Friday, December 13, 2013

A Very Merry Christmas at Walt Disney World.


It's hard to have a bad time at Disney but some visits are better than all the rest. I have gone about 150 times in the last 30 years. I've been rained on twice. It's Florida so a warm rain that drys up 20 minutes later is not so bad. I suffered through a very cold day once.... in shorts and a t-shirt. I bought a sweatshirt for the fire works which I still use when it gets cold which is never. I live in Florida too. But my last visit, last weekend was the best ever.

The first two weeks in December are always the best time to go. The crowds are at their lowest, the temperature is at it's mildest along with people's tempers. To make it even better, I booked the Very Merry Christmas Party. It runs from 7:00 pm when the park closes for regular guests till midnight. Ticket holders can actually get in at 4:00 pm. Not only are the crowds low, you practically have no lines and the little ones are heading off to bed.


The next day was freezing all across the country. Disney  - 85 degrees and sunny. Epcot has always been my favorite park and has gone through a lot of changes since I visited the year it opened. I still have the souvenir brochure. No one really knew what to expect back then. For me it was much more than I hoped for and some 30 years later I still feel the same way.


Monday, December 2, 2013

South Beach Neon


South Beach, Miami comes alive and lights up at night. These are some shots I took when I was first learning  to use my new Nikon D70. I learned quickly it was not the best camera for night photography. Even so I still vividly remember a full day and night taking photos with it. Now that I've pretty much retired my original camera it was interesting to see some of the early photos. Even better to remember the who I was sharing the day with.




Friday, November 22, 2013

Starting at the Bottom

Gardyloo Sisters

Over the years I have come to know many performers. I have seen these ladies around the fair grounds for a few years in various roles but teamed up as the Gardyloo Sisters, they have created a hilarious new act. It is never easy starting out and these excellent entertainers are most assuredly starting at the "bottom". Their show is a must see - next performance is the first weekend of FLARF.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013



After many years and many tries - I finally managed a perfectly timed photo of the Joust at the Florida Renaissance Festival. My newer, faster camera should make shots like this easier but this was my first.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Face in the Crowd


You just never know when someone will stand out from the rest. To see the rest and what I was doing this day, click on the photo.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Know your Subject


I walked down to the rail to take this shot. Then I returned to my seat beyond the splash zone to get the audience reaction to the next act. It's always good to know your subject before shooting.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Best Camera you Have.....

Tim Irwin as Anonymous the Juggler

Is the one you have with you. Here is a classic example. Not a bad shot for the tiniest camera I own. I made a last minute decision to visit the Boynton Beach Pirate Fest while traveling and did not have the opportunity to pick up my regular camera so I went with the one I had at the bottom of my suitcase.

This is a lucky shot of Tim Irwin - I just happened upon his show in mid performance and shot this from the back of a packed audience with my tiny telephoto fully extended. He was performing all day so I had several more opportunities for a good shot but as usual, it's the unexpected, lucky ones that are always my best.

Special thanks to my good friend Beata for capturing my expression after she caught me with my little one.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hungry Turtle


This little guy came swimming all the way across his enclosure to get his photo taken... so I thought. As soon as he realized I was not going to feed him, he abruptly turned around and swam away.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fast Lizard - Faster Camera


I find my most memorable shots are of subjects that are not moving. Where I have time to look at the scene, get the best angle, make sure no one is photo bombing the back ground.... then there is this guy. I stumbled upon this lizard who jumped up onto a rock, posed for one second, then was gone. The other shots, now deleted, were out of focus blurs. I have seen millions of lizards in Florida of mostly common shapes and sizes but this was a first and a last for this particular creature.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Don't Text and Drive

Don't Text and Drive
There is way too much of this on South Florida roads to ignore such a simple message. Seemed rather fitting after yesterdays post. It is wonderful to share information like never before but we still have the responsibility to those around us to do it at appropriate times.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hollywood Beach Came to Me Today

Hollywood Beach

I could not make it to the beach so a friend of mine texted me this photo which I am now sharing with you from my phone. What a marvelous age we live in. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Not so Shy Mannequin

Hollywood 049

I remember as a kid it was shocking to see a mannequin undressed. Most were barely recognizable as far as anatomical correctness. Now it seems you need to take a second look be sure it's not a real person staring back at you from a store window. Provocative appears to be the current theme.

