Friday, December 18, 2009

News Coverage

This year marked a banner year for a select group of North Country crafters who had previously been available at the Rocks Christmas Tree Farm in Bethlehem, NH. Long time favorites like Jerry Landry aka “Stumpy” , Zelda Gonyer of Zelda’s Gourmet Preserves, Valerie Hill of Photo-Sensitivity along with Ron and Ina Lippard of Renaissance Reproductions decided to host their own event for the three weekends following Thanksgiving at the Eagles Club just across the street from the SPNHF estate.
For years, savvy shoppers traveled to Bethlehem to cut their tree and purchase handcrafted holiday gifts. When a decision was made not to invite the crafters this year, the small group decided to hold their own event to coincide with the busiest of shopping days. The event dubbed “ The Crafters Are Here”, a play on words from the signage usually announcing the arrival of approximately 14 unique vendors, ran for the weekends of November 27-29, December 5th , 6th, 12th and 13th. A free drawing of a gift basket made up of donations from all the vendors recorded more than 200 visitors.
Other crafters in attendance included Ray Chamberland’s designer pens, Rugs by Jerry and RDH candy, Sage’s Fairy Garden and Thyme To Heal organic teas, Critta’s and Things Fleece and Potholders, Deborah Helen’s Florals and Sap Buckets, Pillow Surprize, Happy Trails homemade doggie treats, and A Natural Moment pen and ink note cards.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Now, it looks like Christmas! Two days ago, we received several inches of snow. Yesterday, it was 38 degrees and beautiful. My mom checked the forecast for today and they said the forecast called for flurries most of the day. We woke up to a winter wonderland of an additional 8 inches of fluffy picture perfect powder, here in Whitefield. Not sure what they got in other parts of the state. It doesn't matter because I don't have to shovel "elsewhere". Now, I can get out and get those postcard shots of deep drifts of fresh clean snow piled up against the edge of a log cabin or a post and rail fence nearly buried with the just a hint of the Christmas light glowing beneath. Sounds beautiful, doesn't it? We'll see once I find those things...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Press Coverage

Wow! It isn't often that I find myself being mentioned in the local newspapers so you can imagine my surprise when I found my name twice in the same issue. I was browsing through the Great Northwoods Journal issue of December 5th and there I was on page seven in an article about Birds Of A Feather in Lancaster, NH. The article talks about all the crafters in general. In fact, it was only my name listed among the others. That was enough. I continued to read and when I reached the final page, there I was again. This time, it was an article about how a group of crafter who had previously displayed at the Rocks Christmas Tree Farm are holding their own event at the Eagles' Club in Bethlehem. It was a nice article which included a photo of Jerry Landry, aka Stumpy, with his snowmen made from recycled wood. In this article, I had a whole sentence. It was great!!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Update on FaceBook

WOW, I was just rereading a post from March or April and realized I'd better give an update on my FaceBook page. I quickly realized the social networking that is at the heart of a site like this had gotten out of had by adding just one game to the site. It's called "Mafia Wars" and over 4 million people play every day. It's a fun game and I got hooked by that same friend who turned me on to FaceBook in the first place. So, since I now have more than 2,000 "friends" and my real family and friends can't get a word in edgewise, I decided to set up a new FaceBook page for my business, family and friends, NO MAFIA WARS ALLOWED. LOL! The new site can be accessed by searching for me under my maiden name Valerie Mooers Hill or by typing in a separate e-mail account I set up, This is a dummy e-mail address just for FaceBook so don't try to e-mail to me anything there. I can still be reached for photography related stuff at For some reason FaceBook didn't recognize that as an actual e-mail destination. I would love to have my loyal readers join me there. When requesting me as a friend just put photo-sensitivity in the message section. I'll get the hint.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"NOT THE ROCKS" Craft fair in full swing

The title deserves some explanation. For the past seven years, I've been at the SPNHF Rocks Estate Christmas Tree Farm for three weekends following Thanksgiving. I was among a select group of 14 unique artisans with NH products and gift ideas. The event had been going on for about 15 years and out of the blue last January we all received a letter informing us the "board" had decided to go another way with the space and were not inviting us back. SO, my friend Zelda Gonyer, who makes the best jams, jellies, pickles and preserves in the North Country, decided we would have our own event. We rented the Eagles' Hall in Bethlehem which just happens to be at the entrance to the Rocks driveway. We're very fortunate because we have more space, better lighting, indoor plumbing and heat. The barns at the Rocks were cold and drafty on the best of days. We have a bunch of signage and an "angel" up at the Rocks is telling people who come in and ask about us where we are. Today there were over 100 people, repeat customers, who came because they visit us every year. And we didn't disappoint!!!! We'll be there on Dec 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th. Come by and say HI!!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Have Been SOOOOO Bad

