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    The Procession of Species

    An annual parade in Olympia, Washington State, USA brings families, teens, and old folks together in celebration of the life on our planet.

    A popular event in Olympia, Washington is the Procession of Species.  The townsfolk arrive early to grab the best viewing spots along the route.

    For families, the parade is an opportunity to dress up and walk down Main Street together.

    Groups of friends, of all ages, gathered hours before the official start to practice their street routines.

    For the children  . . . heaven!

    The parade rules were simple: any species that lives in the air, under the sea, or on the land . . . and NO motorized vehicles.

    I wandered the pre-parade staging areas for these portraits of the communities' creativity.

    The kids were ready.  Cute.

    The city came around with wagons full of colored chalk for the children . . . . and came around later to collect the unused chalk.

    Bird Girl!

    Floats . . . getting ready to parade.

    Stilted sea creatures arriving for the parade.

    Final adjustments for comfort before the long march.

    Some of the children 'street artists' were very good.

    A large crowd began to assemble for the parade.

    Wherever you have a large crowd, buskers will appear.

    The clouds looked threatening . . . .

    The Olympia city center was closed for the afternoon.

    Olympia, being a state capitol, is a political town.

    Town characters . . . The Goddess of Trash, "One day, everything you have will be mine!" she exclaimed.

    Old Olympia.

    The crowds began to gather around the town square in front of the old state capitol building.

    A marvelous xylophone band played in the square gazebo . . . . . and then . . . and then . . .

     . . . and then a break-dancing Superman entertained the crowd . . . and then . . .

    And then the Boys in Blue separated the crowd to the sidewalks . . .

    And then there was a buzz in the air as the start of the parade approached.

    A fantastic scene approached!
    A parade of homemade costumes and floats.  America celebrating itself.

    I loved this Mantis costume . . . and wanted one too.

    Citizens parading.

    Its fun to dress up in a costume and walk through your town.

    The families that 'floated' together were my favorites.

    The ladies I saw practicing before the parade did well . . . and garnered much applause.

    Some of the costumes were very creative!  The Human Fly really scared some of the children . . . in good fun.

    OOOOO! BBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

    A fly eye!  Spooky!  Creative.

    Even the morose teens joined in!

    Jellyfish were very popular.

    Fantastic colors of the jellyfish!

    Some of the jellyfish were simply beautiful.

    These jellyfish were very creative . . . they would rise, fill with air, then propel themselves around . . .

    Lots of jellyfish . . . and a narwhal.

    The sun finally came out and dried off the dampness.  There were many troupes of dancers.

    With the dancers came the drummers . . . 

    And more dancers!

    Having fun with your chums.  A good day.

    Getting into it!

    Parade parrot.
    A fish when closed, a butterfly when open.

    Some of the 'species' were very large . . . like this frog . . .

    23 people were needed to manipulate this giant peacock down the avenue.  Beautiful!

    A very large flying insect buzzing around.

    Just plain folks out having a good day.

    A couple of wizards showed up as well.

    Fun for the whole family.
    Sister mushrooms?

    A creative starfish.
    A great day out frightening the kids . . .

    A rare 20 foot street shark . . . they would drag the crowd with the tail . . . as the children would scream!

    How much does it rain in Olympia?  So much, that they have to actually carry the sun!
    For a few, it was a long day . . . . might want to use larger wheels next year . . . and grease those bearings too . . .

    This group were fantastic dancers with a wonderful routine.

    An energetic and diverse group of very good dancers having a ball!

    And then the last of the floats passed by . . . and the parade was over.
    Time to go home . . . and enjoy the sweet memories.

    But I don't want to go home . . .
    Do we have to go home NOW!

    And that was that, as they say.

    Biking The Chehalis Western Trail In Early Spring: Heaven!

    Mile Zero - The Chehalis Western Trail, just outside of Olympia, Washington. 

     
    With my new (used) bike under me on a cold and damp late March day, I headed up the trail to see wht I could see . . . . and take a few photos.  Mile Zero is only a few hundred yards from where I am staying.

    The brown vestiges of last Autumn still strewn about on the wet trail . . .

     
    . . . but here and there the first signs and sprouts of Spring were appearing.

    I rode this trail in sections . . . up and back for 5-7 miles each way at a time, in different weather and in an ever exploding Springtime.

    Before all the foliage returned, there were still many views out across the Thurston County rural landscaped.

