Monday, December 1, 2014

Camelot Days - 2014

DSC_5128Camelot Days is my home town Renaissance festival right here in Hollywood. By the end of next year this will no longer be my home town. I won't miss the town so much as I will this festival. There are several reasons.

The location at TY Park was the start of what would become a passion for the Ren Fest style entertainment. I never would have imagined that to be the case on my first visit. I went for my daughter and found myself  caught up in a performance on stage. Not my natural state and miles outside my comfort zone. They always know how to engage the audience at these things and pick just the right person to enhance everyone's experience . At that time I considered a live event some random football game on TV. I have become much more sophisticated in my entertainment choices since. Knowing nearly every performer keeps me off the stage these days but not so great for the friends I bring on occasion.

Even though I used to go for the food, faeries, fighting, fiddlers, and fire, I find more and more I go to hang out with my friends. This was also the first faire I really started interacting with the performers and playtrons (patrons who come in costume). On a more personal level than just the minimum focal length of my lens I mean.

There are 551 photos from the event. To enjoy them, [click here]. I know the vast majority of the people in these photos and they know me as well. I was greeted by name at the ticket booth this year as well as the gate and every corner of the park. Even though this is what might be considered a small event, it is impossible to see every show in a single day. I went three days and spent so much time catching up with friends I never even saw the Joust. This is also a very kid friendly venue. I brought mine when she was six or so and she talked about it for months. Look at me - its been close to 20 years and I still talk about my first time.




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

5 Day B&W Challenge

My friend Travis Scotka has challenged me to a 5 day B&W photo contest. I rarely take challenges nor do I pass them along but this one intrigued me. For me it's not the photo but the story. I have randomly chosen bits of my life across several cameras and countries. This was originally a Facebook challenge but since that is such a fleeting media, I collected them all and posted them here. 

Day 1:

This photo was taken during a Double-decker bus tour of London. It was an all day, on and off, type of excursion. All the highlights, little substance. I don't always get to pick my own journey.

I spotted this opportunity as we turned a corner. I had seconds to stand, turn, and fire off 5 shots. No aim. Auto focus. No idea if I shot the sky, the street, or the faces of the disapproving riders behind me. No standing on a moving bus is some sort of rule in London.

One of these photos hangs in my living room. This one has never been seen by anyone but me till just now. This was from a 14 day trip. I have but to look at it for the briefest of moments to recall the entire adventure. It is my looking glass to a world I spent a brief moment in time yet yearn to return to one day.

Day 2:

This photo was taken the first day of my first ever solo vacation. I dropped my daughter off at horse camp in Georgia and headed up to Gatlinburg TN. I chose a nice drizzly day to venture onto the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail. Between the elevation spikes and hair pin turns I never got my stick shift SUV out of second gear. I was also one of 5 cars I saw that day.

I've always wanted to take a shot like this. To get it I had to hop rocks to mid stream. I was a good distance from the road, those rocks are a lot bigger than they look in the photo and covered in a wet moss slicker than ice.

As hard as I tried to be careful and in hiking boots, I slipped into the stream hurting my knee, elbow, and bruising a few ribs not to mention soaking wet in ice cold water but with my camera safely in the air. It could have been much worse. I spent a lot of time thinking how much worse it could have been.

My worst fear was that I would do something stupid like this, alone, and need help. It held me back from living the life I wanted. Almost no one wants to travel the path I'm on. I've done crazy, terrible things since and will continue till one of them gets me. But I will never be held back because I can't find a travel partner willing to share the risks.

The next day I rode the front seat of all the roller coasters in Dollywood twice each. When I look back at this photo I always smile. It was truly the first day of a life lived with no limits.

Day 3:

This single photo nicely sums up my trip to Arenal Volcano Costa Rica. Beautiful pool with built in bar, tropical setting, 5,000 foot volcano spewing rocks the size of a car up to a 3 bedroom house, pouring lava, and making it's own weather just a few miles away. The entire trip was hanging bridges, zip lines, 4 wheelers, horse back riding, and hiking across a 1968 lava flow that buried a town under millions of tons of rock and shoved this volcano suddenly skyward. This was by far the most dangerous trip I was ever on with no chance of medical rescue should a disaster strike. I make mention of this because the very day I got home safe and sound, I tossed myself through a shower door and sliced my arm fairly badly. No matter how careful you are or how close to home you stay, this life ends only one way. Get out and live it for all it's worth.

