Sedona, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend

The last 4 years Sharon and I have been going out to Phoenix to visit her sister and our dear friends the Vandermoon’s around her birthday.  This year I decided I wasn’t going to take my golf clubs and made this trip all about Sharon.  We spent day one hanging out with the Vandermoon’s and took a trip out to Tortilla Flats.  It was a very scenic drive and a nice lunch in a little saloon.  

Spent Saturday day 2 driving up to Sedona.  Beautiful drive and mountains around Sedona.  I could have spent several days hiking and exploring there, but we were on a quest to find unique Christmas gifts.  Spent five hours exploring almost every shop and had a nice wood fired pizza for a late lunch.  Headed up to Page Arizona for the night.

Sunday was my big day.  A photography tour to Antelope Canyon, which has been on my bucket list.  The tour guides take 4X4 trucks with the people in the back on benches.  Once we pulled in and started off road I understood why the truck.  They sand was deep in places and he would lock it into 4 wheel drive and just root through it. About a 20 minute ride from the tour operator to the canyon.  At first I thought Sharon was just being a good sport.  But about 10 minutes into the tour she was getting incredible shots with her iPhone.  The first 30 minutes in the canyon was super nice as we had the canyon to just us 5 photographers and Sharon.  Then the madness came and 250 to 300 people flooded in.  I messed up a couple camera settings about half way through and got frustrated.  

When we got to the other end of the canyon we went outside to regroup and let the crowds clear out.  One of the other Canon shooters had taken a night tour the night before and showed me the beauty of “Live View”.  I reset all of my settings and we headed back in with Live View and we shot the canyon rooms from the other angle. All in all, I am super happy with my results, but a little bummed.  The light beams only happen during the summer.   All the more reason to be going back in June to capture the light beams and also do the night tour while the Milkyway is over the canyon.  

We returned back to town a quick lunch and shedding a couple layers and we were off to find and document Horseshoe Bend.

Horseshoe Bend is a hike up about a 100 foot climb, then across a plateau.  Then a gentle slope down to the canyon’s rim.  After the first climb and Sharon’s looking the decent over, she almost decided to stay on a bench while I went on, due to her hip and knee.  After seeing an older couple I am guessing mid eighties to ninety, she declared what the heck.  Didn’t come this far to regret not going.

Once down at the rim, I quickly realized I was scared of heights.  There were kids just jumping across cracks and standing on one foot on the edge.  Made me sick to my stomach.  If figured if Sharon could mustard up the strength to hike back up I must over come this feeling to get the shot at all cost.  I started about 8 to 10 feet back and did the military style belly crawl out to the rim.  Once I got there my hands were shaking so bad I had to brace the camera on the rock to keep it from shaking and messing up the shot.  After taking a test photo I realized I wasn’t dead center and had a rock outcropping in the way.  Crawled back and moved over 30 feet and repeated the belly crawl once again.  Sharon was laughing so far I could hear her.  I am glad she was there with my phone to call 911, but instead she documented the crawl.So I over came my fear to get the money shot.  I hope after that build up my humble offering isn’t a let down.I felt amazing to be back in the field with a camera in my hand,  We both truly enjoyed this trip!

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Life is good and I am blessed.

Kent

 

 

Granddaughters Texas Summer Vacation 2016

I had a work trip back to Illinois, Sharon decided to drive up and spend some time with Shelby and then met me in Bloomington to get to see Audry and little Layla.  Somehow while she was up in central Illinois she was able to talk her kids into letting her kidnap the oldest two granddaughters for TWO weeks.  It was my job to try and balance work and time with all the girls.  My main objective was to keep them busy and wear them out!

Everyday at least once a day time was spent in our pool!  They wore Nana down and she let them jump off the waterfall.  Then Nana had to get in on the action.  This is my favorite photograph of the two weeks.

PBKJ7498-FrameShop_2Day 1 Activities was Urban Air:  Both girls learned to do back flips!PBKJ7520-FrameShopPBKJ7526-FrameShopPBKJ7555-FrameShopPBKJ7561-FrameShopMy trusty 5D3 handled the tough lighting conditions, but the iPhone videos did a nice job of capturing the series of flips.

Couple more days in the pool and then over to JumpStreet in Allen for a larger trampoline park.KJ5D6044-FrameShop KJ5D6057-FrameShop KJ5D6058-FrameShop

Even Nana decided to flip around.

The last big adventure was to take their cousin and her friend over to Fort Worth to see the Long Horns and cattle drive.

