Tag Archives: Photos

Retirement – One Year Later

Lunch at Johnny Rocket’s aboard Symphony of the Seas

May 25 marked the first anniversary of our retirement.  And boy, what a year it’s been!  What we most wanted to do in retirement was to travel, and I’d say we did a pretty good job of it.  Looking back over my Lightroom catalog provides a visual history of our adventures, starting with an amazing trip to Italy, shorter trips to the NC mountains and NC coast, a road trip to Ohio and Virginia and a month at the beach in Hilton Head.  And that was just in 2018!  So far in 2019 we have been away 61 days out of 151.  We’ve taken two cruises (29 days at sea, including two back-to-back 7 day cruises and a 15 day cruise through the Panama Canal), made a road trip to Florida, another to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, and we just finished another Ohio-Virginia road trip.  But we’re home for a while, I think.  Frankly, we’re a little tired!  The next scheduled trip is a trip to the beach in August, although there is a pretty good chance that something will come along in the interim!

Our visit to the Colosseum in Rome
Altesino winery near Montalcino, Italy
Aboard the train from Florence to Rome at the end of our Tuscany photo tour

One of our neighbors asked us the other day if we were trying to spend all of our retirement money in the first year!  We’re not, of course, but we obviously have done more than our financial advisor might prefer (sorry, Steve!).  But travel is what we do – we don’t have other expensive hobbies, our kids are self-supporting, and we have very reasonable monthly expenses.  We are very aware of how fortunate we are to have started the savings habit early and to live (mostly) within our means for the last 39 years (our 39th wedding anniversary is in October).

Sunset Beach Bar at Maho Bay, St Martin
In Nassau, Bahamas aboard Symphony of the Seas
First Cocktails Aboard! Symphony of the Seas

Here are some of the things we have learned and experienced in our first year of retirement:

Expected (good & bad)

  • LOTS of time to do whatever we want.
  • We really like being able to come and go as we please, without having to check vacation schedules and “request” time off from a boss.
  • We especially like not having to stick to a week-to-week or weekend routine.
  • We love to cook, and having time to shop for good ingredients and be creative in the kitchen has been fun.  As a result, we rarely go out to eat any more.
  • Less going out to eat has meant that we’ve both lost weight and saved money (to spend on travel!)
  • We manage to get in a good walk just about every day, continuing a habit we had established at work.

Unexpected (good & bad)

  • Lots of time means it is easy to get lazy.
  • We didn’t expect to miss work, and we really don’t.  At first, we missed the people and were really good about checking in.  We still miss the people, but the farther away we get the less often we seem to make contact.
  • It’s hard to keep track of what day it is!
  • We’re even more laid back and relaxed than we thought we would be!
  • We’ve gotten a lot more reading done, although we read more at home and less on the road.  It used to be that we needed to go on vacation to read!  Now our vacations are busier and we’re more relaxed at home with more time to read.
  • We can go for days without getting in the car.  Other than going to the grocery store or visiting the kids we rarely leave the neighborhood.  We need to make a point of getting Kathy behind the wheel periodically so she won’t forget how!
  • Our monthly expenses have gone down, due mostly to not eating out as much and not using as much gas, but also due to just not buying stuff.
  • Without an alarm every morning, our sleep schedules have diverged.  I like getting up early in the morning and don’t mind going to bed early.  Kathy is just the opposite and our schedules can some days be a couple of hours different.
‘Tween Waters Resort at Captiva Island, Florida
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Sunset on the beach, Palmetto Dunes Oceanside Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, North Carolina

So what’s in store for the next year?  We’re telling ourselves that we need to do a better job spacing things out.  The first 5 months of this year have seen a lot of travel, partly because of the last-minute addition of the Panama Canal cruise but also because of the January road trip immediately followed by the two cruises.  We’re anxious to continue checking off states as we try to get to all 50, so there will undoubtedly be a few more road trips.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find us on another cruise or two, and there will most certainly be visits to the mountains and the beach.

US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

Bus tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Jungle Gardens in Avery Island, Louisiana
Lunch at Johnny Rocket’s aboard Symphony of the Seas
Outdoor display area at Homestead Furniture Company near Mount Hope, Ohio

So watch this space!  I’ll do my best to keep posting articles and photos – when I have time!

