Saturday, October 14, 2017

SeaWorld Orlando - It's been a long time.

Not only has it been decades since I visited this park, it's also been months since I've posted in this blog. Time to catch up.

My intention on this trip was to ride every roller coaster in the park. None of which I took photos of. That's because they make it very difficult to carry pretty much anything on the rides so wallet, keys, phone, camera all went into storage lockers most of the day.


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The roller coasters are incredibly fast, hugely varied, and put a tremendous strain on this old body of mine. All for pure enjoyment and thrill. Around noon or so I needed a slight break from being upside down at 60 miles an hour and decided to take in a show.


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I had forgotten how much I enjoyed these shows as a kid. I had also forgotten how much I enjoyed the penguin exhibit. Especially on a 90 degree day in the Florida sun. That is real ice and there is no glass between the birds and the visitors.


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The temperature shock was exactly what I needed to cool down a bit and finish my goal of riding every coaster in the park. A mission I accomplished but with no second rides on any of them. I will go back and visit again before my ticket runs out I'm sure. I am pretty sure I screamed for real on the Manta. Luckily - no video evidence.


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By far the best part of the day was enjoying a nice quiet meal with my special coaster buddy in a restaurant with a unique view. We were just a bit early for dinner when I snapped this photo but all seats were filled not long after.

I did not take too many photos on this visit but for the rest [click here]

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Moon Shot - Finally Nailed It

After my recent success capturing the Roosevelt Bridge at night after so many years, I thought I would try once more to capture a clear shot of the full moon. I left all the settings on the camera untouched and waited the almost two weeks to make the shot. The results were instantly disappointing. Nothing but a white blob. The thing I like about photography is the constant learning curve. The constant frustration can get old sometimes though. 


I am still and will likely always be an amateur photographer with expensive but mostly all used equipment.  My $1,800.00 used lens, as good as it is, just can not seem to make this shot with my level of skill. 


I had some luck previously with my $99.00 Vivitar Series 1 lens with the 2X converter giving me a full 1,000 MM. This is a fully manual lens. I set the camera to 400 ISO but the focus and aperture are manually set on the lens.



The one thing I had always done in the past was set the aperture wide open. For this shoot, I slowly closed the aperture, took a few shots, closed a bit more. I also used the remote to lift the mirror, count to 5, then take the shot. There was a pretty small shutter speed range I could use. If I had a bright smear or black screen, I knew I was out of the range. I took about 100 shots and only these two had the magic. 


Many years ago bought the wrong sized UV filter for one of my lenses. I just threw it in a junk drawer. A few months ago I found it and checked to see if it fit anything. It only fit this cheap lens so I put it on and took a few shots then put the lens back in the cabinet. I forgot to take it off for the moon shot. Seems pretty fortunate now. All of my moon photos to this point have always been less than crisp. 


I may not be a pro but I am persistent. I think I'll take this setup out in the daylight once in a while as well. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Roosevelt Bridge - Stuart FL

Long before I moved to this area, I attempted to take an artful photo of this bridge. I seen many photos from other photographers and it didn't seem that difficult. Three cameras, three lenses, 2 tripods, multiple combinations of equipment, dozens of settings, hours upon hours, and several locations later, I have finally captured a few photos worth sharing with the world.

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The actual magical mix was, in the end, pretty basic. I was just missing one important element at a time to create awful photos, not worth the edit time. I could of course do better and I will keep trying but these three are pretty close to what I was aiming to achieve.

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What's more important is I kept trying for years. Photography is one of those fun hobbies that is as frustrating as it is rewarding and always with more to learn.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Kayaking Stuart Florida - South River Outfitters.

New town. New kayak. My inflatable Sea Eagle kayaks have served me well in my former home in South Florida but the waters in my new town seem a better fit for a hard sided kayak.

A lot of the places I want to visit have either sharp oyster beds or sharp teeth just below the water. I bought my new kayak about 6 months ago when Sports Authority had a going out of business sale. As soon as I got it home, it seems, the algae blooms that got national attention began. It has been in the garage ever since. But finally I had a break in the weather, my schedule, and clear water.



The first trick was to figure how to secure the kayak to the roof of the car. A few youtube tutorials helped with that. Next trick was to actually get it on the roof. I'm 6' 4" but so is my vehicle. Not only that, but I was about to take it on the highway just a few blocks from the house. Solid tie downs seemed appropriate for my first ever high speed cargo transport. 

My launch point for my first time with this kayak was South River Outfitters in Stuart Fl. I have rented kayaks here in the past and I knew exactly what to expect for half the trip. This time I was going much farther than in past visits. 




