Monthly Archives: April 2012

Pita Chips, Roasted Garlic, and Cambozola Cheese

My sister always goes above and beyond with the cooking. She’s a gourmet cook and awesome! I know I will always eat well when I visit.

Here is a very tasty, addictive little appetizer my sister made for my brother-in-law’s birthday party (of which I was a guest during my April 2012 vacation to Washington State).

I must tell you I don’t have photos for every single step of this appetizer construction – I either forgot (like with photos of the tops cut off the garlic heads), or my fingers were too messy to pick up the camera, or I was too busy eating the appetizer to think of taking a photo of it, messy fingers or no.

Sorrrrryyyy.

So, for this recipe, you need:

  • A small cupcake baking pan (one of those pans that allow for 6 cupcakes)
  • Several heads of garlic

94C7013_Garlic

Now, you need to roast said heads of garlic.  My sister wanted to try a new method for doing this, rather than using the ceramic garlic roaster they have.  I can tell you I have tried the crockpot method of roasting garlic, and I am personally underwhelmed, so I was interested to see how her method turned out.  After tasting the results, she and I agreed: to get a true roast garlic flavor with some wonderful caramelization, you must roast it in the oven.

  • Slice off the tops of each garlic head so that you can see the insides of the garlic cloves.
  • Rub olive oil over each garlic head and also inside the cupcake pans.
  • Wrap aluminum foil over the pan and set inside the oven set at 375 degrees.  Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  You will want to periodically check to make sure the garlic is not only spreadably soft, but also nicely caramelized.
  • Some of the cloves may stick to the aluminum foil – my sister tried spraying the foil with a non-stick spray, but that didn’t seem to work.  So, we just ate those few roasted cloves that stuck to the foil 😉

94C7081_Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic.  Done.

Now, for the pita chips.

  • Purchase a bag of pita bread
  • Either tear the pita bread into smaller pieces, or cut it into smaller pieces for a more orderly look to the  edges of the chips.
  • Slather melted butter (the real stuff) over each piece and then stick in the oven to bake at 375 degrees F for oh – maybe 10 minutes or so?  It’s not an exact science so you will want to keep checking the chips to make sure they don’t burn.  They should be nice and crispy.

94C7215_Cooling Pita Chips

94C7213_Baked Pita Chips

Baked pita chips.  Done.

  • Purchase some cambozola cheese.  I live in rural SE Texas (bleah) and when I made this appetizer for myself, I could not find that particular cheese even in the Super HEB some 22 miles away from my town.  So, I purchased brie cheese and gorgonzola cheese and sliced a little of each.

Now, serve your guests (or yourself) the pita  chips and slather (I mean, spread) a little of the  cheese, then the roasted garlic atop your chip.

Enjoy! Open-mouthed smile

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Filed under appetizer, Cooking, food, Photography

Caprese Sandwich

This is a super-easy one.

For my brother-in-law’s birthday party, my sister made this looonnnnggg sandwich comprised of three different fillings.  This caprese (kuh pray say)  filling served as the vegetarian offering.

The bread part of this looonnnnggg sandwich was comprised of 7 loaves of frozen bread dough, thawed and then rolled into long French baguette-sized loaves.  The dough was allowed to rise for a little bit then baked in the oven until golden.  I believe my sister followed the regular baking instructions on the frozen dough package for the oven temp and baking time.

94C7066_Bread Rising

94C7056_Bread

94C7329_Loaves For A Sandwich

94C7330_Very Long Sandwich Bread

Caprese is usually served as an appetizer or salad.  It’s simply tomato slices layered on top of  slices of fresh mozzarella with fresh basil leaves on top of all of that.   A nice little splash of balsamic vinegar is added for good measure.

94C7381_Capresi Prep

For the sandwich, my sister eschewed the balsamic vinegar  and instead mixed Dijon mustard with mayonnaise.  She did all of this by eye and taste, so I have no idea what the mix measurements were.

Prior to loading the looonnnnggg sandwich with its fillings,  the middle portions of each of the loaves were hollowed out, thus keeping the sandwich from being too….”bread-y”…with  not enough filling.

