A Recollection: School Pictures

I had a school picture taken this year so that my mom could have some new refrigerator art.

Never mind that I’m a teacher now; I still think that mothers live for these kinds of things, so it was a kind of daughter’s obligation. Besides, I think it’s time for her to replace some of the old ones.

I’m just waiting on the photo at this point. (I’ll be sure to put my name, age, and grade on the back before I mail it to…you know what, those details really aren’t that important. Never mind. Carry on…)

Waiting. Does anyone else remember that? Waiting? Actually waiting for a photograph to be processed and printed before you can actually see it?

You probably have to think back to your own school pictures for that concept.

Yes, every fall, for one magical day, everyone would dress in their finest and line up for a moment sure to be frozen on the outside of the refrigerator for years to come. You’d stand in line with everyone else from your class as the teacher would walk down the row with disposable plastic combs–gotta get that hair under control because the photographer only gets one shot at refrigerator immortality–and take your seat when it was your turn. Fifteen seconds of, “Okay, sweetheart…turn your head this way, now look up, no…your other up…okay, tilt to the right…other right…your right…THERE…perfect…don’t move…now, look at Big Bird and smile! Thank you…NEXT!”

Kindergarten. A classic piece for the Garland refrigerator door. It’s probably still on some distant relative’s refrigerator. You know…the one who will call one of my parents in a few years and ask when I’ll be going off to college.

If you blinked–or, even worse…sneezed–you had to hope that your parents would be okay with letting you do the re-take when they came back to town to catch up with the kids they missed that day. (These photos went straight to the yearbook, you see. On film, you only had one chance to try to look relatively normal. I did re-takes twice–after much begging–attempting to look less like a deer in the headlights.)

After a few years, you start figuring out that you can still wear jeans as long as you wear your good shirt. Unless, of course, you just really like wearing the entire ensemble. I’d always heard that Paul Harvey hosted his radio show while wearing a suit and tie because he felt he did a better job while being dressed professionally, even though he knew no one in his audience would see him.

In the sixth grade, wearing the full ensemble has little to do with professionalism. However, this outfit did have a matching skirt that I LOVED at the time. Yes, I was wearing it. No, no one tried to stop me.

By the time you get to junior high school, you usually have at least one year that you completely forget about picture day being on the calendar. My brother wore a white t-shirt one of those years, and because our school yearbooks were printed in black and white, everything from his neck down disappeared. (I don’t have a copy of it, so I’ll just write what the old yearbooks used to print. NO PHOTO AVAILABLE.)

However yours tended to look, I think we can all agree it was a little bit of an adventure…waiting to find out how your school picture turned out. Did I smile too big? Did I not smile at all? Was there something in my teeth?

I’m still living out my little adventure by waiting on mine, so I’ll let you know if I blinked before it makes its way to Mom’s refrigerator.

A Trivial Story: Game Shows and Landscapes

By my estimation, I’m now approximately eleven billion dollars into my Armchair Game Show championships. This is, of course, an estimate based on years and years of at-home playing (and experiments with the decimal point).

I'm brilliant. The sticker on my forehead should have told you.
I’m brilliant. The sticker on my forehead should have told you.

When I was in college, I was called to go to an in-person audition in St. Louis for a popular trivia game show. Being the armchair genius that I thought I was, I envisioned a forthcoming glamorous trip to California and rubbing elbows with game show hosts as I watched my opponents go home with the dreaded “parting gifts.”

Instead, I felt like I was hit by the “IT-LOOKS-SO-MUCH-EASIER-ON-TV” train. Oh, and they gave me a free ink pen in exchange for my crippling dose of reality check.

It hasn’t stopped me, though. I’ve probably taken dozens of audition tests over the years for different trivia shows here and there. And I’m absolutely positive that some of you are thinking, “When is she gonna get it? If it hasn’t happened by now, why bother?”

