Sunday, February 23, 2014


     This post and some that follow will be part stories and part photos.  And the two will not necessarily be related.  I hope you enjoy both.
Rust: on the way to the Oregon coast.

Point Loma Lighthouse, San Diego.

Point Loma Lighthouse.

The Run on Porridge

Porridge, boiled ground, crushed or chopped cereal (in Scotland it’s oats), has been a staple of the Scottish diet since Medieval times when it was eaten hot by crofters for breakfast  and cold for lunch--and maybe even fried for dinner.  Tradition (and superstition) says the porridge should be stirred with a wooden spoon or spurtle (thick wooden stick) with the right hand in a clockwise direction to ward off evil spirits.  If you microwave your porridge today there is a seven step ritual performed which includes the sacrifice of a lamb in order to ward off the irradiated evil spirits.  Eaten usually with milk, Scots will salt their porridge while we heathens add sugar. 
Porridge is a real breakfast treat in the B&Bs in Scotland.  Most of the time the porridge is very traditional, but in Durness at Glengolly B&B in the far northwest corner of Scotland I got a quite special edition.  My breakfast porridge came like a brulee with burnt sugar on top and then a dram of Highland malt whisky was added.  Delicious!  The best porridge, though, is the porridge made by John Clifford I get almost every day at Merlindale B&B in Crieff.
Because we are oversea’s family I get porridge even if it’s not on the normal breakfast menu at the B&B.  Every once in a while a guest or two will see my porridge and ask if it is available for them and it always is.  There was one day though when the B&B was full (eight guests) and one of the guests asked about porridge before I even got mine (so nobody can blame it on me).  John said, “Of course, for you my dear.”  Suddenly everyone wanted porridge besides the normal full cooked breakfast.  There was a run on porridge!  A new batch had to be started and the kitchen was kept busy with both the regular breakfasts of Scottish bacon, eggs, sausage, fried bread, potato scones, roast tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast, and the demand for John’s porridge.  
After breakfast John and Jacky said it had been the biggest run on porridge in 17 years of running the B&B. The next day, with a different group of guest, I was the only one to have porridge.  It had been a one-day run.
On the way to Death Valley from Las Vegas.

From Hwy 190 near Zabriskie Point.

Zabriskie Point view.

Cameras for Travel

One of my blog readers asked me for some advice on cameras for travel or traveling with cameras.  In answer I’ll devote some time to my camera kit and how I travel with cameras.
My current kit includes three different DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera) bodies and five compatible lenses, including wide angle, macro or close-up lenses, and telephotos.  I also have a couple of small cameras including the new mirrorless series with various lenses and a pocket camera.  For all these cameras and lenses I have batteries, chargers, various filters, an external flash, tripod and monopod, and far too many camera cases (shoulder bags, backpacks, messenger bags, photographer’s vest, and hard cases).  All of my camera equipment is Nikon--it’s what I started with--but Canon, Olympus, and other brands can be equally as good. 
The obligatory Death Valley selfie.

In Golden Canyon, Death Valley

The general Store at Furnace Creek complete with locals posing for tourists.

Of course, I don’t take everything with me on every trip--I’d need a pack horse to carry it all.  So what do I take on a trip?  I have several guidelines I use when putting together my kit for a trip:
--Always have a backup camera or lens.
--Take plenty of memory cards and spare batteries and chargers.
--Be sure to have lens cleaners (cloths, brushes, or special pens) and on long trips carry a camera sensor cleaner and know how to safely use it.
--Have access to camera manuals (take small cheat sheet manuals or have manuals downloaded onto a computer I’m taking). 
With these guidelines in mind my kit for a trip varies depending on the kind of trip and the length of of the trip.  For instance, for a six week trip to Scotland I’ll take two camera bodies with batteries and chargers and three compatible lenses (wide angle and telephoto for Highland scenery, macro for gardens and flowers, and mid-range zoom for golf courses).  I also have a walking or hiking stick with camera mount screw on top to act as a monopod--I would love to have a good tripod in Scotland and still consider buying one to keep over there.  I take a small camera for cities or snap shots (either a pocket camera or the mirrorless with a moderate zoom lens)--some might use their mobile phones, but I don’t take mine.  Finally, I pack it all into an appropriate case for travel (usually a backpack camera case) and I take my photo vest.  As another example, on a recent trip to San Diego for a family wedding and then vacation in Las Vegas including a two day trip to Death Valley I took one DSLR body with a wide angle and a telephoto and my mirrorless Nikon J1 with two lenses.  This small kit, along with all our other electronics for the trip (GPS, cords and chargers, music system, etc.) was carried in a small camera backpack and I took the vest to use out of the car and around town.  
Death Valley dunes.

Bad Water reflection.

Rhyolite Ghost Town


     For every trip one of my most difficult tasks is to decide what camera kit to take.  I’ll try to figure out what lenses I’ll need for the type of scenery (seascape, cityscape or landscape or maybe all three) we’ll find.  I pack my kit and adjust and repack.  I may call it a difficult task, but it’s also a fun part of the trip--I love playing with the cameras.
From our timeshare: Las Vegas sunset overlooking the mobile home park.

While on my trip I try to clean the cameras and lenses whenever needed, but for sure I do a thorough cleaning every night.  I also download all my images from the day (from every camera) onto my laptop computer (MacAir is great for travel) and I don’t erase even the bad ones from the computer or memory chip until I’m home from the trip. When I do get home my one task, besides cleaning everything, is to evaluate what I’d taken on the trip: Should I have had a different lens or camera body? Would a different camera case have worked better?  Was there anything left out or did I take too much?
My system isn’t perfect but it works for me and I hope my notes help some of you.
Golf in Ramona near San Diego.

Golf at Furnace Creek GC, Death Valley. 

One of the golf course residents at Furnace Creek GC.

Let the Glasses Speak

Early in our fall flight to Scotland in 2010 I was busy reading when a male flight attendant stopped to ask me a question, probably whether I wanted peanuts or pretzels.  I was so engrossed (or so close to falling asleep) that he startled me.  I looked up, took off my glasses which I wear all the time, and answered him.  He gave me a quizzical look and said, “Do you have to take your glasses off to talk?”  I hadn’t even noticed that I had done that.  I put my glasses back on and we both laughed.  For the rest of the trip each time he talked to me I took my glasses off to answer.  I should have just let the glasses do the talking. 
The stairs weren't working; they neither went up nor down.

A pathetic scene outside a shop in Boulder City, NV, and it was already Friday.

Sign in the Perthshire hill in Scotland.