    The Chehalis Western Trail is a converted logging company rail line cut through beautiful forested Pacific Northwest countryside.

    The trail is very well maintained and the horse riders, walkers, and bike riders share the pavement . . . and follow the rules.

    As the weeks went by, and the weather warmed, the bare branches started to show tiny daubs of green.

    The deep, old growth forests remain lush throughout the winter.

    There are a number of ponds and small lakes along the 18 miles of the trail I have ridden so far.

    I have taken my bike rides at various  times of the day  . . . an evening scene at one of the many lovely lakes.

    Riding through these tree-lined canyons and green tunnels is a visual delight.

     
    My new (used) large-size hybrid bike.  Perfect for this kind of riding.  It has a sprung front end and a sprung and damped seat.  Very comfortable.  I have since added more kit - lights, a dinger, a water bottle, and a couple of sacks for my phone and camera.

    Such different scenes along the way . . . from open and sunny to dark and closed in.

    I stopped often to take photos and have a sip of water.

    A beautiful pond where I would sit and rest each time to just enjoy Nature.

    As Spring progressed, the trail became greener and greener.

    Very occasionally I would see another cyclist or walker.

    New growth everywhere . . . . in late Spring.

    There was more and more green in the tree tops the later in Spring I rode.

     
    Sometimes I would load my bike into my truck and drive up to where I last turned around.  My last leg (so far) was from mile 11 to mile 18.  This leg of the trail brought me up into the foothills of the Cascades Muntains  . . . and a very different topography.

     
    The Deschutes River.


    The Chehalis Western Trail runs along side the Deschutes River for several miles.

    Up in the hills there were beaver dams with duck pairs paddling about.

    The trail crossed several pleasant streams.

    A Llama (or Alpaca?) ranch along side the trail.  Cute.

     
    I felt right at home on the trail . . . there were many 'Old Timers' like me out for exercise and inspiration.

    My now 'kitted out' bike on a water stop . . . up near Mile 18.

    I returned often to my favorite pond for quiet meditation.

     
    Mmmmm!

    It has been raining about 50% of the time I have been here . . . and many areas of the forest are supersaturated . . . making for some wonderful reflections.

    Beautiful daubs of green and yellow adorn the trees all along the route.

    A small sign directed me to this pretty lakeside rest area.
    An idyllic Pacific Northwest scene . . . on the more-or-less rare clear day in late April.

     
    The same stretches of trail I rode only one month earlier are now lush with new leaves and flowers.

     
    Trees sprouting puffs of Spring.

    Beautiful wild flowers along the trail.

    Blossoms and blooms.

    These fruit tree blossoms . . . smelled so sweetly.

    Deep in the undergrowth . . .

    Such a bold yellow!

    Such lovely scenes all along . . .

    Greener and greener as the weeks go bye.
     

    April 27, and the refoliation is nerly complete.

    Gibraltar: Day and Night

    Gibraltar by Day:

