Sunday Stills: Summer Bugs

We’re lucky to live in an area that doesn’t have too many bugs… at least the type of bugs that bug us.

We have insects:

… and we have arachnids:

But buggy bugs? Not so much.

I was at a loss when I saw that this week’s Sunday Still photo prompt was Summer Bugs, until I thought of my first car: a 1972, chartreuse, Volkswagen Super Beetle. I loved that car, not only because it was as cute as a bug, but because of the sense of freedom it gave me.

Cool car, unfortunate perm

Although that car is long gone, I still love VW Bugs, as my photo archives will attest. Here are just a few pictures of VDubs that I have taken over the years while traveling.  

Bugs found along Route 66

The Bug Farm in Conway, Texas has a permanent crop of five Volkswagen beetles planted nose-down in the ground. It is a parody of the more famous Cadillac Ranch in nearby Amarillo.

In Holbrook, Arizona, just down the street from the Wigwam Motel (yes, each “room” is shaped like a teepee, and, yes, we stayed there), is Kester’s Bug Shop. where they have bugs of unique shapes and sizes.

Bugs of Mexico

Vintage VW Bugs are everywhere on the streets of Mexico… some are in better shape than others.

Hometown Bugs

These bugs were discovered in our neighborhood.

A shy bug hiding behind a plumeria bush
A neighbor is restoring a 1971 Super Beetle

This week’s theme for Terri Webster Schrandt’s Sunday Stills photo prompt is Summer Bugs. See Terri’s photographs on her blog, Second Wind Leisure. If you have some favorite bug images, please join in!

Sunday Stills: A Change of Altitude

It’s almost as if Terri (Second Wind Leisure) knew that my husband and I would be spending a few days up in the mountains when she came up with The Great Outdoors as this week’s Sunday Stills photo topic. Although I often have to search my files for images when I join in on one of her photo challenges, this time all I did was walk out the door of our little cabin and there it was… the great outdoors!

We were delighted when our friends, Kathy (Smart Living 365) and Thom, invited us to join them for a few days at their mountain retreat in nearby Idyllwild. The cabin they have rented for a number of years has a mini-cabin situated just a few steps away. It’s perfect for the hosts and the guests – lots of opportunities to connect, but enough separation so that everyone can have some privacy and alone time.

We hiked:

We hugged trees (and each other):

Kathy and Thom showing a tree some love.

We moved boulders:

Full disclosure: it didn’t budge (thank goodness!).

We watched the sunset… :

A fire a couple of years ago left these trees bare, but still beautiful.

… just before the full strawberry moon rose:

We enjoyed great conversations:

There may have been some adult beverages involved.

And, we marveled at nature’s artistry:

I loved how the bark’s texture changed closer to the soil.

The red bark of the Manzanita starts to peel, reveling the new growth below.
I think I saw a mountain gorilla on the trail… or not.

The few days that we were able to enjoy the clear mountain air and expansive vistas were just what we needed. There is nothing quite like spending time in the great outdoors to reduce stress, encourage reflection, and help us appreciate the gifts of Mother Nature.

Sunday Stills: Black and White… and Shades of Gray

Although I almost never photograph anything in black and white, sometimes I find that certain images become more interesting when they are stripped of their color. Patterns, shapes, and textures become more pronounced, and the mood of the photograph can change once the color isn’t competing for the attention of the viewer.

Succulents and other plants that have interesting structure and contrasting lights and darks work well in black and white.

Black and white can emphasize the bold, straight lines of architecture.

You can change the mood of a photograph by removing – or fading back – the color.

Strong shapes and textures translate well into black and white. Pronounced shadows can add even more interesting patterns to your image.

And, not all black and white photographs are really black and white. Although these are color images, the blacks and whites are what first caught my eye.    

I think most of us love photographs that are rich in color. Every once in a while, though, try adding shades of gray to some of your images and see if you like the results.

Do you have black and white images? Join the fun on Terri’s Sunday Stills photo prompt and see what others have shared.

Sunday Stills: Winter(ish) White

Most often, to find images for Terri’s weekly photo prompt, I look in my files for existing pictures that match the theme. This time, I decided to use the week’s prompt, “Things that are White” as the inspiration for a scavenger hunt.

