Thursday, March 21, 2019

Photography Challenge

I'm going to do a little catching up here. The Dogwood Photography Challenge for Week 9 was Inspiration: Mood. We were to shoot a photo representing our mood at the time the picture was taken. Because it was a crummy day and I am so done with winter, this was my shot.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 9

Week 10's challenge was to tell the story of our hometown. This brought up a lot of discussion on the challenge Facebook page. Is hometown where you live? Where you were born? The town you most identify with? Since it is up to our interpretation, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I tried taking some shots around the town where I live, but didn't come up with anything I feel accurately represents Webster Groves. Instead I decided to use a photograph of the Arch, as that pretty much lets anyone know I am from the St. Louis area.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 10

For Week 11 we were to fill the frame with the subject of our photo. A further challenge was to do that using only one color. Shooting a flower is an obvious choice, but I don't have any blooming around the house yet. I decided to photograph a tree stump in the front yard instead.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 11

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sailing Away - 8

Saturday and Sunday were both sea days, and we wondered if we would be bored. As it ended up, there was plenty to keep us busy - and not just eating. We played a lot of trivia games, listened to different music and entertainment, went swimming (yay for the adults only pool!) and got in some pickleball games. It was fun to meet other players from around the United States, and the waves and winds added an additional degree of difficulty to the game. It was quite fun, and made for some good laughs.

Princess Pickleball
Sunday morning we ordered room service and enjoyed donning our Princess robes and sitting on the balcony to eat. That night the four of us had dinner at the Princess Grille in celebration of Jim's upcoming birthday and our friend's 40th wedding anniversary which is coming up this summer.

miscellaneous ship pictures
Then it was back to the stateroom to pack and put out our large suitcases in preparation for disembarkation the next morning. When we were done, Jim and I went to a few venues listening to music, and had one final fru fru drink to toast another wonderful vacation.

We arrived back in Port Everglades at 7:00 a.m. on Monday, February 25th. Disembarkation and customs went very smoothly, and before we knew it we were back at the airport to come home. I highly recommend this cruise!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sailing Away - 7

sunrise in Curacao
Friday, February 22nd found us cruising into our last port of call, Willemstad, Curacao. I had never heard of this island until one of the HGTV international house hunting shows aired. Pronounced cure-a-sow, it is the "C" of the ABC islands. This independent country has a population of 160,000 and is 38 miles long and 9 miles wide. It, too, is a fairly flat island.

We had heard much about the town of Willemstad, and how its Dutch heritage as illustrated in its architecture has been infused with the colors of the Caribbean. The four of us decided to do our own walking tour of the area so we could drink it all in. We had arrived in port at 7:00 a.m., so the day was still pretty young when we got off the ship.

The boardwalk along the sea is very nicely done, and it is for sure a walkable community. We enjoyed all the little bridges, and the fact that they had taken the old fort and retrofitted it for commercial and residential use instead of just letting it fall into disrepair.

Rif Fort

The vegetable and fruit market was interesting in that boats bring the produce to market as opposed to trucks. The boats are tied up behind the tents.

produce market
The colors did not disappoint, and we very much enjoyed our day in Willemstad. It was great to be able to spend the day walking around, as we knew the next two would be spent at sea as we made our way back north. We left Curacao at 4:30 p.m.

leaving Curacao 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sailing Away - 6

Thursday, February 21st we arrived at Kralendijk, Bonaire at 12:00 p.m. As usual, Jim and I were awake early and were able to take in the sun rising over the horizon. The "B" of the ABC islands, Bonaire is a Dutch island that is 24 miles long and 9 miles wide, with a population of 19,400.

Kralendijk, Bonaire
The first thing we noticed was how flat the island was compared to the other ones we had visited so far. The second thing was how pretty the water in the harbor looked. The colorful tents along the walkway added to the festiveness of our arrival.

Bonaire is an island that prides itself on nature preservation, and has been active in preserving its reefs. They don't want to sacrifice their environment for the sake of tourism, which is commendable. About 60% of the island is a national park or protected area. For that, and other reasons, Jim and I decided to do the Mangrove Eco-Cruise by kayak.

Because our excursion did not begin until the afternoon, we had time for a leisurely lunch before making our way to the dock where our group was meeting. We boarded a van for a 20 minute drive to the eco-center, pausing to admire a cactus fence as well as a group of flamingos, which is called a "pat".

flamingos on Bonaire

They gave a short presentation about the mangroves before we headed out to our two-person kayaks. Mangroves are trees or shrubs that grow in coastal intertidal zones. They have tangled roots above ground and form dense thickets. Lac Bay Mangrove forest is about 850 years old and is one of the best preserved groupings of mangroves in the Caribbean. Three different species of mangroves exist here - red mangrove, black mangrove, and white mangrove.

