Friday, January 29, 2010

Peanut Island

I'm really excited about this blog post because this is the first time I will talk about the Palm Beach Photo Walkers. It all started last July when my friends and I participated in two walks during Scott Kelby's Second Annual Worldwide Photo Walk - one in Jupiter and the other in West Palm Beach, FL. The concept of this photography event is that photographers get together, usually in a downtown area or trendy section of town, to walk around, shoot photos, and generally have fun with other photographers. The amazing thing is that on July 18, 2009, over 32,600 people walked in over 900 walks worldwide.

Anyway, during these walks (Jupiter for Sunrise pictures and West Palm Beach late afternoon), I met many super nice photographers and a few of us decided that we wanted to get together and do this more often. The following month, a very few of us got together and went to a local nature preserve called Wakodahatchee Wetlands (more about this place in a future blog). The month after that, a few more of us went somewhere else. We got a little organized and set up a Flickr group so we can all post pictures from our "walks" in one place. This worked well for a while but as more and more people showed interest in our group and wanted to join in, it became very hard to organize the meetups.

At this point I discovered Basically Meetup is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. Meetup allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest (such as politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers or hobbies). They enter their location and interest and the website helps them find local groups or they can easily create their own, which is what I did. The key is this site makes it VERY easy to invite users, set up meetups, collect rsvps, etc. So, the official PBC Photo Walkers was born on October 29, 2009. Three months later, we have 106 members.

We plan one meetup every month followed by a social get together (breakfast, lunch, drinks...) and the last meetup was on Peanut Island to tour the HMS Bounty, which is temporarily docked there. This ship was featured in the movie The Mutiny on the Bounty in 1960 and also Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man's Chest (yes, I walked on the same deck that Johnny Depp walked on). Peanut Island also has a LOT more to see (if interested, please visit the link above) so our group was very excited to go.

View Peanut Island in a larger map

Over 50 people had rsvped "yes" or "maybe" to this trip, which was at least double any previous meetup. Honestly, I was a little nervous about this one. Sadly, the weather was HORRIBLE. I drove there at 9am in the pouring rain while Dina checked for weather updates on her iPhone. Meanwhile, I was getting a lot of calls from group members askng what was going to happen. Well, the plan was... if you want to go hang out and wait for the weather to clear, I'll be there. An amazing 25+ people showed up, in the pouring rain! Unfortunately, the raining got harder, the doppler did not look good, and all but about 8 people left.

The good news is that it really cleared up and we had a great time:

So happy we finally made it over  Photographers  I see you Art!  Taking pictures of rope
Shooting the waterfall I think.  Hi Art!!!!!  The bunker 

It was really amazing how much photographers can see. I really look at the world in a different way than I used to, and it's incredible how much beauty is out there. We did see some wildlife which is always popular:

Manatee family  Waiting for fish  Fat Green Heron on the pier 

Well, as I said, I took a LOT of pictures that day that I really love. Rather than posting a bunch of pictures, I decided to create a tiny video using ProShow Gold:

(click to play)

My favorite picture of the HMS bounty became my Palm Beach County photo of the week on DPC:

(By the way, I decided to link this one to my Smugmug account at instead of Flickr for a change)


Friday, January 22, 2010

Palm Beach (Part 1)

According to Wikipedia, Palm Beach is an "affluent" incorporated town in Palm Beach County, FL, US. According to Merriam-Webster, affluent is "having a generously sufficient and typically increasing supply of material possessions". For such a small area (only 16 miles long) it certainly does have more than its share of material possessions. I won't spend time retyping information about the town... if you're interested click the link above and Wikipedia will provide quite a bit of information, from its history, to its demographics to its "notable residents" (the latest to depart from the currently-living-there list is Bernard Madoff).

While those that reside on the island of Palm Beach typically like to stay there, their neighbors in Palm Beach County (including me) enjoy an occasional visit because, truly, it is just beautiful over there. It's so breathtaking that I'm certain I will devote at least 3 weekly blogs during 2010 to this small piece of land surrounded by water.  This week's blog entry will document our first two bike rides that Gregg and I took along the Palm Beach bike trail. The first ride was with a borrowed bike; I enjoyed myself so much that I decided that I really really wanted my own bike. Since my birthday is coming up in February, I suggested that perhaps Gregg would like to buy me a bike for my birthday. Luckily Palm Beach has its very own bike shop where I was able to test drive what would be come my new bike!