94C7402_Capresi Sandwich BETTER

94C7399_Capresi Sandwich

Yum! Open-mouthed smile

‘Nuff said.

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Washington Vacation 2012 In Monochrome

94C0330_Ferry and Full Moon-BW

The other night, I upgraded to the most  current version of Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2.  LOVE this conversion plug-in.  My aim was to take selected photos from my recent Washington vacation (April 2012) and convert them to black and white.

6267_Mt Rainier-BW

This software has a lot of very cool presets of which I made ample use, then tweaked here and there with my own changes.  One of the things that popped out immediately is how much black & white delineates texture, light, dark, shadow, and detail.  I saw things that I never noticed with the color images.  This is especially apparent with photos that have lots of clouds.

94C9612_Raincloud Tugboats Cargo Ship-BW

94C9932_Seattle Sky and Water with plane-BW

94C0549_Olympic Kind of Day-BW

94C0425_Morning Ferry Run PANO-BW

94C9594_Late Afternoon Clouds and Ferry Run-BW

6415-2_Deception Pass-BW

6329_Yellow Rows-BW

94C6563-2_Mountains And Valley-BW

94C6604_Wind Turbines-BW

94C3111_Mt Rainier-BW

6244_Mt Rainier-BW

94C0353_Ferry and Full Moon-BW

94C0988_Plying The Waters-BW

5030_Running Water-BW

I’m also pleased with my black and white conversions of people and pet photos.

94C6778_Elsa-BW

94C7195_Friends-BW

6106_Gammy and Savanna REV2-BW

5969_Enjoying Himself-BW

6186_Niece and Great-Niece-BW

6000_Logan and Casey-BW

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Filed under Black & White, family, Photography, Travel, Washington State

Tulip Town

5080_Yellow

The last time I visited the Skagit Valley tulip fields was back in 2005.  And I left in a huff after capturing some really cool photos because I (and a number of other people, photographers and non-), were yelled at by what I assume was the foreman of the tulip pickers.  We’d parked before they opened and our bodies were in the way of the pickers (they weren’t, I’m here to tell you).  We all understood the deal and that obnoxious cretin didn’t have to yell – all he had to do was simply ask us to please move our cars because the parking area was not yet open.  That would have done it and none of us (read: me) would have been bent out of shape. I vowed never to return and I wrote a letter of complaint to the organizers of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.  There was no sign, no nuthin’ telling us the area was not open.  And apparently none of the tulip field owners or the tulip festival organizers were photographers, else they would have known that sunrise and sunset shots of the fields are the best, so there should be at least one field allowing people (who might buy their bulbs or their  cut tulip bouquets) to come and set up their tripods.

Fast forward to 2012.  I decided – now that I understood most parking areas were not going to be open at sunrise-thirty AM – this year would be a good time to break my promise never to return, and actually go back to the tulip fields.

Although I try to have no expectations, I guess for the tulip fields, I had way too many.  I do admit to being tired on the day of my arrival, having driven a little over 3 hours from Mt. Rainier National Park up to the Mt. Vernon area (about 60-70 miles north of Seattle).  I did capture some really nice images (I think).  But….well….it just wasn’t what I thought it would be.  When I lived in Seattle some 17 years ago, I remember there being more than just 3 fields, which is the number of tulip fields I found that day of my arrival  (Ok, I didn’t look too hard, I’m sure there must have been more).  Only one of those fields was open and available to the public:  Tulip Town.

Quite the little enterprise, is Tulip Town.  For $5, you can park your car, enter and walk through a huge tent full of cut tulip bouquets, a couple of food stalls, a couple of art gallery-type stalls, a few tables and chairs, and then find yourself out among a couple of small tulip fields.  Although walking between the rows was prohibited, people were allowed to get as close as possible to the flowers.  They even had a tractor trailer to ferry people around  (for a fee, I believe).

It’s been a very cool spring up there (ironic, since it’s been an exceedingly warm spring here in SE Texas), so the majority of the tulips were not in bloom or only just beginning to open up.

5169_TulipField

The red and yellow tulips were in full bloom, so  I have a lot of red and yellow tulip photos.