    In February 2017 we made the short flight to the British enclave of Gibraltar.  It is worth a three night stay . . . but perhaps not any longer . . .
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    Gibraltar sits near the southern tip of Spain at the northern side of the Straight of Gibraltar.  All ships that pass from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean must pass through here.  The North African coast can be seen across the Straight of Gibraltar.
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    Gibraltar is a British territory . . . The residents recently voted 96% in favor of staying within the UK and not joining Spain . . . of course, they also voted 96% to stay within the EU during the Brexit vote!
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    The lighthouse at the tip Gibraltar . . . this straight is also known as the Pillars of Hercules by the Greeks.
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    The 'rock' of Gibraltar falls directly into the Mediterranean Sea on the eastern side.  Fishermen find good use of an old war pill box.
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    The cliffs of Gibraltar are compelling:  their sheer size . . . and the remnants of structures left behind by the  many former occupants over the millennia, draws the eye.
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    The whole of the rock is riddled with passages and tunnels used as  fortified defensive emplacements.
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    Some very old infrastructure left behind by a long forgotten project.
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    Everywhere a remnant of some previous occupier . . . Moorish?
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    Many different building traces from many different eras all overlapping . . . . Gibraltar was occupied, at various times from 950BC, by the Phoneticians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Goths, Visigoths, Moors, Nasrids, Medinas, Dutch, Spanish, and ultimately, the British.
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    Near here, in Gorham's Cave, Neanderthal remains were found dating to 55,000 years ago.
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    Today, Gibraltar is a Mecca for Mediterranean cruise ships and British retirees (pensioners).
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    The Rock of Gibraltar is as riddled with caves and tunnels as a block of Swiss cheese.  The massive rock was the ideal place to build hardened shelters during  times of war, particularly during WWI and WWII.  These tunnels date to even before those times when the British and the Spanish were at constant conflict.
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    The St. George Tunnel is still equipped with the original cannon from the era.
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    Although the cannon is missing, the turret and fire safety cart remains.
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    The historical placards were very informative and made the tunnel visit very interesting.
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    This view from a cannon emplacement is testimony to the strategic importance of these tunnels.
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    In addition to the military tunnels, there are also natural caves in the Rock of Gibraltar.  For a nominal fee, you were treated to giant caverns lit by an ever-changing Xmas tree light.
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    It appeared that they must hold musical events inside the cavern from time to time.
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    A very beautiful place indeed.
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    The colored lights grew on you after a while.
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    We enjoyed our walk-through of the caves.  When we emerged were greeted by . . .
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    Monkeys!  Lots of monkeys!  We were warned about the monkeys . . . that they were little pickpockets! One does not associate monkeys with Europe . . . but there you are!
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    It was late February when we visited Gibraltar . . . and the tourists and cruise ships had yet to arrive.  Some of the attractions were closed . . . yet still interesting.
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    Gibraltar is, of course, built on the side of a big rock with little flat ground.  As such, the streets and alleys are often just steep stairs.
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    Gibraltar is also a port city . . . and a place for a 'mystery Russian' to came and try for sea trials and licensing of a stealth sailing ship.  This Dark Boat was the talk of the town's permanent residents.  It was gone in the morning.
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    There are craft shops open to the public.  Here a famous glassblower plys his trade.
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    Beautiful work too . . .
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    Gibraltar town sits fast against the famous 'Rock.'
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    The south city gate . . . already a few tourists mixed in with the locals . . .
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    There are some beautiful curving streets through the old town.
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    My Old Door Photo Fetish (ODPF) was completely satisfied in Gibraltar!
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    A pleasant place to stroll around . . . before the throngs of tourists arrived, the locals told us.
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    Steep streets . . . .
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    Gibraltar has a  fine Botanical Garden . . . a favorite place to visit on all my travels.
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    There is hardly any unused land on Gibraltar, so it was nice to see they valued their botanical garden enough to not build on it or pave it over.
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    Being on the southern to of Spain, the climate is very mild.  Many kinds of semi-tropical plants grow very well here.
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    Aloe grew everywhere.
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    A few of the tropical plants were in flower or bud.
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    We spent art of a wonderful afternoon here . . .
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    There is still a British military garrison on Gibraltar . . . complete with daily-polished brass cannon.
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    The central walking street is the focus of the town and the only developed commercial area.  There are sweet cafes, bakeries, and shops all along here . . . as well as tawdry tourist curios shops where I bought a refrigerator magnet.
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    Gibraltar by Night
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    In my opinion, Gibraltar becomes even more interesting, and beautiful, when the sun sets.
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    At night the squares are lit and the old government buildings stand out in all their old glory.
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    In the evening people, tourists and locals, come out to the cafes in Casement Square.  One can imagine this space filled with thousands of cruise ship passengers later in the summer.
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    In couples, foursomes, and families, they came to done in the cool air of a February night.
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    The children wandered free around the square as the adults conversed over wine.
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    A happy girl skipped into my photo . . .
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    Casement Square.
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    High above Casement Square, a Moorish castle looks on . . . .
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    Later in the evening, the restaurants and cafes closed up . . . leaving their umbrellas like forlorn soldiers in a strange night.
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    I was startled when I first saw these visages of another world!
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    My other photographic subject obsession are push carts of all kinds.  This ice cream cart waiting for another day was just fantastic.
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    I'm sure I took way too many photos of this particular cart, but it was special, the light was special, and it was a special night.
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    One evening (of the three) I went back out of the hotel late at night . . . to capture the abandoned streets and alleys.
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    Light, textured surfaces, shadow, arches, color . . . wonderful.
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    Ladder, light, shadow, and wall!
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    If the conversation is good, why go home?  Well after midnight in Gibraltar.
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    The dark streets where the only sounds were my footsteps.
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    The historic government buildings were closed.  Not a soul around.
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    The "Government Of" . . . something or other at 01:00.  Wonderful lighting . . . and only me there to see it.  This must have been the police station; otherwise why were there still two men sitting behind the counter at that late hour?
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    Such scrumptious shapes, line, color, shadow, and light.
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    I walked through these same streets several times during the day without really noticing the relationships between shapes and structures . . .
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    An inviting passage to . . . . who knows where.
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    I literally walked from one end of the town to the other in only two hours . . . back out the southern city gate . . .
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    I walked all the eay back an abandoned traffic circle . . . and then back to my nearby hotel.  I had had such an inspiring walkabout in the night streets of Gibraltar.
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    Gibraltar is such a very small place, but it is packed with history, charm, and aesthetic experiences everywhere.

