Photo Friday: Autumn in the Netherlands

Fall is in the air here in Pennsylvania, and while most people are enjoying their pumpkin-spice everything and dreading the impending winter, I’m just thrilled to be experiencing my first real autumn in about seven years. It’s always been my favorite season and living in Austin meant that I didn’t get to really experience it. I might pop over to another state or country and soak up the weather for a few days or weeks, but I’d been seriously missing the cooler weather, wearing boots and scarves, driving warm beverages, and most of all: the colors. I took a drive to Pittsburgh last week and was in total awe of the myriad of colors that whizzed by.

A few years ago I spent fall in the Netherlands with two Dutch friends and a Brazilian friend. One day we took a little trip to Kasteel de Haar to walk around the grounds, soak in the atmosphere, and work on acquiring Type 2 Diabetes with the amount of hot chocolate we consumed to stay warm. But! The best part of the whole thing was the colors. Oh, the colors! The reds, greens, oranges, and yellows were magnificent and I could’ve spent the whole day there photographing. This is one of my favorite photos from the day. Thank you, Holland, for giving me that much-needed dose of autumn that year.

fall autumn haar castle kasteel de haar
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Photo Friday: Piazza San Marco, Venice

piazza san marco st mark's square venice venezia italy

This was one of my favorite scenes from when I was in Venice. I love people watching, and this grandpa and his grandson provided me with several minutes of entertainment. The grandpa had a hand full of food and was feeding the pigeons, holding them on his arm, for his grandson to touch. While feeding pigeons in Piazza San Marco is actually a finable offense, and pigeons are really disgustingly dirty, I loved watching that little boy so apprehensive to reach his hand out at first and then going for it full force. It just reminded me of how amazing it was to be a child and to not fully apprehend how things worked and to have your parents and grandparents teach you the ways of the world. So cute.

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Photo Friday: Moroccan Kitty

moroccan kitty

Like most tours go in Morocco, the guides want to take you to every possible shop around so that you get an “inside view” of how people live there. In reality, they just want you to buy stuff. Don’t get me wrong–sometimes it can be a lot of fun and you might find something you really like, but generally, the guides and the shop owners are running a game together and are trying to sell as much as they can to unassuming tourists. And not only that, but they’re going to rake you over the coals to get as much money out of you as you can. Am I jaded? Probably. But after dealing with this time after time in my few weeks in Morocco, I learned their games early and learned to stand firm.

So, on my tour to the Sahara Desert, we stopped off at a house and makeshift attic carpet shop where our small group was given Berber whiskey (Moroccan mint tea) and shown a variety of carpets. I’d already purchased the one carpet my luggage could handle for my several-month trip, and I knew I wasn’t about to purchase anything else. After the presentation, my friend Chris and I found our way back downstairs and headed towards the front door so we were ready to go when everyone else finished with their purchases. On the way out, I found a room with a loom, where women would sit to make these colorful carpets. Only, on this pile of wool was a tiny little kitten who found the perfect sleeping spot. I quickly sat down in front of it and started shooting photos because it was one of the cutest things I’d seen on my whole trip (aside from the kitten who adopted me in Chefchaouen and came to find me a few nights in a row to curl up with me while I ate dinner). How sweet was this kitten?

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Photo Friday: Cowans Gap State Park

cowans gap pennsylvania

A couple of weeks ago I visited Cowans Gap State Park in Pennsylvania for the first time. There are plenty of hiking trails there, up through the mountains and around the lake, which offer some gorgeous views. But, my favorite view of all, was when I left Cowans Gap. Just down the road from there, you’ll see a scenic overlook sign next to a gravel road. When you take that to the very end and park, you can walk up to a few rocks on a cliff where you’re rewarded with one of the most stunning views I’ve seen in Pennsylvania. I can’t wait to go back again in the fall to see all the leaves changing, but I loved seeing the mountains, lush vegetation, and beautiful skies.

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Photo Friday: My Travelin’ Pup

dog in texarkana
It’s my little guy’s seventh birthday in a couple days, so I thought I’d make this week’s Photo Friday all about him.

In 2010, I was ready to adopt a dog. I’d wanted a Pomeranian for years because I thought they just looked like the cutest and happiest pups imaginable. I scoured the internet for months, checking every adoption site around Austin and within a 3-hour radius to try to find the perfect addition to my little family. And then that’s when I saw this photo and fell in love.

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Photo Friday: Jemaa el Fna, Marrakech

jemaa el fna marrakech morocco games

When I visited Marrakech, Morocco, one night I met up with my lovely friend and fellow travel blogger, Jill, and her beau Mike for a night in the square: Jemaa el Fna.

