Marsha Fouks: Blog en-us (C) Marsha Fouks (Marsha Fouks) Thu, 24 Nov 2022 23:48:00 GMT Thu, 24 Nov 2022 23:48:00 GMT Marsha Fouks: Blog 94 120 Melbourne Wendy and I left Christchurch , New Zealand and flew to Melbourne, Australia which was a short flight.  We  had to fly to Aukland first and then change planes to fly to Melbourne.  Unfortunately, our flight from Aukland to Melbourne was cancelled so we had to catch a later flight which meant getting to the hotel very late at night.  What I mostly remember is carrying a very heavy backpack and messenger bag (plus my coat since I was so warm) from one terminal to the next in Aukland (ten minute  outdoor walk) and then walking a long way to our gate once we were inside the terminal.   I was wearing a lot of layers because my suitcase was too full to pack the clothes.   Then when the flight was cancelled we had to backtrack and walk a long way to a different gate.

 We spent a few days in Melbourne.  The only city tour we did was an excellent free walking tour.  I didn't take too many photos ( I just had my iPhone on me) because I was actually listening to the guide.  I did take a couple of  happy snaps with with my iPhone when we walked by this bakery.

Melbourne is the capital and most populous city (5 million) of the Australian state of Victoria.  Our hotel overlooked the Yarra River which flows through the city.  Most of the city's attractions are in close vicinity to the river.  We found Melbourne to be a beautiful, friendly city where we felt very comfortable.  

These  next two photos  were made from our hotel balcony as we waiting for blue hour. 

Wendy and I also walked in the city on our own, checking out the various areas.  Street art is very predominant in Melbourne and one of the best places for it is the cobblestoned Hosier Lane.  

We also checked out the free art gallery.  I wasn't that impressed with the art, but I enjoyed photographing some of the architecture.  

Inside the gallery.

We also walked through some botanical gardens.

One of the evenings, we walked down the street of our hotel to shoot Melbourne during the sunset.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Australia Melbourne Tue, 22 Nov 2022 22:21:45 GMT
Last blog of New Zealand

It was hard to surpass the adventure of the open door helicopter ride  to  Fox Glacier.  However, we still had a couple of days left to photograph.  

We met the morning after the helicopter ride at 4.45 AM.  We had a short drive from town to get to the parking lot.  We then had a thirty minute hike  to get to Lake Matheson through a dark forest ( it was a long  time before the sun came up).   The lake is famous for  its mirror views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.  Apparently, its excellent reflecting properties are due to the dark brown colour of the water.  It certainly was worth getting up early for.  

A different viewpoint.

On our hike out we could actually see some of the scenery.

In the afternoon, a few of us went for a walk in the town of Fox Glacie.  We found  a forest trail that we took.  We ended up walking in a loupe although the original plan had been to see if we could get closer to the Fox Glacier face.  Somewhere we took a wrong turn!

It was fun walking in the rain forest.

We went out for an evening shoot but the weather didn't co-operate so we ended up not getting out of the van.

The next morning, our sunrise shoot was cancelled due to the rain which had started at 2 AM ,  so we all got to sleep in.  I don't think anyone was too unhappy.  Around 9.30 AM we left for Greymouth where we would be spending our last two nights.  Along the way we stopped to photograph the Hokitika Gorge. The blue-green waters of the Hokitika River were stunning.  To the left you can see Nathaniel up on the cliffs photographing.  The only issue was all of the  biting sandflies in the area

In the evening we drove out to Punakaiki to photograph the last light on the Pancake rocks.  Punakaiki is a small community on the west coast of  South Island, between Westport and Greymouth.  The community lies on the edge of the Paparoa National Park.  The Pancake Rocks are a popular tourist destination at Dolomie Point, south of the main village.  The rocks are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes during high tides.  Although we waited,  we never got to see the large bursts of water.  Even if we had stayed a little longer for high tide, I don't think the water was rough enough to see the bursts of water.   Still the pancake-layering of the limestone  rocks themselves were very interesting.  The layering is created by immense pressure on alternating hard and soft layers of marine creatures and plant sediments.  

There were some nice colours off in  the distance. 

This was the shot of the evening.   We set up our tripods and waited for the light which co-operated.

On our final full day, we met at 5.15 AM to drive to photograph the rugged coastline north of Greymouth, in Paparoa National Park.

After two weeks of spending time in New Zealand, seeing some terrific scenery, making memorable photographs and meeting a great group of people, it was time to drive back to Christchurch to catch a flight to Melbourne.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Fox Glacier Greymouth Hokitika Gorge Lake Matheson New Zealand Pancake Rocks Paparoa National Park South Island Fri, 30 Sep 2022 14:39:11 GMT
Fox Glacier

This blog is a continuation of the previous one.    Our group went on  helicopters (open door) flying over Fox Glacier.  This Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world.  You can walk from Fox Glacier Village to its face.  Given its easy access, it is a major tourist attraction and gets about 1,000 tourists a day during peak season.  

Philip had the pilot fly over different areas each time getting fairly close to the ground  before going up again. So there were lots of dips!  

We started to get some colours as the sun was setting.

Though people are told not to, some go beyond the barriers and climb  onto the glacier  (without guides) whose rapid advance helps to create dangers of sudden ice and rockfalls.  I did not see anyone climbing or on the glacier during our thirty minute flight.   Two Australian tourists were killed on January 8th, 2009 when more than 100 tonnes of ice fell on them.  They were not part of a guided group and had crossed safety barriers and walked approximately 500 metres to the terminal face to take photos.  

On November 21, 2015, seven people were killed when a helicopter on a scenic flight crashed on the glacier.  The helicopter was operated by Alpine Adventures. We went with Mountain Helicopters -Philip did say that it was the only company that he would use.  I'm just as happy to have not had this information before I went up but I still would have gone.

We were lucky because the weather was good on our trip- the next day, we could not have gone on our particular excursion given the bad weather (wind and fog).  We actually stayed in the town of Fox Glacier two days just in case the weather did act up.  We ended up going on our flights the first afternoon we were in town.  Philip was in touch with the operator to see when the best time to fly was.  Shortly after we left New Zealand, this area was flooded and there would have been no flights.  

As we made our way back, we flew fairly close over the Fox River which made for some interesting patterns.  

After we landed, we watched the next pair of photographers take off.  This was our helicopter.  The landing pad was in the middle of a field of sheep.


]]> (Marsha Fouks) Fox Glacier New Zealand South Island Mon, 28 Mar 2022 18:49:40 GMT

After leaving Wanaka, we drove to Haast.  Haast is a small town on the west coast of South Island.  After dinner,  we went to Ship Creek to photograph sunset.  Ship Creek, Tauparikaka is 20km north of Haast.

Ship Creek consisted of swamp forests and windswept sand dunes.  Most of the group  decided to walk through the swamp forest with its well marked trail.   This photograph gives you a really good glimpse of the what the swamp and the trail  looked like.

I was looking for some plants with a little bit of light on them 

For the first time in New Zealand, I learnt how annoying sand flies could be so I decided that I had enough of the swampy area  and headed towards the beach and sand dunes.  

I was happy to get out of the buggy area and enjoy the setting light on the beach.  

The group was photographing this interesting piece of wood in the water so I joined them.

The next morning we met at 5.30 AM to go back to the same spot as the night before.  Today we walked around the lagoon area.  We didn't get very good light but there was a little bit of mist in the background that helped the photo. 

A few of us walked along the beach before leaving.  

Barbara, a member of our group, from Australia, was enjoying photographing this scenic area.  After leaving, we headed back to the hotel, packed up and started our drive to Fox Glacier.  

One of the highlights of our New Zealand tour was an open door helicopter ride over Fox Glacier.  The group met at 4 PM for safely instructions before everyone went out at different times.  Wendy and I were the second pair to go out.  I sat in front and took a photo of the dashboard as we were about to take off.  There were two seats in the back of the helicopter- Wendy sat behind me and Philip sat beside her giving the pilot instructions of where to fly.  It was very exciting.  

This was one of the first views as we took off.  We flew over the river and up into the mountains.  

It was pretty breathtaking!  I was a bit concerned that it would be cold but other than my hands getting a bit cold, I was fine.  This was definitely the highlight of the trip.  

Fox Glacier, was named after Sir William Fox, New Zealand's prime minister from 1869 to 1872.  Like its twin, Franz Josef, the glacier descends from the Southern Alps down into temperate rainforests just 300 metres above sea level.  The best way to see the glacier is to take a scenic flight.

Fox Glacier is a 13-kilometre-long (8.1 mi) temperate maritime glacier.  It is actually located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.  The glacier is fed by four alpine glaciers and descends 2,600 M (8,500 ft) on its 13 km journey from the Southern Alps to the coast.

I did have to remind myself to actually slow down on making photos and look around to see the gorgeous scenery.  

To be continued.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Fox Glacier New Zealand Ship's Creek South Island Sun, 31 Oct 2021 15:34:50 GMT

Our next stop was Lake Wanaka.

After leaving Queenstown, we drove to Lake Wanaka.  On the way we got out of the car for a short hike.

After an early dinner, we went just outside of town for our sunset shoot.  You can see just  how high the water was.  Because of all of the recent rain, we had to take a few different paths to find a spot to photograph from.

For most of the night, I just stayed in the same spot and photographed the scene under different lighting conditions.   There were some very interesting clouds later on in the evening.

Last shot of the evening.  It was time to head back to the hotel as we were meeting at 5.10 AM for sunrise.  

This morning's shoot was all about the famous lone tree of Wanaka.  This lonely tree framed by the Southern Alps is said to be one of the most photographed trees in all of New Zealand.  We actually had to walk off the beaten path to find this tree as there are no signs with directions.  This first shot was taken at 5.35 AM.

We spend a couple of hours photographing under the different lighting conditions.  The lone tree is right at the foothills of Mount Aspiring National Park, a World heritage Site.  

The colours actually changed quite a bit as different areas of the scene were lit up.  The tree lives in a challenging environment since its roots are often totally submerged by cold water.    

We had gotten to the area very early just in case other photographers showed up but we were the only ones until around 8 am when it was time to go.  I learned that although the tree is in Lake Wanaka, the water levels are often low enough for the tourists to walk through the water and climb the tree which causes a lot of strain to the tree.  The Wanaka tree is a crack willow named for brittle wood that easily breaks.  However, when we were there given the high water levels, the tree appeared safe from climbers.  

 Our group had the rest of the day and evening off which was a well deserved break from all of the early mornings and late nights.  Wendy and I walked around the quaint town of Wanaka and along the lake where people were enjoying the beautiful sunny day.  Soon  after we had left New Zealand, there was a lot of flooding in the area.  Streets in the tourist towns of Queenstown and Wanaka were slowly going under water by Friday, December 6th after Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu had burst their banks earlier in the week, causing major flooding in the towns.  Water and large debris closed the Main Street of Wanaka.  Also, the streets were largely empty and the popular cafes and restaurants were closed.  Also, because of roads being closed, thousands of tourists were stranded in this area. 

Wendy and I walked back to the lone tree in the afternoon. Today  we met at  5 AM  to go and photograph ruins of an old  historic goldfield.  

Another area that reminded me of Tuscany, Italy because of all of the rolling hills.

Soon it was time to head back to the hotel, pack and make our way towards Haast.

On the way we stopped to photograph a beautiful water fall.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) historic goldfields Lake Wanaka New Zealand South Island Wanaka Lone Tree Sat, 14 Aug 2021 15:11:47 GMT
Queenstown and Glenorchy Today we headed to Queenstown, checked into our hotel and explored the town.    In the evening we photographed Glenorchy, a forty five minute drive northwest of Queenstown at the northern end of lake Wakatipu.    We were surrounded by snow-capped mountains and beautiful clean lakes.  Both the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were partially filmed in this area.

To get the best photos, Nathaniel photographed from the water.  

One of the last shots of the evening before heading back.  

We met at 5:25 AM in order to photograph Queenstown.  You can see this resort town in the background of the photo.  The town is built around an inlet called Queenstown Bay on Lake Wakatipu, a long, thin, Z-shaped lake.

We drove up to a spot where we had great 360 degree views.  It was a wonderful (cool) morning with lots of mist and fresh snow on the mountains.

The clouds/fog rolled in and out.    We spent a couple of hours here before heading back to the hotel to get ready to leave for our next destination.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Glenorchy New Zealand Queenstown South Island Wakatipu Thu, 17 Jun 2021 16:12:32 GMT
Moeraki Boulders and Milford Sound

This morning we met at 5.00 AM to go and shoot the Moeraki Boulders.  These boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koehohe Beach on the Otago coast of New Zealand between Moeraki and Hampden.  Some of the boulders were in a cluster and some were isolated.

At one point, I was not quick enough to get out of the way and my shoes got soaked.  

After this shoot we went back to the hotel to clean our gear, pack up and make our way to Te Anau where we would arrive  later  in the afternoon.  One way to clean the tripods and get rid of the salt on them was to take them into the showers and rinse them really well with hot water.  

Since we hadn't been getting up early enough,  today we met at 3.30 AM for a sunrise shoot at Milford Sound.  I think a lot of us dozed off in the van.  It was raining when we left the hotel - we did have a two hour drive ahead of us which was the reason for such an early start.  So we were all hoping that the rain would stop but that didn't happen right away.  When we arrived, I went outside briefly and came right back in the van.    Most of the group did go outside and shoot.  I did not want to take a chance on damaging my gear in the pouring rain or getting sick.    Eventually everyone got back in the van (and were pretty wet) and we went to eat breakfast.  Milford Sound is a fiord in the south west of the island within Fiordland National Park.  This above shot was taken once we were on the boat when it was still very windy with rough waters but the rain had pretty much stopped.

We took a boat tour of Milford Sound (which had indoor as well as outdoor seating).  Fortunately, the rain had pretty much stopped so we could go outside and photograph.  Because of all of the rain, we saw lots of fast moving waterfalls.  Milford Sound was described by Rudyard Kipling as the "eighth wonder of the world".  The area was carved by glaciers during the ice ages.

Milford Sound has a mean annual rainfall of 6,412 mm (252 inches) each year and is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world.    Our whole group loved the boat ride which was just breathtaking with the fiord's cliffs rising vertically from the dark waters.  The waterfalls cascaded downwards from as high as 1,000 metres.  The rainfall creates dozens of temporary waterfalls, as well as a number of major, more permanent ones.  I believe we were told it rains here around 300 days a year.


Milford Sound has been acclaimed as new Zealand's most famous tourist destination.  

At one point we were all outside in the bow of the boat where we were very close to the waterfalls.  The captain announced that we might want to go inside in order to avoid getting wet.  Most of our group did but one or two people got absolutely soaked (and ended up with colds). 


After lunch we headed back to Te Anau to dry out.  It started to rain again after lunch.  

In the evening we went on a nearby shoot.  Because of all of the clouds the photographs were all about layers of the mountains.

Last shot of the day before returning to the hotel.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Milford Sound Moeraki Boulders New Zealand South Island Sat, 29 May 2021 17:47:43 GMT
Penguins, Seals and Sheep

After our sunrise shoot and breakfast, we left the hotel around 9.30 to continue on to Oamaru for lunch and a walk around the town.  Oamaru is the largest town in north Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand.  Around 4.15 PM, we left the hotel in pouring rain to look for little blue penguins and fur seals.  We sat in the van for at least 15 minutes, hoping the rain would stop and we were fortunate that it did and the sun started to come out.

We did see these fur seals from the cliffs where we were standing.  

I took a quick series of shots.

The Maori name for the fur seal is "kekeno" which means "looks-arounds".  By the close of the 19th century, hunters and sealers had almost driven these animals to extinction.  Fortunately, these fur seals are quite common now and their numbers are growing.  These New Zealand fur seals are excellent swimmers and the pups, once weaned will sometimes travel great distances as far away as Australia.  

We spent quite a while on the cliffs looking for yellow-eyed penguins. Fortunately, we were able to see one.  This species is endemic to New Zealand. Perhaps we only saw one, due to their significant decline over the past 20 years.

The yellow-eyed penguin is considered one of the rarest penguin species in the world and is listed as an endangered species.  

This penguin spent some time just sleeping and enjoying the sun that finally came out.  He totally ignored our group and the other tourists.  I was actually photographing him from a long distance but some of the people were much closer.  We were on a pretty slippery and muddy path so I was happy to stay in one place.  One eye and flipper  opened up.

Back to sleep.  Some individual penguins can live up to the age of 20.

The yellow-eyed penguin cannot be found in zoos because they will not reproduce in captivity.

Our sunset shoot was photographing the hillsides and sheep.

 Philip promised us one chance to photograph sheep.  The sheep are actually everywhere in New Zealand.

The whole area reminded me a bit of Tuscany.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) New Zealand penguin" Seals" sheep South Island yellow-eyed Sat, 15 May 2021 17:51:43 GMT
Southern Alps, New Zealand

Wendy and I left Sydney on November 11th and flew to Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand to meet up with Nathaniel Smalley for a photography tour.  Christchurch is the largest city of South Island located on the east coast.  The city suffered a series of earthquakes between September 2010 and January 2012 with the worst one occurring on February 22, 2011 where 185 people were killed and thousands of buildings cross the city collapsed or suffered severe damage.  We actually didn't spend any time in the city since we arrived just before dinner time and left the following morning.

After leaving Christchurch on the way to Twizel, we stopped for some happy snaps (i.e. iPhone shots) at the Church of the Good Sheppard.  The church is situated on the shores of Lake Tekapo, surrounded by mountains.  The church was opened in 1935.  The builders were instructed to leave the site undisturbed, in other words the matagouri bushes surrounding the building and the rocks were to be left alone.

It was a beautiful area, well worth a stop.  After exploring the area and taking a few shots, we continued on our route to Twizel, checked into the hotel and left at 4.30 in order to have an early dinner and shoot the last light at Mount Cook.

We ate dinner in a restaurant overlooking the mountains.  Then I went outside and took this shot and the next one with my iPhone.  

This shot with Mount Cook in the background was a panoramic shot.  So I took maybe 5 or 6 shots (verical) and merged the photos together in Lightroom to come up with this really wide angle view. 

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in the continent of Australasia.  Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a rugged land of ice and rock with 19 peaks over 3,000 meters including new Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook (3,724 metres or 12,218 feet).  The park was established in 1953 and forms one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.  

Just as we were leaving  and walking to the van, we saw the moon rise so we all hurriedly unpacked our tripods to see if we could get the shot.  

We met the next morning at 4.30 AM for our sunrise shoot.  This time we photographed the Southern Alps (Mount Cook National Park) from a different location.   This photo showcases the Tasman River.   The Southern Alps were named by Captain Cook on March 23,  1770.

We stayed in this area for a couple of hours as the light kept changing and there were a lot of different compositions.  I do remember that it was very windy and cold.  After a while, I gave up on using my tripod.  I also went into the van a couple of times to warm up. 

Some of our group went down to the beach to photograph.    I took this shot from above.    The photographer who is closest in the image is Nathaniel Smalley, one of the two photography leaders of the trip.  The other leader was Philip , a local New Zealand photographer.  We also had a driver and there were eight other photographers making up our group of 11 people.  

This was the  view from the other direction (behind the river).  

We were lucky enough to see this rainbow.

There was also some nice pink skies for a little while.

The following morning we met at 5.10 AM for one last sunrise shoot of the alps.

After our last shots, we went back to the hotel for breakfast before leaving for our next destination.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Church of the Good Sheppard Mount Cook National Park New Zealand South Island Southern Alps Sun, 02 May 2021 16:27:04 GMT
Last evening in Chania For our last evening in Chania (and Greece), we went back to the Old Town and Marina to enjoy our farewell dinner and one last sunset shoot.

Starbucks is everywhere.

The Cathedral of saint Mary of the Assumption, another beautiful church.

We walked by many sidewalk cafes.

It wasn't too busy in the restaurants since  it was still pretty early.  


More old buildings in the city that have either survived the earthquakes or been rebuilt.

Some beautiful light on the city.   Once again we did not get the dramatic skies we were hoping for.

Just before sunset.

We got some beautiful orange colours.

I had taken a photo of this boat earlier on in the day but it looked much better with the evening light.

One more shot of the lighthouse before we left the area.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Chania Crete Sun, 08 Nov 2020 16:42:15 GMT
Chania and Selton Litania Beach After leaving the market, we walked to the harbour.

For a busy harbour, the water was so clear.

There were lots of vendors selling all kinds of goods.

Its always hard to resist taking laundry shots.  This is probably the first time I saw laundry hanging out to dry on a boat.

The building on the left of the lighthouse is the Forks Fortress, built by the Venetians in order to protect the harbour.  

You can see the mountains in the background -it looks like they have snow on them.  

What a great place to go sailing.

A great place to fish.

In the afternoon, we drove to Seitan Limania Beach in Akrotiri which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece.

The beach was nestled in a canyon leading out to the sea.   Between the two cliffs was a beautiful white sandy beach leading out into turquoise waters that turned into deep blue as the waters join the sea.   We had driven only 22 km away from Chania to find this gorgeous beach.  

