30 Minutes in the Life: February 2021

Greetings from Overtown. I have to confess, I had never heard of Overtown until recently and I have lived in the US for about 20 years. One of the reasons is because I very rarely go down to Miami. I have been to Viscaya but that is really my extent of exploring Miami. I find it a huge city that I will easily get lost in.

What I learned this weekend is the little neigborhood of Overtown has such beautiful roots in History. Established in the Jim Crow era, Overtown was often referred to as the “Harlem of the south”. Back in the late 1800’s Overtown was an incorporated into Miami, mainly at the insistence of Henry Flagler. This railroad construction company’s workers had settled in what became a downtown Miami area and the neigborhood would house many of the black construction workers and their families. Overtown was effectively known in those days as “Colored Town”. Black people were segregated in Miami right up to the 1970’s. Interesting reading on that period of time can be found here.

Overtown is now the second oldest inhabited area in Miami and was home to many businesses. In the 1920’s and 1930’s Avenue G was a hive of entertainment, retail stores and hotels. The first African American hotel was developed in 1921 As we walked the streets of Overtown early one Sunday morning, we were one of the few out on the street. It was the opportunity to really embrace a different vibe to the neighborhood.

Amy’s initial thought was to take the Brightline down to Overtown, but since Richard is not well, my concern is always germs. Especially Covid germs, and so we drove down instead.

Leaving the parking garage, you realize that while the buildings around the parking garage are not historic, you are definitely walking to an older area of the city. Crossing at the crossroad, we are now in Overtown. I can visualize the night life of the 1940’s of Overtown back in the day, with jazz musicians, big bands and artists such as Count Bassie, Ella Fitzgerald and the late great Nat King Cole. All three have their names linked to the history of Overtown. My mom loved the music of that era so I can hear the beautiful melodies playing inside my head. If you listen closely, you may hear the strains of the trombone, a trumpet or the flute, soft voices singing out blues. I can imagine the ladies dressing up and the men looking dapper as they entered the various entertainment centers. Can you hear the excitement? The laughter? The joy? Overtown bustled in the early 1900’s.

Overtown is the home to the famous Lyric Theater (which I quickly resonated with having grown up with my own Lyric theater). The Lyric theater was owned by a black entrepreneur by the name of Geder Walker. The 400 seat theater was opened in 1913 and was described in 1915 as “possibly the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by Colored people in all of the southland”

In 1989 the Lyric Theater was listed in the National Register of Historic places. Extensive renovations were done to the building.

As we walked past this beautiful old building we were drawn into the history of this amazing building, the folks that had visited, had played a part in the story telling culture of a lifetime of influencing culture of “little Broadway” The Lyric Theater served the community, was a place of culture and a symbol of the influence black folk had within Overtown.

As we continued to walk I enjoyed viewing the graffiti in Overtown, symbols of struggle, symbols of encouragement, symbols that share hero’s and history.

And yet there is this sense that the big city is encroaching on this historic block. Apartments such as the image below, are on one side of the street and the house above is on the other.

Below kind of depicts what I am feeling. Sure growth happens, but I am inclined to want to keep the old, to revel in this history and understand the stories of this beautiful historical area.

Economic depression happened, and in the 1950’s Overtown was not spared. Development, such as the expressways, cut up the neighborhood, and the population decreased. Progress stopped in Overtown and it became known as a ghetto. Businesses closed, and the neighborhood stalled. Social, economic and physical deterioration grew and contributed to the decline in the area. As we walked you could definitely feel that effect.

And yet there are signs, actually at our feet, that tell us that there is a stirring in the neighborhood to address challenges. Roots in the City established a community garden from an overgrown littered lot and it is florurishing.

The Overtown Preforming Arts Center was created as a community center. Originally this center was known as the Ebenezer Methodist Church, and still today has the outward feel of a church with it’s design. In 1988 it was declared a historic monument and they receive a grant of $3 million to begin the process of restoration. Inside you will find a stage, but this facility is for more than that. It is a gathering place, a place for meetings, a place for receptions.

Walking along the side walk we got a glimpse into an entrance way between Dunne Hotel (1947) and Josephine (1938). Both of these buildings functioned as hotels when the neighborhood was flourishing and blacks were not allowed to stay outside of Overtown. Sadly over the years the buildings fell into disrepair. In 2017 there were reports of potential redevelopment of these building, but it appeared to have been caught up in controversy. Looking further it does appear that the Dunn’s Josephine Hotel is now operational in the heart of Overtown historic district. According to the web page each room honors African American legends and will bring a style and era to the hotel. Suites you can find are the Aaron Douglas King Suite, Ella Fitagerald King Suite, Augusta Savage King Suite, Nicholas Brothers Double Suite, Gwen Bennett Double Suite, and the Nat King Cole King Suite, along with various others. If you head over to the website you can learn about some of the historical people honored by this hotel.

Walking further into the area we came across the mural below that featured themes from the heyday of the city. I tried to search who the artists were featured in the next two murals but was not having much luck. Above these beautiful paintings runs the highway the I95, bearing lanes of traffic, noise and pollution. We did not walk far enough. If we had gone to the other side of the traffic bridge we would have seen a sign painted on the side of the bridge that said “Welcome to Historic Overtown”.

We came across this wall in Overtown that resonated with both Amy and myself. World Peace is something that seems to be lacking of late, and something that both Amy and I would strive to achieve by loving.

And even more murals….

Besides the I95, one of the many developments that cut up the neighborhood of Overtown is the metro rail. Big ugly concrete pillars that scar the neighborhood. Such development leads to the displacement of residents in the communities and eventually the dying of a thriving neighborhood.

