A Spring Break in North Georgia

A Spring Break in North Georgia

Entranced by the lush cherry blossoms and  legions of showy dogwood trees, I disregarded plumes of pollen and dodged incoming traffic to capture a few spring moments in our community. It was nice to take a break from travel photography, and to relax behind my camera seeing just what I want to see and not what I want to show. I have new respect for photographers now that I’m trying my hand at travel blogging. Usually when I go on a journey I’m with someone, (hello family!) and I feel guilty for holding a day of sightseeing hostage so I can stop every few minutes to figure out what lens to use. When we do wander around together, I try to alternate camera days, but invariably the days I don’t bring it with me interesting clouds are dotting the horizon and when I do, the atmosphere is as thick as pea soup. And then there’s the gear. I’ve seen some amazing equipment out there, lenses the size of toasters and I’ve come to realize that big isn’t always better. For me at least, travel photography is much easier with a couple of small lightweight fixed lenses, a 50 mm and a wide-angle. Like everything in life there is a balance, and in this case it’s finding the sweet spot between enjoying the moment and documenting it.

When we moved to our community 20 plus years ago, it was mainly rural, and most people didn’t recommend moving “so far” north of the city. Like many urban areas the boundaries between these areas collided and suddenly we’re a northern suburb of Atlanta. The downside of being almost urban is the increase in development, traffic and sadly the loss of a historic building or two. Still, it’s a lovely place to live in the best of both worlds, close to the city, with a touch of the countryside.

An old repair shop, Holcomb’s Machine Shop.
Our little town’s main street, all grown up.
I drive past this charming old fireplace almost every day. I imagine it warming the hands and hearts of a family from long ago. Each time I pass it, I’m thankful that it’s no one has had the stomach to demolish this piece of local history.

I learned that this was the area’s original sheriff’s office. Today, it’s a modern bike and coffee shop, Whitetail Bicycles, catering to those who travel on two wheels instead of four.

I never expected to use my photo session as a sort of historic tour of our area. It was interesting how my experience evolved into a greater appreciation for the beauty in the unexpected, and how happy I was to share what I saw through my lens.

Take care, and happy spring,

e.

A Whisper to Winter

A gentleman on horseback ambled through my viewfinder not long ago, and without stopping, asked me what I was taking pictures of. His words made me pause for a minute. I was standing in that sun swept North Georgia field for a reason, but how do you explain how special the light is in late winter to a stranger who had to ask? How the sun transforms everything it touches with its amber glow, the grasses, those oceans of wild wheat that pulsate in the light, rows of nimble dancers swaying in the wind. I started to sweep my arm around to show why it moved me, then dropped it back to my side and mentioned something vague about the setting sun and wished him a wonderful evening. His friendly voice carried across the field as he and his horse continued on, half shouting about how bad the traffic had become and that he can’t take his horses on the roads anymore because of it, and did I know he used to photograph his daughters during their many years of horse shows. After they disappeared into the woods I slowly turned and drank in what was left of the day, then quietly whispered a goodbye to winter.

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Day Into Night: Greeting a New Year in Paris

Day Into Night: Greeting a New Year in Paris

After a hurried holiday breakfast and a few lingering embraces with the rest of our family, my daughter and I headed for the airport and boarded a waiting plane to Paris – traditional Christmas celebrations would have to wait until next year. I’ve always wanted to experience life in Paris during the holidays, and a plan slowly came together which captivated our daydreams for months until the sudden jarring news of the November terrorist attacks. After a brief pause amidst real concerns, we continued with our plans, an affirmation that life must continue in the face of adversity. After all, we will always need this iconic French city, and now Paris needed us back.

A strongly persistent tail wind agreed, pushing our plane forward and swiftly delivering us to our destination ahead of schedule in the pre-dawn hours to our beloved city of light. The full moon resting low in the sky guided our driver easily through the streets still twinkling with holiday decorations and deposited us curbside to a vacant Place Vendôme and a sleepy hotel desk manager. As we waited for our room, we didn’t understand that by stepping into the balmy pre-dawn night we were making an unspoken and unexpected agreement with the travel gods that we’d be up and very awake for the next 24 hours. Giddy and energized, we greeted the day with a few other travel vagabonds, and wandered the streets for hours until our dinner at the Eiffel tower and the ride to the top finale. It was the start of a week to remember, seven days between Christmas and New Year’s, a welcome return to a city we love and I think especially this time, a city that truly loved us back.

