Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Slice of Wilderness

We have been to the home of Peter and Nancy Kau located on the St. Pete's end of Gandy Bridge several times already, but this was the first time Peter acted as a tour guide for my first visit to the Weedon Island Preserve yesterday morning. While Wify and her Buddhist friends stayed home to participate in the Great Compassion Mantra Chanting session, Peter and I braved the warm morning sun to explore the Preserve on foot, after a 5-min drive from his home.

The Island is a misnomer of sort as I was expecting to cross a long bridge or to access it by boat. Unlike the Lettuce Lake Park close to our home, the preserve is covered with a short shrub type of vegetation, hardly providing any shade. However, the mangroves are criss-crossed by narrow meandering waterways amenable to kayaking, which is not exactly my cup of tea. So despite a well-meaning offer from Peter, I decided to plant my foot on terra firma, or the boardwalk rather.

Along the way, Peter explained the various types of fish that can be expected to be seen in the waters from the vantage points of the several platforms strategically located thoughout. Among our visual catches are the snook, the needle fish, and the horse-shore crab. The boardwalk ended in a observation tower rising four storeys high that affords a paranomic view of the pristine wilderness that once served as an airport and the surrounding bayous and communities. However, our visit ended in the cool comfort of the Education Center.

Just when we were about to explore the Center, Nancy called Peter signalling that lunch was ready to be served. Being the gentlemen that we are who do not relish the thought of keeping the ladies waiting, we bade farewell but not before I made a promise to return later with Wify, possibly in the fall when the weather is more conducive for the outdoors.

But for now, the images below are for your vicarious experience.

The entrance sign, visually portraying what wildlife can be expected to be encountered. including the armadillo.

We covered part of the paved trail (black) and the entire network of boardwalk (light brown), a 40-min workout that does the body a lot of good.

The photowall in the Education Center, but one can hardly expect to sight all of these in a single visit.

The kayak enthusiasts exiting the circuitous inner water trails in the mangroves and heading to the great expanse of bay waters.

This is hard to see since the shot was taken without the proper lens filter, but after some time, hopefully not too long, you should be able to make up the faint outline of a needle fish lengthwise from right to left.

The spidey kingdom of two, seemingly dangling in mid-air next to the propagules, patiently waiting for any unsuspecting prey to land on the gossamer cobweb.

The imminent assault on the observation tower, topped up by corner lightning protectors, was just about to begin.

And here are the rewards of our scaling expedition: this one featuring the Bartow Plant of Progressive Energy with a stretch of boardwalk visible in the foreground, and several that follow.

The fishing pier, like a bridge to nowhere.

Pockets of lush vegetations divide the bayous.

And the summit conquerors, the broad grin says it all, thanks to a couple of like-minded visitors but armed with heavy artillery, for photography that is.

Back at Peter's home: a slightly forward leaning Guanyin radiating compassion with a backdrop of an equally serene tapestry of the azure.

An admonishment from the late Venerable Master Sheng Yen hung on the wall of Peter's home: Do not worry over the matters dealt to us, but rather be happy in their absence.

And on the way home, beach goers were already lining their vehiciles along the narrow strip of sand abutting the bay side of the approach to the Gandy Bridge.

The newly expanded Gandy Blvd, lined with new street lights under the gentle billows of the low-level cloud formation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More vignettes of life's moments

Selecting the pictures, cropping, and combining them to project a fresh perspective, and captioning them can be both a creative and fun-filled exercise, while preserving traces of life as it weaves through our life. The world out there is the target, no agenda, no interference, no judgment, just passive observance. Whatever it conjures up is plainly personal, a passing thought, a blip on the beta-wave, and then it is archived for later retrieval, when the next wave of recognition hits, launching a chain of thought and adding to the memory store.

Inanimate objects, animals, outdoor scenes, the cloud formation, the urban sprawl, the rustic setting, the azure sky, the turquoise sea. All are game for the digital capture.

A row of stripped down plants next to the road leading to Key Largo backed by another row of mechanical construct, the pylons or towers that support the power lines. One seems lifeless while the other serves to sustain life, or rather, life's amenities.

Peek-a-boo, the jawfish style, as seen in the aquarium in John D. Pennekamp Corals Park at Key Largo.

Spirally shells on display at the same aquarium. You can use my reflection for size.

Two birds or one? These two are actually the same bird. It is able to be at two different places, though proximate, at the same time is my doctoring/morphing effort, combining two pictures into one.

This is more conventional, a mosaic of four different shots of palm trees that dominate the streetscape in Miami.

It's a bird. No, it's a plane, seemingly skimming over the water at Miami Beach.

Yup, the smart car with an attitude.

Dandy flowers on our table at La Rosa Restaurant, Miami.

For a fee that is. Seen on Ocean Blvd, Miami Beach. There are ride-me bikes, the human pedaled kind, as well.

A mirage? Sort of, being a reflection from our car's windscreen while Wify was taking a shot in the moving car.

Why is it shaped like a ship anchor? That's the question.