I was just signing up for this new service called ArtSpider which will go on line later this fall and the application asked for a blog site. It was at that moment that I realized I haven't done any blogging since April. I've thought about it a couple of times but when I gave it a bit more thought, I didn't really have anything positive to say. Maybe that's the point! My photography is a part of me and with the economy the way it's been, in a downward spiral, I've also found myself in a downward spiral. My husband, Carl would call it depression. Since he's not medically certified, I'll disagree with him.
Here's what I'd call it: When I'm "UP", I'll grab my camera, hop into the truck and drive around, stopping when I see something interesting. I'll travel back roads where I have no idea where they'll come out or how I'll even find them another time. This has always served me well in the past. Some days I get great results while others not so much. Now, in the "DOWN" times with higher gas prices, I don't feel I should spend the money to drive nowhere for no purpose to accomplish nothing. During "UP" times, my work would be selling well, shows would have hordes of people stopping by to chat and business cards would be flying off the table. Last week, a "DOWN" time, I handed out just 4 cards, sold half of what I'd sold the previous year and had just 2 conversations with passersby about my work. Most walkers shoved their hands deeper into their pockets and continued their aimless stroll past my tent. I won't continue on. I only meant to point out why I haven't felt much like blogging lately. I think it will get better. I think during the next few months, the "Christmas" season, people will be more likely to buy and then their will be nothing.
One last thing and then I'll get off my soap box. We've had a lot of construction in Whitefield and that has shaken up the wildlife. I managed to capture the image of a beautiful bear in Twin Mountain who was becoming a regular visitor until they mowed the field he was grazing in. That was a bummer. My bull moose is still in hiding. I'm getting the feeling he'll be growing that rack for another year and I didn't get my kayak so there are still no Loon photos in my inventory. Don't even get me started about the hummingbirds. I'll just have to wait until next year for that one, too......

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Wildlife Parade

I'd forgotten how much wonder nature holds for those who either have become distant to it's charms or hardened by the rigors of living away from "civilization". Case In Point. As some of you may know, we put an addition on the side of our house last year for my mom to live in. For the past 25 years or so, she's been living in an urban setting. Now she lives in the middle of 15 acres of woodland at the end of a 1/4 mile private dirt road, virtually in the pucker brush. Over the past week or so, she has been treated morning and night to a never ending and truly fascinating parade of wildlife. It started one evening with a pair of yearling does. Our variety is white tailed deer. The very next evening it was the fattest porcupine I've ever had the pleasure of viewing. The following day it was a partridge strutting his stuff to attract a mate. The next day we were visited in the middle of the day by a young buck who decided to nibble on my husband's day lilies shoots that are above the ground by a good 4 inches. Yesterday, early in the morning, we had the pleasure of watching a 2-3 year old doe grazing on the lawn for a while and she returned that evening as well. During the winter, we had a beautiful red fox visit to feed on some cracked corn we'd put out for just that purpose. Now, she's wondering what's next. I've pointed out that there is a real possibility for both moose and bear to wander out of the woods. She says she doesn't mind anything but she doesn't want to turn the corner of our house when she's out walking and run into a skunk. She's game for anything else.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Final Straw

To say that it's been a rough winter would be an understatement. With unemployment running rampant, food and fuel prices climbing higher and higher and more troubles on the horizon, it's time for a change, don't you think? Well, I thought so. I spent the entire month of February sick and most of March trying to shake the winter blahs. Here it is April and I've seen my first beautiful crocuses on the front lawn. YEAH!!!!!! The grass tips are fighting their way up through the dead duff of last year, the birds are starting to get frisky, moose are on the move and the snowbanks are almost a thing of the past, on the edge of the road that is. Deep inside the forest, the snow is still just exactly that- deep. And, out of the blue, I fought a toothache all weekend. The tooth had been repaired several times and the last time, the dentist said it might be the last. he must be some kind of prophet. Monday, I'm in his chair and he's pulling it out. I hate dentists and hate loosing teeth even more. Today, I feel lousy. My jaw hurts just a little less than it did with the tooth in it, I have to be careful of everything I eat and drink, no soda and very little brushing. My mouth tastes like a war zone and I lost. I'll be so glad when the weekend gets here. We're going to work in the studio and get the camper out of the mud, ready for the season which starts on the last weekend of the month, the three day Maple Sugar Festival in St Albans, VT. I'll be there. Hope to see you there as well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weather Tease

