Texas bound 2011

Checkout time from the RV Resort was at 11am, sharp. So trying to make the most of our time in New Orleans, we hopped on our bikes to catch some final last photographs — the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The tombstones and crypts in this fascinating and historically significant cemetery created a photographer’s dream canvas to this incredibly diverse Louisiana city.

Another prolonged day of driving on the road. For us, 6 hours of driving could extend itself to a road trip of anywhere between 7-10 hours dependant on the length of our stops (fuel, food, bathroom and tourist), and that makes for an extra long day. So interesting pitstops along the way make an extended day of sitting in an affixed position go faster. Two places worth mentioning:

  1. The Welcome Centre on the eastern border has a really interesting educational boardwalk through the Bayou with amazing historical and educational placards. It was incredible to witness this piece of sanctuary in the middle of the I-10 freeway bypass;
  2. Beaumont Texas is home to the World’s Largest Fire Hydrant (and as is tradition with slaDE~ and myself, we MUST stop at every LARGEST ever tourist trap to grab the mandatory picture).

Oh how I love taking pictures! At times, keeping up with my blog is more about trying to decide which pictures to include (which includes editing and selection of the best). I hope you enjoy my photographic eye as much as I try to capture the moment by moment journal of our Airstream dreams.

Star Fish Company

Every day, staying with Patrick and Ann, is an adventure and outing. Today, the fog had rolled in thick like pea soup. A perfect day to explore the length of Lido Key beach. Hardly a soul in sight as we combed this fine white sandy beach. The wind caressed our faces, the waves and our hair as we delighted in the company of friends. But as with fresh and exercise, our appetites were frenzied by the end of our stroll. A perfect time to explore the delights of the Star Fish Company in Cortez (about 30 minutes north of Sarasota)!

What an experience that was … not only was the seafood divine of this fisherman’s dockside restaurant, but the view was spectacular, the quality of food superb and the prices extraordinarily reasonable. Birds of every colour and kind stayed within feet of any potential fishy leftovers or garbage that strayed their way. Customers were strongly warned that feeding of any wildlife would result in possible criminal prosecution. However, if that didn’t prevent a brazen seagull from flying up to slaDE and literally grabbing the food from slaDE~s fingers as he was about to put a french fry in his mouth. I’d say that they’re a bit too fearless and domesticated for their own good. Poor slaDE~. The look of horror on his face was enough to have us rolling on the pier with laughter.

I photographed and explored the fresh seafood market, marvelling at the magnificent quality and inexpensive price of all that fresh Gulf seafood. YummY! Of course, we couldn’t resist taking home some giant prawns for a meal for tomorrow. Whoa, I need a nap after all that good food and fresh air!

Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Today on 12/21/10, the longest day of the year, I felt very blessed to experience the first full moon total lunar eclipse in 456 years that has fallen on the Winter Solstice. The last lunar eclipse (which I was also lucky enough to witness) fell on February 21, 2008. Tonight, the Moon appeared to glow subtly red as it passed through the penumbral and umbral shadows of the Earth. Once it emerged, it then vibrated with flares of light. What incredible beauty on this most notable full mooned Solstice Winter’s day.

Despite the damp cold which had settled heavily amidst us, I was superbly excited at having the ability to photograph the moment with an awesome far-reaching telephoto lens and fabulous camera. The 55-300mm zoom lens we had invested in was going to prove its worth a million-fold. In rustling up the necessities for capturing the moment, both slaDE and I found ourselves at a loss to the whereabouts of our tiny handheld tripod. The effect of photographing such a distant object was proving to be challenging without a tripod, when zoomed in to such distance in the darkness. However, our generous neighbour Wizard came to our rescue and gifted us with a tripod that he rarely used. With this final piece of the puzzle, I was able to capture some stunning shots that still have me in awe at their magnificence.

Holiday Lights

I love the simple joys of having a home that provides solace and comfort when the weather outside is blustery and cold. Today was a perfect day to read, write and catch up on internet surfing within the warm confines of our Airstream. The Arctic blast continues to cast its reaches beyond the Outer Banks, sinking down as far as Florida with its icy outstretched fingers and chill. I get shivers even thinking and writing about it! But after a day of stagnant mobility, my body was in need of a good stretch, even if for a short distance. I’ve come to listen to my body more carefully, trusting in the experience of my injuries and yoga education, and tonight was no exception. So with camera in hand, I slowly and cautiously circled the pitch dark neighbourhood block several times, admiring the brilliant holiday decorations in the dark cloudy night chill, bundled from head to toe, hoping to capture the essence of Christmas with our new DSLR camera.