My husband and I woke up one day last week to glorious blue skies and temperatures that were predicted to reach the low 70s. Although it seldom gets too cold in Southern California, a winter day like this – especially one in the middle of the week – begs to be enjoyed outside. We decided to take a quick drive up the coast to the beachside community of La Jolla, to search for things that are white.

Kayak tour to explore the sea caves.

Right away, we saw a whole flotilla of kayakers. There are several local kayak rental companies that offer tours, and each has their own hull color for easy identification. This group, on this day, happened to be in white kayaks. I felt that we were off to a great start on our hunt.

The white cliffs of guano

A little bit further on our walk, we came across cliffs covered with white bird… ummmm… poop. The pelicans and sea lions are fun to watch, but the smell made us move along quickly.

The ocean was relatively calm that day, but we still saw a lot of waves with whitewater foam. If you look closely at the first picture, some of those “rocks” in the foreground are actually sea lions basking in the sun.  

A black and white gull is more interested in treats someone might throw to him than he is in the view.

A white rescue surfboard is at the ready just in case someone gets into trouble out in the water.

White shells embedded in cement.

More white sea spray in the distance. It was an especially low tide this day so there were a lot of tidal pools to explore.

Back up on the main street, we passed by the historical La Valencia Hotel, which was built in 1926. Black and white umbrellas and window awnings are set off against the hotel’s iconic rosy exterior. (Oh, and look: a white SUV!)

And, finally, the white and red hat made famous in the book, The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Theodor Geisel) was a long-time resident of La Jolla and several local galleries carry his work.

Do you have pictures of things that are white? Join Terri’s Sunday Stills photo prompt to show us your images and see what others have shared.

Sunday Stills: A Pandemonium of Parrots

I wrote a post about our wild urban parrots several years ago. They are noisy, messy… and wonderful. Every time I hear their faint squawks in the distance, my ears perk up and I begin to scan the sky. If I’m lucky, I will soon witness their emerald and scarlet plumes flash above me. As quickly as they come, they are gone.

My encounters with these exotic creatures had always been from a distance—either they were streaking across the sky or a flock would land in a tall tree where I could hear—but not see—them frolicking among the branches.

Then one day last June, a flock of parrots came for a visit nearby… and they stayed and stayed. Our house is on a hill and the top of the palm tree they landed on that day is at eye level with our back deck. When my husband alerted me to their presence, I wasted no time in grabbing my camera. I had no idea how long they would be there but I knew that I had a unique opportunity to capture their magnificence for however long they lingered; squawking and preening, and enjoying themselves in the sun.

Even though Southern California isn’t their natural habitat, they seem to have made themselves quite at home. There are at least 11 species of wild parrots and various theories to explain how they got here. Whatever their history, these parrots are thriving in our mild climate that provides them with plentiful food sources.

Anytime they want to visit my neighbor’s palm tree again, they are most welcome. I’ll have my camera ready.     

This week’s theme for Terri Webster Schrandt’s Sunday Stills photo prompt is Feeding the Birds. See Terri’s photographs on her blog, Second Wind Leisure. If you have some favorite bird images, please join in!

Sunday Stills: The Silver Lining of Clouds

When I was young, my favorite summer days were those when cloudless Southern California skies promised idle afternoons baking my body at our local beaches. It wasn’t until I was older—after inflicting untold damage to my skin—that I started to truly appreciate clouds. Not only do they provide a respite from the heat and help block harmful UV rays, but they can make the sky so much more interesting to photograph.

Although one of my favorite things to photograph is the contrast of colors and shapes against a bright blue – and cloudless – sky…

… I am more often drawn to the interesting shapes and colors that clouds add to the image. Below is the same image with clouds (the original) and without (edited). I think the clouds add interest to the image, but you may prefer a clear sky. Many photo editing tools allow the original sky to be swapped for another so, even if Mother Nature offers one sky, you can choose something else.  

Looking towards San Miguel de Allende from the botanical gardens.

Sometimes cloud formations are so beautiful, they are the focus and there is little need to include much else in the image.

Have you ever seen clouds that are so perfectly situated in the sky, it’s almost if they were painted in that way?  

Ring around the sun in San Miguel de Allende.
Ring around the top spire of the Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende.

Clouds can also add interest to black and white landscape photographs. Without the puffy white clouds, the sky in both of these photos would have been dark gray and black and, I think, less interesting.

