Data Diet

I love my mobile lifestyle.  To be honest, the lifestyle can be quite addictive. What started off as we’ll do this for a year or two until we find that special place to settle down has turned into four years and soon approaching year five of full-time RV living.  Egads, where does the time go?Desert Wildflowers

My one big dislike, a bone of contention, to this RV lifestyle centers around the internet.  The internet?  However, did we manage to survive before this remarkable invention?  I still remember a time when the TV flipper was the youngest kid in the family.  The invention of a TV remote control was a life changer for my little sister.

butterflyBack to the internet … when we first hit the road in the RV full-time, we started off with a Verizon mobile WiFi hotspot / jetpack with 5 GB of data that worked fine for a few months.

However like any RV newbie, we were so busy running around exploring those first few months that we didn’t spend much time on the internet. But once reality set in, we needed to get back to business which meant back to needing steady and strong internet connection.

Thus, we signed up for 30 GB of data, first through a Verizon reseller, and then later directly with Verizon.  All was fine until about a year ago.  We never stream. We don’t watch videos.  I don’t use the GPS on my iPhone and yet we seem to gobble up data twice as fast as we did previously.

egret

Date usuage? Gag!

We’ve run in to other location independent folks who seem to be experiencing similar data problems.  Some have switched providers or changed their plans.  I still haven’t desert poppiesfigured out why the increase in usage since we haven’t changed our habits.  If anything, we spend less time on the internet.  It’s been extremely frustrating.  I’m not sure what the fix might be, but in the meantime, I’ll need to curtail my internet fun leaving the gigs for our internet biz.

So yes my dear friends, I’m on a data diet and it does not make me a happy camper 😭

Our two months in Texas really spoiled us.  The RV park offered strong free WiFi right at our campsite. And boy oh boy, did we take full advantage of endless internet.  The you tube videos were rolling regularly … the educational kind, not the funny cat trick kind ……. well ….. maybe the cute puppy dog kind, but mostly educational.

So much fun!  But now that I’m back to using our jetpack with limited data (sigh, sad face, tear), I’ll need to plan visits to the library or coffee shop more strategically, which is just not as enjoyable as sitting at home with feet propped in my jammies and socializing with all my blogging pals.wildflowers

Oh well.  Such is the life of a full-time RV’er.  Life could be a whole heck of a lot worse. Seriously! Check out these photos of the amazing desert wildflowers.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley covered in so many beautiful wildflowers.  It’s crazy pretty around here lately.butterfly

I’ve tried to get out with the camera to capture her beauty, but between RV repairs, health matters, visiting with our children and navigating data issues since our return to Phoenix, Arizona, it has been a bit of a challenge.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with the valley heat soaring those flowers won’t be sticking around too much longer.  Thus, over the next couple of weeks this gal will be hitting the trails with the camera at every opportunity.  Stay tuned!wildflowers

Superstition Wilderness Trails West: Hikes, Horse Rides, and History
Hiking Arizona’s Superstition and Mazatzal Country: A Guide to the Areas’ Greatest Hikes (Regional Hiking Series)

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Shhh! It’s a Secret

I was deep in thought as I glanced out the truck window watching the never-ending west Texas landscape pass by.  It’s times like these that my mind wanders and I do my best thinking.  Yes siree, Texas is one big state and a state that has a lot to offer; diverse landscape, fun cities, quaint towns, a Gulf Coast, tasty food, and a variety of weather.  I’d say, a little something to please anyone’s interests.

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River

Along with a few new discoveries made this winter, I found myself revisiting a bunch of my favorite spots.  For me, it’s all about nature and looking at life through the lens of my ospreycamera.  With that said, what I love about Texas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine by me.  How boring and crowded it would be if we all liked the same things.

I put a map together to share with you, my wonderful blog followers,  a few of my special haunts along the Texas coast, but shhh, let’s keep these sites between us.  It’ll be our secret  😃  After all, we wouldn’t want the world discovering this unassuming area or encroach on my birds.  Then it just wouldn’t be the same.

pelican

Listen up!

Alright, I’ll admit most of the sites noted on the map aren’t exactly secret, especially during the peak tourist months in summer or those popular holiday breaks, but even then, not everyone knows where to find these magnificent birds.  But I do!whooping crane

Now don’t go getting mad at me if there aren’t any birds at the noted sites.  My feathered friends do have wings and a mind of their own.  And they’re really bad about birdschecking in with me – almost as bad as my children!

Obviously, there’s a bunch of things I left off the map.  I really could’ve added another dozen markers, but decided to focus on the sites I personally have a tendency to frequent the most.  I’m never at a loss of things to do around here and make new discoveries all the time.

With a little time and exploration along the Texas Gulf Coast, I have no doubt that you too will discover your own favorite spots – spots I might even be unaware of – in which case, you’ll be obligated to share!

After spending two months enjoying the Texas Gulf Coast, it was time for us to hit the road and return to the desert southwest.  Crossing west Texas can seem never-ending, Texas Longhornbut with a little foresight and armed with helpful information about hidden gems, the drive can be bearable and maybe even enjoyable.

Before we can get to west Texas, we’ll need to get to Interstate 10.  The last several times we’ve driven through this part of Texas, affectionately called the hill country, we’ve always included a stop in San Antonio.  Wanting to change things up a bit and avoid the big city, we came up with an alternate route.

Besides, driving through San Antonio with an RV is an adventure unto itself, and not always a pleasant one especially when the GPS and wife are at odds.  Poor Al 😫

Texas Hill Country

Spring in the Texas Hill Country – adorable!

Thanks to a recommendation from a wonderful blog follower/friend, we discovered the quaint little town of Bandera, Texas, which is located northwest of San Antonio and south of the town of Kerrville and Interstate 10.

sleeping duckTalk about a great place to overnight and avoid traveling through San Antonio.

Next year, I think we’ll stay here longer and explore the town of Bandera. One night was definitely not enough.  Our RV park neighbor mentioned a tasty place for breakfast located within walking distance from the RV park that piqued Al’s interest.

