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Wed, 14 Dec 2016 21:00:00 +0000Dreaming in PiecesThis post is going to be something a little more personal than I usually tend to share, but luckily I don't think more than a few people ever read my posts anyway so it's a good way to just put some thoughts and feelings down in writing for me.
Growing up, there were many times things were tense in our house, and many where I was afraid of my dad to the point where I spent a lot of time locked away in my room to avoid any run-ins with him. But even with that being said, my dad wasn't always a scary guy and I have some great memories of times spent with him doing things that were fun together. One of my best and favorite memories over the years though, were those hours we would spend together around the dining room table, putting together one of the many puzzles we worked on over the years. We didn't always talk a lot while working on them, but I really cherished those moments where we would sit there putting something fun and challenging together. I never lost that love of working on puzzles and daydreamed so many times about taking photos for puzzle companies, hoping that I could maybe do something one day that would help bring another kid that kind of happiness in doing something with their parent(s) and / or family. I would look at puzzles in the store and just know that I could take photos at least as good as I saw on many of the boxes. I even went as far as writing to a number of puzzle companies about 20 years ago, trying to find out how someone would even go about submitting photos for them. Most companies never bothered to reply, and a few that did..... said they already had enough photos, thank you very much. I was severely disappointed, but every year or so, would find myself searching the internet for ways to see one of my photos on a puzzle.
It was hard to even find a company that would make a one-off puzzle that I could just have personally, for any kind of reasonable fee. The companies that did offer something reasonable, only made puzzles of 50 or 100 pieces. Nothing even close to what I'd hoped for. So.... the dream kind of faded into the background but never went away. Every time I would break out a new puzzle to work on ... I would find myself daydreaming about that again, and searching the internet again.
Then early this year (2016), I found an ad on a stock photo site, from a company looking for photos submissions for puzzles. There was a VERY short window of time to submit photos for consideration, maybe 48-72 hours if I remember right, and I rushed home to look through my current photo collection to see what if anything I might have that fit what they were looking for. I submitted a couple of photos but only one really sounded like it might have a shot, and then I waited. If I'm being honest, I never expected to hear anything back, but I was happy to just have given it a shot if nothing else. About a month later, I received an email from that company, asking me for a higher resolution of one of those photos, and a few other questions about the details of it. That alone was exciting for me because it meant they might actually be interested in it, but I still didn't want to get my hopes up.
Then maybe two weeks after that email, I got notification that they had purchased the photo for publication. I was so excited that they picked a photo and began to watch all the puzzle sites I could find to see if it actually made it out into the stores. Months went by though, and I could never find it out there and after about 4 or 5 months, I started to think maybe it didn't make the cut after they ran it by whoever had the final say on what gets made into a puzzle. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.... and then about 10 days ago, just on a whim after a conversation with a good friend of mine about the status of the puzzle, I did another search.
I don't know if I can even put into words the feelings that rushed through me when suddenly, at the top of the search, there it was. My puzzle, on the market, and real. I think I was stunned at first, and then not sure I was seeing it right.... lol. I pulled up the photo of the box, zoomed in, and sure enough... that was my shot! Childhood memories, daydreams, thoughts of me dad, feelings from those nights working on puzzles with him.... all came flooding back through me. They still do when I think about it if I'm being honest. I know it's silly, and it's just a puzzle.... but for me it was so much more, even more than I thought it would be.
I do have to admit I got a little giddy, and posted the photo of the box on Facebook in all my excitement.... and it was amazing to see how many friends congratulated me. I don't know how many actually understood what this puzzle meant to me.... maybe most didn't, but it was still nice that they forgave my excitement about it. Heck, I was actually shocked how many wanted to buy one. At that point in time, I had only found it for sale in one place in Australia, and they didn't ship to the United States.
A short while later though, another friend send me a message, excited to tell me that she'd found it for sale in England. I ordered a few of them, some for friends asking me if I could get them one, and a couple for me. One to put together, and one to keep sealed and stored away.
If anyone somehow actually read this, and you are still here reading... please pretend I'm not a total goof if we ever talk about this post .... and if by chance, you actually enjoy putting puzzles together as much as I do, and you would like to do me the huge honor of putting together a puzzle that has one of my photos on it..... you can order one from the link below. It's cheap, and shipping is free. In fact, I think if you order using the link here, instead of going directly to the website, you get it for a small discount.
Please click here if you would like to purchase the puzzle!
Thu, 29 Sep 2016 04:17:00 +0000Hannah Covered BridgeThis was a very cool bridge that reminded me a lot of the second bridge on this trip, Stayton-Jordan Bridge, but this one was still in use and in much better shape.
