Tuesday, October 31, 2023


Halloween in Spain can be a special place or a spooky expereince.

A dreary street, though kids and clowns think alike.

"Ain't no thing as having too much fun!"

Since the restaurants don't open for dining until 8:00 pm here,
popped into a pub for a refreshment. Not expecting to have to stare at this while relaxing...

Why do they have to be old folks, can't young people be scary too?

Hmmm, well, yes they can. Some souls seem to float along like ghosts on parade in the night.
Mirages... reflections... whisps of ghouls and spirits.

Can one see a free spirit in a mirror? Or is that only a vampire thing?

Amparo wanted to get her face painted like this couple, 
but they left their makeup kits at home. 
Sorry girl... maybe next year.

So she settled for a pose with Jack Sparrow's daughter and a vampiress.


Learned a new Spanish word - SETAS???

 Have always been a curious person.  Some say I ask too many questions. But...

Long ago I was taught that mushrooms are called hongos or champiñones in spanish. 

Here in Spain, mushrooms are referred to as setas.

Learning new words, experiencing different cultures, feeds your brain valuable nutrients. 

Too bad knowledge and setas aren't easing our sore feet from all the walking.   lol


Friday, October 27, 2023

VALLADOLID, SPAIN - Spooked in the Mercado del Val

Today I had a really ominous feeling as I walked over to the Mercado del Val. 
That enclosed marketplace... 

Right off the bat, in front of the statue " The Chiseler? " 
with his mallet and sharp chisel in hand.
I was photo-bombed...

Minutes later walking pass a second hand store, three figurines jumped into view...
an exotic performer...   a Spanish Toreador (bullfighter)...  a little blonde girl... 

What do they represent?

Spinning around, a gossamer mirage of a painted lady is staring in my direction...
there but not really there... 
Tilt your head slightly, she disappears, 
only to re-appear if you look into her eyes.

My hands goes out, but an invisible barrier protects her...
or is a reflection or reality?

Where does that street go?

Walking a bit further, am taken aback mid-stride...
as I try to understand the significance of this in a Christian city.

Unknown man covered by a long robe, face hidden, tall pointed hood...
offering what to a golden haired child?

Is this the same little girl we saw in the shop window?

Something about a secret society, Knights Tem....

Why all of this so early in the day?

Men in hoods, dancing godesses, stranger photo-bombing, haunting female mirage, a bullfighter's stare... ?
Is any of this real ?

Riding the motorized ramp up into the market, all is unusually hushed, 
a chill hangs in the air. 

Where are the people?

Had that old feeling of a thousand eyes staring at my back,

raising the hair on the back of my neck. 

Unblinking suspicious eyes watching my every move.

Who would be intently staring at me? Why?

How many of them are there? Shall I make a break for it?

Spinning quickly around, I confront...

there,...  there...   there...  hundreds of eyes... 
silently... staring... 

frozen... unmoving...  unfeeling...  always watching!

A woosh from the dark recesses above suddenly releases a cascading cloud of white.
As the crystalized mist envelopes the  school of wide eyed coho,
the steely-eyed lady in a trenchcoat waits, unfliching, 
braced for the wave of cold to dissipate.

Quietness once again reins throughout the dark hall...

until the soft touch of a shopkeeper is heard methodically squeezing, testing, smelling,
carefully placing her fruit,
hoping to appeal to skeptical shoppers seeking a bargain of her best.

Suddenly a loud slap comes from around the corner, making me cringe at a familiar sound...  
WHAP... WHAP...  CRACK..! the sound of bones breaking! 

A focused Spanish maiden with a broad razor sharp cleaver expertly separates a foot from the leg.
With a well trained eye and fast hand, she quickly splits the whole into parts 
with a...  WHAP... WHAP...  CRACK..! 
Sounds of a blood sport!

I fear she could remove my gizzard with a swift twist of the knife.
Gizzards here are sold by the Kg.

The glow of many weird colored lights illuminating the meat on display
plays games with my mind. Different vendors have different glows.. a secret code?

Anxiety is calmed when warned, these special lights are to keep the red meat 
 free of bacteria...  insects. 

Or is it to cover up the smell of fresh blood?

With hundreds of pounds of soft animal flesh being chopped, sliced, slivered and weighed each day,
am taken aback how their white shirts and sleeves are free
of red stains, blood splatters. 
Too clean... too professional... too clever.

As morning shoppers slowly mingle in from who knows where, 
the hassling and bargaining over prices versus quantity grows in intensity and volume.

Once the haggled amount is settled, her credit card takes a quick swipe.

While the meat vendors are competing to sell the same cut of flesh
 to a limited number of consumers,
a ray of sunshine radiates from the cheese merchant.

He offers a relaxed friendly smile.

