Vista Day 1–Embarkation and Our Stateroom

When last I wrote, we had just boarded Vista and been through a beautiful embarkation. When we left the hotel in three separate Ubers, we truly believed we would not be boarding until at least 1:30 or 2:00. But about halfway through our Uber ride (Kathleen, Jocelyn and I), my brother texted that they were letting anyone on and should they go through. We said to hang on; we would be right there. The cruise port was only a 10-minute drive from the hotel. But by the time we got there, the others had gone through and were waiting to board the ship.

We got in line (which was a little longer by then) and were also on board within ten minutes. The port of Montreal is the EXACT opposite of the port of Vancouver, where on our last cruise in May, embarkation had taken three hours and forty-five minutes (you can read about that fiasco here).

When we reached the inside of the ship, we were met by an officer who asked for our key cards (which came to us in a really cool little leatherette folder) so he could see where our muster stations were. We had already watched the video at home when we did our check-in and again a few days later when they sent another reminder (I think we got about five e-mail reminders to watch the video). The officer directed us to our muster station (we were in the main dining room), and we headed there immediately, got our key cards scanned and as far as Oceania was concerned, we were through with them until we sailed the next afternoon. We headed up to the buffet for lunch, where the rest of the gang was holding a table for seven for us, and we started to sample the amazing food that Oceania calls “the best at sea.” Just a note here. I could start going on and on about the food here, but I am going to do a complete post on the culinary glory that is Vista cuisine (at least so far).

Our stateroom–Concierge Verandah 9118

When we boarded, we were told that our suites would be ready by 2:00 p.m. and the rest of the staterooms soon after. But about halfway through lunch (close to 1:00), there was an announcement that suites (not us) were ready. We were in a Concierge verandah, and they announced that those would be available by 2:00 and the rest of the staterooms by 3:00. Lo and behold, at around 1:30, there was an announcement that our staterooms were ready. It was then I realized what had happened with our embarkation time, and what was now true about stateroom readiness was that Oceania was one smart cruise line. They were practicing one of the greatest marketing tools known to business: underpromise and over-deliver. Tell us things will be bad; we grumble a little and then be a hero by getting them done a lot better. It’s impressive to me and something I love to have happen. Should they not have been able to deliver early, they were fine. I had already grumbled.

But getting back to our stateroom, we are in Concierge Verandah 9118, which is aft of amidships on deck nine. We had read that the staterooms were pretty large, and our last stateroom on HAL’s Koningsdam was only 185 square feet, so we thought these would be much bigger at 250 square feet, but honestly, they don’t feel any bigger. Sadly, we have been spoiled by our last three major cruises. In July of 2021, our first cruise back after the pandemic shut down was on Celebrity’s Flora in the Galapagos. Those staterooms are HUGE—almost suite size (330 square feet). Then we were lucky enough to snag a Neptune Suite on HAL’s Nieuw Statendam, and they are even bigger (380 square feet). And last year, we did 21 nights on Viking Ocean in a Penthouse Veranda, and it was smaller than the Neptune but much larger than we are now (338 square feet).

I am only really concerned about the comparison to Viking Ocean because we are VERY loyal cruisers (as evidenced by our 20+ Celebrity cruises), and we are looking for our next cruise line to give our loyalty to, and the stateroom we are in now is just about the same daily price as the much larger one we had on Viking Sky. Not only was it larger and had about 3x the storage space (the worst part of our current stateroom) and about the same size bathroom. The shower is bigger, but not by enough that I noticed it. But where we have a tiny couch and the usual oval miniature coffee table today in 9118, on Viking, we had a full-size couch and coffee table plus plenty of room between the bed and a full-size dresser/desk. Let’s look at some room photos instead of continuing with the comparison. And I apologize for the fact that I took the pics after we had unpacked. I usually get them right away, but because Jocelyn was in a regular verandah stateroom, she came down to ours while Kathleen unpacked, and I walked around the ship taking photos.

BTW: No admonition on looking at these on a cell phone. Feel free. Not my best photography. And if you click the first one, they play as a slideshow. If you can’t read the captions, do the slideshow and if they are still cutoff, click the i in the circle.

A great feature of the stateroom that I almost forgot is the huge (for this size room) television. There are a lot of choices on this Smart-TV. Free movies, TV shows, A great bridge cam, two maps—one interactive, a music library, ship info and of course you can check your ship account as well.

One other thing that is kind of a pain. If you cruise, you know where your big suitcases go when you are done unpacking them—under your bed. You can’t slide large suitcases under these beds. They are too low. We were kind of worried about that until Mike told us that you could ask your stateroom attendant to put them under there for you. They have a special tool that lifts the beds. Sorry, but that’s poor planning on Oceania’s end. I mean, buy a bed that’s a little higher (like every other cruise line).

All in all, we feel like this Concierge Verandah stateroom is a poor value when compared to a similar-priced Penthouse Verandah stateroom on Viking Ocean. Score one for Viking. But that might be the only one. Stay tuned.