The Lil Trap House that we came across in Overtown is apparently a museum on wheels which has stopped in the city for about 6 months. The purpose of the museum is to showcase the cities trap culture. Are you asking yourself “what is trap culture”? You are not alone. So I did a bit of digging and discovered that trap music is a subgenre of hip hop music that includes rap, urban, and swag. This culture apparently originated in the South of USA in the 1990’s.

The image above is one of the murals on the house I showed earlier. Walking out of Overtown I saw this tree that had been cut. I could not help but look at the two images side by side. The second image reminds me of a vibrancy that is no longer.

This road feels like the cross road of Overtown and and the gentrification of the rest of the city. Large parking garages and high rise buildings, luxury condos are the backdrop to the once thriving, but seriously declined neighborhood of Overtown.

Overtown, a neighborhood vibrant in it’s heyday of the 1930’s to 1950’s has sadly become known as the getto of Miami. Destroyed by over the years by urban renewal development and neglect, Overtown sadly reflects this.

There have been some proposals for the redevelopment of Overtown that I read. There was one in 2009, another in 2015.

But it is 2021, and it was sad to see the neglect.

Thank you for walking through my 30 Minutes in the Life, and my impressions of Overtown. Blogs like this leave me feeling saddened that progress detracts from the beauty of culture and history.

If you’re interested on the 28th there will be a blog on the art district of Wynwood, Miami. It was a feast for the eyes, and hard to capture it all.

This is a circle blog. I would encourage you to take some time to visit my very talented friend Ceri of Ceri Herd Photography. You will definitely love what she shares. I am always inspired with what she has for us.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: February 2021: Silver Lining

There are so many {Silver Linings} when I look back over the past year. Sure Covid is the pits. Wearing a mask is not fun. Not being able to hang out with your friends is super disappointing. However, slowing down has been good. Working from home even better. Not having to wake up early and drive an hour to get to work, is probably the best for me. But how do I put those into photographs?

Another {Silver Lining} is being available for the kids. Amy finally sold her condo (that is another whole story of delays and ridiculous events) but in preparation for the sale, they moved in with us, along with Snow and Rory, their two rescue cats. We are now a house of 4 adults, 4 rescue cats who don’t always see eye to eye. and one rescue bird that screeches all day. That said, it is good having them here. Richard has not been well the past 2 months and so it is another two people to talk to him, and help me to remember to not get stressed out and ask to many questions. Cameron was a silver lining when it came to moving Amy’s contents of her apartment to storage. He traveled 2 hours to come and help move furniture and was a tremendous support to us. Richard was just not up to moving heavy furniture

There are so many little things, but I was challenged a little bit on how to capture them all. In Florida, during covid, you are still able to go to the beach. While I am not actively going to the beach in the day time, I have been when there are limited people there. Amy told me that she was going to the beach one evening to do yoga and watch the Wolf Moon come up. I managed to convince Richard to go to a different beach to do the same. Here was my {Silver Lining}. The beach is open for us. In the evening there is not too many people. While the whole of the USA above Florida feels like the artic tundra, we could still go to the beach. The second part of the {Silver Lining} is that my theme for 52 Frames was Horizon, and the credit was for breaking the rule. I was really looking forward to the moon rising over the ocean.

So I talked Richard into going. He tried to talk me into going to watch the sunset. But no, the moon had it’s appeal. So I packed some cheese and crackers and a small container of wine, and headed off to meet him at work. From there we drove down to the beach.

Let’s talk about love. It is freezing cold, the wind is blowing, Richard hates, hates, hates the cold, and here he is sitting on the beach so that I am not there alone at night. Got to love the commitment here. We got there a little early and found a V in the sand dunes and huddled back in there to try and stay out of the wind. Below is my take on {Silver Lining}, a blustery day at the beach.

There were not too many people on the beach. I could probably count them on one hand. I am sure most of them had the same idea as I did. We all wanted to watch the giant moon come up over the ocean. While I was hanging out I took my 52 Frames image below.

Unfortunately, this was our view. The clouds formation just got bigger and bigger, and so we could not see the moon coming up to start with, and just when I got a glimpse of it emerging another cloud came over. I finally sent Richard back to the car, and waited another 10 minutes to no avail before I called it quits.

The plus side in all of this was I did manage to get one image of the sunset, which I will add looked beautiful driving home.

When I finally got home, I hung out in the driveway until the moon cleared and I was able to get an image of the full moon, before the clouds moved back across to cover it up. Just an aside, the moon reminds me of an orange. I have noticed this before when I have taken photos that there is this circle towards the right hand side, and then what appears to be lines of some sort spanning out from that circle. I have to wonder what that really is, besides my imagination.

I will confess that it was good to be home and inside out of the wind. That started a week of cold weather. The last couple of days have been windy and cold. Cold for this African born South Floridian. Today my fingers were like icicles. Not cold relative to what is happening up north though I am sure, and my heart goes out to all that are experiencing the snow and freezing cold weather.

I hope that you enjoy the {Silver Lining} theme. This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly artistic friend Lynne of Lynne Grant Photography is up next. I would encourage to have a look at what she has to offer. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Facebook page or Instagram page.

Come and share your images  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_silverlining

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Tell Me a Story: January 2021

When I first started walking in the wetlands, many years ago, I loved to see the Great Blue Heron’s nesting at Wakadohatchee Wetlands. You got really close up to the nests in spring when the babies were being born. Fast forward some years and the Woodstork started coming in. The Great Blue Heron struggled to maintain their nesting areas against this colony of birds. They came in droves and took over. At first I was impressed with the Woodstork. They are definitely interesting to look at, but over the years I’ve kind of got annoyed with their take over routine. The Great Egrets used to nest in the trees as you first entered the wetlands and now the Woodstork have taken over that area as well. The Great Blue Heron’s have moved to trees at the back of the park which are much further away. The amount of Woodstork that move in means by the end of the season the area is super smelly and I am so over them.