94C3501_One Lone Red CROP

5120_Red Row

5104_Red Row

5163_Red

5150 Red Tulips CROP

94C3508_RedRow

94C3498_Yellow Rows

5088_White Tulips

The day was sort of ho-hum, but I could discern a little bit of detail in the uniformly-spread cloud cover, so with my Lightroom 4 gradient tool, I managed to get that slight detail/drama to show through in some shots.

_MG_6329

For these images, I used a 70-200mm lens and my trusty 24-105mm lens (for the close ups).  I don’t have a macro (next on my “to buy” list) at this point in time, so no really close close ups.

I left satisfied with my image captures.  No dramatic sunrise or sunset with the mountains and foothills in the background.  No barns surrounded by tulips.  That was ok, though.  I got photos of my favorite flowers and I was content.

5174_Fuscia

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Filed under flowers, Photography, Travel, Vacation, Washington State

Evening On Elliott Bay, Seattle WA

I’ve been pretty darned prolific with the posts, I readily admit.  Probably because next weekend I doubt I will have a chance to post anything at all.  I’m photographing a wedding on the 29th and so will be readying myself and my cameras for that awesome event.  Hence, the reason for my prolific-ness (is that even a word??)

After publishing an earlier post about my Seattle 2012 stay, I found some more photos I took during that first wonderful afternoon gazing out my hotel window onto the ever-changing scenery of Elliott Bay.

So, here they are.

94C0003_Ferry and Evening Stormcloud - IMAGENOMIC

94C0008_Ferry and Evening Stormcloud

94C0022_Sun Storm Ferry IMAGENOMIC

94C0049-2_Storm Cloud Cargo Ship Sunlight

94C0169_Tugboat At Sunset

94C0113_Elliott Bay Sunset

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Filed under Landscape, Photography, Seattle, Travel, Vacation, Washington State

Crispy Buttered Wonton Wrappers With Romano (or Parmesan or Minced Garlic or Garlic Salt)

94C7160_Wontons with Garlic Salt

My sister has made these tasty little appetizers before, and we all just love them.  They are super-easy and very versatile.  They go well as a stand-alone appetizer, or with soups and salads.

Recipe:

One package wonton wrappers
One stick butter – melted
Grated parmesan cheese or Romano cheese or finely-minced garlic or garlic salt

  • Separate and lay out the wonton wrappers on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (my sister did this) or foil (I did this)
  • Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter over each wrapper
  • Sprinkle the one of the above-mentioned toppings
  • Bake at 375 until the wrappers look golden and crispy (about 7 minutes; they cook quickly you’ve really got to keep an eye on these to make sure they are nicely browned but not burnt)

Voila!

My sister has made these before using parmesan, but during my April 2012 visit, she used garlic salt.  Now, I love salty foods, but some of these were a little bit too salty – so if you use garlic salt, be judicious in how much you sprinkle.

94C7125_Buttering The Wrappers

94C7137_Buttered Wonton Wrappers

94C7148_Baked Garlic Wontons

Upon my return to Texas, I made these for my mother, aunt, and myself to accompany  lunch.  Instead of garlic salt, I used 1/2 pkg of grated Romano cheese (left over from my pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf recipe).   I almost burned the first batch because I wasn’t keeping an eye on them and didn’t realize just how quickly they brown up.  It would help if my oven had a little window like my sister’s ovens do (yes, she has two ovens as she does a lot of cooking).

1826_Buttered Wonton Wrappers

1833_Cheese On Buttered Wrappers BETTER

1835_Cheese On Wrapper Closeup BETTER

1836_In the Oven

1838_Baked Product

1839_Baked Product

1842_Finished Product

1843_Finished Product

WARNING:  These little things are super-addictive Winking smile

Nom, nom!

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Pancetta-Wrapped Turkey Meatloaf

94C7299_Pancetta Wrapped Turkey Meatloaf

During my vacation, I spent several days with my sister and her family.  My brother-in-law has a birthday 3 days after mine, and my sister always throws a huge themed party (this year, the theme was Flowers).  I try to visit them around this time of year so I can enjoy her cooking and join in on the party, which is always a blast.