Because maybe he is the only cheese vendor in the marketplace? 
There is no competition, he is not haggling today.
Pay his price or leave empty handed.

An angry customer complained, "Your prices are too high,!
Your sign says 'Popular Prices'".

The merchant softly smiles: "Well, I like them."

After waiting many years
I finally get to use this expression...

"Oh, what a pear!"

Happy Halloween everybody!
Feliz Dia de los Muertos Muchachos!


Not a footnote, but a foot joke:

Have heard that beef in Spain would be sparse on Monday, 
were it not for the losing bulls on Sunday...
Toreadors  3,   Bulls  0...


Wednesday, October 25, 2023


The Sunday walk starts cool with a bit of sunshine...
the temperatures dropped last night to 47 degrees.

By noon, the clouds start to roll in, 
soon followed by the daily drizzle.

And a child shall lead them...
"Grandma, where is your umbrella?"

And he did!

The drizzle grew to the point where if you had remembered your umbrella, 
it was open.

That's a day.
Time to return to the apartment for a warm cup of coffee.

Stay dry, stay warm my friends.


Sunday, October 22, 2023

VALLADOLID, SPAIN - Wandering sidestreets and alleyways

After three trips to the supermarkert and one to a Dollar General type store, we are finally settled into the one bedroom apartment here in Valladolid. Where we will be for the next month.  Several people have asked us what our sightseeing agenda is while here. The fact is... there is no agenda. We are just living in Spain for a month. After having done the tour group thing in several  Europe countries, we wanted to relax and immerse ourselves in the daily life of the people of central Spain. 
We are not on the southern Spanish coast with it's whitewashed houses, bright sun, deep blue Mediterranean, all awash with tourists and high prices. We are in the northern central plains of Spain, 
the affordable wine country.

Last night we dined at a small (eight table) highly rated restaurant. By arriving as they opened at 8:30 without a reservation, we were given one of the last unreserved tables for two. Food and service were excellent. Amparo's tempura salad with Rueda wine, my meat dish with cold beer and a chocolate desert set us back a total of US$34. Would be double if not more than that if a tourist destination restaurant.

Right now we are trying to adjust to the daily routine of when shops are open and when they are closed. Many if not all businesses close mid-day or 1 p.m. and reopen around 4 or 5 pm, staying open until 8 or 9.  Many restaurant are open for lunch then close around 2 before reopening around 8 - 8:30 p.m. The supermarket and street cafes that serve coffee and drinks, but no food, are open all day. 
Sound confusing? It is for us. There is no set time for all businesses to open and close. 
Their hours depends on what type of business they are. Even then, they all don't have the same hours...

That said, if you want to have a relaxed conversation with a waitress at a nice restaurant, arrive before 8:30 p.m.,  before the first wave of locals arrive around 9:10 p.m. After nine, she will be too busy taking drink orders, serving food, etc. leaving no time to visit. If you do not have reservations for evening dining, keep walking until you find a lesser know place. Who would have thought you need to make a reservation to eat pizza on a Saturday night!

It's not them, it's us. 
We're the unknowing foreigners trying to adapt.


The following photos were taken over several days. Just showing you what the section of the city where we are staying looks like. Most days were overcast. But the sun would peek out for a bit now and then 
offering lighting contrast for photo work.

Monday I went looking for a dry cleaners to drop off a few items.

Having a city map in the back pocket was no guarantee...  so I wander.
Found a nice modern looking fountain on a colorful deadend plaza.

Near the dry cleaners is the renovated city Mercado del Val (public marketplace). 
I wanted to go inside but it was closed for mid-day siesta. 

Rather than just an open square marketplace as found in most Latin American cities, several century's back the King built a covered structure so farmers and craftsmen could be out of the weather to sell their meats and produce. It offers year-round weather protection, better sanitation, and keeps the roving livestock out. 

When I return to pick up my garments in a few days, will try to get in.

Finally located the dry cleaners by asking a shopkeeper. 
Discovered they had moved one street over from the address Google gave me. Never would have found it if I had not asked the lady... how do you say dry cleaners in hand language?

Street signs are found everywhere here making it easy if you walk slowly, though I can still get turned around. Which is fine, as I am discovering interesting little side streets and plazas. 

Don't have to be anywhere today, just keep walking until a recognizable landmark appears.
Once I thought I was lost, turned a corner and there is the GADIZ supermarket I had gone to several times already. Had just never approached it from the opposite direction.

Am finding many large and small fountain plazas scattered around the city. This particular fountain fronts the Museo de la Academia de Caballeria, or Calvery Academy Museum, which was the Royal horse and rider training facility in its day.

In my mind, I can hear Dad saying "That's quite the horse barn"!
Dad grew up on a farm with horses.

Interesting small fountain with statues and a spinning golden globe. 
Behind it is a manta ray looking transit shelter. The city buses here are either hybrid and electric. 
All very clean, no ugly graffiti and very quiet. One must look BOTH ways before crossing a street.

Might be a chain business as have seen several of these El Norte de Castilla newsstands.
This region of Spain is also known as Castilla y León.

The Spanish middle class are very fashion conscience, rarely going out unless dressed in the latest trend.
In a few days everyone will be wearing heavy jackets and coats as the temperature is forecast to drop.

Finally the sun came out, for a short time.  I was able to quickly catch a high contrast image.
A museum courtyard catches some warm morning rays.

Business is slow today for this cafe,  yet it is near a palace, 
a museum, a police station, a school, 
and a historic cathedral. 

As I wandered down a narrow side street, the sun popped out creating a nice warm contrast 
on the stucco walls. To give it some scale, included this man doing chores.
Valladolid is a very clean city. We find all of Spain to be very clean.

Actually I knew this alleyway from last year.
It can have great light, has a nice curve to it, the warm stucco walls bounce a soft light.  
It's rich simplicity works offers great photo opportunities.

Other nearby streets are short, straight, narrow, but colorful. 
Being such, it's the subject matter in the frame that makes for an interesting photo.

Other than the stone pavement, these two photos 
don't even look like they are from the same city on the same day. 
It all has to do with sunlight, time of day, and wandering.

This is the first street musician I have seen in Valladolid.
 He gets an "A" for effort "learning" the saxophone. The sign in front of him says Spanish dance music. Not sure what kind of dancing he was referring to as the tune he was dragging out note by note was so slow it sounded like a New Orleans funeral dirge. Or maybe that was his intent?

Nevertheless, felt sorry for him so dropped a few extra coins in the case.
(Why only coins you ask?)
 The smallest paper currency demonination here is five euros (That's US$5.30).
Euro coins are €2, €1, 50¢, 20¢, 10¢, 5¢, and 1¢.

Will try to find him again to strike up a conversation.

The next day it rained, all day. Not a heavy rain just a constant drizzle. No walking about.
Stayed indoors, studied a photo composition book and made a healthy chicken noodle soup 
that Amparo loved.

Stay safe, ride far my friends,


Thursday, October 19, 2023


Once again Amparo and I are in Valladolid. We are drawn here by its rich history, medieval architecture, lack of international tourists and its walkable neighborhoods. The weekend tour groups we see in the old Plaza outside our apartment are made up of mainly Spaniards. The Spanish people are aware of the important role Valladolid played in its history. Yet most of the world has never heard of the city that was the epicenter of the Spanish Court in the 1400's, when it financed Christopher Colombus's first and subsequent voayages to the New World, a city where Christopher Colombus died, where Miguel Cervantes lived for a time and Juan Zorilla was born. We are glad we found it before it becomes spoiled with tourism.

Looking out from our third floor balcony, are the ruins of an earlier church that was partly torn down to make room for the new, now old, Cathedral in the 1500's.

Looking directly down at the street, we can watch the constant parade of one way traffic. Here is one of the all electric articulating city buses. It is fastinating to watch these extra long mechanical snakes navigate the tight turns and corners in the old section where we are.

Rain was the forecast for today, though mainly overcast, as we only felt a few drops.

Oh, I would remiss if I did not mention we are in the heart of a thriving Spanish wine growing area.
It's five o'clock somewhere...  enjoy!

At one time, Valladlod was the royal and cultural center of the Iberian pensula. The intellectuals of Spanish literature thrived here under the patronage of the royal court.

Miguel D. Cervantes lived and wrote here for a few years. 
Like Hemingway, Cervantes traveled a lot, living in many different Spanish cities.

We commented over dinner tonight that one does not hear any English spoken in the streets 
or in the restaurants here. 

Since Amparo and I speak English/Spanish at home, we often slip back and forth between the two, many times in the same sentence. That happened here when talking to a store clerk. Poor girl looked puzzled, then started looking for someone to translate our English. In most major European cities, the brand name store clerks are bi-lingual. Not here.

Here it's 100% Castilian with a lovely rhythm that resonates.

That wraps up our first days in Valladolid. 


P.S. Yes, I am back to taking color photographs after having completed my twelve month commitment to only photograph in black & white. I learned a lot, enjoyed the challenge, can see where it is helping me create stronger images. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

ITALIA - Stories of old written in monochrome

Ever reflect on how certain activities in your life seem to come and go
like waves in the ocean?  Usually we finish one major project before moving on to the next challenge. It might be several years before you revisit an activity similar to the one you just completed. That's how it goes for me with books and their publishing.

Be it books on travel, photography, or motorcycle sidecar trips, seems like I'll scratch that itch till I'm satisfied, then am off on another project of a different nature.  Makes for a life-fulfilling variety of challenges. And yet, I relish revisiting old passions with a renewed point of view.

