I promised myself that I’d listen to my inner creative voice and do more photography once the holidays were over.  That worked, to a point, and I found some unique projects and practiced spur of the moment photography with my cell phone. Not considered “unique” to some, but I am still an electronic neophyte in many areas.

The start of January had my flying back to Rhode Island to assist in some family issues. In the brief four days I was there, my sister told me of a considerable sized migration of snowy owls from Alaska to the East Coast because of a food shortage.  Fairly early on the first morning I was there, and despite the Imageurgings of my sister’s 80 lb, “baby” Sammie, we left her house to head to Comicut Point where she and her husband had seen an owl recently.

I was overjoyed to see the owl, just sitting at low tide, on a sand bar about 50 yards offshore.

 

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Image I was able to get about 20 feet away from him/her? as he looked back over his shoulder at me.  It really was a beautiful bird.

A couple of days later, my sister heard of varied non-confirmed sightings at Sachuest Point Refuge in Middletown, RI.  The benifit to shooting here is that it’s a protected refuge, no dogs, no hunting, and all animals are wild.  It was cold, grey and misty, turning to rain sprinkles just on the coast.  We had hiked about 3 miles on the trails through the refuge and down by the ocean when we made a right hand turn to head back to the trailhead.  We were in the middle of a fairly large clearing with a solitary tree, right on the coast.  I remarked that it would be a great post for field mice or crabs.  My sister looked over me left shoulder to remark about this big seagull gliding in from over the water towards that tree. Suddenly she tensed and said, “Shit!, get your camera up! It’s not a seagull, it’s the owl!”

 

 ImageShe alighted on the top of the tree and just sat there, looking.  We were oblivous to the cold rain or anything around us. We both continued shooting, without looking at our images, until she flew off inland  into the middle of a grove of trees. My sister has returned since then to find a total of 3 snowy owls sharing the hunting grounds.

 

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Our next adventure, during the middle of the month, was to use a groupon that had been bought for me over a year ago.  Starshine got us a hot air balloon ride over Buda, Texas.  She had bought me the groupon for Christmas over a year ago and we had just never gotten around to coordinate our schedules.  So we decided, on a Friday while we were both in bed with heavy cedar allergies, that Sunday morning would be the time to go.

Sunday morning came around too soon and around 3am we stumbled awake, showered and dressed in layers.  We had to be at the meeting place at 0630.  We hit the IHOP for breakfast and had the Jeep on the road by 0430.  Starshine is electroinc wizard between us and by 0615 she navigated us with the GPS on her phone to the “meeting spot”.  Well, there were 8 fast-food restaurants, a Cabela’s, 2 hotels, and a Wal-Mart.  So I drove in circles and she growled at her phone, until we figured that the Wal-Mart matched the address on the balloon companies website.  At 0629, 2 panel vans drove into the Wal-Mart parking lot and I reached for the knife clipped in the front of my pants. The doors opened and a bunch of questionable looking “carnies” piled out.  Slowly people began to get out of their vehicles and we had about 14 poeple grouped around us.  They signed us in and advised a couple of people to visit the Wal-Mart for heavier clothes or shoes (one girl had flat bottomed ballerina slippers on!) and piled us in the van to the “launch site”.  We ended up on a 100-yard square piece of grass, between the Wal-Mart, Cabela’s, and a Hampton Inn.

 

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It took about 45 minutes all-together to inflate the balloon and board all the people.  Everone was kept within the groups but seperated according to weights to keep the basket balanced.  The balloon was 180 feet tall and the basket was rectangular shaped, about 20 feet by 6 feet wide and divided into 5 compartments, including one for the pilot. It was dark when we finally launched and the moon was still very visible.

 

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As the Sun continues to rise, the balloon rose, eventually, to a height of 4200 feet.  I can’t say there was much as far as composition or beauty in the images, but it certainally gave thing a different perspective.

 

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The view up, from inside the balloon.

 

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About an hour and a half into the flight, we were given landing instructions.  We were to turn around and place our backs on what, until now, had been the front of the basket.  We wre to grab the 3″ cotton handles in front of us, bend our knees and brace for impact!  The pilot said he wasn’t sure where we would land, it depended on the winds.  They were 10 MPH at 4200 feet but close to 30 MPH nearer to the ground!  He assured us the he could control the vertical movements of the balloon but, beacuse ther was to landing gear, skids,or brakes, the landing was up to the winds.  He picked a harvested cotton field and we “landed” backwards, at 11 MPH, bounced three times and came to rest sideways in the cotton field.  The basket now looked like bunk beds (or a mauseoleum) with Starshine and I on the bottom and other people stacked beside and above us.

 

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All things considered, we had a ball and would definitely do this again!!  My only desire would be to do it somewhere with scenery or color. However, like the pilot said, in places like that there are usually very few roads which meant very few landing spots, and chance of a long walk home.  As it was here, we had landed in the center of 2 cornfields about 200 yards each, acrossed.  The crew cheif managed to get one of the Suburbans and a trailer acrossed the soft field with some difficulty.  After helping the crew right the basket (1200 lbs) and roll and pack the balloon (700 lbs.), most of us walked acrossed the field to the panel vans waiting to take us back to our vehicles.

 

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Our latest project was a spur of the moment decision.  San Antonio had sleet and freezing rain with temps in the low 20’s the night before.  I had gotten off work around 0800 so I had missed the morning light but I called Starshine on the way home, she had been off that night, and told her that if she wwanted to grab her camera, there was enough ice to be interesting.  We drove through a couple of parks but didn’t see the ice i had on the way home. So we drove the route I had, on the access road beside the airport.  The open runways had provided no cover as the rain was blown sideways and coated the brush along the railroad tracks.  I had intended to just let her shoot, I didn’t have my camera anyway.  But looking at some of the compoistions I remembered what I remembered a seasoned photographer saying in an interview once, “Use what you’ve got”, so I pulled out my phone.  I am an old dinosaur and confirmed computer neophyte…but I’m learning and trying.  So here’s what I came up with alongside the Union Pacific train tracks.

 

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…and…the images are rotated and I can’t figure out how to straightena nd format them. You get the idea.  It was cold, fun, and different.

 

We had planned  date-night that Saturday so we napped and were lazy during the day, got up around 4:00pm and wre invited to stop by Starshine’s son’s and visit with our grandaughter, Kali, for a little while.  Just after we got there, Kali’s Mom came home from work early so we offered to stay and sit with Kali so they could get some stuff done.  I don’t smile too often, but it was a pretty great date-night!!  We DID get our dinner, at Chili’s right before they closed. But since that was where we had had our first, un-official “date”, I think our weekend turned out pretty good.  Love you Princess

 

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