Big Island, Hawaii
Big Island, Hawaii

And, as any connoisseur of sunsets will agree, clouds – or the lack thereof – can make or break a spectacular display. After some practice, you can start to guess whether you should have your camera ready or not before the sun drops below the horizon.   

Key West, Florida
Southern California.

This week’s theme for Terri Webster Schrandt’s Sunday Stills photo challenge is Clouds and Fog. See Terri’s photographs on her blog, Second Wind Leisure.

Sunday Stills: Spring Flowers

It seems like it has been spring here in Southern California for several months. I started to notice buds on trees back in February and then the March rains brought forth even more. Now, in early April, just about everywhere I look, Mother Nature is showing off with displays of colorful blossoms and heady scents.

For her weekly Sunday Stills photo challenge, Terri Webster Schrandt has asked us to “blow up WordPress and the rest of the Internet with gorgeous flowers!” Since most of us are sticking much closer to home, this week’s theme encourages us to find beauty in our neighborhoods, in our yards, or on our balconies.

The pictures that I’m sharing are from my yard and from walks around my neighborhood.

Lemon tree blossoms

Grevillea

Pineapple Guava

Aloe arborescens

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If you have images of your own, please share them with us by linking to your post on Terri’s blog. As she said, it “will be like we are sending each other wonderful bouquets.”

Sunday Stills: Pets in this life… and the next

In addition to the human skeletons that are ubiquitous during Oaxaca’s Day of the Dead celebrations, dogs and other animals are also represented in the colorful murals and sculptures found all over town.

Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced show-low-eats-queen-tlee), also known as Xolos or Mexican hairless dogs, are believed to play a special role in the afterlife. They are revered as spirit guides that help us journey from this world to the next. If you’ve seen the movie Coco, you might remember Dante as the Xolo who accompanied the little boy to the land of the dead.

Here are a few of the creative representations of the animals we’ve seen on our Oaxaca wanderings.

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Hop on over to Second Wind Leisure Perspectives to read about the joys of adopting older animals and to see pictures of Terri’s beloved dogs. You can also click on links to other blog posts on this week’s photo prompt, All About Pets. Feel free to join the paw-ty with your own post about the animals in your life.

Sunday Stills: Powerful Pink

When I was young, I avoided the color pink. To my mind, it meant girly, frivolous, and fragile; none of which were attributes I desired. I was not a “princess,” nor did I want to look like one.

Lately, though, I’ve begun to see pink – in all its tints, shades, and intensities – as much more than a color to be shunned for its cautious nature. In fact, now pink is associated with feminine power and protest (think pussy hats and pink triangles), doing battle against breast cancer and, in the last few years, a shade that has been adopted by a whole generation (check out #millennialpink with its 71.8K posts on Instagram).

Mother nature is also a big fan. She uses pink’s many shades to decorate much of her flora and fauna, stones and shells. And, just to show off, she frequently paints the early morning and late afternoon skies with a splendid array of pinks that are both glorious and powerful.

Dragon Fruit, sliced and ready to eat.

The pink color of flamingos comes from carotenoid proteins in their diet.

Echeveria succulent after the rain.

Budding flower at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens.

West coast sunrise, San Diego

East coast sunset, Key West.

I even wear pink now and, when I do, I don’t feel frivolous and fragile at all.

For more visions of pink, visit Terri Webster Schrandt’s blog, Second Wind Leisure. She has some great examples of her theme as well as links to photos by other participants. While you’re at it, why don’t you submit a few of your own?

Sunday Stills: Patterns all around us

I have always been attracted to strong patterns in my photography. The play of shadows across a surface, close-ups of textures that reveal more than our eyes first see, colors and shapes that contrast and compete. So, for this week’s Sunday Stills photography challenge, Lines and Squares, it wasn’t difficult to find a few photos in my files that fit the theme.

The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada

Sculpture in Space Needle Park, Seattle, Washington

Light and shadows in La Paz, Mexico

More light and shadows in La Paz, Mexico

Spiral staircase in the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, California

Lines and squares. University of California, San Diego

Lines of vines, squares of stones. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Palms trees and steel reaching for the sky. San Diego, California

Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco, California.

For more Lines and Squares, visit Terri Webster Schrandt’s blog, Second Wind Leisure. She has some great examples of her theme as well as links to images by other participants.

While you’re at it, why don’t you submit a few of your own?