The trip starts off with houses on the left and nature on the right. About 20 minutes later it's all nature. Last time I did this trip I came across a few small alligators. This time, as you can see in the video above, I ran into a 4 footer right past the last house. There were several smaller ones close enough to the kayak that I got a tail splash by one as it dove for deeper water. When I got way out into the swampy area with the tighter waters, I ran into a huge gator who did not back down or submerge. I did not film it. I just back paddled away and decided to call it a day. As long as you stay alert and stay away so will the gators. I had one bump a canoe many years ago and there is no way I want that to happen again. 

This was a great starter trip and one I've been looking forward to enjoying in my own water craft for quite a while. I will be back - With friends I hope next time. I miss kayaking in the Florida Keys so next time I will try a more open water adventure.  



Friday, March 31, 2017

Roller Coaster Day At Busch Gardens, Tampa

I've always been a roller coaster fan since my first time on the big wooden roller coaster at Hunt's Pier in New Jersey. That would be in the early 1970's. My first looping roller coaster was the SooperDooperLooper when it first opened at Hershey Park in 1977. I've ridden some pretty large coasters all over the country but not for many years.

Of course I have always ridden the Disney rides and even Universal's in Orlando but I had to put a pause on the really ferocious rides for a while. A high stress life and a high G-Force roller coaster leads to seeing black spots, chest pains, fainting, and balance problems.

Now that I have gotten away from the high stress life, blood pressure under control, no more ice pick in the chest mid day job stress, I just wanted to give it a try again. It was always my dream for retirement to ride the biggest rides in the country. That ended 5 years ago on the Hulk in Orlando, A ride I've been on many times prior, made me get my blood pressure checked. 190/110 and an ER visit was the result. I was tipped off by the 3 day migraine and loss of balance. Sometimes you just need to know when to give it a rest. - Fast forward to last week.

I started my day at
Busch Gardens, Tampa very early. Took a few shots with my cell phone to start off. There is plenty to see and do
 even if you don't ride the coasters. I arrived on Food and Wine Festival day but I had no plans to eat. I was on a mission. The first coaster I walked up to - Sheikra. I watched a couple of test runs then started to regret the fact I drove to the park alone... This might have been a situation where a little prompting from a friend might have been needed. I wandered around a bit and made it to Kumba as they sent the last test car by and started loading passengers. Ummmm - Nope - Not ready - How about that train through the animal park. Sure - I'll start with that.



The nice thing about the train, you get to see all the coasters in the park. Some pretty close up. Helps with the courage thing as you watch hundreds of happy people fly by. I could have stopped at several stations but I was making my plan. That was to ride every one before days end.... starting the moment I got off the train.


First up - Kumba. I first rode this when it was new. Montu when that opened as well in 1996. That was the last new coaster I rode in Tampa so I had quite a few to catch up on. Well - it had an issue while I waited so I got out of line. By the end of the day, it was the only one I didn't ride. 


About this time, the park was starting to get crowded - Hey look! Sheikra only a 10 minute wait - I wonder why? Oh cool! Front row!! So at nearly noon, after stalling all morning..... this is how I started my day. 

Now I've been told in the past, riding with me is like riding with Glenn Close in the rollercoaster scene from Fatal Attraction. It takes a lot for me to do much more than smile a little. This one had me screaming and laughing at the top of my emotional register. Just the first drop alone had me shaking like a quadruple espresso. 


After that it was ON! I rode one right after another. Just a tip - Montu, then Cobra's Curse
Those spinning rides still get to me. All in all, best day ever. No serious medical situation, not even the slightest headache. I have several Florida coasters to check out then I'm hoping to start my quest to ride the biggest and baddest. I threw together some cell phone clips to enjoy. But better yet - go ride. Nothing gets the stress out like a scream. 







Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bay Area Renaissance Festival - 2017

Taking a quick count, I've been to seven other Florida festivals, most in the last few months, but this was my first ever visit to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival. Two reasons - It runs the same time as my home town fair and it's 300 miles from my home. My goal this year was to catch them all. Mission accomplished.

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I have heard wildly mixed reviews on this show from it's a must see to not worth the drive. I can say with certainty my review will not be mixed. I LOVED IT!!!! Easily takes the top spot of my favorite Florida Festival.


DSC_7660The first thing I noticed were the trees. As the sun got higher in the sky, I appreciated them more and more. The next thing I noticed was this fair is huge. I managed to walk through much of it before the crowds but it took a while. Later in the day the crowds made walking quickly impossible.

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Unlike every other fair I have been to, including Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Texas, and The Georgia Renaissance Festival, I knew virtually no one at this festival. Pretty much 3 acts, 2 vendors, and 1 Human Chess Match fighter. Meeting new people has never been my strong suit and it was pretty obvious as the day wore on that there are not a lot of photographers at this show. None I recognized at least.

Since I did my typical thing of showing up before the pre-show at the gates and being escorted out a half hour after closing, that situation changed dramatically. Considering the 20,000 views on my photos already, I think it's safe to say I made a few new friends.

