Photography 101: Warmth

Photography 101: Warmth

For our Day 9 assignment in Photography 101, our theme was “Warmth”.  I have included these photos which reflect warmth for me.  They highlight warmth for a fawn, flower, lizard, squirrel, and granddaughter.


We have lots of wildlife in our backyard, especially white-tailed deer.  It’s always wonderful to see all the newly born fawn each spring, and also gets interesting in the fall when the bucks have fully developed anthers and are out looking for does.

One morning when we came out for breakfast, we discovered there was a sleeping fawn curled up on our patio just outside out back door next to the door mat.  We watched it for a while and took some photos, especially as it finally woke up (probably because we made some noise in the kitchen).  It was so young and scrawny, it looked very when it was arising from its sleeping position as it tried to stand up.

Sleeping Fawn

Sleeping Fawn

Then it wandered around the deck for a while trying to find a way out to get back to its mother. Eventually, she realized that the baby was trying to find her and actually moved along our deck railing to encourage the baby to follow until it went right through the vertical grating on our gate at the end of the deck (which must also be how it go in).  And here baby is reunited with its mother again, as this photo shows them licking (kissing?) each other.

Deer Licking Fawn-IMG_1627

Fawn with Mother


This flowering cactus on our deck is another result of the sun’s warmth.  It produces these beautiful yellow flowers.


Cactus Flower


The sun brings out all kinds of critters that want to bask its warmth like this lizard who just likes to sit there for long periods of time just catching the rays.




This squirrel is another neighbor you likes to enjoy the sun’s warmth while surveying his backyard domain.  He also has been devouring a succulent that we have in a pot nearby – it must be pretty tasty.




Of course, I can’t forget the loving warmth of my grandchildren.  This is picture that my youngest granddaughter drew for his Grandma and Grandpa (about a year ago when she was 5).  It just says “I Love You” symbolically.

Granddaughter Drawing IMG_1532

Granddaughter Drawing

It’s very cold here in Texas. It was almost time to build a fire tonight, but we didn’t have any starter so that will have to wait. That would have been another photo I could have included. I hope you are having a warm day, or just keeping warm, wherever you are.

Photography 101: The Natural World – Rio Grande

Photography 101: The Natural World – Rio Grande

For our Day 8 assignment in Photography 101 about “The Natural World”, I chose to highlight photos of the Rio Grande, Spanish for “Big River”, that forms the border between Mexico and Texas in the United States. Its one of the longest river systems in North America originating in the San Juan Mountains of south central Colorado just east of the Continental Divide and flowing down to the Gulf of Mexico.

These were taken in February with my iPhone 5 while playing golf at Black Jack’s Crossing in the Lajitas Golf Resort during our visit to Big Bend National Park in far west Texas. The scenery was so stark, yet beautiful. I couldn’t help taking shots from different perspectives, and include those with the Rio Grande in this slideshow.

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It’s amazing such a narrow river borders our two countries. On the other side of the river, you can see the  Sierra Madre Oriental mountains in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico which border Texas at the Rio Grande. You can see how the Rio Grande twists and turns between the Mexican mountains and Texas golf course. I took the photos from different elevations and angles.  Many of the tees are higher up where you have to shoot down to the fairway and green. Also as we drove our cart from one to another it kept showing up nearby. Of course, you can see the desert all around too which adds contrast.


This unique golf course along the Rio Grande was designed by Lanny Wadkins and opened in 2012; it  has been named to many “best places to play” lists by GolfWeek, Texas Outside, and Dallas Morning News. It looks much more spectacular with color contrasts in the spring and fall when the greens and fairways are all deep green (which you see on their web site). However, even in the middle of winter it looked great and the weather was perfect then and not crowded at all. It must be very hot in the summer so that would not be a good time to visit.

Big Bend

This shows where Lajitas is located between Big Bend National Park on the right and Big Bend Ranch State Park on the left. It’s about an 8 hour drive west from Austin through Fredericksburg and Junction, then south from Fort Stockton and either Marathon or Alpine to get to the Big Bend area.

