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Right Time; Right Place Photography

Porcupine Mountains Copyright Andy Richards 1997

Recently, I went through a review and update of my LightCentric Photography photo website.  As I was systematically checking captioning information (among other things), a couple of the images made me pause and reflect on their circumstances as involving a particularly memorable moment of for whatever reason, just being in the right place at the right time.  Sometimes it was planned. Sometimes it was just serendipity.

This doesn’t mean there haven’t been other times and images. There have been too many photographic memories to cover, including trips to New Mexico, Alaska, New England, California, and around the world.

In some ways, the Porcupine Mountains image is my most memorable photo. Taken back in the days of film, I made this photograph on my very first “dedicated photography trip.” I spent a long weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) for the first time since my childhood. The trip was planned with much anticipation of fall color imagery.  For the most part, even though I was there during the first week in October, I was still fairly early for foliage, and was largely disappointed in that aspect of the trip. The trip motivated many more similar excursions to the U.P., mostly in the fall.  I arrived at “The Escarpment,” in the Porcupine Mountains late on a Saturday afternoon. From the Escarpment, you can view the Lake of The Clouds, which is often photographed – especially during peak foliage. Conditions were not what I had hoped for.  It was cloudy, with a 40 plus mph wind.  I had seen images of Lake of The Clouds, and that was my goal for this part of the trip.  Foliage conditions were just starting, and I just did not see the image I had visualized. To make matters worse, the forecast called for worsening conditions, with all-out rain by morning.  So I took a number of images, using a much faster shutter speed and lower aperture combination than I normally would have, bracing the tripod against the wind buffets with my own weight (seemingly counterproductive).  Unlike these days, you could not see a representation of the result on the back of the camera.  I would wait until I returned home, and the photographic processor completed developing my slides.  I didn’t expect much from this location. But on the light table, this one image jumped out at me. It is perhaps the only “keeper” from that take. As I viewed it, I realized that the contrast between the lingering greens, the precocious reds, and the developing oranges and yellows, was actually more visually interesting – indeed satisfying – than some of those images that I had seen that were a complete wash of fall color. There is a photographer’s saying:  “F8 and be there.” I don’t think this was F8, but I was there, and this is what I found. The image here, is prepped for printing, and may look a bit saturated. But I did not touch the saturation sliders in Photoshop.  Instead, I used an old technique (surpassed for most of us by plugins such as NIK Viveza 2), converting the scanned image to LAB color space and making adjustments to the A and B curves. This image has continued to be my best selling photo. It hangs in the main conference room of my law firm’s offices, and draws many comments.

Mad River
Waitsfield, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In 2006, after much bragging to my best buddy, Rich Pomeroy, about the “best fall foliage in the world, bar none,” he called my bluff and we took a week long trip to Vermont. We had take many business trips together before, but this was our first “together” photography adventure. I am delighted to say that we have made numerous other photo trips, and will make many more in future years.  But this one turned out to be kind of a bust. We went during the last part of September and very early October. All during the week, we wished we had waited a week, as the foliage was again in very early (almost non-existent) stages. We worked hard to find some foliage and though we had a lot of fun and made some memorable images, it wasn’t what we had anticipated. Determined to “find” those colors I remembered from my youth in the 1970’s in Vermont, I returned – alone this time – in 1997, a week later. During that trip, I spend a couple nights in central Vermont, driving along it famed Route 100. Mother Nature can be fickle, and the colors were – once again – not as nice as I had hoped (this time a bit past peak in many places).  One morning, I was headed for a waterfall that has turned out to be (in my opinion) unremarkable;  Moss Glen Falls in Granville. But on my way, I got waylaid by a vision:  some color off in the distance of a scenic turnout.  The turnout turned out (see what I did there 🙂 ) to be a nice series of drops in the Mad River. The Mad River is really just a stream or creek that is not really navigable.  It is also the namesake of “Mad River Canoes,” originally built by hand in Waitsfield, where this very same stream wandered through his back yard. A drizzly rain was falling, but I donned my wading boots and spent 2 1/2 hours shooting there.  The image here was actually on a return trip in 2010, when I brought Rich back to “prove” my assertions about Vermont foliage 🙂 . That morning was a magical time. I was all alone with the subject, which remains a really photogenic series of waterfalls.

Otter Cliffs Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

In 2009, Rich and I made another memorable photo trip; this time to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. Bar Harbor is a quaint little touristy town with just enough non-photographic things to keep our spouses entertained (well, for about a day that is – but we were there for a week 🙂 ). Acadia is probably one of the most photographed National Parks. There a numerous books about the Park Loop Road, and all the different photographic venues. Otter Cliffs is one, but it is most often viewed more distantly, from another cliff to the north.  From the vantage point, you cannot even see this cobblestone beach. I had a friend who strongly recommended that I “work” to find this spot, which is a cobblestone beach that is not well documented or marked (at least, it wasn’t in 2009). The directions in the books don’t really reveal it, but with some perseverance, and some insight from him, we did find it. We visited it for 3 successive mornings in the pre-dawn, before we got this one. There is really nothing like being in a location like this, literally alone, and watching the sunrise and the morning develop. It was a location worth “working” for.

