Grand Junction Hospitality

When in Colorado, Grand Junction specifically, one of the first places I want to go is to visit the Colorado National Monument.  A unit within the National Park Service, the “Monument” consists of sharp canyons of sandstone and various types of rock formations high on the desert land of the Colorado Plateau.  Tom loves it for the exceptional cycling that it offers … I love it for its amazing photographic value and it being a place to get away from the city of Grand Junction which resides at its base.

Usually, we start off with a sunrise from the top, though on this day it was lacking cloud formations which always enhance a sunrise.  Still it’s a great way to spend a morning, as seen from this view of Independence Rock._dsc1334-hdr_dsc1298Similar to that which can be said of the lighting on the Palouse farmland of eastern Washington state, the scenery is fascinating from every viewpoint and angle and the views are ever-changing with the light and shadows._dsc1370-hdrThe breadth of the views are amazing … as seen from this vista overlooking Monument Canyon and looking a bit north._dsc1427_dsc1449It’s not all about landscapes though.  There is a considerable amount of wildlife to be found up there, but I’ll save that for another post.  After enjoying the sunrise and a delicious brunch, we decided to head to Vega Lake, a Colorado State Park in the town of Collbran._dsc1453There, we made our way to Vega Lake, which is a high mountain lake surrounded by lush meadows, which were colored beautifully for the fall.  Sitting at an elevation of ~8,000 feet, it was so incredibly beautiful.  We walked the beaches for quite a bit and then I saw it … lots of flat rocks laying on the sandy beach, just waiting for someone to come play.  See, every year Tom and I make a cairn on our wedding anniversary, which is at the end of August and usually celebrated in Alaska, but in 2016 we were unable to get away, therefore we never got to celebrate sufficiently.  So it was like 2 lightbulbs that went off simultaneously … let’s build one here … and so we did.  A 19 + 1 for good luck rock cairn signifying one rock for each year we’ve been together and then one more to seal the deal for the next.  ❤_dsc1483While there we saw deer and the fattest red fox I think I’ve ever seen, but he wouldn’t stick around for images … guess he didn’t want to be famous.  😉

It was such a fabulous day so far, but no day would be complete without a return to the “Monument” for afternoon light and ultimately the sunset.img_2553

Tom and I took our also obligatory shot of us and our feet overlooking the scene.  Having a fear of heights, you can’t tell but I’m grabbing on to his pants for dear life!fullsizerenderSunset finally arrived … it was fabulous, though it also lacked the clouds.  I guess I have to bring them with me next time.  LOLimg_2590Then it was on for some fabulous – yummy, yummy, sushi and some wine/beer.  Such a wonderful day, beautiful sights, fun celebrations, and most of all, the best of company.  It doesn’t get any better than that!img_2023Next Up:  A bit of touring … and 4-wheeling  🙂

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Proud As A Peacock

Photography is, by itself, an adventure.  It’s all about learning … sharing … educating … at least for me it is.  It’s an expressive art form, where the beauty of the image is held within and varies from observer to observer.  For me, it’s hard to separate the emotion out of certain images or to quantify the blood, sweat, and tears that went into an image.  It’s an art form where one has to have tough skin … in processing, in observing, and often in critiquing.  It’s the ultimate journey.  In 2016, I planned for some potential bumps in the road along the way by putting some of my stuff “out there”.  Everything is a learning experience … and it’s all good.

Early in 2016, I was approached by the California Science Center Foundation in Los Angeles, CA about incorporating 2 of our images into the Ecosystems Exhibit in the Children’s Museum.  I was quite honored by the request knowing that I could indirectly contribute to the education of our youth on the concept of adaptation and conservation.  Below are the two images that I granted them access to:

Polar bear adult, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska ©2015
_DSC6749                      Arctic ground squirrel, Denali National Park, Alaska ©2015_DSC3578I can’t wait to one day see it for myself in person.

April 30th, the Juried Best In Nature 2016 Exhibit opened at the Ordover Museum of the San Diego Natural History Museum @ Balboa Park, San Diego, California.  Approximately 70 images were juried in to hang as part of the exhibit through August 2016.  One of those images was mine.  It was quite an honor to be amongst some of the best nature images featured.

“The Awakening”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015
_DSC9817Defenders of Wildlife, an amazing advocate group for the protection and preservation of           wildlife, as well as advancing the cause of many wildlife issues, selected one of my images as the Grand Prize Winner for 2016.  I was humbled beyond words and so proud that this image helps in their work, as well as “speaks” to the public in a way that words can’t.  I     believe that photography can be a powerful tool in enlisting the support and understanding of many viewers.  I hope that it motivates others, like me, to join the cause.

“When I Grow Up”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015_dsc2247-2That image was also honored by NANPA as a Top 250 image.  The Audubon Society of Greater Denver’s Share the View Competition also honored it among the Top 250 images, as well as the image below.

“Chasing the Adrenaline”;  Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska  © 2014DSC_8370To say that I was stunned is an understatement, when one of my images was selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice Competition.  That was an honor awarded to approximately 300 of the 20,000 images received for review.

“The Polar Bear Pledge”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015
debbietubridy_polarbearpledge_polarpassion-1-of-1-2Lastly, 4 of my images were used by the Wyoming Outdoor Council, an advocacy group based out of Lander, Wyoming for their 50th Anniversary 2017 Calendar, celebrating 50 years of conservation.

“Skills Test”;  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming  © 201520150322-DSC_1653                       “Lazy Day Fox”;  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming  © 201520150321-DSC_0885                  “Struggle for Survival”;  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  ©2016_DSC6231                          “Passing the Day Away”;  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  © 2016_DSC9668-2While photography endeavor successes make me feel quite proud, it pales by comparison to the pride I felt when my daughter, Kelli, walked in her Hooding Ceremony in advance of her then upcoming graduation from her Physician Assistant Program.img_1508Shortly thereafter, she formally graduated with Highest Honors from Nova Southeastern University.img_1722It was a long 27-month haul for her, but it was done finally!  She then successfully passed her credential examination and is now a proud owner of some new initials … PA-C … which she adds to her BS and MS in Exercise Physiology from the University of Florida.  She celebrated with a few shorter US trips for fun, then backpacked through Europe with one of her classmates (and part-time with her hubby).  Yep, that’s my Unicorn!  (don’t ask … it’s a long story).  🙂img_1734Finally, another accomplishment that I’m quite proud of is the progress that my stepfather has made in his recovery.  As many of you know, our Alaska trip for 2016 was cancelled at the last minute due to his hospitalization.  While it was sad at the moment, it was necessary, and to see him finally leave the hospital walking with the assitance of his walker … was nothing short of a miracle.  He’s never looked back either and is walker free.  Physical therapy and rehabilitative services ROCK and I can’t say enough good things about the care he received at Memorial South Rehab Hospital!  img_1812What does the future hold in 2017?  Who knows, but I can promise you that Alaska is back on the table!  I have many goals, or should I say learning directions, for me to pursue … and of course, places to go.  🙂

This blog has been an important part of that growth & sharing and an expression that I find particularly rewarding.  Please let me know what you think.  I can say that as of the end of 2016, the blog has reached 87 countries … making it feel like quite a bit smaller of a world, which of course, we all share.  I have a personal goal to add another 11 countries in 2017, bringing the blog’s reach to 1/2 of the world’s countries!

My wish for photography to bring us all closer, educate us to important issues that surround us, and most importantly, to bring joy to all those who view the images.  There’s no greater compliment to me than when friends/contacts appreciate what they see or tell me that somehow the images or stories moved them.  Happy 2017 everyone … it’s ours to write … let’s make it a great one!!_DSC0298-2Next Up:  Who wants to go to Colorado?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Always Expect the Unexpected

Yellowstone NP in the winter is a fabulous place … so vast, so snowy, so quiet.  The freshly fallen snow makes wildlife spotting easier and tracks in the snow provides clues as to what might be where.  Bring in the sun, patchy white clouds, and blue sky, and it all seems so perfect.IMG_0571 2As we leave the wintery roads of Lamar Valley, the scenery beckons me and makes it hard to drive away.  We are off to the West Yellowstone entrance of Yellowstone NP, which is closed to most traffic during the winter, except for the organized snowmobile and snow coach tours.  Numerous years ago, Tom & I engaged in one of the snowmobile tours, but quickly realized that they are not the preferred route for photographers.  Two years ago, I experienced a Yellowstone in Winter photography tour, with Daniel Cox of Natural Exposures.  It was amazing and I highly recommend it for anyone that might be interested.IMG_0572 2This year however, I had arranged a small snow coach to take Tom and I, as well as some friends into the park … in search of the notorious bobcat(s) that had been spotted regularly for about a month, but not for the last week or two before we got there.IMG_0604 2Though Yellowstone, for me, is primarily about the wildlife … it also has some gorgeous landscape views._DSC4063_DSC4055Before long, a lone coyote was spotted along one of the rivers.  We jumped out and began to photograph it as it made its way quickly, stopping to check us out along the way._DSC6287At one point it stopped at something that was somewhat buried in the snow.  After closer observation, we noticed that it was an elk carcass, specifically the head and antlers.  It was a very strange sighting, especially with what appeared to be wires wrapped in its tines.  To this day I wonder what the story was behind that sighting, though it did seem a bit eerie._DSC6382On the lighter side of our sightings, the trumpeter swans were out in force … some in mated pairs, some with juveniles still with them, and some were solo.  All were beautiful.  🙂_DSC6170As were the falls, with the crashing of the waters as it made its way along._DSC4086We had some bald eagle sightings as well, including this one towards the end of our day.  It was finishing off a meal of fresh fish as we caught up with it.  We watched patiently as it devoured it … one piece at a time._DSC6397Suddenly it lifted up and flew off, but not too far.  It was then that I noticed that this bald eagle had been banded.  I researched the internet and found that many years ago, researchers had banded bald eagles in that area, and perhaps this was one of them.  If anyone out there knows more on this, please reach out and/or comment, so that I can learn more.  Thanks!_DSC6405It finally landed in the river, but in a location which was even better for us to photograph it.  I thought that was pretty nice of it to do that for us, don’t you?_DSC6434Well, in case you’re wondering, we never did find that bobcat, though there was reportedly a possible sighting that day.  Of course when we heard the call, off we went to the exact location where it was spotted.  Nada!  Perhaps it was an erroneous report … or it wandered off.  Dang!

What we encountered though was quite remarkable and could never have been expected … never have I seen this before.  We came across an area where we had earlier seen a coyote (one of many sightings that day).  So we slowed down just a bit to check out if we could find it again.

Well, all of a sudden we see not one, but two coyotes together … and close.  It was odd in that they just stood there and didn’t try to run.  That’s when Jen realized and called out “they’re mating … they’re tied”.  Of course, now it made sense … they couldn’t run.  Poor things just stood there, taking turns on who was going to have to look our way.  Once and awhile, they both looked our way.  Such indignant looks too.  LOL.  I know that it doesn’t look like anything, but these two lovebirds were in fact … tied._DSC6495After several minutes and hundreds of collective clicks of the camera later, they “untied” and parted.  The female walked away, followed by the male who sniffed her for a bit, then they had an affectionate moment of nose to nose action and a bit of rubbing.  It was after all, Valentine’s Day.  No joke!_DSC6526Being that we didn’t have any moose sightings, I had to find one on my own.  OK, maybe this was just a moose carving in town.IMG_0606 2When we left West Yellowstone … on our way towards Grand Teton NP … we came across more bighorn sheep rams.  Not before we got our AWD car stuck in an unplowed pull-off (yes, I just had to have that landscape shot … which ironically I never got since we were stuck and all)._DSC6486No matter how many of these guys we come across, I can’t help but stop for more images._DSC6490Finally we had a group of trumpeter swans bid us adieu as we made our way into Idaho._DSC6761So all in all, I learned that when in Yellowstone during the winter … Always EXPECT the UNEXPECTED!

Thanks Jen, Travis, Debby, and Jessica for sharing in our snow coach day in Yellowstone.  We had a blast and were quite entertained.  😉  Good times.

Next Up:  Back to some springtime action in Florida … Sandhill crane-style.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Special Memory in Denali

For some reason, we generally save Denali NP for the end of our trip.  Perhaps it’s to let the crowds thin out a bit, or maybe allow more time for the big bulls to arrive for the moose rut, or we like to end on a high – a definitive one pleasing for both wildlife and landscapes.  As soon as we arrived and saw the snow on the landscape and the trees, we knew that it was going to be a special week of Denali.DSC_0889As we made our first pass on the 15-mile public road within the park, while looking for moose, we spotted a bear … actually 3 bears walking the gravel bed of the braided Savage River.  What a great omen.DSC_0952We did find the moose as well … always fascinating to find them drinking near the kettle ponds._DSC6511_DSC6556Our arrival into the Denali NP was timed perfectly … for on August 31st, the Park Service officially gave back the name of Denali to the nations tallest peak – standing a proud 20,322′ tall – out for all to witness in all of its glory.  Not a cloud in sight … amazing!  Well once again we were inducted into the 30% club (seeing the mountain at all) and even the 10% club (seeing the mountain unobstructed).  Yes, we were blessed and quite proud to witness this historic moment of pride to the native Americans, Alaskans, and others who never understood why it was known as Mt. McKinley for so long._DSC3553If you look closely, you’ll see us at the summit of denali waving … LOL.IMG_1058Sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get when you venture into Denali’s interior.  For some strange reason, the sightings on this particular morning were few and far between, so when we arrived at the Eielson Visitor Center, the arctic ground squirrels running around in the deep fresh snow, got lots of unusual lens time._DSC3579_DSC3582_DSC3578Cute little guys too.  It reminded me that it’s not just bears, moose, wolves, caribou, and dall sheep – aka The Big 5 – that call Denali NP home.DSC_1286-2Of course though, I was there for bears, especially in the snowy landscape, so I was quite excited when this one came along, though I pretty much had too much lens.  For those of you who might wonder … we’re in the safety of the shuttle bus and this wasn’t cropped!DSC_1356An unusual sighting were these dall sheep ewes and their young traveling on the river bed.  In our 8 previous trips, I had never seen them that low.  DSC_1416Now when you arrive into Denali in early Spetember, you’re really there for two things … the fall colors and the moose rut.  Sometimes, you get both.  🙂DSC_1562DSC_1679These guys were out in full force for the rut and congregating together, sizing each other up I would imagine, and following the estrous cows in the area.  All of their antlers were clean, already shed velvet for the most part.  If you’ve only seen moose in the lower 48, you really need to see them in Alaska to appreciate their size.  It’s not just those giant vegetables that grow bigger in Alaska.  LOLDSC_1701DSC_1876A favorite of mine are the ptarmigan, especially this time of year when they’re transitioning from their usual rust color to white to aid in their camouflage from predators in the winters snowy landscape.  Quite unusual to find it perched in a tree … such beautiful birds.DSC_2052More landscape images of Denali looming in the distance, still roughly 33 miles away (as the crow flies).  There’s no denying the grandeur of Denali.DSC_7132Grizzly bears were out and about during the week – solo adults, as well as sows with cubs, and sub-adults too.  These bears can get quite big, but remain smaller than the coastal brown bears that feed on salmon.DSC_2351Caribou posing in the fall colored landscape is always a sight that takes your breath away.  Also primarily free from their velvet cover on their antlers, they are quite striking when their head is lifted and those antlers stand out proudly.DSC_2482Of course, just because their velvet-free doesn’t mean that they don’t itch, as you can see this one thrashing its antlers violently in the brush.DSC_2432One evening, while out looking for bears, we watched this bull caribou take off at full throttle over the braided river landscape and up the Savage River.  Not sure if something was after it or it simply got spooked, but it was amazing to see the territory that they could cover in pursuit.  Poor guy was exhausted and took a bit of a breather as he simply pranced about.DSC_2589Before long, off he excellerated again up towards the road and over the hill.  DSC_2593Yes, Denali is impressive … both the mountain and the national park.DSC_7144Next Up:  More from Denali

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Calling All Craniacs

One of my favorite sights to see in Alaska, or anywhere for that matter, is the image of sandhill cranes flying overhead … oh, and the sound of them as they call out to each other, let’s not forget that.  On our approach to Fairbanks, I heard distinctive calling out of the sandhills and I hoped that we would have good sightings in town.DSC_0568We figured that we would go to Creamers Field, a place where I first saw sandhill cranes in Alaska numerous years ago.  Sure enough … they were there …. coming in and taking off.  As luck would have it too, we hit Fairbanks and Creamers during the Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival.  Perfect timing for a self-proclaimed craniac like me!DSC_9923The fields were filled with sandhills of various ages, as well as geese and other birds, and the occasional hawk that would swoop in and cause a commotion within the smaller birds.DSC_0184Whether in the air or on the ground, there was a lot of calling out and communication going on with these beautiful cranes.  Photographically, it was awesome to shoot them amidst the yellow wildflowers that sporadically filled the field.DSC_0803Eagle-eye Tom spotted a juvenile crane that caught a small rodent while feeding in the field and pranced around quite a bit with it, causing both the adults and the other juveniles to take chase.DSC_9987But this young wasn’t to be denied his prize.DSC_0011Always fascinating were the take-offs of the cranes, usually 3-7 at a time.  So graceful and skilled in their execution of pre-flight and eventually flight.DSC_0389We could see them soaring overhead, with their magnificent and impressive wingspan, all throughout town.  Of course, you could hear them calling out too.  Love that sound.DSC_0422We visited the field the next day too, though at that point, the festival was over.  That didn’t matter to them though, as they were still there calling and flying in and out.  🙂DSC_0868DSC_0270On a side note, Tom and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary in Fairbanks too.  Love you babe.  Seems like we should have gone to Chena Hot Springs for an official anniversary, but the weather wasn’t cooperating for any chance at more northern light sightings.IMG_1038Next Up:  Denali National Park

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

2015 Year In Review – Part 2

I hope that everyone enjoyed Part 1 of the 2015 Year In Review … but the year wasn’t over where we left off … oh no, far from it.  So make yourself comfortable and enjoy the ride of June through December.

“Road Trip!”  Not just any road trip, but a cycling one with friends across country and back.  First stop, Virgina.  There Tom, Todd, and John had the honor to represent Team USA in the 2015 World Police & Firefighter Games.  They were competing in the mountain biking and road cycling events.  I know that it was quite an honor to march in the Opening Ceremonies Parade of Countries, featuring these skilled athletes from all over the world.DSC_4724Tom competed in the road criterium race and was awarded 3rd Place.  Not bad for a guy who doesn’t ever compete in road cycling events.  🙂  Shout out to his sponsor Tune Cycles in Boca Raton, FL.  DSC_3753In the mountain biking event, Tom took top honors and was awarded the Gold Medal for his effort.  A nice repeat from his last appearance at the World Games in Indianapolis, where he also finished first.  So proud of my World Champion hubby!  Yes, he’s my sherpa, but also quite the athlete.DSC_4812I never made it to the road race, since I had something even more important to do.  See, my daughter Kelli was having her “White Coat Ceremony” for her Physician Assistant program, so off I went to Jacksonville to support her honor.  Such a proud momma.  :-)MIMG_2677The guys continued on their way out west, stopping to ride the trails along the way.  I met back up with them in Park City, with much anticipation for some photo shoots, but the weather had other ideas.  Either way, it was gorgeous.DSC_4862No trip to Utah is ever complete with visiting the Moab area, especially if you’re with 3 cycling fanatics.  No worries, Arches NP and Canyonlands were just down the street for me.DSC_4886

While in Canyonlands NP, the guys mountain biked the Shafer Overlook Trail, a place Tom & I had visited before and I told him “no way, no how would I drive down that thing”.  Well, you guessed it, that’s just what I did … well, not me driving … thanks Rachel.DSC_5059On our way east again, we stopped at Grand Junction & Fruita, CO – also a mecca for cyclists.  For me, there was the beauty of the Grand Mesa area, as well as Colorado National Monument.  I have a feeling that we might be seeing more of this area again.DSC_5184DSC_5346-HDRMy only request on this road trip was Mt. Evans and those mountaintop mountain goats.  Couldn’t believe my eyes when we arrived to a closed sign for some major road repairs lasting months.  Since this was a cycling trip, Tom took one for the team and road the 15 mile winding road, in the high winds and cold, with about 4500 foot vertical elevation climb, all in an effort to get me those mountain goats.  What a guy!  IMG_2799-2IMG_0898The World Champion not only made it to the top, but got some world class images to prove it!  So grateful to him.DSC_5550Not having enough mountain climbing, Tom and his buddies decided to give Pikes Peak a try.  As you can see, the weather was threatening … wind, rain, sleet, snow … they had it all.DSC_5292Back in Colorado Springs, of course The Garden Of The Gods is a must.DSC_5351Along the way, we stopped along the Bourbon Trail, and I learned more about bourbon than I ever thought was possible!  Such an amazing process and beautiful countryside.DSC_5784When we returned home, it wasn’t long before our 9th return trip to … you guessed it … Alaska.  _DSC5938Katmai National Park & Preserve is always a MUST when making the journey out there and the bears didn’t disappoint.  Dave of AK Adventures and Wes of Beluga Air once again treated us to some spectacular inflight views and amazing bear encounters.DSC_6195DSC_7677DSC_8370Each visit to Alaska is so different from any other, so it always makes the trip exciting.  This year we were treated to very nice weather.  By that I mean, cold, but for the most part sunny._DSC3327Though we generally see the sea otters, seals, and sea lions while there, no previous encounters were of this level.  I mean, the marine life practically presented themselves to us… with their salmon offering as well.  🙂_DSC6332Now that I don’t “stalk” the aurora like I used to, I find that it presents itself more readily!  Probably the most spiritual phenomenon that I have ever witnessed, there’s nothing like witnessing the northern lights.  Sure, it’s frigid cold while out there, but honestly, I get carried away by natures light show and I don’t even feel it.  If I could wish something for everyone to witness, it would be the aurora borealis!DSC_6995We’re usually pretty lucky when it comes to seeing “the mountain” out in its full glory, this year was even more special.  See, we were there for the official return of the name “Denali” to the mountain (previously known as Mt. McKinley, though previously to that, Denali).  I felt so proud to be a part of that history and as you can see, the mountain was proud too and really showed off as if in graditude._DSC3553The moose rut season was getting close, as the bulls were almost shed of their velvet and congregating with the other bulls, all following the ladies.DSC_381413 days after returning home from Alaska, I had a special treat for myself in store … a return to Alaska.  This time, Kaktovik was my destination and the stars of my trip were the amazing polar bears of the arctic.  It was a dream of a lifetime and I had to pinch myself often to be sure that I was actually living that dream._DSC6749_DSC1471_DSC9445_DSC7514If I had two more wishes, I would have wished that Tom was there with me.  No, not to carry my gear, but to experience their beauty, silly antics, and share in the awe of it all.  The other wish would be that everyone could also see the polar bears of the arctic and judge for themselves the importance of preserving their home for them and us as well.  Hey, you can, as we did, see the northern lights there too, so it could be just one trip!  🙂_DSC0014OK, now I’m feeling a bit spoiled … but we also treated ourselves to some autumn glory, as seen off the Blue Ridge Parkway and Ashesville, NC area.  Such a treat to this Florida girl._DSC4161_DSC4136Yes, 2015 was a dream come true on all levels.  Now that I have more time to fully enjoy travel, photography, and personal business pursuits, who knows where the road will lead.  Life is such a journey … its path is often unknown … its duration is even more unsure.  The only thing that I know for certain is that I will live life to the fullest and challenge myself with new experiences and adventures along the way.  It will be hard to top 2015, but … “challenge accepted”.  Thanks to all who made 2015 possible and shared moments with us along the way … especially Jen, Liz, Jess, Amy M, Cris, Kathleen, Kim, Kelli & Mitchell, Nicole, Violet, Bob, Maria, Todd, John, Rachel, Amy H, Rick, Dave, Phil, Rebecca, Renee & Al, Alex & the gang from Kaktovik, Kem & John, my mom & Murray, and of course, Tom.

Here’s to 2016!

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Next Up:  More from Alaska

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy     (www.tnwaphotography.com)

2015 … A Transitional Year in Review

As we begin the 2016 new year, I always take the time to reflect back on the past year.  It was a year of great change for me (as I knew it would be), great opportunities, and awesome experiences.  Here are just a few of the highlights.

Early in the year, when the hot weather cools down a bit, I always take the time to visit “my park” – Everglades National Park.  The Everglades are a place where you visit with great anticipation as to what you’ll find, as the environment changes always depending on the water levels. During the first 5 months of the year, it can be a mecca for bird watchers and photographers, as well as offer landscape gems such as this wonderful, and unexpected, fog bow.

DSC_0391We usually also spend a few weekends up in the Gainesville area early in the year, since we have a home up there.  To my surprise this year, in addition to the influx of migratory sandhill cranes which visit, there was also a whooping crane, specifically No. 9-13.  He stayed for several months before he migrated successfully back to the north in WI.  DSC_9825Of course, it was also quite a thrill to share the hiking path with bison at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Alachua County.  As we were on the lookout for the alligators, can you imagine Tom’s surprise when it emerged from the grasses and brush adjacent to where he was standing?  LOLDSC_4785-2

So far the year had been progressing along routinely, but that was about to change.  On March 4th, I took retirement from my medical sales position (aka my “day job”).  Though it was to happen on its own in 2015, this came about in an unexpected way … I felt like I won the lottery!  LOL  Before long, I learned that Fridays were no longer the best day of the week and I learned to love Mondays!  It’s all about perspective.  🙂
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Always an exciting day is the arrival of the swallowtail kites in Florida.  Numerous trips “upstate” followed for more bird photography.DSC_5426

As Kelli and Mitchell progressed with their educational pursuits, they met us out in Bozeman, MT for some snowboarding fun.

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Combining that trip for Tom & I, we arrived early and toured Yellowstone NP in what can only be described as an anomaly winter for them, as much of the snow had already begun to melt.  On that trip, I learned the cruelty of nature, as we watched a bison who had fallen through the ice of the frozen pond, and being unable to free itself, eventually died there, and the circle of life displayed itself right before our eyes.  I stood there, numb and crying, as there was nothing that I could do to help.DSC_6735

We also encountered many specimens of wildlife, including these wonderful and beautiful bighorn sheep.DSC_5928

Grand Teton NP was also visited during this trip and the wildlife and landscape opportunities were undeniable.  Who would have thought that we would have a red fox posing so nicely for us as we happily snapped away images.  DSC_7292

There’s nothing like experiencing first light on a mountain and the Tetons are no exception.  A better day couldn’t have been possible.DSC_0822

OK, perhaps it was the mother in me, but these bighorn sheep ewes teaching the young ones how to navigate the rocky cliff ledges had me on pins & needles.  It was fascinating beyond belief to witness their skills … I mean, I’m less sure footed on solid ground!  LOLDSC_1653

There were several “firsts” for me in 2015.  I was fortunate enough to photograph both the long-eared owl and the short-eared owl as well.  As many of you know, other than my beloved bears, owls rank very high on my favorites list, so I was thrilled.DSC_7170DSC_0727

Once back in Florida, I spent many days photographing the courtship, mating, nesting, and raising of the young of many of our birds that make spring in Florida so unbelievably amazing.DSC_8390DSC_2391DSC_3577

How about a wild American Flamingo?  Yep, it was an amazing experience, one that my tripod still bears the scars of, as I got so excited when I witnessed the flamingo take flight.DSC_2209

In April, Tom competed in the Florida Firefighter Games.  Held at Alafia River State Park, some of the states finest mountain bikers raced through the POURING down rain for medals, both individually and as teams.  DSC_3054

Of course, no season would be complete without my mornings and/or evenings revolving around the burrowing owls.  Once again I had the pleasure of photographing them as they literally grew up before my lens.  Often, I would simply delight in their antics, forgetting to click away.DSC_8841DSC_1341DSC_4436DSC_2476

A real special treat was this bird’s eye view shooting position of this young osprey while dad had just dropped off a nice fresh catch and mom proceeded to feed it.  Someone get this guy a napkin.  🙂DSC_9194

Now that I had more time to do the things that I had always wanted to do, I traveled to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, FL.  For 4 days I learned how to best expose for the outdoor subjects, tell a story with my images, use my flash (no more auto mode for the rare times that I actually use it), and even a bit more on processing images too.  A bonus was that we were able to shoot at the rookery a full hour before even the Photo Pass kicks in.DSC_9707DSC_9839DSC_3464

Two trips up to St. Augustine also followed for capturing the courtship, mating, tending to the nest, and taking care of the young, as performed by the least terns.  Sometimes the taking care of was accomplished by teamwork in elimination of the enemy intruder.DSC_2723DSC_3242

Well, as you can probably guess, 2015 experiences were too many to lump into just one post.  Picking up in June, Part 2 will follow in the next post.  STAY TUNED.  🙂

© 2015 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Homer-Bound

The Russian River Campground is an interesting place to stay when in Cooper Landing, Alaska.  It is home to the notorious “combat fly fishing” for salmon, trout, and other varieties.  It’s also a place where the photographers can find bears also fishing in those rivers.  While we did find brown bears again on this trip, it was only one afternoon, and we really wanted to say our goodbyes to them.  🙂  So we visited the river via the boardwalk for a final walk.  We took our time once we arrived at the confluence of the Russian River and the Kenai River, just down a bit of the ferry.
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It was a stunning morning and once again we were treated to the early morning sunlight peering through the trees along the boardwalk.  It was a bit cold this morning and foggy as well._DSC2970 We patiently sat down for awhile at the stairs and chatted with some of the fishermen.  We received various stories of theories as to where the bears were … none of which were authenticated nor pleasant.  I still hoped that they would return one last time for us.  In the meanwhile, a big group of common mergansers came by.  I was quite fascinated at their “team effort” in chasing down and beaching of some small minnows and smelt for their dining pleasure.  I had never witnessed it before!DSC_6022

The fireweed was still in bloom and had already reached the end of the stalk … meaning winter was simply about 6 weeks away.  It was only August 21st!_DSC3009

Harlequin ducks were also out and about in the Russian River.

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When we decided to make our way back on the boardwalk, we encountered this sighting, which usually means only one thing … bear(s)!  I eagerly made my way to their spotting._DSC3014 But it was for not, as it was simply a bald eagle that had flow in and the fishermen were simply admiring it and taking some cell phone shots as well.  Dang!DSC_6076 On the way towards Homer, we stopped a few times for photographs, but we were equally anxious to get there and check in with Beluga Air and Dave for our Katmai bear viewing the next day._DSC3042 It’s so beautiful to photograph the fireweed standing tall and proud in various fields.IMG_2901 _DSC5946 Once we arrived at our final destination for the evening, Homer, we ventured to the end of the “spit” and took in the beauty of Kachemak Bay and glaciers within the state park across the Cook Inlet waters.DSC_6159 IMG_2914We visited the Beluga Slough area, which is a “must do” annually, though we didn’t see the sandhill cranes like in years past.

_DSC3131 We also visited Bishop’s Beach and built our traditional cairn … in celebration of our upcoming wedding anniversary.  Each year we build this feature containing 1 stone for every year we’ve been together … plus 1 more for good luck … so this year it was a cairn of 19!  It wouldn’t be the same to not do it, though I’m wondering how much more stable we can make it during the next 5-10 years!  LOL_DSC3124

We then checked in for our bear trip which initiates the next day … weather permitting, as always.  Let’s hope for it to be a good morning.  🙂

Next up:  Katmai or bust ….

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

 

Park City & the Relentless Rain

After visiting my daughter, Kelli, and attending her “White Coat” Ceremony, it was time to return back to the cycling road trip.  It was my turn to support Tom wholeheartedly in his cycling endeavors, but in reality it wasn’t too hard of a task.  We were off to Park City, Moab, Grand Junction/Fruita, Mt. Evans, Colorado Springs, Denver, and wherever else Tom’s spirit felt like taking him.  🙂

Up at a horrendous time in the morning to catch a flight to Salt Lake City, I was rewarded by on-time flights.  Didn’t travel with much more than a small carry-on backpack, since I had left all of my camera gear with Tom when I left Baltimore (actually left Washington, DC, but Baltimore had direct flights).  When I arrived in Park City, Tom picked me up and before long we met up with some long time mountain biking friends, Dawn & Daryll.  Tom and Kelli used to race for years with them in Florida when Kelli grew up.  It was amazing to see them again and I know that Tom certainly enjoyed his riding time with them.
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Our condo faced the Park City ski area, which was very convenient for them.  The resort offered downhill mountain bike/chair lift tickets and they all took advantage of it.  I, on the other hand, stayed away from the biking, since I tend to be “accident-prone” when cycling.  🙂

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However, most of the afternoons looked like this out of our condo…. that’s right, pouring down rain, complete with very close vicinity electrical storms as well.  Ugh!  Of course, the guys and Dawn would set out in the sunshine in the morning with the best of intentions.  They would come back and tell me about the moose and her calf that they saw on the trails … the “lemur”, which was actually a weasel (don’t ask – LOL) … and the golden eagles they encountered.  Me, I was inside watching the Tour de France.  Ugh!

