Moving in the Time of Covid-19

We moved this winter, just in time to get into our new digs before the Covid-19 pandemic made itself known in this country.  We left Sun City-Hilton Head (in Bluffton, SC) for higher ground, selling our home there and purchasing a townhome in the village of Fletcher, NC which lies about halfway between Asheville and Hendersonville.  The 16-ft elevation in Bluffton seemed at times to barely get us above the water table, whereas the 2200-ft elevation in Fletcher gives us plenty of reason to refer to this as our “mountain home.” Although still about a thousand feet below the elevation of our former home in Boone, this new perspective certainly gives us a mountain presence and occasional mountain weather.

We hired a moving company, Carolina Moving and Storage, to bring us here since we felt too old to load and unload a truck this time as we did in our previous moves.  This crew did a marvelous job for us, and if only we didn’t have so much “stuff”…  I packed a lot of our things, the movers packed the breakables and the furniture, and they unloaded the lot when we arrived.  I broke down the boxes and packing paper, which we then took to the Henderson County Recycling Center.  We have replaced most of the original appliances (still have the original gas range) and we are getting to like the place.

With the move comes the tasks of seeking new healthcare professionals, transferring driver licenses and automobile titles, and getting insurance coverages squared away with new state requirements.  We are moving along with this very slowly, but have at least got the insurance and driver licenses transferred to North Carolina.

I was scheduled to have cataract surgery in a few days from now but the Covid-19 pandemic has put that on hold since all elective surgery has been delayed.


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Photography Fundamentals Workshop

I just finished teaching the first offering of Photography Fundamentals Workshop Level 2, a workshop for beginning photographers in the Photography Club of Sun City-Hilton Head (PCSCHH).  It’s time to reflect on the effort and to decide whether it is a worthwhile endeavor.

I joined the Curriculum Subcommittee of the PCSCHH earlier this year with the express purpose of helping develop an educational opportunity for beginning photographers in this club.  The subcommittee addressed this task with the understanding that the workshop should be active rather than passive and that the sequence of experiences should facilitate students’ learning how to use their camera(s) to best advantage in making images.

A number of hurdles presented themselves immediately, not the least of which was that interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) such as digital single-lens reflex (DSLRs) and mirrorless ILCs present a set of controls and language(s) that do not necessarily apply to point-and-shoot cameras and other fixed-lens hybrid cameras.  In addition, many new photographers tend to use “the camera they have with them,” ie, their cell phone camera, and these devices often have many different controls than traditional interchangeable-lens cameras.

In addressing these hurdles, we developed a level-one workshop for cell phone camera users in addition to the level-one workshop for ILC users.  In these level-one workshops, top priority is given to getting the students in touch with their cameras.  Class assistants were recruited to enable one-on-one assistance for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Panasonic LUMIX camera models, and students were urged to take photos using all presets and automatic modes available on their camera models.  Student photos were evaluated (critiqued?) as part of the in-class exercises, and additional homework assignments produced images that were critiqued at the beginning of the following workshop meeting.

The level-one workshops were scheduled for three-hour periods over a sequence of four weeks.  Significant time was allotted for actual walk-around shooting in each of the four sessions and evaluation/critique was offered for all images produced and submitted by students.

The level-two workshop syllabus continues the model of shooting and critiques with the emphasis on students learning how to use the semi-automatic shooting modes (Program mode, Aperture priority mode, and Shutter Speed priority mode) before progressing to topics such as Manual mode, Exposure Compensation, and the interpretation of histograms.  A very modest introduction to post-processing techniques is provided to end the workshop activities.  These activities span three weeks of class time, again drawing attention to students learning their cameras and practicing using them.

No level-two workshop has been developed at this time for cell phone cameras.

And what of the evaluation of this effort?  No formal evaluation has yet been initiated since the education committee has decided that the evaluation format used in the past is inappropriate.  At the end of the last workshop period, I asked for discussion and feedback from students in the level two workshop, and some discussion followed.  As expected, response to the class/workshop varied among camera brands and models.

Formal feedback so far has been primarily of the “Good job!” category, but feedback such as comments on the imprecise language used in homework assignments (“I didn’t really understand the assignment.”) was really helpful and I will definitely restructure those assignment sheets before conducting this workshop again.

My evaluation is that I should have had more assistants committed to helping with the one-on-one instruction of operation for Panasonic LUMIX, Sony, and Nikon D3xxx/D5xxx cameras.  I could not provide meaningful instruction on the Sony A6000 since I had never seen one before the class began, and we could not find class assistants for the second and third workshop meeting.  I also was not prepared to instruct the LUMIX shooters since I had not used one, and the studio monitor was not familiar enough with the camera controls to instruct the student adequately.  Two students had very advanced cameras (Nikon Z 7 and Nikon D500) and their instruction requirements were almost entirely different from that needed by the students with the D3xxx/D5xxx models.  In short, more class assistants with wider experience with cameras would seem to be the solution to this shortcoming.

