Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last post of 2011... Happy New Year everyone!

I had grandiose plans to do a year in review post BEFORE Christmas and send an email to friends and family so they could connect here to see what the highlights of 2011 were in my corner of the world as well as my travels that took me here and there. Those of you who only want to view the images may do so by clicking on the first one to get a window that blows it up larger and allows you to step through the images. Friends and family who might want to know what else has happened in my life besides what is represented by the these images are encouraged to read to the very end where I'll share some news of a personal note not included along with the images.

I am currently sitting in a cozy B&B in Red Lodge, Montana looking at last night's snowfall as it has settled on the pine tree outside the window... and I'm thinking I should motivate to go outdoors and take some more pictures... BUT I'm so far behind on the ones I've taken over this past year that I decided to try to post a few here in the next hour or so before heading out to lunch! Here's wishing you and yours the best of everything in 2012!

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Cardinal images from my back yard during January snow storms.

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One of several collages from images taken on a February photo outing with cousin Jane and friend Susie... we went from Bethesda, MD to Shepherdstown, WV for lunch and wandering around to take photos... then we were off to my potter's home and studio near Sharpsburg, MD before heading back to Bethesda. These images are of a church on one of the back roads we took to get to Shepherdstown, a view (upper left) from the scenic lookout on 270 before you get to Frederick, MD and sunset from Boonsboro, MD.

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In March, I glanced out the window when I noticed the birds were chirping excitedly but none were at the feeders... what a treat to see this Sharp-shinned Hawk so fascinated with the birds hiding in the rose brambles that he wasn't the LEAST bit interested in me as I crept closer and closer to get some marvelous images... here are two!

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Squirrel antics in April at a newly purchased "squirrel proof" feeder... of course they soon figured it out and it no longer keeps the rascally thieves from stealing the bird feed.

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Floral images from a May Greenspring Garden macro workshop with Blue Ridge Workshops. Digitalis, Columbine, Lavender and phlox look alike whose name I cannot recall.

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Trying to choose just one collage of images from our June trip to Sweden is quite impossible since we packed so much into the trip. We visited family in Göteborg and Vägsele and saw many sights in between visiting with family. Here we are on the road from Vägsele to Tärnaby with cousins Sture and Inger. We stopped alongside the Blue Highway, a most scenic route, to have a morning coffee and snack break. (the two church photos are not at the roadside stop; they are of Stensele Kyrka) Seated at the picnic table from the lower left is myself, my sister, my brother and in the right rear coming forward is our cousin Sture, my brother's partner and Sture's wife Inger. If you want to know more about our trip to Sweden, Start with this post and work your way forward through newer posts... I STILL have not finished this trip diary!

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Going along with the theme of not finishing the Sweden trip diary... here is a collage from Iceland where my brother, his partner and myself spent three days in July en route home from Sweden. I've barely begun sorting through the scenic photos from Iceland but have managed to put together one collage of bird images from our boat trip to see the Puffins who have established large colonies on two islands in Reykjavik Harbor.

August seems to have been a month for staying indoors due to the heat and attempting to catch up with SOME of my image processing and blogging... So no photo to represent August!

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September found me spending 11 days in Montana and 10 days in Colorado which spilled over into October. The time in Montana was spent in and around Red Lodge, as usual, staying at my vacation home and spending time doing some fix-up chores as well as spending time with friends I see once a year (or more, depending). I never tire of Montana scenery but am going to share an image of Clouded Sulphur butterflies on Spotted Knapweed (taken near Red Lodge, MT, at the West Fork of Rock Creek near the Silver Run parking lot) to represent the month of September.

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With apologies to those of you who have seen this already, For October I am again sharing a collage of Hipstamatic (iPhone camera app) images since one of the best things I've discovered recently thanks to John Barclay and Dan Sniffin and their MARVELOUS Colorado Photo tour is iPhoneography!

sunrise at the 59th street pier in Ocean City, NJ
This image of sunrise at the 59th Street pier in Ocean City, NJ is from another workshop with John Barclay, this time in partnership with George Brown. We spent a mid-November weekend at Cape May, NJ with an early morning trip to Ocean City to photograph this fabulous sunrise! One of the reasons that it has taken me so long to sort through images this year is that I've taken quite a few workshops... and done a fair bit of travel as well! I've certainly learned a LOT about how to improve my photographic skills, both in the field and afterwards with post-processing.

