Friday, September 25, 2009


MSNBC has a great weekly posting of photos taken from around everywhere. We look at these pictures on a regular basis and compare what we are doing in class with what the professionals are doing around the world.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009



Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The oatmeal can camera project is over and we have done a 180 and now are in the thick of digital photography. There are some basic tips that can make your photos better and we are exploring those. 


This week we have been working with composing. 

1.The first tip is to get on the level of the subject.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The key to a good photograph is understanding the camera and the basics of composition. The following link has a list of the top 10 tips for improving your photos.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Making a camera out of house hold items

For the past two weeks my photography classes have been constructing and taking pictures using an oatmeal can.


The day I announced to them to bring a Quaker Oats can to class to use as a camera was the day the puzzled looks started.

We spray painted, taped, cut, glued, drilled and taped again until we had a light tight can, with a shutter and lens (made from a soda can).

In the darkroom the students were introduced to the developing process.  As a teacher this is one of the most fun and entertaining lessons. The students get so excited as they see a sheet of blank photo paper suddenly come alive with the image.

All students had success...some better than others..but we all had a great learning experience with this project.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Beaches, Sunsets and a Farewell to Spain

We have reached the beautiful Costa de la Luz and the end of our journey. Twenty one days has traveled by quickly. The students are ready to eat hamburgers and taco bell. I will be satisfied with a good Lupe Tortilla fajita...beef. I have not had beef in three weeks. Lots of ham. Lots of day I accidentally selected a pastry (it looked so good) that had sugar and little chunks on top. Silly me, I thought those chunks were pecans...but no they were little pieces of ham. So ham may not be on my list right away.

The other thing that I will be excited to see is a regular toilet. I have been flush challenged on this trip as I try and figure out do I push, pull, or step on it. And this is of course is AFTER I have found the flusher mechanism. 

I am signing off this blog for now. Tomorrow we will return to the beautiful beach one more time.  We will have one last photo class, one last dinner and pack.  We will not have one last full night of rest because we have to get up to leave for the airport at 3 am. 

We have an extremely tough connection flight to make in Paris.  We have one hour from the time we land until the time we take off. We have to change terminals and go through a security check and do this with 18 people.  If you see a picure of Paris on this blog you will know we didn't make it.  Otherwise I will see you all soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Stopping in Seville

After a wonderful stop in Cordova at the centuries old muslim mosque converted to Catherdral we arrived in Seville.  Our accomodations were upgraded from hostel to 4 star hotel. It is nice but our friendly hostel in Grananda still is first place for me.

We roamed around the HOT city (109 degrees) when we first arrived and then went in for siesta to wait for the air to get a little cooler. Even at 8 when we went out it was still very hot.  We stopped for an early dinner and then walked over to the Seville catherdral square. Lots going on there with outside cafes, helado shops, street vendors and outdoor musicians.

The next morning at 9 we met with a city guide that took us around the neighborhood and guided us throught the catherdral and royal palace. Guide was great and very personable.

The highlight of the day was going to eat dinner at the Texas Lone Star Saloon restaurant. Everyone is starved for some food from home.  We took our chances and decided to give it a try.  Several kids had ordered hamburgers during the trip only to get a plate of fried looking spam meat.  They were brave again and this time were pleased to get burgers that resemble what we typically get in the states. I had a chicken taco that was fairly similar.  The service was soooo slow. One brand new cook and 20 different orders. The first group of burgers came out and 1 1/2 hours later my taco came out. Pam took the ones that were finished outside to take "blue hour" photos.  That is the time of the day when it is getting dark but when you leave a long exposure on your camera you will get a blue sky...makes for a beautiful photo. Despite the slow service the kids were thrilled with their meal and many bought souvenirs t-shirts of the place.

Today we went on a scenic river boat ride around the city. We are having siesta now and then going to a flamenco show later.

We leave for Cadiz in the morning. We are planning a day on the beach to celebrate the 4th. 

