Am I a pyromaniac?

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5D Mark 2 ~ 5.6 at 1/160 ~ 70-200 lens ~ 160 ISO ~ Alien Bee Lights

A pyromaniac is the term used for an arsonist who plays with fire.  What do you call a person that plays with fire in Photoshop?

Hmmm…  A phoromaniac?  Sounds like a word you’d hear coming out of Astro’s mouth.  (the Jetson’s dog.)

Street Performance… it’s a living.

Street performers add an element to the tourist environment that sometimes defies historical significance of location, but they do add sparkle. I especially enjoy musicians that add their artistry to soften the harsh sounds of daily reality on the streets, subway stations, etc.

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Santiago, Spain

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Santiago, Spain

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Santiago, Spain

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Segovia, Spain

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Madrid, Spain

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Chicago, Illinois subway platform

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Downtown Chicago, Illinois

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Downtown Chicago, Illinois

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Santiago, Spain with a boot to collect donations.

A small town bride on the ride of her life.

Thank God if you’re smart enough to live in a small town.

~unknown

I saw the above quote the other day and it started the wheels turning in my mind as to the charm of living in a small, rural community.  Into the photo archives I go to dig up some images that show a piece of life in a small town.  We do know how to entertain ourselves and have some good ol’ fun!

Haas-3973hp20dmvThis carnival ride at the Yellow Medicine County Fair, in Canby, Minnesota, seems to lend itself as a metaphor to the wild ride this young couple have chosen in life. Since their wedding in July of 2010, this small town couple have added two young children (1 1/2 years and 6 months) to their family, hold down full-time jobs, the bride completed a master’s degree, and both serve our country in the United States National Guard. In fact, the wedding was planned while the engaged couple were both deployed overseas in the Middle East.

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Yes, you are on the ride of your small town life.  The twists and turns of a carnival ride can become predictable after you get use to patterns of movement.  Life is not like that.  Bumps and turns can appear out of nowhere and you may even careen completely off of the path.

A small town has a secret weapon that helps us bounce back when the road of life gets rough ~  the people.   When the chips are down and we face a struggle, the community members are there to help pull us through.  During a crisis the small town rallies its troops to bring out the safety nets to help in whatever way is appropriate to the situation. We may not always agree on our politics, religion or philosophies of life, ( some may not even like each other) but we are there for each other.

Haas-3966HawpunchhpcrJust because we don’t rank at the top of the population charts doesn’t mean we aren’t resilient and destined to make a mark in the world.  In spite of the twists and turns…

Just sayin’.

Photo info:  Canon 5D Mark 2, Canon 70-200 L lens, Kubota Actions

Picture Perfect? Nope.

Traditional, eye pleasing, balanced family portraits with each individual  arranged perfectly have always been a challenge for me. I would not last long as a church directory photographer. While it is good to document a period in time for a family unit, we adults don’t seem to like how we look in portraits.  (Oh, I look so old, fat, my ankles appear too thick, can you give my husband 6-pack abs and a smile?  While you are at it, thin my thighs and waist…)   Then to find a background in the midst of Christmas chaos.  Oh, my.

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So, for the annual holiday card, rather than striving for the “perfect” portrait I decided to celebrate our imperfect, unique, quirky lives with a photo that embraces reality.  We are all leading lives that cover quite a wide spectrum of vocations, educations, interests and then you add a two-year-old.  It is what it is.

Thank you to my mother-in-law for crawling up onto a step ladder to capture this chaos.

Canon 5D Mark 2, Canon 24-70 L lens, ISO 3000, Gary Fong flash diffuser on a Canon 580 speedlight

I leave you with a toast for 2014:  Here’s to another year of experience.

CHEERS!

I’m so excited…!

O.K., so I’m getting into the Christmas spirit and it’s pouring over into my photography obsession.

How did I do this?  You’ll find the camera info below the image.

Christmas is for Children

Christmas is for Children

Canon 5D Mark 2
2 images blended:

Base image of Tree lights:   ISO 200 / shutter 1/15 / aperture 2.8 / braced on knees to hold steady without tripod

Little girl image taken in studio with Alien Bee lights:  ISO 160 / shutter 1/160 / aperture 5.6

Text added with Photoshop CS5 and border added using Kubota Actions

Yes!  I’m so excited that Christmas is almost here!

Even an old lady like me can get into the Christmas mood    (No, I haven’t gotten into the wine cellar yet today!)

It’s all about the energy

The energy of the mind is the essence of life. ~ Aristotle

I love life.  Life is up… life is down…  Images can reflect that emotion with a little planning.

Moyer-7598popdmvhpshcr2Long beautiful hair lends itself to the movement of the image above as does the fun, playful personality of the subject.  I focus on the subject, subject turns to the back, swings hair forward and just feel the fun.  I played with the cropping until I decided that this was the most pleasing angle.  Focus is tricky and the shutter was as fast as my flash sync would allow – 1/200. If using a darker background I back light the hair to show separation and depth. 5.6 ~ 1/200 ~ Canon 5d mark 2 ~ 70-200 L lens

VanD-6796wwdmvhpshcrBack light from the sun gives extra “spark” to the image as does the athletic pose of a volleyball player.  2.8 ~ 1/1000  ~ Canon 5d mark2 ~ 70-200 L lens

On the edge of adulthood…

…excitement, anticipation, anxiety, questioning, wondering…

This Bible passage seems to speak to young people as they look forward to graduation.
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Thoughts race through young minds on the cusp of a new world. Which direction should I go? Which school or vocation should I pursue? …and the age old question – What if I fail?
So many opportunities before them in high school and beyond. If one tries, there is an activity or pursuit that will fit their talents, personalities and interests.

I am usually in envy of young people with their whole adult lives ahead of them, but should I be? I am in a transition phase, as well, but I have many years of experiences and efforts behind me.  I already know what I can and cannot do so that narrows the field. (Lots of things I use to be able to do that are not options now)  I also know what I want to do which is also a plus.

The big question, though, is what SHOULD I do?

O.K., so maybe I’m not so different from these young guys and gals after all!  Maybe the Bible passage is a good one for all of us in any of our stages in life.  Hmmm…

Camino Day 6 ~ Meet Carmen, Luisa and Ireland

Portomarin was where we slumbered last night in Albergue Ultreia which is run by a charming woman named Carmen.  Carmen’s eyes sparkle and shine and she has a way of getting her message across with grand gestures of arms and hands.  She is a strong, hard working woman, grabbing two wet backpacks and hoisting them up a flight of stairs as though they were merely purses.

We settled in to our dorm room filled with about 10 bunk beds and were immediately invited into the kitchen area by a fun group of young Spaniards having happy hour before their home cooked meal.  They offered us shots of some kind of liquor that had a good “kick” to it, so that helped warm us up inside and out.  I’m guessing it’s the anise liquor made in Spain. Again, must have been too tired to take a picture.  You will meet them later, though.

We were lucky enough to have a washer and drier which is accessed by going outside to the upstairs balcony.  Carmen’s English speaking daughter, Luisa, is extremely helpful with everything from washing and drying clothes to planning our next day, day six.

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Thanks to Albergue Ultreia, our clothing has been washed and dried and our boots have been on little heaters all night.  The blisters on Randy’s feet catch the attention of one of the young Spanish girls staying at the hostal and she offers sympathy and blister salve, if he needed it. People on the Camino show such kindness to complete strangers, that it warms the heart and gives a positive outlook towards mankind.

Coffee machine in the kitchen brews me some delicious, hot java to get my groove on and we eat the rolls we had purchased the night before at the local grocery store. What a great way to start a new day!
Spain-1030715dmvWe are in the center of town so Lori is getting directions from Luisa.

Spain-1030714dmvDiane, Jane and Joan pose for a photo with our friend, Luisa.  Luisa is also a pharmicist along with helping her mother with the albergue.  We met Dad this morning when he was opening up the albergue for the day. Wonderful family.   I am wondering if the black and white photo on the wall is of the old Roman bridge that is now under water.

Spain-1030720dmvLuisa manned the camera, so this is one of the few photos I am in.  I notice the sidewalk is dry and no rain is falling ~ Hooray!

Spain-1030724dmvcrMeet our new friends from Ireland.  They are all turning 30 years old this year and are celebrating their birthdays together on the Camino.  They signed up with a travel tour that transports their luggage for them, so they only have smaller daypacks.  With or without bags, they will still get wet today. Rain gear is essential no matter what you are carrying.  From now on they will be referred to as Ireland.  Such as…

Did you see Ireland at the pub today?

Yes, I did see Ireland at the pub today!  No, wait… that’s tomorrow. 

Camino Day 5 …and the beat goes on…

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.  ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Spain-1030694dmvThe challenging path continues to be flooded in areas and muddy at best.  I think all of us are beginning to wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into and what may lie ahead.  Water-soaked boots are heavy weights and pull on our tired, sore leg muscles as we schlepp along.

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We are now in Galicia and the scenery has blossomed into the emerald green of spring as we weave through woods and dale.  We crossed into Galicia on day four before crossing the snowy mountain and the village of  O  Cebreiro sits near the top.  I must have missed the sign.  (Better go back and hike that mountain so I can see the Galician border sign.)   I’ve read that in the Galician language,  O replaces El.  Our final destination, Santiago de Compostella, is the capitol of Galicia.

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Two languages are official and widely used today in Galicia; the native Galician, a Romance language closely related to Portuguese with which it shares the common Galician-Portugal medieval literature, and the Spanish language, usually known locally as Castilian. 56.4% of the Galician population always speaks in Galician or speaks more in Galician than in Castilian, while 42.5% speaks always in Castilian or more in Castilian than in Galician. ~ Wikipedia

Spain-1030704dmvOur path continues through a muddy, hilly wooded area and we come across a colorful, although tacky, looking memorial made of cast-off clothing, snack garbage, socks, hats…  It appears as though it is the  pilgrim dump.  I am not impressed with this area since it contrasts so starkly with the quiet, remote woods,  farmlands and small villages.  The site does kind of remind me of Jamaica with its bright colors.  Randy would like to take home that nice jacket on the lower right, but it’s not his size.

Spain-1030705dmvI have no idea what the pine cones are all about.  Any ideas?

Spain-1030707dmvcrRomanesque stone walls border our path as we cross through pasture areas, working our way down to the city of Portomarin.  The slimy mud pulls on our boots and the path is also mixed with  sweet smelling cow manure ~ Watch your step!   The farmer is getting the herd adjusted to their new pasture grounds using a stick and his dog.

Spain-1030712dmvRomanesque walls border the path and pasture and makes for an interesting cattle fence.

Portomarin bridgeThis long bridge over the rushing waters of the Mino River is the only thing between us and our destination for the day, Portomarin, Spain.  I hang tightly onto my walking poles as the strong gusts of wind push, tug and pull on me as if playing the old playground game, King of the Hill.    ~ Photo from Google images.

Portomarin is tucked in amongst the hills of Monte do Cristo and the river intersects the village.  During medieval times people lived on the right bank of the river, in an enclave (territory surrounded by another territory) by the Camino de Santiago.

The Portomarin we see today dates mostly from the middle of the 20th century with much of the old town now below the waters of the Miño.  In the 1950’s Franco decided he wanted to build a hydro-electric dam 40 kilometres down river and in doing so would flood the town of Portomarín.  The townspeople wanted to save some of their most important monuments and transported these stone by stone up to their new home, high above the river, which you see in the photo above.   Now, that would require some heavy lifting!  Parts of the old town resurface in the fall when the water level gets low.

As we first come across the new bridge, we pull our tired bodies up some steps to an arch where we see the Iglesia de Santa Maria de las Nieves, built on the site of a former pilgrim hospital.  The staircase is actually the sole remaining part of the original 2nd century Roman bridge, which was destroyed by Doña Urraca.   I would have taken a photo but it was raining.  Go figure…

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Wet, tired, stiff, sore, hungry… A-h-h-h-h…. home, sweet, home.

Camino Day 5 ~ Angels among us

All God’s angels come to us disguised. ~James Russell Lowell
camino-frances-26O CebreiroWe eat our normal breakfast of tostados with coffee or tea and hop in the taxi  at 8:00 a.m.  We are fast forwarding the mountain from Vega de Valcarce, and will go  about 30 miles to Sarria due to the weather conditions. The van is  large enough to hold all seven of us, plus the driver.Spain-1030656dmvThe treacherous roads are full of slushy snow and it is sleeting. The taxi driver is carefully maneuvering through the icy mountain roads and we are quiet, so we don’t disturb his concentration.  It would not be a pretty sight if we slip off the mountain road. We don’t see any other vehicles going over the mountain this morning.

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After about an hour, we arrive in Sarria and begin our 14 mile trek to Portomarin.  We tip our driver since he did such a wonderful job and did not charge as much as we had expected.  He keeps trying to return the tip.  No es necesario!  We finally convince him to keep the tip since he is very deserving and is well worth it.

Spain-1030668dmvWe begin our march through Sarria and grab a quick beverage and snacks for the road.

Spain-1030663dmvcrFollow the arrows and you can’t go wrong.  Rats!!  It’s starting to rain again.

We look ahead and see that our path has been washed out and fast, deep water is rushing across.  (It seems much deeper than the photo depicts and we don’t see the grassy area on the other side of the rocks, yet.)  I hear a gasp and discover it came out of my mouth.  How are we going to cross this mess?

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Listen… Do I hear angels singing?

Yes, I do!   Singing Spanish angels have appeared out of nowhere to save the day.  Randy goes ahead to crawl over the rocks and is ready to help the rest up and through to a grassy patch that wasn’t so deep.  The Spanish Angels take over the middle and rear to help us up and over the rocks.

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Now that we are all safely across, they proceed to splish, splash down the water-filled trail singing their happy Spanish camino songs.  Buen camino!

I wonder if we’ll see them again?

Spain-1030688dmv Stepping stones help us get through this flooded area.  The walking sticks are valuable to help keep balance with all the water rushing by.

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Kathy gets the prize for the most waterproof boots, but even her feet are wet now.

The cold rain continues to fall.  This is going to be another long day.