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The Sun Rises; Reprise

Bay Bridge Sunrise San Francisco, CA Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Bay Bridge Sunrise
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

It seemed like 16 images were too many for a single blog post (really, 8 is probably too many, and my blogs tend to be longer than a blog should be 🙂 ).  So I split my sunrise images into 2 installments.

Bean Pond Barton, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Bean Pond
Barton, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In 2010, I again visited Vermont for a fall color photography excursion.  My good friend, fellow photographer, fellow blogger, and co-author of the 2nd Edition of Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage, Carol, acted as my host and guide for the first couple days.  One magical place she took me too was Bean Pond, a small, unremarkable roadside pond near here home in Barton in the “Northeast Kingdom” of Vermont.  Unremarkable, that is, unless you are a photographer looking for fall foliage venues.  Since my first trip there, I have been back to the pond several times (and I am certain Carol has been there almost daily when she is in Vermont in season).  Our morning broke very cold, with frost on the ground, after a prolonged spell of heavy rain.  We knew the conditions were ripe for fog and steam rising off the pond and she had us there by twilight.  The resulting images (only one here) made the cold, early morning well worth it.

Bay Bridge San Francisco, CA Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Bay Bridge
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

In 2011, we visited San Francisco, to visit our daughter.  She lives in downtown, which put me in the middle of one of the best photography venues I have ever visited.  Once again, the 3 hour time change worked in favor of early rising, and a 15 minute walk brought me to the Embarcadero, at the eastern boundary of the city, and one of San Francisco’s seaports with a closeup view of one of the two major bridges leading into San Francisco, the San Francisco Bay Bridge.  There are San Francisco Bay shooting opportunities all along the Embarcadero.  We returned again in 2014, and I couldn’t resist a couple more early morning walking trips to the Embarcadero.

Mocassin Lake Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Mocassin Lake
Hiawatha NF
Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I have been traveling to the Michigan Upper Peninsula (U.P.) for many years for fall color photography.  As many readers here know, I think highly enough of the photographic potential that I have co-written an eBook on Photographing the Michigan U.P., with my good friend and fellow photographer and blogger, Kerry Leibowitz.  I have photographed Mocassin Lake many times and never cease to find it photogenic.  My writings on the U.P. and some of my imagery captured the attention of a professional photographer and teacher in Pennsylvania, James Moore.  Inn 2012, he decided to host one of his workshops in the U.P.  He asked me to be his guide.  These images were all made during the 2012 trip.  I appreciate his inspiration and I think that week was the most rewarding of all of my trips to the U.P.  I was there from the beginning to the peak of color, perhaps the only time in my shooting career.

Pete's Lake Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete’s Lake
Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete's Lake Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete’s Lake
Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

In 2013 we went on two more cruises.  In January, we joined a group affiliated with the O’Brien Estate Winery in Napa, Ca, on a Caribbean Cruise.  We didn’t know a soul when we boarded.  We were fortunate to have some very friendly table mates and we ended up not only spending most of our time on board with them and another couple, but we have made lifelong friends.  We have traveled to Napa together, and they have recently visited us in our Florida home.  It was a great cruise.  As we arrived home in the early morning hours, I was able to capture this sunrise image of the Miami Skyline.

Miami, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Miami, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Later, in September, we took what was my first trip out of the U.S. (Canada doesn’t count 🙂 ); a Mediterranean Cruise.  We started with a few days in Venice.  My only sunrise shot during that trip was the famous gondolas in St. Mark’s Square, which took some doing.  We were staying on the mainland, so I had to take the early train to Venice and then find my way through the maze to the square before the sunrise.  I had practiced a couple times.

Gondolas San Marco Piazza Venice, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Gondolas
San Marco Piazza
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I grew up in the Northern Michigan town of Traverse City.  It is a resort town, and by all reports, beautiful in all seasons.  The city sits at the base of a peninsula of land (Old Mission Peninsula) which creates two deep bays (East Bay and West Bay) into Lake Michigan.  It has unique, sandy coastline and a climate similar to that of Northern California (except that winters up there are brutal and snowy).  I moved away from there shortly after I graduated from High School in 1975.  But I still have family there, and only live about 2 3/4 hours away.  It occurred to me at some point that I had spent little time photographing up there, and so, in 2014, with no major fall foliage outings planned, took a long-weekend trip up there.  I was on the high point of the peninsula, where it is possible to see both bays, at sunrise.  This sunrise image faces (perhaps obviously) East Bay.

