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    Winter Vacation 2016-2017: The High Sierras, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Richmond, Baltimore, and Pennsylvania.  Whew!

    Swall Meadows, Eastern Sierras, California.


    Out along US Highway 395, Eastern Sierras, California.


    June Lake, Eastern Sierras, California.


    Approaching June Lake, California.


    Hot Creek Geological Area, off US Highway 395 near Swall Meadows.


    The Buttermilks, outside Bishop, California.


    Incredible Mono Lake, California.


    Hot Springs Ice, Mono Lake, California. December 2016.


    Manzanar WWII Japanese Internment Camp, California


    Out along US Highway 395.


    Fossil Falls, California (US Highway 395)


    The Outpost (closed), Darwin, California.


    Old water truck, Darwin, California.


    A Death Valley sunset.


    A high view down to a sand storm in Panamint Valley, California.


    Tourists from all over the world make the trek to Badwater Flats in Death Valley, California to walk on the lowest spot in the Americas.


    My camera never left the hotel room in Las Vegas.


    Hoover Dam on a wonderful day.


    "Winged Figure of the Republic" - by sculptor Oskar Hansen, Hoover Dam, Nevada.


    The great bridge at Hoover Dam.


    Great Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona boarder.


    A very low level at Lake Mead.


    Out in the Nevada desert.


    We visited family in Richmond, Virginia . . . . where they controversially display statues to the leaders of the Confederate States of American along Monument Avenue.


    Beautiful old homes along Monumant Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.


    Stonewall Jackson monument, Richmond, Virignia, USA.


    At The National Acquarium in Baltimore, USA.


    A forest walk in the Poconos of northeast Pennsylvania, USA.


    A very cold morning in rural Pennsylvania, USA.


    MORE COMING SOON . . . . .

    October Thai Visitors = Scottish Road Trip

    I love having friends and family visit us here in Scotland . . . we get to take them around the country and share good times together.  I also get to take my camera and shoot some pics.  We headed south out of Aberdeen for a little time in Edinburgh first.


    The Royal Mile is always the first stop in Edinburgh.  Although it is touristic, it is also stunningly beautiful.


    The Scottish Parliament sits astride the Royal Mile.


    The philosopher Hume called Edinburgh home, as does this bonny lass busking with her pipes.


    The Royal Mile leads up to Edinburgh Castle.  I loved this old cafe truck.


    I bought a cafe latte here . . . of course.


    Edinburgh Castle dominates the city skyline . . . and is absolutely fantastic.


    The Edinburgh Castle drawbridge and gate.  There has been a castle on this location since at least the 2nd century AD, although there have been many rebuilds and additions since then.


    Once inside the castle walls, an ancient world unfolds.


    Edinburgh Castle is a 'living' castle: these offices are in current use by the Royal Family for administrative purposes.


    Inside the castle walls.


    I love that the Scottish National Trust has young men circulating in period WWI military dress . . . a reminder of wars gone by . . . and the human toll.


    Of curse, the castle is a defensive position and is ringed with canon emplacements.


    The gun emplacements had the best views of Edinburgh.


    Looks dangerous.


    It's always good to have the high ground in a siege.


    There are wonderful views of Edinburgh city from the castle ramparts.


    A small chapel within the castle walls.


    We were at the castle as soon as it opened in the morning . . . to get the best photo opportunities, but it quickly filled up with tourists.  Here, an inner courtyard outside the grand hall.


    Inside the magnificent grand hall!


    A sumptuous castle interior.


    We enjoyed several days of sightseeing in Edinburgh, but the call of The Highlands and more historic sites beckoned.


    From Edinburgh we headed northwest and to ancient town of Dunfermline, which served as the royal capitol of Scotland until the 17th century.  Here we have the ruins of the 11th century Dunfermline Palace.


    Dunfermline Palace ruins.


    Adjacent to the palace ruins sits the intact Dunfermline Abbey (c. 1128).  A perfect October day in Scotland!


    The immense ancient Dunfermline Abbey. 


    The interior view of the old section of Dunfermline Abbey.


    Beautiful vaulted ceilings.


     A working mill near Pitlochry.


    We actually bought 'heretage' stone ground organic flour from the mill . . . it makes the BEST pan cakes!


    A stunning scene.




    My Scottish Garden In Autumn (+ Macro)

    It's Autumn in Scotland . . . and my garden is alive with color and wonder.


    The days are getting shorter . .  and many of the birds have gone.


    The leaves have gone red . . .


    . . . or golden.


    The apples are ready to harvest in the far end of the garden.


    The garden is very old and the original planter created a garden that has continuous flowering . . . when one plant fades, another comes into bloom.  These are still flowering in late October.


    These miniatures grow from the nooks an crannies of the garden wall.


    The garden hedge sprouted these blossom buds recently . . . although they have not opened, they attract large numbers of bees, wasps, and flies.


    There is a great variety of foliage throughout the garden.


    The roses were among the first to bloom . . . and they are still producing amazing flowers.


    And there are more roses yet to come.


    These popped out a couple of weeks ago . . . right before I was going to pull them out, thinking they were weeds!  Close call.


    Autumn weather can be wet and wild in Scotland . . . and occasionally throws up amazing rainbows.  I watched this one go through many phases . . .


    This rainbow ended in this striking streaked image.


    Fast moving clouds full of rain cross the landscape continuously.


    Rain and shafts of light.  Beautiful.


    Occasionally there is a  window in the storms and a glimpse of the sky appears.  Sometimes there is magical light that pours through the holes in the sky . . .


    And when the sun pours through . . . .


    These back-lit 'silver dollar' leaves . . .


    So beautiful.


    And when the garden stops flowering . . . I have house plants.

    Scotland - Summer Visitors 2016, Part II

    I always enjoy visitors to my little corner of Scotland.  It gives me an excuse to go out and see things I haven't already seen in this beautiful country.  I wanted to check out the Crathes Castle Rail Station for a couple of years, and a visit by my buddy from Liverpool provided the excuse.  This is the station master, not my visitor.


    The Royal Deeside Railway runs a summer steam train from Crathes to Banchory, only a couple of miles away.


    I love these old steam engines.  The British and Scottish are great restorers and maintainers of these old treasures.


    All Aboard!


    We spent a lot of time wandering around the country roads of Aberdeenshire.


    Further up the River Dee are several Victorian-era suspension bridges . . . this one damaged by a huge flood last winter.


    Abergeldie Castle was nearly lost to the raging River Dee this year.  (The castle is not actually leaning . . . it is a distortion caused by my 10mm lens.)


    Finding a gate house along the road usually means there is either a castle of grand manor house nearby.


    Not all country houses are grand . . . not every farmer 'makes it.'


    Lovely, bucolic rural Scotland on a rare perfect day.


    One of the sites I wanted to see was the Natural Burial Ground near Alford.  Cothiemuir Hill Natural Burial Ground was quite fascinating.  People had chosen to be buried not in church or public grounds, but in nature, under the trees.  Stones here and there, rocks, and a few plaques marked the burials. 


    The burial grounds were in an especially beautiful forest.  I might like this as a burial option.


    It was interesting to walk among the ferns looking for markers . . . an exercise in reflecting on our mortality.


    It's also nice to have visitors so you can have a photograph of yourself once in awhile.


    The next day we headed south, along the old road along the North Sea to the famous fishing village of Arbroath.


    We walked around the village, ate a fine seafood dinner quay-side, and walked around the old harbour.  The air was so still, the water so calm.


    I have been to Arbroath many times.  I always make a point of taking visitors there . . . the sweet pastel buildings and harbour boats are extremely picturesque.


    Yes, it is a fishing village and they do have fishing trawlers based here.  Those colors!  Yes, the colors that day were intense.


    Never in my life have I seen such a dramatic sky reflected in the sea!  Astonishing!


    The strong golden afternoon light played well on the moored fishing boats.


    Arbroath Harbour is a living, working harbour.  We walked up to the harbour breakwater wall to see what was on the other side . . . .


    The view from the top of the harbour wall was up the coast of the North Sea to the Angus headlands.  What magical light I had that day!


    As it was getting late, we decided to drive back to Aberdeen . . . the late afternoon light on the Angus fields were spectacular.  We stopped many times to gape at the view and take photos.


    Wild flowers lined the fields and roads.


    Golden fields of grain fringed by clusters of wild flowers.  Ah!  Scotland!


    Late afternoon golden light, deep shadows.


    Lovely daises everywhere.


    Angus field.


    We drove past these scenes for an hour, completely in awe of the beauty.



    Under Construction


    Scotland - Pitlochry, Moulin, and Highlands Road

    As I often do, I tag along with my wife when she goes somewhere interesting to play in golf tournaments.  This past week-end it was in the beautiful surrounds of central Scotland: Pitlochry and the tiny village of Moulin nearby.  This is a quaint cottage in Moulin.


    The village of Mulin is build around a square with the church and graveyard on one side and the Moulin Hotel (c1665) facing it.


    Built on the site of the 1165 chapel, in 1873 the original church was gutted by fire and the present building was constructed. In 1989 the church was closed and became a community center.


    These old rural graveyards are very interesting to me.  I find the old 'furniture' and features sad and enlightening.


    There are some fine, sweet cottage gardens in Moulin.


    A lush garden in late summer.


    The old hotel was dressed in beautiful flowers.


    I left the village to explore the country above the town of Pitlochery.


    Tree-lined country lanes . . . .


    I walked along a trail at the base of Craigower Hill with an eye to walking to the top.  Some ladies at the golf course said there was a wonderful view from the summit.


    The trail began adjacent to the Pitlochery Golf Club.


    It was a perfect day for a trail walk - the warmest day of the year and clear sunshine!


    The trail began at a gradual incline . . .


    . . . and ran under varying stands of trees.


    But the trail became much steeper the closer to the summit I came.  The trees thinned and the bugs increased.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put on any repellant (SkinSoSoft).  I got a number of midge bites here.  Itchy!


    Nearing the top.


    The view back down the Tummel Valley, and the town of Pitlochery, from the summit.


    A panoramic view from the summit of Craigower Hill.


    There were some big patches of purple heather on the top.


    I walked back along a different trail to where I had parked the car, and drove up this avenue of trees to pick my wife up at the golf course.


    The village of Moulin through the trees across the field.  After a delicious Sunday Carvery at the clubhouse, we took the long way home from Pitlochery to Aberdeen along the A93 up a Highlands pass on the Old Military Road.



    The road from the Spittle of Glenshee to Braemar is a stunner.


    Fast moving clouds in the strong late afternoon light left constantly moving dark patches across the Highlands landscape.


    The heather was in full purple bloom up in the Highland passes.


    Sheep grazing in the summer light.  This pass is deep with snow all winter.


    Scottish roads, a Wonder of Nature around every corner.


    The deep shadows of late afternoon along a Highlands road.  Magnificent.


    Coming down from the summit of the pass we came onto small crofters patches.


    Picture perfect . . . a perfect day.