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Good-Bye, Renee

By David Morris

In Nicaragua, there is a great need for publishers not only in English, but also Spanish and Nicaraguan Sign Language.  Because of this, we very frequently have visitors ( or Need Greaters, as we like to call them ) that come down to help out from anywhere between 1 week and 3 months or more.  One of our most recent Need Greaters was Renee Dutcher. She had visited us before and we were very thankful to have her return.  And . . . . we look forward to seeing her again in the VERY NEAR (wink) future.

I have included pictures from her “going away” gathering that we had at her  house.  We all miss you and pray you be safe and healthy until we are able to be together again.

For you . . . .

The Wedding Day Finally Arrives

By David Morris

All that planning and preparing, making sure everything is just right. Seemed so far away just a few months ago but now, it has already happened.  And what a wonderful event it was.  I am going to break my pictures for this wonderful occasion into 3 parts: the pre-wedding, the wedding, and the reception.  All of which had their own story, most of which will be told by the pictures.  I tell most from my point of view. Sorry Ryan and Julie, you have your own web site to tell about your point of view.

I need to let everyone know the arrangement here between me and Ryan & Julie, in case there is any confusion. I have known Ryan for quite a few years but just last year met Julie. I knew right off that Julie was a keeper when we got to talking at the Jamestown re-modal. Apparently, Julie works, like, on every crew. I know she works on the roofing crew which may be how they met. (Will need to confirm that.) because Ryan is also involved in the RBC. At our re-model, I had the privilege of taking pictures of the blessed event and got really chat with Julie. Now why is she a keeper? She already owns a motorcycle. Girl after my own heart, this one. Anyway, because I have become much more involved in photography, they asked me to help with taking the pictures for their wedding. They also have another brother doing this as well but he has much more experience than I do. Hence, the other photo shoots with Ryan and Julie that I have posted on this web site. They were practice for the big day. Am I a professional, by no means, but I know with time, practice, and patience, I may become one.

So Ryan wanted me to meet at his house early with his groomsmen so we could go take some fun pictures of them playing basketball and the like. We had about 30 minutes to do so when Ryan realizes that he left the wedding rings in the trunk of his car that he dropped of at the reception hall 30 miles away. Within seconds, I swear, seconds, here comes a text from Julie, “Don’t forget the rings.” They are not even married yet and Julies knows Ryan like a part of her own flesh (Genesis). We all got a chuckle out of that but the basketball is now out while we drive to Winston-Salem to get the rings. There is a basketball count near there so maybe….. no go. The court is a private playground and is completely padlocked. So instead, we go to a small park in Kernersville and take some pictures there as you will see in the first gallery below.

We get to the Kingdom Hall to meet up with Julie right on time where I team up with the other photographer. He has found a house out in the middle of nowhere to take the wedding party pictures. In case any of you are wondering, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in superstition and all that, so there is no problem with the groom and bride seeing each other before the wedding. This definitely helps with picture planning because we go all these done before the wedding so that afterwards, Ryan and Julie would be able to enjoy their reception, and they did as you will see.

Remember I said the other photographer has more experience than me? Well, I was not prepared for taking pictures of the family under the trees with the extremely diverse lighting problems. I destroyed a lot of pictures trying to get them right. I have not see his yet as of this writing but I hope his came out better than mine. I have included in this blog the best of what I took. Don’t hate me too much Julie. I did try my best. :)

So here are the pictures I took before the wedding actually started.

So after all this is finished, it is time to start the wedding.  Not much to tell here.  It was a normal wedding.  The scriptural counsel was timeless.  The bride and groom were so beautiful and handsome.  The event when off like clockwork.  All that planning and preparation paid off.  I did add a couple of tag lines to the pictures below so be sure to check them out.

And now that the wedding was over, everyone headed over to the reception for an evening of feasting and dancing.  Enjoy, I certainly did.

Congratulations, Ryan and Julie Clayton, September 18, 2010.

It’s July Now and Love Is Holding Tight

By David Morris

As you read back in April in April Is Afoot and Love Is in the Air post, my buds Ryan and Julia are tying the knot in September. Well the Triad Strobist group in Winston-Salem, NC met up at Castle McCulloch for a real good shoot. Click here to see the pictures that everyone uploaded for that event.