I have been black and blue in some spot, somewhere, almost all my life from too intimate contacts with my own furniture.
—Frank Lloyd Wright




Day 1: Getting Lost In Montreal

I am starting this post at 4:15 in the afternoon on our first full day in Montreal. It’s not even dinner time and we are exhausted already. Kathleen is taking a well-deserved nap and I am writing about today.

This morning I did my usual pre-dawn photo walk, and I knew exactly where I wanted to walk even before I got here. The only problem was, neither Google Maps nor Apple’s maps could figure it out. We are staying at the Homewood Suites by Hilton at the base of Montreal’s Chinatown. I wanted to walk to the Belvedere Kondiaronk Lookout which is up above all of Montreal. That’s where I shot the photo at the top of this page. The only problem was, that both map apps wanted me to take the long way to get there. Proof of this is that it only took me 40 minutes to walk back but it took me almost two hours to find the place. Two hours of walking up hiking trails in the dark. And then being sent backward and forward on the same trails, again and again being told to “take the path on the right,” when there was no path. So I would continue the way I was going and then be told, “Go Back!”

The best thing I can do to show you my frustration is to show you what the app Map My Walk showed me I had done. It uses GPS to show me exactly where I walk each day. Here’s my overall route.

See the part between the two and the three-mile marks? Those were on tiny trails in the pitch-black darkness, using my phone’s flashlight to see where I was going. See the five and six-mile markers? That’s the way I should have been going. I was trying to get somewhere near the five on the map but couldn’t figure out where to go. Finally, a very nice jogger (whom I had already passed twice) said she would show me, and I got there. Late! I had purposely left early enough at 5:15 a.m. to be on the lookout by 6:30 for the sunrise. I got there around 7:15, and I was NOT happy about it. I got photos of the view, but I really wanted that golden hour light. Oh, well. The sky was not that great this morning anyway, and once there, I did make it back a lot easier than I went up.

Here are the photos I took from the top with captions. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Once back, I ran into my brother and Jamie getting out of the elevator. They had not gotten in until midnight the night before (lousy connections in MSP). I showered and changed as quickly as I could, and we went down and had breakfast with them. It was great seeing them and introducing them to Jocelyn.

Since I am already a day behind, I am going to stop this here and give you the rest of day two tomorrow. We have that canceled port in a few days that is now a sea day that will give me a chance to catch up. I am writing this on Friday morning, and we are packing up to head to the ship, but I want to put it online today before we go. Once we are on board, we have another full day in Montreal before setting sail for Quebec City on Saturday evening.

Not all those who wander are lost.  —J.R.R Tolkien


At last—my complete Travel Photography Portfolio

Just a quick post to point out a new page on this site. If you look above this post, you will see a menu. On the far right side is a new item that says, My Photographic Portfolio. If you click it, you will find a page with my 23 (I know, it’s a stupid number, but I just could not whittle them down any further) favorite photos.

You will also find links to ALL my other travel photos. I have divided my best photos into three pages; photos I have taken in the United States, photos I have taken in Europe and photos I have taken in the rest of the world. Inside those pages, you will find galleries by country, state or region. This is a project I have had on my to-do list for more than a year. When I tell people here in Trilogy that I am a travel photographer, they ask me where they can find my photos. Up until today, I didn’t have one place where they all are. Now I do. Enjoy.

And of course, this comes with the usual reminder: Don’t forget, if you click the first shot of any of the galleries, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. — Gilbert K. Chesterton.

The travel photographer sees it all and brings it home.  — Jim Bellomo

My Best Photos of 2022

Here we are on the last day of the year, and I only have one post left to do to wrap up 2022. Since I consider this site a travel and photography blog, I have saved my best photos post for last. And they are all travel photos so that kind of fits.

I wanted to do a David Letterman and give you a Top-Ten list, but I could only narrow it down to 14, and I need some of you to tell me which ones you like better. I shot a bunch of photos this year across two continents in seven different countries and all while traveling. I had some fantastic photo experiences, the best being in Venice and Tarragona, Spain, but I loved the other shots I got as well. So please let me know in the comments which ones I ranked differently than you would have.

Just a note: If you click on any of the photos, they will enlarge on a black background to fill your screen. That’s the best way to view them. And PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Number 14—The magazine ad from Eze, France

I took this from way up on the top of the village of Eze, a true hilltop town in the south of France between Nice and Monaco. When I got back to our stateroom and was going through my photos, I realized that I had taken an advertising photo. Is this not the perfect photo to illustrate any advertisement for the south of France?

Number 13—The view from the Number Two

Floating down the Grand Canal in Venice at 5:45 in the morning, I looked back and saw this view behind the #2 vaporetto I was traveling on. I stepped out onto the back deck and got this shot of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and the sky behind us, and I loved the light I got.

Numbers 11 & 12—My two best people photos

I have a bunch of people photos from this year, but I love these two the most. The first is from Corfu. We had gone on a shore excursion that took us to Olympia in Greece and then to a hotel where they did some cooking demos and lunch. After lunch, this wonderful man and his family did some amazing Greek dancing. ‘He was incredibly animated and he really played to my camera.

