Monday, July 25, 2011

An Old Dog's New Tricks

Before anything else, Prayers for Norway! My heart goes out to our old and new friends there....

Ironically, this is the image I had queued for my Shutterchance blog today before last Friday's tragic attacks occurred. I ponder such things in my heart. This is the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway.
God have mercy on us all!


It's been like an albatross around my neck for over a year now, after purchasing my 100mm macro lens in Novemeber of 2009, just before moving across the Big Pond.

So, at the beginning of this year, 2011, I made the commitment: learn to use it "or else" by the end of this year!

Now that half the year is over, I'm finally starting the learning curve on all the settings:
  • Full vs. .5m vs. .3-.5m?
  • Auto Focus vs. Manual Focus?
  • Aperture Priority vs. what?
  • High vs. low aperture?
  • Single vs. multi-focus points?
  • Tripod vs. hand-held?
  • Etc., etc.
I started off a week ago and every day learned something new. Oh, and Victoria over at A Photography Addict's Showcase gave me inspiration and tips. THANK YOU, Victoria.

This was my first attempt, here inside our apartment.
NO WIND! Very important.
I started out with a tripod and a single-point focus on that one left 'eye'.
I was feeling cross-eyed after multiple attempts.
As Victoria said, I need to know what effect I want!

One sunny day on my walk, I decided to try hand-held shots outside, in spite of our almost constant wind. I was not gonna let this thing control me. I wanted to control IT!

I was excited to think I had found a bumble bee.
WRONG! Victoria told me it's a hoverfly...another learning curve.

At least this one didn't fly away!

Then on Saturday morning Astrid and I were invited for koffie over at Thelma and Siem's. Thelma is an Indonesian woman living here in The Netherlands since 1960. Dutch Siem met her in 1964, they fell in love and have been married now for 46 years! Astrid and Thelma used to play tennis together and have remained in contact.

Lucky for me, they have a HUGE garden with every kind of flower and bush imaginable. Talk about a macro-lens paradise. EXCEPT FOR THE WIND. I LOVE the wind here in this country but when it come to outdoor macro shots, it's my enemy. Still, after 304 images, I was able to narrow them down to 30 okay/decent shots...for my learning curve, that is. Here are some of them:

Even after the link from Victoria about hoverflies vs. bees, I still don't know if this was a bee.
It sure seemed different from all the hoverflies I saw, but...who knows!

But these for sure are hoverflies. Hundreds of them everywhere.

And one dragonfly to end the day.
[click on any image to enlarge]

Hanging on for dear life midst all the wind!

I was such a happy camper in Thelma and Siem's garden!
And the good news is that we will go back again and again, just as we've done before.

In the meantime, I'll keep practicing to figure out what it is I want with macro shots. That may be as much of the learning curve as anything else?!

Now that the Tour de France is done and over with for another year, HURRAH to Cadel Evans from Australia for pulling the whole thing off. HURRAH also to the Schleck brothers from Luxemburg who came in 2nd and 3rd. It was a 'first' for Australia and a 'first' for two brothers! Pretty exciting stuff...and yes, true to form, I cried like a baby at the end. (sigh)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our Gorinchem Citadel Walk

We had intended to be out-n-about this past weekend for a new photo hunt, but after a week of heavy rain, and more forecast, we stayed home and relaxed.

That's when I decided to take you on my citadel walk where we live in Gorinchem, Netherlands! It's been something in the wings for a long time, so here it is, with pics from the last 1-1/2 years.

Gorinchem's city center is surrounded by water and walls, making it a perfect, fortified city center. There is even a tour you can take around the citadel, explaining all about the walls, which you can see here. We have yet to take it but "most of the town walls from 1600 are in more or less original shape."

See that big red dot near top center? That represents where we live here at De Lindeborg, inside the citadel. At least 4 days a week I walk around one half or the other, cutting back through city center: 40 minutes to the left, 30 minutes to the right. If I walk the entire loop at a brisk pace, without my camera, it takes 45 minutes. Sometimes Astrid and I do that together, as we did yesterday.

And what a walk it is! I still pinch myself because of what is here at our fingertips.