Just walking across the bridge with the open sides made for some really nice views of the creek and is a good possible candidate to go back and visit again for fall colors.
This was one of the first bridges that actually had potential for nice photos from each side without much to really distract from the views... other than the street signs that were at every bridge on the trip of course.
There was access to the creek below, but not really good enough to get some great photos. You could also see that it was a place kids had come to with paint cans in hand as there was a bit of graffiti under the bridge which made any photos from down there pretty much a waste of time.
These last two shots might be my favorites from this stop.
From Interstate 5, exit 238 and travel east to Jefferson. Turn right on South Main Street and continue until the street becomes Jefferson-Scio Drive. Continue east into Scio and turn left onto Highway 226. Follow Highway 226 approximately six miles west to Camp Morrison Drive and turn right (south).
Thu, 22 Sep 2016 00:00:00 +0000Shimanek Covered BridgeI've been looking into the history on some of these bridges over the last week, and I have to say it's really interesting to read about how many of these covered bridges are not the first to be sitting in their current locations. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that so many of the original bridges had been destroyed by fire or flooding over the years.
This was the first non-white painted bridge on the trip, and I have to admit it was kind of nice to see the red paint as we came around the corner and got our first look at it.
The bridge is 130 feet long, and the current structure was completed in 1966, replacing a similar structure that was severely damaged by the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, It is the fifth bridge at this location. The bridge that stood here before this one had been built in 1927, while the original is thought to have been built in 1861. The current bridge doesn't follow the usual open-sided structure as most of the Oregon bridges and instead has unique rounded portals in the sides.
This is the longest covered bridge in Linn County and the newest, after a county crew renovated the structure in 2002, repairing damage caused by a flood in 1996.
Another feature of this bridge that was a little different than most of the other bridges on this trip, is that this bridge used 4 rods at each truss instead of the three that were usually used in the other bridges. You can see those here.
I tried to get a nice shot with one of the old wagons in this shot to show the possibilities.
Truss Type: Howe
Bridge Length (ft): 130
Year Built: 1966
Location: Latitude: 44°42'56.2"N Longitude: 122°48'15.5"W
Sat, 17 Sep 2016 15:00:00 +0000Stayton-Jordan Bridge
The second surprise was that it had also been rebuilt due to the old bridge being lost to a fire back in 1994. This would be a theme that would come up more than a few times over the long weekend... which added to my plan to take notes on all the different bridges we visited, and mark which were worth visiting again, and which ones might actually be a great location for Fall photos at some future date.
This bridge was actually in pretty good shape since it was rebuilt not that long ago, and the park setting might lead to having some nice fall colors around, but the fact that it is no longer in use, kind of took away something from it being a great location for a future photo shoot.
The original bridge was build in 1937 over Thomas Creek, in Linn County. It was dismantled and moved to Stayton in 1985, before the Marine Corp stepped in and agreed to help move it to it's current location in the park.
This was the first full-sized covered bridge in Oregon to be dismantled, moved, and reassembled.
Fri, 16 Sep 2016 05:37:00 +0000Gallon House Bridge
The first bridge on the list for the weekend was the Gallon House Bridge in Marion County Oregon. It is a wooden covered bridge spanning Abiqua Creek and was built in 1916. According to a sign just to the left of the bridge, it is Oregon's oldest operational covered bridge in service today. The 84-foot long bridge got its name when it was used as a meeting place for bootleggers and moonshiners during prohibition.
Since the weather wasn't exactly great for photography, I had to work around the harsh light and cloudless sky to try to get some decent photos of all of the bridges on this trip. It took a little work to even out the harsh shadows in all of the photos you are going to see here, but hopefully they still managed to make the bridges look as good as possible for the conditions. One option was to shoot this bridge in IR ... but unfortunately I made a novice mistake on this trip, and not only forgot to charge the battery in my IR camera, I also didn't bring the charger with me..... so needless to say, this was the only IR shot I got the entire weekend. I'm still kicking myself for that stupid mistake. *sigh*
Gallon House Bridge is about 2 miles north-northwest of the city of Silverton, just west of Oregon Route 214 on Gallon House Road.
Thu, 11 Aug 2016 04:56:00 +0000Covered Bridges of OregonA couple of years ago, I was on a trip back from a weekend of shooting waterfalls in Oregon, when I came around a corner and drove right past a very cool looking covered bridge. I was totally surprised to see one here on the west coast, because for some reason, I was under the impression the only covered bridges left in America were all back east in small towns.