Jim and I have always been in single kayaks in the past, but this was great as I could feel free to snap away with my waterproof camera.We paddled narrow channels through the trees as well as open water. It was a beautiful experience, and our guide was excellent.

mangrove kayak tour
We had time to catch a quick beer at a bar that offered free Wifi before we needed to walk back to the ship. We got a kick out of the flamingo made of recycled items pulled from the ocean.

Our ship sailed off into the sunset at 6:30 p.m.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Sailing Away - 5

St. George's Grenada
Grenada was the next port of call, and we arrived at St. George's at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 20th. Located in the southeastern Caribbean sea, Grenada has a population of 110,000. It is 21 miles long and 12 miles wide. On this island all four of us agreed on a snorkeling excursion to an underwater sculpture park on the ocean floor of Molinere Bay. There are 68 sculptures in this park, but we only saw a handful of them.

underwater sculpture park
From there we got back on the catamaran and motored to Grand Anse Beach, where we could swim in the most beautiful-colored water I have ever seen. The rum punch added to the party atmosphere for sure.

Grand Anse Beach
Our visit to this island was short, and we sailed out of St. George's at 1:30 p.m. I was pleased to capture yet another pretty sunset off of our balcony.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Sailing Away - 4

February 19th's stop was at the island of Dominica (pronounced doe-min-ee-ka, and not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). Founded by Christopher Columbus in November 3, 1493, the island was and still is inhabited by the Caribe tribe. Its land mass is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide.

We arrived at the port of Roseau at 9:00 a.m. A full rainbow greeted us when we woke up, and the pretty morning sky highlighted the hills of the island.

Roseau, Dominica
Our friends went scuba diving and we elected to do the Champagne Reef Snorkel. The snorkel site was located at Soufriere-Scott's Head Marina Reserve. Located on the edge of a submerged volcano, you can actually feel the hot water venting from the earth's core. We swam through tiny, crystal-like bubbles which escape from the volcanic fissures on the seabed. It was rather like being inside a glass of champagne.

Champagne snorkel trip
We bid Dominica adieu as the Crown Princess left port at 5:30.

leaving Roseau

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sailing Away - 3

St. Thomas at sunrise
Sunday was a day at sea, and we arrived in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, February 18th. Now one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas was founded by the Danish in the 1600s.

We were in the first group of passengers getting off the ship as our excursion began at 8:30. The four of us decided to try the BOSS Underwater Scooter Adventure. That stands for Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter, and we had never heard of them until now.

I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous about this one since I have never gone scuba diving and like the sense of control I have with a mask and snorkel. In this, you stick your head inside a bubble, hop on your scooter, and they lower you 8 feet below the surface of the water. In the meantime, you hold your nose and keeping blowing out to pop your ears as you go down. But once we got going, it was so much fun! We were allowed to ride for 30 minutes, but it felt like only 10. Due to the size of the group - there were 38 of us, I believe - we went down in groups. We were allowed to snorkel after our turn on the scooters.

After cleaning up and having lunch, we had some time to do some exploring of Charlotte Amalie. You could see that some areas are still recovering from the hurricanes of 2017, but a lot of buildings look remarkable intact.

Charlotte Amalie
The ship pulled away from the port in St. Thomas at 4:30 p.m. It was another beautiful day.

leaving St. Thomas

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sailing Away - 2

Bahamas sunrise
The Crown Princess arrived in Princess Cays around 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 16th. We were awake long before that, and caught the gorgeous sunrise. Princess Cays is an exclusive port of call and private beach owned by Princess Cruise lines. It is located on the southern portion of the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. This island has a total population of 13,000.

We have been to this island before on another Princess Cruise, so this time we elected to do an excursion. First, though, we had time to enjoy the lovely beach for a bit.

Princess Cays

The dune buggy excursion was billed as a Cultural Heritage Tour. It was probably the least favorite excursion we have ever done. First of all, the dune buggies did not have much power. Second, it was extremely dusty - we had to wear face masks. And last, it was sorely lacking in culture, though we did see a church ruins. The best part was a deserted beach that we walked down to - no driving on the beaches here. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. It just added insult to injury that the provided buffet on Princess Cays had the exact same hours as our tour, so we had nothing to eat for lunch.

dune buggy excursion

Back on ship we all took quick showers and met up for a late lunch. The ship left Princess Cays at 3:30 p.m. It was a smooth night of sailing.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Sailing Away - 1

My husband and I recently completed a ten day cruise of the Southern Caribbean aboard the Crown Princess. A couple who have been our long time friends accompanied us, as they have on three other cruises. We have never sailed more than seven days, so we were curious to see if ten days would be too long. I think we all agreed that we could do a fourteen day cruise with no problem.