I remained smitten with all the birds along the river and if the weather prediction for west Texas had been better, we absolutely would’ve hung around another day or two.  But with impending wind and rain in the forecast, we felt it best to keep on rolling west.  Yep, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for that Texas weather, especially high winds that can cause brown out conditions or spur up tornadoes.

Eygyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose checking on her eggs

So where did we stay for our overnight in Bandera, Texas?  On the trip down to Rockport, we stayed at the Skyline Ranch RV Park, and on our return to Arizona we stayed in town at the Pioneer River Resort.  Both places are located along the Medina River, but Pioneer is located right in town while Skyline is a few miles out of town.  You can count on being packed in pretty tight at either RV park.

Bandera Texas RV Park

Pioneer River Resort, Bandera, Texas

Bandera Texas

Bandera Community Park along the Medina River. Pioneer River RV Park can be seen in the far distance on left. Sits on the other side of the highway. Easy walk for me to spend time with these guys.

Bandera RV Park

Skyline Ranch RV Park – photo taken as I was walking back from the river.

Skyline RV Park

At Skyline Ranch RV Park it’s all about the deer. The Axis deer are so cute with their spots.

We really enjoyed both RV Parks and it would be a toss up as to which one I’d recommend.  Guess it boils down to whether one prefers staying in town or hanging in the country.

gazebo

This gazebo reminded me of the ‘Gilmore Girls’

On that note, I think I’ll let the photographs do the rest of the talking and show you what makes Texas special to me ….

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River – community park.  White momma duck sitting on her nest.

axis deer

Axis deer – Bandera, Texas

Egyptian goose

Medina River

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicks

Spring is in the air!

duck

duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

heron

great blue heron roosting site

pelican

Now that’s a mouth full!

roseate spoonbill

roseate spoonbill

Charlies Pasture

Interesting trails!

cormorants

Life along the coast!

killdeerbird

 

 

 

 

 

sunrise

 

birding center

 

 

 

 

 

Always something interesting to see!

egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

egrethawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogging

roseate spoonbills

Until we meet again, my pink beauties!

Adios Texas, until next time…. and yes there absolutely will be a next time!

VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor

the Next EXIT 2017

 

Things to do in Rockport

After a fantastic two month stay along the Texas Gulf Coast, we’ve hitched up and started our journey back to the desert.  I love having the freedom to split our time between two such diverse places; the Texas Gulf Coast and the Arizona desert. I’m grateful I don’t have to pick one or the other because each place offers something special and unique.

St. Charles Bay

Sunrise over St. Charles Bay, Texas

First, let’s talk about the water.  Gosh, what’s not to like about water, beaches, and sunsets, or in my case, sunrises!  All this water is the main attraction and the reason folks year round flock to the Rockport area.

Copano Bay

Rockport is popular with anglers

Rockport BeachYou won’t find much of a beach scene around Rockport/Fulton, but it is an anglers delight.  For miles of sandy beach, you’ll want to visit Mustang Island.  With that said, there is a small stretch of sandy beach to enjoy at the  Rockport Beach.

The Rockport Beach is a one mile long strip of land with sandy beach on one side of the road and a migratory bird area on the other side.  This is a fee use area and you’ll need to leave pooch at home.

There’s a small area roped off so nesting birds won’t be disturbed, making this a worthwhile stop for birders and photographers.  It’s also the perfect place to get in a little kayaking and paddle around an island to view nesting migratory birds.great blue heron

Although summer is considered peak tourist season, you’ll find plenty of snowbirds in the winter hanging around and calling themselves winter Texans…. us included.

friendship

Having friends over to our place.

Because this is such a popular place to escape the harsher weather to the north, you never know who you’ll run into around here.  Our friends, Faye and Dave, were wintering on Mustang Island, an easy one-hour drive away from our camp and we enjoyed a few get togethers with this entertaining couple.  We also managed to squeeze in a few other social engagements.

friendship

And then a get together at their place on Mustang Island.  Faye and Dave on the left.  Al and me on the right

This was our fourth year spending January in this part of Texas and our first time spending February.  Thus, I’ve had time to put a dent in this list –  51 things to do near Rockport.

Fulton, TexasRockport/Fulton are quaint, small town communities where everyone waves.  You won’t find any high-rise condos around here, although it is a very popular spot for folks from the big cities of San Antonio, Austin, and Houston to own second homes.  There’s also no shortage of RV Parks.

roseateThe original draw for us four years ago to visit the Texas Gulf Coast was for Al to meet up with his buddy and do manly things with manly men 😉  Little did I realize during that first visit, how I’d come to embrace and relish our visits to the Texas Gulf Coast.

And now it’s a toss-up as to which one of us looks more forward to these visits.  Thankfully it doesn’t matter considering we’re in full agreement that we’ll continue returning until it no longer fits.

Fishing and hunting is extremely popular round these parts.  We usually roll into town sometime during the last week in December which happens to be duck season.

duck hunting

Duck hunters know how to treat their dogs. Dog gets its own seat, wears a life vest and ear protection.
One hunter says to the other, can I borrow …. truck yes, wife maybe, dog never!

The airboats can be heard going out every morning starting around 5:30 a.m.  Once the Christmas/New Year holiday week is over, the morning noise lightens up during the oyster boatweekday but continues in a steady stream on weekends.  By the end of January, duck season is over and the only airboats going out are anglers and they tend to go out at a much more reasonable hour.

The St. Charles Bay can be rather shallow which is why airboats are so popular.  But during certain tides, the sight of oyster boats are common.  Oyster fishing is huge business around here and the first weekend in March is the Oyster Festival.

A lot of anglers fish from shore or don chest waders and fish while standing in the water.  There are public duck blinds for anyone to use on a first come basis for duck hunting during the season.

duck hunting

These two hunters are wading out to a public blind.  St. Charles Bay, Lamar, Texas.  Oyster boats in the distance.

whooping cranes

There’s a public duck blind in the water above the left crane and arrow sign

Texans love their outdoor recreation.  Allow me to share my winter Texas neighborhood along with the diverse activities taking place within relative close proximity to one another.  AND everyone gets along, respecting recreational choice.

