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...