So imagine my surprise when I got home and looked into the history of that bridge, only to discover a listing of 53 covered bridges in Oregon! Well, needless to say that discovery led to a lot of reading up on those bridges and to the beginning of a plan on how I could take a long weekend and see and photograph as many of those bridges as possible. I put together a route that looked like it would take the least amount of time and loaded all that information into my GPS... and then waiting for the right time to put the plan into action.
I mentioned the trip a number of times to a fellow photographer, and she loved the idea and mentioned that she'd love to go with if I did it. Well, that time finally came at the end of July of this year, and we hit the road for 3+ days of covered bridge fun.
The weather didn't cooperate (of course) and instead of having nice cloudy skies for nicer light all day long, there wasn't a cloud to be seen ... which only leads to very harsh light and photos that are so-so at best. We wanted to make the best of it though and if nothing else, at least scout out as many of those bridges as possible, and to make notes on which would be worth a return trip. I knew we could probably cross a good number of these bridges off the list and they would be one-and-done .... but the hope was to find a handful that would offer the possibility of great fall colors and better photo opportunities in the future, and to maybe return and try again when the weather offered better conditions for photography.
I'm thinking this could be a good place to at least share photos of each of those bridges and impressions from the first visit to each. Plus it gives me a place to document which ones I'd like to return to, in case I lose my notes somewhere before then. Hopefully some of these photos and notes might help you pick a few bridges you wouldn't mind visiting yourself if you're into photography as well.
I will try to post a few each week until I get though all 50 that were visited on this trip. Stayed tuned if you're interested...
Tue, 17 Nov 2015 01:29:00 +0000Iceland - Day 9The wind returned with a vengeance today. After having such a nice mild calm day yesterday, it was kind of a surprise to wake up to winds today that blew so hard they literally pushed you around and threatened to knock you off your feet if you weren't careful. They might have been the strongest winds I've ever been in, but it wasn't going to stop a fun day of exploring more of this section of Iceland.
The road to get here felt like you were in the middle of no where, but it kind of made for a cool photo. As you're looking at this photo, the river that becomes the left hand side of the waterfall, is just to the right of this road. This is just to kind of give you an idea of what much of this section of the country looks like.
Next there was a small medevil settlement called Stong which consisted of a small house and Viking long-house both with sod covered roofs. The photos I'd seen made it look very cool so I really wanted to see it myself. It was disappointing to learn that the building were only open from June 1 to August 31, but it was still possible to walk around them and kind of imagine how life might have been back in those days. Here is a photo of the small home which had a semi-frozen waterfall on the cliff behind it.
After leaving Faxi Falls, we headed over to Geyser which was something I had been looking forward to seeing. From things I'd read online and photos I'd see, I had pictured it as Iceland's version of Yellowstone National Park. It sounded like it was a huge geyser ridden area with lots of mud pots, boiling springs and a bigger and better version of Old Faithful. Well, after seeing it with my own eyes, I have to say I was very disappointed as it didn't live up to any of those claims and in no way will it ever compete with the likes of Yellowstone. I was actually very surprised ... It was the first disappointment I'd had this entire trip so I really can't complain too much. I just thought I'd mention this part to any of you thinking of visiting here.... just to let you know that you can totally skip this stop and you won't be missing a thing really.
As we drove away from the falls, one thought that came to mind that left of laughing by the image the rest of the day. That thought was that if we could figure out how to bolt a few really good sails to the ground here, we could have sailed Iceland to much warmer waters. The winds would have easily moved the entire island today. Heck, as I'm sitting here in bed typing this up, I can still hear them howling away outside. It's crazy to think that's a semi-normal thing here.
Last stop was dinner at a cool restaurant and ice cream parlor that Rene had read about on a blog before the trip. We figured since that person claimed this place had the best ice cream in Iceland we just had to test it out ourselves, for scientific purposes of course. Dinner there was actually really good as was the ice cream. As for it being the best in Iceland? I don't know.... we might have to hit another couple of ice cream places on the last two days to do our own comparisons. I mean, we do have to be sure right? :)
Mon, 16 Nov 2015 00:21:00 +0000Iceland - Day 8Woke up this morning wondering what the roads were going to be like today, especially after a pretty heavy snowfall last night. I think there was close to 1/2 inch of snow on the ground in a matter of 30 minutes last night, but the good news was that it was already melting when we loaded up the car to head on to the next town. In fact, the main road had been plowed sometime in the middle of the night and was in great shape.
Icebergs Inside the Lagoon With worries of bad roads out of the way, it was time to finally hit the Glacier Lagoon in good light and try to get some shots of those huge chunks of ice floating away from the main Glacier and out to sea, and then of the ice that washed back up on shore on the black sand beach across the street from there. This was one of the areas that was tops on my lists of places I wanted to shoot photos while I was here, and it took three trips to the lagoon to finally catch it in some good light, and luckily, to catch it at a time where the water in the lagoon was very calm and still.
