Since starting my blog nearly five years ago, I have been pleasantly surprised by the wonderful comments I’ve received not only from friends and family, but also from other bloggers who have read my posts from all over the world.  It has been very gratifying!

Yesterday, I received a very different response to my blog. I was introduced to a company called Light. They are a start-up aiming at perfecting a new camera technology that was shared with me along with their Vantage Project on Pinterest.  I was asked to write a story about my favorite photo for their site.

Rather than pondering my options, I immediately decided on my favorite photograph that dates back to 1987.  It’s hard to believe it has been almost thirty years since I captured this shot at the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta!  I was excited to try out my new Canon A-1 (identical to my dad’s beloved camera) and two Tamron zoom lenses.

As a (mostly) self-taught, (mostly) amateur photographer, I shoot photos for my own satisfaction, concentrating on what makes me happiest:  COLOR.  One of my passions is travel photography, and color is like a magnet for me.  I see something colorful, and I am immediately drawn to it.

In Albuquerque at the hot air balloon grounds, I was like kid in a candy store– or, more accurately, me in a chocolate shop!  Color surrounded me, and I didn’t know which way to turn first.  There were literally hundreds of multi-colored hot air balloons in various stages of inflation preparing for a mass ascension into the crystal clear New Mexico skies, and I wanted to see– and, photograph– them all.

Back then, digital cameras and SD cards didn’t exist, and the cost of film and developing was expensive.  I was on a tight budget, so I had to balance being selective with not letting great shots go by uncaptured.  (Wow, how photography has changed…)

The warm hues of this particular balloon grabbed my attention, because of the way they looked so saturated in the early morning light.  The stripes also made for interesting composition– especially since one of my favorite “rules” in photography is the Rule of Thirds:  The Rule of Thirds states that an image is the most pleasing when its subjects or regions are composed among imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds– both vertically and horizontally. (


As I approached the inflating envelope of the hot air balloon, one of the crew opened a flap and invited me to take a peek inside with my camera.  I looked towards the lighter side of the envelope and was delighted to see the shadows of others watching the balloon being inflated from the other side.  The man with the baseball cap grabbed my attention, as did the child who was waving his arms.

One shot is all it took.  I trusted the terrific metering of my new A-1, and I knew the photo I had captured was exactly what I was after:  Saturated color, composition using the Rule of Thirds, texture from the wrinkled fabric of the part of the envelope still bunched up on the ground, and those great shadows.  Other than knowing the photo was shot using my Tamron 28-70 zoom lens with the camera on auto, I haven’t a clue of the technical data.  Who had time to notice?  “Mr. Peanut” was about to launch from the other end of the row, so I made a mad dash in pursuit of my next shot!

At the time, I was sure I would be happy with that photo and others I had shot at the balloon grounds, but I had no idea what the future would bring as a result of my favorite shot.

My dad encouraged me to enter some photo contests with it, so I entered it in the Del Mar (San Diego County) Fair as well as Price Club’s photography contest.  (Price Club is now Costo.)  Much to my surprise, I won “Best in Color” at the fair and Price Club’s grand prize!

Between the video camera I won from Price Club (and sold), and cash prizes won from various contests, that photo netted me more than enough money to pay for all my film, developing, photo albums, and travel for that Albuquerque trip, and more.

After nearly thirty years of incredible travel photography experiences, I would have to say this is still my favorite shot!





We had good intentions when we collected all of those shells, but Bruce and I never followed through with crafting a shell-covered mirror frame for our powder room– in San Antonio. It was seven years ago when we moved from that house, left Texas behind, and made our way to Georgia. Our shell collection came with us and ended up in the attic, never to be seen again until I got motivated to sell some of our collectibles on ebay and donate the rest.

There it was, the bucket of shells collected from South Padre Island, and who knows where else. I don’t remember, but I think we even added to the bucket when we brought home shells from Sanibel Island. Why? I have no idea, because those good intentions were a distant memory by then.

Perhaps it’s all about the hunt. Hunting for shells is much like doing macro photography. It forces you to slow down and carefully study your subject. In doing so, you appreciate the beauty around you so much more. Besides, it’s fun! You never know what you’re going to find, and when you will find the one; that beautiful specimen might end up proudly displayed on a shelf to admire.

I imagine the thrill of the (shell) hunt to be much like “garage sale-ing.” Is it really about that perfect find? It could be the process that is so enjoyable to garage sale enthusiasts: Waking up at the crack of dawn, pouring over the classifieds while sipping a cup of coffee, circling the locations of garage sales to shop, mapping out a route, and then hopping in the car with great anticipation of bargaining for a great deal.

After contemplating our motivations, Bruce and I came to the same conclusion: Collecting shells was much like travel; it was about the journey, not the destination. We enjoyed the process, but not necessarily the collection itself. Aside from a few beauties I’ve displayed to enjoy , there was no longer a valid reason to keep the rest. The shell mirror frame was forgotten long ago, and our good intentions were gone.

It was time for our shell collection to go full circle. They had come from the sea, so we returned them to where they belonged. Who knows where they will end up next? Perhaps another couple combing the beach for shells will gather them with good intentions, and they will go full circle once again.




In my August 14, 2011 blog post, I SEE MORE WITH A CAMERA IN MY HAND, I wrote about the details I discovered when photographing macro—things I would ordinarily miss when I am not shooting pictures.  Some people would argue that travel photographers miss what is going on around them while they are shooting photos, but those of us who take the time to study our subjects and compose our shots (rather than carelessly snapping away) would passionately disagree.

Sure, there have been plenty of times I have quickly snapped shots on the go when I didn’t have the time and luxury to stop, but given the opportunity, I thoroughly enjoy taking the time to study my subjects.  Beautifully displayed fruit, photographed for my 2011 blog post are a perfect example.  Having a camera in my hand inspired me to stop, study, and shoot.  I left with a greater appreciation of the beauty of the fruits and vegetables I enjoy eating so much, because I saw them as more than just food.

Today, after dropping Bruce off for kayak fishing, I grabbed my camera and took a stroll along the shoreline near the boat ramp.  The previous day, we had seen hundreds of crabs scurrying about in the sand, but we didn’t pay much attention as we launched our kayaks.  This time, though, with camera in hand, I bent down to study these little creatures and see if I could photograph one before it ran off.

Setting the camera to shoot macro, I was able to fill the frame with this little guy that was perhaps an inch wide.  As he stared at me with his claw open and ready to defend himself, I admired his interesting features.  Who knew a little crab could have such fascinating eyes?


ollowing my short stroll along the Guana Reserve shoreline— there was no way I was going to venture too far off the beaten path and meet up with another alligator—I made my way to the beach to enjoy the sound of the Atlantic Ocean waves crashing on the shore.  The tide was low, so the beach was very wide and full of little shells that had been deposited in the sand by the rolling surf at high tide.  As I gazed out at the waves and reflected back on my kayak surfing days in California, I could hear the crunch of the shells underfoot as I made my way along the beach.  I didn’t give it much thought; the sound was appealing to me, so I continued to absent-mindedly walk across the shells.

I had my camera with me, though, and the mood struck to bend down and take a look at what was creating that crunching sound as I strolled along the beach.  At that moment, I discovered just how beautiful all those tiny shells (most no larger than my smallest fingernail) were that I had previously taken for granted and not given much thought about.  I never knew what I had been missing until then—one of life’s little pleasures.






Three years ago, we rented a beach cottage in Vilano Beach, just on the other end of the bridge from St. Augustine.  We enjoyed it so much that we decided to return to the area.  (Check out my blog posts from that trip in the “Domestic Travel” section.)

One of the things we enjoyed most during that visit was kayaking (and kayak fishing for Bruce) at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.  (Geez, couldn’t they come up with a shorter name?)

Today, we returned to see if Bruce would have the same good luck catching fish like he did last time around.  As it became apparent that he wasn’t having any luck, I decided to wander off and paddle along the shoreline to take in the beautiful scenery.

As I headed north, I visually took in the details of the various trees directly to my left, not paying attention to what was up ahead.  Just when I reached a little beach and contemplated taking my kayak ashore to get out and stretch my legs, I happened to look straight ahead where the beach curved out toward the lake.  “WHOAAAA!” I bellowed out to nobody except for the huge alligator catching rays on the beach just twenty feet in front of me.  I froze.  Then, like any photographer would do, I grabbed my camera and shot a few photos before back-paddling the heck out of there!  See ya later, alligator!DSCF1679



I knew my body would take a beating at the two-day Georgia Tech Spring Splash meet (written about in my last post), so when I signed up for the U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship meet, I didn’t have high expectations.  After all, the meet was scheduled for less than three weeks after I would be racing an incredibly grueling event line-up in my first meet back with my newly repaired hip.  If it hadn’t been for Nationals taking place just a six-hour drive away in Greensboro, North Carolina, I would have given it a miss.  (Please note:  The deadline for registration was long BEFORE HB 2 was signed into law!)

Since I didn’t make National Qualifying Times for this meet, I would be limited to racing three individual events, so I decided to race during just two of the four-day meet and enter races I knew my hip could handle after the Spring Splash.  That eliminated sprints, and all breaststroke races which were my best events, but stressful on the hips.  Since I love racing distance freestyle, I entered the 1650 Yard Freestyle (just short of one mile) on Day 1, and the 500 Yard Freestyle on Day 2.  For my third event, I chose 200 Yard Butterfly, one of my favorite events, but also one I “race” slowly.  In addition, I was placed in two freestyle relays on Day 2.

The Good:

Racing the mile was more enjoyable (and faster!) than at the Spring Splash meet, because it was my first race, and I felt strong.  It also helped having a cheering squad pulling for me.  At the far end of the pool was my buddy Michael who yelled for me while Bruce kept busy displaying my lap count, and next to the starting block was Michelle, a USMS Discussion Forums “Forumite” who I hadn’t yet met in person.  I couldn’t figure out who the heck that was bending down to yell at me when I hit the wall for a few of my turns!  Although I do open turns due to having Meniere’s, an inner ear disorder that makes doing forward flip turns difficult without getting motion sickness, I try to do them as fast as possible.  Still, I caught just a glimpse of Michelle a couple of times and thought to myself, “Cool!  Somebody is cheering me on!”

At the finish, I looked up at the electronic board and saw I had beaten my Spring Splash time by 32 seconds!  I also beat all of my practice race times since before my surgery.  Medals are awarded for 1st – 10th places, so I was tickled to place 10th and bring home a nice souvenir from the meet.

P1040777 P1040778

The Bad:

Racing that mile must have worn me down, because I just didn’t have what I needed for a fast 500 Yard Freestyle race the following morning.  I enjoyed the race, but my fatigued body was sluggish in the water, and I ended up with a time that was ten seconds slower than my race time at Spring Splash.

Later in the day, I (figuratively) hit a wall.  One flight up the stairs to the bleachers where I met up with Bruce, and I knew my strength was zapped for the day.  Racing the 200 Yard Butterfly that afternoon?  No way, no how, no can do.  That race requires all of my strength, and when I feel good, I love to race it, but when I feel bad, it is a living HELL.  Instead, I gave it a miss and saved myself for the two relays at the end of the day.

The Good (again!):

Although our team’s relay coach, Donna, was aware I wouldn’t be able to sprint in the relays, there wasn’t another swimmer available to complete the two relay squads I was placed in.  It was either take me as a slow fourth swimmer, or the relays would have to scratch.  There was no way I would risk my hip by sprinting, and my body was fatigued anyway, so I did what I could do.

Although I was unable to give my swims 100% effort, I had a lot of fun with my teammates, and I left the meet happy.

Here is a link to a video Bruce shot of the 400 Yard Mixed Freestyle Relay.  I swam the third leg, so look for me in the blue cap and flag-print suit:

The Ugly:

Greensboro won the bid for the USMS Spring National Championship meet long before North Carolina enacted HB 2, the extremely hateful and discriminating bill that was signed recently by their Republican governor, Pat McCrory.  How unfortunate, because U.S. Masters Swimming is an inclusive organization with many LGBT swimmers, including an entire team (Atlanta Rainbow Trout) here in Georgia.

Many of us who are against the bill felt conflicted about visiting a state governed by such hateful politicians, and from what I was told, there were about ten swimmers (of nearly 1,800) who canceled out because of it.

For those if you who think the bill is just about who is allowed to use which bathrooms, you might want to read this article:

If nothing else, at least read this:

The legislation doesn’t stop there, however. Tucked inside is language that strips North Carolina workers of the ability to sue under a state anti-discrimination law, a right that has been upheld in court since 1985. “If you were fired because of your race, fired because of your gender, fired because of your religion,” said Allan Freyer, head of the Workers’ Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center in Raleigh, “you no longer have a basic remedy.”

 Ugly?  Definitely.  In protest, one of the swim teams at Nationals wore these shirts:


This will be one  memorable takeaway  from the 2016 U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship meet.

I will also remember the fun I had with my teammates:


Relay Coach, Donna Hooe, Graham Fuller, Dan Beatty, and Me!


Stan Delair, Carrie Hughes, Pam McClure, Ian King, Lesley Landey, Marianne Countryman, and Linda Zollweg


Relay teammate, Ian King after beating his seed time in the 100 Freestyle.

Michelle- m2tall2

USMS Discussion Forums “Forumite” Michelle Toner (m2tall2)


Marianne Countryman and Ed Saltzman, teammate and official


Michelle shot this photo of me racing the mile.  That’s Bruce counting laps for me at the end of my lane.


The following is something I recently read that may seem quite basic, but it really hit home as I soaked in the atmosphere of the Georgia Tech competition pool this past weekend:

“Make a list of the things that make you happy.

Make a list of the things you do every day.

Compare the lists.

Adjust accordingly.”

It had been since September, 2014 since I had last competed in a U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) meet due to my hip injury and surgery.  Although I was able to compete in the Georgia Games Open Water Meet last July, I popped the scar tissue in my hip the following month which set me back from race-pace training and competition for the rest of the year.

Over the past few months, I have been joyfully working my way back, savoring every day I’m in the pool.  Swimming is definitely on my lists of what makes me happy and what I do every day (well, six days per week, to be more accurate).

Adding yoga to the physical therapy and stretching exercises I do on deck following my swims, I’ve been improving my flexibility, strength, and balance.  As I see improvement and my ability to master more difficult poses, the resulting satisfaction I feel has convinced me that yoga is up on those lists right after swimming.  The two go hand-in-hand as part of my regular routine.

Returning to competition, though, was something I was itching to add back to my “to do” list, even though it’s not something that can be done daily.

This past weekend, I was able to “adjust accordingly” and compete at the USMS Dixie Zone Championships at Georgia Tech, home of the 1996 Olympic swimming competition.

As my husband, Bruce and I entered the swim deck, butterflies returned to my stomach, something I hadn’t felt in a too-long period of time.  I smiled to myself, remembering how it used to feel, and how I had to learn to embrace rather than fight it.

For this two-day meet, I decided I would go all in and sign up for the maximum events (ten) figuring I could always scratch races if my hip wasn’t up to the task.  Practicing my chosen events in order over two days in March, I knew I could do it.  The difference, however, was not having to swim the extra warm-up and cool-down yardage in between events that weren’t scheduled back-to-back.  In practice, I had done all five events sequentially each day with only a couple minutes of rest in between each one.  Although it definitely gave me the confidence I needed for the meet, I wasn’t sure how my hip would respond with the additional yardage, starting blocks, and cooler water temperature—all important factors.

In addition to signing up for the maximum events, I entered what is considered some of the most difficult events, because those are the races I enjoy competing in the most.  I also threw in a couple of sprints for variety, even though I knew I would have to protect my hip by not going all-out in my kicking.

Saturday’s line-up:  400 Yard Individual Medley, 50 Yard Breaststroke back-to-back with 100 Yard Butterfly, 200 Yard Breaststroke, and 500 Yard Freestyle.

Sunday’s line-up:  1650 Yard (the “mile”) Freestyle, 200 Yard Butterfly, and 100 Yard Breaststroke back-to-back-to-back with 200 Yard Backstroke and 50 Yard Butterfly.  The day concluded with me swimming freestyle on the Women’s 400 Yard Medley Relay.

Although my race times were (much!) slower than before my hip surgery, I enjoyed every stroke that I swam in that pool, and I was thrilled to end the meet in second place in my age group.  (Ok, I’ll ‘fess up.  There were only three in our age group, because several of the other swimmers I usually compete against didn’t enter the meet for one reason or another.)

Still, regardless of my race times or the colors of my ribbons, just being able to compete was a fabulous feeling.  Just as wonderful, though, was seeing my friends and making new ones.  That is what USMS is all about:  Enjoying swimming and competing with others who feel just as passionately about it as you do.

Swimming is what makes me happy, and it’s what I will keep on doing as long as I can.  It feels great to be back!


That’s me in a timid-looking (careful!) block start in Lane 4 sporting a blue Georgia Masters swim cap that clashes with my suit!



During our first few days in Beaufort, the locals Bruce and I spoke with warned us that Beaufort would get under our skin, and we wouldn’t want to leave. “There’s just something about this place…”, they said.

Nearly three weeks later, as we prepare to make our way back to Georgia, I reflect back to those conversations and must admit the locals were spot-on. This is a great place, and we look forward to a return visit– hopefully, right back in this very house that we rented for our stay.

The memory I will take away with me that is sure to linger is the friendliness of the locals. Throughout our stay, we met friendly people everywhere we went. From the checkout lady at Publix to the gallery owners at Thibault Gallery (who, by the way, didn’t try to sell us anything), to the artists we spoke with during the First Friday After Five Artwalk, to the young guy behind the counter at Sea Eagle Market, to the lifeguards at the Beaufort Public Pool; they were all so warm and welcoming. Southern hospitality is alive and well here in Beaufort, South Carolina!

Visually, I was taken by the beauty of the Spanish moss on everything from the wild oaks, to the crepe myrtles, to even the magnolias. At “The Point”, that stuff was growing everywhere, and it was beautiful. So were the antebellum homes.

The marsh was also surprisingly alluring– something I found myself gazing at often. It was every-changing, as the tide rolled in and out; and, since we were here during the full moon, the tide had as much as a 10-foot swing during a few of those days.

Then, there were the dolphins. WOW! What a wonderful thrill it was to have the opportunity to spend hours observing them in their native habitat rather than in constricting tanks at Sea World. (As an adult who now knows better, I no longer view being a dolphin trainer as something I would aspire to be. I have yet to see the documentary, “Blackfish”, but I’m guessing after I do, my feelings for Sea World (and similar amusement parks) will continue on a downward spiral.

On the culinary end of things, we enjoyed a few good restaurants, but I most enjoyed eating shrimp- and, lots of it! Sea Eagle Market was our seafood source of choice for eight of our home-cooked meals, and seven of those dinners featured medium local shrimp purchased at $5.99 per pound. Boy, were they sweet and FRESH! Sea Eagle owns their own boats, so the shrimp they catch go directly from their boats onto the ice at the market.

Bruce has it down when it comes to cooking those little guys to perfection. Sautee in a little olive oil, red pepper flake, basil, and tons of freshly chopped garlic; toss over whole wheat penne with a little pesto and top with grated romano, and it’s the base for an easy and delicious dinner. Steamed broccoli on top and a side salad make this my favorite shrimp dinner. (The shrimp wraps Bruce made were tasty, too!)

About the only thing I didn’t like about Beaufort was the same thing I have dealt with no matter where we have visited along the coast: no-see-ums. Darn those little buggers! If there was a place I missed spraying with insect repellent, they found it. They weren’t as bad here as they were in Sanibel, but they were bad enough.

Even with the no-see-ums and miserable weather we had for several of the days, I loved this place and look forward to visiting again. After all, Beaufort got under my skin.






As I mentioned yesterday, Bruce and I had waited… and waited… and waited for the weather to clear, so we could enjoy the carriage tour under sunny blue skies. We finally scored a beautiful day on Wednesday and hopped on a ride with Southurn Rose Buggy Tours with Ki as our guide and Jim pulling the buggy.

Big Jim weighs in at 2200 pounds and is a Spotted Draft Horse, which is a mix between a Paint Stallion and a Percheron mare. He also has a taste for Spanish moss– neither Spanish or a moss. Actually, it’s a bromeliad in the pineapple family, and evidently tastes sweet like pineapple, because Jim stopped right in the middle of the street to grab some off a low-hanging branch. At the end of our tour, Jim, a gentle giant, snacked on carrots right from Ki’s hand.

Listening to the history of Beaufort was interesting, and Ki’s stories were humorous. What a delightful way to learn about such a charming, quaint, and friendly town.

Following our tour, Bruce and I returned to “The Point” on foot to get another look at the antebellum homes, and then finished our walk along the waterfront park.

Today, after my morning swim, we returned to the historic district to explore more of the area. Thunderstorms are expected tomorrow (yeah, more rain… just what South Carolina needs), so we enjoyed a last look around under what was left of the sunny skies before the clouds started rolling in. Tomorrow, we’ll dodge the raindrops and stop over at the Methodist church for their fall festival; however, we figure that will be just about it before we pack up for our trip home on Sunday.

Join me on my photo tour of the historic district of Beaufort as well as a few more scenes from previous days during our stay.


Scientists estimate that the oldest Grand Oaks in Beaufort are as much as 600 years old!

Scientists estimate that the oldest Grand Oaks in Beaufort are as much as 600 years old!







The Old Church Cemetery surrounds The Parish Church of St. Helena. Established in 1712 as a colonial parish of the Church of England, St. Helena’s is one of the oldest churches in America. The original church was built on the present site in 1724 and appears today as it did in 1842 following its final enlargement.


Among the most historic burial grounds in America, St. Helena’s Old Churchyard has graves of nearly 100 veterans of every major conflict since 1711. These are marked with the flag under which they fought. Sixty of these veterans served in the Army or Navy of the Confederate States of America.






This little (and, I emphasize l-i-t-t-l-e) was located on St. Helena Island along Sea Island Parkway. CUUUUTE!

This little (and, I emphasize l-i-t-t-l-e) was located on St. Helena Island along Sea Island Parkway. CUUUUTE!


The marsh at Fripp Inlet

The marsh at Fripp Inlet



After the deluge nearly stranded us in Old Town Bluffton last week, we were hoping good weather would return before our time ran out. Ten days of gloomy skies, and a total of more than 5″ of rain during a few of those days (24″ just up the road in Mt. Pleasant!) left us wondering if we would ever see the sun again. We woke up to an absolutely glorious day yesterday, though, so we took full advantage by beginning the day with an interesting carriage tour of historic downtown Beaufort.  Our day concluded  with the nearly three-hour paddle /  photo shoot of Flipper and his friends who appeared in yesterday’s blog post. (Stay tuned for carriage tour pictures tomorrow.)

Following my swim this morning, Bruce and I returned to Bluffton to see the quaint and artsy community on foot. We didn’t want to leave South Carolina remembering Bluffton as just a rain-soaked town viewed from behind the wheel of Scarlett going through a car wash.

What a gorgeous day and a cute little Old Town! We began our stroll at The Church of the Cross, an interesting wood church of Gothic design dating back to 1854.  It is situated on a bluff with a fabulous view of the water below, so we enjoyed the scenery before wandering up to the weekly farmer’s market. Surrounding the food stalls were several art galleries, so we poked around getting an excellent feel for the artist community in the area. All of the galleries we visited were either a co-op, guild, or collection of works by several artists, so it was inspiring to see the variety of art and craft being created in the region.

This is Bluffton from my view behind the camera:

The Church of the Cross

The Church of the Cross



















As a dolphin lover who wanted more than anything in the world to be a dolphin trainer when I was a kid, “Flipper” was my favorite TV show. Yes, it was corny, but who knew? Heck, I was only eight years old.

Flash-forward 45 years, and I’m still crazy about those amazing bottlenose dolphins. Having the opportunity to watch them in their habitat has been such a treat while we have been in Beaufort!
Today, I celebrate my 200th blog post on WordPress by dedicating it to Flipper and his friends. These are shots from our third paddle in Fripp Inlet: