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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas! and a Happy New Year

Jan and I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and we hope your New Year brings joy and success in all that you do.

2011 has been a roller coaster year for us! There have been highs and lows and the ride went by so fast! We are looking forward to a greater 2012.

My New Year's Resolution is to take more photos and post more on this weblog. I hope you will come back often to see what's up here at the Mem'ries.

All the Best,

Mike Z

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lost Maples State Natural Area

The day after Thanksgiving, Jan was talking with her sister Kathy, who mentioned that they had gone to see the Lost Maples the previous weekend. She said that the maple leaves were beautiful. I had gone to see the Lost Maples a few years back (see my previous post here), and had thoroughly enjoyed it.

Since Jan had not been with me on the previous trip, we decided to go see. We figured an hour and a half would do the trick, and we'd have time to walk and see the trees. 

I brought my camera and some accessories (not a tripod or monopod - huge mistake), and we headed west from New Braunfels to Boerne, then on to Bandera and Medina, then turned south to the State Natural Area.

What we hadn't counted on was that the trip would take 2 1/2 hours, and that we would get there about 15 minutes before sunset. The park ranger asked if we knew that we were getting there very late. We said yes. No discount, of course.

We walked a little ways up the Maple Trail, but decided that as it was getting darker and darker, we switch to the East Trail, which is wider and graveled, so it would be easier to see coming back.

I felt a little like a salmon swimming upstream as we passed group after group who were returning from their walk and heading back to their cars. We were the only ones heading into the park! 

To make matters worse, thick clouds came up from the south, and completely blocked any light from the sunset. It got dark in a hurry! I was amazed that my Nikon could get any good shots at all. It took some adjusting in Photoshop to get what you see here.

The tree above was the last one we saw. It is at the junction where the Maple Trail meets the East Trail. We decided that we would head back to the car, and save the rest of the trail for another visit.

The nice thing about going back to Austin so late was that we got to see the Christmas and Holiday decorations that the towns had put up. They were very lovely.

So that's the story of my second trip to see the Lost Maples.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mike Z

Guadalupe River, New Braunfels TX, Thanksgiving

We had our Thanksgiving with Jan's family at Slumber Falls Camp in New Braunfels, TX. We had it at the camp because with almost 50 people in attendance, no one's house could fit us all. Slumber Falls Camp is located near the Guadelupe River, and after lunch I ventured down there to take some photos.

The Guadalupe River is a favorite tubing and recreation area for local residents as well as visitors to New Braunfels. Lately there has been a lot of interest in cleaning up the river. 

These photos were taken at sunset, and the steep hill where the camp is located put most of the river in shadow. It was somewhat difficult to get the right exposure for the photos. 

Some of the family members got off by themselves to digest the wonderful lunch and enjoy the peace of the river. Everything was just about perfect.

As the sun set, the lighting got more and more interesting. I was especially captivated by the reflection of the sunlit trees in the water's reflection. 

Even though the water level is very low due to the horrible drought we had this past summer, the river still flows and brings enjoyment to everyone who encounters it.

Hope your Thanksgiving Day was the best! Ours sure was.

Till next time,

Mike Z

PS If you click on a picture, Google has a new slideshow feature. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cactus at Sunset, Sedona Arizona

As we hiked up the hill to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross, I noticed some beautiful cholla plants with deep purple blooms.

I shot several photos, and this was about the best. There were some with bees, but I don't like them as much.

Much more to show you about Sedona. It will be in another post. Click on the photo to see it larger (you can do this with any photo on my weblog).

Till then,
Mike Z

PS My friend Gordon told me about the faux matting technique I used in this photo. I also borrowed some of the steps from George Lepp in Outdoor Photography magazine. I hope you like it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Red Rocks of Sedona AZ

The Teapot Rock

Several weeks (ok, months) ago Jan and I were lucky enough to go to Arizona for one of my business meetings. I had been to Sedona about 15 years ago, and made a pledge that I would bring Jan to see the spectacular red rocks that surround that town before we got to old. We stayed overnight in a bed and breakfast, and spent the day Saturday touring Sedona.

We made several hikes during the one full day we got to spend there, one to the Teapot Rock (first picture above), and after a drive another one to the Palatki Indian Ruins farther outside of town. We also got to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, an outstanding church that can be seen from miles around the area.

The rocks above were close by the ruins. There were probably petroglyphs and artifacts in there but we weren't allowed to go in.

This rock looked to me like an arched door. Very very large rock. The red color was awe inspiring.

We had to go under this outcropping rock to get back to the car. It looks to me like a character from the old Frank Oz film The Dark Crystal. I think the character was called an uRu.

Next post will be some photos of the petroglyphs at the Palatki Ruins. There are some really cool ones.

Till next time,
Thanks for visiting!

Mike Z

Friday, July 29, 2011


You never know what kind of wildlife you'll see in urban Texas. I had parked my car in the parking lot of the Marriott Courtyard hotel in Houston TX, and was heading to the checkin counter, when I spotted this very large hawk catching a snack in the driveway. Not having my "big camera" with me, I pulled out my cell phone and slowly moved toward the hawk. He didn't seem to care if I was there or not, so I named him BraveHawk.