The second shot, from only two days before, is our guide George who took us all over Athens and then found us the best lunch in the world. I loved his quiet confidence in this shot. He was the perfect guide for us.

Number 10—A flamingo on Grand Turk Island

If you look back on my Top Photos of 2021, what I considered my best photo was a shot of a flamingo I took while we were in the Galapagos Islands. There is something about these birds; they are both majestic and awkward all at the same time. The reflection made this shot. And the really amazing thing is that I shot it from a tour bus at about 30mph.

Number 9—The money shot in Cinque Terre

This is incredible Manarola, one of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre on Italy’s eastern coast. We were visiting for the day on a tour with the amazing Luigi. We were going from village to village via the ferry. When we arrived in our second stop, Manarola, Luigi told me that I wanted THE quintessential Cinque Terre shot, I would need to climb this particular hill and then look back. He was right. This shot, of the more than 600 I took that day, says it all. It’s the postcard shot.

Number 8—The Columbia Bar, Astoria, Oregon

This one is my most peaceful shot of 2022. I love the way the spray and the water “humps” are just flowing. The lighthouse in the background helps as well. But conversely, this is really a pretty violent photo because, as anyone who has lived in the northwest can tell you, the Columbia Bar (where the Columbia River enters the Pacific Ocean) can be VERY dangerous. Lots of ships have been wrecked trying to sail through these waters.

Numbers 6 & 7—Wedding pics in Venice

Walking into Piazza San Marco in Venice at just before 6:00 am and finding the entire piazza empty except for these three people almost took my breath away. I had been there the afternoon before, and the crowds had been immense, smothering and overwhelming. To walk into the piazza and find this couple and their photographer taking photos right at dawn was like a miracle for me. But I can’t decide which one is my favorite, so this is another chance for you to pick.

Number 5—My best panoramic shot of 2022

This is a manufactured panoramic shot I took while in an indoor shopping center in Naples, Italy. I love taking panoramic photos. Not the kind you get with your iPhone but this kind. Ones where I plant my feet and move the camera by pivoting my upper body as I take a series of shots. Then I take them back into Photoshop and stitch them together to create what I was seeing from where I was standing at the time. This shot is one of the few vertical panoramas I have taken. I started as three vertical shots. If I have any complaints with it, it is that it seems slightly tilted to me and when I try and fix that, it only looks like it is tilted in the other direction. But I still love it.

Number 4—A hole to the sky in Barcelona, Spain

We were on a tour in Barcelona, Spain, and we had stopped to see Gaudi’s La Pedrera—Casa Mila. This is a multi-story building that initially housed two condominium-type dwellings for two fairly wealthy families in the early 1900s. Just before we took the elevator up to the top floor to work our way down, I leaned out into the center of the building and took this shot, looking straight up the shaft that is the inner courtyard. I had no idea it would turn out this good. And it really helped to have amazing weather, so I had the blue (with wisps of clouds for contrast) sky.

Number 3—The lights of Kotor, Montenegro

Someday I will blow this shot up and hang it on a wall. It might be the best nighttime shot I have ever taken. We were in Kotor on our Viking Sky cruise. During the day (while Kathleen was quarantined due to Viking giving her food poisoning), I hiked up this mountain/hill and took many great photos looking back. I was so impressed with the city. Luckily for me, the ship did not sail away from the city until fairly late that night. We were in our stateroom watching another episode of Downton Abbey (what else do you watch on a Viking ship 😜) when I happened to look at the bow cam on our TV and saw this scene. I literally grabbed my camera and ran to the front (and top) of the ship to get this photo of the entire town lit up, including the old fortress that protected the city. I have to give huge credit to my new Nikon z7 being able to get me a shot this clear when I handheld it at 1/20th of a second. Amazing.

Number 2—Man eating breakfast in Venice, Italy

My favorite (and I believe the best) photo I have ever taken was a shot like this. It told a story. You can see that one here. This one does the same thing for me. I was up early in Venice and pretty much lost and wandering the calles and campos I turned a corner, and there in the distance was a man having breakfast. And just like my best photo, this one was all about the light. Or, in this case, the lack of it. What light exists does exactly what I want it to do, it send my eye directly to the subject. No photographer could ask for more.

Number 1—The blue hour (actually about 15 minutes) in Venice

Lots of people know about the “golden hour” of photography. It’s that time just before sunrise or after sunset when the sky turns golden. What you may not have heard of before is the term “blue hour.” This really isn’t an hour but it’s the 15-20 minutes just before or after the golden hour. The sky is transitioning from the black of night to the golds, oranges and pinks of the sunrise. If you get lucky and do some planning, you can be in the right place (standing on the Rialto bridge) at the right time (the blue hour) to get the shot you want.

So that’s it. Another year of photography behind me. I like to think that I get better each year. Retirement, or at least cutting back on work and being able to focus a little more on taking pictures, has helped me improve. Sitting here writing this at 4:00 am on New Year’s Eve I feel really good about the shots I got in 2022. Can’t wait to see what I put in my post a year from now.

Happy New Year! Hope we all have an awesome 2023.