Ryan and Julia had wanted to do another photo session like we did back in April and this seemed to be a perfect opportunity. Although the strobists had many other models available, Julia was definitely a favorite and Ryan didn’t mind hanging out with me in the shadows. But all in all, we all had fun the night before Julia went an almost month long Missionary trip to Panama. I am sure she had a wonderful time and would like to see this pictures. So, to Ryan and Julia, enjoy…..

Americade 2010

By David Morris

Well,  it was time for another vacation.  This will have been the first one since my European trip last July.  I have been a motorcycle rider for several years now and have only ever been to Honda Hoots (three I think).  Since Honda has decided to completely remove themselves from the rally scene and has also disbanded their demo team, I thought my rally days were over.  I never really wanted to go to Sturgis for the big Harley rally.  But a friend of mine, Richard Horsley from college, invited me to join him and one of his co-workers to the Americade rally in Lake George, NY. We ended up staying at the Country Cottages and Motel which were actually quite nice. They were convenient located in Diamond Point which is just about 4-5 miles north of the Lake George Village where all the ralley activities occurred.

Since this was my first time, I really did not know what to expect. I did know that there would be a lot of vendors and there were several items I was really anxious to purchase for my motorcycle. So I knew I would be spending time at the expo where the venders were. We had also reserved seating for several sponsored meals and rides during the 5-day event. They also had others types of events available like hot-air balloon rides, bowling, a scavenger hunt, raffles galore, and many other options. They provided a wonderful program guide for the entire event that truly provided all the information that anyone would need to know what was going on.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, you really can’t do everything. If you want to participate in the scavenger hunt, it would take must of your time. The organized rides, although are relatively short in plan, are long in execution. They will provide lunch but then you spend time exploring the surrounding area the whole rest of the day but then rush back to Lake George to make the dinner that you had reserved. I have to admin, even I did not make one of the rides that I had paid for just trying to do everything that I wanted to do. And for the clincher, this mean I had very little time to do one of my newest, favorite hobbies, photography. So my pictures were few and far between and I never even had time to get any of the bikes. How sad is that.

The second thing that really hampered me from being a shutterbug was the weather. As you will see in some of the pictures, if it wasn’t raining, it was severely overcast the entire rally. We did have a nice Monday, the day before the rally started but then it went downhill fast and stayed that way all the way home.

Now the rest of this blog is to outline the photographs that I took on this vacation and not as a testimonial to Americade. However, I did thoroughly enjoy myself at the rally. It was extremely organized. Well laid out. And I would highly recommend it to any bikers out there that are looking for a wholesome rally and is not overly laced with revelry. I never say any questionable attire or activities that I would not invite a child to. Of course, I didn’t look for any either so that may have been why.

April Is Afoot and Love Is in the Air

By David Morris

Congratulations to Ryan and Julie on their upcoming nuptials.  They are using a more seasoned photographer for their formal wedding pictures.  But…they have asked me to be a secondary camera man for their wedding.  They have made a wise choice since I will be bringing all my year of experience (that’s right, the singular “year” is not a mis-type) to the celebration.  They have asked to have several pre-wedding photo shoots to just take some casual and, more than likely, formal pictures of them in different environments before the wedding actually occurs.  This post is the first occurrence of these.

We took all these photos at a little park in downtown Kernersville, NC.  Hope Ryan and Julie are reasonably happy with them.  If not, I will try to improve between now and the big day.

MeetUp - Yates Mill, Raleigh, NC

By David Morris

This past Saturday, there was a small group of people that met at the K&W on Holden Rd. in Greensboro, NC to go to Yates Mill in Raleigh, North Carolina. I had never been there before but rode down there with a couple of experienced photographers and had an opportunity to learn some things. We were not able to stay as long as I would have liked but did spend a couple of hours. I will be going back there to spend a little more time.