6450_Party Setup

6463_Beckys Placesetting

6519_Group Shot

94C7667_Becky

My sister is a gourmet cook.  She’s awesome!  I, on the other hand, do not cook at all unless it’s something to be thrown in the crockpot (the best invention since the microwave).  So I enjoyed every single thing she baked/sauteed/fried/roasted/boiled.

My sister cooked allllll day long on the Friday before the party.  She made it look so effortless, yet I knew it was time-consuming.  I figured the least I could do (besides vacuuming for her) was take photos of each dish she made, step-by-step.  I knew deep-down these photos would make for great blog posts, plus I’d get good practice with food photography.

So, this post, and several future posts, will deal with a particular dish my sister made for the party, complete with photographs and recipe.

As I’ve been craving pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf all week long since my return from vacation, I thought this would be a great starter recipe to post.  I even made it in my own home today.  Yes, I, who do not cook, made pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf, and it was a success!

The recipe is an original from Giada de Laurentiis.  My sister loves her recipes and – when she had time before becoming an overworked medical transcriptionist – made a point of watching Giada’s show on The Cooking Channel.

For my brother-in-law’s birthday party, my sister made this long, long sandwich, part of which had the turkey meatloaf with arugula mayo in it.

Following are the photos, and then the recipe at the end.

94C6956_Pancetta

94C6959_Starting The Pancetta

94C6966_Pancetta Wrapping

94C6962_Pancetta Covered Meatloaf

94C6969_Ready To Bake

94C7005_Baked Meatloaf

94C7305_Preparing the Mayo

94C7309_Arugula Mayo Mixed

94C7313_Meatloaf and Arugula Mayo

94C7344_Meatloaf and Mayo

94C7347_Turkey Meatloaf and Arugula Mayo

94C7350_Turkey Meatloaf Sandwich

94C7352_Turkey Meatloaf Sandwich

Recipe:

Turkey Meatloaf

The meatloaf I made earlier today turned out wonderfully, even though I had to substitute coppa for the pancetta since I could not find pancetta anywhere within a 25-mile radius of where I live.  Jeesh.  So, if you decide to make this dish and end up in a bind because you cannot find sliced pancetta nearby, then coppa will work just as well.

1824_Beckys Meatloaf

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A Seattle Morning As Seen From My Hotel Window And A Visit To The Waterfront Aquarium

94C1024_The Ferry and The Mountain

My previous post was getting a little long – not so much with words as with images.  So I knew I needed to break my visit to Seattle into two separate posts.

I am not a lazy person at all, but I must tell you that most of the photos you see of the waterfront in both the previous post and this post, were taken from my hotel room window!  I managed to stay in the comfort of my own room, complete with bed, desk, TV, and fridge –  and look out the window to capture some wonderful, quintessentially-Seattle images.  All I had to do was aim my 70-200mm lens (handheld) either straight ahead, to the right, or to the left (sometimes hanging out of the sill a little bit).

As I mentioned in my previous post, the view window of my room was such that I could open it up and literally drop a line and fish out of it if I wished!  No screen and only a very short railing protecting me from the elements.  The bellman told me that on occasion, they still had to drag people out of the bay because they’d fallen overboard…..usually, that incident involved alcohol.  Big surprise.

Since I had just arrived in Washington the day prior, my body clock still operated on Texas time.  Needless to say, I was up at about 3AM Seattle time (5AM according to my body clock – time to get up for work).  So I dressed, made coffee (yes, I brought my own coffee and purchased real cream up at Pike Place Market Creamery the afternoon prior), opened the windows to let in the fresh, crisp, salt air, and sat down to my laptop to process photos.  Occasionally, I would get up to look out the window.   The scenes that greeted me that morning made me realize just how lucky I was to be there right at that moment.

At dark-thirty, when the ferries begin their day.

94C0276_Evening Ferry Ride

The blue hour, as the morning progressed.

94C0361_Moon Over Elliott Bay

The Mountain was out on that day.

94C0379_Seattle Waterfront Morning

A low bank of heavy, cottony clouds partially obscured the Olympic Mountains.

