Monday, October 25, 2010

Memories ~ Plano Balloon Festival

Yes, it has been a while.  Actually over a month since the Festival...however; so many people were uploading their photos, I was on Balloon Fest overload!  So I waited a bit and then went back and looked at the pictures I took.  Here are 10 of my favorites!

1.  Balloon Glow Friday night  ~  our pilot's balloon.

2. Here we have our pilot heating the air inside the balloon.

3.  Just a shot of what it looks like when you are looking into the balloon as it is being inflated.

4. A couple of balloons take off.

5. A trio in the sky at sunrise.

6. My view from the balloon I was in at sunrise Saturday morning.

7. Just as we went over the trees, we dropped down to chat with some of the people in the park.

8. Taking off Saturday evening.

9. And more are aloft!

10. Our final shot ~ Sunday morning take-off.

We had such a great time crewing and flying.  It is really quite the experience and makes for some wonderful memories to look back on!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cossatot River State Park in Arkansas

This past weekend Rick and I traveled to Cossatot River State Park in Arkansas to see if we could get some good pictures of the changing foliage.  Rick had done some research and this was a recommended site to see the colors of the leaves changing.  We got to the park at about 8:00 am Saturday morning and talked to a really nice park ranger there.  She told us the park was really known for the Cossatot Falls, but that they weren't real active right now because the river was only about 11 inches deep.  She got out a park map and showed us where some of the campsites were and where some of the trails were. She also explained where the trails were "moderate hiking" and where they were "difficult hiking".  We drove on down to the campsites to see if we could get one and were very fortunate that a group was packing up.  We talked with them and they said we could leave our stuff, so we reserved the site, dropped off our tent, changed shoes, got out the camera equipment and started off!  I was so excited ~ even though the leaves weren't what we expected  ...  they were mostly brown, and not changing at all ... I was really hoping we could get some good pictures by walking the river trail.

We started our hike at the closest trail to our newfound campsite.  It starts at this bridge.  I wanted to get a shot FROM the bridge, but people kept walking by and I had to keep taking everything down, so I moved to the dry stream-bed and got this shot instead.

We started on down the trail and quickly took one of the cut-offs to the river.  We could hear the rushing water and wanted to see if we could get some shots of the falls.  One of the things I have been dying to try since our last photo competition (Blur ~ capturing movement) was to try to get a picture of moving water where it looked like it was moving - not take a picture where it stopped the flow.  This was my first attempt ... the water looks OK, but I didn't really like the big rock blocking most of it!

So I tried a little different angle and another try at getting the water to look like it is moving  ... I was so happy when I saw the results!

After these shots we went back to the River Trail.  It was only about 1 foot wide and started to get pretty steep.  It seemed also to be taking us further and further from the river.  After a pretty steady hike we decided to head back and try one of the other trails the park ranger had told us about.  We were really hoping they would be trails that were closer to the bank of the river itself.

We found the trail close to a low river crossing bridge.  Because of our experience earlier we decided to hike a little of the trail first without carrying all the equipment.  We were glad we did.  Once again the trail was very narrow and followed a ridge high above the river.  You could look down occasionally and see the river through the trees, but that wasn't really what we wanted.  We turned around and headed back to the trailhead.  We pulled out out our jerky, trail-mix and water and tried to decide what we wanted to do.  We finally decided we were there to take pictures, and we were going to try to get SOMETHING while we were there, so we might as well try to walk the riverbed.

You didn't think I could go anywhere to take fall pictures and not take some of the leaves did you?  These leaves were close to the bridge where we stopped. I wish there had been more leaves showing this kind of color!

This was such a contrast of the bright red on the black it really caught my eye.

These are some of the striations on the rock formations along the river.  I loved the blend of colors and the way they seemed to "move".

We finally decided to see if we could walk along the bank of the river itself.  At times it wasn't too bad ~ after all it was pretty low, but there were places where you had to go up on the bank and force your way through thick brush and then make your way back down to the river bank again.  This is from the river bank as we came out of the brush ... I thought this made it worth some of the hard work we were doing!