Photographically, the day started very bad. I got so excited about the light when I got there, I took the camera out and started shooting. After about 45 minutes, I decided to look at the pictures I had taken … and … they were all black. Then I looked at my settings. Boy were they wrong. I had forgotten that I had set some strange manual settings the last time I used the camera and forgot to reset them when I was done. The white balance was set to flash. The exposure was adjusted to -2 stops. So all the pictures I took were WAY under exposed. Throw those in the trash. Then later I fixed the white balance. The rest came out OK.

But to my surprise, I get home and download the pictures. WOW, what a wonderful affect. So here are the best of the pictures I took.

An Overnight Trip on The Blue Ridge Parkway

By David Morris

I spend a lot of time in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina along the North Carolina, Virginia border, usually just riding my motorcycle on the scenic mountain roads but this weekend I decided to dedicate a lot of time to photography. There are a lot of wonderful sites along the stretch of road I followed on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I traveled, basically, south from Meadows of the Dan (Hwy 58 interchange) to N. Wilkesboro (Hwy 421 interchange).

When traveling to the Blue Ridge Parkway, my usual port of call is Fancy Gap, Virginia just north of Mt. Airy, North Carolina. My family and I have a trailer we keep in Utt’s Campground all year even though the campground is only open seasonally for 6 months. So I usually spend the night there and travel outwards. This weekend, I decided to go up to Martinsville, Virginia and pick up 58-W over through Stewart and Lover’s Leap to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Meadows of the Dan, Virginia. Just north of there about 3 miles is Mabry Mill. This is a beautiful mill that is still in operation grinding wheat and whatever. After spending time there, I headed south on the parkway to Highway 52 and Fancy Gap to spend the night.

That night, the sky was crystal clear and the Milky Way was very visible. If you have never seen it, it looks like a narrow cloud band that crosses the entire sky. That is not a cloud but all the visible stars that make up our wonderful galaxy.

I decided to wake up 5:00am and travel back north about 10 miles to Groundhog Mountain. At that site, there is a look-out tower you can enter and get a wonderful view of the sunrise. In that 10-mile stretch of the parkway, I saw 3 deer standing along side of the road, AND, another deer with a family of raccoons standing square in the middle of my lane. After a rather abrupt reduction in speed, they did eventually move, but still reminded me that at night on the parkway, the wild life takes ownership of the road.

So after spending several hours at Groundhog Mountain, I traveled a little ways south on the parkway and decided to go down to Mt. Airy for breakfast via the road at Orchard Gap. That is a rather steep and tight-turning road that eventually get access to US-52 just N. of Mt. Airy. I returned to the trailer, ate my breakfast, and prepared for my trip home.

This time I decided to go further south on the Parkway than I had ever been before; I decided to go all the way to highway 421 and then return home through N. Wilkesboro, North Carolina. I stopped at several overlooks along the way but about 5-6 hours later, I returned safely home.

At one overlook, I do not remember which one, there were a whole group of people with really big binoculars and scopes with and w/out attached cameras lining this little hill along the overlook. They sort of reminded me of that scene in “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind” when everyone was waiting for the space ships to fly by on that road. As it turns out, during the month of September, there is a very large preditorial bird migration that use the updrafts along that particular ridge to gain altitude to continue their flight south. As many as a hundred can be seen at a time circling in the sky, slowly climbing without ever flapping their wings, just soaring. I didn’t see any while I was there but about 20 miles down the road, I saw 3 doing just that at a different overlook (again I don’t remember which one).

Anyway, here are some of the pictures I took on this little overnight excursion.

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2009 European Vacation Wrap-Up

By David Morris

A Reflection of a 24-day European Vacation

It was a whirlwind, especially all the tours we did.  I had much more fun when I was able to relax and take my time to do my photography or just sit around and associated with both friends and others.  Overall, the vacation was a truly wonderful experience that I will treasure always.

Here are quick links to all our stops in case you had trouble finding them on my site:

  1. Grindelwald, Switzerland
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
  3. Paris, France
  4. Hamburg, Germany including the highlights of the international convention
  5. Barcelona, Spain
  6. Monte Carlo, Monaco
  7. Livorno, Italy, the port for Florence & Pisa
  8. Civitavecchic, Italy, the port for Rome
  9. Naples, Italy, the port for Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii
  10. Mikonos Town, Greece
  11. Istanbul, Turkey
  12. Kusadasi, Turkey, the port for Ephesus
  13. Athens, Greece
  14. Venice, Italy
  15. European Cruise Wrap-up
  16. Mastre, Italy

First of all, preparing for the trip was very beneficial.  We did a lot of research on Rick Steve’s web site.  I also attended a couple of classes offered by a local luggage store called Sharon Luggage on how to pack.  Both resources were invaluable.

