Tag Archives: photography

Interesting Times

Sunbeams through the fog along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the intersection with US 23/74 near Waynesville, North Carolina

Interesting times these are.  According to Quora, the saying “May You Live in Interesting Times” is misattributed to Confucius.  It was first used by Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1936, and later popularized through a speech by Robert F Kennedy in 1966. The phrase “live in interesting times” dates at least to the late 19th century. The “Chinese curse” element was likely added by Sir Chamberlain as an (effective) embellishment. There is no evidence of a Chinese origin.

Rosebay rhododendron along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, North Carolina

When we’re not traveling, I’m usually content to be a homebody.  Why is it then, when I’m told not to go out, I want to go out?  When we saw Monday’s announcement that people should stop eating in restaurants, almost immediately followed by an announcement from our favorite fine dining establishment that they would be closing immediately, Kathy & I did the sensible thing and dashed out to our favorite Italian restaurant for pizza!  That’s essential travel, right? 🙂

Turk’s Cap Lilies along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway
Turk’s Cap Lilies along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, North Carolina

When I walked this morning, it was business as usual at our local Micky D’s and Eat Mo Chikn, but now we’re getting word that the governor has ordered all restaurants to close their dining rooms after 5:00 today – take out and drive through only.  So it’s a good thing we brought home extra pizza!  And a good thing we like to eat our own cooking!

Yellow jewelweed along the Blue Ridge Parkway Waynesville, North Carolina

The grocery stores should still be open, although there’s no telling what the shelves will look like.  Kathy & I are well stocked with vittles to get through, although we’ll continue to shop as long as we’re able to get to the store.

Wildflowers along the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 437 near Waynesville, North Carolina

The whole thing seems like a ridiculous overreaction from here at this point, but I know that we see a very small sliver of the world, and I know that we are – for the moment – mostly out of the epicenter of the exposure to this nasty bug.  Hopefully we can keep it that way.  A reminder like this video from people in Italy helps keep the perspective.

Wildflowers along the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 437 near Waynesville, North Carolina

So we’re good for now.  We’ve got food & wine, music, internet, LOTS of photography books to look through, and several thousand photos to process if I choose to.  So I think as long as our neighbors don’t try to sing we’ll be able to get by just fine!  I told Kathy earlier that, since the economy (and our retirement fund) has gone to sh1t, we might as well do our best to stay healthy and keep ourselves occupied while it has a chance to recover.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 437 near Waynesville, North Carolina

The links are from friend and photographer Jeff Curto’s blog.  He and his wife are “stuck” in Italy (by choice – read the blog) and he has been posting about his time there.  Because Italy is a few weeks ahead of us in terms of the virus, they are experiencing what we might have to endure if things progress in this country.

Rosebay rhododendron along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, North Carolina

We’re also tracking the progress of some friends who have been on a world cruise.  When the cruise line decided to shut down operations and send everyone home, they started looking for a place to dock.  They are currently in the Pacific Ocean somewhere, headed to Australia, but Australia might not take them.  The good thing is that they have been sailing since early January and no one on board has been exposed, so hopefully they will be able to land somewhere!

Rosebay rhododendron along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, North Carolina

The photos are ones I’ve recently rediscovered from a macro workshop in 2009.  I’d forgotten about them and am having a blast with the processing, especially using software technology that didn’t exist back then.  Looking at these photos reminds me to get my macro lens back out! (And yes, a few of them have some nasty fringing from the closeup diopter I was using at the time.  Others really do have pink edges!)

Morning fog in the valley from The Orchards Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 444 near Waynesville, North Carolina

Fuzzy Concepts 2

Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

Panning with moving objects to convey a sense of speed and motion.  I need to do more of this, although people can be weird about a guy standing on a street corner with a camera.  Maybe now that I’m older they’ll just think I’m eccentric but harmless. 😉

Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina
Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina
Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina
Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

Thoughts on Three Cruises In Four Weeks

Brilliance of the Seas docked next to Liberty of the Seas in Cozumel

We didn’t set out to book three cruises, honest!  It just sorta…happened. 🙂

Carnival Breeze in San Juan, Puerto Rico

We had previously booked two weeks on Royal Caribbean’s (RCCL) Freedom of the Seas out of San Juan in January.  The ship was scheduled to go to drydock for extended renovations the week after we were due to get off.  But due to lots of reasons irrelevant to my post, Royal Caribbean needed to move the drydock back one week and cancelled the second of the two weeks.  We didn’t want to travel all the way to Puerto Rico for just a week (our preference – lots of people do it), so we decided to cancel the first week, too.  We re-used the plane tickets to go to San Juan this past November instead.