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December finds me in Montana although I'm not staying at my house over the first of the year because it's rented! I'm staying at the Irish Rose B&B which is a lovely place to stay. It has snowed at least part of every day since my arrival a few days ago and this makes the skiers very happy. I'm not skiing but have been out and about getting a few lovely wintry scenes while here. The first of the two images above was taken on the road from Laurel to Red Lodge and the second was taken at the bridge over the West Fork of Rock Creek at the entrance to the Silver Run parking area.

And now, for some personal notes... in addition to the many highlights represented by the images above, 2011 had some notes of sadness as well. Our half-brother Robin passed away in April after a valiant battle with cancer. Many of us were with him at the end and we celebrated his life with many people in the town of Easton, PA where he had lived since retiring from the phone company around 24 years ago. He was very highly thought of in the town of Easton on the Delaware River and will be missed by many.

In 2011, there were three new additions to my family... Nephew Dan (brother Larry's son) and his wife Wendy added a sister for Elliott (who is now 3) in July when their adorable daughter Holly was born on July 3rd. Nephew Michael (sister Val's middle son) and his wife Dawn welcomed their son, Ethan, on August 24th, making Val a grandmother for the first time. And my niece Lauren (brother Larry's daughter) and her husband Justus welcomed daughter Cora Jane on November 25th making Larry and his wife Chris grandparents for the third time. All are healthy, happy babies... I can't wait to meet them!

And last, but not least, I requested that my significant other of nearly 20 years move out of my house in Bethesda, which he did in November. We were not married but had been together for a long time so, in that respect, there is some sadness at the loss of such a long-term relationship. However, I am very happy and am feeling so much better these days! I look forward to a new year filled with more adventures in photography, more travel and greater peace of mind. Best wishes to all who make it this far for a wonderful 2012!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Images from Cape May, NJ - Photography Workshop

I am SO FAR behind with this blog... I will possibly never catch up. I've recently been on another marvelous photography workshop... this one led by John Barclay and George Brown to Cape May, NJ. Cape May is at the southernmost part of New Jersey and has the Delaware Bay to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east... making for beautiful sunrises and sunsets this time of year. Although I'm not really a morning person, I think you will agree that some of the images that can be had when one rises EARLY in the morning are truly spectacular! Without spending TOO much time on captions... I'm just going to post a few and give you a link at the end to a slide show in case you want to see more. Enjoy... Larger images are available by clicking on the smaller ones... look for the X in the upper right corner of your browser to close the large image and get back to the blog (took me awhile to find it on my 24" iMac screen).

sunlight on ocean waves
Golden glow of early morning light on waves...

sunrise at the seashore
Early morning light on the horizon as waves break over pilings and the shore...

Crepe Myrtle leaves
Fall colors of Crepe Myrtle... bokeh from color reflected in metal siding on the wall behind the tree.

Fire engine at the Firehouse Museum
A six shot HDR image of the old fire engine in the Cape May Firehouse Museum.

Cape May lighthouse at sunset
Sunset at Cape May with a distant view of the lighthouse across the way.

sunrise in ocean city, nj
Sunrise at the 59th Street Pier in Ocean City... cannot believe I had to get up at 4:10 AM to participate in this photo shoot! This is just one of many images from that morning and is a 30 second exposure while using a VND (Variable Neutral Density) filter.

another ocean city sunrise
Another view of the sunrise with the color tweaked to give it a different feel.

long exposure of sunlight on the water at sunrise
Another picture of early morning sunlight on the water... lost count of how many similar images I took!

If you want to view more from the workshop, there is a slide show available that also includes some additional images that I will be posting later on this week if I find the time. Images in the sideshow that were taken with my iPhone start with the image titled "Moon in the sky during sunrise..." and end with the series of images demonstrating a post processing technique I'll talk more about when I post the rest of the images here (or in my other blog).

