Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Grove Without Trees

The Grove 2015-02-21 1

Just outside of Forest Park on Manchester Avenue, the sign at the western end of The Grove district. Urban Chestnut brewery and restaurant is at bottom center. They make brew that tastes like an herb garden. Some people like that. There is no grove, as in grove of trees. The main street crossing Manchester is Tower Grove Avenue so the name is more of a marketing thing. Some people even call that intersection The Mangrove - Manchester and Tower Grove Avenues - get it? Ha. 

The most famous establishment at that intersection is Sweetie Pie's southern/soul food restaurant. The Oprah Network even has a reality TV show about it. New episodes start today!                             

Friday, February 27, 2015

Currier & Ives In The Midwest

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Looking west from the same golf course. The STL city limits are a short distance behind Skinker Boulevard, the street visible toward the bottom of the frame. Beyond is St. Louis County - suburbia - and the city of Clayton, Missouri. It's sort of a second, more sanitary downtown, newer, with the County's court system, awash with law firms, very expensive homes (by our standards) and pedestrian architecture.     

The scene reminded me a bit of Currier & Ives prints.                              

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Trivial Birds Go Elsewhere

Forest Park 2015-02-21 12

Never seen this before. It's on the same golf course as yesterday and raises all kinds of questions. What are they talking about, the whole city, Forest Park or just the golf course? Does the Audubon Society think there are places that are unimportant to bird conservation? (Under water, maybe? But then some birds catch fish.) Does the adjective "important" modify "bird" or "area"? (Think about it.)

Enquiring minds want to know.                                  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Case For Orange Golf Balls

Forest Park 2015-02-21 2

A public golf course in Forest Park, so I suppose it was technically open. Using a conventional golf ball would be problematic.

I'm not a golfer or anything-er. Devoid of athletic talent. Still, I don't understand the sign below. Divots I get. But ball marks? Golfers?                      

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Design Award

Forest Park 2015-02-21 4

A creative approach. Keep off the chill but be careful. If you give this snowman its arms too early in the party it will look like it is hemorrhaging.                         

Monday, February 23, 2015

Vue 2

Forest Park 2015-02-21 5

There is more of a difference between yesterday's picture and today's than landscape and portrait. Both are HDRs, shot in color and converted to black and white. I've been going back and forth about whether I prefer Photoshop Merge To HDR Pro or Photomatix for HDR processing. Yesterday's was Photoshop. It keeps the final image pretty simple while bringing in a wide range of tonal values. This one is Photomatix. Color photos made with this application can be lurid and overblown, IMHO. The B&Ws still don't look natural but can have a lot of dramatic pop.

Any other HDR technicians out there? What do you prefer?                        

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Back In The Lou

Steel Tree 1

Costa Rica is beautiful but St. Louis has its charms. After all,  I choose to live here. Some new local material is in order. We've had a bit of snow so I went wandering around Forest Park looking for interesting snowscapes.

This is the west lawn of the art museum. What's with the metal tree? It's a placebo.                         

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Farewell To Paradise

Horizontes del Mar 5

We have spent a winter week at Horizontes del Mar condominiums for four of the last five years. It's heaven. We have only been able to do it because of an exceptional bit of fortune, too long to explain here, renting it for a very reasonable price. We could not afford the regular price. Sadly, it's up for sale now so this was probably our last visit. We were privileged to enjoy it as much as we did. We have come to love this part of Costa Rica and its people.

So I better get back out on the street in The Lou. It's going to be a miserable sleety, icy, snowy day. That gives me the opportunity to take some miserable photos. We'll see what happens.               

Horizontes del Mar 4

Horizontes del Mar 3

Horizontes del Mar 2

Horizontes del Mar 1

Friday, February 20, 2015

Botany Overload

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I'm, um, sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel for Costa Rica pictures. No chance to do new local material until tomorrow at best. May or may not have something ready for Saturday morning.

So, for the moment, a bit more rain forest flora. As I've said, I grew up in a concrete jungle. If I wanted any real greenery I had to go to Central Park. However, our guide from 3 Monkies seemed to know everything that grew, crawled or flew in those thickets. I don't remember what any of these things are, except that the middle one is some kind of mushroom/fungus that grows on rotting tree trunks and the last one is an unknowable tree that sprouts seed pods that look like eggplant right through the bark.

