Advent

It has been a busy December for me. So busy that I have been remiss in posting anything. Time to make up for that. As a Christian, Advent is a special time for me. It is a time of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

Our church prepares for Christmas by decorating the Narthex and Sanctuary, as well as the entire church. We put up two Christmas trees, one traditionally decorated, the other decorated with Chrismons. Every Sunday of Advent a candle is lit in the Advent Wreath, with the central, white candle being lit on Christmas Eve.

Advent is also a time for community outreach. Our church participates in Operation Christmas Shoe Box and Operation Santa Claus. Operation Santa Claus provides gifts for children in foster homes while Operation Christmas Shoe Box provides a shoe box of gifts for needy children worldwide. We also participated in a program that packaged 40,000 meals for distribution all over the country.

As for myself, I have been busy doing the other things that fill my day. Reading, photography, church work (I am the treasurer among other hats I wear), traveling around, and shooting. Yes I cling to my guns and Bible. Just kidding.

The only down note is my beloved Golden Retriever Max has been sick. He turned 12 years old in November and has been diagnosed with liver cancer. He has been on chemotherapy and Prednisone for some time now and although he seems to be holding up remarkably well, his eyesight is failing. It is probably a combination of the drugs and the cancer but the vets aren’t sure. It is agonizing to watch your pet slowly go blind and not be able to do all the things we used to enjoy doing together. He is being treated for the blindness but the prognosis is unknown.

I will leave you with some photos to document recent events in my life. But before I go I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holiday, or whatever you celebrate during this time of the year.

God Bless you Richly

 

 

Holidays, Holidays

Holidays, holidays, tis the season for holidays. Halloween is over, not much to talk about there except I love the seasonal decorations that are everywhere. Where I live, I seldom get any trick or treaters. I still buy a bag of candy just in case but end up eating it myself. Then if you celebrate these days, there is All Saint’s Day and All Souls Day. They are sort of related to Halloween I think but I’m not sure. Next up is Veterans Day, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve. And of course my sons birthday is in December and my dog Max will be twelve this month.

When the weather has cooperated I have been getting out and doing what I love best, taking photographs. With my new camera and lens, I have been able to better express myself through photography. Although I have been taking pictures since I was a child, I still want to to develop my talents more every day. I see some of the fantastic art on Flickr and it motivates me to do better. I have two friends that are professional photographers and they inspire me to be more creative.

When I’m not out taking photos, I spend time reading, surfing the Web, shooting my firearms, and being active in my Church. I am an elder, treasurer, department head, and go-to guy for all the technical things that need to be done. I designed and maintain the church website and well as the church Facebook page.

My formal training was as an electrical/electronic engineer and I have spent my whole professional career in one field or the other of engineering. I have been employed by the power company as a nuclear engineering technician at the Surry Nuclear Power Station here in Virginia. I have also worked for the Navy in the overhaul of A-6 and F-14 aircraft, in the IT department with Public Works, and with Training and Doctrine Command with the U.S. Army at Ft. Monroe, Virginia.

But as you might have surmised, I have been retired now for more than 7 years. But I do pretty well at staying busy and it sure is great to have all those hours to do the things I really enjoy, like not having to commute to work every day.

That’s about it. It is a bleary day here in Virginia and I hope I can find things to do to fill my time.

God Bless.

Schooners , Snakes, and Potheads

I have two friends who are professional photographers and they often steer me towards interesting things to photograph. First let me say that I am not a professional photographer, but I have been an avid photographer since I was 12 years old. So while I don’t make money at photography, I do know a little bit about composition, subject, and lighting. Anyway, one of my friend photographers told me about the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. The race starts in Maryland and ends here at the Hampton Roads Bridge/Tunnel. The boats then tie up at North Landing in Portsmouth. Since I have always wanted to be a sailor, especially sailing, I went down to North Landing to see the schooners as they came in.

I arrived a couple hours early so I stopped at Olde Towne Coffee House for some coffee and a crumble muffin. After breakfast I walked down to the dock and met a couple who had a beautiful Siberian Husky. After talking with them for a while I learned that they used to race in the Schooner Race ten years ago. I had a very interesting conversation with them about sailing, the technical aspects of which I know very little. The husband had a portable marine radio with him so I got to listen to some of the radio chatter. I could keep track of the race in real-time thanks to my smartphone and a web site which had a real-time map of all the boats with their tracks and current position, speed, etc. From the website I could see that the Schooner Woodwind home-ported at Annapolis Maryland, and a past winner, was leading the pack, followed by the Pride of Baltimore.

The weather started to turn bad just as the Woodwind appeared around the bend of the Elizabeth River heading to dock at North Landing. She had crossed the finish line already, having won the competition. She had her sails furled (drat) but she was a beauty nonetheless. Here are a few pictures of the Woodwind.