I do so admire those of you who manage to post regularly. I honestly have no clue how you manage it... probably by being more focused and disciplined about it than I am! One of the reasons I've been missing for the past month or so has to do with having had quite a bit of upheaval in my personal life. Without going into great gory detail, I will just tell you that I'm finally free of a burdensome relationship and am feeling MUCH lighter as a result. Sometimes things just do not work out and that was the case with myself and the guy who has been living with me for the past (almost) 14 years. He has moved out and I am moving on and enjoying myself quite a bit these days.

Linking to The Creative Exchange which I recently discovered by browsing someone's blog.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Something new and different... iPhone images from Colorado!

Regular followers may have been waiting for me to continue posting about my Sweden and Iceland trip of June/July. However, I ran out of time to finish those posts before taking another trip... this one to Montana (more about that eventually) and Colorado. The main reason I went to Colorado was to take a Photo Tour of Colorado with John Barclay and Dan Sniffin, two marvelous photographers who have been leading such tours for many years.

The tour was not only terrific fun... I learned an incredible amount of tricks, tips and techniques for post processing. Improved post processing of my images has already resulted in increased attention to my posts on both Flickr and Facebook.

Some of the MOST fun was discovering iPhoneography... thanks to John and Dan, I've spent a few dollars on more applications (hereafter referred to as apps) for my iPhone, learned a few tricks to improve my ability to take pictures with it and had LOADS of fun with both taking pictures and processing the images after capturing them.

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This collage has images from several different locations all over the area between Ouray, Silverton, Durango, South Fork, Creede and Fairplay, Colorado. All were taken with the Hipstamatic app set for Kodot film using the John S lens.

The center image is of a barn seen near Bayfield, CO (more on that later in this post); the phone booth was on the side of the Silver Thread highway not too far outside South Fork (you all do know what a phone booth is, right?). ;-) The cute house in the lower left was just as cute inside (the tenant moving in that day invited me in to see it when she saw me taking a picture of the outside), the Coca Cola cooler and assorted relics of bygone days were on the porch of the general store (closed on Sunday) in Creede, the Aspens were everywhere so I'm not at all sure where I took those two photos and the Shaft Restaurant is one of the two places in South Fork where I had dinner while staying at the Arbor House B&B there for two nights... I HIGHLY recommend staying at the Arbor House if you ever find yourself in South Fork. The rest of the images were all taken at the South Park Museum in Fairplay, Colorado, an open air museum set up to show how people lived in that area in the late 1800s. It was a fascinating place and I could have spent more time there if only I didn't have to drive to Denver to catch a plane home that day!

The next two collages show the steps in taking the red barn image from the original (taken with the Apple supplied iPhone Camera app set to take an HDR image) to a finished product through several steps.

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The left image is the original, the right is after retouching (Retouch app) to remove the overhead wires and pole. (note that the entire image isn't visible in this collage but you will see it at the end)

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The image on the left is the original image after processing with the AutoPainter app using the Benson effect (I may never pick up a paintbrush again); the center image is the result of blending the original (after retouching) with the AutoPainter image (50% opacity) using Iris; the image on the right is after cropping slightly, still in Iris.

red barn on roadside
The finished image after further cropping and a bit more tweaking in Iris.

PS - If you want to see another scenic image (taken with my Nikon D90) from Colorado and some more iPhone photos, visit the two most recent posts on my photography blog.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Day of Fun with Sture and Inger... Tärnaby and nearby, Sweden

