Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jensen Sea Turtle Beach

A friend of mine posted a shot of Jensen Sea Turtle Beach last weekend. I've never been there so I thought I would give it a visit. The moment I pulled in the parking lot I remembered this place and why I call this blog Moving Pictures.


I recognized this concession stand right away. 4th of July 1992 - Worst day of my life (till then). I left Fort Lauderdale in the morning in a Volkswagen with no air conditioning and drove aimlessly up the coast for hours. No food, no water. Just me and my thoughts. I don't really remember what plans I was formulating. Best forgotten I suppose. But I do remember stopping here for a Coke and a walk down the beach. It took a while to get away from the crowds and to a part of the beach that looked like this. I was very close to passing out at the wheel but the reviving powers of caffeine and sea breeze cleared my head.


Eventually I calmed down, stopped torturing myself, got back in the car, and took the highway home. Had I known how bad my life was soon going to be I would have kept on heading away. If I had been informed how the true worst day of my life would have made this day seem like a 4th of July picnic, I may have driven off the bridge. If someone told me how wonderful my life would eventually turn out I never would have believed it. Like a Sea Turtle surviving many hardships, I've returned to the very same beach on which I once decided to fight back and not give up on life. The beach I had totally forgotten till this moment.


Last time I was here I don't remember such nice sand castles. I didn't see a row of beach chairs outside so my guess, this is a home and not a hotel. I could investigate but since there is no chance I'll be staying there either way, I would rather not.


As I was walking back to the car I spotted an unusual collection of artifacts. A mini shrine to Melissa Marie Brooks. That I did investigate. Sadly she drowned in a Rip Tide in 2011. Click her name to get the story. She was about the same age I was when I thought all was lost and there was no more to life.


For a long time my story has been one of setting goals, sticking to the plan, never giving up even when everything you work for or wanted is swept away. Her story reminds me that no matter what you do, it can all end in a blink of an eye so make the most of every day. Never waste a moment.


Changing the subject a second - I found some solar powered trash and recycle cans. Apparently they compact the trash so they can hold more and need emptying less. Very innovative. Makes me feel we will survive as a species through better technology.  Just across the parking lot are the warning horns for the nuclear power plant reminding me how close I live to a potential disaster.


I set out in the morning to enjoy a peaceful beach moment. Instead I encountered a mini emotional roller coaster ride filled with life, death, hope, fear, and who knows what crazy taxes they pay on that house.  A whole bunch of  life wrapped up in a mile and a half walk. I'll leave you with a few waves and maybe a few thoughts of your own life.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

I have only visited Jonathan Dickinson State Park once before to kayak up the river. A rivier loaded with alligators. But that's another story.

Take a close look at the first photo. I took this with my Nikon Coolpix S 3000. A tiny pocket camera I could hide in one hand and the one I thought I destroyed some years ago. There was a tiny scratch on the lens. After reading on the internet about rubbing it with a Q-Tip and a little petroleum jelly it seems to have cleared up the annoying spot on the top left corner. Now look even closer at the two odd tree tops just above the tree line near the middle.

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Switching to my Nikon D70 with the Vivitar 500mm F/8.0 I can get a little closer while standing in the exact same spot.

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Here is the empty nest from the first shot. I could not even see it with the naked eye. What a great setup for shooting wildlife.... if there had been any wildlife.

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Wait!! Is that a Gator!! I waited quite a while for this guy to move. I started to get a little suspicious but it was not till I got home to find I had shot just another tree.

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As a test to see if anyone actually reads my blog - there are more interesting shots on my Flickr site from this day. Well - there is one of me shooting photos at least. [click here] to see them and maybe leave me a comment on Flickr. It always interests me who keeps looking at my photos. No one really leaves comments.

I was hoping to find a few more creatures on this trip but the heat was tremendous. I learned that a properly motivated turtle can run really fast across a hot street. I also learned that the moment you put your camera in the trunk a hawk will swoop out of the tree tops with a sizable fish in its talons. Then circle you 3 times knowing full well your camera was put away. That's right... not the first time.

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The other thing I learned is the view from the tower is endless. Behind me is the ocean. North and south is a lot more nature. I'll be sure to visit again when it cools a bit. Maybe I'll have more interesting photos.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Famous Hollywood Beach Broadwalk - With the Vivitar 500mm

I thought I would finish up shooting with this really long lens by trying to squeeze the full two and a half miles of the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk into one shot. I saw it done very well once by a friend of mine about 10 years ago. Since then the light poles have been changed, repaired, and reworked several times. Pretty much every time I thought about shooting it there was mismatched lighting, construction, or bad weather. When I finally got there on just the right day, my biggest lens was just not enough. The 2x doubler I had just made matters worse and a shaky tripod made for a frustrating day. That was about 3 years ago.

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On this day I took my oldest working camera - Nikon D70, Cheapest lens - Vivitar Series 1 500mm F/8.0, and my $20.00 tripod set very low to the ground. I shot in the morning at Anne Kolb in highly overcast conditions. When I staked my claim on a bench at the end of the Broadwalk, the light could not have been brighter. My drive home was met with torrential rain and lightning starting the moment my wheels touched A1A. This was meant to happen right here, right now and for exactly one hour. The amount of money I had for the parking meter.

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As I've said before, this lens is fully manual. The shutter speed has to be set in the camera. Everything else on the lens itself. No auto focus. With blinding light, it was really hard to see on the display if I was getting anything at all so I changed the shutter speed nearly every shot. Halfway through the remote stopped working so I just set the camera on timer. Pushing the button to take the shot would have been too much shake.