So what can you expect on your visit? A very colorful royal court. I strongly suggest getting to the fair before opening to watch their show at the gate. You will also thank me for this tip when it's time for your journey home. Being closer to the street will greatly cut down your time exiting the parking lot at the end of the day.


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DSC_9646Like any good forest, this one is full of fairies. They show up in the most unexpected places. It's hard to tell from my photos but there is a larger percentage of children attending this fair then most I visit. That was keeping the faires and children's stage acts very busy.  Long before I brought my cameras to these fairs I brought my daughter. The best way to unplug your children is to take them to a full day of live interaction. And if you accidently get called up on stage and have to run around shouting about wearing your man pants....  yep, that's a memory you will share with your child and cherish forever.... apparently.

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One of the the big deciding factors in attending this show was to see the Human Chess Match. I caught their show recently at a different fair and yes - it was worth the drive to see them again. Could I have photographed it better? Ummm Yes. I missed the real action shots. My camera is fast - the action on this stage is faster. At least you will know these are the slowest moments in the whole show. 

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Then there is Acrobellum. This is my third time seeing this troupe and I'm not sure how to describe them. They put on an amazing stage show but they are also everywhere during the day. Collectively they are like a toddler, high on sugar and maybe a spoonful of adult cold medicine. They are non stop everywhere from the opening gate, to the parade, to cheering at the chess match, wandering the lanes, to the last ones I saw as one of them escorted me to the exit after closing. They raise the energy level of any fair but here they were on fire.

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This is barely a fraction of what I saw in two full days and really I would need two more to even begin to say I saw it all. I am seriously considering going back the last weekend. If not - Next year for sure.

For my many photos on this trip [click here].




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Hurricane Shutters and PGT Impact Windows

I'm no stranger to making huge financial decisions. This was a difficult one as it was way out of budget. I purchased this house four years ago by emptying my savings and slowly fixing as I went. To take a quick look at the before pictures [click here].


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I could not afford Impact Glass on the patio doors so I went with accordions. I was completely opposed to individual panels as is typical in Florida. A bit inconvenient and far cheaper but my father can no longer put his own up. I plan to be here a while so best to plan for the future.

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IMG_1124So the big questions - Why Impact Windows, and what was the cost.

The first consideration was none of the windows in this house functioned. Cracked glass, leaks sealed with duct tape, some did not open, of those that did, none would stay open without a prop, and out of 12 windows only two had screens. The cost of accordions for the whole house would have been less even if I replaced the windows with regular glass. I would still need to put panels on two as they were too small.

The windows I chose are double glass, with an inert gas between the panes. They reduce the light, and greatly reduce the heat. Also they cut the noise down considerably. For all the logical reasons - Impact Glass was the way to go. Will I save enough in energy costs to pay for them? Not a chance but every little bit helps.



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So now about those cost considerations. This whole job was just under $20,000. I retired a year and a half ago and my payout went into two bathrooms. I had a few dollars left in savings but not even half. I priced out accordion shutters well over a year ago and was saving for that but it would have been a bad choice if I ever decided to change out the windows. I got a quick price on windows over a year ago and had sticker shock. Several months ago I had a company quote and because of the "This price is only good for tonight" hard ball sales tactic - I threw them out of my house. I looked into some local companies but I was finding mixed reviews.

Well two things happened. A near miss by hurricane Mathew prompting me to make a decision and a slight uptick in my stock investments for some strange reason helping me with the rest of the cost.

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That's when I called Home Depot. John the sales person could not have been nicer or more laid back. He did the measure, showed me the specs, presented to me the windows I had already researched, set the price. I signed the deal. That started a flurry of contacts with Home Depot. An entire team of people doing scheduling, installing, and satisfaction surveys. Probably the most pleasant team of people I've worked with on a project this large.

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Let's talk about the mess. It's loud, dirty, hot, but as far as a mess, my floor might have been a bit cleaner when they left. I had to do a little dusting but nothing more than a normal week. they covered everything in the house. The whole job took two days but had a missing piece not been delayed in arriving, it could well have taken just one. The missing piece actually showed up by the end of the day but the guys had knocked off at 3:00.

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The accordian shutters had actually been done a few weeks prior, in about two hours. Those guys also swept up leaving my patio in perfect condition. Home Depot handled all the permitting. The inspector was out the very next day to pass my installation. My schedule is pretty open right now but a three day start to inspection project is far quicker than I was expecting.

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I don't mean to be making an advertisement for a particular company but I have used Home Depot for a kitchen install years ago and I knew what to expect. They were actually a few hundred bucks more than Mr Hard Sell after the 5 "discounts" he was offering but since his "deal" was only good for one night only, I felt like maybe his warranty would be the same. I'll take my chances that Home Depot will still be around in the future. If you have any questions, shoot me a comment.

For a few more photos of the old and new windows [click here]