Getting into the New Year

Yes, I have been a busy bee lately and haven’t done a blog entry. I have been working, which is always fun, and traveling. I took a short week trip to Arizona the end of January with the wild child.  We flew into Phoenix, rented a car, and drove down to Tucson. We spent a wonderful 4 days with everyone there. Then I drove her back up to the airport so she could fly back. I met an old friend for breakfast, and then drove up north to visit my cousins for a couple of days, drove back down to Phoenix and flew home.

Now, overall the trip was wonderful. I had allergies, and the wild child had a cold. That kinda sucked, no . . . really sucked. The rental car we had was very nice, but geez they are expensive. When you pull up the site and it says $163 for a week, don’t believe it. The additional charges will almost double the cost.

But, I fly to Arizona for the people. I have many people there that are very important to me. So, I try to get out there at least once a year, hopefully more. We are all getting older, and I am so grateful to be in the position that I can see them. I am very fortunate that I have no regrets with the important people in my life. A very good feeling.

The visit was way too short, and I came back to a busy life at home. But now things are slowing down a little; a more normal pace. A couple of days ago, I took a camera day with my good friend. She is an architectural photographer; she loves lines and angles. This isn’t what I usually photograph, but it was such fun. We went to Cincinnati, to The Contemporary Arts Center. The attraction was to the actual building designed by architect Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid, who recently passed away. It is very contemporary, lots of lines and angles. The fun part was looking beyond the actual structure to find something totally different.

I did a version of this one cropped in tighter. It is neat, but you can’t tell what it is. To some that is wonderful art, to others it is off-putting. So I chose to put this one up. Cement stairs going to the lower levels of the building.

For those that are put off by not knowing with this is . . . I am on the upper level shooting down at the stairs.

Today is our weekly teatime. It has become a regular thing now with the oldest and youngest every Friday afternoon. Others join us when they can, and today will be no exception.

A Weekend in the City

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Haven’t you always wanted to be able to go to New York City or even Paris for the weekend? When you live on the east coast it isn’t such a special thing to go to NYC, but I grew up out west, so it was just as exciting as going to Paris would be. Well we did just that this past weekend. In fact we went to NYC for a day; one single day. There is a reason for this madness, as we were going to meet up with cousins, and it was all the time the wild child could take. So we set off early Friday morning to go to our New Jersey (NJ) cousins house. We spent the night there, and Saturday morning the wild child, the youngest, one NJ cousin and I headed off to the train station. We arrived at Penn Station about 10am and met up with our English (UK) cousins. A bit later our younger NJ cousin joined us from college and we set off for a day in Central Park with our cameras.

This day was full of fun, companionship, adventure, and learning. It was just fantastic! Now let me first set the scene. As you know the youngest and I have been on the road of learning with our cameras for awhile now. Both the older UK cousins are photographers, and really good. In fact he teaches one-on-one classes. He taught us a lot, but took the youngest under his wing for the day. He also taught me something very interesting. While we were on the subway he passed over his phone with a picture on it asking what I thought. It was of a castle by a lake, taken at that special time of day when the lighting was just full of color. Well, the first thing that hit me was the colors, they were beautiful. Then the thought flashes through my head “did he take it?” So my first reaction was to say it was lovely, and the colors in it were, especially on the small screen of his smartphone. I find out it wasn’t his, and they both didn’t like it! Ok, I panic a moment. They are both such great photographers. They enter, win, and now judge competitions. So I look closer, and then I start to see things. He mentions too much detail in the castle, and yes I then see it. Way too much clarity used in the post processing. The colors were beautiful, but technically the photograph itself was not. It was harsh, and needed to be softer.

I watch a lot of tutorials, training’s, and photography shows on the internet. Things like “The Grid” with Scott Kelby and R.C. Concepcion, and “The Art of Photography” podcast with Ted Forbes, where they occasionally do photography critiques. They can get very critical, and listening to the UK cousins I felt that same tone. I realized there is a real difference between the ‘art’ of photography as an artist, and as a photographer. I realized why the wild child didn’t really take to photography the way I thought she would being an artist. But I also realized how important your ‘eye’ is.

When I looked at the picture on the smartphone I saw the color first. The UK cousins saw the over-processing first. I had to look for the things wrong, they automatically saw it. It doesn’t make either of us right or wrong per se. But it does reiterate that we as human beings will get joy out of different things. The type of photography I do is catching the moment. So often there will be something technically wrong. I won’t have the settings just right because I didn’t have time to change them from the last shot. It will be blurry as I moved because I was laughing. None of this matters if I get the shot. But when you are making a perfect shot of something, you have to have the intent, the concept, and do it right. I look at my UK cousins work and see all they put into each and every shot.  While we were walking around NYC his focus and attention to details like leading lines and composition are so important. My focus was getting that perfect shot of him with the youngest talking. We both care, we both do what is needed, and we both will have something in the end (well most of the time) that we are very happy with.

