The Coloring Queen

We have lots of talented people in our park. I have featured a few here before, Catherine and Theresa.

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Catherine

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Theresa

There are many more with all different talents; music, theater, homemade beer and wine, you name it.

There is a little crafts emporium here once a month but I have never made it because it is at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning. Not gonna happen.

I first became aware of these bookmarks that Terry puts together at our monthly Wine Drinking Club Book Club. During the holidays the leader of the discussion gave us each one with the chance to buy more. They had several there and WOW! So colorful and glittery! These are intricate patterns that she colors in pencil and pen. I mean they are small! She told me some take three days! They are truly little works of art.

This is Terry. I think she looks like a queen in this picture!
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The finished works are folded in half lengthwise (bookmark size), laminated and embellished with a sparkly topper. So I brought two back to the bus and Jim immediately said, “Can I have one of those?” The cats love the shiny embellishment and I often have to find my place again after a night of their mischief.

My mom and dad traveled the world for many years and my mom had a pretty well stocked gift drawer. When she needed a small gift, she just went to the gift drawer. We have done that in the bus but obviously don’t have much room, never mind a whole drawer.And we are running out of tie dye hankies.

These are perfect little tokens for folks we come across in our travels and my book reading friends. They would make great Christmas ornaments too. Got that idea from Dona. These are what the finished bookmarks look like. Both sides are the colorful pattern.
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And some in progress. Some of these she is keeping, some I am buying and there are many others.

Here she is in her lair, surrounded by colored pencils and pens, her feet up, coloring away, big smile on her face. She has a needlepoint magnifying glass that hangs around her neck for the really small stuff.
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So nice to discover more local talent. It’s a nice rainy afternoon and I’m off to drink some homemade Huckleberry Liqueur made by another friend here. Yum.

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Edinburg, Texas

Mid Winter Update

I can’t believe we are at the end of February already! Time flies when you’re having fun. We have been here three months already and have another one coming up.

Jim has settled into practicing and playing with the band they started up last year. They are really getting good! Jim’s baritone ukulele, rhythm, bass and lead guitars and percussion. After their last very fun performance, Jim said people came up to them and said “You sound like a real band!”

Ed of the band found out that we have a celebrity in our park. William Florian, former lead singer of the New Christy Minstrels is in the Valley this winter, performing shows every evening practically. We went to see him at a nearby park and some people from our park got up to sing with him. That was super fun. Then Sue from our park joined him on stage and sang a beautiful version of Leavin’ on a Jet Plane.

William has a great stage presence, easy and fluid. He has been generously working with the band on timing and all matters musical. You can really tell the difference. William played in the last set of the latest show and they rocked the house. No pics from that but here are Jim, William and Ed.
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I got to “walk” and play with two very cute kitties while a friend here had to go back to Boston for a couple weeks. Buster and Betsy are 9 month old fluffballs who are friendly and approachable, exactly opposite of our cats. I also deadheaded the petunias.

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Buster

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Betsy

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It wasn’t quite this hot but it did get up to 100 degrees this week.
The weather has been great for swimming laps and playing water volleyball. My volleyball is mostly on hold for now after I “sprained” my finger playing. It hurt like hell so I went to the commercial emergency room where they X-rayed it, which took about five minutes. It kinda got bent a little bit more. And of course it was my middle finger. It feels like it is still jammed. I can still swim laps and practice yoga  though. And go to Happy Hour, of course.

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I was there a total of four hours and the X-ray and the doctor pulling on it and taping it up was the treatment I got. And a prescription for ibuprofen. Whut? Besides the waiting room full of sick people, the worst part? When we got the bill the total was $2800! I went on the last day of the year with our old insurance. There was no itemization, no explanation. Couldn’t even talk to a real person on the phone. Please don’t tell me that America has the best health care system in the world.

There is never a lack of things to do here. All sorts of activities and you can do as much or as little as you want. We have attended three amateur theatre productions so far featuring talented people from the park. I always figure somebody has to be the audience.

One night last week another neighbor came by and said since it was a clear night that her husband was going to set up his “big” telescope. It was big, like seven feet tall! It is a refraction mirrored scope. We got to view Venus, Pliedes and its nebula along with a few other formations. Tom was very knowledgeable and informative. Sort of like a flash mob to sky gaze. It was fabulous and I hope we do that again.