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.      —Dorothea Lange


The best and worst of 2022

To quote Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Isn’t that just the way life works? I always thought so. How would you know what the highs were if you didn’t have any lows? And sometimes, the lows lead to the highs. This brings me to the high and low of 2022.

To start the year, a quick substitution was just what we needed.

This one kind of slips in from 2021. If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that we booked a Christmas Market river cruise with Viking River Cruises that was expected to sail in early December 2020. Well, we all know that didn’t happen, so we postponed to December 2021, but then the Delta variant of COVID showed up just before Christmas. Even though Viking still sailed the cruise, we let them keep our money for another year because most of Europe shut down their Christmas Markets. But that second cancellation killed us. And that’s how we ended 2021.

But that brought us to one of the high points of 2022—our Sail with Seth cruise on Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam that we booked as a quick replacement. We went with my brother and sister-in-law and had a Neptune Suite (a last-minute upgrade), some incredible food, found new parts of the Caribbean that I actually liked (Bonaire and Grand Turk) and just generally had a great time.

Old condo problems lead to a new home that we LOVE.

Our disillusionment with our former homeowner’s association started a long time before Spring 2022, but that’s when things went from bad to…we have to get the hell out of here. We had lived in our condo for 23 years (two months before we got married), and to be honest, we really loved living there. So we made the decision to start looking for a new place. To be totally honest, I was sure I would never leave that place and making the decision to move from our close-in, easy-to-walk-anywhere condo where we had the best neighbors anyone could ever want was both tough and quick.

Kathleen and I have always made joint decisions quickly. When we bought our condo back in 1999, we weren’t even looking. We just stopped to see an interesting model home, liked what we saw, went for coffee for half an hour and then went back and bought it. Moving this year was no different. We already knew the area we wanted to move to (Trilogy Redmond Ridge, a 55+ community about seven miles from our condo), and we found an awesome realtor (Hi Linda) who took us to see a grand total of one house—the one I am sitting in right now. We walked in, looked around for about 15 minutes and told Linda to make an offer. Then we went and looked at another place so that we could see what else was out there but to be honest; it could have been wonderful (it wasn’t); we still would have bought the one we now call home.

We love living here! And I would say this was the best thing that happened to us this year. Of course, there is always a downside. We had two big downsides. One, we had to leave behind the world’s best neighbors, Jayesh and Lisa. Sure, they are only 15 minutes away (we are having our annual New Year’s Eve dinner with them on Saturday), but it’s not the same as sticking our head over the fence or having drinks on the spur of the moment to celebrate that it’s Friday. And two, we actually had to pack and move. But that’s another of this year’s highlights.

A Moving Experience

I hate moving. In my past life (BK=Before Kathleen), I moved a bunch. But since we bought our condo in 1999, we haven’t moved. Not for 23 years. The idea of taking things down off our walls, packing all our belongings, dealing with multiple trips to and from the new house, getting the condo ready for sale, and getting all the stuff done we would have to do to move into the new house…I hated all of it. But sometimes, good things come from bad things. Like the day in April when all our kids and grandkids showed up to help us patch walls, touch up paint and clean our old place to get it ready to sell. It makes a dad and grandpa very happy to have his entire family coming together to help.

Unless you have been to our house, you have no idea how much art we have hanging on our walls. Just the downstairs powder room alone had 84 framed pieces of art on the walls. We know because Maylee (our awesome granddaughter) counted them for us. And in our kitchen, we had more than 60  decorative plates hanging on the soffit. Those all had to come down, have the holes spackled and then have the paint touched up. There were other things that needed doing, including moving a bunch of stuff to a storage shed. But everyone pitched in to help, and we got it all done. Special thanks to our eight-year-old (at the time) granddaughter and our eleven-year-old grandson because we struggled to figure out what to have them do, and they just grabbed the spackle and the paint and went for it. They did an awesome job.

We should add that they all returned again a month later to help us move out of the condo and into our new house. And all of them worked their butts off that day as well. As I said, it brings a tear to this old grandpa’s heart.

Our travels: some good and some bad

As I mentioned at the top of this post, we had a great time in the Caribbean on Nieuw Statendam in January; then, we sailed on a May cruise on Celebrity Millenium from San Diego to Vancouver, BC. And we had our BIG trip of the year—our Viking Ocean Mediterranean cruise from Athens to Barcelona that took us to Europe for almost a full month.

Since I have detailed so much of this travel before, I will just list the tops and bottoms of that travel:

The WORST parts

  • Kathleen falling and breaking her elbow when we were in San Francisco on the Millenium cruise. Six hours in the emergency room, two long cab rides, one surgery and about ten weeks of recovery, all while we were moving, was not fun. All of this happening on a cruise that proved to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that our favorite cruise line (Celebrity) was not what it used to be and that this might have been the worst cruise we had been on in years. It is just sad.
  • Catching COVID in Venice or at least realizing we had COVID while we were in Venice. No awful symptoms (just a slight sore throat), but still a pain. Kathleen’s cough went on for a month.
  • Kathleen getting food poisoning on Viking Sky and then being quarantined because of something the cruise line did.
  • Us realizing that 28 days is too long to be gone from home.
  • Being on Nieuw Statendam with our good friend Seth (Sail with Seth) and finding out from him that he had been let go from Holland America on the day before the cruise, with his last day being in July. That was not cool, HAL. They then expected him to do his job helping the sixty or so people in the Sail with Seth group have a fun time.