I alternate between walking and riding my bike around the neighborhood.  Envision me having a Julia Roberts moment – a scene from the movie Eat, Pray, Love.  There I am Light at the end of the tunnelriding my three speed bicycle with a cute basket on the front (gotta have the basket, you know), camera slung across my body. As I pedal slowly, I glide down the tree-lined road.

My long flowing hair blows gently in the breeze (in reality the uncontrollable curly frizz is tightly bound and tucked under a cap in a battle against the extreme humidity and gusting winds 😖).  I take in the sights and wave to passerby’s.  As I exit the trees, I’m greeted by the expanse of the bay in the distance.  Further down 8th Street, I see several cars parked along the road.  The endangered whooping cranes can be seen in the field along with my favorite Brahma calf and a slew of other birds can be seen mingling near a pond.Texas Gulf CoastOf course, I too stop and start taking photographs (duh! like I’d pass up a chance to work that shutter).  Folks from around the country and the world visit this part of Texas for the birding.  Seeing a family of endangered whooping cranes is a rare and special treat.

Kayaking anyone? He launches at the end of 12th St. and Lamar Beach Road

Truck guy launches kayak at the end of 12th St. and Lamar Beach Road while whooping crane family looks on.  These birds are used to the flurry of activity, but they still stay far away – 600mm zoom and crop

A little later and you can see the green kayak in the water

A little later, you can see the green kayak in the water

There’s several of us lined up along the fence taking photographs of the whooping cranes.  Locals and visitors a like engage in idle chit-chat.  The loud boom, boom, bang, bang in the distance has a visitor questioning what the noise was. I, considered a winter local, along with another local dweller, exclaim nonchalantly, “Oh, those are the duck hunters in that blind out in the bay”.  With that said, we were back to our photo taking and chit-chatting about the birds.Rockport Texas

After snapping the camera’s shutter one too many times, I continue my bike ride along Lamar Beach Road.  I ride by several fishermen enjoying the day.  A kayaker in the bay was off paddling while the duck hunters were gathering up their decoys.  I roll by pedestrians and other bikers and regardless of who I pass, hellos and waves are exchanged as if we know one another.

Pelican

Pelicans act like begging dogs at the fish cleaning station at Goose Island State Park.

A short time later, I’m pedaling around Goose Island State Park.  Although the shore birding around the park can be hit or miss, I can always count on pelicans to entertain me, especially if there’s someone cleaning fish at the cleaning station.

Pelican eating fish

Who needs a human when I can catch my own! ISO 100 F4.0 1/1000  (600mm)

Boat & RV left side-This is our 82 yr old neighbor who is an avid fisherman. He launches, docks, does everything himself and never gets his feet wet! Winters here and spends summers in Montana

Boat & RV left side-This is our 82 yr old neighbor who is an avid fisherman. He launches, docks, does everything himself and never gets his feet wet! He winters here and spends summers in Montana.

Let’s see, so far I’ve biked around the neighborhood.  I’ve taken hundreds, actually more like thousands, of bird photographs.  I’ve also enjoyed photographing interesting sights and amazing landscapes.

foggy morning

a foggy morning along the coast had me out of the RV by 7:00 a.m.

spider web

a foggy morning provided mystery and interest

marina

marinas offer tons of photographic material – lots of interesting things to see

I can’t forget to mention, a visit to a marina shouldn’t be missed.  There’s so much great blue heroncharacter and intrigue to see.  Or how about doing a little shopping at Rockport’s historic downtown or touring an art gallery or two. This gal always manages to work in a few days of frivolous shopping.

On a rainy day, I get a kick out of visiting gift shops and checking out the crazy souvenirs. Who thinks up these things, and who buys it? 😉  Oops – guilty!

Here’s a write-up I did last year sharing a few more sites like the Fulton Mansion.seashells

Hmm, I might write up one more post about the Texas Gulf Coast and then we need to move on.  Ah yes, I already miss her…. miss the water and the birds and look forward to returning at the end of the year.  But the desert is calling.  The desert in bloom can’t be missed!Texas Gulf Coast

Browning Neoprene Dog Waterfowl Hunting Vest, RTM4,M 1303002202 Medium

 

Sougayilang Boot-Foot Chest Waders Waterproof Fishing Hunting Boot Waders (12.5)

 

 

Birding Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend: More Than 75 Prime Birding Sites (Birding Series)

Embracing Photography Failure

When I started this blog five years ago, I was sharing photographs that were shot with a $79 Kodak digital point and shoot camera.  I didn’t know anything about photo editing or even that the photographs needed to be edited.  What came out of the camera got shared on the blog … as is.great blue heron

Like any newbie blogger, I was excited to get that first follow, that first like, and of course, that first comment.  As the months passed, I eagerly continued writing posts filled with photographs.  The comments and followers increased and I developed friendships, friendships that continue to this day.

sandOne day, I received a message.  An email message from a fellow blogger?  Oh, how exciting, I thought!

That excitement was short-lived as I read … “If you’re going to post pictures on your blog, the least you could do is a little photo editing.  There’s no excuse for sharing a photograph with a crooked horizon especially since there’s free editing software like Picasa that’ll fix it in a second. 

Oh and quit posting the photos so little.  If you’re going to share photos, then share photos so we can see them.  Don’t expect readers to click to enlarge because they won’t.  Nobody has time for that.  Aside from the poor pictures, nice blog“.

whooping cranesAll righty then …. I was heartbroken, mortified, and embarrassed.  How is it I was capable of building award-winning custom homes from conception to completion, and yet I knew nothing about photo editing?

Quite frankly, my computer/technology skills were basic at best, which drove my business accountant crazy 🤓

Old school film seemed simple;  snap a bunch of pictures until the roll of film was full then take it to the drugstore to get it developed. Botta bing, botta boom!

poor photograph

FAIL – nice color, relatively sharp, but I didn’t keep panning and thus cut off his head

That message gnawed at me.  Editing?  Hmm!  Google and I became well acquainted.  Picasa was downloaded.  I started following blogs that focused on photography, along with all the RVing blogs I already followed.  As our RV travels increased, so did the photo taking AND sharing.  A slow and steady photographic evolution morphed.