My two biggest concerns about the trip were: 1) money, and 2) water.  Turns out the money issue was not as big a deal as I thought.  My visa was accepted almost everywhere and because it was a debit card, I could also use it in ATM machines to get cash if needed.  Turns out Jarrad brought a little extra so I was able to borrow from him.  However, water was a very different issue.  I am a very big water drinker.  I drink about a gallon a day, I would guess.  And I don’t like bottled water, I really like tap water.  I did drink tap water in almost every city I went to with the exception of the cities in Turkey, and I did not have any adverse reactions to it.  Specifically in Switzerland, Germany, and Greece.  Switzerland and Germany in the hotel, and in Athens at a public water fountain at the top of the Acropolis.  I also drank a lot of tap water from the ship.  I would bottle it up the night before and put it in the refrigerator was had in the stateroom.  That mostly kept me going.  Pepsi is almost impossible to find in Europe, Coke has a definite monopoly over there.

Out of all the places we went, where would I go back to?  If I had to choose the ones to return to with extended stays would be Grindelwald, Switzerland so I can do a lot of hiking and take the trains to some other regions within the Alps.  I think also Venice, Italy.  It has the same appeal to me as Time Square in New York City, NY.  I walk around Time Square and I want to go into every door because I know behind each one is a fascinating store or story.  I feel the same way about all those small alleyways in Venice.  Each one has a unique character that I would love to explore.  I also enjoyed the rugged landscape of Turkey and the reasonableness of their cost of living compared to other countries we visited in Europe.  I would not mind spending more time there as well.

About the people you may ask! For the most part, Europeans are very friendly and helpful.  In Venice, I was trying to use a pay phone to reach the hotel we were staying at in Mastre to see if they had a shuttle service from the ship to the hotel.  I could not figure out the public phones so I asked a gentleman that spoke some English. He was nice enough to just let me use his cell phone.  The desk clerk at the hotel spoke no English so the man was also kind enough to translate for me.  With the exception of Paris, when we needed help, it was not difficult to find it.

We did discover that most people that deal in tourism speak English. But people that don’t deal with a lot of tourists, we had a harder time finding ones that spoke English.  For example, most of the taxi drivers we used did not speak English.  So if you do travel to Europe, make sure you know how to give directions in the local language.  When we were in Barcelona, I was trying to tell the driver to go the the port with the big ships.  He kept saying “port” so I figured he got it.  As we were driving down the highway, I was the signs for the port (which was the picture of a ship) and they directed us to exit the highway but the driver kept going.  I figured he knew a different way.  We continued about another 10 minutes and noticed we were approaching the airport.  I asked him if we were going to the airport and he said, “Si”.  I said, “No!” and Jarrad suggested aqua port instead of aero port. And the driver got the point and turned around.  It cost us about an additional 10 euros.  But lesson learned.

However, our last taxi driver that took us from Mastre to the airport in Venice did speak very good English.  When we took the taxi from the ship to Mastre, I noticed we were in the passing lane passing cars like they were sitting still, literally, not an exageration.  We were doing between 135 and 140 kph.  I didn’t know the conversion so I asked the English-speaking driver and he went up to about 145 kph and said that this was approximately 100 mph.  Holy cow!  He said it was funny, in America, the streets are wide and we drive slowly; in Europe, the street are narrow and they drive fast.  I thought that was an interesting observation.

Jarrad was impressed, especially in Germany, about how green it was.  In our section of the US, they are constantly deforesting large acreages to build housing developments so we are losing a lot of the greenery.  In Germany, the communities are all full of large, well established trees and they are beautiful.  It is even very apparent from the sky when we were flying overhead.

Something I noticed was that most of the homes use clay tiles for their rooves, the tera cota colored tiles unlike the U.S. that mostly use the asphault grey tiles.  So when flying overhead and looking down at the homes, the color difference is quite apparent.