Day 4:

Bergen Norway. The last bit of home my Grandmother saw in 1914 when she and her sister, just teenagers, were put on a ship and sent to America. I've seen the documents they signed when they arrived at Ellis Island. It was not till I stood on that dock did I fully understand the magnitude of their journey. I don't know if they took a steamer or a sailing ship. I do know my Grandfather left from a different port and traveled the world on Windjammers and Clipper ships. He was a high rigger unfurling the top sails. Starting his career at 13. I tried to imagine that crossing as our cruise ship ran into 50 foot seas on the way to Iceland slamming water against the windows at the bar on deck 10. What it must have been like working 12 hours days, 7 days a week in a yarn factory or sailing on cargo ships up and down the East coast just to survive. How I will never know anything like that in my life. How grateful I am that they made those sacrifices and lived the American dream.

Day 5:

To make up for being an absentee Dad, I would take my daughter on trips during spring break in high school. The Smithsonian, crawling through a Mammoth wild cave tour in Kentucky, 100 year old B&B in Micanopy. She requested I never take her to Disney. I had to dig deep to impress her and myself. For her senior year, California. In the month before we left, the Pacific Coast Highway lost a big chunk into the Pacific Ocean and Yosemite got 6 feet of snow. As usual I had a full week of back to back adventures planned and the slightest mishap could throw the entire trip into failure. As it turned out, these week long trips were an outrageous success. My daughter has always been my very best travel partner. The highway was opened days before we arrived and Yosemite just hours. We were the only car at the gate in fact. We had to walk two miles up hill in the snow to take this photo (love saying that). I have thousands upon thousands of photos and every one is a snapshot of a life lived well, a tiny window on a much larger memory, and a goal achieved and enjoyed.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day of the Dead - Fort Lauderdale FL - 2014

DSC_3554The Day of the Dead celebration in Fort Lauderdale is the story of a dream come to life. Which is sort of amusing as the theme is overwhelmingly death.

In five short years it has grown from a handful of artists with a vision to do something notable to a mob scene of people that I was swept up into and carried along the streets of Fort Lauderdale.

Honestly I could not give this event the full attention it deserved. I wanted to participate in all the events and the huge street party after the parade. Sadly I only had time for the parade. I had a lot of friends participating. Unfortunately I did not recognize many of them till I got home and started sorting my photos. I am used to seeing many of them made up but the costuming and energy were at running full throttle.

Normally I'm pretty easy to find but there were nearly as many photographers as there were people in the parade. I will most certainly attend next year, get there earlier, stay later, and I think maybe just leave the camera at home and be part of the show.

For the rest of my photos of this event [click here]





Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stuart Airshow - 2014



This was my second visit to the Stuart Airshow. Just me and the other 50,000 fans reported to have converged on this two day event. The crowd was noticeable but it takes place at the Martin County Airport on Whitam FieldThere is plenty of room for take offs, landings, and parked planes not to mention thousands of folding chairs and car parking. Even a small airport is a huge open space when you are standing dead center in the middle of it.

Besides the planes in the air, there are plenty on the ground to explore. Even tour if you are so inclined. I wondered where all the planes had come from, where they were going, what they were built for. To find out every single story would have taken much longer than the two days of this event. You hardly need to look more than remotely interested and someone will tell you the story on every plane.

One of the most fascinating aspects was that all the planes in the air during the air show were on the ground earlier in the day.

I have plenty of up close photos. After the show you can walk right up and talk to the pilots. I have been to other air shows and it has not been my experience that you can get as close to the planes and pilots as you can at the Stuart Airshow. It's that feeling of "who would get in this thing" then see the plane you wondered about hours before do maneuvers that defy imagination as well as gravity. Seeing a group of planes in perfect formation wrap around a blazing sun, smoke trailing. To be deafened by a jet plane that stopped in mid air in front of you and not really notice the noise. These are the things that make an airshow worth seeing. Then to realize what these planes were used for and to be surrounded by the men and woman that made them, flew them, and serviced them for their intended purpose. That's what makes a trip to the Stuart Airshow an experience worth having.


I noticed a lot of folks only come for the show in the sky. I enjoyed my day getting there at opening, seeing the inside of a plane or two, touring the world war I and WWII exhibits, and watching the weapons demonstration and the mock battle. I like to do everything before I say I've been to an event.


These are some of the favorite photos. For the rest [click here].




Thursday, October 30, 2014

Boynton Beach Haunted Pirate Festival -2014

DSC_2447I was asked several times this past weekend if I make money selling my photos. I think I may have even had an offer to buy one. My answer is always the same.

I make plenty of money in my real life. I'm not a good enough photographer to get paid for it. I do it because I truly enjoy the events I attend and the friends I make along the way. If making friends had intrinsic value, then I would be very wealthy indeed.