Great Blue Heron

Better – Great Blue Heron     ISO 100     F4     1/800       56.9mm  (35mm equivalent 312mm)

I’ve been humbled by many of your complimentary comments lately about my photography.  Through A LOT of trial and error, I do feel it has improved as have my editing skills, but the compliments and questions still surprise me.  I consider myself a novice, a beginner, a work in progress when it comes to photography.

With that said, I thought I’d share a little behind the scenes, or shall I say, behind the lens with you all, and show you a few of my photo fails and successes…. a post about what works for me, using simple and inexpensive camera gear.

ducks in-flight

Camera set on ‘shutter priority’.  ISO 200  F4.5   1/1600   54.5mm (35mm equivalent= 305mm)

I’m still a comedy of errors behind the lens, and fully embrace my tried and true method of ‘point and pray’ style of photography.  So this isn’t a detailed ‘how to’ post.  And if you consider yourself an accomplished photographer, I always welcome critique cormorantand recommendations.  I’m actually grateful for that critical email message …. well, maybe 😉

I’ve gone through the camera envy stage, and still do.  When I see amazing images on a blog post, I’ll ask the blogger about their camera gear thinking if I use what they’re using my photographs will improve.  Or maybe if I spend more money on camera gear, I’ll capture better images.   We all know this isn’t necessarily true!  We’ve all seen stunning photographs taken with an iPhone and some very poor photos taken with a DSLR.

Therefore, camera choice is personal, and the best camera to have, is the camera that you carry?Pelican

So what camera(s) do I carry?  I predominantly use what’s referred to as a “Bridge” camera.  A bridge camera is more than a Point and Shoot, but not quite a DSLR.  Thus, a bridge between the two.   There’s no lens changing with a bridge camera but there are a lot of customizing options.  I have a whole page dedicated to cameras if you’d like more detailed information.  I realize, whatever camera I use, it’s important to learn how to operate the equipment and know its capabilities and limitations.

shore birds

FAIL – I set camera on ‘program’ mode. Totally wrong setting for moving subject.   ISO 400      F4.0
shutter  1/100   causing a blurry mess         55.7mm (35mm equivalent 310mm)     No cropping

shore birds

Moderate FAIL – ISO 400   F4.0    shutter 1/250    still too slow for moving subject    30.1mm (35mm = 167mm)shore birds different day   ISO 100   F4.5     shutter 1/1000      70.5mm (35mm equivalent 392mm)        No cropping

The built-in zoom on my Panasonic is marketed as a 25-600mm lens which allows me to shoot a wide-angle landscape image one minute and then zoom in on wildlife within roseateseconds.  I love this flexibility, but it does have its drawbacks.  The quality of the photograph will never be on par with a DSLR and the crop factor is limiting.  It’s all about resolution, pixels, and sensor size.

I’ve used this camera for three years and have learned its strengths AND its weaknesses and I know when I zoom in to that 600mm capability, I will lose image quality.  I also know its aperture sweet spot is F4.0 and it’s best not to take the ISO over 400.  There are also times it has trouble focusing,

heron

FAIL – even though the heron is in the center of the photo and  camera was set to a ‘center’ focal point,  camera had trouble focusing on the heron with all the vegetation  😒  It’s the camera, not me!  Panny and I have been at odds lately!    ISO 100    F2.8 (even at F4.0 camera had difficulty focusing)     1/800      107.8mm (592mm)

egret

ISO 100    F5.0    1/1600       108mm (600mm)    Fail on placement of Watermark. Not thrilled with composition!

How close am I to the birds and what lens am I using?  Hmm!  I have no clue on actual distance but I can share lens distance.   Since I’m using a bridge camera, there’s no specific lens to talk about, but I can share an equivalence to a DSLR.  If you note the info on each photo, I’ve shared the mm number.  Since I have a cropped sensor camera, the number in parentheses is the equivalent if using a full frame camera.  If you don’t understand sensor size or why my camera or an iPhone will never capture the image quality of a DSLR, here’s an enlightening article that might clarify.

bird photography

How do I capture birds in motion?  For a Point and Shoot, I set the camera to the “sports” setting.  My little Sony P&S doesn’t offer a sport setting but it does have a “pet” setting that does ok. Then set the camera on “burst” mode.  Multiple shots taken spoonbillat one time is key, but note, point and shoot cameras can be slow to process multiple shots and take a few seconds to recover and be ready to snap again.  I’ll admit, I rarely use the Sony P&S for birds. Too challenging.

For my bridge camera, I prefer to set the camera on “shutter priority”.  I’ve tried using the “sports” setting and “aperture priority”, but wasn’t pleased with the results.  Every camera and user is different.  Because I’ve photographed so many birds with my Panasonic, I have a pretty good handle on how fast my shutter needs to be for specific birds.   For example; cranes and herons in-flight, the shutter can be as low as 1/800 but for ducks, I need at least 1/1600.  And I always have the camera set on “burst” mode, taking at least three shots at a time.whooping crane

Yes, I do delete a lot of photographs, and I’m ok with that.  I also set the camera on continuous focus (AFC) and switch back and forth between a center focus point versus multiple focus points.

cormorant

Cormorant  –  ISO 200    F4     1/800     46.5mm  (35 equivalent 290mm)

If my subject is holding still or I’m shooting landscapes, I’ll alternate between the IA (intelligent auto) and P (program) settings.  I do acknowledge that the camera can often times be smarter than me.  Thus, I never feel badly using the camera in full auto mode.Killdeer

Whenever I’m photographing wildlife, I take a ton of photographs.  Remember, digital photography is free. So why not shoot away!  It’s not uncommon for me to shoot 300 plus photographs in a day, and if the birding is really good, I might shoot as many as 1,000.  Out of those images, I expect to like maybe 25.  By the way, I only shoot that volume of photographs when it comes to wildlife.

sunrise

Camera set on Auto – unprocessed, right out of the camera.  I still can’t hold my camera straight!

sunrise

exact same photo, but OVER processed for fun!