Norwegian Dawn in Roatan, Honduras

Because of the cancellation of the first week, we ended up with a credit that needed to be used by February, so we found a 5-night cruise on Brilliance of the Seas, another RCCL ship sailing out of Tampa.  We had never sailed out of Tampa before, and figured with our credit that this would be an inexpensive way to take a short cruise and check out Tampa.

Sunrise aboard Brilliance of the Seas

Meanwhile, friends of ours had booked a Carnival cruise out of Port Canaveral for the following week and “suggested” that we might want to go along.  It doesn’t take much “suggestion” to get us interested in a cruise!  So, we booked a cruise on that ship for the next week.

Aboard Brilliance of the Seas

Our son Kevin likes to cruise also, and he has been sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).  He mentioned that he wanted to take a cruise in February and suggested (there’s that word again!) that it might be fun if we went together.  So we checked around and found a cruise on Norwegian Dawn out of Tampa.  But the catch was that there was a week’s gap between the two cruises, so we would need to find something to do for a week.  In Florida, in February?  Not hard to do.

Schooner Bar aboard Brilliance of the Seas

We have been working on visiting different National Parks, and had never been to The Everglades.  So we decided to find a place to stay in South Florida for a week, where we visited Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and drove through some of the Florida Keys.  More on those later.  Then we drove back to Tampa to meet our son and take the third cruise.  When it was all done we had logged about 3,000 car miles, who knows how many cruise miles, and about 4,000 photos!

Grand Atrium aboard Norwegian Dawn

A few thoughts:

– People ask us about the different cruise lines, and although it sounds like a cop-out, they are all good.  Different lines tend to cater to slightly different demographics, but things like ship size, home port and cruise length tend to make a bigger difference than the name of the cruise line.

– We tend to prefer smaller ships and this was borne out on these cruises.  The RCCL and NCL ships were each about the same size – approximately 2,000 passengers, while the Carnival ship was about 4,000 passengers.

– We’ve always assumed that shorter cruises would attract more of a party crowd, but the 5-night RCCL cruise was one of the most laid-back we’ve done, and seemed to have a very high number of repeat cruisers.  The Diamond Club, a lounge for passengers with a certain level of cruises with the line, had so many people that it overflowed into an adjacent lounge.  The Carnival and Norwegian cruises each had a high number of first-timers – a very interesting contrast.

– Cruise line food is very good regardless of the line.  Dining choices are either fixed, with the same table and waiter at the same time each night, or flexible, where you eat where ever you want each night, but with a different waiter and different table each time.  We have always preferred fixed seating, as we like to establish a relationship with our waiter.  But one of the disadvantages of fixed seating is that a lot of the food has to be prepared at once and can sometimes be overdone.  Flexible seating tends to be more cook-to-order, so the food is often fresher, hotter and usually properly done.  This is especially important with fish!

– We really liked cruising out of Tampa and did it twice.  The city is nice – much like Charlotte in terms of age and size, but on the water.  The port is very easy to get in and out of, and parking is a snap.

Sunrise aboard Brilliance of the Seas enroute to Tampa, Florida

I’m sure that’s more than anyone wants to read about my vacation, so I’ll leave it at that for now!

An Unexpected Place

Nike Missile Base Historic Area in Everglades National Park, Florida

When Kathy & I were looking over information about the Everglades, we had noticed several references to a Nike Missile base located within the park.  There wasn’t a lot information online, but once we got there we saw signs  directing us toward the location and indicating that there were “open house” hours daily.  So we decided to check it out.