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Our week in Paris was a meandering, window shopping, café lingering, schedule-free visit of sorts, and there were days that no cameras were allowed.  A see-with-your eyes only rule was temporarily instated until a visit to lovely Montmartre. The small artist enclave once surrounded by vineyards is of course now a popular tourist destination, especially on beautiful sunny winter afternoons. This hilltop village is like being on top of the world, the vast views almost begging one to spread their wings and fly.  Once grounded, the labyrinth of crooked streets come alive with interesting street scenes begging for capture.

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The icing on my Parisian travel cake will always be the captivating Eiffel Tower, and upon reflection, it made perfect sense that on New Years Eve all roads seemed to lead to the Champs de Mars. United in purpose, the slow march from the Champs Élysée with thousands of other revelers will be forever etched in my memory. Strangers became friends, united by the pull of the great structure in our need to celebrate a night of new beginnings, an optimism normally taken for granted. The toned-down light show was more exciting than the greatest of firework displays and the exuberant cheers and happy chorus of voices is a sweet sound that I often hear in my daydreams. Cheers for happy memories, and for now, a belated Bonne Année to all.

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NYC: One World

NYC: One World

I haven’t been able to spend much time in New York City in the last several years, and never experienced the powerful scene of the post 911 tragedy in person. Print media and images broadcast on television portrayed the horrific impact of the event, but I would have liked to have seen the rebuilding progress in person to offer my respect to the lives lost and to the thousands of people who worked so hard to give aid and rescue.

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My arrival fourteen years later to the World Trade Center depicted a completely different scene. As I write this today I am still humbled by the beauty of the site, and moved beyond words by the memorials to the victims. A peacefulness cloaks the sounds of construction and traffic, yet it still pulsates with a quiet energy.

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In the space where the Twin Towers once stood, waterfalls cascade into two enormous square memorial pools. The pools are surrounded with bronze panels inscribed with the names of all the 9/11 victims, as well as those who were killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

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Beneath the tree-shaded memorial plaza is an underground museum with multimedia exhibits that tell the story of 9/11 and its aftermath.

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An impressive observatory on the 100th floor of the newly completed Freedom Tower provides 360 degree views of the city and beyond.

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Views of the three bridges that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn, the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges.

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The new World Trade Center area is lovely. An area designed for reflection and grieving also provides hope for a better world. There is an energy and excitement pulsating throughout the 16 acres of the former Twin Towers. It bounces off the sparkling panes of glass of Freedom Tower, the memorial waterfalls and the dramatic new architecture ringing the area. I love this city, New York, and I’m deeply proud of my country.

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Please do visit One World Trade Center, the Memorial, the Museum and the rest of gorgeous Lower Manhattan. Official website links are found below, for information and tickets. I recommend buying your tickets to the Memorial and Observatory in advance, as the lines do grow very long.

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WP Blur Challenge: Or, How I Learned to do this on Purpose in Photography Class

WP Blur Challenge: Or, How I Learned to do this on Purpose in Photography Class

The ability to enhance your blog with beautiful photography seems like a no-brainer, until you actually attempt to master beautiful photography. After gamely trying to self-teach myself over the last few years, I finally caved-in to taking a few classes after someone innocently remarked that I had a good eye, but needed to master the technical. Shortly afterwards I was standing in the middle of a busy parking lot in downtown Atlanta adjusting my shutter speed for Lesson 2 on “panning” of my Photography class. It’s hard to adequately describe the visual of our cute young instructor gamely running from one end of the lot to the other encouraging our small group to freeze her motion with our cameras as we moved our bodies side to side, all in unison. After several attempts no one was successful, but I’m pretty sure it was due to mutual concern that our instructor, for all her enthusiasm, was going to hurt herself. Two weeks later, after lesson 4, I stood alone in the dark next to my car and started panning the cars passing by, trying not to focus on the fact that I was standing alone in a parking lot in the dark. My first three attempts were fine. I was relaxed, feeling the motion, and following through with my body just like your arm should after hitting a tennis ball. About to call it a night, a saw the flash of red before I saw the car, a red Porsche driving down the street fulfilling my dream of photography Nirvana. Not a technical masterpiece, but not too bad for a mid-session Photo2 student. Photo Challenges the Daily Post: Blur