I really wanted to get a shot of the falls further down the river from the front, not the side, so I walked on the large rocks in the river until I got to almost the middle of the river where I sat down and took these next couple of shots.

Still from the rocks in the middle of the river, a view of two small "waterfalls" making their way to the calmer river.

Continuing farther along the river bank we passed these "rapids"

As we headed off to look for the ravine back up to the trail I stopped to get this final shot of the river through some of the colorful leaves.

After the frustrations of trying to get some good pictures, when we got back to the campsite we talked it over and decided to head on home and make a detour on the way to check out Cooper's Lake State Park.  We are always looking for places close to home for a photo shoot getaway!  We went ahead and pulled up stakes and headed back home to Texas.  We stopped for dinner in Broken Bow, OK and the skies opened up!  While we were eating dinner we kept seeing all the bad weather coming our way.  We headed out hoping the worst had already passed by but didn't get too far before it got even worse and we decided to stop for the night rather than try to get all the way to the state park and put up a tent in THAT kind of weather!  We found a nice Quality Inn and hunkered down to wait out the storms.  

After a hot breakfast in the morning we loaded up the car and headed toward Cooper's Lake. When we got to the Visitor Center we talked to the girl working the desk.  She told us that they were sure glad they had gotten the 2.5 inches of rain the night before...we thought we were just going to be out of luck walking any of the trails but went ahead and drove around the park to take a look anyway, just to see what it was like.

After driving through and taking a quick break we decided we would give hiking a try, despite the 2.5 inches of rain they had received the night before.  It sure felt good to get out of the car and stretch our legs!  The trail really wasn't too muddy at all.  As we came through the trees and into a clearing we saw a field of flowers and butterflies.  What an amazing opportunity to try and get some colorful shots!  I am still working on "things that move away quickly" LOL.

I think this is my best photo of the weekend!  I can't believe he posed for me long enough for me to get both shots!  This will be my entry in the projected images category for our next "OPEN" Camera Club contest.

I can't wait until we get to go out and shoot again.  I am continuing to learn so much and I'm having so much fun doing it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My New Camera

After we went to Brazos Bend Rick and I both realized how very much I enjoyed taking pictures on the hikes. I must admit, I've been fighting this for quite some time now, he kept telling me he thought I'd like it, but when you are married to a fantastic photographer...well I always thought I'd just enjoy his shots ~ they would help me remember the trip, right? Well, much as I hate to admit it ~ he was right! I had a BLAST taking the pictures with the old camera. Once we got back we decided it was time for an upgrade. That one was rather difficult to use, and VERY finicky.

I am proud to say that I am now the very proud owner of a Canon EOS Rebel T1i and TWO lenses. My very first brand new camera with interchangeable lenses! I have so much to learn.

I went for two walks the very first day after I got the camera...once by myself, and then again later that evening with Rick. He helped me start to "see" pictures in the world around me. The next day I went to Sister Grove Park to hike the trail and see if I could begin to apply some of what he had shown me.

I worked on some of the pictures, and then when he got home he worked with me to show me how to make the shots even better. It was so much fun learning more about his passion and beginning to make it my own as well.

So here we have my first attempt at trying to move from the great vistas I once observed while hiking, to noticing the details around me...

Sweet smelling blossoms and mushroom tabletops...

Greens and browns ~ reds and blues...

Pretty patterns, shapes ~ and a FUNNY FACE...

Textures and contrast...

Red leaves and purple thistle...

Spider webs and silhouettes...

Sunflowers and clinging vines...

God's majesty shows in every detail of his grateful I am that I have the opportunity to see so much of it!

Today I think I'll simply take some time to learn more about all the settings on my camera and perhaps study light and much to learn, so little time!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brazos Bend ~ The Final Installment

We went back to 40 Acre lake late in the evening. Since it was such a great place for our sunrise pictures we were hoping if we moved to the other side of the lake we could get some good sunset pictures as well.

The wildlife was actually fairly active, even though it was still quite warm and humid. I felt pretty lucky to spot another Purple Gallinule along the path. Bill had told us this morning that this particular bird is fairly common in the park only in the summer months. I sure wanted to get a good picture of his coloration! He kept trying to foil my efforts by staying mostly in the grasses along the path and hiding from me!