As for snakes, this is the story.  My cousin Roxanna, who lives in Ripley, NY but is down in Virginia visiting her son, invited me to Sandy Bottom Nature Center to visit with her and her son who is the Park Ranger in charge of the park. Sandy Bottom is an awesome park with lots of fun stuff to do. Hiking, fishing, boating, camping, and a great Nature Center building with a wonderful teaching program for youth and adults alike. They have an impressive collection of reptiles, amphibians, fossils, relics, and assorted other stuff that is fascinating.  When I arrived, Roxanna’s son was showing a small snake to a group of scouts. It was a hands on show so all the boys got to touch the snake. Having owned a snake, a python, I thought I knew a lot about snakes. I could differentiate between venomous and non venomous snake by the shape of their head, pit between eyes and nostrils, and pupils. But Marc, Roxanna’s son, told me one thing I did not know. The bottom of the tail (behind the anus) of venomous snakes looks the same as the rest of the belly. If the snake has a cross pattern (like a diamond shape) it is non-venomous. There are three species of venomous snakes indigenous to Virginia. They are the rattlesnake (canebrake), copperhead, and cotton mouth. The Nature Center had beautiful specimens of each one. I took a few photos with my smartphone.

king snake King snake1

 

After looking around the rest of the Nature Center Roxanne took me on a long tour of the park. It was a beautiful day and as I said before, the park is awesome. It was nice spending some time with my cousin as I rarely get to see her. Anyway, it was a great day and I managed to get a few good photos. See if you can figure out why the title mentions potheads.

 

The Neon District and Why Norfolk Rocks

I have lived in Chesapeake, Virginia for over a decade and for the most part love living here. Chesapeake is a largely rural city and lacks a lot of the things that an urban city like my neighbor city Norfolk abounds in. Among those things Norfolk has is an abundance of art and cultural resources and fine dining and entertainment. The adjacent city of Portsmouth also has more art and cultural resources and restaurants than Chesapeake. The good thing about Chesapeake is that it is very close to both Norfolk and Portsmouth so I can enjoy the suburban living of Chesapeake and partake of the arts, culture, fine dining, and entertainment of both Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Norfolk especially has an abundance of places to eat. You can partake of just about any cuisine you can imagine. Chesapeake, on the other hand, is more a Sonic and Burger King kind of city. It is even hard to find a good hot dog in Chesapeake. Did I mention that another adjacent city, Suffolk, also outshines Chesapeake in the areas mentioned? Sad, but true. Norfolk has a major Zoo, sporting venues for college football and basketball, professional Hockey, and semi-pro baseball, a botanical garden, and an actual downtown.

It is the downtown of Norfolk and the art aspects that I want to talk about today. Norfolk has some beautiful architecture, including the Chrysler Museum, a world-class art museum. Norfolk has recently undertaken a project to paint many of the old buildings in downtown Norfolk in what is now being called the NEON District. Many volunteers have gotten together to paint fantastic art on the walls of buildings in over 30 areas of Norfolk from the Chrysler Museum to Granby Street in the heart of the city. I first heard about this project on local television and I had to go take a look. I am a lover of great architecture and especially enjoy murals and painting done on buildings.

Here are a few of the photographs I took of some of the fantastic art adorning buildings in Norfolk. All of them are within walking distance of each other.

 

 

Out and About

I decided to take a ride the other day and just go where my instincts pointed me. I ended up in the little towns of Holland and Franklin, Virginia. They are both quaint small towns located off U.S. 58 as you head west. I was hoping to find some interesting things to photograph. The weather was quite nice for a change and I really enjoyed just taking in the scenery.

Our Sunday school Bible class has started with a new book by Beth Moore titled A Woman’s Heart – God’s Dwelling Place. It is about the Tabernacle of the Old Testament. I have done the first weeks materials and am really enjoying it. I am also attending a Wednesday evening Bible study led by our Pastor. It covers the Acts of the Apostles and our Pastor really brings new understanding to my previous knowledge of the book of Acts.

That’s about it for now. I really enjoy this time of year. So many things to do and the weather is gorgeous. My brother Skip called and we are thinking of going to Skyline Drive in the Appalachians to take in the Fall colors. It has been quite a while since my last visit and it is one of my favorite places to visit.

God Bless.

Storm Finally Over

Hurricane Joaquin fortunately missed us completely. It is a good thing too, because if it had combined with the massive low pressure system that flooded this area for days, it would have been a major disaster. The whole East cost was affected by the massive low which brought sustained high winds and major tidal flooding. South Carolina was especially hard hit but Virginia took a beating too. I live in Chesapeake, which for the most part is not near any rivers or tributaries so we were spared much of the flooding although we got lots of rain and high winds. Cities like Portsmouth, Hampton, and Norfolk were not as fortunate. I live very close to Portsmouth and got to see a lot of the tidal flooding first hand. Luckily, for Virginia at least, the flooding, while doing a lot of damage, took no lives. But the “storm” will be remembered here for a long time due to the amount of tidal flooding which was nothing short of what we usually get from a hurricane, nor’easter, or tropical storm. It was truly an awesome event, showing how Mother Nature rules over man. I got out Sunday afternoon and took numerous shots and videos to record the event for posterity.

I hope that if you lived in the areas affected by the system, that you were as fortunate as we were to escape major damage or injury. God Bless.

 

Fall is here and so is a Hurricane

Fall has arrived and with it it is bringing a lot of rain and maybe a visit from Hurricane Joaquin. For the last week we have had endless rain and the ground is now saturated. If Hurricane Joaquin passes nearby, we are assured of 10+ more inches of rain and tropical force winds. Heavily saturated ground with high winds equals trees and power lines down. Not anticipating a fun weekend. Being that I have been through many hurricanes in my life this is nothing new and we are as prepared as we can be. At least I hope to get some interesting photos and videos of the storm which I will post as soon as I can.

As for the other aspects of Fall, the weather is cooling, the leaves are changing colors and falling, and there have been lots of festivals. I am looking forward to all things pumpkin, along with lots of hot cocoa. Our church is having its Fall Bazaar this Sunday and as a part of that we cook and prepare over 400 quarts of Brunswick stew for sale. It is a LOT of work but we always manage to pull it off and everyone enjoys the fellowship. While I can’t give you the exact recipe for the stew (Top Secret), I can give you a list of the ingredients, except for the spices used. (Top Secret).

  • Chicken
  • White Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Lima Beans
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Chicken Stock
  • Bullion cubes
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Water
  • Fatback
  • Butter
  • Top Secret spices

We cook it outside in large pots with wooden paddles over propane burners. It takes 6-7 hours to cook enough batches to fill all the orders. That does not count the pre-cooking of the chicken, peeling and chopping of vegetable, etc. At $7.00 a quart it is a great deal. Wish you could stop by and try some. Now if only Hurricane Joaquin will go away…

College Football Go ODU!

Last week I went to my first college football game. I have been to high school football games, NFL football games (1), college basketball games, but never a college football game. My brother Jeff called me and invited me to go as he had an extra ticket. So off I went to see my first college football game. The teams that were playing were Old Dominion University (the home team) and visiting North Carolina State. ODU is a Division 1 NCAA team, while NC State is in the Atlantic Coast Conference. So ODU was playing the big boys and as it turned out, they were the big boys that day. Both teams had records of 2-0 and the stadium was packed to capacity and everyone was expecting an awesome game.

The weather was perfect, we had great seats at Foreman field and the atmosphere was electric. The rules for college football are somewhat different than those for the NFL, but for the most part, it was what I expected. There were a few surprises however. There were no turnovers, very unusual, and only two penalties in the entire game. Both teams utilized the no huddle offense, so the game proceeded at a quick pace, which I really appreciated. The ODU Monarch Marching Band was awesome, as were the cheerleaders. Although the final score was NC State 38, ODU 14, it was still a great game and I really enjoyed it. Did I mention ODU has a canon that they shot off twice? My brother warned me about it the first time but the second time I was caught unaware and jumped out of my seat.

Anyway, I took quite a few photos with my Sony a6000 and a 55-210mm telephoto lens. I also captured some video. Some of the photos are below along with a link to the video. I hope you enjoy them. God Bless.

Video of ODU Offense in Action

Bugs and Beaches

With Summer ending and Fall arriving very soon, I thought I would take a ride to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach and walk the trails and the beach. Back Bay is one of my favorite places to visit. It is located at the end of Sandbrige, Virginia, near the North Carolina border. In past trips I have been able to photograph all types of wildlife and I was hoping for the same this visit.

It was a beautiful day for being outside surrounded by natures beauty. This time of year there were very few people visiting, which was fine by me. It was very quiet and peaceful. Although I didn’t see any of the wildlife I usually see, you can guess by the title of this post what I did see and photograph.

Before I entered the refuge I stopped at my favorite place to grab a bite, Sandbridge Seaside Market. As the review says, they have a great deli and fresh donuts. After lunch I headed to the refuge. At the gate, the gentlemen taking admission fees sold me a seniors discount card for all National Parks and Refuges. It will save me a lot of money over time as I love visiting National Parks.

Anyway, here are some of the photos I took. I hope you enjoy them. God Bless.

A Painful Week

Three days ago I was unfortunate to have stepped barefoot onto a swarm of fire ants. As a child living in Florida I well remember fire ants and stayed far away from them. I had no idea they had moved as far north as Virginia. Too bad I had to find out the hard way. When I first stepped on them it felt like I was being shocked. I immediately saw them and luckily I was only a few feet from the pool (the reason I was barefoot) and jumped in. I guess I was fortunate as I was only bitten about 30 times. The good news is that the pain went away within a few hours but the itching soon commenced. Fortunately the itching was not on a par with poison ivy or chiggers. But the bites look really nasty. I will spare you any photos of the damage. If you want to get an idea of what a fire ant bite looks like, try Google.

While I wait for my ant bites to heal I have been trying to stay busy. I took a ride out to one of my favorite places nearby and took some photos. I am still experimenting with my new camera. My lens collection now consists of the original 18-50mm lens, a 50mm f 1.8 lens, and a 55-210mm lens. I bought a camera backpack from Amazon to store all my equipment. I have not had an interchangeable lens camera since my film days. I’m really enjoying the versatility I now have. Anyway, the photos I am posting are from two little burgs named Rescue and Battery. They are very quaint, peaceful, beautiful places. I saw a home for sale there and I was thinking it would be nice to live there.

Anyway, here are the photos I took. I hope you enjoy them. God Bless.