Burton Hill Road
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Vermont has a special place in my heart. Readers here know I make period trips to Vermont to photograph; usually during the vaunted fall foliage season. I wrote my first eBook on this very topic.  As I did my homework, planning each trip, researching and hobnobbing with members of the Scenes of Vermont forum, I “met” two of my wonderful friends, both of whom also happen to be talented photographers and writers. Al Utzig and I carried on a e-mail correspondence for several years before I finally had the pleasure of meeting him in person. We were good friends by that time and the face-to-face didn’t change that (for me at least – I’ll let Al be the judge of it 🙂 ). Carol Smith, who many of you know as my co-author for the current edition of Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,” was a frequent poster on the Scenes forums and we were all soon to learn, an extremely knowledgeable and observant resource for wannabe Vermont photographers. She was of immeasurable help to me on the first edition and it was a logical progression for her to co-write a second edition which contains much more information, primarily from Carol. In the process we also became good “online” friends. In 2010, Rich and I returned to Vermont. I was there for a week, but Rich was only able to join me on the southern part of the trip for about 3 days.  This trip began with a group of us (particularly Al, Carol and me) meeting at Carol’s Barton house in anticipation of a next-day, early morning “tour,” led by Carol. This was my first face-to-face meeting with Carol, and to my surprise, she still loves me :-). We started at Bean Pond along the US 5 highway, for a foggy sunrise over the pond. The time and images were magical, but while Al and I gushed, Carol promised that the best was yet to come. And boy, was she right. The Burton Hill Road image is by far my personal favorite Vermont image, and perhaps my most “successful.” After others had left, Carol and her very patient husband, guided me around several other areas, including the Craftsbury Common image that appears on the cover of the Vermont eBook. But that morning is one of the most memorable times of any photographic trip. And I got to enjoy it with two of my very favorite friends.

Eagle in Flight
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Some years were big travel years for me. Others not so much. 2010 was one of those big years. In addition to another trip to Vermont, my wife, son and I went on our first cruise; the Inside Passage from Vancouver, B.C., to Whittier, Alaska. It introduced us to cruising (which to my surprise, I really liked), which has opened travel doors to us throughout the world. There were hundreds of images taken on that trip to Alaska, with some pretty great photographic opportunities.  But the most memorable image of that trip came as a complete surprise to me. We were signed up for a “deadliest catch” look-alike excursion (sans the cold and ice and heavy oceans). When we came ashore, one of the crew who met us saw my “big camera” and said “I see you came prepared. We are going to get some eagle photos for you today.”  Right. He was a tour guide. He certainly wasn’t going to promise me crappy photos.  🙂 I think we were scheduled to be out for 3 1/ or 4 hours, during which they talked about the history of these fishing boats (the boat was an actual boat used in the Bering Sea, just like the ones on the “Deadliest Catch” series, which had been shipwrecked, and then salvaged and retro-fitted with observation seating).  All very interesting, but no “knock your socks off” eagle photos. We saw some, but they were a long way in the distance. At the end of the cruise, they announced that they had a special treat for us, and took us by an uninhabited island, which was in native waters (by U.S. treaty) and therefore not subject to U.S. laws. As I looked, I saw a solitary eagle perched in dead tree. O.k. Then I suddenly heard “plop.” “Plop, plop.” The crew was up in the flybridge tossing bait into the water. The skies next to our boat suddenly turned into what I can only describe as a air to air dogfight as about 30 eagles all appeared, diving and often fighting for the food. I really wasn’t prepared and it all happened in about a 5 – 10 minute sequence. But in spite of my ill-preparedness, I was able to get several good shots. This one is my favorite. I doubt that I will ever get an opportunity to photograph eagles in flight from that close a position again. As our first cruise, it was hard to have it come to an end, with so many amazing and new experiences. But it did. It marked the end of a great trip – and the beginning of many more.

San Francisco Bay Bridge
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

In 2011, instead of a fall foliage trip, my wife and I opted to spend a week in California during the first week in October. My daughter lives in San Francisco, so we used that as a staging point, with an overnight excursion to Napa for some wine tasting. Lots of memories from that trip. My daughter’s place at the time was in downtown, south of Market Street (SOMA). She was just two blocks south of Market and just a few blocks west of the Bay Bridge, the Embarcadero and the eastern part of San Francisco bay. I was up early and somewhere on the street each morning by sunrise or earlier (the 3 hour time differential was a positive, making it easy for me to wake up and roust early). What I really noticed was the relative stillness, just before the world “wakes up.” I made numerous images of the Bay Bridge, which is a favorite subject of mine (I prefer these images to those I have made of the more famous Golden Gate). But this one, I think, best illustrates that early morning pre-dawn calm and stillness.

Blue Angels
Fleet Week
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

That trip had other memories. We made friends with a couple of the winery owners, and in later years would travel with one of them, to the Caribbean and to Ireland, as well as returning to the vineyard when back in California. But the unexpected and incredible opportunity of shooting the air show put on by – mostly – the U.S. Navy, during its San Francisco “Fleet Week,” is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We shot from the ground for over an hour as the planes flew low over us. I worked hard to capture a “bloom” from the jet fighters as they broke the sound barrier. Because sound and light do not travel at the same speed, it was touch to anticipate. I got just one. But am pretty pleased with it.