I was hoping the Gallinule would come out of the grass and get a little closer so I could get a better shot. As I was following him with my camera I spotted this brown bird sitting on the branch of a tree.

Since I wasn't having any luck getting a closer shot of the Purple Gallinule I thought I'd try for a better shot of the brown bird on the branch. Turns out that brown bird is a Black Bellied Whistling Duck.

After getting the shot of the duck I turned back to see if I could get a better picture of the Purple Gallinule. I was definitely rewarded for waiting around!

To be perfectly honest, I don't remember this at all, but I like the shot so I'm putting it in here. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Once again we were fortunate to see an alligator along the side of the road sunning himself.

As I stood waiting for the sunning gator to make a move of some kind I heard a major commotion behind me. Another alligator had found a nice snack. They glide near the shorline and wait patiently for the crawfish to come out of their holes, then they snap them up. The "snapping" is quite loud and can be disconcerting if it is behind your back! I turned and snapped this picture of him chowing down on his crawfish catch!

Still laughing about the adrenaline rush of having an Alligator snap up a crawfish right behind us we went back to the spillway and around the trail. I noticed a small movement along the side of the trail and we were greeted with a sight I'D never seen before. A mother Box Turtle laying her eggs! It was amazing to watch. I wondered if this was the same turtle we had seen early that morning.

We left the turtle behind and continued up the trail towards the forested area. I noticed this Anhinga drying his wings.

As I turned back to the path I noticed a bird standing along the shoreline and thought I would sneak up on him very quietly and get a shot. No such luck. I would start getting close and he would walk a little ways down the path and stop. I would sneak up and get close and he would walk a ways down the path and stop. We continued this until I heard laughing behind me and turned around to see Rick taking pictures of me stalking this bird ~ I have to admit, it WAS pretty funny! This is the shot I ended up with.

As we turned around to head back the way we had come we came to a break the trees surrounding the marsh. This Blue Heron seemed to pose for a long time. I think he likes having his picture taken!

We walked back to the Observation Tower and climbed the stairs to wait for the sunset. I'd say it was worth the wait...wouldn't you?

Even though we did get up early on Sunday, there wasn't enough light for my camera to get any more sunrise shots...the humidity/fog was down, and the animals weren't very active. We walked a little and Rick got some great shots but we were all ready to pack up, go get some good breakfast food, and get back on the long road home knowing we would have to return in another season!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brazos Bend ~ Saturday Morning

We got up early on Saturday so that Rick could get some pictures of the sun rising over 40 Acre Lake. We were at the parking lot by 5:30 AM. Rick has a program that tells him what time sunrise is, so we were there in plenty of time. We headed out to the pier to watch the sun come up over the lake. Once again we were about 5 steps from the gate when we were surprised with the HUGE splash! We quickly spotted our friend the "Guardian of the Gate" floating along the shoreline. Number one in our "Gator Count" for the morning! We laughed at ourselves again and quickly stepped through the gate and onto the pier. We moved to the end of the pier and watched the sun begin to come up. When another photographer joined us on the pier Brenda and I left and went to sit on some picnic tables along the lake shore. I was fooling around and took this shot...didn't really think it would come out with the camera I used, boy was I in for a surprise!!!!

Brenda and I decided we wanted to go "Alligator Hunting", so we headed off to the trail around the lake. As we passed the Prarie we were amazed to see THOUSANDS of spider webs glistening in the early morning sun. I didn't think they would show up in a photograph (still learning!) so I didn't shoot any pictures. After getting home and seeing the sunrise picture I didn't think would work, I really wish I had tried for that shot too! We slowed down and just gazed out at the beauty before us, then headed slowly through the woods and onto the trail where we were immediatly greeted by our second alligator of the morning. Time to start adding to the "Gator Count"!

We got to the 40 Acre trail itself and were greeted with these helpful Moorhens. They started the parade down the trail!

On the side of the trail opposite the lake you can see the marshes. You have to check out both sides to see the alligators and add them to your "Gator Count". As we were passing this section I saw this Little Blue Heron posing on the branches of a dead tree. Actually, I think he was checking out his soon to be breakfast, but it sure FELT like he was posing for me!