US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

A Toe In The (Photoshop) Water

Pink Plemmons General Store, Luck, North Carolina

For years I have been steadfastly avoiding the use of Photoshop for processing my photos.  No particular reason other than stubbornness and preferring to only use one program (Lightroom) for the work.  Recently, Adobe began sending out free special effects actions for Photoshop.  It sort of got me intrigued enough to download them and I finally got around to trying them out.  This is a photo that I took a few years ago but never really liked the “straight” version.  I’m not sure how much I really like this version using the “Watercolor Artist” action, but it is starting to grow on me.  Like any recipe I’m going to need to work with the options a bit to get a “look” that suits me.  But in the mean time it’s something interesting to look into, and it may even motivate me to spend more time catching up my Photoshop “chops.”  I only have a 10~ year learning curve to catch up on! 🙂

Yes, It’s Rocket Science!

Docents in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

As a kid I was a real space geek, and followed everything about the space program that I could get my hands on.  As part of our recent trip to Alabama and beyond, Kathy & I spent a day at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and took the bus tour.  It was a fascinating experience and brought back a lot of memories.

Space Shuttle replica “Pathfinder” on display at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Saturn V rocket replica on display at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Saturn V rocket replica on display at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

It would be possible to just tour the exhibits at the museum, but it was really special to take the narrated tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center grounds, with visits to several operating facilities.  We visited a the Payload Operations Center, training center with mockups of some of the actual ISS modules that are used to recreate situations on earth to help the astronauts deal with problems or answer questions aboard the station.

Payload Operations & Integration Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

The Payload Operations Integration Center is the “mission control” for all of the scientific activities that are happening on the space station.  The folks at the various workstations monitor these operations remotely, as we learned the the majority of experiments happening on board are not actually handled by the astronauts themselves unless hands-on is required.

Astronaut toilet in the International Space Station exhibit at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

The Environmental Control & Life Support Systems facility deals with the systems required to sustain life aboard the station.  A lot of the work done here deals with developing systems to maintain the environmental and sanitary needs of the crew aboard the ISS.

Exhibits at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Docents in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

The entire day was great, but the highlight for me was the visit to the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, which is a huge building that houses an actual Saturn V rocket along with tons and tons of memorabilia from the early days of manned space exploration through the Apollo moon landings.  One of the things I thought was really cool is that they employ retired scientists as docents, so it is not unusual to find yourself talking to one of the heros of the space program.  In fact, I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of my photos is of Brooks Moore, who headed the Astrionics Laboratory and is actually in the black & white photo in the picture of the old computer hardware!

An actual Saturn V rocket on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
An actual Saturn V rocket on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
An actual Saturn V rocket on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Apollo 16 command module on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

It was a great day and an excellent way to highlight our visit to Alabama!

Moon rock on display at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Redstone Missle Test Stand, a National Historic Landmark, at the Marshall Space Flight Center at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

Cruising for Photos

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

One of my many personal projects is to look for and photograph bits and pieces of the architecture on cruise ships.  For that purpose I hardly go anywhere without my little point & shoot camera.  It isn’t as intimidating as a regular camera and doesn’t look a lot different than a phone, which everyone is used to seeing.

There are things to see everywhere on board, just like on land.  Sometimes it is simply a shadow or a reflection, and occasionally it is just a piece of glass or metal that has an interesting shape.  Symphony of the Seas was no exception.

Cocktails at the Rising Tide bar aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Sunrise and arrival in Nassau, Bahamas aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas

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!

Scanning Old Photos

Photo of Kathy’s Grandmother from 1911

For the past several months, Kathy & I have been working on a project of scanning old photos.  We had retrieved a couple dozen albums from Kathy’s parent’s house after they passed several years ago, some of them dating back to the early 1900s.  We had promised to scan them to digital files to be shared with her brother & sister and any other relatives that might be interested.  In addition to those photos we had albums and boxes of our own photos, some from our separate childhoods up to when we met, then hundreds of photos from when we were married, all of our kids, vacations and other activities up until we started taking digital photos.

Now that we have more free time, we decided to use the winter months to finally tackle those old photos.  We knew it would be quite a project, but we didn’t really realize how big of a project it would be.  But we’re just about finished, at least until my brother decides to clean out his attic and bring me all of the photos from my own side of the family tree!  And I still have binders and boxes of my old slides to address at some point.  But that is a different project, that if I decide to face it at all, will come at a later time.

Kathy’s Great Grandparents from the early 1900s

One of the difficult decisions we faced with these old photos was what to do with them once they were scanned.  To me the whole point of scanning them is to get rid of the paper.  Makes sense, right?  It’s not reasonable to expect that anyone else is going to want to take over boxes and boxes of old photos, loose now because they have been removed from the albums.  And many of the albums had to essentially be destroyed in order to get the photos out.  Our kids have grown up in an age that hardly ever prints anything, and they certainly don’t want to inherit all that stuff!  The logical conclusion was to toss them out, and that is what we did.

