There’s No Place Like Home

My mother is a Wizard of OZ fanatic, so at a very young age I watched this movie a lot. Everyone knows that the last line of the movie is, “There’s no place like home.” But before she says that line, Scarecrow asks Dorothy what has she learned. She replies, “Well… I think that it … That it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. And it’s that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any farther than my own back yard because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” I learned this lesson with the assignment that our photography group choose at our last meeting. We choose to take pictures of the beach.

You might think, sure that is easy. You live in a beach town and you can just drive a few minutes and be there. Everyone doesn’t have that luxury. However, I decided to challenge myself a little. First of all, my 18-200 mm lens was in need of some repair and is in the shop right now. I only had prime lenses to shoot with for this assignment. Then I decided to use just my 50mm lens, which on a crop sensor camera is equivalent to about an 85 mm lens for a full frame camera. Then I choose to go to a beach that I have never been to before. Well if I have been there, it was when I was very young and I don’t remember it.  I don’t really venture down to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront during tourist season much. I prefer to visit that area of town when the tourist have gone. It would have probably been pretty easy for me to go to that area of town and find plenty of things to photograph. I decided, however, to head to Sandbridge instead.




I wasn’t sure if I was going to find anything interesting to photograph, and I had no idea where I was going. If it were not for GPS on my phone, I would have really gotten lost! I went to a park at the beach called Little Island. They had areas to park your car and access the beach, as well as a bath house and a fishing pier.




I really enjoyed my time here at Sandbridge, and I would love to go back when I have more time to take some more pictures. As I was starting to drive home though, I passed a church. I love white country churches with black shutters. I just had to turn around and go back to shoot it.


So what does all this have to do with Dorothy’s lesson? Well sometimes I fall into the trap that I think a lot of photographers do when they first start out. You see so many great pictures on the internet these days of exotic locations. I often times get discouraged thinking that I can’t take pictures like that because I can’t travel to these exotic places. However, sometimes the things that are in your own backyard are just as beautiful if you look at them in the right way. Sometimes you have to venture out to areas around you that you may not have seen before. Sometimes you have to try to get a new perspective on an area that you have seen a hundred times. I do think Dorothy said it best, “There’s no place like home.”


A Trip to the Zoo

I haven’t been posting as much lately because I have been sick for nearly the entire month of May and part of June. Somehow I either managed to get a cold or had sinus problems that turned into bronchitis. YUCK! Being sick and having lots of rain in our area has kept me from taking very many pictures lately.  I finally felt better, and I decided to take a trip to my local zoo in Norfolk. It was so great to get out and take pictures again. I found myself acting like a kid going to the zoo for the first time. It was very exciting!

I have been going to this zoo ever since I was a little kid because I grew up here, and the zoo has changed quite a bit over the years.  One of the biggest changes lately is that we lost of our elephants.  Due to new regulations, any zoo with less than three elephants had to either get more or move the ones they had to a bigger herd. Our elephants moved to the Miami Zoo. I have never visited the zoo in Miami, although I have been to Miami. I heard it is a great zoo, so hopefully our two lovely elephants are settling in to their new home and their new family.  There were a few paintings on the wall where the elephants’ indoor housing still sits. I am not sure if all of them were done by the elephants, but I knew that two of them were prints from the elephants themselves. We will miss them.

One of the other changes that I have seen over the years at our zoo is the variety of animals and the types of enclosure in which the animals are housed. I am a big animal nut. I am not trying to debate the merits of housing wild animals.  However, I am glad to see that many more zoos around the country, as well as our local zoo, have been migrating towards much more natural enclosures for the animals.  At our zoo, even the white rhino and the zebras are in an area together. Apparently, they are great friends and they get agitated when they are separated. What are crazy friendship, but it seems to work.

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Our zoo isn’t huge, but we do have a nice variety of animals. There is a section that has barnyard animals, and a petting area where you can go in and interact with the goats. Who doesn’t love goats? Just watch your belongings. One goat decided that my camera needed some close investigation and another one decided to try to make my shoe laces a snack.

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I love the little prairie dogs too. There habitat is being rebuilt, but they did have one in the barnyard area.

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The peacocks can be found wandering all over the zoo, but it is great when you can catch them with their tails spread out. What gorgeous colors!!!

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The most recent construction at the zoo is the area called, The Trail of the Tiger.

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You can see tigers here, although I didn’t catch a glimpse of them today. There are also a lot of other animals in this section of the park. One of my favorites are the Red Pandas. I just think these guys are so adorable. I could stand and take pictures of them for hours.  Apparently, so could a lot of other people. There is hardly a time when someone is not looking at the Red Pandas, even on a slow day at the zoo. How could you expect any less than constant attention when you have such a cute face? They seem to not mind the attention much. Today, they were just napping away, with an occasional position shift. One kept hiding in its box and peeking out the door.

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I had so many great pictures of the pandas, it was very hard to decide which ones to share here in the blog.


One of the other big areas at the zoo is the Africa section. Of course, most people love the lions, but they were also hiding today, like the tigers. The giraffes always get a lot of attention. They are amazing to see up close and some of them can come pretty close to the walkways throughout the area.

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There are two other animals that I loved in the Africa section and that is the Fennec Fox and the Meerkats. The fox has the biggest ears, but they make him look very cute. He was snoozing today, so I didn’t get to see his face.

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The Meerkats are so fun to watch. They are always taking notice of everything around them. As some airplanes flew overhead, they had to come out of their holes and stand at attention to see what was making the loud noise. They are another animal that I could watch for hours.

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It was so great to get back out and take pictures again. Visiting your local zoo is a great way to practice taking pictures. You will certainly have different light challenges to address. Some animals are more active than others and therefore you may have to adjust your shutter speed accordingly. I highly recommend some kind of zoom lens for an outing like this. I had my 18-200 mm Nikon lens on hand for my visit.  The enclosures only allow you to get so close to the animals, so any zoom lens will help you get closer with your pictures. My Nikon D5500 has 24 megapixels files, so that also allows me to be able to crop my pictures quite a bit when I process them and still get a very good quality shot.

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Asiatic Black Bear
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I had a great time at the zoo. It was rather sunny and warm, but it made the landscape, such as the sky, look really nice in my pictures.  I can’t wait to go back again. Maybe I can catch the lions and tigers next time. Note to myself though, this time don’t forget your sunscreen!