Man, what a beautiful day. Carl and I went for a walk and the air just smelled so much like spring, it almost hurt because I know it's still really early. We could still get pounded with huge amounts of snow during the month of April. As I walked, I looked. I looked really hard for something to peak my photographic interest and I have to tell you, it's just not there, yet. Thursday, I observed one lone Canada goose winging it's way south. Is it confused or am I?

We both agree the ice is leaving the rivers and streams in a much slower pace. Perhaps we'll avoid the usual flooding of the Connecticut River low areas which includes the truck stop/convenience store/camp ground that our son works at. One year, it was so bad the fire dept forced him to evacuate the store in a row boat. He had stayed behind to move things in the store to higher shelves as the water rose. His boss was really appreciative.

The first flowers we'll see will be the trilliums shown in the photo attached.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Getting The Urge

We finally got our taxes done. It's not that my business empire is so huge, because it's not, it's just that it does take a lot of time to count all of those mats and frames. I am always amazed when I start plugging figures into my spreadsheet. And, if I only had that $10,000.00 that my figures tells me is sitting in my studio, well I'd probably be on my way to the camera store for that lens I mentioned I could really use. each time I look wistfully off into the distance knowing I can't bring that subject close enough or try to get a saleable image of an eagle or a bull moose, I mutter to myself the same thing. "Have to have that bigger lens before I head off to Alaska or Africa. It will be a waste of time, money and effort, otherwise." So, now the numbers are in the hands of the accountants and I'm getting the urge. The urge, you see, is for all of the snow to be gone. It's going, but no soon enough for me. The sap is running and I know that new life is just waiting to burst upon the scene. I can't wait until I can hang up my heavy jacket, put the boots away and start wandering the countryside in search of that first new baby whatever, the first daffodil, the first moose calf, anything but dirty snow banks and muddy brown lawns.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


For the past few days, I've been playing around with a new toy, a new project, one that I hope will be of real benefit to me and to my work. It's called Facebook. I don't really know much about it. A friend sent me a link to his page and, intrigued, I clicked on the link. I was disappointed to find out that I had to register ( join ) in order to see his graphic design work. But, what the heck, I dove in with both feet. It was surprisingly easy. You do have to enter a few personal questions and I didn't see the reason behind it until I actually got the account set up. The site opens a page of your own, with all sorts of information about you, your hobbies, likes and dislikes, whims, fancies and you can adapt the pages to make them more like yourself or do absolutely nothing at all. Members network themselves by "requesting" friends, family, neighbors and just acquaintances to declare "they are friends". This enables a whole network to build. In my case, the more friends I allow and encourage to view my site the better. It gets even more of my work out there for people to become familiar with. Already, I have set up seven or eight albums from our travels to Australia, Panama and so forth for people to see and comment.

My one mistake was that I set my account up under my home e-mail address and people looking for my page won't find it with the info@ address that is on my business cards. The address that you should enter when looking for my work is I'm trying to figure out how to fix this boo boo but for now, please- go to and set up an account. It only takes a few minutes and it costs nothing. You don't have to fill in all of the information. You will be amazed when you search for friends how intuitive and helpful the site is. It brought up people I never realized had a facebook page. Maybe that's because I never really checked it out until my friend, Tom, sent me the link. BTW, he's doing brilliant things with a couple of graphic design programs. Oh, and the photo I've posted is the real me, taken by my dad or his wife, Adena, during our recent visit to the Pacific Northwest.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Steph

Our grand daughter turned eight years old today. This isn't really anything special except for one very important thing. The day she was born she was 10 weeks premature and weighed 2 pounds. It was almost surreal looking at her in the isolette. I read her measurements over and over and wondered to myself how, in later years, I would be able to grasp just how small she really was. SO I took those measurements and hunted high and low for just the right bunny rabbit. It had to be exactly 14 inches long and weigh no more than 2 pounds. it had to have thin arms and legs. It took me a while but I was relentless finding just exactly the right stuffed animal. The nurses let me put it in her isolette and we took a photograph of her next to the bunny. We've taken this photograph every year on her birthday to remind us all of how tiny she was and to remind Stephanie as well of what a fighter she was. She came home from the hospital a little over 4 pounds with very little health issues. We thank God everyday for sending her to us and allowing us to keep her. I just thought you'd all like to know how wonderful the staff in the neonatal unit at Dartmouth Hitchcock really is. I even wrote a piece on her first birthday and sent it to the papers along with her 1st birthday photo. Attached to this piece is the one I took today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Didn't Know Dogs Could Get That Sick