Sunday, June 28, 2009

After a Week in Granada

We have been in this beautiful city for one week today.  I would have never guessed the things that we would see or do.  We started with five very hectic days with Tino Soriano, the National Geographic photographer.  His use of color is brilliant. The students interacted so well with him and you could see he was making a difference with their work.  We walked the city with him, went to the science park, and photographed a flamenco session under his guidance.  When he left there was a definite sadness in the air.  The kids lined up to hug him goodbye. He gently placed besos on each girls cheek and shook hands and patted the boys on the shoulder.  You could feel the connection.  

He caught his taxi to the train station and life without Tino slowed down.

Our Hostel Costa Azul is great. I would tell anyone to stay here. It is located in a great location...we step out the door and 15 feet in front is a fresh fruit and veggie stand.  Around the corner are lots of outdoor cafes and the market is a five minute walk. We have great AC and hot water...things we some times take for granted.

We have eaten so much food on this trip...except for breakfast of course. The other two meals are big and I have had much more food than what I am used to eating. Madrid was big on tapas and here we are big on variety.  We have had Middle Eastern sharmas, Mexican food,  great pasta, Asian wok and of course lots of typical Spanish food such as paella and tostado espanola. The ice cream is a must.

Our cultural experience has been that of a tourist at times and a local at other times.  We have seen the beautiful cathedral and Alambra and then we go to a tieta where we watch a very famous bull fighter Salvador Vega test the breeding line of several bulls to see if they are contest worthy.  And then today we go by bus to a country club and watch a session of English horse riding as they practice their jumps.  When you throw in the flamenco dancing photography shoot that Tino set up for us it unfolds as a trip with a huge variety of firsts both for the students and for me.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blogging through Spain

 All students are required to keep a blog journal of their trip and post photos as they choose. I am impressed with the quality of their work.  
For those of you interested in their perspective:


Monday, June 22, 2009

Home of the Alambra

Hola from Granada.

We are having our afternoon siesta time right now so I thought I would take advantage of the internet and send an email. We arrived last Wednesday morning into Madrid after a very very bumpy turbulent flight. There was more time spent in turbulence than without...and that is lots of time considering the flight is 8 1/2 hours. After bumping our way to Paris we landed and went across Charles deGualle airport to catch our flight to Madrid. We were joined after we landed by Megan and Davin, our National Geographic group leaders.

They took us across Madrid and let us explore the plazas and museums, the food and the culture. The thing that stands out the most about the culture is the time of the day that people do things. So we have adapted.  

Our first breakfast in Madrid was met with less than enthusiasm. We sat down at these cute little white tablecloth tables with large baskets of bread. Very quickly a "waiter" appeared to pour coffee con leche....very good I might add. Then Megan made some comment about this is what a typical breakfast is like. That was it. Nothing else was coming. I walked over to a table of students and told them to eat up. Clark wanted to know when the bacon and eggs were being served. Oh well, there is always lunch.

So back to the culture...we explored around the city and then would eat lunch around 3 or 4. Explore more and eat dinner at 10 or 11. Walk back to the hostel, shower (with a hand hand hose) and rush to bed about 1 am. It is a different way of life.

We took a day trip to Toledo which was very picturesque and then yesterday we left Madrid by train and came here to Granada, another beautiful, quaint city. The NGeo photographer, Tina Soriano, has joined us now and we are working with him. He is delightful. We had class until midnight last night. We are on Spanish time....sleep late - stay up late. I cannot remember getting to bed before 1 am. The students assignment this morning was at the market place. We roamed around for several hours and then met back at the hostel...which is very nice and I would recommend it. Then we broke into 3 groups for lunch. I took my group to this pasta shop. We thought it was a restaurant but it is a freshly made pasta take out. The food was the best of the trip...homemade ravioli stuffed with cheese and asparagus smothered in freshly grated parmesan. We have aa vine covered patio at our hostel so we just took the food back and ate there...magnifico

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Meet Tino

Today's link will take you to a small video clip on Tino Soriano.  He will be the National Geographic photographer meeting up with the group in Granada.  

Friday, June 12, 2009

June 12

Hello to all in blog land. 

I remember the first time I heard about a blog. 