The BEST parts

  • Most of our Viking Sky cruise around the Mediterranean was great. We had a great time, and we enjoyed Viking, but our expectations were a little too high.
  • I had at least two ultra-amazing photo-shooting experiences, one in Venice and one in Tarragona, Spain.
  • We spent another amazing five days with the grandkids at the beach (we have been doing this for a few summers), celebrated Maylee’s birthday and played MULTIPLE games of Skipbo.
  • Going back to Amsterdam and the Banks Mansion.

Hopefully, I will be back tomorrow to finish the year with my best photos.

The good times of today, are the sad thoughts of tomorrow.
—Bob Marley



I hate it when this happens–but you get more panoramic photos to look at

Yesterday I was sitting on the couch working on yesterday’s post about panoramic photos. About halfway through uploading photos, I had to make dinner, so I thought I was saving the page, but the actual button I hit was “Publish.” When I hit that, WordPress (where I host my website) sends out an e-mail, and that’s it. I can make changes to the post, but you won’t be notified when I do.

The problem was, I still had a BUNCH of pano photos I still wanted to post. So here they are, and hopefully, you will appreciate them. I have never been able to post them in the past in my daily travel pics on Instagram or Facebook because they won’t let me add them and show you the entire photo. You only get the middle part. I hope you enjoy them. Make sure to open them up on the biggest screen you have. Otherwise, you won’t get their full impact. 

These first two are special as they depict the same scene, just taken from two different angles. I was standing in the same spot. In the first one, I started on the left with one ship in view and moved to the right until I had done almost a 360-degree turn. On the second one, I started with both ships in view and moved to the right. The first one is a BUNCH of pics stitched together.

Here are a few more with comments. And of course…don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. (If you have to, make sure to at least turn it sideways to view them horizontally.)

These next four are from our recent visit to Barcelona, Spain

Here’s some from our stop in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I climbed the walls that day and walk all around the city, so lots of chances for panorama photos.

Those seem to be the only multiples I have left, so here’s the rest with captions.

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.  —Theodore Roosevelt

Panoramas just won’t fit

I love shooting panoramic (pano) photos. Not the kind you do with your iPhone. The ones I take are usually composed of a series of photos I have taken from the same place, with my feet firmly planted on the ground. I swivel my upper body and shoot anywhere from six to 15 photos. Before I start shooting them, I take a photo of my left foot. Then when I finish, I take a photo of my right foot. When I am doing my photo triage, later on, I know where the pano starts and ends.

Then I process those photos in Camera RAW and stitch them together in Photoshop. From that, I have gotten some pretty good panoramic photos. But I will let you decide. I decided to put together this post because I have so many panoramic photos, but I can’t post them on Facebook or Instagram because they crop them severely. When I do, you can only see the very center section. So here are a few of my own with a caption that tells you where I took them. As you will see, I take them both indoors and out, of scenery and people as well. Anytime I have a subject that won’t fit into one frame. My shortest (the indoor one in Naples) is only three photos stitched together. My longest (not sure which one) might have as many as 20.

Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. To really see these, you have to see them BIG!

In the beginning, the cubists broke up form without even knowing they were doing it. Probably the compulsion to show multiple sides of an object forced us to break the object up – or, even better, to project a panorama that unfolded different facets of the same object.
—Marchel Duchamp

Seven Travel Photo Tips That Have Really Helped Me

I have promised this post about my photography methodology since we got home from our Mediterranean cruise. Before I start, I want to thank everyone who has complimented my photography, either here or on Instagram or Facebook. It is so gratifying that people like the thing I love creating. And I truly do love creating photographs.

I had originally thought I would just tell you about my cameras and what I do, but this way will be more fun and maybe help you improve your travel photography by hearing about these things I do when I shoot travel. BTW: These will work for ANY camera; your phone, your point-and-shoot, your DSLR or your mirrorless camera. And I did include the camera and lens stuff down at the bottom.

#7—Get out of the way

Thought I would start with the pet peeve that I learned how to solve long ago—getting out of the way of other people. So often, I see someone walking along in a crowd of people, and they see something they want to take a photo of. They immediately stop, pull out whatever camera (probably their phone) they are using, and they bring it up to their eye and take a photo. Or two. Or three. Or worse is those that stop to take a selfie. Or two. Or sixty—with a different facial expression in every one of them.

But the really important thing they don’t do is GET OUT OF THE WAY! If I see a photo I really want to get, I immediately walk to the nearest wall or pole or real-life obstruction and stop there. I NEVER stop in the middle of the sidewalk, road or wherever else I am walking. (And I don’t change direction immediately. I move diagonally) Why? Because I am not the most important person in the world. I have no business blocking others who may not want to take a photo right then. So get over to the side, get out of their way and take your photo.