    In The Garden: Earliest Spring in the Pacific Northwest

    Four weeks in a garden on the Puget Sound of Washington State . . . .

    The earliest days, misty and damp.  The end of a long, wet winter in the Pacific Northwest.  This is the garden as it begins to awaken.
    Lat years glory subdues . . . but awakening.
    The misty forest that surrounds the house is beginning to stir.
    The sheltered ferns made it through the cold snaps.
    The mosses and lichens are adapted to thrive through the winter . . . when all the leaves have fallen from the trees.
    Here and there buds are starting to appear.
    The front yard Magnolia flashes it's first promise of wild flowering . . .
    A week later . . . and the sun broke through for an afternoon of amazing light and color!
    The bold blossoms of the Forsythia and Oriental Plum dominate the garden.
    You can almost hear the trunks and branches stretch under the turgor rising from the roots.
    Promises of what is to come in the garden.
    A few brave blossoms gambling against a late frost.
    A sunny day one week later . . . and the whit Magnolia has burst out in a constellation of white flowers.
    A sunny blue garden wheelbarrow . . . 
    New flowering everywhere!
    The ferns seem to be exploding out of the ground!
    The purple Magnolia is beginning to show color in its buds.
    Leafing . . . right before your eyes.
    The Japanese Pear blossoms seemed to appear overnight!
    The rhododendron buds continue to swell . . .
    Down under the rhododendrons, a small violet flower blooms.
    Like an arrangement from a florist . . .
    White Magnolia.
    Delicate beauty.
    Hidden in the dark shadows at the edge of the garden . . .
    These gave off a wonderful aroma.
    A (rare) wonderful sunny day in the great Northwest.

    Weeks later . . . more wet and dark days . . . the famous Washington State rain has been relentless, but that has not stopped the powerful urge of Nature to break free.
    The Rhododendron are just now beginning to emerge from the tight buds.
    New buds . . . fraught with beauty.
    Warped and twisted as they unfurl their beauty . . .
    The magnolia in the front yard is beginning to show purple.
    The purple Magnolia only budding, lagging behind their white neighbors.
    A wet afternoon in the garden.
    A white Magnolia in bloom deep in the dark bushes . . .
    Buds and pink blooms . . . everywhere you look.
    A new splash of beauty emerges.
    Perfect.
    Everything is showing new growth . . . Winter is at last receding.
    Every day sees a new kind of flower appearing.
    Tiny flowers hidden deep within the foliage.
    Flowers everywhere . . . these volunteer perennial were beautiful.
    Native species also appear here and there in and a round the garden.
    This part of Washington State sees extreme amounts of rainfall. The trees are covered in moss.
    Fresh, wet moss everywhere.
    In addition to the moss, tufts of lichen adhere to almost every branch.
    Bark and moss.

    A Ramble in Scotland with a Visiting Friend (10/31 - 11/3, 2015)

    Although I have left Scotland and am living back in Bangkok now, I am still going through photos I took on my many photographic rambles.  This entry is of a three day ramble (mostly the northeast of Scotland) I took when my good friend John Stiles visited me.  I took many, many photos on this ramble, so it will take some time for me to complete it. These are 'The Best of John's Visit.'  Enjoy.

    A North Sea sunrise along the Aberdeen Esplanade. Just above freezing.

     

    First Light.  North Sea.

     

    A church along an Aberdeenshire rural road.

     

    Stunning November weather for northeast Scotland.

     

    I the middle of the Aberdeen city centre is a wonderful church and cemetery.

