Sunday, May 30, 2010

32/365 Toy from the past

Before you ask ("you" generally being individuals over 40), yes, I know how to operate this device.

Do you ("you" generally being those under 20)?

I actually have a positive history with this rotary phone. When we first met, it was a cast-off item from either my grandmother or great-aunt, when I was still a kid. She no longer needed it (and had moved into the Touch-Tone era), so she gave it to Chase and I to play with.

Yep, it was given to us as a toy.

In all our games of Apartment, Library, Post Office, Doctor's Office, School, etc., this phone played a role. To operate a successful business, you have to have a phone!

Today this phone is actually in use on my kitchen wall. I do have plans to replace it (sorry, dude) with something more attractive, but until then, it's doing its job quite well. And every time I pick it up, I feel transported back to summer break, playing Pretend with Chase. And that's not bad at all!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 500

Saturday, May 29, 2010

31/365 Vibrant addition to a big, comfy chair

This vibrant bolster is the latest decorative addition to my living room, courtesy of my multi-talented, knitting Mom. If you're at all familiar with SightSalad, you'll have seen multiple photos of her handiwork.

My favorite spot to sit and read in my living room is in my big, comfy chair. "Big" isn't an exaggeration, either -- it's called a "chair and a half" because it's wider than average. It's fantastic, because I can sit in every possible position -- even completely sideways -- and curl up to my heart's content.

This bolster has now found a home in this chair, and it makes it even more enjoyable. For those times when the arms of the chair are just a little too far away from each other, I can pull this in and make up the difference.

Now I want to just go read!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 500

Friday, May 28, 2010

30/365 Small change

Currency exchange offices aren't interested in converting pocket change, so I was left with a few pounds worth of pence in my wallet when I got home from England.

I don't have much interest in coin collecting, but I do always find it interesting to see other countries' money. Shapes, weights, materials, artwork... it's all so unique.

My grandfather on my dad's side was a coin collector. He meticulously cataloged his collection and had dozens of books on the subject. I'm always impressed when people apply themselves wholeheartedly to collecting a certain item, whether it be coins, or stamps, or Pez dispensers. It requires a lot of time and research to build a good collection, so I admire that dedication.

These coins aren't worth anything more than face value right now, but maybe someday they'll be an interesting part of such a collection!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 500

Thursday, May 27, 2010

29/365 Heavy poppies

Surprisingly, I find poppies to be a difficult flower to photograph. The main reason is that they tend to weigh heavily on their slim stems, meaning they end up falling forward and facing the ground.

So yoga-enhanced flexibility comes in handy when it comes to photographing poppies!

I love how unique the color is. Whereas I see purple and pink flowers everywhere, there are a lot fewer rich oranges.

I think this photo is another improvement on a previously captured subject. One thing hasn't changed in two years -- I still think of my beloved dog, Poppy, when I see these flowers!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 320 in shade at about 7:15 p.m.

28/365 Thirsty clematis

At this time last year, this very same clematis caught my attention. Can you blame me?

It's climbing a wooden fence post at the corner of Mom and Dad's backyard, and boy oh boy is it a healthy plant that is absolutely loaded with big purple blossoms. Its location near the pond probably doesn't hurt.

And there's nothing like a good rainfall to make it thrive even more! Drink up!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 320 at about 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

27/365 Second souvenir

On the trip to (or from) England, I actually picked up a second souvenir -- a lovely head cold.

Something about riding in a flying tube, breathing circulated dry air with 150 other people, for 8 hours, pretty much guarantees shared germs. Fabulous.

I fought this one with zinc lozenges, tea, and sleep. It mainly acted as a nuisance rather than a problem.

Just one of the joys of traveling!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 640

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

26/365 Fancy English teas

Back home again in Indiana, safe and sound.

And back to reality in a hurry. Since we were a day late getting home, we missed out on the downtime we'd have had recovering before heading back to work.

I mentioned earlier that on my first evening in London, I picked up my one souvenir -- fancy tea from Fortnum & Mason. I bought two samplers of bagged tea, one mix of black tea and one mix of fruit tea.