But even BraveHawk could not stand to have another human walk up behind him. The other gentleman took no notice of the intrepid bird, but BraveHawk decided to take his dinner up to a branch of one of the pine trees near the hotel.

I am really glad I got to see this beautiful bird. It is by far the closest I have been to a wild bird like this, and I was very impressed with him. I am glad to get a couple of photos to share with you, and I hope you like them.

Till next time,
Mike Z

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Some wildlife around my house

Green Heron

We are walking around the neighborhood a lot more often lately, trying to get in shape for the next travel adventure (and trying to shed a few pounds as well). This Green Heron is usually around the Town and Country grounds in the evening hours, and this time I was lucky enough to have a camera.

Black Crested Titmouse

I was experimenting with manual focus on one of my lenses recently, and sat in the front yard and took photos of anything that stood still long enough for me to take its photo. This is the first Black Crested Titmouse I can recall seeing. Our neighborhood birder Mikael (Birding on Broadmeade) says they are pretty common. Maybe I've been getting "new eyes" to see more kinds of birds.


While I was photographing the birds, this little squirrel came over from the trees in the yard next door to check me out. He stayed quite still so I got a few good shots of him. Pretty soon he headed back over to the next door tree. I guess he figured out that I wasn't going to feed him.

Till next time,

Mike Z

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lesser Goldfinch in Sedona AZ

Lesser Goldfinch

Last month Jan and I enjoyed a wonderful weekend in Sedona, AZ. I had been there several years ago, and had told her I wanted us to go together. Little did I know back then how many years it was going to take! We stayed in a beautiful Bed & Breakfast called A Sunset Chateau. I highly recommend this place if you are ever in Sedona.

We were close to pretty much everything in Sedona, and took several hikes around the beautiful Red Rocks. As usual, I took my camera along. Next morning, I was out in the yard in front of our room, and happened on this great bird. It seemed to have no fear of me, so I snapped away.

When I got home, I did my usual internet search to see what kind of bird it was. My initial guess (they all are) was a summer tanager. I sent this photo to my friend Bob Zeller (See his website here) and he said he thought it was a Lesser Goldfinch.

And so it will be, always, for me. I hope you like the photo.

Till next time,
Mike Z

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mother's Day Photo Book

I had promised Jan a photo book of our trip to Big Bend last May, and had every intention of getting it to her by Mother's Day. She had seen a friend's photo book made by Shutterfly, and she thought it would be great to save our memories of that trip in book form. But my work and travel schedule prevented me from getting it done by that day. But it is done and on the way to her now.

I hope you enjoy the slideshow of the Big Bend Photo Book. I enjoyed putting it together. I can't wait to see how it turned out.

Our next project will be the Washington DC trip, so look for that slideshow soon.

Till next time,
Mike Z

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jefferson Memorial

On the 3rd day of our sightseeing tour, we hiked from the hotel to the Jefferson Memorial. I knew it would be a long way, but didn't anticipate just how long a walk it would be. The walk itself was very nice, lots of animals and scenes along the way.

We walked through the cherry trees, a gift long ago from the Japanese government, but we missed the bloom by more than a month. We did see one tree in bloom, but could not be certain it was a cherry tree.

click to see a larger photo
 The statue of Thomas Jefferson, in the center of the memorial, is very impressive. I guess I never realized from photos I had seen just how big it is. On the walls surrounding the statue are some of Jefferson's writings, which I found very sobering and moving.

I hope you will get to see these places in Washington DC, if you haven't already. I truly believe that every person should see as many of the beautiful sights of our nation's capital as possible.

Till next time,
Mike Z

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The World War II Memorial in Washington DC

Jan and I were privileged to go to Washington DC recently (me for work, Jan for a much needed vacation), and we toured the various monuments and memorials around the White House and the Capitol.

My dad had served in the Navy during World War II, and I was especially anxious to see and photograph the WWII Memorial while we were there.

The memorial was spectacular, and I tried several series of photos to make a panorama of it. This one was the best attempt. You can see the Lincoln Memorial in the center distance.

I hope you like this. There are more photos, which I'll be sharing soon, but I am very proud of this one, so it comes first.

More later,
Mike Z

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cat Stuck in the Tree

Jan was washing the car this afternoon, and I was raking leaves. We kept hearing a very sad cat crying, but neither of us could locate it. I was looking in the bushes beside our house when Jan said, "Look! It's stuck in the tree!"

Sure enough, there was the cat in the very tallest branches of the oak tree.

We called her and called her, and she tried to get down, but just couldn't work up the courage.

As I write this, it is about midnight. I checked on her just a few minutes ago and she is still up there. I hope she gets hungry enough to overcome her fear, because it is pretty chilly out there tonight.

Monday Morning: Well, I couldn't stand it. Woke up early and put on a robe (it's nippy out today!) and rushed out to see if the tree-climbing kitty was still up there. Good news! Her hunger and cold overcame her fear of climbing down and she was no longer there. I hope she doesn't try that again!