94C0465-2_Morning Ferry Run PANO

Clouds, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains peeking out, and Shilshole Marina.

94C0494_Mountains-Clouds-Shilshole Marina PANO

A quintessential Seattle day.

94C0549_Olympic Kind of Day

I’d decided earlier that morning to visit the Seattle Aquarium.  I needed more practice taking fish photos and wanted to test my brand new lens. But first, I wanted to take a walk along the waterfront.  For this day, I used my own Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm lens plus the rented Canon 5D Mark III and the 50mm f1.2 lens.  I wanted that 50mm lens for aquarium shots because it’s a fast, sharp prime.

4725_Waterfront Harbor

4741_View of the Needle

4784_Seagull and Skyscraper

The Seattle Aquarium opens at 9:30AM.  It costs $19 and some-odd cents for a ticket (why they just don’t make it an even $20, I don’t know).  On this particular day (the Saturday before Easter), the place was jam-packed with kids and parents.  Try battling that combo to get a particular photo.

The first sight to greet the visitor is this scene.  The docent (just outside of this view) is chatting with the diver feeding the fish, educating and entertaining the audience at the same time.  The really little kids are the most fun to watch.

94C0589_Feeding The Fish

From there, one passes on through various exhibits including a number of petting tanks, where kids (and grown-ups like moi) can touch the anemones and star fish.  After touching wet, soft, squishy sealife, one looks up toward this very cool circular aquarium, a portion of which is hidden beneath the floor.  They call that the Moon Jelly exhibit.

94C0642_Moon Jellies

94C0647_Aqua Neon Jellyfish

94C0677_NeonBlue Jellyfish

94C0682_Neon Jellyfish

94C0668_Jellyfish

Next are the exhibits for the giant Pacific octopus, then a number of other fish that I can’t identify; and the frustrating thing about the gift shop is that it’s geared toward kids – I never saw a decent fish identification guide in the shop….oh well, that’s what Amazon.com is for.

94C0692_Giant Octopus

94C0694_Suction Cups

94C0784_Pink Spines ORIG

94C0794_Scorpionfish

Although I used a fast lens, I kept the ISO pretty high in order to allow for a relatively fast shutter speed to try and get a clear image of the fish, which are constantly on the move.  I think I maybe used my 24-105mm lens once or twice.  It’s not a fast lens, but I needed the wide angle view for a couple of shots.

94C0896_Inside the Aquarium

94C0912_Otter

After the aquarium visit, I realized I was tired and my shoulder hurt from the cameras and lenses (and souvenirs and food I’d purchased at the Market earlier that morning – no more hotel re$taurant for me).

I was not going to kill myself trying to do everything on this visit to Washington.  I simply could not do it all and still enjoy the scene and the moment.  So, I took my goodies, camera, and self back to the hotel to process images and photograph more wonderful Elliott Bay water scenes from my room window.

94C0988_Plying The Waters

94C0997_A Nice Day To Be Outside

It was definitely a great day to be in Seattle Open-mouthed smile

Note:  If you have the opportunity to travel to Washington, by all means, stay in Seattle a night or two.  And, if you can afford to splurge a little, stay either at the Inn At The Market (located smack dab in the midst of Pike Place Market), or at the Edgewater Hotel – and get a water view room.  Both hotels have discounts during various times of the year.  A discount based upon a reservation 7 days ahead of time with no refund was how I snagged my room.  Worth every penny to me.  Their restaurant is lovely, with wonderful views, outdoor dining, and awesome food.  However, it’s on the pricey side.  Thankfully there are a bunch of neat places to dine up in Pike Place Market, with prices ranging from $2 to $$$, depending upon your food budget.  My room was clean and comfortable, which is all I really ever require of any room in which I stay.  I don’t need many amenities, although an in-room fridge and coffee maker are nice (I actually packed a small 4-cup coffee maker and a package of ground coffee in my luggage, since I tend to wake up very early in the morning to review and edit my photos – during this WA trip, I took around 3000).

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Filed under Photography, Seattle, Travel, Vacation

Seattle 2012

I love  Seattle.