Star Party

We stopped over in the Davis Mountains State Park in the Fort Davis area so we could attend a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory astronomy research unit of the University of Texas at Austin. We could look at constellations, planets, and celestial objects through their telescopes, where there are some of the darkest skies in the continental United States. It’s west of Fort Stockton and north of Marfa and Alpine.

Big Bend

The National Park Service has an interesting Big Bend in One Day video (about 6 minutes), which provides a nice overview of the park highlights. This might offer a preview of what to expect if you might want to visit, or even show those who can’t a glimpse of this area. They also have a photo gallery which highlight desert scenery and wildlife.


Nearby is the famous Terlingua ghost town, where they been having chili cook offs on the first weekend in November every year now for 48 years. In the mid-1880’s it became a big cinnabar mining area for mercury, but now it’s just a tourist destination.

We loved our trip to the Big Bend, and want to go back again. Great golf, unique scenery, its so quiet and remote, and there’s lots of great hiking and other things to do.

Photography 101: Weekend Two (Play with Light) – Balcones Hike

Photography 101: Weekend Two (Play with Light) – Balcones Hike

Over the weekend, it was suggested that we go out and practice our photography and include them in a post to share with the community.  Since it was a nice day on Sunday for a hike, I thought it might be a good opportunity to practice my photography with my iPhone 5 camera, and see if I learned anything yet.  So we went to the Cactus Rocks Trail at Warbler Vista in the Balcones Canyonlands just west of Lago Vista where we live.

This national wildlife refuge protects several endangered songbirds  which only nest there – the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo  It’s a nice 1.75 mile hike which took just over an hour, and I took about 69 shots.  However, I selected just a few to highlight here with some comments about the photos or what I was trying to accomplish.

There were several different things I wanted to experiment with. I tried to utilize a grid for composition with the rule of thirds. I was trying to be aware of light and shadows and how that might affect my shots.  Also, I used both vertical and horizontal versions of the same shot.  And I wanted to capture interesting things that I encountered.

Sun & Shadow

Toward the end of the hike, the sun was getting lower in the sky and started to shine through the trees and cast interesting light and shadow so I tried to capture that. First, I noticed the sun peeking through the trees so I thought that might make an interesting shot.  I managed to get the sun, but it didn’t turn out that special.

Then I saw some interesting light being scattered through the trees and that seemed like it could be a good shot.  What I didn’t realize was that it also captured my shadow taking the picture in the shot, but  that actually made it a bit more interesting.

Light on Trail & Cairn

As we walked along the trail, I kept looking for things that might be good photos and I took these photos. This shows the light across the trail through the trees, which did not turn out quite like it looked when I took it but perhaps my settings were not right for that situation.

I noticed cairn markers, or man-made stacks of rocks, along the trail that I think the Boy Scouts might have made when they helped clear the trail.  These offer markers to signal hikers that they are actually following the right path, and these appear periodically along the trail as guides.

Large Cactus & Cactus Rock

There are lots of cacti in this area so they are all over the place.  I thought I should try capturing a few of them as we walked. This shows a fairly large cactus growth on the trail, and there were lots more like it. It seemed like it might photograph well, but the light wasn’t quite right.

This one was interesting because the cactus was actually growing right out of the rock.  There were several like this.  I guess that’s why they called it “Cactus Rocks Trail”.

Lake + Road + Sun

I thought this might be an interesting shot of Lake Travis and the winding hilly road along the north shore with the sun starting to go lower in the sky. First, I tried to take a vertical shot to see how that looked. This seemed to make the lake appear too distant but instead emphasized all the trees in the foreground (which aren’t as interesting).

I think this horizontal shot looks better because you get a better sense of the area that focuses on both the lake and road. Also, I liked how the camera captured the light flare from the sun in the phot.

Lake closeup

I thought it might be worthwhile to try a zoom shot of the lake.  So first I tried this one as a vertical photo, which again seems to put the lake more in the distance.