Miami's cityscape, sprawling like little boxes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vignettes of Life's Moments

The advent of the digital camera has led to a flourish of home-bred photographers with nothing more than a steady hand and a keen eye for the Kodak moment. Being not afraid to make mistakes because they could just be erased with a simple "delete" key stroke has made for bolder experimentation at any setting, including while in a moving car. And that's Wify's department while I focus on steering the car. Here then are some of the results borne out of such fearless aim-and-shoot executions, with appropriate cropping in PAINT to focus on the message.

A berthed cruise ship seen while driving toward Miami Beach, it's distinct fish-tail top jutting skyward.

A scene on Miami Beach, with an American Flag staked into the ground announcing the July 4th weekend. The cordoned area on the right as marked by a traffic cone is a turtle nesting spot, sharing space with the humans.

The Beach Rules. Here "beach" can be either a noun or an adjective. Eitherway it is where sand, sun, surf converge to earn Florida the moniker, the Sunshine State. The 5am opening time means that visitors can laze on the beach while watching the sun rise.

The bamboo (?) facade, save for its color seen along the drive to Miami Beach.

There is a kind of hush ... (sign seen along the Ocean Drive next to Miami Beach).

These giraffes lookalikes are port cranes where the amount of containers moved is called the throughput (Port of Miami).

A garden maze that seems clear from the top (Vizcaya Museum, Miami).

Getting the feet wet is Wify's first taste of the waters of the Atlantic (at Miami Beach).

Wify let her footprints behind at Miami Beach. Sure they would be washed off during the next high tide as such is the impermanence of worldly things, but the imprint in the mind will tend to linger longer ...

A fleeting scene of the viaducts circumscribing a lens of sky and a piece of the Miami downtown.

Mom and daughter in the Orchidarium, Vizcaya Musem.

The moon bouncing off the highway deck, in broad daylight.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Couple Portraits

A drawback, or rather inconvenience, of being the designated cameraman, that it being largely self-appointed notwithstanding, is that I'm almost always missing from the family album. So whenever there is a family outing involving more than the usual party of two, I always delegate, camera duty that is.

It's opportune that we have had a couple of outstation family trips in the last two months. And boy was I glad to be the "shooting target", with Wify sharing the center stage, for a change. Here then is a collection of such "rare" features, leaving traces of our sojourns in print.

At the base of the Washington Monument. Notice anything strange about the photo? The flags and my hair move in opposite directions. Perhaps our relative positions with respect to the Monument has something to do with that.

One of the portals at the outdoor garden of Vizcaya Museum, Miami after we had toured the interior of the Mansion built by John Deering in the mid 1910s. At the height of the construction of Mr. Deering's attempt to blend European architecture with the tropical foliage that Florida is famous for, the work crew (about 1000) accounted for about 10% of Miami's population of 10,000 then, at a hefty (even by today's standard) cost of 25 mil.

Posing in front of the array of the portraits of UN Secretary Generals, past to present, in the UN Building, NYC.

Posing beside the UN Emblem in the UN Building, NYC.

At the southern end of Miami Beach (1st St), right next to the famed South Beach, Miami. We walked twelve blocks along the Ocean Drive from the 12th Street where we had parked our car at 8.30am, thinking that we would be the early birds and hence get a headstart. The street is relatively quiet because all the action is either on the beach or in the businesses lining up both sides of the street.

Below the lion that guards the NYC Public Library, after we had rested our tired feet in its cool and expansive interior.

Just before our dinner at the Penang Restaurant, run by a lady from Road SS2/4, Petaling Jaya, literally a stone throw from our own abode back home. This is one of several in the family run restaurant chain located at Chapel Hill, NC, right in the heartland of the Tar Heels.

At a city park in mid-town Manhattan, on our way to the Malaysian Consulate at 42nd St, NYC.

Outside one of the many Marriot hotels that we stayed on our trips. This one could be at Durham, NC.

The very first Cuban restaurant that we patronized, not far from the SpringHill Suites south of Maimi International Airport that we stayed on our Miami trip. In fact, the hospitality and the food were so fabulous that we made a return visit the very next night, with Howie and his family.

When we arrived just before 10.30am at the Fo Guang Shan Temple in Miami, a buddhist ceremony was just about to start. Wify participated while I visited its library. We then stayed on for the vegetarian lunch and even interacted with a teacher of the Chinese Brush Painting class scheduled in the afternoon.

A rare surrounding of any hotel, a corn field. We just could not resist falling into an embrace, half expecting some bristling motion from within reminiscent of the happenings in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs.

At the Mangrove Trail fringing John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo. We were planning to continue to Key West but the long line of traffic even at the 85th milestone changed our mind.

Outside the Malaysian Consulate Office in NYC, a rather nondescript office by size and appearance but we spotted it from afar because of the fluttering Malaysian Flag above. Later we found that it is located next to the office of the Malaysian Permanent Representative to the UN.

At the playground at Bayside, Miami. Howie's family is just behind us. We wanted to watch the July 4th fireworks from here, but were forced to vacate the premises by the stifling heat. Instead, we watched it from the hotel room of Howie located at the 7th floor and more importantly, on the right side.

At one of the many rest places that dot the interstate. This one could be in Georgia.

At the main entrance to the American Museum of Natural History. We entered from the subway exit undergound and almost missed this imposing entrance facade if not for us wanting to walk over to the Central Park located across the road. But then it began to rain ...

We thought we would end with one making it a foursome, in front of the NYC Public Library.