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Salvaging the spirit…

I have become a bah humbug sort of person. I don’t say that proudly, or lightly even. I grew up with a reverence for the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, and I loved making Christmas for my own kids through the years. Growing up in a big Italian family there were many treats to be had at Christmas that we didn’t see for the rest of the year. As the daughter of a fireman and a nurse I spent the major holidays at my aunt’s house, with my working parents coming and going, plus lots of relatives dropping in to visit. Special times that I couldn’t have appreciated at the time what treasured memories they would turn out to be. So when I got married and moved away I did my best to recreate the holidays I treasured. I made lasagna for Christmas dinner, something the family had switched over to some time in my preteen years when they decided that they were ITALIAN, for goodness sake, and weren’t going to duplicate the Thanksgiving dinner at Christmas anymore. I made the Italian cookies that are flavored with anise. I made strufoli, the tiny honey balls we only had at Christmas, and, when I could find it, I bought Torrone, a nougat candy that came in individual boxes that were exquisite little works of art in themselves. For many years Christmas was a wonderful time of year. But those days are long past, the kids are grown and gone, and even the grandchildren are grown. It feels like the media has taken over all aspects of life, including the holiday, and you can’t escape the pressure to be HAPPY, to spend more and more money. The meaning is lost, hence bah humbug.

With my bad attitude I have disappointed the new special person in my life who still treasures Christmas. Our first Christmas together and he didn’t expect my usual light-hearted self to just want to get this whole thing over with. We will visit his relatives for Christmas, and when a discussion of what to have for Christmas dinner came up my offer to make lasagna was accepted. That perked me up a little. It really warmed my heart when my daughter said that she is making lasagna for her crew too, and she is making strufoli for the first time in years! Now I will make strufoli too. I collected all my recipes yesterday, and my friend wanted to stop at the nice Italian deli near him, and I wondered out loud if I might find Torrone there. Boy, did I ever! Torrone in the little boxes. Torrone cut into wedges like a slice of layer cake, some topped with chocolate! Torrone packaged in the shape of Christmas trees! I stood there with my mouth open, and possibly drooling, as every where I turned I found Torrone. So, yes, I did find Torrone, and I think I might have found my Christmas spirit too.

The feature photo is a display of containers of strufoli, larger honey balls than the ones we used to make, but it made me happy to see my familiar treats. I wrote this post early yesterday, before a heart-warming (and tear-jerking) message from my daughter showed up online. I was already on my way to finding that elusive Christmas spirit, and now I’m happy to say that my strufoli is made, and my lasagna is coming together. So let me wish a Merry Christmas to all with a happy heart. And the new year? Well, there is always hope…

'scene' along the way, blessings, brainstorms, exploring new places, Florida landmarks, friends, Just do it, live and learn, making memories, old dogs new tricks, perseverance, photography, sky, sunset

Crystal Beach…

I’m afraid that the feature photo gives this whole post away. You’ve already seen just how pretty the sunset got. But I’m ahead of myself. When I arrived at Crystal Beach ahead of my friend I was happy to see a somewhat promising scene for our sunset shoot.

A potentially decent sunset in the making, I thought.
As I watched the clouds seemed to be moving, creating a bit of drama up there.
I kept taking pictures, becoming more excited as the sky continued to develop.

But as much as the sunset was the goal, the real excitement was that my friend, Maryann, was bringing the drone(s) she had been flying for the last few months. DroneS, because apparently you can’t have just one, or so she tells me. I’ve been amazed from the first time I’d seen drone photos, wondering how the heck you point them at what you want them to ‘see’ and then hold them steady enough to take a decent photo. Just handholding a camera can be a challenge at times. And then she arrived, and I became torn between getting shots of the sky as it got prettier, and then resetting the camera to shoot the drone itself, which turned out not to be a challenge at all because it just rose up in the sky and stayed put. Went up straight, no guesswork there, so avoiding trees and power lines isn’t really an issue. Then she showed me her phone screen, which showed the drone view, and she could take pictures at will. The controller looked like a video game controller, so that took care of aiming her. And before you take the drone up you ‘pin’ the spot where she started so that when you call her she comes ‘home’.

The drone view.
Hovering completely still, but sometimes up over 100 feet and it wasn’t so easy to see her.
Maryann had drawn a crowd and she was explaining things to them more than she was to me. I was eavesdropping as I dashed around getting photos with the camera and the iPhone.
It was hard to turn away from the sunset to pay attention to what the drone was doing.
This, I thought when I took it, would be my ultimate picture of the night.

We were about ready to call it a day when I happened to glance over and saw that behind some trees another whole cloud bank was ablaze with color. I had to go back out onto the pier to get that feature photo. It was quite the finale of the evening. And what I failed to explain is that I drive past the turn off for this beach every time I go to Clearwater for a class, and many times for the photo shoots also. But I had never noticed the sign for Crystal Beach, just another one of those details that seem to escape me as I go about my days.

PS. Maryann was happy to point out that no rules of flying drones were broken in the making of this blog post!