All the best to you (and the cat),

Mike Z

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Captured a Bird on our walk around Town and Country

Jan and I took a walk around the neighborhood, and along the hike/bike trail in Town and Country Sports Center, where I was certain I would find some birds to photograph. I brought the small camera, a Nikon P90, so I could take some quick shots if anything showed up. We saw some crows, and I was beginning to feel like that might be all I would see. Suddenly a large shape flew out of the tree over my head, and this bird landed in a tree across the waterway. I ran the zoom on the P90 out all the way and took about 5 shots. These two looked the best.

I believe this nest was where the bird flew from

I am very much a novice birdwatcher, but I had not seen this kind of bird in the area before (that I can remember). He (or she) looked around for a couple of minutes then flew on.

I looked the bird up in my Pocket Naturalist Guide, and the closest I can come to is, this might be an Osprey. I did not get a good look at the breast, so that didn't help. Also the Osprey has a dark stripe across the eyes. If anyone out there knows what this bird is, please leave me a note. I will continue to look it up on the 'web and if I find out, I'll post a PS.

Looking back at my previous post, Birdwatching the Day after Christmas, I can see some similarities between that bird and this one. Same yellow nostrils, same curved beak, stripe on tail feathers. But I think the head is lighter colored than the "Christmas" bird.

I will look at the crow and mockingbird photos, and post them on another note if they're ok.

Till next time,

Mike Z

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nakia - An Austin Original with UPDATE

Nakia at South by Southwest sings One More Try

Nakia is one of my favorite Austin singers. He gave a concert at the Open Ears Concert at our church recently and though the audience was way too small just sang his heart out the entire evening.

I think he is going to get a lot more "famous" with folks outside Austin now that he is going to be on the new TV show "The Voice." I can't wait to see how he does.

He deserves lots of ears to hear him sing and play.

Till next time, all the best,

Mike Z

PS: The Voice was on last night, but Nakia wasn't on this week. I'll watch next week and let you all know.
UPDATE: Saw Nakia on the show, he picked Cee Lo Green as his coach. Good choice since he sang one of Cee Lo's songs! I hope he does well. We'll see.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mickey's Giftshop Across from the Big Rock Candy Mountain

The Weather Station at Mickey's
I was looking through some old travel photos (this one is from our trip from Washington to Texas in 2008) and found this photo of a "weather sign" that was set in front of Mickey's Gift Shop across the road from the Big Rock Candy Mountain in Utah. I had forgotten that we stopped at this spot, but remembered how much the grandkids liked the replica of Fred Flinstone's automobile and other assorted memorabilia.

We were also more than a little impressed that there really was a Big Rock Candy Mountain! For those of you who've seen Oh Brother, Where Art Thou by the Cohen Brothers, you know that Burl Ives sings about this mountain in the opening song. If you click on the link above you can find out how this particular mountain came to be called TBRCM.

I hope you found as much humor in the weather sign as I did. It shows a sly humor that is not abundant these days. Till next time...

all the best,
Mike Z

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The lagoon in back of the hotel

It seems like ages since I've posted anything on this weblog (hope someone noticed! :-) except photos from my mobile phone. For keeping everyone waiting, I apologize. I do have photos to post, so I will get them on the 'blog soon. Promise.

This little shot is of the lagoon in back of the hotel I'm staying in tonight. I was getting into the car to find a place to eat, and the breeze felt so good I stopped for a second and just breathed.

The photo isn't the greatest, but I hope you notice the ripples on the water. That is what caught my eye, and that's what I tried to capture for you.

I'm glad to be back. More photos and stories soon.

All the best,
Mike Z

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Saucer Magnolia at the Hotel

More traveling with work, and this time I remembered the camera. I'm in Houston, and the hotel has several saucer magnolia trees spaced between palms and other kinds of greenery. I shot a few photos of the flowers, hoping to get one with good color and sharpness.

I had taken another photo of a saucer magnolia tree at the Houston Zoo, and I am really proud of that one. I had some note cards made with that photo.

I hope you like this one as well.

Glad to be back,
Mike Z

Monday, February 21, 2011

Out the Plane Window

Seems like I am always on a plane these days! Another trip to California, this time to Simi Valley. I seem to be taking more photos with my phone these days than with my camera, but I try to see interesting things wherever I am, and this shot of the California sunset and the wing of the jet struck me as pretty interesting! I hope you agree.

Til next time,

Mike Z

Saturday, January 15, 2011

San Diego Sunset

My coworkers and I had just stepped out onto the patio atop the Marriott hotel in San Diego, and we talked about the great weather and wonderful sunset as the sun sank below the Pacific Ocean. I had come from some pretty cold and cloudy weather, and Shawn had escaped from even worse weather in Minnesota.

So I got out the trusty Blackberry, and snapped this photo of the bay and sunset. Believe me I know that the image does not do justice to the actual experience! But it will give you the reader some idea of what we saw.

More later! I have not been taking too many photos due to the weather, but I hope things will be different by the time I return to Texas.

All the best,
Mike Z