Rock Climbers

As a retired Jet Pilot it’s hard for people to understand that I’m scared to death of heights!  I have flown single engine, multi-engine, turboprops, jets, hot air balloons, helicopters, and gliders.  Even at 41,000 feet you have no sense of height sitting in the cockpit, but put me on top of even a small building and I’m petrified!

I’ve watched many documentaries of rock climbers ascending El Capitan in Yosemite, Mt. Everest, Denali and other high mountains around the world and sit there spell bound trying to comprehend what this would be like.

ClimberRecently we drove from Phoenix to Tucson to attend a concert.  The next day we drove up Mount Lemon which is over 9,000 feet at the summit.  This is a breathtaking drive as the long winding road and the scenery are astounding!

After a delightful lunch, with outside seating, we headed back down the mountain.  At about the 7,500 foot  level we saw this giant boulder protruding into the sky with a guy repelling down the side.  We missed his ascent to the top, but was able to grab this photo of his descent.

This isn’t Mount Everest but the danger of death still existed.  If something would have happened he would have fallen several thousand feet.

I have to admire people who do this and accept the challenge of risk.  This has to require great physical strength, nerve and stamina!

The Brian Wilson concert was awesome and we were honored to see him in his last concert tour and the Mt. Lemon experience and seeing this climber was certainly a bonus!

What will your next adventure be?  I guarantee mine will be photographing and not climbing!

An Arizona Icon

We moved to Arizona from the “Quad Cities,” an area on the Mississippi river which comprised of cities in Iowa and Illinois and is located about 150 miles West of Chicago.  It was a great place to grow up, located  in mid America, as it was not influenced by the cultures of the East or West coasts.  Life there just seemed more relaxed.

The last 21 years in Arizona have been delightful as we have fallen in love with the splendor and beauty of the this area.  I have been a photographer my whole life, but it became a passion when the digital age arrived, and there’s not a better place to practice this craft than America’s Southwest!

I have taken thousands of photos in many countries and maybe one of the most fascinating places is the “Gold King Mine” in Jerome, Arizona.  It was founded by Don Robertson many years ago who had an obsession with collecting old stuff.  I’ve been there many times and never tire of my visits.

DonI was honored in 2015 to photograph Don as he posed sitting on his saw mill.  Honored, because little did anyone know that he would pass away a few months later.

This man was the definition of a fascinating“character.”  Truly a western icon.  I had never conversed with him on previous occasions, I guess because it was almost like confronting a celebrity.  This time however when I approached him for a photo, he seemed very open to sit and chat which I found very enjoyable.  We talked about the simple life and the art of enjoying what you do.  The conversation made my day and will live in my mind as a very memorable experience!

There are many interesting articles about this man if you google Don Robertson.  You can watch a short video about him and the Gold King Mine here. 

If you live in or visit Arizona this is one of the places I would highly recommend, along with Sedona, the Antelope  Canyons, Horseshoe Bend (both near Page, Az.) and the Grand Canyon!

The Transformation of a Photo

The digital age ushered in a whole new meaning to the world of photography!  Gone are the days of dark rooms and taking your roll of film to the drug store.  In the 1990s digital cameras started very primitively. My first one was a Sony Mavica.  You slid in a three and a half inch floppy disc and it would take about a dozen photos at one third of a megapixel!

We’ve come a long way in a short period of time and today’s DSLRs are capable of shooting thousands of photos at 12, 16, 20, 24, 36, and 50 or more megapixels!  Incredible quality, ease of use, and instant gratification!  The really special thing about serious photographers is the ability to enhance their photos with sophisticated editing software.  Personally I enjoy this part as much as taking the photo!

Here’s an example of taking a ho hum picture and turning it into a handsome photo!  This one was taken a few years ago in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  We had chartered a small craft to take us out to photograph beyond the port.  It was cloudy and hazy, but since we were on a cruise ship we had to make the best of it since we would be there only one day.  This was straight out of my Nikon D7000 camera.

IMG_2603

As you can see this is not much to look at.  Now I’m going to import it into the ON1RAW Photo Editor and play with some adjustments.  ON1RAW is new on the market and is very similar to Adobe’s Lightroom.  After several enhancements it looked like this.

IMG_2603 copy copy

Not bad, but I’m not satisfied with the sky as the upper left is over exposed.  Over the years I have taken a lot of sky pictures and keep them in a separate folder on my hard drive for occasions like this.  So let’s replace the sky, then add a layer of orange over the water as to show the reflection from the sky, and here’s the final photo.

2603 Edited

This is a far cry from the original and shows what can be done with some editing skill.  Some purists say that this isn’t ethical, that it’s not right to change what you originally shot, and to that I say “hog wash!”  That’s why today’s advanced photographers call themselves “Photo Artists.”  Every photo from any pro has been edited.  The only exception that I can think of would be a wartime photo journalist.

Now comes an even more exciting part of digital photography and that’s the tremendous advancements of cell phones.  Today’s smartphone cameras are capable of beautiful pictures and in some ways are almost equivalent to the “big boy” cameras.

Most people are happy with their photo results as soon as they look at it and post it immediately to social media.  Some of us however realize that it can look even better with a couple of minutes of editing.  Maybe the best phone photo editor on planet Earth is “Snapseed.”  I absolutely love this app!  It’s available for both iPhones, and Androids, and it’s free with no advertising!  Once you spend a little time with this app you’ll be amazed how you can make your pictures “come to life!”