It was all a wonder but I'm a city kid. And I'm eligible for all senior citizens discounts as of today, which gives me an excuse for a leaky memory.                                    

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rent A Horse, Buy Some Cheese


We saw some pix from the Tenorio Rain Forest recently. The last outpost on the way in is the little town or Rio Naranjo, Orange River. You can stop by Hertz Rent-A-Horse and get a vehicle to cruise the surrounding savannah. There are a lot of dairy farms made possible by the higher altitude and the locals sell their home-made cheese while Jesus supervises.

The paved road ends at Rio Naranjo. From there to the forest you must travel the proverbial five miles of bad road. The section below was the part in the very best condition. 

On our way back to Tamarindo we went by the extensive renovations of the Pan American Highway, which runs from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Usuhaia, Argentina (we've been to both ends). We've driven some of the old road - okay by Costa Rican standards but no place to zip through fast. It is being rebuilt into a four lane, high-speed divided road - with tolls, of course (the first in CR). That's all the concrete in the bottom photo with a look northeast to the line of volcanoes.                          

Cheese For Sale

Road To Tenorio Rain Forest

Volcano View

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pizza Night In Tamarindo

Pizza Night In Tamarindo 1

Well, some people liked yesterday's night pictures. I've walked back into the buzz saw at work so a few more quickies from the same evening.

These were taken at La Esquina, the place where yesterday's pizza cook portrait was taken. The entrance is in the middle photo, underneath a sign promoting the tiny grocery store next door - anything but super.

So now you know how to say pizza to go in Spanish.                        

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Pizza Night In Tamarindo 2

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tamarindo By Night

Tamarindo 2015-02-09 1

Hi from the Miami Airport on Monday night. Back into the freezer in an few hours. Gonna do more shots from Costa Rica until I get some new local material.

There is a lot to like about Costa Rica. Universal education through high school, universal health care (unlike someplace else we could think of), no army. I repeat, no army. Pretty safe compared to the rest of Central America. Drop dead gorgeous but with great variety. In our travels, we think the Costa Ricans are in a tie with the Irish and Nepalese for the sweetest people on earth.

These pictures were taken after dinner one evening. Pretty laid back. Pura vida.                        
Tamarindo 2015-08-08 2

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tamarindo Portraits

Pizza Maker 2

People shots around town:

The pizza maker at La Esquina.

Mr. Honey, a vendor at the weekly farmers market, Feria Tamarindo.

Three Italian guys on Playa Langosta. As happens so often, they saw my big camera and asked me to take their picture with their little camera. Then I got a few for myself.

Waiting for the fire dancers at Latitude Blue. Looks like a low-end version of the last supper. We had ours in the condo last night. Back to STL today, where it's really cold and snowing hard at the moment.

No local material so I'll stick with the tropics for a bit.                        

Mr. Honey

Three Italian Guys Playa Langosta2015-02-14

Cena En La Playa 2015-02-11

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Om . . .

Llanas de Cortez Waterfall 1

Skipping around a little bit. On our way back from the Tenorio rain forest we stopped at Llanas de Cortez falls. Some say it's the most beautiful in Costa Rica. Who knows, if you sit before it long enough you may find enlightenment.

But not all of us. Look closely at the bottom picture. If I had a Hasselblad on a tripod or the new Canon 5DS you could see more clearly, but that awaits my lottery winnings.  A young man - well, let's be frank, an idiot - sits at the very edge of the waterfall, maybe 60 or 70 feet over the rocks below. He was splashing water and clowning around for his friends to the right. I had to leave. Didn't want to take pictures of someone being killed. 

Don't know what happened to him in the following minutes but I don't think he improved his Buddha nature.                 

Llanas de Cortez Falls 2015-02-10 2

Llanas de Cortez Falls 2015-02-11 4

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Fire Dance 2015-02-11 6

Well, Valentine's Day is associated with passion, isn't it? No better place to give it full vent than at the nightly fire dance show at the beachfront restaurant, Latitude Blue. This was pretty intense. Beautiful, athletic young dancers in slightly kinky costumes, flinging flame around their twisting bodies. At times it made me think of The Rite of Spring.

Robert Frost wrote:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
Fire and passion won last night. I got a lot more of these pictures to edit.
Fire Dance 2015-02-11 7

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Fire Dance 2015-02-11 4

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bite Me

Playa Grande Estuary 2015-02-12 1

They got crocodiles in the river here!

Actually, not quite a river. There is an estuary between Tamarindo and Playa Grande that goes a couple of miles inland. Playa Grande is a national wildlife preserve. This is the beach where leatherback turtles come to lay their eggs. You can take a boat tour, which we did yesterday. The lower reaches are salt water, a perfect hangout for crocodiles. 

There is lots of other wildlife, particularly birds. I think that's a snowy egret in the second photo. Beneath that, the cute iguana is a much less menacing cousin of the croc. We don't know the birds in the bottom photo. Any insights?
Playa Grande Estuary 2015-02-12 2

Playa Grande Estuary 2015-02-12 4

Playa Grande Estuary 2015-02-12 3

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Canopy

Tenorio Rain Forest 2015-02-10 6

It you have been to a rain forest, or thought about it, you have heard of the canopy. It's the multi-tiered vertical ecosystem that can grow to great heights. Plants, animals, insects and birds compete for light and food. Many trees grow quite slowly when they are in the shade and then, when old, taller ones die, race upward to grab their own parcel of sky. The forest floor can be dark and gloomy. 

Mrs. C was out with our guide on a suspension bridge perhaps 100 feet above the valley floor. It held us well enough but a lot of the suspension cables looked rusty. I wonder what the insurance standards are in Costa Rica. The bottom picture is a view across the canopy from the bridge.              

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In The Rain Forest

Tenorio Rain Forest 2015-02-10 1

Long day trip yesterday with the superb 3 Monkies tour company, the best in Guanacaste Province. We have used them on all of our trips to Tamarindo. This time the itinerary was the rain forest on the Pacific side of the Tenorio volcano (lots of those here) and the Llanas de Cortez waterfall.

We drove from the provincial capital of Liberia down the Panamerican Highway, up a secondary road to the town of Rio Naranjo (Orange River), then up five miles - at least - of really bad road to the Heliconias Lodge in the rain forest. It's dry season here but the woodland is still lush. Our guide took us on a strenuous walk up and down the mountainside, through the canopy and over four suspension foot bridges.

Along the trail our guide spotted this brilliant millipede. These are after-and-before pictures. It was wandering down the trail, happy as can be, but quite vulnerable to predatory birds. Our guide explained that some birds can suck them down like a piece of spaghetti. The sound of our feet made it curl up into a pinwheel, too wide for a bird's throat.

Mrs. C wonders if millipedes were the inspiration for the Slinky.                              

Tenorio Rain Forest 2015-02-10 2

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pura Vida

Not Yet Noon

Pura vida is the quintessential Costa Rican phrase. It means so much more than pure life. A server could greet you at a restaurant with it. A friend might say it to express best wishes. Its many meanings sum up the Costa Rican view of life. These photos try to give a few examples.

First, 11:15 AM, brunch at the popular beachfront restaurant in Tamarindo, Nogui. 11:15 AM. The man with his back to the camera has a shirt with the logo of the Budweiser of Costa Rica, cerveza Imperial. Can you read the words above it? I suppose the fluid level in the wine glasses could be lower. Pura vida.

Next, early afternoon at Witch's Rock Surf Camp and restaurant (motto: Nachos As Big As Your Ass). What wouldn't you give for the sun, Pacific ocean, a hammock and your iPhone? Pura vida.

Last, a hazy sunset on Playa Langosta just outside our condo. The couple's body language seems awfully closed up. Pura vida to them.

Pura Vida

Playa Langosta 2015-02-08 6

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fútbol Playa

Beach Futbol 2015-02-08 1

The scene on Tamarindo beach yesterday: agile young bodies with a golden fútbol. Costa Rica is soccer-mad and had a good run in the last World Cup. Not far away, across the border in Nicaragua, it's all baseball.                                 

Beach Futbol 2015-02-08 2