At this moment, I prefer buying my tea in bagged form rather than loose. I understand the nicer teas often are sold loose, but I don't have a great tool to steep loose-leaf tea, so it's a bit of a hassle and a mess.

Fortnum & Mason had this tea available in both varieties, so I lucked out. I've really enjoyed the black teas, and I've been having them with my breakfast in the morning. Surprisingly, the only one I don't care for is the Earl Grey.

Now my selection of teas in my pantry has really become a little ridiculous. Oh well, such is life, right?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 640

Sunday, May 23, 2010

25/365 New York City skyline

I didn't expect to see this view of New York City.

But the volcano in Iceland got its way, so it took us a day longer than planned to get home from England. Because of our delayed and extended flight from London, we missed our connection at JFK (by a lot). There was one more flight to Indianapolis scheduled later that evening, but stormy weather in the States caused that flight to get canceled.

The earliest we could get out was noon the next day. So we transferred from JFK to La Guardia and found a hotel for the night. It actually worked out just fine, because we were able to sleep off most of our jet lag, then when we got home we felt almost normal again.

Back to reality! I'd call the trip to England a success in every sense, both work and personal. You can't ask for much more than that, can you?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/4.5 at ISO 640 at about 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

24/365 Slight detour on the way home from England

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple months (if you have been, good for you), you've probably heard of this little natural event in the northern Atlantic called a volcanic eruption.

Ring a bell?

How about the name Eyjafjallajökull? Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? Gotta love those Icelandic names.

My trip to the U.K. was originally scheduled for April 18-25. On April 14, this simply named volcano ramped up its current activity and caused a major disruption in European airspace. I'm not even sure "disruption" is a strong-enough word, but you get the idea. 

Not surprisingly, the trip was postponed. We rescheduled for a couple weeks later, crossing our fingers that the eruption would have subsided enough by then that we'd have no trouble. 

Our flight over to the U.K. was smooth as could be, and entirely uneventful. The trip back? A slightly different story. 

We woke early on Sunday morning to prepare for a 9:30 a.m. flight out of Heathrow Airport in London. I checked our flight status online soon after waking and learned that our flight out was delayed by two hours. That delay alone spelled trouble for later in the day, when we were scheduled to make a connecting flight in New York. 

The delay? Due to the increasing eruption of the volcano yet again. That volcano just wasn't going to let us get away without a fight.

Thankfully, our delayed flight made it out. We were holding our breath until we actually lifted off the runway. But the story didn't end there. 

Because of that problematic ash cloud, our route changed. Instead of taking the most direct route across the Atlantic to New York, we had to instead fly north around Iceland. The detour added 60-90 minutes to the already long flight time. More trouble for making that connection in New York!

View Larger Map

The highlight of the flight was that we were actually able to peek out the left side of the plane and see the plume of ash over Iceland. It wasn't as dramatic as you'd hope, because we were still 150 miles north of it. The cloud from that distance basically just looked like a long, dark rain cloud. 

The photo at the top of this post? The snowy mountains of Greenland. That's quite a detour, don't you think?

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 3:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

23/365 One day in London

London, England. One of the most important, historic, populated cities in the world. You have one day to see it. How in the world do you decide what to do?

Answer: You don't worry about what you're missing. You face the fact that you're just going to have to come back and visit again. And again. And maybe even again.

Or at least, that was my answer!

Ideally, the day would have dawned sunny and beautiful with high temperatures in the 70-degrees-Fahrenheit range. In reality, the skies were heavy and overcast, it rained off and on all day, and the high temperature didn't make it out of the 40s. (Apparently this is unseasonal for May in London, but it actually fit the mental image I had of the city to begin with.)

Did we let the weather hold us back? Absolutely not!

One of the best ways to see the city, albeit rather touristy, is to hitch a ride on one of the city's red double-decker buses and take a tour. So that's exactly how we started the day.

We got on the bus at Trafalgar Square, one of many iconic locations we saw during the day.

London has so many historic, well-known landmarks that I'm not going to even try to list them here. I will say that while I've never really considered myself to be a history buff, seeing the history of this city and country was one of the highlights of my trip. I've always loved English literature, both classic and modern, so it was truly a treat to tread some of these paths with my own two feet. 