Zooming in on the Outer Banks

After having spent a cozy comfy WARM evening sleeping on the leather FBO couches of Franklin Airport, slaDE~ and I were anxious to make our way west towards the Outer Banks (commonly referred to as the OBX). Wanting to wish our amazing hosts a fond farewell, we made our way over to the drop zone (Triangle Skydiving Center) in the chilly morning wind — 35 degrees Fahrenheit (dang cold for North Carolina in December — mind you, that’s cold for anywhere!).

Always incredibly hospitable, the DZO Greg gifted us with a huge Venison roast (fresh caught, skinned, butchered and frozen by Greg himself) to send us off with huge smiles and promise to return. He even took a photo of me ‘displaying’ an 8 point rack of antlers. A unique experience indeed.

And off we went, enjoying the rolling hills outside of eastern North Carolina, shifting into the Wild Refuges and Swamp Preserves on the east coast plains. It was at this scenic point that I decided to pull out our new D3100 Nikon SLR camera to capture the gorgeous changing landscape. And what a learning curve we were (are still) in for. I’m so excited at this new technology and opportunity to pursue my passion of photography. With a decent zoom lens to complement our standard body lens, I’ve found myself tickled by my cre8tive edge and excitement. So you think that I took lots of photos before? I’ve only just begun! Better free up some space on my hard drive. At double the megapixels of our point-and-shoot, I’m using up space superFAST.

Will let you know my verdict on this camera. But thus far, I’m tickled pink by the photos. Now if only I can learn my cameras functions (especially with exposure and aperture), I’ll be stylin’!

BTW, can anybody out there recommend a good basic photography book that’s clear, concise and extremely valuable in learning the basics of SLR photography (especially with regards to exposure — which can make or break my photos it seems on the SLR thus far!)?

The Outer Banks has its own feel and culture it seems. It revolves almost completely around tourism, and it being December and just above freezing, you can imagine that this might be the ‘low season’. Not digging the cold so much, but love the availability and freedom of empty beaches, empty stores, no lines or wait for any service. During the summer, I hear it is complete chaos and pandemonium here. Not my ideal for spending a quiet and explorative RV vacation!

The restaurants have few patrons, and pretty much only the locals reside here now (the small, friendly Outer Banks community is home to only about 2,200 year-round residents but during the summer season, it soars much higher, when visitors and vacationers flock to the area — I heard guestimates of 10,000?!).

Many facilities are closed for the winter (restaurants stores, lighthouses, museums, etc), so we have to pick our spots wisely. I’m pretty excited about exploring the region, especially the Wright Museum and the Wild Horses of Corolla!

A walk down memory lane

skateboarding funMy family came to visit us at Skydive Burnaby on Tuesday morning. I was really looking forward to spending time with my older sister and her son Forrester, as it has been way too long since we’ve shared a vacation together. Dad was bringing his 5th wheel Titanium 34 foot trailer along for the ultimate in camping experience, which they in turn parked beside us for the ultimate in convenience and proximity. With the beach only a quick 12 minute walk away, swimming inLake Erie would be one of the highlights of our time spent together.

Dad bike

With picture perfect weather, Blue and I walked down to the beach, whilst slaDE towed the boys on their skateboards with a borrowed bicycle. Dad enjoyed a leisurely exploration of the area on his freecycled 10 speed, perusing all the antique tractors used by locals to tow their boats down to the Lake’s edge.

Of all the pinnacle moments of the two days spent together, my favourite highlight were moments shared watching scanned slides from our childhood. With my memory being somewhat foggy for much of my youth, having a running commentary from Dad and Blue on each and every photograph was truly priceless. The sort of moments that I wish I could capture forever, a digital voice recording of sorts would have been ideal.

slaDE ran the whole show, starting from the early days of our youth right through to our adolescent years (in the process of scanning 1000’s of slides, I had each photo categorized in yearly folders from 1966 to 1989), connecting our HD TV to the laptop and navigating whilst we sat back and enjoyed our stroll down memory lane. Priceless entertainment. Just wish my Mom and younger sister could have been here!