First of all, there are 4 main landmarks, all of which I have shown from previous posts, but here they are as seen from the citadel walk: two windmills, the Grote Kerk, and the water tower.

First off, and only a block away from our back door, is the Nooit Volmaakt (Never Forget/Never Perfect) windmill, from 1718. That top-left image is my laptop's wallpaper, so soulful with a light dusting of snow.

Today, let's turn to the right towards the windmill and follow the citadel wall clockwise.

On the backside of the windmill is a staircase that takes you down to the canal that runs through city center and where all the old-timey houseboat barges are. I almost feel like I'm trespassing because I'm in their front yard as I pass by. Then I climb another set of stairs to cross the bridge before continuing on along the wall.

Then I pass Old Sannie on the left, sitting on his own little island in the Paardwater.
(See how this comes together from past posts?!)

Then starts some of my favorite views along the city wall.
See the ice skaters? They were there my first year here, early 2010.

This is the part of the walk where you can find the little "munchkins" from the artist Erik Buijs. All these fellas sit on poles at eye level, at regular intervals along the walk.
Each one is about 7 inches tall.

About this same time, off to the right, is when you see the water tower from 1886, now an apartment building.

It's at this point, on my short walk, that I turn into the city center to go back home, with the second windmill straight ahead. I don't pass it on the short walk, but I see it and that's enough.

Now, since it's too much like craziness to continue clockwise around the citadel (isn't it strange how our brains work!), please go back to the big red dot on the map and go left with me counterclockwise to finally meet up where we last left off and complete the loop.

I always think of last December's Santa Run (remember?) when I start off on this longer of the two walks. This was where we went then, through the huge, over-arching trees.

This is also where I start seeing the cannons because the huge Merwede River is before me, with freighters passing daily back-n-forth to Rotterdam. Remember, this is a citadel and the cannons remain as reminders of a rich history of defense.

And there she is, the Merwede River and bridge in the background, with Gorinchem's outside harbor (outside the citadel wall, that is) in the foreground.
See the walkway? That's what the whole walk is asphalt.
And see how raised it is? That's the city wall, on which we're walking.

It's in this neck of the woods, looking inside the city, that you see some of the best views of the Grote Kerk.
It's only two blocks down the street from where we live (with its tilted tower).

Then, within minutes after the boat harbor, you come down off the wall to the Merwede River where the water taxis are ready to take students, workers, and visitors from one city to the next.
Sometimes cheaper than owning a car!
There's also a huge grassy area for all kinds of activities and festivals throughout the year.
A great meet-up place. Even a beach for swimming.

See the gigantic "munchkin" on the pole there at the waterpoort?
Yup, it's done by the same artist, Erik Buijs, as along the earlier walk.

Right after you turn left at the waterpoort, and then follow past the restaurant (top-left image of the collage before last), you turn right....

...and cross over the Linge Harbor to the left...the city's inside harbor, as in inside the citadel wall. It's the harbor where Sinterklaas enters the city on 5 December every year from the Merwede River.
No boat can enter until the sluice is opened, so it's totally protected.
It's also fun to stand there and watch the boats come through. In fact, if the sluice is open on the walk,
you can't cross over til it's closed to continue!

After passing the inside harbor, with city center there on the left, you climb stairs up to the wall again and see the Merwede River continuing on the right.
Across the river is where you can see the church and windmill of our sister city, Woudrichem.
And also, in the distance, the Loevestein castle (all with my 300mm lens).

This is also the stretch where I see the most dogs running around.
I actually see them all along the citadel wall. What a great place for exercise!
It was on this walk when I first met Ernie and his beautiful dog, Laika.

And then you see her, De Hoop (The Hope) windmill from 1764.
Magnificent. Majestic. There for the world to see not far inland from the Merwede River.

You actually pass the Dalempoort first, before you pass the windmill, continuing the walk.
See the water tower behind in the top-left image? Everything is really that close.

One of Gorinchem's most famous scuptures sits there at the Dalempoort: the salmon fisher.
It's a reminder that years ago the Merwede was full of salmon. Sadly, no longer.

