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Cycle Through Life

As we go through life we develop habits, a way of doing things.  Some of them are our own, some of them are done to accommodate the likes/dislikes of those around us.  As we cycle through life those things change.

We develop likes and dislikes, ways of doing things, and personality traits from our parents, grandparents, siblings, other relatives and friends as we are growing.  Then we become adults and move away from those we have grown up with.  Some move away to attend college, some branch out on their own, living the single life, and others, like me, leave their parent’s home when they marry.   Each of those different events will impact the individual person and their overall personality.51bdc659e738f0ad63064c508af86513

I grew up in a small town far away from distant relatives, I left my parent’s home when I married just before my 21st birthday.  With my marriage I moved about two hours away from home.  The person I married was not controlling, but he was nine years older and had far more life experiences than I.  He had served overseas in the military, been married and had a child, and purchased a home.   Looking back I adapted to his way of doing things more-so than he adapted to mine.   He paid the bills, serviced the cars, did home repairs, and was the driving force in any major purchases.  I was more willing to keep things as they were, to more or less “make do” with what we already had.  That is how we lived for 34 years until he passed away in December 2015.

When he passed away I was living on my own for the first time in my life.  I spent a couple years in a bit of a vacuum, going through the motions of life without really experiencing it to its fullest.  I learned to do things I had never done before, such as yard work, getting cars serviced, and paying bills.  You could say in that way I grew during that period of time, but I didn’t really evolve, I simply functioned.

With the help of a friend I began to re-evaluate where I was at and what changes I needed to make.  I took a good look at the investments I had, and the company my husband had us with was not making me any money, in fact after paying the service charges I had lost money over the course of the two years since his death.  I’m not a math person, but I’m not stupid.  I needed a new financial advisor and I followed the recommendation of a friend and made a change.  It has been a good one and I feel my financial future has a more positive outlook.

What-you-dont-have-you-may-gainIn looking at my investments I also took a good look at my living expenses v. income and realized that while I am making my bills with the assistance of my husband’s life insurance, I can not really consider that “living in the green.”  Let’s face it, the life insurance savings won’t last forever, and living month-to-month is not the way I want to spend my retirement.  I also realized that I can not retire and continue to live where I am at.  The decision, I need to downsize.  Now there is a lot of stuff in this house that I must sort, decide what to keep, what to toss, and what to sell.  That will take some time.  I would like to be out in six months, a year is more realistic, and it may take beyond that.  However the longer it takes the more money I am spending on this house that I could be saving or using for more fun things.

Fun things.  I am going to do some fun things this year.  For the first time in about three years I am going to take a real vacation.  I have to admit, once I made the commitment, put down the deposit and booked my airline flights I had some difficulty sleeping for a couple nights, but now I am looking forward to it.  My first international flight on my own, I will be flying to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the Calgary Stampede and spending 11 days out there.  I have a friend who will meet me in Calgary.  We will be staying in his motor home and taking in some of the scenic sights of the area, doing photography in addition to attending the Stampede.  It should be an awesome trip and I am looking forward to it.

I have a girl’s weekend planned in Mackinac City.  The weekend is a yearly event with my sister and two cousins, and we always change locations to keep it interesting.  There is also the possibility of another weekend trip into Canada with a friend, but that one is only tentative at this point.  59caa4c54b27d61f6a921ea8a3146eb4

So, where am I in the cycle of life?  I am in a growing stage.  I have broken free of the “me” that I was when married and becoming the “me” that I am as a widow.  I have started to walk around my house doing a visual inventory.  “That was him, it goes.”  “That is me, it stays.”  Sometimes it is “That was us” and with those items, some will stay and some will go.  When I move out of this house it will be a good, clean break and I will be continuing the ride as I cycle through life.

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Filed under Cleaning, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, reality, time, travel, vacation

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

Playing With Wine

I needed a still life photo for the monthly competition in the Blue Water Shutterbugs Camera Club.  and with limited mobility I had to utilize what I had on hand…a wine basket I received as a Christmas gift.   It was a fun time setting up and shooting the photographs, with both good and bad moments:

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Photo by  Grace Grogan, copyright 2017

The Good:  The French wine, Lindt chocolate, my wine glasses and fresh raspberries went together nicely to create a still life image.

The Bad:  I had to open a bottle of wine to put in the glasses for the shoot (well, maybe this has some secondary good to it).

The Good:  I used Leelenau Cellers Raspberry wine instead of the higher alcohol content of the French wine I received as a gift.

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The Spill:  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2017

The Bad:  I had to drink the opened wine after the photo shoot, and with little food in my stomach I was feeling pretty good (maybe that isn’t a bad thing, a little buzz can be fun).

The Good:  I really like the raspberry wine, which smells like fresh raspberries when you uncork it, and at least had the forethought to put some dinner in the oven.

The Bad:  While doing the shoot and re-arranging the set-up one of the glasses tipped over, spilling wine on my table.

The Good:  It was the glass with the least amount of wine in it, and the spill gave me an alternative set-up to try.

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Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2017

The Bad:  With red wine there is always the risk of it staining, and I was leaving it spilled on the table to take the additional photos.

The Good:  No stains!

The Bad:  I was having so much fun I took way more photographs than I needed.

The Good:  I enjoyed the time spent shooting and ended up with a usable photo for the competition.

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The Selected Entry: Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2017

 

 

The Bad:  I drank the entire bottle of wine….do I have to count the calories?

The Good:  The photo was well received when judged.

The Bad:  Now I’m itching to go out and shoot more pictures, which wouldn’t be bad if I wasn’t so grounded waiting for my ankle to recover.

The Good:  It is in my future!

 

Motto of the Story:
Have a Good Day, Drink a Little Wine, Shoot a Few Pictures and Enjoy Life!

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Filed under food, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography

Traveling Solo

Memorial Weekend was not the first time I have ever traveled solo, but it is the first time I have done so since the passing of my husband in December 2015.  It was a good trip.  It was a fun trip.  It was a relaxing trip.  It was a lonely trip.    Rather than elaborate in paragraph form, I decided to do a list of bullets, highlights various activities, thoughts, and observations.

 

  • Destination Sault Ste. Marie via Newberry, Michigan.  For those who do not know, these cities are in Michigan’s upper peninsula and are a 5-1/2 to 6 hour drive from my home.
  • Even though I set the cruise control at 74 instead of my normal 85 I still made the trip in the projected six hour time frame going to Newberry on Saturday morning, and that included two stops along the way.  I made it home from Sault Ste. Marie in 5-1/2 hours on Monday with three stops along the way.
  • For those of you who do not know, I have a son in Newberry Correctional Facility and was going to visit him.  I was very surprised to find that it was not busy at all with visitors.  I had anticipated a wait due to the holiday weekend, but was pleasantly surprised to find I could get in right away.
  • Stopping along a two-lane road near a wooded area in the upper peninsula to shoot, from a distance, a large group of trilliums results in an attack of nats, no-seeums, or baby flies (I was told they were all three of those things).  The invasion was so intense that just getting in and out of my car resulted in a large quantity inside, which I was then rolling down the window and trying to shoo out as I drove away.  Maybe it would have been better had I not been wearing perfumed lotion?