Well, there are a few ways to explain that one:

  1. I’m stubborn.
  2. I’m stubborn.
  3. I know a lot of useless facts I’d like to put to actual use.
  4. I’m stubborn.

Speaking of Nos. 1, 2, and 4…I’m always trying to find some interesting photography subjects. (Nice segue, right? I thought so. I wouldn’t have written it otherwise. Besides, I’m stubborn–see Nos. 1, 2, and 4–and I had to figure out a way to work photography into my little story here. I figured some of you would be expecting pretty pictures.) Quite often, as I have written about in the past, I need look no further than my own backyard. Here’s another one from my series of “fence posts.”

A summer sunset from Ye Olde Backyard.
A summer sunset from Ye Olde Backyard.

Honestly, I was too stubborn that day to go beyond the backyard, but nature helped me out a bit with this one.

After all, I needed to be close enough to the television to continue my mythical game show winning streak.

A Vacation and a Camera: The Rule of Thirds, Part HOME

In the interest of not having to do any more math, I’m going to use this post to wrap up my Road-Trip-a-Palooza Adventure Quest 2017.

Just in case you’re late to this here party, I started out in Arkansas, drove from one end of Tennessee to the other, twisted and turned through portions of North Carolina, drove across South Carolina and stopped for a spell in Charleston, then took myself down the coastline through Georgia to Vero Beach, Florida. (You go, girl.)

Now I had to get myself home.

I’ll admit, though, it was tough to leave the photography opportunities…

McKee Botanical Gardens...beautiful!
I love Spanish moss…

I decided that the best way to do this was the more direct route, so I set out for Atlanta on Day One of the return trip (which was actually Day Sixseven-ish of the total days on vacation? I think? Math…help me out, here.).

The Florida Turnpike. From what I understand, the sections I traveled have the some of the longest expressway distances between exits in the country. (My bladder agreed.) You find fun wherever you can on long drives. So, naturally, I chuckled when I got on the turnpike at a little place called Yeehaw Junction.

The theme for this blog post is "Interesting Road Signs."
The theme for this blog post is “Interesting Road Signs.”

I probably looked like a total amateur stepping out of my car at the service plazas with my toll ticket in my hand. I refused to let go of it. For starters, it said “Yeehaw Junction,” and I was still getting a kick out of that. (Yep, I’m from Arkansas, the land that gave us towns named Turkey Scratch and Possum Grape…but I still got a kick out of Yeehaw Junction.) Secondly, I didn’t want to pay any more than I had to at the tollbooths. If it was in my hand, I wasn’t losing it. Case closed. (For the record, I didn’t lose it. You go, girl.)

I made it through Florida by the noon hour, and I pulled off the now-interstate for another scrumptious highway hamburger in Georgia. The conversation at the drive-thru windows made me believe that I was being mistaken for someone else.

Drive-Thru Conversations:

First Window: That’ll be $7.05.

Me: (Handing over crisp ten-dollar bill.) Here’s a ten.

First Window: Here’s your change…and your Coke. Thank you. See you tomorrow.

Me: Thank you…o…kay…

Second Window: (Server hands me my bag-o-burger-and-fries.) Here you go, ma’am. Thank you. See you tomorrow.

Me: (Quizzical look on face.) Thank you?

(I didn’t see them tomorrow. I know that has to be part of their training, but it still threw me for a loop. Very friendly, though.)

Moving on…

Georgia. Lots of Georgia. Warm. Very warm.

Signs. Fun signs.

See, I'd always been told that the TV lawyer's name was Perry MASON.
I’d always been told that the TV lawyer’s name was Perry MASON. Oh, well.

I mentioned that it was warm, very warm in Georgia. Indeed, the temperature had risen quite a bit during the day and when I was about forty miles outside of Atlanta…on a Thursday afternoon at RUSH HOUR, my tire light came on. I did what any independent, skilled traveler would have done.

I called my mommy.