Bike shop

First ride with my new bike  Gregg

First we drove along the wide walk/skate/bicycle path along the intercoastal. The view on one side is the intracoastal waterway with downtown West Palm Beach in the background and the other side is basically the back yard of homes in Palm Beach. We passed a dock just filled with seagulls... the plan was for me to sneak up on them with my camera and at my cue, Gregg scares the heck out of them so they all fly. I was pretty pleased with the results (sorry seagulls):


Sorry, didn't mean to scare you...

We ventured away from the intracoastal and headed east toward the beach. On our way we passed Bethesda by the Sea. What an amazingly gorgeous church! I can't believe I had never been there before (and I've lived in PB County for over 25 years). Thank goodness Gregg has and he knew how much I would appreciate both the interior and exterior of the church. I didn't have my tripod with me so I didn't attempt to get inside pictures but the grounds were fantastic. I played around with multi-bracketing and tried a few hdr shots and came up with a few that I was fairly happy with (I still have a lot to learn on this technique) but in spite of the fact that I'm not entirely thrilled with them, one of them will be my Palm Beach County photo of the week on DPC.


(By the way, for a super website that explains HDR and features some incredible HDR shots, see my friend Kim's site).


Sunday, January 17, 2010

The South Florida Fair

I decided to go to the fair this year for two reasons: 1) Dina offered me a free ticket & 2) I thought it would be a great Week 3 blog post. My goal was to get one great picture for the blog but I ended up with so many more (I took over 200 pictures in the 2 1/2 hours we were there).

As in most areas of the world, the fair is a pretty big deal around here. The South Florida Fair comes to town in the middle of January every year and it stays for two weeks. It is always held at the South Florida Fairgrounds, which is a surprising 100 acres.

Some other things I learned about the fair:

-The fair began as the Palm Beach County Fair in March 1912, and operated until 1937 when it ceased operating due to the effects from the Great Depression.
-The fair resumed in 1946, and incorporated in 1953. In 1957, the fair was moved from John Prince Memorial Park (I had no idea!) to its current location when Palm Beach County gave the Fair 100 acres at its present site (but later took back 20 acres for the stockade).
-The former location is now the home of Palm Beach Community College... oh, I'm sorry, Palm Beach State College!
-The fair was renamed to its present day name for the 1960 event.
-Attendance has been almost 600,000 people for the last few years.

(Thanks to the Palm Beach Post for some of these facts, and Wikipedia for the rest!)

I'm fairly sure this is the first time that I went to the fair without Derek (my 17 year old) and even a whole bunch of kids; in fact, it was very strange just going with Dina. Our main goal was to take some cool pictures and eat some unhealthy food (check... and check). I don't know about Dina, but I felt 20 years younger walking around just being silly and having fun. When I go to the fair I usually avoid the midway, choosing to spend my time looking at the exhibits and the animals and, as awful as it is, I do like the games. If we weren't short of time, I would have attempted to win one of these or one of these (thanks for the shot Dina!). However, since we didn't have much time and it was dark, we were drawn to the rides.

After drinking 1/2 of our first large beer, Dina talked me into taking an "old time photo", something I have never taken the time to do before. We made a deal with the guy - we'd buy his picture if he also took a picture with our cameras. After doing a tiny bit of editing, I was very happy with the picture of us.

Having fun at the fair!

For those wondering... no, I didn't drink any Jack Daniels and yes, way too much of Dina's legs are showing. :o) I also took this very quickly after the guy took our picture. Too bad the guy took away her cool feather hat thing first.

Oh, and thank you, Dina, for having your camera handy for this shot (by the way, be sure to look through Dina's photostream... she took a lot of really amazing shots, too!).

I admit that at times I felt silly standing in the middle of the crowd with my tripod, taking 30 pictures of a brightly lit ride. I was asked at one point if I was a reporter (my response, "No, I'm an accountant"). Another woman stopped and talked to us and may join our Palm Beach Photo Walkers group on, which was pretty exciting. We did get some strange looks but I'm starting to get used to it. If one of those 30 pictures turns out good, it is worth a few raised eyebrows from strangers (I do admit to being very embarrased while the guy was taking pictures of us scantily dressed... refer back to the link to the "old time photo" above).

In the short time I was there, I learned a lot about shutter speed and how to take pictures of very colorful and brightly lit moving things such as the swing ride (see below). It's really fun to try to get just enough of the blurry motion while keeping parts of the ride sharply in focused and I don't get many opportunities to play around with this technique. Another ride that came out cool is actually one of my least favorite rides (not sure what it's called). The only thing I enjoy about this ride is the good music that it usually plays. I never was a super huge ride person, but the ones that make me dizzy are the ones I hate the most (those and the ones that fall quickly and go too fast).