What did this teach me? I don’t have to have that perfect shot to capture that perfect moment. But when I what that technically perfect shot, I need to know what I am doing. That is where the education comes in, and knowing your equipment like the back of your hand. Practice, practice, practice.

Our Weekend Away

_MG_5370This past weekend Hubby and I used our 20th anniversary gift from our children, a weekend at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Two of my girls and I were there earlier this year, and it was just such a wonderful experience they set it up for me to be able to share it with Hubby.

Friday we headed down to Lewisberg for the night. On a side-note we stopped by the local Arby’s and it was terrible, but it was the only downside of the trip. The next morning we headed to the Lost World Caverns. What a cool place that was. Hubby brought the T3i so _MG_5391he could shoot along with me. The caverns were lit up really well with sodium vapor lights. The problem was that it made parts of the caverns very yellow. So I took it as a challenge to play with the camera and see what I could get. It was a lot of fun, and most of the pictures I took are straight off the camera (just a couple had to be lightened, and there is a slideshow below).

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_MG_5483After the caverns we drove to Durbin to ride the “Durbin Rocket” train. We had a blast, even though it was pretty cold. We got there a little early, so went into a small cafe and had an apple dumpling with ice-cream, yummy! We bundled up with layers of clothes as the wind was turning colder as we waited to leave. The locals told us we had missed the peak time to see the changing of the leaves, but it was still a beautiful sight.

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_MG_5581Hubby really did have a wonderful time driving the hills of West Virginia getting back and forth from Durbin. There are places with no cell phone connections. Partly due to the mountains, but also because we passed right by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. So of course we had to stop and take a peek at the site.

We arrived at the Greenbrier Just before the sun went down and checked in. For dinner we went to Drapers and had fantastic fried green tomatoes and fried pickles. Then absolutely delicious hamburgers that we just couldn’t finish, which just killed us! After dinner we took the camera outside and got the wonderful shot. You can even see the moon coming up._MG_5584-x

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Taken in April 2015

The next morning we headed to the Bunker Tour. I was a little concerned that it would be a bit boring as I did just go on the tour earlier this year. But we had a wonderful tour guide; a true West Virginian woman, who made the tour interesting and fun.

Taken October 2015

Taken October 2015

After the tour we checked out and took a quick drive around the property so I could take another picture of a shot I had taken the last time. When I took the shot in April I could imagine what it would be like in
the fall. So wanted to take one before we left. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember exactly where I was when I took it, just that it was by a flag. Well it isn’t the same place, but oh so nice still the same.

It was a perfect weekend away. Something we don’t do often enough, but hopefully will be able to do more of in the future. We came home to 4 of our 6 children at the house, and very grateful to them for giving us such a wonderful time.

Cincinnati part II

_MG_5060-x_MG_5050-xSo to continue yesterday’s post. As we wandered down the street looking for the Taft Theater we saw a lovely park with birds. They didn’t seem to mind all the people around, which was nice. Then across the street we saw the theater. Sadly not much to look at from the outside, (see picture slideshow below)so we wondered what magic might be inside. We crossed the street and took the chance to see if we could get in and photograph.

We tried the first door, locked. As was the second, but an elderly man inside vacuuming motioned to us to try the end door. We walked in to a woman at the box office. There are other ways for me to say it, but let’s just say she was very grumpy. We asked her if we could sneak in and take some pictures. She abruptly informed us you can only go in if you buy a ticket, and they were closed. My friend asked when the next performance was; well needless to say she was not accommodating at all. I turned around looking at the beautiful architecture and a bit loudly said, “oh what a shame we can’t go in. The architecture in here is beautiful, I bet it is fantastic inside!” The woman just turned and left. But the man vacuuming came up to us and asked what we were doing. When we explained he motioned us to follow him, and in we went. He showed us the beautiful lobby area, and said we should definitely take pictures of the art on the walls. Then we were led into the theater, just a beautiful place. The doors were even covered in leather! We didn’t dawdle as we were afraid the woman would discover us. We also didn’t want to get the lovely man into trouble.

As we walked out of the theater we were very satisfied with what we had been able to see and photograph. Then we realized the time and tore back to the car to head home. We will be back!!

A Real Craftsman

_MG_5042-xToday my good friend and I went for a photo walk in downtown Cincinnati. We went with a plan to walk a 3 mile route from this neat book she found. It has different walking route maps with information on the buildings and area. Well we didn’t get through 1/3 of it! We weren’t upset, but it does mean many more trips down before we cover everything.

