Been in need of Vitamin D, this has been a crazy Winter!  Granted, not the crazy mid-West winters, it’s all relative.  I’m healed up, just can’t hear from all the gunk from the ear infection.

Finishing up some obligations before I head out on my next adventure.  The last few days I’ve been playing with a new camera lens for my Sony a7ii, it’s a 70-300mm lens.  I’ve also discovered the apps once I finally registered the camera and downloaded a “smooth reflections” app.  At first it seemed as if the app was just a settings override for the camera, it’s actually a series of photos to smooth out the water.

The first attempt was sunset zoomed to the Golden Gate from about 5 miles away (Featured photo).  It was a good 40 knot wind, that shutter just kept going, and going, and going.  I had to turn it off, seems like I picked too windy a day for that particular app.  This was the view when I turned around, applied a PSExpress filter to the left pic.

Then I took my normal walk around the reservoir to set up at a dock.  That worked a little better, it was still pretty windy.  I let it click through, the first shot was 66 pictures, second around 45 pictures.  It seems the app works best if the water doesn’t have white caps, like every body of water has right now with the winds.

Always good to practice, see what the camera is capable of.  I tried the “fun” button, with the glare on the screen and it was hard to really see how it was going to turn out.  Besides, all that is in the Photoshop Xpress on my iPhone.  Instead of clicking through settings in a glare, I can casually do it indoors with my latte.  They mentioned “in camera” at the Sony seminar, sometimes I enjoy messing with Photoshop to see what pops up.

The other thing that I discovered was my iPhone has a “for you” in photos I never noticed.  I clicked on it, it made movies out of events or a time period.  Cheesy music, but since I take so many pics it was fun to see in just a few minutes.  One was showing my friend how to use his drone, then we went sailing.  Not sure which pictures are his or mine?  My drone lessons usually include a photo contest at the end and we sent each other the pics.  Turned out really nice though in a movie.

The other one is my trip in May, including the condom machine in a women’s bathroom somewhere along the way.  Guys, you wish we were coming out of a gross bathroom thinking, “I better grab one of these, just in case.”  Especially in Farmington, not going to happen.


Have almost everything set up for my trip to Seattle.  Really excited, I can’t believe how much this weather and these mild injuries have me down?  It looks like there’s at least a few days of great weather, still kinda cold.  Nothing a good walk won’t cure.


Camera Ready

The problem with getting older and being a half-ass photographer is that to keep up you have to upgrade your equipment every few years.  I upgraded a few months ago to a Sony a7ii with a 28-70mm lens.  It was a package deal from Mike’s camera last November, it’s replacing a Sony Nex5 I’ve been using for the past 5 or so years.  I bought both cameras from Mike’s, there are a lot of advantages to still buying from a camera store – one is the classes and ongoing support for the camera.

I bought a nice camera for my son once from Best Buy as a graduation present, the guy practically spit into the lens to clean it as we watched in horror.

Last night I went to a Sony seminar at Mike’s to learn a little more about the camera.  I’m very familiar with cameras, not above going to find out what new features I might be missing and a few tips.  One of them being that I’ve been cleaning the sensors wrong, I’ve been laying the camera down flat and blowing into it so the dust can just go right back in.  It’s little tips like that I go for.  I’ve taken many photography classes, it’s amazing how much I forget and how obsolete my college classes are.

Darkroom class 1997??

My first camera was a Pentax K-1000 my parents gave me for my 16th birthday in 1978 (photos above are from Manhattan Beach, 1978).  Sadly, between my boys that camera has been lost 😦  I used that camera up until my youngest was crawling around in 1998, then I switched to my first digital camera that was about $1,000 with 500k of memory.  You had to anticipate the shot, once you held down the shutter it was almost a minute before the camera actually took the picture.  By that time my boys were on swim team,  I switched the slide shows to all digital for swim team and Junior League those years.  I still have pictures of every kid in Walnut Creek, now 25 year olds.  I remember someone saying they thought digital would never catch on, there’s always a naysayer.  I was all over it!