A Hot Cell Phone Tip!

Broken iPhoneThis is something that will make your heart sink, when you drop your phone and it looks like this!  You’re lucky however if you have insurance with your carrier as it can be fixed.  But are you lucky?  I have been paying a monthly insurance fee of $22 per month for two phones.  That’s $264 per year.  I never read the fine print and just found out that you’ll pay a $200 deductible to get it fixed.  If a year has gone by you’re really paying $464, and if two years has elapsed you’re paying $728 to get it fixed!

So here’s what took place when this recently happened to one of our phones.  I woke up and realized there are cell phone fixit places all over.   So I took this terrible looking thing, that looked like it was doomed forever, to one of those places and had the LCD and the screen replaced for $99!  For those living in Phoenix, I highly recommend the “Talk N Fix” kiosk right next to the Apple store in the Arrowhead Mall.  I couldn’t believe the guy had it totally repaired in 10 minutes, and it looks and works like new!

Consequently I called Verizon and cancelled the $22 per month charge for insurance coverage.  There is one drawback however to not having insurance and that is theft or loss of your phone.  Since I’ve never lost anything important in my life it’s worth that risk for all the money saved.  Also you have a good chance of getting your phone back, if lost or stolen, with the “Find my Phone” app.

So, just passing this along in hopes it will help you save money, and we all want to do that!

The Marketing Genius of Apple

Arrowhead Apple Store

I took this photo of the Apple store at the mall near where we live.  I believe one of the reasons this  company has been so successful is the beauty of these stores around the world.  No other phone company has done this.  In my lifetime I have never witnessed people lined up to purchase their latest product, site unseen!  Much credit has to be given to the originator and founder of Apple, Steve Jobs one of the technology genius’ of our time.  No doubt about it, Apple is a great company!

With all this being said, is the iPhone the best smartphone on the market?  I don’t think so.  I’ve owned several of them and several Samsung Galaxy phones and believe the Samsung is far superior, for several reasons.  Let me give you just a few.

If you turn off your iPhone then plug it into a charger it will turn back on.  That’s dumb because it’s going to charge slower.

Each time you open an app on any phone it will stay open in the background, taking up memory and discharging the battery faster.  Shutting down all apps on an Apple phone gets complicated as most people don’t even know how and if they do you have to shut them down one at a time.  Dumb.  On the Samsung one click shuts them all down!  I do that several times a day.

When typing on the Apple keyboard you have to take another step to get to the numbers.  On the Samsung the letters and numbers are all on the same keyboard.  To me that’s huge!

On the Samsung phone you have a “back button” which lets you instantly go back to the previous page.  No such thing on the Apple, and that’s frustrating!

On the Apple you have to manually update apps, on the Samsung all apps update automatically!

On the Apple lots of functions have to be accomplished through iTunes.  Frustrating and dumb.  On the Samsung just plug it into your laptop or desktop computer and have access to all your folders.  Easily drag and drop your choice of music into your music folder.  Easily open photos for editing.

Finally, as a photographer, I think the Samsung camera is superior for many reasons that I won’t take the time to explain.

These are just a few reasons why I think the Samsung phone is a better product.  There are two things that Apple does have that I wish were on the Samsung however.  The mute switch on the side is very handy and a lot of people love Apple’s “FaceTime.”

Is anything in this world perfect?  No.  But my point here is that we all probably started with an iPhone and once accustomed to something we develop brand loyalty.  I’ve used the same deodorant for years, the same cologne for even longer.  Most of us won’t take the time to investigate something that maybe much better.

Just my opinion friends.  Kind of like “Ford or Chevy!”

I’ve Turned into Mr. Samsung!

I guess it all started a few years ago when I switched from the iPhone to the Samsung Galaxy Smartphone.  Since I’m an avid photographer the camera was superior to other phones.  My latest is the Galaxy S7 Edge and I love this phone!

Last year we bought a 65” Samsung smart TV.  This latest television technology lets you have access to your computer, photos, music, browser, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Ted Talks, and many other things.  I can even mirror my phone to the TV for example to show photos from the phone.  And, of course, you can even watch all those worthless channels that we pay a high price for!  The picture quality is stunning, and we’ve come a long way in the last few years not only in television but in all these other high tech gadgets!

I stopped using the Apple iPad and purchased a Samsung tablet so it could be seamless with my phone.

Galaxy S3 FrontierSo, that’s a Samsung smart TV, a Samsung smartphone, a Samsung Tablet, and now my latest tech toy is the new Samsung Galaxy S3 smartwatch.  Oh my gosh, this thing will do almost everything except make breakfast for me! 

It mirrors my phone, so for example if the phone is in another room or in my pocket I can receive a text message on my watch.  It’s a fitness tracker, counting my steps, keeping track of my heart rate, water and coffee intake, calories burned, etc.  At the fitness center listening to music with my ear buds, I can control the volume, see the artist, and pick songs from the watch.  I can even make or receive phone calls.  This is the Dick Tracy watch we saw in the comic books decades ago!

I have used Samsung pay on my phone for months and it works great.  At the register when the total comes up,  I just aim my phone at the credit card machine and bingo it’s paid and my credit card stays in my billfold.  Now I use my watch to do the same thing and people around me, including the cashier look as if a spaceship just landed!  This is pure magic and I admit, I’m a gadget freak.