I never realized what the phrase meant until this past month. I hated the ride north in the car though. The further north we went, the more pressure built in my head and by the time we got home, I was in tears. In fact, there are no posts for the month of February because I was so miserable. I spent more time curled up on the couch than I did on my feet. Carl thinks the misery of this head cold actually lasted longer because I also tend to get cabin fever during this time of year. Some call it Seasonal Affective Disorder and if you think about the initials, S.A.D. then it must be true. The days are finally getting a bit warmer and I can feel the urge to get out and take photos burning inside me. I'm not there yet, but my husband always knows when I'm feeling better. He says I get grouchy. LOL!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It's A Party, After All

Today is Super Bowl Sunday and the grandchildren are making their annual visit for our three hour tailgate party. We eat too much, laugh a lot, tell stories and watch football but the events of the day happen in that order when football is the least of the reasons for the gathering. I‘m still feeling really lousy but we wait a whole year for this event, I wouldn’t want to disappoint either of them. We see them often, that’s not the reason. It’s the randomness of the munchies and the cooking with the kids. It’s all about the PARTY!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sick As A Dog

I’m sick as a dog and made even more so by the mere fact that I took DayQuil every four hours yesterday so I could tolerate flying with such a miserable head cold. My savior was a less than full plane from Seattle to Boston. In fact, the plane had so few people on board, both Carl and I had three seats each to stretch out on. I did my best to hook the seatbelt over my prone body and drifted off to sleep, a feat I’ve only managed to do a few times in my more than thirty five years of flying. Now, after almost passing out on the plane from the medicine, I’m not looking forward to going home. It’s cold in New Hampshire, more than 25 below zero last night and snow up to my knees. It isn’t easy to get out in those conditions to take pictures. It’s my least favorite time of year.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Homeward Bound

Here I sit in one more airport, Seattle, this time. We have hours to kill before our flight to Boston which will arrive early tomorrow morning. We are treated to a scene that is played out in airports all over the world. The plane at the gate closes it’s doors without two of it’s passengers. Their names are called over the loudspeaker, imploring them to arrive at the gate or their seats will be forfeit. The jet way is retracted and the plane begins it’s preflight course of actions. Suddenly, the passengers arrive and boy are they surprised and upset. The plane sits just beyond the glass for several minutes while it gets it glycol coating of deicer. There are tense conversations between airline representatives and the passengers. Radio calls are made to the cockpit. Eventually, to my surprise, the jet way snakes back out for just a minute and the two unhappy travelers slide onto the plane and then they along with all the other passengers disappear into the night. I’m amazed. If that had been me, late to the gate, I’d be scratching my head right now trying to get a different connection.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sad Farewells

We say goodbye to Dad and Adena. They’re heading back to Bellingham today with a bit of a cloud over their heads. It seems their car is making sounds that it doesn’t usually make. This will have to be checked out. My day is spent doing absolutely nothing. My plan is to rest and take lots of day quill so I can fly tomorrow without too much difficulty. There’s one more load of laundry to do. After three weeks, we’ll go home with just one days’ worth of dirty laundry. This means my first day home is not spent at my new washer and dryer that was delivered while we have been away. I didn’t even feel like packing and I should have.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm next

Okay, it’s my turn now. I have another cold and I feel terrible. I spend one of my few remaining vacation days curled up and feeling miserable. Dad and Adena go for a walk and then head off to the store to find something for supper. They’re leaving in the morning and I wish I felt better so we could go out for a walk.
Somehow, Adena manages steak, pan fried potatoes and carrots on a two burner hotplate and a microwave. I enjoyed her efforts, ate what I could even though I had no desire to eat. I’m sure the food was great but I only wanted to crawl into bed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Uclulet And Old Growth