We didn't actually hike down to the beach- the trail down looked very rocky and steep.  We left this beach and went to Stavos Beach where Jane and Laurie went swimming before we returned to Chania.  Stavos Beach was easily accessible from the parking lot.  While they were swimming I relaxed on a lawn chair and watched the people. 

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Chania Crete Seltan Limania Beach Wed, 07 Oct 2020 13:51:30 GMT
Chania and Balos Beach This morning we left Rethymno for Chania, the second largest city of Crete and our last city on the tour.The  city lies along the north coast of the island, about 70 km west of Rethymno so it was not a long drive for us.

After checking into the hotel, Laurie rented a four wheel vehicle and we left to visit Balos Beach.  The scenery was spectacular.  We soon understood why Laurie had rented the 4-wheel drive.  We ended up driving along a narrow and gravel roadway overlooking the water.

We saw goats everywhere.  I took this shot from the car.

No, the goat didn't eat Laurie's shirt.  He actually was photographing on this hill, lost his balance on the rocks and did a forward somersault, slid on his back and landed just short of this cliff.  Jane and I watched in horror.  Fortunately, the end result was just some minor damage.  If he was in pain, he certainly was a good sport about it.  Any thoughts that I had of climbing to get a better shot quickly disappeared.

Laurie stopped the car a few times for us to photograph.  We had to check out this rocky cliff with the vegetation and gorgeous water below. 

We finally got to the parking lot and made our way along the rocky, dirt path to get a view of the beach.    We came accross people returning from the beach, some riding burros.  

Balos Beach.  We didn't actually climb down which would have taken far too long, and is fairly strenuous on the way up because of the steepness.   The famous lagoon is probably the most photographed beach in Crete.  Prince Charles nd Princess Diana visited Balos with their private yacht. The easier way to get to the beach is by ferry.

in spite of Laurie's fall, he and I did do some climbing but we were very careful.

I don't think I have ever seen such a beautiful beach with the white sand, turquoise waters. and the surrounding beauty.  Although it was fairly crowded on this day, I can only image how busy it would be in the summer.

After climbing safely to the top of this cliff, we stopped to photograph and admire the scenery.  

On the way back we saw a lot more goats in the hills.

We came across this cute little chapel.  

Goats were resting in the shade.

These goats  started to form a  line and follow their leader.  

We ended up eating dinner back in Chania and then finding a location for our sunset shots.

We strolled along the water waiting for the sun to set.  

I liked this simple shot with lots of negative space.


We came across these women who allowed us to take their photographs.  Jane had spotted one of them actually climbing down the rocks and back up again.

Jane and this woman seemed to have no problems communicating in spite of neither speaking each other's language.

By now it was getting pretty close to sunset.

Chania's lighthouse.   The original Venetian lighthouse was built around the late 16th century to protect the harbour.  During the Turkish occupation, the lighthouse fell into disrepair and was eventually rebuilt between 1824 and 1832 during the Egyptian occupation.  The lighthouse was leaning badly due to bombings during WWII and earthquakes but it was extensively renovated in 2005 and now looks as good as new.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Balos Beach Chania Crete Thu, 10 Sep 2020 14:56:21 GMT
Sunrise in Chania and a morning visit to the market Once again, Laurie and I were up early to photograph sunsrise  in the harbour.

We never got the dramatic clouds but it was still a very photogenic scene worth getting up for.

After watching the sun come up, we made our way back to the hotel.

We visited the local market.

This market had all kinds of wonderful food and other items to purchase.  Markets are always great places to people watch and photograph.

Olives are very popular in Greece.

It was pretty busy with the locals doing their shopping.

This vendor was happy for us to take her photograph.  The people in Greece were very friendly and very likely to pose for us when we asked if it was ok to take their photographs.



Markets are definitely one of the most interesting places to visit.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Chania Crete Thu, 27 Aug 2020 20:12:51 GMT
Rethymno's market and a visit to Anogia Village After our tour of the Fortezza Fortress, Jane and I explored the local market in the old town.  Laurie hadn't been able to find a parking spot so the plan was to meet him a little later on.

Linens for sale.

The market had pretty much everything for sale, clothes, shoes and all kinds of food.

In the late afternoon, we drove to one of the most famous  tourist villages in Crete called Anogia village.   Laurie had been there many years before and wanted to see if it had changed.  Jane and I were happy to leave the city once again and check out another Greek village.  The village  is perched on the slopes of Psiloritis at an altitude of 700m.  On our way to the village, we stopped to check out this church.

The village is known for its famous Cretan weavings.  In 1944 in Anogia, the "liberation Action Committee" was founded.  The village was the core of the resistance in Crete.  The German general, Karl Kreipe,  was abducted in Anogia, interrogated  and then sent to a POW camp in Canada.  In retaliation for the kidnapping and other resistance moves, the commander of Fortress Crete ordered the demolition of Anogia and annihilation of every male from Anogia in a radius of 1 kilometre.  German troops surrounded the village, arrested 80 elders and sent them to Heraklion and executed nine disabled  persons.  All others were evacuated to the surrounding mountains.  They blew up every single house with dynamite.  About 800 houses became rubble and they burned to death 6 elderly disabled women.  The remaining men fled to Mount Psiloritis to safety.  We were told that the widows began to created linens in order to survive.  This weaving and handicrafts continues to live on in the village.

A look into one of the kitchens through the window.

The small town square was very colourful.



This very nice lady showed us her work.

The villagers had no issues with us taking their photos.

A monument recognizing the contributions of the heroes who died for their country.

Many of the locals were sitting outside in the outdoor cafes.  Notice the telephone booth in the background which appeared to be working.

This women's work was exquisite.  

We finally made it back to our hotel and I took this shot from my balcony.  I had to hand hold  the camera  because my tripod was in the car.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Anogia Village Crete Rethymno Thu, 30 Jul 2020 13:30:36 GMT
Early morning in the harbour of Rethymno and a visit to the Fortezza Fortress For sunrise, we went back to the harbour.  This lighthouse was built by the Egyptians around 1830, when the Turks handed Crete to the Egyptians.  In 1864, the lighthouse came under the supervision of the French Lighthouse Company.  The lighthouse is no longer working.  

Laurie and I noticed  that people were still in the bars at this early hour. 

A beautiful scene before the city woke up and the night crowd went home.

We walked around the old town and watched the sun come up.

Around 6.30 we walked  back to the hotel to get breakfast before heading out again.  

After breakfast we went to see the Fortezza Fortress.  This was a view of the city that we came across from the fortress.

The fortress was built by the Venetians in the 16th century in order to defend against Ottoman invasions.    By the early 20th century, many houses were built within the citadel.  They were later demolished during World War 2 leaving only a few historic buildings within the Fortezza.  The structure above is the Sultan Ibrahim Khan Mosque.  

Restoration was started in the 1990's.  

Inside one of the buildings.

Jane photographing inside the building.

From the fortress, there was a great view of the chrystal clear waters.  

One last look at this interesting mosque  and tree before heading out.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Crete Fortezza Fortress Rethymno Tue, 07 Jul 2020 14:10:16 GMT
Crete, day 3   After an early morning  visit to the Archelogical Museum in Heraklion, we drove to Rethymno.  

Along the way I saw this goat  looking at us when we stopped to look at a view.

A view of the city of Rethymno.  The city has a population of roughly 40,000 people.  Rethymno, was originally built during the Minoan civilization and was prominent enough to mint its own coins and maintain urban growth.  

The old town was almost entirely built by the Republic of Venice and is one of the best preserved ancient  towns in Crete. The town still maintains its old aristocratic appearance, with its buildings dating from the 16th century, arched doorways, stone staircases, Hellenic-Roman remains, the small Venetian harbour and narrow streets.


Later in the afternoon  we walked around the old port and watched the fishermen mend and check their nets.  

It is always hard for me to resist taking photos of dogs.  Often people prefer not to have their photo taken but most people that I have met love having their dogs photographed.    This dog  definitely reminded me of Maggie and Katie.  

A view of the boats and cafes in  the marina.

This was a colourful display enticing people to come into the market and shop.

Another bell tower in golden light.

A beautiful Greek orthodox church.

For sunset we wandered back to the marina area, beside the lighthouse.   The Captain Hook ship sailed into the harbour so it was included in the shot.  The lighthouse is the second largest remaining Egyptian lighthouse in Crete after the lighthouse of Chania harbour.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Crete Heraklion Rethymno Fri, 19 Jun 2020 17:46:30 GMT
Crete, day 2 Sunrise at the fortress.  Sunrise is definitely the best time to photograph.  The light is great and you don't get the crowds of people.

Beautiful light on the fishing boats and old town.

Later on we left the busy city to drive to Agios Deka passing olive trees and vineyards along the way.

This small village church was built in the 12th century and is well maintained.

As usual when visiting these small villages, we wandered through the streets.

We met some young kids who were happy to be photographed.

We walked by this goat and stopped to take a photograph.

Then we saw a lot of goats all coming to the fence hoping that we would feed them.

This was an interesting garden complete with an old vehicle.

Our next stop was Agios Nikolaos, a coastal town situated east of Heraklion with a population of around 12,000 residents not including tourists.  This tourist town became internationally well known during the 60's when it was discovered by famous cinema directors (Jules Dassin, Walt Disney etc.),  BBC producers and many others.  Some of the productions filmed here were: He Who Must Die, The Moon Spinners, and the TV series The Lotus Eaters.  Daphne du Maurier's short story Not After Midnight was set in and around the town.

We couldn't resist photographing this man mostly sleeping until he saw us and used his hand to gesture- probably telling us to go away and let him sleep.

We walked down to the marina  to look at some of the boats where we admired this wooden schooner.  

A photograph of the cliffs leading to the sculpture in the background.  

It was a beautiful day for sunbathing on the beach.  Like most of the beaches we saw in Greece, you could rent umbrellas and chairs.

After leaving the town, we saw more fields of olive trees and mountains in the distance. 

Tonight's sunset shoot was at the harbour at Sissi.  We found it to be a picturesque humble village where we sat outside and enjoyed a delicious dinner.  The little village was located 45 km east of Heraklion.

During the years of the Cretan Revolution (1866 - 1869), Sissi was an important strategic location for uploading guns and munitions against the rebels.  

I stayed in the same location and photographed as the light changed.

The last shot of the evening before driving back to the hotel.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Agios Agios Nikoaos Crete Deka" Heraklion" Sissi Sun, 31 May 2020 15:11:28 GMT
Crete We arrived at Heraklion in the evening of June 3rd.  Unfortunately, there is no direct flight from Milos to Crete so we had to fly to Athens first and then wait for a flight to Heraklion.  After visiting Santorini and Milos, we were back to big city life. Heraklion is the largest city in Crete and was Europe's fastest growing tourism destination in 2017 with an 11.2% increase in international arrivals.  In 2018, the city had 3.4 million visitors.   The island of Crete is the largest and most popular of the Greek islands and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Our hotel was located on the main square so we were able to walk to the old town and the Venetian harbour.  We came across fisherman cleaning and checking their nets after returning from their fishing expedition.  

This structure is called the Koules or Castello a Mare (Fort on the sea in Italian).  It is a fortress located at the entrance of the old port of Heraklion, Crete.  It was built by the Republic of Venice in the early 16th century and is still in good condition.    The walls are up to 8.7m thick in certain places and it has three entrances.  The fort has 2 stories with a total of 26 rooms which were originally used as barracks, a prison, storage rooms, a water reservoir, a church, a mill and a bakery.  The fortress has been restored and is now open to the public for art exhibitions and cultural activities.  

It was a beautiful, warm day for fishing.  

 We walked along the walkway for quite a distance to get different views and enjoy the weather.

You can see just how far this walkway goes.  

We ended up walking in the downtown area and the Lakkos district and having lunch along the way.  This building was the church of St. Titus.  The great earthquake of 1856 totally destroyed the church.  It was rebuilt as an Ottoman mosque.  The minaret of St Titus was demolished in the 1920's when the last Muslins left Heraklion with the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey. Today the church is an Orthodox Church dedicated to St Titus the Apostle.


The old city hall.  The Loggia was an essential public building in every Venetian city.  The newly independent Cretan state proposed to use the building as an Archaeological Museum.  An earthquake made the building unsafe so that idea was abandoned.  In 1904, the first floor was demolished.  Following the end of the second world war, the restoration started again.  In 1987, this building was awarded the prize for the most successful restoration of a historical building. 

Lions square, a great place to people watch and eat lunch.

Inside the Agios Minas  Cathedral.  The church was full of very beautiful and ornate chandeliers.

Agios Minas is a Greek Orthodox cathedral located in the centre of Heraklion and it is the patron saint of the city.

The area of Lakkos in Heraklion is one of the most up and coming districts in the city.  After a long period of neglect and public unawareness, it is once again full of life, art and interesting cultural events.

Different volunteer groups and the Municipality of Heraklion work together to renovate the area and preserve the history.  They paint old walls, decorate walls with street art and organize exhibitions and performances around the area.

Originally, the neighbourhood had narrow streets full or hashish smoke, music, immigrants, red lights and shady people.  Before the project began in 2015, approximately 50% of the area was abandoned. Although the project started by painting old houses with specifically chosen historical accurate colours, this turned out to be  an impossible task since the paints were received as donations.  So the project became more about doing murals and street art.

In the late afternoon, we visited the Knossos Palace.   Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city.  The palace of Knossos eventually became the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture.  

In its peak the palace and surrounding city boasted a population of 100,000 people shortly after 1,700 BC.  The excavation occurred in three separate periods beginning  in 1900 and ending in 1970.

 We  chose to photograph the fortress after dinner.  We never got the dramatic skies but we had a great subject.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Crete Heraklion Koules Lakkos Sun, 17 May 2020 14:25:06 GMT
Last day on Milos This morning we went to see the beach town of Paliohori, located in the southeast island of Milos, ten kilometres from Adamas.   On the way,  we stopped to check out a few different areas that we had seen before but not had the time to stop.  We saw many colorful gardens.

I guess this local was wondering what I was photographing.  He kind of just popped out of nowhere.

On the drive we came across a field of what Jane thought were Queen Anne's Lace. 

We stopped the car to check out this view of the landscape.

Eventually we made it to the beach.  There are actually three beaches at Paliohori.  The one in the middle is the bigger one and the most popular.  These beaches have deep crystal clear water.   Hot  water arises from the earth in several spots in the water which makes these beaches very unique.  You can see the sign "caution".  What I liked were the colourful volcanic rocks- you can see red, yellow, brown and white colours.  There was no one else around as it was only 8.30 in the morning.

An old cave in the area which we did not go in.

After leaving the beach, we drove to Plaka which is a well-preserved village and the capital of Milos.    As with many Greek villages, it was built like a maze of alleys to confuse pirates.

We wandered around the windy streets exploring the town.

We finally found a great place for brunch with a beautiful view of this church on the hill.  Even though it was a Sunday, painters were working on the structure.  

Another view from the restaurant.

After Brunch we continued walking through the village.

At some point, Laurie got a phone call from the hotel manager wondering where we were.  We were supposed to check out by noon but we thought it was 2 PM.  Apparently a young family was waiting for the rooms so the hotel was very unhappy with us.  So at that point we left the town to check out.  After checking out we made one more stop at Sarakiniko (see prior blog) before heading out to see a few more towns before catching our late afternoon  flight to Crete.

Our first stop was the beach at Plathiena.  This is the view of the beach from the road above.   The water was chrystal clear and the beach was not too crowded.

There were a few people in the water.

After leaving Plathiena, we headed to the traditional fishing  village of Fourkovouni on the northern side of Milos.   We  had sailed by this village the day before.  We wandered around the houses and did not see one person.  

Its hard to believe just how clear the water was.  

The architecture was very similar to the other villages we had visited.  The only difference is that this community seemed to be a ghost town.  There were no tourist facilities anywhere around unlike the other villages we had seen.

Laurie and Jane enjoying looking for subjects to photograph.  Soon it was time to make our way to the airport.  The airport in Milos was small, had no air conditioning and looked like it had never been updated since it was built-maybe in the 50's?  When we went through fairly lax security, there was only one person on duty.  After we had gone through, there was a small waiting room however we were not allowed to stay in it for long as they wanted the room for passengers on another flight.  So we had to stand outside waiting.  Of course the flight was late coming in so we waited a long time standing outside before walking a long way to get on the small plane which would take us to Athens where we waited a couple of hours for our flight to Crete.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Fourkovouni Milos Paliohori Plaka Plathiena Fri, 08 May 2020 15:20:37 GMT
Sailing around Milos

We spent a day sailing around the island on the Odysseus A, a 23.8m long schooner.  The ship easily fit 40 people or so but we only had about 25 people including the crew.  


This gentleman was a real character.  He told us he was the captain of the boat and we believed him!  He sure looked like he could have been.  

We never actually figured out what he did but painting and construction work was a good guess.

The cruise took off late because of some damage from the night before.  I seemed to remember something about another boat getting too close to the yacht  and the resulting  wake did some minor damage to the gangplank.   So while waiting we walked around the port of Adamas, which is the main port on the island of Milos.  We ended up being in Adamas a few times- this is where our ferry arrived and where we ate a few meals.  As the largest village on the island, there were a lot of restaurants and hotels.

The scenery was pretty spectacular and the day started off warm and sunny.

We spent the next several hours cruising around the island.  Unfortunately, it was not windy enough to sail so boats' engines were used.  On the boat, we took photographs, relaxed, visited with people from all over and had a delicious buffet lunch.

At times we sailed pretty close to the cliffs so we could get a great view of the geology of the area.  One of the crewman gave a commentary about what we were seeing which was very interesting.  There were some other boats in the area that we came across.  

During the cruise, there were at least four stops where people could go swimming and snorkelling.  Apparently the water was cool but quite refreshing.  

Here we sailed by a small, hidden beach used by locals.   I'm not sure I would have wanted to be climbing up and down the ladder.

We came across some really neat rocks.  The one in the middle reminded me of a sail boat.  There were sea caves all over the island.  Many of the rocks were used by pirates for shelter.  The colours of the rocks comes from the rich mineral deposits.  

I took this close up photo of these basalt formations which I found very interesting.  More than 90% of all volcanic rock on earth is basalt.  Basalt lava has a low viscosity (because of its low silica content) so this results in rapid lava flows that spread over vast areas before cooling and solidifying.  So the result are the formations above.  

We sailed past the fishing village of Fourkovouni where we would end up seeing the next day.   

We passed by an old mining operation.  Milos has often been overlooked in the past as  as an industrial island and not a tourist attraction.    The natural resources have been profitable since the ancient Greeks dug for obsidian which is a black mineral.  Obsidian is hard, brittle and amorphous.    In the past it was used to manufacture tools and has been used experimentally as surgical scalpel blades.   Today Milos has silver, bauxite and kaolin mines and the world's second largest mine for bentonite which is used in cement.  The tourist have also come but compared to Santorini, the island was very quiet.

Towards the end of the day, the clouds started to roll in and it cooled down quite a bit.  Many people ended up inside trying to warm up.   In the meantime we sailed by The Arkoudes.  These are a group of rocky islets.  The rock above appears to show an opening mouth, a nose, eyes, ears and a body that looks like a bear.  Therefore, it is called bear rock.  The rock is about 20 feet high and the only way to see them is by boat.  

These natural sculptures are near Plathenia Beach and the entrance of the bay of Milos.  This formation looks like a rabbit.  

Could this be a pirate ship?

After a wonderful day cruising around the island, we headed back to the hotel.  As we saw these wonderful colours,  Laurie stopped the car so I could take a quick photo.


]]> (Marsha Fouks) Adamas Arkoudes Basalt Fourkovouni Milos Sailing Sat, 25 Apr 2020 22:52:20 GMT
Sarakiniko, Milos My favourite place on the island to photograph was Sarakiniko Beach.  It is located in the north shore of the island, close to Plaka.  We ended up going for three different visits-  at  sunset, sunrise and noon.  

 Waves driven by north winds shape the greyish-white volcanic rock  into amazing shapes, and the area is often compared to a moonscape.

 The local people often refer to the scenic landscape of Sarakiniko as Lunar.   The bone-white beach derives its unusual characteristics from the erosion of the volcanic rock by wind and wave.   Sarakiniko is one of the most photographed landscapes in the Aegean and I could see why.

It sure looked moonlike to me apart from the people!

The white sandstone looks like a lunar landscape. 

I came across this great swimming hole but I didn't wait around to see if the swimmer actually went in.

What a great place to sit and enjoy the scenery.   We got some great  orange and yellow colours at sunset.  It wasn't so easy to find a composition that I liked though.

 I preferred this photo to the one above.

I'm sure this is similar to scenery in  Utah or the southwest.    The water was behind me in this and the next shot.

We came back the following morning at sunrise.  The yellow beam of light to the left was Laurie running down the path with a speed light.   

There were actually a few people around in spite of the early hour.

The morning light on the rocks that I  photographed the night before.  We didn't get the dramatic skies but it was still a nice scene.  

Once the sun came up, there was some nice golden light on the rocks.

The last morning shot before we left the area.  Sarakiniko was named for Saracen pirates who would hide their boats under the white cliffs that remind people of whipped cream. 
On our last day on the island we came back to do some mid-day shooting.

Now we could really tell what a popular swimming and beach spot this was.  I should add that although it was warm outside, the water was not that warm since it was the beginning of the season.  

I really enjoyed looking at the beautiful shades of water.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Milos Sarakiniko Thu, 16 Apr 2020 13:14:44 GMT
Milos Milos is a volcanic Greek island in the Aegean Sea, just north of the Sea of Crete.   This island is a popular tourist destination in the summer but we found the island very quiet.  I think the local population is around 5,000 people.  The island was one of the first islands to join the Greek War of Independence of 1821.  During the 19th century, Milos was a major meeting point for American  and British ships fighting Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean.  Most of the island is rugged and hilly and is of volcanic origin.  

We stayed in the town of Pollonia- at the northeastern tip of the island (see map above).    The town is a quiet fishing village.   We ate dinner in a traditional tavern on the waterfront which was pretty typical for the majority of our meals.  I really don't remember eating indoors much at all, apart from breakfast.

We were up early to shoot sunrise- however, the spot where we went  was in walking distance of our hotel which meant we didn't have to get up quite as early. 

The golden light was nice on the rocks.  You can see that this was not a beach for swimming- it was quite the rugged coastline.

I thought this was a very interesting rock formation.

A local fisherman

The photo was taken just down the road from the hotel.

This was the hotel we stayed in.  We did have some challenges such as hot water (non existent at times) and a slow internet.  However, I had a large suite wth a beautiful view of the water.

In the afternoon we drove to the  tiny fishing port  of Areti.    This was one of the viewpoints on the drive.

Areti  turned out to be a small fishing port with a few buildings with boat garages.  You can see just how chrystal clear the water was.

There were a few painters that we observed for a few minutes.


Our late afternoon visit was to Klima, a well known colourful seaside village.  A long strip of multi-colored traditional fishermen houses, known as “syrmatas” lie along Milos Bay.  The houses were initially painted different colors so they're easily recognizable by their owners. The two-story design is very practical – the bottom serves as the boat garage and kitchen, while the second floor makes for a great living space.

It was a very colourful village.

The village is a a very popular spot for tourists so we did see the locals working on various construction projects as well as painting.   The colourful houses and their reflections  were nice to photograph.

Laurie and Jane both finding different subjects to photograph.  Jane was enjoying photographing the ducks but I'm not sure what Laurie was looking at.

The light got more interesting later on in the afternoon so I concentrated more on photographing the water and sky.

Next stop was sunset at Sarakiniko.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Areti Greece Klima Milos Pollonia Sat, 04 Apr 2020 18:20:16 GMT
Santorini, May 29th For our last full day on the island including the last sunrise, we agreed to return to Oia which was our favourite sunrise spot.

Every direction that we looked at had great views.  This direction was the focus of my shots for the actual sun rising.

The castle of Agios Nikolaos is carved in a rock.  The castle dates back to the 15th century during pirate raids.  The castle had an excellent viewpoint and was well fortified.  There were also beautiful  residences inside owned by the Venetian rulers at the time.  At the present time, because of the destruction of the 1956 earthquake when great parts of the settlement collapsed into the sea, there is only part of the watchtower left.  Apparently this is a very popular spot for sunsets.  We tended to avoid the area at that time due to the crowds.  This photo was made just as the sun was hitting the castle.

We stayed in this area for most of the early morning light.

The photographer allowed us to photograph his model.

We kept walking in the village of Oia exploring different parts while the light was still good.  This shot was taken around 7.30 am.  We had been out shooting since 5.30 am.  This is the best time to wander in the streets before too many tourists are out.

One more beautiful church to photograph in the nice light.

In the late morning we went to the coastal town of Kamari.  The beach was covered with black pebbles.  Once an agricultural and fishing village, today the town has a thriving tourist industry with lots of shops, restaurants, bars and hotels.

People could rent the lounge chairs along the beach.   One of the many restaurants beside the beach.  

This gentleman was working on the beach and allowed us to take his photograph. 

After eating at the beach area, we walked in the town where we saw a priest riding the bells.  We thought it might be a Greek wedding because of a trail of petals on the street but we never saw any evidence of the ceremony so it must have been some other celebration.  

As usual, we explored the area and wandered around the streets.  Like in some of the other villages, we came across buildings that had been damaged by the 1956 earthquake and had not been repaired.  


For out last sunset on the island, we travelled to the Akrotiri lighthouse, a 19th century lighthouse built by a French company in 1892. This is one of the oldest lighthouses in Greece and stopped operations during World War II. The lighthouse is famous for its sunset views!

It was an incredible sunset- this shot was taken looking behind me.

The lighthouse gets its name from the nearby ruins of a Minoan town that was lived in as early as 4,000 BC.  Originally using light that was created from oil, it became powered by electricity in 1983.  You can see the rectangular house attached to the lighthouse where the lighthouse keeper lived.


Not a bad way to end our time in Santorini.  The next day we took the ferry to the island of Milos.  Instead of meeting at 5 AM to shoot sunrise,  we slept in, packed and checked out.  We arrived at the ferry terminal in plenty of time.  We had assigned seats on the ferry -there was some mixup as other people seemed to have the same assigned seats.  Eventually, we got it sorted out.  The ferry was absolutely packed and we didn't move from our seats until we disembarked.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Akrotiri lighthouse Kamari Oia Santorini Thu, 26 Mar 2020 16:08:44 GMT
Santorini, May 28th  

We were back at Oia for our morning sunrise shots.  

We got some beautiful pastel colours in the sky.

We had seen this dog wandering around the town the previous day.  He found a comfortable spot.

You know it was pretty early in the morning when you didn't have the tourists in your shots. This shot was taken just before 7 am.

The views from Oia were just spectacular.  It is easy to see why this town is so crowded.

It was a pleasure walking around early in the morning before the tourists were up and about.  

Taking a peak into this person's terrace we saw an interesting sculpture.  The nice light made the scene picture worthy.

I really liked this view a lot.  I was thinking it would make a terrific place to come for sunrise which we did the next day.  

  One last shot before we headed back to the hotel for breakfast and a rest before heading out to our next location.

We ended up in the  Vlichada port and beach community located on the south coast of Santorini.  Some of the fishing boats were pretty colourful.


We walked around the port watching some of the fishermen checking their nets  and cleaning their fish.

Later in the afternoon, we drove to the south shore of the island to visit both the Red and Black beach.  The red beach is one of the most famous and beautiful beaches in Santorini.  

The beach's sand is composed of black and red pulverized volcanic rock from the nearby Santorini caldera.  The area is prone to landslides.  The beach was not easy to access, however there were people who did make the trek to the beach.  We were not one of them!

You can see all of the fallen rocks in the area.

We ended up at Black Beach to shoot the sunset.  Unfortunately, we didn't get the colours we were hoping for.  Still it was a nice scene.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Black Beach Oia Red Beach Santorini Vlichada Thu, 12 Mar 2020 22:24:15 GMT
Santorini, May 27th This shot was taken first thing in the morning just outside my hotel room.  Many mornings we could come back to the hotel for breakfast and before going out again just before lunch, I would spend time sitting outside.  

This morning we went to see the town of Emporio.  We arrived in time to watch this fisherman unloading his catch.  The cats were hoping for breakfast!


Emporio is the largest village of Santorini, situated at the centre of the south part of the island, about 12 kilometres from Fira (see map above).  Emporio means trade which was appropriate for this town which used to be the centre of the commercial business in the past.   As we wandered in and out of the narrow streets, we came across beautiful houses and yards.   

We were wondering why there were so may doors so close together.

We were all wondering why there were so many doors in close proximity  for the house on the right.

One of the many streets we walked in.

Some nice early morning light.


 The residences were all very close together.  We rarely saw people so they must have all been at work.


What I really enjoy doing when I'm in these  villages and the small towns  is just wandering in the streets. 


This is exactly how I would picture a scene from a small Greek village.

We finally came across a Grreek woman returning from the market. 

The local beach scene.  

After having a morning break at our hotel, we headed out to visit Messaria-located almost at the centre of Santorini.  Part of the village is built on the caldera offering a great view of the volcano and the Aegean Sea. The definition of a caldera is: a large volcanic crater, especially one formed by a major eruption leading to the collapse of the mouth of the volcano.   As you can see the village had some windmills that were no longer active.

Of course we came across another beautiful church with its blue dome.

The village dates back to the 17th century.  In the 19th century, it was the industrial centre of the island.  

We just wandered in the streets looking at the houses and gardens. It was quite a picturesque village.  I'm always on the lookout for these types of laundry scenes.  The bougainvillea was a bonus.


We came across these holes or small caves  in the volcanic rock where we saw all of these birds taking advantage of the offered protection.

For our evening shots, we drove to the southern mountains in the centre of the island to see Exo Gonia and Pyrgos. Exo Gonia is a small, peaceful and traditional village  built in the rear of Pyrgos.  The old monastery was founded around 1705 and played a substantial role in ensuring the continuity of Greek education on the island. The church also contributed to the 1821 war of Independence.  The monastery was dissolved in 1833, demolished 1893 and the present parish church pictured above was built on the site in 1941.  With one exception, it is the only church with a tiled roof in contrast to the other churches on the island.  

Locals and tourists enjoying the beautiful day.    These villages have been spared the terraces, balconies, infinity pools and hotels that are pictured in the glossy magazines featuring Santorini.  Over the years, some of the beautiful mansions have been restored to operate as luxury accommodations.    The scenery is definitely more subdued, less picture perfect and not as advertised.  I very much doubt that the tourist ships bring people here.  It was very quiet walking in the streets.


Of course there were still some touristy shops and I saw this cat hiding under one of the tables


Another residence that was typical of the houses that we saw in the smaller villages.

Pyrgos is the best preserved medieval settlement on the island.

The old church that we hiked up to to get our sunset view.  Pyrgos is at the highest point of Santorini with beautiful panoramic views which made the hike worthwhile.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Emporio Exo Gonia Mesaría Pyrgos Santorini Tue, 03 Mar 2020 16:35:36 GMT
Santorini - May 26th

In the morning we went to Oia for sunrise.  Laurie pointed out to us that because this iconic spot was so busy at sunset, he much preferred the spot at sunrise.  We did notice how quiet the village was- we saw hardly any people out which was not too surprising since it was 5.45 AM.  As you can see the lights of the city were still on.   The town is noted for its white and blue domed houses.  The houses are painted in white lime water so that the rainwater which falls over it runs down and can be collected.  Another reason for painting the houses white is for the aesthetic purposes.  One other explanation is that during the Ottoman rule of Greece which lasted for four hundred years, Greeks were not allowed to fly their white flag.  So in defiance, the houses in Oil were painted in white with domes.  

The sky was on fire this morning.  

A close up example of the white buildings with the blue dome.  The rising sun gave the white buildings  a pink colour cast.  

These cliff homes built into the niches carved into the caldera slopes helps to provide insulation benefits to the buildings by keeping them warm in winter and cool in the summer months.

This photo was made just as the sun lit up the bell towers and the tops of the buildings in the distance.  

In the late morning we visited the town of Megalochori.  The town is located in the southern part of the island- see the map.  This village is a very quiet traditional village sitting on a hill facing to the east of Santorini.  We ended up walking all around the small town.

Once again, there were many white buildings and churches in the village.  

Another white church with blue dome which were so abundant and colourful in Santorini.

There were many old traditional houses in the village and we wandered around the maze of winding cobbled streets.  

The Megalochori bell tower.  

In the  afternoon, we headed to Ammoudi Bay which is located in the most northern part of the island (see map).  

The bay is well known for the 200 plus  steps leading up to the town of Oil on the cliffs above.  You could either walk up the stairs, take donkeys or in our case  just admire the view.  

As you can see the bay is surrounded by striking red cliffs and white-washed buildings so typical to Santorini.  The waters were crystal clear.  The bay was the main port of Oil during the 19th and 20th century where all of the trade and commerce took place.

We walked along the trail to get a different viewpoint.

For sunset we drove back to Firosterfani.    Although this village is considered a separate settlement, it really is an extension of Fira.  

 We were not the only ones watching the sunset.

We stayed around until blue hour.  As you can tell the days were very long with getting up in time for an early sunrise and staying until past sunset.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Ammoudi Bay Firostefani Greece Megalochori Oia Santorini Thu, 20 Feb 2020 00:56:03 GMT
Santorini, Greece  

On May 23rd 2019,  I left Milan, Italy and flew to the island of Santorini in Greece, via Athens.  I stayed at the Lilium Hotel in Fira before transferring to a different hotel where the group was staying.  I was joining a photography tour: Photography Workshop Adventures (PWA) led by Laurie Cohen. 

I arrived in time for sunset and saw this view from the hotels' terrace.  The cruise ship was one of many that we would see during out stay.  We were told that Santorini actually started to limit the number of cruise ships allowed to the island to restrict the number of people in the streets. 

As I usually do, I arrived a day early for the tour.  The hotel provided a shuttle service into Fira (see halfway down the map) so after breakfast, I went into the town to explore on my own.  Fira is a city of white-washed houses built on the edge of a cliff. There was a young couple who also came into town from the hotel.  I ended up walking with them on the Fira-Oia hike which is one of the highlights of visiting Santorini.  The hike took us along the caldera cliff and through the villages of Fira, Firosterfani, Imerovigli, and Oia.  I almost made it to Oia before I turned back after a few hours.

There were so many hotels with beautiful terraces overlooking the water.  The many hotels are a necessity because of all of the tourists arriving in the summer months.  Fortunately, we were just ahead of tourist season but it was still crowded.

Walking along the trail were magnificent views. 

On the right side of the photo is the main  road  beside the towns.  In the far distance you can see the small town of Oia.  Both  the  blue sky and ocean were incredibly blue.   

When walking you could see into people's "back yards".  There would not be a lot of privacy if you lived along the path but the gorgeous views might be worth it.

Skaros Rock is a large rock promontory on the Agean sea.   The formation was created through the volcanic activity of the nearby Santorini caldera.  Given the elevated position of the rock, it made a great defensive fort initially used in the early 13th century by the Byzantine Empire.  I didn't actually hike down to the rock which would have taken an additional hour or so.

It was like my camera had a mind of its own- it would not stop taking photos of this beautiful island. 

Even though the tour had not officially started, Laurie picked me up at my hotel and we went to dinner at the Santos winery where we had magnificent views at sunset.

We started the official tour the next day and walked in the town of Fira.  This was the main road -part of the hiking trail.  So although it was midday, you can see that it was busy but not overly crowded to the point where you could not walk without bumping into someone.  In high season, this would not be the case.  The cruise ships bring in thousands of tourists which is great for business but not good for walking.

A church reflected in a hotel window.

Normally, you would see cruise ships way below the town.   The ships use tenders to get the people to land.  Since the initial tender boats coming into Fira are reserved for the passengers taking the excursions, it could take a while to get into town if you had not booked an excursion.   Once you get to land you can take the cable car up to town or you can take burros.   Of course there is also the option of walking up substantial flights of stairs.   

One of the more colourful churches in town.  I'm not sure where I have seen more churches than on the Greek  islands we visited.

In the late afternoon, we walked in Imerovigli for a welcome dinner and terrific views.  All of the villages had lots of hills so perhaps it was more of a trek than a walk. 

As we were walking, the fog rolled in and it became difficult to see much of anything.

The sun  came out suddenly and lit up the village and cliffs.  This view was from our restaurant- fortunately we were pretty close to the railing and there was a space for us to get the shot.

Sunset from the same area.  We were so lucky that the fog lifted and we had great colours afterall.

We waited for the lights to come on before leaving for the evening.  We actually had quite a walk back to the car.  Parking was not always so easy in the town.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Fira Greece Santorini Skaros Rock Mon, 10 Feb 2020 23:24:12 GMT
Sydney, Australia

On November 4th, 2019 I flew to Sydney Australia for a 5 week adventure.   My sister, Wendy who lives in Vancouver would be joining me for most of the time.   I started in Toronto, flew to Montreal (yes, wrong direction but that is what happens when you use points to fly), caught a flight to Vancouver and just before midnight (same day) flew to Sydney.  I left for the Toronto Pearson Airport around noon  and arrived in Sydney, Australia on November 6th (two days later) at 10.30 am Australian time.  The approximate flying time was 22 hours.  Fortunately, I was able to get some sleep on the flight to Sydney and it didn't seem  difficult to adapt to the new time zone.  However, arriving back in Toronto was a different story!

After checking into our hotel and getting organized, Wendy and I went for a tour of the famous Opera House.  The Sydney Opera house cost $102 million (estimate was $7m) to build.   The majority of the project was funded by a state lottery.   Construction was expected to take four years but ended up taking fourteen years.  233 designs were submitted in the Opera House international design competition and the winner was announced in 1956- Jorn Utzon from Denmark who received 5,000 pounds for his design.  

We walked through the botanical gardens in the late afternoon.    It was interesting to note that the photographer was using his phone to photograph instead of the camera.  However, perhaps it was one of the ladies cellphones.

I liked the idea of photographing the women from the back to show off  their  hats.  Wendy and I both had the same idea at the same time.

The day after we arrived in Sydney we took a day tour to the Blue Mountains, a mountainous region about 50 km (31 mi) from Sydney.  The area was listed as a World Heritage Area by UNESCO on November 29, 2000.  We just saw a very small part since the area totals approximately 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 square mi).  We did some hiking and of one of the hikes was to see the waterfall pictured above.  

A vist to the Blue Mountains is not complete without seeing the Three Sisters, formed by land erosion.   We chose to take the tour which would arrive in the area in the early evening so we would have some nice light.   The sandstone of the Blue Mountains was eroded over time by wind, rain and rivers, causing the cliff's surrounding the Jamison Valley to be slowly broken up.   The legend is that the three sisters lived in the valley, fell in love with three men from the neighboring Nepean tribe but marriage was forbidden by law.  The brothers decided to capture the sisters which caused a major tribal battle.  In order to protect the sisters, an elder turned them to stone but naturally he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back.  


A photograph of the hills taken just before sunset.

Wendy and I visited  the well known Bondi Beach.   We walked along the 3.7 mile ocean walk taking in the beaches, cliffs and various viewpoints.  It was a beautiful, warm day so there were a lot of people taking advantage of the weather.  

Later in the afternoon, we ended up taking a bus to Watson's Bay where we could see Sydney Skyline in the distance.  We enjoyed fish and chips on the pier before catching a ferry back to Sydney.

A photo from the ferry as we approached the city.

One night we decided to photograph the city from the  open rooftop of the hotel we were staying in.  The Danish designer of the Opera House, Utzon, found himself in conflict with the new Minister of Public Works (Hughes) who had no interest in art, architecture or aesthetics.  Attempting to  rein in the escalating cost of the project, Hughes began questioning  Utzon's capability, designs and cost estimates, refusing to pay running costs.  In 1966 after a final request from Utzon that plywood manufacturer Ralph Symonds should be one of the suppliers for the roof structure was refused, Utzon resigned from the job and left Australia.  When Utzon left, the shells were almost complete and costs amounted to only 22.9 million.  Following major changes to the original plans for the interiors, costs finally rose to $103 million.  Sadly, Utzon never saw the completed Opera House.  When the Opera House was finally completed in 1973 and opened by Elizabeth II, not only was the architect not invited to the ceremony, his name was not even mentioned.   However, later on he was recognized when he was asked to design updates to the interior of the opera house.  

The view of the bridge, the harbour and the nearby Sydney Opera house is regarded as an iconic image of Sydney.

A view of North Sydney.  One evening we would photograph sunset from North Sydney looking towards our hotel.

We stayed on the rooftop  and photographed until the  blue hour- the sun was below the horizon and the residual, indirect sunlight takes on a predominately blue shade.  What happens is that " the sun is far enough below the horizon so that the sunlight's blue wavelengths dominate due to the Chappuis absorption caused by ozone".   It sounds complicated- basically, blue hour occurs after the sun has set or before the sun has risen.

One day, we took a 30 minute ferry boat ride from Circular Quay to Manley Beach where there were lots of shops, restaurants, night clubs and bars.  

We  spent the morning at Manley Beach, walking in the town and along the ocean way passing Fairy Bower and Shelley Beach.  

This photo overlooking Sydney was taken from Macquarie's Road. The road was built between 1813 and 1818 and ran from the original Government House to Mrs. Macquarie's Point.  Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821 had the road built for the benefit of his wife as she was known to visit the area to enjoy  the panoramic views of the harbor.  

The next set of photos were taken from the other side of the bridge-in North Sydney. There  was enough of a break in the clouds to get some beautiful colors in the sky and water.  

Blue hour from the same position.  The Sydney Harbour bridge was designed and built by a British firm and opened in 1932.  The bridge is the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world.

We waited until the lights from the city came on.

The last shot of the evening.   

The next  morning we walked across the Sydney Harbour bridge to the north side (where we had photographed the evening before).  Adjacent to the road traffic, there is a path for pedestrian use which runs along the eastern side of the bridge. As you can see, Sydney is a popular spot for cruise ships.  

