Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review: Happy to Sad

This year started out good with lots of happy times but ended on a sad note.

The year started out with my first trip to an anime convention, Katsucon to be exact. Which was a fun time, and I got a bunch of great pictures. This lead to me going to Anime USA in the fall, where I booked three photo shoots. I had a good time and the photos were well received.  So in 2015 I’ll be at Katsucon again, and this time booking shoots and hope those photos will be well received as well.

At German Castle
On to spring were I went to the Bavaria region of Germany for two weeks with my husband and our mutual friends. It was a great two weeks even if it did seem to rain a lot the first week and having to deal with a foot of snow and falling snow on the mountain. (It is a mountain it is supposed to have snow. I was prepared.) We saw several castles, ate lots of good German sausage, had good wine and my husband actually drank beer.  Overall, it was a good vacation; the next adventure is looking to be Alaska.

We also got a dog this year. His name is Teddy and he is a lab mix. He is a good dog, who has his moments like eating a whole bag of mini bagels or eating six raw pork chops off the kitchen counter. However, other than that he is a lovable dog who likes his walks, belly rubs and his squeaky toys.

Teddy

There were two celebrations up in Ohio this year.  The first, I surprised my brother by coming up for his 30th birthday party and Easter. That was a good time to be with family.  Then second was surprising my father by coming up for his and my mother’s 60th birthday party. They are only a few months apart so my brother and I threw them a joint birthday party.  My dad didn’t know I was coming up for it until I pulled in the driveway.  I know that made him happy.  Sadly, that would be one of the last times I would get to talk to my father in person.

Me and My Brother 
My Parents at their 60th Birthday Party


My Dad

In November a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I made an emergency trip up to Ohio. My father was in ICU and not doing well.  I was with him and my family when he passed away. He was a great man and will be missed by many people. I don’t think he ever realized how many lives he touched and how much he meant to so many people.  This put a shadow over the holidays that should be merry and full of happiness and joy.




So while my year may have ended on a sad note. I am hopeful the New Year will bring happiness back and that there will be more joy then sadness in the coming year.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Blue Christmas

They say Christmas is a time of family and friends, of hope and cheer.  It is a time to remember the past, and those who went before.  It is a time to dust off old traditions, and enjoy them and the memories they bring while enjoying the present.  It is a time to dine, to dance, and to sing. It is also a time to look forward to the future.  

However it is remembering those who went before which makes this joyous time of year so difficult.  When you are expecting a phone call that says, “What does your mother want for Christmas?” Or the conversation that starts out “So what do you want for Christmas, Dad?” to which the reply is “Neat stuff.”  Or the conversation that starts out, “so you’re going to wrap the presents I bought when you come home?” Then Christmas morning you’re expecting your father to go “oooh” to the things you got, like a toaster.  Then, those things don’t happen it just leaves a hole in your holiday, and in your heart.  While you know that person is still there watching you from heaven, you just which for one more day they could be there to make the day complete.  

So even though loved ones pass and time marches on and you hold up the traditions, decorates the tree, listen to carols being sung, and place pretty packages under the tree.  Things just don’t sparkle near as bright and the magic of the season seams lost, you know in your heart they still would want you to have a best and merriest Christmas you can.  Thus I remember the good times and the cheer of Christmases past and hope one day the sparkle and magic return.


To all my family and friends, I wish you a very Merry Christmas may it be fill with love and happy memories of Christmas past and thoughts of happy moments yet to come.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Great Falls

Yesterday I went to Great Falls National Park, on the Virginia side, with my husband and Teddy (our dog). It was a nice day and the park was very busy with people and other dogs.  Sadly, we missed many of the fall colors, but it was still a good way to practice taking photos while handling a dog on a leash.  Teddy was very good. 

I used my standard 18-200 mm lens set at an ISO 200 with an aperture of F8.0 on aperture priority. I found aperture priority worked well while handling a leash with a dog on it.  I will however, have to work with Teddy so that he sits and waits while I focus and take the picture.  


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Anime USA (a bit late)

I know this post is over a month late at this point, but as you can see by a previous post (TEDDY) I got a dog and it took up a lot of my time.  However, I wanted to post about Anime USA, because of the great people I got to work with during some photo shoots. (AnimeUSA Gallery)

Anime USA is a small anime convention when compared to the last convention I attended which was Katsucon.  I would call Anime USA a more intimate convention, which has some excellent panels and less intimidating cosplay for the beginner.  I personally like the panel on the perception of evil, the speaker was very enthusiastic.  I also enjoyed the panel on historical costuming, and that boils down to do your research and historical paintings can lie about the fashion.   Now on to the photography.

I had 6 photo shoots, 3 were planned (2 with the same person different cosplay) and 3 ended up being scheduled on site.   During all the shoots I used my 18 – 200 mm lens (my go to lens), with an external on camera flash with bonce plate. I prefer natural light, but in some areas of the convention space, flash was a requirement.  I also tried to shoot at 200 – 400 ISO with an aperture around 8/f because it gave a medium depth of field.   Based on this convention I will be investing in a defuser for the next convention, which will be Katsucon 2015 in February.

The first photo shoot was with girl doing Queen Chrysalis from My Little Ponies.  This was her first cosplay, which I thought was good.    This was an unplanned shoot, since she was wandering around the convention lobby and look as if she had time I asked if she had time for a photo session, she did so we did a 30-minute session. She seemed to feel flattered that I asked if she would like a photo session. We did the session outside in the lawn/park/garden area of the convention space, since that seemed to fit her character.  I got some nice shots. I a little Photoshop-ing on a few to add energy/power balls to give the pictures a fantasy feels.








The second shoot, was again unplanned and the result of how cute the girl was listening to messages on her phone.  She was cosplaying Princess Serenity from Sailor Moon.  She also apparently won in the beginner category of the masquerade.  She also seemed a little shock when I approached and told her how cute she looked while on her phone.  I asked if she would like a photo shoot, if she had time. She said yes and we did 30 minute shoot.  Again, we shot out in the lawn/park/garden area.  My favorite picture is still the one I took while she was looking bored waiting for her friends to show up.







The third and fourth photo sessions were actually prearranged shoots with Ichigei Cosplay (Photo Gallery) who was cosplaying Noel Vermillion from Blazblue and the next day did Stocking from the anime Panty and Stocking with Garter Belt.  She was fun to work with and had a ton of energy, unlike me who was very tired for the first session due to its lateness in the evening (I did work in the morning). She also had her boyfriend with her and we did a few couples shots since they were both characters from Blazblue and made a very cute couple.  The Noel Vermillion shoot we did mostly indoors in the upper section of the convention hall.  Because of the backgrounds in the convention hall (not character appropriate walls or floors), I did heavy Photoshop-ing on the images to remove the background.  I think the shots came out nice, but the shots from the next day when she was Panty came out a lot better.  We did Panty shoot outside on the patio couch, which worked perfectly for this character. The photos have a pin-up feel to them and just worked.  We also did a few inside the convention space using one of the big pillars as a pole. One of my favorite pictures inside, which happened to be one of the last ones, was of her coming down the escalator.



The fifth shoot was a pre-arranged session with SugarBlossom Cosplay, who was cosplaying Sally Jupiter from the Watchmen.  She was great to work with and a real trooper since she sprained her ankle, but just kept going.  Since I knew, she hurt her ankle I tried to do more sitting poses then standing poses, which gave some of them a bit of pin-up vibe.  This shoot was conducted in what I would call the parlor of the convention space, which reminded me of a 1940’s or 1950’s formal living room.  This actually worked great for this session.  I converted several of the photos to an antique look, because it just seemed to work with the character, setting and vibe of the photo. 











The final shoot for the session was with Kenny Kosplay who was Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  This was not a planned shoot.  I booked this session because the previous day I took a quick snap of her, then started talking, which lead to photo session.  I am glad I did this session. I have to say she worked her cosplay and tried to truly capture the character.  I love when people get into their cosplay and do their best to capture the character.  She was a pleasure to work with.  We did the session in two locations, the brick breezeway which worked with the nightclub vibe of Jessica Rabbit and in the parlor space of the convention space.


Overall, it was a very productive convention for me, and I got a several excellent shots.  I also determined from this convention when I do photo shoots at conventions I will be limiting them to 30 – 45 minutes of actual shooting, but still block an hour on my schedule in case the session goes over and take into account the time it takes to walk to the session location.  I will be doing this because I found the sessions themselves were only lasting about 30 – 45 minutes once we were on location.  Of course, I will still be doing free photo sessions at conventions. (Note all the sessions mentioned above were free.)  
I believe every cosplayer; no matter their skill level should have more than just the mirror selfie to share. Plus I know how much conventions and cosplay cost.  That is why I like to provide free photo sessions at conventions, plus it makes me happy. Therefore, if you will be at Katsucon in February 2015 and need photo session contact me and we can set something up because I’ll be there. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Teddy

Our dog Teddy
There haven’t been any blog post for a while because my husband and I were busy rearranging our home for our bundle of joy, which just happens to be furry and have four paws.   We determined it was harder to consolidate our stuff then to get married.  Many things went to Goodwill or were sold on e-bay just to make room.  Not that our place is small but we had a lot of stuff we just didn’t use anymore.  But enough about the cleaning and rearranging effort on to the adoption process.

My husband and I decided to get a dog. Actually, he finally agreed to let me have a dog because it would make me happy.  So we started the search. We determined a puppy, puppy would not be good since we both work, so we determined a dog about 9 months to a year old would be good.  I searched several adoption and humane society website, and went to several adoption days.  I ended up going through the Lucky Dog Rescue Group, since most places had the same process.   

The process works as follows, fill out an application and submit.  They review the application, and then conduct a phone interview, which basically boils down to telling you how much work having a dog is and if you are up for it. Then they have to do a home inspection. Yes really a home inspection to get a dog.  Then they call you again to discuss the home inspection. After that, they send your application package for final review then you’re pre-approved to get a dog.  Once your pre-approved you could go to the adoption events and take a dog home or pick one off the website.   We saw Teddy on the website and met him at an adoption event.

Teddy is a about a one year old Labrador retriever mix, mind you he doesn’t seem to do fetch well.  He is already house trained. My husband thinks the dog is a nut job.  Teddy has been a good dog thus far, he has in own bed and plays with his toys and the only major things he has done is steal a loaf of bread and snap at my husband when he took the rawhide bone away from him.  The first few days we penned him in the kitchen, which worked well until he started whining at night. So we gave up on that and let him out of the kitchen now he sleeps on the floor near the side of our bed.  Also for the first week, while we were at work we penned him in the kitchen.  This involves closing the one door and placing a piece of plywood across the other opening, held in place by the dining room table.  This worked great for about a week; until Teddy figured out, he could jump the whole thing.  He ended up meeting us at the door for three days in a row. After that, we gave up, and just closed the doors to the bedroom and library/study.

We found he loves his Bento Ball toy; it keeps him occupied for hours.  The Bento Ball is a silicon ball that you place a large treat in that the dog has to figure out how to get out.  Teddy really likes that toy even when it doesn’t have a treat in it. He also likes going to the dog park every day, when we go on for our long walks he always makes a B-line for it. We have one on property.  He does well in the park and plays well with the other dogs.   We also found he prefers to walk on the sidewalk and not in the grass. He also seems not to like getting rained on or standing on mushy ground were his paws would sink.  He is defiantly a city dog.  He also has to be near someone when we are home, mostly me.  Teddy is my dog.

In the two weeks we have had Teddy, he has been a good dog and adjusting to his forever home.  Even though he is a little strange, he is good dog.  Overall Teddy is great addition to the family.  You can see more photos of Teddy here


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunflowers and a Pirate Balloon


I went to the McKee-Besher Wildlife Management Area to photograph the annual sunflower fields.  I did this last year and found I would lose track of where I set my bag, so this year I tied a balloon to it.  The balloon happened to be a large pirate balloon (I gave it to a little kid when I was done), which got me many stares from other photographers in the area.  One person came up to me and asked what the balloon was for; one I told him it was to mark my stuff, he was like that is a great idea never thought of that.  The balloon also worked as a great piece of juxtaposition within the sunflower field.  I got several nice shots of the field, not so many with the balloon since the breeze would make it dip down to low.  However, what I would love to do; is do a portrait session in one of the fields. I think a nice earthy shoot, with big floppy hats and breezy dresses or the earth child/hippy look would be perfect out in the field. The other thing that would be fun would be to do a cosplay portrait session.  




I photographed the field using both a 60mm macro lens and my trusty 18-200mm lens.  I used a 200 ISO with an aperture set to 9.0f; I did go down to as low as 4.0f for some macro shots and as high as 22f for some long shots.  I kept the shutter speed above 1/100 of second, due to the breeze, but was mostly faster than that.  I did use a circular polarizer for a few shots as well as a graduated neutral density filter to compensate for the bright sky. 
(Gallery)


The Zoo with Baby Lions

On Saturday, I went to the zoo, because why not do that on sunny afternoon; plus the National Zoo is free.  While I was there the lion cubs were out in there enclosure. I got a couple nice shots of them, but they were not being overly playful because it was hot outside.  I did see the baby panda; however, he was napping with his back to everyone so instead I got nice pictures of the panda parents.   The wolves were very active, pacing around their enclosure.  I captured a few good picture of the grey wolf through the glass without glare.  I also got a nice picture of the sloth bear through the glass, which is usually difficult because the glass is usually very dirty.   Overall, I had a nice little adventure at the zoo.  (Zoo Gallery)

Lion Cubs
Panda

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Fourth

July Fourth in the Capitol
Yesterday I decided to actually brave crowds to capture a better representation of fireworks in the Capitol.  I traveled to Rosslyn and walked the half mile to the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial).  Once there I walked a bit further over to the Netherlands Carillon.  The Netherlands Carillon is where many people go to capture that iconic shot of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial and Capital in line with the fireworks going off above them.   I expected it to be extremely crowded, but it actually was no worse than when I shoot from the Air Force Memorial.  

People waiting for fireworks

The traditional shot
I picked a location that framed the monuments between two large trees instead of trying to jostle for a position directly under the carillon.  If I had a press pass, I could actually shoot from the top of the carillon.  I captured some nice shots through the trees from my location near one of the flowerbeds at the base of carillon.  The problem was getting home. The metro was extremely crowded to the point where they were not even letting people go down to the platform.  So, I wandered around Rosslyn to find a place to wait till the crowds died down. I ended up at a frozen yogurt shop.  The fireworks ended at 9:30PM and I didn’t attempt to get on the metro till 10:30PM at which time it was only like normal rush hour.  I arrived home around 11:00PM.   

As mentioned this year I shot from the Netherlands Carillon through two trees, which framed the monuments and the fireworks.  I took 211 photos of which I kept 48 photos.  I set my camera at 200 ISO, with an aperture of f/11 with a shutter speed around .5 to 1.5 seconds.   I am happy with the pictures I got. I will use this location again even if I don't  get home till 11:00PM.  You can see more of the photos from last night  by clicking here.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Folklife Festival

Today I went to the National Mall for the Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year the festival highlighted China and Kenya.  I focused on the China portion of the festival.   The first dance I saw was actually of a man dressed as a woman doing the traditional lantern dance; later in the program, he performed the male version of the dance with a female partner.  The man is one of the foremost traditional dancers in China.  Along with the lantern dance, performers also did dances that told the stories of flowers and trees.   I also was lucky enough to see the end of the lion cart performance.  The lion cart performance is dancing lion puppets controlled by a troop of 8 to 10 people.  It was fun to watch, once I squeezed myself into the crowd.
The Lions in the Lion Cart
Since these performances were held in outdoor tents, it was a slightly difficult to meter through the camera for some photos.  I mostly used either a 400 ISO or 800 ISO for the dancers with an aperture set at either f8.0 or f4.0.  I varied the shutter speed to be able to catch some motion of the dancers but tried to stay between 1/80s and 1/200s.    You can see all the pictures under my Folklife 2014 gallery.

Man performing the Lantern Dance
Beginning of the Tree Dance 


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Location Scouting

Today I went out to a few parks around the Arlington, Virginia to see what they were like and if they would be suitable as photo shoot location and took a couple test shots.  I stopped by the Golf Branch Nature Center, and Bon Air Park. Both are lovely locations.  Golf Branch has some nice bridges, and an old log cabin that would work for some rustic photos.  In addition, a nice stream runs through the park that could work for some creative work.  The location is where I would love to redo the ranger shots I did back in April.   Bon Air Park has a beautiful rose garden with trellises. Here I could see doing some elegant princess shots or romantic photos in the sunset or sunrise.  It would also be a perfect location for engagement and wedding photos.  Now that I found some nice locations, I must find some models and refine the photo shoot ideas in my head. 

At Bon Air Park
At Golf Branch



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Photo Analytics and Fisheye Reveiw

Analytics
I finished editing and posting all the photos from my trip to Bavaria. You can see them here.  So now that all the editing is done I went and ran some analytics/metrics on the photos (included are some of my husband’s shots I edited) and noted a few things.  I mostly shot in manual or aperture priority mode using a shutter speed of 1/60s, an aperture of F11 and a 200 ISO mostly using a focal length of 18mm.  I also noticed I kept only 938 shots and of those only 28 were from the fisheye lens (which I review below).   I used a LightRoom Analytics plug in to get these results.


















The Fisheye Lens

For the trip, I rented a Cannon 8 – 15mm fisheye lens for the trip from BorrowLens. I did this expecting to have beautiful panoramic mountain views and nice weather. Since the weather did not cooperate, I did not necessarily get the large vistas I was expecting, so I did not use the lens as much as expected. However the lens worked beautifully, and the bubble look of a fisheye made some of the shots more interesting, even if I did warp people standing on the sides occasionally. (examples below)  It had nice clarity throughout its focal lengths and aperture range.  However, I do not feel the need to add this lens to my collection. While it was fun to work with, I do not see me using it on a regular enough basis to justify the purchase, so I will continue to rent it on an as needed basis.  I think next time I may rent a wide-angle lens that does not produce the bubble effect of a fisheye. 





Monday, May 26, 2014

Photo Editing Halfway Complete

I am about halfway through editing the photos from my vacation in the Bavarian region of Germany.   The long weekend is helping, since I can devote most of my time to it.   I have found doing all the basic edits like adjusting for lens aberration, and doing auto white balance in a batch process speeds up the editing process. Then I just go through and tweak the photos as needed.  I’m also editing my husband’s photos as well as my own which slows the process a bit since he does not do any editing except to pull out bad photos before giving them to me.  However this means there will actually be photos of me in the vacation photos, which normally there aren't any since I’m behind the camera. 


You can see the galleries of the photos that have been completed by clicking here. I hope to have all the photos completed by the end of the week. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Back Home, Let the Photo Editing Begin

We arrived back home today in the good old U.S.A today after a long trek through Southern Germany or Bavaria. Overall it was a good trip; I will provide a better summary after I don’t feel so tired and have time to organize my thoughts.

I must now go through and edit all the photos I took with my DSLR over the course of the trip.  I took a little over 1700 photos but expect to keep maybe 60%.  I will then edit the photos my husband took.  Now he will help me out by culling the bad ones before giving me the files to fully edit.  Both my husband and I shoot in manual in RAW to provide more flexibility under low light conditions. So I figure I have about two weeks of work ahead of me.  I will be posting the photos in batch galleries based on location so I’m hoping to post finals about every other day.  I hope you enjoy the photos when they go up.  

Note earlier photos pertaining to the trip were done with a point and shoot so I could quickly post some photos with the blog. My primary camera is a Canon DSLR.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Rhine Valley and a Castle

Sadly today was our last full day in Germany; tomorrow we head home. While it may be our last day it was still packed with adventure. Ok maybe not but we are staying in a castle tonight.  We drove from Rothenberg through the Rhine Valley to through Rudesheim to Kaub stopping in Oberwesel.  The drive along the Rhine was picturesque with castles and vineyards dotting the hillside. We saw the little Mäuseturm (Mouse Tower) were supposedly a greedy bishop was placed in 969 and was eaten by hoards of mice.  We stopped at the little beer garden across the river from it, and then continued our journey down the road to a ferry crossing stop.  We drove on to the ferry to cross the Rhine River to continue our journey up to Burg Rheinfels.  Burg Rheinfels is an old ruined castle. We explored the ruins and walked through narrow passageways. It was a wonderful castle ruin site to explore.  After our little archeological adventure we journeyed down a little back country road to Schönburg Castle for the night.  We get to sleep in a beautifully appointed medieval castle. Now there are only two little concerns with the castle and that is, one you really have to hike up a hill to get to it and two if you are taller than about 5’6 or 5’9 you will hit your head a lot.  Other from that is very charming. A little later this evening we will be treated to a four course feast, which will end our little tour of Bavaria.  You can see pictures here.


Me and my husband in the castle garden


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The City of Rothenberg

Today we made the one hour drive from Nuremburg to Rothenberg were we are staying at a quaint little hotel with a bed and breakfast feel. They have a lovely garden in back and in front is a church, from which I can hear the organ music. 

View looking down from tower
The city of Rothenberg is small because it is a walled city with its original wall.  We did walk along part of the wall and in the old castle gardens. The castle is no longer there but the castle gate is which has a frowning face of a man from which hot oil/tar was poured out onto invaders. The gardens were nice and provided excellent views of the valley and parts of the city.  In the center of town we saw the Town Hall and Medieval Crime Museum. We climbed to the top of the Town Hall tower.  The tower is 200 ft. high and the climb up started with a nice stone spiral staircase, then turned into a bit steeper wooden stair case with switch backs, then a narrower steeper
View from garden wall
semi-spiral staircase. Then at the top you basically climbed an old wooden ladder to get out onto the narrow tower roof which had a bell. It was a wonderful view from the top, which provided sweeping views of the Tauber Valley and the city of Rothenberg.  The Medieval Crime Museum was interesting; they basically punished you for anything that the rulers or the church found offensive. I know a lot of people that would be wearing masks of shame if they still that now a days. Interesting pieces in the museum included male and female chastity belts, the masks of shame of which each was different depending on the offense, and several types of torcher devises.  This
made for a pretty full day of walking around.   

On a food related note we had Schneeballen, which resemble scraps of dough formed into a loose ball and possibly deep-fried.  Then they cover them with powdered sugar, chocolate or other types of flavored frosting glaze.  Apparently they can last up to 8 weeks without refrigeration, but they are too tasty to sit around that long.  Schneeballen are traditional Franconian pastries which have been around for at least 300 years. It is also the signature pastry of Rothenberg.  You can see pictures from the town here.

Tonight we are eating at a restaurant whose name translates to “To Hell” which serves traditional Franconian food.  Then we have the night watchman’s tour of the town. Then tomorrow it is off to the castle in the Mosel valley.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nuremberg

Today we made the 3 hour drive out of the Bavarian Alps to Nuremberg. No the car GPS said it was going to take 3.5 hours because it decide we needed to the scenic route through town. So we used Google maps which took that extra half hour off the drive by using a more direct route to the autobahn. After we started the Google Maps route the car GPS placed us on that route as well. This insistence by the GPS to take scenic routes through town when set to quickest time to get to destination may be why it seems to take us longer then stated by the travel book.  Anyway, onto our adventures in the city of Nuremberg.

View from castle garden
Me in the castle garden
I have been Nuremberg once before, but for about 3 hours as a lunch stop on a bus tour. During that stop we did not get to tour the castle or truly explore the city. This time I got to see the castle, which is up a hill and provides a lovely view of the city.  After we checked into the hotel then started on our way to Kaiserburg (the Imperial Castle), which was on the other side of the old city from us.  On the way we stopped and got lunch from a falafel stand at the little city market (farmers market) in front of the Church of Our Lady.  The self-guided tour of the castle was nice; they had to restore/rebuild a lot of the castle after WWII.   But several of the inner rooms such as the throne room are well preserved.  They also had a collection of medieval and renaissance period armor and weaponry.  From there we wandered back down to the square and got some ice cream. There are ice-cream places everywhere (like Starbucks); the Germans do seem to love their ice-cream.  We then went into the Church of Our Lady, which I expected to be very ornate inside, based on the outside of the church. However the inside had a rather simple classic style without a lot of gilding or carving.   We then wandered around a little more which included us rubbing the gold ring of Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) for luck, getting a Nuremberg sausage sandwich, picking up some lebkuchen from Schmidt oldest maker of it in Nuremberg. We also saw a very interesting and rather strange fountain which translates into the “marriage carousel” and is a representation of the poem “Das bittersüße ehlich Leben” (bitter sweet marriage) written by Hans Sachs in 1541.  After seeing that fountain we returned to the hotel, were my husband and I might just order room service.  You can see pictures from the day here

Tomorrow we head to Rothenberg.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lake Königssee and Sunshine


We thought today was going be like all the other days on our trip, rainy and dreary since it was raining when we go up this morning. However the weather turned in our favor and the sun actually broke through the clouds and chased the rain away. Believe it or not we actually had a sunny day today.

Looking at second boat house of Lake Obersee
We went to Lake Königssee which involved a 2 hour boat trip (round trip). Our first stop was Salet were I did the 45 minute hike (one way) over to the little boat house on Obersee and the rest of the group continued on for another 30 minutes (one way) past that point to see Röthbachfall (a waterfall). On the hike to Obersee there were Bavarian cows, wearing traditional cow bells, scattered along the mountain trail.  The cows didn’t seem to mind people and one of the cows came up to me and licked me.  I was licked by a cow.  The trail to Obersee was pretty flat to the first boat house on the lake however the trail leading to the second boat house was very rocky
with slippery rocky steps that went up for a bit then down. I was glad they had railings on both sides of that part of the path.  Near the end of this part of the trail, the trail split so you could go another 30 minutes to the waterfall or 5 minutes to the boathouse. Our group split at that point with some going to the waterfall while I went to the boat house then headed back to the original landing point at Salet to wait for the rest of the group. The view across towards the first boat house was beautiful.  On my return trip, back at the Salet landing point I managed to get a couple nice shots across Lake Königssee and some more cows.  Once the group was back together about 90 minutes later we had lunch at the beer garden before heading to St. Bartholomä via the boat.  We did the 30 minute loop trail and poked our heads into the very small church. It was a very tiny church.  From there it was back on the boat, to our starting point the town of Königssee. You can see pictures here.

Lake Konigsee
Lake Obersee

Overall it was a decent day. I’m happy the sun managed to finally make an appearance. Hopefully it will stay with us for the rest of the trip. Tomorrow we make the 3 hour drive to Nuremberg.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Eagles Nest, Cows and Cake

Today we traveled from Oberammergau to Berchtesgaden. We arrived at the hotel a bit after 11, checked in then went for lunch before going on our tour of the Eagles Nest.  We at Restaurant Waldhauser, I had a potato, dumpling and ham dish that had a fried egg mixed in. It felt like a breakfast bowl but was lunch food.  Good thing the tour departure point was close to the restaurant because fast meals really don’t exist.

The Eagles Nest in the distance
 After eating we went to the tourist office to check in for our tour. Sadly we were informed that we could not travel all the way up to the Eagles Nest since it was snowing up there and it was closed to possible avalanches.  So we had to settle for only the tour of the documentation center (history museum) and the bunkers.  The tour guide was very informative and explained that the Eagle’s Nest is actually a tea house with three rooms and was not were Hitler lived. He actually lived a little ways down the mountain in a beautiful 30 room home that was bombed at the end of the war then completely destroyed by the German Government in the 1950s.  On the mountain were the Hitler lived were also residences of his closest advisers, SS barracks and additional building belonging to the regime.  Many of those building were destroyed.  The documentation center was recently built by the German Government to inform the German people about this part of their history since much of it is never discussed in Germany. The center was actually interesting; I like the doll house for little girls modeled off Hitler’s own home.  Also women could earn bronze, silver or gold crosses depending on the number of children they had (10 kids got you the gold cross).  Then we went down into the bunker system, while the system is huge and has over 8 km of tunnels we only saw a little bit of it.  The bunker was only open to the US military till the late 1990s then was slowly opened up to public tours in the early 2000s.  Overall it was an interesting tour that lasted 3 hours. A lot of good history and interesting little factoids you don’t necessarily learn in school.  After the tour we headed back to the hotel. You can see pictures from the Eagle's Nest here.

View from our room.
At the hotel we had cake (the cake was not a lie) because they offer free cake from 3:00 to 5:00 every afternoon.  Yay for cake! There were several varieties of cake including cheese cake and pie.  We also have cows wearing bells outside our hotel room.  We have been seeing a lot of cows but really no sheep. Tomorrow we head to Lake Konigssee.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Fairytale Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle from Mary's Bridge (it was very misty)
Today we went to the most famous castle in Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle, better known as the fairytale castle. (Also the one Disney used as the model for the Disney World Castle). We had a private tour of the castle, before it was open to the public for the day. The castle was never completed, due to the king’s death.  However he did stay there for 127 days during the construction then returned to Linderhof Palace.  We saw the completed rooms which included the bedroom, the throne room, the study, a few ancillary rooms and the theater room.  Most of the castle is done in a Gothic style except the throne room which used Byzantine styling and architecture and done in bright royal blues and golds with a mosaic floor. The throne room resembled in my mind a church with the pictures of the Apostles, the Saints and Christ around the throne. The bedroom was definitely Gothic styling with dark wood paneling and ornate wood carvings. The one of the most interesting parts of the castle wasn’t a room but the telephone in the castle, which rang only the post office at the bottom of the mounta
in.  The other interesting item is that they have pictures of the castle being built; which surprised me until I realized construction started in 1868.  So it the castle is relatively new.
Once we finished the tour we found something to eat for breakfast before doing the hike around the castle. Since the tour was so early we did not have a chance to eat breakfast at the hotel. We had hot chocolate and a piece of berry strudel; it was good and not overly sweet.  Now it was raining/misting during our hike over to Mary’s Bridge to get a better view of the castle. Then we walked down to see the waterfall and the base of the castle. That bit of the hike included a metal walkway that was cantilevered out over the river from the rock face. It the walk way was not there you would be walking in very cold mountain glacier river water.   After that we found lunch in the little town at the base of the mountain hill before heading over to Füssen for a little bit.  We went to see their small castle before heading back to the hotel via Austria and Lake Plansee.
Overall the castle is generally impressive and beautiful. However, I was a bit of letdown, like when I saw the Mona Lisa. Everyone talks about how magical it is, but I did not get that magical feeling. Was it worth the 30 minute hike up the very large hill (the castle is at about 3,000 feet above sea level) to see it, generally yes. But if I ever visit again I want to take the horse carriage.  I would agree it is a must see thing if you are in Bavaria region of Germany.You can see pictures from the castle here.

Tomorrow we leave Oberammergau and head to Berchtesgaden to see the Eagle’s Nest and Königssee.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

München (Munich)

Today we slept in, well the rest of the group might of slept in I woke up with the 6:00 AM church bells.  We had a late breakfast which included a sweet waffle but with the sour berry compote worked just fine. Afterwards we took the hour drive via the autobahn to Munich.


View from the New Town Hall
Munich was completely destroyed during WWII, however they chose to rebuild using the historic architecture, which is why the still have an old looking town center. We walked around St. Mary’s square and went up the new town hall tower (which looks older than the actual old town hall) and got nice views of the city. Mind you it was still cloudy and drizzling off and on.  Then went to the Viktualienmarkt (Victuals Market) and had sausage and beer in a traditional beer garden.  We then met our guide who gave us a walking tour of the city. We toured the Residenz (Royal Palace) which is now a museum.  The Residenz was mostly destroyed during WWII however they had pictures of what it looked like inside, so were able to restore it to look like the original.  It is a very large palace with several tiny, in my opinion, rooms. From there we went back to St. Mary’s square to watch the glockenspiel clock tower figures move. The glockenspiel performs at 11:00 AM, Noon and 5:00 PM.  From there we had dinner then headed back to the hotel.  Tomorrow we get up early for the highlight of the trip, a private tour of Neuschwanstein Castle. I’m hoping the weather will be nice.

You can see pictures from Munich here

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Mountain, Snow, and a Palace

Today was cold, wet, and rainy with bouts of ice and snow. I really blame this on the curse I inherited from my mother, but I digress. Even though mother nature was being moody, we carried on like the postman or like determined tourist.

At the top of Mount Zugspitze we look so European
Our first stop was Lake Eibsee, which was pretty except for the fog and the rain. We might of walked around it was raining and slowly turning into slushy rain. It also did not help that our traveling companions did not pack rain gear. So we headed up the mountain. We took the cog railway up to the top of Mount Zugspitze, which is Germany’s highest mountain peak. There is a gondola that will take you to the top in 10 minutes compared with the trains 30 – 40 minutes, but the gondola was undergoing maintenance. The only down side of the train is you spend about 20minutes in a tunnel and pop out right before the peak. At that point you get out wander around a bit and look at the glacier then take a 2 minute gondola ride to the peak. On the train ride up the mountain there are some beautiful views of the Lake Eibsee and you can watch as the terrain becomes more and more snow covered. I ended up having the snow song from a White Christmas stuck in my head because of the snow.  At the top of the mountain, where they didn’t clear the snow away it was about 2 feet deep and still snowing.  Sadly it was so cloudy at the top of the mountain all we go were pictures of clouds and a few birds.  On a clear day apparently you can see out about 150km or more.  So we headed down the mountain, and of course as we headed down the mountain the clouds cleared.  From the mountain we headed over to Cloister Ettal, mostly so I could pick up brandy, since that is what it is known for.


Looking at the back of Linderhof Palace
The last event of the day was a private tour of Linderhof Palace, which is where Ludwig II (Mad King Ludwig) actually lived. (Mad King Ludwig also built Neuschwanstien, the model for the Disney World Castle, and the most famous of his three residences.) The guide was very informative, lively and fun and pointed out many of the palaces interesting features like the 300 vases and the dinner table that disappears into the floor so the servants never have to enter the room.  The place is small in place terms with only 6 main rooms however those 6 rooms have a total of 13.2 lbs of gold plating in them except for the silver room which is of course plated in silver.  We then exited the place and walked up to the mobile house (if you call 300 pieces mobile) with the bejeweled peacock and then to the grotto. The grotto is one you always see in pictures with the swan boat in the underwater cave. Well the whole grotto is man made with tiny iron bar nets covered in plaster and stone. It is impressive.  That ended our tour of Linderhof Palace and thus our day.  Tomorrow we head up to Munich for the day. 

You can see pictures from Zugspitze here and from Linderhof Palace here.

Waterfalls and Parachutes

Bonus image: Focal length 18mm, Apeture F7.1, Shutter 1/200s I went up to Ohio a few weekends ago for my class reunion, and figur...