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    Trilliums along roadway. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • Drinking a margarita with my meal resulted in me going from being a good tipper to an exceptionally generous tipper, but I’m sure the waiter was happy.
  • Having a GPS in the car is great, especially when it tells you your hotel is in one spot, which is a hotel under construction.  After placing a phone call you find out your hotel is about 1/2 a mile farther down the road and on the opposite side of the road.   However it did have a handy landmark – across the street from Walmart, and next to the State Police post.  Hmmmm, I never once saw a State Police vehicle the entire time I was there.
  • No-leak ice pacs will create a puddle in your fabric insulated lunch box if they thaw completely and will leave a stream behind you when you attempt to carry it.
  • On Sunday morning all the country music stations, actually almost all the radio stations in general, are either talk shows or church sermons/music.  I found a rock station out of Traverse City/Kalkaska playing music, so of course I had to crank it up and dance my way from Sault Ste. Marie to Newberry for my second day of visiting with Patrick.
  • My favorite place for breakfast in Newberry had several new books by local authors, but I only selected and purchased one.  That is what I most often buy when I travel, books written about the area in which I am visiting and/or by local authors.    I also purchased a book in a gift shop in Sault Ste. Marie by another local author.  DSC_9246
  • It is great to discover that your cousins from the Traverse City area happen to be visiting Newberry as well and you are able to get together for an impromptu dinner and chat for a couple hours.
  • I am a chicken when it comes to setting up my tripod and taking photos in the dark on an unlit street when by myself in an area with which I am not familiar when by myself.  I never gave it a thought when Ron was with me.
  •   The International Bridge looks awesome at night lit up in red, white, and blue, but I have no pictures (please refer to my previous post above).
  • At America’s Best Value Inn an accessible room is truly accessible.  When I am staying at a location where I am unsure on whether or not they have elevators I will book an accessible room to make sure I am not climbing stairs alone with my suitcase, etc.  (I have a very bad ankle).    Usually “accessible” is a room that is on the main floor or not far from the lobby or elevator, but beyond that nothing unusual.  The one in Sault Ste. Marie was wheelchair accessible, had a wooden floor, a fully wheelchair accessible shower, and a raised toilet seat.   Of course the best part was a king size bed, which I had all to myself.
  • I greatly overestimated how much time I would have in the room to read and/or write and packed way more items than needed.
  • The Tower of History in Sault Ste. Marie provides a nice view of the entire city and locks.  There is a small museum on the main level.
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Tower of History.  Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • There is an island, Sugar Island, that is accessed by ferry that would be interesting to explore on a future trip.  It is inhabited by a small amount of people and also houses some businesses, but is also supposed to have nature areas.
  • It is hard to access and walk the areas near the water and locks when downtown.  The park where the locks are located is gated, has a security entrance, and closes at 9:00 pm.  The park itself is quite large and features two stories of viewing platforms for watching ships/boats go through the locks.  Unfortunately I missed seeing any go through.
  • Lockview Restaurant has very good fresh whitefish that can be ordered done in five different methods.  I chose broiled and it was very good.
  • Patrick informed me that Street Outlaws is an awesome program.  Monday night was a season premier that was two hours long.  I did enjoy the parts I saw, but unfortunately fell asleep and missed a good portion of the races.  It was rather cool that they were racing Detroit in that episode.
  • My ankle is impacting my decisions on what I do or do not do, which means it is affecting my day-to-day quality of life.  If it does not improve by fall I think I will need to go in for a consultation with my surgeon and likely have an ankle fusion done over the winter.  As someone who is terrified of surgery, that statement and acceptance of the likely need is huge.
  • I am a much more conscientious spender when traveling alone than I was with Ron.  This does not mean I was previously a spender by nature, quite the contrary.  I was and am more likely to put off doing things, whereas Ron was always more likely and willing to buy or do whatever he or I wanted and figure out how to pay for it later.  I guess he was either a good influence or a bad influence, depending on how you look at it.
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    Sault Ste. Marie and International Bridge.   Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • I need to plan a longer stay to do and see some things I want in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Buying a bag of fresh on sale at the fudge shop is good.  Munching on it to stay awake all the way home and in the process eating the entire bag is not.  I had a miserable stomach ache later to remind me not to make that mistake again!

Overall I had a fun time this weekend.  I managed to traverse the city at night without getting myself horribly lost.  I forgot to take my book with me for the times I was dining, so utilized social media to keep myself entertained instead.   My first weekend trip as a widow was fun.  It was relaxing.  It was lonely.    The next one will be better.

 

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Filed under decisions, exploration, habit, handicapp, Holidays, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, travel, Upper Penninsula

Shall We Elope?

Life spins and churns, twists and turns, and in the process dreams are born, moments cherished, and desire becomes reality.  Such is the case with a friend of mine who after spending more than twenty years widowed and single married the man of her dreams.

Wedding wishes, preparation, anticipation, and anxiety all come into play when anyone gets married.  We are used to watching young people plan big, elaborate weddings, and there is excitement in that type of a “production.”   This was different.  It was two adults with children and grandchildren planning a small, simple, elopement with tidbits of details that added to the fun and uniqueness of this blending of their lives.

Planning to have an outdoor wedding in Michigan during the month of April is always gutsy.  They decided they wanted to get married on the covered bridge in Frankenmuth, a popular location that is a unique, small town atmosphere and also a popular tourist destination.  Being that it was two hours from home they needed to search and find a pastor to perform the service.  They checked on use of the covered bridge, booked a motel and made arrangements for early check-in, arranged for a second witness, and made plans for photo locations.

Then a week before the date the couple held their breath when snow crept over the state.  All was not lost.  The day of the wedding was warm and sunny, comfortable for the bride in her sleeveless dress, a bit warm  for the groom in his suit.  A perfect day, perfect weather.

Vicki held to tradition.  The morning of the wedding I received a text message asking if I had something she could borrow.  She had the something old, something new, and something blue.  She wore a bracelet that belonged to me for her something borrowed.    I attended the event and served as witness/matron of honor and photographer.

I met Mark and Vicki at their motel and after Mark dressed and I had taken a couple shots of Vicki helping him with his tie, he left to meet us at the bridge.   I helped Vicki with her dress, we took a few preparation shots, and I was shown a gift she had purchased for her new husband.  It was fun, girly, and relaxing all at the same time.  We arrived on location to find Mark chatting with the pastor and her husband.

 

Photos by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

Vicki had been worried about finding an appropriate dress, but she did and made the purchase.  Then after reflection decided there was nothing wrong with her purchase, but it lacked the pizazz that one wants for their wedding day.  She kept looking and ended up with a lady-like, age appropriate, knock-him-off-his-feet dress.  How do I know, because I was walking with them and Mark looked over at Vicki and said “you look good, you look really good!”  He was right, she did.

Rather than use the bridge, which was dark and cool, for their ceremony they opted to stand near the water overlooking the bridge.  Prior to vows the groom, who is in a band, sang to the bride.  Vows were spoken, rings exchanged, and of course the traditional kiss.   The marriage license was signed, then they posed for a few photographs before we went to lunch.

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Fried Ice Cream Deluxe – Yum!  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

When in Frankenmuth the tradition is to go for chicken dinner.  Traditions are made to be broken, and when you have a small elopement instead of a over-the-top wedding, plans can be adjusted on a moments notice.  How many brides and grooms do you know who have their wedding dinner in a tiny Mexican restaurant?  Well I know one, and it was great.  They were even presented with a huge, free fried ice cream because it was their special day.

After lunch we shot a few more photographs and then the happy couple went for a horse-drawn carriage ride around town.  The end of a perfect day leading into a perfect night, and the beginning of a perfect union of marriage.

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Their first adventure as husband and wife. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

 

 

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Filed under celebration, decisions, events, Family, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, spring

My First Easter

It is funny how traditions with couples and/or families develop over years.  What is crucial to one couple is unimportant to another.  Being the  first year without my husband, people anticipate that certain dates may be hard, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  However those were “Hallmark” holidays that Ron and I rarely paid attention to, so my first year solo on those dates causes me no emotional stress.