My first sighting beyond these smelly, take over birds, was one of the resident Alligators who is probably looking forward to Spring as well. They tend to lurk below the nesting trees, when they aren’t sunning themselves out of the water.

Holding tight onto their spots in the trees the Woodstork have taken over is the Anhinga. Towards the end of winter the birds fly in and start to build their nests. Mating season is happening and one of the most incredible birds during mating season is the Male Anhinga. The eye color of this bird is stunning and it develops a very fluffy neck. The female however, does not change color. When the chicks are born they are the cutest things. The have these tiny bodies and these long necks. They feed like scavengers and it is incredible to watch them doing they. The chick puts it’s whole head down the mothers throat. The first time I witnessed I had a gag reflex. Yikes the poor mom.

As I continued along the walkway I spotted this Great Blue Heron wading in the water looking for lunch. I love them, To me they are majestic birds. We used to have one come to our back garden. Clearly someone had been feeding him and he was looking for that. I did not want to have him become dependent on me feeding him, but I would throw bread out for the fish in the canal so that he could go fishing. He would come by every day for the the summer and then he just disappeared. I used to call him Big Blue. Hanging out in the same waters sunning itself in the sun, fortunately for the Great Blue Heron, was another of the parks Alligator.

On the opposite side of the walkway there were a few Great Blue Heron, and surprisingly early, were two Great Blue Heron chicks. I am not sure if the first bird was protecting eggs or just trying to cool down. We have had interesting days down south right now that are sometimes warm and sometimes cold. This particular day was warm. The second photo is the chicks. When they are born they looks so cool. All head and beak with a mohawk. I am so disappointed that the Woodstork took over their nesting place.

And then I come to the walkway. I have committed to taking 1 image a week using my different lensbaby optics and so today I had the sweet 35 and I created a portal through the walk way. So come and join me with the second half of my walk.

Hanging out in the walkway trees are typically the tiny birds and this Palm Warbler was so challenging to catch. I probably took about 15 photographs just to get this one. The flit from tree to tree.

The Swamp Hen fascinate me. They are so rich in color and very similar to the Purple Gallinule. What fascinates me with these birds is their feet. They have the longest, possibly ugliest toes that I have seen on birds. They utilize them like fingers holding on to the reeds that they pull out of the ground to eat. Normally you will see a group of them wading around.

The glossy Ibis is another beautiful bird that hangs out in a group as a rule. This one had moved away from the group and started digging for food in a slightly different area. They are named glossy Ibis because of their stunning feathers. In normal light they look brownish but when the sunlight catches them their feathers become glossy and a different array of colors.

In the last stretch of my walk I spotted this Little Green Heron in the reeds also looking for food. This is a small bird of incredible colors and I love to watch them look for food. They are patient and they will wait probably longer than I am willing to watch them to catch their food.

Of course, I could not resist the tiny bit of fall colors in the wetland. When I spotted this leaf lying on the railing, I had to capture it. This is one of my favorite ways of shooting leaves.

Always a favorite for me is the Iguana that we find in South Florida. Not native to this region, they are often unpopular with local inhabitants. However, I think they are pretty cool. They are so unique in their markings and as seen below, quite vibrant in their mating colors. Of course, the are prolific in repopulating the area which leads to them being disliked. These Iguana live in the southern states due to the climate. During cold spells in winter, the Iguana freeze and will often fall from trees. Sadly some of them fall into water and drown or become gator bites. Others, surprisingly enough, seem to thaw and get up and start moving again.

And with that I am back to the smelly Woodstorks again, and heading back out of the park. I always enjoy this mile long walk out in the fresh air. I am going to need to get back out again soon.

Thank you for joining me this month.  This is a small group of bloggers so when one or two are out it seems like it is a quiet month for blogs however, this is a circle blog.  Take some time to view what the other artist has for you this month. My friend Lupji Photography is up next. I look forward to reading what he has to share.

30 Minutes in the Life: January 2021: Sunset

So, January is practically over. It has been a tumultuous start to the year, just when I thought things were going to be better for all of us. Some days I just need to get away from it all. For the most part I am hibernating in my office working fortunately. Aside from the virus, and the political stuff, my daughter and her husband packed up their apartment in preparation for it being sold, and along with their 2 cats, moved into our house. So we are a family of 4 adults, 4 cats and 1 bird. My Ms Moo is not a happy cat right now. She is scared of her shadow and now Amy’s two cats are stalking her. She is in hiding most of the time. Snow has also taking to staring down the bird.

In addition, I joined 52 Frames. So this is my 4th project 52 for the year. I feel like my goal so far is to get out and take the photo’s I need for each week. This weeks theme was water. There is a great pond up at the national park that I love to take photos at. So Thursday evening I packed up 5 lens (17-40 mm, 28-135 mm, 70-300 mm, 150-600 mm & Lensbaby Sweet 135) and I headed up to the park to check out the owl, take photo’s of the pond and watch the sunset. While our property backs up to the edge of the Everglades there is no access into the area from our home. We are also separated by two small canals.

In the end my 52 Frames image was taken at the sunset and I will post it here as it is the only image in black and white.

The owl was high up in the tree so it is really hard to see him that well. The female is in the nest and she seems to sit behind the main part of the tree. This was the best I could get of him.

It always fascinates me how the the setting sun changes so much. I started out at the pond and the light was this golden brown color.