#6—Take a few seconds to figure out the best shot available

Now that you have stepped to the side take a few seconds to look at what you first saw that attracted your eye. Take that first shot. Then ask yourself, is there some other way to shoot this that might look better? Try a couple of other shots. Maybe switch sides of the sidewalk or street. Get up higher, get down lower. Most of the time, when you see one of my photos, there are four or five other ones on the same subject that you will never see. I shot them, but I liked the one I posted a whole lot more.

#5—Look behind you

Now you have taken the shot that caught your eye, turn around and look behind you. I know I have mentioned this before on numerous occasions, but a guy named Shawn King, who used to have a Mac podcast I listened to, used to talk about photography, and this was one of his prime directives. Look behind you. I almost always do, and it has paid off with some great shots. I took two photos within two seconds of each other in England. I had taken the obligatory Stonehenge shot, remembered to turn around and got this great cow. I honestly like them both equally.

#4—Shoot a lot of images

When I first started taking photos seriously (not just snapshots), I was in my first year as a yearbook adviser at Coachella Vally High School. The absolute biggest difference between my photography then and my photography now is digital. When I started taking pictures, we were using film (yes, I am that old 😜). If you don’t remember shooting with film, it used to come with a certain number of exposures per roll. That meant the maximum number of photos I could take was either 12, 24 or 36. That was it. Then you had to put in a new roll of film. Film was expensive, as was getting it developed and printed. For 36 color photos, I would probably spend $8.00 for the film itself and then another 30¢ per photo to have them printed and more for enlargements if I wanted them. The total for 36 prints was in the ballpark of $20 with tax, etc. So every photo I took had to be the one I wanted. The second, third and fourth shots were expensive. If I had taken the Med cruise we took in September, I would have probably shot one or maybe two 36 exposure roles of Kodachrome or Ektachrome a day. Our cruise was 21 days so that would have cost me more than $750.

Today on an average trip, I spend exactly $0.00 to take thousands of photos. On our September trip, I took a grand total of 3,203 images. I have shared many of those on this blog, on Instagram, on Facebook and other places, but it still hasn’t cost me a single cent beyond the cost of my original investment in camera and memory cards. (BTW: In case you are wondering why my photo count is so high, it’s because I take triples. That’s three shots pretty much every time I push the shutter.)

So the message here is…take a lot of images. Out of the 3,203 photos I took in September, I was happy with about 600 of them. The rest are long gone. Out of those 600, I only show anyone about 350 of them. But they are the ones I love and want to share. And in many cases, they were the third, fourth or fifth photo I took of the same subject, just from a slightly different angle. So shoot a lot of pictures.

#3—Then organize those photos—with photo triage

If you aren’t familiar with photo triage, it works just like medical triage. I think watching the TV series MASH was the first time I understood how triage worked. A doctor would be in charge of triaging wounded patients as they came into the hospital. Those who were hurt the worst got care; first, those with less life-threatening injuries could wait.

I do the same thing when I return from a day of shooting photos. I download them to my computer and decide which ones are worth saving and which aren’t. I also have a category for those that might be good shots if I work with them in Photoshop for a little bit. I do this in a program called Adobe Bridge (below). Others use Adobe Lightroom. But you could do it just as easily in Apple’s Photos app or the base photo organizer tool for Windows. I look at each photo and hit either my 1 key for losers, my 5 key for winners or my 3 key for fixer-uppers. You can do the same thing in Photos by favoriting the ones you like (they need a numbering system). Then I summarily trash all the 1s. Get them off of your computer. I promise if I had left all of my 3,203 photos on my computer, they would not only have been a pain to manage but also have taken up a substantial amount of hard drive space. Once I have my 5s and have repaired my 3s, then I show Kathleen my 5s (fixed 3s become 5s) and see what she thinks.

After that, I might do a little more work on my final choices. Then I perform two steps that, in all likelihood, you won’t have to do with your photos. Mine are taken in a format called RAW. This format produces what photographers call a digital negative. It gives me a chance to choose a bunch of settings for my photos that your camera or phone chooses for you. Apple has created kind of a RAW format for iPhones, but there is a pretty decent learning curve if you want to use it. Since I use RAW files, I first have to convert them to JPEGs before I can put them online. I have a Photoshop extension that does this in bulk, but it does take a few minutes. Then if I want to put them on Facebook or Instagram, I have to make them smaller, so I have another Photoshop action that I run to shrink them for online use. I always keep my original files in RAW, so I still have them if I want to print them or use them in a large format.

#2—Learn how to hold your camera and hold it still

About 90% of the people I see using an iPhone hold it like this to take a photo. This is the wrong way. I can fix a lot of things in Photoshop, but no one can fix camera jiggle. So much of that has to do with how you hold your camera or your phone. My current iPhone, it has an excellent camera, and I thought I might start using it more. So I signed up for a course (online) on shooting with my iPhone. Sadly, I didn’t learn a lot because most of the course was just basic photo techniques that I already knew. But one thing that I learned in the very first lesson was how to hold the phone in the best way to avoid jiggle and get a clear photo every time.

How should you hold a phone? Like this.