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Steve in the mirror

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The kitties have settled into their winter routine. We take them out a couple times a day and they go to the park across the street. They even know, “Let’s go to the park.” When the wind is blowing hard it is good cat control; they stick close to the bus.

Our other neighbors have a lovely garden that I get to take care of when they are at their place in Mexico. It is an oasis of blooms, hummingbirds and birds. They also grow orchids and I get to watch over them too. They are blooming brilliantly this week.

When I went to see the orchids, one of my favorite pups was there, Maisey! She gets so excited. So I took her picture too.
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When I see an interesting sky I work on my Layered Skies project. A recent full moon. With my phone.

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Straight shot

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Three layers

I get work on the magazine done even though it is so nice outside. I have to admit, when it’s 100, I don’t mind staying in. My compact “office” works just fine.
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We’ve been to the beach and are going to Mexico this week. Mardi Gras is coming up with body painting, a parade, music and a food fest. Life is good.

Gotta go, almost time for Happy Hour.

 

 

More Happy Accidents

Yesterday afternoon skies. These are some straight shots:

Then on to the layering. When I saw the contrails I thought they might make interesting images.
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There really are endless options. I shot ten RAW files and fooled around with a lot of different combinations. I also discovered that if you use the same image twice in the processing it adds some extra oomph to the result.

OK, enough! Until next time…

2016: A Year of Skies

Last year I did a year in photos but it took forever and was in like five parts. It was fun looking back through all the pictures and remembering the days they were taken. I’ve always been interested in the ever-changing skies, sunrise, sunset, clouds, fog, even rain. Some make for better pictures than others.

WARNING! Photo geek stuff ahead…

I normally shoot Camera RAW with my 10 year old Nikon DSLR. Someone recently said, “A good starter camera…” Ouch! It does everything I need and more. I have been processing the images as HDR, high dynamic range. This is equivalent to the old neutral density filter in photography. With Camera RAW and HDR, like with the human eye, the deep shadows and blowout bright highlights are evened out. In a photo, whether digital or on film, the highlights and shadows can ruin the picture. This is probably why people show you a picture and say, “But it didn’t look like that in person, it was much more alive, real, dynamic.” Your eye, not the camera (and computer) was doing the processing. HDR makes a photo that is very close to how the scene appears to the human eye.

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In Mexico in 2011

HDR used to involve a tripod and multiple bracketed exposures at like a half stop from super bright to almost black. See some early HDR here. I still do this sometimes, but mostly now I shoot one image Camera RAW and process as HDR. This is ideal since, 1) tripod not required, 2) less space on disk with otherwise unusable images and 3) HDR processing has evolved. Greatly.

Sometime last year, I was processing some sky pictures and accidentally dragged two into the image area that were not bracketed. They were shot in the same sky and time period but objects did not align as normal HDR does. It was what Mr. Rugolo, one of my art professors called “a happy accident.”

We used to make double exposures in the camera and not know the resulting image until the film was processed.This is sort of like being back in the darkroom and not knowing what a double exposure in the enlarger would look like until it was processed. Or a solarized print. I like the suspense and the outcome was always unique.

Now, we have the technology to process on the computer and can create double or multiple exposures there. I loved processing the film and printing black and white and color in the darkroom but I would never go back to it, as some have. The computer can do all the things we wished we could do back then. In the olden days…

These two images caused the happy accident.
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This January sky in our Rio Grande Valley spot was pretty impressive on its own. We have a perfect uninterrupted sky view from our site so I just run out and take a picture or two when good ones come along. Both are one exposure RAW files. The accident occurred when I dragged the two different images into the HDR software. It tried its best to line up the similarities  but there was just some left over as you can see from the image below on the right and bottom.

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I cropped that off and ended up with this.
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I liked the way it attempted to make sense of the images and that it represented a roiling  and more complex picture of that day’s sky on January 12, 2016.

On March 18th, we had an incredible display of mammatus clouds and straight photos were shot.
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The fun thing about this technique is that you can always go back later and combine the images. Later in the year I got more used to shooting specifically with Layered Skies in mind. This is one from the same day’s sky processed later. The heavens were alive in every direction that evening.
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A later combination of three images from March 18.
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A few nights later on March 22 I got this straight shot of the full moon. We also have an excellent view of the moonrise here.
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In April we went to Austin and saw the sunset from friends’ boat on Lake Travis. This was a nice enough sunset on its own but the layering really gives the mood and motion of the sky.
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On the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, two images.
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April 12, 2016
And playing around with panoramas there too. These are single images stitched together in Photoshop. There wasn’t much to photograph except the sky…
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April 13, 2016

Another full moon on April 20 in Alabama
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April 26 in Chattanooga
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May 28, Jim’s birthday in Marthasville, Missouri. The sky was big and busy that night. This is the only layered image, the rest are straight out of camera. (SOOC)
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And Colorado never disappoints. A fisheye view near Canon City.
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Layered sunsets in Colorado Springs July 26
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Regular old skies in Ft. Collins were pretty spectacular.
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Montana is aptly described as Big Sky Country.
Layered sky in Billings July 15
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Layered sky in Montana July 19
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Sunset in Lame Deer July 20
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Montana rainbow
The horse pasture
Panorama at Little Bighorn battlefield
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Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower. The view from our site on July 22

Wyoming panorama July 24, 2016
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Nebraska
Storm a comin’ July 26.
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And after the storm:
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More panoramas on the Cowboy Trail
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July 30

Minnesota panorama
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Minnesota sunset with my phone, August 8
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And layered:
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Wisconsin, on the Elroy Sparta Trail August 20: SOOC
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Lake of the Ozarks on September 13
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Missouri and Illinois
On the Katy Trail near Portland September 21portland-pano copy.jpg
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The Tunnel Hill State Trail in Illinois October 4:
Layered
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And panorama
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On the Chief Ladiga Trail in Alabama October 21
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Pensacola November 7-10: The Blue Angels!
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Gulf Islands National Seashore sunset
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Layered sunset in Biloxi, Mississippi November 10
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At Padre Island National Seashore November 20
Vertical panorama
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This was the first time I shot deliberately for the Layered Sky series. Sometimes it takes me a while…
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And back at our spot for the winter in the Rio Grande Valley.
Straight and Layered Sky November 26
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Sunset November 29
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December 2 Layered Skies:
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December 22
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December 27
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December 28
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I really like this one.

So, a year of skies! The sky is always changing so don’t forget to Look Up!

Life’s a Beach

After New Year’s our good friend Michael was in the park with us for a few days after attending a wedding party in Houston. Michael and Randy have been good friends for many years since we met in Mexico. We have visited them in Philadelphia several times and they have a great parking spot for the bus, a beautifully curated garden right in the middle of the city. Heavenly.

Randy passed away in February of last year, to all of our shock, and we were looking forward to seeing Michael and catching up.
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Layered beach.

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We organized a trip to the beach on South Padre Island since the weather was fabulous and it turned into a big group of about thirty people! We ate and drank and played games and splashed in the surf while the fog came and went.

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Foggy dunes

We even refurbished the sign designating the nude beach since the paint had faded away. It’s a ways down the beach. Before and after.
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We enjoyed tamales from Delia’s when we got back to the bus and as a native Texan, Michael gave his approval. They are really good.

Another evening we made dinner for our neighbors returning to the park, Jim’s famous cioppino. In the meantime we talked and swam and truly enjoyed and appreciated Michael’s company. We had a great visit and plan to see him again sometime this summer. We always look forward to the various garden projects and hopefully we can help more now that Randy is gone.

And he brought us a lovely reminder of Randy for the bus, a deep blue shot glass that he culled from Randy’s studio. We treasure it and the memories it brings back. But first and foremost we treasure our good friends.
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Happy New Year!

A little late;  I know. We’ve been busy swimming laps, playing volleyball, socializing, having dinners with friends, going to the beach, herding cats and enjoying time with visitors. Whew! The weather is supposed to turn cooler and rainy so we will have a few days of downtime to catch our breath.

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Late in 2015 I saw a Facebook post suggesting that folks get a jar with a lid and each week write a post-it note about a positive experience that week. Then at the end of the year, open the jar and read all the notes for a year in review.

I’m all for being positive and grateful so we decided to try it. We used an apple butter jar that we got on a bike trail somewhere and were pretty good about adding notes. A bonus was that every time we opened the jar to add one, the apple butter aroma wafted out.

When we opened the jar on New Year’s Day it was fun and gratifying to relive the experience and be thankful all over again. I didn’t photograph them all but we were fairly consistent throughout the year. A few examples.

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We wrote about this here.

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The best part about shingles.

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This unfolded really well…

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Just reading back through the blog and all the lovely people and places we have gotten to experience is humbling and gratifying. We know we are BIG BIG Lucky…

We have already started our jar for this year and it still smells like apple butter! Try it! You’ll be glad you did.

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Merry Christmas From The Mighty Bus

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The day before Christmas we pause to wish all our friends and family the Happiest Holiday possible. Some are filled with good will and cheer and others suffer from loss of loved ones and disability. We love you all.

The figurines above are our sole decoration in the bus. They took up about four inches of real estate on top of the charging cabinet until I realized that the cats traversing the narrow topped cabinet would result in ruin. So I took the pic and wrapped them back up. When my sister and I broke up my Aunt Muriel’s house, I kept these. I gave them to my mother in law in 1995 because she loved Christmas so much. When she died and they broke up her house in 2014 I got them back. I never realized how drunk they are. As a friend here said, Like us at a super happy hour.

We are fortunate enough to enjoy good weather and friends here in South Texas. It is warm and wonderful.

Best of the season to you.

The beauty in me salutes the beauty in you. Namaste.

And Then We Were Thankful…

When we were in Pensacola meeting up with B and Jim they graciously invited us for Thanksgiving dinner at their place. We hadn’t planned on arriving at our winter spot until after Thanksgiving but not only did we want to enjoy dinner, Jim had to practice for his first Jam Band performance on Friday. So from Padre Island, we headed for the Rio Grande Valley.

B explained the logistics and menu: We all gathered for the first course of Jim’s famous oyster pie and champagne, a longtime tradition of theirs. And more oysters! After the first course we all dispersed to warm up our stuff, then reconvened for the main event.Cecilia and Paul brought a smoked turkey and everybody made a side. There were sweet potatoes, gravy, mashed potatoes, the best brussels sprouts and green beans. Cranberry and a Mexican relish. Stuffing, of course. Buttermilk biscuits. More gravy.

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The table
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The oyster pie
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All the yummy deliciousness

We had a great group of 10 for the day, all from the park except for Cecilia and Paul from Austin. They are Airstream people like B and Jim and parked right next to us so we got to know them in the week or so they were there. They had a little dog, Honey who almost met Carmella and played well with Maisy, B’s dog.
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Honey and Cecilia

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Paul dresses for dinner.

After dinner we relaxed over more wine. B played her harp for us.
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Their house is full of colorful and interesting things and a story goes with each one. It was nice to learn more about their lives and history.

After Maisy got a walk and our food had settled down, we walked across the park to Dona and Stan’s place for three fabulous desserts; a raspberry cobbler, pecan caramel tarts and pumpkin cheesecake. And more wine. And coffee. The raspberry treat with ice cream (!) was so good I couldn’t stop eating it.
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Fortunately, I did get a taste of the cheesecake as we reconvened for meal #2 on Sunday. We finished off the turkey and ate a few more sides and I got to enjoy a piece. Delicious!

The whole weekend was just what the doctor ordered; a relaxing and recharging weekend with friends, puppies, good food, drink and thoughtful conversation.

We are thankful.

 

Otra Vez: Padre Island National Seashore

Time to head for our winter spot in south Texas. When we got a Thanksgiving dinner invitation from B and Jim we had a deadline. And my Jim wanted to practice with the band he plays in at the park before they performed right after Thanksgiving.

We were already pointed west and stopped for a few last days of beach bicycling at Padre Island National Seashore. We went back to the same campground on the beach we were at in 2014 except now with our senior pass it was just $4 a night. We settled in for a few more days of bicycling, cat walking and eating fresh seafood.

The first day it was misting a little in the morning when we took off down to the beach. We had gone just a short way before the sky opened up so we turned around and went back to the bus. The next day was gorgeous and we got in about 25 miles in all. Riding on the beach takes more energy, not just because of the wind, but the sand although hard packed has more friction than the average road or trail. It’s pretty easy to just cruise along on some of the trails we’ve ridden. Not so at the beach. The panoramic views were spectacular.
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The beach
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The dunes

That evening we had a nice sunset and I decided to fool around with my new Layered Skies project. I have put these images together before but this was the first time I shot particularly for this technique I discovered by accident. The results. There are infinite possibilities.

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This will be a fun project to fool around with while we are parked for the winter since the sky is ever changing and it is about all there is to take photos of. More coming soon.