Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Chuckle

Earlier this week, I was out of the classroom for the day due to a meeting at the district office.  The meeting finished at 3:15, and since I wasn't at school with a pile of work to do, I decided to run some errands that I usually take care of on the weekend - one of those being the car wash.
After leaving my car with the attendant and then checking in, I popped into the restroom.  When I finished up in there I approached the sink to wash my hands.  There was a mirror above the sink that looked quite high.  After washing my hands, I looked up into the mirror as one does, and all I could see was the part in my hair at the top of my head.  At 5' 4", I'm not the tallest of girls, but not the shortest either.  Clearly, a very tall person (I'm assuming a man), put that mirror up and could see themselves in it just fine.  It makes me laugh that it has just remained that way.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

At the End

After a beautiful LONG weekend, I head to work this morning to begin the THIRD week of standardized testing.  As I might have mentioned, I HATE testing with every fiber of my being.  So the fact that my students have already spent almost 14 hours on taking tests since May 14 makes me sad and furious all at the same time.  That's not even to mention the three make up sessions (about 6 more hours) that have taken place for absent students or students who have needed more time.  We have three more tests to give this week (at least 6 more hours), and if all goes well my class will be done by Thursday.  Twenty hours (or more) of testing in three weeks time...there's got to be something better to do.
Fourteen more days left people!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Northern Lights

As per the norm, the workload after returning from spring break totally negated the vacation.  It's taken a long time to get through the photos of Iceland.  I was a little concerned with my Northern Lights photos because they are taken at night and the settings on the camera are so very different than what I'm used to shooting with.  They seemed to be decent on the LCD screen on the camera, but until I got them in larger size on the laptop I did worry that I didn't capture them well enough.  Thankfully, my amateur skills didn't impede things too much, and I got some nice shots.
I had done some studying about photographing the aurora before I left for my trip and went armed with notes on initial settings and a tripod.  On a side note, I HATE traveling with a tripod and the time it takes, so I often just don't bother.  I am SO glad I brought it for this trip because even those with good cameras didn't get the shots I got because they didn't bring a tripod.  It's hard to stand still for 15-30 seconds while the shutter is open.
What I wasn't prepared for was how different the view was between the naked eye and through the camera lens.  While what we saw with our eyes was pretty cool - oily white/grey lights swirling through the sky, the camera is able to take in the color of the lights that our eyes are not able to see.  Explained here...
Thus, the human eye primarily views the Northern Lights in faint colors and shades of gray and white. DSLR camera sensors don't have that limitation. Couple that fact with the long exposure times and high ISO settings of modern cameras and it becomes clear that the camera sensor has a much higher dynamic range of vision in the dark than people do.
Anyhow, the colors the camera picked up were incredible.
In order to see the Northern Lights there are a few factors that need to be in place.  First, the sky needs to be clear of cloud cover.  Second, they need to viewed in an area with little to no light.  And lastly, which is the tricky part in Iceland, there needs to have been bright sun the day (or two) of the night you see them.  On the day we arrived in Iceland, the sky was partly cloudy with the sun moving in and out of the clouds all day.  We were supposed to go out that night to see the lights, but it was too cloudy to go.  The next day was overcast, so we didn't go that night either.  It snowed all the next day, so no chance of seeing.  The following day was overcast.  At this point we were half way through our trip, and I had to keep talking myself off the ledge, "It will still be a great trip even if I don't see them."  We woke the next day to gorgeous sunny (but so windy and cold) skies, and that night we went out because it was as clear as could be.  The location where we waited was just beautiful and we got there just before complete darkness so I had a chance to set up, get focused before I couldn't see anything, and I had a gorgeous back drop of some mountains topped with snow.  We waited until 12:30/1:00 am wishing them to arrive, but they never did.  While disappointing, I have never seen a clearer more star-filled sky.  On our second to last day, it was again beautifully clear so we went out that night.  We didn't arrive until dark and the location was a Farmer's hotel off to the side of the road so the location wasn't ideal.  I had a much harder time setting up and trying to get the camera in focus.  Murphy's law, right?  Because that was the night they arrived.
About 11:00 the white swirling started.  It was very faint at first and, as I mentioned above, looked like a lot of stars.
After a few minutes of swirling, they then began to cover the sky.  It was still very faint, but to watch it "build" was very cool.  Then the swirling stopped and they seemed to dissipate in front of our eyes.  We waited a bit, watching a clear sky for quite some time.  Then they reappeared.  Once again, it started off as light swirls and streaks, but built in intensity.
 Then they started to spread, and soon the entire sky was covered.  It was fascinating.
I hope that it is not, but this felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Every time I look at these photos, they make me giddy.  It was our second to last night, already in April (they are most prevalent in October-March), I just can't believe how lucky we were.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Accidental Selfie