I lived there for about 10 years, and I try to make it back whenever I am visiting Washington.   This April, I did exactly that during a 10-day vacation out there.

My first stop after landing at the Sea-Tac Airport was Seattle, where I stayed 2 nights at the Edgewater Hotel.  I’ve always wanted to stay at this place, so this year, I decided to splurge and get a room with a view.  I could have actually fished from that window, believe it or not, and I took some of my best photos standing right there.

94C9360_2_EdgwaterRoom_tonemapped

There is so much to do in Seattle, and I never have time to do it all.  If I only have a day or two, then I generally stick to the waterfront and Pike Place Market; my two favorite locations.

It’s about a 1/4th mile walk along the waterfront from the hotel to the Seattle Aquarium.  Then, one must cross the street to get to the hill climb up to Pike Place Market.

94C9423_CherryBlossoms

4716_Stone Tugboat

Seattle is full of public art.

4760_Public Art

Halfway up the hill climb from the waterfront, one of several Pike Place Market Pigs greets tourists and locals, alike.  That red music note marks the spot where a busker may stand or sit while singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or otherwise officially entertaining passers by.

4854_Buskers Spot

An alleyway to the side leading to Western Avenue.

94C9426_Market Alley

Pike Place Market.   Flowers, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, food stalls, fresh cheese, hand-crafted jewelry, toys, scarves, clothing, and many other items.  Because there are so many photo ops at this place alone, it would be very easy to simply walk around with the camera almost permanently affixed to the eye.

4898_The Market

4973_Public Market

Purple asparagus.  I’d never seen that before until I visited the Market this year.

4934_Purple Asparagus

If I still lived in Seattle, I’d be cooking that purple asparagus, along with all sorts of other fresh veggies, and fresh salmon, as well.  Ohhhhh, I do miss this place.

4939_Shrooms

94C9432_Salmon

94C9434_Blooms

94C9478_Glass Pumpkins

94C9491_Ristras

94C9455_Red and Yellow

94C9517_Blue On Blueberries

94C9505_Grapes

So these are what fresh garbanzo beans look like!

94C9500_GarbanzoBeans

A cute vendor with gorgeous eyes who outrageously flattered me (yeah, I loved it).

94C9493_Cutie

After tiring myself out that first afternoon, I returned to my room with fresh fruits, chocolates, and a microbrew or two and settled down to working on photos while periodically looking out the window and capturing some of the awesome scenery.  I stopped to splurge – again – for dinner at the hotel’s Six Seven Restaurant for some lobster mac and cheese, asparagus sauteed in butter, a Manny’s Pale Ale, and for dessert: crème brulee and coffee……don’t ask me how much I spent on dinner for one that evening……it’s vacation, ya know.

The view from my window changed with the wind; tug boats, container ships, state ferries, a  heavy raincloud, puffy clouds that reminded me of cottonballs, golden sun-edged  clouds, the snow-tinged tops of the Olympic Mountains peeking out from the clouds, and ultimately, the deep blue of dusk to be replaced  by the black of night with reflections on the water of Seattle and Harbor Island.

94C9654_RainyWaterfront

94C9932_Seattle Sky and Water NO plane

94C9765_Evening On Elliott Bay

94C0130_Evening on Elliott Bay

94C0014-2_Rainclouds Over Elliott Bay

94C0158_Elliott Bay Evening

94C0257_Evening Ferry From Bainbridge BETTER

94C0196_Nighttime Waterfront

94C0259_Harbor Island Reflections

Ahhhhhhhh.

4543_Ahhhh

Next:  A Seattle morning from my hotel window and a visit to the Seattle Aquarium.

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Filed under Photography, Seattle, Travel, Vacation

Valley and Mountains

Whenever I travel out to eastern Washington to visit my sister and her family, I detour outside of Ellensburg to stop at a pullout overlooking a valley and the mountains beyond. I’ve captured this image quite a number of times, with different cameras. This time, I photographed the view with a rented Canon 5D Mark III.

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Filed under Eastern Washington, Landscape, Photography, Travel and Photography, Vacation, Washington State