Our day started with a lovely breakfast followed by a quick stop in Tärnaby for a couple of items to supplement our picnic lunch. Afterward, we drove to Laisaliden where we parked the car and headed out to walk a bit on the Drottningleden hiking trail. After a short climb at the beginning of the trail, we were treated to lovely views on all sides as we hiked along a high plateau. The image below is a panorama of five images of just some of our lovely views on this hike... stitched together in Photoshop. panoramic view from the Drottningleden trail
The two images flanking the wildflowers in the top half of the collage below are of the rushing mountain stream running alongside the start of the trail. The yellow wildflower is Small Cow wheat (Melampyrum silvaticum, the dark purple flower is Bartsia alpina L.; its common name in Sweden is Svarthö which translates to Bartsia! The image on the lower left is the first of five images that were used to make the panoramic image at the top of this post... even the ground was beautiful on our hike as seen in the gorgeous stones and greenery in the image in the lower right. In the middle is cousin Sture, carrying most of the provisions for our lunch and coffee making and brother-in-law Tom on top of the world in spite of the gloomy weather!
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Below you have the gateway to the hiking trail and Sture preparing to make the all-important coffee to go with our picnic lunch after we had hiked up to the plateau. The hardest part of finding a lunch spot was finding a place that was sheltered enough from the wind to allow Sture to light the flame for making the coffee. We certainly didn't lack for beautiful scenery!
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Images below include several from our hike along the plateau, brother Lukas and brother-in-law Tom (back to camera) hunkered down and enjoying lunch and Sture finally joining us in the meal after making sure we all had coffee. The image in the lower right is an HDR from 3 images taken of the stream that runs alongside the start of the trail. As we returned to the parking lot at the end of our hike, the sky had become quite dark except for the light patch in the distance and light rain was falling.
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I debated about including the collage below... the church looks crooked to me in BOTH of the images. SIGH... must do a better job of post processing when making collages which tend to exaggerate any "off kilter" bits! This is the church in Tärnaby (Tarna kyrka) and is the church where Inger's parents were married.
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Interior views of the church in Tärnaby include the high pulpit, a view of the painting over the altar and one of the stairwells leading up to the choir balcony where the organ, last image, is located. This church was beautiful in its simplicity and not nearly as elaborately decorated in the interior as many we saw.
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After our stop in Tärnaby on the way home from our hike, we made a couple more stops along the way to have a look at some family homes formerly belonging to Inger's family. The house on the top left below was the home of Inger's grandparents until they became quite elderly at which point it was given to one of the sons as is the custom in Sweden in the old days (and still seems to be fairly common to this day). The home in the lower right is where Inger's grandparents lived in their "old age" and is on the same property as their other house. The thermometer measuring the temperature at nearly 9 PM was on the outside of Sture and Inger's home and the interior door is in their house. That door came from the old house that they bought to provide building materials for portions of their home. Sture was in the process of stripping all the old paint when Inger suggested that he should leave it as you see it now because it was beautiful that way. I quite agree!
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The last collage has an image of the home in which Inger lived until age 4 when her family moved from Tärnaby to Lycksele, a lovely little wildflower, Moneses uniflora (known as Ögonljus in Sweden), and a pleasant scene near the family property.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From Lycksele to Tärnaby - Sweden, 2011

The Blue Highway is 1700km (1020 miles) of "sheer adventure" and goes from "the island of Traena on the Atlantic coast in Norway, by way of Umeå, across Kvarken to Vasa in Finland, and eventually to Petrozavodsk in the Russian Republic of Karelia" according to the sign seen at a roadside stop on our day of travel to Tärnaby. This scenic highway passes through urban (represented by Umeå), rural (represented by Lycksele), forest (represented by Vägsele) and alpine (represented by Tärnaby) zones. We stayed for two nights in Lycksele while visiting with Sture and Inger in Vägsele and one night in Umeå en route to Lycksele from the High Coast. We stayed two nights at the "summer home" of cousins Sture and Inger in Tärnaby. So we saw all four zones during our travels on just the Swedish portion of the Blue Highway, or Blå Vägen, as it is called in Swedish. Come along for the ride...

Before leaving Lycksele, I took a photo of the Hotell Duvan where we stayed two nights in Lycksele and several interior views of Lycksele kyrka (across the street and in the collage below).

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Built of wood from 1795-1799, the interior of Lycksele kyrka was painted to resemble marble (lower left) and ceiling paintings were added in the 1950s during a restoration. The fabulous organ was added in 1977 during a more recent renovation. The front altar painting by CG Sjöstrand (lower right) depicts the resurrection of Christ and was added in 1842. The fabulously gilded high pulpit is one of many such high pulpits present in churches all over Sweden. While researching Lycksele kyrka on the internet, I found an interesting Google translation from the Swedish Wikipedia article on Lycksele kyrka: "The church is built of sleeping hours and consists of nave with cows in the east and the west tower." I have NO IDEA what that means but think I'd prefer my church without cows! I can relate to "sleeping hours" in church though… ;-)