The Bright Side of a Dark Storm

The Bright Side of a Dark Storm

Our first 8 days in France, punctuated by late autumn sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures, and possibly believable only to photography buffs, were almost too sunny, creating lighting challenges left better to the experts. On the 9th day it rained. The early morning gloom and mist slowly evolved into a rain storm so impressive that it might have been able to compete with the great monsoon of 2014.  And it was with a certain weird satisfaction that I knew such a dramatic weather event would take place that day, like a psychic guaranteeing the worst as I clicked “confirm payment” two months ahead of my night photography lesson at the Louvre. Miserable, cold and with the inexplicable humiliation resulting from fighting an umbrella blown inside out and fractured by the wind, I arrived at the agreed meeting place in front of the grand pyramid at the Louvre. And like a happy ending to a fairy tale gone awry, I met Nadia, my unflappable, knowledgeable and more importantly, kind, instructor from the photo tour company, Better Travel Photos.

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For over four hours we huddled in and around the arched doorways of the Louvre, teacher and student, not letting the storm compete with the subject but to enhance it, and despite the weather challenges, I learned. Among many tips, I studied the best settings for night photography, grasped how to emphasize the star-like glow of street lamps, learned that setting up a tripod isn’t that difficult even for me, and had a few mysteries of my Nikon D600 revealed.  Making room in our covered haven for other dripping wet tripod wielding photographers, my mind wandered, contrasting our current digital technology with the history of the massive building. As I tried to imagine a likeness of King Philip Augustus, who ordered the construction of a fortress at the site in 1190, 824 years ago, I glimpsed the ghost of Napoleon III shooting me a startled glance from his windowed perch from the famous Napoleon apartments, as he wondered what’s become of the place.  Could he explain La Gioconda‘s elusive smile and lay to rest all speculation?

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Travel styles are personal. Some prefer to wander, there are thrill seekers, and history buffs who prefer an educational tour, the list makers, and relaxation specialists, and then there are those who attract a Chevy Chase Vacation kind of chaos.  Our family is guilty of all the above, but the vacations where we participated more, immersed ourselves in a culture or activity (which typically involves sweating and muscle aches) were the most memorable.  The instructional photography tour was both personally rewarding and fun, and I would sign-up again, rain or shine.

Check out the Better Travel Photos blog for photography tips, advice and news here:  Better Travel Photos

Hiking Shorts: The Pacific Blues

Hiking Shorts:  The Pacific Blues

The Pacific Ocean is often described in varying shades of blue, the 16th century navigator Magellan, on what must have been a calm day at sea, called it peaceful {pacifica} and the name stuck, and depending where you’re swimming it’s either warm to the touch, icy cold or tolerable enough to surf in for hours, and I never thought it more beautiful than one spring afternoon viewed from the Ocean Trails at Ranchos Palos Verdes, south of Los Angeles, California.

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The Ocean Scenic Trails that lead to Rancho Palos Verdes Beach, located beneath the Trump National Golf Club, are well-marked and easy to navigate.

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A friendly local directed us to the most scenic trail to the ocean, this steeply pitched grade which tossed us down the zig-zag in a wild jog to the bottom.

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A moment of slight panic with the realization that the only direction back to the car was UP.

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Had I been a better planner, we would have arrived when the tide was at its lowest to explore the tidal pools. The high tide crept up to the cliffs, exposing mostly rocks, which made it difficult, but not impossible to maneuver.

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Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films were partly photographed on and off the dramatic coast of Palos Verdes Peninsula. It must have been a kick to see the Black Pearl looming in the distance, and interesting to follow the daily production of hovering helicopters filming for overhead shots.

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Pacifica.

If you’re interested in the Ocean Trails, information on directions and parking is available via: Palos Verdes