Header 2

"I have found out there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them." Mark Twain

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Japanese Tea Ceremony

I've never been to Japan but it's at the top of my travel wish list. One of the things that I would like to see and participate in is the traditional tea ceremony. While doing some research on this, I went to Youtube (where else?) to look for a good tea-ceremony video and found quite a few. I was hoping to find one that was shot in a Japanese garden and did find one but it had subtitles that I found distracting. The one I've posted here was shot indoors in a traditional Japanese room, and it's very interesting and informative (there is no narration, so you just have to learn from watching). I'll keep looking for the ultimate video, but in the meantime, if you have a few minutes and are interested in tea, you'll find this video fun to watch.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Connecticut Update

Well, what a strange storm that was. Thank the Universe, I was able to keep electricity throughout, but around 2 a.m., just as the storm was abating, I lost cable-related services: TV, Internet and phone. (Never bundle phone with your cable services, by the way--a big mistake. I still had a cell, of course, but almost all the cell towers were down.)

My house was pounded (for lack of a more creative word) by winds that I estimate at around 80-90 mph for hours on end. It got scary at times, but I felt pretty safe in the house since I'm about 4-5 miles inland from the coast of Long Island Sound. But the wind was relentless. And several times in the distance I saw transformers explode and light the sky with a beautiful blue-green light. We're very fortunate that Sandy was, for my area at least, a very dry storm: only a few inches of rain, which is nothing.

Those a few miles from here were not so lucky and, as I'm sure everyone knows by now, the the shores of CT, NY and especially NJ took a horrific hit. I think the Pres and the Gov of NJ are doing a superlative job of handling this storm. Two professionals doing their jobs and exceeding their own talents and devotion.

Anyway, quite an interesting night, huddle up with my cats and just watching the storm on TV (until cable went out) and watching it out my picture window. I had a friend come over the day before the storm and help me board up a long bay window that is older and I was afraid might blow in. But once that window was boarded up, I felt pretty secure the house could take any amount of wind--and it did. You have to love the way they built houses 75 years ago.

I hope that those of you on the East coast reading this were spared any real damage. And I can tell you this: next week I'm going to invest in a good transistor radio, more flash lights and a lot of batteries. Although we didn't lost power, I was ill-prepared if we had--which is rare. Usually I'm over prepared!  (Photo: MICHELLE MCLOUGHLIN/REUTERS)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mastering Travel Photography Seminars

If you've ever wanted to get more professional results with your travel photos, National Geographic Traveler magazine is sponsoring a series of travel-photography seminars that sound like a lot of fun. They're being hosted by two of the world's great travel shooters: Bob Krist and Ralph Lee Hopkins. The seminars  are being offered in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

The topics covered in the day-long presentations (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) include: understanding the elements of travel photography, improving the quality of your travel images, making effective use of flash in travel photos, being on the road with your equipment and, of course, sharing your travel pictures. Bob and Ralph are two of the most published travel shooters out there; Ralph has a number of beautiful wildlife shots in my book The NEW Joy of Digital Photography and Bob has been one of my photo inspirations for my entire career.

The cost of the seminar is just $195--a small investment compared to the cost of almost any trip and you'll get your money's worth in inspiration alone. But fair warning: after seeing their beautiful work all day long you'll come away with a wicked case of wanderlust.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Krist.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tracking New England's Fall Foliage

If you're thinking of heading into Vermont or any of the other New England states to view fall foliage, there is a cool live map on the Yankee magazine site that will show you exactly where peak color is right now. From what I've heard on the news, the foliage is starting slow but it looks like this could be a great year! Be sure your camera is charged and that you have lots of memory cards with you. And remember too that the colors are most intense early and late in the day. Have fun!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Joseph Rosendo Wins Lowell Thomas Awards

I love watching travel shows on television, they're a great way to see the far flung places of the world and probably the best way to plan a trip to a particular area. One of my favorite travel shows is Travelscope, hosted by long-time world traveler Joseph Rosendo. Watching Joseph is kind of like watching your one of  your friend's or neighbor's vacation videos--the productions are very low key and somewhat informal and he's a very down-to-Earth person that relates to people in an extremely friendly and casual way. They're very fun too and there seems to be no adventure he won't try, no food he won't test and no person that he can't coax to smile.