The car hadn’t been doing anything funny (as far as I could tell…with the exception of the navigation system misinterpreting practically everything I said). As we talked, I formulated my plan for when I stopped at the hotel. I knew I’d be able to make it that far since I couldn’t really spot any significant problem. As luck would have it, my hotel was situated on a road lined with every single car dealership you can imagine, and I was informed that the hot weather had indeed been the culprit behind the lighting of the tire light. Disaster averted.

So, I stopped in Atlanta, had dinner, went swimming, fell asleep, woke up, and fed my inner news nerd before heading home. I’ve been to Atlanta in the past, but there was one place I’d never been and I had to see it:

Breaking News...I found a parking spot in downtown Atlanta!
Breaking News…I found a parking spot in downtown Atlanta and I only circled the block once!

After a morning of some tourist-type stuff in Atlanta, I headed back to my regularly scheduled time zone, meandering my way through Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. I regret that I did not devote more time on this part of the drive to photography, but I was really starting to get exhausted and ready to be home.

My first and only layer of windshield bugs piled up on the very last hour of the trip. It was then that I knew I was home.

Thus ended Road-Trip-a-Palooza Adventure Quest 2017. Whew.

*For a transcript of this adventure, please send…oh, wait. This is the transcript. Never mind.

A Vacation and a Camera: The Rule of Thirds, Part Threeve

I said this would be Part Three-ish, but I tried to explain how terrible my math skills are in a previous post. So, I went with a classic…

Thank you, Mr. Trebek.
And your wager?

Anyway, I ended yesterday’s story by reaching my vacation destination–Vero Beach, Florida. As I wrote two-ish/threeve days ago, my goal was to see new places on my way to a state I have visited many times. Since I’ve seen Florida many, many times, I wasn’t as terribly disappointed by the weather as I might have been if I’d never seen the ocean. (It rained. Quite a bit. However, I’ve been in the Sunshine State as hurricanes and tropical storms have churned off the coast, so the rain wasn’t as difficult to deal with as it could have been.)

Plus…stormy weather actually makes for some pretty good photography opportunities.

I had my chair set up...my beach towel...my sunscreen...and then THIS came along. I couldn't leave without taking a photograph first.
I had my chair set up…my beach towel…my sunscreen…and then THIS came along. I couldn’t leave without taking a photograph first.

The weather wasn’t bad all the time, though, and I was able to join my friend for plenty of outdoor dining opportunities overlooking the water. I also took a few walks along the beach. The water was much too cold for my taste, but the scenery was just fine.

I ate an expensive lunch and went for a walk. The rain had ended for a while, so I wasn't quite as terrified to take the camera out of its bag.
I ate something other than a hamburger (yay!) and went for a walk. The rain had ended for a while, so I wasn’t quite as terrified to take the camera out of its bag.

Have I mentioned that I was still arguing with the navigation system in the car? I’m telling you, it wasn’t therapeutic in the least to try to talk sense into that thing. Vero Beach covers a lot of territory. A1A felt a lot like a Flintstones cartoon at times…you know, where Fred is operating his highly inconvenient Model Foot SUV and the houses in the background start repeating themselves. Well, not only were the houses repeating themselves, but Miss Navigator was getting really good at telling me to “make a U-turn at the next intersection.” I finally just decided that I’d make things easier on myself. If I wanted to go to the ocean, I’d pull up my compass app on my phone and head east. When I hit water…bingo! DESTINATION. Take that, Ferdinand Magellan!

I spent the better part of the three days I was there driving around, exploring, walking on the beach, eating seafood (fish tacos…shrimp tacos…fish tacos), and, of course, feeding my photography addiction.

I know. I included this one in a previous post. I just really like this one.
I know. I included this one in a previous post. I just really like this one.

After a few days in Vero Beach enjoying a visit with a dear friend and doing vacation-y stuff, it was time to make the trek back home. I had opted for the more direct route driving back, meaning that I would have to deal with–cue the ominous music–the turnpike.

