix that problem didn’t seem to work, and I finally decided to make a change.  Also, I was never able to get my Canon printer to run on the Hackintosh.

The Hotel 1829 in St Thomas, USVI

My choices essentially came down to two.  I could shell out the money for a new Mac, but new Macs are quite pricey these days, and the ones that I thought I needed to do the job are several years out of date.  Probably OK for my needs, but I was having a hard time with the idea of spending a bunch of money on a new computer, just to end up with my current box sitting idle and useless.  My second option was to install Windows on my current computer and run the software for which all the parts were intended.  It’s still a very capable computer, with a fast processor, 500GB SSD and two 2TB hard drives, lots of memory and a good video card.  So that was what I decided to do.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

With my son’s help (gracias, Kevin!) I mapped out the steps required to replace everything I used on the Mac with its equivalent on Windows.  And it actually wasn’t much because I don’t use a lot of stuff – the two biggest challenges were (1) moving my photo files – 4 hard drives in all including backups – from Mac-formatted hard drives to Windows-formatted hard drives, and (2) finding a suitable replacement for my backup software.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

The Mac vs. Windows arguments have been going on for years, much like the Canon-Nikon-Fuji-Olympus-Sony-Etc. arguments for cameras.  But when it comes right down to it there just isn’t a lot of difference between them these days.  I use a Windows computer at work, so other than having to remember to close or minimize from the right instead of the left, they’re essentially the same.  Lightroom and Photoshop look and act the same, Chrome looks the same, and Office for Windows is pretty much the same as Office for Mac.  A few other odds and ends and I’m pretty well covered.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

I’m not going to go into a lot of details on how I solved the two problems because I don’t have the expertise to answer questions.  For the transfer of photos I purchased software from Paragon Software called HFS+ for Windows.  That allowed me to see the Mac-formatted (HFS+) hard drives so I could copy the data over to newly-formatted Windows (NTFS) hard drives.  I originally intended to use Paragon’s Backup & Recovery software, but just couldn’t get comfortable with how it worked.  I ended up buying GoodSync, which works more like the SuperDuper that I used on the Mac.  There is no Windows version of SuperDuper, but GoodSync comes pretty close.  I may experiment with other software, but so far it seems to do the job.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

At this point I’m most of the way finished with the conversion.  My two external backup drives are still in Mac format, as I want to be sure that all the Windows stuff is operating correctly before I wipe out those drives and copy the backups to them.  There is probably a slight risk there, but I think it is wise to be sure before committing.  And I haven’t tried to hook up the printer yet.  Hopefully this weekend will give me time for that project.  Since it involves starting up the printer and wasting a certain amount of ink, I want to be sure I have adequate time to complete the process!

Aboard Norwegian Epic departing St Thomas

So that’s pretty much it!  Over the course of the last 18 months or so I’ve gone from a Canon user to a Fuji user, and from a Mac user to a Windows user.  But I’ll bet you won’t notice any difference in my photos from either move.  And hopefully I’ll be able to forget about the computer for a while and just go take photos!

About Photos And Words

Sunset over Pantego Creek on the Belhaven North Carolina Waterfront

I’ve gotten a few questions lately asking why all of a sudden I’ve been posting a lot to my blog, and posting photos with no text. Have I been off work, am I traveling, have I suddenly gotten inspired to post more? It’s actually nothing that exciting! Except for the last one, maybe.

Sunset over Pantego Creek on the Belhaven North Carolina Waterfront

First, some background. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been writing this blog for almost 11 years. My posts have mostly been about things that I’ve had on my mind, usually photography but on occasion I may wander off to other topics. I find that writing helps me clarify my thoughts on a given subject because it forces me to boil things down into their basic components. And once I put that much time and effort into writing something, it seemed like a shame to not share it. Not because I thought it was some extraordinary prose, but because I hoped that someone else might benefit from my efforts. And on occasion it has. And I got in the habit of accompanying my text with photos. Sometimes they illustrate my text, and sometimes they are just photos that I happened to be working on at the time.

Lately I just haven’t been thinking about photography all that much, at least not about the technical and artistic parts of photography. Now that I’ve switched camera systems and have that behind me, I’ve mostly just been having fun traveling and taking pictures. I have a few things on my mind from time to time, but nothing that is so compelling or complex that I have a need to write about it.