Three fingers of your non-dominant hand going up or across the back. The phone is supported by your little finger and thumb of that hand. Then put your dominant hand underneath your other hand and take the photo using your thumb. This gives you an amazing amount of control, and it is a lot less likely to not only jiggle, but you are a lot less likely to drop it if jostled in a crowd. Give it a try. I do need to say that it took me a while to do this every time, but I do it every time now. Make it a habit. BTW: If you need a better explanation, just Google “the right way to hold an iPhone when taking a picture.”

#1—If you can shoot Manual and/or get a real camera

This tip only partially applies to those of you using your phone as your predominant camera. But if you have a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) or a mirrorless camera, stop shooting in Program or Auto and shoot in Manual. And if you are using your phone, consider buying a real camera. (That will take you to the next level). When you take a photo in Program, Auto or with your phone, your camera thinks you want a photo of your subject in midday, full light. Let me illustrate. On the left is a photo I took in Program. On the right is one I took in Manual.

See a huge difference? The one I shot in Manual is what I saw with my eye. The one I shot in Program is what the camera thought I wanted to take. I never want to take that photo. The mood of the one on the right is what I want every time. It completely captures what I wanted it to.

My equipment

I have had people ask in the comments what kind of camera I use. I am happy to say, but I hope that you realize this has little to do with my photography. Saying that it does is like asking Jimi Hendrix what kind of guitar he played. He could have played any guitar and been as awesome as he was. That said, I am currently shooting an almost brand new (I got it in September) Nikon Z7II. It is a mirrorless camera that I picked up in July. Mirrorless is the current state of the art in cameras. I could get really technical as to why it is superior to my old Nikon D810 DSLR, but the biggest advantage for me is that I can now hand-hold my camera at 1/20th of a second. To me, that is amazing. When I started shooting, the best I could do was around 1/60th of a second; otherwise, I got way too much jiggle. But without a mirror snapping up, I can hand-hold a lot slower shutter speeds. This new camera is also much better for action because it can take a lot of photos faster.

The predominant lens I shoot when traveling (or pretty much all the time) is a Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens. David Pogue, the NY Times tech guy, called this the “Magic Lens” because you only need this one lens to shoot all the time. I do have to give up a little light that I could get back by shooting a faster lens but they just don’t make them. This lens is also pretty darned-heavy. With my camera attached, it weighs about 5lbs. I do own other lenses, but I rarely use them.

The other piece of equipment I never travel without is my Black Rapid camera strap. I can’t stand things (especially things that weigh 5lbs) hanging off my neck. This one is cross-body, and they last forever. My current strap is the only one I have ever owned, and I have been using it for more than 15 years. Not only does it distribute the weight well, but it has a zipper compartment for extra cards and a pocket for an extra battery—which is a must!

As you have already read, I also take my Mac on just about every trip we take. This helps me feel better about not losing any photos. I am a fanatic about backing up my photos. My Nikon has two slots for memory cards. I shoot to both of them. This means that when I take a photo, it is saved to both cards at the same time. When I get back to the room or the ship stateroom, I download the pics from the primary card. Then I get out my 2TB backup drive and back up my Mac. Every time I shoot I always have at least two (and usually three) copies of every photo until I have done my triage and backed up those. Then I can get rid of the rest. And I forgot to mention that the folder where I keep my photos that I download is in my Dropbox folder so it is also being uploaded whenever I have WiFi. That puts all my photos online as well.

I fully realize this is more than everyone wanted to know but if it helps you improve your travel photos, it will have been worth it. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.   —Aaron Siskind


Why I hate October

I know this is supposed to be a travel blog and that I promised everyone a post on my photographic process, but please excuse this interruptive rant while I tell you why I hate October.

First, I hate Halloween!

There I said. It is by far my least favorite holiday of the year, and please allow me to explain why. Mainly it is because it takes over the world I live in. Everything I read, watch or see is all about Halloween, and most of it involves something I don’t like.

For instance, besides photography and writing this blog, my favorite hobby is cooking. I love to cook. I love to find new recipes. But every October the recipe sites I get notifications from all seem to be about pumpkin this or pumpkin that. To be honest, I hate pumpkin. I find it to be on the blah side when it comes to flavors. The older I get, the more that’s true. For instance, I no longer like banana bread. I did earlier in my life but not anymore. Now it is simply something to put butter on. The main thing I will taste will be the butter. The same is true of pumpkin bread, yet I get constant recipes for pumpkin bread and pies and muffins this whole month long.

I also love television and movies, but during October, everything is about scaring, frightening and worse. So many horror films and television specials are released each October that it drives me nuts. Of course, the reason I hate these shows and movies is that I hate scary films. Horror is a genre that I just despise. My life and the world are scary enough without having to watch some guy with a chainsaw cut up people. And even if I ignore all the movies and shows about Halloween, they corrupt the shows I enjoy every week with Halloween special episodes. Yes, I realize that the cast of The Conners does outstanding Halloween costumes, but when even cop shows are about someone getting killed on Halloween by a guy dressed in a hockey mask, we have gone too far.