For this horizontal one, I think it looks better because it focuses on the lake more. It’s more than 40 feet below normal because of the extreme drought this area has been under for over 5 years.  So it looks more like the winding Colorago River that formed Lake Travis (and six other lake) when their dams were established for the Highland Lakes chain.


Road from trail & deck

It was interesting to see the road below from the trail.  This first shot was taken from a ridge along the trail that overlooks the road from the hillside.


This second photo was take higher up from a Sunset Deck platform which has a nice view of the lake and surrounding area including the road below.  I like this one better because it emphasizes how the road winds among the trees in the area.

Overall, it was a nice hike with wonderful weather, and I had a chance to practice photography some more.  Obviously, there’s still more I need to learn and work on, but it’s a start and I enjoyed it. However, in general, I became more aware of my surroundings, observing what might make a good photo to capture, and had fun doing it.

Photography 101: Landmark – Indian Wells

Photography 101: Landmark – Indian Wells

Our theme for Day 7 of Photography 101 was “Landmark”.  We were supposed to take multiple photos from different points of view of some landmark.  I decided to focus on the Indian Wells Tennis Garden where the BNP Paripas Open tennis tournament is held every March at Indian Wells, California in the desert near Palm Springs. We have visited there several different times and really enjoyed it, and these are some of the photos which I captured that show various aspects of this famous venue.

The BNP Paribas Open is the largest professional two-week combined ATP (men) and WTA (women)  Tour tennis tournament in the world with 96 players in the singles and 32 teams in the double draws. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden features the second largest stadium in the world next to the US Open which includes 16,100-seats and 44 luxurious stadium suites and a new permanent Stadium 2 with 8,000 seats, as well as 7 additional outer stadiums.

Stadium 1

Stadium 1 is the largest where all the best matches are played.  This was a shot from the upper deck before the first match was scheduled to get a general shot of the stadium.


This shot was taken during a mid-week watch so not as many people were there at night.


This shows the stadium after the lights come on.


Other Stadiums

Here’s one of the outer stadiums, which are more intimate since you’re closer to the players.


Here I tried zooming in for a closer shot of this women’s match.


This shows the desert mountains in the distance which surround the tennis venue, so the views are great when you look beyond the stadium.  Also, you see the lights and flags over the stadium. In this men’s match, we were sitting at the end instead of the side.



Here is shot of the grounds outside the main stadium.  There are many concessions, activities, and entertainment available within the complex which make it very pleasant between matches, or just relaxing in the shade to get something to eat or drink.


We love tennis, and thoroughly enjoyed this experience.  In fact, I’m looking forward to going back again soon, maybe for the next one during March 9-22, 2015.

Photography 101: Bliss

Photography 101: Bliss

For my Photography 101 Day 4 assignment, these photos represent “Bliss” for me.

We love playing golf on the Lago Vista and Highland Lakes golf courses on Lake Travis where we live.  It’s very relaxing, especially when it’s mid-70’s with a light breeze, playing golf while we enjoy the scenic views and try to avoid hitting the white-tailed deer.  Of course, the weather is not always perfect, and we’re fortunate that the courses are never very busy so we often have it all to ourselves.  It’s always fun and a great way to spend about four hours topped off with a nice cold beer.

Lago Vista Golf Course

Lago Vista Golf Course on Lake Travis

We also enjoy sitting on our deck in the evening watching the sun go down, especially with all the beautiful sunsets over Lake Travis.  Unfortunately there’s not as much water in the lake now since we’ve been in an extended drought, but it’s still a very relaxing view at the end of the day, especially with a nice glass of wine.

Lake Travis at Sunset

Lake Travis at Sunset

We are very happy living here with the wonderful golf, lake views, and sunsets.  This is “bliss” for us. I look forward to share more photos with you.

Photography 101: Water

Photography 101: Water

When I think of “Water”, I remember all the wonderful and fun places we have visited which all feature water in various forms. I have included a few photos that capture some of these images for this Photography 101 Day 3 assignment.