The way too high swing ride  Hate this ride

I generally like slow moving rides, and since heights do not bother me, ferris wheels are one of the few rides I will wait in line for (except this particular trip because we didn't have much time). I realized last night that I also like ferris wheels for their great photo opportunities. I took many pictures of two ferris wheels from all different angles and played around in Photoshop on some of them to make them look "arty".  This one I edited two different ways, black and whitethis one I did from underneath, which was really strange, and this one I really liked the composition,

My favorite ferris wheel shot is my Palm Beach County photo of the week on DPC:

The Sun Wheel


Saturday, January 9, 2010

The zoos of Palm Beach County

What a great week I had! I took this past week off and I spent the entire time doing things I enjoy with people I enjoy. I guess some might call it a staycation but I won't because that word was officially banned in Lake Superior State University's 2009 List of Banished Words. For those interested, the 2010 list contains words such as sexting, bromance & chillaxin'.

Anyhoo (just had to look that up... suprisingly never banned; see the complete list here), the clear theme of this week was zoos. My first photography outing this week was Palm Beach Zoo with my buddy Art.

Actually, this was my first and second outing; since we didn't see enough the four hours we were there last Sunday, we went back on Wednesday for another four hours. It's amazing how long I can stand in one spot and take 40 pictures of the same subject.... and I'm happy as can be if one of those comes out the way I want it. I'm pretty sure I took at least 300 pictures each day I went out so some are bound to come out good, right? Well, I did get some nice shots, from the very photographic blue and yellow macaws to the bald eagle that I somehow captured from behind the display, through a fence and trees.

Blue & Yellow Macaws  Bald Eagle

Keeping with that trend, I ended up with a nice shot of the great green macaws, the hawks were amazing, and I also finally got a decent picture of a flamingo (suprisingly hard, right Art?). I even got a nice picture of this ibis, which you can find every three steps you take at the zoo.

One of the most interesting things to photograph were the jaguars, Nabalam and her one year old baby Maya. I actually think this is a pretty average picture; I stood there for a long time attempting to get a nice action shot... no luck this time.

The second zoo I visited this week was Lion Country Safari, with my friend from Leadership Palm Beach County (Class of 2008), Kelly.

We had a great time and, wow, the weather was amazing. I took 397 pictures yesterday but all of my favorites were of the sweet giraffes. Just go to my flickr photostream (link on right sidebar) and you can see all of my pictures of these guys but this is my favorite:


By the way, this zoo is only 10 minutes from my house and I finally broke down and got an annual pass.

Looking back on this week, if I did the the math (which I don't like to do on the weekends or vacations), I took well over 1,000 pictures. My very favorites, though, were of the Malayan Tigers at Palm Beach Zoo. Not sure which one this is... either Mata or Rimba (this is my my Palm Beach County photo of the week on DPC).

Malayan Tiger @ Palm Beach Zoo

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

SWA Greenway Trail System

I happen to think that Palm Beach County is an incredible place to live. Many local residents don't realize (and/or appreciate) the amazing variety of things they can do and see here. A few years ago it occurred to me that to really enjoy my home town, I have to act like a tourist on a regular basis.... a tourist with a Canon XSi and a newly purchased Photoshop CS4.

A recent side challenge on DP Challenge (DPC) called "Photo a week, 2010" really aroused my creativity. The concept of this side challenge is for everyone to pick their own theme and then post one photo every week based on that theme. My theme is "Palm Beach County", and I'm certain I won't have a problem posting 52 pictures that represent this county.

Another user, tinkie2010, decided to create a blog based on her images, and I really love the idea... so I'm stealing it. This is my first ever blog and I'm extremely excited about it. My biggest challenge will be to keep up with it during tax season (I'm a CPA specializing in taxes and will get very busy between February and April 15th).

My first picture this year was taken the other day while hiking with my friend Dina. Between the SWA and the Grassy Waters Preserve is a trail sytem that covers 300 acres. The amazing thing is that I had no idea these trails existed until a few months ago.

View SWA Greenway Trail System in a larger map

Dina & I really wanted to get away from home for a few hours and decided to finally explore these trails. Although we saw way too many creepy buzzard-type birds, we also saw two deer, adorable little birds and a giant alligator. The best part was actually the weather. The sky was a vivid shade of blue and the temperature was pretty much perfect.

Toward the end of our walk, we realized that we had walked much too far into the trail (for approx 2 hours) and that we'd have to walk back. Thankfully, Brian the WPB Police Officer drove by and offered us a ride back to our car (ok, we really begged him); he even showed us where the huge alligator was hanging out.

My favorite shot of the day was of this slash pine tree (my Palm Beach County photo of the week on DPC):

Slash pine