This only shows pics, the songs were copyrighted:

Then I got an ill-fated job with the Contra Costa Times as a contracted out photographer and bought a Minolta something or other.  Honestly, I didn’t do much research on it, I took the advice from a guy at our office who is really into cameras.  I had to cancel a job at 5am due to spending the night in the emergency room with my husband, who severed something in his knee the night before playing volleyball.  It was a 3 day shoot, luckily I was not the main photographer, but I had a babysitter lined up all weekend for it.  Not surprisingly, I never got a call back for work again.  I also quit Junior League, he was down for months with surgery and couldn’t drive.


Quitting Junior League was interesting, not sure if they knew why I had to quit but not one person called to see if I needed help or if we were OK? I petitioned to become a sustainer, that was a no.  When I bought my Sony Nex5 I was in that class at Mike’s camera coincidentally with a woman who was a big sustainer, she recognized my name.  She thanked me that night on upgrading JL to all digital, gave me all the credit for making them cutting edge in technology at that time.  That was nice, especially because the end seemed so, “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”

Then came the iPhone cameras which gave photography a whole new twist, making virtually everyone a photographer.  Somewhere in that time we got a Cannon Rebel digital, replacing a film Cannon my husband had.  When the cameras on the iPhones got decent, you have a camera with you at all times.  I have no problem whipping out my iPhone for pictures, it’s so convenient.  People who know nothing about photography starting getting awesome shots, those selfies look better than posed shots a lot of times.  With FB and Instagram photography blew up (good & bad, kind of killed writing & photography for a living in general).

Below is Golden Gate with my iPhone, Hawaii sunset w/ Sony Nex5 & looking out from Manhattan Beach Pier Marine lab with the new Sony:

I still like to have a nice camera though, and a drone for fun.  I was using the drones for work before we hired two 25 year olds to replace me.  Now I use it for fun, it’s a whole new world in photography and technology that’s fun for me.

3D with images on the left to practice AutoDesk Recap 360, a few hundred images.

This one is with the drone, about 800 pictures I did years ago when drones still crashed & flew away.  The drone technology has advanced to just pressing the button, instead of crossing your fingers as your pre-flight routine.

Not sure if I’m losing my “eye” as  I age or if people are just so damn good at it now!  On my Instagram (@hellereng) I’ve had several known photographers follow me and I’m super flattered.

Glad there are still some actual camera stores around, many are gone.  Camera and book stores used to be my favorite places to go and browse around, I miss that.  Amazon is bringing the books stores back, after they made a clean sweep to make sure there are no Barnes & Noble competition (Which is fine by me, B&N wiped out small books stores first).  Time marches on, still trying to stay cutting edge if at all possible.

The Featured image is of Lou Silva & Rob Ryan from a volleyball tournament in Manhattan Beach when we were teens in 1978.  They have both passed on, can’t believe I got this shot.

Grand Canyon, Bucket List item checked off

When I was a little girl at my grandparents in Arizona, my grandma would read to me every night before I went to bed.  The one I remember the most is “Brighty of the Grand Canyon.”  It was my favorite childhood book, mostly because it was from great memories of my grandparents.

For the first time ever, I finally went to the Grand Canyon.  Talk about a bucket list thing to do!!  Not sure what to recommend on this one, certainly not the lodging.  I’m in Williams at a brand new Holiday Inn Express, which is clean, I’ll give it that.  The acoustics in here make it so you can hear every footstep, it’s like elephants having a dance party all night.  Then, just when I thought it was going to get better a tour group checked in surrounding my room.  It was banging of doors and a hall party until I slept from sheer exhaustion.  The doors are all banging while I write.

The train from Williams was great, really glad I did that.  Without my family, again I splurged on the first class with a really comfortable ride.  Thought it might be musty/dusty, not at all.  I was in the luxury dome, there were also parlors downstairs that were really comfortable.  It doesn’t  go around the canyon, it just takes you to the South Rim.  They explain the maps and some things not to do, like take a selfie off of a cliff – 25 deaths last year, one last week.  The attendant gave me a game plan for my 3.5 hours in the park.  I walked (I wouldn’t call it hiking, although I was wearing hiking boots) 2.5 miles to the visitor center, then took a tram back for lunch & some more of the spectacular view closer to the train stop.