Here we have frozen water from a wonderful 10-day Alaskan cruise and land tour in Denali National Park we took in 2009.  One of the highlights was visiting this impressive Margerie Glacier in Glacer Bay National Park. It’s about 1 mile wide and extends about 21 miles from Mount Root (12,860 feet high) on the Alaska-Canada border.  We even witnessed it calving icebergs where chunks fall off into the water with a loud cracking boom sound.  Glacial ice is blue because its compacted ice absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue so that’s what we see .

Margerie Glacier

Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska


Here the water is massive and provides lots of great recreation opportunities as well as views like this.  We love hiking, especially in scenic areas like the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla, California (San Diego) where we visited in 2012.  There are great views of the Pacific Ocean here with the beaches and cliffs, and wonderful hiking trails to enjoy.

Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines

Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, La Jolla, CA


Another place we love to go is Lake Tahoe, which is so large and the water is very blue because it’s so deep.  We’re fortunate that my sister-in-law lives there so we get to visit quite a bit and enjoy this great area in the Sierra Mountains of California which borders Nevada.  There are so many great things to enjoy here like hiking, but sometimes it’s just so pleasant to appreciate the beauty while relaxing in a restaurant by the lake with the trees, boats, and mountains in our view. This was taken in 2011 at the Wild Goose restaurant, which I understand is now closed.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe from Wild Goose restaurant


Here the water forms the border which separates Mexico and the United States at Lajitas, Texas.  We stayed at Lajitas Golf Resort there in February 2013, and played golf at Black Jack’s Crossing golf course.  This photo was taken from our golf tee looking down to the green where we had to hit.  Beyond that you can see the Rio Grande meandering along between the countries with the Mexican mountains in the background.  It’s not very wide so it’s understandable how easy it must be for illegal immigrants to cross.

Rio Grande

Rio Grande from Black Jack’s Crossing golf tee


In this photo from Big Bend National Park, you can see how the water has formed the deep cliffs of Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande over thousands of years.  We hiked on a trail along the edge of the water where we could appreciate the view from the riverbed.  You can’t go much further because you would go into Mexico (illegally).

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park


This year we attended my niece’s wedding in Seattle, Washington and the reception was held in the Columbia Tower Club on the 76th floor.  I  took this photo of Puget Sound surrounding the city looking down on all the city’s skyscrapers with the 605-foot Space Needle landmark built for the 1962 World’s Fair in the middle.  It offered wonderful views below in all directions, including Mount Ranier as well as the stadiums for the Seattle Mariners baseball and Seattle Seahawks football teams.

Seattle and Puget Sound

Seattle, Space Needle, and Puget Sound (from 76th floor)


Of course, after all the wonderful vacations and fun times traveling to other places, it’s also great to come back home to Lago Vista where we enjoy our lake views and sunsets every day.

Currently, I use an iPhone 5 for my photos, although some of these earlier ones were taken with an iPhone 3G, Canon PowerShot S400, and Kodak C875.  I look forward to share more photos with you.

Photography 101: Street – Cheesesteak War

Photography 101: Street – Cheesesteak War

When returning to the Philadelphia airport from a family reunion beach vacation on Long Beach Island at the Jersey shore in 2010, my son Jeff insisted that we make a stop in South Philadelphia because he had to try the famous cheesesteaks at Geno’s and Pat’s.

I was concerned that he might not make his flight since we were running late, but he didn’t care since he just had to go there and try them both to see which one was better.  I grew up in South Jersey across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, but that was the first time I had visited these famous cheesesteak places.

There has been continuous extreme competition (almost war) between two restaurants directly across from each other at the “X” shaped intersection of South 9th St and East Passyunk Ave in South Philadelphia, where they are crossed by Wharton St and Latona St.  For those not familiar with a Philly cheesesteak, it  consists of thinly sliced rib-eye steak, melted cheese, oven-fresh baked bread and delicately grilled onions.

Pat’s King of Steaks started his restaurant when became tired of eating hot dogs as a street vendor and invented the steak sandwich in 1933.  Geno’s Steaks was established in 1966, and the owner claimed that he added cheese on top, and thus invented the classic Philly cheese steak.  Pat later one-upped him by introducing Cheese Whiz, which has become the topping of choice since then.  Pat chops up his meat, Geno’s does not.