Another photograph taken from the bridge.

While walking along the beach in North Sydney, we came across wedding photos being taken.  

On our last night in Sydney, we went back to photograph the harbour from a different area.   Wendy loved the purple flowers on the Jacaranda trees.  The tree is actually a sub-tropical tree native to south-central South America.  Australia has had problems with this tree as it prevents growth of native species.  We saw them everywhere in Sydney.

Blue Hour.

Time to say goodbye to Sydney as the following morning we were flying to New Zealand to begin a two week photography tour.  



]]> (Marsha Fouks) Australia Blue Mountains Bondi Beach Manley Beach Sidney Harbour Bridge Sydney Sydney Opera House Sun, 29 Dec 2019 15:16:01 GMT
Food In Morocco The food in Morocco was delicious.  Sometime Rosa would order for us as a group and other times we had buffets in the restaurants  or  we ordered individually. I don't remember all of the different foods we ate but I do remember that there were black and green olives and  bread at every meal.       When I remembered, and/or people reminded me, I would take some photos of the  meals with my phone so I am including some of the photos directly from the phone.  I cannot remember what all of the different foods were but I found that the food was diverse and very vibrant in color and flavor.  I didn't take a photo but mint tea is very popular and was served to us all the time.  It is a green tea base with lots of mint leaves and sugar ( a lot of sugar).  

The  fruit was delicious.  I hadn't had pomegranates in years.

I should have taken notes at the meals because I cannot remember what some of the dishes and desserts were.

Morocco's national dish is tangine  and it became one of my favorite Moroccan dishes.  Tagine is a clay cooking pot with a conical top as shown above.  Tagine is the dish that is cooked in the pot- the ingredients can be beef, lamb, chicken, veggies etc. and I think we tried them all.  This is a slow cooking method which makes resulting dish very tender and flavorful.

Shish kebab, also known as brochettes are also very popular.  The chicken, lamb or beef kebabs are rubbed in salt and spices, then grilled over a charcoal fire.  They were delicious.  

We had lots of vegetables at all of the meals.

Salads in Morocco were made up of vegetables, either raw or cooked, hot or cold, flavored with different herbs and spices and served with a main course such as tagine or couscous.  Sometimes hard boiled eggs and potatoes were added.

The oranges were so sweet. The apples with cinnamon on top were also excellent.

Moroccan pizza.  We stopped in a village for lunch and had a delicious pizza which is very different than your normal pizza.  I can't remember what ingredients were inside but I'm thinking cheese and eggs.  By the way I also had regular, thin crust pizza a few other times and I have to say the pizza was the best I've ever tasted (better than Italian pizza). 

We celebrated Pauls' birthday one night when we were staying in a desert camp.  We didn't have a traditional birthday cake but this was just as good!

A vegetable tagine.  

These were the best french fries ever!  We ended up coming back to this restaurant two days in a row and ordered the same thing since the food was so good.  I could have just eaten the  french fries for lunch- actually that is probably what I did do along with bread and olives.   


I'm thinking that on top of this dish were date truffles- a delicious blend of dates, nuts and cocoa powder but I'm not 100% sure.  

That gives you an idea of some of the food we ate.  I am hoping to return to Morocco one day and join Rosa on another one of her trips to see some different areas and perhaps some of the same places.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Sun, 29 Sep 2019 14:45:39 GMT
Last day in Essaouira

Today was our last day in Essaouira  before we headed back to Marakesh.  You can see from above that the road from Essaouira to Marrakech is a straight line.

After leaving the harbour we made our way to the Medina.

Colourful bowls for sale in the Medina. 

We stopped off at restaurant for lunch in the old town.   The owner's dog was very hopeful.

There were lots of cats in this town as well.

Kids playing in the old fortress. 

A photographer friend of Rosa's met us to guide us through the Medina after lunch.  It would have been so easy to get lost in the narrow alleyways which was true for all of the medinas we went to in Morocco.  

We spent the next couple of hours wandering the streets and alleyways.

A colorful old door.

Rosa's friend took us into a Riad where we could go to the rooftop  to take photos.  

It was very nice when people didn't mind having their photos taken.  

I went inside an old synagogue.  Mohammed III encouraged Moroccan Jews to settle in the town and handle the trade with Europe.  Jews once occupied 40% of the population and the Jewish quarter (or mellah) contains many old synagogues.  The town also has a large Jewish cemetery.  The city flourished until the caravan trade died (superseded by  direct European trade with sub-Saharan Africa).  So changes in trade, the founding of Israel and the resulting wars with Arab states plus the independence of Morocco all resulted in Sephardic Jews leaving the country.  As of 2017, Essaouira  had only three Jewish residents.  

The next morning we headed to Marrakech.  On the way we stopped at factory where we watched women make Argan oil from the nuts of the Argan trees.  

A photo of the tree goats of Morocco.  Grown almost exclusively in Sous Valley in Southwestern Morocco, the Argania is a rare and protected species after years of over-farming and clear-cutting.  The tree produces an annual fruit crop and it is this delicious fruit that attracts the local goats who hop onto the branches to pick the fruit.  After the goats finish eating the fruit and nuts off the tree,  they pass valuable clumps of seeds which are then pressed to create the sought after Argan oil.  Unfortunately, because the tree goats are very profitable to their owners, more and more of the goats have been brought into the area causing a general decline in the health of the remaining trees.  

The farmers condone and cultivate this feeding, keeping the goats away from the trees until the fruit matures.   At that point, the goats are allowed to hop up into the branches to eat  the fruit.   However, we were there in November not the time when the fruit matures.  You actually had to pay to photograph the goats so I think that the goats were actually tied to the trees (wasn't obvious) which is illegal.  After a quick stop to see the goats, we headed back to Marrakech where our tour ended that evening.  All in all, Morocco was a wonderful country and I enjoyed all of it.  We got to see large cities, small towns, the mountains, the desert, the sand dunes and the ocean.    Of course what made the trip even better was the great group of new friends I made and our wonderful  tour guide and drivers.  I have to say that out of all of the places I have been to, my favorite trips  have been in Africa- Kenya and Morocco.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Argan oil Essaouira Morocco tree goats Wed, 18 Sep 2019 19:23:54 GMT
Essaourira Essaouira is located on the North Atlantic Ocean.  On the map you can see the coastal town just north of Agadir, about 2/3rds down the map.  During the Middle Ages, a Muslim named Sidi Mogdoul was buried in Essaourira, probably giving the city the original name of Mogador. In 1506, the king of Portugal ordered a fortress to be built here.  The fortress fell to the local resistance of the Regraga fraternity in 1510, just four years later.  During the 16th century, powers including Spain, England the Netherlands and France tried without success to conquer the city as it was a haven for the export of sugar and molasses.  Pirates were also known to take refuge in this city.  

The present city of Essaourira was built during the mid-eighteenth century by the Moroccan King.  The King wanted to increase trade with Europe choosing Mogador as his key location.  One objective was to establish a harbour at the closest possible point to Marrakesh.  The other was to cut off trade from Agadir (see map above) in the south which had been favoring a political rival of the Moroccan King.  The people of Agadir were forced to relocate to Essaourira.  I was very happy to see this coastal town and walk along the beach.  We stayed at a beautiful hotel just across the street from the beach.

We spent a couple of hours walking on the beach waiting for sunset.  There was a lot of action here- surfers and camel and horse rides.  It was definitely a place for people watching.  However, if you wanted to photography any of the riders, you were expected to pay.

I had fun photographing the horses and tried out some panning shots.  Rosa hired a rider to ride back and forth while we made all kinds of fun photos and watched the gorgeous sunset.

The colors actually looked like this- that is how colorful the sky was.

Bonus for us as other riders and their dog joined in the fun.

The four riders and their horses.

The last shot of the evening before we went to dinner.  

The next morning we explored the town.  We walked over to watch the fishermen bring in the fish from the sea and this was our view on the way over.  Through out the years France had an important administrative, military and economic presence in Essaourira.  Many Moroccans in the town speak French fluently today.

The harbor was one busy place.  I like how all of the fishing boats were the same color.

The seagulls were everywhere looking for food.

All kinds of fresh fish for sale.

The colorful nets used.

Some of the larger fishing boats used.

From the time the city was rebuilt  by Muhammad III until the end of the 19th century, the city served as Morocco's principal port, offering the goods of the caravan trade to the world.  The route brought goods from sub-Saharan Africa to Timbuktu, then through the desert and over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh.  The road from Marrakesh to Essaourira is a straight line which is the reason the king favored this city as the main port.

Next blog-  a trip to the Medina.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) boats" camels" Essaouira fishing horses sunset Mon, 02 Sep 2019 15:48:38 GMT
Chefchaouen to El Jadida

Today we drove from Chefchaouen  (located on top quarter of the map) to El Jadida which is on the coast, just south of Casablanca.  

We stopped in Casablanca for lunch before heading to the Mosque Hassan II.  This photo was taken on the street near where we parked.    I should add that the driving in Casablanca was crazy (also in Fes).  Drivers were going all over the place in these traffic circles and the roads were very busy with cars constantly honking.  We did drive by Rick's Cafe which was designed to recreate the bar made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Berman in the classic movie Casablanca.  However, I didn't actually see it.  The bar scenes in the movie were filmed on Warners' Burbank lot in Hollywood recycling sets from previous productions.  However, Rick's cafe in Casablanca closely replicates the one in the movie.  We didn't spend any time in Casablanca except for a stop at the famous Mosque.  

This was our fist look at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.  It is the largest mosque in Africa and the fifth largest in the world.  At 210 meters (690 feet) in height, the minaret is the tallest religious structure in the world.   Completed in 1883, the minaret is 60 stories high topped by a laser, the light from which is directed towards Mecca.  The walls are of hand crafted marble and the roof is retractable.  A maximum of 105,000 worshippers can gather together for prayer.  

We went on a tour of the mosque.  It was stunning inside.  I have to admit that I heard little of what the tour guide was saying as I was busy photographing and didn't even try to keep up to the guide.

The work on the mosque started on July 12, 1986 and took seven years to complete at a cost of approximately 585 million euro.  Much of the financing was by public subscription since  twelve million people donated to the cause.  In addition to  public donations and those from  businesses and  Arab countries( such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia), western countries provided construction loans.  

The shot was taken looking up at the ceiling.

After our tour of the mosque, we spent some time walking around the buildings.

The mosque stands on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. 

After leaving Casablanca, we drove to El Jadida where we spent the night.  Early next morning, I went to the roof of our hotel to photograph the sunrise.  

El Jadida is a port city on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, located 106 km south of the city of Casablanca.  It has a population of about 195,000.  The city was seized by the Portuguese in 1502.  The Portuguese build a citadel in 1514 and a larger fortification in 1541.  The city was controlled by the Portuguese until 1769 when they abandoned their last territory in Morocco.

Our first stop in El Jadida was the Portuguese cistern.  Cisterns were meant to store drinking water in case of a siege.  This one was built by the Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Expanded since 1514, this former warehouse (possibly an armory) was converted into a cistern in the 16th century.    This place was like a large dungeon but very colorful.  You can see the thin layer of water on the floor which creates a natural mirror reflecting the ceiling.  This cistern was used by Orson Wells to film the riot scene in his "Othello".  

The underground chamber, measures 34 meters by 34 meters and was constructed with five rows of five stone pillars.

After leaving the cistern we continued on to the water.

The Fortress of Mazagan was built by the Portuguese in 1502.  

After spending the morning here, our  group left the town for our destination of the coastal town of Essaouira- see map on top of the page. 

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Casablanca"Mosque cistern"fortress Hassan II""El Jadida""Portuguese Morocco Sat, 24 Aug 2019 14:53:43 GMT
Another day in Chefchaouen

Stepping out from our hotel to the street in the morning.

Again, we spent the day wandering the streets.  Everywhere we went  we saw gorgeous blue alleyways and blue-washed buildings.

This man was on his way to the central meeting square hoping to earn money from the tourists.

I thought that Chefchaouen was a perfect place to roam around  and take photos.  Most of the locals did not want to have their photos taken for both cultural and privacy reasons.  I'm sure they were tired of all of the tourists and their cameras.  

I always like looking at different doors in the various places I visit.  Of course the doors were also blue here.

Weatherwise we had a few more light showers but also some sunshine.  I have to say that it wasn't particularly warm here.

The Kasbah museum is a restored walled fortress in the heart of the Chefchaeon Medina.  We walked up the stairs of the old tower for some great views of the city.  Above shows a view of some of the rooftops.

A view of the city surrounded by mountains.


Just another beautiful street.

We paid this gentleman to take his photo.

I came across this cute  little boy.  I asked his mother if I could take his photo.  She is actually hiding behind the door while I took his picture.

Much to my surprise she also agreed to have her photo taken.  

Some colorful materials.

At least the cats had no issues with posing for us.

As I mentioned there were cats everywhere.

We came across a photographer taking engagement photos.  

Later on in the afternoon it started to rain again so we headed back to the hotel.   This was one of my last shots of the afternoon.    The next day we headed to El Jadida, stopping in Casablanca on the way.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Chefchaouen Morocco Mon, 12 Aug 2019 21:48:32 GMT
Fez to Chefchaouen

We left Fez and headed towards Chefchaouen (see top of the map of Morocco, about 2/3rds to the right).  We headed eastwards driving through green mountains covered with trees until we reached  the blue city of Chefchaouen.  

On our way we stopped at a roadside market.  

A view overlooking the lake.

We stopped at a fruit stand where Rosa picked up some fruit for our group.

We stopped just outside the city for lunch.  It was actually a fairly cool, cloudy day.  The chef  was keeping his hands warm (or perhaps waiting until the grill was hot enough for his cooking).  Given the weather, I'll go with the former. 

Just before entering the Blue City, we stopped at an outlook for a view of the city.  You can see why they call it the "blue city".

We had to leave the vehicles behind and walk to our hotel (fortunately without worrying about taking our luggage) as the streets were too narrow for cars.  I grabbed a shot of these cats.  I didn't realize at the time that I would see  so many cats everywhere we went.

We wasted no time in exploring the city known for its buildings in shades of blue.  The city was originally founded to fight the Portuguese invasions of Morocco.  Along with the Ghomara tribes of the region, many Moriscos and Jews settled here after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times.   In 1920, the Spanish seized Chefchaouen to form part of Spanish Morocco.  Spain returned the city after the independence of Morocco in 1956.  

There are several theories as to why the walls were painted blue in the old city.  One popular theory that I heard was that Jews introduced the blue when they took refuge from Hitler in the 1930's.  The blue is said to symbolize the sky and heaven and serves as a reminder to lead a spiritual life and to be closer to God.   However, according to some locals, the walls were mandated to be painted blue to attract tourists at some point in the 1970's.  Whatever the reason, the blue color made the town seem even more picturesque.  

It was such an interesting place to wander around.  The countryside around the town has a reputation for being a prolific source of Kief  and the region is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco.  Apparently tourism in this city  is driven by its reputation as the center of the marijuana plantations region in North Morocco as well as its proximity to Tangier.    I would have thought it was a huge tourism center because of its brightly painted Medina (old town) and its native handicrafts which you cannot find in other places.      During the summer approximately 200 hotels cater to the influx of European tourists.  

As I was photographing the street, this man turned around.  I don't think he was too happy to have his photograph taken.  I'm pretty sure that the locals get very tired of having their photographs taken.  Morocco is not a photography-friendly county at all.  

Did I mention that there were cats everywhere?

Beautiful colored steps.

Oh-oh, more rain.  Rosa stopped to buy an umbrella while the rest of us tried to find some shelter until the rain stopped. 

Fortunately the rain didn't last for long.  This little girl was helping to sweep the steps.

I saw these girls wandering around in the old city quite a bit- they were always holding hands.

Coca-Cola, the universal language.

November is a great time to visit Morocco as the streets are not crowded with tourists and the weather is not hot, even in the Sahara.  

Again, more cats.

Here is one trying to get into the house.  Next blog will feature another day in this beautiful city.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Chefchaouen Morocco Mon, 05 Aug 2019 13:39:18 GMT

We stopped at an overlook of the city of Fez  before the rain started.

The Medina of Fez was founded in the 9th century at the same time that Islam arrived in Morocco and the imperial rule that would create the country began.  By the 12th and 13th century the old town grew to its current day size.  Many of the buildings over the small streets have been renovated but retain the original character of the 12th and 13th centuries.  The first thing we saw was the Blue Gate which is officially called Bad Bou Jeloud and it is a popular meeting place.  A few people have asked me if I felt safe in Morocco.  The answer is yes, I always felt very safe no matter where I was in the country.  

The rain started up again-just on and off showers.

We walked through the small alleyways and saw the souks(old markets).  The different souks throughout the Medina specialize in different products.  Here we see cats waiting  for treats (which they got).

'There were all kinds of  narrow alleyways.  This one led us to our lunch spot.  It would be so easy to get lost in the Medina.  

You could find pretty much anything you were looking for.

Unfortunately, the rain got worse  so we decided to head back to the hotel.

The view from our hotel the next morning.

Overlooking the hazy city of Fez, first thing in the morning.

We saw this man taking his goats through the cemetery.  

I thought the lights on top of the bus station were very interesting.

Before leaving Fez for our next destination , we once again stopped at the lookout above the city for one last look.

Next stop- Chefchaouen, the blue city. 

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Fes graveyard Medina of Fez Wed, 24 Jul 2019 12:27:14 GMT
Evening at Merzouga Erg Chebbi sand dunes and from Merzouga to Fez

Later in the afternoon we photographed more of the dunes in Erg Chebbi.  The next morning we reluctantly said goodbye to the sand dunes and drove to Erfoud which is famous for its dates and fossils.  We then continued on via the Ziz Valley to Midelt with a view of the Middle Atlas Mountains, heading east via Ifrane to Fez.  If you look at the top of the above map, about 2/3rds to the right you can see where Fez is located.  As you can see it was a long driving day.

We had planned to go hiking in the dunes again but a sandstorm came up so we decided to take a drive to a different section of the dunes.  You can tell it was a bit hazy from the sand blowing.

You can just how windy it was by observing the blowing turban.  It was actually worse than it looks.  We were all a little concerned about the sand getting into the cameras.

Because of all of the wind we were happy to just observe as opposed to walk in the dunes.  However, our fearless driver was happy to walk for us.  We watched the caravan of camels, so happy that we had our ride the day before without the wind.

We drove back to the hotel and I wandered over to the dunes behind the hotel for one last look since we were leaving the area in the morning.

I came across a game of some kind in the sand.   I have no idea what they were playing but they had no problem with me taking a photo.

The next morning we continued on our journey to Fez. This was going to be our last view of palm trees for a while as we were about to drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains.  I'm not sure what all of the smoke was about.

I noticed on our travels that many houses seemed to be missing a top floor.  I was told that people continued to add to their houses when they had enough money.

The weather actually turned pretty nasty with lots of rain (and  some snow) as we continued on our way.  There is a forest area that we drove through  where you can find Berber monkeys.  It was still raining so we were kind of thinking of just driving on but one of our members decided that we should stop to at least look.  It was a good decision  as it was fun to watch the monkeys for a while (until the rain started to get pretty heavy).  There were a lot of monkeys (and  dogs) just hanging around and pretty much just ignoring the people.    Apparently these monkeys thrive in the groves of cedar trees.

We arrived in Fez in the late afternoon (still raining).  This was the view from our gorgeous hotel. Fez was the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco until 1927.  Fez has the best preserved old city in the Arab world, the sprawling labyrinthine Medina of Few-el-Bali, which is also the world's largest car free urban zone.  Within the Medina transports of goods is provided by donkeys, mules and handcarts.

The next day, our first stop  was a  well known pottery shop where we watched the artists.  In this photo, I was standing under shelter from the rain.


Next we visited the leather tannery in Fez.  I took a photo of the nearby apartments.

Moroccan leather is colorful, soft and naturally dyed.  The actual process of softening/dyeing/drying is labor intensive and a real eyeopener.  We visited the Chourara Tannery in the Fez Medina who produce highly prized leather goods sold around the world.  We were able to watch the operation from an outside balcony. 

The white pits are used for cleaning and softening.  The skins are brought by donkey to the tannery and they are dipped into a mixture that includes cow urine, pigeon poop, salt and quicklime.  

These circular pits looked like a paint set.  The colourful dye pits use poppy seed, saffron, henna and indigo as colour agents for the leather  which is soaked then lifted out for drying.

We were told that workers are mostly  born into the job, and the work is organized as old guilds would have done with men mastering and maintaining specific goals.  I believe that standing in and working with chemicals all day long leads to frequent health problems so not only is the work difficult, it is also unhealthy.  

The drying process.

I had heard that there were awful odors but I don't remember smelling anything.  I wonder if people living in these  apartments next to the tannery get used to the smell..

Next stop the Medina.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Berber monkeys Chouara Tannery Erg Chebbi Fez Morocco Sun, 14 Jul 2019 14:53:43 GMT
Erg Lihoudi to Chagaga Dunes

This morning we left Erg Lihoudi and made our way to Erg Chegaga (see bottom of the map).  After we got to the town of M'hamid (on the map the town is almost covered with Erg Chegaga), the paved roads ended and we found ourselves off-road for about 60 km.  Erg Chegaga is the largest and still untouched Saharan ergs (dunes)  in Morocco.  

We stopped in the village of  M'hamid to explore.  The girls' father gave me permission to take their photo.  

One of the shops in the village where I went iin to buy a coke.

These boys had a great time looking at Katharine's photos.

While traveling in the desert, we came across a well used by the locals.

This lady was using the water to wash her clothes.

With a length of approximately 40 km to 15km width,  Erg Chegaga is the largest and wildest set of dunes in Morocco. Some dunes are actually around 300mm high.  These dunes are relatively difficult to access as you need either a camel or a 4*4 vehicle or mountain bike (I guess walking is another option).  Because of this, these dunes are much less visited than the other large set of dunes in Morocco (Erg Chebbi).  Naturally we preferred the quieter dunes without all of the tourists.  I would have been happy to stay here longer.

We did a lot of hiking in the dunes which is not easy but was so much fun.  

The camels having a break before heading back to camp.

Roger and Katharine looking for great compositions.  

This photograph  of our "campsite" was taken from our hike up the dunes.  It was rustic (like the previous night's accommodation) but we all had a fatalistic time at this camp.  Who cares about hot water when you are surrounded by this scenery and peace and quiet.      After dinner the guides and resort staff entertained us with singing and dancing under the stars.  


The expanse of these sand dunes was pretty incredible.  We were so far away from civilization.  

At the top of one of the dunes we sat down and watched the "dune boarders" ski down the dunes and then hike up (no easy feat).

We started to head back down again before it got too dark.

Our next major stop was the  Erg Chebbi sand dunes, located near Merzouga.  The dunes looked beautiful in the soft light.  These dunes were much more touristy that the other dunes we saw.  Merzouga, is the local tourist center and is located on the western lee of the dunes.  There are around 70 hotels running north-south along the dunes.  Back to civilization!

We stayed at the Hotel Tombouchtou which was located right on the dunes.  Compared to our previous accommodations in the dessert this hotel was very luxurious and  a very different experience.   

Our late afternoon adventure consisted of taking a camel right up into the dunes and then exploring the sand dunes in the golden hour.  This gentleman was our tour guide and these were our camels.

This was definitely one of my more difficult photography experiences-taking photos on the camel and holding on at the same time as the camel went up and down the dunes.  It was challenging but fun.  Here I was taking a photo of the camels' shadows who were in front of me.

One of our "camel" guides who was happy to pose.

Interesting sand patterns.

A caravan of camels.

The last photo of the night as we headed back for dinner.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) camels Chegaga Dune Erg Chebbi Morocco sand dunes Tue, 02 Jul 2019 13:21:01 GMT
The town of Rissani and Merzouga Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes

After photographing the sunrise in the dunes we drove to the town of Rissani to see the Sunday market.  You can see Rissani in the middle of the map about two thirds to the right.  

Rosa and I climbed the dunes early in the morning to check out the sunrise.  

Rosa climbing a dune in the early morning as the skies brightened up.  

Rosa pointed out this design in the sand- some kind of insect/critter at work?

Heading back to the hotel we saw the camels getting ready to start their day giving rides.  


After breakfast we drove to Rissani to visit the Sunday market which is a very colorful and authentic rural market.  We saw traders, nomads, Berbers and Arabic desert dwellers who come in to sell all kinds of clothing, wares, plants, spices, vegetables and animals.

A friendly merchant.  

The fruits and vegetables looked great.

You could find just about everything in this market.  It was fun to watch the people and see all of the different items for sale.

This gentleman was a real character.  Some of the members in our group bought some spices from him so he was happy to let us photograph.

Many of the shopkeepers were fine with us photographing them.   The bread in Morocco is fabulous and was served at every meal.

The friendly merchant  with his donkey.  Most of the sellers brought their donkeys to the market.

Rissani has a famous "donkey parking place".  


For lunch we stopped off and had a delicious pizza.  I can't remember exactly what was in this Moroccan pizza (cheese, eggs, veggies?)  but it was very different.  I had pizza several times in Morocco and it was some of the best pizza I've ever had.

Pizza followed by desert.  The food in Morocco was excellent.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes Morocco Rissani Sunday Market Thu, 20 Jun 2019 21:16:08 GMT
Quarzazate to Erg Lihoudi

On our third day of the tour, we made our way from Quarzazate to the dunes  Erg Lihoudi which you can see at the bottom left of the map (in yellow).  

We drove through the mountains and stopped to photograph the Draa river which is Morocco's longest river, at 1,100 kilometers (680 mi).  The water from the Draa is used to irrigate palm groves and small horticulture along the river.  About 225,000 people live in the valley of the Draa which measures 23,000 square kilos (8,900 sq. miles).    The Draa Valley one served as a link between the Sahara and the North of Morocco for the trading caravan routes that passed by the river for centuries.

Just before we stopped in Zagora for lunch, we toured another village.

After Zagora we noticed that the landscape changed to desert conditions.  At this point we drove off-road to reach  Erg Lihoudi dunes where we would be spending the night.

We came across camels which was pretty exciting for me.  

Rosa took us to the smaller dune area which was much less populated and so beautiful.   She prefers the smaller dunes to the larger more popular dunes because it is much easier to get clean shots( i.e. no footprints) plus you really get the feeling that you are away from civilization as there are so few tourists here.  

We spent time hiking up and down the dunes admiring all of the different sand patterns.  Of course the light was changing which made it more interesting.


One of our drivers.

Our other driver.


This photo was taken the next morning at sunrise.

These are the cabins where we spent the night.  

After breakfast we stopped in a small village to check out the local market.

As with other markets that we had seen, you could find pretty much anything you needed.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Erg Lihoudi Sand Dunes Tue, 11 Jun 2019 16:48:39 GMT
Marrakech to Ouarzazate

The above map shows our drive for the day.  Starting in Marrakesh we drove to the Sahara Desert driving across the High Atlas Mountains ending in Ouarzazate.   Along the way we saw some magnificent scenery.

As always, I wanted to keep stopping to photograph some of the scenery however, we did have somewhat of a time limit as we had a lot of distance to cover.  These houses just blended right into the geography.  

Driving through the High Atlas Mountains we came across some pretty severe weather.  This range of mountains stretches around 2,500 km (1,600 mi) through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.  

We drove along the former route of the caravans from the Sahara over the Atlas Mountains.  The Atlas Mountains are primarily inhabited by Berber populations.   

We stopped at Telouet Kasbah for lunch.  In Morocco,  a Kasbah frequently refers to multiple buildings in a citadel or several structures behind a defensive wall.
This Kasbah was the seat of the El Glaoui family's power and was built in the 18th and 19th century.  As you can see the palace is collapsing but in 2010, work was underway to restore the property.  This palace is located on the outskirts of the small Berber village of Telouet. We were at an elevation of about 5,900 feet so it was quite a bit cooler than Marrakech.  

A view from inside of the Kasbah.

After a delicious  lunch we continued our drive through the mountains.

We stopped a few times to check out the surrounding areas.  I was happy that we weren't driving on this road- our roads were very good.  

Here was a small town/settlement built right into the mountain which was prevalent through this area.   

Later in the afternoon we arrived at one of the most impressive and well-preserved kasbahs, the Ksar of Alt Ben which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.      A Ksar is the North African term for "Berber  castle" normally refers to a Berber fortified town.   We stopped to photograph the overlook before heading into the fortified village.  This Ksar as been used as a   film location in many famous films such as Gladiator, Alexander, The Man Who Would Be King, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Kundun, The Jewel of the Nile and parts of the TV series,  The Game of Thrones.

I took this photo looking away from the village.  

When we got to the river, we had to cross over to the Ksar.  Our guide made it look so easy.   However the water was not all that calm.

Fortunately there were kids willing to help us cross.  Rosa gave them some money to help us cross.

My first close up look at the camels in Morocco.  

This was the view from the top of the Ksar, overlooking the village.  Inside the walls of the Ksar  are  half a dozen Kasbahs (or merchant houses) and other individual dwellings.  Most citizens live in more modern dwellings in a village on the other side of the river although there are still four families living in the ancient village.  

Another view from the Ksar.

Eventually it was time to cross the river again- fortunately, the kids were still around to help us.


Our last stop of the day was in the town of Ouarzazate.  This was a view from the top floor of our riad (hotel).    A riad is a type of traditional Morocan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard.  Ouarzazate is nicknamed "The door of the desert "because to the south of the town is the desert.  This town is an important holiday destination in Morocco since it is a base for excursions across the Draa Valley and into the dessert.  The riad that we stayed in was beautiful although you wouldn't know it from looking at it from the street.    There was an open courtyard in the center with the rooms overlooking it.  Dinner was really good as well.  In my last blog, I'll show some photos of the food taken with my I-phone.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Atlas Mountains Ksar of Alt Ben Morocco Ouarzazate Telouet Kasbah Mon, 06 May 2019 00:42:13 GMT
Marrakech, Morocco

In November, 2018 I was fortunate enough to travel to Morocco and join a photo expedition with Rosa Frei. Rosa is Swiss but has lived in Morocco for many years and did a fantastic job of showing us the country.   Morocco overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.  The country covers an area of about 710,850 km (274,460 square miles) and its capital is Rabat with the largest city being Casablanca.  The predominant religion is Islam and its official languages are Arabic and Berber.  French is also widely spoken.     In our group there was a couple from Australia and other couple from  Edmonton, Canada and myself.  We had two drivers/guides and spent 16 days touring the country.  Morocco is in Northern Africa and very different from Kenya.   I arrived in Marrakech which according to Rosa is probably  the most interesting city in Morocco.  I had a day to recover before meeting the group for dinner on November 11th.  

The first morning of the tour we stopped off at the Bahia Palace.  The palace was built in the late 19th century and was intended to be the greatest palace of its time.  The name means brilliance.  The architecture was intended to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style.  So this was our first glimpse of  what the Moroccan style was all about.   Moroccan culture is a blend of Berber, Arab, Sephardi Jews, West African and European influences.

We walked by the Koutoubia Mosque which is the largest in Marrakesh.  The mosque was built between 1184 and 1199.  The minaret  is 77 meters in height (253 ft).  As you can see the building is made of red stone and has six rooms in succession, one above the other.  It was designed to prevent anyone gazing in from the minaret to the harems of the king.

After leaving the Mosque we spent the rest of the day in the lively Medina (old town) which to me was the most interesting part  of the city.  The Medina was full of colorful shops and souks (markets).  This is one of the many shops we saw filled with all kinds of  colorful spices and food products.

Pictured above is Katharine from our group (Edmonton) talking to one of the "water sellers" in the main square  in the Medina(Jemaa al Fnaa).  It was hard to miss the brightly dressed men moving through the crowds often ringing bells and carrying goat skin bags of water and brass cups.  Originally their function was to sell drinking water to the locals.  Today they make their living charging a few dirhams for posing for tourist photos.  

I was told by friends who had visited Morocco that the locals do not like to have their photos taken (especially the women).   Many of the shopkeepers and other people we met were ok with us taking a couple of photos if we paid.  Others were fine with no payment.  So we  pretty much asked all the time if it was ok to take someone's photo.  Other times especially if we were taking a photo of an overall scene we quickly took one  or two photos and walked away quickly  (per Rosa's guidelines) so people did not think we were professional photographers.  This man was fine with me taking his photo -Rosa actually asked him for me.

Everywhere you looked there were beautiful and colorful displays.

I gave this man some dirham so I could photograph him and his monkey.  The monkey had no interest in looking at me at all. 

Pretty much anything you needed could be found in the market.

I photographed this young man after asking him if it was ok.  Then his dad? came running out of the shop across the street so I figured  I was  be in trouble for taking the photo however, his father just asked me if he could see the photo.  

At the end of the day we enjoyed this view from a rooftop restaurant.  

This photo and the next few  were actually taken when the group returned to Marrakesh on the last day of the tour.  We headed back to the Medina for one last look.  It was fun to watch and photograph this snake charmer.  Yes I did have to pay to take the photos.

A close up of one of the snakes.  

This gentleman owned a store and was a friend of Rosa's so we went to see his shop which was full of very interesting products.

His  brother was also happy to pose.

A view of the shops walking down the street.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Bahia Palace Koutoubia Mosque Marrakech Medina Morocco Sat, 27 Apr 2019 15:32:18 GMT
Galapagos Islands, Part 9 Route3Route3

Genovesa Island, Day 7


In the afternoon, we headed ashore to Darwin Bay.  


A pair of Swallow tailed gulls.



A Swallow tailed gull nesting.

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We saw more male great frigate birds trying to get attention of females by making loud calls and flapping their wings.  


Here is a male great frigate bird  blowing up a huge red balloon-like pouch from his chest.

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Several red-footed boobies were spotted.


This bird is a yellow-crowned night heron.




This is a  female juvenile  magnificent frigatebird.  Immature birds have a white head and underparts.  


As we were walking through the water we saw some stingrays.  Stingrays are common residents of shallow beach areas and deeper sandy bottoms throughout the Galapagos.  Animals from this group have a brain weight relative to body size that comes close to that of mammals and is about ten times that of bony fish so they are quite intelligent.  

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Boarding the zodiacs to head back to the ship.  This is what is called a wet landing, as you need to walk in the water to board the zodiac.

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Crossing the equator.  Some of us went up to the bridge on the last night  to watch us cross the equator.


The last morning I was up to watch the sunrise.  We were all sorry to end this wonderful adventure in the Galapagos.  I would highly recommend Lindblad Expeditions.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) darwin bay galapagos" genovesa" great frigate bird red-footed booby swallow tailed gulls Mon, 15 Apr 2019 20:48:11 GMT
Galapagos Islands, Part 8 Route3Route3

Day 7, Genovesa


The last island that we visited was Genovesa Island.    This island is located in the northeastern part of the Galapagos  and is the home of large colonies of seabirds such as nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, great frigate birds, swallow-tailed gulls and lava gulls. Our first stop of the day was at Prince Phillip steps.   Above is a nazca booby with her egg.


The Nazca booby preys on small fish by flying over the ocean and then diving at high speeds.  The birds nests near cliffs on bare ground with little to no vegetation.  


The red-footed booby.  Adults have red feet(see later photo), but the color of their plumage varies.  They are powerful and agile fliers, but they are clumsy in takeoffs and landings.  


This bird is a  juvenile red footed booby.  Juveniles are brownish with darker wings and pale pinkish legs.  


Nazca booby chicks are snow white and fluffy.


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There were birds flying everywhere.

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Frigatebirds are found across all tropical and subtropical oceans.    Able to soar for weeks on wind currents, frigate birds spend most of the day in flight hunting for food. Their  main prey are fish and squid. Occasionally they are known to snatch seabird chicks from the nest.


Male Frigatebirds have a distinctive red gulag pouch which they inflate during the breeding season to attract females.



Here you can see where the red footed booby gets its name from.  

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Our ship in the distance.


The Galapagos mockingbird.   Mockingbirds are best known for their habit of mimicking the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians in rapid succession.  


A swallow tailed gull.  These birds spend most of their lives flying and hunting over the open ocean.  Their main breeding location is the Galapagos Islands.  This bird is the only nocturnal gull and seabird in the world, preying on squid and small fish which rise to the surface at night to feed on plankton.  

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The Galapagos Sally Lightfoot crab is also known as the red rock crab and sally lightfoot.   The body of this crab is very colorful and most adult crabs can be pink, red, brown or yellow in color.  


These crabs are very fast-moving and agile which make it hard to catch.  They are not used as a food source for humans, since it is a small crab and not very tasty.  However, they are used as bait by fishermen.  


]]> (Marsha Fouks) galapagos genovesa island great frigate birds nazca boobies red-footed booby swallow tailed gull Wed, 27 Mar 2019 16:01:27 GMT
Galapagos Islands, Part 7  


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Some islands along the way to our next stop.


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While most of the people were off on different excursions, I had a personal tour of the small islet of Chinese Hat.


 My tour guide was Christina Ahassi, a local of the Galapagos.  Notice her bare feet.  She had no trouble hiking around on the lava rocks.


Chinese hat is a very tiny island and is less than a quarter of 1 square km in size.  The island has the shape of a down-facing Chinese hat.  I found the volcanic scenery very picturesque.

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There was a lot of colorful fauna everywhere.



Eventually, another guide picked us up and we went back to the ship on the zodiac.


Once we got back to the ship, there was a late afternoon zodiac excursion which I was happy to go on.  Notice how well this Brown Pelican blends into the background.  I read that while this bird is straining the water from its bill after a dive, gulls often try to steal the fish right out of its pouch- sometimes while perching on the pelican's head.   Now that would have been interesting to see.




We came across some more penguins before heading back to the ship.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) china hat islet galapagos Tue, 12 Mar 2019 16:41:52 GMT
Galapagos Islands, Part 6 Route3Route3


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Early in the morning,  we  anchored in  Sullivan's Bay at the easternmost tip of James Island.  Once again, the scenery was very different.  This area has been subject to violent eruptions.  



We stopped to hike on Bartolome Island, a volcanic islet in the Galapagos, just off the east coast of Santiago Island.   This island has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the archipelago.  


The island consists of an extinct volcano and a variety of red, orange, green and glistening black volcanic formations.  There is very little vegetation on this island but the gray mat plant, evolved to survive long droughts and intense heat.  The tiny white flower it produces are the primary food source for the local lava lizards.

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We walked to the top of Bartholomew before breakfast.  


Volcanic features are preserved for a relatively long time in the Galapagos since the climate is fairly stable.  The only true damage to these rocks is a result of the constant exposure to intensive sunlight and occasional heavy rainstorms.  Sunlight and heavy rains do cause erosion, but not as impacting as big storms and heavy seas.


After climbing up several hundred wooden steps, we had a great view of Pinnacle Rock, which is the distinctive characteristic of this island and the most representative landmark of the Galapagos.

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You can just make out the lighthouse at the top.


One of the groups making its way down the wooden steps.




Eventually we checked out Volcano beach before heading back to the ship.


A close up view of Pinnacle Rock.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) bartholomew islet galapagos james island pinnacle rock sullivan's bay Sun, 03 Mar 2019 00:38:45 GMT
Galapagos Islands, Part 5  


Santa Cruz Island.  


Today we visited and explored the central area of the Galapagos archipelago stopping at the leeward side of  Santa Cruz island.   You can see one of the groups coming ashore from the zodiac boats. Toronto to Vancouver (60 of 114)Toronto to Vancouver (60 of 114)

 Our first stop was on Dragon Hill, a low lying hill which is home to a healthy population of the Galapagos land iguana.  It was great watching these dragons roam freely around the trail we were on.  Considering that Santa Cruz has been affected by several introduced species  such as dogs, cats and goats, the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Station has made great efforts to restore the population of these reptiles since the 1970s.


A visitor along the trail.  I never saw any of the animals or birds being fearful of the humans wherever we went.


Our group hiking on the trail.  As usual, I was busy photographing from the behind.


I found the island to be very beautiful.  All of the islands were quite different and unique from one and other.  



During out outings, we would always have guides to show us points of interest on the trail.  Of course, since I was busy photographing I wouldn't always hear what they were saying. It was interesting to see the desert-like vegetation around Dragon Hill.


A great blue heron.


Like other Anis, the Smooth-billed Ani lives in small groups of one to five breeding pairs, and up to seventeen individuals.  They defend a single territory and lay their eggs in one communal nest.  All group members incubate the eggs and care for the young.  It looks like this guy is sitting by himself, watching for danger or action.  



Heading back to the ship.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) dragon hill great blue heron iguanas santa cruz island Mon, 18 Feb 2019 17:51:51 GMT
Galapagos Islands, Part 4 Route3Route3

Day 4, Sata Cruz Island.


On May 24th, we visited Santa Cruz Island.   Galapagos giant tortoises are amazing animals.  Today, we visited their territory to learn more about their history.  Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Giant tortoises were an important source of food for sea people navigating around the islands and also for the human population.  During his journey, Charles Darwin visited the islands and mentioned them" At the time of our visit, the females had within their bodies numerous, large, elongated eggs, which they lay in the burrows:the inhabitants seek them for food".


We also saw more iguanas at the Charles Darwin Research Station.  The research station also has a breeding program for endangered giant tortoises.  


The town of Puerto Ayora is the archipelago's tourism hub.  We had a chance to walk around the town.  It was fun to watch the animals and birds mingle with the locals, eating whatever scraps they were given.  


We had a chance to visit a local school on the island.  This is the school's library.


One of the classrooms.





The boy in the green shirt was nice enough to give our group a tour of the school.  We also listened to the kids play some music and visit a couple of their classrooms.  All of the children were well behaved and happy to talk to us.


In the afternoon, we got on a bus to go see where the giant tortoises live. The bus driver stopped so a few of us could get out and photograph the turtle crossing sign.  During the 20th and 21st century, the Galapagos giant tortoises were no longe being  used as a food source.  The living animal has become a symbol of life.  


The Galapagos tortoise are the largest living species of tortoise who can weigh up to 417 kg(919 lb).  Today, these tortoises exist only on two remote archipelagos: the Galapagos Islands and Aldabra in the Indian Ocean, 700 km east of Tanzania.  These tortoises have lifespans in the wild, of over 100 years which makes it one of the longest living vertebrates.  A captive individual lived at least 170 years.   Shell size and shape vary between populations.  On  islands with humid highlands, the  tortoises are larger, with domed sells and short necks; on islands with dry lowlands, the animals are smaller, with "saddleback" shells and long necks.  Charles Darwin's observations of these differences on the second voyage of the Beagle in 1835, contributed to the development of his theory of evolution.  



Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970's.  The decline was caused by overexploitation of the species for meat and oil, habitat clearance for agrictulture, and introduction of non-native animals to the islands, such as rats, goats and pigs.  Fortunately, conservation efforts beginning in the 20th century, have resulted in thousands of captive-bred juveniles being released into their ancestral home islands and the total number of the species is estimated to have exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century.


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After learning and seeing the giant tortoises, we headed back to the town and wandered around before it was time to return to the ship.



Once back on the ship, we watched the sun set.


]]> (Marsha Fouks) galapagos santa cruz island tortoise Fri, 18 Jan 2019 18:58:11 GMT
Galapagos Islands, Part 3  


Day 3, Floreana Island.


On May 23, we visited Floreana Island, also known as Santa Maria or Charles Island,  This island sits in the southern region of the archipelago.  In the early morning we visited Cormorant Point before breakfast where the temperature was perfect as we walked along the sandy beach.


  This is the first time I saw a Blue-Footed Booby.


The Blue-Footed Booby is a marine bird native  to subtropical regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean.  It is easily recognizable by its distinctive bright blue feet.  Males display their feet in an elaborate mating ritual by lifting them up and down while strutting before the female.  Approximately one half of all breeding pairs nest on the Galapagos Islands.  


The diet of the Blue-Footed Booby consists mainly of fish, which it obtains by diving and sometimes swimming underwater in search of its prey.  The female is slightly larger than the male and can measure up to 90 cm(35in)with a wingspan of up to 1.5m (5ft).


I watched the bird take off.  The blue color of the Blue-Footed Booby's webbed feet comes from carotenoid pigments obtained from its diet of fresh fish.



After breakfast, we sailed to Champion Island where we went out on the Zodiacs to explore the area.



There is a large colony of California sea lions in the area.


Sea lions feed on a number of species of fish and squid and are preyed on by orcas and white sharks.  Sea lions are very intelligent, can be trained to perform various tasks and display only limited fear of humans.  On these Islands, you could walk up to them (although best to keep some distance) and they didn't even seem to blink.


A Sally Lightfoot crab is also called a Red Rock crab.

The Swallow Tailed Gull is  endemic to the Galapagos Islands.  This bird has over fifty colonies spread over the entire Galapagos archipelago.  This bird is unique among the gulls for feeding exclusively at night and it is  the only nocturnal gull in the world.  Its night- adapted eyes allow it to feed miles from shore on fish and squid captured from the surface of the ocean.


While out in the zodiacs we came across some Galapagos penguins which we were told were fairly uncommon.  


The Galapagos penguin is a penguin endemic to the Galapagos Islands.  It is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild.  This penguin is the second smallest species of penguin.    The Little Penguin is the smallest species and is found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand.  

Later in the day we went to Post Office Bay on Floreana Island.  Many people left postcards to be delivered for free by visitors.  This tradition has been going on since the eighteen century without interruption.  The whalers would leave letters in a certain place on Floreana, and when passing ships stopped there on their way back to England, the USA or wherever their home port was, they would pick up all of the letters destined for that place and deliver them.  This place became known as Post Office Bay.  The system is actually still working!.  Traditionally, if you pick up a letter addressed to someone who lives near your home, you're supposed to hand-deliver it.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) blue-footed booby california sea lion crab" floreana island galapagos galapagos penguin Lightfoot post office bay Sally swallow tailed gull Sat, 12 Jan 2019 14:14:17 GMT
Galapagos Islands, part 2 Route3Route3

Day 2, late afternoon in Punta Suarez


We spent some time hiking  on the trails in Punta Suarez, watching the birds on the cliffs.  It is thought that the steep bluff facing the southeast trade winds is the reason why the albatross chose this island.    Both adults and juveniles are able to fly with effortless ease by jumping off the cliffs.


GalapagosGalapagos Galapagos sea lions were everywhere.  When ashore, the Galapagos sea lions rest on sandy beaches and rocky areas in colonies of about 30 individuals.  

GalapagosGalapagos Another marine iguana.  Since these iguanas have the ability to forage in the sea, they are marine reptiles.

One of our groups heading back to the ship at the end of the day.  In 1986, a law was passed to control fishing and over-exploitation of Galapagos marine animals. One of the threats to the Galapagos is increased tourism  so in  1998, a visitor management system including permits and quotas was implemented.    Therefore, the amount of people allowed on the islands as well as the amount of time spent is controlled.  When we went ashore,  we always divided up into smallish  groups with at least one geologist lecturing about the land and the animals.     However, while I was on the islands, I never actually felt rushed.   




There  were Sally Lightfoot crabs everywhere on the rocks.  These crabs are brightly-coloured coastal scavengers found in the Galapagos Islands and across  the western coast of South and Central America.  They are rumored to be named after a Caribbean dancer, due to their agility in jumping from rock to rock, their ability to run in four directions and their capacity to climb up vertical slopes. These characteristics make it very difficult to catch them.


Our ship was the MS National Geographic Endeavour, build in 1966.  The ship had room for 96 passengers and 68 staff and crew.  The bedrooms were small but very comfortable.  The food was excellent and everything ran very smoothy.   The ship had a small gym (I never went).  There was a very large lounge where we had some lectures and people spent time socializing.   Often it was fun to just sit outside and watch the various islands and birds in the sky.  There was also a small swimming pool.   After dinner there were some activities including local entertainment, lectures  or movies.    However, during the day we were  kept busy with various outdoor  activities.  There were scuba/snorkeling expeditions, hikes and/or walks on land, normally  twice a day,  glass bottom boat rides, kayaking or Zodiac boat rides.  


]]> (Marsha Fouks) galapagos marine iguanas punta suarez sally lightfoot crabs sea lions Sat, 05 Jan 2019 14:10:26 GMT
Galapagos Islands, Part 1  


In May 2016, Ralph and I joined the Linblad Expeditions for an excursion to the Galapagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavor.  The plan was to fly from Toronto to Miami, Florida and then on to Guayaquil, Ecuador.  Unfortunately, the plane from Toronto had mechanical issues.  Hours later, American postponed the flight  and we ended up barely making the trip since it was next to impossible to get to Guayaquil on time.  Part of the problem was that American Airlines didn't actually cancel the flight, they just postponed it until the next day.  So we were forced to wait in the waiting room with the luggage still on board the plane.    There was so much confusion and mis-information at the gate that the security guards were called to calm everyone down.  However, we managed to get on a flight to New York City and take an overnight flight to Guayaquil.  I have to say that Lindblad were extremely efficient and had someone meet us early in the morning and bring us to the hotel.   The map above shows our voyage.   Galapogos (1 of 1)Galapogos (1 of 1)

It turned out that our flight to the Galapagos Islands with Linblad  was delayed until early afternoon, so we were given a city bus tour of Guayaquil.   Guayaquil is the largest and the most populous city in Ecuador with around 2.7 million people in the metropolitan area.  The city is also the nations' main port.  


One of the stops on the tour was Iguanas Park which had dozens of iguanas living on its trees and in the grass.  They were everywhere.


A close up look of one of the Green Iguanas that we came across.  The green iguana is also known as the American iguana.  It is one large lizard.


These lizards werefriendly and safe to pet.


These lizards are primarily herbivores, feeding on leaves, flowers and fruit.  They seemed especially fond of lettuce.


The tour also took us down some local streets where this dog was enjoying his day.  After the tour we flew to the island of San Cristobal  to board our ship. 


Our first outing into the east Pacific Ocean occurred mid-morning on May 22nd.  Our landing was on Gardner beach on Espanola Island.  Here was my first close-up look at the Galapagos sea lions. This is the southeastern-most island and of one of the oldest and most isolated.  Due to the direction of the winds and ocean currents, species that successfully arrived (by floating, swimming or flying) found themselves isolated for the next few millennia.    


A Galapagos oystercatcher.  These birds have massive long orange or red bills used for smashing or prying open mollusks.  


The Galapagos sea lion is a species of sea lion that exclusively breeds on the Galapagos Islands and in smaller numbers on Isla de la Plata (Ecuador).  Being fairly social, they are often spotted sun-bathing on sandy shores or rocks.   These are small sea lions who have loud barks and a playful nature.

Galapogos (1 of 1)Galapogos (1 of 1)



The afternoon was spent on the far western-most point of land, known as Punta Suarez.  We walked along a long, very rocky trail established by the Galapagos National Park Service.  The giant loop allowed us to see lots of albatross as shown in the photo above.  This is the only island in the Galapagos where the waved albatross can be seen.  We watched them in couples, preening, sleeping, courting, incubating eggs and flying overhead.  



We watched waves crash into a lava fissure, creating a blowhole that sprays water nearly 30 m into the air at high tide.


The primary food sources of the albatross are fish, squid and crustaceans, as well as smaller birds.  Their nests are built on areas of lava with boulders and sparse vegetation.


The courtship of the birds includes rapid bill circling and bowing, beak clacking and an upraised bill to make a whoo hoo sound.


A Nazca booby.  These birds nests near cliffs on bare ground with little to no vegetation.  The Nazca booby is the largest of the Galapagos boobies-with a length of 3 feet and a 5-6 foot wingspan.  The bird is found on most of the islands.  


The marine iguana also known as the Galapagos marine iguana, is a species of iguana found only on the Galapagos Islands.  This iguana feeds almost exclusively on algae.  Large males dive to find this food source.  The females and smaller males feed during low tide in the intertidal zone.  These iguanas mainly live in colonies on rocky shores where they warm up after being in the relatively cold water.  I liked how colorful they were and how absolutely unafraid of people they seemed to be.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Albatross Española Island Galápagos Guayaquil Iguana Nazca Booby Oystercatcher Sea Lions Mon, 10 Dec 2018 17:24:55 GMT
Tucson Toronto to Arizona  (23 of 45)Toronto to Arizona (23 of 45)


I actually lived for a year in Tucson, when I went to the University of Arizona.  Since that time I have rarely spent any time here so it was nice to spend a few days at a dude ranch in the winter of 2017.    This photo was taken on the property of the Tanque Verde Ranch.

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The first morning,  I was was up early to photograph the area.   Tanque Verde Ranch is one of America's cattle and guest ranches.  It is located on 60,000 acres of Tucson's beautiful desert landscapes.

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The ranch is in the Rincon Mountains and next to the Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest.  

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I went on a few early morning hikes in the area.

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There was a river running through the property that you could walk along for quite a distance.

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Sunset in the mountains.  

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One morning I went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  The Museum is a 98-acre zoo, aquarium, botanical garden and natural history museum.  

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A cactus in bloom.

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A horse heading for dinner at the end of the day on the ranch.

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A jail located in an old movie shoot area outside of Tucson.
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A general store used in the past for films.

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A garden at the ranch, close to my room.

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Another late afternoon hike on the property.

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The last photo taken on the hike, just after sunset.

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One day we went to check out the Barrio Historic district in Tucson.   Most of the area has now been taken over by law offices, art studios  etc. but it it was a very interesting area to walk around.

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The southwestern pueblo architecture was very colorful.  



]]> (Marsha Fouks) Arizona Tanque Verde Ranch Tucson Thu, 08 Nov 2018 16:34:11 GMT
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico Toronto to Arizona  (12 of 45)Toronto to Arizona (12 of 45)

One of my favorite places is the White Sands National Monument which we drive through as often as possible on our road trips to Arizona.  Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand take up  over  275 square miles creating the world's largest gypsum dune field.   White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this area, along with the plants and animals that live there.

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I never get tired of exploring this area.  There are several trails you can take but it is so easy to get lost as we found out the hard way one year.   We ended up walking around in pitch dark with very few cars on the road.  We were getting cold and well aware that this was the time that animals come out (we also had Maggie and Katie with us). We were finally helped out by a park ranger so now we are much more careful!  

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On January 18, 1933 President Herbert Hoover created the White Sands National Monument.  Fortunately, this won out over a proposed game hunting preserve.  

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We always try to arrive later in the afternoon for the better light.  White Sands has been featured in many western films, including Four Faces West, Hang 'Em Hight, The Hired Hand, My Name is Nobody, Bite the Bullett and Young Guns II.

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 It is a very peaceful area.   Because of its vastness, it is fairly easy to get away from the crowds.  However, the Monument is completely surrounded by military installations (White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base have  always had an uneasy relationship with the military).  Missiles have often fell on the WSNM property, in some cases destroying some of the visitor areas.  The Monument is closed on days where there is missile testing.  Fortunately, we have never run into that problem but we have been there at times when it is too windy to photograph and even walk around with all of the sand blowing all over the place.

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WSNM was placed on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites on January 22, 2008.  However, the application was eventually withdrawn due to a fear that if the designation was received, there would be international pressures that could stop military operations in the area.

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]]> (Marsha Fouks) New Mexico White Sands National Monument Thu, 01 Nov 2018 20:35:46 GMT
Toronto to Arizona, winter of 2017 Toronto to Arizona  (1 of 45)Toronto to Arizona (1 of 45)

On the way to Arizona in February of 2017, we stopped for a  short visit to Beaufort, South Carolina.  This is a photo of the Woods Memorial Bridge.  This swing bridge is one of just a few moveable bridges left in  South Carolina.  It was named for Richard V. Woods, a South Carolina Highway Patrol Officer killed in the line of duty on August 15, 1969.    The bridge opens hourly for boats and barges traveling the Intracoastal Waterway.    This bridge was briefly featured in the film, Forrest Gump as a bridge crossing the Mississippi River.

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During our walk, we came across this beautiful house surrounded by moss draped oak trees.    Beaufort is a city on Port Royal Island, one of South Carolina's coastal Sea Islands.  It is known for its antebellum mansions. 

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We drove the long way to Arizona, by going through Jacksonville Florida.    Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida (metropolitan area estimated at 1,626,611 in 2017), centered on the banks of the St. John River.  Harbour improvements since the late 19th century have made this city a major military and civilian deep-water port.   Apart from banking, insurance, healthcare and logistics, tourism is also very important to the area, especially tourism relating to golf.

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We walked along the waterfront to watch the sunset.

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The next morning before leaving, we went for a walk where I took a photograph of downtown Jacksonville.

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A close up view of one of the buildings.

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We were walking along the Lakeshore drive in Mandeville, Louisiana where I saw hundreds of birds flying.  I took this  photo and the rest of the photos in this blog with my I-phone.

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If anyone is wondering why we went so far out of our way to arrive in Arizona, one of the reasons was  because we wanted to see Corpus Christie, Texas and the surrounding beach areas.  This is the art museum of South Texas, in Corpus Christie, located on N Shoreline Blvd.  

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Walking along the seawall in Corpus Christie.   The city is a coast city in the South Texas region, 130 miles southeast of San Antonio.  The 1919 storm devastated the city, killing hundreds on September 14.  Only three structures survived the storm on North Beach.  In order to protect the city, the seawall was built.

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Fishing is very popular.

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We spent a few days at a beach resort on South Padre Island where you could walk for miles along the beaches.  

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]]> (Marsha Fouks) Beaufort Corpus Christie Jacksonville Florida South Padre Island Mon, 01 Oct 2018 16:21:40 GMT
South Dakota Toronto to Vancouver (45 of 68)Toronto to Vancouver (45 of 68)

The southeastern face of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest is the site of four gigantic carved sculptures depicting the faces of U.S presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  Work on the project began in 1927 and was finally completed in 1941.  Over that time period, some 400 workers built the sculpture under dangerous conditions.  They removed a total of 450,000 tons of rock in order to carve out the heads.  Each head reaches a height of 60 feet (18 meters).  The four presidents were meant to be represented from the waist up but their was insufficient funding so the carvings came to a halt.  There was opposition to the project by local Native Americans and environmentalists objecting due to it causing a desecration of the natural landscape.  

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Mount Rushmore attracts more than 2 million visitors eery year and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States.   Mount Rushmore was named for the New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore, who traveled to the Black Hills in 1884 to inspect mining claims.  When he asked a local man the name of a nearby mountain, the reply was that it had never been named before but from now on would be known as Rushmore Peak (later Rushmore Mountain or Mount Rushmore).   A bill introduced in Congress in 1937 proposed that a carving of Susan B. Anthony's head be included, but fell through because of a rider on the existing bill mandating that federal funds be spent only on those carvings already begun.  

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We had several choices for our route from Vancouver to Toronto.  While we were at Glacier National Park, we met some Canadians who told us that Badlands National Park in South Dakota was beautiful so we decided to go through South Dakota on our way back.  The hazy conditions from all of the forest fires were still around, however we did enjoy our drive through the park.  

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There were several pullouts on the road and places to get out and walk or hike.  

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The geologic deposits in the park contain one of the world's richest fossil beds.  Ancient animals such as the rhino, horse and saber-toothed tiger once roamed here.  

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These badlands were somewhat similar to the Badlands in Alberta.  The Badlands Wilderness protects 64,144 acres of the park as a designated wilderness area.  Initially, the the park was authorized as Badlands National Monument on March 4th, 1929.  It was not established until January 25, 1939.  It was designated  a National Park on November 10, 1978.  

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The park also administers the nearby Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  Movies such as Dances with Wolves and Thunderheart were filmed in the park.  

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For 11,000 years, Native Americans have used this area for their hunting grounds.  Toward the end of the 19th century homesteaders moved  into South Dakota.  The U.S. government stripped Native Americans of much of their territory and forced them to live on reservations.  

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We stopped to photograph this big-horned sheep.  

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The park was full of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires.

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We only drove through the park for part of one day.  Our plan had been to return the next day but we woke up to pouring rain and foggy conditions so we continued on our way.

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One of our last stops in South Dakota was to visit the Corn Palace which is  advertised as the World's only corn palace.  The Moorish Revival building is decorated with crop art; the murals and designs covering the building are made from corn and other grains and a new design is constructed every year.  Each year it is visited by anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000 people.  The Palace serves the community as a venue for concerts, sport events, exhibits and other popular community events.  After leaving South Dakota, we were on a mission to get back to Toronto as soon as possible so we really didn't make too many other stops. The reason for the rush to get back to Canada was because of the restriction of days allowed in the US and we would be spending five months in Arizona.

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This photo was taken as we walked through the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.   Mayo Clinic is regarded as one of the United States' greatest hospitals.  After leaving Rochester it took us another 2 days to arrive in Toronto.  So our total drive home took us about 12 days.  Two days in B.C. and another 10 days before arriving in Brampton.  We stayed in Brampton for about two weeks before heading to the east coast of Canada.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) badlands mount rushmore south dakota Wed, 22 Aug 2018 20:04:35 GMT
Continuing the drive on the Beartooth Highway Toronto to Vancouver (30 of 68)Toronto to Vancouver (30 of 68)

Fortunately for us, we did not get the rain as we made our way down the mountain pass.

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The weather actually cleared up and we saw some blue skies.

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A close up of the colorful rock formation.

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This is the area of Bear Paw Mountain.  On October 5, 1877, Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph, formally surrendered his forces to the US Army at Bear Paw Mountain.  This effectively ended the Nez Perce War of 1877.  The Nez Perce were promised by General Miles a safe return to the Wallowa Valley, however the general was overruled by Washington.  The survivors were not allowed to return to their homelands until the mid 1880's.  


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Eventually, we left the Shoshorne National Forest in Montana and entered the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming.  

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The fall colours were beautiful.  


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Ralph spotted this deer on the side of the road so we stopped to photograph it at the end of the day.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Beartooth Highway Montana Wyoming Tue, 31 Jul 2018 13:06:03 GMT
Beartooth Highway, Montana and Wyoming  

Today's blog is all about our drive on the Beartooth All-American Road.  

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Early morning view of the prairies in Montana, taken from the car while we were driving (of course I was the passenger).  

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The Beartooth Highway officially opened on June 14, 1936.  Charles Kuralt who was a On the Road television correspondent,  referred to this "Beartooth- All American Road" as tdhe most beautiful drive in America.  I would certainly agree that the drive was spectacular.  Through an agreement with the federal government, the State of Montana maintains the Montana portion of the drive, with the federal government picking up the cost.   The state of Wyoming isn't responsible for the maintenance of the road in Wyoming.  The National Park Service maintains it.

Toronto to Vancouver (13 of 68)Toronto to Vancouver (13 of 68)

The drive is a 68-mile travel corridor, beginning (at its Eastern most place) just south of Red Lodge, Montana at an elevation of 6,400 feet and ending (at its most western place) near the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone National Park at an elevation of 7,500 feet.  We drove most of the highway, though we did not quite make it the park entrance.  In between those two elevations, the road rises to 10,947 feet at Beartooth Pass.  

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Looking down at the road from above.

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As we winded through Custer, Shoshone and Gallatin National Forests we saw vast mountain landscapes, massive glaciers and lots of alpine meadows.  

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 The Beartooth Scenic Byway roughly follows the old Sheridan Trail, laid out in 1882 by Yellowstone protectionist General Phil Sheridan.  

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The water had the most beautiful color.

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Higher elevations of the Beartooth Highway.

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We pulled the car over (there were places everywhere) to get out and go for a walk.

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We could see some storm clouds ahead.   We hoped we wouldn't get caught, especially when we were at a high elevation on the windy road.  This is a photo of Gardner Lake.  

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The highway was a road that almost never happened.  It was designed as a "make work" project during the height of the Great Depression.  Due to the high construction costs, the poor economy and the fact that the road essentially went no-where,  there was significant opposition in Washington D.C.   The only purpose of this highway was to be a scenic drive.

Toronto to Vancouver (28 of 68)Toronto to Vancouver (28 of 68)

The skies weren't getting any friendlier.

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Part 2 to follow.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Beartooth All-American Road Montana Wyoming Fri, 13 Jul 2018 19:01:03 GMT
Vancouver to Glacier National Park Toronto to VancouvrerToronto to Vancouvrer

Ralph, Katie and I spent two months in Vancouver (summer of 2017).  We had a wonderful time visiting friends and relatives.  Eventually, it was time to head back to Toronto.  We wanted to see Glacier National Park in Montana on our way home but at the same time limit our days spent in the US due to immigration rules.  So on the way back to Ontario,   we  drove through British Columbia  to stay in Canada as long as possible.  The shot above was taken  in B.C.  on a day trip before we actually left for Toronto.

Toronto to Vancouver (2 of 68)Toronto to Vancouver (2 of 68)

This was definitely the summer of forest fires.  We were surrounded by them on our way to Glacier National Park.  While we were in Vancouver, there were many smoky days.  

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The helicopters pick up water from the lakes and then dump in on the fires.  It was pretty interesting to watch.

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The scenery was still pretty nice in spite of the smoky conditions.

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Just before crossing into Montana, we stopped in Fernie B.C.  for a walk. This is a photo of downtown Fernie, looking south.    The town is fully encircled by the Rocky Mountains.   Fernie, like many single-industry towns,  went through many boom and bust cycles throughout the 20th century, mainly tied to the price of coal.  Today Teck Resources operates five open-pit mines.  Fernie Alpine Resort is close to the town and is known for its high annual snowfall and for its powder skiing.  

Toronto to Vancouver (6 of 68)Toronto to Vancouver (6 of 68)

A view from inside Glacier National Park, Montana.   This photo is of Two Medicine Lake.  Glacier National Park is a national park located in Montana, on the Canada-United States border with the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.   This park is made of up over 1 million acres and includes parts of two mountain ranges, over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 species of plants and hundreds of different types of animals.  

Toronto to Vancouver (7 of 68)Toronto to Vancouver (7 of 68)

The region that became Glacier National Park was fist inhabited by Native Americans.  The park was established on May 11, 1910.  I had heard some great things about the park but I was a bit disappointed.  It turned out a lot of the park was closed due to the firest fires.

Toronto to Vancouver (8 of 68)Toronto to Vancouver (8 of 68)

We drove on "Going-to-the-sun Road" in the park.  This scenic road is the only road that traverses the park, crossing the Continental Divide through Logan Pass at an elevation of 6,646 feet (2,026 m) which is the highest point of the road.  Construction began in 1921 and was completed in 1932.    The road spans the width of the park between the east and west entrance stations and is approximately 50 miles (80km) long.   Unfortunately, due to all of the forest fires some of the road was closed as was quite a bit of the park.  So we were quite limited in what we could actually see on this trip.  The entrance which was closest to where we were staying was closed which meant every time we wanted to go to the park, it was about a 1 1/2 hour drive.  Of course the drive was beautiful but it ended up limiting our time in the park since we wanted to be back before dark.  We ended up just staying for a couple of days and visiting the park twice.  

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This was one of the few locations that was somewhat clear of the smokey conditions.

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Many Glacier Hotel is located in the northeastern area of Glacier National Park, situated on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake.  The hotel was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1914-1915.   

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"Going on the Sun Road" had lots of beautiful places to stop and photograph.  We really only saw a very small portion of the park due to the closures and our schedule.  It is definitely worth another visit.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) british columbia glacier national park montana Mon, 02 Jul 2018 14:57:27 GMT
Golden B.C. to Vancouver Toronto to Vancouver (94 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (94 of 102)

Golden B.C. is a town in southeastern British Columbia, located 262 kilometers west of Calgary, Alberta and 713 kilometers east of Vancouver.  This is a photo of the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge in Golden.  It is an old-fashioned, covered timber-framed bridge, spanning the Kicking Horse river.   The bridge is the longest freestanding timber frame bridge in Canada.  

Toronto to Vancouver (95 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (95 of 102)

On July 1st, 1867, Canada became a self-governing dominion of Great Britain and a federation of four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick Ontario and Quebec.  Since 1983, July 1st has been officially known as Canada Day.  On July 1st, we spent the 150th birthday of Canada in Revelstoke, B.C.  Revelstoke is a very picturesque city located 641 kilometers (398 mi) east of Vancouver.  The city is located on the banks of the Columbia River just south of the Revelstoke Dam.   Just east of Revelstoke are the Selkirk Mountains and Glacier National Park.

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 On Canada Day, there was a parade which was fun to watch.  The town was named after Lord Revelstoke, head of Baring Brothers & Co., the UK investment bank that in partnership with Glyn, Mills & Co., saved the Canadian Pacific Railway from bankruptcy in the summer of 1885.   The partnership bought the company's unsold bonds which enabled the railway to be completed.

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In 2016, the town had a population of 6,719 and many of these people showed up for the parade.  The town was founded in the 1880's when the Canadian Pacific Railway was built through the area.  Mining was an important early industry.  Since the construction of the Trans Canada Highway in 1962, tourism has been an important part of the local economy.  Skiing has emerged as the most prominent tourist attraction.

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We spent the afternoon driving through the area.  It was very hot- about 34 degrees C (93 F).  

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The town of Kamloops B.C.

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Parts of the drive reminded me a bit of Arizona.

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On our second night in Revelstoke, we walked to the park across the street from out hotel to enjoy the mountain scene.

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After leaving Revelstoke we drove to Vancouver where we spent just over two months.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) golden b.c kamloops b.c revelstoke b.c Sun, 03 Jun 2018 13:43:31 GMT
Lake Louise to Golden B.C. Toronto to Vancouver (79 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (79 of 102)

The next morning we left  Camden for   Golden B.C.   We stopped at Lake Louise on the way.  Lake Louise was named Lake of the Little Fishes by the Stony Nakota First Nations people.  It is a glacier lake within Banff National Park.  

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The emerald color of the water comes from rock flour carried  into the lake by melting water from the glaciers that overlook the lake.

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 We spent a good part of the morning hiking along the trail beside the lake.  The lake was named after the Priness Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the Marquess of Lorne, who was the governor general of Canada from 1878 to 1883.

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Fairmont's Chateau Lake Louise, is one of Canada's grand railway hotels.  The luxury resort hotel was built in the early 20th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

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The trail beside the lake goes a long way.  You can also pick up other hikes from this trail.

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All of these photos were taken from the trail.

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After leaving Lake Louise, we drove through the Yoho National Park towards Golden B.C. where we were spending the night.   We checked out Takakkaw Falls located in Yoho National Park, near Field, British Columbia.  Its highest point is 302 meters (991ft) from its base making it the 45th tallest waterfall in eastern British Columbia.  

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"Takakkaw", loosely translated from Cree, means something like "it is magnificent".  These falls were featured in the 1995 film, Last of the Dogmen.

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Later on in the afternoon we stopped at Kicking Horse River located in Southeastern British Columbia.  The river was named in 1858, when James Hector, a member of the Palliser Expedition, reported being kicked by his packhorse while exploring the river.  

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The Natural Bridge is an impressive natural rock formation that spans the flow of the Kicking Horse River west of Field.

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One more beautiful lake that we came across before getting to Golden.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) alberta banff kicking horse river lake louise takakkaw falls yoho national park Mon, 21 May 2018 15:28:15 GMT
Jasper to Canmore Toronto to Vancouver (64 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (64 of 102)

After walking around Jasper and having lunch we made our way back to Canmore.  On the way back we stopped off to see some waterfalls.

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Another interesting  stop along  the highway.

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Living in Toronto, I really miss the mountains that I grew up with in British Columbia.  

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This was one of the stops where we just pulled off on the side of the road as it wasn't an actual viewing point.  

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We were lucky enough to see a group of Bighorn sheep.  They were just walking across the highway.  Obviously, these  sheep are named for their large horns.

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Their horns can weigh up to 14 kg(30 lb), while the sheep themselves weigh up to 140 kg (300 pounds).

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The sheep originally crossed  to North America over the Bering land bridge from Siberia.  The population in  North America peaked in the millions, and the bighorn sheep became part of he mythology of Native Americans.  By 1900, the population had decreased to several thousand, due to diseases introduced through European livestock and overhunting.


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After this last stop we headed back to Banff for dinner and then to Canmore. 


]]> (Marsha Fouks) alberta big horn sheep icefields parkway mountains Sun, 06 May 2018 14:04:17 GMT
Canmore to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway Toronto to Vancouver (52 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (52 of 102)

After leaving 3 Hills, we stayed for a few nights in Canmore, Alberta.   We took a day trip to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway.  The total driving distance from Canmore to Jasper is about 311 km (one way) which takes about four hours.  Well that might be the average but for this photographer it took us closer to thirteen hours.  It was definitely worth the drive but we should have spent the night in Jasper.  We got off the highway to check out this lake.

Toronto to Vancouver (53 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (53 of 102)

The Columbia Icefields Parkway is supposed to be one of the worlds most scenic  mountain drives.   I have to agree that the scenery was spectacular.  There are views of some of the highest mountains in the Canadian Rockies with over a hundred visible glaciers.  

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Many of the scenic views are conveniently located next to pullouts or reachable by short walks from the road.  Even if you don't stop, the scenery is stunning. 

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The Turquoise colored lakes were so beautiful.  

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We were pretty far away from this waterfall and  there was no way to get closer that we could see (not that we would have had the time).

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We hiked up to see the Athabasca Glacier.  The glacier currently recedes at a rate of 5 meters (16 ft)per year.  Over the last 125 years, the glacier has receded more than 1.5 km (.93mi) and has lost over half of its volume.

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The glacier is easily accessible so it is the most visited glacier in North America.  You can actually take a bus to the glacier edge, where the coaches transport tourists over the steep grades, snow and ice part way up the glacier.  

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Looking away from the Athabasca Glacier.  The glacier is approximately 6km (3.7mi) long, covers an area of 2.3 square miles and is measured to be between 90-300 meters (300-980 ft) thick.


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The Columbia Icefield was formed during the Great Claiation (238,000 to 126,000 BC).  The Icefield is located in the Canadian Rockies beside  the Continental Divide along the border of British Columbia and Alberta.  The ice field lies partly in the northwestern tip of Banff National Park and partly in the southern end of Jasper National Park.  It is about 325 square km (125 sq mi) in area, 100 meters (330 ft) to 365 meters (1,198ft) in depth and receives up to 7 meters (280in) of snowfall per year.

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We stopped to watch and photograph some Elk beside the highway before heading into Jasper.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) alberta" elk icefields parkway" Sun, 29 Apr 2018 15:28:02 GMT
Driving around the town of Three Hills, Alberta Toronto to Vancouver (41 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (41 of 102)  

   After leaving Dinosaur Provincial Park, we took the slow route back to 3 Hills, Alberta where we were spending the night.  

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The best part of a road trip is getting off the main highways to see what the countryside is all about.  To me this image is what I always thought the Canadian parries would look like.

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The next morning we drove around the area looking for interesting stops.  Our first stop was Dorothy, a hamlet in Southern Alberta which is now almost a ghost town.  The community was named for Dorothy Wilson, a young girl that lived in the area at the time the post office opened.  Dorothy is home to two former churches.  

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The view behind the church.

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The Alberta Pacific  Grain Company began in 1900 as the Alberta Grain Company.  In 1911, the company merged with the Alberta Grain Company Limited to form the Alberta Pacific Grain Company Limited.  In 1967, the company was taken over by Federal Grain.   This  historic  grain elevator was built in 1928 and is protected. 

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Toronto to Vancouver (47 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (47 of 102)

We came across a colorful bridge crossing the river just outside of Dorothy.

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We walked across a suspension bridge to cross the Red Deer River to see  the remnants of the Star Coal Mining camp and mines.

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 Early mine camps around the area (Drumheller) were called "hell's hole" because miners lived in tents or shacks with little sanitation and little comfort.  Drinking, gambling and watching fistfights was the entertainment of the times.  

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In the afternoon, we drove to Horse Thief Canyon which was located in the Red Deer River valley.  The area earned its name during the early settler years when ranching was the main industry.   The legend was that the horses would disappear into the canyons and re-appear with a different branding, hence the name Horse Thief Canyon.  

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Prairie dogs were all over the place- you could see their holes everywhere. When a predator approaches, the first alert that a prairie dog gives is a sharp warning call.  Then it bobs up and down in excitement, calls again and then plunges below.  

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An old abandoned building on the side of the road. 

]]> (Marsha Fouks) alberta badlands canadian prairies dorothy Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:14:38 GMT
Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta Toronto to Vancouver (25 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (25 of 102)

We spent a couple of nights in 3 Hills, Alberta so we could drive to Dinosaur Provincial Park.  The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in the valley of the Red Deer River.  The  whole  area is known for its beautiful badlands topography.  The park is also well known for being one of the richest dinosaur fossil locations in the world.  

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Fifty-eight dinosaur species have been discovered at the park and more than 500 specimens have been removed and exhibited in museums around the world.

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We were fortunate in that it was a beautiful day perfect for doing some of the hikes in the park.

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There was a visitor center which had lots of exhibits about dinosaurs, fossils and the geology and natural history of the park.

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The park was established on June 27, 1955 as part of Alberta's Jubilee Year with the goal of protecting the fossil beds.  Until 1985, discoveries made in the park had to be shipped to museums throughout the world for scientific analysis and display including the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.  This changed with the opening of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology located near Drumheller, Alberta.

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This photo was taken on one of our hikes.  

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The park protects a very complex ecosystem including prairie grasslands, badlands and riverside cottonwoods.  

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Hoodoos are commonly found in the badlands.  The sediments comprising these hoodoos formed between 70 and 75 million years ago during the cetaceous Period as clay and sand sediments were deposited.  These hoodoos are able to maintain a unique mushroom-like appearance as the underlying base erodes at a faster rate compared to the capstones.

Toronto to Vancouver (35 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (35 of 102)

Hoodoos typically form in areas where a thick layer of a relatively soft rock, such as mudstone, poorly cemented sandstone or tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) is covered by a thin layer of hard rock, such as well-cemented sandstone, limestone or basalt.  

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It was an amazing park which I highly recommend taking the time to check out.  

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The ecosystem is surrounded by prairies but is so unique.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) alberta badlands dinosaur provincial park hoodoos Thu, 29 Mar 2018 18:16:44 GMT
Saskatchewan and Southeast Alberta  

Toronto to Vancouver (14 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (14 of 102)  

We stopped to watch a parade in a small town which was fun to watch- the floats pretty much consisted of police cars, ambulances, firetrucks and farm equipment.  It was very cold  and windy out which didn't stop the kids from having fun.    I believe that this town was in Saskatchewan.

Toronto to Vancouver (2 of 2)Toronto to Vancouver (2 of 2)

Fortunately, the weather improved and we had much better weather.   I really enjoyed driving through this prairie province- I found it very scenic. There are some beautiful provincial parks which unfortunately, we did not get a chance to visit on this trip.    Saskatchwan is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota.  The population is only around 1.1 million people and these residents mostly  live in the southern prairie half of the province.

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We spent the night in Regina, which is the capital city of Saskatchewan.   Her is a photograph of the legislative building taken from the park surrounding the building. 

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The legislative building and its grounds were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2005.  

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Ralph and Katie posing in front of Capone's Hideaway motel in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  Moose Jaw is situated on the Trans-Canada Highway, 77 km(48m) west of Regina.   Moose Jaw is home to the Snowbirds, Canada's military aerobatic air show flight demonstration team.  There are rumors that mobster Al Capone used the  Saskatchewan city's tunnels to bootleg booze into the US in the late 1920's.   One of Al Capone's relatives admits that the businesses run by her grandfather and his younger brother Al,  included bootlegging, gambling and prostitution.  The only actual crime that Al Capone was charged with was income tax evasion.   He spent seven years in jail, some of which was spent in Alcatraz.   Deirdre Capone, also said that her family's operation came up "near Moose Jaw"-nicknamed Little Chicago by some.  

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Driving on the Trans Canada Highway was very scenic if you like this type of landscape.  Unfortunately, some of the photos had to be taken in the moving car as there was no place to pull off.

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I believe this is an example of Potash mining.  We didn't stop to check it out so I just photographed through the window.  

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We saw lots of trains along the highway- another shot taken while driving.  

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We drove by lots of grain storage facilities.  

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Established in 1913, Richardson Pioneer was the first company to handle western-grown grain and the first to build elevators in many prairie communities, long before railroads were in the area.  
Today, the company has one of Western Canada's largest networks of grain-handling and  production facilities.

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We did take a few roads off the highway so I could photograph the beautiful canola fields.  

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]]> (Marsha Fouks) canola fields grain elevators saskatchewan Fri, 16 Mar 2018 02:05:31 GMT
Toronto to Vancouver by car, part 1

On June 17th, Ralph, Katie and I left Brampton and drove 4000 km to Vancouver British Columbia, driving on the Trans Canada Highway.   The driving distance was approximately 2,841 miles and took us a total of 16 days.   We drove through Ontario staying in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Wawa, Thunder Bay and Kenora.  Leaving Ontario we drove through Manitoba staying in Brandon with a short stop in Winnipeg.  Then we drove though Sasksatchewan staying in Regina.  We spent quite a few days in Alberta, staying in Medicine Hat, 3 Hills and Canmore.  Finally we arrived in BC staying in Golden and Revelstoke before arriving in Vancouver where we spent just over two months.

Toronto to Vancouver (1 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (1 of 102)

Our first stop on the route was Perry Sound,  a popular cottage country region for Southern Ontario.    Perry Sound, Ontario is located on the eastern shore of Parry Sound.  The area also has the world's deepest natural freshwater port.    I actually went to a summer camp near Parry Sound but of course I didn't recognize the town at all.    We drove up to Tower Hill where I climbed up 117 steps to get this view overlooking the downtown area.  It was a very grey and coolish day but it was still a nice view.  

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Katie and Ralph posing in front of the Big Nickel (a replica of a 1951 Canadian nickel) in Sudbury, Ontario.   The Ojibwe people of the Algonquin group inhabited the area for thousands of years prior to the founding of Sudbury following the discover of nickel ore in 1883 during the construction of the transcontinental  railway.   I had been to Sudbury in the 1980's  for a bridge tournament and had not been back since.   At one time, Sudbury was a major lumber centre and a world leader in nickel mining.  

Toronto to Vancouver (1 of 1)Toronto to Vancouver (1 of 1)

We stayed in Sault Ste. Marie for a night and enjoyed meeting friends whom we had not seen in years.   We had lots of great memories of the Sault as we had come to a few bridge tournaments in this city.  Algoma Steel is  fully integrated steel producer based in Sault Ste. Marie and is the largest employer in the city.  

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In nicer weather we have sailed on the St. Marys River.  The city is well known for the Soo locks where freighters, barges, tugboats and other ships use to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.  The air pollution here can be extremely bad at times when the plants are working at full force.  You can see the industrial plants spewing out the mass of smoke from the the large stacks.  

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We stopped off for a quick hike at Aguasabon Falls which was just off the highway near Terrace Bay, Ontario.  This 100 foot waterfall cascades into the Aguasabon Gorge, flowing along a 2.6 billion year old rock face (granodiorite).   The falls were created in the late 1940's when the north end of Long Lake was dammed up for the Auuasabon hydro development.  The development diverted the water away from  Hudson Bay where the water had traditionally flowed.  This was done to make sure there was an ample supply of water for the Aguasabon generating station.   This had the result of raising the water levels  in Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes.  

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A view of Lake Superior just before we approached Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Driving around the lake was a bit disappointing to me.  First of all we had  cloudy and cool weather during the drive and there were very few places to stop or even see the scenic views even though we were driving along the lake.    I've included this photo just to show what Lake Superior looked like.  Fortunately, on this day the weather was a little better.

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Terry Fox was a Canadian athlete, humanitarian and cancer research activist.  In 1980, with one leg having been amputated, he took on an east to west cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research.   Because of his cancer spreading, he was forced to quit after 143 days and 5,373 km (3,339 mi).    The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.  Over C$750 million has been raised in his name as of January 2018.   The Terry Fox Monument is located in the outskirts of Thunder Bay, Ontario.  This statute marks the place where Fox was forced to halt his run on August 31, 1980.  The actual place where Fox ended the run is approximately 4 kilometers further west.   

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Kakabeka Falls is known as "the Niagara of the North".  It is on the Kaministiquia River, 30 km (19mi)west of the city of Thunder Bay.  These waterfalls have a drop of 130' cascading into a gorge carved to of the Preamvrian Shield.  The Kakebbeka Falls Provincial Park is right off the Trans Canada Highway so it was an easy place to stop and and walk around in.  

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The rock face of the falls and the escarpments along the gorge are made up of unstable shale and are eroding.  As you can see from above, the rocks host sensitive flora and contain some of the oldest fossils in existence, some 1.6 billion years of age.  Due to the fragile rock, going into the gorge below the falls is prohibited.  

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This photo is the top of the Whitecap Pavilion in Kenora, Ontario.  Kenora was actually my favorite Ontario town to stop in during our trip.  The weather was cool but sunny and the town and surrounding area was quite picturesque.  Kenora is very close to the Manitoba border and just 200km east of Winnipeg.  It took us five days just  to drive through Ontario.

Toronto to Vancouver (10 of 102)Toronto to Vancouver (10 of 102)

Leaving Kenora, we made our way to Brandon Manitoba.  This photo on the Canola fields was taken  somewhere in Manitoba, from the road beside the farm.  Canola oil or canola for short is a vegetable oil derived from rapeseed.  This oil has a relatively low amount of saturated fat so is considered safe for people to eat.  Canola is Manitoba's most important oilseed crop.  Its production in Manitoba has grown steadily over the years and it now accounts for the greatest amount of seeded area, followed by wheat.  17.5% of canola farms in Canada are in Manitoba.  

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  Brandon, Manitoba is the second-largest city in the province of Manitoba.  It is located in the southwestern corner of the province on the banks of the Assiniboine River.

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Brandon has a population of about 49,000 people.  It is a major hub or trade and commerce from the Westman region as wells parts of the southeastern Saskatchewan and northern North Dakota, an area with a combined population of around 180,000 people. The city was incorporated in 1882 having a history rooted in the Assiniboine River fur trade as well as its role as a major junction on the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Brandon is known as the wheat city.  To me, this photo looked like it could have been taken in the 1950's.

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The next morning we finished our drive through Manitoba.  The weather was still cloudy and cold.  

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A 4,560-tonne wooden grain elevator in Shoal lake was formerly operated by Manitoba Pool.  It replaced an earlier elevator built in 1973 that was destroyed by a fired in 1980.  Closed by Agricore in mid-2001, the building is now used for private grain storage.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) brandon canola fields kakabeka falls kenora manitoba ontario parry sound sault ste. marie terry fox Sat, 10 Mar 2018 21:54:11 GMT
Captive Wildlife I have been spending the winter in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Its hard to believe but I will only be here for another month before returning to Ontario.  I haven't spent a lot of time photographing -actually I've been spending more time editing older photos but I have had a few opportunities to get out with the camera.   Liberty Wildlife is a conservation and rehabilitation organization in Phoenix.    I was at one of their presentations at the McDowell Preserve so  to start out,  I am including a few of the photos I took at that outing.    I also spent one day at the Phoenix Zoo where the majority of the photos were taken.

Captive Wildlife (1 of 1)Captive Wildlife (1 of 1)

The great horned owl is also known as the tiger owl or the hoot owl.  it is a large owl native to the Americas.  This owl is an extremely adaptable bird and is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas.  The Great Horned Owl was adopted as Alberta's provincial bird on May 3, 1977 by a proven wide children's vote.  This bird lives in Alberta year round.

Captive Wildlife (5 of 20)Captive Wildlife (5 of 20)

The burrowing owl is a small, long-legged owl found throughout open landscapes of North and South America.    These owls get their names since they nest in an underground burrow.  

Captive Wildlife (2 of 20)Captive Wildlife (2 of 20)

The barn owl is one of the most widely distributed species of owl and the most widespread of all birds.  One interesting fact about this bird is that its ability to located prey by sound alone is the best of any animal that has ever been tested.  

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The Harris's Hawk used to be known  as the bay-winged hawk or dusky hawk.  This bird is a medium-large bird of prey that breeds from the southwestern United States to Chile, central Argentina, and Brazil.  While most raptors are solitary, only coming together for breeding and migration, Harris's hawks actually hunt in cooperative groups of two to six.

Captive Wildlife (1 of 1)Captive Wildlife (1 of 1)

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This Bengal tiger shot was taken through the glass at the Phoenix Zoo.   The Phoenix Zoo opened in 1962 and is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States.

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The black swan is a large waterbird, a species of swan which breeds mainly in the southeast and southwest regions of Australia.  When on the ground, a large group of black swans is known as a "bank",  but in flight it is known as a "wedge".  

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White pelicans are large water birds that makes up the family Pelecanidae.   These birds are characterized by a long beak and a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped up contents before swallowing.  While swimming, these birds plunge their heads beneath the surface to check for prey.  

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The Scarlet Macaws  are always fun to photography because of  their vivid colours.  The scarlet macaw is a large red, yellow and blue South American parrot.  

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As well as standing in the water, flamingos may stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food  from the bottom.

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The squirrel monkeys were so much fun to watch.  

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These monkeys have a widely varied diet thats primarily comprised of fruits and insects.  They also are known to eat flowers, buds, eggs, nuts and lizards.  

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These monkeys are covered in fur that is mostly olive or grey in color.  Their faces, ears and throat are white.

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Baboons are African and Arabian Old World monkeys.  There are five different species of baboons.  

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Watching the lions is always fun and this male lion was a bit of a performer.   Lions sleep an average of 15-20 hours a day but fortunately, this guy was awake.  

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Captive Wildlife (20 of 20)Captive Wildlife (20 of 20)

There were a lot of other animals at the zoo but I didn't have time to photograph them all.  I hope to get back there one more time before we head for home.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) captive wildlife owls phoenix zoo Sat, 03 Mar 2018 22:17:05 GMT
The Palouse, part 3 of 3 Palouse (48 of 69)Palouse (48 of 69)

On our last full day in the Palouse, we went up in the hills to photograph the farmers at work.  We were all going to have rides in the machines but unfortunately the tractor broke down before I had a chance to ride in it.

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Wendy and our friend Mark taking a ride on the tractor before it broke down.  The women in the middle was the farm owner's daughter.

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We stopped to look in this old circular barn.

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This shot was taken  inside the barn, looking up at the roof.  

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Driving through the area.

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Another abandoned barn that we drove to later on in the afternoon.  

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A close up view of the old barn.

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Another abandoned barn in a different area.  There  was still  lots of haze and smoke in the skies.

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On our last night, we were invited to Jack's (photo leader) house for dinner.  Before eating we hiked up in the hills on his property to see what the sunset was like.  This shot was taken while we waited for the sun to set.


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A different view from up top.  

This photo was taken facing a different direction.  It was too bad that it was another hazy night.  We really had a difficult time photographing the sunsets on this trip.  There were either no clouds or lots of hazy conditions.


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The next morning we had a few more hours to take some photos before leaving the area and starting our six hour drive  back to Vancouver.

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Two other members of our group visiting with the horses.

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We came across another old abandoned building.

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A grain of wheat that the Palouse is so famous for.

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Another popular barn in the Palouse where photographers like to visit.  

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The last photograph of the trip.  It was a wonderful area to visit and I'm looking forward to returning some year during the spring.

]]> (Marsha Fouks) palouse washington Fri, 09 Feb 2018 20:08:51 GMT
The Palouse, Part 2 of 3 Palouse (31 of 69)Palouse (31 of 69)

One of my favorite places to photograph  was this farmhouse in the hills.  We finally had some nice blue skies (although almost cloudless).  As you will see, I included quite a few photos of the farmhouse all from different angles and perspectives.     

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Palouse (30 of 69)Palouse (30 of 69)

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We stopped along the side of the road to photograph these horses.  I couldn't seem to get the horses to look at me.

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Of course there were a lot of grain storage silos in the Palouse so I had to include a couple of photos.   I liked the shot both in color and in black and white.

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Another abandoned structure falling apart which I found interesting to photograph.

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I liked the photo in black and white as well. 

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Our  photo leader took us to some other beautiful hills where we hiked up to get the views.  This turned  out to be one of my favorite places to photograph.  As you can see I had a tough time limiting the number of photos that I included from this area.  There were so many beautiful patterns in the fields.

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Just before sunset.

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I had to hurry down the hill where I was shooting the sunset photos from so I could make a photo of this tractor with the setting sun in the background.

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I believe the next few shots were taken from the hills in Steptoe Butte.  Steptoe Butte State Park is a publicly owned 150 acre recreation area located 12 miles east of Colfax.  

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Most mornings we were up  bright and early to photograph from different areas.    There were so many different patterns to photograph.

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Even though there was so much colour in the hills, I liked the black and white effect as well.

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The same shot in color.  

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]]> (Marsha Fouks) eastern washington harvest season palouse Thu, 25 Jan 2018 21:49:03 GMT
The Palouse, Part 1 of 3 The Palouse is a region in southeastern Washington and north central Idaho.  It is a major agriculture area which mainly produces wheat and legumes.  At one point the Palouse was Washington's most populated region, even surpassing the Puget Sound (Seattle) area.  Many people have never even heard of the Palouse and I was one of them up until about 3 or 4 years ago.  I saw some photos that a friend had made and they reminded me so much of Tuscany that I really wanted to go.  I was finally able to  arrange  to go on a photo tour of the Palouse last summer.  The tour was led by Jack Lien, a native of the area who was an excellent tour guide.  

Map of the Palouse areaMap of the Palouse area

The above map shows the area of the Palouse where we went.   We stayed in Colfax, Washington. The forest fires in Alberta, BC and Washington made for very hazy conditons which made it challenging for making photos.  As you will be able to see in some of the photos, there is a definite haze in the skies.  Apart from rolling hills in the Palouse, there were also many abandoned barns and other interesting structures  we stopped to photograph.  Since I was there in August, harvest season was in full swing.  In the spring, the hills are alive with greens but during harvest season, there are fields of gold.  I will definitely try to go back in the spring as well since it would be so different.

Palouse (1 of 69)Palouse (1 of 69)

On the first evening we were hoping for a sunset but the air was much too smoky.   You can barely make out the hills in the background.  Still I thought this barn was interesting enough to include it.  Since there was no color, I chose to process  the photograph  in a sepia tone.  

Palouse (2 of 69)Palouse (2 of 69)

During the same night we came across this beautiful lone tree.  Again because of the lack of colours, I liked the black and white version of the photo better than the color one. 

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The next morning we went out to photograph some sunflower fields.  

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There is a well known spot in Whitman Country where you can find a number of old and  colorful farm trucks.  

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Palouse (7 of 69)Palouse (7 of 69)  

Of course being farm country, there were barns everywhere.  I couldn't decide if I liked the photograph in color or black and white better so I included both.

Palouse (8 of 69)Palouse (8 of 69)

Palouse (9 of 69)Palouse (9 of 69)

The rolling hills of the Palouse.  Because I was there in August during harvest season,  there were golden hills  everywhere.  

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I really enjoyed  making photos with the patterns of the fields. 

We went back to  photograph the same tree from the first night.  This time there was a bit more of a sunset but you can still see how hazy the skies were.

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The next morning we were up early to photograph the sunrise.

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This shot and the next few shots show off the patterns of the wheat fields.

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One of the many barns we drove by.

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A very well known wagon wheel fence at Dahmen Barn.  This barn was used as a commercial dairy operation until 1953.  The surrounding wheel fence was built over a 30 year period with contributions from the family and friends.  There are actually wheels from almost  every type  of machine.  Today there are over 1,000 wheels.

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Another abandoned? farm.  We were always careful to not trespass on any of the farms so all shots were taken from the road.  The Palouse is a very popular spot among photographers but unfortunately, there are many who trespass on private/abandoned land  and give a bad name to  the rest of us.  

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Palouse (27 of 69)Palouse (27 of 69)

I really enjoyed the landscape in this part of the world. 

]]> (Marsha Fouks) eastern washington palouse rolling hills Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:34:18 GMT
Banff National Park On our last full day of the tour, we drove into Banff National Park.  We were headed towards Lake Moraine.  We made several stops along the way to photograph the pretty scenery.






We finally arrived at our destination, Lake Moraine.   Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in Banff National Park, 14 kilometers (8.7m) outside of the Village of Lake Louise, where we had driven the previous day.  Its elevation is approximately 6,183 feet.  



We spent a couple of hours at the lake before heading back to Canmore.  

The next morning before heading to the airport, we went out to take a few photos in Canmore.



All in all, it was a wonderful trip.  

]]> (Marsha Fouks) Alberta Banff Canmore National Park Thu, 26 Jan 2017 02:14:46 GMT
Snow at Mount Assiniboine National Park  The day before we were leaving Mount Assiniboine we were fortunate enough to wake up to a winter wonderland.

This photo was taken just hiking around the lodge.



Eventually I made my way down to the lake below the lodge.


It started to warm up in the afternoon and the snow started to disappear off the trees.
On our last day in the park, a few of us went on a different hike.  Much of the snow had melted by now. I still thought this pond was very pretty.


A photo of our group  in front of the lodge waiting for our helicopter to arrive. 

The morning started out pretty foggy so we were a bit concerned about the ride down but the fog disappeared and all was well.  The lodge was actually closing for the season on the day we left.  I watched the helicopter flying in.

One last look at the lodge before walking over to the helicopter pad.

On the way down, I was fortunate enough to sit in the front seat of the helicopter with the pilot.  Here are a few shots taken from the helicopter.



Once back on the ground, we waited for the rest of our group coming down on the next helicopter.

After checking into our hotel in Cranbrooke, we headed out to Lake Louise.  We didn't have a lot of time but it was worth seeing the lake.  We then had a fabulous dinner at the Chateau Lake Louise.  



]]> (Marsha Fouks) Alberta Assiniboine British Columbia Lake Louise Mount Park Wed, 18 Jan 2017 01:22:36 GMT
Another Day in Mount Assiniboine National Park  

The next morning we were up again very early.  This time instead of hiking down to the lake, we photographed a different pond.

Our group went on a different hike after breakfast.  

One of the cabins in the park.


David Muench was one of the leaders of our group.  David is a famous  American landscape and nature photographer and one of the nicest people I have ever met.  


Every where I went I saw some spectacular scenery.  

After lunch a few of us went on a different hike.  

In the late afternoon  we did the difficult hike from the previous day again.  This time we left later in the afternoon and for some reason I found it easier.  Maybe I was getting used to the altitude.  

The photographs were similar from the previous day but of course the light was different.  


]]> (Marsha Fouks) Assiniboine British Columbia Mount National Park Tue, 20 Dec 2016 19:50:29 GMT
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park In September of 2015, I joined a group of photographers to  hike in the Canadian Rockies.  Although I grew up in B.C., this was my first time visiting the Rockies.  

I flew into Calgary to meet the group.  .  You can see from the map above where Mount Assiniboine is (#157).  We left the next morning for the Canmore Alpine Heliport which was about 1 1/5 hours from our hotel.  It was my first ride in a helicopter and it was fantastic.  I had been a bit apprehensive about the flight but once we took off I found it to be an exhilarating experience and enjoyed every minute of the flight.  The flight only lasted about fifteen minutes and was over much too quickly.  

As our group was  waiting  for our flight we photographed the arriving group.  

This photograph was taken from the helicopter.  The scenery was absolutely spectacular.  Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is located in British Columbia.  It is a high alpine backcountry park with no road access.  You can only reach the park by hiking up, cross country skiing or helicopter.  There were some hikers that we met-we were told it takes approximately 9 hours to hike to the lodge from the bottom of the mountain.  

This was my first view of the Mount Assiniboine Lodge.  The main area of the Park is at about 2,180 meters (7,200 feet).  The lodge itself had some rooms upstairs (maybe six or so?) and also many cabins as well as a campground.  Although rustic it had a lot of character and excellent food.  

This was the view of the lake that can be seen from the lodge.  The hike to the lake was only about twenty minutes or so.  However, since there are Grizzly bears in the area it was recommended to never hike by yourself and take certain precautions.  We did hear that the campground had been visited by bears during our stay but I never saw one.

Our group made our way down to the lake once we had settled into the lodge.  Unfortunately, we didn't have the clouds for the sunset.

I was very impressed by the scenery as we made our way back up to the lodge.

We were up early the next morning to photograph the lake.  

We spent about two hours photographing before returning to the lodge for breakfast.  It was quite cold out waiting for the light but it warmed up nicely during the day.  

After breakfast we started off on a hike which proved quite challenging to me.  Along the way we stopped off at a pond to take a few quick photos.


One last photo before we continued our hike.  You can see the peak of Mount Assiniboine in the background (the snow covered peak).  

We arrived at our destination after about an hour of hiking.  It was definitely worth the effort.   

I wandered around the area admiring the fall colors.

We took some more photos before heading back down to the lodge.

Much later on  in the afternoon we headed back to one of the ponds to photograph the sunset.  It was very cloudy out but finally some light broke through.  


]]> (Marsha Fouks) Alberta Assiniboine British Canadian Columbia Mount National Park Rockies Thu, 08 Dec 2016 20:34:23 GMT
Wrapping up my visit to Gros Morne, Newfoundland In the last couple of days in Gros Morne, we spent some time exploring Rocky Harbour and re-visited a few places that we had been to.

20150801_Portfolio Photos_000120150801_Portfolio Photos_0001 There was a popular fish and chips stand in Rocky Harbor.  I didn't try the fish and chips here but I did eat them in a pub one night and they were delicious.

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20150801_Portfolio Photos_000320150801_Portfolio Photos_0003 One afternoon we went back to the Noris Point area, outside of  town.  Here we met lots of very nice people living or summering in the area.  

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20150802_Portfolio Photos_001020150802_Portfolio Photos_0010 Our last sunset photos were taken the night before we left Newfoundland.  We went back to the beach south of Green Point (or as we like to call it, No Name Beach).

20150802_Portfolio Photos_001120150802_Portfolio Photos_0011 A long exposure shot towards the end of the evening.

20150802_Portfolio Photos_000620150802_Portfolio Photos_0006 This next few shots were  taken walking around Rocky Harbour.  

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A view of our cabins in Rocky Harbour.

20150803_Portfolio Photos_000120150803_Portfolio Photos_0001 Sunrise on our last morning.


]]> (Marsha Fouks) Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland Rocky Harbour Thu, 01 Sep 2016 23:19:57 GMT
Gros Morne, July 31st We actually got to sleep in this morning and met at 6 AM instead of 5.30!  We were headed to Woody Point and the Tablelands for the day.

20150731_Newfoundland_000220150731_Newfoundland_0002 On the way we stopped to take a few photos.

20150731_Newfoundland_000720150731_Newfoundland_0007 Woody Point is a town located in the heart of Gros Morne National Park.  The town is a registered Heritage District with a population of approximately 280 people

20150731_Newfoundland_000820150731_Newfoundland_0008 Europeans were slow to settle the west coast of Newfoundland.  The British were concentrated on the east coast and the French were on the Grand Banks.  In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht gave the French some land on the west coast which was extended in 1783 to the entire coast. British settlement also spread and by 1800 the first British settlement in the Bonne Bay area occurred in Woody Point.  When fisherman began to stay during the winter rather than return to England,  a basis for permanent establishment was laid.  By 1904, the French had left the area to pursue fisheries farther up the coast.  By this time Woody Point was bustling.  It was pretty much considered the capital of the area with banking and customs offices, merchants and a harbour full of domestic and foreign vessels.  In 1922, when the town was at its height of commercial success, a devastating fire broke out and 58 buildings were destroyed.  The town never recovered to its  prior bustling state.

20150731_Newfoundland_001020150731_Newfoundland_0010 Our group wandered around the town after breakfast.



20150731_Newfoundland_001220150731_Newfoundland_0012 The Woody Point lighthouse was built in 1919.



20150731_Newfoundland_002020150731_Newfoundland_0020 After exploring Woody Point and eating breakfast our group drove to the Tablelands.   If you remember, I took a photo of the Tablelands my first morning in Gros Morne.  Today we actually spent quite a few hours exploring the area.  After driving on the highway, we suddenly came across a desert-like landscape with little vegetation.



20150731_Newfoundland_002220150731_Newfoundland_0022 The ultramafic rock (peridotite) makes this place look pretty barren.  As mentioned in an earlier blog, the Tablelands is one of the few places in the world where you can see the exposed earth's mantel.  The rock was forced up to the surface millions of years ago during a plate collision and peridotite lacks the nutrients which allow plants to grow.  Apparently because of this, there is virtually no wildlife in this area of the park.

20150731_Newfoundland_002320150731_Newfoundland_0023 There were great clouds today.