Smaller Chunks of Ice Washed Up On The Black Sand BeachThe night before, the water was rushing out of there and the icebergs were slamming together and filling the air with what sounded like huge bowling balls being slammed against each other.... only heavier sounding. It's kind of hard to even describe. It was kind of amazing today, to try to pick up what looked like smaller chunks of ice on the beach and feel how incredibly heavy they were.... and then to look over at icebergs 100 times their size and watch them being tossed around like they were nothing by the waves. I could have spent the entire day just hanging out there watching all of that and waiting for new chunks of ice to come floating by. But I had at least one more stop I wanted to make on the way to Selfoss, which was going to be home for the next two nights.
Sat, 14 Nov 2015 23:24:00 +0000Iceland - Day 7Today started with a change of plans. I'd heard that the ice caves were a little too unstable due to the weather still being a little too warm to make the caves safe, and that people were only being able to go about 3 feet into the caves. The tour was a little too expensive to not actually be able to go all the way in to a cave, so we decided to bag the Ice Cave tour for the day and just set out to explore as far east as we could go before starting the trip back west tomorrow.
Now I'm wondering how that might work out though because after dinner we walked out so huge snowflakes and snow already accumulating on the ground. It's still snowing outside right now, 2 hours later... so tomorrow may be a lot of fun in the snow. :)
Oh, one thing I forgot to mention is just how dark dark can be in a country that has very few towns, and no street lights. It's crazy to be out there in the dark and not being able to see anything at all ... even with the high beams on in the car, you can barely see a few feet off to the side of the road. It's also quieter here than anywhere I have ever been. If you ever feel like you want to get away from it all.... this is certainly a place that can help you do that.
Sat, 14 Nov 2015 18:00:00 +0000Iceland - Day 6Today we came to the realization that there are more waterfalls in Iceland than people. Every turn in the road seemed to bring an endless array of waterfalls, so many that I totally lost count of just how many we'd seen in the last two days. I realized there was going to be no way to ever stop and take photos of every waterfalls you see while you're here. in fact, you quickly become a waterfalls snob, almost ignoring some because they just aren't quite spectacular enough, most of which would put any waterfall to shame in the Pacific Northwest. It's almost unreal.
Today was also the first day I got to experience the huge wind gusts I'd heard about as being a big part of the weather here. They weren't really "gusts" as much as they were gail force winds that threatened to rip the car door off its hings if you made the mistake of trying to open the door and not hold on with all your might. I can't tell you the number of times I had to fight just to open the door and get back into the car before I turned into a Popsicle. lol
So needless to say, today was an adventure in trying to stay on your feet and take photos where your camera wasn't rocking so bad the photos were all blurry. It was also a day of learning about the exciting world of driving in Iceland... where you can drive 16 miles down a really rough road, only to get to the place you to turn and find the road has been closed because it's "impassible". ugh.... really? You couldn't have put up a sign 30 miles back warning of road closures ahead? It was actually still fun thought because I saw some sights that most probably don't see. It was certainly roads rarely traveled.
Another fun lesson today was that not all Icelandic Horses enjoy dried apples. We stopped to pet 4 horses that were standing near the road, and as much as they seemed to enjoy the attention, they also seemed to be sniffing our pockets and my camera trying to figure out if there was some kind of food hidden away on my body. Rene had some dried apples with her so we thought we'd feed a few to the horses and it was kind of comical to watch their reactions. The horse that seemed the most forward of the 4 quickly took one of the apple slices, but after he chewed on it for a second, decided he wasn't interested at all, neither were two of the others, but one horse did step forward and decided he wanted to give it a try, and he loved them. He kept pushing forward for more. At one point though, I think one got stuck to the roof of his mouth as he was licking at it pretty funny for a minute. We decided we should get going again and had to say goodbye. I think only one of them was truly sad to see us go. lol
With the huge winds and super cold temps, today was mostly spent inside the car enjoying some amazing scenery as we worked our way east, along the south coast. There is a huge glacier here that we started to drive past on our way to the next hotel, and about an hour after we first got up next to it, I realized we were still driving along side of it, and we were no where near the middle of the Glacier. It looks big on a map, but seeing it up close like this and realizing just how big it really is, was just amazing.
I actually did get out of the car a lot today and took photos, but will have to wait to look through them and post any that might be good it's getting really late..... and I'm planning on getting up early tomorrow and going to the glacier lagoon and capturing some photos at sunrise so this is going to be short and sweet. Hard to believe the adventure is half over now.