These twin shrines have drawn rock stars, college kids, and politicians for almost 50 years (and us).  The cheesesteak has since become a signature dish for the city of Philadelphia.  There was an old Fortune article from May 29, 2003 called “Sandwich Superheroes“, which talked about how Philadelphia’s cheese-steak kings have fought for more than 30 years.

Here’s a photo of Geno’s Steaks that I took when we visited.  They’re very busy but the line moves quickly so you have to know how to order properly;  my son had prompted me to say “I want a philly cheesesteak, wiz wit”, which is slang for “with cheese whiz, “wit” onions – and that’s what I got with fries and a drink.  You can find additional information about Geno’s Steaks at their Website as well as Wikipedia.


And on the opposite corner is Pat’s King of Steaks (also known as Pat’s Steaks), which is Geno’s rival cheesesteak restaurant.  It was founded in 1930 by brothers, Pat and Harry Olivieri, who are credited with the creation of the Philly Cheesesteak.  It’s not as flashy as Geno’s but its menu is very similar.  We also had a cheesesteak there too, but frankly I’m not sure I could really tell that much difference between them, but they were both very good.  And of course, it’s the whole experience and atmosphere that makes this a special place to visit.  You can find additional information about Pat’s Steaks at their Website as well as Wikipedia.

Pat's Steaks

If you want to visit, here a segment of a Google Map which shows where they are located directly opposite each other at this intersection of South 9th St and East Passyunk Ave in South Philadelphia.

Cheesesteak Map

As you approach the cheesesteak intersection driving up the one-way South 9th from South Broad St, you pass a large “Sounds of Philadelphia” mural on the side of the Italian Market.  It celebrates Philly’s own musicians of the Bandstand era as a tribute to the sound that made South Philadelphia famous in the 1950s and ‘60s — a sound that not only defined Philadelphia, but an entire era.

Philadelphia Mural

It features signed pictures of famous music people from South Philly: Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Jerry Blavat (top row), Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Al Martino, and Eddie Fisher (bottom row).

Frankie Avalon is an American actor, singer, playwright, and former teen idol.  Here’s an old video when he appeared on Dick Clark’s evening show.

“Venus” by Frankie Avalon (1959)


Bobby Rydell is a professional singer, mainly of rock and roll music. In the early 1960s he was considered a teen idol. Well known tracks include “Wild One” and “Volare”, and he appeared in the movie Bye Bye Birdie.

Fabian is a singer and actor who became popular after performing on American Bandstand; he became a teen idol of the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Al Martino was an older singer and actor whose greatest success was between the early 1950s and mid-1970s, being described as “one of the great Italian American pop crooners.”

Eddie Fisher was an entertainer and the most successful pop singles artist of the first half of the 1950s, selling millions of records and hosting his own TV show; he also was initially married to Debbie  Reynolds (and father of Carrie Fisher of Stars Wars fame), and then next to her best friend, Elizabeth Taylor, and later to Connie Stevens.

Chubby Checker is an American singer-songwriter widely known for popularizing the twist dance style, with his 1960 hit cover of Hank Ballard’s R&B hit “The Twist”. He also popularized the Limbo Rock and its trademark limbo dance, as well as various dance styles such as the fly. He got grownups out dancing on the floor to teenage music.  Maybe this will take some readers back in time (like me).

“The Twist” by Chubby Checker on American Bandstand (1960)


Jerry Blavat, also known as “The Geator with The Heator” and “The Boss with the Hot Sauce”, is an American disc jockey known for promoting oldies music on the radio in the Philadelphia area. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I used to listen to him all the time on the radio.   I even went on the American Bandstand TV show with Dick Clark, which was quite popular back then and it probably gave Dick Clark his start.

Currently, I use an iPhone 5 for my photos, although these earlier photos were taken in 2010 with a Canon PowerShot A400 which I don’t have any more.  I look forward to share more photos with you.