We checked out Ucluelet just to say we’d been there but quite honestly it could have been “small town anywhere” . We did take a very short break and walk a small section of the Pacific Rim Trail to a breathtaking overlook. The waves crashed onto the secluded harbor and it would have been easy to sit on the bench provided and forget about the rest of the world, for a while. However there were "miles to go before we sleep" and so we made a stop for lunch provisions at a local grocery store and headed back to the eastern side of the island and our home away from home. We made stops to photograph eagles and I was reminded that my choices of lenses are lacking. My need for a 600mm or larger lens is even more apparent on this trip. I’ve just moved it to the top of my “when I get some money” list. The MacMillin Forest is beyond description. We were there for such a short time but I was spellbound by the immensity of these huge trees, some of which are more than 800 years old. They stand, a testament to durability and adaptation, against a world that threatens their very existence every day. And when one of them falls, it not only leave a huge gapping hole in the canopy of the forest but something majestic and irreplaceable is gone from the world forever. Left to time, the forest will gradually reclaim all of the behemoth and new life will spring from it’s corpse. Sadly, we will never see another giant in it’s place. We had a mere twenty minutes this afternoon but I could have spent hours there wandering from tree to tree in the fragrant shadows. We’re nearly back to the unit when Carl and I realize neither of us are feeling all that great.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Castles Aren't The Only Things Found In Sand

Today, we drove the width of Vancouver Island for two reasons. The first is because there wasn't enough time to drive the length and the second was because I had heard how beautifully wild the west coast was, especially during storms when the Pacific rises up and crashes into the rocky coast. My luck tends to run in the opposite. I want bright sunny days and get gray drizzle. I want wild Pacific wind driven storms and get warm brilliant blue sky days where surfers are disappointed in the four to five foot swells. The road to Tofino and Ucluelet is steep, twisting, narrow, and travels through some of the most beautiful countryside on the island, rising from sea level up to more that 411 meters and then back down once more. Long narrow fiord like lakes nestle in the crooked valleys of huge mountains and the snow banks get higher as we climb. Every once in a while I’m treated to a breath taking view of frost encrusted trees glistening in the sunlight or old growth forests dripping with dew. And there are eagles here to tease my camera lens as well. Tofino is a sleepy little fishing village that has managed to adapt to accommodate all of us tourists from the outside world. When we arrive, I feel like I’ve arrived home. The people are friendly and their speech is characteristically punctuated with an “eh” here and there. It just made me feel as if I belonged. We walked beaches, watched the tide rise and fall from our hotel room, wandered quiet streets empty of traffic to find the perfect native doll for my grand daughter ( didn't succeed ) and we asked the locals where to find the perfect sunset. We are directed to the “ best spot on the island” to view the sunset and it didn’t disappoint. While we waited for the time to approach, there were tide pools to investigate and drift wood piles to be searched. We found curious little trails in the sand left by unseen creatures and everywhere we looked was another beautiful view just begging to be captured by my camera. While walking , I happened to look at my feet to see this unusual pattern in the sand. The outgoing tide has created art of it's own. It was not unique, however. I found other forests along the way. The sunset was beautiful, as promised. It was a perfect end to a perfect day spent with my dad, taking pictures. Sometimes I feel like I'm ignoring the people around me when I get lost in that special moment .

Another helpful suggestion directed us to a restaurant reputed to have good food at reasonable prices. Well, the food was good! We spent the night overlooking a secluded harbor where the cannery waits for the fishing fleet to arrive.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some days I found it hard to choose just one image to show how beautifully diverse Vancouver isand was. We came up a rather large flock of Tundra and Trumpet swans feeding in a flooded field about a hundred miles from where we stayed. It was a particular treat for me because I've only ever seen domesticated swans at parks and zoos.

Finding Eagles

It's no secret that I am fascinated with bald eagles. They are so majestic, strong and graceful and I would love to be able to add what proud hunters they are. This isn't the case because most eagles are hunters of opportunity. They will feast on anything they find from carrion to garbage. They will even chase other predators from their catch. Vancouver Island is included in the southern range for Alaskan eagles who migrate to find warmer temperatures and an uninterrupted source of food. The eagles being on the island was our main reason for choosing to spend a week. The sheer beauty and diverse landscape was an added bonus. We stayed in Nanoose Bay, a quiet little community that is only an hour's drive from four thousand foot snow capped mountains. And when I say "island" don't get lulled into a sense of diminished size with a population consisting of natives who either fish or do wood carving for a living. The island is the size of California and is heavily populated, even in the winter. The ferry to the mainland runs every two hours and in the summertime, the already busy highways are clogged to a standstill. I think my family got tired of hearing me say," hey look, there's another eagle up there". I know I never got tired of trying to photograph them.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Slippery Fog