 ?!@# = blog. 

 This is what I thought...or didn't think. I just thought it was an odd name with an odd functionality. OK, I was wrong...about the functionality...the name is still odd. But as I journey to Spain with this summer school class I can certainly understand why one would blog. The National Geographic blog will be if you would like to read another entry from this trip.

Spain 2009 Itinerary

June 16:  Fly from Houston International Airport, on Air France flight #33 to Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, connecting to Air France flight #1400 to Madrid.  

June 17 – 21: Hostal Nuria, Madrid  C/ Fuencarral, 5229004 Madrid, Spain

Your National Geographic Student Expedition leaders will meet you this morning upon your arrival in Madrid. During our orientation, we'll get acquainted as a group and explore Madrid. Begin working in photography teams. Visit the city’s lively neighborhoods and examine museums such as the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, Reina Sofía, and Casa Sorolla. Have a picnic lunch in the Parque del Buen Retiro, and a take a rowboat ride on the lake for views of the grand monuments and parklands.

June 21 – July 1:  Hostal Costa Azul, Granada

C/ Rosario, 5

18001 Granada, Spain

Ride the train to Granada. Here, we’ll spend the days exploring this lively Andalusian city and the surrounding countryside with cameras in hand. See the tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in the Renaissance cathedral. Take the back road up to the Alhambra, and visit the gravity-powered fountains of the Generalife gardens. Visit nearby sites of interest such as Córdoba, Ubeda, the Sierra Nevada and the hamlets of the Alpujarras. National Geographic expert Tino Soriano will join the group during this portion of the trip.

July 1 – 4: Hotel Fernando III, Sevilla

C/ San José, 21  
41004 Sevilla

In Sevilla, continuing to work in photography teams, we’ll visit the old Jewish quarter of Barrio de Santa Cruz as well as historical sites such as the cathedral, the Giralda tower, and Alcázar. Explore the vast Parque de María Luisa and the ancient Roman city of Itálica.

July 4 – 6: Hotel Monte Puertatierra, Cádiz

Avda. de Andalucía, 34

E-11008 Cádiz, Spain

The program concludes in the lively seaside city of Cádiz. Sample delicious seafood in sidewalk cafés. Explore the rich maritime history of the city. Swim or relax on the sparkling beaches of Costa de la Luz. The final nights feature presentations of photography projects.

July 6: Fly Málaga-Paris-Houston via Air France flight #2631 connecting to flight #36, arriving at the International Arrivals area at Houston International Airport at 1:55 PM local time.

Mail should be sent via airmail, c/o National Geographic Student Expeditions, where mailing addresses are indicated.  Please allow at least 10 days for delivery of mail to Spain.

Sunset on the Amazon

Sunset on the Amazon
We had some of the most spectacular sunsets. Our cabanas over looked Piranha Laguna. From our open air lodge you could see the most beautiful close to the day.

National Geographic Ecuador Group

National Geographic Ecuador Group
We gathered with Massimo (front and center) for a group shot before he had to leave us and return to Italy. We are all back in Houston now and have made many wonderful memories.

White water tubing

White water tubing
In freezing cold river water, our group loaded onto two tube rafts for an adventure ride. Lots of gasping for breath as the cold water hit the body, lots of screams as your tube raft headed into the rapids, and lots of smiles from everyone.

Watching and waiting for Hummingbirds

Watching and waiting for Hummingbirds
Biologist, Nicki, names some of the birds that we are trying to photograph.


Day four started with a ride across the canopy in the tarabita.

Bug Hunting Hikes

Bug Hunting Hikes
In the evenings, when it is not pouring down rain, we hunt along the road for nocturnal critters. It is quite entertaining to see the students excitedly looking under leaves and rocks. I would have to say that Callie and Madeleine Ham won the most critters found award for our time in Mindo.

Making Chocolate

Making Chocolate
As one drops the cocoa beans into the press the other pushes down and out come delicious chocolate. We had bananas, kiwis, apples, and pineapple to dip. We even had left overs....wish I knew where that tub of chocolate was.