Driving home is another story for another day…or two-ish…

(Okay, so I said I’d be breaking this adventure into three-ish parts. I’ve also said–numerous times–that math isn’t my strong suit, so you’ll have to wait for Part Foursomethingorother for the quasi-exciting conclusion.)

*Once again, if you would like a print of the Vero Beach Sea Oats, the link to purchase is below:


A Vacation and a Camera: The Rule of Thirds, Part Two-ish

As I was saying…

We’re now up to Day Two (wait…it might be Day Three, depending on whether or not the first day of travel really counts, but since I’ve already counted it for the purposes of my story even though I’ve driven to Nashville lots of times, we’ll call it Day Two/Three).

Day Two/Three started out early, but not quite as early as Day…umm…the previous day. (Math. Darn that math.) The reason it started out so early is because I had driven myself into a traffic and parking nightmare in and around Charleston, South Carolina on a Saturday evening. I never quite made it to Folly Beach, although I did buy the t-shirt. So, if you see me in my Folly Beach t-shirt, it’s slightly false advertising.

I woke up early so that I could see the sights in less-crowded conditions. Not only did that part work, it also meant that I was able to capture some sunrise photographs.

I had my choice of benches at 6:00 a.m. Plenty of places to sit...and park.
I had my choice of benches at 6:00 a.m. at White Point Gardens.
Charleston architecture is stunning.
Charleston architecture is stunning. Great photography opportunities.
I was looking forward to the chance to photograph these trees. It was worth checking out of the hotel before their complimentary breakfast was served to take this stroll.
I was looking forward to the chance to photograph these trees. It was worth checking out of the hotel before their complimentary breakfast was served to take this stroll.

With the second third of my trip down to Florida finished, it was time to start my third third. (Math again. Ugh.) It’s worth mentioning that I left the road map stuff up to my new car’s navigation system instead of burning data from my phone. Any time I wandered off the beaten path, the car would try to calmly talk me out of it. I would try to tell her (yell at her) that I was hungry or needed to buy gas, but she kept talking. She was very persistent. As further proof that she needs to work on her listening skills, however, she would occasionally say, “Pardon?” as I was SCREAMING addresses and ZIP codes at the top of my lungs.

My third third took me along the East Coast all the way to Vero Beach. When I reached Savannah, Georgia, I decided I wanted to see Tybee Island. In particular…the lighthouse. I grew more than a tad worried about my navigation system when she sent me out on a road that felt like one small step above gravel…and then I saw a HUGE cable suspension bridge in the distance that I was supposed to cross. (For the umpteenth time…I HATE HEIGHTS. Yes, I realize the irony of this statement coming from someone who was crossing that bridge to see a lighthouse, but you can admire a lighthouse from the ground.)

Found the lighthouse. Climbed alllllmost to the top before the heights thing got me down (haha).
Found the lighthouse. Climbed alllllmost to the top before the heights thing got me down (haha). Tybee Island, Georgia…more great photography opportunities!

The signage directing traffic to the lighthouse from the main highway is a bit obscure; my esteemed not-such-a-good-listener-navigator sent me to an RV park before I decided to stop listening to her and look for the little turtle signs. I was in for another surprise once I found the lighthouse. I paid my admission fee, and the guy that was working at the booth told me that the “admission fee also gets you into Battery Garland across the street.”

“Battery what?” I asked.

“Battery Garland.”


Say, that's my name, too!
Say, that’s my name, too!
I haven't researched this any further yet, although I doubt I'm related to this guy. Still...I should have asked if they had a Garland discount.
I haven’t researched this any further yet, although I doubt I’m related to this guy. Still…I should have asked if they had a Garland discount.

After that stop, it was on to the Sunshine State!

Haha, right. I didn’t go through any rain on that ENTIRE DRIVE until I was about twenty miles from the Florida state line. From there, it was intermittent rain for the rest of my trip.