Photo processing – This past January, I finally graduated in the editing department.  I jumped from Picasa to Photoshop Lightroom.  I know some folks think processing/editing is somehow trickery, but processing is necessary for optimal imagery.

It’s no different from film.  The roll of film was processed and pictures were developed from the negatives.  You wouldn’t walk around sharing the negatives.  It’s the same with Lightroom or any other photo editing program.

Some folks like to over process a photograph for dramatic effect.  Most of the time, I try to keep the colors in my photos to as close to what I see, to reality.  However, even Ansel Adams played around with developing/processing.  It’s just another way to let the creative juices flow.

sunrise

image right out of camera – no processing.  I finally activated the “grid lines” on my camera to assist me in achieving a straight horizon.  You’d think by now, I could hold my camera level 😒

bird in-flight

Same image processed; a little cropping & color adjusting. Is the horizon now slanting the other way? Geez!

Lately, I’ve been shooting more purposely.  You know, thinking about composition, accessing settings, and striving for a compelling image.  All I can say to that is the delete black bellied whistling ducksbutton is working in overdrive and the fails far outweigh the wins more than ever before.  Ah, but isn’t that part of the fun and challenge of photography?  Hmm, maybe I’ll return to that ‘point and pray’ method  😄

But the big question is always, “Are we having fun yet?” You bet I am, and my recommendation is whatever camera you’re using, whether you process or not, keep posting.  Don’t let  anyone derail your creativity.

Cheers to sharing pictures – the good, the bad, and all the in-betweens!great blue herons

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ300K 12.1 Megapixel, 1/2.3-inch Sensor, 4K Video, Splash & Dustproof Body, Leica DC Lens 24X F2.8 Zoom (Black)

Love is in the Air

Valentine’s Day … a day for love.  Love is in the air here along the Texas Gulf Coast and it hasn’t eluded me.  I have a new love in my life whom I find totally irresistible and adorable.  Oh, not to worry, I haven’t replaced Al …. yet 😆

First, I’ve been thoroughly entertained by observing the Great Blue Herons in the neighborhood.  They have been hard at work building their nests.

roosting grounds

I love watching this couple build their nest together.

Great Blue Heron

The male retrieves the building materials and together they build their nest

Great Blue Heron

Then the female works on fine tuning the nest – making it just right

And while it seems the Great Blue Herons have already partnered up, some of the other shore birds are still in the courting stage.

roseate spoonbill

There was a lot of vying for attention going on in this group

Grebe

This cute Grebe couple appeared to be discussing lunch options

cormorant

cormorants sitting in silence – awkward 😆

coot

Coot, they are a hoot

shovel ducks

shovel ducks – out for an afternoon paddle together

skimmers

skimmers taking a break – they’ve decided to see other birds

roseate spoonbill

roseate spoonbills having fun on the pier – first date, going well

spoonbill

singles club

AND now for the latest love in my life ……

brahma bull

kiss me now!

I am in love with this little brahma calf.  Isn’t he the cutest?  So adorable and irresistible. Think Al will notice the elephant brahma in the room.

brahma bull

let’s play!

brahma

We love our daily visits.  While his cousins play with each other (in the background), Bammi and I visit.

brahma

Can I come home with you?

This is one time, Al is grateful we don’t own acreage.  Unfortunately, I’ll be saying goodbye to Bammi the Brahma soon.  I have high hopes for this little stud muffin – a world where he never hears the word hamburger.

brahma

Don’t leave me … it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all!

Wishing you all a very Happy Valentines Day … a day filled with love and joy.  My romantic husband has already surprised me with my favorite chocolates, a single red rose, and will be taking me out to lunch – a lovely seafood lunch.  I’ll pass on the hamburger, thank you!

great blue heron

Watching and waiting for her man to return!

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Comedy of Errors

It was another early morning around the RV.  Once again, Al and his buddy were heading to the marina by 6:15 a.m.  While I sat in bed enjoying my first cup of coffee, I contemplated how energetic I felt.  I determined, not very!Rockport, Fulton, Texas

While sipping my second cup of coffee, I read emails and glanced out the RV window checking for cloud conditions.  Looks like another morning of ho-hum skies, eliminating any urgency to leave the comforts of the RV post-haste for a photo-op.

roseate spoonbillFinally around 8:30, I hopped in the truck and headed on over to one of my favorite areas to walk.  I figured, I might as well get in some exercise since the day won’t be about photography.  But this gal never goes anywhere without her trusty camera slung around her neck.  One never knows when a rare photo-op might present itself!

There’s a relatively new housing development being built not too far away from our RV park near Rockport, Texas.

This former home builder still likes being around new construction and enjoys checking out the latest trends in the housing industry.  I even enjoy the smell of lumber!  I know, weird 😏

new homes

I still like checking out new construction housing developments – walkway lower right.  This photo was taken on a beautiful sunny day …. just one of many.

paver boardwalk

this is the walkway aka boardwalk in the new housing development. Houses are on the right – marsh and Gulf on the left. This photo was taken on that foggy morning in my previous post

Anyway, I love getting in daily strolls in this gated community.  Most of the homeowners are only here occasionally … maybe on weekends or holidays.  The houses are used primarily as second homes.  Thus, I usually have the “boardwalk” (their label, not mine) to myself.Gulf shore birds

I parked the truck in my regular spot and took the path to the walkway.  As I started down the boardwalk, I immediately gasped in awe and glee.  The little ponds in the marshes were loaded with shore birds. Thank goodness, I brought my camera.  It was a gloomy, overcast morning and my camera seemed to have difficulty focusing.  Perhaps, it was camera shake due to my excitement.

Texas birding

this may be reality  …. but

colorful birds

This is what my mind saw – a flurry of color – where to look? where to point the camera? To say I was excited would be an understatement!

I was elated to have stumbled upon so many shore birds.  I did my best not to startle them, but the slightest movement on my part seemed to send them flying off to the roseate spoonbillnext pond. I slowly followed in their direction and my camera continued to work in overdrive.