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I was really impressed when Sharon told me to pose the girls and capture the repeating vanishing lines.KJ5D6097-FrameShop

All in all I think they had a blast and went home wore out.

Life is good and we are blessed!

I have several new hummingbird photos to post, I’ll work on keeping caught up and doing better!

 

Austin Vacation trip

I was on vacation the week of Fourth of July. The plan was golf all 10 days in the morning and staycation at home in the pool in the afternoon.  After 6 straight days of Golf I decided to take Sharon to Austin for the three B’s.  Bats, BBQ, and Blues.

We left Friday morning at 6:00 AM to get to Franklin’s BBQ before they opened 11:00. We got there 9:50 AM.  The line started forming at 5:30 AM, and 4 people in front of us was a guy holding the “Last Man Standing” sign.  He was the last person to be guaranteed Brisket.  Pretty soon a worker came out and told us the same things and that from our place in line would be 4 to 5 hour wait and may not get any Brisket.  We left and went to Black’s BBQ down in Lockhart.  I had the brisket and turkey and was not impressed with their meats, but they had GREAT sides. Hutchins BBQ in McKinney is better.

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Sharon isn’t a big meat eater so I treated her to her favorite Italian.  We ate at Botticelli’s South Congress.  Then we went to the Continental Club for some live Texas Blues.

I really enjoyed Sam the Soulman.  Here is a little IPhone video.

Then walked about a mile down to Congress Street Bridge to watch over 3 million bats take flight to go eat over 10,000 lbs of insects every night.  The Bats are Mexican free-tailed.  Really special to see.  They started flying at 8:42 right at dusk and not idea for photography.

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The Bats viewing would be way better from the water on one of the tour boats.  The iPhone video actually did a pretty good job capturing the feeling of the bats.

Saturday lunch we headed to The Salt Lick another famous BBQ joint.  Their meats were better than Black’s but their sides were not good at all.  The highlight of the meal was their homemade bread and the cobbler and ice cream for dessert. Still NOT Hutchins BBQ.

Spend the afternoon hanging out with Jen, Jared, and Eden our old neighbors from Bloomington.  Then headed to the find the bats of Round Rock.  You could get much closer and they few with a fair amount of good light left. around 8:25.

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Stopped by Antone’s Austin famous Blues club on the way back to the hotel but didn’t stay long.

Sunday morning we hit the famous VooDoo Doughnuts on the way out of town!  Way better than either BBQ joint.

I still plan on trying Franklins one more time.  Maybe Aaron Franklin will invite me to do a food blog on him.  Only one person every was allowed to cut in line and that was President Obama.  He bought and paid for everybodies food that was in line.  I am guessing our tax dollars paid but that is a different post.

Austin is a weird city and we will be back.  We packed a lot in during our 2 and half days.

Not my normal blog post full of wildlife and nature but it was what flew in front of my lens while on vacation.

Life is good and I am blessed.

Kent

 

 

Breathless Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

As most of you know us my now, I am Kent and married to Princess Sharon. We travel somewhere warm the last week of January every year for our anniversary. We got married on the beach in St. Lucia 2003, I promised her we would go somewhere warm every year. This was our 12th trip. The rest of the trips can be found over on my vacation page.

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We traveled to the Breathless Resort and Spa in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 1/25/15 – 2/1/15.

We had been to Punta Cana twice before and has always kind of been our backup safety destination.  I usually start looking for our Anniversary trip shortly after Labor Day about the time I am closing the pool.  Last fall prices were up and wasn’t sure I was even going to be able to find a deal.  Then Apple Vacations ran an adults only six apple special.  Some quick web research and I had it narrowed down to it had to be one of 3 6 apple resorts on Punta Cana.  The Hard Rock, the Iberostar Grand, or the new Breathless.  I was about 95% sure we would get Breathless since both Breathless and Apple Vacations are both owned by the same parent company AM Resorts. I booked it non stop from St. Louis for $3,400.  People on our same flight that stayed at Breathless said they paid $8,300.  Of course we didn’t know where we were staying until check-in at the airport the morning of departure.  I was so confident that I only did web research on Breathless!

Transfer from airport to resort:
The new Breathless was the last resort north of the airport and was only 32 minutes from the time we left the airport to the resort.  Only 7 couples from our plane were going to Breathless and we had a small bus with good AC and plenty of room.

