The Nest

For me, one of the great joys of spring is when birds choose to nest in my yard. We had robins and mourning doves last year, and we did again this year.

The robins decided to nest in my weeping cherry tree, low enough that I could photograph it fairly easily. The babies just left the nest earlier this week (bittersweet!), but it was a fun two weeks watching them.

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The dove nest appears to only have one baby. Got my first glimpse of it today.

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California

I returned yesterday from a week in California – a vacation that was part solo adventuring, part family visit. My brother lives in Vacaville, near Sacramento. I flew in on Saturday the 16th and rented a car. (My layover was in Phoenix, and the flight from Phoenix to Sacramento took us over Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Luckily, I had a window seat.)

I didn’t go sightseeing every day I was there. It rained steadily for a couple of days, so I stayed in and streamed movies and TV (something I rarely do, so it was a luxury in and of itself). I went on a couple hikes with my brother and nieces at local parks. Our hike last Sunday at Rockville Hills Regional Park in Fairfield (4 miles total) was pretty challenging, especially due to some pretty serious erosion of the trails from all the recent rain. But we soldiered through and awarded ourselves with ice cream from Fosters Freeze afterwards.

Mostly, I want to talk about my solo adventures, which took place Tuesday and Thursday.

Tuesday

On Tuesday morning, I drove to Suisun Marsh and visited Grizzly Island Wildlife Area. It’s a dream destination for birdwatchers and/or photographers. They also have a population of Tule Elk there, which are somewhat elusive, from my understanding. It was a happy accident that I was scanning the landscape through my camera’s zoom lens and spotted one. Unfortunately, it was too far away for my camera to get a decent shot. I took photos, but they’re not the best – only enough to prove that I saw one.

Here are a few other shots I took that day. (Note that I generally only do some cropping and maybe slight color correction. I rarely do heavy photo editing.)

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The driving tour of Grizzly Island took about two hours (with photo stops at almost every parking lot). It was lunchtime as I finished up my adventuring there, so I drove back into Suisun City to find something to eat. I ended up at Ohana Hawaiian Barbecue. I was lame and ordered the barbecue chicken bowl, which was basically just marinated chicken, vegetables, and rice. It was good but kind of boring. I bet I would have enjoyed it more if I had ordered something different. (They had Spam on their menu, but I had to draw the line somewhere. I don’t think there is any possible way to cook it that would make it taste good to me.)

Since I was in wine country (not Napa, which is nearby – been there, done that), I thought I should go to one of the less touristy wineries in Suisun Valley. Several of them were closed (on a Tuesday?), so I set my Google Map directions toward the first one I came across in Google that had Tuesday hours. It just so happened to be Wooden Valley Winery, which has excellent reviews. I was not disappointed. I thought the Riesling was particularly good, and I was informed that if I purchased a bottle for $16, the tasting fee ($15) would be waived. That’s a no-brainer, as far as I’m concerned.

I also bought a glass of Riesling so I could relax on their beautiful patio and enjoy the perfect weather. I was given a free wine glass with their logo on it, which is actually one of those shatterproof stemless ones made out of plastic. That’s sort of perfect because I need a wine glass for our travel trailer anyway. (I collect wine glasses and I don’t have room for any more in my kitchen cabinets.)

So, if you happen to be in Suisun Valley and you want some wine, this place gets a big thumbs up from me. And I’m not a wine novice, for what it’s worth.

Thursday

I set my sights on the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden for Thursday. Gardens are a particular passion of mine, especially for photography. I’ve visited many public gardens across the U.S. and Europe. I was pleasantly surprised by my visit. This is one of the finest public gardens I’ve seen, full stop. And yes, it is California, but even so, I was amazed at everything that was blooming so early in the spring.

I’ll let my photos do most of the talking here. This place was unbelievable.

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Trust me, these photos don’t even do it justice.

This was my first trip out to California in six years, and I don’t want that much time to pass before going out there again. My nieces are growing so fast.

15

My husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage on October 18.

Well, the celebration wasn’t actually on that date. We celebrated our crystal anniversary by doing yard work. After work the following day, we drove nearly an hour away to Yellow Springs, Ohio, for a weekend getaway.

