Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Made it to Thimphu today

We left Paro and drove some interesting mountain roads to Thimphu. We'll be here just one night, but we packed a lot of sites into today's schedule. The first place we visited was a giant statue of Buddha that overlooks the city.

Jon Miller brought along a GoPro drone to shoot video of sites we visit. This created quite a stir.

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and has about 15% of the country's population of 700,000. It's not as chaotic as Kathmandu, and certainly a lot cleaner, but I think I prefer the more rural setting of Paro. There's a lot of construction going on, which means a lot of noise and dust. We're staying at the Jamolhari hotel, which is adjacent to a building undergoing renovation. Fortunately, the work crews quit before bedtime.

I  had a chance to do a money exchange at a bank in Thimphu. The currency exchange for US dollars is about 60 Bhutanese dollars to one American dollar. I've bought just a few things here - some textiles (we visited a weaving center), prayer flags, postcards, and a birding book. I've been very interested in the birds here, and I brought along my 100-400 lens to help me figure out what birds I've seen. I have a lot of new life birds on this trip so far, including this yellow-billed blue magpie.

I enjoyed photographing the women at the weaving center. I have so many cool photos to process, so this is just a small taste of what I'm seeing while in Bhutan.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bhutan is beautiful

We left Kathmandu yesterday morning. Drukair was our airline for a flight to Paro, Bhutan. This is an interesting airport in that in order to reach the runway, the pilot navigates several turns within a long valley. This lovely country is in the eastern Himalayas, and much of the country represents the foothills of these majestic mountains. Steve and I were sitting on the wrong side of the plane during this flight. We barely got glimpses of the high peaks, including Mount Everest. The day was sunny, too, which made for some excellent photos by our companions.

We're staying at a very nice hotel in Paro - The Drukhen. The rooms are spacious, the staff is wonderful, and the ambience is peaceful. We have a good view of the valley and airport, plus the Dzong and museum on the other side of the valley.

We visited the museum and the Dzong (monastery/government building) yesterday and then walked around Paro for awhile. Today we hiked up to Tiger's Nest - a monastery built on a cliff. The hike is pretty strenuous - about 3000 feet up from the parking lot and perhaps 4 or 4.5 miles away. The monastery is at 10,000 feet elevation, which makes the climb even more challenging. It's worth every step of the hike to get there. The scenery is breathtaking. Here's a photo from the trail to give you an idea.

There is a restaurant up about halfway to the monastery where we had tea. Jon Miller brought out his small GoPro drone set-up and wowed the locals. I can't wait to see the video recording.

I did a lot of botanizing and some birding along the trail. I also managed to get through this hike without any blisters - a nice change of pace. We had rain, we had hail, and we had some chilling winds in the afternoon, but seeing the monastery and different altars dedicated to the different Buddhas, the monastery grounds, and the views of the valley from the cliff were well worth the hike and the weather issues. We're heading to somewhere new tomorrow.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Return to Kathmandu

In 2009, Steve and I did an adventure trip with The Rest of Everest podcast group - a trek to Everest base camp. I blogged that trip, and have always wanted to return to this area. Well, we're back! We are here in Kathmandu for a couple of nights before heading to Bhutan for a week-long tour - again, with The Rest of Everest team. Jon Miller organized a tour of Bhutan prior to this year's Everest trek. We won't be able to stay for that trek, alas, but we will enjoy visiting Bhutan.

We arrived in Kathmandu last night after two days of travel and five flights (Columbus to Minneapolis, then to Narita, Japan, and to Hong Kong. We spent the night in Hong Kong and then took two more flights - Kuala Lumpur and then to Kathmandu. We arrived at 10:45 pm and then had to go through immigration to get our visas. Spending the night in Hong Kong made a huge difference in how I feel this morning - just being able to get a night's rest before hitting the chaos of Kathmandu was a good strategic plan.

We awoke before dawn this morning with the noise of crows and traffic plus construction. We're at the Marshyangda Hotel again, which, this time, is under construction. The traffic noise brings back memories - constant horn beeps, lots of shouting as drivers are negotiating the tight streets and pedestrians. We'll be venturing out in a bit to wander around Thamel - always an adventure. I think I'll use the Fuji XE-1 while in Thamel - should be easier than carting around my Canon 5DIII.

I have to say that I am so looking forward to this trip to Bhutan. It's even more special given the reunion with our friends from the 2009 trek. John Colemna, John Ferra, and Thilo Schumann are here for the Bhutan trip. We've met Patrick and Christine already. The rest of the team arrives tonight.

I'll post photos after I return, but will try to update the blog as I can.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Hoover Meadows evening

Springtime in Ohio brings peepers by the thousands. Listening to these tiny frogs in the evening of a sunny April day is a real pleasure. At Hoover Meadows there are several ponds where the peepers are abundant. I've not yet seen an actual frog, but their presence is obvious as soon as you enter the reserve. Wear waterproof boots if you visit - the trails are pretty muddy and have standing water in many places. Also, be aware that tick season has begun...

Ohio Landscape

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Campus morning in monochrome

Yesterday was the last day of classes for Spring semester. I gave my undergraduate evolution class students their last midterm. I'm still grading the papers and take-home exams for my graduate course students. But, otherwise, my schedule is a little less busy - so much so that I felt free to take a morning walk around campus on my way to my office. I decided to carry my Fuji XE-1 camera with me to school again, and this was one of the photos I made during this morning walk.

Morning on campus

Monday, April 21, 2014

Well, hello there!

Steve and I enjoyed spending time at Pickerington Ponds and Blacklick Metro parks yesterday morning. On the way back to our car at Blacklick, I spotted this starling up in a tree. It was scratching its head, but in the photo I made, it appears to be waving "hello." Very friendly, I thought.

Well, hello there!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hurray for nicer weather

We had snow last Monday - an April 15 snow storm? How very strange this year's weather has been - brutally cold for months and then some oscillations of warm, spring-like days with freezing ones. My spring flowers are holding up, despite the weird conditions. The crocuses are pretty much done, though. They were pretty while they lasted.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Let me out?

My sentiments, exactly, Topper! Today is the last day of lecturing for me this semester. I have LOTS of grading to do over the next several days, but then it's a wrap. I'm very much looking forward to getting to the backlog of stuff that has been on hold during spring semester. And, I'm looking forward to some of the fun activities with family and friends over the next few months. I wonder if my lathe still works? I wonder if I can find my carving bench in my messy shop.....

Let me out?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sunset and peepers

Last Saturday Steve and I visited Hoover Meadows at dusk. The peeper choruses were wonderful in their frenzy of mate seeking. I'm amazed that such a huge sound can come from such a tiny frog. Amplify that by hundreds and it's an experience to remember.

Sunset at Hoover meadows

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Puddles can be lovely

As I was leaving Mudhen Marsh last Sunday, I saw these tufts of grass in a puddle. I'm a sucker for symmetrical reflection imagery, so I made this photo to remind me of the lovely morning spent birding and chatting with friends.
Nature study - puddle

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Early morning serenity in monochrome

Hoover reservoir
Hoover Reservoir this past Sunday morning. The beginning of a lovely spring day. Usually I like to post color photos, but the geometry of this image was very suitable for black and white processing. I use Adobe Lightroom with Silver Efex Pro 2 for my monochrome processing.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

It finally feels like Spring around here.

Winter was long and brutally cold this year. This past week the weather has changed and it feels as if Spring will be here for awhile. My crocus and daffodils are in bloom. Some of the early spring ephemerals are blooming along the rivers and in the Metro parks. I wish I had more time to get out for some photo walks. Alas, one more week of classes and lecture prep. More grading, writing a final midterm exam, and then the semester will be done.

Here's a look at some of my flowers in the garden this week:


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Still life of bowls

Steve and I joined a bunch of photographers last Saturday for a visit to Glass Axis. We watched a glass blowing demonstration, which was a nice opportunity for taking photos, although it was a bit crowded with 20 photographers jammed into a tight space. Here's one of my photos from the visit.

Glass Axis visit

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Shale Hollow Preserve - a nice park in Delaware County

A few weeks ago, Steve and I had a chance to visit a park we've not been to before. It's called Shale Hollow Preserve and it's just a little north of Highbanks Metro Park. There is some lovely scenery and a nice trail to walk. It's open to pets, so we'll like return there to walk the dogs sometime in the near future. Here's a photo of some shale in the creek.

Shale pattern

Saturday, April 05, 2014

I'm way too busy this semester!

I've not had a lot of time to do things I enjoy since the beginning of the year. Teaching two courses, writing three grant proposals, and getting a manuscript off my desk and "in press" has meant long hours and working through the weekend. This photo is from a year ago... I'd like to get out to do some spring ephemeral photography, but I just don't see it happening this year.

Wood Hyacinth
Wood Hyacinth - Whetstone Park.