Center Road Old Mission Peninsula Traverse City, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Center Road
Old Mission Peninsula
Traverse City, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

 

The Signs are Everywere

The "iconic" Guinness sign Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2014

The “iconic” Guinness sign
Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Signs may seem like an odd subject to photograph. Yet signs are certainly a ubiquitous object. Some years back, I started photographing signs as a kind of cataloging technique. The intent was to use them as place-holder images in my image catalog that would show where I had taken a series of images. In the back of my mind, I may have thought they might be useful in a future photo essay (these thoughts happened long before the word “blog” had any meaning).

Though a standard traffic sign, I thought the context here spoke "Wyoming" Jackson Hole, Wyoming Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Though a standard traffic sign, I thought the context here spoke “Wyoming”
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

The problem was (and is), it didn’t really work well for a number of reasons. Primarily, I just wasn’t very good or consistent about doing it.  🙂   But it is also pretty much the case that not everywhere I photograph has “descriptive” signs. And some places have many signs – so which one should I use?

Lighted for Christmas Frankenmuth, MI Copyright Andy Richards  2009

Lighted for Christmas
Frankenmuth, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Occasionally, a sign would catch my interest, and I would photographic for its own sake. Over time, I began to pay more attention to signs; especially when I was traveling to new places. These days, I actually seek them out as matter of subject.

This historical sign speaks volumes about our history and culture Alcatraz; San Francisco, CA Copyright Andy Richards 2015

This historical sign speaks volumes about our history and culture
Alcatraz; San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

What is a sign? Like essentially everything else on earth, the apparently simple answer is really more involved. At first blush, one would say the function of a sign is to direct us somewhere, or tell us where they are. At the lowest common denominator, I think that’s a pretty good “definition” of signs. Of course, we can use the word in other contexts.

Sometimes signs can just be funny Knock, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sometimes signs can just be funny
Knock, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

The word, “sign” can be used as a noun or a verb. Here I am obviously referring to the physical structure type of sign, with a graphic of some type. Dictionary.com defines “sign,” in the context used here, as “a notice bearing a name, direction, warning or advertisement, that is displayed or posted for public view.”

These days, I actually seek them out

Sign on the Turquoise Trail Madrid, NM Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Sign on the Turquoise Trail
Madrid, NM
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

So what? For a photographer, it seems to me that a sign can be so much more. Signs can be art. They can be whimsical. They can be humorous and unique. They can depict history and culture. Some signs are (or have become) iconic. And sometimes . . . . they are just a sign. 🙂

A "whimsical" sign Chicago, IL Copyright Andy Richards 2005

A “whimsical” sign
Chicago, IL
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Signs can be affixed to a structure, a vehicle, or can stand alone. Sometimes they can be on very unique media.

Signs can be art. They can be whimsical. They can be humorous and unique

A moving, iconic sign Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta; Albuquerque NM Copyright Andy Richards 2008

A moving, iconic sign
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta;
Albuquerque NM
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Looking at my LR catalog for the topic of “signs,” I was surprised to see that I have cataloged more than 200 images of signs (some of them admittedly duplicates). I am sure I have others that I have “missed” because they are part of another image and my feeble mind has not “seen” the sign in there. SMILE

Jameson Distiillery Dublin, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Jameson Distiillery
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

I will bet that a number of my readers would count many times the number I have cataloged.

Sometimes its just a sign Dublin, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Sometimes its just a sign
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

I would be interested to hear about – and see – your signs.

Bridges

Bridge to Canada Sault St. Marie, MI Copyright 2005  Andy Richards

Bridge to Canada
Sault St. Marie, MI
Copyright 2005 Andy Richards

Of all the architectural structures that lend themselves to photography, there may be no other “wonder” than a bridge. Bridges have been designed, built and used for all of human history. Most often to span a body of water, bridges have brought us the ability to cross water on foot and by vehicle, without getting wet and without the need for watercraft.

