Off roading in Texas

Taking a break from the RV Life, I’ve been living sticks and bricks style for a few months now.  We moved some of my family from Maryland to Texas back in May and the idea for making some life and career improvements occurred to me. In reality, the RV life requires some income and there are many folks out there who’ve figured out a way to make that work for them, long term.

The bus stopped here.

The bus stopped here.

As much as I love it, photography work and sales are a bit too spotty to be reliable for steady income.  There are a lucky few who make it work but I decided to go back to my roots in healthcare for certification that I can depend on and use anywhere as a steady income base.  So I’ve been quietly tucked away here in central Texas toiling away at my re-certification.

Technically, it’s officially Fall.  I have been reading and seeing news and images of fall from the East Coast while, until today, we remained in the mid-90’s with the swimming pool still open!  No complaints from me! I suspect having been in Florida and Arizona this past winter must have primed my system for the hot weather because the Texas summer heat, rarely, if ever, bothered me.  This week we find our temps in the milder mid-80’s with the mornings a chilly 60-ish degrees.  And I am just now feeling that little taste, just an inkling, of autumn to come. A little nostalgic? Maybe. Continue reading

Creative by Design

In the past 10+ years I’ve tried different types of photography: abstract, macro, wildlife, nature, pet and people portraits, a wedding or two, fireworks, and most recently, travel and landscape.  I don’t do much in the way of manipulating my images such as adding elements or composites.  Generally, just the basic tweaks of what I captured in the frame, cropping, and so on.

At one point I started playing around with the designs I could create with my computer program using regular images.  I’d gotten the idea to create sets after seeing such items in home and decor catalogs.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to create their own art that matches their decor perfectly?

This is a set of 6 I created from a floral image.  I’ve created others using stone, feathers and even fragrance beads 🙂

I have three different sets now posted in my store on Society 6 and I honestly like them better as designs on the pillows, tote bags and clocks that they be printed on.

Oh and, by the way, all the clocks are on sale (not just mine) for $24 (regularly $30).

If you are bored on a rainy Saturday like me, go and check it out!

http://society6.com/product/teracotta-stone-medallion-1_wall-clock?curator=susanmsmith

Thanks for looking!

Susan

Throwback Thursday: Lovely Lola

Do you create any type of art, crafts, or hobbies?  Do you ever go back and look at work you created years ago?  It is refreshing to see how your skills have improved or how your tastes have changed over time.

I made this image of Lola a decade ago in August 2005.  In addition to the fond memories it brings back, it reminds me that I am still drawn to similar line, pattern and composition in photographs.  DSC_0025 lgt fx

Her over the shoulder look gave this a great point of view leading your eye across the image from her ears to eyes to her nose on the other side.  Normally, I don’t shoot down on anything from a standing position. In this instance it worked because it included the symmetrical background of the deck she was laying on.

That very same background could have ruined the shot if the lines had been more in focus, making them seem to be at the same level as her.  It’s good to always be aware of what is in the background of your subject. I’ve seen what would otherwise be a great shot of someone had it not been for the tree, telephone pole or other object appearing to come out of their head.  In this case, the shallow DOF of F 5.6 blurred the lines of the background giving the image a greater feel of depth and eliminating the “object through the head” look.

This image was made using my first Nikon, a D50, with the 18-55mm lens in natural evening light. You can see more of my animal and wildlife images in this Gallery.

Thanks for looking!

Susan

The polar vortex is coming! Run!

Finally warmed up in Florida, our original itinerary was to travel across the southern gulf states into Texas and then over to Arizona to visit family. Well…this is what happened.  One of those much despised polar vortexes dipped down into Florida and the gulf states (from Canada, #thanksnothanks)!

We had to make a command decision. Try and navigate the cold weather or just wait it out for a few days. With no wish to experience frigid temps again so soon, we decided to wait. Furthermore, we moved farther south into warmer weather. That place was Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, Florida, a smaller park with virtues of abundant bird photography.

They had closed one major trail because the Eagles were nesting.  We had the advantage of being in a site our first night that was the closest to the trail they shut down.  I was able to spot the eagles in their nest, however the distance was still too far to capture adequately with my 70-300mm Nikon lens. The one other day we walked the trails just weren’t great photo ops.  We spent most of our time on the beach in Nokomis on Casey Key.

The highlight for us during that stay was stopping at Pop’s Sunset Grill (http://popssunsetgrill.net/) one day after some beach time.  We enjoyed a great seafood dinner of Grilled Mango Rub Shrimp and their catch of the day special.  It was so good we went back a second time so that we could try their Margherita Flatbread Pizza.  Not only was the table perfect for that chilly evening but my friend, who doesn’t suffer from a pizza addiction like me, even had high praise!  0114151624edit

Alas, the weather returned to more seasonal temps and we headed north.  We stayed overnight at Manatee Springs State Park which was nice enough, there just wasn’t any cell or internet available! Nooo!

DSC_3860c1w1SigWe did walk the park the next morning and spotted several manatees in the Spring.  There is an outdoor barbeque shack there and the food is very good! Makes for a great outdoor lunch break chatting with  folks from different places.