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These may not be award winning photos to some but to me they are exactly as I wanted them. The heat coming off the pavement makes the distance look like watercolor. I got a pretty fair mix of the typical Hollywood beach goer but no real clear faces.

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When I quit smoking 15 years ago, I started walking this path. At first a very embarrassing mile - sometimes two. More coughing than breathing. In a year it was 8 miles nearly every weekend. I would stop for breakfast and a coffee. It would consume about three hours of my morning including drive time. No matter summer or winter there was always activity. I did that regularly for about 10 more years.

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I used to go with friends but it was not long before they simply could not keep up. If I brought the bike it would be a 25-30 mile moring up and back over and over. When I add all the many miles together it's just a long path with a faceless blur of activity. As memories go - I think I nailed this one in photos.

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In my final shot most everyone is heading away beckoning me to join them. In reality there is a black sky and a cold wind just behind me. My car was 50 feet away and it was raining on me as I got to it just moments after this shot. Just a little reminder that life changes as fast as the weather.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Anne Kolb Nature Center - With the Vivitar 500mm

I have found one of the problems shooting with this lens is you need a lot of space. That is a lot of  space between the camera and what you are shooting at. It will not focus closer than about 40 feet. I've never really had this problem before but it also needs a lot of distance to really stretch it out. Before you move on, look at the last photo. From the 4 story observation tower at Anne Kolb, this lens has some serious reach. Even on a very overcast day. The red circle is the distance I was shooting the buildings at. Quite a bit outside the nature center. They are not the sharpest but a bit more light and a little less wind would have made a difference.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Retired at 55 - My Experiment in Early Retirement

Five weeks into retirement and I've finally slowed down enough to do the thing I promised myself I would do day one. Sort through my box of memories. I can not tell you how many times I was asked how long it will take to be bored in retirement. Multiple times by a few friends and family. My close friends never asked. They already knew the answer.

Maybe some perspective is in order. I first conceived of the notion of retiring at 55 when I was 25. My boss at the time told me exactly how to accomplish this goal and it made perfect sense. He died of cancer and never really got to live the dream he helped me visualize. My first hard look at the fragility of life.


I had some annual financial goals in mind to make this happen. Ok - I had an entire spreadsheet of annual goals for 30 years into the future. I did not make a lot of money but I was a great saver, investor, and stock market wizard. By the time I was 30 I had $300,000 in the bank. By the time I was 40 I had next to nothing. 

Three very poor relationship decisions wiped out my savings. The IRS helped quite a bit as well. Raiding your IRA to restart your life can be very "taxing" on your bank account. Although that story seems tragic, the real tragedy was realizing I had never done much with my life. Work, home, save. That was it.  I never went anywhere of note nor did anything worth talking about at a party. 

In 1998 I gave up a career that would probably have killed me from stress and started working a small job with a pension. I decided my life needed a complete reboot. I started taking small trips with my daughter, then larger ones, then Paris with someone I met online a few weeks earlier. My world became larger no matter how small the event. For every trip I took, every movie, museum, play, concert, festival, vacation, adventure, I put a memory in a box. Today I dumped that box out and began to sort through it. All 20 pounds of it. 

I found a very eclectic life in that box. From Art Basel in Miami to a Nike Missile site. Visitors guides to many states and cities. A vast collection of movie, and play ticket stubs. A memory book started and suddenly halted. I have others in a drawer. Even an uncashed check. It won't ever be cashed. Every little scrap of paper has a great memory attached to it. About half the people involved are no longer in my life, the other half still are. There is nothing older than 2001 when I started to save them. I will admit I lived a very boring life prior to that. For most people a really big wake up call would be in order to make such a change in course.

In 2004 I was starting to get into the swing of getting out of the house and enjoying life. That same year I nearly died of a burst appendix. It took me nearly six months to feel whole again. The year following my little visit to deaths door, I took a hot air balloon to celebrate being alive. I have no doubt that coming so close to death compelled me to punch the accelerator of my life. 

On a lighter note I found a lot of Disney memories. I think of all the places I've been, I've only revisited a few. Not Disney. Over 150 trips when I used to keep track. There is just something about that place that resonates with me. Mostly escape from my normal life I suppose but right now my normal life is a total escape.

So in answer to the question of will I be bored. It took 5 weeks to tip over a box. I still wake up at 6:00 am every day and go to bed late. I never sit still and I never run out of things to do. I have yet to even make my list of priorities, my bathroom renovation, or plan my trips in detail. Maybe when I find some time or it rains all day. For right now every morning is Saturday of a long weekend.  

I know a lot of people have life long goals and work very hard at them. Mine may seem a bit mundane and not exactly world shaking. I will admit retiring at 55 started off as a theoretical financial challenge and not much more. Over the years it has morphed into a personal social experiment. A quest to find what I want out of this life. A mission to sacrifice everything I can do without to afford the things I want most. As a side benefit I found a way to jettison everything that made me miserable and live each day happy. If I ever accomplish greatness in this life, it will be to show someone else what is possible.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Rainy Day Shots From the Backyard

I had planned to get out and try some new camera tricks. Instead I was dodging rain. I managed to experiment with hand holding the fully manual 500mm lens in low light. These shots are from the backyard of my friend's house and they are actually not too bad. I read an interesting article about HyperFocal Distance and how to calculate it. Go ahead - give it a read. Let me know if you can figure out the math.

The trees in the first photo are from about eight houses. Big lens = Big compression. The goal is to get the first and last tree in focus and all the trees in between. The theory continues to say that once you have the lens set just right you can point and shoot. There is no way I could do the math so I just used the markings on the lens and some very tiny adjustments. It's days like this I feel I may actually learn photography.

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