_MG_5026-xHere is what happened. We planned on hitting a coffee shop first so we could look at the map and decide what we wanted to see. We saw a Panera, and headed that way. But before we could get to it we passed a men’s hat shop. Not just any old hat shop, but the real deal. Where they make the hats in-house. We decided to go in, and met the owner, Gus Miller. _MG_5030-x
_MG_5039-xGus came to America from Greece at the age of 17, and has worked at the store for 64 years. He knows his craft _MG_5027-xand has made hats for many famous people, including President Reagan and many others.

In the store they also have a shoeshine stand with two men working there. It had such a wonderful old world feel; a shoeshine stand, the smell of shoe polish, and all those wonderful hats!

Gus says he doesn’t make many hats now, as he is getting old. But I would love to go back sometime and watch him working at his craft. There are so few true craftsman left. Gus Miller is one of them.

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We then went to Panera, and tried to work out a new plan. We headed off, but didn’t get very far before we found the Taft Theater. I will write about that tomorrow . . . 🙂

The West Wycombe Caves

_MG_2896-31oxford_xx_MG_2899-34oxford_xxWhile we were in England we spent a wonderful day with the son of my first cousin. He knew we didn’t want to do the ‘touristy’ thing, so had the perfect place to take us. We went to West Wycome to see the Hell-Fire Caves. We went on a Monday, so all the pomp and circumstance of the weekend wasn’t there (i.e. people dressed in costume interacting with the visitors). But because of this there were not very many people there and we could take our time.

The caves were an interesting place, let alone what was above them on the hilltop. In the 1750’s Sir Francis Dashwood came up with an idea to help the local unemployment. The farmers had suffered over the last few years with bad crops and no money. So Sir Francis decided to extend the chalk mining to build a new road between West Wycombe and High Wycombe. The men were paid one shilling a day during the excavation time from 1748-1754._MG_2910-39oxford_xx

It is said that Benjamin Franklin was a good friend of Sir Francis, and spent many a time visiting him and the caves. This is partly confirmed by the scene in wax found in the cave. But also in the writings of Mr. Franklin himself.

Sir Francis loved to form Clubs, and the Knights of St Francis of Wycombe was one, dubbed the “Hell-Fire Club”. It is thought that he had the caves excavated the way they were so that after completion they could use them as a meeting place. There are scenes of such meetings depicted in wax showing club members John Wilkes, Lord Sandwich, Charles Churchill, and a woman wearing a mask. The woman were to be anonymous and wore a badge “Love and Friendship”, and were of a “cheerful, lively disposition to improve the general hilarity”._MG_2926-47oxford_xx

The descendant of Sir Francis 11th Baron le Despencer (2nd Baronet) was Sir Francis Dashwood (11th Baronet). He was the man responsible for the renovation of the caves for tourists to explore. It took many years, numerous challenges, and expense for it to become what it is today. I will leave it here so you can travel there and experience what it is now, and not spoil the adventure.

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_MG_2927-48oxford_xxAbove the caves, at the top of the hill, sits the mausoleum and church. I followed my cousin and youngest as they meandered through the cemetery reading the headstones. They found one from 1700 of a girl just 16 years of age. We also found two together, one died at age 6 and his brother just 3 months later only 9 months old (if I remember the ages correctly), just so sad. But while walking around we felt a sense of peace and roots. Families from many generations back to current day, buried together in this sacred place.

Going on a Ramble

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The sunflower field in 2014

Today the youngest and I decided to drive over to where we took the sunflower pictures last year. The field has been there for a number of years, so we were very much looking forward to having some fun. But as we drove up to the field, they weren’t there. We have no idea why they were not there, but decided to rethink our day and not give up on an adventure.

When my dear friend (the godmother of the youngest) came for my oldest daughter’s wedding I took her to see the changing of the leaves. One place we went to was John Bryan State Park. The youngest had never been there. So we went on another adventure today. I just love doing that with her. We have decided to take one day a week and try to do the same, go on a weekly ramble.

Today’s goal was to capture light. It was a lot of fun, and we both had a wonderful time getting back to nature.

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Time With the Family

I am very blessed to have cousins I am close to in England. Our time there was spent with many of them. I rarely talk about people personally here, in respect for their privacy. So forgive my cryptic description of them. But there is something I want to share. My mother’s first cousin has a daughter. We connected as adults with our interest in the family tree in the late 1990’s. We spent many hours emailing, Instant Messaging, and writing. When I went to England with my Dad in 2005 I got to meet her, and her lovely family, face-to-face. On this return trip, ten years later, we met up again. The youngest and I spent 3 days with them. The thing I came away with was an understanding of what people see in us, as in Hubby and me with our children. And how lucky I am to have the family I have.