PSS: You can check out Maryann’s stuff at MaryannMiller.com. Also look for her at

http://www.marymiller.zenfolio.com

a second look, adventure, birds, brainstorms, Cranes, Florida wildlife, nature, nothing's easy, One-Foot Fred, perseverance, photography, sunrise

Expectations…

I peeked out my front door to see what the sky looked like the other day, and I saw a bright crescent moon hanging low in the dark western sky. I should have taken that picture because the shot I thought I’d get in Aripeka didn’t materialize. The cloud cover there hid the moon, and most of the color from the sunrise also. But I saw Fred, my favorite one-footed great blue heron, who hadn’t put in an appearance in a while. You can’t tell it’s him from my pictures, but occasionally he would lift his right leg out of the water and suspected it was him, and it was confirmed as he suddenly flew out of the water and towards the house down the street where breakfast was apparently being served.

He basically stood there, looking back and forth, and then flew off. But it’s good to know that Fred is still with us.
As the sun came up so did the color.
Beautiful color but it just didn’t take over the entire sky as I’d hoped it would.
That purple color is natural.
Sometimes the sky to the east is bathed in lovely pastels, but not this time.

I think I have finally outsmarted myself. I have new hardware, my iPad, and upgraded software with an upgrade to IOS and an upgrade to Adobe Lightroom, which means that I already had lots to learn. Doing things as I was used to doing them wasn’t going to work until I figured out a few things. Then my external hard drive, the one that holds all the pictures I’ve taken while traveling over the last few years, seems to be done. Kaput. I’ve learned so much since I joined my photo group, I’ve hung on our photo guru’s every word, except for the part where he said to always back up to more than one device. Sigh. Nothing’s ever easy.

'scene' along the way, a second look, adventure, birds, brainstorms, connections, finding my way, Florida landmarks, Florida wildlife, friends, fun, Just do it, making memories, nature, perseverance, photography, sky, weather

It was beach-y…

,With day after day of rain, and a potential tropical storm ready to make landfall in a couple of days, I thought I’d lose my mind if I didn’t get out and go somewhere. To the beach, I thought. Dramatic clouds at the beach could be nice, especially when you are desperate. But then we remembered that the Skimmer chicks might be seen at the beach, so off we went with that vague notion and yet we managed to find them. It was a beautiful day, so unexpected, and with a great photo op to boot.

Skimmers on the beach. This row of adults will attract the babies when they are old enough, and thus they will learn to fly and fish for their dinner.
The nesting area is cordoned off, and a helpful volunteer gave us the run down on the nests. Which are just depressions in the sand where they lay their eggs, but in a spot vulnerable to people as well as predators.
Someone is looking for mommy.
And looking some more.
Found her.
Sounding off.
And a black crowned night heron at the sanctuary.
This eagle lives at the sanctuary also.
And a resident White Pelican.

The skimmer chicks will be susceptible to the storm, so we have to hope that it doesn’t hit with a lot of force when it gets here. Let’s all cross our fingers…

'scene' along the way, a second look, brainstorms, bucket list, Florida landmarks, friends, fun, Just do it, making memories, perseverance, photography, sky, sunset

Weather or not…

As I’m writing this I’m listening to distant thunder and pouring down rain. This has been the case for days, and my choice to stay home, snug and warm, has caused me to miss two spectacular sunsets in a row. But where my friends live to capture the wonderful sunset images, and where I live, are far enough apart that I would never have suspected that a nice sunset was in the offing. So last night we decided to head to Curtis Dixon Park, which is right on Tampa’s Riverwalk. Years ago a waitress at the Irish pub right there had said that photographers show up to capture the sunset color behind the turrets of Tampa University, and I never forgot that comment. But, as you can see, that’s not what happened. The cloud cover took over, but on the bright side it didn’t rain on us either. With a storm brewing in the gulf we may not get out for photos, or anything else, for a few more days. Summer in Florida, that’s just the way it goes.

a second look, black and white, brainstorms, fantasy images, flowers, friends, fun, gardens, learning, live and learn, perseverance, photography, technology

Black and white…

I think I liked it better when I saw life as if it was black or white, right or wrong. Of course I was just a kid then. It didn’t really take long to see the 50 shades of gray for every subject under the sun. Life was simpler then.

But in this case black and white refers to a class we took on Saturday, on black and white photography. I haven’t been drawn to that genre exactly, but as I listened to our leader Jeff, I thought of a picture I’d just taken at Bok Tower Gardens and couldn’t wait to come home and see how it would look in black and white. I was quite happy with it, and with several others I took that day. Plus, as I edited with a friend I was taught a much easier way to save my photos for the blog. It was a fun morning and I was quite pleased with myself until I realized that I’d gotten confused, (who, me?), and had put the last few days’ photos onto the ‘wrong’ external hard drive, and my new way of doing things had gotten a lot more confusing. Operator error, the story of my life.

It was a fun exercise to look for photos with a lot of contrast in them and then convert them to black and white. There will be a further class on editing said pictures, but I couldn’t resist attempting this on my own.