This is my first Easter alone.  The weekend looms ahead of me like some dreaded dark cavern.  Why?  Because that is a weekend Ron and I generally did things.  For years when our kids were growing up we would drive to Belle Isle and visit the Aquarium and Whitcomb Conservatory.   There were years we traveled, years we stayed home.  Generally we were out and about at least one of the two days taking pictures.   Once we had grandchildren we put together Easter baskets for the children and had an egg hunt inside our house.  Easter has always been a fun weekend for us.

This year I have no one to share those things with.  My daughter, her boyfriend and her three children will be over on Sunday for the kids to get their Easter baskets from me, but not until around 7:00 pm because her oldest son is spending the holiday weekend with his father.   I have contemplated driving down to Belle Isle, driving around my area to take photos, or just staying home to clean and organize.  To a certain degree weather and the condition of a sore ankle will play into those decisions.    I don’t feel enthusiastic about any of it.

Building a new life takes adjustment.  It means accepting change.  Maintaining tradition.  Letting tradition go.  Freedom to make changes.  Keeping things the same.  Doing things you’ve always done.  Doing things you never did.    Building a new normal.

As I spend my first Easter alone creating whatever will become a new tradition, a new normal, I hope all of you have a fun-filled weekend doing whatever it is that makes Easter weekend special for you and your loved ones.

HIPPITY HOPPITY HAPPY EASTER DAY!

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Filed under celebration, Coping, Family, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, spring

35 Years of Shooting

Planning the Celebration of my husband, Ron Grogan’s life includes a slide show presentation.  My best friend, Vicki, came to visit and we spent a weekend going through 35 years of albums and photo boxes to come up with a selection of possible photos of Ron for the slide show.    My daughter located songs I wanted to use and I put them all together, but there was a glitch.Ron with 150-600 Harsens Island 2015

When I put the three soundtracks and the photos together I ran into a problem of too many photos for the length of music.  Then I counted.  There were  150 photos beyond the ending of the last song.  What a nightmare to cut.  Every photo seemed important, at least it was to me.  I did cut, and then when I got down to about 25 over I contacted my daughter with the name of another song to add.  After that I had to tweak the presentation, adding photos, removing photos, looking for the perfect mix.  I still haven’t finalized.  I continue to replay the show and make adjustments.

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

Ron loved life, family and photography, and that is what I wanted to capture.  The essence of how he spent his time.  It has been, overall, a fun project to do.    Years of smiles captured on film.  Years of memories, some I had forgotten about.  Sometimes you realize the more things change, the more things stay the same.

From the time I met him in 1980, a solid majority of photos of Ron showed him with a camera in his hands.  We sold his photographs at arts and crafts shows in 1982-83.  Things were different back then.  Only on occasion did someone have a tent, most people, us included, just sat up out in the open.  Ron hand cut mats in intricate designs for his photos.  It was a fun time.  We stopped doing art shows once we had our first child in 1984 and didn’t resume selling our photographs until after we moved to St. Clair County in 2004 and jointed the Blue Water Shutterbug Camera Club.  However, photography was always a part of our lives.  From the time our kids were small we put cameras in their hands, and they grew up taking photos too.

0411 Ron on pictured rocks cruise-1 2014Ron had a saying,  “Change Equals Growth.”  As people view the slide show I have put together I hope they see the many changes, the growth that has taken place in Ron’s life.  Changes in his camera, clothing, hair length, and hobbies all captured with the wonderful art of photography.

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Unable to Shoot–a Photographer’s Dilema

Nikon-D750-2I am a photographer.  I have an attachment to my favorite camera, which is a Nikon D750 that I received at Christmas.  My husband and I both upgraded to them at the same time.  Two weeks ago I was taking a walk and it started giving me a beam of light across all my pictures, then locked up and gave me an ERR message.  A quick check of the owner’s manual on my phone told me that such a message means it must be sent in for repair.  What!  I have to ship it away!Nikon D80

That is exactly what I did, I took it in to the Camera store to be sent in for a warranty repair.  The shutter had locked up.  Now every photographer has a backup camera, and I have mine…the D80 I was shooting with prior to the D750.  Ron (husband) was leaving for a trip and made sure my batteries for the D80 were charged, and he took one charger with him as he carries a D90 for backup.  We weren’t worried about not knowing where the other charger was, as I had my D750 to shoot with anyway.  Then it locks up.  Now I’m not doing as much shooting because I am trying to preserve battery power.

PhotographyWhat I can’t figure out is where the charger went.  I swear I will never let that man put away anything important again.  One year he handled hiding a Christmas present for our son, we didn’t find it until almost a year later!  Now he knows he put the charger in a box, doesn’t remember what box, doesn’t remember where the box went.

So, that is my past two weeks.  The frustrations of a photographer who has temporarily lost their favorite camera and is trying to preserve battery power on their back-up as they have no charger.  It has to get better from here…

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Trilium Trek

          The trillium is a delicate, small, wildflower that blooms in the spring.  They can be found in white, pink, red, and the very rare painted variety.  Since 1980 the only sightings of the painted trillium in Michigan have all been within a 30 mile area of St. Clair County.
          Knowing that they were in bloom, my husband, Ron, and I went out on a search for painted trillium a couple weeks ago.  They are located in a wooded nature area.  Although I have not used bug spray in years, when you open the car door and the mosquitoes are coming inside you know precaution is needed.
          When you haven’t used bug spray in a while, there are a few pointers to remember.
          1.  When misting your face make sure you keep your mouth shut — that stuff does not taste good!
          2.  Spaying the majority of your body does not prevent mosquitoes from finding the spot you missed.
          3.  You will find out you forgot to spray an area at a most inopportune moment, such as when bent over taking a photograph and one decides to bite you on the backside through your jeans.
          4.  Evidence of a poor spray job may not become evident for hours, such as when you look in the mirror and realize the small section on the back of your arm from you elbow to wrist is covered in mosquito bites — 27 of them to be exact.
          Not that I’m admitting to any of the above, but knowledge does come from experience.  Of course a pain-endured labor does have its just rewards.  We found all three kinds of trillions, a slug, a toad, and a few other items to photograph.  A pleasant morning photographing nature.

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Living The Quote

We see them on Facebook.  Those little “images” of quotes that make you laugh, smile, or remind you of something about yourself or others you know.    I love those quotes.  I will spend time searching for them on various topics, saving them so I can repost them later.     Here are a few thoughts, quote style.

Trip over nothingI was born a klutz, there is no other explanation and as a result this quote fits me perfectly.  I can live in a house for years yet forget where the walls are and walk right into them.  I even walked into a clear glass window at the mall one time, thinking it was the exit from a store.  Just like in a TV show, full force impact with the glass, glass shakes, people stare, I feel stupid.

I even fell at my own wedding.  I stepped down from the alter, put my foot into the hoop of my wedding gown and although my husband tried to hold me up, it was useless and I went to my knees.  Luckily I am the type of person that laughs when embarrassed, so those wedding pictures of me coming down the isle show a huge laughing smile.Friends - best friends - don't talk every day but when do its as if you never stopped

I have a best friend who fits this quote perfectly.  We live three hours apart and maintain our friendship through occasional get-togethers or phone calls, but the majority of our contact is via email.  We became friends in 1978 and have had periods in which contact was almost non-existent, but when we re-connected it was great and we were not at a loss for words.

Photography - a love affair with lifeMy husband and I are both photographers, and anything and everything is a photo subject.  I believe photographers do have a love for life, and the ability to see beyond what the average person sees.

