Top 3

If I were to rank this Spring Break out of all my Spring Breaks, it would definitely be in my top 3.

Why, you ask?  Well …

Ms. BQ’s Spring Break send-off was to be sure and get some miles in.  My initial plan was to spend the first weekend cycling and complete a virtual marathon during the week.  Good news! I’ve knocked out 31 miles since last Saturday and I haven’t even begun to peddle today.  And that doesn’t even include last week’s little boo-boo.

My first "battle of the bulge" wound

Cupcake Marathon 2011 3/14-3/26/11

I, knowing myself, knew that the more time I spent in the saddle, the more confident I’d be on my bike.  True to form, I’m gaining confidence each time I take my bike out.  I even ventured out on my own yesterday!

I’m not “thrillin’ on the downhills” yet, but I’m getting there.  Maybe by next weekend?  Who knows! 🙂

According to plan, I headed out the door early Monday morning to complete leg one of the Cupcake Marathon.  In hindsight, this was something I shouldn’t have done because I managed to aggravate my foot injury and wisely opted to refrain from any more foot mileage through at least the rest of the week.  I notified the race director on Friday that I had to pull out of the marathon.  He shared that he was sorry to hear my news but did want me to know that he’s got another cupcake marathon planned for the fall in addition to a pizza triathlon for later in the year!  Triathlon –  sweet!  Pizza – meh.

So, what was it about this Spring Break that ranks it so high among all my Spring Breaks?  Truthfully?  It’s because I was active. And I learned a few new things.

Mum & I took our annual trip on Monday and headed up to the LBJ library in Austin.  After we wrapped up our tour, I took her to lunch at TGI Friday’s on the (Colorado) river and we had a scrumptous meal!

Bust of LBJ at library's entrance

LBJ's favorite phrase (paperweight on Ladybird's desk)

Part of wall-length mural below the presidential archives

Mum & I spent a lot of time in the library looking at artifacts, reading placards, learning things never or seldom found in textbooks.

For instance, Ladybird graduated from the University of Texas (hook ’em!) and hoped to become a teacher in an “exotic location, like Alaska or Hawai’i.”

We also learned that Ladybird & LBJ had a beautiful relationship.  Their letters to each other are mounted throughout the library.

And did you know that LBJ received the Silver Star (WW II) and was the first Congressman to go active duty?  I know I didn’t know this before we went to the museum.

Mum & I also sat and listened to excerpts from some of his speeches.  LBJ was a funny man.

One little tidbit that I’m sure you tatertots didn’t know about me.  I used to work with one of LBJ’s grandsons.  It’s true!  Back in the days before I became an educator, I worked in one of the world’s largest law firms (international contract law … yawn)  Anyway, the associate that worked closest with my partner was … you guessed it, Lyndon Nugent.

And that, tatertots, is my “6 degrees.”

Actually, my “6 degrees” is former president Bill Clinton, but that’s a story for another day.

Hub & I headed over to Missions Espada & San Juan Capistrano during the week and we were blessed with a very knowledgeable park ranger who shared with us more nuggets neither of us knew previously.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission Espada

Ironwork over well at Mission Espada

Dam at Mission Espada

Ranger Flowers (should have taken his picture, but Hub & I were so rapt with his stories, I forgot) shared that each of the missions had a specific function.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is the southernmost mission and was tasked with raising livestock.  The fields where the cattle grazed are still there.  Empty, but still there.

Mission San Jose (we didn’t go there this trip but Mum & I did a few years ago) was where grain crops were grown, harvested, & milled.  It’s the largest of the mission compounds and the mill is still in operation, albeit for demonstration mostly.  If memory serves, you can purchase flour ground at the mission.

Mission Concepcion was primarily for worship.  It’s located closer into town and almost directly across from St. Peter’s & St. Joseph’s children’s home. (There’s another story here, but that’s also for another time, tatertots.) Hub & I didn’t go to Concepcion this time.  We will soon, though.

Mission Espada, Hub’s favorite mission, produced textiles.  The acequia (aqueduct) from the San Antonio river still flows around the back of the mission.  Nuns still reside at the convent at Espada and the open courtyard to their living quarters is filled with many beautiful and bright flowers.