Throwing away old photographs was all well and good until it came time to scan the photos from our own kids when they were growing up.  It didn’t bother me to throw out old photos of people I didn’t know, but the idea of tossing photos of our own kids into the trash gave me a bit of angst that I hadn’t anticipated.  I struggled with it for a while, but ended up rationalizing that having the digital copies preserves the memories that those photos represent, and that having the paper stored in a box somewhere out of sight was ultimately no different than storing them on a hard drive somewhere that I never looked at.  And this way they are preserved for posterity, using the same methods I use for all of my other photos.

Kathy’s Grandfather and his brother from sometime in the early 1900s

The idea of throwing away anything old can be difficult, and perhaps the idea of throwing away actual family mementos can border on horrifying.  We went through a lot of this when we downsized from our larger home to where we are now, but we got through it.  My one concession to the idea that “everything must go” is that I decided to keep some of the really old photos.  My decision to keep them was not necessarily because of who the people are, but simply because they are old photos.  There is a historical value to keeping them, and I’m thinking of them more for their value and interest as artifacts and less for the actual people they represent.  I’ve attached copies of a few of them here.  I haven’t saved many, but some of the oldest and more interesting ones will go into an archival storage box.  But just one box!

I’ll plan to do some more posts about some of the technical aspects we faced and how we resolved them.  I know that we’re not the only people facing the prospect of what to do with old photos, and hopefully our experience will serve as something of a guide for others who are thinking of doing the same thing.  We’ve talked about offering our scanning services to our neighbors, but I think we’ll hold off on that for a while, as we’re kind of tired of looking at old photos.  And very soon it will be time to go make some more photos!

A Year of Departure

The Colosseum in Rome

“I find it odd to confine life events and creative evolution to the arbitrary boundaries of a calendar year, but, as I have noted before, I welcome the excuse to pause and examine the progress, trends, and implications of my experiences in the past months.” Guy Tal

Statue of Puerto Rican composer Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso in the Plaza de Armas, San Juan Puerto Rico

Odd or not, the tendency to compartmentalize our lives into blocks of 365 days is as good a way to reflect as any.  A calendar year works as well as a birthday or anniversary year for that purpose.  And I fear that if it wasn’t for the annual reminder, many of our species would not bother to look back at all, occupied as we are with running around, faces glued to electronic devices of all kinds in our real or imagined “busy-ness.”

The Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy
Michelangelo’s “David” at the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (Academy Of Florence Art Gallery)
The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica

As I looked back through my photographs from 2018 I began to realize that it was truly a year of departure for me, both literally and photographically.

  • Kathy & I “departed” from the workplace after 40 or so years of work.
  • We “departed” the shores of the U.S. for another continent for the second straight year
  • My photography “departed” from the norm, as more and more of my photographs had people in them
  • My photography “departed” from the norm, as more and more of my photographs were finished in black & white
  • Even more of my photos taken “in” a place are not “of” or “about” that place
  • We spent a month (actually 28 days) at the beach, the longest either of us had ever been away from home
Castiglione d’Orcia, Italy
Early morning, quiet street in Venice, Italy
Early morning, quiet street in Venice, Italy

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that more and more of my photos have people in them.  I’ve historically considered myself to be primarily a landscape photographer, and have often responded to requests to photograph weddings and portraits with something along the lines of “notice that most of my photos do not have people in them.  Thanks, but no.”  I do think that as I get older I find that experiences and relationships have taken a higher priority than trophy icon shots or sunrises and sunsets.  Oh, I still get my share of those, but for the most part the photos that call my name are the ones that bring back memories of a place, or more likely the memory of my feelings that I had when I was in the place.  Venice is a good example.  As much as I loved Tuscany, the few hours that I spent – mostly alone – wandering around Venice in the early morning is one of my most cherished memories.

Room keys on maid’s cart, Pienza, Italy
Pienza, Italy
Montalcino, Italy

I chose this collection of photos not because they are my “best” or “Greatest Hits” from 2018, but rather because they represent how I feel about the things I did and places I went, and how I felt while I was there.  It’s not that these are photos I never would have taken previously, but more that they are photos that better capture my memory of a place, not just documenting what I saw.

Kathy & I wish everyone a Happy New Year.  We’ve got lots planned for 2019 and are looking forward to getting started!

I saw this guy every morning, picking up trash before dawn. While there were a number of these street sweepers, I always knew where this guy was because he whistled constantly. My memories of mornings in Venice include the strains of whatever tunes were passing through his lips.
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Tuscan countryside near Pienza, Italy
St. Simon’s Island, Georgia
The Pantheon