This is certainly not my typical posting but I thought it would be interesting to see if I could generate a few comments on the topic. What do you think?

Hollywood 051

Monday, October 14, 2013

Roosevelt Bridge - Stuart FL

Roosevelt Bridge
I have seen some really fantastic shots of the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart. This is not one of those. This is my attempt at capturing what others have done so well but with the wrong camera settings. So why is this such a moving picture you ask? My Dad was standing right behind me when I took it. We got up at 4:00 am to do a little photography and have breakfast. My intention was to capture a good night shot of the bridge then a sunrise lighting it up. Although is was a clear day, the clouds offshore didn't cooperate. 

I really want to go back and revisit this shot and hopefully do a little better. My Dad is probably past the point where he can stand around for hours in the dark while I set up various shots. I do have this one though and as happens a lot with me, the memories are far better than the photography. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Children with Special Needs Family Resource Fair - 2013 Signature Grand, Davie

South Florida Pirate Sirens

South Florida Pirates

South Florida Pirates

I never plan to take photos that emotionally impact me. Usually I am moved in some way by what I am experiencing and if I'm lucky, I have a photo that reminds me of it.

Recently I was invited to photograph an event my good friends at the South Florida Pirates were participating in. I had just taken my new camera out of the box and I live about five minutes away so how could I say no. In the year that I have been a camp follower of the South Florida Pirates, I have enjoyed some very special moments. The few events I missed I have regretted. Even so I was not sure what was in store for me.

This was a more solemn and reserved event than I'm used to where families with special needs children can interact with vendors who provide special needs services. I have several photos from the event so please [click here] if you are interested.

I attended to simply capture my pirate friends at the annual event that is most meaningful to them. I have often wondered what it is that drives these very dedicated individuals to donate so much of their free time. As waves of visitors came within sight of our group, I witnessed over and over the children's eyes light up followed almost instantly by their parent's wide eyes and flashing smiles. The pirates and mermaids are only too happy to pose for photos, hand out toys and coins, tell stories, entertain and create smiles. There was no shortage of beaming little faces.

My photos may not seem all that moving to one casually passing by my blog but I saw the magic my friends brought to the children and their parents and they will be some of the most memorable photos now for me. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Double Rainbow

Double Rainbow

I am creating this post completely from the iPhone Blogger Ap including the photo. You just never know when and where inspiration will strike. 

Normally I wouldn't think much of a shot like this but when I posted it to FaceBook , I got a lot more response than I expected. 

I remember growing up in Pennsylvania I witnessed one rainbow in my life to that point. I now live in tropical South Florida where you can see them much more frequently. Double, triple, from two different cloud bursts. I once saw a full 360 degree rainbow. Now that was a momentary, once in a lifetime event. I yelled into the house for everyone to come see. No one could be bothered. 

Several of my friends commented they have never seen a double rainbow. I have seen several. I suppose I spend more time outside looking up in the rain when most people run for shelter. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Castillo de San Marcos - St Augustine FL


Castillo de San Marcos

What is it that I find so moving about Castillo de San Marcos. The fact that it is the same today as when I brought my daughter many years ago and even when my family brought me when I was a kid in the late 70's? There is a little pizza restaurant across the street that had a similar photo as one I took. When I looked at the date it was 1910. My grandfather was a sailor about that time. He may very well have made port here as there were not many options to make land in Florida at that time. This has been going on for some 500 years.

You never know where you will make a memory. I can only hope my daughter visits again with her children and remembers the time we walked these streets and visited this place.

For more of my photos of Castillo de San Marcos [click here]

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Much Needed Getaway to St Augustine, FL

St Augustine Lighthouse

Life has been challenging recently and I was well in need of a vacation. I had a long list of possibilities but very limited funds. Living at the south end of Florida adds even more limitations if you can't afford a plane ticket. A driving trip it was. Now to choose some place I have not already been a dozen times. Some place that would fill three full days. I am not one to sit around on vacation. I want sights, activities, great food, museums, and maybe a romantic evening carriage ride.

St Augustine seemed to be the answer. 

Oldest Store Museum St Augustine

I had visited many years ago and was totally clueless about the area. Before this trip I did many nights research including driving up and down the streets on Google maps. My advice, research the trolley tour packages long before you go, figure out what package is right for you then see what kind of discount you can get from the trolley vendors all over the city. It's also a good idea to figure out what you will have time to see. I managed to visit everything on my list and my list was long. There are still a few sights I may want to explore on a future visit.

