Posts Tagged With: photography

canal day

Canal day!
That’s what I called it even when we first discussed this trip.
For us canal day was Thanksgiving. And though I was disappointed I missed the Macy’s Parade, spending the day on the balcony with YBW was the loveliest way to participate in Thanksgiving day!
YBW decided all along that he would spend canal day on the balcony with his cameras and drink wine. And y’all, he absolutely did. He never left the balcony until we were safely through Gatun locks and into the Atlantic.
Then he had a quick nap before we went to dinner.

We started with mimosas and breakfast on the balcony.

We remained on the balcony through both of the Miraflores locks. But we were at the front of the ship when we got to Pedro Miguel locks.

It’s actually hard to see anything because the ship is up so high.

A stormy sail through Gatun lake drove me indoors, but YBW managed to stay out of the rain with his wine and his camera all day long.

At Gatun locks we had a much better view of the lock systems.

At one point a huge container ship and three tugs moved together into the lock next to us. The tug shown entering the lock did donuts in the canal waiting its turn to join the container ship. I’m not ashamed to admit how much joy I had watching that!

I adore tug boats! They’re the James Brown of the shipping industry. You know, ‘the hardest working boat in ship-biz’.
It really is the little things that bring me the most joy!

For some, moving though the Panama Canal is a once in a lifetime experience, for other’s it’s simply all in a day’s work. While we were in the canal, I thought, this is cool! I’ve done it and can check it off my list, but don’t think I’ll want to do it again. But now, after going through the photos, and talking about the trip with friends and family, and writing a little about it now, I find myself with a willingness to return. I wonder what more I’ll learn? Will I notice anything I missed? What new experiences await another trip?

Here’s a profile of the canal system provided by the Panama Canal Commission in case you’re curious.

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panama city

So, Panama City is a huge banking center now. I didn’t realize that until we were there.

Of all the places I’ve been in the world, this might be the place with the most disparity between the haves and the have nots. This gorgeous skyline, with these huge sky scrapers literally right next to the worst possible housing, barely fit for humans.
Apparently it’s quite cost effective to live in Panama City. Penthouse apartments (the top two and three floors of some of these buildings) 250,000 USD. I’m like, dang, we could sell our house and nearly buy two. Meanwhile, it’s still Panama City.

The old city was actually kind of quaint. Chock full of partially demolished buildings, also loads of construction. The people there feel a way about it too.

And dear God, was it hot. And humid. I mean the air was downright wet, that makes for some tricky breathing.


I was completely obsessed with all these gorgeous brick buildings that used to be churches!

I’m not sorry we had the opportunity to explore a bit of Panama City, but to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t entire impressed.

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costa rica

Costa Rica. The rich coast.
Y’all! I would pack up and move there in the blink of an eye!
But probably not during rainy season. And most likely only at a certain altitude. In the mountains, the temperature is delightful, the sun and sky and breeze create an environment in which I’d never want to leave.
However, at sea level it’s damn steamy. So what’s the rainy season like in the mountains?

I was most eager to go to Colombia on this trip, but Costa Rica was my favorite stop.

This botanical garden specializes in orchids.

It was steamy here, but stupid gorgeous!
I shot so many different types of orchids, I lost count.

We left the gardens for the coffee plantations in the mountains.
This is Doka Estate coffee plantation.

I’m not much of a coffee drinker, I mean I like it, but mostly with dessert after dinner. If I’m drinking it in the morning, it’s hot and black and I’m either hungover, eating donuts, or straight desperate for caffeine.
However, I’m an avid (container) plant grower, and I was excited to learn how coffee beans grow, are tended, and harvested. How they’re dried and roasted for human consumption.

The beans are picked several times throughout the season. The red ones are ripe, the green ones stay on the plant and wait their turn. Apparently you can eat the red beans right from the plant and they’re a little sweet tasting. I didn’t, so I cannot verify.

There is a saying in Costa Rica, ‘pura vida’. It means pure life, and to be perfectly honest, it’s so much more than just a slogan, it is truly a way of living.
The flora is gorgeous.
The coffee is on point.
The food is delicious.
The living is pure.


I’m already planning a return.

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nicaragua

Nicaragua is more beautiful than I imagined.
Even standing at the mouth of a volcano.