Nike Missile Base Historic Area in Everglades National Park, Florida
Nike Missile Base Historic Area in Everglades National Park, Florida
Nike Missile Base Historic Area in Everglades National Park, Florida

As it turns out, there had been three Nike sites located within the Everglades as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the close-the-barn-door approach that was taken after the fact.  There are several abandoned bunkers that are inaccessible due to asbestos contamination, an unused hanger and one that houses an actual but de-fused Nike missile.

Nike Missile Base Historic Area in Everglades National Park, Florida
Nike Missile Base Historic Area in Everglades National Park, Florida

It was an interesting side trip on an otherwise nature-oriented visit, but it was something unexpected in an otherwise natural habitat.

“Don’t worry, those signs aren’t enforced on Mondays.” We were there on a Monday. Whew!

Slowly But Surely

Early morning enroute to San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard Carnival Breeze

Kathy & I returned to home base this past Monday, and I’m currently halfway through the nearly 4,000 photos from our month-long adventure.  I’ll be posting galleries to my Adobe Portfolio site (keep checking for updates!) and expect to have some more stories to tell here on the blog in the near future.  Hang in there – I’m working on it! 😉

Now You See Them…Now You Don’t

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

I’ve been going back through old image folders looking for unprocessed photos that are worth spending time with.  I recently came across some photos from a visit to Chincoteague, Virginia in 2010.

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

The ocean was particularly angry one morning, and I remember standing on the beach shooting the surf while trying to keep myself and the camera dry from the salt spray.  In order to slow the shutter speed down enough to show the motion, I had stopped my lens down to – according to the metadata – f40.  I didn’t remember having a lens that stopped down that much, but sho-nuff the old Canon 100-400  did!

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

Of course, at f40 every dust spot on the sensor is going to be visible, and on some of these photos there were dozens, perhaps a hundred or more.  It’s a pretty safe guess that the reason these photos hadn’t been processed was because of all the spots.  I’ve never been meticulous about cleaning my sensor, and it shows.  But one of the advances in Lightroom that I am now able to take advantage of is the Spot Removal tool.  The technology has improved dramatically over the last 10 years, to the point where I was able to salvage this photos.  It involved a lot of clicking and a certain amount of adjusting, but a lot less futzing than I would have had to do back then!

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

A Matter of Perspective

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

One of the more recent additions to Lightroom is the “Transform” function, in particular the perspective correction tool.  I find myself making use of this tool a lot, as it “corrects” photos where I’m forced to shoot from an angle – side to side and up to down – and making them look normal.  I don’t generally use it to “cheat” but rather I like to use it when I don’t have a choice about where to stand.

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

I’ve been going back through some old unprocessed photos and came across a group of sunrise photos from 2010 in Belhaven, North Carolina.  One of the distinguishing features of the harbor in Belhaven is a break wall that separates the harbor from the larger Pungo River.  The break wall is a well-recognized landmark of this area, but the problem I always have with it is that it doesn’t run perpendicular to the places I photograph from.  As a result, there is always a perspective mismatch between the horizon line and the line of the breakwall.  They never looked right when I processed them, so I’ve always been hesitant to use them for anything.  Until now.

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

Looking at this photos, I wondered if the perspective correction in Lightroom could be used to “fix” the position of the breakwall so it looked “right” in my photos.  Lo and behold, it does!  There is a little bit of falloff in focus in the areas that are actually father away, but it’s hardly noticeable.  And yes, I could have done this a long time ago in Photoshop.  But that misses my point.  And of course, someone who lives there and is used to the view would likely recognize the change immediately.  But for most folks, they wouldn’t notice the difference.

I’ve attached a couple of photos as examples, including one “before & after composite.  I think it turns a photo that never looked quite right into one that looks pretty good for all but the pickiest few among us.  And chances are they don’t read this blog! 🙂

before-after

Tilting At Windmills

Wind generators off US 36 near SW Lakesite Road near Osborn, Missouri

From Wikipedia: “Tilting at windmills is an English idiom that means attacking imaginary enemies. The expression is derived from Don Quixote, and the word “tilt” in this context comes from jousting.

