Monday, June 29, 2015

Tourist-y Summer

We've enjoyed playing tourist this summer; taking nearby day trips instead of longer trips (drive time and duration).  Our most recent excursion was on Galveston Island - ghost tours by Dash Beardsley.  We were surprised at how much we enjoyed this walking tour of The Strand area.  It wasn't a ghost hunting tour, but more of the history around several buildings including people who have died there, later seen by residents and visitors hanging around The Strand.

Dash Beardsley - Ghost Tour Guide/Hunter
Dash Beardsley - 6'4", dressed in all black, 2 rings on every finger, wore sunglasses at night.  If he were to appear as an everyday man -- he wouldn't be as interesting; maybe a bit over the top for some, but the "character" fit the tour.
(Disclosure:  I'm not comfortable taking pictures of strangers - face on (yet), I'm sure he's used to it, but I'm not... so... you'll just have to go on the tour yourself to experience his entire persona.  Let's just say - he reminded us a lot of Dog the Bounty Hunter, but nicer, cornier jokes, and a true interest in preserving Galveston history.)

2202 Strand St, Galveston (W.L. Moody Building)

The W.L. Moody building currently houses the (now closed) Colonel Bubbie's Strand Surplus Senter (as it is spelled on the store sign).  The original building had four floors, the top floor was lost in the 1900 storm. Stories of hauntings within the building must have come from locals and eye witnesses since I wasn't able to track them down through books or internet sites. From what I remember don't think the original owner was too thrilled with the current business. (The tour was over 2 hours long, too many details to remember).  FYI...This building/business is currently for sale - if you're interested.

Inn on the Strand (B&B), 2023 The Strand St (closed)

Again - the stories of this (now closed) bed & breakfast must have come from locals and eye witnesses.  This area of The Strand saw a lot of Civil War action, so naturally death and suffering along with ghosts supposedly haunt this area.  But the facts seem to be that the B&B is too haunted to keep maids employed longer than 3 days and a few never returned to collect their paychecks.  It is the the dark building (1 lighted window - why?) in the middle.

Hendley Market, 2010 The Strand
Hendley Market located within the first commercial building (Hendley Row), built in 1858 The center for the island's shipping and cotton industry, the building has witnessed island history since the Civil War.  The story we were told happened in the street - a case of mistaken identity - a father & son accidentally shooting each other during a Civil War battle.  They and other soldiers have been seen in the street at night.  Currently the Hendley Market is an usual shop and one everyone should visit (expect to spend at least an hour just browsing).  They have very unusual items, books, and sculptures for sale.

It was a great, fun evening and we all learned a lot about the history contained within those few blocks of Galveston's historic district.  Dash also told other ghost stories around Galveston that weren't included in any of his tours (the Face at UTMB for example).  There was a breeze, so no mosquitoes but there was a lot of standing (on concrete).  Walking distance wasn't long in between each location and he did make time for a quick 5 minute break at a carefully placed market with public restrooms and refreshments for purchase.  You can find information about Dash's tours on his website.  We plan to take another of his tours.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tropical Storm Bill 2015

Those of us who experienced Tropical Storm Bill are thankful that it wasn't an intense storm.  Yes we've had rain and wind, and even some storm surge, but along the Texas coast it wasn't that bad on Tuesday. Ironically the day after started out with more severe weather... heavier, steadier rain and wind, and I imagine we'll see more flooding with Bill's trailing bands and training storms from the Gulf.

The kids & I took a quick trip down to Galveston Island to check out the beach and the incoming storm (not what you are supposed to do, but we were responsible about it).  We knew this wasn't a life threatening storm and we were going to the state park beach area.  Call it an educational trip - a study in physical geography.

Red flags were flying along the entire Galveston Island coastline.  We weren't planning to swim - just sight-see.

Tides were higher and there was a bit of storm surge;  much of the beach area was covered in water.

A few people were out - fishing or playing in the surf.  The water was really warm and the incoming dark clouds were definitely filled with rain.

The gulls were spending more time on the ground - not wanting to fight the constant wind.  This is usually a sandy beach path that turned into a rather deep pool in some areas.

Along the seawall, the tide/surge had completely covered up the small beach area.  We stayed on top of the seawall - not a time to venture out onto those rocks/jetties.
On the way home, we stopped at the store for a few (real) food items - not storm supplies.  There obviously had been some panic buying going on in the bread aisle.  The news stations had been covering the storm for 24 hours and although we appreciate their urgency to be prepared - it panicked a few people.

The next day - voila - more bread appeared and there weren't many people in the store.  The rain day turned out to be a decent day (we did get intermittent showers), and the heavier rains came the next day.

I'm sure this storm will cause flooding in other areas as it moves through Texas and other states dropping heavy rains onto already saturated ground (goodbye drought).  But everyone along the coast is back at work and life resumes -- so we go about our business -- in the rain (which was a day late to the party).

My originally planned post about our trip to San Antonio will come later. I wanted to share a few images from Tropical Storm Bill.

For those interested:
lens:  Nikon 16-85 f3.5-5.6 (I use this lens often to walk around with)
last 2 images were taken with Galaxy S5 (& taken quickly)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Being a Local Tourist

Funny, how many of us will travel 2 hours one way to attend an event for the day but never quite get around to seeing the attractions within minutes of our home.  Several weeks ago, we decided spur of the moment to go watch the San Jacinto battle re-enactment (Sam Houston vs Santa Anna) near the actual battle site.  The weather was typical for a Texas spring -- humid, on/off rain - with some storms around, very warm, insects all awake from winter and mud.  But it was this environment that we hoped would keep some people at home - and we were right.  Wearing old shoes and comfortable clothes we hiked through the muck to watch this (free!) event - and didn't regret our decision.  

Those cannons were loud!! even from a distance - no cannon balls shot - just powder.

It was interesting to see what the spectators were doing closer to the cannons - obviously many holding their ears - saw one woman on her cell phone! 

These poor teenagers -- they were truly suffering -- probably because of their parents' interest in history.  But they'll have great memories to tell their kids.  They were tough though - walking through all that mud, muck, grass barefooted - living history at its best.
The battle began and the Mexican army began losing soldiers to the Texian Army's bullets.
A victory for Sam Houston's and Texas wins its independence from Mexico.
And of course a victory lap!

If you live in the Houston area and have never visited this area - you should.  The actual site of the battle ground has markers explaining what happened at that spot.  The Battleship Texas is docked there as well.  I wouldn't suggest an August visit -- that ship gets hot really fast in the Texas sun. There's also the Lynchburg Ferry to ride that has its own history.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rainy Monday

Rain, rain, and more rain -- yesterday, today, and tomorrow before it clears out.  Texas has been in and out of droughts the last several years - surely all the rain we've received this winter will give us a boost for the summer.  And if nothing else it's great for spring wildflowers (can't wait!! planning on a few day trips just to photograph them).

The weekend was busy, as many of ours tend to be.  A visit to the Houston Symphony is always a great time, but this performance was one of their family series and was held in the latter part of the morning.  We've never attended this type of performance, but will definitely do it again.  Yes there were really small kids there, but it was a really fun and informative experience (and we were in downtown during the day - when we could see things).  I truly believe everyone should see their local symphony perform at least once in their lifetime -- a family type performance might be a great introduction.  Although the music will most likely be familiar (ours was music from the Star Wars music - the actual score/music written by John Williams), to see it played - to watch the string players play (we're a band family - so strings are fascinating to us); the overall experience can be very moving. A bit of trivia we learned from the conductor -- The Battle of the Heroes is the most difficult viola piece John Williams has written.  The viola section was projected onto big screens so we could watch closely -- those musicians had their heads down and fingers flying!!

 Following are a few pictures from the event - taken with my phone, so not as high quality, but not bad either.

Storm troopers infiltrated the orchestra/stage -- they pretended to play the instruments, put rabbit ears behind the musicians (who tried not to laugh), and generally were all over (they were sometimes standing guard in the audience too).

Darth Vader -  yes he made an appearance too -- light saber duel with the conductor who was dressed as Obi-Wan.  The ticket prices were the same for all seats within the hall and we were lucky to get 4 seats in the front row!!  We've decided those are good & bad seats -- good because we (obviously) got a really up close view of action, but bad because we weren't able to see all of the orchestra and maybe get the entire balanced sound of them (but glad we tried it out).

Since it was daytime, we checked out a large sculpture behind Jones Hall.  I admit I am not knowledgeable in art, but this really reminded me of the old Rolie Polie Olie cartoon my kids watched years ago.  (Don't tell the artist Miro!) 
We were finally able to get the extended family together for my birthday supper - a week late.  I'm pretty sure these cupcakes aren't on my diet - but darn they were good.  Thank goodness there was only enough for each of us to have one.

Photography e-course assignment:  explore editing images. Although I added minimal effects/editing I do like the way the image turned out.
Last image details:
102mm macro lens (Nikkor)
macro setting - flash
edited using Photoshop Elements
minor cropping, dark vignette around edges to tone down the brightness and focus attention to the central bright flower bud.  No, brightness, or added saturation.  This is a lemon tree flower bud.  We've had a lot of rain, but for lemon trees - the more rain the juicier the fruit, so an appropriate image for our last several days.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Photography E-course

I'm starting a photography e-course today (Everyday Magic) by Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens, so I'll be posting some of the images here as well - not to become a target of random, rude criticism, but hopefully to a) give myself some accountability for keeping up with this course (it's so easy to sign up and hide and eventually fade away from the group and the assignments), and b) show and share my improved progress throughout the course.   I've taken a course from Tammy in the past and I appreciated her being present and involved throughout the course.  If you aren't familiar with her work - please go check her out here - especially her "morning view" series of images and book (and she really does own a couple of beautiful, curious cats).

Not everyone has a great view out of their back door.  Living generally in the coastal plains area the land is pretty darn flat - no pretty mountains in the background or forest to photograph.  Typical neighborhood landscape means my back door view is a fence and other houses (and a backyard full of holes - thank you black lab dog -- with a few trees and plants still in their winter dormant state).  My town is small, so nothing sleek and modern with a bustling downtown area, and not many historic buildings have survived progress. So I struggle with the concept of having a morning view worthy of photographing and sharing (and driving around looking for a nice view kind of defeats the concept of a typical "morning view" for me).  However I went out this damp, chilly morning and looked around my backyard and did find a few things to photograph (you may be seeing these same things over and over - just progressing/growing over time - just a warning!!)

Onward to a few images.

It was very wet outside, dew and some light rain.  I like that the fence is reflected in the bottom of the glass feeder.

My favorite from this morning.  I didn't use my macro lens, but did use my big camera so I could have probably gotten closer and sharper with the other lens -- but you use what you have.  Milkweed seeds ready for the wind to spread them caught some of this morning's moisture.

For those interested:
Nikon D7000
16-85mm f3.5-5.6
auto focus & set on macro setting (yes I'm one of those who doesn't always go to manual - and I'm okay with that)

slight cropping
resized for web posting (originals are a bit sharper)

If you follow me on Instagram (sherrycb), then you know I have a tabby cat who makes life interesting.  She often makes appearances on my IG feed and hopefully she'll show up here too.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sleet and 70s

Just to give a quick look into my past week, I'm sharing pictures that I took with my phone (not an iphone).   A few of these were also posted on Instagram (love that app).   Although I carried my real camera with me a few times this week, it didn't make it out of my bag - sometimes that happens.

Typical Texas weather - we had temperatures in the 70s one day and the next morning sleet fell.  The dogs weren't too sure about the sound of it hitting the back door and they really weren't thrilled with it hitting their backs.  Although the black dog loves cold nasty weather (must be a lab thing).

The tabby cat is always helpful around the house.  This week she was helping me collect papers as they came out of the printer - just wish she didn't use her claws.   She is always entertaining.

One of those wonderful warm winter days before the humidity and rain moved in.  I love Texas for many reasons but the wide open spaces and rural landscapes are on the top of my list.  More clouds can often lead to more interesting images.

It is February, winter, but along the coast in Texas nature is thinking about Spring.  I saw early signs of it in my backyard.  False garlic blooming already - so there will be an end to this winter.   Another top of my list things -- Texas wildflowers -- can't get enough of their beauty and love when many of them show up in my yard - on their own (my kind of gardening).

I go through spurts of using my phone and Instagram more than my big camera at times.  If you'd like to see more of my Instagram images - find me as sherrycb.  I hope you'll check it out.  I'm planning to post more wildflower pictures as they appear in my yard (rule around my house - no mowing sections of the yard until they've gone to seed - I have a big yard).  I've also got another photography project in mind that I'm working on (planning stages) and may put it out there for a group project - just something fun  -- for now (always a possibility for it go further).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Winter Update

This winter has been a busy one for our family.  We've gone on some adventures (camping and one-day trips), passed around a few illnesses (flu-A, walking pneumonia just to name a few), and are generally ready for spring.  A few quick pictures from the last few months:
Thanksgiving was wonderful - enjoyed the family time and took lots of pictures.  We enjoy this lake.

Christmas concerts for all of us -- I think we played in 4 concerts between me and the kids.  But we love playing with our bands.

Of course horses were involved.  A horse show and lots of lessons.  I think they kind of like each other.  She earned an end of year award from Houston Dressage Society as well -- nice recognition to end a tough year of riding (she's been growing way too fast).

She and I also took a quick girls trip to Texas A&M to check out one of their hunter shows in their new equestrian complex.  It was a really nice facility - hoping she gets to be involved in some capacity with the team while she (hopefully) attends A&M in a few years.  For us it was a very educational experience - nothing like what we are used to for shows.   (A&M won against New Mexico)

And believe it or not - we camped a little.  The dogs kind of show you what we did a lot of -- nothing.... it was cold, rained a lot more than was forecasted and we had several things go wrong with the camper.  But knowing we will also have an adventure - we just chalked it up to our typical family fun; still managed to do a little hiking and see a few deer.  We've since decided we aren't winter camping people.

One last note - My personal essay (about winter) was fortunate to be included in the Shutter Sisters online publication of X: Our Collective.  You can find them (and my essay) here.  

Looking forward to spring, but grateful we are not dealing with what the northern US has been dealing with during the past month.  Although this morning we did have some sleet - sounded like someone was throwing rocks at the door.