Also, the public transportation (abbreviated “PT” , because I do no want to type that anymore) in Europe is wonderful, when you figure out how it works.  Every city we stayed in had PT but there were little anomalies that you had to decipher.  Some had discounted tickets, like 12-hour unlimited use, or volume-use discounts.  Some you could buy on the PT itself, like the bus or the train, others you had to go to either machines or special stores to get tickets.  Once we figured it out, we were good.  But I would recommend doing the research before hand if possible.

Final Thoughs

I am definitely glad I did it.  What would change for next time?  I would not pack as much.  The lady at Sharon Luggage said to lay out everything you want to pack and then take 1/2 of it away.  She was right.  I took quite a few things I never used or needed.  Not insurance stuff, like Neosporin that I never used, but clothes I never wore.

If I go back, I would try to concentrate on specific areas and spend more time there than spending a little time in many areas like this trip.  This one was good for a first time to get a feel about Europe.  Now that I have felt it, I think I would be more at ease by myself than relying on others to tell me where to go and see, specifically, the arranged tours.

Of course, the best part of the whole trip was the time I spent with the friends.  I really was moved by the hospitality they showed to us; the time they spent with us and caring for us.  I can’t even imagine the amount of love Jehovah shows for us when we meditate of the vast amount of love the friends showed us.  Jehovah has definitely built an organization that is like no other in the world, now or even in the past.  Maybe during Solomon’s reign, but I can’t believe that even the Israelites demonstrated the brotherly love that currently exists in Jehovah’s organization.  And I definitely look forward to the time that the entire world, everyone in it, exercises that same love.  So when I go back to Europe, I don’t have to look for people with a District Convention badge to find someone that loves me, but every single person I see.  Oh, how I long for that day.

Thank you Jehovah, may all the praise be yours.

Stop #15: Mastre, Italy

By David Morris

Mastre, Italy

After disembarking from the ship, we had reserved a hotel in Mastre, Italy which is on the mainland close to Venice.  This was our one short glimpse into a non-tourist part of Italy.  It was pleasant.  We finally found a grocery store where I got a Pepsi and Jarrad bought some extra virgin olive oil, both cheaper than we get here in the States.  I found it interesting that the police in Italy drive Astin Martins, very nice.

The hotel was a three-star hotel.  It was small with no amenities what-so-ever.  But it got the job done.  We slept and took a taxi to the airport for our trip home.  It is almost over (he says with a tear in his eye).

Europe Cruise Wrap-up

By David Morris

Europe Cruise Wrap-Up

Well, Princess Cruise Lines is definitely different from Carnival Cruise Lines.  Jarrad and I were both at a loss for the amount of activities that were available to us.  We realized pretty early that they tend to cater to couples and families.  They had a lot of activities for those 17 and under, and 60 and over, but nothing really for the rest of us.  Ironically, while we were waiting to disembark, we started watching TV and there was an old episode of Love Boat being televised.  Low and behold, the Love Boat was a Princess ship.  Now I get it!

So for us single guys trying to find anything to do other that what a “Movie Under The Stars” with no stars (a problem in the Mediterranean I think), or cheesy acts in the different lounges or theatres, there wasn’t much else to do.

The food in the general buffet was satisfactory.  Every now and then, they would have something really good like garlic shrimp one night.  But the only exotic food we had was when we ate in the formal dining room on our “at sea” days because we were too tired after our tours to change into dress clothes and go through all that. (PS, They had a different flavor of cheese cake every night and none of them were actually cheese cake.  They were more like the Jello brand than New York style.  We also had a running contest to see who could come closest to guessing what the scrambles eggs where actually made of.)  But I guess you get what you pay for.

The only other real complaint I have, I don’t know whether it is the ship, the captain, or the sea itself, but for the most part, that was a very bumpy ride the entire cruise with minor exception.  Even when the sea was glassy, the boat still vibrated.  It is a new ship, November was it’s first voyage, I think, so maybe they are still working out the kinks.

Anyway, over the course of the cruise, I took the following pictures.  You will see that the boat is quite elegant and HUGE.

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