Happiness Is…

Skyline Sunset
Skyline Sunset, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Linking up with Rural Thursday.
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…a summer sunset picnic high in the mountains!

A couple of weeks ago, hubby and I took a drive up a popular mountain trail in northern Utah, USA named Skyline Drive to have a sunset picnic and capture some sunset photos.  This trail is a 24-mile rocky dirt road located along the beautiful Wasatch Range mountains between Bountiful, Utah, and Farmington, Utah.  The starting altitude is about 4,550 feet and climbs to about 9,200 feet.  Along the way, you can see great mountain scenery, forests and spectacular views of the Great Salt Lake.  We started this trail on the Bountiful side and were at the very top of this trail when we took the photo above.  It was quite windy at the peak that day, making it difficult to hold the camera and tripod steady, but we still got some nice photos.  (Bountiful is Utah’s second settlement after Salt Lake City, which is the state’s capital.)

This post is also for Island Traveler’s theme this week of Weekly Image of Life: Breathtaking.

If you happen to have an image or posting with your own interpretation of “Happiness Is…”, feel free to include the link in the comments below.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

Mykonos Hotel Watercolor
Mykonos Hotel Watercolor, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Linking up with Photo Art Friday

>>:::<<
rivers of color
carving infinite paths
artist’s palette
>>:::<<

My interpretation of creativity, for purposes of this blog, is having fun with photography, haiku, “photomanipulations” or whatever else comes to mind.  When it comes to photomanipulating, I enjoy experimenting with digital art effects, like in the image above.  I used Photoshop Elements to create a watercolor effect on the original photo.  The scene is our hotel room on the Greek island of Mykonos during our honeymoon.

Image submitted for his week’s WordPress photo challenge.

Here are a few other photomanipulations in this blog:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

I missed the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge from May 25, because I was vacationing in Moab, Utah. Even though it wasn’t officially summer when I went, today is the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. For me, this post is about summer vacation.

Gemini Bridges Trail
Gemini Bridges Trail, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

We enjoy outdoor activities and a couple of those include hiking and off-roading. Hubby also enjoys mountain biking. The Moab area with its breathtaking national parks and Slickrock biking is a great place for these activities!  One of the trails we took during our trip was the Gemini Bridges Trail. It is one of the more famous mountain biking and popular 4×4 trails in Utah. The trail’s namesake destination, Gemini Bridges are natural bridges; a “massive rock span that has been cleaved down the center into two parallel bridges.” The trail leads you on to their flat tops where you can experience spectacular views and look 250-feet down over the edge, if you aren’t afraid of heights.

You will see many spectacular rock formations along this trail, like the one in the above photo. If you’re like me, you will need to be with patient travelers who don’t mind stopping frequently so you can fill your camera’s memory card with the surrounding beauty, large and small, and experimenting with different camera settings. In this photo, there is a dune buggy parked in the shade of the tallest rock (lower left side of photo), but it’s too dark to see. I hoped it would be visible to give a perspective of how massive the rocks are. I was also intrigued by the number of airline contrails in the sky that day.

The following photo was taken when we reached Gemini Bridges. To understand how large this formation is, you can see my hubby standing on the bridge taking a photo of me taking a photo of him. I didn’t look down over the edge, though. The cautionary butterflies in my stomach were holding me back, it was windy, I really didn’t want to get any closer to the edge, and I got some of the photos I wanted!

Gemini Bridges
Gemini Bridges Trail, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

HAPPY SUMMER!!

. Continue reading

X! Challenge: Xerophyte

Xerophyte
Xerophyte, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Linking up with Our World Tuesday

>>:::<<
Lovely luring blooms
thrust an agonizing bite
beautifully painful
>>:::<<

Xerophyte:  a plant adapted for life and growth with a limited water supply; a desert plant (like cactus).

This plant is called Opuntia, or Prickly Pear, which is in the cactus family.  They are low growing with red, purple or yellow flowers, and have two types of spines – large, smooth, fixed spines, and small bunches of hairlike prickles called glochids, which distinguish prickly pear from other cacti.  This photo was taken last month along the La Sal Mountain Loop Road near Moab, Utah.  In this area, the blooms occur in May and June.

This post is for the “X” Challenge by Frizztext (“X” is for Xerophyte) Continue reading

W! Challenge: Windmills and Water in Watercolor

Mykonos Watercolor
Mykonos Watercolor, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

>>:::<<
Picturesque vistas
Gems glistening from the heart
Treasured memories!
>>:::<<

I posted this image and haiku several months ago, but I am posting it again since it fits the “W” theme for this week.  I created this artwork for my hubby.  Using Photoshop Elements, I applied a watercolor effect to the original photo.  The scene is a common one from the Greek isle of Mykonos, but it is where we spent part of our honeymoon…almost 11 years ago!

This post is for the “W” Challenge by Frizztext (“W” is for Windmills, Water, Watercolor)

Related “watercolor effect” articles:

U! Challenge: Utah, Ute

Potash Petroglyphs
Potash Petroglyphs, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

Utah, a state in the Western USA, was the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics and is the place where I grew up.  I just spent the last week visiting the Moab, Utah area and decided to use my home state to represent this week’s theme of “U.”

Utah was officially granted statehood on January 4, 1896.  The capital is Salt Lake City.  It is a dry, semi-arid to desert climate, and is a geographically diverse state known for the natural variety of its terrain.  What I like most about Utah is it’s incredible natural beauty, year round outdoor recreational activities, and four distinct seasons, to name a few.  From the beautiful mountains of northern Utah with it’s world-renowned ski resorts and fluffy powder snow (“The Greatest Snow on Earth®”), to the striking terrain of southern Utah sculpted over millions of years into spectacular canyons, arches, pinnacles, etc., visitors come from all over the world to experience Utah!  It is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise which includes skiing, snowboarding, hiking, boating, water skiing, horseback riding, camping, fishing, rock climbing, etc.

The name “Utah” is derived from the name of the “Ute” Native American tribe now living primarily in Utah and Colorado.  According to www.uteindian.com, Ute means “Land of the sun”.  Thousands of years before European explorers arrived, Native American tribes represented the original inhabitants of the area now known as Utah.  This included the Desert Archaic Culture starting in 10,000 B.C., per the Utah History Encyclopedia, and the Anasazi and Fremont Native American tribes from about 1 A.D. to 1300.  The most recent inhabitants, the Utes, have been in southeast Utah since the 1200’s.  Since those ancient times, Utah has become a web of sacred places, dwelling sites, and intriguing rock art messages depicting their art, lives and beliefs through petroglyphs and pictographs.  The southern Utah region was explored by the Spanish in 1540, and trappers and fur traders explored some of the Utah areas in the early 19th century.  The first Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.  At that time, Utah was Mexican territory.  In 1848, Utah became a United States territory through the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and in 1896 officially became a state.

The images I chose to represent the theme this week are photos of some of the many rock art petryoglyphs left by some of Utah’s earliest inhabitants.  I find this art both fascinating and humbling, and took several photos last week when I was in Moab (Canyonlands and Arches National Park areas, Slickrock mountain biking, etc.)  See also my previous posting on Newspaper Rock petroglyphs near Canyonlands.

The first photo above was taking along the Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway (U-279) where you can see great views of the Colorado River, ancient petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks.  The presence of bows and arrows in this image is presumed to indicate a date after 500 A.D.

The photos below were taken along the Hurrah Pass Trail.

Moonflower Petroglyphs
Moonflower Petroglyphs, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

How would you interpret these petroglyphs?

If you live in Utah, or have visited, where are your favorite places?  If you have not visited Utah, what are the places would you like to see?

There are many great places to explore in Utah!  Here are just a few of them: Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

Daibutsu Hand
Daibutsu Hand, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).
Daibutsu Daibutsu, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, I am using Buddha hands to represent the theme.  I took these photos of the large Buddha statue, called Daibutsu, at the Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan.  (See my posting here for more information.)   They show the right and left hands of Daibutsu positioned in two different “mudra.”  A mudra is a symbolic gesture, usually with the hands, used in Hinduism and Buddhism.  Mudra is used primarily to indicate the nature and function of the deity.

The first photo shows the right hand, and the second photo shows parts of both hands.  The right hand is in the “Fear Not” mudra, called Semui-in, in Japanese.  The left hand, which is visible in the second photo, is in the “Welcome” mudra, called Yogan-in.

The Semui-in mudra represents protection, peace, benevolence, and dispelling of fear. It is usually made with the right hand raised to shoulder height in front of the chest, the arm bent and the palm facing outward with the fingers pointing up.  In Japan, when this mudra is used with the middle finger slightly projected forward, it is a symbol of the Shingon Buddhism.

The Yogan-in mudra signifies offering, welcome, charity, giving, compassion and sincerity.  Primarily represents the fulfillment of wishes and granting of benefits to humanity.  The palm offered slightly turned up.  This mudra is usually seen in combination with the semui-in mudra.

I tried to make the first photo look like mostly like an old and faded black-and-white, yet keeping some of the color in the hand to emphasize its focus.

Other interesting information:

  • Daibutsu (大仏) is the largest bronze statue of Buddha.  It is almost 15 meters tall and weighs 500 metric tonnes.
  • Todaiji Temple (東大寺 Eastern Great Temple) is the largest wooden building in the world, even though it is only about two-thirds of it’s original size (57 meters x 50 meters).
  • Construction of the Todaiji Temple began in year 728 and was completed in 752.
  • Nara was the ancient capital of Japan from years 710 to 784

Weekly Photo Challenge: Blue

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

>>:::<<
the ocean above
hugs a striking splash of color
great blue heron
>>:::<<

Just over a week ago, we made another trip to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to see what birds had arrived since our last trip in March, and obviously to take more photos!  We were excited to spot many more birds and bird varieties, and even noticed that there were a few more Great Blue Herons (at least five more).  Most of the herons we saw were along the water’s edge foraging for their primary diet of fish.  I took some photos of these birds standing in the water, but I find them more beautiful when they are in flight.  This makes capturing non-blurry photos much more challenging, but I’m happy with this one.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge theme is “blue”:  the Great Blue Heron, the blue mountain in the background, and the blue sky.  I cropped the image showing the bird leaving the photo so that I could include more of the mountain.

Other postings from this bird refuge:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unfocused

Unfocused
Unfocused, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

I am still learning.
               ~~Michelangelo

There is certainly no shortage of out-of-focus photos I’ve taken.  Few have been intentional, most have been unintentional.  This one is unintentional, and you can see where the camera focus was for this photo (right).  The unfocused birds are a Great Blue Heron and a Seagull.  The reflection in the water of the birds are also unfocused.

This is another photo taken a few weeks ago at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Other postings from this bird refuge:

Other interpretations for this week’s challenge:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Together

Geese Love
Geese Love, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

>>:::<<
two hearts caress
shaping one sweet blossom
together forever
>>:::<<

This is another photo taken at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge last month.  It was mating and nesting time for Canadian Geese, and we saw many couples walking together around the refuge.  Paired Canadian Geese form strong bonds, are monogamous and usually stay together for life.

Other postings from this bird refuge:

Other articles on Canadian Geese:

Other interpretations for this week’s challenge:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

Illuminated
Illuminated, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

This photo was taken when we were visiting the Greek island of Mykonos.  I wanted to create a silhouette of the front part of the church, and have the cross behind it illuminated by the sun.

Related article:  Wordpress Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Two Subjects

Daibutsu
Daibutsu, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

>>:::<<
Ancient capital
My eyes breathe inspiration
Wondrous Daibutsu
>>:::<<

I took this photo of the large Buddha statue (called Daibutsu) at the Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan.  The two main subjects in the photo are Daibutsu and the caretaker in front of the statue.  Without the caretaker in the photo, you would not be able to get a perspective of how large Daibutsu is (also notice how large the flower arrangements are).

Other interesting information:

  • Daibutsu (大仏) is the largest bronze statue of Buddha.  It is almost 15 meters tall and weighs 500 metric tonnes.
  • Todaiji Temple (東大寺 Eastern Great Temple) is the largest wooden building in the world, even though it is currently only about two thirds of it’s original size (57 meters x 50 meters).
  • Construction of the Todaiji Temple began in year 728 and was completed in 752.
  • Nara was the ancient capital of Japan from years 710 to 784

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is:  “Two Subjects” – The theme is more of a composition challenge, two subjects that are both essential parts of the picture and each contribute something differently to the photo.

Other related articles:

O! Challenge: Osaka Castle – Woodblock Print

Osaka Castle - Woodblock
Osaka Castle – Woodblock, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).
Linking up with Texture Tuesday.

>>:::<<
Walls whisper softly
Reconstruction fades voices
of many battles
>>:::<<

When I was working in Osaka, Japan, I toured Osaka Castle (大阪城) just after it’s 1997 major renovation, and took the original photo during that visit.  For the image, I used Photoshop Elements to create another old Japanese woodblock print style, with my own flare.  Also, I added a texture to soften the image.