St George Street - St Augustine, FL

If you have not ventured to St Augustine or it's been a while, you may want to consider it. This is a town that really wants your business. From the staff at the hotel, to the store and restaurant folks, to the live actors, everyone was simply amazing. I brought back 500 photos, five pounds, and plenty of memories.

For the best photos from my trip [click here]

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

St George Inn - St Augustine. FL


I don't get up to St Augustine very often. The last time was about nine years ago with my daughter. Even though I stayed very close to Old Town, the accommodations I chose at the time were lacking in everything but price. I decided to do much better for this trip.

I started off pricing B&B's. That did not last long. As much as I wanted to be right in the action and enjoy that personal touch, I just could not fit that option into my budget. Local hotels that were priced better were too far from where I wanted to be. The Bayfront Hilton was just about right but already booked, a little too pricey, and in the end just a hotel.

The only accommodation that fit everything I was looking for was the St George Inn and with one room left I had a very short time to contemplate. I took the chance and booked it.

One thing that concerned me was there is no parking at the hotel. You are required to drop your bags at the front door and head over to a nearby garage. Normally that would be a deal breaker for me but I took the chance.

When I arrived after a non stop 5 hour drive, two lovely people were at my trunk before I was even out of the car and whisked my luggage inside and apparently all the way to the room. They even knew my name and acted as if they expected me. The walk back from the garage was short, I received the tour, the keys, walked to the end of the property and was instantly engulfed in Old Town. Elapsed time - 15 minutes. The hotel is one of the attractions I think. Our stay was three days and I enjoyed every moment. I even got to chat with the owner on the last day and he helped with the bags as I reluctantly prepared to leave.

My experience in St Augustine was memorable but this hotel made it something special as well. If I get the chance to return, there is no question as to where I will be staying.

To see a few more photos of the St George Inn [click here]

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Had a Blast in St Augustine




I have just returned from a mini vacation in St Augustine, Fl and have posted only three photos so far. I have 600+ more to sort through. It will be a blast re-living the entire trip and sharing with you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Performing in the MeduSirena Marina Swimshow - Fort Lauderdale, FL

In one of my very rare appearances in front of the camera, here I am performing in the MeduSirena Marina Swimshow....... as bait. I very rarely as in never hand off my camera to someone. In this case, it only seemed fitting to pass the shutter button to the mermaid who introduced me to this fabulous retro show right here in my own backyard. After all, I have been constantly taking her photo along with the rest of the mermaids for a few years now. Not only do the performers revive a retro vibe, they interact with the audience as only a live show can.

Marina (the thumb biter) and her mermaids put on an hour long show at the Wreck Bar on Fort Lauderdale Beach every Friday night, starting at 6:30. An obscure show I never heard of until recently that has been running continuously for seven years. After two recent television appearances, I think the "Aquaticat" is out of the bag. Get to the show early as the place can fill up pretty quickly and be sure to pose with the mermaids after the show. They seem to enjoy it.

For more shots from this particular evening of fun [click here].

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mingus Mill - Great Smoky Mountains

Mingus Mill - Great Smoky Mountains
Sometimes getting lost has it's benefits. Like locating the Mingus Mill in the Great Smoky Mountains. My intention was to find Clingmans Dome - the highest point in Tennessee. I was doing my best to follow the directions on my GPS which suddenly cut out right at the sign for Clingmans Dome. Clearly I should have been keeping an eye on the road, not the tech but I zipped right by the tiny sign for the turn off.

I then started an ear popping descent with hair pin turns and no possible turn around. Not until I came across this old cabin a few miles down the road and a few thousand feet down the mountain side. I was happy to pull over and pry my fingers loose from the steering wheel. We don't do turns and hills here in Florida and in the Tennessee mountains they don't do straight and level. Not even the parking lots. It was a bit of a driving shock.

In one of those "well since I'm here" moments and not yet convinced I was actually lost, I decided to take a look inside and ask for directions. It went something like this.

Me - "Can you tell me if I'm close to Clingmans Dome?"

Folksy guy in the cabin - "It's way up there on the top of the mountain you just come from son. How did you miss it?"

It might have had something to do with a two foot tall brown sign in the middle of a forest I thought but I kept that to myself. I did purchase a sack of fresh ground corn flour complete with instructions on how to bake cornbread.

It didn't take too long for the sounds of nature to calm me enough that my hands stopped shaking for these shots. Then it was time to mount up and head back up the mountain, exercising those lower three gears I normally only use when launching my vehicle the first five seconds from a dead stop.

Mingus Mill - Great Smoky Mountains

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Lost Sea Adventure - Sweetwater, TN

Entrance to the Lost Sea Adventure - Sweetwater, TN

I like this photo because it is one of the most unnatural photos I've ever taken yet leads to one of the most impressive natural wonders I've yet experienced. At the end of this tunnel is the Lost Sea Adventure. I'm not sure if what lies beyond the tiny tour guide far in the back of the photo qualifies as a sea. What I did find was a really big lake, glass bottom boats, spooky lighting, dripping water, and schools of hungry fish ready to swarm over snacks tossed by the guide (who was much larger than the photo indicates).

The lost Sea Adventure was one of many, out of the way, lightly visited, travel spots far off my intended path that I just had to check out. As usual, it was well worth the detour.  The fact that not a single person I know has ever heard of it let alone seen it sort of makes it my special find. I took a few shots inside but the lake is so big my meager, on board flash could not hit the walls of the cave. I pretty much got nothing except a warning not to blind my fellow travelers. Yeah - they knew I was from Florida. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stone Mountain, GA

Confederate Memorial - Stone Mountain, GA

I have visited Stone Mountain, GA several times. Every time I am awed by this immense blob of granite dominating the landscape. To give a sense of scale, I read that workers carving the Confederate Memorial would stand inside the horses mouth to escape sudden rain showers. This is one of those sights that no photograph can do justice. Whether you were rooting for the North or South, you will get chills when you realize the scale of this carving first hand.

Things sure have changed in the nearly 30 years since my initial visit. The first thing I noticed on my last trip was that a theme park has popped up.  Not exactly what I was looking for but it did have excellent food and a glass blowing exhibit. I was more interested in taking my daughter on a hike up the back side of the mountain as I had done many times. So many people have taken those same paths over the decades, they have actually worn slight groves in the mountain. She was more interested in taking the tram so we did that instead. We both agreed that the laser show was well worth spending the day waiting for.

I have great memories of this place interwoven with my parents, various friends, and now my daughter. I still get a slight chill when I look at this carving and remember staring up at it, marveling at the size and effort it took to produce. I'll be back again one day and next time it will be to hike.

Confederate Memorial - Stone Mountain, GA

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail - Gatlinburg, TN

Roaring Fork Motor Trail

This is one of my personal favorite shots. I had read about the Roaring Fork Motor Trail near Gatlinburg, TN in a travel book. One whole paragraph was dedicated to it. Intrigued, I did my research and found little more information. Definitely the kind of place I was looking for so I planned a whole trip around it.

I drive a fairly large SUV, with a manual shift, mostly in Florida. When I pulled up to the entrance I suddenly realized that was going to be a problem. The motor trail is a one way goat path of steep hills and wicked sharp turns punctuated by poorly placed trees and ridiculous drop offs. Oh, and it was raining. Trees scraped my car in the first five feet. They did say "narrow" in the tour book.

I was so alone on this trek, I thought several times I may have been on an abandoned road heading for a great fall. At least twice I had to exit the vehicle at the top of a hill to see if the road broke left or right. From the drivers seat it just disappeared entirely into the mist.

But then there was the scenery. I would have walked this road to enjoy this beauty. There are plenty of pull outs but as I saw 4-5 cars the whole two hour trip, I could have stopped anywhere. The only thing I neglected was a picnic lunch.

So about this picture. I always wanted a shot like this. There are several possibilities along the roadway but this one was the most accessible for a flat lander. Even so it was a step climb to the creek. To add just a bit more stupidity and danger to the shot, I stood on a rock in the rushing water, in the rain, to take it.

The lovely picturesque moss on those rocks is slipperier than ice and even with my hiking boots, I managed a hard and muddy fall. I kept the camera safe by taking the brunt of the impact on my hip.  As luck would have it, one of the few passing motorist witnessed the incident and offered assistance. "No Thanks", I said through the tears. "I'm fine".