Sat, 14 Nov 2015 02:07:00 +0000Iceland - Day 5Day 5 was going to be all about waterfalls, with plans to visit two of the best known and biggest waterfalls on the South Coast of Iceland, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. The day started off with the first traffic I’ve seen during my stay here, when there was a car accident on the freeway leading out of Reykjavik to the ring road heading south. It was really strange to see any kind of traffic at all much less an actual backup of any kind.
Once we were on the road I saw the real first snow and ice of the trip. The roads were actually in really good shape even though they looked like they might be really slippery for a while there. We stopped at the first waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, and were treated to answer of the big question… “where do Dippin’ Dots come from” The answer… from the skies in Iceland. What dumped down on us wasn’t snow or hail, but Dippin’ Dots, and they covered everything.
After the big waterfalls, I really wanted to visit the site of an old US Navy airplane wreck that was out on one of the black beaches. It was really wild to get all the way out there and see the carcass of the plane just sitting there. I was surprised how popular the plane was as it wasn’t really easy to drive your car out there and it wasn’t a site that was marked from the main road.
Next it was on to the hotel and to a nice dinner at the restaurant there. It was my first real diner since getting here, and turned out to be a great if not slightly expensive grilled chicken dinner. $40 for a chicken seemed pretty spending but after taking my first bite, I decided it was more than worth it. It might have been the best grilled chicken I’d ever eaten.
Another day was in the books.
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 00:10:00 +0000Iceland - Day 4Woke up this morning to overcast skies and rain so I decided not to rush out the door and went downstairs for breakfast. Looks like the standard hotel breakfasts consist of breads, meats, cheese, jelly, cereal and some weird fish looking stuff that looks really raw to me. It was almost exactly the same breakfast spread that I had yesterday, so I stuck to my usual of bread and meats as well. Turns out breakfast was a good idea because it stopped raining by the time I packed my bags and loaded the car for another day.
There were a number of waterfalls on the list for today but it was already looking dark outside because of the cloud cover and it was only noon. I was hoping the clouds would break again and I would get the same kind of light I had all day yesterday but I wasn’t going to get lucky two days in a row I guess. I got rained on pretty good at the first waterfall. I did get luckier at the second and the rain stopped shortly before I got there, the only problem was that the drive was a lot longer than I expected and I spent a lot more time there shooting photos because these falls were just amazing looking. The water was actually flowing out from under a lava field and was spread out along about a 100 yard long stretch of rock. It was the most unique waterfall I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t stop just standing there and taking it all in.
I headed back into Reykjavik to be closer to the airport and now just need to find a way to kill some time. I still have 10 hours until having to pick up at the airport. Maybe I can find a good spot to park myself for a while and look through today’s photos to add to this when I post it later.
Wed, 11 Nov 2015 11:27:00 +0000Iceland - Day 3I woke up early, before sunrise which turns out to be easy to do when the sun doesn't rise until 9;35... and walked over to the office for breakfast before hitting the road. The hotel was really nice and on a lake that I really couldn't see when I drove in last night since it was pitch black outside. I didn't realize there were two huge craters on each side of the little resort area which was very cool to see in the daytime. One thing I've been surprised at the most here, is the number of craters like this all over the Island. They just popped up randomly and the people here just built around them over the years I guess.
As I ate breakfast I went over my plan for the next couple of days and decided that I really should move things around on my list and head back south today instead of tomorrow. There were a number of waterfalls I was going to pass up due to time restraints, but decided that instead of skipping them on this trip, I would skip a couple of things on the north coast instead. The roads looked icy and I did't want to risk them closing the roads back south if a big snow storm hit over night, especially since I have to be back at the airport Thursday morning early, to pick up another Berlin Brat that is going to travel with me the next 6 days.
On trips like this you can really only lay out a basic plan and then just go with the flow... one thing I really wanted to do was to catch the Aurora over Kirkjufell while I was in Iceland, but since there are no guarantees in life, I didn't want to spend my first full day hanging out at the mountain and then not seeing the Aurora at all... much less getting photos of it over the mountain. I had too many things to see. Since I spent all night driving that first night instead, I was able to see the 3 waterfalls in the north that I really wanted to see, a full day earlier than I thought, so I drove all the way back south again on Day 3.... seeing everything I missed during the night on the drive north. The scenery was amazing and so different than I was picturing in my head the night before. I'm glad I got to see that entire stretch in the daylight.
Turns out I made the right decision for the day and got lucky and it paid off.
Now I'm hoping my decision for these waterfalls today pays off as well. It's raining out right now, but overcast skies make some of the best light for waterfalls. Here's to hoping for another great day!
