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Road Trips

Since I was a little girl one of the things I remember were road trips with my mom & dad.  We would pile into the family car and my dad would just drive.  Living in West Virginia, there were lots of scenic back roads and I would sit in the back and listen to my dad whistle.  Long stretches of roads leading to nowhere in particular….

Seems as if in the past few weeks I’ve felt a need to revisit road trip travel and have several times over this past month.    

The second weekend I had a trip with my photo group to Gasparilla Island on Boca Grande and photographed the lighthouses. It was a beautiful day.

The following weekend I visited Solomon’s Castle and vivid piece of architecture which came from the imagination of an incredibly talented and eclectic man. His art is whimsical and speaks volumes of the man he was, sadly he passed away several years back, but his home is open to the public for touring along with his private collection of art and pre – 1935 cars. Unfortunately due to his estate, we were not permitted to take photographs of his artwork (I may be able to find some from a past trip when he was still living).   

Strolling through the grounds in the Florida heat & humidity, you simply take in the beauty of the land and his gardens, along with the beauty of the structure he built.  Photos will never do it justice. The tour is funny, insightful and gives you a glimpse of what life was like for this eccentric junk collector; although to him it was art and not junk.  If you live in Florida, this is a must see place, just remember however, they close from August 1 to October 2. 

Sunday June 23 was my birthday and I decided to head over to the Avon Park area, hang out with friends at their church and be closer to attend the funeral of one of my cousins.  I was able to reconnect with his daughters whom I’ve not seen in at least 50 years.  It was such a bittersweet time.  Oliver was probably my dad’s best friend along with Oliver’s brother Rich, growing up as kids.  They hung out together and played as kids; Daddy was the oldest, however he was also the first to pass almost 36 years ago. Oliver lived to be 91. As a child I remember him being funny and always up to some shenanigans with my father. I know he will be missed.  

This past weekend I headed back over to the Avon Park area so the I could participate in the Independent Day musical of a really good friends church. It was wonderful to be able to re-ignite another passion. Music Has been in my life since I was a little girl. My soul was so refreshed.

As you can see I’ve had a busy month traveling taking day and over night trips. It’s been refreshing to just drive the country back road Florida has.

Please enjoy some of my photos.

Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande

Solomon’s Castle, Ona, Florida

Cousins!

Road Trip to Nowhere

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Today I did something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now. I took a road trip to nowhere. Well, you are probably thinking “surely you went somewhere?” To answer that it’s a yes and no. Upon leaving the house early this morning I had no set plan on where I was going to what I was going to do, I was just going to drive and see where my wheels took me.

My first stop was a nice little park to explore. Lots of great walking paths consisting of paved paths, boardwalk and natural trails too. I walked three of the loops and left the largest which goes by the river for another day of exploration. I took a few photos and some video in time lapse which is below.

I really didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, but we are almost into summer so most migratory birds are already gone. I had a noisy squirrel and a lot of Five Lined Skinks on the boardwalk portion of the trail.

Next I was off to my next adventure, this is where I simply got into my vehicle and drove. I always joke that all roads lead to Arcadia and so I decided to see if that was true, and yes, it is. I ended up in Arcadia, a cute older town, filled with old churches and homes from another time period. I didn’t stop to take any photos as this was a driving mission.

On my way back I stopped at a little farmer’s market/country store/cafe and grabbed some fresh produce and a bite to eat. Next to the road was a nice Sunflower garden. Who doesn’t like happy Sunflowers these giants were over 6 foot tall.

Sometimes you just need to get into your car go nowhere.

Sunflowers iPhoneX

Into Nature

One of my passions is camping and if you add my camera, then it’s simply incredible.  I have not camped all season simply because I have not had a free weekend to do so and now it’s almost too hot…..almost.

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I decided to camp over Mother’s Day, this way I get to spend time with my youngest son, and as a bonus his best friend as well.  The boys got me the most beautiful card and wrote the most beautiful sentiments on it, I was also graced with a bouquet of flowers and a scrumptious meal prepared by my son and we went to breakfast the following morning.

Because I was in the Big Cypress, of course I have to drive Turner River Road, Wagon Wheel and Birdon Road.  Didn’t see much when it came to wildlife although I did see a deer, but he moved to quickly for me to get a photo.  I was downcast to see several dead snakes and a dead baby alligator, I wish people were more careful.

Tommy and I also walked the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk and were invaded by Deer Flies, but we persevered and were graced with a young Barred Owl, of course on this trip I only brought my iPhone so there are pictures, just not close up; I did get some great cell phone shots from our walk.

 

This is a time lapse photo, but it’s a bit jumpy (sorry)

I love being outdoors, I need to do it more often.

Until next time, I’ll see you behind the lens!

The First Three Months

 

Since I have not put any pressure upon myself to blog this year, I have been enjoying photographing and writing a bit more.  Pressure is off and I’m being more creative.

January was busy, February a close second and March is catching up!  In the past three months, I’ve photographed mega star Cher, WWE, a Bacon Jam festival, a circus, a couple of local bands & events, Joe Bonamassa, Shinedown with Asking Alexandria and Papa Roach (more on this later).  I have also photographed a hip hop concert and a TacoFest!

I have upcoming this month (March) Impractical Jokers and a couple more local events.

I would have had a few more opportunities, however the Shinedown concert took me out of the picture for about a week.  The concert was great, but the fog used, not so much.   I know I can’t be around smoke for very long without running into breathing issues, but I never once thought about stage fog, and I was out for several days due to bronchial asthma caused by the fog.  Live & learn!

Recently I’ve been doing some commercial work for my son’s best friend.  He recently returned from Vietnam where he was managing a resort and has started a Bamboo Straw business.  Because I have done some website photography work for him, he has given me a discount code for my followers who may be interested in purchasing a renewable no waste straw to replace using plastic ones.  These straws are fantastic, no aftertaste, they can be composted so they are zero waste and with the beautiful travel kit you will received a lovely pouch with a coconut button closure. The discount code is EARTH  and it will give you 10% off your total purchase;  his website: Bamboo Step.  Please visit and consider saving our planet one straw at a time.

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New Year, New Focus

Every year I start out with, “I’m going to blog more, I’m going to shoot more and I’m going to post more”; then, reality hits and it doesn’t happen.  This year, because I want to take better care of myself mentally and not put the weight of this upon myself, I am not going to set any resolutions. However, my usual goal setting is going to happen, because I achieve more when I set goals, but they will be things that will enrich my life and not make it more stressful or things that won’t make me feel guilty if I fall through.

Another thing that is going to happen this year, is I’m going to focus my energy more in doing concerts and open myself up to doing more local band portraiture work.

Band-7

 

I also want to do more nature photography which takes me to my happy place.  I will continue to do the occasional wedding and portrait shoot; in fact I have a wedding on the books for August of 2019 and I know I will be photographing my favorite little and her family a few times this year.  I really want to focus on what drives me which is the music and being out in nature.

I want to grow my Instagram and will be focusing more on the concert side of that with my @photocreationsbydeb page.  I may create a new one for my own personal work with the natural environment, but time will tell.

The point is, I’m not going to goal myself to the degree where I beat myself up if I don’t achieve the goals.  I’m putting them out there, if they are completed, great! If not then that’s ok too and I will just work smarter on the important ones.

A Quick Look Back

In 2018 I decided to take a full vacation, somewhere other than Florida.  I went to North Caroline to spend time with girlfriends who know me better than just about anyone (and they still love me, imagine that!). I began planning early which made the excitement build.  It was such a wonderful trip with lots of mountain air to clear my head and exploring new and exciting places.

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I look forward to a wonderful and exciting 2019!

Happy New Year!

Advice From an Avid Learner

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Here’s something I question.  As an artist (photographer) we see things differently than others, and because art is subjective, there will always be works we like and works we dislike; I get that.  What I don’t understand is a photographer who has an eye for their subject, yet they don’t do anything to make their photograph exceptional.  I don’t mean necessarily over working it in processing, but just brining out details or taking it from a different angle.  I know I’ve been guilty of not doing much to photos, but I do try.  One of the areas I am a full believer in is learning, you must continually learn your craft if you want to be better.  You must have the tools to enhance and to make your photograph even better than what it shows in camera.  You must learn from those who are more advanced than you and have been around the proverbial block a time or two, and you must apply what you learn to your own style.

Here are some suggestions that may help: 

Follow photographers on social media who’s work you admire and try to understand why you are drawn to their work.  I personally follow many photographers, some are friends and some I simply find because I look for what appeals to me.  Join groups online and places like Flickr, NG Your Shot and a few other’s where you can follow the work of some GREAT photographers.  Join groups on Facebook, however, be warned if you post something be prepared for it to be torn apart by some not so friendly folks who feel their work is superior to anyone else’s.  I limit the groups I’m in to only those who are closely monitored, and where I can develop online friendships with some awesome people.

Join a club or group and get hands on with them.  Learn a new skill, take a class or just go out shooting with them; PAY ATTENTION and ASK QUESTIONS!  I love to teach and if you come across someone who won’t allow you to ask how they got the shot, then move on, be with people who are not afraid to share knowledge.  I shoot concerts and I am always willing to teach someone else how to get the shots I get.  Are there better concerts photographers than me……oh heck yeah!  I’m still learning, and improving with each and every click of the shutter.

Ask for advice, ask for critiques and always stay open minded about what someone tells you.  Have I gotten my feelings hurt? Oh you better believe I have, no one likes to be told their work is awful. However, I have a group of pros I know I can rely on to ask either for help or for a critique. They genuinely care and I trust them.   Leave your ego at the door, there will always be someone better than you are.

Stay away from photographers who feel as if they know everything and don’t need to learn any more; they are not the ones to help you to improve.

Be helpful to someone newly learning, don’t come across as a know-it-all.  A couple of people I have “mentored” over the past few years, are phenomenal photographers. One  is currently working with photographers on an NFL team and is doing quite well on his own, the other is learning and gaining hands on knowledge and improving daily.  They know when I critique their work or explain an improvement, I’m not being hurtful, I want to see them succeed. They will take their talent to new levels far surpassing anything I have done and I’m really proud of them!

Remember, posting a mediocre photograph on Facebook and getting the oo’s and ah’s and “Likes” from your friends is not a critique and can be more harmful than good; why? Because it will cause you to think you don’t need to improve.  I know this is harsh, but if you want to be a better photographer then you need to have people in your life you trust to give you the real, sometimes hard truth about your work.

Always remember “You are only as good as your last photograph” – Unknown

 

North Carolina Bound

I have not taken a vacation, a real vacation in more than a dozen years.  I carry a pretty heavy schedule majority of the time due to working a full time job and photographing events and concerts thought out the year.  But this year I decided I needed a break, a long two week break in the mountains of North Carolina.  My best friend of almost fifty years lives in a little town called Concord.  So on October 15 I boarded flight 818 and headed north. IMG_1422

It was a very short flight; less than an hour and a half and was uneventful.  We landed on and I made my way across the tarmac to my waiting friend.  I should mention that she too is a Debbie.  When I got off the plane the temperature was cooler, but still warm, however I was in for a surprise.

On Tuesday we took off on a road trip up through the Pisgah National Forest and up through the mountains searching for some color and some waterfalls.  The color was missing from this scenario as North Carolina had longer than normal summer temperatures which was keeping the leaves from changing.  Not to mention two hurricane’s had passed through the area.

Our first stop was a little diner where I enjoyed a nice plate of NC style BBQ, one word; Yum!  Our adventure continued as we drove through the mountains of the Pisgah National Forest and the weather took a turn and it started to rain.  This did not stop our trekking the beaten path to find a waterfall; not only did I find one, but a covered bridge too!  Giant score for me photographically speaking.  The rain was coming down pretty steady but my excitement built as I heard the sound of rushing water and once we arrived the sound became deafening, but in such a wonderful restorative way.IMG_1373North Carolina-3

This next week we stayed close to home and I was able to photograph some local birds and experience a change in temperature.  Then on Saturday our other best friend flew in so we made another road trip into Charlotte to pick her up. Did I mention she too is a Debbie? (North Carolina will never be the same).

 

That weekend we invited a few friends who live in the area over for a gathering, it was great to see them and to meet their families.  So much love in one place……incredible.

On Monday October 22 we three Debbie’s took off on a road trip once again.  We drove up through the Blue Ridge Parkway and I was able to find more color, the temperature had dropped from the upper 70’s to the mid 30’s and settled around 45 degrees.  For this Florida girl it was cold, but the crisp air, sharing time with my best friends and just enjoying the ride and the color seeping through the trees was something I can’t explain in words, only heart can.  We drove up to about 5000 feet, found a lovely little restaunt to have lunch  and then off to find Linville Falls.  We didn’t hike to the top, but I was happy with what we found.  Continuing our drive we found icicles popping out of the side of a mountain.  So we pulled in to a parking area and I hiked back to the area where water was seeping out of the rocks.  My lungs were screaming with the thinner and colder 37 degree air, but it was so beautiful.

I needed this time away, I needed to do some life reflection and to be with my girls who know me so well.  I have not laughed or loved like this in a very long time.  They are amazing; we are amazing to have had this friendship of 50 years that is so deep and unshakeable. The T-shirts Debbie brought us says it all the back has the three D’s and it says “True Friendship Grows Forever”.

I love these girls so much and I was sad to depart.  I will be back…..again.

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Cats At Work

Sandee
On August 6, 2018 very special little lady entered our lives at work.  Her name is Sandee and she is part of the Cats at Work program, where they provide cats for the work environment.

It is a cat rescue program designed to find homes for unadoptable cats.  Most of the rescues are feral and don’t do well in home environments.  These cats are being adopted by Golf Courses and Country clubs to help keep down the mice and rat populations.  The animals are cared for; fed, vetted and loved (some at a distance) for the rest of their living days.

Sandee’s back story is that she was found by a dumpster by an office worker at a trucking company where she had delivered four kittens. The lady took her and her four kittens in and called a local cat rescue group to come and get them.  The rescuer came, picked up the cats and got the kittens out for adoption when the time came, spayed her.  However, when they took mama cat back to the trucking company they were moving locations and didn’t want her, so back to Domestic Animal Services she went; which is where she stayed up until she came to us.  Sandee was dubbed “feral” by her rescuers which means she was classified as “unadoptable”,  however she is anything but feral.  From the moment she entered our office I think she knew she was going to her forever (furever) home.  She is so loving, and gentle, she loves everyone who comes through our door.  She no longer wants to be outside in fact she runs the opposite way if the doors is open.  Being her main caretaker, she has bonded fully with me.  She follows me around when I go to different areas of our building.  She sleeps on my desk in my “in” box, and she plays in the halls knocking her ball around like a soccer ball.
Sandee 1

I am so fortunate that I get to spend my evenings with my nine year old adoptee Harpo a male tuxedo who I adopted as a kitten from Domestic Animal Services, then I come to work and have Sandee to share my love with.  I am just so fortunate to work in a place that cares not only about people, but about the animals as well.

Harpo
My boy Harpo

I am so fortunate that I get to spend my evenings with my nine year old adoptee Harpo a male tuxedo who I adopted as a kitten from Domestic Animal Services, then I come to work and have Sandee to share my love with.  I am just so fortunate to work in a place that cares not only about people, but about the animals as well.

Click on the link to keep up with Sandee the Office Cat

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A Difficult Time

During the summer I don’t work much, I mean I have my day job, but I don’t get to shoot much and I end up just staying at home trying to come up with things to do.  I don’t do boredom well and tend to retreat into myself.  I miss shooting concerts, I miss shooting events.  I’ve done a few local bands, and I’ve taken on a fairly large project with a small business, but it’s just not the same for me.  In a month I’m heading for a vacation to North Carolina for two full weeks I’ll be in the mountains, breathing fresh clean air and capturing nature at her best, I feel this will be the renewing I need.

I know fall is coming and life will start to get crazy again and I will be in my happy place once more.  Until then… I’ll just keep going.

Review: Styx, Tesla & Joan Jett

On Sunday June 17, 2018 three iconic bands from the 70’s & 80’s took the stage at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater in Tampa, Florida.  Styx tours yearly and always has an incredible line up of stars with them.  This year was the band Tesla and Joan Jett & the Black Hearts.

Tesla opened their eight song set with a rocking start as lead singer Jeff Keith belted out I Wanna Live then went right into Hang Tough.  Vocally Jeff was strong as he worked his way across the stage, giving the audience a show of his still youthful moves and kicks.   Mid set they performed the iconic Signs cover from Five Man Electrical Band. It was an incredible fifty minute set.  Dave Rude (the only “new” member) is fun to watch on stage, he plays to the audience with flair.  Overall they were tight and the audience was into the experience.

Next up was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  I saw Joan Jett last year and wasn’t really impressed with her vocals, however this year she was on the money.  Her Vocals were strong and remained so throughout her sixteen song set.  She began her set with Bad Reputation and continued with several of her own songs and quite a few covers such as Cherry Bomb from her former band The Runaways,  The Arrows I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tommy & the Shondells Crimson and Clover.  She also performed I Hate Myself For Loving You and Fake Friends.  Overall her set was solid and she performed well. Unfortunately there are no photographs as no one was approved for Joan.

Last up was STYX, iconic and strong and one of this writer’s favorite 70’s & 80’s bands.  This band does not disappoint. Lawerence Gowan (1999) is not just a great vocalist, but he’s an incredible showman and fits right in with James “J.Y.” Young (founding member 1970), Tommy Shaw (1975), Ricky Phillips (2003) and Todd Sucherman (1996).  STYX opened their set with Overture which showcased each member as they entered the stage and opened with Gone, Gone, Gone followed by Blue Collar Man and The Grand Illusion.  The set continued with them doing all of their best hits such as the rock ballad Lady and Too Much Time on My Hands.  We were waiting on founding member Chuck Panozzo to make an appearance; as he normally does and I heard he did in Oklahoma.  However, it did not happen in this show.

The only cover was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody performed by Lawrence Gowan.  STYX closed their set with Come Sail Away  and encored with Mr Robotoyes, you read that correctly.  Renegade was their final number for the evening.

 

Over all this entire tour was fantastic and delivered all that was expected.