The photo below is the Tower Bridge. I recognize this landmark, like most people (see another photo below), but I've also made the common mistake of thinking this is the London Bridge. It's not. London Bridge, while it does have its own long history, is aesthetically not worth really looking at.

Tower Bridge is another story.

Tower Bridge is named so because it leads across the Thames River to the Tower of London. Here we got off the bus tour and made our first real sight-seeing stop.

Of the many landmarks in London, I chose the Tower of London as one of the things I wanted to see on this trip. It's a castle in the heart of the city, and within its walls are the Crown Jewels, among other royal artifacts.

Anne Boleyn was imprisoned and executed at the Tower in 1536. If you remove the modern buildings from the background, and substitute water in the moat for the green grass of today, can't you just see the significance of this site?

After spending a couple hours at the Tower of London, we grabbed lunch and took a (wet) walk along the Thames. We crossed over the River and back via Millennium Bridge, which I don't have a photo of due to the weather.

Then we hopped back on the bus and finished our tour. Below is Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.

And this is a more recognizable view of Tower Bridge.

I don't know about you, but anytime I'm out in the cold, wet wind for an extended period of time, it wears me out. We wrapped up our day with a nice dinner at a tapas restaurant and called it a night.

Even with the miserable weather, I really enjoyed my one day in London! It puts so much into perspective. I hope the next time I go back, the weather is a little more accommodating. I'd love to be able to put my camera through more of its paces.

Camera: Canon 40D
Trafalgar Square: 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 200
Westminster Abbey: 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 160
Tower Bridge: 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100
Tower of London: 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100
Tower Bridge black and white: 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 125
Between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

22/365 Off to London!

Friday afternoon in England brought an end to our work week. We decided that I couldn't venture to the England for the first time without seeing London, so we used our remaining 30 hours of free time to see the city!

But first, we had to get there from York. We took the train, a public transportation system that is reliable and well-utilized in the UK. It was a fantastic way to travel. In the photo above, check out the massive number of bicycles parked at the York train station. It makes me long for more transportation options in the US!

We got a direct route from York to London, so it took about two hours. We arrived in London at King's Cross Station, which I can't hear without thinking of Harry Potter. Our train didn't arrive via platform 9 3/4, but it was fun to get there all the same.

We made a quick stop at our hotel in Paddington, dropped our luggage, and set out to make use of our first afternoon and evening in the city. It started with a brisk walk from Paddington, around Hyde Park, to Piccadilly Circus. My client insisted that I needed to make a stop at Fortnum & Mason, a long-standing luxury retail store in the area. There I bought my one souvenir to bring home: fancy English tea! My love of tea was only heightened during this trip across the pond.

After wandering through the aisles of ritzy chocolates, sweets, teas, coffees, wines, and kitchen items, my stomach was vocal about needing dinner. We wandered through the Piccadilly area in search of a good restaurant, but we ran into a little difficulty. When you're not familiar with the city, it's hard to know where the niche areas are -- some for good shopping, some for after-work pubs, some for dining. And we were in the shopping arena.

But then we stumbled upon a fun restaurant that my boss had enjoyed once during his previous trip to the UK. Having exhausted our search for other options, we entered Yo! Sushi.

You can't walk into this restaurant without smiling!

I confirmed that there were, indeed, plenty of vegetarian options on the menu (to accommodate my dislike of seafood), and we grabbed a seat. The fun concept? A narrow conveyor belt continually circulates your options around the room. See something you like? Snatch the brightly colored plate from the line and enjoy!

At the end of the meal, a server comes along to tally the number of colored plates that you have. Four green? Two pink? Three purple? Prices are set based on color.

I really enjoyed trying some new items and learning that I can find tasty options at a sushi restaurant. 

After dinner? We headed back to the hotel to rest up for our one full day in London! Tell me, what would you do with just one day in such an expansive city?

Top: Canon 40D, 1/250s, f/5.6 at ISO 100 at about 2:00 p.m.
Bottom: iPhone

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

21/365 The walls of York

On our final night in York, we got a chance to walk along the walls surrounding the city after dinner.

I wish we'd had time (and enough daylight) to do the entire circuit, because it really is a great way to see the city.