Stone Bridge Manassas, VA Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Stone Bridge
Manassas, VA
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Early bridges were primarily built for pedestrian traffic. Later, they provided a way for our animal-drawn vehicles to cross. More recently, they have been used for train and motor vehicle traffic.  The Manassas Stone Bridge was used to cross Bull Run and was famously used by both the military and “spectators” who mistakenly thought a Sunday afternoon carriage ride out to the battlefield would be great spectator sport and a nice picnic.

Footbridge of Rapid River Rapid City, MI  Copyright 2009  Andy Richards

Footbridge of Rapid River
Rapid City, MI
Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

Bridges can vary from the most simple and utilitarian pedestrian crossing, to magnificent works of engineering and architecture, crossing seemingly uncrossable stretches of water. They can be grandiose, and they can be very simple.

Pedestrian Bridge Somesville, ME Copyright 2009  Andy Richards

Pedestrian Bridge
Somesville, ME
Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

From a photographic aspect, bridges can lend themselves to wonderful reflections, and as foils to wonderful lighting events – both natural and man-made. They can be marvels of architecture and art (yes, art); or rather pedestrian (pun intended) utilitarian structures. For the photographer, they can be presented as the main subject, or they can be used as backgrounds, leading lines from the foreground, and leading lines from the background to infinity.
Bridges draw the eye as an imposing structure in many cases. In my travels to San Francisco, I have been struck by the fact that the city is dominated by two such structures, leading in and out of the heart of the city.  The Rialto Bridge in Venice is one of the most famous of bridges and in the early days, in addition to being the only major bridge over the main canal, housed many local merchants.

Footbridge Limerick, Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Footbridge
Limerick, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Bridges can often be unintentionally symbolic. In many American cities (sadly), bridges often separate the “good” and “bad” parts of the city.  I don’t think any of the bridges here represent that symbolism.

Rialto Bridge Venice, Italy Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Rialto Bridge
Venice, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

I have mostly shot bridges because they were there – never really doing a study of them. On my bucket list, I hope, on day, to make a concerted study of bridges. The image that appear here are a small selection of the numerous bridges I have shot. My files contain many more images.

Footbridge over Canal Venice, Italy Copyright  2013  Andy Richards

Footbridge over Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

There are numerous styles of bridges, including floating bridges, suspension bridges, arch bridges, and simple piling-supported bridges. Suspension bridges, like the Mackinaw Bridge – spanning Michigan’s “lower” and “upper” peninsulas – and the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Bridges, are true marvels of engineering, in addition to being very photogenic.  The “Big Mac,” as it is often referred to by Michigan residents, was once the longest suspension bridge in the world.

Mackinac Bridge Mackinac City, MI Copyright  2012  Andy Richards

Mackinac Bridge
Mackinac City, MI
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

One of the most intriguing styles of architecture is the covered bridge. Next, I will showcase some of the very few covered bridges I have been able to photograph.

Lighthouses

Point AuBarques Light Lake Huron, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Point AuBarques Light
Lake Huron, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Over the years since I started this blog, I have covered many subjects. Earlier blogs were more philosophical. Seems like I ran out of gas in that area (probably in large part because of my limited capacity for the intellectual). 🙂  I have done some “travelogue” blogs, recounting my travels throughout this wonderful country, and more recently, abroad. And, I have done the occasional equipment and/or software review.

Port Sanilac Light Lake Huron, MI Copyright Andy Richards  2008

Port Sanilac Light
Lake Huron, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

As I have amassed a collection of images, I have had to find a way to keep some order. I have used Adobe Lightroom since its inception – but mostly as a catalog. It is a wonderful program and if I were starting new today, I would probably use it as my principal software for processing images. Lightroom has a nice capability of organizing images by subject matter. Looking through the images (and for lack of anything more creative to write about these days) I realize that I hadn’t blogged by image subject. That is what stimulated me to post the last several blogs on flower images. In keeping with that general formula, the next several blogs will be about my “landscape-architecture” collection of images.