New River Gorge Lookout
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Returning to California, Rich and I were able to sneak in a quick 3-day trip to West Virginia’s Babcock State Park, to photograph the often photographed Grist Mill in fall foliage. While we probably missed the peak near the mill, we were able to find peak foliage around Boley Lake in the park. What made this trip special was my first opportunity to meet one of my photographic mentors and a great inspiration to me, James Moore. Jim is an uber-talented nature photographer with many sales and publications; primarily in and around West Virginia. We had become on-line friends a year or two before, and he had a group he was guiding there photographing earlier in the week. Jim was still there when we arrived, but left early the next morning.  We had a nice time to chat and he gave us some great insight about when and where to shoot in the park. In 2012, Jim did me the great honor of asking me to act as a guide for one of his photography workshops in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Jim had heard a lot about it but had never visited there. We spent a great week, learning, shooting, and watching the foliage develop from pre-peak to full peak conditions. Jim had some health problems later in life and sadly those of us who knew and admired him have lost touch. For the West Virginia image here, my model was Jim, and the New River Gorge lookout was one of his favorite spots in the park.

Oxbow Bend
Snake River, Wyoming
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

2012, marked yet another photography trip with my buddy, Rich (and spouses). We joke a lot because I am a “planner” when it comes to these trips. I have usually figured out what I want to shoot, how to get there, how long it will take, and what time of day to be on site. For the most part, Rich is happy to let me do that, and quite often comes home with the better image. 🙂 A couple years before, Rich had attended a photography workshop in Jackson Hole, and the Grand Teton National Park. We both wanted to go again. This time I showed up and Rich was the guide. What a fun and memorable week with many great photo opportunities. As an old school photographer (or maybe just an old photographer), when it comes to scenic shots, I think in terms of a print. What we all want to bring back is a “wall-hanger.” Over the years I have made, printed and framed a number of my images. None has been better that this image of Oxbow Bend. We arrived here (I think the second time) in the pre-dawn hours and there was frost on everything. As the sun rose, the warmer water temps created a wonderful low fog over the bend in the river. May some white cotton-candy clouds would have enhanced this, but it was a great morning and I knew walking away from this shoot that this would be a wall-hanger.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

2013 was a huge year for us. My wife came from a military family, so she had done some limited world travel as a young person. But in our adult lives, we had not traveled out of the U.S. except for a couple trips to the Caribbean, and Canada (which really doesn’t seem like it counts 🙂 ). We decided to kick our cruising up a notch, and booked a Mediterranean Cruise. In many ways, it may have been the most memorable of all of our cruises. It was our third cruise on the Princess Lines, and we were booked on their newest, and best ship. We were excited to see the world over the next two weeks, disembarking from Venice and ending in Barcelona. The cruise ship decided it wouldn’t cooperate, and our cruise was cut short. There was, however, a happy ending to that.

Gondolas
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

As is our custom, we planned to spend 3-4 days in our originating port city before boarding the cruise ship. We walked around Venice for 3 days and boarded the ship thankful for an immediate “day at sea,” exhausted.  But what I can say about Venice is that it is wall-to-wall “eye-candy” for the photographer. I have hundreds of Venice images, but the two shown here represent moments that separate themselves from the others.  The Gondolier was a case of right time, right place. I was looking for shots, and heard them coming. I found this setup and was blessed with wonderful early morning sunlight. The covered gondolas is not original on my part. I had seen at least one other photographer do this. What it would need was very early light in order to make an exposure long enough to capture the motion of the rocking gondolas. This meant either very early morning, or evening. I chose morning because there would be less people, and less activity on the Grand Canal, producing just some gentle rocking. I use this image on my Facebook LightCentric Photography Page Cover.

Lombard Street
San Francisco
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

In 2014, we returned again to San Francisco for several days. I made more trips to the Bay Bridge. I also walked to the San Francisco Giants ball stadium. My daughter took us to Lands End, to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different perspective, and to Jones Beach. But what I remember the most is walking from our SOMA location, all the way across town and uphill to Lombard Street (the famous s-curved, brick-paved, switchback street that is a “must photograph” when you visit). I made the usual images (except for the nighttime shot with the streaky headlights). Then I looked for something else to shoot. A unique perspective that possibly nobody else had ever done. I think I might have been successful.

Sailboat
Narragansett Bay, Newport
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

In 2016, I made a last minute trip to join my buddy, Rich, who was in Newport, Rhode Island for business. I flew in on Thursday evening and we spent two days shooting.  Friday morning, I was on my own and walked around the downtown area and the wharfs, making lots of photos of boats, buildings, etc. Everything was a more or less nautical theme. That evening we went to shoot a lighthouse that Rich had found earlier in the week (Castle Hill Light). This was a photogenic lighthouse, and as we often do, we arrived early to scout best perspectives for shooting. And then we waited on the light. It is often worth waiting for the absolute last of the light to see if anything magical happens in the sky. To our west, the sun set over Narragansett Bay, with beautiful orange skies, but no real photographic interest. But as we watched and waited, this white sailboat approached and passed. Knowing a little about sailing from my past, I made note of the wind, and calculated that the boat (it was actually a large, tour charter boat on the last leg of the day) would come about and come back toward us. I quickly swiveled my tripod head around, took some metering measurements, and waited to frame the boat where I wanted it to be.  I knew I would get 2-3 shots at best of this quickly moving boat.

