Tag Archives: vacation

Tomorrow, Back to the Real World

Why is it that vacation days pass by so quickly?  Where has the time gone?  Tomorrow, I start the 13-hour drive from Big Bend National Park back to the real world in the Houston area, with all that the phrase “real world” implies.  Sigh.

Relaxing On The Balcony

I’ve spent 6 days here in Big Bend and have come away with some awesome images of which I will be using in various future posts on this site and in articles for the National Parks Traveler.  I’ve tested a new camera bag about which I will write a review for The Traveler, and I have learned that I like my Canons much better than the rented Nikon D800 (sorry, Nikonians); I’ll explain why in a future post (it’s a personal thing, as subjective as is the art of photography).

So, stay tuned, folks.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Big Bend, camera backpack, Canon, Equipment, National Parks, Nikon, Photography, Travel and Photography

All Packed and Ready

Hey there!  As you can see, I’m packed for a trip.  Heading out on a 13-hour drive over to Big Bend National Park, Texas.  I visited this past Dec 2013 and liked it so much I wanted to go back in the spring.  As you can see, I’m taking everything but the kitchen sink.  I’m taking about 3 times what I normally take when I fly.  And, in addition to my Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 1DX, I’ve rented a Nikon D800 and Nikkor 24-70mm lens.  This photo was taken with the Nikon.  I’m totally impressed, and while I have invested too much in my Canons to divest myself of them, I can tell you that my next camera purchase is probably going to be a Nikon D800 or whatever iteration they have by the time I am able to afford one.

Packed and ReadyStay tuned for more of Becky’s Big Bend Roadtrip!

 

 

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Photography In The National Parks: Big Bend in December

Sunset Over The Chisos Mountains

The National Parks Traveler just published a little “Exploring The Parks” article I wrote about my recent mid-December road trip to Big Bend National Park, Texas.  If you are interested in checking it out, just click on the photo above.

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Filed under Big Bend, National Parks, Night Photography, Photography, Texas, Travel, Travel and Photography, Vacation

Anticipation (AKA Packing For My August Photo Trip)

Vacation Map

Is it too early to start talking about an upcoming trip?  Will I jinx things?  I hope not, because I’m going to write about it anyway.  You see, I live(and work) for my vacations.

Yes, I am packing already for a trip I won’t be taking for another 2-1/2 months. Planning for a trip is part of the fun for me. Besides, it’s helpful for me to pack early because then I have plenty of time to really think, then unpack, then repack.  No last-minute packing for me, by golly!   My Type A personality likes to get it out of the way early.

I’ve noticed that many photographers are curious as to what  camera-lens setups their peers take with them when traveling.  I know I’m always curious as to what other photographers take with them when traveling.  So I am going out on a limb here and will assume you are curious as to what *I* pack for such a trip.

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Allow me to digress for just a moment.

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I receive 4 weeks of vacation a year – a drop in the bucket, I know, but I’ll take what I can get. Most of my vacations are spent flying to some favorite place out West, renting a car, and staying in a hotel/lodge/resort as a base.  I’m so over tent camping (my rheumatoid arthritis dictated that); I like my “beauty sleep”, a desk onto which I can place my laptop, and a nearby bathroom.  Sure, I could do that with a SUV-trailer combo, but I don’t own either and don’t want either at this point in time. So, I sing the praises of hotels and lodges.

I usually visit some place I’ve visited previously and really enjoy, but I also try to make at least one trip somewhere to which I have never been. This 2012, I am traveling the last week of August to a place I’ve only briefly been (Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado).

0952_Square Tower

I’m also going to visit a place to which I have never been (Arches National Park, Utah).  It’s going to be hot and dry at both places (for the most part), and I plan on hiking from sunrise to sunset, since I’ll be stationed 5 days at Mesa Verde and 3 days at Arches before heading to Durango CO for a day via the scenic Million Dollar Highway.

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Ok, back to the subject of this post.

