A Photographic Memory: The Grand Canyon

I recently started going through some older computer files to see what I might have overlooked in my photography collection. I determined that a) there’s no real way to overlook photos of something as majestic as the Grand Canyon, b) I had a few of them that I had overlooked in a way, and c) technically, I was actually overlooking the Grand Canyon when I took the photos, so now I’m just confused by my own words.

In any event, I took them around the time I was just getting started with more serious photography, so they leave a lot to be desired. However, it’s nice to look back on what you’ve done to see how far you’ve progressed with time and practice…although now I just want to go back for a do-over.

grand canyon GIF

Another factor in my “I-Just-Want-A-Do-Over” thought is that this was on the return leg of a road trip to Las Vegas. By the time I was able to get to the Grand Canyon (for the second time in my life), the weather had taken a turn for the stormy. IN JULY. Yes, I managed to find a storm in the middle of the desert. IN JULY. (Did I mention that it was July?) So, I didn’t get to stay as long as I had hoped to stay.

Anyway, the Grand Canyon is one of those treasured locations that everyone should have the chance to see in person. I’m just lucky enough to have seen it TWICE in my lifetime because I was along for the ride. I was also lucky that I was old enough to truly appreciate it the second time around…and that I had a really good camera, even if I was in the VERY early stages of learning about photography.

The colors, the contours…it’s just a stunning view from any angle.
You can see the clouds building in the distance. I decided against being struck by lightning to get the perfect photo. I think it was a good choice.

For more information about Grand Canyon National Park, here’s the link to the National Park Service website. (If you plan to drive and have trouble finding it…umm, it’s a really big canyon. Just trust your instincts on this one.)

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

A Recollection: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Summer always seems to be the shortest season in terms of perceived available days for relaxation versus actual days for relaxation…but the longest season in terms of “it’s-going-to-be-hot-for-six-months-so-you’d-better-get-used-to-it.”

So, here I am, sitting at my computer on the eve of another academic year, and I thought I’d complete that “old-as-the-hills” assignment that we used to do in school entitled “What I Did On My Summer Vacation.” (Or, in my case, “What I Did With Approximately Two Weeks.” Three months off is a myth, folks.)

My first major vacation-y event was something I probably could have done in any season, but one of my all-time favorite bands happened to be touring close by during the summer…hence, it became part of my summer vacation. I say I could have gone to this concert during any season, but since I’d been trying to get to one of their concerts for, say, eleven years, I suppose I was just kidding myself. So, in June, I finally went to a Steely Dan concert. My apologies to anyone who had to listen to me sing along with them at the top of my lungs, but, by golly, I’d waited a while for it.

And it was good.

I’ve become pretty good at squeezing little side trips into a packed schedule, but this year I wanted to go on a real trip. I addressed it in my previous blog post, but never included some of the stunning scenes I woke up to every day on beautiful St. George Island, Florida. It was my first trip to that particular beach and my first trip to ANY beach in four years. My apologies to anyone who had to stop dead in their tracks while I took photographs, but, by golly, I’d waited a while for it.

And it was good.

If you don't like the beach, we might not be able to be friends.
If you don’t like the beach, we might not be able to be friends.
Cape St. George Light. I also have a t-shirt to prove that I was there.
Cape St. George Lighthouse. I also have a t-shirt to prove that I was there.

On the way back, I did the nerdiest thing I have ever done in my life–stopped in Seaside, Florida to seek out the “Truman House.” One of my favorite movies ever is “The Truman Show,” and it was filmed in Seaside. I found it, had a nerd moment, and grinned for a week. Twelve hours later, I was back in Arkansas.

Then, it was back to work.

Tomorrow is the first day of school (although, technically, it’s the fourth week of the new academic year for me).

And the weird dreams have already started. I’m trying to forget last night’s brain cornucopia. I was trying to run a rehearsal with a potluck going on next door, all while people felt the need to keep pulling me aside to tell me I was crazy. (Something about my sense of humor…) I tried to argue with them, but it was hard to hold my ground as I went through the potluck line and put beef stew, fried rice, Lucky Charms, and milk on the same plate. I finally got fed up (haha) and took off in my car, driving in reverse over swinging bridges constructed of thin rowboat paddles and shouting something about trying to break the Olympic record.

(Figure that one out, Freud.)

And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.

And it was good.

With that, here’s to a great academic year for all!

*I also started an Etsy shop this summer. I’m updating listings as I create more work, but right now it’s primarily for my landscape photography. I am selling 8×10 prints. Please take a look! You can buy photographs here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/MeticulousObserver

An All-American Adventure: Road Trips And Convenience

The modern American road trip may take on an individual flavor for each who experiences it, but the general template remains similar to what it always has been. Over-pack, over-pay, underestimate the travel time, and under-dress to look the part of a pure tourist.

Although the template is fairly uniform, you don’t have to go back too far to find that one aspect associated with road trips has begun to vanish. And I’m not just talking about the “which-way-do-you-fold-the-map” argument.

Guess that road hasn't been invented yet.
Map? What map? Oh, you mean GPS. It’s very reliable. (Guess we were on a road hasn’t been invented yet.)

When I was nine years old, my family took a road trip to Florida. Fun trip, good memories, good times.

Fast forward to today–I just returned from a road trip to Florida and while the route seems much the same, one major deviation from the decades-old template is evident.

Convenience stores.

Nowadays, they’re just so…convenient!

Need a snack? Come on in! You can pump your gas at the same time.

Oh, and there’s a restroom.

In the building.

You don’t have to buy anything to use it, either!

You also most likely don’t have to do what we once had to do when we stopped for gasoline AND a restroom in a small town in the middle of nowhere…ASK FOR THE RESTROOM KEY. A KEY ATTACHED TO A HUBCAP OR OTHER EQUALLY CUMBERSOME AND HEAVY OBJECT.

You see, I remember visiting a lot of rest stops in Mississippi on that long trip to Florida when I was a kid. They were nice. I even remember getting a free soda at one. You’d take a few minutes to stretch and browse through local travel brochures, look around the parking lot at all of the assorted license plates while eating a snack from the family food stash, and get back in the car, buckling up for safety (I always made a big deal about that because they had signs every few miles about their seat belt laws…signs I never saw or noticed in Arkansas…and I was afraid we’d all be pulled over if I, as the sole nine-year-old, forgot to wear a seat belt…but I digress…). AND…the facilities always seemed to be in pretty good shape.

Contrast that with the country gas station–in ANY state–of yesteryear. It was expected that you stopped at a gas station for one thing: gasoline. Restrooms were secondary. Besides having to carry a key attached to a spare tire (the traveler’s hall pass), the restroom was usually on the far side of the building…the sunny side with no air conditioning…sweltering in the summer humidity. If you could manage to get the key to turn, you were usually greeted by a whole family of flies making their escape. Once the smell hit you, it wasn’t difficult to understand why even the flies couldn’t stand it.

If you really needed to go, though, your only choice was to hold your breath and deal with it.

Nowadays, most of the convenience stores have signs imploring you to let an attendant know if the restroom needs attention. (How convenient!)

Some of these old-school gas stations still exist, but they have largely been replaced along the interstates by giant travel centers with their one-stop shopping. Don’t get me wrong–I do miss full-service and the personal interactions. They were what they were…gas stations, and they served their purpose well.

This change to the template, though, is just one of the few changes in the subtle evolution of the modern American road trip.