I didn't post a photo of everyone I knew at the festival here in my blog but I do know every one of the people in these photos.

[click here] to see the whole collection


I've attended the Boynton Beach Haunted Pirate Festival and Mermaid Splash two years running. A show that has grown tremendously in a year. I went from opening to closing and still did not get around to talk to everyone. I really should have attended both days to catch up with everybody I know.

Last year I only knew a handful of folks truly well. Mostly the performers. Over the past year I've spoken to them at different festivals, followed their performances at different venues, concerts, plays, and even bought a book from the only author I know personally. Well as far as I know. Many of my new friends would surprise you with the amount of talent they have. All you need to do to find out about them is walk right up and talk to them.

You would be amazed with what you find behind the feathers, leathers, corsets, hats, and boots. Some of the most generous and caring people I know. They help each other. They help strangers. They perform at children s events, walk-a-thons, and charities. I was told once that an important aspect of a modern day pirate crew is to party with a purpose. That purpose is almost always helping others. 


The Boynton Beach Haunted Pirate Festival is primarily for the children. There is plenty of entertainment for all ages though. My daughter is grown and gone but she loved the many festivals we attended together over the years. For me, this event was more about the friendships I've made this year, great music, live performance, excellent food, and fine shops. All that and to spend the day with people who still know the value of happiness and smiles. 

If you have not met any of these fine folks yourself in and around South Florida, chances are good you spend way too much time in front of your TV. I'm happy to say in my experience, more and more people are getting out of the house and rediscovering live theater in the streets. An art form I have always appreciated now re-gaining some popularity.  Don't be left out. Get off the couch - experience something you will talk about for a while, and maybe make a few new friends. 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Doing the Tourist Thing in Fort Lauderdale


Every once in a great while I like taking in the sights of the town I live in (part time now) and do a little tourist thing. Today's adventure, the Duck Boat Tour at Beach Place.


Beach place is a destination all it's own and since I spent about 7 hours, you could say I certainly made a day of it. I think the sun tan lotion isle at the local drug store pretty much tells the story here. Lots of skin baking in the beach sand right across the street. I was not there for my usual umbrella and beach towel day so I started off with lunch at Lu Lu's Bait Shack.


The Duck Boat is a little pricey but our tour guide very likely was a professional stand up comedian. Even though I've been here since 1978, and think I know everything, there is always more to learn. The tour starts on the streets but then suddenly takes a detour off a boat ramp and right into mansion row.


If the houses of the rich and famous don't appeal to you, then some of the locals may. This group was only to happy to show off the latest boating fashions. There are boats of every size from jet skis to mega yachts (or "Jots" as our guide said in his native Miami accent). The duck boat sails pretty slow since it's dragging a whole set of wheels underneath but it's nice to take it easy in traffic in South Florida once in a while.


Back on land there is still plenty to do. Especially if what you like to do is eat and drink or just enjoy perfect weather along the Fort Lauderdale Beach


Turning around to face east, one of the many cruise boats heading out to sea gave me an idea for my next local adventure. Now is this Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas. I guess I'll just have to take a closer look when I book a cruise.


For more photos of this adventure [click here]

Monday, October 20, 2014

Road to Victory - Military Museum - Stuart FL

P1000509I don't want any excuses about this place being hard to find. You know. Like the ones I was making before I found it. Nor that it's probably not worth seeing. If that's your attitude then drop and give me 20.

The Road to Victory Military Museum is not just a collection but a passion. We were fortunate to meet the owners on our visit.

They are located just past the legs of the Stuart water tower and there is plenty of parking right outside the door.

I will admit the collection is housed in a small building but that will hopefully change. They have a collection of restored military vehicles currently being kept in private garages. A few very well used ones are on display outside the museum. But moving takes money. Something this museum could use more of. But that takes visitors and sponsors.

I was never in World War I or II or actually in the military at all but I do appreciate the ones who served and not just on the 4th of July. I have visited war museums around the country but this one has a unique feature.


They let me hold a gun. I mean they literally took an M1 off the wall and handed it to me. And a paratrooper machine gun and a mortar round and a rifle launched grenade.  But wait..... a Thompson Machine Gun. These are the very weapons my uncles carried into battle in Europe and the Pacific. I even got to try on a tank helmet. I believe that allowed me to connect in some small way to my family members who fought these wars. You can't just grab a weapon off the displays but it was quite unexpected to be able to handle anything at all.


I went expecting a very quick visit. I spent two hours and got an amazing and personal history lesson.