Check In:
Greeted by an attendant with a silver tray of cold facial cloths and fruity cocktails.  We arrived around 12:30PM. Since this wasn’t my first rodeo, I identified our bags for the bell boys while Sharon got in line to check in.  We were the second couple to check in.  Our room was ready, and the bell boys had our luggage in our room in 10 minutes.  We freshened up, headed downstairs to get a drink and bite to eat, people were still checking in.

The room:
I was able to sweet talk us in a partial ocean view room, even though I only paid for the garden view.  Once again the silver tongued devil, talked us into a free upgrade.  The room had 2 full sized beds instead of the King.  Sharon stated the view off our balcony was more than worth the 2 beds so I didn’t try to get us moved.

The Hotel opened in October of 2013.  The resort has 750 rooms, but the resort never felt crowded.

GREAT water pressure in the shower, and a separate toilette room for the toilette and bidet.

Excellent room safe … digital combo and included no extra charge like some hotels.

Full sized bottles of shower gel (great scent … not exactly sure what it was) and shampoo were provided and the maid automatically provided “additional” when we ran low by mid-week.  Our maids were excellent the day maid was quick and always made sure we had an abundance of towels (never had to ask for more). The night maid turned down the bed and left a schedule and chocolates for the following days planned activities.  She left us daily towel animals after the second day she left us a swan, and then I left her a monkey and a tip.

Beach: 
Was really nice and very walkable. Our favorite beach of all trips.  It is over 30 miles long, flat and great soft walkable sand.  No sunsets on this beach this is sunrises only.

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Food: 
There are eleven gourmet dining venues, where reservations are never required except for the Hibachi grill. Long pants were only required in the French restaurant.  I think we ate in most of them except for the Lebanese.  We ate fish almost every meal.  I would rate the food some of the best yet from any of the all inclusive we have been too.

Travel Tip: 
I always travel with at least 100 USD ones, This time I took extra.  100 in ones and 75 in fives.  Wasn’t sure we were going to stay so I took extra tipping money.  One of our favorite poolside waitresses YoLenny told me she made $180 a month USD.  They work 11 straight 11 hour days to get a three day weekend.  I was tipping on every drink and our glasses were never empty.  After-all I was already at least 5 thousand ahead on this trip.

Drinks:
We took our Tervis Tumblers but never used them.  YoLenny wouldn’t let our drinks get low enough to break out the larger insulated cups.  🙂

I drank 15 year old scotch all week, and Herradura Tequila shots.  All liquor was top shelf.

Pool:
Chairs and palapa were never a problem.  I set our towels out by 9, but no need to get up at 6 AM to get chairs.  There were plenty of big blue rafts and you could always get one as needed.

Internet: 
Internet was included and free as well as free international calls.  Not as fast at home but good enough. Pretty much had connectivity the entire time, the entire resort had coverage.

The Spa:
This was the first time EVER Sharon didn’t use the Spa.  The Spa and Gym both looked nice.

Shopping:
We walked next door to the little set of shops that are located between Breathless and the Dreams Punta Cana located half mile away.

The USD dollars were preferred and usually could get things about 60% of their first price. Only a couple times did I get them down to half price.  The best deal I got was a Michael Kors purse.  I am pretty sure it was fake, they started at $350.  I got them down to $70 and walked away.  The next day, he chased me down and told me he would take $40 and 2 cheeseburgers and pops from the resort.  I loaded up 2 cheeseburgers, fries and 2 bottles of soda from our room fridge and smuggled them out of the resort in our beach bag.  I don’t think they made any money on the purse, but then again they got to eat. and Sharon was happy with her Anniversary present.

Overall:
This was the nicest property we have stayed at.  It is large with 750 rooms, but with all the restaurants and pools it never felt crowded. I feel this was the best value I have had yet. Not sure how I would rate this hotel if I paid full price.

Great value and our favorite beaches and even found some hummingbirds to photograph!

Hope this helps!
Kent

Gallery Of Photos:

Hummingbirds of Breathless Punta Cana

Found a few hummingbirds while on our anniversary trip at the new Breathless resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.  I took my Canon 5D3 for a smaller travel profile.  Shooting these little guys I really missed my Canon 1DX’s 12 FPS.

I paired my 5D3 with my new 100-400mm IS mkii.  This was a really small profile for traveling that had quite a bit of reach.

802A0171-2-FrameShopKJ5D0182-FrameShop KJ5D0185-FrameShop KJ5D0187-FrameShop KJ5D0188-FrameShop KJ5D0195-FrameShopI am not 100% sure but I believe these to be Rufus.  Does anybody know for sure?

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Thanks for stopping by, Life is good, and I am blessed!
Kent