We are greeted in Vancouver by a freezing layer of fog straight off the Pacific. It's not a totally new concept because in the east we have this thing called black ice which happens at the same temperature. We turn our wait for the ferry into a photo shoot of the harbor and downtown Horseshoe Bay. I have to say the word "sleepy" applies during the month of January although my imagination can stretch to a booming little tourist spot in the warmer months. The ferry arrives, we load quickly and then Carl asks where I want to sit. Laughing, I point topside to maximize the photo potential. This works for about twenty minutes when off in the distance I spy a massive fog bank. The pictures as we approach the cottony wall are breathtaking and even though we stay wrapped in that cotton batting for most of the trip, forcing us down to the passenger activity deck, it was still a pleasant ride. The fog lifts just as we approach Departure Bay on Vancouver Island.It took us as long to find our resort as it did to travel the distance from the mainland to the island.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Bit Of Reflection

If you're following our trip for the past two weeks, please go back to look at the photos I 've just put in. It was difficult to narrow my choices down for each post. I found so many interesting mementos of our two weeks on the M/v Mercury. We've been off the ship for a couple of hours and I still feel like I'm being tossed about. Our plane leaves Fort Lauderdale around noon and takes us to Seattle by way of Boston. I know, that's not a direct route. It happens sometimes like that. Since this is a photo blog, I should probably mention that I've taken hundreds of photos, some are merely vacation souvenirs, something for me to look at over the next few years and wonder what I was thinking about when I took that shot. Others will only mean something to me when I'm reminded about the lighting or the way the subject caught my eye. That's really the basis for taking photographs. It's because something caught your eye, you were enraptured by the way the light and shadow interacted with one another or maybe it was because you'll never pass that way again. You want a record of what was because it may never be that way again. It could be as simple as a man feeding the pigeons. Now, since we haven't eaten in a few hours, it's time to look toward that next bit of nourishment before boarding our plane.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

South Of The Border

Cartegena, Columbia is a city divided by old and new. We sit on board in the harbor and from our porthole we can view the loading and unloading of massive cargo ships. Nearby is an ocean of overseas containers. In the distance is the “new city” of Cartegena, steel and concrete high rise buildings just glistening from the tropical sun. We board a bus and are taken to the walled “old city” under the protection of two massive forts from the sixteenth century. The walking tour takes us to the oldest of the Catholic Churches in the city and we are escorted through some of the narrowest cobble stoned streets I’ve seen in some time. We are shown historical statues, government buildings and beautifully restored brightly colored homes that are now businesses. All buildings in this part of town must be maintained historically and kept in good repair. This part of the city is clean and my only problem is that we are inundated with licensed peddlers hawking t-shirts, jewelry, leather and other tourist trinkets. In fact, everywhere we turn, someone is trying to sell us a hat or sunglasses. It interesting to note there is no welfare for younger people and some try to earn money by performance art. We came upon a statue of four fishermen. I took a picture, thinking it was three statues and one person imitating a statue. Then I realized all four were human. They wore all black clothes, heavy black makeup and stood on blackened stumps while holding blackened fishing gear complete with a blackened fish. In front of these “artists” were buckets for offerings from passersby. That was the only time you saw any movement. It’s a type of art that demands endurance and dedication to the project. Towards the end of our tour, we were allowed just twenty minutes to purchase our souvenirs before returning to the ship. This is a novelty for us. Normally, shore excursions are the main vehicle used to lure people off the ships and into the shops.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sanitation and Other Measures

We have picked up someone from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta to check on the ships’ attempts to get a handle on the virus that is making an impact on so many people’s cruise. We have heard that this virus has affected 5 cruise ships including the Holland America’s Oosterdam that was berthed next to us in San Diego. The specialist says the ship is doing everything right and it seems the number of people reporting to the ship’s infirmary is decreasing daily. At our dining room table, three of the four couples endured quarantine and one couple went through it twice, once for him and then a day later, her. All food and condiments are given to us by staff whether it’s in the dining room or upstairs at the buffet. Salt and pepper are dispensed for you, cream is poured into your coffee and even the butter has made a transformation from clover shaped hand cut pats to foil wrapped prepackaged tablespoons. There has been so much disinfectant used on the ship that all shiny surfaces have cloudy film on them, the handrails in the stairways are constantly wet, the covers from the pool chaise loungers have been stripped and in some cases the varnish has been stripped away on the woodwork. We’ve heard reports of people’s clothing being ruined by the bleach and the staff is forbidden from shaking hands with the guests. On the night of the 11th, after the lifting of our curfew, two stewards came into our room and sanitized everything we might have possibly touched.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Panama Canal