As our ship was sailing out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, we flew in the day before to make sure no airline delays would cause us to miss our ship. In fact our friends, who were flying in from a different city, ended up not getting to our hotel until midnight. It was Valentine's Day and the weather was beautiful, so Jim and I walked from the hotel down to the water and found a place to dine alfresco. We split a meal so we could also split a dessert.

Valentine's Day
Port Everglades
Our hotel offered a shuttle to the cruise port, so we were able to quickly make our way over there on Friday morning. As we were the only ship there at the time, processing and boarding went very quickly. We could not occupy our room until noon, but hey, food and beverages were available so it was no big deal.

We had staterooms on the 11th deck, better known as the Baja level. We always get one with a balcony as I think I would go crazy in one of the interior rooms. Because it was President's weekend, the ship filled early and we were located near the back of the ship. We had a little more vibration than we would have liked, but it was all good otherwise.

Once we were allowed in our stateroom, we took the opportunity to unpack our suitcases and store them under the bed just to get that out of the way. Then we made our way back up to the top of the ship so that we could watch when the ship set sail at 4:00 p.m.

Fort Lauderdale
While Miami has a prettier port, Fort Lauderdale looked very nice as we began our journey south. Our first stop was Princess Cays in the Bahamas, where we would arrive the next morning. The sunset Friday night was stunning!

Sunset with Miami off to the left

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Photography Challenge Weeks 7 and 8

Without internet on my trip for the most part the past two weeks, I was unable to post the photo challenges.

Week 7 was to take a picture that tells a love story. This heart was part of a Locks of Love project in Charlotte, NC.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 7

Week 8 was to use a leading line in an image to show the concept of infinity. This view of the sunset from the balcony of our Southern Caribbean Cruise aboard the Crown Princess seemed to fit the bill.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 8

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Photography Challenge Week 6

This week there was no limit on what we could shoot, but the image had to be pure. That means you could not use any filters, presets or other edits.

Dogwood Photography Challenge

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Weather has Been a Little Frightful

Like most of the country, we have been having some wild weather this winter. Sometimes the temperature is average, then it might be in the 60s, and next thing you know it is -4 degrees. It certainly is challenging for everyone, and makes it hard to determine when I should go out and take photographs.

The prediction for last Saturday was sunny and mild - in the 50s. My friend Caren and I had arranged to go to Lafayette Square in the city because she is always scouting for architecturally interesting sites for her photography business. It ended up being chilly and gray that morning, which is not the best for taking pictures. We took a nice walk in Lafayette Park anyway, and at least the ducks and swans were cooperative about having their pictures taken.

Lafayette Square
Sunday was also supposed to be nice, so Jim and I drove to the Audubon Center at Riverlands around 7:30 in the morning. The trumpeter swans winter here through February, and we always try to get there to see (and hear!) them. Reportedly they have about 1,400 of them there right now. The further we drove north, the more foggy it became. Talk about thick as pea soup!

Jim in the fog
When we arrived we could hear the swans, but we definitely could not see them. While we had a smidge of sunrise when we first got there, it was quickly gone. Again, it was tough to take pictures as everything was so gray. With the fog, the camera just did not know what to focus on. It was frustrating at best. Even when the fog lifted, everything was pretty dreary. We just did the best we could. We left after a couple of hours, and I bet we didn't drive two miles before we hit sunny blue skies and warming temperatures. Mother Nature got the best of us that morning!

Audubon Center at Riverland

Monday, February 4, 2019

Photography Challenge Week 5

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 5
For Week 5 the challenge was to shoot a composition using symmetry in landscape to create a new viewpoint. I thought I knew what that meant, but I did an internet search looking for examples just to make sure I understood correctly. Basically if you can divide the photo in half either vertically or horizontally and both halves are a mirror of each other, then the picture is symmetrical.