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En route to Tärnaby from Lycksele, we were treated to a stop at a roadside picnic area alongside the Umeälven, Ume River, marked by the red dot on the map shown between the two river views. Seated on the left of the picnic table from front to back are myself, my sister Valerie and my brother Lukas; on the right (same order), cousin-in-law Inger, my brother's partner Tom and cousin Sture. As usual, we were treated to a fine snack and freshly brewed coffee! The wooden "box" houses trash cans and keeps the four-legged critters from the garbage. The church is Stensele kyrka... anxious to reach Tärnaby, we did not stop to explore this largest wooden church in Sweden. (we did make a short side trip to visit this church two days later)

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First order of business on arrival... light a fire to dispel the chill from the air... it's cool even in summer in the mountains! As soon as the cars were unpacked we set the table and Inger began preparing food for our afternoon meal... Another lovely meal with appetizers of herring two ways (one in cream sauce with egg and onions and one pickled), more potatoes, some riced to have with the main meal and some whole as an option to have with the herring. The main meal was moose with chanterelles and gravy (absolutely delicious), riced potatoes, rye toast, lingonberry jam and salad followed by a dessert of homemade rhubarb pie warm from the oven served with a vanilla cream sauce.The downstairs rooms have dual purpose "couches" that doubled as sleeping space for Sture and Inger during our stay. They insisted we sleep in the upstairs rooms.

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Upstairs, the smaller of the two bedrooms is colorfully decorated and furnished with two twin beds, the larger of the two (lower right) has two twin beds and a sleep sofa that can be expanded for additional sleeping space. And if that isn't enough, there is a small "cottage" opposite the main house that sleeps more (upper right). Sture and Inger lived in this one-room cottage during the construction of their larger home. They built it themselves using, in part, materials from an old house Sture bought and had transported to their property in Tärnaby in order to take it apart and use the materials in construction of their vacation home. The wedding photo sits on the table (a small part of which is seen in the foreground, lower right) and is of their older son Örjan and his wife Lisa. I rather like the look the glare on the glass gave this photo of a photo.

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What to do after our marvelous meal? Why, walk it off, of course. Through the forest and down to Lake Gäutan where we saw the sunlight on Ryfjället, the lower of the two main peaks seen here, and spotted quite a few alpine flowers along the way (or on a later walk). Ryfjället rises 1130 meters (0.7 miles) above sea level; the taller and more distant peak is Ryivegaise which rises 1412 meters (0.87 miles) above sea level.

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Another look at Ryfjället and Lake Gäutan, Sture, Inger and Frosse (phonetic spelling) on the lake shore, the colorful door to their home with its lovely hardware and the moose antlers seen on a neighbor's garage. One note about hiking down to Lake Gäutan... if you ever find yourself in Sweden hiking around this lake, make sure you have used a good insect repellant! The mosquitoes were pretty hungry.

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This is a bit out of order since this image is from Vägsele but I wanted to include it anyway. The home seen here belonged to Sture's parents. The small extension on the right of the main house was used as a post office until 1960; during that time, Sture's mother was postmistress for the town of Vägsele. The main house dates from the 1930s but both the post office extension and the porch on the left were added at later dates.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Out and about in Vägsele, Ytterfors and Lycksele in Northern Sweden

We learned rather quickly that any visit with cousin Sture and his wife Inger meant hiking, eating REALLY GOOD food and learning about how things were in the "old days" as evidenced by relics left in the old houses where various relatives were born and/or lived at some time in the past. Our second day visiting with them was filled with so much activity that it was very hard to choose representative images... hope you enjoy your visit here. We certainly enjoyed our visit there!

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Images seen here in the top left and bottom right are from the garden as is the flower image (cannot recall the species). Others are from our before lunch hike on the property where Sture and Inger live and include a rear view of my brother and his partner heading into the woods, my brother getting up close to a flower, a view through the trees to a distant farm, my brother-in-law with Inger and my sister trailing behind Inger as we return to their house at the end of our walk.

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The images across the top half of the collage include views of the Johansson family property showing Sture and Inger's home and barn as well as land across the street that used to be part of the property; the two smaller images are actually the left and right halves of a landscape image take from high up the hill above their home looking across to distant mountains. The bottom half of the collage shows the home of one our great-grandfather's brothers next to the windmill that is a lawn decoration at this home, another view of distant mountains as seen from the Johansson property and the barn with wood bins FILLED to overflowing with wood chopped by cousin Sture. Inger told us the home that belonged to our ancestor has been added on to since it was originally built in our great-grandfather's time and is now quite modern.

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A short drive away from the home of our cousin found us at a lovely picnic spot, complete with shelter in case of inclement weather, a fireplace for warmth and/or cooking and beautiful scenery just across the road from the picnic table. Sture carried the coffee pot and fixings for coffee with him whenever food was involved in our outings... including carrying it in a knapsack when we went hiking! By the time we had lunch spread out on the picnic table and had taken a few photographs of the lovely scenery, Sture had coffee ready for us. The tiny people in the image in the lower left are my brother and his partner.

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In addition to lovely scenery, wildflowers were abundant at our picnic spot. Caught my sister taking a photo of our spectacular views... we never did figure out if the white flower is Queen Anne's Lace or some other look-alike flower... and the pink cluster of tiny buds is still unidentified. The others are either Common or Small Cow-wheat (hard to know which the tiny yellow, twin blossoms are), Buttercup and Wild Geranium, completely with a tiny fly that MAY be a hoverfly. (There is not enough detail to be absolutely certain of the ID and it is not a hoverfly with which I'm familiar if it is, indeed, a hoverfly.)

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After lunch, we headed off on our next adventure. A short distance away we visited property that used to belong to my grandmother's family and saw the house in which she was born, the top left and bottom right images are of that house which is no longer livable. The woman in the lower right image, Brigitta, lives in the new house (built in 1960) on the property and had much to tell us about the old house and the old days. She is standing on the back corner of the old house and told us that it used to be bigger but part of it was demolished to provide building materials that were used in building the new house. The top right image is of the old barn on the property; Sture and Inger are standing in front of the old playhouse on the property and the dishes and tea service (use your imagination) are inside the playhouse. Although there is a new playhouse, Brigitta says the children prefer to play in the old one. She also told us she played in this house when she was young and learned everything she needed to know about life here. The other images on the bottom left are of some of our party going into the woods (you will see why in the next collage), a vole hiding in the grass and a detail of the old, cast iron stove in the old house.

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More images of the old house including a closer view of the rear corner where Brigitta stood and told us about the house, another view of the playhouse, the other side of the rear of the old house and a building used by our great-grandfather as a smithy. The part of the old house, now gone, that was on the rear half of the house seen in the lower left was lodging for the schoolteacher who came for three months of the year to teach the school age children. It would have also served as the schoolroom.

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The top left image is one last view of the barn on the Ytterfors property... beautiful to me in the setting of all the green hues and wildflowers. The rest of the images in this collage are from the inside of the old house on the Johansson property and include old wallpaper, old linoleum flooring (watch your step), lasts used in making their own shoes, one door of a wardrobe used until fairly recently by one of our grandfather's brothers (we think), two views (front and rear) of an old knapsack that would have been used for berry picking and an anvil that our great-grandfather used in the old days. Sometimes I think we have NO IDEA how easy our lives are compared to our ancestors.

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An old sundial, another lovely view from the Johansson property, our cousins' pet playing with his chew toy, another marvelous meal prepared by Inger and Sture and roadside views taken around 9:30 PM on our way back to Lycksele. The late evening light was just amazing!

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The sunset images flanking the church are not exactly as they were seen. I was experimenting with color adjustments on images taken at the same time as those seen in the previous collage... clearly one can change the look/feel of an image quite dramatically! The church in Lycksele was right across the street from our hotel; the picture was taken at about 10:30 PM as we were heading out to walk along the water before bedtime.

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Images from our wandering around town and along the Ume River in Lycksele... a lovely building whose purpose I cannot recall, a house in town (do you see the face?), one of the only modern churches we saw during our stay in Sweden, sunset along the river with an abandoned boat, two fishermen coming in to shore, a statue of a fisherman and the front of our hotel. As for the "WICTORIA" poster, it is advertising a Circus and was sometimes spelled WICTORIA and sometimes Victoria. Either way, I had to take a picture of it!

Last, but not least, you may like to view a slide show of the images included in this post. If you made it this far, thanks so much for coming along for the journey!