Hiking at John Bryan State Park, a visit to the Glen Helen Raptor Center, good food (Saturday lunch at Ye Olde Trail Tavern in Yellow Springs and Sunday breakfast at Clifton Mill), a cold (brief) hike at Clifton Gorge. We didn’t get everything in that I wanted to, but we can always go back. We made a quick stop at Young’s Jersey Dairy on the way back to Columbus to pick up some cheese.

Also, if you ever find yourself needing accommodations in Yellow Springs, I highly recommend Jailhouse Suites.

Canon or Nikon?

I have a Nikon camera. For everyday use, my cellphone has a pretty great camera on it. But when I’m deliberately out taking photos, I bring the Nikon.

A couple weeks ago, I took my mom to Pickerington Ponds Metro Park. A Roseate Spoonbill had taken up residence there, and while we did see it, it was too far away for me to get a good shot – even with my zoom lens. This photo won the day.

cormorants

In fact, this was one of three photos that I entered into a nature photo contest last weekend (which will be exhibited around the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks starting next weekend).

I’m still learning. But I’m a serious hobbyist, and I particularly love shooting nature.

This morning, I attended an event at another metro park. Midwest Photo and Canon hosted the event. For $15, I got to borrow Canon equipment of my choosing and go on a walk with an Audubon guide.

The equipment I chose was no joke.

img_20181007_084718It was a 45-minute walk, otherwise this thing would have seriously started to hurt my neck and shoulders. It was HEAVY.

But it was an unfamiliar camera, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I focused and clicked and hoped for the best.

I did okay.

Female monarch

Egret in flight

Egret perched in a tree above Scioto River

This last photo was but a white blob in the distance to the naked eye – 400 mm zoom, hell yeah! My zoom on the Nikon maxes out at 300 mm.

It was fun to try new equipment, but I’ll stick with my trusty Nikon. I just need to get some more lenses for it.

Maybe I should experiment with macro lenses.

 

A Picture and a Story II

Spice Bazaar

Istanbul, 2005

I was excited to go to Istanbul as part of a tour organized by the Turkish members of the International Women’s Club. (In short, IWC was a spouse’s club for those of us living near the NATO base in Germany.) While Istanbul was not one of the places on my bucket list during our time in Europe, the opportunity presented itself and I jumped at the chance.

Turns out, it was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. And the food was phenomenal. We went over to the Asian side one day, and it’s the only reason I can claim that I’ve visited Asia.

This photo was taken in the spice bazaar. I had just bought the pashmina that I’m wearing here. The man in the photo is a stranger, someone who worked at the bazaar. He asked to have his photo taken with me, but first he wanted to wrap my head. I’m not entirely sure why. Most women I saw in Istanbul didn’t have their hair covered – though Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, it is a secular society. But he wanted to show me how he thought I should wear a pashmina, and then we posed for this photo.

I got a lot of male attention because of my blond hair and blue eyes. At least, that’s what our male tour guide said. So perhaps this is why the man in this photo asked to pose with me.

Anyway, this is just one of many memories from Istanbul.

Here are some more:

bread vendor

apple tea vendor

Hagia Sophia

Blue Mosque

Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar

A Picture and a Story

I haven’t written anything creatively for several weeks. But to flex my creative muscles, I thought I’d share a photo along with a story. I may do this regularly. I have a lot of photos with back stories to share. 

Venice, 2006

My friends and I arrived in Venice just in time for Carnevale. That actually wasn’t the point of our trip. Our actual destination was Vicenza, which was to be our home base for a shopping trip to buy pottery in Nove. We flew into Venice (from snowy Belgium), took a bus into town, and stored our luggage at the station so we could spend our first day taking in the spectacle.

As you might imagine, it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s impossible to know where to look because there is so much to see in every direction. Elaborate costumes everywhere you look, and just when you think you’ve seen the best one, you look in another direction and see one even more incredible.

The photo above is one of many I took that day – it’s my favorite. I did not ask this family to pose for a photo. They saw my camera pointed in their direction and stopped – all of them – right there in the crowded square. Spontaneous and unplanned. It was a perfect moment, gone in a second, but I have it preserved for eternity.

The people behind the masks will remain a mystery to me, and it’s better that way, I think. To know them would take away from the magic of Carnevale – a celebration that brings perfect strangers together for memorable moments like these.