We went to the Audubon Center at Riverlands to look for the trumpeter swans who over-winter in this area on Sunday morning. It was incredibly foggy, so at first we could only hear the swans but couldn't see them. When the fog somewhat lifted, it was a gray and dreary sky so not the best for taking photographs. This is the best I could do under the circumstances. Again, this challenge is all about learning, so at least I am more clear on how to find and shoot symmetry in the future.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Photography Challenge Week 4

There was an extra challenge to this week's prompt to photograph Story Telling: Warmth. There is little warmth to be found around here, that's for sure, with sub-zero temperatures and snow! A lot of people participating in the challenge took pictures of their pets, kids, coffee and fireplaces, which are all great ideas. Looking for something different, I tried several variations of photographing candles. I finally settled on this one where the little candle is reflected in my sun glasses. I like the additional reflections on the countertop, which also ended up appearing in the sunglasses as well.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 4

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Photography Challenge Week 3

This week's photo challenge was to take an amazing photo in black and white. I'm not sure how amazing this one is, but I had fun working with both my iPhone and my DSLR this morning. It is incredibly cold here, so I decided to stay inside and play with my food. This is a blueberry on a plate covered in powdered sugar. We had a brief period of sun popping through the clouds, so I took advantage of the natural light coming through the dining room windows to capture the shadow as well. I love the star shape on the top of the berry.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 3

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Photography Challenge Week 2

This week's challenge was Composition: Rule of Thirds. Specifically, we were to use the rule of thirds while showing motion in our picture. Uh, oh...that sounded like I was going to have to take my camera off of the automatic exposure setting!

Essentially, the rule of thirds involves mentally dividing up the shot you want to take using 2 horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Many cameras have a grid in the viewfinder to help photographers frame their shots. The thought is to add interest to the photo, and not have things centered in the picture.

I took advantage of the unusual snowfall that we had in St. Louis over the weekend to try out some shots. While I definitely did not end up with the wonderful blur of motion that other photographers illustrated in their submissions, I am proud of the fact that I tried new techniques with my camera. After all, that is what the challenge is all about.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 2

Monday, January 14, 2019

Snow Day

Muny bandstand
Between Friday, January 11th and Saturday, January 12th, St. Louis got dumped on - literally! We had over 11 inches of snow at our house. Fortunately I had prepared, so we had plenty of groceries and no place we need to be. Many other people were not so lucky. There were reports of hundreds of motorists stranded in their cars overnight due to impassable interstates and/or accidents. I cannot ever remember hearing of such a thing in the past, even when we had more significant snowfall.

By Sunday the additional predicted snow had skirted past us, and the roads were in fairly good shape. We decided to head out to Forest Park and the famed Art Hill, where sledding is a contact sport whenever it snows. We wanted to take some pictures for Week 2 of the photography challenge we are participating in, and moving targets on the hill would fit the bill.

It was fun to watch all the people, and listen to the screams of glee as children flew down the hill. The slight warming of temperature and the volume of folks going sledding made the slope very fast. Once we were done taking pictures, we couldn't resist a few runs down the hill ourselves. We had drug the old plastic sleds out of our storage shed and brought them along in case we were compelled to go down. I'm so glad we did. What fun we had! Though we may have been the oldest people taking part that afternoon, it goes to show you that age is just a number. Who said we have to act our age?

Art Hill, Forest Park

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sunny Saturday

My niece Julie and I took advantage of the beautiful 66 degree day we had in St. Louis on Saturday to go to Tower Grove Park to take photos. Julie's sister-in-law gave her a DSLR camera after getting a new one for Christmas, and Julie wanted some help getting used to it.

She has an excellent eye for photos, and takes some amazing pictures when she goes on her lunch-time walks around downtown St. Louis. Since that is an important piece of getting a good result, I am eager to see what she can do with a camera that allows her to take both closer and farther away shots.

We had such a nice time together, and it is fun to share my love of photography with someone else. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the day.

Tower Grove Park

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

52 Week Photography Challenge 2019

My husband recently came across an article talking about a year-long photography challenge, and he shared it with me. Last year I participated in a 52 week genealogy writing challenge, and he thought I might like to try photography this year. Always eager to improve my skills (and looking for an excuse to get out and do so), I signed up for the challenge. There are no winners or losers, just the satisfaction of learning from 10,000+ other photographers from around the world. There is more information about the photography challenge here.

For Week 1 the topic was Story Telling: Self-Portrait with the instruction that we "take a picture that tells us who you are, without actually showing your face". Since I was out photographing in Tower Grove Park on a picture-perfect 66 degree day Saturday, I decided to give the topic a shot.

Here are two photos I took, but decided not to submit. The first I believe showed too much of my face, though other people in the challenge submitted ones that clearly identified who they were. The second one I liked, but there were quite a few photographers who had the same idea and submitted their own shadows.

self portraits
In the end, I settled on the following photo, which I took of myself reflected in a pond. I had my niece hold onto my belt loop so I didn't fall in!

So far over 750 photos have been submitted on the private Facebook page. Many others are posting their pictures on Instagram, using the hashtags #dogwood52 and #dogwood2019. The talent and creativity in the group is outstanding! I'm looking forward to absorbing photography knowledge from them over the next 51 weeks.