The watch thing really started when I purchased a Fitbit recently.  Within a week it changed my lifestyle by keeping track of healthy things.  I quit using sugar in my coffee and it made me drink more water, two things that really needed improvement in my life.  It even tells me to get off my butt if I sit too long!  It’s fun at the end of the day looking at all the data. 

After wearing that Fitbit for only a week, I gave it to my wife, and sprung for the Samsung Galaxy watch.  It does the same thing only much more.  It gives me the current weather and forecast, reminders, my calendar, different watch faces, and even has an altimeter!

Of course all this stuff isn’t for everyone, but I’m just one of those people who likes the latest in technology.  We’re all different.  I know a couple of people who don’t even own a cell phone, and others who still have a flip phone.  One of the downsides of all this tech is that some people, especially the younger generation are spending more time in cyber space than they are in reality.  You see them everywhere with their thumbs clicking faster than the speed of sound!  You see families in restaurants with all of them, the entire time, gawking at their phones instead of talking to each other.  Are we losing social graces?

If you want to live healthier I really would strongly recommend a Fitbit.  They are relatively inexpensive and very easy to setup.  Here’s the link to their web page if you might be interested.   https://www.fitbit.com/ 

If you have a Samsung phone and want to read about my Galaxy smartwatch you can click on the photo above.  Here’s to ya, enjoy each moment of each day, and don’t text while driving!

Clouds and Jet Trails…..

Jet Trail

I have starred at the sky since I was a little boy.  Being raised on a Iowa farm I would often climb up and sit in a crabapple tree and wonder why some days the skies were clear and other days it would be cloudy.  On cloudy days the formations could sometimes be very intriguing.

Now many decades later I still do the same, of course without the apple tree.  I look up and admire the different formations as if God were painting on that blue canvas just for us.  I shot this photo while walking out to get the mail.  Snail mail that is, not email.  :)

Seeing that jet trail made me wonder where that aircraft was headed, perhaps with hundreds of people on board all with different missions.  Maybe a business trip, a vacation, a wedding, a funeral.  Whatever the reason they’re all sitting up there cruising at over 500 mph, talking, eating, drinking, reading, or sleeping and I’m watching that vessel streaking across the sky, leaving behind that white puffy contrail.  It’s amazing that the Wright Brother’s first flight was 120 feet, at an altitude of 20 feet and lasted a mere 12 seconds and today we can fly non stop to Europe at over 9 miles high!

Seeing jet trails floods my senses with past memories of thousands of hours as a pilot flying at different altitudes as high as 41,000 feet.  On some trips, with a little imagination, you could actually see cloud formations of different animals and objects.  Those were the easy flying days but there were those times that certain clouds had to be highly respected like the cumulonimbus which were thunderstorms and sometimes could reach well above 50,000 feet!  I’m retired from flying now, but often relive those flights in my mind.

Sometimes looking at the sky in daylight or the heavens at night you might wonder what life is all about.  Especially on a clear night while viewing the countless number of stars you can’t help but feel insignificant, and maybe my problems aren’t so big after all.

We do a lot of camping under the Arizona stars and often times we’ll use a recliner with a pillow and blanket and stare at that wondrous sight above.  There are over 2,000 man made satellites and millions of “space junk” circling the earth.  You can see them crossing the night sky travelling at over 17,00 miles per hour and circling the earth every 90 minutes.  One night we saw 66 satellites and 14 shooting stars, and on another evening we even saw the space shuttle docking with the space lab!  Sometimes gazing into the heavens will bring back memories of some of the highlights of my life.  Don’t know why, but it does, probably the magnitude of the whole thing.

Later in life we all will relive past experiences as memories.  Our jobs, our friends, our accomplishments, our failures, our adventures, our beliefs.  Some day, in our old age, we may say “I wish I would have ______ .”

I wish I would have been a better husband, wife, father, mother, sister, brother, friend.  I wish I would have loved more.  The point here is that it’s never too late to live, love, and enjoy every moment, so someday we won’t have to say “I wish I would have ______ .”

After thought:  This is why I love photography.  The simple act of taking a photo of the sky with my phone prompted me to sit down and write this entry.

America Today and Tomorrow

American FlagBack in 1776 our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence and General George Washington’s army fought the British for that independence.

America since that time has been a strong nation and has been a respected leader of the world.  Things have changed drastically however in the past decade!  No longer are we respected.  No longer do we have civil rights.  No longer do we hold the Bible as our guide.  No longer is our Country “One Nation under God.”

Today our great nation is divided.  Things are so messed up that our citizens are confused as to what is truthful and lawful.  Today almost anything we say may be politically incorrect.  We have forgotten the definition of right and wrong.

Students in school today are being taught totally different than the days of yesteryear.  Students are being told that they can’t were a t-shirt with an American flag.  Citizens are being told to take down their American flags. America is being told what to eat, and we are now even confused about sexual identity.  A third bathroom, really?  The list of absurdities goes on and on!  Do we really want to be a nation on food stamps?

Terribly bad things have gradually crept up on us and now our country needs help!  Where have we gone wrong?  What do you think has happened?