It was a perfect taste of the Grand Canyon for a day, I’ll be back for sure!  Next time, I want to stay in the park and hike the Bright trail.  The weather was actually perfect for that, I had a light jacket on the whole time.  The weather is tricky, It seems like May is great besides the winds.  The temp everywhere I’ve been has been manageable with no bugs.  The winds though!   Once it gets to summer, I know from my childhood that the monsoons kick in.  I used to love the thunderstorms, make for gorgeous sunsets too.  Doesn’t seem like a whole lot of fun for driving and camping.

Right before I went back on the train, I took one last long look at the canyon.  I say I’m coming back, you never know though.  Thought about my grandparents, both long gone now, and how lucky I am to have had someone to read to me at night and calm me through those AZ thunderstorms.

What I’ll have to do is go through my photos on a decent computer when I get back.  I’ll just put a few pics up now.  Feature photo of Grand Canyon has no touch ups.  The other 2 are from my drive out here from Lake Powell.


Vegas baby!



Happy Trails

Hard to leave Monument Valley without shedding a few more tears for Darcy and Steve, how short their lives ended up being.  They did a ton in a short amount of time, they traveled extensively.

In some ways, I feel like this is the AARP pilgrimage journey.  What is it about getting a certain age and wanting a boat or an RV to travel (or sail) the world?  Whatever it is, I’ve fallen into the stereotype to see as much as possible before the end.  I love sailing, not enough to sail around the world.  Sailing to Sam’s for lunch is good for me, maybe to Mexico for a Bahaha one day.  I’m afraid my surfing days may be over, the last two trips I wound up with broken ribs due to osteopenia.

In a way, it’s surprising I’ve never done this?  My mom is from Arizona, my whole family has done this except for me.  I spent my summers in Bisbee, AZ with my grandparents, my uncle would take us camping when we were little.  They just never brought me this far North when I was younger.  Right now, I’m at Lake Powell, which is about an 8 hour drive from Bisbee or I’d ask my uncle to come up and join me.  One thing about growing up in LA with the month in AZ every summer is I get how to pass cars on these highways.  On the senior citizen road to Lake Powell, I kept getting stuck behind “RVAMERICA,” or whatever they’re called, going 40 miles an hour.  The truck passes them handily.

The winds on the trip so far have been relentless.  Besides the tour boats, there aren’t any other recreational kayaks or stand up paddleboards available with these winds.  I did go for a tour on one of the boats last night, that was well worth it.  There was a (wannabe, which is me) photographers tour to Antelope Canyon that is booked a month out.  My husband booked this nice room for me for the night so I wouldn’t make another mistake of staying in a place like Farmington, across from the adult video store/check cashing.  If it weren’t for the winds, I’d be out on the water for sure.  Although, baking on a lake doesn’t sound appealing right now.

This was a nice stop,, I’ll probably come back to just explore here one day.

The pics are a combination of Monument Valley and Lake Powell.  I’m including two pictures I had someone take of me in Monument Valley, one he took by accident that I actually like – the feature photo.  The other one cracks me up because the whole purpose was to get the shot of the natural structure, with me in the middle of it, and it’s just me.  I practically rock climbed for that shot, how do you f that up?  Oh well, maybe I can salvage in photoshop when I get home.  Apologies for how crappy these are, sleeping in a truck 2 nights (including a nap in it before my room was ready here) and the high winds aren’t helping my creativity.


Monument Valley

What a spectacular few days this has been, with limited access to chargers because I thought coffee was more important than bringing along portable chargers.  My truck has a plug, just not enough to keep the car running for a lengthy time.  The coffee I have mastered with one of those Jet boils coupled with a pour over travel mug I found online.  Truthfully, I could just walk up to the store here for coffee.