Tokyo Tower
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

2018 has been kind of a slow year, photographically. But we absolutely made up for that in 2017. In July, we spent a week in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. We saw many amazing sights and I did my usual early morning walking around both cities. I was intrigued by Tokyo Tower, lit at night, and worked hard to find a good place to photograph it from. I took a few from a couple different places. But it turns out that the best I could do was through the window of our Tokyo Hotel.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In September, we made our 3rd, and much anticipated Mediterranean Cruise. We again spent several days in Venice. One of the other places I had seen and wanted to shoot was the Greek Island of Santorini. We had a wonderful tour guide, who happened to also be a photographer, and he the right time and place for us to be to get shots I am certain I would never have found without his help, in spite of the research I had done.  Did I mention that Venice is “eye-candy” for photographers? Ditto Santorini.

Well.  This was an interesting exercise for me.  I tried to keep it to not more than 15 images. There were many more that perhaps fit the bill. And I am sure there will be more to come. As always, thanks for reading.

 

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Color

Shop; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Hey there.  I have been “MIA” lately.  A series of “life events,” together with the general malaise I usually feel during the winter months, have conspired against my writing.  Where I live, we get snow, but it is “dirty” snow that melts.  There is no “snowy landscape” shooting around here.  I was able to get some Florida shots in the early part of the winter.  We still don’t have anything shoot-worthy here right now.  It is cold and mostly wet.  But there is hope.  We do have early leaves on the trees, and green plants and dandelions.  Now we just need some warm sun to produce some flowers.  So here we are.

Residence; Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Color.  I think it is pretty well-accepted that color attracts.  I know it does for me.  I see color and I tend to gravitate toward it with my lens.  I have shot and presented in color for the better part of 35 years.

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I have shot B&W.  I shot it as a “reporter-photographer” for my college newspaper and yearbook.  I shot a whole roll of of the beautiful cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. once — accidentally.  But that’s another story  🙂 .  And I tell myself I will spend some time one day seriously looking at B&W as a photographic art.  I am truly impressed by the successful B&W shooters out there.  It is hard.  Especially for the nature and outdoor topics that I like to shoot.  But that’s another topic on another day.

Shop; St. Maarten
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

So, color.  I was recently doing some “maintenance” on my LightCentric Website, and noticed a couple images that–after I worked them up to post to the site–I had not really ever paid attention to.  And I wondered why?  Why did I even make these images.  Yes, they are often typical to the culture where I made them.  And I was there.  Those are pretty good reasons.

Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

But what made me shoot them?  As I looked at them and thought about it, the answer came almost immediately clear:  color.  Color attracted me to them.  And, more often than not, it was some particular colored object within the frame that drew my attention.  And as I considered it more, I realized that is a theme of much of my travel and “place” photography.  I look for color.  Subconsciously.  I see color and I am drawn to it.  And I guess it it no coincidence that color attracts us all.  When you look at the markets, many of the displays are a wash of color.  I saw that in Turkey.  I saw it in Venice.  I saw it all over the Caribbean.  I even see it in places like Milbrae, California, Saginaw, Michigan and Dunedin, Florida.

Shop; Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Color is everywhere.  Color attracts.  I like color and I shoot color.  Pretty simple.

O.k., I think I am safe here: “The Sun Also Rises”

Otter Beach Sunrise Acadia NP, Bar Harbor, ME Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Otter Beach Sunrise
Acadia NP, Bar Harbor, ME
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

When I — “tongue in cheek” — noted that I didn’t want to offend Hemingway and be guilty of the very thing I occasionally rant against, copyright infringement, an astute friend pointed out that it wasn’t Hemingway’s at all, but actually comes from the bible.  I am reasonably certain we are beyond the copyright expiration date for the particular author.  So there you go.  🙂

Sunrises reveal themselves in a number of varied conditions

Perhaps more meaningfully, my left turn into the topic of “sunrise” vs “sunset,” caused me to wonder just how many times I had ventured into the early morning, pre-dawn darkness, to try to capture the sunrise.  So I went back through my archives.  I was surprised (though I should not have been) to find that my sunrise images were far fewer than my sunset images.  I found about sixteen of them, most of which I had never given any serious post-processing.  I will use the next two posts to showcase some of them.  I will not say they are in every instance, my best work (in fact a couple were taken with lower-quality digital cameras in low light conditions — in a time when sensors were simply not as good as they are today).  The St. Thomas shot was made as the sun broke the horizon in the pre-dawn light, with a Canon G12 (which had a smaller and less capable sensor than my Sony RX100iv).  My Sony body is half its physical size.

St. Thomas, USVI Copyright Andy Richards 2012

St. Thomas, USVI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

I believe the images here illustrate some of what I said in the prior post.  Sunrises reveal themselves in a number of varied conditions.  Sunsets can often be colorful.  Sunrises are generally more subtle, but as the Otter Beach shot shows, there are occasionally glorious exceptions.  Cooler temperatures create fog and mist.  Cold temperatures create a cool look to the image colors.

Saginaw County Sunrise Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Saginaw County Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

The earliest recorded attempt I made at sunrise shooting was on a freezing cold morning in February, not far from my home in Saginaw, Michigan.  Saginaw is part of the so-called, I-75 industrial corridor, formerly known for its General Motors auto manufacturing plants.  But it may not be a well-known that it is also one of the largest agricultural areas in the mid-west.  As soon as you leave the city in almost any direction, there are farms and farmland.  This image was taken with my Nikon 35mm SLR camera and color transparency film.  Slow ISO speeds of such film dictated the use of a sturdy tripod and cable release.  The image here was scanned with an Epson scanner and is not the quality equivalent of the drum scanners that were used back then to digitize media in high resolution.  Even so, I am impressed with what modern “home-brew” digital technology can accomplish.

Horseshoe Lake Huron NF, Glennie, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Horseshoe Lake
Huron NF, Glennie, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

When my son was younger (me too 🙂 ), we used to do an annual late summer camping trip.  One of our favorite spots was a small National Forest Campground called Horseshoe Lake, in Lower Michigan.  One of my early “successful” attempts at sunrise photography was, perhaps, unplanned.  I have never been a fan of camping and especially, of sleeping on the cold, damp, lumpy ground.  So it was not surprising that I woke early in the pre-dawn.  I restarted our campfire and boiled a pot of water for coffee.  My son (like any pre-teenager) was sound asleep and apparently unfazed by the lumpy ground.  So I carried camera and tripod a few hundred feet down to the water’s edge and began looking for compositions.  I made a few images that morning, but the resulting shot was a bit of a surprise.  The image was shot on Fuji Velvia color transparency film.  A characteristic of this film with certain light conditions is to render blue.  While this was not my “vision” while making the image, I liked it well enough to keep it.  And it has been sold a number of times.  Who knew?

Otter Cliff Otter Beach, Acadia NP Bar Harbor, ME Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Otter Cliff
Otter Beach, Acadia NP
Bar Harbor, ME
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

In 2009, my best friend, Rich, and our spouses made a week-long trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park.   We always have fun when the 4 of us travel.  But Rich and I are pretty unrelenting on our commitment to be out early.  This trip was no exception, and we picked our way down a little known path (we had found during prior daylight) to a rocky portion of Otter Beach, where both the image above, and the opening image were taken, several mornings, waiting for the elusive sunrise I think it was worth the wait when this one finally came.

Sunrise on the Gastineau Channel; Inside Passage Juneau, AK Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Sunrise on the Gastineau Channel; Inside Passage
Juneau, AK
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In 2010, we to our first cruise.  I was lukewarm about the whole cruise idea.  In my mind, cruises were about partying shipboard, buffets, and sun and fun in the Caribbean (which, it turns out, isn’t such a bad gig after all).  My wife wanted to do a cruise, so I agreed–as long as I got to pick it.  And I chose the Alaska Inside Passage cruise.  It turned out to be a great trip and we learned that cruising is a pretty comfortable way to see new places.

Inside Passage, AK Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Inside Passage, AK
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Another plus to going west is the time change.  Already a relatively early riser, the 3 and eventually 4 hour time difference had my wide-eyed before first light nearly every morning, as we cruised the inside passage.  The sun was pure gold the morning we approached the port of Juneau.  A day later, approaching Skagway, the rising sun lit the sky with multiple colors.

Whittier, AK Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Whittier, AK
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

On the final morning of our cruise, I walked the rear deck of our ship, the Diamond Princess, and watched a dramatic sunrise under cloudy skies.  I was a convert to cruising, and we would cruise 3 more times between 2010 and 2013.

Sunrise in the Caribbean Royal Princess Cruise Ship Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Sunrise in the Caribbean
Royal Princess Cruise Ship
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Key West

Key West Harbor Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Key West Harbor
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I have a travel “bucket list,” (of sorts).  One of the places on that bucket list has been the Florida Keys, and particularly, Key West.  In January, we traveled to Key West for a long weekend.   As can happen, it turned out to be a bit of an adventure.

Sunrise; Ft. Myers Beach, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sunrise; Ft. Myers Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

From Fort Myers Beach, you can take a Ferry (The Key West Express) which will land you in Key West in about 4 hours.  I have always thought of Key West as being south of Miami.  It is more accurate to say it is southwest of Miami, and it is really further west than south (sounds like the beginning of a Jimmy Buffet song).  And it is actually straight south from Ft. Myers Beach, so the ferry ride is a pretty straight shot right down the gulf.  From Ft. Myer’s the drive is substantially longer and were were interested in getting there and back as quickly as possible.  Personally, I don’t mind driving — especially when it is to new places. But my traveling companions; well, not so much.  “Be careful what you wish for,” it turns out, applied here.  More on that later.

Fort Myers Beach Fort Myers FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Ferry pulled away from the dock early in the morning, and we were aboard to see the sun rise over Ft. Myers Beach.  As we left the harbor, we were able to see some of the popular “beach” hangouts from the deck of the ship in early morning light.

Fort Myers Beach Fort Myers, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As promised, just under 4 hours later, we landed at the Key West Harbor terminal, where the main boating activity, including cruise ships, fishing boats, ferries and pleasure craft, occurs.    A short jaunt from the ferry terminal, Key West’s main tourist attraction, Duval Street, begins just southeast of Mallory Square, on the harbor.  While the island itself is oriented primarily west to east, most of the streets run diagonal from either the Northwest to Southeast, or North East to Southwest.

Sloppy Joe's Bar Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sloppy Joe’s Bar
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As soon as you set foot onto Duval Street, you are confronted with bars and restaurants and shops.  While there are a number of “tourist” and “family” activities available, the main event (for adults anyway — in it definitely is an “adult” kind of place) seems to be the bar/restaurant scene.  We visited several bars while there, including the famous Sloppy Joe’s.  We were interested to see the substantial influence from the military — particularly the Navy.  Since my father-in-law was a career Naval Officer, we enjoyed seeing some of the paraphernalia left by military personnel over the years.

Sloppy Joe's Bar Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sloppy Joe’s Bar
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

It was also fun to visit a restaurant and learn a bit about Key West history.  Blue Heaven was such a place with a singular history of  cockfighting (100 years ago), gambling, and Friday night boxing matches purported refereed by Hemingway himself.

Blue Heaven Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Blue Heaven
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Notwithstanding its “quirky nature, one of the draws it its very unique, partially covered, outdoor area.  In Key West, it is a restaurant/bar of some repute, with live music and good food.

Blue Heaven Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Blue Heaven
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our B&B was at the southeastern end of Duval Street, near the furthest south beach in the U.S.  Not surprisingly, there is also a resort next door, aptly named, “The Southernmost Beach Resort.”  After our arrival in Key West, we first took our luggage to the B&B and found a restaurant (equally aptly named), in the resort:  The Southernmost Beach Cafe.

Southernmost Beach Resort Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Southernmost Beach Resort
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Southernmost Beach Resort Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Southernmost Beach Resort
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

A stroll down the approximately 1 mile long Duval Street from the B&B back to Mallory Square, gave us a bit of the “lay of the land” and a precursor of the chaotic night life that Duval Street is known for.  Among other famous figures, Key West was a favorite haunt of Hemingway and of President Truman (both of whom had substantial homes on this island).  But for me the personal favorite “famous” person is Jimmy Buffet.  :-).   So I couldn’t walk by the original Margaritaville without stopping (and I couldn’t walk out with out buying a T-shirt) :-).

The Original "Margaritaville" Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Original “Margaritaville”
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I recently noted here that the Florida Gulf is known for its sunsets.  Key West is certainly no exception.  We sat at an outdoor bar listening to a local live band in Mallory Square at the end of our first day and watched the sun set as “our” Key West Express departed with its passengers for Fort Myers Beach.  We thought we would be on that same boat 2 days hence.

Sunset, Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sunset, Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I neglected to say, the occasion of our visit to Key West was a birthday present from my wife.  For the actual birthday, she found, and booked a restaurant on the water, called Louie’s Backyard.  For anyone visiting Key West and looking for a nicer restaurant with wonderful food in a great venue, I highly recommend Louie’s Backyard.  As we sipped a Martini and watched the sunset, I captured this image with my wife’s smartphone, of an adjacent pier which must have been yet another bar or restaurant.  Not too shabby a birthday night.  Certainly one to remember.

Sunset from Louie's Backyard Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sunset from Louie’s Backyard
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Also, all good things must come to an end.  Sometimes abruptly.  I had carried a cigar around in my shirt pocket for two days, waiting for the right opportunity to enjoy it.  It turned out to be after we returned from the restaurant and up on the 2nd floor balcony of our B&B.  And as I sat there enjoying the night time activity and pleasant weather, and wondering what we would do the next day, my wife received a text from Key West Express.   Due to predicted, near-40mph wind gusts and thunderstorms over the gulf, they would not be there to pick us up at our appointed time at 5:00 p.m. the following day.  I am fond of saying that if things don’t work out as planned, it is always important to have a “plan B.”  When asked what “plan B” is, I usually say that the reason it is “plan B” is because I have no idea what it is. :-).  It is another way of saying sometimes you just need to roll with the punches.  We (actually my wife and brother in law, as I sat back and watched them in action) rented a car on line and the next morning we left the B&B at 8:00 and picked up a rental car at the Key West airport.  So, I did get my chance to drive through the keys!  It was a very long day, but an enjoyable weekend.

 

 

Mediterranean Reprise

Ponte Vecchio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Followers may have noted that I have not been posting lately.  To my own surprise, my most recent post was in March.  I seems hardly possible that 2 months have passed, but they have been 2 of the most action-filled months in my recent years.  Life has a way of taking twists and turns.  I have mentioned here that about 3 years ago, we purchased a home in Clearwater, Florida, which will be our retirement home eventually.  There is still lots more to explore and do in Florida and much of it will probably have to wait until I am permanently down there, which is not yet :-).

