Anniversary Cruise

It had been several years (3) since Sharon and I had been on an anniversary trip. All our vacations and trips can be found on this blog at Vacations. Several cruise companies had been running some specials. Matt and Ashly love to cruise as does my sister. Miss Sharon and I said what the heck, let’s try one. We live 4.5 hours from Galveston, so we decided on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Cozumel, Gand Cayman, and Jamaica. I was afraid I would feel stuck on the ship with 4,300 of my closest friends. So we booked excursions for every port. I was a little torn if I was going to take a DSLR or just go with my trusty iPhone. Ended up taking a DSLR and a tripod only because we booked a trip to Chichen iIza to see one of the 8th wonders of the world.

Sharon does not travel well. She gets car sick so we were worried going in. By day two she was so sick she got to see the ship’s doctor even though she had patches and sea bands.

Needless to say she missed the first port of call. So I went solo to Chichen Itza.

I felt bad that Sharon miss the excursion, so I bought her a local hand made silver necklace and earrings.

Didn’t take the DSRL off the boat the rest of the trip. Sharon was a new person by the time I got back to the boat and was up for the next excursion. A day of shopping in the Caymen’s. We had a wonderful lunch at Jimmy Buffets, after a morning of diamond shopping. Sharon scored a new wedding mount and two new wedding bands. I was worried about them switching out our diamond. They made the mount, and I watched them like a hawk mount our diamond. It has it GIA number lasered onto the griddle, and I was able to verify it was still our stone.

New Mount

A comparison shot of her old mount and her new mount.

All in all we had a great trip but we are not cruisers, and I am guessing this was our first and last cruise. I needed to get this post out so I could get onto the owls I have been shooting.

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Life is good and I am blessed.



I have been to San Francisco 6 or 7 times and never had or took the time to visit Alcatraz.  This trip I had a small window on Monday.  So, I walked down to Pier 33 with fingers crossed hoping I would be able to get on a boat from a stand by line in case somebody didn’t show up.  They were sold out and they quit using the stand by line.  The lady stated they sell out 2 to 3 weeks in advance but that they still have a few tickets for Wednesday afternoon.  What the heck, bought a ticket for the Wednesday 3:50 boat.They start lining people up 30 minutes before they let you board the boats.  They check your ticket three different times before you finally get to board.  One of the other guys I was traveling with did the tour on Sunday and he was telling me all about the plant life and the succulents that grow on Alcatraz.  I always thought San Fran is cold and rainy but there were cactus and succulents everywhere.   Finally time to board and the tours were running three boats that day.  I would guess each boat took 300 people at $38.50 a head every 30 minutes.  That is a lot of money.  Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate Bridge National Park.It was a little foggy but could still see the Golden Gate Bridge on the ride out. Alcatraz Island started as a lighthouse for the San Francisco Bay.  Then a military outpost, then the famous prison, now a historical national park. One of the guard towers One of the park rangers giving the do’s and don’ts and where to get your audio tour headsets.One of the original cannons from the military fort. Part of the old mission style fort. The buildings are showing their age from the weather and salt air.  It looks like they had started to repaint the cell block and stopped. The walk up the hill was not bad, but is comprised of a set of switch back ramps.  There is a tram for the handicapped and people who could not make the trek.  The tour starts in the cell block building.   The tour starts where the new prisoners would begin, in the showers and then to processing to get their clothes and bedding.   The tour is narrated by four previous correctional officers and inmates.   The incoming inmates were then paraded nude down “Broadway.” The cells were super small.  7 foot by 9 foot by 7foot. If inmates were on good behavior they got time in the yard.  Some of the more famous inmates, include  Al Capone and the Bird Man. Cell block D was for the worst of the worse and also contained the six cells where all light could be shutout.  “The Hole” The prison library, Guns and Keys were never allowed in the cell block.  They were kept on either end of the block called the Gun Gallery.  In 1946 inmates distracted a guard and over powered him, and one inmate climbed the gun gallery to the top and used a homemade bar spreader made in the local machine shop to spread the bars, and over took the guard with keys and a gun.  They held the prison for 3 days.  The photo below in from the explosion of hand grenades that were dropped by the army.  Several inmates and 3 guards died during these 3 days. C/D street There were only 4 visitation booths. Guard uniform, the inmates called them red ties. Great view of San Francisco from the warden house end of the island. The Golden Gate Bridge from the other end of the island.The lighthouse The Administration Building What is left of the Warden’s house.  Only 4 different men served as warden at Alcatraz.I didn’t take any DSLR equipment on this trip . Everything was shot and documented with my new iPhone XS Max.  I am impressed with the portrait settings as used in this selfie.The escape.  Two adjoining cells used spoons from the kitchen to tunnel through the concrete.They have opened up a panel in the wall to show the space in between the cells where the inmates climbed the pipes to get out.Not all tours every day do the “Sounds of the Slammer”.  I was lucky enough to get to be there during this demo.

The prison closed in 1963 due to rising cost.  It was costing more than $500 a day to house 1 inmate.

Several Indian tribes took Alcatraz in 1969 and held it for 19 months to protest how the Indians were treated and and how may treaties had been broken.  You can read more here at The Occupation of Alcatraz.

So my last post before this was almost 1 year ago.  I came close to not renewing my blog this year.  I made a promise to myself I would try to get back to doing more photography and posting more.  So time will tell.

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Life is good and I am blessed.


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.




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.


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.


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.