Well over an hour later, it was time for me to leave.  Oh, how I wanted to stay longer, but my teeth were floating from the coffee ingested earlier.  As I approached the truck, I dug around in my bag for the keys.  I couldn’t seem to find them.  I entered the code on the keyless entry pad on the driver’s side door of the truck and began searching the vehicle floor, ignition, passenger seat and still no keys.  It is so not like me to misplace my keys.egret

I began to wonder if the keys had somehow fallen out of my bag while I was retrieving a new camera battery.  After all, there was a lot of excitement going on and while I dug in the bag for the battery, I kept my eyes on the birds.

So it was back to the boardwalk to retrace my steps.  Still no keys.  Eek!  I’m frazzled and really need to pee but the last time I used the construction porta-potty, I attracted a lot of attention from the workers … something I was hoping to avoid this go around.  Plus, I was in no mood for jovial sparring.

egret

someone’s feathers are ruffled

“Check the truck again, Ingrid”, I said to myself.  I tried punching in the code on the keypad but had a total space out.  Oh my gosh, I can’t remember the code!  😱  Just then, one of the landscapers yelled something out to me.  In a daze, I asked, “I’m sorry, what?”  He repeats, “Did you get some nice shots?”  “Oh, yeah”, I responded, still frazzled.  heron

All I could think about was loosing all the keys on my key chain.  The truck key was one thing, but the other keys, holy sh*t, not easily replaced!!!

As I responded to the landscaper, something to the left of him caught my eye.  Ah-hah!  There was a lone porta-potty in the distance and after a quick visit, I was once again able to thick clearly.  I still couldn’t remember the keyless entry code on the truck though.  Talk about a brain fart 🙄

Oh well, I shrugged. I’ll walk back to the RV Park and get Al’s keys which he always leaves behind while boating.  I thought about calling my friend and neighbor in the RV park, but I forgot to take my cell phone with me – grrr.  So that wasn’t an option.  Well, I needed the exercise anyway considering I got sidetracked earlier by all those birds.great blue heron

So it was off to the RV Park by foot.  Along the way, I discovered the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and a delightful pond.   Once again, I was sidetracked and found myself meandering through a grove of twisted oak trees all the while my brain kept saying, ‘focus – tend to business’.

pond

note the tops of the trees – great blue herons nesting

I couldn’t help but get sidetracked, but soon logic took over and I was once again on my way to the RV Park.

But then …. the unique sound of the Black Bellied Whistling Ducks stopped me in my tracks.  These squeaky guys always make me smile and I can’t resist looking up to the skies when I hear them to catch a glimpse of their beautiful coloring.  Little did I know, I was in for a treat.  As I stood still trying to blend in to the truck of an oak tree, I watched them circle.  Hundreds of whistling ducks landed not far from me.  Then to top it off, a deer emerged from the brush.

whistling ducks

black bellied whistling ducks

whistling ducks

Alas, after being sidetracked a couple of times, I finally made it to the RV to retrieve Al’s keys.  I stuck my cell phone in my bag (just in case) and briskly returned to the truck.  Well…. maybe briskly is an over statement since there was a slight detour back through the oak trees and the heron nesting grounds.  But I swear, it was brief 😉

great blue heronBy the time I returned back to the RV with the truck, Al was home.  He and his buddy had a great morning out on the water.  He had worked up an appetite and wanted to know, “What’s for lunch?”  Twenty minutes later, we were sitting at the local dive up the road indulging in an awesome shrimp po-boy sandwich arguing over the code to the truck keypad.  Seems I confused Al, as well as myself.

To wrap up the day …. I had one of the most exciting bird photography mornings ever along with a very cool location discovery.  My close proximity to the shore birds is what lent to the thrill.

I lost my keys and later found my keys on the backseat floor.  Don’t ask 😆  I ended up walking about four miles that day.  I took hundreds of blurry photos.  Therefore, broke my camera.  Oops!  User error?  Maybe!  Fixed my camera.

sunrise

someone woke someone early!

I confused my husband regarding the keyless entry code on the truck, but not to worry.   The code was recalled in the wee morning hours the next day …. I believe someone waking someone exclaiming, “I REMEMBER THE CODE” was involved.

Lost my keys.  Found my keys.  Walked four miles.  Broke my camera.  Fixed my camera.  Communed with hundreds of birds.  Confused my husband.  Husband remains confused (living with me thirty plus years, confusion justified lol).  What an exciting day.  Ah, rarely a dull moment in the life of a full-time RVer!seagull

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A Calm Morning

I had one of the most amazing mornings yesterday.  For some reason, I woke up earlier than normal. I jumped out of bed energetic, and was ready to tackle a new day.  By 6:30 a.m. I was already on my second cup of coffee.calm

Sunrise wouldn’t be for another forty-five minutes and I contemplated hopping in the truck to capture a few sunrise photos along the Texas Gulf Coast.  The RV was dripping with dew and the windows were coated with moisture rich humidity blocking any potential view.  I needed to open the RV door to check the sky for cloud coverage.black and white photography

The past couple of weeks have been a total bust for sunrise photography.  The sky was either totally cloudless (boring) or covered in a thick layer … blocking any notice of a sunrise.  The mornings when the skies did cooperate, my body didn’t, and my sluggish exit out of bed found me missing the opportunity to capture those perfect skies.foggy morning

Yesterday morning when I stuck my head out the RV door, I was greeted with nothingness.  I could barely make out the shape of the tree just five feet away.  Fog … a thick layer of fog engulfed the landscape.  The assault of humidity had its way with my natural curly hair.  Nothing a baseball cap couldn’t fix.  The moist sea air upon my face made my skin feel ten years younger.  Frizzy hair and dewy skin … oh well 😏  Texas Gulf Coast

Wow …. I had to get out there, even if the lighting wasn’t good for photography.  The atmosphere was amazing.  I threw on some clothes.  Topped off my coffee and jumped in the truck.  I wasn’t sure if I’d find anything worth photographing, but I didn’t care.  I reveled in the quiet.  In the solitude.  In the peacefulness.  Aaah, how wonderfully calming, yet eerie and mysterious!calm

By 7:30 the sun had been up fifteen minutes, yet I saw no signs of her presence.  I didn’t mind.  I was enjoying a glorious morning by myself.  And although I may have been alone, I was not alone.