I headed down to the water line at the edge of the Everglades and I really did not think this was going to be a great evening. The cloud was thick and low and I was not going to bet the full sun. It felt dark and sort of dingy for a sunset. I also did not realize that I had moved my FStop to 9. Obviously I must have done it up near the owl. I started out with the Lensbaby Sweet 35. One of my P52’s is to use the Lensbaby Optics that are taking up space in my lens drawer.

Lensbay Sweet 35
Lensbaby Sweet 35

From here on out it was a case of changing lens to get wide angle, a bit closer, much closer and super close. One of my favorite things that typically happen at sunset is the birds flying by. Quite often, although it did not happen this evening, you get to watch the murmuration of the grackles and that is a beautiful dance in the sky. Below is a flock of Ibis flying by.

28-135 mm
Lensbaby Sweet 35

People aside, we often get a number of different species, below is the Great Blue Heron.

150-600 mm

Fly by’s happen fast and you have to keep watching. Below is a larger flock of Ibis, all heading south. I would love to know where that land up each evening. I have no idea what bird is in the second image below, but chances are it was a slow moving Ibis.

70-300 mm
70-300 mm
70-300 mm
28-135 mm
28-135 mm

Grackles will fly into the area in the hundreds. On Thursday there were not that many but I was so glad I had brought up with beast with me to get in super close.

150-600 mm
150-600 mm

What was pretty neat was that the Grackles on the edge of the water were taking a bath at sunset. Hence the first image and the water drops.

150-600 mm

As the sun got lower the sky got more reddish orange and really intense.

70-300 mm

More Ibis below as the sun is setting. From the silhouette, the birds in the second image look like a flock of cattle egret.

70-300 mm
70-300 mm

At this point I kind of figured the sun was done, and the mosquito were going to be out shortly, so I headed back to my car. I could not resist turning around to take a silhouette.

28-135 mm

Halfway done the ramp, I discovered my friend walking up. She told me not to leave, she wanted to talk to me, and she convinced me that the final rays would get better. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. This time it certainly did. The sky lit up and I was so glad that she told me to stay.

28-135 mm
28-135 mm
17-40 mm

Nothing like kayaking at sunset in a alligator infested water. Oh yes, there are often alligators swimming in the water.

17-40 mm

Finally the mosquito’s got to much for us and we headed back to the car. I managed to capture the last silhouette before diving into my car, with a couple of mosquito for company. Nothing like being bitten all the way home.

70-300 mm

The Florida Everglades is a grassy, slow moving river, a natural marshland, which is habitat to hundreds of animals. There are various different different areas to the Everglades. There are the mangroves at the coast, the sawgrass marshlands and the pine flatwoods. You will find endangered species like manatee, American crocodile, and the Florida Panther.

This particular park, that I go to, has walking trails, and it would not be uncommon to have an alligator cross the trail in front of you. I recently saw Turkey Vulture eating a dead animal. There is a lot of birdlife if you get out and walk, and the owls have come in to nest. Two weeks ago there was a pair of mating Sandhill Cranes. There are also Bobcat in the park.

The walking in the area is great. I managed to get out and do a two mile walk but I was constantly watching for Alligator on the edge of the banks. I didn’t see Alligator but I did see a great big iguana. Unlike the wetlands, here we are on the same level as the Alligator.

When the bushes behind out house were cut short we used to be able to see the deer running along the edge of the Everglades past our home.

The park is great for walking, however, my this is by far my favorite spot to go and watch the sunset.

Thank you for joining me for 30 Minutes in the Life. I would encourage you to take some time to visit my very talented friend Stacy of Threadbarems. You will definitely love what she shares. I am always inspired with what she has to offer.

Share Six: January 2021: Details

Welcome to 2021 and the 5th year of blogging with Share Six. Have I mentioned that I love blogging with these ladies. They are extremely talented and certainly push me to a new level. As we start this new year 3 of our team have gone into lockdown in the UK. It is tough and it may find us restricting our choices again to things we can either do at home or in our gardens. Keep them in your thoughts. Another of our team is a teacher and it has been hard for her to juggle all of the happenings.

{Details} is the theme that Lynne of Lynne Grant Photography has chosen for this months blog. Details for me are all the extra details. I wrote a blog and then at the last hour, I changed my mind and went with what I had photographed on Sunday. I have been going to the local Loxahatchee National Park recently to photograph a Great Horned Owl. The male is sometimes there when I go, the female is sitting in the nest. A friend had also seen Screech Owl. Sunday afternoon I decided to go and see if I could see the screech owls. No such luck. The park has a small boardwalk. It is not the greatest walk. There are no birds, occasionally I see signs of a larger critter but I never see one. I may see dragonfly every so often. Right now everything is brown and there is not a lot going on. I also had the beast which ideally shoots 150-600mm. Not really meant for close up. However since I was there I decided to do the boardwalk. I was going to use my twist but could not seem to get it to stay in the housing. So I pulled the beast back out and captured what I liked.

Shooting leaves in this very shallow depth of field is one of my favorite genre. I love that little sliver of focus and all the little details that show up. I also love the creaminess of the images. The board walk is really mossy and so most of these leaves were sitting on the moss. I loved the texture of the moss.

While it is not a great walk. I did enjoy the opportunity to do one of my favorite style of images.

I hope that you enjoy the details theme. This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My friend Katherine of Cobert Photography is up next. I would encourage to have a look at what she has to offer. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Facebook page or Instagram page.

Come and share your images  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_storytelling

Tallulah Gorge: Part 2

The 30 Minutes in the Life blog was just that 30 minutes, but it was also too many images so I decided to split the blog. If you did not see the first part you can click here to read the initial part of the blog post.