The walls that stand today date from the 12th-14th century.

Pause for a second and think about that. 1100-1300 AD. These walls are between 700 and 900 years old. Knowledge of the existence of North America dates back to the 1400s. The United States itself has only been an independent entity for 234 years. It just blows my mind.

The walls are actually shorter than I would have guessed, but they still served their defensive purpose because they are built up on earthen banks around the city, which elevates them more. From the inner edge of the walkway atop the walls, I could have safely hopped down to the ground below. The height was only about four feet or so.

No railing exists along the inner edge, except where the walls (or gates) cross above a road or river. The walkway itself was also narrower than I'd have guessed -- only about three feet wide. The outer wall stood six feet or more above the walkway, protecting the defenders. Narrow slits for archers were strategically spaced along the wall as well.

Daylight faded quickly and forced us to cut the walk short after we'd only made it about halfway around the city. But it was entirely worth it!

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4 at ISO 1000 at about 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

20/365 Gate to the city of York

One of the most interesting features of York is the medieval wall that nearly encircles the city. The structure is more than 1000 years old, dating back to Roman times.

That's hard for me to even wrap my mind around!

The wall is in remarkably good shape, and several of the original gates to the city still stand. This is one on the south side of the city, nearest our hotel -- Micklegate Bar. I picked up a Frommer's guide to England prior to the trip. Its entry on York said that on this particular gate, at one time, the heads of criminals were staked to warn intruders.

Lovely, no?

Today, you can climb up to the top of the walls and walk around the city, which is between 2.5 and 3 miles in circumference. It's a great way to see the city from above. I walked about half of it after dinner one night later in the week, so watch for a post soon that shows a view from atop the wall.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 250 at about 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

19/365 A city in North Yorkshire

Welcome to York, England!

I spent most of my week in this fantastic city in the northern part of England, in North Yorkshire. The total population is under 200,000, so it's quite cozy. I went to England with my boss to meet with a new client, and their headquarters is about 20 minutes outside of York. We stayed at a hotel in the city centre, so we could walk to just about anything our hearts desired.

We flew out of Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon, arriving in Manchester on Monday morning. From there, we took a train to York, dropped our bags, freshened up, then set out into the streets. The goal? Keep moving, stay awake, and enjoy some of the little bit of free time that we had.

The aesthetic and historic centerpiece of York is its minster (cathedral). Built in the Gothic style, this cathedral contains more stained glass than any other cathedral in Europe. One window is even the size of a tennis court.

Luckily, this area of England was spared from much of the bombing in WWII.

While we were there, a choir was rehearsing, and their voices completely filled this monstrous cathedral. It really added to the experience, hearing a large choir sing music from centuries past.

This round rose window is one of the artistic highlights often mentioned in regards to the York Minster.

Our afternoon in York was cold but beautiful. I was glad I had a pair of gloves and a scarf with me -- the high had to have only reached the upper 40s.

Not far from the minster is an area called The Shambles. For centuries, this narrow street housed several butchers. They're all gone now, but you can still see many of the hooks outside the doors where they hung the fresh meat.

I find the architecture of this street interesting -- notice how the second and third levels of the buildings are built out over the first. One of our cab drivers (who was quite passionate about his knowledge of York's history) said that this style derived from taxation. People were taxed based on the area they owned on the street, so to gain more space but not more taxes, they extended the upper levels of their buildings.

It looks precarious, but it definitely is clever!

Monday was a bank holiday in England, so residents and tourists alike were out enjoying the town.

Tuesday? Time to get to work.

Camera: Canon 40D between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.
Cathedral face: 1/250s, f/8 at ISO 100
Nave consists of two photos merged for HDR: f/3.5 at ISO 1250
Window: 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 250
Choir: 1/60s, f/3.5 at ISO 1250
Shambles: 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

18/365 Flourishing irises

Before I left for England, I wanted to make sure I got a photo of the irises blooming right now -- just in case they peaked while I was gone and I missed it!

The purple ones appear to be one of the more common colors, and it definitely appeals to me. The deeper shades of purple in this particular iris are close to the color of my bathroom.