Out of respect for their privacy, I didn’t take any pictures of their residences.

Mum & I had tried to find the Espada dam a couple of years ago but we weren’t successful.  I told Hub I didn’t want to leave this time until we found it.

I’m so glad we did!  The acequia runs along the top of the bridge from the river down to the missions.  Ranger Flowers shared that there was a V-shaped tool that the settlers and missionaries used to get the water to flow into the channels they created.  Even with everything being so primitive, the technology used to get the water to where it needed to go seemed pretty advanced (to me).

Our missions trip was pretty interesting and very educational.  Not to mention, I got some pretty good shots!

One of the true highlights of the week, though, was Hub’s & my bike ride from McAllister Park to Los Patios on Friday.  Since I’m not willing to aggravate the foot, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the local cycling sites studying trail and road maps.  The first one Hub & I tried was along the Salado Creek greenway.  It wasn’t too hard (meaning hilly) and it was a great way see parts of San Antonio in a new light.  There was one part of the trail that unnerved us both:

Salado Creek greenway

This one mile stretch of boardwalk is only about 6 feet wide.  For a person that had fallen off her bike just a few days before, I wasn’t going to take any chances!  I have to admit, after the first .75 miles, it became “just” a path to ride.  Oh, the picture is from the Cycling San Antonio site.  I wasn’t comfortable enough to stop riding and snap a photo.

We got to Los Patios a lot faster than either of us had anticipated and we were actually disappointed that we had found the end of the trail as quickly as we did.  How’s that for progress! 🙂

Full moon in perigee

By far, the absolute best moment of my week was getting outside last night and taking pictures of the moon.  I actually wasn’t going to do it but Hub, God bless him, wasn’t going to let me not.

I wasn’t happy with my initial shots (took about a dozen, came in & uploaded them and promptly trashed them) and remembered that NYIP had sent out an article on how to photograph the lunar eclipse we had about a month ago.  I found the article, noted the camera settings, and returned to the back yard.

Would you believe I took this one without using a tripod?  Neither did I!  It’s true, though.  In case you’re interested, this particular shot was done in ISO 400, f16, 1/1000.

So there you have it, tatertots.  Spring Break 2011 was pretty darn good.  I head back to work tomorrow, have a full day planned and need to figure out how to baby the foot in the process.  But I’m not complaining!  I had a great time this past week, made even better because I got to spend it with my Mum & my Hub.  May we all be so blessed!

All photographs in this blog, except the Salado Creek greenway, are the property of Lisa Alvarado & LM Stillvarado Photography


Full moon, Super moon

All sorts of pictures on the NYIP Facebook page of the moon.  For whatever reason, I couldn’t post mine, but I’m damn proud of it!

Full moon in perigee

When you carry three, what’s one more?

Sunrise over Schertz

Have you ever noticed how spectacular the clouds are during a sunrise or sunset?  I have.  Haven’t had my camera with me except one time.  All the others, I’ve simply been a witness to the majesty around me.

I took this picture about a month ago.  I can’t imagine what my neighbors were thinking: here I was out in my backyard in my pajamas & slippers snapping pictures of the incredible show in the sky.

I used one of my Christmas gift cards to buy a smaller camera bag.  Da asked if I had a tripod in it.  He laughed when I pulled one out. (It’s a tabletop tripod, silly!)

I bought the bag so that I could start keeping my camera with me all the time.  I’ve happened across so many incredible moments I wanted to capture and have been without my camera.  It’s frustrating, really, to only be able to remember my favorite shots and have nothing to be able to look back upon.

I’m blessed to have a job that allows me to travel throughout the city each day.  I need to get past my fear of someone taking my stuff and take my camera with me wherever I go.  Heck, I carry several bags with me from campus to campus.  What’s one more?


Grasshopper wants to learn

One of my favorite places to take pictures at is the Riverwalk downtown.  My favorite time to shoot?  At night when the Christmas lights are twinkling.

I’ve been playing with shutter speed and aperture value and have been able to frame some nice shots.