And happily, good things happen to good travel hosts and it was just announced that Joseph recently won two of the very prestigious Lowell Thomas Travel Awards. These awards are presented each year by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation and they're kind of like the Academy Awards for the travel biz. Joseph and Travelscope (which can be seen on many PBS stations around the country) won two awards:  Travel Broadcast — Video Category for Guatemala’s Semana Santa.
You can get more information on the episode here or watch the episode with this link. Travel Broadcast — Audio Category for St. Vincent and the Grenadines – Close to Home and a World Away. The winning audio broadcast may be heard at this link.

If you've never seen the show before, check it out. You can also download a lot of episodes on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

National Geographic Travel Shot of the Day

This is kind of cool: National Geographic has turned what used to be a weekly travel photo feature into a travel-photo-of-the-day feature called Travel 365. So now you can go to their site daily for ideas and features related to travel destinations--and, of course, those amazing National Geo photos! The shot here is the Republic of Palau and here's their caption for it: "A boat speeds through the otherwise quiet waters of Palau's Rock Islands. Located in the western Pacific, this Micronesian archipelago is made up of more than 250 islands. Tourism is the country's main industry; its rich marine environment invites snorkeling, diving, and lounging." (Photo copyright National Geographic.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Carnival Transatlantic Cruise Bargains

I've always had a fascination with the idea of taking a transatlantic cruise. The idea of crossing an entire ocean just seems like in incredible adventure--even on a luxury cruise ship. This is a trip that puts you in pretty exclusive company.

You would think such a long cruise would be a hugely expensive trip to make (my mother made the crossing once on the QEII and it was a pretty price trip then), but I've been looking at the Carnival Cruise site lately and I'm pretty shocked at how affordable a 15-day transatlantic jaunt can be. You can cruise aboard the Carnival Legend from Tampa to Europe, with stops in the Bahamas, Bermuda, Portugal and Spain (terminating in Barcelona) for as low as $629 (interior room) to $799 for a balcony room, per person. Considering that cruises include your room and meals and tons of entertainment (most included in the cruise price), that seems like quite a bargain. Of course, 15 days aboard a ship is quite a long time, but think of this great benefit: you only unpack once! And if, like me, you'd love to escape from your normal routine for a while and be pampered along the way, a cruise--any cruise--is something to consider!

By the way, feel free to leave comments or your post your experiences cruising. It's been a while since I've been on a cruise, but I have to tell you, seeing Bermuda rise up from the sea at dawn with a cup of tea in my hand was quite an experience!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Flamingo Gardens Wildlife Sanctuary

I've always been fascinated by pink flamingos and getting close enough to photograph them has been a lifelong goal for me--which is why I was thrilled to discover Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida (about 25 minutes from downtown Fort Lauderdale, an easy drive). The gardens feature more than 3,000 tropical and sub-tropical plant and tree species in a very pretty and nicely maintained 60-acre setting. Among the amazing finds here are 21 of the largest trees of their species in Florida, as well as a stand of 200-year-old live oak trees. The garden also features the largest tree in Florida--a non-native cluster fig with a height of 102 feet and a circumference of more than 54 feet. This is one big tree! It's wonderful to see so many great trees and plants preserved at this garden. In season there is also a great butterfly garden.

Another fun part of this park is the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary at Flamingo Gardens--it was one of the first of its kind in the country and provides a safe haven to permanently injured or non-releasable Florida native wildlife.  The sanctuary includes the largest collection of Florida native wildlife in the State and includes more than 80 species-among them: alligators, bobcats, panthers, otters, eagles and, of course, flamingos. A great place for kids to see Florida wildlife up close. Coming soon are new bear and otter habitats. I can't wait to return.

My favorite part of the gardens, however, is Flamingo Pond, a terrific and very native looking area with a large flock of Caribbean flamingos (as well as other birds, including beautiful white ibis). I was able to fulfill my fantasy of getting great close-up shots of the flamingos (using a 70-300mm Nikkor zoom on a Nikon D90 body) at the pond. In fact, I spent several hours just photographing the flamingos--heaven for me. The flamingos are very active a lot of the time and the go through a very strange ritual where they will all be gathered on a small island and then--at the urging so some (for me, at least) unseen inner signal--they start to move around the pond in a kind of tribal flamingo dance! The kids will love it. Photographically speaking, flamingos preen and nap a lot, so there are always good photo opportunities.

If you're going to Florida this season, Flamingo Gardens is well worth a visit and you could easily spend a day here (there's a nice cafe on the grounds) and it's open every day but Christmas and Thanksgiving and while there is an admission charge (there is a senior discount and kids three and under are free), parking is free. You'll find directions and hours here.