A Walk through the Woods

I walk through the woods a lot. Always fun and an incredible workout, by the end of the walk I’m gasping for air, dehydrated, and every muscle in my body feels alive. My last walk was with a few of the kids in my neighborhood. Every year when the weather warms up they’re begging me “Can you take us through the woods???”

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How did I become the Woods Excursion Guide? It’s Ok . . . I love it. I took this photo with the toy camera setting on my point and shoot.

About 7 years ago we got a new neighbor who wasn’t too friendly. He put up a gate with a no trespassing sign and threatened to “put down” the dogs that were running free. It was crazy. We all stood up for the dogs and eventually the gate and sign came down. It is a public road after all.

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Now, without fear of being shot, we have access to the pond and a bunch of woods again. When I was a kid, my friend Chase was the person who dug this pond. It was bigger and much cleaner. It’s trashed and toxic now.  Hmm, could make a good location for a horror or end of the world flick.

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We walked the trail around the pond which was lined with bamboo. While we were immersed in discussion about Koala bears, one of the boys managed to scare everyone with the old “SNAKE!” routine.

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The woods are so interesting. I like seeing the changes in the environment as it transitions from winter to spring. The leaves on the ground are crunchy and so pale and bland looking.

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We came across this beetle which spurred a discussion about beetles and their behavior and their grossness. And of course there’s always someone who touches it. The same person who tries to scare people by yelling “SNAKE” in a crowded woods.

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Does anybody watch Ninja Warrior? I love that show. It always makes me want to get out and get better at traversing obstacles, and the woods is a perfect playground for that. Plenty of places for climbing, jumping, running, balancing, and so much more.  I took a break from climbing up a steep incline to take a quick pic of this dog loving the walk as much . . . if not more than we were.

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Years ago I told everyone these were alien spacecraft. The story has stuck. My imagination is always vivid, but there’s just something about the woods that makes my imagination go wild. I took this picture with my toy camera setting. It works pretty good as a digital lomo pic.

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this picture was taken earlier on the walk, there’s my dog, Sunny

The sun was beginning to set and the excursion was finally coming to an end. I was glad, cuz I was so beat. Sometimes I can’t believe there is so much variety just in one area of my neighborhood. I know your area has tons of variety too. Grab your camera and have fun exploring it with your family and friends.

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Photographing the White Iris Flower

I sat down near these irises to spend some time looking at them and practice taking better photos. I sat there so long a couple of large birds landed at the top of the trees right in front of me.

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They were squawking loudly but I couldn’t see them. I wanted to, so I got up to try and spot them and of course I startled them. As they flew away I got a glimpse of one that was brown . . . I think it was a hawk. I have a friend who never believes me when I say I saw a hawk, but I’m pretty sure it was one.

I was using my Nikon DSLR with a kit lens and I was shooting in aperture priority. It was around 10 to 11 in the morning, and the light was slowly moving and landing on different parts of the flowers. The shade of the trees acted as a natural diffuser so the sunlight wouldn’t be too harsh on the delicate petals.

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I’ve taken so many pictures of irises since they bloom every year in my yard and all over my neighborhood and I don’t want to get caught up taking the same boring pictures of the same flower, like in the photo below.

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The light is flat, the background is boring and distracting, and I could have gotten closer to focus on a specific part of the flower.

3 Things to Remember When Photographing Flowers

Light – Flowers look better in a flattering, soft, light just like in portraiture. You can use a diffuser to soften the light on a bright day, clouds on an overcast day, or shade from a tree.

Background – Using a shallow depth of field helps to separate the beautiful flower from a potentially distracting background. Always be aware of the area all around your subject and decide if your background will add interest or take away interest.

Get Closer – Unless you’re taking a landscape photo of a field of poppies or bluebonnets, you should practice getting closer to the flower. It will help pull your viewer in closer to the subject and highlight unique details. You could also sprinkle water onto the flower and get close to the droplets and play around with the light.

If you’d like to know more about irises , I found this article at American Meadows interesting. I’d also like to share a video about light metering, by the Angry Photographer. I came across his stuff a while back, and this guy knows his stuff.

 

These Are Not Clouds

Yesterday when I took my dog for a walk, I decided not to bring my camera. I figured I’ve been taking enough pictures lately and I should just focus on the walk. It never fails though. Whenever I don’t bring my camera, I end up wishing I did. Within five minutes I saw something I wanted to photograph, so I ran back to my house to grab my camera.

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2 planes

A whole bunch of planes were high up in the sky filling the blue expanse with whatever that is . . . they resemble clouds, but they’re definitely NOT clouds. After the wind moves these “clouds” all around, they sometimes create interesting formations.