Today, we travel through the Panama Canal, the highlight of this trip. We’re up early for the sunrise. It’s one of the few places geographically that the sun actually rises in the west and sets in the east. We will be traveling northwest in order to go east. Directionally, this place is all mixed up. There’s tons of statistics that I could pass on here but I don’t want to use up the space. I will tell you that our ship paid $259,000.00 to pass through the canal. We travel under two bridges, the Bridge of the Americas which connects North and South America and the Centennial Bridge that was constructed to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the completion of the Canal. The Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks lift us up 85 feet so that we can travel through the Gaillard Cut, the nine mile long, most narrow part of the 47 mile trip. Currently the Canal operates 24 hours a day and all traffic is inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon. Large ships pass each other in the second largest man made lake, Gatun Along the way, we view construction on the third and much wider series of locks for the post Panamax freighters, ships with beams wider than the 108 feet the current locks can accommodate. Finally, we are lowered back down to sea level by the Gatun locks and enter the Caribbean Sea.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Illness Strikes

I’m sorry to report there will be no beautiful photos from Costa Rica today. It started the night before last with a 6.2 magnitude earthquake striking near San Jose and La Paz. We had been scheduled to tour the beautiful waterfalls of La Paz and were not surprised but definitely upset to find that our shore excursion had been cancelled along with several others. We’re not sure if it’s because of a concern regarding aftershocks or if there is significant damage to streets and facilities. So we, like hundreds of other guests scrambled to find an alternate tour to fill our time while we are docked in Puntarenas. At dinner last evening, Carl began feeling awful. He was hot, felt clammy to the touch and his stomach was doing the Macarena . By 10:00PM, he had thrown the entire contents of his stomach up and I do mean violently. He collapsed into bed and was up again at 4:30 this morning with a mad dash to the bathroom. By 8:00AM, he was weak, had a pounding headache and ached all over. It won’t surprise any of you to know that we were off to the ship’s doctor moments later. He pronounced us under quarantine-me for 24 hours and Carl for 48. That means our shore excursion is cancelled and refunded plus we cannot leave the cabin for the stated times. Normally room service and confinement would appeal to us both. Too bad he feels so lousy. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that he got a very painful shot in the behind to stop his vomiting and some pills to take before he eats anything else.
Maybe it was the motion of the ocean or maybe it was the breast of duck he had for supper. Maybe it was just his turn to get the virus that’s been ghosting about the ship. We may never know. I can’t say it’s ruined the vacation but it sure has put a stopper on the next day or two’s activities. The photo posted was taken two nights earlier, a perfect end to a beautiful day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shore Excursion

Today ‘s activities included an hour ashore in Huatulco, MX, and I took several interesting photos depicting what I thought made up this tiny slice of heaven. It turns out the real town is a mile down the road from where we were. The contrasting colors on some of the buildings was unusual and I’ve found the lighting gets more intense as we travel closer to the Canal. This part of the Mexican coastline is inundated with tiny bays which we are told have been set aside as marine sanctuaries and will not be developed. It’s the only part of the coastline where sewerage is not dumped back into the ocean and they have three treatment plants in the area. I must say the beaches were clean and so were the streets.
Last night we went to one of the many bars to have a drink and catch some music before bed. We settled on a Jazz group because they were easy to listen to and they interacted often with us few members of the audience that were there at that time of night. We found out the leader/drummer was from New Zealand. While on deck this afternoon, we happened upon an intense game of shuffleboard being played between this kiwi and the sax player. We chatted for some time about how open and friendly we found the New Zealand people to be and how we had much enjoyed their hospitality three years ago. He was so pleased to hear it that he gave me a hug in spite of all the sanitation procedures the ship has placed into effect. I guess this norovirus has the shipping line concerned because they are in touch with the CDC regarding measures to be taken to get the ship healthy once more. Rumors abound about the number of passengers affected.
After a day at sea tomorrow, we’ll be docking in Costa Rica. I’m wondering if we actually cross over the equator on the 10th.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Baltimore Four