Often in the area of the Dalempoort and De hoop windmill there will be an art symposium.
Art displays come and go throughout the year. But other pieces around the citadel are permanent, as testament to a rich culture full of surprise and intrigue.

And there you have it!
I head back home into the city center, having seen a little bit of everything.
In the center image above, way back at the end of the road is De Lindeborg's back door.
Home Sweet Home after a nice walk to die for.

When YOU come to visit us, this is one of the first things we'll do: go for a walk! There are plenty of benches all along the loop. No hurry. No rush. We can take as long as you'd like.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Holland Through My Lens

This is the photobook I made in July, 2011, and is a better link for my sidebar:

Once the book opens, please switch to the Full Screen option in the top-right corner in order to view the book properly (the font is skewed in the smaller option).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Home Sweet Home

There and back again!
No, this isn't the family cottage in Michigan. It happens to be one of my favorite houses near where we live here in The Netherlands. Daughter Amy says coming home is always the best part of going away. She's right. But there's more...which is what my post is about today at Vision and Verb.

In the meantime, here's a bit of a visual from the Michigan cottage, a total of 1750 miles driving to and fro. My disclaimer is that I took only my 100mm macro lens with me and had no intention of documenting the family time. Therefore, it shouldn't surprise you, let alone me, that I took no pics of my own kids! (What was I thinking???) But in the end, they wanted to see what I did take.

In the early hours of Friday when the rest of the family had not yet arrived,
the few of us there found ways to use our time.

That's the fun of vacation time. You get to play, few or many!

And then everyone arrives and more fun happens.

Our family cottage is on Horseshoe Lake, big enough for speedboats
but small enough and more cozy for pontoon and fishing boats.

All our fishing, however, is off the dock.
You should have seen the bass that got away! Don't you love how the kids are part of it.

Inside the cottage has its own joys and thrills, of course.
Like Asher watching Aunt Susan (my sister) making her deviled eggs...a family tradition.

Or Eli helping Dad out with breakfast.

Of course, there's lots of sitting-around time, watching and listening...

...Dad time around the laptop...

...and G'ma time with Wilma, the Mother of all Grandmas!
They were all on or next to her much of the time.

Uncle Jeff joined the family on May 14 when he married Katy,
the daughter of my sister's daughter...yup, 3 generations. Is that possible?

Let's just say he's a big hit....and a match for Aden.

There's always at least one children's movie.
Don't you love how the boys and girls (the cousins) 'segregate' themselves!

Saving the best for 5 sibs of 7 who were there: Nelson, Susan, Nancy, Jim and Ruth. In chronological age, I follow Susan. Bennett, who follows Nancy, walks around the Universe somewhere. John, who follows Jim, was not present. (Lest you be confused, I have two pictures of each except for Susan.) The spread from top to bottom is 14 years. Nelson is the one who turns 70 in January...after which the rest of us follow suit. Sigh.

I told you I took my macro lens, right?
Next time I'll also take my tripod. It's much trickier than I thought!

So, we drove back to Atlanta, my kids and I, after a delightful 3 days reunioning with the family. During my stint of night driving, an adult deer crossed over the interstate so close in front of me I couldn't see its legs. My heart stopped. The kids woke up. A second later, it would have been a sobering story. It's when we once again thanked the Universe for protecting us all along the way.

Once back in Atlanta for a few days, I had a chance to make phone calls to friends as well as to meet up with Bob and his partner Marc for lunch.

Bob reminded me we have known each other for 19 years!
He even joined me on my MARTA ride to the airport and bid me adieu.
And do you recognize grandson Nicholas?? He turns 11 tomorrow and is ready to start 6th grade.
When did that happen???

You can imagine the joy we felt, Astrid and I both, when we rendezvoused at the Amsterdam airport Friday morning. Talk about Home Sweet Home. For supper that evening, Astrid made her macaroni specialty dish and a small appeltaart, to celebrate.

Coming home really IS the best part of going away. Home Sweet Home. (And another reminder of my Vision and Verb post today.)

One last thing: Remember the Shutterfly book I was working on before I left for Atlanta? It arrived while I was there. Here it is (click on Full Screen to see it better):