A non-photographer will take a walk down a path and enjoy the view and nature.  The photographer will walk that same path and find small, overlooked objects to photograph.  Fungus on a tree, moss on a log, spiders spinning webs or butterflies on weeds.  Photographers have a keen eye for seeing what others pass by.  I have started out on paths with people I know, but they ended up far ahead of me because I kept stopping to take pictures.  A lot of the items I captured with my camera they admitted they never noticed.

nothing is really lost till mom can't find itMoms have the ability to locate the lost, misplaced, items of life.  When my kids were young I would get a call at work, “mom, where is my __________?”  You know what the amazing thing is — I usually knew!  Why is it they are in the room and/or building where they item they lost is at, but I can find it through a telephone wire faster than they can find it standing in its location?  Why? Because I’m a mom!

walk in my shoes and end up at barMy husband and I have endured many things throughout our 33 year marriage.  Some people know what we have encountered, others have no clue.  When I met him he was in the midst of a very nasty divorce, we went through an entire custody trial regarding his daughter, we raised two children with ADHD, children who got into legal trouble, a severely injured grandchild and the dealings with CPS and DHS that followed, our son’s termination of his parental rights, our attempt to adopt our two granddaughters and the battle with DHS, health issues, and multiple other things.  A friend once said when you read my Christmas newsletters you have no idea the turmoil that is brewing beneath the surface.  I think the quote “walk a mile in my shoes” should be taken to heart with anyone you deal with, because you may not really know what they are coping with below the surface.motorcycle - you haven't lived till grin and bug

I used to ride motorcycle, until an unfortunate accident five years ago  made that impossible.  I do miss it though, and I think people that have never ridden do not understand what they are missing.  it is an intense sense of freedom and relaxation that cannot be met my any other means.  I must say this quote reminds me of the times when I have captured a bug in my throat — and why is it always when cruising down an expressway at 70 mph, never on a surface street where you can stop and force it down with some water out of a saddle bag.    Swallowing bugs is just one of the side “benefits” of riding motorcycle that does not accompany other fun activities.

I can’t believe I have already shared six quotes, and there are so many more I would like to share that fit into my life.  They will have to be saved for another time and place.  However I do want to remind my readers of my favorite quote, the one that hangs on the wall in my house, the one on which this entire blog is based.Life is like a camera

Never forget that Life is like a camera.  The quote that hangs on my wall of this saying is accompanied by photographs that depict each statement, and the display can be seen on this website.  Simply click on the link Life is Like A Camera to view it.

Quotes - Life Isn't about Quotes about lifeIf all else fails, search through quotes and find one that fits your life, makes you smile, or stirs a memory.  After all, there are quotes about everything, including the fact that Life isn’t about Quotes About Life — or is it????

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Filed under assumptions, children, communication, Coping, decisions

Husband, Marsh, and Porta-Potty Challenges

Before heading onto the  boardwalk of Magee Marsh Ron and I made a pit-stop at the gift shop area.  Because hours are spent walking the boardwalk, taking pictures and observing birds I made a trip to the porta-potty while Ron headed to the gift shop.  The difference, this year I was prepared for the porta-potty challenge, at least I thought I was.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan
Copyright 2015

Last year I pulled out a sheet of toilet paper and notice a “shadow” on it, and turning it over discovered a huge black bug on the backside that scared the crap out of me (well, not literally), causing me to throw the toilet paper on the floor.  This year I pulled out a strip of paper and checked it over very carefully.  I was happy to find it bug-free.  I then watched a small spider come down from the ceiling and land on my purse, which I had carefully hung on the sanitizer dispenser.  Of course the dropping of the spider led me to look up, where I spotted a large spider on the ceiling.  Does the Magee Marsh porta-potty dislike me?  Can’t I use it without a bug problem coming up?  Apparently not.  The sacrifices of a photographer who needs to utilize the facilities before heading out to capture some bird shots.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan
Copyright 2015

I exit the porta-potty and enter to gift-shop where my husband, Ron, had gone.  He is standing in the check-out line when he sees me come in the door and immediately says “would you like a T-Shirt?”

He is purchasing a large poster and a T-shirt.  Where does he plan to put the poster?  We have no available wall space left.  His answer “I’ll take something down.”

Great!  I wonder what item gets demoted for the promotion of poster showing the various types of Warblers.  Time will tell, because he’ll have to get it framed first.  Now the T-shirt, whenever I see a new one of those come into the house or in his hands to purchase I just laugh.  Why?  Because the man could probably wear a different T-shirt for the next 90-120 days before having to do laundry.  Granted a few of them may be showing their wear, have paint on them or a few holes, but for the most part they are good, nothing wrong with them T-shirts from various places and festivities.  However, we would not want him to feel deprived of a Bird Week shirt from Magee Marsh, so the purchase was made.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Magee Marsh is located in Ohio and is a great place for photographers and bird watchers. It is where Warblers gather each spring before flying over Lake Erie on their migration north in the spring.  Unfortunately we were a bit early and there weren’t many birds at the location yet.  It was a nice, warm day on the boardwalk, and if you look around you can usually find things to photograph, such as moss growing on a log, or a turtle sunning himself in the sun.

There are two kinds of people you find at the Marsh this time of year.  The photographers, like Ron and I, with our camera’s and large lenses to capture photographs or the true bird watchers who are carrying bird books, check lists, and binoculars.  Both are friendly groups, so a nice mixture to share space with.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

About half way around the marsh my bad ankle started causing me problems, with pain shooting from the ankle up to the knee.  We were almost at the end when my wonderful husband did his best to take my mind off the sore, swollen and throbbing ankle.  As I was standing with my back to him, sore foot off the ground and one hand holding the boardwalk rail for balance, Ron swung his camera around to take a photograph of a bird up in a tree.  Sounds simple and uneventful, doesn’t it?  Only one glitch, in the process he clobbers me in the back of the head with his 150-500mm lens,  I hear an “oops” and he is off and shooting.  Luckily the head only hurt for a few minutes after I hobbled my way to the end of the boardwalk and sat down on a bench to wait for him to finish.

We get in the car, and as we start to roll down the long exit road from the Marsh I look at him and say “For future reference, hitting me in the back of the head with your camera lens did not draw my attention away from my sore ankle.”

Ron has it duly noted, but makes no guarantees it won’t happen again.  Such is life with a photographer, the shot must come first, but as I am also a photographer I understand the process.

Photographs by Grace Grogan are available for sale on Fine Art America.

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Filed under birds, bugs, nature, Photography

What Makes a Volunteer?

What is it that causes some people to volunteer repeatedly?  They are active in everything, always jump in to lend a helping hand, and juggle several volunteer positions, full time jobs, and other obligations.

Why is it some people never volunteer?  They will joint an organization, but never go beyond the membership stage.  Even when the organization is in desperate need of assistance, they refuse to lend a helping hand.

I have been a volunteer in a variety of organizations over the past 30+ years.  If you belong to several organizations you find that it is always the same people that volunteer, always picking up the slack while others sit idly by.  What is it that causes this difference in people’s willingness to give.  Why is it some people can juggle huge loads and always take on something else, while others are overwhelmed with one or two things?