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I always take 3 bags for domestic trips, one of which I check in at the counter.

1870_Three Cases Old

The checked bag is the largest one holding all of my clothing, extra shoes, toiletries, underwear, tripod, some food (Clif Bars, those Land O Lakes Mini Moos  half & half packets, trail mix), water bottles, hair dryer, assorted cords, and – oh yes – my little 4-cup coffee maker along with a bag of good coffee. It’s a Samsonite Brght Lite polycarbonate hard-side, hot pink 28-inch spinner behemoth that’s a little awkward to lug around but is still a fantastic piece of luggage. I deliberately chose the hot pink color to better identify it on the baggage carousel….besides, who in their right mind (other than the owner) would want to be seen walking around with such a garish suitcase?

The two carry-on bags consist of

1. My laptop case which I purchased at my employer’s company store, packed with my 15-inch laptop, mouse, portable hard drives, cords, memory card reader, and various documentation like my boarding pass and confirmations for my hotel(s), rental car, any tours, etc.; and

2. My Think Tank Airport Antidote 2.0 camera backpack, which is usually stuffed with two or three camera bodies, my 70-200mm lens, 16-35mm lens, 24-105mm lens, and 50mm f1.2 lens (sometimes I even lug my 85mm f1.2 lens around). This case is wonderful and is sized to fit in the overhead bins of both domestic and international airlines (I can tell you this is true from personal experience). I’m a short person (5’2”) and this pack doesn’t overwhelm me sizewise or weightwise (well, the weight thing is a challenge, since I usually overpack). Into the Airport Antidote – in addition to the cameras and lenses – I also pack 35 CF cards (that’s right – I said 35 cards of 4GB and 8 GB size), 5 extra camera batteries, two Lee 4×6 .9 graduated ND filters (which I hand hold flush against the camera lens), my slim-mount circular polarizer filters, slim-mount UV filters, a couple of round grad ND filters (77mm and 82mm), a 6-stop 77mm ND filter, and a backup memory card file storage device (Sanho Hyperdrive).

1874_Think Tank Open

I also pack my lens hoods, which I may or may not use if I am taking photos requiring the use of either the circular polarizers or the Lee graduated ND filters. The Airport Antidote allows the packing of a 15-inch laptop as well, which I did for my international trip.  For domestic travel, however, I prefer to transport my laptop in a separate laptop case.

Yes, it is quite the load to lug around, but I use practically everything I take with me on a trip…including the coffee maker.

Oh, and I always wear my Domke PhoTogs photographer’s vest. I have one in black, and another in khaki.  I LOVE all the pockets into which I can stuff my wallet, iPhone, memory cards, extra camera batteries, extra pair of glasses, business cards, pen, etc. And it looks good on me, too (don’t you think?).

D2C0250_RebeccaLatsonPhotography

For this upcoming trip, however, I’m changing things around. I’m not going to take the Pink Monster, nor will I take the Think Tank backpack. Instead, I’ve been packing (I began a couple of weeks ago packing/unpacking/repacking) an IT Luggage Shiny Large Dots 24-inch hard-side black roller with large white and pink polka dots. When I purchased that little case, I felt pretty sure it would be an almost one-of-a-kind-easy-to-spot-at-baggage claim kind of case much like my hot-pink suitcase.  Nope. When I flew to Seattle back in April, I saw a young lady retrieving the exact same case. So I’ve applied strips of neon-green duct tape to my case. That ought to set it apart.

1878_IT Roller Case

Believe it or not, I’ve packed almost as much into that little case as I ever did in the Pink Monster! This includes the addition of three large water bottles for my hikes, an extra pair of hiking boots, hat, a pair of Keen sandals, and my Induro Carbon 8X CT213 tripod with an Induro BHD2 ballhead (I had to unscrew the tripod head and place it elsewhere within the case). It excludes the coffee maker (my hotel rooms all have coffee makers, so I’ll still take my bag of coffee, the little #2 filters, and my packets of half & half, ‘cause I gotta have my coffee). I’m beginning to realize that I don’t need as much suitcase space as I thought I needed for trips lasting up to 2 weeks. The weather will be relatively consistent (i.e. hot and dry), but I’ll still pack a raincoat and a couple of lightweight fleece tops, since I expect the mornings and evenings to be quite cool.