Sunset over Pantego Creek on the Belhaven North Carolina Waterfront

Sometimes I just don’t have anything to say! I’ve made a few thinly veiled political comments and other off-topic posts, but they are largely ignored. And that’s fine by me, by the way. I don’t really want to talk politics or anything else. But I do have lots of photos, although I had concluded that I had to write something to go with them, as though there was some rule against posting just photos. At some point it occurred to me that the only rule preventing me from posting only photos was my own, and that is a rule that I can change any time I want!

Sunset over Pantego Creek on the Belhaven North Carolina Waterfront

About the same time as I came upon that realization, I started to get frustrated with the application I was using to send my blog posts to Facebook. Like everyone these days (or so it seems) the free version of the app gave me basic functionality, and unless I was willing to spend money it delayed my posts as much as 3 days, depending on how often I posted. To heck with that I said, there has to be a better way! And thanks to WordPress plug-ins, there is. I downloaded one, figured out how to use it (the reason for all those “Testing” posts for those who use an RSS feed (sorry!) and it works. I also took the time to figure out how to schedule posts for a future date. That is super easy, but at one time the feature didn’t seem to work properly so I abandoned it. But I just tried it again and it works great. So for a few days I processed photos, posted them one at a time and schedule them to post at a future date, one per day.

So there you go. Just a little change in habit, which I think is a good thing. Now I just need to get around to updating my website. That’s a project that is way overdue. I keep waiting for a rainy weekend to get it done, but that doesn’t seem to happen very often around here. And in the meantime we’ve got places to go!

Flight of Tundra Swans over Belhaven North Carolina

Oh, and don’t  get used to this posting every day stuff.  That’s too much like work! 😉

Here We Go Again

Morning fog at the Cradle of Forestry overlook MP 411 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It’s that time again, the time when we turn the calendar to a new year.  While in many ways it is an artificial time period – my friend Paul refers to January 1 and December 31 as “markers” – it’s as good a way as any to mark the passage of time, and if we wish, to reflect back and look ahead.

Notary – Lake Lure, North Carolina

A lot of people seem to be expending an awful lot of energy worrying about 2017, but that’s mostly wasted on things that can’t be changed or controlled.  Kathy & I take a more positive view and look at every new year as a new opportunity for adventure.  We get a new allotment of vacation days (yay!) and replenish our vacation budget (yay!) and start looking for interesting ways to spend them both.

Closed for Winter – Lake Lure, North Carolina
Closed for Winter – Lake Lure, North Carolina

We started off the new year with a trip to the NC mountains.  The threat of possible snow and ice eliminated our plans for a quiet midnight at one of our favorite spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we still made the best of a damp and dreary weekend.

Morning fog at the Cradle of Forestry overlook MP 411 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I hope everyone’s 2017 is off to a good start and look forward to sharing a new adventure this coming year!

Morning fog at the Cradle of Forestry overlook MP 411 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A Christmas Parade

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

About a month ago I received an email from Marriott telling me that my points were going to expire because I hadn’t stayed at a Marriott branded hotel in almost two years.  What – how could that be?  As it turns out it was right.  Our last stay at a Marriott was early December 2014, which is when we took our last cruise.  For some reason the only place we seem to favor Marriott hotels is in Florida.  Most other places we go either don’t have them, or we have choices that we like better.

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

I didn’t have too many points to lose, but I never like giving up points.  And it gave us a perfect excuse to travel – what a deal!  We looked for something fairly close to home that wouldn’t cost too much, and ended up deciding to head to Winston Salem, NC.  We had been there before, but it was quite a long time ago, so it was as good as a new destination for us.  So we went.

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

We had no idea ahead of time, but as we walked around town on Saturday afternoon we noticed that the police were blocking off Fourth Street, which ran near our hotel.  We asked a few questions and found out that they were getting ready for their Christmas parade that evening.  Cool!  So we did the sensible thing and found a place to watch right outside a craft cocktail bar, so we would be able to head inside as soon as the parade was over.  While not “cold” by a lot of people’s standards this time of year, the temperature was in the upper 30’s, and the bourbon was calling!

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

Since the parade didn’t start until 5:00 it dark pretty fast.  I knew I was going to have a problem with shutter speeds, so I decided to go with the flow and capture the motion by making intentionally blurry photos.  It took a lot of attempts to get a few that captured the mood, but I think I got enough to make a reasonable representation.

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina