Monday, January 30, 2017

A Walk in the Woods. . . . . . . . .

Brrr. . . . . . it was a little chilly, but so enjoyable.

 My solitary January winter woodland walk on a cloudy Sunday afternoon.
 The pond was open, not a sign of ice, but we can't forget that Winter has yet to
 run its course.
Interesting how the almost colorless sky above reflects as such a beautiful
 blue. . . . . . . apparently all to do with scattering and absorption of wavelengths
 if you're thinking as a scientific person. 
Let's just say it's Nature's paintbrush at work on a Winter day - much more romantic.

Speaking of romance - such a handsome pair. 

Catkins! Tiny dangling touch of early green.
That prickly feeling!

Almost colorless, the muted woodland landscape sleeps.

I anticipate the beauty of Spring green, but find the shades of brown lovely also.

More photos taken with the new Sony camera yesterday.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Notes on the new camera. . . . . . . . . .

You may recall my very quick note regarding a new camera on the day I was 
leaving for Europe in December. Here I'll explain what happened and why I 
found myself at the camera shop at the last minute. Definitely not planned but
it was the only way I could see myself gathering photo memories of the trip
with a good camera.
On Thanksgiving Day, somehow the new Canon Power Shot SX530HS camera
 I'd purchased in September was splashed with the turkey gravy as it was passed
 around the table. Can you believe that, and me being vegetarian and not even
 eating turkey let alone drowning my veggies with gravy, haha!
I was able to wipe the camera off and it worked OK that day and on the beach trip
 which we took the weekend after the holiday. I didn't use the camera again until I took
 a few packing pix as I readied to cross the pond. That's when I realized the zoom
wasn't working and I could see a sticky substance down in the zoom lever. 

Hells bells. . . . . . a mad dash to the local camera shop, although
 I didn't buy the Canon there (purchased it from B&H in NYC).  The shop advised
 it would have to be sent away for repairs, so that day I bought another camera, 
this time a Sony, a first for me, as they didn't have the same Canon. I liked the 
Canon except it didn't have a viewfinder which I truly missed as I find it hard to
see well on the LCD screen. 
I decided to bring the broken camera home and send it off through the local
 camera shop when I returned from Europe. Later however, on checking my
 paperwork from B&H I found I had 2 years of insurance coverage, which
 included drops and spills, from SquareTrade as part of the camera purchase. 
Sent it off, described what happened, within a week or so it was returned,
 no charge, and working perfectly again. 
Amazing, and I highly recommend SquareTrade for their easy and excellent
 service - everything was done via a smoothly run online process and it didn't
 cost anything - they even paid the shipping both ways.

These test photos were all taken around the cottage this week with the new
 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400V which I'm really liking. 
It was highly recommended by my local camera store staff
 whom I trust, and although more expensive than the Canon it does have more
 features including a Zeiss 50X optical zoom lens, 20.4 mega pixels, a full 3" tilting
 LCD screen, and a great electronic viewfinder - when you put it to your eye it
 automatically opens rather than having to view your composed shot on the screen.
 There are a lot of features I've yet to learn so I need to spend time with the camera
 in the coming weeks. I did enjoy using it on the trip, it's a wee bit heavier than the
 Canon but very comfortable to hold.

Quite honestly, for me, and maybe for you, these new bridge digital cameras are
 amazing. I see them perhaps eventually taking the place of the huge, heavy
 DSLR's which require lugging those bulky interchangeable lenses, adding so
 much more weight and taking up a lot of space in luggage when traveling. 
I think professionals will always require those monster cameras, but for the likes
 of us, these smaller, lighter versions can do what we need at a much lower price,
 can be charged through a lap top, often have great pre-set scene options, and
 are definitely much easier to handle for we amateur photographers.

 I realize we all want to take great photos and that a DSLR with the option of
 changing lenses and settings will always give the best - once you learn how to use
 it and hold it steady. That was not easy for me with my huge DSLR, the Canon 7D,
 but my granddaughter loves using it and is taking great photos with it. 
Young people have good eyesight and nimble fingers. 
Just watch them with a smart phone!
 I'm quite happy with the photos I get with this camera and, in all honesty, with
 today's editing options - I use iPhoto and PicMonkey - we can all tweak our shots
 and make them even better, just as the professionals often do.
Cropping, sharpening and a little cleanup can work miracles.
Some may call that cheating, I call it being creative!

Wishing you happy days with your camera - and looking forward to seeing your
photos on your blog. The sun is shining here, a bit chilly but I think I'm heading out 
for a walk in the woods later - and of course I'll take the camera.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Household Secrets Part I. . . . . . . . . . .

This week I've felt something stirring in the air. 
Perhaps it was the lovely sight of bright green daffodil leaves poking up through the piles of brown leaves cloaking the garden - a sign of Spring to come and the need to run to the garden center today to buy a bag of fertilizer.
Maybe it was the early morning sun shining through the dining room windows and highlighting the dust on the furniture!
Even more likely, and my favorite, was the tiny chickadee already checking the nest box hanging on the front porch, popping in the entrance and probably thinking about the cleanup required before raising a family there again - it will be the third year if this happens come Spring.

So I did some housework. However I also took a lot of photos around the cottage with my new camera because I still need to learn more about its operation and capabilities. Looking at items I love, and captured up close in the lens, I realized that I'm finding it difficult to become a minimalist when it comes to decor. Yes, downsizing is not something a collector of the past finds easy. The clean, crisp, contemporary look is often exquisite in the right place, but it is not my look. Even my daughter made a comment under her breath recently - something about my home being a museum. I said nothing. Funny thing is that I when recall that comment I really like it. Just as I like the bits and pieces I've gathered about me in this little space. Many are from places on the seven continents I've visited, others from local much-loved places such as SuzAnna's Antiques. Whether a century old linen tablecloth from the South of France, or a pile of chandelier crystals rescued from an old North Carolina antebellum mansion, I love them all and the fond memories they hold. 

Here are a few - more coming later - along with news of the big leap of faith I've
 just taken regarding a change in the living room decor. I think I have my
 decorating mojo back. . . . . these January days are not so bad after all.
Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, January 27, 2017

La Coruña, Spain - Architecture and Fashion. . . . . . . . .

Named the 'Crystal City' because of the glass-enclosed balconies which adorn
the tall apartment buildings facing the harbor, La Coruña is a delightful mix of old and new. 
This area in the region of Galicia, is the wettest and greenest part of Spain, a world 
away from the popular resort areas. 

We walked around the city in an on again off again light drizzle, but still able
 to enjoy the architecture, plazas etc. 
As for a final chance at shopping, an exciting thing for me was discovering,
 with a little help from a local lady, the world's fashion giant Zara's flagship store. 
This company is actually based in La Coruña, its massive headquarters
 and design center being just a few miles outside the city.
Did I shop? You bet I did! The entire first floor of the huge shop was a showcase
 for that week's new stock and was full of amazing affordable items. I did 
notice that there were some very fashionably dressed women on the streets of
 this lovely Spanish port city.

La Coruña was our last port of call before setting sail for the return to
 Southampton, England. 
The Bay of Biscay was somewhat rough, but meeting up with several of our
 newly made friends on board, for good eating, drinking, laughing, and watching
 yet another fabulous musical show in the theatre, soon made us forget 
that the regal Queen Victoria was at sea tossing us, and the great singers
 and dancers, about a wee bit. All was good!

It's quite exciting cruising in winter, a much different feeling than in hot weather. 
Some people would not want to do it perhaps due to the lack of hot days on
deck, or sightseeing ashore in what can be chilly, wet weather. 
We thoroughly enjoyed it and would not hesitate to do it again.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Lisbon, Portugal in winter. . . . . . . . . .

Lisbon cascades down many hills to the waterfront along the great River Tagus
 making it one of the world's most beautiful capital cities.
We arrived early morning as the city awoke.

The second longest suspension bridge in Europe - first named the Salazar, now officially
 the 25 April Bridge, but also answers to the name of the Tagus Bridge, or just 'the Bridge'.

Early morning ferries.
Once ashore we headed to the Hop On Hop Off bus knowing we would require
 transportation up those hills. Unfortunately the weather was very cold and although
 we started out on the open top deck - dressed in layers - we were so cold and
 windblown, that we had to move to the lower enclosed deck which of course
 was not conducive to taking photos.
Quite honestly I was frozen and really miserable on this particular sightseeing
trip - it took me forever to get warm again - and I felt somewhat glum when we
did get off the bus and walked, which we probably would have enjoyed more 
for our entire visit to this lovely city.

Looking down from the hillsides of Lisbon.

Lunch at a small restaurant where the chef and waiter were lovely guys,
all the other customers were locals, and our food was prepared to order.
 The Portuguese wine was excellent.
Thankfully I felt warm again after this stop!

Here you can get the feeling of the narrow, hilly streets.
We walked a few once off the bus and have to admit they were
quite a workout.

Torre de Belém - the five-storey fortress built between 1515 and 1521 to
 guard the approach to the city by water.

Lisbon was actually our first port of call on the cruise in December.
Next time I'll share our last stop before returning to England, the interesting
 city of La Coruña in northern Spain.