I will take better shots than this in the future but without the painful back story I hope.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Someone Still Cares - St Michael's Cemetery - Pensacola

St Michael's Cemetery

I think everyone wonders who will remember them when they are gone. St Michaels's Cemetery in Pensacola is old by Florida standards. It's interesting to read the head stones and get a sense of the people who built this town.

I took notice of this singular example honoring someone long gone. It stood out like a beacon across a sea of weathered head stones and sun burnt lawn.

I wondered who this person was so I did a few seconds of research. I quickly found this link.
 [click here]. You no longer need to actually walk among those who have passed to pay your respects. You can simply click online and send flowers. It seems to me to leave something missing. Visiting a grave site should be a more personal and tangible experience.  What do you think?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hot Air Balloon Ride - Port St Lucie, FL

Hot Air Balloon Reflection

This photo, like many of my photos, comes with an interesting story. My sister had won tickets for a hot air balloon ride and after holding them for a nearly two years, offered them to me. I was there the next weekend, camera in hand and only days to spare before they expired.

The day of the flight was perfect, which is not always the case when scheduling this type of adventure. The air was calm, the sky blue, and the balloon company questionable. I flew with a captain, and a couple celebrating an anniversary of some sort. Even though my sister had two tickets, I could not find anyone else willing to go on such short notice. Just as well as the basket was fairly small. Not only that but I learned the balloon had crashed the day before and was patched with high temperature duct tape. That made my fellow passengers a bit nervous for some reason.

After going through the ritual of inflating the balloon and launching, we barely cleared some power lines. I am sure we were way too close as was the top of my head to the fireball heating the balloon. We drifted along for a bit then stopped dead still in the air 2,000 feet above a neighborhood and a single barking bog determined to alert everyone of our intrusion. It was the most eerie feeling. Near silence and standing completely still in mid air in a wicker basket. Only the ferocious whoosh of  a giant column of fire, again only inches from my head, to disturb the moment.

As we descended,  the wind  once again took control of our flight. To get this shot, I had to wedge my foot on the huge tank of gas that was fueling our trip, lean way over the basket, and shoot straight down into a canal we were passing over. The captain and crew were not impressed. I was more interested in getting a once in a life time shot than thinking about the consequences of my foot slipping and me taking my final shot - a closeup of the ground.

Our landing was pretty uneventful as balloon landings go. It was nice to see the couple so happy to be in each others arms on the ground again. Nothing renews a bond like duct tape, a near miss with power lines, and witnessing crazy people taking risks just for a good photo I guess.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Zipline at Florida Eco Safari

Zip Line at Florida Eco Safari

How do you combat a serious case of Acrophobia (fear of heights)? I chose to go zip lining.

The towers in this photo are not a series of tree houses. They are the launch and landing zones for the zip line run at Florida Eco Safari. This was not my first zip line tour but my heart was pounding just taking this initial photo. What is unique to this run is the double zip cable. It's a little less intimidating to not find a pole or tree trunk directly in the path of your high speed run. It does not, however,  lessen the thrill of flying over the treetops. My fear and excitement levels were pretty much neck and neck for the entire tour. Once I was done and safely on the ground, I was ready to do the whole zip again.

Florida Eco Safari has a few more surprises like the only zip line roller coaster and the Canopy Cycle Ride. If you are in the Orlando area and in need of a full day of high wire therapy, I highly recommend a visit to Forever Florida.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Loxahatchee River

Loxahatchee River

Generally in my life, when I've discovered something that captures my interest, I just go do it. I found out about the Loxahatchee River tour back in the '80s but only recently took the plunge.  Quite literally as I sunk my kayak and myself on the return trip attempting to cross this dam. On this particular day the water was low. When there is a stronger flow, water cascades over the dam and so do the boaters. The brave ones at least.

This is one of the truly unspoiled bits of South Florida. It is one of the more challenging kayak trips I've been on and there are a few alligators that may pop up to add to the thrill. There are also ancient cypress trees, twists and turns, obstructions, low hanging branches, and wildlife all around. This is one of the most memorable kayak trips and well worth the long wait to enjoy it.

Pensacola Lighthouse

Pensacola Lighthouse

This seems as good a place to start as any. I took this shot a few years ago while exploring Pensacola with my daughter. Little did I know this is where she would land her first job after college.  A little while before I took this shot, the sky was clear blue. Shortly afterwards it was clear again. Only for a few short moments was the scene this ominous. Such is the unpredictably of life and Florida weather.