The whole costume thing drives me nuts too. I know my daughter, her husband and my grandkids love dressing up. And I love to see how imaginative their costumes are (plus they usually aren’t scary, just cool), but god forbid I ever get asked to do that. A costume party is my idea of hell.

I hate decorating for Halloween. I really believed that when we moved to Trilogy in May that we would see very few Halloween decorations around because, hey, there’s no one here under 55, and Halloween is a kid’s holiday, right? Nope. Every other house on our street has Halloween decorations up. Even our next-door neighbor, who won’t even talk to us, has them up? I don’t get it. When I was younger (in my 30s-50s), my best friend around here was a guy named Bob Couture. Bob decorated more for Halloween than he did for Christmas…and believe me, he really decorated for Christmas. But it always drove me nuts, and he would make fun of me because I didn’t love the holiday the way he did. When it comes to Halloween decorations, we have one very cool, jack ‘o lantern that we don’t know where to put in the new house.

Don’t get me started on the colors. Black is OK. I mean, it’s just black. For a while in my life, my psoriasis was so bad I couldn’t wear black at all. I looked like I had been in a snowstorm. So I don’t have much black. Then let’s talk orange. Does anyone look good in orange? Well, if you know anyone who thinks they look good in orange, I look worse.

Second, I hate what the weather has become

The weather this October isn’t helping. With climate change has come a change in seasons here in Washington. When I first moved to Western Washington, there were two seasons—dry (July, August and September) and wet (the rest of the year). Now we have three, and we are smack-dab in the middle of the third one—smoke. We have forests, so we have forest fires. And that means we have a smoke. Right now, our air quality level is 128. That’s considered very bad. And it’s been this way since we got home from Europe. The night we got home, we were thrilled to sleep with our windows open. But by the morning, the house stunk with the smell of smoke. So we have been using the AC ever since. One day last week, while we were having shelves and a closet unit installed, the installation guys were coming in and out, and it was a rough day, smoke-wise. The temperatures aren’t very autumn-like either. We haven’t had measurable rain since early July and today it was almost 80. This is crazy—I used to love October weather.

The weather also gets in the way of my cooking. By now I should be making stews and soups but I am still grilling. I don’t want to be grilling in October. I want to bake and braise.

Third, it’s election year

If I hear one more lie from a candidate, I am going to throw something at our brand-new TV. Well, I won’t do that, but I can guarantee you that Kathleen is getting tired of me yelling at the television. And my inbox is full of people wanting money or my opinion. That just makes this October worse. The election can’t come soon enough. Let’s go November!

Some things make this one a little better

One of the shining lights this year has been my Seattle Mariners, who are in the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. They won a huge game tonight in Toronto (sorry Canadian friends), and they will continue to play this week. But this won’t happen every October (although it did happen 27 years ago tonight and my kids and I were there!)

Thanks for listening to my October lament. I truly hate this month. Besides the Mariners being in the playoffs, the only really good things that are going to happen this month are that our good friends Mike and Cathy are coming from Florida on the 18th for a week (YEAH!) and Kathleen’s birthday is the 27th—the big 70—so that will be a big celebration! And I can’t wait for November! Maybe it will rain by then.

There is nothing funny about Halloween. This sarcastic festival reflects, rather, an infernal demand for revenge by children on the adult world.  —Jean Baudrillard



Expectations Not Met but That’s OK

It was interesting to me that when we got our post-cruise survey from Viking, they had everything listed by expectations. For instance, a question might say, “Food in the main dining room: A) Exceeded expectations  B) Met expectations C) Did not meet expectations.” When I thought back on it, that was my problem with Viking. After listening to friends talk about how much they love Viking, reading a FaceBook group of Viking fans, and knowing that Viking clients are incredibly loyal, I was expecting an almost perfect experience. That was my problem and not Vikings. (Viking—do your surveys online. You are doing yourself a disservice because I truly believe you get more info that way. When I only have a tiny, multiple-choice survey with little space for comments, that’s all I give you.)

I also realized in retrospect that so much of what I knew I would love about Viking (I did a blog post about why we were moving to Viking, and you can read it here.) is things it does not have: kids, smoking (Ok, there is a tiny area outside, on deck 7 but Viking says “No Smoking” in their marketing), casino, ship’s photographers, art auctions and more. As little things went wrong along the way, I was thinking about those things, not the things that weren’t there that I loved them for. All those things were great; I just didn’t think about them because they weren’t there. But they really improved our cruise experience.

Since we got home, I have also been telling people who ask about the trip that “Now we know how long a vacation is too long.” A month is too long. Three weeks on a ship is too long. Especially when you are sick and quarantined or are self-quarantining. But if we were going to do three weeks, Viking is the cruise line I would do it on. So, without further ado, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what we loved and what we didn’t.

What we loved

  • Our stateroom. We had what Viking calls a Penthouse Verandah. It was the largest non-suite stateroom we have ever had. 338 beautiful square feet. With so much storage. How much storage? So much so that we had an empty drawer and a junk drawer—on a ship. Here are some pics of one of the best staterooms we have ever been in.