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Seewis is in the Prättigau/Davos Region of Switzerland. The language spoken is Swiss German and it is located high up on the green pastures of the alps. Homecoming of the cows in September/ October is celebrated with great fan fair, cow bells, älpen horn, folk music and local specialties such as bundnerfleisch (air dried meat), raclette, alpen kasse, the regional cheese. It is a traditional event played out throughout Switzerland. Small family run farms blanket the alps and this festival highlights local traditions, costumes and the spirt of the alps.
I joined in the festivities and created a video I hope will give you a little bit of the atmosphere of the Vehaker, the return to the barns from the upper alps.
The country with its dramatic landscape, lakes, rain forests, jungles, volcanoes, markets and welcoming people is in transition. Its colonial cities such as Granada and Leon are colorful, a photographers paradise.
The population is 95% catholic and there are many churches; a colorful country with buildings, doors and dwellings painted in bright tones. Tourist are discovering the culture and beauty of the country and there is a transition under way.
Those who are not afraid to experience adventure, traveling the country by car can be very rewarding. The landscapes with cone shaped volcanoes, lakes, beaches and pastures are dramatic.
Although the infrastructure is only just beginning to be developed, there are a few good highways and many of the roads are challenging but drivable. We traveled from the North-west to the South-west of the country, parallel to the Pacific Ocean coast line, visiting the major inland cities.
Although the driving is slow it also allows you to see rural life and stop at the small food stands along the way. I highly recommend renting a car and experiencing the country and culture.
It should be said that speaking Spanish is a must. Although you can find a few people in the cities, particularly in the hotels that can speak English.
I can’t say enough about the warm nature of the people. In general they live in dwellings that are built from any type of material that can be found, many with dirt floors and within their property they are cleaning and sweeping to maintain an orderly environment constantly.
Their dwellings are often built in the jungle under trees for shade, smoldering fires are lit to keep bugs away. They are friendly, and more then willing to engage in an attempt to converse, or have you take their photo.
They love music, dancing and being together with family. Their neighborhoods are a close community of people and they are hard workers.
It also must be said that the common areas are filled with trash and my guess is that the country doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle trash removal. The beaches, crowded with locals all the time, are not well maintained. High-end condos for foreigners are in the process of being constructed along the coasts, but the small villages, small hotels, restaurants and roads are inadequate to handle large numbers of tourist.
Having said this, we ate in the local restaurants and found the food to be not only delicious and fresh, but we totally enjoyed everything about them including all the local activity and entertainment.
It was fun to spend time being locals for a little while. The food is very inexpensive and there is no need to eat at higher end restaurant. We visited cantinas, small little eateries, beachfront restaurants and the local markets and never had a problem.
It is always best to be aware of eating in local places, it can be risky, but although we brought along all the medication we needed, we never had the need to use them.
Adventure travelers will find hiking, volcano sliding, zip lining, surfing and many other sporting adventures to explore. There are 25 volcanoes, 9 of which are active. Hiking them opens dramatic panoramas in every direction.
It is time to visit Nicaragua now and enjoy this interesting country before progress changes it.
This year’s harvest is in full swing in the Bünder Herrschaft.
Last year I had the fortune of photographing Jürg Obrecht and his team harvest and process the grapes.
With urgency and passion, the activity was intense as the temperature in the evening was beginning to drop.
Not a minute could be wasted in getting the grapes into the crushers and vats.
The moment to harvest is decided with experience, gut and closely watching the weather.
Jürg took over his father’s winery (Weinbau & Weinhandel) in 1997. Along with his young family he built a team of talented people to develop and create innovative and traditional wines.
Added to the production of his own 17 acres of vineyards he buys the harvest from another 50 acres of vineyards in Jenins and Maienfeld.
Surrounded by spectacular views of the Alps he produces excellent and award winning red and white wines.
Jürg modernized his production with the newest techniques and equipment to generate top quality wines.
Eighty percent of the grapes he grows are Pinot Noir, the rest are mainly Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Sylvaner.
I thank Jürg and his team for tolerating my camera and me and for the lovely glass of wine.
It was hard to shoot and drink at the same time, but as always I found a way and completely enjoyed the experience.
For more information of the Fünf Dörfer – The 5 villages along the Wine Route of Maienfeld Switzerland
Division of Forestry and Johathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, Fl had a Fire Fest with a controlled burn. The focus is on fire safety and the importance of forest management.