There are many Cypress trees, a favorite of mine, but this one arrangement of Cypress “knees” freaked me out a little. DSC_3922c1w1Sig

Next stop:  St. Andrews State Park near Panama City Beach…

I’ll be back after I take care of this urgent pizza craving I now have 😉

Susan

Caturday at Cadillac Ranch on Route 66, Amarillo, Texas

We have been on the move again for the past two weeks after spending two months in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.  I’ve had just enough time to offload the RAW files from my camera to my computer just so that I could shoot more every day!  There is sooo much to see in Arizona!

We’ve been riding Route 40 heading east and stopping at many of the old Route 66 enclaves that are still hanging in there.  There are as many ruins and “ghost towns” as there are businesses that are still surviving.  I hope to put together a Route 66 travel portfolio that includes all of our stops from Needles, California to Two Guns, Williams and Winslow Arizona, Tucumcari, New Mexico and now Amarillo, Texas.

No stop here in Amarillo would be complete without getting out to photograph Cadillac Ranch.  In hindsight, I should have gone out there at dawn.  Nonetheless, I did manage to get a decent shot of just the cars.

Cadillac Ranch, Route 66, Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch, Route 66, Amarillo, Texas

Speaking of the people who stop there, it seems the “thing” to do is spray paint so that you can leave your own mark.  The Cadillacs there are literally bubbling with the layers of spray paint on them.  Visitors offer their unfinished cans of spray paint to others.  My only mark is my capture of the moment.  Still, this is one of those places I would love to photograph again, perhaps at a more freely creative moment! 🙂

The entrance at Cadillac Ranch, Route 66, Amarillo, Texas

The entrance at Cadillac Ranch, Route 66, Amarillo, Texas

But seriously, I could spend the next month doing nothing but post-processing 🙂  Hope to see you at the next stop!

Susan

The Garbage Truck Philosophy

I think I can’t like this enough 🙂

A Small Act Of Kindness Can Bring Smile On Million Faces

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The Garbage Truck Philosophy..

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches.

The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, ‘Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital.’

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger…

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$5.99 NY Strip Dinner with John Wayne

I know! You’re like lol…wut?  Maybe in Vegas, right?

Nope. In good old Zephyrhills, Florida near where we camped at Hillsborough River.  We’d passed the restaurant’s specials sign one morning on our way out to Clearwater beach.  Dragging back after dark that night, hungry and tired, we thought, “why not?” (famous last words, I know!).  The cafe, called 2 Minutes Two, looked to be doing a steady business. Continue reading

Historic Hillsborough River State Park

Leaving Ocala, we headed west toward the Gulf to Clearwater for some personal business and beach time.  Hillsborough River State Park near Zephyrhills was as close as we could get. We camped here for four days and didn’t want to leave Hillsborough without taking at least a day to explore the park.

So on our last day we set out early on an overcast morning to walk the trails.  What was supposed to be a 1.5 mile walk turned into five miles after we took a wrong turn.  Following the Wetlands Restoration Trail I nervously thought for sure I’d see my first alligator, especially when we had to balance and hop on logs to cross a very swamped out portion of the trail. But who doesn’t love a challenge!  And better than that, surprises, as we came across this cypress swamp along the edge of the park. I was struck right away by the symmetry of the trees. DSC_3632c2w2SigWith a little cloud break, a gold glow from the rising sun was coming up behind the scene, adding some nice back lighting and reflections.

Further along, I missed an opportunity to capture a doe who stepped out onto our trail just a few hundred feet ahead.  I lost a minute or so elbowing my friend to stop talking and look ahead!  Oh well, it was beautiful in that morning light and a sight I’ll remember.

Luckily we came out near the entrance to the Park.  Even after five miles of walking we didn’t want to miss seeing the rapids and the suspension bridge so we headed there next.

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Warming up at Ocala National Forest

We had wanted to stay at a state or national park campground on the gulf coast in Florida but found out that those locations fill up well in advance for the Christmas and New Years holidays.  However, we were not disappointed by the enchanting blue-green waters of the springs here in Ocala National Forest. Crystal clear and a constant 72 degrees all year round.  Not too bad for December!

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Mullet jumping across the water at Salt Springs.

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RV there yet?

It’s December.  In Maryland.  It’s cold.  With even colder weather heading our way, we were urgently feeling, “let’s get out of here. Fast!”  A feeling compounded by the fact that we were temporarily parked in a church parking lot while we loaded up for life on the road. We were dry camping there for about three days, learning all about running the heat and everything from the battery.  Which required getting up every three hours or so to run the SUV.  Did I mention it was cold?

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My office: Command Central

Lucky for us that on Sunday, December 21st we were ready to go. Because by 8:00 a.m. that church parking lot started filling up fast and boom, we were outta there!  With our Google maps, trusty Rand McNally 2014 Road Atlas, 2 cats and our house on wheels (known as the “Box”) we started heading south. I wish I could say that it was a nice scenic trip with photo ops but no, not so much!

On our way to Florida, we made two stops just to overnight.  It was still cold 230-ish miles from Maryland at Medoc Mountain State Park in North Carolina. With the days still short, we got there with just enough light left to set up. It was great being “plugged in!”  The only other thing I can report on was that the bathrooms are heated, spacious and in great condition.  We were out of there first thing in the morning.

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