family

Digital Memories

FamilyThe emergence of the digital camera was a life-changing moment in my growth, expansion, opportunity and education of all things photography. The digital era has led to a revolution on all levels in my life. I can remember for as long as I’ve had a camera, I was inspired hugely to create and capture those perfect moments in time. The only thing that held me back was the monetary costs of buying film and processing my visual moments of captured delight. And then along sauntered digital point and shoot cameras. Initially, the quality left something to be desired, but the concept of a minimal outlay of money with no aftermarket expenditures was exciting beyond words. But I waited … for at least 4 years before trusting in the technology, waiting for the opportune time to invest in my cre8tivity.
lawn mowerFast forward to this weekend. I went home to my Mom & Pat’s farm to tackle a project, which I’ve been requested to complete for several months now. Flashback to my childhood:  my Mother was very astute and diligent in capturing the magic moments of the early years of my two sisters and brother. Thoughtfully, she processed most of her photos as slides for the sole purpose of having yearly slideshows — our version of home movies.
Over the years, as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the history behind family photographs, and since the digital era became a strong force in my life, I’ve wanted to digitize all the slides Mom had kept, neatly tucked away in organized and clearly itemized archives. Wanting to get away for a weekend home, Mom slyly persuaded me into tackling this project, which seemed beyond the measure of a weekend’s work. Yet in the form of 30 or so categorized slide trays, Mom and I efficiently and with ease went through each box, 1 by 1, deciding on whether to keep or throw away the encapsulated moment. Thankfully, Mom had picked up a special tray for viewing multiple slides. This made the job somewhat easier to sort through them all, and come Monday morning after two whole days of perusing, purging, scanning and cataloguing the memories from 1966 through to 1989, we had an assortment of 750 slides to immortalize the life of our family in its growing years.
I must admit, this indeed was a time-consuming arduous task. I wasn’t expressly satisfied with the quality of the scan right from the beginning, especially when Mom told me that she paid a steep $80 price tag for the hardware & software. However, Mom was happy with the result. And if Ma is happy, I am thrilled.
As an interesting side note, through the journey of trying to navigate the Windows environment with a mediocre product, I successfully installed Windows on my MACBook Pro with the help of VMWare Fusion. However, I didn’t get the Windows executable program for the slide scanner to boot up properly on my MAC. A shame really, considering that the processing speed of my computer would have completed the project in half the time of Mom’s PC. In all honesty, when I witnessed a working version of Windows XP on my laptop, I didn’t know whether to feign excitement or sob uncontrollably at the irony of it all. Here’s a quote from my Facebook status page:
Dear Windows … you are now a guest in my house of goD (i.e. the MACBook Pro). If you play nice, you can stay awhile. Any smart alecky moves — virus downloads, etc. — and you’re outta here!
ReggieEchinaceaHurrah to dedicated teamwork and persistent guidance / coaxing from all parties involved with our walk down memory lane. So happy that my sister and her husband were there to share in the overall experience. We also built a few new memories, welcoming my ‘sister’ Reggie to the family. She is a gorgeous 7 week old puppy … a Border Collie / Blue Healer mix. Reggie has sharp anxious teeth, but is extremely smart, attentive and playful as can be! Love her fluffy little heart to pieces. This was a grand weekend on a fabulous scale!

Return to Burnaby

DaisyAlas, all good things must come to an end. We were fortunate to have 3 whole days on the farm midweek. A treat considering slaDE~ is the full-time Tandem Instructor during the week at Skydive Burnaby. Seems that the rainy weather was on our side :). penicillin shotBefore leaving, Dad had to give Lady a penicillin shot for a laceration on her hind ankle that wasn’t quite healing (she keeps licking the Boron spray making it raw and open to flies, infection and such). I’ve never seen such a huge needle! But Lady took the shot in stride.

Packed up and ready to go, we made our way back to the drop zone, enjoying a few photo ops along the route. On our way through Kitchener, we stopped off at the Best Buy store to see if we could get a warranty replacement on our Garmin 765WT. We’ve only had it for 6 months, and the GPS charger is already broken. Very sucky, considering that Best Buy wouldn’t replace or fix the unit … bought in the USA and it needs to be returned to the manufacturer (Garmin) rather than to the BB store.