The growth of community development close to wildlands and the growth of vegetation has made the management in these areas riskier and complex.
Tribal, federal, state, and local governments partner in the management of these areas and community preparedness strategies.
Inviting the public to talks given by the firefighters and a demonstration of an actual controlled burn is an effort to educate families to get involved in the use of the community wildlands and its wildlife.
Safty is of key importance as large numbers of families joined the fest for a day of activities.
Look for information on their website for the next Fire Fest. http://www.floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson/
Each year Scott Kelby hosts a worldwide photo walk. Organizers from photo clubs around the world select a location in their area to highlight . This year PBC Photo Walkers, a group that I’m a member of, choose Green Cay in Boynton Beach, right in my back yard. I joined about 50 photographers to photograph the nature preserve at sunset. The park is about 1.5 miles of boardwalk with various plants and wildlife abundant and easily photographed. The challenge is that the selection is not the best location for a sun set meet and this isn’t the best time of year to photograph animals or birds, as the migration has not yet begun. But having said that, it is important to search of interesting shots and challenge your skills.
There is a contest by Scott Kelby that the photographers can participate in and the selected photo’s will be posted on his website.
Here are some of the images I shot.
The miracle and beauty of a leaf as it trembles in the breeze and soaks up its last rays of sun.
A leaf lives for a moment in time absorbing nutrients and sunlight creating oxygen.
A dead leaf falls from a plant but nourishes the earth so that new growth can be created.
A leaf has a purpose, a beauty in life but also in death.
Look closely at how its colors change from green to tones of rust, red and yellow.
A dead leaf forms, lines, curves and contortions that create wild and lovely shapes.
The Death of a Leaf.
Two of my photo’s were accepted in the juried contest of Johathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound Florida.
June 20th – July 21st
Entry Fee $5
If you enjoy outdoor sports, this is a wonderful park for biking, equestrian, hiking, water sports, fishing and camping. It has a very interesting history and some remnants of its roll in WWII are still evident.
There are wonderful photography opportunities of the train track and expansive views from the lookout tower.
Johathan Dickinson State Park
Kimbell Education Center
16450 SE Federal Hwy
Hobe Sound, FL 33455
Black & White is a leading photography magazine that conducts photography contests in Single Image and Portfolio images yearly. The magazines distribution is 35,000 worldwide. With about 9,500 images submitted in the 2014 portfolio contest, three of my images won a Merit Award and are included in the Special Edition #104 due in the Newsstands soon. It is an honor to be among the outstanding photographers who won this year.
My photos were taken in the Burgundy region of France. Having lived in Europe for many years, we most often traveled on the back roads and through the countryside whenever possible. The French countryside is my favorite, and to me the most romantic. I am absorbed with the tranquility, graceful fields filled with sunflowers, vineyards, quite villages and elegance of the architecture.
I have written a blog post with additional photo’s that I invite you to view.
The following three photo’s are published in the magazines 2014 Portfolio Contest Winners Special issue.
Grassy Waters Preserve is located in West Palm Beach, Florida offering 23 miles of wetland trails for nature seekers eager explore the wetlands.
The Cypress Board Walk, Hog Hammock Trail, Apoxee Trail and Owahee Trail are just a few trails I’ve hiked with my hiking group.
An array of nesting birds and other wild life such as alligators, deer and turtles etc. can be seen in the wild. Flowers, wetland hammock, cypress swamps, pine flatwoods and vast views of beautiful landscape sometimes with herds of deer off in the distance can be seen.
The reflections of a variety of trees are a photographers dream.
School programs, hiking, canoeing, kayaking with one of the naturalists is available through the nature center. Trail maps and any information you might need can be obtained through one of the staff members.
I advise checking in with the center if you are not an experienced hiker. Even for vacationers, hiking through Florida’s wetlands is not only a learning experience, but seeing Florida and all its natural beauty.
Grassy Waters Preserve 8264 Northlake Blvd. West Palm Beach, Florida 33412 (561) 804-4985
Wakodahatchee is considered one of the best sites to view birds in South Florida. Located in Delray, it has ample parking and a ¾ mile boardwalk that takes you over the top of wetlands where you can view alligators, turtles, fish and many different species of plant and bird life.
Saturday morning I joined my photography group to photograph birds. I’m not an early morning person and getting to the reserve at 7AM was an effort. When I arrived, I was very surprised to see that the parking lot was almost full, who else but a bunch of avid photographers would get up so early in the morning. I soon found out that the mornings are magic.
My group was already set up with huge lenses and having a great time enjoying each other and sharing technical information on how to shoot the birds. The sunrise was spectacular and the birds were active building their nests.
This is one of our favorite walks in the evening, but I am now a convert to morning walks.
Enjoy some of the birds of Wakodahatchee.
Florida has thousands of parks and reserves that offer magnificent opportunities to view wildlife and enjoy sport activities. Riverbend is located in Jupiter, (Palm Beach County), and is 680 acres of subtropical terrain, waterways and miles of trails.
The park offers wonderful hiking, bicycling, horseback riding as well as water sports like canoeing and kayaking. Riverbend is a unique blend of outdoor activity opportunities lending itself to both young and seniors.
The self-guided trails are easy to follow and you will want to stop along the way to take in the beautiful views and reflections along the Loxahatchee River and the bird life that make it their home.
There are Chickee huts with picnic tables and grills available for your picnic outings. The park is open everyday from sunrise to sunset and has a visitors center equipped with trail maps and equipment.
If you are a visitor or longtime resident of Florida, visiting Riverbend Park is a wonderful blend of nature and sporting activities.
On my usual evening walk in Green Cay Wetlands, I stopped to look at a Anhinga bird. The birds are common in South Florida and swim underwater to capture fish. They are comical as they sit on a stump or tree spreading their wings in the air to dry. I noticed the beautiful pattern on its wings against its black body and thought this might be my close-up shot.
This week I took everything from a jogger running, flowers, birds and electricity wires. Saturday I went to a Macro photo shoot where I had to shot lying flat on the grass trying to photograph a water drop. It was the perfect low-level shot.
As we flew over Iowa and I looked down at the patchwork of cornfields, I wondered what would keep our interest on our drive back to Atlanta.
The harvest was a few weeks away so the farms were devoid of activity and people as is often the case in farm regions I have been in. I had my ITunes ready for a long drive with my favorite music.
We picked up some fruit, fresh bread and pastries at a wonderful and very large farmers market in Des Moines and purchased cold cuts and drinks at a local market for a picnic lunch. We might not find a restaurant on the way back and we thought we would find a nice area to stop for lunch. As it turned out we drove down a small country road and enjoyed our lunch along side a corn filed. Well how appropriate was that.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t as dull as I had expected. The beauty of the barns, silo’s and movement in the sky was mesmerizing. As in other trips where we encountered farmland or vineyards, it is quite, peaceful and farmers have meticulous respect for the land. The clean shiny silos and white barns provided breaks of interest as well as the human element that sometimes gets lost in long distances of endless landscape.
The striking difference from the farmland I’m use to seeing in Switzerland, France, Germany and even Italy was the flat the terrain. Yet the deep green corn reaching for the sun, white barns with silver metal roofs glistening in the sunlight, and round metal silos created unique images.
Life seems timeless, as if nothing had changed.
Yet we know that these farms are hi-tech and provide food around the world. Iowa produces more corn than most countries and corn can be found in many products such as animal feed, starches, oils, sweeteners and even ethanol (Iowa Corn Growers Association).
I have found that if you look hard enough, you often find beauty in unexpected places.
Hiking in the mountains is invigorating as we pass people parasailing, white water rafting, motorcycling, mountain biking, horse back riding, all taking advantage of the cool days in the mountains during the summer.
The sunsets paint the sky in tones of red, orange and yellow. Thunderstorms echo throughout the mountains and when they leave they seem to say “I’m sorry for making such a fuss, so I’ll leave you with a rainbow”.
The valleys spring into life as flowers turn the hills and meadows into shades of blue, yellow, red and white and their sweet aromas penetrate the air. Restaurants are crowded with guests enjoying eachothers company surrounded by flower covered houses. The Summer!
In the Autumn the trees turn yellow and orange and the cows are escorted down to the valley as the air becomes crisp and snow threatens.
Farmers rush to sickle down grass and stack the hay in barns for the winter. Cows, sheep, goats and horses are now grazing in the valley, their last chance to roam free.
The vines are heavy with deep blue and yellow grapes ready to be harvested. The wine fests begin!
I love looking out over Serneus as I hike down from the mountain and the Summer gives way to Autumn colors. I think this might be my favorite time of the year. The Autumn!
At the first sign of snow the villagers move into action preparing for the arrival of the ski season. Anticipation builds up to the lifts opening. I’m sorry to see the Autumn come to a close, but one of my favorite seasons is around the corner.
My favorite moment is when I walk out of my bedroom in the morning and view the light snow peacefully falling over the village from my picture window. The church steeple reaches out to greet the soft flakes and the ski run begins to take shape behind it.
Klosters turns from green to white with ice clutching the edges of the mountain streams.
Thoughts of skiing alone down wide open slopes with views that carry you to the ends of the earth begins to sweep over me. The Winter!
In early Spring the snow covered peaks provide a backdrop for the green rolling hills against a deep blue shy and the contrast is amazing, yes this is my favorite season.
The blue and green colors of the lakes are translucent as the sun penetrates the water.
Mountain streams are swollen as rushing water flows from the glaciers. Deer can be spotted along the hills nibbling at the new grass after a long winter. Spring is one of my favorite seasons. The Spring!
I can’t quite make up my mind which is my favorite season.
Devils Garden is about 17 miles southeast of Escalante, Utah. Formations of sandstone worn down by the ages are called hoodoos. They create an unreal landscape in tones of red and terra cotta surrounded by white cliffs.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in the small town of Escalante that was very nice and well-appointed. The owner provided us with hand drawn maps and suggestions of where to go, what time to be there and what we would see. We may have missed this wondrous sight if it were not for him.
Driving to Devils Garden in itself is an experience. The road winds down steep cliffs with hairpin turns without guard rail protection down to flat plains. Having lived in Switzerland for a long time, you might think I would be use to traveling on roads like this, but I was holding my breath all the way.
We left before sunrise after it had rained with dark clouds hovering over white cliffs. I was already getting anxious at what we might find. The drive was harrowing until we came to a long gravel road. We stopped and got out of the car to take in the view before us. Dark clouds hung over a very desolate but unique landscape. We came upon a small parking lot, and just behind it, stretched out before us was an amazing sight. We were in Devils Garden, looking out at hoodoos in varying shapes and sizes.
The rain had left the earth smooth and glistening. The clouds opened up and closed from time to time looking very threatening and the landscape stretched out as far as the eye could see. According to Wikipedia the gardens are estimated to be about 166 to 174 million years old. Dinosaurs fossils and tracks have been discovered and you can imagine them roaming around this surreal scene. It looked like the creation of visual effects artists.
At first we stood motionless in amazement, feeling like we were on sacred ground. It was so quite, we were alone, and it took a few minutes to acclimate ourselves to this strange sight. We began to walk around the arches and stone formations. They are shaped by erosion and wind sandblasting the surface creating smooth rounded shapes. As we walked, we felt as if we were on another planet and our lonely foot prints were the first to travel this ground. Our landlord for the evening had given us good advice to arrive very early in the morning to see the sunrise, except maybe we were even luckier to have arrived after a rainfall.
I typically take an evening walk in one of the three preserves near my home. Green Cay is in Boynton Beach, Florida and is the home of many species of birds as well as alligators. It has a board walk over the water of about 1 1/4 miles.
The Little Blue Heron is one of the most delicate and beautiful birds in the reserve and typically lives in wetlands. The background is duck weed, which covers the water during the summer. It creates a colorful and unusual background.
Each evening as I walk through one of 3 wildlife preserves that are close to my home, I’m accompanied by a variety of colorful birds that linger on branches, fly though the air with effortless grace and fill the landscape with beauty.
The sounds of tropical birds create exotic music as I walk along the paths and cannels. They come and go during migration and you wonder where they are spending the winter and watch them return to nest to bring into the world their new born.
They become familiar and you look forward to seeing the flurry of activity that always seems to be in motion.
Meet some of these beautiful species that live in my neighborhood.
LillieEvenings as I walk along the paths and boardwalks of the water preserves in South Florida, I am struck by the array of plants, weeds and water lilies. They create a canvas of color and design in living beauty. It is ever changing from season to season when heavy rains cover them with droplets of water or the hot sun leaves them thirsty.
I stop along the way to photograph the beauty of their graceful lines as they somehow survive the constant changing conditions. They never cease to amaze me and never become ordinary.