The primary limiting factors for these images are access and lighting

Lighthouses have always drawn my “photographic eye.” Like outdoor landscape images, they present significant challenges to photograph. The primary limiting factors for these images are access and lighting.

Bass Harbor Light Bass Harbor, ME Copyright  Andy Richards  2009

Bass Harbor Light
Bass Harbor, ME
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

The all-important feature for most lighthouse images is lighting. The best time of day to shoot Lighthouses is generally early morning and late afternoon – early evening. This is because it is when the light is normally best. Exceptions to this rule may be when skies are stormy, or during the winter, when light is often at a low angle during the days.

Split Rock Light Sunrise Lake Superior, MN Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Split Rock Light Sunrise
Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

This presents a bit of a challenge, partly because of the second factor; access. Lighthouses are often gated, private property, or parts of state or national parks. They have hours when they are closed to the public. Some lighthouses simply cannot be approached or photographed from the land around them. So, getting the image during the “golden light hours” often presents a challenge.

Point Iroquois Light Lake Superior, MI Copyright  Andy Richards  2005

Point Iroquois Light
Lake Superior, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

In a limited number of instances, I was fortunate to photograph from a boat. Shooting from the water gives a nice perspective. I hope to do more of this in future years.

Strawberry Island Light North Channel, Lake Huron, Canada Copyright  Andy Richards  2008

Strawberry Island Light
North Channel, Lake Huron, Canada
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Some lighthouses simply cannot be approached or photographed from the land around them

Because they are “light” houses, nighttime photographs of lighthouses – especially when working, are great photographic opportunities.

Alcatraz Lighthouse San Francisco Bay, CA Copyright  Andy Richards  2011

Alcatraz Lighthouse
San Francisco Bay, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Many Lighthouses are no longer “active.”  Some have been preserved by historical societies and other are still working lighthouses.  One of the best opportunities to photograph a lighthouse while lit at night was during the anniversary of the Split Rock Light on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.  The Split Rock light is not a regular working lighthouse, but now is part of a Minnesota’s “Split Rock State Park.”  They light it on certain nights.  On this anniversary we were treated not only to the light, but to a fireworks display.

Split Rock Light Lake Superior, MN Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Split Rock Light
Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Living near the Great Lakes has given me the opportunity to photograph a number of lighthouses. However, there are some East Coast and West Coast lighthouses I would love to photograph.

Mackinac Light Mackinac Straits, MI Copyright Andy Richards  2012

Mackinac Light
Mackinac Straits, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

The 7-Year Itch?

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

There is an old thought about relationships known as the “seven-year-itch” (something about getting an itch to try something new in the 7th year, which ultimately in most cases, terminates the former relationship). Before anyone gets alarmed, I have been happily married for 30 plus years now – that 7-year thing is well behind us. 🙂

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont Copyright 2010  Andy Richards

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

But, just trying to come up with a clever title for this blog, it came to mind. Next month, I will have been writing this blog for 7 years. So this coming year could be the year I decide it’s over and move on. Given my history, I probably won’t. Besides, I really enjoy writing this thing (the opening image is my very first posted image here).

Stone House; Manassas Virginia Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Stone House; Manassas Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I really enjoy writing this thing

In the winter of 2008, I began a series of “tutorial” e-mails to one of my sisters who had taken up DSLR photography. I was trying to explain the technical aspects of exposure, depth of field, etc. to her in steps. About the same time, a friend from Vermont began to ask questions about her point and shoot camera, and shortly, she acquired her own DSLR.

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Between the two of them, and some others, I spent a fair amount of time writing and editing and responding to questions and clarifying, and it dawned on me that maybe I should save these “writings” (mainly so I wouldn’t have to re-create them later). About that same time, I hired a company to create a photography website for me to showcase my own images. The idea of a blog seemed a natural follow-up and since everybody was doing it, and there was no cost to set it up, I decided to give it a whirl.

Bernard Maine copyright  Andy Richards 2009

Bernard Maine
copyright Andy Richards 2009

I started the blog as a Google Blogger site, but migrated to WordPress a few months later, as WordPress seemed to offer both a more pleasing theme and more versatility for photographic blogging. Since moving to WordPress, the blog has had more than 50,000 views, and currently has 50 followers – not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening.