Mennonite buggy

Ho hum. Might buy the extended warranty on our next unit. The GPS as well has already give us difficulties and keeps rebooting for no apparent reason, at least 2-3 times per week (when we’re heavy travelling on the road). However, we find that the GPS is a useful tool for our lifestyle, and

Mennonite boys cycling

Garmin seems to have the best GPSs out there on the market. Any experiences with a GPS that you’d like to share??

Walking and talking with the Animals

sKY & slaDE at the San Diego Zoo entranceHippo dreamsQueen of the HipposPanda-liciousSan Diego has a world re-known first class Zoo that I’ve always wanted to visit. With lousy weather back at the drop zone, it seemed like an ideal time to play tourist and navigate this city from the ground (read blog entry from yesterday where we explored San Diego from the air). Balboa Park and the Zoo seemed like a good location to start. The vast variety of animals housed here is extraordinary. For the most part, you name it and we saw those animals from around the world.

  • My favourites by far were the dancing ballerina Hippos, the pecking Peacocks and the Giant Chinese Panda.

2 Giant CatsHanging HubbyLearning something new everyday!Meerkat ManorDespite our awesome visit today, I’m still somewhat torn by the concept of zoos within the confines of an urban area.  Although incredible research and conservation efforts may take place, helping certain species to survive, the lack of freedom and space available for these creatures might be considered inhumane and even jail-like, with limited room to move around, flourish and grow freely and without restricted boundaries. And the larger the animal, the bigger the tragedy. For example, take an elephant or a killer whale. Only just recently, a female trainer was mauled killed by a 12000 pound killer whale at Orlando’s Sea World Shamu Stadium. When you take dangerous wild animals out of their normal natural environment, I wonder what affect it has on their psychological, physical and social well-being and needs?

Scary HyenaA not-so-wise OwlFlaming FlamingosPumba the WarthogThe array of colours, sounds and smells throughout the Zoo were enlivening and thrilling. We made an effort to witness the different feedings and shows where we could during the day. The bird show had us tickled with laughter and awe; so much so that we particpated in the second showing of “Take Flight: An Avian Adventure” (think Harry Potter-like giant Owls and incredibly colourful singing parrots mixing with exotic rare birds and birds of prey such as a Peregrine Falcon and an American Bald Eagle). However, the winners of my affection were the dancing Hippos thrust in chaotic mosh-pit maneuvers both above and below water. Hippos intrigue me (read about my wild Hippo Malawi encounter here) to the point of fanaticism. Pissed off PeacocksBeauty bountiful feathered PeacockBut with the experience I had in Africa, I’m thinking that you’ll understand my fascination :). An Arctic WolfAnd then the culmination of our day led us to the panda bear exhibit, with Mama Panda Bai Yun enjoying her lunchtime snack of bamboo. Did you know that Pandas, a true bear, will not eat the outer bark of the bamboo plant, so they tear off the outer green skin before eating the fibrous bamboo?

All in all it was a glorious day of discovery and delight intermixed with feelings of sadness and educated contemplation. Wanting to top the day with an ocean sunset, we drove out to Mission Beach, grabbed ourselves a frothy tasty hot chocolate and nestled ourselves in to a comfy sand dune for the sun’s ocean dive. Mission Beach sunsetSpectacular colours and rhythmic waves lulled us into peaceful silence and gratitude; we are so thankful for a glorious Californian trip thus far. Pods of seaweed everywhereTruly, we are SO blessed! Not only do we have the freedom to travel and pursue our dreams at such a ripe young age, we have each other to explore the realms of opportunity together. FabulouS!

DC3 Photoshoot

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIHk2io8dYk[/youtube]

Hippy TwistDC3 Dreamin'Blessed, blessed, blessed we are to have such great skilled friends, bountiful opportunities and beauty all around uS! Our friend Spot, a professional musician, videographer, photographer, wingsuit expert and skydiving Instructor, offered to take photographs of slaDE~ and I enjoying yogaFLIGHT and partner yoga poses on the wing of the drop zone’s next door DC3 airplane (DOUGLAS DC-3 “DST” = Douglas Sleeper Transport). The gigantic radial engines and aluminum bare skinned wings provided a gorgeous backdrop to the sunny vibrant weather of the day.  For several hours, both mid-morning and near dusk, we lavishly explored the depths of flight and yoga atop & beside the wings of this iconic beauty of an airplane. So fortunate and privileged to grace the wings of flight with the yoga we hold so close to our hearts and being.Sky gazing