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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.

 

 

The Sun Rises, Too

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

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

I wanted to title this, “The Sun Also Rises,” but given all the preaching I have done here about copyright, I thought Hemingway deserved my respect 🙂 .  Last week, I blogged about Florida sunsets, and waxed philosophical about sunset photography in general.  While much of what I said applies to sunrises, they are unique.

Photographing a sunrise takes a certain resolve and commitment which most people just don’t have

As noted previously, lots of folks (including some I know very well) never see the sun rise.  I am here to assure them that is does, indeed rise.  🙂 .  And sometimes you get really lucky and get to see a moonset and sunrise in the same location on the same morning, like I did at Pete’s Lake in Michigan’s U.P. a few years ago.

Pete's Lake Moon Set Hiawatha NF, Michigan U.P. Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Pete’s Lake Moon Set
Hiawatha NF, Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

One thing that makes sunrises different sunsets is atmospheric conditions.  Sunsets follow the warmth of day and sunrises often follow a cool or even cold night.  The warmth of daylight often produces thinly cloudy atmospheric conditions which can create beautiful pastel colored skies.  Or, a sudden clearing or opening can yield a surprise dramatic lighting condition, as happened at the Ft. Myers Beach harbor.

Port of San Francisco Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Port of San Francisco
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Other times, the fog or cloud cover can diffuse the sunrise and create a “dawn of a new day” kind of look.  The San Francisco Ferry leaving in the early hours is backstopped by such a sunrise.

While much of what I said about sunsets applies to sunrises, they are unique

Sunrises, because they normally follow the coolest temperatures during a 24 hour period, can often be seen in foggy or misty conditions.  This is particularly true near water, which is why water is my preferred sunrise setting.  But sometimes, it is just a matter of perspective–literally.  The shot of the city of Tokyo at dawn was taken from a high floor in my hotel window as daylight was beginning to emerge.

Tokyo Dawn Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tokyo Dawn
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Yet there is another, more esoteric dynamic which distinguishes sunset and sunrise.  In most parts of the world, even when the days are at their shortest, sunrise happens before most folks are out and about.  Indeed, in order to see and capture a sunrise at its best, you will need to be up and about, and on location before the big event.  So it takes a certain resolve and commitment which most people just don’t have.

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

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

But what they miss is perhaps the most magical time of the day.  What you learn from experience is that sometimes the most dramatic light–and images–come just before the actual sunrise, in the twilight minutes.  And when the sun does rise, if it is exposed, it is usually much more intense than sunset, which occasionally means very contrasty conditions and challenging exposure issues.  But it also means drama, and sometimes, star patterns.  As we scouted the Split Rock Lighthouse one morning following a rainy night, the cloud cover suddenly broke behind the cloud cover behind the light to yield a pretty dramatic silhouette.  I was able to stop down enough to get a diffuse starburst effect, too.  It was still raining that morning when we rolled out of bed and it would have been easy to just sleep in more, or go to breakfast.  But I were weren’t there I would have missed this shot.

Sunrise, Hateras National Seashore, Hateras, NC copyright Andy Richards

Sunrise, Hateras National Seashore, Hateras, NC copyright Andy Richards

Another plus to sunrise shooting is that you are out when there is virtually nothing moving.  The only thing that is is the wildlife that is often active at that time.  It can be an incredibly serene time of day and it is without a doubt, my favorite time to shoot.  The morning I made the Cape Hateras image, I (and another solitary fisherman) was the only human for miles of beach.  The surf was quiet and all that could be heard was that gentle wave break and the seabirds.  It was a pretty amazing moment.

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

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

Shooting into the sun is challenging under any conditions.  But it is often rewarding.  One issue that often arises from this perspective, especially with short and mid focal length, lenses, is the phenomena called lens flare.  In many instances, lens flare can be an image killer.  But sometimes, it adds to the image.  Especially when it produces colors.  I got not only the starburst effect, but also lens flare in the Sault St. Marie image.  One of the wonders of post-capture digital manipulation is the ability to retouch these out of the image.  But sometimes lens flare actually adds something to the image.  I like the effect here.

Missing in Action (and Some R&R)

Clearwater Beach, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Clearwater Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

I haven’t posted for a couple weeks.  That happens at certain times of the year.  This is one of those times.  We have traditionally taken a Caribbean Cruise during this period of Winter.  This year, we took a break from cruising, but spent the time allotted for that enjoying our Florida home and surrounds, with some of our cruising friends.

When I think of Clearwater (which is essentially where we are), I think of the cleanest, whitest, sandiest beaches around.  We have spent time on different parts of the Atlantic Coast and while the beaches there are wonderful, Clearwater Beach looks like it was filled with the “play sand” you buy at Home Depot!  When I land in Florida, my first impulse it to take my shoes off and change to flip flops.  And when I hit the beach, my first impulse is to take them off, and bury my feet in the sand.

Clearwater Beach FL Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Clearwater Beach FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

When I hit the beach, my first impulse is to remove the flip flops and bury my feet in the sand

But you can’t spend all your time on the beach.  There has to be time for good food and drink.  I have lived in so-called “middle-America” for over 30 years.  While my city has treated me admirably and I have known a great many wonderful friends, raised a family, and had a very good career there, one of my disappointments has been that for whatever reason, these communities do not support a large variety of great independent eating establishments.  The chains are the rule.  So one of my “vices” over the years has been to seek out nice restaurants and unique food opportunities when I visit areas that have them.  Well, we seem to have hit the mother lode in the Tampa-St. Pete area.  We have found a number of very nice restaurants, and there is a substantial Greek and substantial Cuban population in the area, which means some incredible food.  I have not yet eaten in a chain restaurant in the 3 years we have been in the Clearwater area.  And I really don’t intend to.

Palm Pavillion Clearwater Beach, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Palm Pavillion
Clearwater Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

One of our favorites–The Palm Pavillion–is literally “on the beach” in Clearwater Beach and you can sit outside and see the beach-goers.  The food is good too, and it has become a favorite lunch destination.

Our community is actually Palm Harbor (home of the Innisbrook Golf Resorts, among other things).  We are bracketed to the north with Tarpon Springs, a great Greek community with Greek Orthodox Church, Greek Festival, and the nationally famous Sponge Docks.  It is a quaint little tourist destination, but the food is great.  I nice place to walk around in the sun (which shines often in Florida).  To the South, is Dunedin, an equally quaint, tourist destination, but with a very “local” feel and presence.  There are many residents of the area that frequent the downtown, which features several very good restaurants featuring Italian, barbeque, authentic Mexican, and more.  Dunedin has also become a destination for craft beer afficionados, with at least 4 local brew pubs and a couple very nice independent bars which specialize in wines and craft beer.  It is a welcoming and great place to walk or bike.  The Pinellas County Rail Trail runs right through the middle of Dunedin and it is usually well-populated with walkers and riders.  In addition to these more well-known attractions, the little downtown areas of Palm Harbor and Ozona have some really fine local bar/restaurant establishments and one 5-star restaurant (Ozona Blue).

Dunedin Restaurant Dunedin FL Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Dunedin Restaurant
Dunedin FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

We are fortunate to have a home in Palm Harbor which allows us to comfortably sit on our lanai and enjoy the sunshine, spirits and the occasional cigar :-), and our friends helped us enjoy that setting.  My great friend, Paul helped me open and sample this “bucket list” bourbon.  Very smooth, but not a bunch of character, in my own opinion.  But the bottle is pretty cool.

Willett Pot Still Bourbon Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Willett Pot Still Bourbon
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Couple things.  I don’t think I carried the camera, or turned it on the whole 2 week period!  All of the images here were made with my Blackberry “Priv” Camera.  I have blogged here about “going small” with my gear.  I am pretty impressed with the capability of this “smartphone camera.”  But fear not.  I have no intentions of ditching the Sony Gear.  These were basically just snapshots.  But I was glad to see the resolution allowed me to fine-tune these images in my post-processing software.

The eBook is Coming!

Second, an announcement and a tease.  Those who know me well know that I wrote an e-Book on photographing Vermont Fall Foliage which is available on the major e-book sellers like iBooks, Amazon, B&N, etc.   They also know that I have been working (for over 4 years) on an e-Book on photographing the Michigan Upper Peninsula (for those “in the know,” “The UP”).  Both of these books grew out of my notes of shooting locations and eventually, PDF files that I made available.  Well, after many fits and starts, and the addition of a co-writer, that UP e-book is at the publisher and I expect it to be available on the same outlets very soon!  So stay tuned for the major announcement.

Clearwater Sunset Clearwater, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Clearwater Sunset
Clearwater, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Like all vacations, this one had to come to an end.  The Florida Gulf is famous for its sunsets.  What better parting image (again, made on my “smart” phone), than a Clearwater sunset?

best regards,

 

Some Florida Imagery

 

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin, FL Copyright 2015  Andy Richards

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin, FL
Copyright 2015 Andy Richards

Some readers here may recall me mentioning that we have a second home in the Tampa Bay area. This is a relatively recent acquisition and, still being a working “stiff,” I have had (or perhaps made) little opportunity to explore and shoot there. Over the Christmas/New Year holiday, I spent some time down there, and had a couple opportunities to get out and do some shooting.

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin, FL Copyright 2015  Andy Richards

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin, FL
Copyright 2015 Andy Richards

I am told that opportunities abound, but I am still getting the “lay of the land.” One nice area is only about 1.5 miles from our house. Honeymoon Island State Park is a narrow spit of land that lays out in Gulf of Mexico, just northwest of Clearwater, Florida. It is north of Clearwater Beach and has been largely preserved as a natural/recreational area (though it may be hard to say “natural” with a straight face, if you look at the amount of paved surface area created for parking). On a given sunny day, hundreds of beach-goers drive out over the causeway from Main Street in Dunedin, Florida, to this day-use park. There are also hiking trails and natural habitat for much of Florida’s wildlife – primarily of the avian variety – but not exclusively so.

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin, FL Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin, FL
Rokinon 8mm Fisheye
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

My two quick trips out to the Island did not yield an opportunity for exploring. That will come later. This time, I made a quick trip on one of the last evenings of 2014, and again on one of the first evenings of 2015, when it looked like a sunset might be developing. The Florida Gulf Coast is noted for its spectacular sunsets. I have yet to capture one I would deem “spectacular.” But I do think I can characterize some that I did capture as “nice.”

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin FL Copyright 2015  Andy Richards

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin FL
Copyright 2015 Andy Richards

I see many sunrise and sunset images these days. While a nice orange ball against a horizon is nice, the huge expanse of (relatively) uninteresting water in front of most of them makes them seem mundane to me. I try to either capture some kind of foreground element, or if I cannot find something in the foreground, exclude most of the water in favor of an interesting sky. These Florida Gulf sunsets seem to yield consistently interesting skies, so that is often easy.  The exception to the “expanse of water” might be when there is some color or interest to the water.  In some cases, I think its o.k. to add color and interest.

This outing also gave me an opportunity to use the newly acquired (traded “down” from the a7R) Sony a7 and I am cautiously pleased with the result and handling of the camera and the Sony-Zeiss 24-70 f4 lens. I also used my Rokinon 8mm fisheye manual lens (for the NEX E-mount, but even with the vignette, I liked the wide result).

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin, FL "Photoshopped" Copyright  2015  Andy Richards

Honeymoon Island State Park; Dunedin, FL
“Photoshopped”
Copyright 2015 Andy Richards

More Raw Image Conversion Magic

Little Stony Man Overlook Shenandoah NP, Virginia Andy Richards  Copyright 2007

Little Stony Man Overlook
Shenandoah NP, Virginia
Andy Richards Copyright 2007

Sometimes I wonder what my next blog topic will be about. Other times, I have a couple ideas in the queue for next. And sometimes, even with those ideas ready, another idea comes up that I feel compelled to write about. That happened this week

In my continuing re-work of my website images, I have incorporated the new workflow and for 99% of my images, I am getting improved results and trashing the older, smaller jpegs that were originally uploaded. But what has been a pleasant discovery is how many images I had essentially rejected are I am now able to bring out details in—without resort to blending and HDR type techniques.

The image here is an example. I shot this image in 2007 with a Nikon D200, without a graduated ND filter, in conditions with clearly too much contrast to capture in one shot (or at least, that is what I thought then and until very recently). I made several exposures with the intent of trying my hand at some blending (this was before I had any working knowledge of blending and HDR third party programs). While I am certain that there are some very skilled Photoshop users out there who could make a nice image, I had neither the skills nor the patience to get what I felt was an acceptable result. So, the raw image remained in the files. I am an optimist, and have read a number of times that storage is cheap and technology continues to advance. So I do keep images that might have some future usefulness.

This image is not—compositionally—the strongest image. I feel that the trees and foliage jutting into the foreground (ironically) detract from the composition and I would like to have found a vantage point that would have excluded them. But in terms of the technical post-processing, I think it is a great example. The below shot is the image opened in ACR using my prior workflow. It has been adjusted for color temperature, I added clarity and vibrance, did some basic noise reduction, and calibrated it for the Nikon 18-200 zoom lens used to capture the image. I slightly tweaked exposure (but any greater adjustment and I began to lose the highlights), and set the black and white points.LITTLE STONY MAN SHENANDOAH NP_BAD

As you can see, the foreground and especially the “middle ground” are terribly blocked up and lacking in visible detail. I followed the cardinal rule of exposing to the right, but this is an image that screams out for either a GND filter, or blending of several exposures.

The two most powerful sliders for an image like this one are the shadows slider and the contrast slider

Moving into Photoshop, I played around with a couple different ways to “improve” the exposure. Using levels, I moved the mid-point slider to globally lighten the image (I could mask off the sky, of course). That demonstrates why many Photoshop commentators call it a “blunt” instrument. There is an immediate loss of contrast, as well as a breakdown of details. In short, it looks “crappy.” Curves were not much of an improvement. The Shadow/Highlight adjustment in Photoshop was, again, not much better.

I never used to touch the shadow, contrast, or saturation sliders. Now I am freely using the first two

In NIK Viveza 2, I set some control points and used the shadows, contrast, and saturation sliders. While the result was considerably better that the prior tries, the end result still looked “worked.”

So, I went back to my raw image, armed with the knowledge I gained from Jeff Schewe’s “The Digital Negative.” The image at the beginning of the blog is the result. And the main tools were the sliders in the very first window (essentially the same as the sliders in the Lightroom 4 Develop Module for LR users). The two most powerful sliders for an image like this one are the shadows slider and the contrast slider. I find that if I expose correctly (see Expose Right to Expose Correctly), I rarely do much with the exposure slider (although Schewe suggests it is the starting place and he likes to set it “by eye”). I set color temperature (usually not much adjustment there), and then look at the histogram. If it is within the left and right edges, I usually set the clarity and vibrance sliders next. If there are blown highlights, I try to correct them with the highlight slider. Then I work with the shadows slider and the contrast slider (relying on reading I had done previously—applicable to older ACR processing engines—I never used to touch the shadow, contrast, or saturation sliders. Now I am freely using the first two. I still prefer to do any saturation other than what naturally occurs with clarity and vibrance in Photoshop or with a plugin like NIK).

In this image, I pushed the shadows slider nearly to its limit. I continue to be amazed at how good it looks. I am not a pixel peeper, and in that context, I am unable to detect any destructive result. As this tends to flatten contrast, I use the contrast slider, but a bit more judiciously. Other than these two sliders, there is very little difference in the resulting image brought into Photoshop. But what a difference in the end result!

 I still prefer to do any saturation other than what naturally occurs with clarity and vibrance in Photoshop or with a plugin like NIK

The modifications made in NIK Viveza 2, afterward are much more subtle. A slight amount of saturation boost in the sky and in the “middle ground” foliage, a bit of “structure” and some contrast adjustments and some localized lightening of shadows and darkening of bright areas are all I did to the final image.

I will be on vacation for the week after next, including the next couple weekends, so I will be on hiatus from this blog. I hope to bring back some new images and ideas. See you soon.

Tranquil Turk; Grand Turk Island

Grand Turk Island is an island in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a chain of islands in the Caribbean under British Rule, just southeast of the Bahamas. The island derives its name comes from a species of cactus on the island, the Turk’s Cap Cactus, which has a distinctive cap, reminiscent of a Turkish fez. Grand Turk is the largest of the Turks Islands (the smaller of the two archipelagos making up the Turks and the much larger Caicos). At 6.9 square miles, and with a population just under 4,000, Grand Turk houses the territorial capital, in Cockburn Town, as well as a Masonic Temple, the Turks and Caicos Museum, and the Governor’s Mansion, on the Grand Turk Beach.

Originally settled by the same natives as many other Caribbean Islands, according to Wikipedia, in 1841, a Spanish ship engaged in the slave trade was wrecked off the coast of East Caicos, one of the larger Caicos Islands. One hundred and ninety-two captive Africans survived the sinking and made it to shore where, under British rule, the slave trade was illegal. These survivors were apprenticed to trades for one year then settled mostly on Grand Turk Island. For several decades around the turn of the 18th century The Turks and Caicos were pirate hideouts. In 1680, Bermudian salt collectors settled the Turk Islands and you can still see the large salt flat impounds as you come into port today.

In 1962, John Glenn’s Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft splashed down near Grand Turk Island and today, a replica of the Friendship 7 is on display in Grand Turk at the entrance to the Grand Turk Island JAGS McCartney Airport. There has been (disputed) speculation over the years that Grand Turk may have also been the first land sighted by Christopher Columbus’ “New World” discovery in 1492.

Grand Turk, Caribbean Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

There are no ziplines, colorful nightlife, jewelry stores, duty-free liquor stores, or other traditional cruise line retail establishments inland and in the heart of Cockburn town (though there is now a well-developed – outlet-mall style development right at the cruise dock itself at the Southeastern End of the island. The town itself is laid-back, local, and most certainly doesn’t reek of high dollar shopping and restaurants. Indeed, apparently until only very recently, only the exclusive, small ship lines such as Silversea even made port at Grand Turk. In more recent years, however, the Carnival Corporation (Carnival, Holland America and Princess are all within the Carnival “umbrella”). If you want nightlife or an upscale resort experience, the Caicos Island of Providencialesapparently is the “in place.”

Grand Turk, Caribbean Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

We took a taxi into Cockburn Town and “downtown” was a little strip of rather timeworn buildings along the beach, with a bit of local color showing as small “trinket” sale huts and food establishments on the beach. The community had a decidedly rural and “poor” quality to it, though a large (and from the photographs at the cruise terminal, elaborate) “visitor center” was under construction.

Grand Turk, Caribbean Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

A gorgeous Caribbean Sunset closed out our visit to Grand Turk on a quiet, picturesque, quintessential Caribbean. I didn’t have my camera or tripod (a terrible admission for a photographer), but it is a scene I will remember until my next (perhaps) visit to Grand Turk.

Grand Turk Beach, Caribbean Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Caribbean Contentment

R & R was the primary goal of our Caribbean Cruise vacation. I was looking for a catchy post title that was synonymous with relaxation. “Contentment” was as close as I could get.

One of the enjoyable parts of a cruise is those moments at the end of the day when you get a chance to wind down after a day on shore, either at one of the deck bars, or perhaps in your stateroom. We have had the good fortune of booking “mini-suites” which include a balcony, and nothing is more relaxing than sitting on your balcony watching the day wind down and the sun set beyond the horizon.

 

Following our fun day on shore in St. Maarten, we boarded the ship and sat at the bar on the pool deck, listening to the Band play Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet and other “island music.”

As we got ready for dinner, the late afternoon sun created a subtle reflection of our own “Ruby Princess” on the neighboring, docked ship.

After getting cleaned up for dinner, we sat on our balcony and watched the sun set over the Caribbean, as the ships began to leave port and sail for their next destinations.  It was a nice ending to a nice day. It is no wonder so many have fallen in love with the Caribbean over the years.

Caribbean Sunset Copyright 2012 Andy Richards