But …

I’m still not happy with most of my product.  I’ll get one or two each time that I like, so my desire is to be more consistent in what I see through my viewfinder (and my mind’s eye) and what I see when I download to the computer.

I was scanning the newspaper yesterday at Mum & Da’s and was so intrigued by the photo on the front page.  It was a nighttime shot of the Riverwalk, taken off the same bridge I like to shoot from.

And everything was clear.

How the heck did the photographer get such a clear shot?

I stared at the photo for what must have been a good several minutes … studying every feature and detail.  Da suggested I e-mail the photographer and ask about the details of the photo, what his settings were.

So I did.

I really want to learn;

I hope he writes me back.

Pictures versus photographs

I’ve taken literally thousands of pictures through my life.  In fact, I’ve got almost a thousand pictures loaded on my computer since I bought my camera just over a year ago.

Of these thousands I’ve taken, I wager I’ve only got about a dozen actual photographs.  Sure, I’ve got some great snapshots, but as I’ve been analyzing what I’ve done and applying what I’m learning, the remarkable are few and far between.

Frustrating? Nah.  Disappointing, definitely.  I’m so excited to be taking the professional photography course!  It’s giving me the knowledge I need to compose the shots I dreamed of composing and to take my photography from the “okay” to the “spectacular.”  Sounds egotistical?  Okay, I’ll own it.

I can’t wait to head back out & apply what I’m learning!

I’m thinking I’m going to scrap the “Honey Do” list and spend the better part of my week out and about with my camera.



“What’d you catch?”

Hub & I headed over to the University of the Incarnate Word last night for Light the Way, their annual Christmas season kick-off celebration.  I had found Hub’s old tripod in one of the back bedroom closets last week and was eager to try a little night photography.  We got to the campus and parked well before the beginning of the celebration and headed over to the stadium.

One of the nuns walked with us and informed us that the tree lighting wouldn’t happen until after 8pm.  I heard Hub groan slightly.  He works at night & was needing to head home to rest for an hour or so before heading in.  Sitting in the stadium, we looked at each other and asked at almost the same time, “Do you really want to be here [waiting in the stadium for the lights to go on]?”  With over an hour of waiting for the lights, neither of us wanted to sit for that long and so we headed out of the stadium and back onto campus.

I had spied the Chancellor’s house as we were walking toward the stadium and shared with Hub that I wanted to take pictures of it so we headed over in that direction.  I set the tripod up and it only took me a few minutes in the dark to get the camera mounted as opposed to my first time struggling with the camera and tripod.  That little adventure took place at twilight and according to the bell tower’s clock, I spent 15 minutes struggling with the fool thing.  I’ve got a Master’s degree & I couldn’t put a camera on a tripod?  Embarrassing!

But I’ve digressed …

Hub & I were talking about a variety of things while I was shooting … f/stop, shutter speed, debating on which lens to use (as in, “why not try the shot with the other lens to see how you like it?” and “no really, which lens do I need to use?”) And in the midst of all this, spectators were stopping by asking me a gaggle of questions.

The curious groundskeeper: “Why are you taking pictures over here, the celebration is at the stadium!”

The silly question from a passerby: “Waiting for the flash to go off, eh?”  What I wanted to say, “There’s a reason for the tripod, dude.  I need the tripod for stability.  I’m shooting with available light; I have my aperture open as far as it will go and I’ve slowed my shutter speed down as much as I can.”  What I actually said was, “Ah, no.”

And the question that stumped both Hub and me: “What’d you catch?”  We both looked at each other with a questioning look.  I turned to the woman and said, “Um … I’m taking pictures” as I pointed to one of the buildings we were sitting next to.  With a look of confusion on her face, she hurried past us.

I thought about her question as we headed home.  And then I realized what she meant.  What did I catch. On film. I’m such a dork.

We didn’t stay long enough to see the trees light up, but I did manage to capture these:

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Lost Maples

We didn’t exactly make it inside the park.  I broke two basic rules … make sure you have enough battery life, make sure you have enough room on your memory card.  Lessons learned.

I did manage to take a few shots before my card was completely filled.


Bandera, Texas ~ photo credit: Speedy Lisa