Recently the silent majority of America elected Donald J. Trump as our next President.  It was the greatest political upset in our history!  It was a major upset because most citizens didn’t like the path that we were on.

Now we as a Nation, must settle down and chill out.  Have we forgotten about love and respect?  Wouldn’t we be better off if we just turned off the news and Facebook for a while?  The media feeds on negativism! The media loves riots and protests because it creates something for them to talk about.  If the TV cameras would go home during all this unrest, so would the people participating in the ugliness!  The perpetrators are just looking for their 15 minutes of fame!  This bitterness just creates more chaos!

It’s really pretty uncomplicated.  One person led our Country for the past eight years.  Now another person will lead our Country for at least the next four years.  Let’s see how this plays out and then make a decision and decide which was best for all of us.

We shouldn’t be a Nation of hatred, but we have let loathing take over!  We have created monsters who want to kill police officers and make headlines.  You and I must speak up.  We must persuade our sphere of influence to have hope for change, and it’s not the “Hope and Change” that we were promised in previous elections!

There is a Congressman from South Carolina, who I very much admire because he speaks the truth and is fighting for the restoration of a tamed Nation.  His name is Trey Gowdy and I plead with you to watch a condensed version of a speech that he gave recently to a Christian College.  This is not a political speech, it’s a conversation about common sense and is directed to our future leaders.  Watch it and see if it doesn't make sense to you.

Let’s not be satisfied by the status quo, we are better than this!  We are good people who want to do good and live happy lives.  We want to set an example of good, not evil.  We want freedom and a promising future for our children and grandchildren.  Whether you go to church or not, you must believe in something greater than yourself.  That something greater is God, the creator of the universe.  Ask God right now for help in restoring America to the “Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave!”

The Joys of Living

We live everyday and we should live today to the fullest because it will never come around again!  Living, naturally has it’s ups and downs, its heartaches, sorrows, disappointments, but mostly living day to day has all kinds of positive and exciting experiences.  It’s all what we make it.  Attitude is everything.  Negative attitude, negative results, positive attitude, positive results!

Dream big, use your imagination to build and create a beautiful life.  Albert Einstein once was quoted as saying, “Imagination is everything.  It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

Some of the quotes I have enjoyed over the years are:  “Build an image of the world you want to live in.”  “Energy flows where attention goes.”  “Inner happiness is the fuel of success.”  And Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or cannot; either way your are right!”

Another saying that I have loved over the years is quoted from Pastor Robert Schuller.  “Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch!”  Isn’t that great?  I’ve said that hundreds of times when faced with a rather difficult project!

Think how our lives would change if each day we woke up and thought “Something good is going to happen to me today!”  Life can be what you want it to be!

Recently I was standing in the sports department of a local store.  Next to me was a young man and his father.  The teenager was asking Dad to buy him a tennis racket and explained that his desire was to be on the high school tennis team.  I was utterly shocked at Dad’s answer!  He said “No, I’m not buying you a racket, you could never be good enough to make any team!”  Wow, what a confidence booster!  Can you imagine how you would feel?  That’s a tough recovery and a scar was left on that young man.

Regardless of scars, we can overcome defeats and disappointments.  You’ve heard hundreds of stories of people who overcame negative situations to become happy and successful!  I think of someone like Lee Trevino who grew up in Mexico in poverty conditions, never had a pair of shoes on his feet until he was twelve, and became one of the most liked and well known names in the world of golf!  He loved people, talked to everyone in tournaments, always had a smile on his face and joked all the time.  Did he have a great attitude?  You bet he did!

Don’t forget how powerful a smile is!  When you smile at someone, it’s almost impossible that you won’t get a smile in return.  I’ve made it a habit when I drive through McDonald’s or face a clerk in any store, to smile and tell them that they are awesome!  You’ve made their day, and of course you feel better too!

Remember, you are what you think about, and you become what you think about!  You’re the Captain of your ship, you determine your happiness, you determine your future!

I think one of the secrets of life is the art of being grateful.  Most people are always wanting more, a bigger house, a newer car, a better job, a different spouse, more money and on and on. Instead of thinking that way, think about all the things that you do have.  Be grateful!  When you’re grateful, you’ll live a richer and fuller life!

Don’t worry about things you can’t change.  It’s a fact that over 90% of things people worry about never happen!  Control things that stress you.  Stress causes sickness.  Keep that brain filled with positive thoughts and your body will be healthy!

Most people believe that there is something greater than themselves. I admit that church used to be boring!  Pomp and circumstance and listening to a preacher that constantly told you that you were a sinner.  That’s really not what we want to hear.  We want to hear that we are good and we are loved.  We want to leave a church service feeling uplifted and inspired! 

There are some incredible churches today throughout America.  You might like to find one, and you just might say, “Gosh look what I’ve been missing out on!”  If you live in a small town with a boring church, watch or listen to a good service on TV or radio.  If you live in the Phoenix area one of the best churches in the USA is CCV.  (Christ’s Church of the Valley)  It’s a non-denominational bible based church with many campuses in the area.  Visit one this weekend, Saturday or Sunday.  You can even watch online. It just may change you life.  Here’s their website.  https://ccvonline.com/

“Live life with passion, in a constant state of joy, and with an attitude of gratitude!”