I somehow managed to make it through Jacksonville with my bumpers in tact, although the “new car” smell was finally beginning to fade with each fresh hamburger. After a few more hours of driving, though, I’d finally made it somewhere that I’d be staying for more than one night…Vero Beach! And…it was time to check out the water.

The friend I stayed with apologized many times about the weather. Like she could help it. I was just glad to be out of the car and standing at the Atlantic Ocean in this photo.
The friend I stayed with apologized many times about the weather. (Like she could help it.) I was just glad to be out of the car and standing at the Atlantic Ocean in this photo.

I’m getting exhausted just recalling the driving part of this whole expedition. I think I’ll take a break. Up next…Part Three-ish!

A Vacation and a Camera: The Rule of Thirds, Part One-ish

Back in the spring, I started thinking about taking a road trip as a way to see some different places and get some new photography experiences under my lens. A friend had graciously offered to let me stay with her in Florida for a few days, and she also offered a suggestion:

“Take the long way.”

Naturally, I asked her, “What’s the long way?”

You see, Arkansans tend to flood the same stretches of the Gulf Coast each summer (although I did pick a less-frequented area of the panhandle last year just to see something new and avoid the high-rises…and it was worth it…but I digress…). I was headed to the Atlantic side this time, which is quite a trek by road from here. So, the long way could have been anything from a practical, direct route to taking a slight detour through Niagara Falls.

Once she described the possible route, my resourcefulness kicked in and the little hamster wheel in my brain began turning. (That thing can get going pretty fast when an idea materializes. The poor little imaginary hamster gets quite a workout.)

In photography, one of the basic guidelines of composition is the rule of thirds. Essentially, when you are deciding on where to place a subject in a photo, you think of the space as a grid divided into thirds (both horizontally and vertically, creating a tic-tac-toe type of setup). This keeps you from placing virtually all of your subjects–by default–in the center, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but your results are more interesting and varied by using the rule of thirds.

I took the rule quite literally with this photo I took on my vacation. This print is available in my Etsy shop, and the link is available at the bottom of the post.
I took the rule quite literally with this photo from Vero Beach, Florida. (This print is available in my Etsy shop, and the link is available at the bottom of the post. Be sure to look for it. Yes, I’m advertising my Etsy shop. However, there’s more vacation-y stuff here to read. I promise.)

I decided to compose my trip in a similar manner, breaking the long way to the Treasure Coast into thirds. (I’m also breaking my account of the trip into three-ish parts. We’ll call this…Part One-ish. Oh, and my eventual destination was Vero Beach, Florida.)

I left on a Friday afternoon. The first third of my trip was a relatively short one–Nashville, Tennessee. I love Nashville. I love Tennessee. I’m going to do a better job next time, though, of leaving the house on “not-weekends.” Had it not been for a sleeve of Saltines being within easy reach, I probably would have starved before I made it to my brother’s house that night.

(The words “I-left-on-a-Friday-afternoon” should help you figure out the traffic situation.)

I’ve made the trip to Nashville many, many times. Going east of Nashville, however, was new territory for me. And that was part of the plan that I had meticulously written out on a sheet of paper listing all of the places I wanted to stop and see.

I left at five o’clock the next morning on the second third of the trip (driving EAST directly into the SUNRISE…big mistake…ouch), and that sheet of paper lasted until somewhere near Asheville, North Carolina. Once you’ve been tied up in Saturday traffic at every possible interstate interchange, looked at your gas gauge and (unfortunately) picked the exit that had less amenities than the next one three miles down the road, and gotten hungry twenty-seven more times than you expected, you just start wanting to get where you’re going. I did, however, LOVE the scenery in Eastern Tennessee/Western North Carolina…even if I didn’t have the chance to take very many photographs of it.

The Welcome Center was beautiful. That part of North Carolina is beautiful. (Beautiful is such a beautiful word, don't you think?)
The Welcome Center was beautiful. That part of North Carolina is beautiful. (Beautiful is such a beautiful word, don’t you think?)
Alas, I hardly had the chance to take any photos in North Carolina, but the views were stunning.
Alas, I hardly had the chance to take any photos in North Carolina, but the views were stunning.