There’s so much to see in Jemaa el Fna, at all hours of the day. You’ll find people touting spices and cookies; orange juice stands; women who will chase you down and try to put henna on you; snake charmers; pop-up restaurants; monkey handlers; and cross-dressing men who dance in front of audiences. But one very popular past-time seems to be this odd game where you have a weighted ring tied to the end of a string that dangles from a wooden pole. You then try to get this ring around the cap and neck of a bottle of soda, which are arranged in a circle, and if you get it–you get to keep the soda! It’s a pretty inexpensive game, but also a mildly irritating one because it’s a lot more difficult than you’d think! The men who run the stands make it look so easy, but stand around and watch the people try it for a few minutes and you’ll see that it’s not. The guy who ran the place even explained to us how he did it, but none of us could figure it out.

If you’re hanging out in Jemaa el Fna, spare a few dihram and give it a shot!

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Photo Friday: Northern Lights

northern lights thingvellir iceland

Well, the Northern Lights season has officially begun, and because of that, I thought it’d be appropriate to share a photo I took of the Northern Lights in Iceland last October.

If you’ll recall, I spent a week zipping around the South coast of Iceland trying to spot the elusive Northern Lights. It finally paid off on my last night there. It was spectacular–and it wasn’t even one of the high activity nights. Seeing them dance in the sky above me was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and I look forward to the day when I get to see it happen again.

I’m working on a post right now about how to shoot the Northern Lights, so be on the lookout for that if you’re headed somewhere to spot them! It’s not terribly hard to catch them, it just takes a little trial and error to get the right settings!

Photo Friday: Marrakech Souq

marrakech souq marrakesh souk

When I traveled through Morocco, I made a point to stay within the medina in every city in which I visited. While that meant a lot of chaos, cacophony, getting lost, and sometimes being overwhelmed, it also provided me with what I felt was an “authentic” Moroccan experience. I loved meandering through the souqs and seeing how regular people lived, how they shopped, and how they relaxed. This photo was taken early in the morning in Marrakech before the hordes of people filled the souq. I loved the light streaming through the thatched roof and the sort of quiet calm before the storm. The mornings and evenings were my favorite times of day in Marrakech–the mornings for their quiet beauty and the evenings when the streets and square were teeming with people.

Photo Friday: Milky Way

milky way photography

Two weeks ago I visited upstate Pennsylvania for a cousin’s wedding. Before I left, I had a thought: I’ll be in the middle of nowhere, with no service, surrounded by woods. After a bit of research, I found that the area of Pennsylvania where I was headed was one of the darkest areas in the state. I was beyond excited to try my hand at shooting the Milky Way. I’d tried my hand at star photography in Iceland and Morocco, but hadn’t quite figured it out, so I was bound and determined this time. After stopping to buy my third tripod (I always forget I’m missing a part that connects the camera to the tripod until I actually need a tripod and don’t have time to order a part), I waited for the sun to go down, set up, and was grateful that the moon wasn’t going to be anywhere in sight that night. The sky was mostly clear and I could see the Milky Way with my naked eye, so I was hopeful my photos would turn out. After my first couple of shots, I was thrilled to see the images even before post-processing.

This was one of my four favorite shots from that evening. It took a bit of editing to get it exactly how I wanted it, but I am so happy with the way it turned out and cannot wait to try my hand at it again! What do you think?

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Photo Friday: Roatan

gumbalimba park suspension bridge roatan honduras

I hate heights. It’s always been one of my biggest fears. I get this trembling in my legs, my stomach jumps to my throat, and I get so lightheaded that my eyes sort of gloss over and little stars twinkle and flutter around. And what makes this fear even worse? When the thing that’s high in the air isn’t totally secure or shake-free. Couple all of those things together and you’d quickly see that suspension bridges are basically the bane of my existence. When I was a kid, I loved them. I walked across the Mile High Swinging Bridge without so much as a second thought–wind blowing in my hair as I practically skipped and giggled my way across. Cut to years later. I was doing a tour at Gumbalimba Park in Roatan, Honduras, where my main goal was to cuddle with some monkeys, and part of the tour requires you to cross a suspension bridge. It’s not especially high or anything, but high enough, and it sways and shakes with every single movement. I never know quite how to handle these situations: walk as fast as possible just to get it over with or take it slowly as to not cause unnecessary movement. I stayed a few feet behind my sister and guide so that the bridge didn’t have quite so much bounce and I kept my eyes on my shoes and my hands on the ropes after snapping a few photos at the beginning. For years I’ve been dreaming of doing a canopy walk in Costa Rica, but after this short suspension bridge, I know I have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to overcoming my fear of heights.

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