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We spent 5 days there with the same routine each day.  I outsmarted my bad luck by dragging Tom out really early one morning, before his cycling.  We drove up Guardsmen Pass and were treated to wonderful views.

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The wildflowers were also in bloom and quite beautiful.

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Just before leaving the Park City / Deer Valley area, of course, the sun emerged and blue skies broke through the clouds.  Oh well, it probably didn’t rain for the next week!  LOL

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It was nice for Tom and Todd too, as they got to reunite with one of their dear friends, Ed, who spends part of his time out in that area.  They used to work at the Dania Beach Fire & Rescue together and reminisced over the good days.

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Of course, I would not be skunked on the wildlife front … unfortunately, this was the best I got during those rainy 5 days.  🙂

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Totally not what I expected in terms of the lack of wildlife, but the trip was young still.

Next up:  Onward to Moab, UT … the mountain biker’s mecca.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Cycling … It’s What’s On Tap For Today’s Post

The 2015 World Police & Fire Games were recently held in Fairfax, Virginia.  Tom and some of his fellow firefighter colleagues, as well as police and law enforcement officers, from around the world showed up in full force to compete in the “Olympic-like” Games…. dubbed “The Games of Heroes”.  Tom competed in both road cycling and mountain biking events.  Let’s see the competition in images and stories…. this way ….

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One of the Road Cycling events, and the first that Tom competed in, was the Criterium race.  Crit races are generally a mile or so circuit lap, repeated for a specified amount of minutes, then a designated number of additional laps.  In The Games, the competitors are divided in age groups, to keep the competition fair.  Funny because often the strongest riders are not necessarily the youngest.  When the start was whistled, off they went on their first lap.  I think that there was about 20 in Tom’s group at the start.

20150628-DSC_3557To help cheer Tom on, my cousin Violet and her daughter Nicole, who live nearby showed up and kept me company during those tense moments.  It was great to see them.

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Before long, the group dropped over half of the riders, leaving just 8 lead riders.  The racers had timing chips, so that kept the # of laps straight, as several of the riders were “lapped” before the end of the race.

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It was easy to spot Tom because thankfully he had on his sun sleeves, which help keep him safe from the sun.  Today, they were also the identification key for me as they zipped by with each lap.

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About 1/2 way through the race, the 8 riders thinned out to only 6 in the lead group.  Tom kept his position in that group.

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On the bell (final) lap, the 6 riders sprinted to the finish line.

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Tom finished in 3rd Place … not bad for a guy that, though he rides his bike almost daily, hadn’t raced on the road in a very long time, especially in a crit race.  See, in a crit race, it’s more of a strategic race and it’s not necessarily the strongest rider, but rather the “smartest” rider that wins.

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After the victory laps for the 3 medalists, it’s time for the Medal Ceremony.  Congrats guys!

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The next day, it was on to the Mountain Bike Cross Country race and there were many more medals on the line.

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The start of the race featured a bit of a road climb to “thin the pack” into the singletrack of the course.  Tom went into the course in 2nd position.

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While Tom was racing in his age group, one of our friends Johnny Sobkowski (Sunrise FD), was racing in his younger age group and went on to take 3rd Place.

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Another friend, Scott Sherry (Palm Beach FD) was also competing in his age group.

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Tom arrived to finish his 1st lap, navigating in preparation of running through the ribboned route through the scoring area.

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As he entered his 2nd lap, he was situated in 1st place…. Go Tom!

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Todd Neal (Broward County Fire & Rescue) finished up his 1st lap as well.

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Finally, after 1 hr, 18 mins Tom emerged to finish his race.

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Such determination shown in the fierce look of a competitor, as Tom crosses the finish line in 1st place!  WooHoo!

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John Cole (Ret. Charleston FD) was also racing and part of our traveling group.  This was just the 2nd race ever for him.

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Gil, who was from Washington state, works for the National Park Service and finished his age group in 1st place as well.

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On the podium stood Malcolm Bow (Peel Regional Police Dept from Ontario) in 3rd Place, Tom (my person hero and sherpa & Ret. Dania Beach FD) claimed 1st Place, and Randy Winwood (Nanpa FD from Idaho) picked up 2nd Place.  I was quite proud of Tom.  It was a mere 14 years ago when he last competed in “The Games” and took 1st Place honors as well … guess the guy still has it!  LOL

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After the races, it was time for some beers and lunch at a local brew pub.  Good times with good friends, for sure.

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In celebration of the games also, we had a wonderful dinner with my cousin Violet and her husband, Bob.  Such wonderful memories!

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At this time, I had to say goodbye to Maria Scherer (Dale City FD), who graciously hosted John, Todd, Tom & I during our stay at The Games.  She was so supportive of the guys and a great new friend for us as well.  🙂

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© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Note:  This blog post also takes a moment to honor the memory of Carlos Silva, Brazil PD and also in thought for the 2 other cycling competitors injured during the road race cycling event.