I continued driving with my meandering destination for the day being Charleston, South Carolina. When I drove into South Carolina, I stopped again and took in the scenery (and a few brochures). Very friendly welcome center, lovely views.

Looking back towards North Carolina from South Carolina. I saw all kinds of geographical changes on my drive that day.
Looking back towards North Carolina from the South Carolina state line. This was my first trip to the Carolinas, and I wasn’t disappointed.

By the way, every single convenience store I stopped at was selling fidget spinners at the checkout. I overheard one mother in South Carolina telling her child that he did not need a fidget spinner, and I wanted to thank her on behalf of grownups everywhere, but I was too tired to do anything other than pay for my coffee.

In typical “me” fashion, I ended up rolling into Charleston in the early evening on a Saturday night. Many of the locations I had wanted to visit and tour were closed, so I had to save my photography for the next morning.

Did I ever see some beautiful photo opportunities the next morning, even if they weren’t on my original list…

Charleston, South Carolina is such a uniquely beautiful city. I am not a morning person, but I sure am glad I woke up early to capture this photograph.
Charleston, South Carolina is such a uniquely beautiful city. I am not a morning person, but I sure am glad I woke up early to capture this photograph.

Coming up in Part Two-ish…the third third of the trip to Florida. (Can someone help me with my math? I’m getting confused.)

*Some of the prints from this post are available in my Etsy shop:

Vero Beach Sea Oats: https://www.etsy.com/listing/526304756/beach-photography-color-photography?ref=shop_home_active_1

Charleston Sunrise: https://www.etsy.com/listing/524657098/color-photography-sunrise-palmetto-trees?ref=shop_home_active_4

An Observation: Picture This

Looking for photography opportunities is always on my mind. I’ve begun carrying my camera everywhere just in case I come across an idea for a great shot. My mind seems to function as a lens, with composition being the first consideration.

(Let’s face it, I catch myself thinking of my windshield as the lens. Bug splatter drives me crazy in that respect.)

Lately, I haven’t ventured too far from my backyard for a series of photos that I call my “fence posts.”

I don’t always have the time to get in the car and drive somewhere to scout out a good sunset location when I realize a really good sunset is happening. (Photography isn’t my full-time job; by the time I get home in the evening I sometimes have just enough energy to scout out a good location to collapse. My sofa usually wins. It’s close to the door.) I have a pretty tall privacy fence that does its job quite well, but it obstructs the view. So, I decided to take advantage of it and look at the sunsets and cloud formations from a different perspective.

I call this one, "Surely You Can't Be Cirrus."
From the “Surely You Can’t Be Cirrus” collection.

Springtime cirrus clouds–that was a big win. Wispy is always a good look on the sky. And you don’t have to go far to find them when they happen.

This one was all about color. And creativity. And color. Mostly color.
This one was all about color. And creativity. And color. Mostly color.

Sometimes, the clouds are secondary and the impression of the colors stand out in the shot. Photography is interesting like that.

I stepped as far back as I could for this shot. The fence is still there, but the colors from the sunset were much more visible from this angle.

Different angles also make a shot more compelling. When you’re pressed for space, again, you have to get creative.

As I mentioned earlier, photography opportunities are everywhere…even when you think you don’t have many different ways to approach subjects. Just take a good look around and you’ll be surprised. I don’t suppose I’d be calling myself the Meticulously Observant Observer if I didn’t observe these kinds of things.

And try not to collapse on the sofa for too long. Taking a photo is a little tough while you’re face down and drooling after a long day. (That’s more of a reminder for myself. Do you hear that, self? Get movin’!)

Oh…and it’s shameless plug time! Be sure to check out my updated photography prints in my Etsy shop! https://www.etsy.com/shop/MeticulousObserver