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX Copyright Andy Richards  2010

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening

Over time, the blog has gradually evolved from my “tutorial” writings (there is only so much of that, and mine were specifically “conversational,” and certainly not intended to compete with the myriad of books and website offerings by the professionals out there), to more of a combination of a travel images blog and the occasional philosophical or political musing, with the stray tutorial thrown it. I have also spent some time reviewing equipment – primarily that which I have owned or used.

Ketchikan, Alaska Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Ketchikan, Alaska
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Perusing my “offerings” from the beginning, I was amazed to see the territory covered. Since the first writing, I have traveled and photographed fairly extensively in the United States, including (in addition to my home state of Michigan – upper and lower peninsulas and my new “home” away from home state of Florida) Texas, Alaska, San Francisco and Northern California; Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks from Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Virginia, West Virginia; New Mexico; Minnesota; Acadia National Park and surrounds in Maine and Vermont.

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN Copyright Andy Richards  2010

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

It has gotten harder to do this

I have Traveled out of the country to Canada, Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Greece, as well as 3 trips to the Caribbean. In 2015, we will travel to Japan, the Mediterranean again; and I will go to Vermont again in the fall. So hopefully, there are many more images to come. In some of the places that I have visited multiple times, the challenge will be doing something unique.

Chili Ristra, New Mexico   copyright 2008  Andy Richards

Chili Ristra, New Mexico copyright 2008 Andy Richards

There have been some milestones over the 7 years. In March of 2010, I bid a bittersweet goodbye to my best buddy and fellow shooter and traveler, Rich, whose career took a sharp left turn, as he moved away from Michigan. While we knew we would try to stay in touch, it was not certain that we would. Over the following year, we did. Then, to my great delight, his career took yet another turn and he moved back here to Michigan. We will live to shoot another day!

San Francisco Night Skyline  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

San Francisco Night Skyline copyright 2011 Andy Richards

As I looked for images that seemed to make an impression on me from the places I visited, it ocurrs to me that 2010 was a huge travel and photography year for me in the U.S.

Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

the challenge will be doing something unique

I cannot even count how many times I have mentioned the word “Nikon” in my blog. I have been a loyal Nikon user for thirty plus years. As my more recent blogs have noted, I have completely moved to another name and system in the past few months. I still think Nikon makes top quality DSLR bodies and lenses. But they haven’t moved toward the mirrorless system in a way that fits my thinking.

City Center Rome, Italy Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

City Center
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

On a couple occasions, I mentioned New Year’s resolutions in my late December posts. In one case, in 2011, I noted that I don’t make them (because I don’t keep them). In 2012 I made one (and didn’t keep it).

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

It has gotten harder to do this. I still enjoy it, but inspiration for subjects or topics are tougher to come by.  For those who have read, followed and commented over the past 7 years, I am very grateful. I will be traveling again in the next couple weeks, and so may not be consistent with my weekly input. I guess it is one of the nice things about the nature of a personal blog. I can post when I want to.  🙂

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Until next time ……….

It Was a Very Good Year

Alamo Square Row Houses Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Alamo Square Row Houses
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

A good friend and mentor likes to borrow from song lyrics for blog titles and sometimes to caption his images. They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so I am taking a page from his book for the title of this blog. I am not sure whether he is a Kingston Trio Fan, but I’ll bet he likes Sinatra. Who doesn’t? 🙂 But as is so often the case, I digress ……….

2014 has been a good year for us. I have said that our home in Michigan can be a tough place to live during the months of Jan – April. Lots of cold, not enough sun, and often lots of snow. I am not a snowbird (got that out of my system in my youth), so I don’t miss it when its gone. 2014 was the first year we were able to take advantage or our second home in the Tampa Bay area. It was nice to be warm in the Winter months, even if only for a few days at time. And, as we have gotten the “drill” down, I have now established a “home office” in Florida and am able to visit for longer periods and work from there. I am looking forward to finding photographic venues there.

