Earlier in the fall Mary and I joined our church family at our annual “Run Away”. At our church, Cornerstone, “Run Away” means retreat. It was in Grantsburg Wisconsin. On the way home, we ran into a couple of flocks of migrating Sandhill Cranes. Not the prettiest birds. Often the bright birds (e.g. Cardinals) are among the most skittish. These are a bit drab, but every bit as skittish. I tried a number of times to get closer, but this is as close as I was able to get. I guess I just need longer glass. 🙂

Melanerpes Carolinus

In the midst of the Vikings thumping of the Giants, I noticed this guy show up. I thought it was a Hairy, put it appears to be a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. If so then he is at the edge of their normal habitat.
It was about 5 degrees when I popped this. He was filling up on fresh suet, a nice winter fuel.

Winter Wonderland!

On the last day of the year, it is a bright and sunny December 31st. We’ve certainly had our fair share of snow this year, but I always like the way it leaves a fresh clean coat on everything.

I’ve been working hard trying to capture winter birds. Our feeders seem to really attract the Chickadee and the Downy Woodpecker. I’ve been trying to catch them in their natural habitat, but like many of their feathered friends, they don’t stay put long. Here are two of my better shots. Enjoy.

Have a happy new year, drive safely, hug someone you love.

Passing through

It is mid-late November and the Canadian Geese have been stopping in on their way south. Each week there are a hundred or so that pass through. I have been working hard to get some good shots. I’ve tried stalking around the lake, wading and even drifting across the lake in the Canoe. They really don’t like outsiders.

These three were taken in the canoe trying to drift as close as possible. In the end I am learning that the secret to getting a few good bird pictures is to take hundreds!

A Nice Day Out

October 18th was a beautiful fall day. It has been so rainy that it has been hard to get outside and shoot. It has also made the colors a lot less vibrant than years past. When Saturday turned out to be a nice day, I decided it was time to add an early fall picture to my series of panoramas from the deck. It isn’t as exciting as I’d like it but it was (as my Nephew Jack would say) “A nice day out.”

Fortunately fall is a great time to catch flowers and leaves as they change state. I think I got a couple of nice shots.

From Italy to the North Woods

Last weekend was the ninth annual Giants Ridge escape. This year we did The Wilderness at Fortune Bay followed by The Quarry and then The Legends both at Giants Ridge. While not quite the Tuscan Hills it was great as always.

It was a warm and dry fall so the colors were not yet peaking, only the maples were out in force.

When colors aren’t at peak, you have to look for other targets. It isn’t hard.

Even though the colors were late the course was in great shape and the sky/clouds were amazing. I couldn’t resist taking a couple of shots

We even got some golf in. It was a long weekend. On a $s/stroke basis, we all got our moneys worth.

There are more photos in the Giants Ridge 2009 Album here.

The first and last “mile” to Le Torri

Here are a couple of fun clips we made in our last day in Tuscany. These are the last “mile” to and from our lovely apartment at Le Torri. It was always fun (more for me I’ll admit) that last segment before we arrived, or the first segment as we headed out. It IS as narrow as it seems. It is not possible for two cars to pass. There are a couple of places where you can pull over and wait before one proceeds.

Sorry about the glare off of the windshield in the second clip.


I finished taking a scan through the 1,100 pictures I took on this trip. I have uploaded four albums into my Picasa account and they are now linked on my Selected Photos tab.

If you are interested, take a look. All thumbnails can be expanded.


Lake Como is much different than any of the places we have visited in Italy. It defies easy or simple definition. The surrounding area reminds me a bit of upstate New York with its deep lakes, steep inclines and dense vegetation. However, there are a number of differences.

A few include:

  • The Swiss Alps aren’t 30 miles away from upstate NY
  • Lake Placid isn’t 400M deep (the bottom of Lake Como is 200M BELOW sea level)
  • You don’t see palm trees in Lake Placid
  • There aren’t four hundred fifty year old villas lining the lake shores
  • Communities didn’t expand “up the hillside”

We stayed two days in Como. Monday, we just wandered the city. Like many old cities in Italy, the Duomo is almost always fantastic. Como is not an exception. Here are a couple of shots. The inside is breath taking.

Yesterday we took a ferry ride up the lake to the town of Bellagio. I don’t know that there is anything specific that led us there other than the fact that it is quaint and allows for a very pleasant two-hour boat ride with lots of great scenery.

The villas are outstanding. One of the noteworthy is Villa del Balbianello. It is where the wedding between Anakin and Padme (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones) was filmed, along with other planet Naboo location shots.

We are now heading home. We left Como early this AM, and encountered a couple of traffic jams on the Autostrade that made us a little nervous. It was also challenging to find the car return facility at Malpensa (since we picked the car up in Milan at the Centro Train Station). We ended up driving within 200 yards of the main terminal before we saw a 8”x8” sign that said Car Hire. Once behind a ticketed gate, we finally saw signage for EuropCar. Crisis averted!
I was planning on posting this at the KLM Lounge in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (Wifi is free). For the last couple of days Internet Access has been dicey (or expensive). In Como and Portovenere is was $8.00 for 30 minutes. That got old fast. It sure is easier to unplug, when plugging in is expensive.
As it turns out, our Milan flight was delayed and we didn’t have time to stop at the lounge. So I posted this when we get home.
As it noted in the last post, we’ll have a couple more updates and I’ll post all the photos on the “Photos” tab of the blog.


Cinque Terre

Le Cinque Terre is made up of five ancient towns within a 5 kilometer stretch of coast along the Ligurian Sea. These towns retain their original charm and authenticity due, in large part, to the designation of the entire area as a world habitat site by UNESCO. The surrounding lands are a national park and provide a challenge to those who choose to hike the often steep and primitive footpaths between the five towns rather than take the train or ferry between them.  There are so many elements of visual eye candy, it is hard to figure out how to show them all. As a comparison, it is not as if our three pictures of Siena and our words totally captured its essence, or that our reported experiences in any other city really gave you an accurate impression. It is just that today we visited five very old and established towns in one day. How do we convey an experience of that significance in a few short paragraphs and a few photos? These are very small towns – hamlets really – but they have a lot more character than their size would suggest.
They are each unique and engaging in their own right. When combined, they are fantastic. I am posting what I think are five of my best attempts to capture each town. So, in order from north to south:

Montorosso al Mare – the beach town. Everything revolves around the beach (and the tourists).

Vernazza – the prettiest town with amazing views from the Cinque Terre walking path in the Italian National Park.

Corniglia – so small and vertical that when the train stops in town, part of it remains in each end of the tunnel. This town is not reachable by car.

Manarola – sunbathers on the boat ramp. Actually, everything is on the boat ramp. I don’t know how they fit it all in.

Riomaggiore – diving and boating. There are a couple of dive shops and the premium parking on the “street” is filled with boats, not cars – which are not allowed in town.

I’ve seen lots of places and sites hyping these five towns. I had high expectations, and I am surprised that they have been exceeded. I would encourage anyone who is interested in northern Italy to visit Le Cinque Terre. I noticed that most of the towns have quite a few rooms to let. I never saw one on the inside but I imagine (based on the lobbies) that many of these are not quite two-star level. I would check into it carefully before making a reservation.

Tomorrow (Monday) we leave for Lake Como. We’ll be there Monday afternoon and Tuesday before we leave for home on Wednesday morning. I expect we’ll make one more post from Como before we leave.

After we return, I’ll be adding a number of photo libraries to the photos tab of this blog. In addition, I expect that we’ll add some additional posts, make some clarifications to earlier notes, fix some of the images that were limited by poor internet bandwidth, and after reflection, recap some of our journeys.