Sunday, March 22, 2015

Our Vacation Trip to Big Bend National and State Parks Part 1


It's hard to believe that it's been two years since I've posted on this weblog. No, it's not that I haven't had anything to post. I guess my only excuse is that I've been busy with other things, and have neglected the blog. 
But enough with the excuses! If you've followed this weblog for any length of time, you'll know what prompted me to post again. For those that are new, Big Bend is the reason. We took a 4-day road trip to Ft. Davis TX, near MacDonald Observatory, and visited Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park also. This time we went with our daughter, son-in-law, and 3 grandchildren in a giant Chevy Suburban. What a trip!
So here's a few of my favorite photos from the trip. The weather was cold and rainy, and it gave me the chance to photograph some familiar sights with a whole new look, as well as some new ones we'd never seen before.

Sunrise Ft. Davis TX Day 1

We drove to Big Bend National Park and walked the 1.9 mile Window Trail. It was cold and drizzly, but not unpleasant. I took several photos of Casa Grande, and this one of the Window. Very different from other shots I've taken but I think it has charm all its' own.

The Window from the Window Trail

While hiking the trail, my grandson and I enjoyed taking photos of the wildlife we saw. Most interesting to me was the Whitetail Deer we spotted nosing around the grounds near the trail. According to the national park website, this subspecies of whitetail deer is found only in the Chisos Mountains and foothills. The race in Big Bend National Park, the Carmen Mountains whitetail, is one of the smallest subspecies of whitetail in North America.

Carmen Mountain Whitetail Buck

The crown of the Chisos Mountains area to me will always be Casa Grande. I try to photograph this rock every time I go to Big Bend. This particular trip was so rainy and overcast that I got a whole new look to the photo. I took it from my favorite photo spot for Casa Grande, right outside the gift shop door. I hope you like it.

Casa Grande 2015

Close by Casa Grande at the top of a rock formation is a dead pinion pine that caught my interest. It was pretty far away, but I chanced a shot with my long lens. I think it came out pretty good. 

Pinion Pine, Big Bend National Park

The next day we went to the Big Bend State Park, which was brand new to me. Amy and Aaron biked the 18 mile West Contrabandos Trail, while Jan and I watched the grandkids, and I took photos. The day started out drizzly, but got clearer as the day went on. 

Mountains of Big Bend State Park

We had such a fantastic time every day of our trip. We ate at the Drugstore restaurant and saw several framed photos by my friend Bob Zeller, and we got to dip our feet in the spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park. We drove both main highways south from Ft. Davis, the Alpine route and the Marfa route, both of which were equally beautiful but very different. All in all, I'd say we spent our time there very well. I hope to go back again and again.

Til next time,
Mike Z

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reflections, the Wedding at Oheka Castle Part 2

Behind the Castle is the reflecting pool and gardens. The photo above was taken from the bridal suite on the second day of our stay (note the clouds). You can see the damped grass where the aisle was at the wedding the evening before.

The reflections were so wonderful, blue sky, the trees, shrubs all combine to make a beautiful scene.  

The photo above is my favorite of the reflections.

The fountain is in the center of the garden.

At the far end of the garden is a very pretty gazebo. We were about a week away from seeing the many blooms on the vines that climb up each supporting post.


I had a lot of fun taking these photos of Jan at the gazebo. She wished I had asked her to take off her sunglasses, though. Next time, for sure...

I hope you like the photos. Click on any of them to view enlarged in a slideshow. Next post is the interior of the Castle.

Thanks for stopping by,
Mike Z

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We attended a wedding at Oheka Castle Part 1

Entrance to Oheka Castle
We were invited by our friends Rosie and Jim to attend the wedding of their daughter Ruth to her soulmate Matt. The wedding took place at the Oheka Castle on Long Island New York. What an amazing place! By wondrous luck the day was bright, clear and even a little chilly.

The Castle was built in 1919 by Otto Kahn, and the name Oheka is an acronym for Otto Hermann Kahn. It is pronounced O-HEE'-ka.

We flew by Southwest Airlines to LaGuardia Airport, which was the closest driving distance to the Castle.

Ornate brace for a very tall chimney - closeup

Our room was very large with tall ceilings and a great view of the Long Island countryside. There is a subdivision of sorts on the grounds around the castle itself, and the homes are lovely. (More about this in a later post.) 

View from the window in the hallway

The morning of the wedding, Jan and I made a tour around the castle itself. I was not able to pack along my Nikon camera, but using Jan's camera we managed to get some good shots of the building and the wedding.  

Outside view of our room - we were on 3rd floor right window

The photo above was taken on the second day we were there. What a contrast from the day of the wedding. The bride and groom were very lucky to have such a perfect day for their celebration!
Closeup of our room on the right

Each time we rounded a corner, we were more amazed at the beauty of this place. It truly was like being in a European castle or a nobleman's home. The Castle is used for weddings a lot now, with famous people occasionally using the grounds for weddings, and is sometimes used as the backdrop for commercials and movies. 

View of the Rear of the Castle from the Reflecting Pools

The Reflecting Pools will be the subject of Part 2 of this "series." The wedding itself was held in the grassy space between the castle and the reflecting pools. A perfect spot! Future posts will include the walk we took around the neighborhood (so many beautiful flowers!), the interior of the castle, and the wedding itself. I hope you enjoy them.

Till next time,
Mike Z

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our Walk Around the Neighborhood

It's hard to believe I haven't posted a page on this 'blog since Thanksgiving! So many things have happened, new grandchildren, stents in my heart, more pressure at work, that I have let my photography slip. So this weekend I decided to start up again and see if I could get any shots of the birds around the neighborhood on our walk.

I was a little nervous about just going out and getting great artworthy shots on my first outing. Looking at these photos I can tell I have lots of practicing to do! But sometimes it's just about clicking the shutter, I suppose.

I was hoping to see a heron or a crane, as they are starting to appear in the waterways along our walk. But such was not the case. Our neighborhood is crowded with doves, and the dove above sat still long enough for me to get a photo or two.

Mockingbirds are also common. 

Bluejays too.

I liked the second shot of the bluejay so much I included it here. 

I know, you're saying "those aren't birds" right? As we walked along, one of the neighbors had spared these buttercups as they cut the grass. I liked the way the sun highlighted the flowers in the center, so I took a shot to see how it would turn out. 

Hopefully, there will be more photos in the coming weeks. I am glad to be back. I hope you're glad I am, too.

All the best,
Mike Z