Shortly after Christmas, I ordered my first “mirrorless” “full frame” interchangeable lens camera, the Sony a7r. While I didn’t completely fall in love with this camera, it certainly gave me lots of “fodder” for this blog. :-). I did learn to “respect” it, however. It has taken my photographic thought process in a new direction. I think I have finally settled in with a “keeper” version of this camera (the a7 – sans r) and look forward to actually giving it a good workout in 2015. Along with it have become new lenses, tripods, etc. Lots to do and think about. But now its time to get back to making actual images!

D.H. Day Barn Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore; Glen Haven, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

D.H. Day Barn
Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore; Glen Haven, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

In February, we joined a group of our Michigan friends on a Caribbean Cruise. This mid-winter, warm weather cruise has become a tradition for my wife and me. We try to visit new venues with each cruise, but it is not difficult to overlap stops and we have now been to several of the stops multiple times. St. Maarten continues to top my list. One of the things that will become increasingly difficult will be finding new and unique photo ops. It seems to me that the more time I spend in the Caribbean, the more it seems that there is a “sameness” to these little islands. I don’t mean any disrespect to the people or cultures of these islands. They are undoubtedly each unique and very proud of that. Indeed, we try to take some kind of tour in most of the places where we learn about some of those cultures. I meant photographically. The flora, fauna and “hand of man” seem to be pretty ubiquitous. First, in all of these places, there are the commercial tourist traps built around the cruise lines (unfortunately in my opinion). The one exception to that seemed to be St. Croix. There was no real “cruise line mall” at the port their. Unfortunately for us, we arrived there on a Sunday. Not much was going on in the little portside community, but it looked like it was pretty genuine. There have been many colorful photographic subjects on these cruises, and I will look forward to finding new ones as we head South again in mid-winter 2015.

Celebrity Summit St. Croix; USVI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Celebrity Summit
St. Croix; USVI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

In April, we were privileged to joint Bart and Barb O’Brien, proprietors of The O’Brien Estate Vineyard in Napa, California, on a rather unique trip to Ireland. Readers here have been inundated with my Ireland photos and know that we had a great time. If I were arranging my own trip to Ireland (a likely occurrence some day), I probably would not have done it the way we did. But this was a rather unique historical and cultural voyage, centering on the life of Ireland’s perhaps most famous of Kings; Brian Boru. History tells us that all of the O’briens, worldwide, descended from him. Not surprisingly, a fair number of the O’brien surname find their way to The O’Brien Estate – and become regular customers. While I do not have any Irish DNA that I am aware of, I could not have felt more welcomed by the people of Ireland. And I can also say that I have very much enjoyed my new found friendships with the several O’Briens who joined us on the trip — A friendly bunch!

Somewhere In Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Somewhere In Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

In early October, we made our third of hopefully many trips, to the San Francisco Bay area. There are (so far) 2 cities I have been to that seem to have endless subjects for photographers. One is San Francisco and the other is Venice, Italy. I know there are others, but these two have impressed me in a way no others have. I am an (relatively – it seems to get harder as I get older) early riser. The 3 hour time change makes it even easier, and my wife indulges my early solo walks around the downtown. The early and late light is magnificent and there are so many things to capture. So I rise each morning and spend a couple hours discovering.

Lombard Street; San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Lombard Street; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

This trip, we also did some driving, visiting the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse (which might be photogenic – I don’t have any idea – we couldn’t see it through the heavy fog) and the Pt. Bonita Light, which is difficult to find a really good spot to shoot from. The 2 magnificent bridges, the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge seem to be always somewhere in view. San Francisco is a peninsula and a very steep hill, so views are easy to find.

Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Palace of Fine Arts
San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Almost every fall, I make an extended trip somewhere to photograph fall foliage. With the travel schedule such as it was, that didn’t happen this year. There is this pesky little thing called a “job” and my clients do expect me to be there. 🙂 This year, I decided to try to make a couple short trips and that limited my venues to places reachable by day trip or weekend overnight.

Bay Bridge in morning Twilight Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge in morning Twilight
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

I did a day trip with my buddy Rich, and then, the following weekend, went “home,” to the town I grew up in, in Northern Lower Michigan, Traverse City.