 The phrase is sometimes used to describe either confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. It may also connote an importune, unfounded, and vain effort against adversaries real or imagined.”

Here in the east we don’t have many, if any, opportunities to see wind turbines in the huge farms like they have out west.  There are a few in eastern North Carolina and I’m sure more in other locations, but I haven’t come across them in the numbers that we encountered out west.  I had seen photos of wind farms in the west, but seeing them in person made an even greater impression.

Seven Mile Wind Farm near Medicine Bow, Wyoming

Wind turbines are not without controversy, certainly, but I find them to have a graceful beauty, spinning like a dancer in slow motion.  I don’t profess to be an expert on wind turbines or any other methods of producing electricity.  But as someone living within 20 miles (technically 20.5 miles) of two nuclear plants, two coal plants and a few other types, I think I would rather see a few dozen (or hundred) wind mills on my horizon than the steam plumes from the cooling towers of nuclear plants.  They may not work here or make sense for an area as densely populated as Charlotte, but I see turbines as a viable alternative for producing electricity, particularly in rural areas such as Nebraska, the Dakotas and Wyoming where constant wind is a fact of life.

Wind generators off US 36 near SW Lakesite Road near Osborn, Missouri

We were fortunate enough to come across a few sites at times when it was conducive to making photographs, and I hope I’ve done a reasonable job of presenting them.

Wind farm along US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming

Been There, Done That. Let’s Do It Again!

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

I know this may seem like boasting, but Kathy & I had a very good year.  Kathy is the recordkeeper and spreadsheet queen around here, and by her count we were away from home for 125 nights during 2019.  The two questions we get asked most often by friends and neighbors are “how long are you home for?” and “where are you off to next?”  We love it!

Charlotte, NC
Harvey Firestone Park, Columbiana Ohio
Train station in Landrum, South Carolina

Yes, it has cost us some money, possibly more than our financial advisor thinks is prudent.  But I’m the financial guy and manage the flow of funds, and with the good year the markets have had I feel confident that we’ve done the right thing.  We didn’t retire to sit home and watch Jeopardy or Faux News.  We retired to spend time together and see the world.

So – no apologies.

Highlights of the past year:

  • 4 cruises for a total of 43 days
  • Added 18 new states, for a total of 32
  • Over 19,000 photos
  • Almost 20,000 car miles
Marigot, St Martin
Old Town, Fort Collins, Colorado

I admit that traveling over a third of the year might be overdoing it.  I suppose the reaction (or over-reaction) to retirement is normal and to be expected.  But having the time to do anything we want means we want to do everything!  Frankly, the biggest challenge has been keeping our weight under control because of all the eating out.  We essentially broke even for the year, which should probably be considered a win.  But we’re always looking for ways to manage that, since being able to sustain that amount of travel requires being healthy, and one of the best ways to be healthy is to maintain healthy eating and exercise routines while away from home.  We do great at home, but find old habits hard to break when we’re away.

Grenada
Clifton Hall Great House in Barbados

So, what’s in store for 2020?  We’ve got a few weeks scheduled in Florida in February, where we’re going to go “cruise ship hopping” and spend some time near the Everglades.  Sometime in April we’re going to head toward the Southwest to bag a few more states and explore Route 66.  We’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary in October with a – what else? – cruise.  But there are a lot of empty spaces on the calendar which we’ll be filling in as we get closer.  The year is young!

Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood Shak in Lake Wales, Florida
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

I’ve included a few of my favorite photos from 2019 in this post, and as I’ve been doing lately, I have added some more galleries to my Adobe Portfolio site.  This should cover most of the highlights from the year.  So stay tuned!  I think 2020 will turn out to be another interesting year.

Cleveland, Ohio
Bike rack shadows in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Costa Maya, Mexico
Cruz Bay in St John, USVI
Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Dale Chihuly glass ceiling in the tasting room at Maker’s Mark Distillery
Indian River Inlet Lifesaving Station Museum, Rehoboth Beach, DE
Waynesville, NC
Pool Deck on Celebrity Summit