We continued our walk looking at both sides of the trail for alligators and we spotted this box turtle checking us out.

We were totally amazed at how the birds seemed to lead you along the path. We got quite a kick out of following these two Great Blue Herons as they lead us around the lake.

We finally reached the end of the lake part of the loop and were now ready to head back into the wooded section of the loop. Final total for our morning loop "Gator Count". TWENTY-FOUR!

After joining Rick at the picnic tables we headed toward the parking lot to go check out a new trail. While there we were fortunate to meet Bill, one of the many State Park volunteers. He told us the names of some of the birds we had seen, and gave us a lot of useful information about the park itself. He recommended that we go to the Nature Center and we could actually pet an alligator. That was too cool to resist so we headed that way! We had to wait for the center to open so Rick used the time to take some pictures of the trees shrouded in Spanish Moss and Brenda and I headed back to the campsite to pick up some items he needed. While we were at the tent we applied healthy layers of Deep Woods Off to our exposed skin and clothing and put the can in the car to give to Rick when we got back.
At the Nature center we DID get to pet a baby alligator. They aren't at all what you would think. The scales are soft and pliable and actually felt pretty smooth to the touch. The baby we were allowed to pet was a year old and was about to be released back out into the park.

We also got to walk through the different learning stations they have set up in the center. It was really cool to see how they laid out the different environments and talked about all the different cycles of nature. You could really tell that this was set up for school tours and included all the TEKS for Life Science!

Bill had also suggested since it was getting hot we might enjoy walking the Red Buckeye Trail. This trail is part of a network of trails in the forest section of the park. We knew we weren't going to see alligators, but Bill told us there were many species of butterflies along that trail at this time of the year. We drove down to the trailhead and hiked for a while on the WhiteOak trail to get there. It was hot, muggy, and not very scenic...but we trudged along. We finally got to the Red Buckeye cutoff and started down the trail. It was quite muddy after the recent rains in the area. Rick stepped over a puddle in the middle of the trail and told us quietly to stop. We looked up at him and he looked like he was in an "OFF" commercial. He was COVERED in mosquitos! I mean they were so thick in places you couldn't even see skin! Oooops, guess we forgot to tell him about the can of Off that was sitting in the car for him to spray on! We got off that trail VERY quickly! It was a mutual decision that the butterflies weren't worth a zillion mosquito bites!

We decided that we would hike Elm Lake instead, so we drove down there to see if we might be able to see some different wildlife. It is very much like the 40 Acre Lake trail, just a little longer. We left the parking lot and hit the trail.

From the path I noticed this group of Moorhens in the grass. As I was shooting two of them started squaking loudly and one flew into the air....looks like they are yelling at each other!

Loved the look of these two birds on the branch of a tree against the beautiful blue sky!

Even though this lake isn't as well know for the Alligators as 40 Acre Lake, they ARE here!

As we were walking along the path enjoying the wildlife we spotted a movement in the grasses close by. We were lucky enough to get to see a Momma Moorhen and her little chicks at the water's edge feeding.

I couldn't tell if this was a Great Egret or a White Ibis, but wanted to try my luck at getting a bird in flight shot.

We were on the final stretch around the lake when I spotted this Anhinga wading in the shallows. This bird generally swims underwater to find food, and spends part of the day on branches in the lake drying his wings. I thought I was pretty lucky to get a shot like this!

Everyone was getting tired and hungry, so we decided to head to the car and let Al lead the way. We plugged Needville into the GPS (aka Al) and followed the directions. Needville is a very small town and as we drove through we only saw a couple of places to eat. One, The Jay Cafe, had several cars in the parking lot so after making a quick stop to pick up some Calagel for the insect bites we headed there for lunch. We are so glad we did. We had some of the best "homecooked" food we've ever eaten! The lunch special was Fried Catfish, French Fries, and Coleslaw. Then we each got a piece of pie for dessert. One word sums it up...MAAAAARVELOUS!

About Me

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This is about my life. My life as a wife. My life as a mother. My life as a Memaw. My life as a teacher. My life as a runner. My life such as it is.