I was bushwhacking strolling through damp grasses and weeds amongst a grove of oak trees that serve as the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and Egrets.  I could hear their rustling, grunts, and squawks in the trees above me.  When one of the birds would take flight, I could even hear their wing movement.  I know …. how cool was that!peace, calmAnd then there were the ducks and Coot swimming in the pond.  Rumor has it, there’s even an alligator that calls this place home.  Such company, I can do without.  Birds yes, gators no!

What a wonderful morning it was, and although I didn’t photograph the kind of images I originally set out to capture, I was pleased with the photographs I did make.  By 10:00 a.m. the fog had burned off, my stomach was growling, and it was time to return to the RV … feeling refreshed, renewed, and happy.solitude

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Enjoying it All

Is there anything prettier than a desert sunset? Or how about the beautiful fall colors in the Rocky Mountains?  And then there’s the dawning of a new day as the sunrises over the Gulf of Mexico.Gulf Coast

I love fantastic scenery, and all these various places are pretty special in their own unique way. I’m grateful I don’t have to choose a favorite, at least for the time being.  With my little house on wheels, I get to change up the scenery as often or as little as I like.

Great Blue HeronAs I was watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico this morning, I began wondering, “Could I live here”?  Sure, I’m living here for two months, but could I live here longer? You know, own a sticks and bricks house here!

Al and I know that some day, we’d like to find a home base. That doesn’t mean we’d stop RVing or stop traveling …. it just means, we’d have a place to return to and regroup.

Our original plan all along was to move into the RV full-time for a year or two until we found “that place”, that special somewhere.  And here we are, four years later and no closer to finding that place.  In reality, I’m not sure we’ve looked very hard 😉 This mobile lifestyle can be addicting.  It allows us the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of diverse landscapes.  We get to enjoy it all.

Fulton Beach Texas

Hmm, not a bad neighborhood … But no mountain views around here!

I love visiting the Texas Gulf Coast, but I already know come the end of February I will be Texas Shore birdsready to move on.  I’ll want to see some mountains, some red rocks, and of course see my children.

Thus, the Texas Gulf Coast will remain a favorite place to visit, but not a place I’d want to live full-time.

Perhaps if one of my children were to move to Texas … perhaps then, I’d change my mind.

So what do I like about the Texas Gulf Coast? First and foremost is the wildlife, as in the birds.  I love the shore birds and can watch and observe them for hours and quite often do.

seagulls

shore birds

Birds are definitely a challenge to photograph.  When I do manage to snap that special shot, I get super excited.  That excitement is usually short lived once the photo is uploaded onto the computer.  Disappointment is followed by the desire to get back out into the field and see if I can do a better job and capture a clear image.

No two days are the same.  I can never count on the birds being in the same spot.  I know, how rude of them not to leave breadcrumbs for me!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Cormorant

I spend most every morning in search of photographic opportunities.  It’s the perfect excuse for me to get out of the RV and get in some exercise …. walk or ride my bicycle.  I do have to drive to some places though.  There’s no beach near our RV park.

Rockport Beach

Rockport Beach, Texas

When the birds are being illusive near camp, I’ll hop in the truck and go in search.  I have some favorite areas I like to scope out.  When all else fails, I’ll walk the beach looking for seashells.  There’s always an interesting discovery to be made, or at the very least, a photo-op.Rockport Beach

This is my first year strolling the Rockport Beach.  It’s a fee use area if you choose to drive in toward the picnic area and pavilions.  I’ve been parking near the blue crab or marina and walking along the waters edge.  It’s a lovely beach and a great way to get in those exercise steps.Blue Crab

If you’d like a bit more information on the area, you can always check out some of my egretposts from previous years or feel free to contact me.

Here’s a post I did about camping options along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Since this is a snowbirders haven, we always manage to connect with fellow full-time RVer’s. Here’s a post on one such rendezvous.

There’s also a bunch of museums and aquariums in the area worth visiting.  Here’s the post about us visiting an aircraft carrier. (all colored text is linked)

More bird photos forthcoming …. you’ve been warned!

Texas: A Historical Atlas

 

Texas BBQ: Meat, Smoke & Love

Exquisite and Graceful

This is our fourth winter RVing along the Texas Gulf Coast, and it has not disappointed. The weather has been enjoyable this year with no mention of a polar vortex, thank goodness. With that said, I’m taking full advantage of getting out of the RV everyday to commune with my feathered friends.Shore birds

I don’t consider myself a birder, but merely, someone who admires birds, especially shore birds.  My fascination with these birds was piqued during that very first visit to the Gulf of Mexico.  I’ve always enjoyed wildlife photography, but bird photography was a new game.  It challenged me then, and continues to challenge me now.

Family of whooping cranes - mom, dad, juvenile

Family of whooping cranes – mom, dad, juvenile

I always look forward to our return trips to Texas to observe and photograph the exquisite and graceful whooping crane, an endangered species who’s numbers were in the teens back in the 1940’s and are now in the 500+ range.  Habitat and poaching still threaten these magnificent birds, but efforts are being made by various organizations to help these cranes.

Whooping Cranes - endangered

A family of endangered whooping Cranes

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this beautiful pink beauty … the roseate spoonbill. Her deep pink is truly stunning. Actually, it’s the male of the species that sports the deepest of the hue.  This is one dude who knows how to wear pink well!roseata spoonbil

However, I find the egret embodies a certain grace and elegance.  Her snowy white plumage, long black legs, and bright yellow feet have me comparing her to a princess. He or she?  In the case of the egret, both sexes are bright white and thus difficult to decipher.egret

Tri-colored HeronTri-colored Herons feel equally as regal and exude a unique level of gracefulness. Their grayish blue coloring with patches of deep purple is truly stunning.

Ah, then there are the pelicans … oh those pelicans. What can I say about these whimsical creatures?

When in-flight they exhibit a grace comparable to the whooping crane, but when they plunge into the water fishing for dinner, well let’s just say, the sight is anything but graceful and is downright comical.

I’m still trying to capture a video of a pelican diving for fish, but am always in the midst of laughing and fail to point the camera in the right direction.  I’ll keep working on that!

pelican yoga!

pelican yoga!