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 16:00:00 +0000Iceland - Day 2Day 2 really felt like a continuation of day 1, and I guess in many ways it was. My first day in Iceland was ending and I'd shot the photo I most wanted to get that first day, so I headed into the nearest town to find some dinner and see if I could get lucky and find a hotel room since I hadn't made reservations for the first few days of my trip, wanting to not be tied into a tight schedule in case weather created some problems for me those first few days.
Needless to say, I was So excited and then so bummed at the same time as I could tell the Aurora was up there, but couldn't see it with my eyes because of the cloud cover. I got back in the car and began to head north again, watching the sky every 15 minutes or so to see what the clouds were doing. The further north I got, the less cloud cover there was, but it appeared to still be fairly cloudy. I took another break and shot another photo around 8:30 and to my surprise, those weren't clouds up there at all anymore but was actually just the Aurora faintly dancing across the sky. To make a long story short, as the night went on, and I got further and further north, and the Aurora would come to life and dance across the sky super bright for 15 - 20 minutes before fading again, over and over again until around midnight it put on the best show of the night. That show lasted at least 30 minutes and I can't even begin to describe how amazing it was to watch. There were ribbons of light that looked like they were falling to the ground, while other sections of the sky just flickered and danced around and a few times there were what appeared to be huge thunderclouds of color that would suddenly roll across the sky ... back and forth. I shouldn't admit this, but I sat out there in the freezing night air, giggling like a little kid ... giddy beyond belief.
Oh, that went on a little too long... so let me just say I did manage to catch a 2 hour nap around 6:00 am ... when I just couldn't stay awake any longer and most of the show had died down. After waking from my nap, I made the hour long drive to my next stops, which were two of the coolest looking waterfalls in Iceland and the only reason I made the extra long trek all the way north. It was an amazing night, followed by a fun day of chasing waterfalls with my camera. I haven't really had time to look at the waterfall photos from today and I probably need to do a little work on them to do them justice, but know I'll be sharing them later once I'm home and like how they look.
I called it a night a little early tonight as I am dead tired. I found a room with a great view across a lake, and as I'm typing this, the Aurora is doing another dance outside my window and I can look over the top of the laptop and watch it go. It's a little unreal and so much warmer than the show last night. :)
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 00:16:00 +0000Iceland - Day 1Okay so I'm actually writing this at the end of my 2nd full day in Iceland, but while the memories are still fresh in my head, I figured I'd start this blog about my Iceland adventure ... where the real adventure started. Climbing out of the airplane, it fells like you stepped back in time for a few minutes.... you actually climb off the airplane with stair onto the tarmac and then walk into the terminal. I haven't done that at a "major" airport in a very long time so it was kind of a fun start to the trip. I had a rental car all lined up and they picked me up just outside of customs and within 30 minutes I was in my car and on the road. Never having been to Iceland I wasn't really sure what to expect, but it was really easy getting around since I brought my GPS with me, and unlike in the States... there was absolutely no traffic on the road even though it was close to 7:30am on a Sunday. I had preloaded my GPS with all the sites I wanted to hit on this trip, and broke it down by each day so I just started with Day 1 and hit "Go!".
There are churches like this one all over the Iceland countryside so I thought I'd stop and shoot at least one of them to remember what they looked like. They all seem to sit off on a hill so they can be seen from far and wide, and they each have these small cemeteries besides them. It almost gave the appearance that the church and cemetery was just for the people of that small town. No idea if that is really the case or not.
Sun, 25 Oct 2015 21:00:00 +0000Fall in the NorthwestThe Pacific Northwest isn't known for it's beautiful fall colors like the north east of the United States, but if you look hard enough, you can find some nice colors here this time of year. Went out yesterday with another photographer I shoot with often, trying to find some of those elusive colors and visited a spot I seem to hit a few times a year hoping to catch it with great colors. They weren't there yet, but we still spent a little time shooting and then headed down to Oregon to a tree farm there that was supposed to look really nice right now.
At first things didn't look too when we got there, as it looked like we might have been about a week too late, but with a little exploring and some experimenting with different shots, I think we were both able to come out with something we liked. I had a hard time deciding between these two shots, both had something
I like but I think I really like this second composition a little better. It's tighter and draws the eye towards the glow deep in the trees.