The juxtaposition between the dark lava rock and bright colors of healthy vegetation and bright blue skies makes for breathtaking views.
And some pretty decent photos too.

Speaking of photos, YBW was getting his photog on like crazy!

In addition to spending time at (the very active) Masaya volcano, we also spent time at the Masaya artisan market.

A place where native artisans sell their wares. I mean, sure there was a great deal of touristy junk, but some of the handmade items were not only gorgeous, but nicely priced too.
There is a huge stage and open area for folkloric shows, and local entertainment.

It was lovely.

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los cabos

Cabo San Lucas.
You hear that name and think Spring Break, right?
And at the cruise port, there is every evidence of a party town. Including a big ass Senor Frog’s.
However, if you go just a few miles away to San Jose del Cabo you’ll be treated to the most precious town square, arts district, mission-turned-church, and a glass factory using only recycled glass.


San Jose missionary church faces the precious Plaza Mijares in the heart of the historic and arts district.

We happened to be in Mexico on November 20th this is Revolution Day.

Children were out of school, and there was a huge parade in this little town. In addition to the kids the fire and police departments were lined up as well as people in authentic time period dress on horseback.
You know, as soon as the kids saw us with our cameras, they were shouting and hamming it up for us to take their photos. So many duck faces and peace signs. Doesn’t matter where you are on the planet, put a bunch of kids in front of a camera, they’re going to show out. Those kids brought me joy.

They only use recycled glass at The Glass Factory.

There is a courtyard chock full of every color glass you can imagine. Apparently, the glass factory waited nearly two years to have enough glass to begin their work.
I’ve been to many a glass blowing shop, and the way they work at The Glass Factory was no different. It was however, more beautiful than many I’ve seen.

We didn’t party in Cabo.
We experienced a beautiful arts district, learned a bit of Mexican history, marveled at blown glass, and stood on the cliffs over looking the sea.
It was a truly lovely day.

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in the city by the bay

YBW and I spent a few days in San Francisco before we set sail for the Panama Canal.

I loved going to Alcatraz (or Azkaban) more than anything else.

We spent six hours on, and covered every inch of the island before cold rain sent us back to the ferry.
I was awestruck by the delicate balance of gorgeous abandoned decay, and living history.
I would go back in a heartbeat, and know without doubt, I’d discover more beauty or learn something new.

Drove across and sailed under this beauty.

We went across the bridge and through the precious city of Sausalito on the way to and from Sonoma and wineries in the surrounding valley.
The ship sailed under at sunset the night we left the city. It was cold and windy af, but absolutely beautiful.

Dragon’s Gate at the southern entrance to Chinatown.

This is looking out toward Bush Street from Grant Avenue, sort of looking out of Chinatown.
We enjoyed beautiful sunshine and warm (upper 50s – low 60s) weather as we spent our Saturday morning in Chinatown. I love wandering though the Chinatown of different cities, even though they’re all very similar, each one has something unique to offer.
YBW found a little hole in the wall for us to have lunch.

I don’t much like Asian food, but I gotta tell you, that was the best damn fried rice I’ve ever eaten.

We left Chinatown (freaking up hill, just like everyplace in San Francisco) headed for Coit Tower.

YBW’s parents honeymooned in San Francisco, and his mom used to tell the story about how she and his dad were ‘kissing in Coit Tower’ and people were commenting on how ‘in love’ they were. (I’m over here like, if folks were talking about it, y’all were straight up making out.) It’s one of my favorite stories, and YBW and I were determined to go to Coit Tower (and kiss) so we could feel connected with his parents.
We were gifted the warmest and sunniest day with which to take in the 360° views of San Francisco.
Something occurred to me as we sat at the base of the tower. (Y’all know I wear the wedding ring my mother wore while she was pregnant with me, and the wedding rings of YBW’s mom from the incident in which the diamond was lost in a soda cooler.) The thought I had was that this may be the first time these rings were in this place since YBW’s parents made out there on their honeymoon over fifty years ago. How precious is that!?!

We stayed at the edge of Washington Square Park in the North Beach area of the city. Out our window was the absolutely gorgeous Saints Peter and Paul Church.

My favorite part of staying near this church was watching parents walk their kids to school each morning.
Another wonderful thing about where we were in North Beach is that it’s also the ‘Little Italy’ part of the city. Y’all! We ate damn yummy pizza, drank gallons of red wine, some seriously perfect gelato, and I had the most stupid-delicious cacio e pepe at Barbara Pinseria and Cocktail Bar.

We walked up Lombard Street. (every single bad word I know, and some I invented on the spot, but you know, in my head because I was too out of breath to speak them)
We grazed our way through the Ferry Building.
City Lights Bookstore was everything I’d hoped for and more.

San Francisco is a strange city.
It rubbed me the wrong way, but I found it interesting, and rather beautiful.
I loved the architecture. And the plant life.
And I enjoyed experiencing it with my beloved.

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railroad at chapman mill

Chapman Mill is a crumbling ruin standing where Prince William and Fauquier Counties come together. I’ve driven past it countless times. Every single time, I say aloud, “I want to go take photos there.” (even if I’m in the car alone)
Well, Saturday two weeks ago, the sun was shining (for the first time in ages) so YBW and I got bundled up against the below freezing wind chills and headed to the mill.
I got to wear my brand new love YOUR melon beanie for the first time!
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(Little D’s new mom and I were texting about getting together and I took this photo asking her to tell him I kiss him. But at least you can see my hat so it’s cool.)

When we arrived at the mill site we were greeted by this.
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I was livid! THE FREAKING GATE WAS LOCKED!! We couldn’t get all the way down the road to the mill. I will admit to saying one or two bad words…well, perhaps it was one or two bad sentences. How dare you hang a sign to welcome me and then lock the gates? Rude!

But…the railroad runs right beside the mill. So I get it in my head to walk down the tracks to the mill.
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Only the moment I walk up the path to the tracks I hear the whistle of a train…I waved to the engineer and he waved to me. It called up all the many times in my life I’ve stood at the side of the railroad and done that. It brought me great joy and in that brief moment, I was a little girl again.
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YBW decides right then it may not be the safest course of action since the sides are steep and there really is nowhere to go but down. I was like, but the train just came by, this is the safest time. We split the difference and I just stood at the path crossing. Honestly, I didn’t want to go down to the mill by myself, I wanted to share that experience so it worked out OK in the end.

I absolutely loved this curve in the tracks. I think the railroad is so elegantly beautiful for being something so well constructed for such hard core usage.
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You know I had to look for spikes while I was up there. And I found some, just lying around in the rocks. I love how a railroad spike and rocks create these natural sort of collages.
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There were three such collages, but this is the particular spike I picked up and carried home.

The mill really is quite compelling. In a hauntingly sad yet beautiful way.
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I’m eager to return when the gates no longer lock me out. The wheel is still there on the other side of the mill. You can see Broad Run, which is a lovely. The view from the interstate is even more beautiful than this view from the railroad. I’m keeping my hackles up, but I’ll be checking back more frequently as the weather warms.

When we left the mill site, we drove down along the tracks just to see where they went. This was the opposite way of home, but we were on an adventure! We were out with our cameras to shoot things that moved us!

I loved the way this railroad crossing sign looked behind the overgrown grasses.
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Lastly I got on my knees in the middle of another crossing to shoot the tracks from a different point of view.
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The mail carrier who had to wait for me to get my shot and get back up out of the way before he could drive his truck over the crossing didn’t seem terribly impressed by my attempt to create art…of course he had a job to do and I was just out shoot stuff.

We decided to go back out today with our cameras. I’ll leave my warm beanie at home today because instead of upper 20s wind chills, we’ll have upper 60s temperatures today! I might even wear a dress depending on where we decide to go shoot.
Spring is kicking down winter’s door today and I intend to take full advantage of it!

Here’s a quick vid about the mill and it’s restoration.
(My advice to you is: mute the music.)

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squirrel study

Outside the window in our back living room there is a tree. This tree is an extremely popular hang out for squirrels.
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Now I know most people don’t like squirrels. Honestly, that makes me kind of sad because I just love squirrels. They’re kind of adorable and they do the funniest things!

I love to watch them in this tree, sometimes there is more than one. They chase and play and race up and down and over the branches. On this particular day there was only one, and mostly he (she?) was having a bath.
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Once he was clean, he began to consider how he might explore his environment.
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I love how his little hand is holding onto that teeny branch.

Then it got interesting when he did a series of somersault-like things around the branch.
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He did it a couple of times in a row before he went back to bathing.
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What a funny little guy!

When Thing 1 and Thing 2 were little girls, we had a squirrel that loved to hang out on our back porch out by the pool. They realized their father put treats out for the squirrel so they named him “Little Buddy” because he was Daddy’s little squirrel buddy. Soon, Little Buddy began to bring around a friend. They named him “Fatso” because he was a really big squirrel. When we moved to SC, Thing 2 was rather serious about bringing Little Buddy and Fatso with us. She was concerned the new people who were going to live in our house might not take good care of them and they would be sad and miss us. She also pronounced the word squirtle instead of squirrel. I still say squirtle when I see or talk about squirrels.

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It’s a date!

At our last pre-wedding meeting, A charged us to go on a date.
YBW and I side-eyed each other.
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Pfft! We know how to go on a date.

Needless to say, she noticed our conceit and challenged us further. Instead of one date, we each had to come up with a date for the other with the strict stipulation that we couldn’t discuss wedding stuff.
One more smug look was a silent “we got this” and we were on our way.

The date I planned took us downtown for a picnic at the National Arboretum and a side trip to Oak Hill Cemetery. I broke the rule straight away in the car. YBW reminded me and I sat on my hands as long as I could stand it. But then I had a stroke of genus! Traveling to the date wasn’t actually being on the date. I immediately amended the rule to include wedding talk in the car but only until we arrived at our destination. (I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s Robynbird logic…just roll with it.) 
Of course this time of year there isn’t much in bloom at the Arboretum, but that was actually beneficial because it meant less people.
The first thing we did on our date was split up. (I know…) But YBW wanted to see all the bonsai and I wanted to visit the herb garden.
I was fortunate to catch a few things still in bloom while successfully avoiding the bees gleaning the last little bit yummies before there were no more blossoms to be had.
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The light was harsh, but I enjoyed my time behind the lens.
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It may seem odd that the first thing YBW and I did on our date was walk in opposite directions, but neither of us wanted to follow the other around like a puppy so we did what we wanted to do knowing we’d end up in the same place. And as it turned out, just as I was finishing up in the herb garden, the most adorable man walked up and kissed me. Then we walked together up the hill to see the Capital columns.
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Kinda pretty, don’tcha think?

We picnicked on fruit, veggies, potato salad, and cold fried chicken trying to figure out what was actually going on at the Grove of State Trees. We drove all around the arboretum, even out the non-existent road that was the original entrance.
Then it took forty minutes to drive about six miles. As we passed embassies I used the long lens of my camera to read the plaques over the doors and YBW teased that the red light cameras saw and we would be branded spies. I just laughed.
We got to Oak Hill Cemetery just in time to capitalize on the most glorious afternoon light.
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Once again, we split up. Me meandering along looking for good shots on the way to Kay Graham’s gravesite. YBW playing Ingress…turns our cemeteries are ripe with portals for the hacking.
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Allow me to quote Minerva from Midnight in the Garden, “To understand the living, you got to commune with the dead.” I’m a firm believer in this concept.
I love cemeteries. I love everything about them. The gravestones seem so natural in the environment, on the hillsides and under trees. I love the peaceful quiet. There was construction on R Street, and I mean jackhammer construction, but the further I walked into the cemetery the more quiet it became.
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There was one place in the cemetery that wasn’t still. It was quiet, but there was work going on. I can’t believe it took me passing it twice before I realized what I was seeing.
Construction on the mausoleum of Ben Bradlee, one of my most beloved folk heroes! Qu’il repose en paix.
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It’s a bit modern for my taste and for it’s location, but I wasn’t consulted…what are you gonna do?

YBW and I ended our day at a cafe table on the patio of a small restaurant in Old Town sipping cocktails of vodka laced iced tea.
Never once talking about the wedding.
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the redbuds

Spring is here! The redbuds are blooming!

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I stopped on the way home to take photos. It’s gray here today, which made the light harsh. I find that a bit disappointing.

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If I could be reincarnated as anything I would choose to be a redbud tree.

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