Round Bales in Foliage Harrison, MI Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Round Bales in Foliage
Harrison, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Between of Lake Michigan and two deep bays extending south from the lake, the climate there is more moderate in the Fall (they pay for it in the winter, with significant snowfall – though some probably think that is a blessing). So I was able to take advantage of very late October and “discover” some shooting venues I had never before done (my love affair with photography began after I had moved away from there). All in all, my fall shooting was more rewarding than I expected.

Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula; Grand Traverse County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula; Grand Traverse County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

This is sounding a lot like one of those annual “Christmas Letters.” 🙂  I am looking forward to another eventful year in 2015. We will kick things off with another Caribbean Cruise, Tokyo in August, the Mediterranean in September, and with some luck, a whirlwind trip to Vermont to meet some old (photographer) friends and shoot New England Fall Foliage. There should be some photos coming away from these trips – especially later in the year. Mixed in with that I hope to find a chance to do some winter scenic shooting in Northern Michigan.

National Lakeshore Farmstead; Port Oneida; Leelanau County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

National Lakeshore Farmstead; Port Oneida; Leelanau County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

As I write this, my blog has had over 50,000 visits and almost 75,000 page views (average 30/day). When I started this, I had no idea whether anyone would ever read it. Thank you, thank you to all who have visited, and a special thanks to all of the “followers” out there. I also have a couple “regular” commenters. Thanks to you too, for your input and your support. I would love to seem some comments and discussion come out of this, so please comment in 2015.

Kilkenny Castle; Kilkenny, Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Kilkenny Castle; Kilkenny, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

I want to wish all of the regular readers and anyone else who comes here a very happy and prosperous 2015. I hope you find all your photographic dreams.

Something Borrowed; Something Blue . . .

Bay Bridge in morning Twilight Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge in morning Twilight
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

I  am not getting married (my wife will be relieved to know).  And I didn’t borrow anything. I rarely do (my grandpa was a fan of Ben Franklin’s old saying, “neither a borrower nor a lender be …..”, and it made a lifelong impression on me – it seems borrowed things rarely get returned 🙂 ). But the remainder of the traditional nuptial utterance probably does apply.

The opening image was made during my recent trip to California in October of 2014. The image is very blue. And it’s new. My very first visit to California was to the San Francisco Bay area in October, 2011. Finding San Francisco a photographer’s wonderland, I was especially enchanted by the Bay Bridge. And since I stayed very near it, I visited it on several twilight mornings. In fact, my favorite take-away from that trip was this twilight image of her. So it qualifies as “something old.” The opening image is “new.” Both are “blue.”

San Francisco Bay Bridge  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

San Francisco Bay Bridge copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Of course, it is The Golden Gate Bridge that is the iconic shot of San Francisco. It is magnificently impressive, uniquely colored, and grandiose in its setting. Spanning the “golden gate,” entrance from the Pacific Ocean into San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate can be photographed from all 4 cardinal points of the compass (and gradients in between), from the “reach out and touch it” shots from the Marin Headlands to the Northwest of the span, to the beaches below the bridge with grand landscape in the foreground and background. When I look at my image files, my takes of the Golden Gate Bridge outnumber my takes of the Bay Bridge at least 3 to 1.

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

And still, I come back to the Bay Bridge images (and to the bridge itself) every time. On 2 of three trips I spent 2-3 mornings hanging around the bridge watching and waiting for light and images for several hours. It has a draw that is hard to explain, but easy, in my view, to illustrate in imagery. It isn’t the “knock your socks off” kind of imagery that you see of the Golden Gate. Its more subtle …… but very beautiful, and very stately.  I have photographed one view or another of the Bay Bridge during every trip I have made to the area.

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

More or less at the Southern start of the well-known Embarcadero, the Bay Bridge is ever present. At the end of Harrison Street and on the East side of the Embarcadero, at the base of the span, the bridge is looming and intimidating. As you move away, it becomes an element of background in almost every view of the city from (and often toward) the East side. Intrigued by its “anchor” characteristic, I made a number of images in and around the bridge.

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The “new” image had some significance to me, because I noted with interest in 2013, that the bridge authority strung completely new lighting on the bridge structure. Having noted that, a “re-take” made it on to my bucket list.

Bay Bridge from Yerba Buena Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge from Yerba Buena
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards