Solar Eclipse 2017

I was lucky enough to witness the “Great American” 2017 Solar Eclipse in Orangeburg, South Carolina with my brother-in-law and a new friend. I only had my X Vario with a 70mm lens paired with a tripod and a Thousand Oaks solar filter.

On another note, I can’t believe there has not been a post since May! Gotta remedy that!

Advertisements

Mr. Potato Head’s Prison

l1010132

St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Savannah. I guess they need all the potatoes they can get for the festivities. Not sure why they are holding the Steeler’s victory gnome hostage, but I am not in the know on these matters…

Good Morning St John’s

emily1304

After a night of chasing ghosts, Emily (about a year old at the time) woke up early so I decided we should go on walkabout to see how Savannah transforms from the most haunted city in America to an enthralling architectural and historic beauty. This photo of St. John’s Episcopal Church captures a little of both as the golden light of morning pushes away dark shadows hiding vengeful ghosts. Shot on Fuji Provia 400X film (sadly discontinued in 2013).

Happy Anniversary to my wife, x5

L1054532

It was our first big trip together; Sonoma Coast wine country in California. One of many firsts for us as a couple and looking back a defining one. It is when I knew.

There were many memories made that trip, but one stands out. Watching the sun set on the Pacific, high on the coast, not a soul around us. I spotted this area earlier in the trip and wanted to come back to it one evening to watch the sun set. The first day there was a clear evening we decided to go for it and while most were heading back into town to catch dinner we headed out to see the day’s last light fall serenely into the ocean. We got there early and I remember thinking how long it was taking for the sun to go down. I got restless, as I do, fiddling with my camera, walking around to find the prefect vantage point and being the anxious person I am until she said to take it easy and come sit down. It was about this time that DMB’s “You and Me” (which was our wedding song) came onto the iPod and that was it for me. It just all come together and I knew I loved this woman and wanted her to be my wife.

The memories didn’t end with the magical sunset. Our rental Mustang sat low on the ground and got stuck on a bump on a hill as we were leaving the coastline. No cell phone service and night was coming down fast, I was getting worried about our chances of getting out of there in a reasonable amount of time until two good ‘ole boys pulled up and helped me lift the car off the hill to get us on our way. Crisis averted, we were starving and headed down the coast for some food. Being the middle of the week most places were closed and unlit so we drove on. And on. And on. It wasn’t until many miles later that we saw lights. And like hungry moths we flocked to the light, finding, of all things, an Indian restaurant in the middle of nowhere. I do not know if the empty pit in my stomach affected my brain chemistry, but it was the best Indian food I have ever had. And one of the most memorable  dinners we ever had, to this day.

This took place in April 2010 and is something that will be remembered all my days. A year later we were married. A year after that we had our first daughter. Two years forward we had our second daughter. Today, it has been five years since we were married, and though a lot has happened I am excited about what the future holds for us. As a family, as lovers and as friends.

Thank you, my love, for the great memories, beautiful daughters and life we have together. Happy anniversary with many more to come.

AG

Good morning, Gainesville

L1000176-Edit

Sometimes I think its all been done before. Then, a bleary-eyed morning drive to the work shows me this. It amazes me that no matter how many sunrises or sunsets I have the privilege to see, they are all different. Some are more spectacular than others, but the key is to take a brief moment and allow yourself to see them. Too often we get caught up in the day and miss the most beautiful things, right there in front of us. They may not always knock you off your feet like this sunrise, but they are there. There, reminding us that it has not all been done before, and that each day presents a new thing of beauty of behold.

Forsyth fountain

Forsyth fountain savannah

If you have been to Savannah, you know this place. Serving the public since 1858, this fountain and the park its in are always nice to stroll through, especially in the early morning hours when its less crowded. At night the park is infested with boo-hags and worse; I tried it once and did not quite make it to the fountain. That’s okay, there are plenty of less haunted venues to see at night in this ghost-filled city.

Lost in Amarillo

Lost in Amarillo

It was cold that evening in Amarillo, the kind of cold you don’t want to be lost in. January can be like this I was told, so I packed accordingly before leaving Florida. There was a group of us falconers, mostly from Florida, and this was my first invite to an annual trip of friends. I brought my Aplomado falcon, Obi, and the eternal puppy Beezle as my hunting partners and companions to this new and exciting adventure. As the new guy on the trip I felt it imperative to prove my worth and show the appreciation necessary to our hosts and hopefully get invited again on the next outing. Keep this mindset with you as we move along this story…..

It was the third day of hawking, and a good one at that. Most of us had taken game in the high plains setting and were feeling pretty good, but falconry is a community sport and if one doesn’t catch its like none of us did. So, the crew set out to help one of our own to get his head of game before the quickly falling sun faded away and the day closed with a loss. We broke up into groups to scout game, and I was with my friend who had yet to catch with his Richardson’s merlin. The game was scare and light was going fast, but game was spotted; a dove. Dove are notoriously tricky especially in the pursuit style of flight that the merlin prefers and this set up was difficult at best. The bird was a ways off and there were canyons, gulches and crevasses that could be obstacles in the instance a foot chase was initiated. “Let’s do it” he said and being the newbie, saying anything other then an enthusiastic yes was unfathomable despite my reservations. Shut the Ford Explorer off and out we were.

To hunt or not to hunt...

To hunt or not to hunt…

Looking back, there were many signs that said this was a bad idea. First being the merlin didn’t want to chase the dove after rousing on the roof rack and looking generally underwhelmed. Second, we didn’t let the others in the party know where we were or what we were doing. Third, the sun was very close to setting at this point. I brought the concerns up to my friend, and he agreed, defeatedly, that it was time to pack it in. Murphy being Murphy and tending to his own law, the merlin took this opportunity to take off after the dove in the canyon and the chase was on! We watched as the merlin leisurely flew toward the dove, which saw this lame attempt to hunt and took the opportunity to fly away in case the raptor decided to get serious. With the dove in flight the raptor flew over the nearest crag of rock turned golden red with the sun’s last light and we both lost sight of the bird on the binoculars and it was on to telemetry games. For those who don’t know, falconers often use radio tracking on their birds to help locate them after they have flown off or are on game. It is nothing too fancy, a transmitter is placed on the bird, and the falconer holds the receiver. When in use, the transmitter emits short beeps that get stronger as you get closer to the bird. Beep——beep—–beep—–beep, the merciless sound drones in changing intensity to give you hope that you will see your hunting partner again, or fear that mother nature has called your bird back to her bosom. So, with telemetry out and on the ready, we began the search for the merlin which was more than likely calling it a night in a safe location. No beep from where the truck was parked, so on foot down into the canyon in the direction the little falcon flew was the way to go. My friend, being far more familiar with the area, headed right down and into the thick of things. I started out after him and had an idea, turn the headlights on the Ford Explorer as it was sitting on the highest ridge and as the light faded we could at least make our way back to the SUV. With that I locked up the truck and hustled to catch my friend already in hot pursuit.

After several ins and outs, ups and downs, the first barely audible beep emerged from the receiver like the whisper of a ghost and filled our cold bones with hope. I took this moment to see if my trick worked, if the SUV was visible from our vantage point to guide our way back and it was. Without a word we set off in the direction of the beep only to lose it, then find it, then lose it again. At this point it was dark and cold, and the lights from the Explorer were far enough away that they looked like stars in the sky and for where we were they may have just been that. Then, a strong, harsh BEEP emerged from the receiver and my friend said, “She’s up!” (meaning that the merlin took flight again) and literally darted up and over the next hill like a mountain goat into the night. I wearily crossed over the rise and, like David Copperfield, he was gone. No beep, no tracks, no call back, nothing; just dark canyon.

Merlin's last light

At this point, I was nervous. Though growing up in the small mountain town of Estes Park gave me some skills in the wilderness, the thought of getting back through unknown territory without having decent light to guide the way was daunting. Heading in the direction I thought my friend would have gone, my only light a small LED flashlight kept in my trusty Filson field bag, I meandered for about ten minutes more before having to make the decision of going back or continue the search. Mobile phone service was nonexistent so no option there, and my flashlight has been sitting in my bag for years with old batteries the writing was on the dark canyon wall. Time to head back.

Maneuvering through canyon by flashlight was tricky at best, but what really sent me into a dramatic “Hope they find my body” mindset was the fact that the headlights were no longer visible. My brilliant idea, my saving grace, was dimmed like the hope of getting back unscathed. “Well, you can’t stop and despair” my thought was headed back in the direction I thought best. It’s funny looking back at the silly thoughts one thinks when impending doom is a perceived reality. “Maybe they’ll put a place marker here for me, name this spot in my honor and talk in the hushed tones of remembrance when in this area. Hmmm, yeah, probably not since they won’t find my body…” I thought to myself with the real knowing that it would most likely turn out okay in the end. Just then, when all fantastic hope was lost I saw in the distance the twinkling headlights. O’ Glorious Ford Explorer, shine thy brilliant light upon thee and guide my sorry ass home!  Hope was renewed, and my pace quickened as I approached the SUV. It should be noted, though, that I was heading in the wrong direction and one more hill would have sealed my fate!

It took about 30 minutes of climbing, scaling, and jumping to get back to the vehicle but when I arrived it was a great feeling. I didn’t want to leave in case my friend was using the lights to find his way, so I stood on the roof of the Ford (it was a rental) to try and get a cellular signal and got one. Promptly called the posse to start the rescue mission only to find out that while I was out looking for my friend, they rest of the group was looking for me! As it turns out, my friend found his merlin and used the lights from the Explorer to guide his way back to the highway where he called the group to be picked up. But, I was presumed lost so they were searching for me. With directions back to the highway form my last known location, I hopped in the Explorer and headed over to our local host’s home where a nice dinner of pizza and beer soothed my cold, rattled soul.

The rest of the trip went off without a hitch.  Even though there were no more adventure quite like this one, it was a great trip that will be remembered for the rest of my days. And, I did get that invite the next year.