This has been on my mind for several reasons.  I belong to the St. Clair County Family History Group.  A few years ago our treasurer passed away unexpectedly, and no one was willing to step up and fill that persons shoes.  After a year one person said she would do it — the only reason she hadn’t volunteered before is because that is the type of work she does for a living, she held other committee positions, and was hoping someone would step up to the plate and take the position.  No one did, so Sue stepped in and has done a phenomenal job for years.  Sue made an announcement in May 2014 that she and her husband were planning to retire and move to Michigan’s U.P. within 1-2 years and that she would no longer be able to handle the position of treasurer.  She announced early so that if someone wanted to take over and have her handy to answer any questions and walk them through the steps while she was still in the area, that would make the transition easy.  No one volunteered.  She has now submitted her “formal” written resignation to the president.  I am wondering, actually doubtful, if anyone will volunteer.Volunteer - Make  a Life by What we Give

Now you may wonder why I don’t take the position.  The reason, I already hold a board position as Vice President, plus I am Newsletter Editor for the club.  I also try to manage the website, a position that was emptied and no one took over.   I am not good with the website and have been asking for about four years for someone to take it over, but no one has.  I announced a year ago that I was willing to hand over the VP position, which only requires you to run the meeting in the event the President is absent, which has never happened in the past 11 years I have been a member, and once a year you put together the Annual Report – a booklet of all the committee chairs annual reports.  No one volunteered and so I continued in that position.   In the same club we have another member who is moving out of state and has announced that her board position and committee chair position will be vacant.     That means we now have two board positions that need to be filled and two committee chair positions that need to be filled immediately.   I have my doubts that there will be anyone who steps up to the plate and takes on the openings, because we have other committee positions that have been vacant for years.

I am also a member of the Blue Water Shutterbug Club and have held various positions over the years, the most recent was as Member at Large — a board position that is relatively easy to have.  The Vice President of that club is moving out of State and had announced that his position would be vacant and someone would need to take over.  Every month before the meeting begins the VP walks around and solicits three members who have had the training to serve as part of a 3-judge panel for the photo competition that month.  The person also has a short 30-60 minute commitment once a week to pre-judge the photos submitted, making sure they are suitable for the categories they have been submitted into.  A relatively easy position with low commitment.  I was not going to be at the meeting in which the elections were taking place, but let the leaving person know that in the event no one volunteered I would take over.  Need I mention that I am now Vice President of the BW Shutterbugs?

I have spent most of my adult life volunteering in various organizations.  When my kids were young I was active in the PTO, serving as secretary for 6-7 years, chairing a committee that gathered and added grocery receipts from a particular store to raise money for the school, chaired a prize committee for the annual carnival, chaperoned field trips and volunteered in the classroom from time to time, all while holding down a full-time job.  I also was co-leader of the girl scouts, leader of the Tiger Cubs, secretary for a collectible club, and in addition to my full-time office position sold Tupperware.  My kids were involved in karate, scouting, AWANA and dance. Oh, I almost forgot, I volunteered in the nursery at the church we were attending.  If I could do that with two young children at home, why can’t people who are retired and have no young children at home dedicate some of their time to an organization?

This past weekend I attended a workshop where the purpose was to handcraft items that will be placed in gift boxes.  Those boxes are donated to hospitals to be presented to parents who give birth to stillborn babies or whose babies die shortly after birth.  They include gowns for the baby to be buried in, tiny stuffed animals, blankets, hats, etc.   A very important and much needed item so I dedicated my Saturday, from noon to 9 pm to help out.  While I was at the workshop someone asked me what I do in my free time.  I guess when you put it all in a list, it overwhelms some people.

What do I do?  I am Vice President and Newsletter Editor of the St. Clair County Family History Group, Vice President of the Blue Water Shutterbug Club, I write a genealogy column for The Lakeshore Guardian, I am an opinion columnist for The Times Herald, I have a weekly blog, I am writing a book about our families dealings with DHS and trying to adopt our granddaughters, my husband and I have a photography business, Times Gone By Photography and we both have photos in a local art gallery, for sale in a local hospital, for sale at a couple local stores and we both have websites on Fine Art America, plus a business Facebook page, Times Gone By Photography.    In addition to that I work full time as a paralegal, and my hobbies include scrapbooking, reading, photography, and genealogy.

When people say I should relax, eliminate some of those items, I respond “Why?”   If you don’t have a wide range of interests and activities life becomes boring.  I don’t want to reach my old age and have nothing to look back on, regrets that I didn’t do things, or be bored in retirement because I have no hobbies or interests to keep me busy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can do the couch potato in front of the TV just like everyone else.  Then I realize that the things I want to do are sliding away and I get busy again.  My “chill time” gets me re-energized for the next round of activity.

What makes a volunteer?  Why are some people willing to plunge right in wherever needed and others always spend their time on the sidelines, observing but never fully participating?

Are you a volunteer or an observer?  What are your reasons for the position you take on volunteering?

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Filed under Activities, events, friendship, hobbies, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, time, work

Pinback Paradise

When someone suggested I start a blog I found it a bit of a daunting challenge.  That was mainly due to my misconception of what a blog required.  When I realized that I don’t have to post on a daily basis and that I don’t have to stick with just one narrow topic I knew I was up to the challenge.  Now all I had to do was pick a title for the blog.  I wanted my title to fit my life, and because my Life Is Like A Camera I needed something to fit that description and so Life is a Melting Pot was born.

Life is Like a Camera.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Life is Like a Camera. Photo by Grace Grogan

I can’t believe it has been 10 months and 50 posts since it all began.  I have written about fun topics, emotional issues, vacations, and life in general.  Hopefully you have all gotten to know me a little better over the past few months.

When it comes to my life, It All Began in the Cherry Capitol of the World, but Yesterday’s Bar Pick-up tells the story of how I met my husband.  We have enjoyed many activities over the years, vacations, having kids, boating, jet skis, mopeds, and motorcycles, accidents and cancer.   It’s been 33 years, well sort of 34 takes a look back at our marriage and Life Altering Impact after a car ran a stop sign and broadsided me when I was on my motorcycle.

As I was completing high school I did not follow my true career interest, Why Didn’t I do It?  Instead I became a secretary, which caused me to reflect on the Evolution of a Clerical Worker.  Now I wonder Who Am I? as I take on the roles of paralegal, writer and photographer.  Of course everyone has many aspects to their personality, and that is why I love Songs About Me and found a Blog Bonus – A Perfect Quote that I shared with everyone, even though I soon found myself Caught in a Tornado

Patrick and his girls - Kiley, Katlyn, Kae-Lee

Patrick and his girls – Kiley, Katlyn, Kae-Lee

With The Power of Emotion I dealth with the loss of one of our granddaughters, Kae-Lee Joy Grogan, who we were trying to adopt but instead was awarded to her foster care parents for adoption.  I dug a little deeper into that story when I talked about Attempted Adoption:  An Emotional Whirlwind.    That story has yet to end.

In the meantime life moves on, and let’s face it You are a Guaranteed Winner when you experience the Backyard Exploration of a 3-Year Old and enjoy a Thanksgiving that includes Tossed Turkey and Dog Food.    Let’s Get Prepped for education because although we all have a Haunted Past we can enjoy a bit of nostalgia because Everyone Loves a Letter.  Modern technology makes us realize the benefits of  Letter v. Email and how with all our modern conveniences we should not be Running Out of Time. 

Who's out there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

Who’s out there? Photo by Grace Grogan

We should all Preserve the Memories of our lives because Looking Out My Front Door at snow on leaves that have not changed color makes you realize the the Wild Weather Past and Present is not something new, but something you may want to remember.  After all, Putting a Spin on Things can help you take an artistic, creative look at what might at first glance appear to be Delightfully Drab.   That is why I enjoy participating in the World Wide Photo Walk and a passion of mine is strolling through old burial grounds doing Cemetery Shooting.    It is important to enjoy the beauty around us everywhere, keep it beautiful so we never again have The Crying Indian. 