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Trevi Fountain
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

I thought I would follow the travels of my friends, and feature some of my “off the beaten” path images of those iconic places

But it was time for another “phase” in the process.  For 3 years now, I have been living essentially by myself (my wife and our dog spend 90% of their time — blissfully — in our Florida home) in a near 3000 square foot home here in Michigan.  It was time for me to move on from there, and so we put several months of effort and a few dollars into modernizing the home we lived in for 24 years and put it on the market.  I keep saying I should have bought a lottery ticket at the same time.  It sold in a weekNeedless to say, I wasn’t ready, and I have spent much of my missing-in-action time (essentially every non-working minute), cleaning and packing up 30 + years worth of accumulated …. we’ll call them “things” :-).  Some serious down-sizing was also in the mix.

The ubiquitous black gondola (shown here with the also common blue cover) is a favorite subject of photographers Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

The ubiquitous black gondola (shown here with the also common blue cover) is a favorite subject of photographers
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Now I am moved into a much smaller 2 bedroom rental condominium with no maintenance duties and just right size for me.  I have high hopes this summer of golf, biking, running and photography (oh, and that pesky career thing, too :-)).

VENICE_STREETS Venice, Italy 091220130039

Streets of Venice Copyright Andy Richards 2013

As I follow Facebook, I am struck by that fact that at least 3 of my friends and acquaintances are or have recently traveled to Mediterranean Europe.  As readers here know, I have been on two cruises there.  I must like it, because we just booked another one for 2017, with the same friends who traveled with us last time (they must like it too 🙂 ).GRAND_CANAL Venice Italy 091120130109

 

I must like the Mediterranean.  I have been on 2 cruises there and now have booked another in 2017

It has been fun to see so many images that I captured myself, of places we visited.  But one thing that seems to be consistent is that the images are of well-known primary places all visitors go to see.  It is pretty likely that the tour guides follow pretty much the same menu.  I have a couple mentors who have encouraged me over the years to look to see things other than the icons, and to “see” things happening around me with my camera.  Moving to the “small” camera for my travel has no-doubt fostered this approach.  So, I thought I would follow the travels of my friends, and feature some of my “off the beaten” path images of those iconic places.

Streets of Venice copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Streets of Venice
copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Venice is my (so far) favorite place in Mediterranean Europe.  For a photographer:  “eye-candy” everywhere you look.  20 years ago, I would have burned up all my film in Venice during our 4 day pre-cruise visit!  I’ll just re-post a few here.

Grand Canal at Night, Venice, Italy copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Grand Canal at Night, Venice, Italy
copyright 2013 Andy Richards

We have been to Athens 2 times and are destined for a third.  There is so much European history to photograph there.  Perhaps my best effort there is this image of these young military men, on flag raising detail at the Parthenon.

Flag Detail The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Flag Detail
The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

In Rome, there are so many iconic images, including the Trevi Fountain, The Coliseum, The Vatican, The Pantheon and on and on.  One place everyone visits is the Spanish Steps, and I — like every other tourist, took my share of images on and around the steps.  The image here is looking back from a Roman street, with the normal activity of the local businesses, on the inevitable commercialization cropping up around this awesome example of classic architecture.

Roman Street Spanish Steps in Background Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Roman Street
Spanish Steps in Background
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

My favorite image from both my trips to Rome is this somewhat “reflective” image on a quiet Roman Street.

City Center Rome, Italy Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

City Center
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

When I think of Tuscany, I think of wine country, Florence and Pisa.  In Pisa, the “Leaning Tower” is obviously the attraction.  But the walled city and the other buildings are pretty impressive architecture, too.  Of course, you have to get that silly image of your companion “holding up the tower” too :-).  My  unique “takeaway” from Pisa was this detail shot of the marble.

Pisa, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Pisa, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Florence is all about the grand shot from up on the high plaza of the entire city, and shots in and around the famous bridge passageway.  I got those, too.  But I was intrigued by Mussolini’s speaking balcony perhaps more than anything else in this city.

Mussolini's Balcony Palazzo Vechio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Mussolini’s Balcony
Palazzo Vechio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Provence is about wine and romance.  My images there hopefully address that.

Aix-en-Provence, France Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Aix-en-Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Chateau la Dorgonne Provence, France Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Chateau la Dorgonne
Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Lots of cruises end in Barcelona.  We started there.  The city of Gaudi has pretty much unlimited photo opportunities for the creative.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona, Spain Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona, Spain
Sony RX100iv
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I will be doing my research soon for the next trip to this region in September, 2017.  Hope you enjoyed some of these re-treads.  Hopefully, I can get back to my regular weekly posting, now that life is returning to a normal routine.  Best regards and as always, thanks for reading.

My Favorite Images from the Mediterranean — 2015

Florence Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Florence Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Looking back on the series on our Mediterranean Cruise, it occurred to me that I came away with some “favorite” images. I thought I would revisit and showcase those images in a blog all its own.

La Segrada Familia Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

La Segrada Familia
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I grew up in the middle Northwest of the United States (Michigan), and have spent a fair amount of time on its East Coast. Except for some brief forays into Canada and a trip or two to the Caribbean, until 2013, I had never been out of the continental United State. To be sure, we have many wonderful venues in our great country and I have yet to see all of them. But going to Europe, where history is seen in 1000’s of years, in contrast to our U.S. history of 100’s of years, is a humbling experience. There is so much to see, appreciate and photograph. One day, I will do a travel favorite images blog. But for today – images from Mediterranean Europe; 2015.