     

    When an old friend visits that you haven't seen in a while, and it's Halloween, and you are in an old graveyard . . . you must play!

     

    After that stunning sunrise at the Aberdeen Esplanade, our day one ramble took us up the coast to the little fishing berg of Baddam where the hulls of the beached trawlers provided extraordinary abstract studies in decay and color.

     

    The lighthouse at Baddam.

     

    Exposed rocks near Baddam harbour.

     

    The austere old section of Baddam village.

     

    All along our small road route, we were continually 'discovering' fantastically beautiful scenes.

     

    The stunning Fyvie Castle.

     

    Gorgeous autumn scenes all around the grounds of Fyvie Castle.

     

    Superb Fall colors reflected in the castle goose pond.

     

    For three glorious days we rambled about the small roads of northeast Scotland.  My AWD Juke NISMO was the perfect car for the narrow, winding, wet-leaf-covered country lanes.

     

    Castles and castle ruins everywhere in Aberdeenshire.

     

    The Aberdeenshire roads would alternately suddenly diving into the deep shade of small forests . . .

     

    . . . and back out onto the bright, stone wall lined country roads.

     

    We were always up for a quick stop at an old country cemetery.

     

    There is so much to see in the old cemeteries: colors, textures, old surfaces . . . . and . . . .

     

    . . .  and the occasional Class III freefloating spirit vapour.

     

    Autumn in a Scottish cemetery can be very beautiful.

     

    No trip to Aberdeenshire would be complete without a stop at New Slaines Castle . . . a photographer's paradise.

     

    A stairwell in the ruins of New Slains Castle.

     

    Some of the views from inside the castle ruins onto the North Sea were stunning.

     

    North Sea view from New Slaines Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

     

    John and I spent several hours wandering around inside the ruins of New Slaines Castle enjoying the play of light and shadow on the deserted halls and rooms . . . . . . as well as making portraits of each other among the ruins.

     

    The castle on the North Sea cliffs, New Slaines.

     

    The Benholme Kirke, built on the site of a 9th century hermitage.

     

    Although we interrupted the Benholm Kirke bookkeeper . . . but he obliged with a tour and short history of this interesting place.

     

    Benholm Kirke had a fine old 'kirkegaard' as well.

     

    Moss and lichen-covered grave stone and ancient cottage slate roof . . .

     

    We sometimes consulted the GPS as to any 'points of interest' . . . and discovered this old mill.

     

    The sluice and water wheel were still there and still intact.

     

    Down by the Old Mill Stream . . . A photographer's dream!

     

    The opportunities for still life studies of mill paraphernalia was incredible.  I enter only a few of the many beautiful photographs I took here.

     

    An old mill stone.

     

    An old mill stone made of several stone segments.

     

    The wood-shimed center bearing of an old mill stone.

     

    One morning we drove south on the old coastal road to the fishing village of Johnshaven.

     

    The Johnshaven townsfolk had quite the sense of humor!

     

    Johnshaven was a grey and austere village (like many Scottish villages) but with a splash of color here and there.

     

    The fine old stone harbour jetty of Johnshaven.

     

    Johnshaven is a fishing village with many great nautical-themed photos to be had.

     

    Old anchors in the boatyards.

     

    Low tide along the Johnshaven sea wall.

     

    The only bad weather we saw during three days.  A stormy North Sea.

     

    Near Montrose there were signs of a recent flood of the River Esk.

     

    Whenever we would see magic light on an old stone building we would stop and take photographs.

     

    We stopped for coffee one late afternoon in the old market town of Montrose.

     

    Yes, more ghoulish fun . . . in the Montrose Cemetery.

     

    Montrose had some fine statues in the town square . . . here a good Samaritan was honored.

     

    Montrose is typical of many Scottish towns.

     

    OK, maybe Montrose is not so typical after all.

     

    But what I will remember most about Montrose was the most incredible sunset of my life playing over us across the estuary bridge!

     

    From beginning to end . . . we were completely enthralled.

     

    Another day along the small country lanes above the North Sea.

     

    Old farm houses along a strand of the North Sea.

     

    A wild North Sea below the cliffs of Aberdeenshire.

     

    North Sea hay bales.

     

    We saw so much and did so much in those short three days . . . and this blog entry represents only a small part of it all.  I may elaborate more on this entry at a later date, but for now, that is all.