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 02:00:00 +0000Berlin - Day 3 - Celebration DayThis is probably the hardest day of my trip to write about which is why it's taken so long to get to it. I keep thinking about this day, and what all it means to the city of Berlin, to the country of Germany, and to those of us that spent any time at all growing up there during those years that the wall was up. When I first realized I was going to be in Berlin for the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall Celebration, I was so excited by the idea of going back and just being there to enjoy the celebration, to be a part of history that would take place that night, and to share that experience with friends that I went to high school with, was just an exciting idea. For two days prior to this day, we'd spent time traveling around the city, reliving lots of great memories, catching up on stories of our experiences and what living there meant to us... and the more we talked about it, the the more we looked at the balloons lining the path the Berlin Wall had taken, the more I felt myself being impacted again by what that Wall really did to this great city and it's people. I had flashbacks to the many times I just went down to the Wall and sat and stared across it, watching people on the east side of the city going about their daily lives, and those emotions I felt back then about how horrible it must have been to live trapped like that. I mean, in a way were were just as trapped as they were at the time, only we had the option of getting out of the city any time we really wanted.
So yeah.... waking up that morning was different than any other day on my 3 week trip. I could feel those thoughts and memories bouncing around inside my head most of the day, as a group of us went back to visit old houses and parks from our childhood. And then we went to dinner at a place that was high up on the list of my favorite places to eat back then.... even though it was a different restaurant now... still fueled those memories....
After dinner it was time to head down and find a spot somewhere where we could enjoy the festivities, without being crushed by the amazing number of people lining the streets to view the ceremony. It was amazing to see the number of people there, that had traveled from all over the world, just to witness this in person.
Okay, so that got to be a bit much.... sorry. It's the best way I can attempt to describe that night though... and what it felt like to be there.
We knew getting back to the hotel by U-Bahn was going to be next to impossible for at least a few hours so we made our way through the sea of humanity over to the Christmas Market going on at Potsdamer Platz, got some food, some drinks and hung out for a few hours.... it was a great rest of the night for sure. :)
Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:00:00 +0000Berlin - Round 1 - Day 2Day two in Berlin was mostly left open for us to do our own thing, as we weren't scheduled to do any reunion stuff until early evening. There were a couple of early morning tours scheduled, one being the underground tour I'd signed up for.... but being as I'm old and I'd signed up for things so far in advance, I'd totally forgotten I'd paid to go on that tour. Instead, I did a little walking around town while the others went on the underground tour.... and just waited for them to get back and see what the plan for the rest of the day would be.
It was a very fun time on the bus ... we did a lot of talking and laughing during the tour, saw a lot of sights and got some history lessons along the way.
Sat, 20 Dec 2014 02:00:00 +0000Berlin - Round 1 - Day 1It's been a few weeks since returning from Europe and I've been meaning to get around to writing about the first part of my trip, to finish this story in true Pulp Fiction Style as I'd promised in the first post. Climbing into the way back machine and hoping my memory is working well enough to even remember a lot of what happened those first few days in Berlin.. I'll try to fill in that blank spot in the story.
The trip to Berlin started off with a very long first flight, from Seattle to Frankfurt, non-stop. I don't think I've ever made the trip to Germany from here without a stop somewhere along the way (Usually at JFK) so I was wondering how long this flight was going to feel... especially since I don't tend to sleep at all on flights. I've found that for me, the trick to flying to Europe is to get as little sleep the night before the trip as possible.... and then not sleep on the flight. That tends to work out well for me as when I finally get there I'm already feeling really tired but then I force myself to stay awake until 11:00 - 12:00 pm that first night, until I'm just exhausted so I sleep through the night that first night and get my body on the right sleep schedule right away.
Anyway, enough about my trick to beat Jet Lag when flying east. :) The first flight was very smooth and went by fast now that most international flights give you a lot of options of movies to watch. Once I landed in Frankfurt, they unloaded us onto buses, which then drove us to the far side of the airport, dumped us off at a part of the airport that seemed totally deserted, and then we had to go through customs... which in this case was just a customs agent looking at my passport for a minute, stamping it and sending me on my way. Now I had to hike back to the terminal where my flight originally dropped me off to catch the short hop to Berlin.... but luckily Frankfurt airport is super easy to get around and I made it back in plenty of time to board my flight. If you have ever flown through Paris, you don't want to attempt this with less than a 3 hour layover.
Once the second flight landed in Berlin, that feeling of being home washed over me, and I walked out of the airport, bought a bus ticket and jumped on the bus to get across town as if I'd done it 3 weeks ago instead of 8 years ago now. It always catches my by surprise at how familiar everything is even after all this time. I made the 30 minute trip to the hotel and got all checked in, said hello to a couple of people in the lobby that I knew and put my stuff in my room.
Since I knew today was going to be a check-in day for most people, I went back down and hung out in the lobby for a while, watching for friends to show up and catch up with others that were hanging around downstairs at the time. It's always kind of exciting to just see these people again after a few years ... even though most of us are in touch on Facebook almost daily.