On the positive side, I saw definite growth in the photographic skills of the students over the three weeks of the workshop.  They became more comfortable with their cameras and their images became more sophisticated as the workshop progressed.  Overall, I judge the effort to be well worth it and the workshop offering must be repeated.

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And then they were gone…

A day later, the fawns were still there, waiting patiently for Mama Doe to come back for them.  Apparently she leaves them in a safe location for a short time, then moves them along to another place before they attract the attention of predators.

This morning there was a short rainstorm, and sometime during that weather event the fawns disappeared from the shelter of the cypress tree.  We didn’t see the doe come for them nor did we see the fawns leave.   But I looked for them just before the rain began and they were huddled under the tree, but when the sun came out after the rain they were gone.

We wish them well!

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“Afternoon of the Fauns”

Interesting experience this afternoon.  While walking our dog around the house, I happened upon a pair of baby deer under the cypress tree by the lagoon.  I first realized there was one lying under the tree when I saw the ears, but then when I photographed it and adjusted the exposure I found that there are actually two of them.
Midday yesterday I saw a doe in the back yard, and when she saw me in the sunroom she left in the direction away from the cypress tree.  At that time I did not know about the fawns, but I suspect they are indeed hers and that she likely bedded them down in what she judges to be a safe place and will come back for them later.
The spot she chose is, however, not what I would consider a safe place.  It is one of the favorite places for our resident alligators to lie on the bank of the lagoon, and I suspect the fawns would be a welcome snack if the alligator happened to find them.
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Easter Reminiscences

Just four years ago, on Easter Sunday, 2015, Billie and I were in Paris and actually attended services at the Notre Dame de Paris.  It was a special opportunity that came with a very special river cruise that began in Paris and carried us along the Seine to Normandy and back.

The massive fire this week brought back many memories of our visit there four years ago, including these marvelous stained glass rose windows that adorn the north and south walls of the cathedral.  We thought at first that these treasures had been lost in the fire, but by some miracle, the firemen saved the windows.

North Rose Window, Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015


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June 15 & 16 – Cruising the Inside Passage to Vancouver

Our last days aboard the Golden Princess were spent cruising the Inside Passage to the port in Vancouver where our cruise ended on the morning of June 16.  The scenery along the way was eye-popping.

One of the big surprises on the Golden Princess was finding that Santa Claus was on the ship!  And not just one Santa, but a group of them in all their bearded glory.  We found ourselves on the elevator with a pair of them during this last day on the ship.

Amazing beards, aren’t they?

We cruised into Vancouver early on June 16 and disembarked the Golden Princess as our cruise ended.  We toured the city of Vancouver and then traveled to Seattle for our flight home.

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June 14 – Ketchikan

Today we cruise toward Ketchikan, Alaska’s first city, known as the “Salmon Capital of the World” and the “City of Totems.” Along the way we passed a family of humpback whales.  Judging by the backs in view and the number of “blow spouts,” there must have been at least three of them.

And yes, we did find another yarn shop here in Ketchikan, completing Billie’s triple-play-purchase of Alaskan yarn.   (Don’t forget to click to see larger images.)




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June 13 – Juneau and Whale Watching

Today we visit the capital city of Juneau, where the saying is that you can only arrive by boat, by plane, or by birth canal (the city is on an island with no bridge to the mainland).  The city sights included plenty of bald eagles and ravens, and there were bright murals everywhere.  We had a good lunch at The Hangar, and easily found the Juneau yarn shop we were looking for. (Click to see larger images.)

We boarded a jetboat for a whale watching excursion, and the investment paid off handsomely.  Our captain took us to a secluded spot which gave us a private close encounter (less than thirty yards) with a feeding humpback whale, and then we moved on to less private but more abundant whale sightings.  The excursion was exciting and well worth the booking.

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June 12 – Skagway

Today we cruise from Glacier Bay to the Alaskan town of Skagway where we walked ashore and explored the Gold Rush theme of the town.  We took a tour of the Chilkoot Trail through mountain passes to the Yukon Territory of Canada.  The scenery was fantastic and the terrain suggested perils that men ignored when the call of “gold in the Yukon” lured them on.

Click on the image to view larger size.



Finding a local yarn shop was a top priority while exploring the town of Skagway, and we had little trouble locating one.  The “knitters’ network” is spread far and wide!

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June 11 – Glacier Bay National Park

As we entered Glacier Bay National Park we immediately notice the increasing numbers of sea birds surrounding the cruise ship.  These birds followed us throughout the park as we explored glaciers near the north end of the Bay.

We saw a few animals such as these sea otters, lounging in the water in their classic pose lying on their backs with feet and head projecting above the water line.  We weren’t close enough to record detail, but supposedly these animals eat while floating on their backs, using their stomachs as “picnic tables.”

Glaciation over a long period of time in the Bay has produced some beautiful rock formations.

As we toured the Park’s northern borders we were able to closely approach a number of  glaciers, some which reached into the Bay and others which were hanging glaciers whose meltwater produced small streams of water flowing down to the sea.

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