Below is a shot of my new case, partially packed (the tripod is hidden underneath other stuff, and I still have a few more items to pack):

1880_IT bag open

Regarding the packing of the camera equipment, I’m taking a camera backpack that I originally was going to stuff into the 28-inch suitcase. As I was going to sleep one night, the light bulb went on and I realized there was no way in hell I could pack that particular camera backpack in the smaller case and also take the Think Tank pack. This required some revisions of what I really wanted to take with me for this trip, in the way of lenses.

I’m still taking the three camera bodies (two Canon 5D Mark II bodies and a rented Canon 5D Mark III because I can’t afford to purchase one outright for myself…yet); I am a firm believer in camera redundancy. I like to know that if one (or both) of my own camera bodies break down, I’ve got that extra one. I am paring down the lenses I take. I’ll just have the 16-35mm, the 70-200mm, and I’ve rented a 14mm fisheye (I want to get in as much as I can of the cliff dwellings in Colorado and Delicate Arch in Utah). I may take the itty bitty 40mm pancakeCanon lens I’ve pre-ordered so I can test it out and then blog about it (provided I receive that lens in time – according to my order history, the processing is still “pending”). And of course, I’ll still take all of my filters and lens hoods and memory cards and such.

What backpack am I taking, then? It’s the Lowepro Fastpack 350.

1902_Lowepro Front

1901_Lowepro Back

Compared to my Think Tank pack:

1883_Lowepro Vs Think Tank

It’s awesome! I’ve used it a couple of times for my Brazos Bend State Park and Brazoria NWR photo ops. This pack is lightweight (well, it feels that way compared to my Think Tank, when packed) and  nicely padded.  Retrieving a camera/lens is relatively convenient – you don’t even have to take the backpack off in order to access things, although I still find I need to take the pack off to get to my gear – I haven’t quite gotten the method of  swinging-the-pack-around-on-one-shoulder-while-still-standing ironed out just yet. The top portion of the pack can be used for items like memory cards, filters, snack/lunch, extra water bottle, and light jacket or fleece pullover; that’s the main reason for wanting to take this pack.  I’ll be hiking in some really hot areas, where the temps get into the triple digits.  I need to be able to carry more than one large water bottle, plus some snacks.  The Think Tank doesn’t allow for that, but this Lowepro Fastpack 350 sure does.  There is even a padded, zippered slot where I could easily pack my 15-inch HP laptop, if I wanted (and yes, my laptop doesfit in there).  One side of the pack also has a mesh pocket for a large-sized water bottle.  The only caveat another photographer might notice is that there is nothing handy for attaching a folded tripod to the pack.  Not an issue with me, since I use my tripod as a hiking staff to help me maneuver around.

1886_Lowepro Bottom Open

1889_Lowepro Open

Two-and-a-half more months to go, and I am sooooo ready for this trip Open-mouthed smile

1923_Ready to Go

What do you pack for your photo trips?

*Note:  with the exception of the map image, and the Mesa Verde cliff dwelling photo, the rest of the photos in this post were taken with a Canon Powershot G11.

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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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Deception Pass Bridge

It was an overcast morning as I made my way onto the Deception Pass Bridge, which links the mainland with Whidbey Island, WA. The currents in the water below the bridge are indeed mesmerizing and deceptive. The bridge was busy with cars whizzing by, yet I calmly set up my tripod and camera. This is not an HDR image. All I used was a circular polarizer to reduce glare from the water and increase the drama of the cloud cover.

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Ferry and Full Moon

This is the scene that greeted me very early this morning, as I looked out of my Seattle hotel window.

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Filed under Photography, Seattle, Travel, Travel and Photography, Vacation

2012 Washington Vacation

94C9932_Seattle Sky and Water NO plane

“Are you going to write in your blog while you are on vacation?”  My co worker asked me this, and I said “heck no!  I won’t have time until afterwards.”  Yet there I was, several thousand feet up in the air, sitting in a cramped Southwestern Airlines aisle seat, typing away until they served my orange juice; I had to close out because the tray table wouldn’t accommodate both my little laptop and  a very full glass of OJ.

I dislike flying; it’s a means to an end.  Oh, I am not afraid to fly, I just hate the discomfort of flying economy class, stuffed like too much sausage in too little sausage  casing, with a couple hundred other people who cough, hack, and sneeze (without covering their mouths).  Nonetheless, it’s all about the destination, and I can certainly handle a few hours of discomfort to get to the end result.

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It is now going on 5AM Seattle time, and I am sitting here typing, periodically looking out of my large window to gaze upon the full moon-lit calm waters of Elliott Bay while the seagulls call out to each other.  Day One of the Seattle portion of my 10-day Washington State vacation is done, and I will be enjoying Day Two now.  I’m up early because old habits die hard, and my body can’t seem to sleep past 6 or 7AM (Texas time).  It’s too used to getting up at 3AM, getting out the door by 4AM to be at work by 5AM.  Sigh.

I have been planning for this vacation since February.  I like visiting Washington in the spring because of all the spring flowers, and because my and my brother-in-law’s birthdays are just a few days apart, and my sister always creates a big wonderful celebration in honor of her husband’s birthday (the coat tails of which I like to ride).

Work has stressed me out to the max (I wonder how long my mind, body, and Type A personality can handle the stress, long hours, and frustration).  It took me a full day yesterday to rid myself of the stress and  worry of being away.  Because, as many of you know, it’s never a good time to take a vacation, even though (if you are full-time and not contract), the company pays you for a certain number of vacation days each year.  You go away and some emergency always occurs and you feel guilty (or are made to feel guilty) about it upon your return.  How dare you leave everybody else in the lurch!  It took my supervisor telling a teary-eyed me that the engineer I was directly reporting to was taking her vacation (we both are gone at the same time) and she wasn’t going to cancel out the day before because of work issues, so why on earth should I worry about having to do the same?  Made sense to me but I had never thought it through – all I kept thinking was that it was a terrible time to go on vacation.

In part, I worry because I don’t have the pull that engineer does (engineers and geologists are worth their weight in gold to a petroleum company) and  I am not as high on the food chain as she is.  I also worry because I have an overblown sense of urgency and duty to see that the people for which I work get nothing less than the best I can offer – it frustrates me as much as it does them when something is not working.  And I blame myself first for any shortcomings.  I’m not perfect, but I sure wish I was where work is concerned.

Nonetheless, here I am, in Washington State, and by golly, I am determined to enjoy myself!  The work and stress will be there upon my return – it’s not going anywhere – so might as well put it out of my mind the best I can and apply myself to the task of having a grand time.

Today, I will take my two Canon 5D Mark II bodies and the rented Canon 5D Mark III and revisit Pike Place Market.  I plan on going to the Seattle Aquarium too, to practice taking more aquarium photos.  I will try to not splurge as much on food as I did yesterday (don’t even ask me how much the bill was for dinner  – for one person – at the restaurant in my hotel, The Edgewater – suffice to say it was a really lovely dinner with a great glass of Mannys Pale Ale to wash it all down).  And I will try to keep my souvenir expenditures down….now…..after spending too much on my two favorite little stalls in the Market – there’s this one stall that sells these magnificent hand-dyed silk scarves, and there’s this other stall that carries the neatest whimsical jewelry.  Oh yeah, I spent too much yesterday.

If I am not too tired by the end of the day, I want to take a night ferry ride across the bay so I can get some shots of the Seattle city lights.

And yes, I guess I will be blogging about it periodically during my vacation after all.  It’s a nice way to keep a sort of journal and tell all of you about it.

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Filed under Photography, Seattle, Travel, Travel and Photography, Vacation

Looking Forward

Looking forward to my April (2012) vacation, that is.  Hopefully nothing unforeseen will occur to prevent this trip.  My first vacation of the year, and by then, I am going to need some time off or else I might end up going postal at work (just kidding, really I am, but by then I really will need a break from the 4AM – 4PM daily grind).

Anyway, this is not a lesson-type post or a detailed travelogue-type post, but rather a just-because-I-want-to-post-some-photos post.  So, here are a few photos taken between 2005 and 2010 showing you some of the places I plan on heading this April, if all goes according to plan:  Seattle, Skagit Valley to see the tulip fields, Mt. Rainier, and my sister and brother-in-law’s home to celebrate both my birthday and my bro-in-law’s.

On a side note, a number of these photos were taken with my then-trusty Nikon D70 (my very first digital SLR).  I loved that camera!  And, although I am now a pleased and proud Canon full-frame owner, I will readily tell people that I think Nikon made the best first digital SLRs.  Canon sucked in the beginning.  In addition to my D70, I bought the Canon digital Rebel (6mp), which was touted as the first reasonably-priced digital SLR (and it was, compared to Nikon’s digital SLRs).  However, in a side-by-side comparison, the D70 bested the Canon, both in camera body and kit lens.  So I ended up selling the Canon and bought a Nikon lens.  Although that was just 5 years ago, I have gone through a series of digital cameras, including the Nikon D40, Nikon D40X, Canon 5D, and my current Canon 5D Mark II bodies.

And yes, for those of you thinking it, I’m digging through archives yet again.  I’ve shown most of my more recent photos and haven’t gotten out very much for any new photography (although Feb 10-12, I will drive down to Port Aransas to visit some friends and do a little bird photography).  I think my archived photos are awfully nice, and there’s nothing like going back through the Raw files for a fresh re-edit.

Sea-Tac Aiport – one of my favorite airports (admittedly, I haven’t been through too very many airports, but still, I like this one).  This is a part of the huge long, wide, floor-to-ceiling window in the main portion of the terminal, where all the food/shopping is located.  Note the little airplane flying away.

Puget Sound, a Washington State ferry, and the Olympic Mountains

Washington state ferry “Tacoma” heading toward Bainbridge Island

View from the Seattle waterfront looking out toward Bainbridge Island

Harbor Island, Elliott Bay, and the Public Market at sunset – photo taken from the patio of the Inn At The Market

Inside Pike Place Market

When I lived in Seattle, I shopped at the fruit and veggie stalls in Pike Place Market alot – I loved cooking with chanterelles

There is nothing like fresh salmon – I won’t order it in Texas, though, because they just don’t know how to  cook it like they do in Seattle (IMO)

Ristras in the Market

I used to buy fresh flowers from the Market quite often, because I worked downtown and it was easy to stop off, buy a bouquet, and take it with me on the bus home

Seattle has all sorts of public art

The funky structures at Gasworks Park, on the north shore of Lake Union  (which is where I took that top photo looking toward the Seattle skyline)

Skagit Valley tulips early on an April morning

Heading toward the Sunrise entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park

On the path to The Mountain

The view near Emmons Vista

Looking back down from whence I came – to the distance on the left is Mt. Adams, and on the right is Mt. St. Helens.  Far down below is the Paradise Inn.

Up, up, up the path

Lone viewer looking over Nisqually Glacier

A room with a view

Waterfall and river of ice

Mt. Rainier and Nisqually Glacier (at the Paradise area of the park)

Sunrise at Paradise (sunrise in Paradise)

Becky and The Mountain

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Filed under Mt. Rainier National Park, Photography, Seattle, Travel, Vacation