Reflections in Nature - Photo by Grace Grogan

Reflections in Nature – Photo by Grace Grogan

Life is never dull in My Crazy Week where I have been known to wonder Where Have All the Spiders Gone then dissapointed to find out They’re Back after which I felt the need to enjoy the amusement of a 3-year old and 8-year old saying goodbye to them in Blog Bonus-SpidersHowever those creatures are not the only ones to enhance our property, after all, we have Master Bath Guests.

I’m not what I would call a political person, but wondered if my thoughts about undocumented children being brought into this country were Cold Hearted and Cruel or Realistic.  I know that first impressions of people are not always accurate and discussed Impressions v. Reality while not hesitating to Toot My Own Horn about a column I had published on problems with the foster care system.

As I traveled this summer I found that my decision to finally invest in a smart phone challenging but in the end realized that I’m Hooked when it allowed me to take movies and post pictures instantly during our vacation.  I love a Blue Water Summer  but have to admit that Vacation Planning is something I enjoy doing and can lead to a wide range of adventures and learniing how things can be the Same but Different, including a weekend on an Uninhabited and Unconnected Island or a spring day on the Magee Marsh Bird Trail. 

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me.  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me. Photograph by Grace Grogan

As the year wound down we enjoyed New Life with the birth of our newest granddaughter, Alexandria Louise, enjoyed a Merry Christmas and ended the year by Kicking 2014 Goodbye as we started the new year with Slippery Surgical Stress and are now looking forward to Good Things in 2015.

With that we end this Pingback Paradise reflection of my first 50 posts to this blog.  I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse back, maybe linked into some of my old posts and enjoyed a read you may have missed during the past 10 months.

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Filed under career, decisions, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Photography, travel

Merry Christmas

My Christmas Tree.  Photo by Grace Grogan

My Christmas Tree. Photo by Grace Grogan

Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas.

This year we had family Christmas with my sister, her daughters and grandchildren on the 21st of December, followed by Christmas with my daughter, three grandsons and daughter’s boyfriend on Christmas Eve.  All previous years Caroline came

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

over with her kids on Christmas Day after they had opened gifts at home, but this year we had to make different arrangements.

Our oldest grandson, Austin, was leaving at 9 pm Christmas Eve to spend the rest of his Christmas vacation at his father’s house. This created a bit of a dilemma as my daughter’s boyfriend, Rob, had to work the morning of Christmas Eve, so it raised a problem with when Santa should arrive. The solution – Santa came to our house, left a note explaining why all the gifts were here and not at their house.

Corbin and Austin

Corbin and Austin

Once Rob was out of work they all came over to our house, arriving around 2 pm for pizza and gift opening. This worked out perfect as Austin was then able to go home and play his new and #1 gift wish, Skylander, before leaving to go to his dad’s for the rest of his Christmas break. Corbin, who will be 4 on the 30th of December, was thrilled with his Thomas The Train tracks, his fire engines and cars.  He is a kid that likes anything with wheels, but his number one love is trains.  Alexandria, just born on the 12th of December slept through the entire event.  She looked adorable in her “Baby’s First  Christmas” shirt sleeping away.

Ron and I waited until the gang had left before we opened our main gifts for ourselves — new Nikon D750 Cameras and gear.  Since we had no children in the house or gifts to open on Christmas morning, we were able to spend the time figuring out our new cameras and getting them programmed the way we wanted.

I hope all of you had a fun-filled Christmas celebration.

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Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot

Cemetery Shooting

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

The quietness envelopes you. A light drizzle of rain can add to the atmosphere. The headstones are old and weathered, some no longer can be read. Some are sinking into the ground, barely visible but still maintained by loved ones of the modern day with flowers or flags beside them. Ancestors who are not forgotten but are sinking into the ground forever.  There are headstones with elaborate carvings, statues signifying the importance of the person or an affluent  family.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Grave of Chester Haight.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Grave of Chester Haight. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Look at the dates. One hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, walking on ancient burial ground. What were their lives like back then? What was the ceremony like that layed the person to rest at this location? What was the reason for their passing? Life spans were not as lengthy back then. What did they accomplish in such a short time on earth?

Crawford Settlement Burying Ground.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Crawford Settlement Burying Ground. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

The most heart wrenching are the baby plots.   Infants, toddlers, and children laid to rest at such a young age. What caused them to pass before their life had begun? Was it childhood diseases that no longer exist? An accident? Why do so many children die at such a young age?

These are the things that go through the mind as you wander old cemeteries. That is why I love shooting pictures at cemeteries. They are peaceful, calming, and are wonderfully interesting places to take photographs.

DSC_0340 - Copy

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

I like to stop at old cemeteries when by myself.  Most people think I’m a bit crazy to enjoy wandering a cemetery for an hour or more taking photographs, only to leave that one and drive to another. I have visited as many as four cemeteries in one day, each one with something different to offer.

I hope you enjoy my cemetery photographs. If you ever want to take a peaceful walk, stroll an old cemetery. Don’t go to a modern one, they lack  personality. Pick an old one with ancient, tall headstones, weathered with age, and enjoy a relaxing stroll.

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

DSC_0232 - Copy

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

 

Almost lost but not forgotten.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Almost lost but not forgotten. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

 

 

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Filed under exploration, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography

Who Am I?

What defines who you are? Is it the job you hold, the hobbies you participate in? Does one define you more than others?

I work as a paralegal in a one-person law office.  I am also a photographer and a writer. Which of those things defines me? While I enjoy my full-time position, I don’t think that necessarily defines me as a person, but it definitely opens my mind to various subjects and allows me to look at things with an objective viewpoint.  When I see laws that have changed or situations that have a negative impact on people it inspires me to write and create public awareness of the situation, whether it be good or bad.Law is not legal it is logical

The two things that I feel best define who I am are my writing and photography.  Am I a writer who does photography or a photographer who writes?   This is a question that is difficult to answer.   I do not like publishing a post in which there are not at least some photographs or other images.  When I take photographs I often think of how I might be able to use them in my writing or what I may want to journal about in my scrapbooks.     When I write something my mind is wondering what photographs I have that relate to the post, because I want to include a visual image for the reader.  What I like about these two activities is that they both inspire people to think about something, what I am writing about, what I have photographed.  It may trigger a memory, inspire them to take action, encourage them to travel and visit somewhere different.  Writing and Photography are activities that draw in the reader and viewer so as to hopefully trigger some form of reaction.

One example is a favorite quote of mine which hangs on my wall here at home.  Life if like a camera-1 In fact I wrote about this in my very first post for this blog titled Life Is Like A Camera.  Inspiration for photographs does not have to come from things I write, it can also come from things I read, such as the saying at left.

At the same time, photographs inspire memories, thoughts, and desires in lots of people.  Several people can look at the same photograph and have thoughts or memories that are very different.   For instance look at the photo below. Does this make you think back to a time when something happened and you ended up in a ditch or in some other form of accident?  Do you wonder why a photo was taken of this?  After all, it is nothing spectacular, just a jeep in the ditch…or is there a hidden story to tell?

Jeep in Ditch.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2010.

Jeep in Ditch. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2010.

Did you notice, the jeep is backwards to the road and nose down, so now what are your thoughts?  This is where the photo needs the words to tell the story.

I was recovering from an accident and lacked mobility, so my husband would drive the vehicle across the lawn and up to the front porch to park near the steps so it was easier for me to get into the house.   Luckily I wasn’t with him when he left to go on an errand because the front lawn had iced up.  When he made the circle through the front lawn to go back to the driveway he lost all traction on the ice covered grass.  The jeep would not stop and would not turn.  Into the ditch he went.  The ditch is quite deep and was a wet, soupy mess and he was unable to back out.  The tires were sunk half way in a suction-like muck.  A tow truck had to be called to extract our vehicle from our own front yard ditch.    We were so glad I hadn’t been in the car because I would not have been able to leave the jeep and climb up out of the ditch.  I did take the photo.  I grabbed my camera after Ron came in to call the tow service and worked my way to the front door so I could shoot this photograph.  It was taken through the front door window  which is why it is not a properly positioned photo.  I was working around the posts on the front porch and a tree in the front yard.  Now you may ask, why are their bales of hay sitting there?    Because Ron was planning to spread the hay on the front grass to absorb moisture and help provide a little surface traction as the lawn thawed and froze.  So much for great plans!

So who am I?  Am I a photographer who writes, or am I a writer who takes photographs?   I would love to hear your thoughts.  I would also like to leave you with a few photos to inspire your memories and your thoughts — I hope you will share them with me.

 

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

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Filed under Activities, employment, hobbies, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, reality, work, Writing

World Wide Photo Walk

Photographers capture photos on the World Wide Photo Walk at Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Photographers capture photos on the World Wide Photo Walk at Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk is an annual event during which photographers all around the world go out in groups on the same day and take photographs. This past Saturday Ron and I participated in the 7th Annual Walk.  It is always fun to see what other photographers capture when they are at the same place as you shooting.  The event is held in numerous cities with local walk leaders.  Each walker may submit one photo from the event to their local group.  The winner of the group photo submissions wins a prize, and then their photo is submitted into a world-wide main photo competition from which there are thousands of dollars in prizes available to the 10 finalists, and then of course a Grand Prize Winner.

Paint Creek, Rochester Michigan.  Photograph by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Paint Creek, Rochester Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014


The opportunity to meet other photographers while walking around taking photos of an area you may not normally explore and the ability to later view what other photographers decided to capture is interesting.  Several photographers can go into the same area and spot different subjects or photograph the same subjects but in a different way.   In any hobby or profession seeing what others do is informative and fun.

photographers on walk-1-2

Photographers prep to take photos along Paint Creek. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

This year Ron and I decided to participate in the event held in Rochester, Michigan.  The main portion of the walk took place in a park where we have been numerous times for special events, but I had never visited on a normal day for a casual walk.  Even in what first may appear to be a limited subject matter if you open your eyes and look around you can spot many interesting photo subjects.    Unfortunately the fall colors have not yet come into full play, but there was still a bit of color here and there to enhance the effect.

Water flow over rocks, Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Water flow over rocks, Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

The park had three different bridges over the creek that provided interesting subjects.  There are various points in the creek where rocks create interesting formations of water, mini waterfalls and rapid effects.  Flower gardens, trees, benches, and a fountain are also items of interest.  I’ve included a few of the photos I took on the walk here.  If you would like to view more I have posted 57 pictures I took during the photo walk on our Facebook page, Times Gone By Photography – Quality Photographs and Photo Tips.

Pond at Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Pond at Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Everyone is welcome to joint the annual photo walk event.  It is a great way to interact with other photographers, see new areas, and just enjoy a few hours out taking pictures.   Have you ever participated in the Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk?  If so I would love to hear about your experience, what City and Country you walked in and what type of camera you use.

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Filed under Activities, events, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography

Same But Different

After an 11-day vacation my husband and I arrived back home the evening of August 17th and I am still working on getting back into the swing of things.  Our trip was within our own state, but to an area that was very different from where we live.

Motor home and car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Motor home and car. Photo by Grace Grogan

We began with a two-night stay in Boyne Falls, Michigan for a memorial service. We have a motor home and had booked into a campground there that is located on a country road. What we found, luckily after we had left the motor home at the camp and were driving only our car, is that the GPS does not distinguish between good country roads and seasonal, 2-track roads. We also discovered that it is possible for a GPS to get confused because after taking us down an assortment of roads it took us back down the same roads we had just come from. So much for a GPS being able to navigate from Boyne Falls to Boyne City — it couldn’t even find our campground!

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season. Photo by Grace Grogan.

Our next destination was Iron Mountain, located in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Our drive from Boyne Falls to Iron Mountain was uneventful, unless you count orange barrels on the Mackinac Bridge an event. Of course all Michiganders know that summer is “orange barrel season” and why should a bridge be any different?  What we found during our stay in the UP is that although we were in the same state, the environment and way of life is very different.

Iron Mine Tour.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour. Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mountain is on the south side of the UP very close to Wisconsin and about midway across.  It is home to one of the world’s largest ski jumps, and if you drive to the war memorial there it will take you up to where the jump is located for a beautiful view of the area.  We enjoyed a tour of the Iron Mine in Vulcan, where they take you approximately 425 feet below the earth’s surface into the mine.   Mining has not been conducted there for years but it is interesting to learn the conditions under which they worked and the tools used to drill in the mine.

Iron Mine Tour Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour
Photo by Grace Grogan

Our main objective of the trip was to photograph waterfalls, lighthouses and nature.  We were disappointed that although we passed several Moose Crossing signs the moose were not being cooperative and we never saw one.  We did see several deer, wild turkeys, and what we believe were a couple coyotes.    We found that while some waterfalls are well known and have a lot of visitors, others are secluded, hard to find, and require driving down narrow county dirt roads that are only slightly wider than a car width and you will only find the waterfall if you are lucky because they are not well marked.

Walking to a waterfall.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Driving down county roads can be interesting.   We came across lumbering areas where we stopped to take photographs, and discovered that semi-trucks coming at you on those narrow dirt roads drive at a pretty good rate of speed.  Don’t forget to roll up your window because you will be engulfed in a smog of dirt after they pass.    Much of the UP is National Forest, so you are driving those narrow dirt roads with huge trees on both sides.  We commented on how beautiful they must be during the fall color season.

Bond Falls.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Bond Falls. Photo by Grace Grogan

Part of the UP is Eastern Time and the other portion is Central Time, and as we drove to our various locations we were constantly bouncing from one time zone to the other.  The solution, leave your wrist watch on Eastern, set the microwave on Central, and your cell phone will automatically change for whatever time zone you are in.    Although this did not have a massive impact on our vacation plans, you do have to keep that in mind when considering the hours a place is open or when you make reservations.

Lighthouse - Marquette  Photo by Grace Grogan

Lighthouse – Marquette
Photo by Grace Grogan

Two of the lighthouses we visited are private and can only be seen by tour.  We luckily stumbled upon them at the correct time to take part in the tours and learn about life at those locations.    The job of lighthouse keeper was a lonely existence for both the keeper and his family, as they were often in places that were located out and away from other civilization.  Climbing a lighthouse that is part of a home is an easier, shorter climb for a great view.   By the time you begin your climb up the spiral staircase to the lantern room you are already on the second floor of the home and only have a bit farther to go.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial. Photo by Grace Grogan.

I have given you a few details on our trip, but the question you may have is why did I say it is “Same But Different?”  Because it is.  I live in Michigan’s lower peninsula in the thumb just south of Port Huron.  When you cross from the “mitten” into the UP in some ways you take a step back in time and into a small town existence.  A “big city” has a Walmart and a KMart, and some fast food establishments, there aren’t many big cities in the UP, Iron Mountain, Marquette, Munising and St. Ignace are those that come to mind immediately.    The rest of the UP has small towns, no fast food, and the towns have long stretches of roadway between them.  Of course you can always find a restaurant serving pasties wherever you travel, something you will not find in lower Michigan.  A pastie is meat and potato with maybe a couple other veggies in a crust.  They were carried by miners down into the mines to eat for their lunches.

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall.
Photo by Grace Grogan

We traveled Highway 2 several times and it is a long road of forest and very few cars.    You spend a lot of time driving in the Ottawa National Forest or the Hiawatha National Forest.  The UP does not have “rest stops” like we are familiar with where you have a nice modern building, vending machines and bathrooms.  When you travel in the upper peninsula there are Roadside Parks with picnic tables and the bathroom facilities are actually outhouse toilets.  Did you want to wash your hands?  If fussy about that you better carry some hand sanitizer.    We noted that most vehicles on the road are clean without any with damage from accidents or rust.  When living in an area where you have to drive for miles between cities without any other cars, homes or businesses between having a well maintained vehicle is a must.  While there are miles and miles of desolate area there is no litter.  Here in the lower peninsula you find litter everywhere, but not in the UP.  We never once saw so much as a gum wrapper on the ground – clean and natural as it should be.  Uppers take pride in their environment and it shows.

We will definitely go back to the UP for another vacation.  It was relaxing, has great photo ops, nature, and requires a lot more time to explore than we allowed.  If you want to go somewhere that is the “Same But Different” take a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Filed under environmental, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Putting a Spin on Things

Flower Zoom by Grace Grogan

Flower Zoom by Grace Grogan

For a change of pace we are going to put a spin on things, literally, and focus on a new photo technique I have learned and have been working to master – the zoom and spin.

Horse rider competition tracking and zoom combination.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Horse rider competition tracking and zoom combination. Photo by Grace Grogan

This is a technique developed by Randy Heath, a fellow photographer and with his instruction I am slowly mastering the skill it takes to capture a quality photo in this manner.  It is fun and puts a new spin on subjects, giving them a unique, abstract look.

What I am finding is that bright colors work best, and it is best to take a lot of photos of the subject when shooting because you will get a lot of really trashy photos and only a few quality ones.    I have also found that some subjects lead better to this technique than others, and by adjusting the starting point of the zoom and how fast you rotate the lens you can achieve a variety of looks.

Coast Guard Boat zoom by Grace Grogan

Coast Guard Boat zoom by Grace Grogan

When you spin the lens slower you are more apt to capture a bit of your main subject in focus so that viewers can determine what it was you were shooting.  A faster zoom gives a more abstract appearance.  I have also tried some moving subjects, which puts a unique “spin” on it, because you have the combination of the spin of the lens doubled with the speed of tracking your subject.

Flower zoom.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Flower zoom. Photo by Grace Grogan

To capture this look you need is a DSLR camera and a zoom lens.  Set your camera to anywhere between f22 and f40 — play with the settings until you achieve the look you want.  Zoom in tight on your subject and push down enough to focus, then spin your lens as the same time you are completing the shot.  If you have your camera set on continuous shooting you can spin in and out several times and capture several photos at different points.  You can also vary the final outcome by changing the starting point at various levels of zoom, and zooming in and/or out while taking the shot.

Walk in the Woods zoom by Grace Grogan

Walk in the Woods zoom by Grace Grogan

One thing to remember is that this is a technique that takes a bit of practice, so don’t be surprised if the first few times you get a lot of pictures that look like major camera shake rather than an intended abstract.  Once you master the skill you will enjoy the ability to add variety to your picture taking.

Zinia flower zoom.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Zinia flower zoom. Photo by Grace Grogan

If the subject is something you want to make sure you capture a good photograph of I would suggest capturing a few good, quality photos first, then playing with this technique later as a fun addition to your photo collection.

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Filed under Activities, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography

Why didn’t I do it?

Back when I was a kid I loved to write.  I would write long letters to my grandparents, I had several pen-pals in various countries, one I remain in contact with still, and I would write stories.  A class that many disliked in high school but I enjoyed was composition, and for my final writing assignment in that class I wrote an article on child abuse.  Horrifying information, but if I remember correctly I got an A on the paper.   I wanted to become an onsite news reporter.  Getting out and seeing what is going on in the world and writing about it.  Active, interesting.  Why didn’t I?Regret - our past makes us who we are

I didn’t go to college for journalism because I allowed my mother to influence my decision.  This was back in the 1970’s and equalization in jobs and society’s view on women and certain careers was still very negative.  My mother told me that journalism wasn’t a good career for a person who wanted to have a family because if I became an onsite reporter I would have to pick up and go at all the times, would never have a family, and I should go into a more stable career such as secretarial.    For some reason I let her thoughts on journalism as a career influence my decision and I went into clerical work.

Clerical work has served me well.  I have worked as a clerk typist, administrative assistant, secretary, office manager, and after returning to college am now a paralegal.  I like office work, but I have often times regretted that decision not to pursue my chosen career back when I was younger.  I have dabbled in writing over the years, though.

Back when my children were young I took a correspondence course on writing magazine articles for children and loved it.  Unfortunately I was also working full time as an office manger, held various volunteer positions and had two children who were also involved in extra curricular activities.  I never managed to find time to do the writing I wanted.  Then after my children were older I participated in a writing group at a local art studio for a while, but that didn’t provide the outlet I wanted.

In 2004 I moved to St. Clair County and became a member of the family history group.  A few years later the newsletter editor decided to give up her position and I took it over and still hold that title today.    As newsletter editor I select material for the newsletter, write some articles, layout the paper and handle the mailing.

In 2011 The Lakeshore Guardian, a local free newspaper, was looking for someone to write a monthly column on genealogy and my column  Who Am I? was born.  They recently developed an online access and some of my more recent columns can now be viewed on their website.

Writing - If a story is in you it has to come outMy husband and I have been trying to adopt our two granddaughters who went into foster care in 2010 and the parental rights were terminated in 2012.  We immediately applied to adopt and have been involved in a very frustrating situation ever since.  The youngest child was awarded to her foster care parents for adoption, a heartbreaking loss, and I did a Shutterfly book after she was lost to adoption called KAE-LEE JOY GROGAN:  Forever in our Hearts. We continue striving to obtain visits with and adopt the older child, Kiley Grogan, who has severe mental, physical and visual handicaps.  She is a precious little girl who we want desperately to be returned to our family.    I have discovered that our story is unfortunately not uncommon.  People have been waging similar battles for years and I have decided that the public needs to be aware and am in the process of writing a book that tells what has happened to us and our beautiful granddaughters.

I was just accepted to a position as an opinion columnist for The Times Herald, a local newspaper.  Me along with with five other new columnists were announced in their June 26th edition and my first column was published on July 9th, Michigan Gun Owners Deserve a Measure of Confidentiality.  Being an opinion columnist is a new and exciting adventure and I am looking forward to the challenge.

When I started writing the book mentioned above I found a freelance writers group that deals with the business end of writing.  One of the first things I heard in that group is that writers should have blogs.  A blog helps you connect with people and gets them familiar with your writing style.  That was the reason I began this blog.  I did have a hard time with it though, because so many blogs deal with one topic or area of interest, and I like to write about all kinds of things and didn’t want to be locked into one format and at the same time didn’t want to juggle numerous blogs.  That was how I came up with the name of my blog “Life is a Melting Pot.”  That title leaves me free to write about anything and everything, including my other interest as a photographer, for which I manage a Facebook page Times Gone By Photography and have a website of my photos on Fine Art America, Times Gone By Photography:  Grace Grogan.  Writing - desire to write grows with writing

What I have found is the more I write, the easier and more enjoyable it gets.  When I look back now at my desire to become a journalist when I was making career choices in 1977/78 I think “Why didn’t I do it?”   I can’t go back now and do it over, but it is never to late to start a writing career.   While I no longer desire to be an on-sight breaking news reporter/journalist, one thing always on my mind is that Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her 60’s when she began writing the Little House books.  Her mid to late life start is an inspiration and has played in the back of my mind for years.

Now to my writing…..

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under career, decisions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, time, Writing