Today is the first day I’ve really felt like myself. Fortunately, my head cold is letting up and I spent some time reading up by the pool while we’re docked in Acapulco. We’ve been here before, too. So it was a lazy Day. Carl went for a walk along the harbor and watched the local fishermen bring their catch to the beach while other guys sold the fish to passers by. For the past four nights we’ve been eating dinner at the second sitting, 8:30PM. We had asked to be seated at the early dinner, 6:00PM. Our request was made possible this evening and the phrase, “Be careful What you Wish For” certainly rings true. We are seated with two older couples from Baltimore. Now, it’s bad enough to spend the meal with Orioles Fans but I have to tell you, it’s quite an ordeal to act interested. One lady orders her appetizer and when it arrives she take a bite and decides she want something else. In fact each of the three courses, she sent back. I felt so bad for our waiter. It’s his first cruise and now I’m thinking he’s rethinking his career choice. Her husband is a retired judge and they’ve been on 39 cruises over the years. The other couple was something else as well. Both ladies coughed their heads off assuring me they weren’t contagious. All the while, we’re noticing the sanitation process ship wide has been stepped up because there are several cases of stomach virus on board. And to add insult to injury after giving up our quiet late table for two for the earlier sitting with the “Baltimore Four”, I missed the most beautiful sunset of the cruise to date.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cabo Or Bust

First port of call is Cabo San Lucas which started out as a sleepy little fishing village at the very tip of Baja California, gateway to the Sea of Cortez. We watched breaching humpbacks while having breakfast. Our plan was to do a jeep caravan through the rain forest and dessert in the surrounding hills but this was sold out. Since we’ve been to Los Cabos before, as it is commonly referred to, we decided to pass on a substitute. Carl did have to go ashore to find a particular brand of tequila made famous by Sammy Hagar of Van Halen ( He owns the Company ) called Cabo Wabo. Apparently it’s good stuff and a couple of people where Carl works asked him to pick up a bottle for them. Of course, now we’ve filled our customs quota and can’t bring anything back for ourselves. It’s okay, though because we’re not going anywhere near the Amaretto Di’ Sarona factory ( my favorite). When you get off the ship in Cabo, you are immediately assaulted by the street peddlers with their “gringo trinkets”. I almost laughed out loud when I heard them hawking their beautiful silver for just $1.00. And if that isn’t funny enough, we even walked by a vendor who was selling t-shirts for $1.00 For that price you could buy a dozen. You’d have to because you could never wash them, just wear them once and toss into the textile recycle bin.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Leg Of The Trip

I’m making an entry from San Diego today. We’re on board the Celebrity Cruise Ship, “Mercury” for our two week tour down the coast of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, a stop in Cartegena, Columbia, and our final destination, Fort Lauderdale, FL. The ship is good size and as always, it takes several days to become accustomed to where everything is. I wish I could have taken a picture of us during the mandatory life boat drill. The majority of the passengers are older with robust figures if you know what I mean and then to put these bright orange floatation devices on, well it’s just too comical. I can’t see down to my feet without holding the vest and tipping sideways. Once the drill is over, we can proceed with the fun. We were berthed in the part of the harbor next to the USS Midway which has been retired from active service and is now a floating museum. Her tower number is 41 but there are two other ships nearby with the tower numbers 78 and 68. I took several pictures from the dock just before we left. Does anyone know these ships? I'll post a photo later. Since my original post, I was able to discover the CVN 68 is the USS Nimitz, a nuclear powered air craft carrier.

Friday, January 2, 2009


In past years, I've made many resolutions and managed to keep some of them for a few days while most of them were not kept at all. In fact, the only resolution I've ever been able to keep was the one I made to never make another resolution. I will, however, try to do a better job of keeping you in the loop about my photography, what's happening at shows and on location during the upcoming year.

So, we are on the road again. This time, we're headed on a two week cruise down the west coast on Mexico, Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, a visit to South America and then on to Florida. I'll try to make daily posts but due to lack of Internet access, I may have to make several entries all at once.

We spent the first two days of our vacation traveling by bus and plane to San Diego. Then, the sore throat and head ache that I'd been plagued with for the past few days blew into a pretty good head cold. So, here I am, in San Diego and feeling pretty lousy. So lousy, in fact, that I passed on a trip to my favorite attraction, Sea World. I'll spend the day drinking lots of fluids and resting so I can feel better in the morning. How's that for optimism?

The last week of our trip moves us to Vancouver Island, BC where we plan to spend several days photographing the beautiful scenery and hopefully some bald eagles that will pose for me. We'll keep you posted...