If you want to see the mechanized portion of this museum, it will be on display at the Stuart Air Show - See you there.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Suntrust Sunday Jazz Brunch - Fort Lauderdale FL

Normally I enjoy the Suntrust Jazz Brunch at the main stage. A lot more sunny, a lot more people. Seldom do I venture back to the other two stages but on this visit I decided to see if there was anything happening.


Considering I could hardly navigate the paver brick walkway, I have concluded there is a lot more going on than I realized. Being more tree lined, there were less umbrellas to block the view but as far as head count there were a lot of jazz enthusiasts.


This was the first cool day (South Florida speak for under 90 degrees) in a very long time and the crowds showed that. Generally speaking though this event seems to grow year after year. And a lot of folks headed to the shops and eateries right after the shows.


I left just ahead of the masses and found a nice, quiet table way down on Las Olas. The last one actually. Right after that every place seemed full. Fort Lauderdale - Doing it right the first Sunday of every month for over 20 years.

For more photos [click here]

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wild Africa Trek - With a Dash of Disney Magic

Over the years I have come to realize not to sweat major disappointments in life as they have a way of quickly turning around with spectacular results. My journey on the Wild Africa Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom illustrates that point quite well and with a healthy dose of Disney magic thrown in.

I am a big Disney fan, veteran of nearly 200 visits since 1976, and I was looking for something a little different for this trip. I noticed years ago on a visit to Animal Kingdom there were guests in harnesses crossing bridges and walking dangerously close to crocodiles. You can see them quite clearly from the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride. This was on my bucket list for quite a while so I planned an entire trip just for this one excursion.

A few facts you need to know. Park admission is required. Even though this trek takes 3 hours of your day, you still need to buy a ticket to get in the park. It's also ferociously expensive. Our Trek was around $150.00. That is Per Person!! Also at Noon but the morning trip I wanted was $200.00 which pushed it out of my consideration entirely. And this is with every discount we could work out. So your next question - Was it worth it... Well not so fast.

P1000369This is Florida in the autumn. It rains, it lightnings, and on this day it thundered so loud we heard the echo off Mount Everest about a quarter mile away. The Trek runs for 3 hours rain or shine but lightning will put a hold on your plans. We had a good hour and a half of rain this day and it all happened while we were gearing up and waiting for the weather to clear. While we stood out of the rain our tour guides for the day entertained us non stop the entire time. With every thunder crack, our wait clock got reset for 15 minutes. We were just about a minute away from leaving the hut when the sky decided to fire off one last parting shot. That cancelled our Trek for the day.


In years past, this would have ruined my entire vacation. I would have flown off into a pouting rage and ruined everyone's vacation around me. Well I've grown up and this is Disney so this is what happened.

We were given the choice of a refund (no way), the next tour at 2:30 (um... still rainy) or 8:30 am the next morning (Bingo - The expensive tour). We had some other plans but the Trek was the main reason we came so we took door number three.

P1000351So how did we finish the day? Of course as luck would have it, we stopped for lunch and came out to clear blue skies. The free ponchos we acquired were well appreciated on the Kali River Rapids. Later we took a bus to Magic Kingdom to ride the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride. Next a monorail to EPCOT and scored a seat at the Rose and Crown Pub for dinner and the best seats in the park for the fire works. Perfect day even though we completely missed the event we came for.

P1000320The next day the weather was absolutely perfect. We met our guides Moira and Jenny at the entrance and were greeted like long lost friends. We already spent and hour and half with the very bubbly, funny, and knowledgeable Jenny and I specifically requested her for our tour the next day. I would like to think I really had that kind of pull but it was just pure luck of the drawl she told me. (wink wink)

Time for the Trek.

 After signing a short waiver and removing everything from our pockets like wallets and cell phones and putting them in lockers, we were fitted for a harness, headset, water bottle, and a huge amount of enthusiasm from our guides.

P1000436Will your Trek be like mine? Probably not. Every animal cooperated. The gorillas were feeding and roaming right in front of us. The Hippos swam across the pond for a bit of lettuce. The Zebra, Giraffe, Rhinos, and Elephants all decided that today was the day to be frisky, playful, and running. One of the crocodiles snapped at another just feet below us. We even had an Ostrich challenge our right to be off the road and blocked our way for a bit.

You may or may not get that lucky but you will certainly get an education, a fantastic meal on the Savannah, a very stimulating rope bridge, and an album full of photos taken of your party and the wildlife to download later and enjoy at home.


OK - time to answer the big question. This trip was just a bit more than I could really afford but it is one I will never forget and always be talking about to whoever will listen. It was made even more unforgettable because of the guides and staff who made this dream come true for me even with a glitch in the weather that was not in their control. It will also always remind me that no matter the size of the disappointment, don't dwell on the losses, concentrate on wins.