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When I looked up to take the picture I noticed a rainbow. I thought it looked pretty cool with the sun shining behind the tree so I went picture crazy.

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Just two more . . .

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I love the simplicity of this last picture. I finally quit shooting the “clouds” and focused on the walk like I had originally planned. Sunny, my dog, was probably thinking FINALLY!

ce ne sont pas des nuages

After I named this blog post, I was reminded of the surrealist painter Rene Magritte, who painted, “The Treachery of Images.” It’s not a pipe but it’s actually a painting of a pipe. He was going for a play on words and images.

My pictures are not of clouds, but of some weird substance masquerading as clouds. How do you say, “These are not clouds,” in French?:

ce ne sont pas des nuages

rm this is not a pipe

 

Early Spring Flowers in East Texas

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The weather in Nacogdoches is a comfortable 70 degrees, and the early Spring flowers are starting to bloom. My area is well known for the Azaleas, but we have so much more than that.

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I’m not 100% sure on what each flower is, but I think the pictures above are a pear type of flower.

 

As I was walking my dog through my neighborhood, my eyes were drawn to a bright yellow burst of color from a distance. As I got closer the sweet aroma just pulled me over. I think this is a Forsythia bush. The pics I found online weren’t exactly like mine, but pretty close.

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Whatever they are, they are so pretty and smell soooo good.

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I feel pretty confident that this one is a Texas Redbud. They show up early and the purple pops beautifully against all the deep greens.

 

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Flowers can be hard to photograph, but it’s a challenge that’s always a lot of fun to tackle. I love to watch them change throughout the season and enjoy their pleasing aroma.

I don’t know if I can choose a favorite because I love them all, but roses and tulips are high up on the list. What are your favorite flowers?

National Kolache Day

“Kolaches have always been the underdog in the pastry world, and National Kolache Day will pave the way for this overlooked pastry to gain its much-deserved recognition.” – Vatsana Souvannavog, the owner of Koala Kolache.

The Houston Mayor declares March 1 National Kolache Day because the owner of Koala Kolache wanted the pastry and the Czech people in Texas to be recognized.

Voyage to Texas in 1852

Texas has a large Czech population. I know this because my dad’s side of my family immigrated from there to the United States and settled in Texas. My granny was a first generation Czech-American.

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My Granny near San Antonio, Tx 1947

She lived on the coast for a while, where a lot of Czech families lived. All of her brothers joined the military and were very proud to serve their country. Then she became a farmer’s wife and moved to East Texas to pursue a career in cosmetology and to raise her son, who also joined the military.

cow pics run in fam

I guess I’m not the only person in my family who photographs Cows

My Czech Heritage

Being half Czech is pretty cool. I remember going to South Texas and visiting my granny on holidays. The sounds of a thick language I didn’t understand echoing from the kitchen, where there was around the clock cooking. And you never saw the woman sweat! . . . seriously. Her clothes were always perfect, and her hair was always in place. Thanks to Aqua Net.

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I really like this picture. Granny 1949 East Texas

Czech Food

The smell of food was always wafting through the house. I was accustomed to a variety of foreign food because I grew up on a military base and met and ate with people from all over the world. And I wasn’t afraid to try stuff.

But the one thing I wasn’t crazy about was sauerkraut. Always cooked in brown sugar and beef drippings. They put that nasty stuff on their Thanksgiving stuffing, and it’s served with so many meals all year.

I love it now, and crave it. Just last night I had a roast beef sandwich on rye bread with mustard, pickles, and sauerkraut.

The Mouth-Watering Czech Kolache

I was already craving my granny’s food but now . . . thanks to Houston declaring March 1 National Kolache Day, I NEED the original Czech Kolache. The East Texan “pig in a blanket” version just won’t do.

2002

My Granny with her sis, sis-in-law, bro, and nephew- the guy in black was the Kolache Baker, 2002

I remember walking into the kitchen when the uncle who made delicious kolaches showed up, his arms loaded with peach filled, raspberry filled, fruits I couldn’t identify filled. It was heaven.

1968 holiday meal kolache on plate

1968 A plate of Kolaches are on the middle of the table to the right of the candle. Looks like peach flavored. My dad is the kid looking at the camera with the ketchup bottle in front of him. 

I don’t know about you, but my heritage is so important to me. I love knowing where I come from and embracing and learning about it. And I was really happy to hear that the delicious Czech pastry get’s it’s own day.

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The last two Kolache pastries on the plate, to the right of the candle. 

Proud to be an American

So if you haven’t tried them yet, go enjoy a Kolache and help celebrate the true spirit of America. A nation made up of immigrants who all love this country and add to it’s diverse culture.

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My Great Grandparents – My Granny’s Mom, brother, and Dad