Fort Myers

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

“The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli!”

One Saturday morning in January, we drove over to Fort Myers just as a cold front with rain descended on South Florida. We had planned this evening away for weeks and there was no way we were going to cancel. So instead of heading straight to our hotel and beach, we went to the Edison Ford winter estates, a historical museum and 21 acre botanical garden on the adjacent sites of the winter homes of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford outside of Fort Myers. The girls were whisked away on a 40 minute tour with activities allowing us time alone to look at the exhibit and find out about the lives of these wonderful American inventors.

We eventually made it to the beach late in the afternoon, the rain had dissipated but the storm clouds remained and the water churned. The beach was empty save for a few thousand sea gulls surveying the angry sea. My youngest took one look at the beach declared that it was way too cold to stay outside and set herself up in our hotel room with Dad. A few years ago, in a similar location, I took some photos of her among sea gulls, and these photos are still among my favorite.  I got one of my “bright” ideas…I ran to the car and grabbed the jumbo bag of pretzels we had brought over and suggested to my eldest daughter we head to the beach and throw one or two to the birds. What occurred next was like something out of a Hitchcock movie. We didn’t have two birds arrive, it was if we had rung the dinner bell for every seagull in South Florida. It started off calm, they followed my daughter with her small cup, but when I handed over the ziplock bag of pretzels, well that’s when they got REALLY close. Take a look at the ziplock bag as it goes from full to empty – by the time all the pretzels were eaten the birds were full enough to stand in front of her patiently waiting for her to impart her next gift.

"Any problem can be solved with a little ingenuity."

This trip wasn’t one of my finest moments in terms of planning. I had remembered my husband mentioning it would get cold, and I thought, okay low 60s. It wasn’t until the next morning when I opened the slider door of our room that I realized it would be too cold to walk down to the beach. It wasn’t anywhere close to the 60s, it was in fact 45. Now 45 is fine…if I have coats and some warm clothes packed, but I didn’t pack a lot and what I packed was well useless, or so I thought. I like to think that the following action was something akin to an old school MacGyver episode. I emptied out their bag and had them put EVERY SINGLE item of clothing I had packed for them on. Pjs covered by a t-shirt, covered by another shirt, covered by a dress, covered by fleece, covered by a poncho. I even threw on their sun hats for good measure because my mum put the fear of God into me as a child about losing heaps of body heat through my head. We made it to the beach, played in the sand pretending it was snow, and when we got too cold we headed off for hot chocolate in the lobby.

“I have put many beautiful pinatas in the storeroom, each of them filled with little surprises.”
The Three Amigos

At the end of my 365 photo project three years ago, I remember stopping at a little Mexican restaurant in Bonita Springs on the way back from Tampa for lunch. I snapped the girls wearing sombreros, while they giggled from having to balance the weight of these broad and heavy hats on her head. We stopped at the same restaurant on the way home from the beach and found those exact same hats, a little dustier than before and not quite as broad and heavy this time around.



Back to school for #2

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It was well into September when I realized that I had not done my traditional "Back to school" shoot for the newest kindergartner. I admit it, I am slacking so much on the photography side. Somewhere  between more homework, after school activities, a new position at work and something called slipped. This post was to document my youngest starting kindergarten and how she picked her favorite dress and her favorite books, and fell in love with my dad's old typewriter, but then I found myself going in a different tangent and instead addressing why I have not been blogging frequently.

It started with me changing my purse over a year ago. No longer did I lug 10lbs of a camera in a camera bag with me everywhere which had the added value of stopping my back pain. But it didn't help me document life like I had in the past. I changed my hall display taking down all the photos I used to change out regularly on a peg line, replacing them with ceramic swallows. Visual reminders were gone of a passion I loved so much. I lost my confidence a little too...if you don't practice you don't have tangible proof that your work is good enough to share.

It is easy to get out of the habit of something and really hard to get that habit back. As much as I love photography, I hate editing. I hate spending more time sitting in front of a computer when I do it five days a week already. I'm tired at the weekends too, sometimes I just don't have the urge to grab my camera and run around the place trying to catch the angle I want so bad.

But some traditions you can't miss like this and in truth I needed this shoot. I needed the photo of her balancing the same books on her head that her sister balanced years before her. I never want her feeling like her milestones were less important than her sister's. Bizarrely, I also wanted to use that typewriter badly - it's the same typewriter I hounded my mum for last March in Ireland only to realize it weighed a gazillion pounds. You've heard the saying "where there is a will, there's a way"...well, I know that one intimately now too.

I'm not promising tons of photos, but I will try to continue my photography traditions and make sure to capture important moments in our families lives. Maybe, I just need to adopt the same saying that got that typewriter home in my hand luggage...."where there is a will, there's a way".


She looks so much like her older sister here, except I see her "lovie" in the shot!
The title of this book is how I feel every day!

Let's Dance!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Many times on my commute home at dusk I wished that I could capture the setting sun over the everglades with my kids. But I never had the opportunity until January when my eldest was traveling home with me from a weekend Irish dance class. Among other steps, she has been practicing “the bird”, a move where an Irish dancer jumps mid-air with one leg outstretched and the other leg tucked under. As I glanced over at the setting sun, we devised a plan. Pulling off the freeway to the makeshift carpark and with just minutes of available light to spare, we jumped out of the car and ran up the hill.
"The Bird"
We started with some skips and captured "the bird,” but the real magic started just as the sun set and I told her to try whatever move she wanted.

Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 18, 2015

From us to you, Merry Christmas!



The legacy of the little feral we loved

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Webster one month after she found us, her ear was notched to show she had been fixed and had a caretaker

It all started when we heard faint meows in the dark as we got out of our car in our driveway. We spied a hungry frightened kitten that would not let us approach it, so we threw bits of left over salmon in its direction that it scoffed up. The next day it was back for breakfast and dinner and as the days passed my husband gave it the name Webster. Too scared to be handled we humanely trapped it and brought it to Stray Aid and Rescue for vet care and neutering. The verdict was that it was probably 14 weeks old - too old to be tamed and that she was a female. They suggested that in her post op drowsy drug induced mode, we could try to pet her gently a few times through the cage to help her get used to human touch. However, she didn't like the petting, was petrified of us in general and was deeply unhappy. I was sure she would never return when I released her the next day, but she did and every morning and every night she came back for a meal. Eventually she came closer, a week or two later she let us pet her while she ate at our porch steps and so the advancements continued until she came inside to eat and then would sit on our laps. She was never going to be an indoor cat no matter how hard we tried to acclimate her to the indoors, within an hour or two she would paw and cry at the front door to leave, tearing the insulation off of our front door with her claws in her haste to head out on a big adventure.

Webster quickly became a part of our family, following the girls to the neighbors houses for playdates, walking behind us and dodging through the hedges as we walked down to the mailboxes. In all of four months we had tamed a starving kitten who fiercely loved her new family.

But one day she didn't come for breakfast, and she didn't arrive for dinner, in fact she never came home. It is over two years since we lost our beloved cat and our exhaustive searches all came up empty.

Webster turned me into that cliche - "a cat person", from that day I noticed cats walking around at dusk, I became attuned to the noise of kitten meows and I started getting phone calls from friends and neighbors that found kittens and cats that needed help. In the past two years I have helped over 20 cats/kittens find forever homes or neutered and returned feral adult cats to a safe cat colony with a caretaker. I have met many kind people who do the very same thing and have helped me along the way teaching me the tricks of the trade. Today, I want to share some photos of my latest rescues that are being cared for by my very dear friend Sharon Chatlos at her barn - J's Landing.

Roughly ten days old when their mother was hit and killed by a car near our house, my husband and I climbed behind dumpsters and fencing and with a butterfly net got four starving and distressed kittens out to safety. I called Sharon for help and we devised a plan. A lactating mother cat at the barn whose litter was leaving for forever homes that same week seemed like the most viable option if the kittens were to survive. We just needed the momma cat to take over the newborns as her own. We could not have been more lucky, this mother cat of the year when introduced to the starving kitten immediately let them nurse her.

One evening a month after the kittens arrived at J's Landing we visited Sharon and held the thriving kittens. The big red barn is a little slice of heaven in Plantation, home to boarding horses, a beloved miniature horse that is a certified pet partner and a menagerie of animals since Sharon specializes in pet therapy for children. She also takes in kittens that need a little TLC and socializes them, working with a rescue organization that eventually adopts the kittens and finds them good homes. This lucky litter of kittens will soon move on to their forever homes, and I have no doubt another litter will take their place at the barn.

One of the kittens at J's Landing

Kittens in a basket

The runt of the litter
Its amazing how when one door closes, another opens. Six months after Webster went missing we found a juvenile male orange cat crying in our garden. We came to find out it had been abandoned shortly after it was adopted from the Humane Society 30 miles from our house. An indoor cat unable to fend for itself, it was so hungry it came to me and when I carried it inside to my house and sat down, he walked up my body and sat on my right shoulder. The girls immediately called him "Tommy" and when we found out from his chip that there was no way of contacting his previous owners, we adopted him. To this day, Tommy walks up my shoulder and sits there every day. For his own safety we do not allow him outside and he is king of his castle.

Tommy a few days after we found him

Webster is still dearly missed by us and will never be forgotten and we do that really bad thing of comparing her to Tommy when is he acting aloof. But our feral kitten left a tangible lasting legacy. Her short life made a profound positive impact in our family's life teaching us how to care for a cat, and it opened our eyes to the plight of felines around us that need a little bit of human help.

Happy 4th July

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy 4th July!
Wishing all my American friends a wonderful and fun 4th July.
The red, white and blue


Purchasing a new lens? Consider renting

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Occasionally I am asked for advice on cameras and lens, however since I use Canon and have no user experience with other brands, my advice is somewhat limited.

Have you ever purchased a car without a test drive?
When my needs changed and I realized my kit lens and DSLR camera wasn't cutting it anymore, I started to rent.  Its not a new concept, but not that many people know its even possible. Now when I know I am going to make a significant investment in a new camera or lens, I try to rent the item twice before I make a purchase. It has saved me costly mistakes: I have rented 4 lens and only bought two, I have rented two camera's and only purchased one.

Renting a lens also allows you a little time to wait for rebates. If you need a different lens for a special event or a short vacation and are not in a terrible rush, rent instead. That extra time and some website watching will save you money. At certain times of the year the larger brands will offer some very nice rebates and sometimes the big stores offer additional discounts at the same time. So do a quick search and boomark a rebate blog.

I am not into collecting extra lens that will collect dust, and my renting has saved me from buying the "paparazzi" lens that was too heavy for me and the prime lens that I just did not love enough. Unless you want to display unused lens in your house, I recommend a test drive.