Overall, I find pelicans to be rather entertaining and full of character and when they aren’t flying, they exhibit absolutely no grace what so ever.pelicans

I’ve got another month hanging along the Texas Gulf Coast with my feathered friends.  I hope to capture more photographs of these amazing shore birds, and in the process, work on getting in my exercise steps 😎

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From Wood to Stone

“Don’t worry”, I yelled over my shoulder to Al while swiftly walking to the truck.  I had my camera slung around my neck, water bottle in one hand, and truck keys in the other.  I was on a mission that morning, and I wasn’t about to let a little weather curtail my fun.

The vast vistas allowed me to see more than 100 miles in any given direction, but with such openness comes wind.  Northeastern Arizona is the windiest section of the state. The relatively flat, lightly vegetated mesas, buttes, and valleys do very little to slow the movement of air.Petrified ForestIt was calm at the moment, but I kept in mind, winds in excess of 40 miles per hour are common around here and gusts over 60 miles per hour aren’t unusual.  Hang on Toto!

Before climbing into the truck, I scanned the skies to the west.  The ominous line of clouds still looked pretty far away.  I figured, I’d have at least an hour before the storm hit.  However, I failed to take into account the driving time needed to get from one end of the park to the other.Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest National Park encompasses more than 230 square miles (600 square kilometers) with only one main road going through the center.  The 28 mile scenic drive takes visitors from the northern entrance located off Interstate 40 to the southern entrance off Highway 180.Petrified National Park

It was late August 2016.  We spent the night at the Crystal Forest Gift Shop near the southern entrance of the park.  The gift shop allows free overnight camping in an area off to the side. There’s even some picnic tables, but absolutely no other amenities of any kind. It’s free and considering we’re self-contained and self-sufficient this location worked perfectly for my photo excursion into the national park.petrified mapSince I was starting at the south entrance, I needed to plan my stops carefully keeping the weather and my priorities in mind.  The day before, we had entered the national park via the north entrance with the RV in tow and I was able to get a quick overview.

From the north entrance, we travel through an area called. "Painted Desert".

From the north entrance, we traveled through an area called the “Painted Desert”.

Petrified Forest National Park is very doable with any size RV.  Some pull-outs are a little more big RV friendly than others.  Regardless, to really delve into this geologically fascinating park, it’s best to explore without the RV and constraints of finding adequate parking.Petrified National ForestI hadn’t been in the truck driving more than fifteen minutes when hubby called with an urgency in his voice.  He informed me of a severe storm heading our way.  A semi-tractor trailer had flipped over on Interstate 40 due to a wind gust just east of Flagstaff and those high winds, hail, and torrential rain were heading our way.  All I managed to say to hubby before the call was dropped was, “Ok”.  You can assume cell phone coverage to be spotty in this remote park in Arizona.Petrified Forest National ParkHurry Ingrid was at the fore front of my mind as I continued on my quest.  I wanted to touch those fossils and even though there were plenty of petrified logs where we were camped, I wanted to see a forest of them.  Wood turning into stone is a rarity and takes special conditions for the process to occur.  There’s only a few places in the world to find petrified wood and I was exploring one of those places.Petrified Wood

Most of the petrified wood  around here is made up of mostly solid quartz.  The rainbow of colors is produced by impurities in the quartz.  Over 200 million years ago, logs washed into an ancient river system and were quickly and deeply buried by massive amounts of debris and sediment.  Oxygen was cut off.  Minerals absorbed into the porous wood and crystallized within the cellular structure turning wood into stone.

Crystal Forest is a popular spot to see large logs

Crystal Forest is a popular stop to see large logs

Petrified Wood

There are several areas within the national park that have a concentration of these huge petrified logs.  The petrified trees lie strewn across the hills and are broken into large segments.  The smooth ends look like they were cut with a chainsaw.

petrified broken logs can be seen strewn about the land

petrified broken logs can be seen strewn about the land

Who Cut the Wood?  During the gradual uplifting of the Colorado Plateau, starting about 60 million years ago, the still buried petrified trees were under so much stress they broke like glass rods. The crystal nature of the quartz created clean fractures, evenly spaced along the tree trunk, giving the appearance of logs cut with a chainsaw.

The national park is also home to remnants of an ancient civilization.

The national park is also home to remnants of an ancient civilization.

Although the petrified wood is the primary draw to this national park, I had one more quirky stop to make before returning to the RV.Historic Route 66

The famous old Historic Route 66 road used to go right through Petrified Forest National Park and there’s a popular landmark showcasing the location.  This 1932 Studebaker is a fun place for a photo-op.  The original telephone poles (seen to the left of the car) remain standing in the very spot they were originally installed all those years ago.

The weather may have cut my visit short, but it was just enough to pique my interest in a return visit.  I found the fossils and the process of their creation rather fascinating, much to my surprise.  Just one more place going on the must return list 😉

Route 66My visit was a week before my birthday and as such a little souvenir shopping was in order.  As much as I would’ve liked a nice chunk of petrified wood, the size and weight wouldn’t be conducive to life in an RV.  I opted for a lovely bracelet that I found at the Rainbow Visitor Center Gift Shop.

Please, please, please NEVER take rock from national park land.  Not only is it against the law, it undoubtedly would impact the abundance of fossils for all of us to enjoy today and in the future.  Purchasing polished petrified wood that was harvested on private land supports the park system and local economy.  And much of it is very inexpensive, unless you want a huge chunk, then that’ll cost.  The bigger the piece, the more expensive and the heavier.  My cute bracelet, similar to the one shown below, cost less than $25 and is a lovely daily reminder of my adventurous morning.Petrified Forest National ParkFortunately, the worst of the storm bypassed our immediate location, but we did endure some nasty gusting winds and torrential down pouring rain.  I returned to the RV unscathed, to a relieved husband, and looking like a drenched puppy. The minute there was a break in the weather, we hooked up and rolled in the opposite direction from those threatening clouds.  Hmm, where to next?

Sunchains Earthstone Collection – Petrified Wood Bracelet