A quick summary of the previous post is that we were in Georgia for a short get away with the family and decided to head to Tallulah Gorge for some hiking and visiting the local area. You are picking up at look out point 2.

As I mentioned in the previous post, there are 750 steps from the top to the suspension bridge. There is an addition hike down to the water level. That is another 450 steps. There is a limit as to how many people can access that area and it is under certain conditions.

At this point we decided to move on to lookout point 3. Our ultimate destination was lookout point 5 seen above. This is when the fun started. While it was accessible it was a little more difficult going with the wheelchair and at some points Kathryn had to get out and Cameron had to move it for her over the roots or what ever obstructions there was.

I really enjoyed seeing all the fall leaves on the ground. The smell of dampness, soil, fresh air. All those things are an aroma to my senses. Added to that the weather was gorgeous for walking.

We made it to look out 4, but at this point it had been tough going for Kathryn, and when we spoke to some ladies about lookout 5 they said the wheelchair would not be able to get there, and there were steps on the way. So that was the end of the journey for Cameron and Kathryn. I decided to go on my own to look out 5 to see what the view was like.

The view was very similar, so I journeyed on towards the end of the property where there was an access up to the road

Tallulah Falls,
Tallulah Falls,

From the road you had a great view of the river heading away from the dam wall. And I got to capture Cameron, Kathryn, and Cody at lookout point 4. Having finished up my shots, I turned around to head back to meet up with them when who should come behind me but the stair climbers, looking somewhat fatigued.

If you are visiting Georgia, and you are within driving distance of Tallulah Gorge, then add it to your bucket list. You will not regret it. If you have any form of disability, there is still areas that you can get to and enjoy.

Thanks for joining me for the second part of the blog on Tallulah Gorge.

30 Minutes in the Life: December 2020: Tallulah Gorge Part 1

Yes I know that it looks weird, we are already in January. What with our live falling 2 days after Christmas we opted to postpone it a week to today. My 30 minutes are going to have to be done in two parts, one today and one tomorrow. There are just to many images.

Firstly, let me wish you a very Happy New Year. I know things may look the same as last year and they probably are going to be for a while. What I blogged on yesterday was my thoughts on 2020. As I reflected I acknowledged that there were challenges but I also realized that there were so many things to be grateful for. The trip we made to Georgia was one of the happenings in 2020 that I was grateful for. This year that is what I am going to try and focus on. Looking for the good, things that I can be grateful for.

So today I am going to share 30 minutes of our trip to Tallulah Gorge in Georgia. We were staying in a cabin in the mountains in Cleaveland, really pretty isolated and remote. The property was a single track up the mountain with some cottages coming off it, but aside from asking directions on the first day, we did not see another soul. Actually that was a relief because the single track meant if a car came down someone had to give way and there was not a lot of space to pull off. Amy took her car up, and then never drove down again until the day we left. Daniel and Amy travelled with us, Cameron, Kathryn and Cody traveled in their car. Kathryn has a wheelchair and Cody has special safety requirements

Everyone was in agreement that Tallalah Gorge was a must do on our agenda. I did a lot of homework. I quickly realized that there were going to be some challenges for Kathryn, and probably for me with my feet issues.

One of my goals going to Georgia at this time of the year was to see color, and color we did see, that is for sure. Arriving there I was a little concerned that there were too many people, but honestly it was okay. The park is big and we barely crossed paths with folk and when we did we kept our distance.

Setting out along the pathway the path was pretty level and while rough, so it was pretty easy for the wheelchair to handle. There was a lot of wildflowers along the pathway in vibrant colors. We were heading to the first look out point.

The actual walk down to the fence was uneven and while Kathryn can walk, uneven surfaces are hard for her. With her disease, she struggles to walk for long, but she also struggles to sit for long as well, so she alternates when necessary.

Below we had a great view of the suspension bridge. What I did not tell you is that it is 750 plus steps down to the bridge. Well, that eliminated Kathryn, Cameron & Cody immediately. My logic told me that I would get down the stairs but getting back up the other side may be challenging. This was day 1 and I did not want to find I could not walk for the rest of the week. (Remind me to remind you that unless you absolutely have to have foot surgery, don’t do it. The answer is not necessarily what you expect).

For Daniel, this was a first going away with us as a family, and the first time going on vacation outside of Florida. He was pretty excited and ready to do what ever we wanted.

We made our way to the second look out point. At this point we would separate. Richard, Amy and Daniel were going to go down the 300 steps to the suspension bridge, Cameron, Kathryn and I were going to head along the pathway to the other look out points.

There were enough warnings about health, steps etc to make you think twice if you were planning to do the climb down.

From the top of look out point 2 we had beautiful views of the river below. We did not get as close as Amy, Daniel and Richard but we had a reasonable perspective.

Tallulah Falls, is beautiful and well worth the visit. I reached my 30 minute point and there is still a lot of images to share so I am splitting the visit into two blogs. If you want to follow the rest of the day, check out this link and see what else we got to see.

 Thank you for joining me for 30 Minutes in the Life. I would encourage you to take some time to visit my very talented friend Crystal of Crystal Bella Photography. You will definitely love what she shares. I am always inspired with what she has to offer.

Tell me a Story: December 2020

I am sitting writing my blog with my rescue Quaker Parakeet, Houdini, on my shoulder trying to eat my lunch out of my spoon. Or rather just the rice. He’s already eaten egg. I am smiling to myself, I have so much to be grateful for. He really is a pain in the you know what and he bites sore when he is in a mood, but on the days when he is in a good mood, he dances and bops and even has this screechy kind of singing or he will say words to me and talk up a storm, and it is in moments like that which I smile and appreciate the positive. This month I wanted to look back on the year and remind myself what I am grateful for.

2020 did not go according to plan, yet I am grateful for all of the positive things that came out of it.

2020 we had big plans to travel.  We saved our vacation, taking none because we knew that in August and September we were going to be on the plane to Macedonia to meet our son-in-law’s family.  Amy & Daniel planned a wedding celebration for his family and friends.  We had added to the itinerary a plan to travel with Daniel’s mom to Croatia.  From Croatia Richard and I would fly back to Berlin to spend a couple of days exploring east Berlin.  I had worked hard on an itinerary.  I had lots of ideas.  I had them all written down. One idea was even to venture into Bulgaria, while traveling in Croatia. There were what looked like some amazing waterfalls 30 minutes into Bulgaria.

2020 and Covid definitely put a dent in those plans.  The reception venue had to be canceled.  We, and Daniel’s mom and family, were disappointed.  Daniel really wanted to see his mom.  He has not seen her to hug her for 2 years.  And I know that feeling, having gone down the emigration route myself. In addition to the covid issue, Europe did not want any American landing on their shores.  We did not go.

2020 and Covid changed our lifestyles.  Suddenly there were restrictions.  Some restrictions made sense others did not.  Some I wish were stronger.  Living in the USA we found ourselves on less restrictive actions than the rest of the world.  Both my brother and his family in South Africa and my in-laws in Australia went into very strict lock down for months on end. We did not have that. I was grateful that we could still see family, but I was also cognizant of the fact I have a daughter in law who is immune compromised.  I am also immune compromised but less seriously.  Both Richard and I had a requirement to stay healthy from a work point of view.  I work with medical staff, and Richard is a director for a large medical company and oversees the warehouse and all the it entails.  We both decided to go to ground so to speak. Suddenly enjoying the sunset out back became a priority.

In March we abruptly found ourselves shifting from an office to a home environment.   I am extremely grateful that both my company, and his, chose that option.  While our clinics still remained open, we had to stagger staff on duty making sure that there were protocols in place to protect all staff working and any clients coming in.  Richard’s office had a rotation of staff system, staggering staff who were working so that there were minimum staff in the office at any given time.  A new norm began for us. For me, working from home is not a problem.  The bigger problem for me, and for Richard as well, is probably not knowing when to stop working.  Neither of us shut down.  I am grateful that my boss would remind me “it’s the weekend” you don’t need to work. However, both of us are of the opinion that when things are urgent and you have work to do, you do it.

The shift home worked for me, I simply rearranged my “home office” to become a personal and work environment.  I brought home my computers, and a large filing cabinet and all my current paperwork.  I set up the different work stations.  I saved on my time of travel by 2 hours each day, for which I am extremely grateful, and of course mileage and gas.

The whole scenario had us looking at how we were doing things at work, changing up procedures, researching new methods, shifting client visits from in person to virtual.  All of that was a major learning curve for me.  I am grateful for Zoom, and the constant upgrades they are making to make things more secure and HIPAA compliant.  They helped make our lives at lot easier.  I am grateful for the learning curve and how it has enabled me to make the work environment better for our staff. PPE became the standard for work and home. Each and everyone had to learn to accept change and move forward with it.

While I can work happily from home, Richard does not like it.  He felt like he needed to be in the office.  He was antsy. Added to that the weekends came around and there was no sport, we could not go anywhere or do anything.  For me, a book or a tv show or taking my camera outside worked.  The biggest struggle was not being able to go to some of the locations I would normally visit to take photographs.  In the later part of the year that opened up again but with restrictions, like masks, which for me make a whole lot of sense. 

I am grateful for my blog groups that kept me accountable and doing whatever I needed to do to stay on track each month.  I will be honest and say that there were weeks I did not want to pick up my camera.  Days I did not want to sit and edit images. When you are managing groups that makes it hard. However, I have made a commitment to these groups and I want to continue to be there for them each week and each month depending on the groups.  They encourage me to look at each day and find the beauty in it. I was very grateful that the National park area up the road from me did not close like the smaller wetlands did. I could still go out on some days and catch the sunset. And yes, some did not social distance, but I did.

In all of this Simba, our street rescue cat, needed to have a tooth removed, and that started the worst part of 2020 for me. While intubating him the doc heard the sound of fluid in his lungs. After a couple of X-rays (which are not cheap I might add), Simba went onto a steriod for a period of time. Between the antibiotic and the steriod he definitely seemed to have perked up, but I noticed the other day that he is a little off his food again. So a new appointment has been set up for another X-ray. I am hoping that the steriod helped and that we can get the tooth out because I feel like it may be contributing to the problem. In the meantime, I am grateful for this little man who cuddles with me each day and sneaks into bed at night. He loves his scratches and his belly rubbed. He has my heart, and I am so thankful we agreed to keep him when Amy asked us to.

Meantime Moo, the other rescue cat, has got brave enough to cuddle in the mornings with me when I am drinking my tea. She is such a sweetie but a real scaredy cat. I keep telling her she has to get a little bit more courage each day. While she is not as friendly as Simba, she is getting there and I am love the moments when she reaches out to me, and wants to hang out.

In August Key West opened back up and Richard and I decided to do a quick two night trip down there. Richard really needed to get out and I was grateful that there were not many people in Key West. It was mask mandatory and social distancing and we by passed on the sunset cruise we would normally do and just relaxed on our hotel balcony and watched the setting sun both days.

Most of all I was grateful for my family.  The covid restrictions did not make a whole lot of difference to our family lifestyle.  There are only 6 of us (family that is) living in the USA.  Not having family visit was not a big problem for us. We have always been able to gather as a group of 6. Since we did not go overseas this year, I suggested that we book a cabin in the Georgia mountains and take some time away together.  I am super grateful that we were able to do that. When I say mountains, we traveled up this long single track road to the very last house at the top. Talk about social distancing.

Time together with family, for me, is precious.  I am very aware that the 6 of us is all we have living in the US, and I want to be together with them.  The time in the mountains was a time to explore and do some hiking and some off roading for Kathryn’s wheelchair. Richard got to see Yonah mountain. I got to go to the wine farm of my choice, which I will add was the highlight for me. We got to see some beautiful waterfalls, and just relax together back at the cabin.

Cody is Kathryn’s service dog, and I was grateful for his role in the vacation as well. At some points Kathryn’s wheelchair could not go any further, or in some cases getting back downhill was a little risky in the wheelchair and Cody was there as her support system. He is an amazing dog, and does so much to help her. Sometimes he pulls her uphill, sometimes he paces alongside her and acts as a support brace, other times he fetches her water or helps her to find things. I am grateful that he can be an additional support for Kathryn besides Cameron.

I even organized a painting party for all of us, which was a whole lot of fun. We may or may not be talented but there was a whole lot of laughter, and grumbles and groaning. Wine does help. I would certainly do it again. Obviously I kept my camera away from all the paint and cellphone pics are not the same but we had fun and that is all that matters in the end.

I asked Cameron to bring up games and he brought along Pictionary, Sequence, Rumikub, Boggle and I took along Jenga. We ended off our time there with a game of Jenga. That just rounded off the  evening with lots of laughter and some serious breath holding as the tower got more and more precarious. It’s those moments when we are all connecting that are special for me. It is those moments that I give thanks for.

Quality time with family is always what I seek to have.  It does not always work out that way but that is always my goal.  I am grateful for my husband, my children, and their spouses.  Each one makes up our very small family unit and time with them is more precious than I can ever explain. It is those bonds that tie us together.

Looking back on 2020, I realize that there were a lot of challenges, but in amongst all of those challenges were so many positives to be grateful for. Gratitude goes a long way to taking you out of a bad place and into a better frame of mind.

2021 looks like it is going to be a lot like 2020.  Life is not going to go back to normal overnight.  Yes there is a vaccine, but like most I am keeping a low profile and waiting to see what the side effects may be.  I know that I will keep wearing a mask, despite how hot it gets in South Florida.  I know that I will be limiting my immediate group of people to the minimal.  I know that until they get a handle on this virus, things are going to be the very much the same as 2020.  Some days may be roses and some days may be thistles. However, I can look for the positives and be grateful for each one.   

As we move into 2021, I wish you and your family a very Happy New Year. I hope, like everyone else, that this virus will be contained and that we can move towards a more normal life. Life like we used to know it. When the days get tough, I would encourage you to look for the positives. Instead of focusing on all the negatives, look to the moments that speak good thoughts to you, that brighten up your day. Make the phone call to encourage someone. Share positive posts on social media instead of complaints. Our lives are that which we make it and we can continue to lift it up if we try.

In closing I am reminded of a small sliver of my heritage, the Irish side of the family and their sayings:

May the road rise up to meet you. 

May the wind always be at your back. 

May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again, 

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Thank you for joining me this month.  This is a small group of bloggers so when one or two are out it seems like it is a quiet month for blogs however, this is a circle blog.  Take some time to view what the other artist has for you this month. My friend Lupji Photography is up next. I look forward to reading what he has to share.

Sunsets are my favorite time of day: December 2020

Mornings are not my time of day. I will confess that I am a night owl. I read late, and hate to wake up. The whole change in our lives, as a result of Covid, has saved me a 1 hour work drive. That means 1 hour extra of sleep time. Now if I could just get the cats on board with my story I would be over the moon. No they want their food at 6am. Seriously Dudes!!

However on the flip side I love the evenings, especially now in the winter time zone. It gets darker earlier, so I don’t feel like half my evening time is gone by the time I have got my photographs and got back home.

Recently I got a message from a friend saying that she was heading out to Loxahatchee Everglades National Park to watch the sunset, so I decided to join her. It’s always nice when there are a few other people around as it can get quite lonely when it is dark.

I always stop at at pond first to see what is happening, and whether I feel like I will get a decent image across the water, before heading up to the canal that edges the slow moving river that floats through the Florida Everglades

While chatting to my friends, I spotted a local gator hanging out in the water. This guy will come out to play a little later on.

One of my favorite things to watch is the murmurations of the Grackle as they head to the national park in the evening. some evenings there are hundreds of them flying across the sky. It is such a beautiful sight to see and such a musical dance in the sky.

We also get the single fly by’s. You will hear someone say “bird” and all camera’s go up to capture the bird, This night we had a few random birds fly by.

I had taken a couple of different lens with me and this is my wide angle. I just loved the swirls of the clouds.

As I mentioned earlier this alligator would appear again. It was moseying along the water when I spotted it in the sunlight. Suddenly it started swimming a bit faster and changed direction. It was swimming towards the reeds. On the edge of the reeds swimming obliviously along were two Moorhens, squawking like they normally do. Then very next thing we heard was a loud squawk and one Moorhen flew into the bushes and the other walked on water. A little fast for me to capture it as well as I would have liked to.

Walking back to the car I happened to turn around and found the perfect silhouette of the night. Watching the sunset is a great way to spend a bit of time.

Thanks for stopping by. If you don’t do it often, now is the time with the social distancing to just be quiet. To go to places where few others go. To enjoy the beauty of our creation.

Please continue to stay safe, healthy and keeping a low profile. This too shall pass. If I do not blog again before Christmas. Please have a wonderful festive season even if it is just a small group. Fortunately for us we have no family in the US and so celebrating in a small group is not unusual. If you are not celebrating Christmas but rather something else, I hope you have a blessed time.

Look out for another post at the end of the month, if not before.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: December 2020: Story Telling

Oops, this is not my comfort zone. I don’t have littles, I am not quite sure how to adequately embrace the theme {Story Telling}, chosen by Ceri Herd Photography, this month. My story telling will be words as well as images and will be more than 6 images just a heads up. I don’t want to break up this days trip.

In August, when we realized that we would not be doing our European trip, we decided to rent a cabin in the mountains of Georgia. If you have read my blogs before you will remember that I am a bit of a planner. So I did my home work and discovered there were some wine farms near the cabin. I looked a most of them with the idea of going and doing some wine tasting and eating some lunch. Of course, as a photographer, I look at all the images and I eventually landed on a wine farm a lot further away from the cabin than the local farms.

The day we planned to go to the vineyard we had done a hike to Anna Ruby Falls, and then headed to Brasstown Bald. By the time we we ready to travel to the vineyard it really was too late for lunch. Richard wanted to hike the next day, but most of us were all hiked out. I had booked a trout fishing morning for them thinking that it would be something fun. The ladies stayed in bed and the men & I headed out early on the Wednesday morning, with the idea that we would spend a couple of hours fishing and then drive the hour to the wine farm. The men were fishing and I was along to document this momentous moment. More about the fishing in another blog. The fishing was interesting but the scenery and colors of fall were more enjoyable for me.

Finally we were back home, the smell of fish washed away and we are all ready to head out. One of the criteria of the trip for me, was to try and catch some fall colors and to rest after a few days of hiking.

Interestingly we ended up traveling the same route as the previous day for at least half the trip. We headed towards the Lakes area of Macedonia, Hiawassee, and Young Harris.

After turning a number of corners we finally arrived at our destination vineyard – Crane Creek Vineyard. I can certainly say, if you are in the area, make this place a stop on your drive. The vineyard is picturesque, the fall colors were beautiful. I fell in love. Welcome to this beautiful destination.

Aside from the beauty of this vineyard, I wanted a place where we could sit down outside and eat. Our daughter in law is immune compromised and has a number of food allergies. Once I discovered the vineyard and read more about it, I discovered that they had a beautiful restaurant on site. Being South African, I was drawn to the fact that the chef was from Mauritius. Added to that my husbands grandparents emigrated to South Africa from Mauritius.

Kathryn contacted the owners of the restaurant Paris & Company and asked about the menu and whether they would be able to accommodate her requirements. Nina was so encouraging and just asked us to give her a days notice so that she could plan for Kathryn’s needs. We booked a time for lunch and were excited to get there and enjoy the beautiful menu.

We were seated out on the patio, in the corner away from other quests. Nina personally came out and spoke with Kathryn to see what she could eat. We all ordered something different, along with a bottle of white wine named Enotah. The wine is “100% Chardonel (a Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc hybrid). Aged in oak barrels for 10-12 months. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, apples and toasty butter.” I got that directly from their website. Credit to Crane Creek Vineyards. The wine was amazing and paired well with our lunch.

I snapped two cellphone pics of the food as I did not want to pull out the big old camera and annoy the rest of the family. The food, in case you were wondering, was excellent. I chose a lobster and crab salad, as seen above, tossed in a tangy sauce, served on a croissant, along with a potato salad side. Daniel, who was seated next to me, chose the Ultimate Philly Cheesesteak with caramelized onions, green peppers and swiss cheese, with a side of fries. There were six of us and I did not take photos of each persons food but it will definitely give you an idea of the options. I definitely recommend having lunch there.

Leaving the restaurant we meandered across the grass admiring the view. Beautiful homes set in the rows of vines. So picturesque in its beauty.

Bursts of color can be found in this scenic view, leaves coat the grass and the smell of fall is a sweet aroma to my senses.

Due to Covid the wine tasting has been shifted outdoors . Beyond the tree below is a patio are where you can sit and taste your wine or you can walk back to the grass area and find a few chairs and relax and enjoy the view. We did do some wine tasting outside overlooking the lake and the vines.

Tranquility is a word I would use to describe the beauty of this scene. Quiet reigns and you can just sit back and enjoy, sipping on your wine.

I had asked prior to traveling if we were able to walk around the wine farm and the answer was yes. So we walked down the sand road towards the lake. Lining the edge of the wines and the road are beautiful rose bushes. Walking down the road we arrived at the lake on our left and looked over a beautiful wedding perfect scene.

In every direction there is a vibrancy fulfilling my desire to see the colors of fall. Contrasting colors, bright colors, muted colors. I decided I love fall colors.

This vineyard was a balm to my soul, color to my imagination, quiet to the noise of life. Time to stop and gather my senses again. And I will add, to rest my feet after days of hiking.

Today I felt like I made a connection with the beauty of nature. I am grateful for the hard work the owners of this beautiful vineyard have put in to making this a place to visit. I would encourage you, if you haven’t been there and you are in the area, add a visit to your bucket list.

Thank you for joining me for this month’s Share Six blog post.  This is a circle blog.  The sneak peaks that are shared are stunning. I can say that because they all come to me prior to the posts going live. The challenges always stretch us just a little bit further. I blog with an incredibly talented group of ladies.  Please take time to visit my friend and very creative artist Lynne from Lynne Grant Photography who always amazes me with her images to see what she has for you this month. To view her  Facebook page click here and her Instagram page here.

Keep following the circle to see what the other photographers have shared this month. Don’t forget to leave a little love on their page as well.

Come and share your images  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_storytelling