Have your camera handy

Why is it that so many people rarely have their cameras ready to capture an image? We carry our cameras all the time (and maybe you do, too, if your camera is your cellphone). The difference may be that we actually use ours – often, almost every day. When you see a flower in perfect bloom, unusual clouds fanned across the sky, a quirky sign in a window, are you ready to click?

We’re staying in Palm Springs, CA and enjoying time to catch up. We spent an afternoon looking back through photos of the last few months and noticed that we have a collection of photos that required a second look. Are the subjects really what they first seemed?

We walked down the street in Buenos Aires and saw a rather unusual scene. Our heads turned as we tried to understand what we were seeing. We finally realized the angel was outside the Recoleta Cemetery and the pedestrian was being thanked silently for dropping a contribution in the angel’s pitcher. We pulled out our cameras to capture the scene.

We walked down the street in Buenos Aires and saw a rather unusual scene. Our heads turned as we tried to understand what we were seeing. We finally realized the angel was outside the Recoleta Cemetery and the pedestrian was being thanked silently for dropping a contribution in the angel’s pitcher. We pulled out our cameras to capture the scene.

Another day and in another neighborhood of Buenos Aires, we walked down a street closed for a street fair. Maybe this group was gathered before their performance? We thought it made for a fun photo.

Another day and in another neighborhood of Buenos Aires, we walked down a street closed for a street fair. Maybe this group was gathered before their performance? We thought it made for a fun photo.

We’ve noticed that the more photos we take, the more attuned we are to looking at our surroundings in a different way. It’s not seeing every object or scene as a potential photo. It’s realizing a potential for capturing a certain essence in the subject. And sometimes when we’re lucky, a photo can convey its own story that intrigues the viewer as much as the photographer.

Our last day in Buenos Aires we took a long walk before heading for the airport. The pedestrian ahead of us was casually carrying a mannequin. Really?

Our last day in Buenos Aires we took a long walk before heading for the airport. The pedestrian ahead of us was casually carrying a mannequin. Really?

On that same walk, we saw this striking mural on the side of a building. As we studied the artwork, 2 doors appeared within the painting.

On that same walk, we saw this striking mural on the side of a building. As we studied the artwork, 2 doors appeared within the painting.

We strolled through Eastern Market in Washington, DC a few days later and saw this “brain.” Could it really be? No, just a pumpkin it seems.

We strolled through Eastern Market in Washington, DC a few days later and saw this “brain.” Could it really be? No, just a pumpkin it seems.

Developing an eye for what is going on around us  – and then pulling out the camera and capturing some magical images – is one of the joys of our traveling life. We feel there are three important aspects of travel: planning the trip, taking the trip, and remembering the trip. Our photos provide a rich memory book that stretches our trip for years after.

 

 

January 2017

 

Posted in Argentina, South America - 2016 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The colorful white slope

White flakes of snow fell during the night. It was time to head into the mountains for some photography and sledding.

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We’re rarely in snow and assumed most of our photos would take on a black and white effect. Not so.

It was true that the deep green of the trees contrasted with the snow, but clearly the bright winter outfits everyone else was wearing added an amazing, bright pop to our photos.

It was true that the deep green of the trees contrasted with the snow, but clearly the bright winter outfits everyone else was wearing added an amazing, bright pop to our photos.

Now our photography took on a new dimension. Color. We combined that with practicing how to capture images of people as they whizzed by on their sleds and saucers.

We loved when we got vibrant color with a dazzling personality.

We loved when we got vibrant color with a dazzling personality.

Colorful sledders lined up at the top of the slope, waiting for the signal to take off.

Colorful sledders lined up at the top of the slope, waiting for the signal to take off.

As sledders came down we observed their techniques and their thrilling descents.

As sledders came down we observed their techniques and their thrilling descents.

Some parents showed flair and were as happy – and as brightly clothed - as their children.

Some parents showed flair and were as happy – and as brightly clothed – as their children.

Color ruled the mountain. The white snow and deep green pines were the perfect backdrop. It’s a joy to discover unexpected surprises…and even better when we have cameras in hand.

 

December 2016

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Someone else’s vacation

We plan all of our own travel. We carefully choose our destination, where we stay, and how we spend our time. But for three days in December, everything was going to be different.

Our daughter, Anna, invited us to join her and her two kids (our grandkids) on a 3-day getaway. Sure, sounds like fun, we said. And from that point on, we decided that it was their vacation, and we’d enjoy whatever she and the kids wanted to do.

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Anna drove the five of us to South Lake Tahoe, CA.

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Anna and the kids skated…

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…and sledded.

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Camden (left) and a new friend built a snow fort.

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Camden (pictured) and Ainsley plunged in the outdoor heated pool while we adults sat on pool chairs, bundled in heavy winter coats.

We only had one request. Could we walk 2 blocks down the street and cross over into the state of Nevada?

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On the way, we saw Betty Boop, a classic cartoon character. Ainsley popped up for a photo.

We crossed the street and entered Nevada. Done. Now we could go back and pick up where we left off, with another round of skating. If we had taken a trip to South Lake Tahoe on our own, it would have been completely different – but not better. We loved hanging out with Anna and the kids. We snapped photographs, we sledded, and threw snowballs. Sometimes it’s good when someone else plans the trip and we just go along.

 

 

December 2016

 

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If we were to do it again – what changes would we make?

We’re back from our 7-month trip to South America, and the trip exceeded our expectations. Even so, it’s always good to look back to assess what really went well and what we might have done differently. We’re guessing that honing in on the good and the bad should improve our future travel choices.

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Was there anything about our South America trip we would have changed? Yes, and this first one may surprise you. (And it’s not the rocking ship in the Galapagos Islands, even though Joe suffered a bit of seasickness.)

Our first change involves money and value. We try to travel on a modest budget, but we also understand there are some amazing places to see that require dipping into our carefully saved funds. When we decide to do that, we expect to get our money’s worth! Our biggest splurge in South America – by far! – was our visit to the Galapagos Islands. That trip was very good we thought, but then we realized that we had paid only slightly more for the best wildlife trip we’ve ever taken, a safari in Tanzania. The comparison of the two trips led us to conclude that we may well have skipped Galapagos.

Galapagos was a good trip, but we think other great trips we’ve taken offered better value….

Galapagos was a good trip, but we think other great trips we’ve taken offered better value….

… such as our safari in Tanzania with so many more sightings of animals and birds.

… such as our safari in Tanzania with so many more sightings of animals and birds.

Another change might surprise those who visit Machu Picchu. We spent 2 days at Machu Picchu (which was perfect) followed by 6 days total in the Sacred Valley at Ollantaytambo and Pisac. We could have easily spent another 2 or 3 days in the Sacred Valley. So many visitors short change or skip this area, but exploring the many Inca ruins scattered through the mountains enhanced what we’d seen at Mach Picchu and our understanding of the Inca empire.

We should have spent a few more days exploring some of the ruins (like Pumamarca) and hiking in the Andes.

We should have spent a few more days exploring some of the ruins (like Pumamarca) and hiking in the Andes.

While we’re at it, we would have added another day to our 2-day visit to Colca Canyon in Peru. We stayed at the lovely Killawsi Lodge in Yanque at the start of the canyon.

While we’re at it, we would have added another day to our 2-day visit to Colca Canyon in Peru. We stayed at the lovely Killawsi Lodge in Yanque at the start of the canyon.

Our 3 stays in Buenos Aires taught us these lessons: location is very important, steer clear of a noisy place to stay, and make sure the neighborhood has lots to see and do. Our first Buenos Aires AirBnB stay was located on a very noisy street in the Palermo neighborhood. Who knew we’d be sleeping in a room with an adjoining wall to a nightclub?

During the day we escaped to the nearby Parque Tres de Febrero to visit the gardens and watch the birds on our daily walk.

During the day we escaped to the nearby Parque Tres de Febrero to visit the gardens and watch the birds on our daily walk.

If we had it to do again, we would have spent those two weeks outside Buenos Aires, possibly in Salta, Argentina. However, later in our trip, we spent 26 lovely days in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires at another AirBnB. It had everything going for it that our previous location lacked. Location was everything!

The apartment was lovely and quiet; we walked to street festivals (great for photography!); art museums and the Recoleta Cemetery were just a few blocks away.

The apartment was lovely and quiet; we walked to street festivals (great for photography!); art museums and the Recoleta Cemetery were just a few blocks away.

We’ll use what we learned from our trip to South America to guide our future trip planning. We’re curious if you’ve done the same post-trip critique? What did you discover that you would do differently?

 

 

December 2016

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The holiday spirit in a difficult year

Every year our holiday wish is for peace on earth, but, so far, we’ve not come close. This year was a particularly bruising year, not just for those who live in the United States but even worse for those caught in Aleppo, the many immigrants fleeing their homelands around the world, and …. (We could go on and on.)

We will try to celebrate the holiday with the gift of HOPE. For over 25 years the adults in our family have taken turns choosing a charity that all contribute to in lieu of large gifts to each other. Appropriately, our son-in-law, Ian, chose Save the Children this year, with contributions going to their Aleppo fund. It’s a small thing really, just a candle. A drop in a vast ocean… But the more candles lit, the more light shed on the darkness.

We unexpectedly find our holiday spirit lifted by a deep snow.

We unexpectedly find our holiday spirit lifted by a deep snow.

Holiday lights bring out the child in all of us, and we snapped these from a moving car.   What a magical effect!

Holiday lights bring out the child in all of us, and we snapped these from a moving car.   What a magical effect!

Sentimental decorations that appear each December make us a little happier.

Sentimental decorations that appear each December make us a little happier.

Will we ever forget the tree lovingly decorated by the hotel staff at 1-Up Banana Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to make sure their guests feel “at home” for the holidays? It was the best tree ever.

Will we ever forget the tree lovingly decorated by the hotel staff at One Up Banana Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to make sure their guests feel “at home” for the holidays? It was the best tree ever.

 

 

December 2016

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A photography outing of fellow travelers

Our email correspondence pinged across the world. Betsy was in Europe, and I (Beth) was in South America. We wrote of our shared passion for travel, photography, and writing blogs. Since both of us would return to Washington, DC, we planned to spend an afternoon together in December photographing an iconic place. Betsy suggested the garden and grounds at Dumbarton Oaks in historic Georgetown.

The garden would be quiet in early winter with resting flowerbeds and few tourists. The light would be good to photograph those very large trees, hedges, and garden sculptures. We could talk about what we were seeing and the images we hoped to capture. But then…

Our best-laid plans ended with a cold, dark, and very rainy day.

Besty proposed we meet at Tudor House instead, a home that had been in the family of George Washington’s step-granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter, from 1805 to 1983. The home is now a National Historic Landmark. (Photo by Beth)

Betsy proposed we meet at Tudor Place instead, a home that had been in the family of George Washington’s step-granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter, from 1805 to 1983. The home is now a National Historic Landmark. (Photo by Beth)

We discovered the only way to see Tudor Place was to take the one-hour tour.

Still wishing we were at a garden, we thought maybe we’d try to capture images of “inside, looking out.” (Photo by Beth)

Still wishing we were at a garden, we thought maybe we’d try to capture images of “inside, looking out.” (Photo by Beth)

The first challenge to overcome was trying to photograph through rainy, old windowpanes that resulted in a lot of blurry and rain-spotted photos. (Photo by Betsy)

The first challenge to overcome was trying to photograph through rainy, old windowpanes that resulted in a lot of blurry and rain-spotted photos. (Photo by Betsy)

As our excellent guide, Judy, pointed out Washington family mementos, Betsy and Beth snapped away at things of interest in the room and out the window. (Photo by Betsy)

As our excellent guide, Judy, pointed out Washington family mementos, Betsy and Beth snapped away at things of interest in the room and out the window. (Photo by Betsy)

The challenges for photography increased as we strolled through the rooms. The house was dimly lit and relied on daylight coming through the windows, but on this rainy day, it was as dark inside as it was outside. A few Christmas lights were most welcome! (Photo by Beth)

The challenges for photography increased as we strolled through the rooms. The house was dimly lit and relied on daylight coming through the windows, but on this rainy day, it was as dark inside as it was outside. A few Christmas lights were most welcome! (Photo by Beth)

Decorations for the season filled the living room … (Photo by Betsy)

Decorations for the season filled the living room … (Photo by Betsy)

…and the kitchen. (Photo by Betsy)

…and the kitchen. (Photo by Betsy)

Rooms were partially roped off so details that we would have loved to photograph often lay just out of photographic reach in the dim light. Getting a good angle to take a photo often proved difficult in the small spaces and working around the other people on the tour. The last challenge was one of timing. The guide spent a few minutes in each room and would not allow any dallying when it was time to move on.

Instead of the quiet, contemplative outdoors to photograph, we had to work quickly, in dim light, with rain on the windows, people in the way, and objects too far away to take photographs.

All the while we listened to the guide as she described the family, how they lived, and the changes to the house over the years. It was a fascinating saga. (Photo by Beth)

All the while we listened to the guide as she described the family, how they lived, and the changes to the house over the years. It was a fascinating saga. (Photo by Beth)

We stepped out the door and captured a photograph of the garden.

The boxwoods were grown from cuttings taken from George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, over 200 years ago. (Photo by Beth)

The boxwoods were grown from cuttings taken from George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, over 200 years ago. (Photo by Beth)

Since we were on a tour, listening to the guide, we had no chance to talk about what we were photographing or why. The surprise came afterward when we looked over the photos we each took. We had taken very few duplicates, and each set showed the photographer’s own style. Betsy’s primarily focused on whimsical, small details and many of Beth’s photos aimed (and failed) to capture the outdoors.

When our travel paths cross again, we’ll give it another try. Meanwhile our email will continue to ping across the many miles separating us, and we’ll be inspired by each other’s travel, blogs, and photography.

 

December 2016

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Our Best of the Best #3: great ruins, discoveries, and places to hike

In four years of nonstop traveling – and many trips before that – we definitely have some favorites, and, now, we’re ready to share a few of those.

Our favorite ancient ruins: Angkor Wat in Cambodia; Ephesus and Afrodiasas in Turkey; and Machu Picchu in Peru

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The Angkor Wat Archaeological Park is a much larger complex than we had imagined. Time and patience reward those who search out the truly meaningful and beautiful spaces.

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We’d never heard of Aphrodisias until we arrived in Pamukkale, Turkey. Visiting the ruins at Aphrodisias and Ephesus gave us a better understanding of the people who lived there over 2,000 years ago.

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No matter how many ruins we’d already seen, Machu Picchu was breathtaking and a tribute to the short, but impressive rule of the Inca people, whose mastery of planning, architecture, and agriculture is still relevant today.

 

Our best travel discoveries: cave paintings near Ronda, Spain; a visit to a great craftsman near Otavalo, Ecuador; and using taxis to transport our baggage

On a trip long ago to Spain – when travel books were still the best source for planning a trip – we discovered an obscure passage in a book with reference to ancient cave paintings outside Ronda. When we arrived in Ronda, we got directions and made our way by car through winding mountain roads to the cave, set in a hillside above a farm. The farmer saw us, waved, and made his way up with a huge set of keys. He handed our son a lantern, unlocked the door, and we got a one-hour tour of the amazing paintings. We read later that some of the paintings in the cave are 20,000 years old.

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Our friends and we wanted to see the craft markets in Otavalo, Ecuador and, if possible, visit a craft studio in a nearby town. We got our wish when our hotel made arrangements for us to visit Miguel Andrango at his home workshop. Miguel generously took the time to explain how he does what he does, and we were enthralled.

The last best discovery solved a travel dilemma we faced years ago in planning our 7-day trips hiking from inn-to-inn with our friends in the most scenic places with great food. We wanted to plan the trip ourselves, and none of us wanted to carry full packs. We struggled with that dilemma of what to do with the suitcases or packs while we hiked until we figured it out.

We arranged for a local taxi to transport our bags each day. The driver picked them up in the morning and drove them to our next hotel. After a long day of hiking, we arrived at our new hotel and discovered our suitcases already in our rooms awaiting us. The cost was ridiculously low, since the cost was split between all of us.

 

Our favorite places for hiking: Zermatt, Switzerland; Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk, Iceland; Lake District, England; and the Dolomite Mountains, Italy

Long ago we started planning and taking trips with friends to great hiking destinations. We’re still at it. One of our earlier trips was memorable: a week staying in a hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland with a view of the Matterhorn from our window. Every day we hiked a different trail with our friends – down the mountains, by glaciers, and through lovely forests.

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We did the 4-day, 53 km hike through rugged Iceland from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk. We’d read this is supposed to be one of the most beautiful hikes in Iceland. And now it’s a one of our best, too.

We traveled to the UK years ago to do a 5-day walk on the Coast-to-Coast trail from St. Bees, on the Irish Sea, into the Lake District. The scenery was grand, the accommodations and food were rustic. We met fellow hikers and walked together for some way, making it a truly memorable experience.

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Our 7 days of hiking into the Dolomite Mountains from Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy had us hiking up to mountain rifugios where we dined and spent the nights. Our cousins, Susie and Tom, agree that this was one of the best hiking destinations of all the places we’ve been to.

Let us know what your own “best of the best” are so it’s our turn to get inspired!

Our previous posts covered our other travel best of the best…. best wildlife, beaches, and snorkeling – and best destinations for food and places to stay.

 

October 2016

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