Rich, bold, happy, beautiful!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/250s, f/2.8 at ISO 160 at about 4:30 p.m. in shade.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Return to regular programming

You've probably noticed that it's been very quiet here this past week. Remember when I told you that I'd have some interesting new subject matter coming soon? That time has come!

For the last week, I've been in England on a business trip! I took my camera, of course, and in between meetings, I got a chance to document my first trip to the United Kingdom.

I have dozens of photos to process, so it's going to take me a little time to get them posted. I also have a day or two of pre-trip photos that I didn't get a chance to post.

So stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

17/365 Favorite dinner ingredients

These are the ingredients for one of my favorite dinners. I make it year-round, but it's absolutely ten times better in the spring and summer when fresh vegetables are abundant.

And thankfully, that time is here!

What is it? Pasta salad. It's cool, refreshing, and a great one-bowl meal. It requires no recipe, because you can change it up depending on what you have on hand.

This time, I made it using zucchini, mini sweet peppers, baby carrots, broccoli, blanched asparagus, and black olives, with whole grain penne pasta and finely shredded Parmesan cheese. It's fantastic.

Have some grilled chicken on hand? Fantastic, throw it in. Beans? Go for it. Tomatoes? An absolute must when they're in season. I prefer this with oil- and vinegar-based Italian dressing, but you can use whatever dressing is your favorite.

Here's my method:

Fresh veggie pasta salad

Ingredients (for a single serving):

  • About 1.5 cups of your favorite fresh vegetables, chopped into bite-size pieces as necessary (tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, peppers, peas, broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, you get the idea)
  • Grilled or broiled chicken if you're an omnivore
  • Black olives (if you like them)
  • 1 cup cooked pasta
  • Salad dressing of your choice
  • Shredded cheese of your choice

Chop the veggies, and throw them into a large bowl.
Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and run under cool water to stop it cooking and get its temperature closer to your veggies. Add the pasta to the bowl.
Drizzle with your favorite salad dressing, and toss to coat everything evenly.
Transfer to your plate (or as I do, eat it straight out of the mixing bowl!)
Shred the cheese on top, and enjoy!

If you want to have asparagus in yours, it's not a veggie you can generally eat raw. So I chopped mine and added it to the cooking pasta during the last two minutes. Then strain it and run it under cool water with the pasta. You're blanching it without the extra effort!

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 640

Monday, May 3, 2010

16/365 Flying helicopters

What descriptive names did you give items when you were a kid?

These have been and always will be "helicopters" in my mind. That's what we called them, the maple seeds that would spiral to the ground in the spring.

We had fun gathering handfuls of them, then tossing them up overhead to send them flying again.

Maybe that's the same kind of fun that makes people in movies always toss money into the air? It's always seemed like a silly act to me, but having never been in that situation before, maybe it's just their childlike delight coming through.

Anyone want to give me a stack of money so I can try it myself?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4 at ISO 1250 at about 8:15 p.m. in shade.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

15/365 Unfurling hostas

I have four or five hostas growing around my house, and I've found it interesting to see how they sprout in the spring.

Whereas many mostly green plants stick around in the winter, these completely disappear and die off (above ground). But when it came time to greet the spring, they emerged like bright green straws. Their leaves were curled into a spiral tube, then they unfurled when they reached their full height.

I've seen hostas around for years, but I've never really paid attention to witness this part of their growth. It's pretty cool!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 1000 at about 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

14/365 Lone tree standing

Wide areas of dense trees are great, but I like seeing lone trees that have been allowed to remain standing. Especially when they're in or near farm fields.

I'd be willing to bet that at one time or another, the fate of this tree has been discussed. To fell or not to fell? It would certainly be easy to just wipe the area clean to make way for something new, whether that be a larger field or a new barn. I'm glad to see that it hasn't happened yet.

This tree has character. It doesn't look like your run-of-the-mill maple. It's not a thick and lush variety -- you can see its spindly branches all the way up near the top.

In a way, it reminds me of scenes I've seen of Africa, where the plains stretch for miles, but every once in a while, a tree has managed to grow.

I hope this one gets to stick around.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/250s, f/8 at ISO 100 at about 5:45 p.m.