Category Archives: photography

Plan, Prep, (pray)

We have planned. We have prepped. We now pray. And this being spring and summer of 2020 we do a lot of praying. It’s inevitable. Something will happen, it’s going to and nothing you do stops it. When the Coronovirus hit we prayed majorally. We prayed, like everyone else, for it to be some big mistake. Then school was cancelled. Being teachers we went into panic mode – they were going to cancel our summer! The very thing we looked forward to the rest of the ten months of the year. When one state after another shut down, we prayed they wouldn’t cancel our reservations in Michigan. They did. We heard that campgrounds across the nation were closed and it didn’t look like an end was in sight. We prayed for an alternative. Our prayer was finally answered in the form of Riverview Campground in Loveland, Colorado. Being a private campground they were able to open sooner than the state and national parks. Hallelujah! We were on our way.

Then the praying was kind of superficial. You pray for what you might have forgotten to pack. It can’t be helped, you will forget something. Usually, we forget something important. Our classic was when we forgot to pack coffee and the coffee pot into the Chrylser, our sailboat. You don’t just run over to the local Wal-mart from a sailboat! Coffee is Important!! That has never been forgotten by either of us and serves as a reminder every year to check twice. This year we did very well, primarily because our planning and prepping paid off. We only forgot a drill and our new “We’ve Camped There” stick on map. Livable mistakes. Make a list people; can’t stress it enough.

You pray for good weather and safe roads. We really had both this year, so far. For the most part, we have managed to steer clear of any real major rain. We had lots of wind in Kansas and one crazy storm in Limon, Colorado. Even the other day, coming back from seeing the Pawnee National Grasslands Buttes (which are amazing) we managaed to skirt around a really bad storm system. We could see it off in the distance, always keeping to the right of us. It made for some impressive skies. I don’t know why Capt’n Jim didn’t want to constantly stop for me to take pictures.

Crazy wind and rain at the Limon, Colorado KOA. Almost as bad as Kansas wind.

You pray that your travels are uneventful. Well the laugh is on you. Something always happens. Last year it was our wheel bearings seizing up on Betty Deux. We had to leave her at a rest stop overnight and Jim had to take off work to fix her just enough to get her home. The whole ordeal was awful! New axles, bearings and tires later…

This trip was no different. “Oh darn, I don’t think we turned off the water pump.” “It will be alright until we get to our stop.” No, I don’t think so. Several hours later, we stopped to get gas and turning the corner Jim saw water pouring from the camper. Water pump no problem, until something bumps against the kitchen faucet and turns the water on into the covered sink. 40 gallons of water throughout the camper. We spent the next several days soaking up as much water as possible. At one point, Jim even had to suck water out of the heater vents. As far as we can tell we got it all. Pray? Praying no further damage shows up later down the road because we didn’t follow our checklist. Of course, now it’s a joke every time we pack up and leave. “Is the water pump off?”

40 Gallons of water all over Betty’s floor, under the slides, cabinets, bedroom carpeting and even down in the floor vents.

Yes, you pray. We pray that we are making a safe choice this year due to Covid. But we are taking our precautions. We wear the dreaded mask any time we are in public. We keep our distance. Hand sanitizer is our new go to after store trips and yes we follow the arrows! Well, most of the time.

We have seen many people, for example in Missouri, not follow guidelines and it’s very disconcerting. Colorado, however, has been great. Very few people don’t follow the mandated protocol. Very few. We are outdoors, in some of the freshest air we have smelled. (Well, maybe except for Greeley, Colorado. But, that’s for another story.) It’s beautiful here and so worth it. Yes, we pray for our health, but knowing that we have partaked of the great outdoors of the Rocky Mountains and it’s surrounding area, I think we are good.

The Immensity of it All! Rocky Mountain National Park

Blowing Rock

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About 10 miles from Julian Price lies a quaint town called Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  This town, according to Captain Jim, was designed, created and populated to attract women.  From it’s flower gardened main street to it’s many chic stores it does seem he has a point.  We chose a perfectly comfortable, overcast day to stroll it’s main street.  You will want to find one of their several free parking areas to stow away your vehicle as parking on the main street is at a premium.  We found ample parking between their public pool and a very lovely park.  A steep hike up some hidden steps and you are close to Main Street.  You can walk from one end to the other quite comfortably, as it’s not very long.

There were many fascinating shops and storefronts.  Myself, I’m not really a very girly-girl so the shops only really interest me from a “viewing” standpoint.  I like to see all the interesting wares and what-nots.  I love the architecture and did get to take some interesting shots of some of the buildings.  I was drawn to one shop though, much to the detriment of my pocketbook.  It was a lovely yarn shop named Unwound Yarn http://www.unwoundyarn.com/  I enjoyed perusing the many colorful and varied yarns.  Even Jim and Kaelin found the different yarns to be interesting, noting the textures and varied softness.  I did buy a wonderful kit to make a Christmas present for my oldest daughter.  Of course, I can’t share what it is yet, but I can say it had 21 different colors!

Of course, when you stroll through little towns like this you do work up an appetite and this is when you search out restaurants that are unique to the area.  We were drawn to Town Tavern http://www.towntavernbr.com/ and were fairly pleased.  The food was mostly pub style food and spirits.  It was a little pricey as probably most all restaurants and stores are in Blowing Rock.  It had a neat atmosphere and I can imagine it gets to hopping on weekends and evenings.

Blowing Rock is definitely worth the stroll whether you are a shopper or not.  And the area offers more than just the downtown shopping excursions.  Not far from there is The Blowing Rock itself, which we visited last year.  It is located off The Blueridge Parkway, a must do!  And it is close to Boone.  You cannot go wrong visiting this lovely area.  For more information visit this link:   https://blowingrock.com/

Cherokee Rock

After a great fail trying to get to Chief Ladiga campground Captain Jim used freecampsites.net and found Cherokee Rock Campgrounds (Alabama.)  It wasn’t far from where we were and had promising reviews.  Hmmm?

Although we did not encounter anymore Bridge Out signs we did have to endure a quite steep, narrow entrance road to the park.  Once we got to the park our initial impression was quite positive.  It was very clean with almost new pavilion and office.  It was based on the honor system, however the prices did not match with what the website stated.  The website and the envelope stated $10 a night, the sign stated $20.  There were no maps to the campground and we had to just guess where to go.

As we drove through the park we could see tent camping along huge rock outcroppings.  It was obvious this was strictly for tents only.  We headed into the wooded area in search of RV camping.  There were, I repeat, NO road signs!  We ended up on a dead end and a dead end definitely means a dead end, NO TURN AROUND!!!  Captain Jim had to back Betty and Bertha up in a narrow, crooked area.

We were, at this time, then met by the “Campground Host,” which then proceeded to help us back up and find a site.  And they had to do this because NO SITES were MARKED!  They got us into a site not too far from them.  Was it a great site? NO.  It was so unlevel that we had to pull out every leveling tool we could find and warned the Boy, NO Jumping!

I will give it this, it was quiet.  No lights blaring in the window.  Some campers came and went, but we have a feeling they were camping on the sly (coming after dark and leaving before sunrise.)  I will admit we only paid the price that was marked on the envelope as this campground in no way warranted $20 per night price tag.  There was no water, electric, sewer and trash was definitely not in walking distance.

The campground host sounded like he and his wife had been there quite a while.  There were promises of future improvements, but it doesn’t seem like it has made it to the back forty of Cherokee Rock, including cutting the grass (which he said he was going to do the next day.)  Funny thing was Jim said he’s pretty sure he was “cutting grass” just not the kind we wanted cut.  He noticed quite a few “plants” in a tent on their site.  Perhaps this was why the “host” seemed so happy to be there.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad.  The rocks were amazing to walk through and climb on.  They were massive and parts overlooked a beautiful valley.  We were able to get some amazing photos, although we were disappointed that the sunrise did not cooperate with us.  It was quite misleading.

I’m sure there was quite a lot of history there.  It was a shame, however, to see so many of these beautiful wonders of nature defaced by senseless graffiti.  Really people?  Get a grip.  This is not a chalkboard and nobody cares that you were there.

Overall, we feel that this campground was good for tent campers and young people as their sites set next to the valley or rocks, not nestled in the bug infested woods.  We decided this was not a place to where we would back.

Captain Jim gives this place a  2 mostly because of the rocks if it were a day trip (no camping).  If you are a tent camper and young it would get a 4 or 5.  I agree with his conclusion.

Sadler State Park South Carolina June 4th 2017

Sadler State Park turned out to be quite a gem, 395 Acres of beautiful forests on a peninsula of Lake Hartwell (56,000 acres).  We stayed on Loop #1, site # 1, a pull through that abutts up to the water.

After quickly setting up, little man and I took a walk down to the beach area. He and I, loaded with our cameras, partook in a few photography lessons. I talked to him about composition and foreground and background. He caught on quickly; took a few of his own shots on his Kodak camera his dad had given him and then took off to run the beach. Lessons over, I took many beautiful landscape shots of the lake and its shores. I practiced what I learned in the book Perfect Exposure (I’ll edit with the authors name later.) Using the sand as my midtones, I got perfect shots. Can’t wait to see them on my Surface.

When we checked into the campground little man decided, for some odd reason, that he was afraid to fall in the water! He didn’t want to stay at the site we had chosen. Of course, we didn’t listen to him and number one it was. After seeing how shallow the water was at the shore he decided it was quite safe to play knee-deep for several hours.

We had a lovely evening and slept very well. The next morning, little man earned his level 1 Junior Ranger badge. We had a nice chat with Ranger Austin who suggested we come in the fall. I do believe our Thanksgiving week plans have been made.

Gordonia State Park, Georgia

Gordonia State Park was hard to find due to poor signage.  We almost missed it.  There was a separate entrance that we happened on while heading to Walmart.  We followed the GPS even though the sign on the road said “Dead End.”  It wasn’t a Dead End.  Go figure.

It has a lot to offer; golf course, splash pad, lake, canoe rental.  The sites were clean although oddly set up.  Gnats were absolutely relentless, so be aware you might decide to stay in your camper.

The office was at the golf course club house, however that too was not clearly marked.  We had to guess (although correctly) that was where we were to sign in.  And there was no RV turn around.  It was very difficult on Captain Jim to have to flip flop the camper and avoid golf carts.  So if, dear readers, you choose to go here please note that it’s a kinda hunt and peck situation.

Lil Man probably would say that the splash pad was the best part of the park.  I got some terrific shots there.  We didn’t stay long though, because it wasn’t very parent friendly.  There were lots of kids, but only so many hot, metal benches for parents to sit on and not efficient shading.

All in all, probably wouldn’t go back to camp there, however, I could see where it’s a good day park to visit.

No coffee in the house

Saturday,  June 3rd,  2017

After an uneventful, quiet night at Laura S Walker State Park we are once again on the road. Having no coffee “in the house” causes one to pack quickly and efficiently. The gas problem was solved five miles down the road in a teeny tiny town called Hoboken. I kid you not! We filled up tanks, coffee and gas and continued our travels down Highway 121. Some travelers would not be content to take these country highways, but I truly am. Lately, I have suffered terrible traffic anxiety, seeing an accident in every turn. Taking these meandering byways are peaceful and truly beautiful. It allows you to see a side of life one cannot see on major highways. Little to no traffic makes it stress free for both myself and Captain Jim. My only regret is I can’t stop at every rustic barn, quiet town and cute cow to take a picture. Destination Gordonia State Park.

Here we go again

Friday 6/2/2017 

Away on another adventure exploring the unknown and revisiting some known. The traveling Willoughby’s leave the misty, overcast humidity of Florida and head for Roan Mountain, Tennessee. Days of last-minute appointments, end-of-year school prep, airport excursions, family visits and of course, packing, has left us subdued, but most definitely ready for the peace and quiet of the mountains. Follow us as we once again travel, play, photograph and explore.

Confessions of a Not So Professional Photographer

Recently I was asked to do the class photos for our Charter School.  I teach first grade there.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal because I had done them last year too.  But, this year, since I had recently graduated from NYIP I decided I needed to be paid for the endeavor.  After all, I’m working toward being a professional photographer, part-time yes, but still professional.

Well, I gathered my backgrounds, my lighting equipment and of course my brand new Nikon D750.  I set up a schedule.  I took the pictures.  Man, it’s not an easy task getting the attention of approximately 18-20 wiggly kids.

Then came editing time.  I cried.  I cried more.  I told my husband I was returning everyone’s money.  Because the camera is new to me I had to ISO too high.  The pictures were noisy and the background wasn’t wide enough to accommodate so big a group.

I wanted to give up!

My husband, a teacher at our school and formally in the printing business, said NO, you can’t give up.  We worked hard at coming up with a different place to take the pictures.  After a week of retrying with cute, rambunctious volunteer youngins we hit gold.  I now have a plan for retakes.  My class and my husbands are done and look great.  I wish I could post them here, but alas can’t.

Our yearbook person needed photos ASAP so I worked like a dog for over a week on the pictures that I had already taken.  With the help of my wonderful husband and the book, Teach Yourself Raw in Photoshop by digitalcameraworld, I had a crash course on learning how to denoise and save photos.  The photos that I thought  were so terrible actually turned out really well.  I learned how to fix them and I also learned how to take out the background and add a different background.  I looked at the class photos from 2014 and 2015 that a “professional” school photo company had done and found that mine very much outdid theirs.   I have my confidence back.

In fact, this weekend I took the senior pictures of one of our secretaries’ son.  It was such a fun photo shoot.  My  subject was handsome, sweet and did a great job modeling.   My camera did exactly what it was supposed to do.  And so did I!

I can now call myself a professional!  I’ve broke the barrier.

DC Statues

One cannot help but notice the thousands of statues and sculptures that are scattered throughout Washington DC.  Notice one and you are probably missing half a dozen more.  These are great subjects to photograph as they don’t move.  They can be challenging in that you have to get your shots without people in them.  The shots are usually in the what I call the “crane your neck” view as you have to look up at them to take the shots.  This also means you have to watch that the sky doesn’t blow out your highlights.  This view, however, can add to the immensity of some of these works of art.  Especially my favorite, the view of the Infinity Sculpture/Artwork that we found outside the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  I’ve taken this shot before, but never did it come out like this one.  The reflection of the sky in the metal just added to the feeling of motion.  I don’t know what the names of many of the statues are, as I took them as we were walking from point A to point B.  Often, I was only afforded a few minutes to point and shoot.  We were always on the go!  There is just so much to do in DC.

 

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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The first place we visit when in Washington DC is, of course, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  This is a must due to my very nerdy men.  My husband, a fifth grade teacher, loves science almost as much as he loves me and that’s a lot.  Our 8 year old son, gifted, cute and truly a young scientist at heart wants to be a NASA engineer when he grows up.  Last year he even got to meet a real NASA engineer, which of course, further fueled his desire to one day build a faster rocket than anything they have today!  Watch out future American citizens, he just might do it.

 

These are only a few of the photos I took.  I didn’t take near as many as I did the first time we went to the Air and Space Museum.  Back in 2014, I think I took a photo of just about every exhibit.  This year, not so much.  I wanted to concentrate on what I was seeing.  Of course, the coolest exhibit this year was the original model of the spaceship Star Trek Enterprise.  Being a fan of the show, this was a must see.