Someone from my class ('83 Rules!) showed up with her cousin and I got to listen in to a couple of very funny conversation at the front desk, between her and another friend that was standing down there complaining a little about his room. Lots of laughs were had and teasing ensued.... and then the three of us made plans to head down to Brandenburg Gate to see what was going on and do a little sight-seeing.
We headed for the Potsdamer Platz U-Bahn station and came out to see that they had already begun to line the old path of the Berlin Wall with the balloons being used in the celebration Sunday night.
I was surprised by how much had already been set up. I couldn't believe I'd actually made it back to Berlin to witness this and was suddenly so happy to be here. Even though this trip had been in the works for 3 years, it still almost felt surreal.
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 14:00:00 +0000Berlin - Round 2 - Day 2I had made plans with my friends from the night before to meet up near the biggest shopping area in Berlin, Potsdamer Platz, and they said they would help me get my gift buying done, especially help with picking out something for Kayleigh as I find it harder and harder to know what would make a nice gift for her now that she's no longer into all the things she was as a young girl. It was so interesting to walk into the new shopping malls that exist in what was East Berlin, because they are just like the big malls in America. That didn't really exist back when the wall was up. Back then there was really only one big shopping store and that was visited by pretty much every girl in school on a weekly basis. That was one of the biggest changes I noticed the first time I'd gone back to Berlin after the wall came down and it still catches me a little off guard to see it now. Berlin used to be nothing but little Boutiques and Mom and Pop type stores all over town where you had to do your shopping. I don't know if the malls make it better, but as a guy, it's sure easier to only have to go one place to find everything you need. I'm not exactly a fan of shopping.
It turned out that having their help made the whole experience of shopping a lot more fun though and we went from store to store looking for things people had asked me to buy for them while I was there. We took a break for lunch and went to this cool pizza and pasta place that isn't like anything we have back home. You are giving a smart card and then you stand in lines depending on what you want and it's kind of the Benihana version of Italian food. You tell a chef what you want and then make it right there in front of you using nothing but fresh ingredients. Including picking spices right off the plant to toss into the mix as they cook your lunch. After your place your order, you get the item added to your smart card, so you can pick and choose lunch, drinks, soup, dessert, etc until you are done and then you check out and pay on the way out the door. I thought it was a cool concept and people seemed to really love it.
After lunch it was back on the hunt for gifts including a trip to the Riter Sport chocolate store there. It's like M&M world in Las Vegas... with every kind of chocolate you can imagine, including flavors and chocolate bars I have never seen in the States. One really cool thing you can do there is you can also custom make your own chocolate bar. It's set up kind of like Cold Stone Creamery.... you have items you can pick from and you choose if you want Milk or Dark Chocolate, and then pick three ingredients to add to the bar and they create it for you while you wait. It was pretty cool so of course I had to make two of them to take home.
Now with all of that done, we just walked around looking for things I could take pictures of and talked. Christmas season is in full bloom right now and we decided to wander over to what most people say is the best Christmas Market in Berlin (Weihnachtsmarkt). It really was a little more posh than a few of the other ones I'd seen set up already and they sold so much cool stuff in there. It's really too bad I don't live in Berlin as I would have stocked up on so much great Christmas Stuff. I can see why everyone loves going every year and adding to their Christmas Decorations, while grabbing food and drinks and listening to live music.
I'd been trying to meet up with two other friends before I left Berlin but hadn't had any luck in getting in touch with either, but luckily while we were sitting having a drink, my friend Bobby saw a photo on Facebook and happened to be nearby with a car and since he knew the two friends I was with, he called one of their cell phones to get in touch with me. Finally! He happened to have a car with him and said he would come pick me up from the Christmas Market so we could hang out for the rest of the evening and go to a club across town that he thought I'd enjoy. Along the way he called one of my oldest Friends that still lives in Berlin and we caught him at home and got him to come meet us at the club. It was a GREAT way to end the trip and I'd have been so bummed to leave Berlin without having gotten to see either of them.
So even though the trip was coming to an end so much faster than I wanted, I couldn't have asked for a better last two days in the city hanging out with friends and sharing lots of laughs and conversation. There were two bands that played that night and they were both pretty good..... when they finished up, I had to say my goodbyes to Roy and then Bobby gave me a ride back to the hotel. It's still the greatest city I've ever lived in and I'm so lucky to have friends that still live there that make the visits that much better. Until next time Berlin!
Time to re-pack my bags and squeeze in everything somehow, then it's up early for a VERY long trip back home. Good thing I get to enjoy a 33 hour day tomorrow. It's going to take most of it to get back home.