Lavender and Barn Door

Lavender and Barn Door

Lavender in bloom contrasts beautifully with an old barn door in a Sonoma Valley vineyard

On the last few days of our trip to California we stayed in Napa and visited both the Napa and Sonoma valleys. I quickly became educated as to which is which and the virtues that each have to offer. Let’s just say that each is beautiful and each has its own unique qualities. No matter which one is your favorite, neither is a bad place to hang your hat at the end of the day.

Even though we had just met them, we were treated like royalty by our new friends, Andy and Kelli VomSteeg. They toured the area with us and gave us insights that we would never had gotten if we had stayed near our hotel room. In fact, this picture is an illustration of that. On our way from a private winery tour to a dinner party I somehow mentioned that I’d love to photograph a lavender field in bloom. Of course, the only lavender field I recalled seeing was in France. But, they quickly pointed out that there was a beautiful winery nearby that had a lavender field in it. So, I quickly went from wanting to photograph a lavender field to actually standing in one and taking shots. Incredible.

The lavender was planted in long rows that were really beautiful to capture. So, once I had taken my fill, we headed to the car to leave. Literally on the way out I spotted this old shed or barn at the edge of the field. It caught my eye because of the cool farm implements hanging on the door and the way the colorful lavender contrasted against the rustic texture of the doors. Hopefully it’s beautiful to you as well. Enjoy.


Coast Live Oak and Field at Sunset

Coast Live Oak and Field at Sunset

A Coast Live Oak in a recently cultivated field illuminated by the golden rays of the setting sun

Earlier this summer I had a business opportunity that Pamela and I decided to extend into a vacation and a chance to visit family. My business was in Irvine, CA for a couple of days. Since we were experiencing a bit of early empty nest syndrome with all three of our kids working or volunteering for the summer, we decided to drive on up the coast to visit family and to vacation for a few days.

I have two uncles who decided to move to California after World War Two. One of them passed away several years ago, but the other still lives in San Luis Obispo County. Two of his children who are closer to my age also live there. We’ve been able to visit them a few times over the last ten years or so. It’s always great fun to catch up with all of them. It’s a bonus that the central California coast is an absolutely spectacular beautiful spot in the world.

My cousins live on two adjoining properties located among farms and wineries. The views from all around their home are spectacular. One evening while we were visiting, the light on the surrounding properties turned spectacular. Obviously my attention must have drifted from the conversation to the photography potential outside and my cousin took pity on me. She asked if I wanted to be driven further up the road they live on to a higher elevation where I might catch the sunset. (Have I mentioned how cool my California family is?) I quickly accepted and this shot resulted.

The Coast Live Oak is found throughout much of central and northern California. It is often seen standing alone in a field much as it is depicted here. In the right light the trees are simply beautiful. I think this was the right light. Hopefully I’ve captured the beauty that I saw on the warm, summer evening in the Golden State. Enjoy.

Quin Abbey

Quin Abbey

One of hundreds of ruined abbeys scattered across the Irish countryside

After we left Dublin our next stop was Ennis in County Clare in the west of Ireland. Ennis is a pretty little village with some great pubs and conveniently located for day trips. Due to some last-minute changes in our itinerary we wound up with a free day in Ennis. Some of our group headed out to the Cliffs of Moher and to the Connemara region. Since we would be visiting both areas later in our trip, we decided to make an afternoon excursion to some nearby sights.

It became apparent fairly quickly that the local bus system was not our best option. Fortunately, we asked around and found a taxi that could take us to a couple of local destinations of interest. Well, they were of interest to us at least. Neither abbey that we visited was exactly a tourist mecca. At Quin Abbey we saw one other group of three while we were there. At Clare Abbey near Ennis we scared off a group of teenage boys who were engaged in something nefarious enough that they scattered as soon as they saw us approaching. Other than that we had the abbeys to ourselves.

The crazy thing is that these abbeys were built in 1195 and 1402. Think about that. No European – other than some Vikings potentially, but that’s another story – would even set foot in the New World until ninety years after the “new” abbey had begun construction. Yet, these beautiful old structures are just scattered around the countryside with cows sometimes wandering within their walls. In America they would all be visitor attractions with paid admissions and endowments to cover their maintenance costs. Don’t get me wrong. I think the Irish cherish these structures. There are just so many of them that you can’t love them all equally.

It certainly helps that the Irish built these abbeys out of stone and not out of wood. The structures have certainly stood the test of time. Wood buildings just don’t have much of a chance to last for close to a thousand years without some painstaking care and maintenance.

Although it had been rainy or threatening rain for much of the day, the skies broke open a bit while we were at Quin Abbey. I spent a delightful twenty minutes or so composing a shot and waiting for the right combination of blue sky, cloud formations, and direct sunlight on Quin Abbey. I love the lush colors of green in the field and trees as a contrast to the blue sky, white clouds, and wonderful brown gray of the local stone. I think it makes for a beautiful scene. I hope you do as well. Enjoy.

From Under the Canopy

From Under the Canopy

Looking out onto the lush Irish landscape from an adjacent tree-lined road

On our day trip to Northern Ireland we stopped twice at the Dark Hedges. I was hoping to have the place to myself with some great light streaming through the trees. Instead, I realized that I was in a shrine to all things related to the television series Game of Thrones. There was a constant stream of traffic down the road I was trying to shoot. I think I could have waited all day long and only had a few brief intervals without a car or walker in my shot.

As is often the case Pamela saw the shot that I didn’t see this day. As I was fretting over the shot that I couldn’t have she drew my attention to what was happening beyond the tree-lined street we were standing on. The late afternoon light in the fields surrounding the Dark Hedges was becoming beautiful. I quickly moved my tripod and began to set up a shot to capture the scene.

This is a perfect illustration of how about half of my keeper shots come about. I have a destination or particular shot in mind but along the way I stumble onto a shot I never even thought about. I suppose there is a life lesson there about being flexible, enjoying the journey, keeping one’s mind open to all the possibilities, etc. All I know is that I have learned to keep my eyes open while practicing my craft. Sometimes the best shots are ones that I never saw coming. Enjoy.

The Gate to Nowhere

The Gate to Nowhere

A beautiful gate in the French countryside in spring

Earlier this year, we visited France to work with our strategic partner in the suburbs of Paris. The team met in a gîte in the countryside about an hour outside of Paris. Our visit was in April which happened to be an absolutely beautiful season to be in northern France. The flowers were blooming, trees were budding, and many of the fields were planted in rapeseed which had turned a brilliant yellow. It seemed that fully half of the fields in the area were planted in rapeseed which contrasted beautifully with the green of other crops and the blue sky with which we were blessed for virtually our entire visit.

The gîte was used for lodging and meetings, but also as a wedding venue. Consequently, there were several vignettes set up in the courtyard for photographers. There were benches, small staircases leading to nowhere, and wall art. All of this was set up to allow wedding parties and families to be photographed in the most flattering light. I even took some portraits of our French teammates and their families while we were there.

In the rear of the gîte leading out into the fields, there was a beautiful old gate. Oddly enough, there was no road leading to or from the gate. I supposed that the gate was a relic from days gone by and had once been the main entrance to the property. As it turned out, though, the gate was simply another prop that had been built recently to serve as a rather beautiful backdrop for event photography. With the colorful fields in the background it turned out to be an object to be photographed in and of itself that week.

I found myself looking at it in all times of the day trying to figure out when the best light would hit it. It turned out that sunset light was best and this image was taken within fifteen minutes of sunset when the sun was very low on the horizon. I hope this images conveys some sense of the beauty of the scene. Enjoy.