After producing eleven books on everything from motorcycle sidecar travel, to folk sayings, to photography, to foreign travel, and then nothing for several years, I now have two books premiering this year. 

In a recent post on 09-28-2023, was the introduction of  SOLITUDE, a lonely story written in monochrome. It laced together ten images captured between 2009 and 2022. Can I say it took 13 years to create look?

Today I introduce my newest, my lucky thirteen;  ITALIA.
It is a travel photography book built around seventy black & white images captured over several weeks while roaming northern Italy in 2022. From the congested boulevards of daytime Rome to the vacant Roman alleyways after dark, from narrow slices of life in Tuscany to a drizzling rain-low fog experience in Venice. Many of the images were captured during our after-midnight walks exploring these beautiful, romantic Italian cities.

Photos always express it better than words. Here are a few sample pages to give you a taste of what it is inside.

The cover...

The first chapter is all about Rome...
a cosmopolitan city rich in history and culture, full of beauty, romance, and mystery.

The second chapter is Tuscany, Florence and San Gimignano
Italian country life at a more relaxed pace, with a vibrant artistic history.

And finally Venice, the third and last chapter. 
 Though it was rainy and overcast most of the time we were there, it undeniably has its unique cache of unforgettable Italian history, beauty, and grace.

So is thirteen the wrap? The end of creating visual stories? 
Not by a long shot! 

Have several in the staging phase and still another simmering on the brain's back burner.

Of course, I need to work in a few sidecar trips so I don't forget how to ride... hmmm that's not possible.

Image making and open road motorcycling, 
wind in the face, seeking vistas that pique the eye.

Life is best lived when awake...


Friday, October 6, 2023


One is never too old to learn new skills. Photography has such a wide depth of genres to pursue, one cannot learn, let alone master all of them in a lifetime. But one can spend time learning new techniques and skills that can be applied to your area of interest.

As I have suggested to many young people, how can you know what you like if you don't know what you dislike? That is why we encourage young people to date many different people, try many different types of food,  careers, etc, it applies to all avenues of life. Discovering what you like, what you are good at, what comes naturally, also means having to learn what does not appeal to you. 

None of us are blessed with the same exact skill sets or abilities. The key to having a meaningful life is to find what you are good at, find what you enjoy doing, what fits well with your abilities and interests, then pursue it with a passion. It can be one or several talents that fits you, but never everything. Even the world's smartest people are still dumb at many things. 

The story goes, a new hire tells a co-worker, "I know everything about everything, but can't do anything. 
The co-worker pauses, then asks, "So where did you get your PhD?

Okay, bad joke... back to image-making...

Last weekend, I spent two days attending photography classes on portrait work and lighting. 
I learned I do not like using lights nor working in a studio to create images. 

I like finding natural lighting for my images, whether outdoors or by a window if indoors.
Natural lighting creates the mood and settings that excites me.

The visiting instructors were all very skilled professional photographers who make a very good living creating portraits that sell.  With every image they capture, their first thoughts are: "Can I sell it?"

I am retired and don't wish to start a new business. I enjoy photography as a creative outlet, a challenge to stimulate thinking, seeing, and then capturing the vision I have in my mind.  
And when possible, sharing those images with others who enjoy the visual experience.

The University brought in several young aspiring models for the workshops.  

Following are four images that I created. While others were quick to shoot the models, I would study the model, see how they walk and carry themselves, listen to how they talk, perceive how they feel about themselves, learn what their goals are...

All the while, my mind is processing this information to conjure up an image of what it is that I see in them.  Then deciding how to create that vision with the camera.

Our first model is a seventeen year old young man who creates Tik-Toks videos. He heads off to college next year. There is a promising future in store for him. He has his eyes focused on his future.

Model #2 is shy, quiet, yet confident and intense. Struggling to learn the English language probably contributes to that. 
She cares a great deal about how she is perceived and accepted.

Model #3 is only thirteen years old, yet has a wisdom far beyond her age. 
One might say she has an old soul.  

While being shadowed by her mother, she is at first shy and reserved, 
but once in front of a camera,
 her heart, feelings, and emotions blossomed forth.

Our final model #4, has that classic 1960's look and demeanor of French actress Catherine Deneuve. Again a young lady in her teens, but with a timeless look and beauty far beyond her years.

All four models were a pleasure to work with. They tolerated my stupid jokes when trying to relax them, were patient while I struggled to find the right camera settings, willing to repeat a pose or try a new one.

It is easy to claim to be a portrait photographer when you have four beautiful models to work with. 
Thank you all.

While much of the workshop was geared toward being a full-time professional photographer, 
I still learned a few techniques that I can apply to my style of image-making.  

The two days were well spent. Thank you Precision Camera for hosting it.