Museu Nacional D'art Catalunya Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Museu Nacional D’art Catalunya
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

While it is certainly not my “best” travel photo and does not really capture the spirit of big, bold city of Barcelona, the first image I captured from our touring van of the Museu Nacional D’art Catalunya, resonates with me for some reason. It does rain in Europe, after all.

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona is about modern art and architecture. But it is equally about Calalunya and Catalonian culture. So my shot of the Palau De Musica, with the Catalonian Flag prominently displayed, and the colorful art and architecture, represents Barcelona as well as I can.

Chateau la Dorgonne Provence, France Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Chateau la Dorgonne
Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

When I think of France, I think of wine and romance. My favorites for our short visit to Provence were the first vineyard we visited – Chateau La Dorgonne – and my shot of the fountain at Aix en Provence.

Aix-en-Provence, France Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Aix-en-Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I love Italy. The food, the art, the architecture, the culture and it’s enthusiastic and at the same time, “laid back” citizens. We didn’t really get to know Tuscany in an intimate way. I really would like to go back and spend some time there, like we did in Venice in 2013. Of course, the big draw for tourism is Pisa and Florence, and my shots of the Tower and the Passageway/Bridge were my “takeaways” from that day. Historically, these visits were a highlight of the trip. Photographically, while satisfying, I didn’t really make any particularly unique images.

Bell Tower Pisa, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Bell Tower
Pisa, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

 

Ponte Vecchio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Rome speaks for itself. The ancient ruins; the Coliseum; the Vatican, and the many other historical places are amazing. It is again, a city I could spend a few days in with ease. I would like to see some of the neighborhoods, and leisurely enjoy its night life and its great restaurants and food. It is a magnificent and grandiose city, as one might expect. My favorite image was of a tour boat on the river with the Castel Angel in the background. Our driver stopped in traffic while I jumped out on the bridge to capture this shot. The boat was an unplanned bonus.

Castel Angel Rome, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Castel Angel
Rome, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The shot of the Roman Forum is different from the one recently posted in my blog, but is also one of my favorite images from this trip to Rome.

The Roman Forum Rome, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The Roman Forum
Rome, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I didn’t get to see much of Montenegro. I would certainly return there if the itinerary or opportunity presented itself. Hopefully my image represents the spirit of the place.

Kotor Montenegro Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor Montenegro
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The trip to the Acropolis is always impressive. But the shot of the soldiers, coming out of the Agora after raising the flag for the day, was an unexpected and nice photo opportunity.

Flag Detail The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Flag Detail
The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Intimate shots have always been a draw for me, and much of my portfolio “favorites” are of such shots, rather than the iconic images (which I also shoot a lot of imagery of). This garden shot is probably my favorite of this trip to Athens.

Detail The Agora; Athens, Greece Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Detail
The Agora; Athens, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I am looking forward to my next trip to the Mediterranean.

Athens; Again

Athens, Greece Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Athens, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Athens was one of the cities we saw “all of” on our 2013 Cruise. Our guide, Constantinos, enthusiastically provided us with a very long day of sights, including the Acropolis, the Olympic Pan Hellenic Stadium, a panoramic view of the city of Athens, The Changing of the Guard, the Agora, Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeuss, and some wonderful old churches. He also took us into the old city to a restaurant for lunch that was locally owned and authentic.  There was enough to see that I covered it in two posts, “Where it all Started: Athens,” and “Athens; The Rest of the Story,” in 2013.  The old city has narrow streets and Mediterranean architecture, with pastel buildings.  It is “gated” by Hadrian’s Arch, the 100’s of year old archway named after Roman Emperor, Hadrian.  You can see it in the background of my image of the old city street taken on our return to the city on the 2015 cruise.

Old City, Athens, Greece Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Old City, Athens, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

So we went again, knowing that much of what we saw would be a “repeat” performance. We saw very little “new” this trip, but I did find some more intimate details of some of the places.

Detail The Agora; Athens, Greece Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Detail
The Agora; Athens, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Unlike our 2013 visit, this trip began with the Acropolis. This meant that we would have much nicer light on this visit, and I tried to take advantage of it. I was much happier with my shot of the theater in the Acropolis. I also was able to get some nice long view landscape shots of the city and the Mediterranean in the distance.

The Theatre in The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The Theatre in The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

 

Flag Detail The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Flag Detail
The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

 

The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

 

The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

On the first visit, we did essentially “drive by” of the Agora. This time, we stopped there for a couple hours, had lunch and an opportunity to walk around the old commercial shopping area (no shops there now – just ruins).

The Hall at the Agora Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The Hall at the Agora
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I really enjoyed photographically “working” the small old cathedral in the Agora. From the large hall, we were able to view another temple in the distance.

Church; The Agora Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Church; The Agora
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

 

Temple on the Hill above the Agora Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Temple on the Hill above the Agora
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

We finished up our day in the late afternoon in the old city. While the ladies walked the shops, my buddy and I found a shady outdoor bar and sampled some of the local beer. It was a nice day and a nice finish to our cruise. We all enjoyed our time and each other and vowed that we would do this again in the near future.

Old City, Athens Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Old City, Athens
Copyright Andy Richards 2015