I’ve been staying at Goulding’s camp ground the past few nights, sleeping in the back of my truck.  The way I parked it, my morning view is amazing!  Even as I write this, the truck bed is open as I look onto Monument Valley’s sunrise.  I bought 2 cheap ‘o camping pads from Big 5 years ago that happened to still be in my truck, blown up.  Before I left, I treated myself to an expensive one, thermarest or something, that never did seem to blow up right.  I ended up stacking the 2 cheap ones on top of each other to sleep as well as possible.  I don’t pretend to be a camper, coffee and sleep are the 2 most important things to me…yes, even before food.

What to even say about the past few days??  The film card is full, I’ll have to remedy that before my next stop.  This is a really busy place, not even sure if the tourist season has kicked in yet?  It’s worth it to suck it up on the lodging end of things to just camp, then spend the money on that all day tour.  Our guide lives in Monument Valley, we got to see the private areas and be the only ones out there.  It included lunch, then we went to the normal tour area to see how crowded that actually was.

There’s a Christmas card picture of our former roommates before we got married that is from here.  Our roommate Darcy was a returning student at Berkeley, her boyfriend at the time was this guy who was also from Manhattan Beach, Steve.  When Darcy graduated, they bought a van to do a XC trip and this was one of their stops.  We packed up to move to suburbia to become parents.  I think of that picture when I think of Monument Valley, it seemed like they were the only ones here, total adventurers (which they were).  Now I realize it’s very much a tourist destination where they probably waited in line to have someone take their picture.  I bring this up because they’ve both passed away, within a year of each other, in their early 40’s.  I told a mutual friend last year that they lived as if they knew they would die young.  He said that people think the van they bought to travel in might have been the cause.  I think it’s the universe for that picture, then the early deaths.  Now I see it’s a tourist shot and it could have been the van…tragic.

Back to my mid-life trip (55 isn’t really ML anymore, a little past that).  There are a ton of jeep tours here that will take you on the road you can drive your car on.  It’s worth it for the deluxe tour, especially if you have all day for it.  In the afternoon, it got REALLY gusty!   I was glad for my $15 hat.  I tried to shade my camera, there’s even dust in my teeth it was so bad.

The facilities here have laundry, first thing was to hop in the pool while the dust was swirling around the machine.  Besides sleeping in the truck, this is pretty much glamping.  With the winds,  I’m glad I wasn’t in a tent.  There’s a private airstrip here too that would be fun to fly into one day, until those gusts kicked up.  Because they’re so unpredictable, the drone didn’t launch either.  Some parts you can’t fly a drone anyway, with all the dust that possibly ruined my camera it just wasn’t worth the risk


All the campground neighbors have left, just leaving this obnoxious Texan sounding guy on his cell phone that probably is in the 45′ motorhome above me.  Finish my coffee and pack up.  I’ll have to post the nice camera pictures when I get to a better wifi spot.  For now, just a few from the past few days from my iphone view from my truck, with one four corners shot.


Along the Way

Took the long way to Farmington from Santa Fe for a night, to break up my drive, not because it’s a destination.  From Santa Fe, I went up Hwy 84 to Hwy 64 instead of the faster route through the desert.  So glad I did, that was spectacular!!  I kept pulling over to take pictures, I REALLY wanted to get the drone up it was just way too gusty.  I have to be careful with it too, they’re banned in national parks that I was going in and out of. Most of it looked like Indian land grants.  It was weird, these amazing bluff formations (caused by the wind blowing through there I’m sure) and then these enclaves of trailers, run down houses, junk yards basically.  I wanted to get pictures of that, yet I didn’t want to seem disrespectful either.

At the base of red rock was Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch, which wouldn’t have seemed too odd if it weren’t for the rest of the drive.  How was she able to purchase that when it all seemed protected by land grants?  I’m not going to look that up right now, just curious.

Made me think of Lonesome Dove too, one of my favorite books.  When that book came out, I bought it for my whole family.  My son’s neighbor was telling me, when we were in Truth or Consequences, that Larry McMurtry would go to those towns to study and write about it.  Thought I had read most of his books, I’ll have to find those stories.

Before I head out for the day, just have to say I can’t believe I’ve never done this?  Or that I’m the last to do this, seems like everyone I know has gone for this type of trip and here I am at 55 finally doing this.  Especially since my mom is from Bisbee, AZ and I’ve gone there many times.  My grandparents traveled all through here their whole lives, I have pictures and paintings from their travels.  My family history is wild West, and I’ve never done this?

My only explanation is that I’ve never had the time or money to be able to just explore.  My boys have gone XC quite a few times, I wasn’t invited.  At least I’m doing this while my health is decent, even if I haven’t felt good this whole time.  Along with taking pictures, I had to pop a few advil for the drive for my back.  The truck helps, so does cruise control if I have a straight road.  My F150 is the official car of New Mexico I’ve decided.  There are quite a few in the parking lot right now, meaning I don’t stand out – besides the CA plates.

Alright, my slow morning routine is completed & I can now load up for the next destination.  These are unfiltered.

Tourist in Santa Fe

One really long day is good here, that’s exactly what I did.  First stop was the coffee shop/book store, something I so miss.  I don’t miss the Barnes and Noble with the Starbucks at all, it’s the small business bookstores that are all gone in Walnut Creek.  Always loved libraries and books stores, closet nerd.

Nothing is cheap here, thought I’d get some stuff for my future daughter in law, it’s a little overwhelming.  Tried on a cool hat, $800, the $15 hat is going to have to work for me.  Looked at some pottery, again, hundreds but half off today.  Is it better to start super high and have to haggle to what I think the price should be, or just price it to sell?  Felt a little like Egypt in some of the stores.  Beautiful stuff though, there was one painting I really did like that I thought was priced well.  Actually, there’s a ton of great art work here, just one I thought I could maybe afford.  Not really an art collector, most of our paintings are from people we know.  The living room is the Southwestern room, with paintings from my grandmother and her friends.  On the couch is a rug my uncle weaved.

Being in this artsy town inspired me to start printing some of my photos when I get home at least.  Not that my photography is on par with any of these artists, there are a few shots that would work at least.

Since I couldn’t afford anything (or want to carry expensive artwork in a hot, dusty truck), went to a few of the museums.  Everyone has their own museum pace, for my mom it would take a full afternoon.  Mine is actually pretty quick, “cool, cool, a 5th grader could do that, wow, I need a bathroom & a latte.”

What I really wanted to do was pop the drone up before it got too windy, so that’s what I did.  Found a spot up a canyon that was a staging area, not a National Park (they’re banned).  The feature shot was from almost 400′ AGL straight up from where I was.  Didn’t want to keep it up too long, there were still some heavy gusts.  For sunset, I found an even better spot that was too gusty by then for the drone.  Got some shots with my regular camera, that could use an upgrade.

Quick note about the truck, it’s flex fuel and they have ethanol here.  I had to look up if I could mix the two, it should be fine.  The ethanol is actually cheaper than gas, have to see how the truck runs on it.

One hectic thing that happened was on the way back from downtown there was a guy face down in the left hand turn lane with his motorcycle a few hundred feet away.  I missed the fall, it couldn’t have been more than a minute before I got there since I was one of the first to hop out of my car.  I had to prepare myself that I could be walking up to a dead body.  There was one guy there who saw him crash, he had called 911, then I saw an arm move.  He was really lucky, although he probably has a concussion since he couldn’t remember what happened or a few things that happened once he started moving.  He was wearing a helmet, or it would have been a cracked head.  There were 3 women nurses who pulled over to help.  This was in the mini-mall part of town (where I’m staying).  It was just really nice to see that at least 10 of us stopped until he was taken away.  I joked and told him his wife was probably going to sell his motorcycle.  Just kind of a reminder that life is fragile, things happen in a split second and you never see it coming.  His visible damage was road rash chin, didn’t look like he needed stitches.  Lucky!

Here are a few more pics, only the right bottom one is altered with Photoshop express.