The Joys of Camping

Camping2We have been camping for years and started with a tent.  Because most of our friends had 5th wheels and toy haulers the tent didn’t last long.  Our first toy hauler was 22 feet long with all the comforts of home.  That one we camped in a couple of years then stepped up to our present 36 footer with even more great features.

Camper

Here we are recently nestled in Arizona’s high country about 35 miles Northeast of Payson.  Usually there are several campers and most of us have RZR’s, side by side all terrain vehicles.   We spend a lot of time up there during the summer where the temps are about 30 degrees cooler than in the valley. 
(Click on photos for larger view)Riding

Riding the trails is always an adventure and offers views from the tall pine trees to the cliffs of the Mogollon rim.  Along with the beauty of the landscape we have seen all kinds of animal life such as squirrels, snakes, coyotes, deer, elk, wild turkeys, lizards, gila monsters, and even bears!

Black Bear

We spotted this guy up on a hill as we rode along a trail.  We followed him for quite awhile constantly taking photos.  He looked at us several times but seemed more interested in his quest for food rather than attacking us.  Of course we always carry a sling shot Smile.  It’s always fun seeing elk and most of the time it’s a single but occasionally a whole herd which could be 20 to 30 of them.

Trail

Riding along the forest trails we see lots of unusual things like fallen trees.  They are everywhere and some of their root structures are a thing of art!  Other sights have included giant mushrooms, and unusual rock formations.

Tree Stump

Mushroom

Rock

Bones-RZRCo-PilotSometimes my regular co-pilot stays back at camp while this guy rides with me.  He doesn’t talk as much and one time I even tried to teach him how to drive.  Didn’t get far with that though as I guess he was just satisfied being the passenger.

Diane & BonesMeanwhile, back at the campsite my soulmate and bones Lunch
relax, have a drink while I whip up a little snack.  It’s only
about 1 o'clock so we’ll eat up and hit the road again before returning for cocktail hour at 5.  (OK, I lied, she whipped up the lunch.  I couldn’t have possibly done that!)

Camping has really added spice and fun to our lives.  We have taken our second home and visited all the National Parks in the Western United States.  We have ridden trails in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, created thousands of memories and taken thousands of photos!

A New Experience….

For years we have been using Netflix, first using the external Roku device that plugs into your TV.  This allowed you to watch thousands of movies for just $7.95 a month.  With the new “smart TVs” an external device is no longer needed as many different apps are built in to the TV.

Within the last year I have ordered different items on Amazon.com and often they would prompt me to become a “Prime” member.  The cost is $99.00 per year and includes free 2 day shipping on items purchased.  I always declined because I didn’t order that much merchandise to make it pay for itself.

AmazonRecently however, I was surprised to find out that for that yearly fee much more is included.  First you can watch unlimited movies on your computer, TV, or other smart devices.  Second you can enjoy free streaming music on your computer or your cell phone, and thirdly you can install the free Amazon Photo app to instantly back up all your photos!

Netflix recently raised their price to $9.99 per month to watch movies, and that’s all you get, just movies.  If you take Amazon’s $99 per year and divide that by 12 months it figures to just $8.25 per month and you get movies, music, and unlimited photo back up.  Needless to say I cancelled my Netflix account and signed up to be an Amazon Prime member.

I used to pay 99 cents or $1.29 per song using Apple’s iTunes.  Now I can download a whole album for free with my Amazon Prime account.

Today everyone in the world with a smartphone are taking billions of photos!  But the one big problem is that we are living in an age of lost photos.  People are carrying around hundreds and hundreds of pictures on their phone, and if the phone crashes, guess what?  Your prize photos are gone forever!  With the free Amazon photo app the minute you take a picture it’s backed up immediately.  That’s great peace of mind!

So, if you like watching movies, love listening to music, want all your photos backed up, and get free 2 day shipping on products ordered, sign up to be an Amazon Prime Member!  Oh, and did I mention that if you have the Kindle app on your device that you have access to over 800,000 free eBooks!  Check it out.

Vacation–May 2016

It’s always fun to get away for an adventure and to create a memory.  We loaded up the car the first week in May and headed Northwest.  The first night we spent in Vegas.  We’ve been there so many times that this time we stayed off the strip, away from the hustle and bustle of wall to wall people and the gambling scene.  It was very relaxing just to stay in the room and do nothing.  (You may click on all photos for a large view.)

#40It’s fun taking secondary roads to really enjoy a trip as opposed to the major highways.  We just took our time, stopping in small towns and taking photos.  The second night we stayed in Ely, Nevada.  After checking into our motel we drove around and explored.  We spent time at the old railway station and enjoyed watching an old locomotive leave the station on a crew training mission.

Twin FallsThe third night we bunked up in Twin Falls, Idaho.  The city was very clean and modern and we enjoyed the short ride out of town to view the falls for which the town was named.

Departing SkylineA couple of days later we parked the car and boarded the Crown Princess in Vancouver, BC for a seven day cruise of the Alaskan inside passage.  This was the skyline as we departed on our voyage.  If you’ve ever been on a cruise, then you know that you can partake of fabulous food 24/7.  It’s an easy way to gain weight!  There are activities all day long while at sea, and entertaining acts in the theater in the evening.

Crown Princess in Glacier BayAfter a day at sea we spent all day in Glacier Bay.  The weather was very cooperating with sunny skies and very pleasant temperatures.  It was a great time on the main deck while people partied and took photographs.  The sight of the snow capped mountains and the glaciers was breathtaking!  The ship was 19 stories high and we our room was on the 12th floor which offered wonderful views as we cruised.

Cruise Ship in Glacier BayThis photo shows the majesty of the mountains in the bay as a sister ship passes in the distance.  The mountains make that ship look awfully small!  Our next three ports of call were Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. The downside was that it rained at all three stops, but we didn’t care.  Got off the boat, opened our umbrella, had fun shopping and having lunch.  On our stop in Juneau there were five cruise ships docked.  With an average of 3,000 passengers each, meant that 15,000 people invaded the city at one time!  Of course many stayed on board because of the weather.

KetchikanHere we are docked in Ketchikan. I took this picture from our 12th floorG&D on the Pier room balcony which illustrates how high we were from the water.  The rain had stopped for a time while we took this photo with a $5 selfie stick we picked up at one of the gift shops.

The cruise was very pleasurable and afforded a wonderful memory.  One of the highlights was meeting a couple from Ontario, Canada.  We spent a lot of time with them and thoroughly enjoyed their company!

After the cruise we back tracked through Vancouver to the US border.  The line of vehicles was very long and itSeaTek at Sundown took over an hour just to be waved on by a border guard.  We spent that night in Seattle right next to the airport.  This was sundown from our window. Being a retired Jet pilot, I got a real kick out of having breakfast the next morning with an Alaskan Airline Captain.  We talked for over an hour about aviation and photography.

From Seattle we headed South and then West to highway 101 which we took all the way to San Francisco along the coast.  The surprise of our lives came when we drove down the coast of Oregon as it was truly unbelievably beautiful!  Although we drove through a lot of rain it didn’t dampen our spirits as we stopped for many photos.

Light House Impression DancersWe drove out of our way to see this lighthouse at Cape Beach South of Light HouseBlanco.  That day it was closed to tourists so I took this shot at the gate which was about 400 yards away.  Turning to the left and looking down the coast was this scene.



Oregon Coast - EditedAnother off highway experience was a short trip to a high lookout.  The rain stopped here but you can see the storm ahead of us as we continued Southbound.

The beauty of the coast and the fact that we took our sweet time made for a real adventure!  So many unique and picturesque towns along the way and we stopped at them all.

Port Orford, Oregon-1024This is Port Orford, where we had lunch and enjoyed this view from the
restaurant’s picture window.  Next door was a visitor’s center where we sat and talked to an older gentleman about the beauty of Oregon's coast.  If you like clam chowder it doesn’t get much better than what we had many times for lunch!

The BeachAt one of our coastal stops we drove right down to the ocean, got out of the car, enjoyed a leisurely stroll, and took pictures.

On top of the hill behind us was a very popular restaurant where we had lunch with this ocean view.  Great salad and seafood.  I just can’t say enough about the Oregon coast!  We will want to do this again sometime. The Mary D. Hume

Further down the shoreline we stopped at Gold Beach.  Another day,
another great lunch.  In the bay close to where we ate was the Mary D. Hume.  She was built in 1881 and served the sea for 97 years!  She sits there today with many stories and memories buried aboard.

Redwood ForestNext we did something we’ve wanted to do for years and that was  driving through the Redwood Forest.  The drive was slow on a very narrow dirt road and sometimes hairy when meeting a car coming the other way, but well worth it!  The trees are some of the tallest in the world and you can see the girth of this big boy!

One of our last stops was in San Francisco where we had dinner with friends we had met on a Mexico cruise we took last year.  That was very enjoyable and the next day we headed home.

If you wanted a really cool vacation, fly to Portland, rent a car, drive down the Oregon coast to San Francisco, then fly home.  This is roughly a 16 hour road trip in which you could take your time to enjoy!

Footnote:  I love the way technology advances everyday, especially with phone cameras.  I lugged my heavy and expensive Nikon DSLR on this vacation, but all these photos were taken with my Samsung Galaxy Note
5. The new Galaxy Note 7 will arrive on August 2nd, and I can hardly wait for the new camera enhancements!

Photo Tips

Note 5-BlogPhotography has experienced a huge change since the transition from film to digital!  In film days every shot would cost you 25 cents.  Now with digital cameras we can shoot away and it costs us nothing.  The lesson here is never take just one shot of your subject.  Take several so you can choose the best one.

Professional photographers are still using DSLRs.  They are expensive but offer many benefits over point and shoot cameras.  The technology is advancing so fast in the photo world that point and shoot cameras will soon be a thing of the past.  Most of the time the best camera is in your pocket or purse, and it’s your smartphone!  With the release of each new phone, the cameras get better and better. 

I am currently using the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which in my opinion has the best phone camera on the market today.  It even has a pro setting where you can set many options you would find on a DSLR, like exposure compensation, while balance, shutter speed, ISO, etc.

I will give full credit to Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, for the explosion of the popularity of taking pictures, probably with the release of the iPhone 4.  Now the world is taking videos and photos with their phones, but here’s an important point that I’ll bring to the table.  Because of that fact, we are living in an age of “lost photos.”  Why?  Simply because people are carrying around hundreds of pictures on their phone and not taking the time to back them up!  If and when the phone crashes, guess what?  No pictures!  Don’t let this happen to you.  Find out how to back up your photos and even your contacts so you won’t be sorry.

Snapseed2Now on a lighter note, let me tell you about the most exciting thing I have found about taking photos on your phone!  I talk about it in all my photo seminars and I tell everyone I meet about it.  What is it?  It’s a photo editor for your phone and it’s called “Snapseed!”  It’s incredible and it’s free.  You may download it from the Apple store or the Play store if you have an Android.  Rarely do you take a photo that is perfect.  Every photo takes a little editing to make it look its best.  Snapseed comes with 8 tools and 12 filters.  With a few clicks you take that average looking picture and change it to a real “looker!”  Sure it will take a couple of extra moments, but it will be worth it if you want to show off great photos!  Download it, play with it, learn it, and have fun!

Tech Tips

Here are the instructions for paragraph one of the previous entry.

1. Run CCleaner each time you use your computer.
· Double Click the Red C on the desktop.
· Click "Run Cleaner" in the right lower corner.
· When finished, Click the Red X, top right.

2. Run Malwarebytes every two weeks.
· Double Click Malwarebytes on the desktop.
· When asked "Do you want to ......." Click Yes.
· Click Update on the right.
· After update click the blue "Scan Now"
  When finished scanning if it found nothing then
  close the program. If it found objects make sure
  all are checked, then Remove.

3. Run Disk Defrag once a month.
· Double Click Disk Defrag on the desktop.
· Make sure C: Drive is highlighted.
· Click "Optimize" Button, Lower right corner.
  Follow directions when finished

Tech Tips

Here are some miscellaneous tech tips to help you along the path of today’s technology!
On your computer or laptop run CCleaner daily. Run Malwarebytes twice a month. Defragement your C: drive monthly. You can also download CCleaner & use it on your phone!

If you install Windows 10 or purchase a new computer with 10 installed, download and install the “Classic Shell” start button that will look and act like Windows 7.  This will take the frustration out of using the Windows 10 start button.

Don’t pay for Microsoft’s Office.  Download and install “Open Office.”  It’s FREE, and it’s an entire office suite!

If your Wi-Fi stops working, unplug your modem and router.  Wait 30 seconds.  Plug them back in, wait 1 minute, and that will most likely fix your problem!

If you value your documents, photos, and music, on your computer, back them up on an external hard drive. 

Most people have hundreds of photos on their phone and if the phone crashes your pictures are gone!  Keep your phone backed up by turning on the Cloud.  Don’t be sorry, be safe!

If you love taking photos with your smartphone, download the “Snapseed” app and use it to edit your pictures.  It’s fun and it’s free!  And, speaking of taking photos, don’t forget about using your panorama mode for a different photo effect!

Another great phone app is “My Radar.”  See live weather radar no matter where you are in the world!  Might save you from driving through a severe thunderstorm on your vacation!

The most awesome program on my computer, my iPad, and my phone is “Flipboard!”  It’s a free program where you can read about all your favorite subjects.  Try it, you’ll like it!

Joy

JoyThe world today involves a lot of negativity, hostility, and violence, but we don’t have to be involved in this thinking!  As an individual we can build our lives with positive thoughts and actions!

Joy can and should be an integral part of our lives.  Joy manifests itself in many ways both external and internal.  Joy is experienced by having a fruitful relationship with your spouse, your children, grandchildren, and your circle of friends.  Joy is heightened with positive and wonderful experiences.

Internally Joy is a feeling, felt deep in your mind, heart, and soul. Joy is felt with a personal relationship with God!  When experiencing Joy, the mind transmits endorphins to your body, giving you a feeling of euphoria!

Joy is experienced when we maintain a positive attitude!  Joy is experienced when we give and share with others.  Joy is experienced when we create, and always being aware of taking the “Next Step.”

What will you create today, and what is your “Next Step!”

Follow-Up on Windows 10

Windows 10
A few weeks ago I wrote about the all new Microsoft Windows 10.  It’s the grandfather of a long string of operating systems. There was no Windows 9 because of the public’s rejection and dislike of Windows 8.1, so they decided to make a fresh start with Windows 10.

Now that it’s been out since July 29th, let’s start at the beginning and work through the process of upgrading. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

If you’re running an old machine you should consider buying a replacement with Windows 10 already installed.  The good news is that prices have come way down since your last purchase!  That’s the easy route.  Of course you will have to transfer all your documents, photos, music, favorites, email contacts and messages from your old computer to your new one.

If you want to keep your present machine and are running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 you are eligible for a FREE upgrade until July 28, 2016 but you must first reserve a copy. 

On your desktop down next to the clock you will see a small white windows logo icon. Click on it, then click the lower left corner where it says “Reserve your free upgrade.”  The next screen will ask for your email address, but that’s not required.  Simply click on “Skip email confirmation.”  The next window will say “All Done for Now,” then click Close.  You will be notified sometime in the near future when you can download and install Windows 10.

When you receive this notification you are ready for the upgrade.  Before doing so it is recommended that you back up your files just in case there’s a problem.

If this whole operation gives you concern then it’s advised to consult a professional technician.

OK, you’ve decided to do this yourself.  Start the download of Windows 10.  This will take 30 to 45 minutes and when finished it will start the installation.  At some point it will offer a screen which will require your input as to whether to use “Express Settings,” or in small print to the left “Customize Settings.”  My suggestion is to choose “Customize Settings” and take the check marks off everything you see.  This will greatly improve your privacy.