I have returned from Iceland.  It was a wonderful trip, and Iceland is an amazing place.  I've been back home and back to work for just about a week now.  While I thought I had gotten off scott free in terms of jet lag, the travel gods laughed in my face this weekend when all I wanted to do was sleep sleep sleep.  
In between naps, I did have a chance to go through my pictures.  The subject matter is quite photogenic so I'm not foreseeing hours of editing, but I had to chuckle at one photo in particular.  
I am NOT a selfie taker and I don't understand the obsession with selfies.  The last thing I want are pictures of ME, but this picture is like a symbol for the entire trip.  While the trip was amazing and the country is beautiful it was was freaking cold!  Let me clarify, the temperature wasn't cold like some places are cold - it was in the low 40s each day - but the windchill was something.  We had snow the entire second day, while the remaining days were clear and beautiful, but the winds blowing off that snow were bitter.  We were dressed in many many layers which mostly had to be taken off while inside so we didn't suffocate from heatstroke and put on quickly once outside.  Photos were a struggle at times because gloves have to come off for touchscreens, but if off too long frostbite was sure to set in.  I took most of the photos on my canon but also some on the iPhone.  The switching back and forth took time and made me flustered in the cold as well.  The whole process made me feel like we were on treadmill running full speed and the fact that I took a shot in selfie mode isn't surprising.  Although I'm wondering what I was taking a picture of!  What did I miss?!?!
Anyhow, I will share some photos later.  A week wasn't long enough to see the whole country but it was all I could make happen over spring break.  We went to see the Northern Lights, and we got to see them!  So now I can go back over the summer when it isn't so cold, it's light all day and night, and I have more time available.  Northern Lights in Iceland were on my bucket list, but those have now been replaced by summer in Iceland.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The End, Part 2

Our second full day in The Lake District was slightly less rainy than the day before, so we decided to brave the elements and do a walk to Near Sawrey in order to visit Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's home and inspiration for many of her stories.
After our views from the bus the previous day, I looked forward to seeing the area first hand and taking some pictures.  We did have light rain most of the day, but not enough to ruin plans.  It was just enough to be a nuisance.  The walk to Hill Top is a little over 3 miles, with a lot of gorgeous scenery and tiny villages along the way.  
Once we got down to the lake, we had to take a ferry across to the other side.   
Looking at Lake Windermere from Bowness
 It was fitting that on the way to Beatrix Potter's home we were greeted by Mama Swan and her babies as we walked off the ferry.
   Claife Heights Viewing Station, built in 1790
 Looking across the lake at Bowness.
The rest of the walk was just beautiful.  
Author Beatrix Potter visited the Lake District with her family as a child a moved there as an adult.  Hilltop was only her home for a short while as she met her husband shortly after moving and moved in with him.  However, she kept Hilltop as her writing sanctuary.  It was the inspiration for several of her stories.  The home is now a museum set up with mostly her original furniture as well as memorabilia - letters, sketches, notebooks, etc. 
It was so special to see the gardens as I could picture the little animals from the stories up to their shenanigans.  
The small village of Near Sawrey also inspired Potter.
Notice the tupperware container to leave your money.  
The rain started to come down harder after our visit to Hill Top so we took the bus to our next destination - Hawkshead.  Beatrix Potter's husband was a lawyer in Hawkshead and his offices were left to the National Trust and turned into a Beatrix Potter Gallery.  The gallery changes its exhibit regularly.  During our visit, the exhibit showed Potter's artwork from her stories and the Lake District's inspiration, then and now.  It was fun to see what some of the places we had visited looked like back in the day as well as how she portrayed them in her books.  It was a lovely little gallery.
Letters and picture of the Pottery Family in the Lake District.
 Some examples of the exhibition.
I really liked the villages with the clean white paint, black trim and ALL THOSE FLOWERS!
 The Hawkshead Grammar School where William Wordsworth once attended is now a museum.
Part of the grammar school in the front while the St. Michael and All Angels' Church in the background.
After another long, wet day we took the bus back to Bowness, had some dinner across the street from our cottage and turned in for the night.  The next day we checked out and boarded the train at noon to head back to London.  The next day I said goodbye to the UK and flew home.  The end!