Here is the photo I started with, which was scanned from a negative:

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

This post is for the “O” Challenge by Frizztext (“O” is for Osaka)

Other articles about Osaka Castle:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey

Journey
Journey, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

>>:::<<
Embarking new seas
memorable escapades
New sketchbook journal
>>:::<<

What journey will be in your next sketchbook journal?

This is the ferry boat that took us to the Greek island of Santorini.  I took the original photo as it was leaving the island, on it’s way to pick up another group of passengers starting their new journey.  (I applied a sketch effect to the photo using Photoshop Elements.)

Related article:  WordPress weekly photo challenge

N! Challenge: Nature, Nuisance, etc.

Feast
Feast, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).
Linking up with Camera Critters,  Texture Tuesday, Nature Notes and World Bird Wednesday.

>>:::<<
One creature’s nuisance
becomes another’s banquet
Blackbird nesting zone
>>:::<<

This is another photo taken from our recent visit to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  The bird is a male red-winged blackbird surrounded by a feast of flying insects (those soft black dots would be “nutriments” for the bird).  We watched him catch many of these in flight from his cattail perch.  I, however, am annoyed by all those nuisance insects flying around me.

This post is for the “N” Challenge by Frizztext (“N” is for Nature, Nutriment, Nesting and Nuisance)

Other postings from the bird refuge:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Arranged

Versailles
Versailles, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

>>:::<<
Rigid symmetry
impeccable alignment
Unnatural nature
>>:::<<

I took this photo several years ago at the Palace of Versailles in France.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is:
Arranged – Sometimes you chance across things which were arranged on purpose, or on a whim – find something in your environment which was arranged by a human hand for others to enjoy!”

M! Challenge: Migration, etc.

Pelican Mooners
Pelican Mooners, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

>>:::<<
Unforeseen gesture
Charms varied dispositions
Avian mooners
>>:::<<

Have you ever been mooned by pelicans, or any other creatures?  This would be a first for us!  The seagull seems to be their coach, saying, “ok everyone, listen up,…1…2…3…moon!”

On a more serious note:

Pelican Flight
Pelican Flight, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

>>:::<<
Instinctual paths
Speckled with diversity
Feathered migration
>>:::<<

These photos were taken this past weekend at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah USA, an area where I am quite familiar.  We wanted to visit this refuge during the Spring migration, which started early this year.

The refuge is on a delta of the Bear River in the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake, and is the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.  It “offers some of the most phenomenal water bird watching in the Western United States.”  According to the US Fish & Wildlife Services, the refuge is “acclaimed as one of the world’s 10 best birding areas” and has “long been considered one of the most valuable wetlands in the intermountain west region.”  It is a 74,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge and is host to millions of migratory birds yearly.  Located the edge of two North American migration flyways, the Central and Pacific flyways, it is an important resting, feeding, and nesting area for birds in both flyways and is a habitat for more than 200 bird species.

The birds in the photos are American White Pelicans.  Their Spring returns occur in March in Utah and they pair up with mates after arrival.  They are monogamous, with nest building occurring within five days.  According to the refuge’s website, the number of American White Pelicans on March 26, 2012 was 175.

In the future, I will post a few more photos from this trip.

This post is for the “M” Challenge by Frizztext (“M” is for Migration, Mooned (slang), Mate, Monogamous)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

Fishing
Fishing, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

>>:::<<
Aquatic collage
Framed by sun-kissed hues and tints.
Pursuing dinner
>>:::<<

Fish swimming through the water hoping to catch dinner.
Hubby wading through the water hoping to catch dinner.

Related article:  WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

L! Challenge: Leader

Pronghorn
Pronghorn, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).
Linking up with Camera Critters, Nature Notes and Our World Tuesday.

>>:::<<
Secluded mingling
Deftly allures a harem
Twilight sentiment
>>:::<<

About a half an hour before sunset during a road trip last week, we noticed this herd of pronghorn antelope females and one buck in a desolate, isolated, and lonely desert area.  (We only saw one other vehicle the whole day!)  The end-of-day sun provided gorgeous lighting of these animals despite the dry landscape.  There were also two other females that weren’t captured in the photo.  The group dispersed quickly after seeing us, so we only took a few quick snapshots and were on our way again!

According to Wikipedia, “A pronghorn male will defend a fixed territory that females may enter or it might defend a harem of females” and “When courting an estrous female, a male pronghorn will approach her while softly vocalizing and waving his head side to side, displaying his cheek patches.”

I’m posting this image for the “L” Challenge by Frizztext (“L” is for Leader)