This entire operation from start to finish may take up to two hours, so some patience is required.

The new Microsoft Internet browser, called Edge, is entirely new and will take some getting used to.  If you have been using another browser like Firefox or Google’s Chrome you may want to install one of those.

One more thing.  Windows 10 start button is a great improvement over Windows 8.1, but still you may not be comfortable with it.  If you’d like to use a start button like you’ve been used to for years you can install it for free, and here’s the link.

Follow-Up on Previous “Samsung or Apple?

I have owned both Samsung and Apple phones, and like any manufactured item nothing is perfect.  Both of these phones have their good points.

Note 5After much research and consideration however, I have purchased the newly released Samsung Galaxy Note 5, and after two weeks of use I must say that I’m extremely pleased!
The 5.7 inch display is awesome and the built in stylus is something that I thought I wouldn’t use but quickly changed my mind. Really handy for making quick notes!
 
The big decision maker for me, since I’m an avid photographer, was the camera.  All I can say is wow!  It even features a “Pro Mode” that enables you to change ISO, F stop, EV, shutter speed, white balance, and manual focus. Other camera modes feature everything under the sun including 4K video!

I’m not downgrading the Apple 6S that will be released on 9-25, but as you may know the “S” series is always an incremental upgrade and the Galaxy Note 5 is an “All new Smartphone.”

To give you an idea of what the camera does, while writing this article I walked into our kitchen and snapped this photo.

kitchen
Now it’s pretty hard to beat that for quality!  No special lighting or editing was used. (Click on larger view.) 

So if you are now or soon to be in the market for a new phone I would highly recommend the new Samsung Galaxy Note 5!

Windows 10

Windows 10 Desktop

I have experienced every Windows Operating System since the beginning of time!  Windows 95 was definitely the biggest splash!  Microsoft lit up buildings in London and New York with the 95 logo and it was a huge marketing extravaganza!  Remember the Rolling Stones theme song?

At that time I lived in the Midwest and remember driving to Chicago’s McCormick Center for the big event.  Windows 95 was the first real user interface.  Many versions have passed, some good, and some not worth mentioning, like Windows Me and Windows Vista.  The OS that the world passionately endorsed was XP and people are still using it despite the fact that support ran out long ago.

Windows 7 was very successful and well respected, then came along Windows 8, a total disaster!  People were mad and frustrated and most refused to upgrade, especially businesses. 

Microsoft quickly upgraded to 8.1, but it wasn’t any better.  The biggest downfall was the removal of the start button.  The system was really two, the Metro and the Desktop and did nothing but offer confusion.  In order to make any sense of it all you had to install a third party start button to regain any familiarity and unless you were pretty computer savvy this had to be done by a technician.

Microsoft slowly woke up to the fact that they had a real loser on their hands and decided to totally skip the next progression which would have been Windows 9.

So here we are in July of 2015 and at the end of the month MS will release what they are heralding “The Revolutionary new Windows 10.”

I have been beta testing Windows 10 on an older laptop for months and with the last couple of updates it’s almost ready for prime time.  I’ll admit that it boots up and shuts down in seconds instead of minutes which is very pleasing.  But, there still are a lot of changes that will take getting used to. 

Like it or not it’s here and if you use a PC as apposed to a MAC, you sooner or later will be using Windows 10 or some future variation.

So here’s the bottom line.  The best part is the new PC Operating System will be FREE to users of Windows 7 and 8.1 for one year after July 29th.

Windows LogoYou’ve probably seen the Windows logo down on the lower right taskbar near the time and date whether you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1.  If you click on it you can reserve your free copy of Windows 10, and read up about the new features. 

My advice, however, is not to install it immediately!  You have a whole year to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.  There will be bug fixes and patches soon after release, so let’s wait until things stabilize and the dust settles, then start our new learning process.

For the first time in Microsoft's history they are giving away an operating system and the reasoning is they want the world to adapt quickly, but of course there will be those that will cling to Windows 7 as long as possible.  But, when they finally give in they will have to pay.

Samsung or Apple?

Those who know me, know that I'm a photo & technology nut.

In June I was eligible for a new smartphone and I thought I'd be at Verizon when they opened the doors because I was counting the days. But, I've decided to practice some patience and wait until September.

That's when the new iPhone will be released. They will call it the 6S or the iPhone 7. Samsung's usual release is in March, but to rival Apple they too are rumored to unveil the new Galaxy S7 in September.

I've had both phones and my decision in 90 days will be who has the best camera. From what I've researched thus far it just might be the iPhone but it's still early in the game.

Galaxy 6

iPhone 6

So, who will be the winner this fall?  For me the camera is very important, for you it may be other specifications.

There is no perfect anything, but either Samsung or Apple will have the edge!

Actually, I’m not alone in practicing some patience.  A lot of people are satisfied with their present phone and are not so apt to run out and spend the bucks just because a newer model is released.  The marketing hype has worn off, and furthermore free operating system upgrades account for most of the big changes!

Some people get excited about megapixels.  The present iPhone, for example, features a camera with 8 MB and it’s rumored that the 6S will have 12MP.  One must keep in mind that megapixels have nothing to do with photo quality, only the size of prints. 8MB will comfortably print a 16x20, and besides how many people print photos from their phones?

Here are some thoughts about this subject from CNET.