Cousins took us to the JFK Memorial and the Magna Carta in Runnymede

Cousins took us to the JFK Memorial and the Magna Carta in Runnymede

We are a close family. The fact that my 18 year old daughter and I could spend a month together traveling, and still be friends is proof of that. If anything we are closer and have a stronger relationship for it. Let me set the stage for our visit. My cousin is married and has three children, two boys 20 and 17, and a girl 13. These kids met me once 10 years ago, and of course have little memory of it if any. But these kids were there, and I mean ‘there’. Usually when you visit somewhere the kids will pay their respects, and disappear. Not these. They visited with us, joined us for meals, we ate together, talked, laughed. We went places with them, and the kids were happy to be there. We got home and we all sat and talked, shared, and had a blast together.

Look closely at the top left corner of the roof, the cat is on its perch, driving the dogs crazy!

Look closely at the top left corner of the roof, the cat is on its perch, driving the dogs crazy!

My point is, this rarely happens. But my kids are the same way. They hang around. I used to think others would be annoyed by the kids being there. But now I understand. I was thrilled to get to know these young cousins of mine. See who they are, and hear what they want to be. I left with a great love for all of them, and the knowledge that next time they will remember me, just as I will remember them. A very cool feeling 🙂

Dinner with the family

Dinner with the family, yummy!!

Finding the Words

I have been struggling since returning to the US with getting back into the normal routines of life. Part of me doesn’t want to. I want to keep exploring, learning, experiencing. I look back at my trip now and even though we were gone a month, there are still things I wish I/we had done. Opportunities missed.

It took me a while to be able to really look at all the photographs I took, and I still haven’t gone through all the youngest’s shots. I keep coming back to special moments and experiences. More to that special moment from the whole trip. That is what I will write about today.

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The Glacier in Iceland. This day in total was the day that had the most impact on me. Part of me wants to say it was the best day, but in truth that isn’t the right word. That is one of the things that has prevented me from writing. I had many best moments. I spent wonderful times with many friends and family and would not want to belittle any one of those moments. They all gave me some of the most brilliant memories, and photographs, that I will treasure. But sometimes there is a day in your life that impacts you like no other.

From the day we landed in Iceland I fell in love with the place. It was their Independence Day, and we saw the celebration through the people. Reykjavik is a beautiful city, colorful, interesting, and very clean. We saw nothing negative, felt none, and that was the big thing. It was calm, happy, simple. The people didn’t reek stress like so many other big cities do. There were families walking together, children laughing, it was simply nice.

On the last day we decided to take one of the bus tours. There is so much to see, we just had to try. So we took a 10 hour tour and did cram in so much. There were places I would have loved to spend more time, but not at the cost of missing any others. And there is always next time. When I take Hubby and can experience it all over again.

_MG_1787xBut to share my most impactful moment that day on the tour. We arrived at the Glacier and it was just a very big hill with a lot of lose rocks. We just kept climbing, and climbing. The scene below us was mystical and beautiful at the same time. The moment was when we turned the corner to see the actual Glacier. I could literally hear the chorus sing as the heavens opened up. I froze in my steps, and just took it all in.

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There were many people around, and you can see some of them actually climbing on the glacier. But it felt like I was there alone, I had tunnel vision. It was just so magnificent. Then I started to click the shutter, and capture the shots. I keep looking at them, and I can still feel how I felt then. That feeling of total amazement, words can’t describe, and all you can do is repeat over and over, wow, wow, wow!!

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Loving Camden

So today I will add a caveat to my previous post on London. We were lucky to spend a couple of days in Camden, which is actually part of London. So I must clarify that my thoughts on London itself is only the main tourist area, not to the suburbs surrounding it. Camden is a borough of London. What character and fun we found there. We spent the night with a dear friend’s mother, and the next day with the cousins we met up with in New York City (read Visiting the Big City where we spent a day photographing the city, and will again this year). I have to share the things we saw and shared with these wonderful people. What makes a visit more special is seeing things through the eyes of the people who live there.

You see we spent a few quite hot days in Camden. The second day there was the highest temperature recorded, ever. In fact it was so hot that our cousin’s dog who we were staying with suffered heat stroke! We couldn’t go back to Hever as she was at the emergency vet all night. So with the help of the cousins we were with in Camden we found a quaint old Inn/Pub to spend the night. A little overpriced, and no a/c, but a good place to rest our heads after a long hot day.

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