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Closed for Columbus Day, And Cheap Gas

Closed Inspection Station

Closed Inspection Station

Most of this weekend I was reminded by the Post It notes that I left all over the place that I had to get the car inspected this week for the bi-annual smog testing. This morning I awoke nice and early, drove to my local Starbucks, purchased my favorite bold, black coffee, and headed over to the Inspection Station.

As I passed by the rear of the station I was elated to see no lines, which equals no waiting; a rarity in this state. I confidently pulled around to the front entrance and was I was surprisingly stopped dead by a chain and a sign – Station Closed. So I’m sitting there thinking, why are they closed; budget cuts, switching them to a four or five-day week? I then pulled out my trusty phone with a calendar and discovered it was Columbus Day. So much for planning ahead.

October 13, 2014 - Best price this year at Wawa in New Jersey.

October 13, 2014 – Best price this year at Wawa in New Jersey.

The upside to this story is the lowest price for gasoline I have seen this year. Wawa, a chain of convenience stores with fuel stations (gas and diesel) along the east coast, always has the lowest price for gas in my little slice of heaven. Today, I paid $287.9 per gallon for regular. Last Friday, with a different vehicle, I paid $293.9 per gallon. Today was a welcome improvement of six cents per gallon.

I use an app appropriately named GasBuddy, available for free on iTunes, and Google Play, to check and report gas prices in my area. Since it is user fed, it is usually 99% accurate.

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October’s Pumpkins and Halloween

What did one pumpkin say to the other.

What did one pumpkin say to the other.

Halloween is one of the most photographic times of the year. It is rich in decorations that beg to be photographed. Pumpkins are a recurring theme and between the leaves changing color and the pumpkins, every photo becomes a potential seasonal masterpiece.

If you remember from one of my earlier posts, I never go anywhere without a camera. A few years ago when I was living in the Ocean Beach area of San Diego, I would always walk my son’s dog while he was at work. It kept the dog and me active, and I was always on the lookout for a photo opportunity.

When I made this photo, I always knew what I wanted to do with it artistically, it just took me a while to refine the idea. There was always a project or two distracting me. I finally settled on pumpkins, coffee and Starbucks. Love pumpkin pie, and hot black Starbucks coffee. I’m not a fan of the Pumpkin Spiced Latte, too sweet for me, but it does have a huge following.

Two full size pumpkin scarecrows.

Two full size pumpkin scarecrows.

The Ocean Beach area of San Diego is both eclectic and eccentric. The residents there are very easy-going and never turn a neighbor down if they need a hand. It has also been called “… where the 60’s Hippies retired  …” You never know what you will find photographically throughout the community and the various seasons.

These two photos were made while I was out walking the dog just before Halloween. Two separate locations, blocks apart, and basically the same theme. The Happy Halloween photo was made with my Nikon D90, Nikon 18-200 lens, massaged with Lightroom 5, finalized with Comic Life 3.

And the Winner is…

Lois Davis held the winning ticket at the Starbucks of Toms River Grand Opening on Thursday, August 21, 2014. [L->R] Brian Higgins, District Manager; Caroline LaVallee, Assistant Manager; Lois Davis, Raffle Winner; Merideth Newman, Store Manager.

Lois Davis held the winning ticket at the Starbucks of Toms River Grand Opening on Thursday, August 21, 2014. [L->R] Brian Higgins, District Manager; Caroline LaVallee, Assistant Manager; Lois Davis, Raffle Winner; Meredith Newman, Store Manager.

A few weeks ago I was asked to make some photos at a Starbucks store grand opening in Toms River, New Jersey. There are more than 20,000 Starbucks stores worldwide, and I was able to do a shoot at one of them. I feel pretty good about that.

The layout of the store is unique and not a cookie cutter version of another store. I don’t believe that Starbucks has ever built a store in that fashion. Every store that I have ever visited, coast-to-coast, was always a unique layout.

I had a lot of fun making the photos and got to do some coffee tasting and some new pastry tasting. I’m a plain black coffee guy and was able to taste some of their most interesting blends brewed ‘french press’ style.

A raffle was held for a door prize and Lois Davis of Toms River, NJ held the winning ticket for a basket of Starbucks Coffee Cheer.

Saturday Morning at Starbucks

Grande - Bold and Black

Grande – Bold and Black

Starbucks is one of my go-to places to read my on-line newspapers and just relax with my favorite brand of coffee. I used to visit a store about four and a half miles from where I live, however, Starbucks opened a new store just over a mile away. This new store is much more convenient and there is a lot less traffic to contend with getting to the new Starbucks as well.

Since I’m always making photographs, making one of my morning coffee is not unusual. What’s different about this one is the post-processing treatment; cartoon style, a style that I always like to play with. I have several apps that manipulate photos in this way. Comic Life 1, 2, and 3, Halftone, and Adobe Photoshop Elements allows a lesser variation of this as well.

I recently downloaded an IOS app named ToonsCamera. What Toons-2makes this app different from other cartoon type photo-processing apps is that this one applies the changes live, on-the-fly. As you shoot your video and as make your still shot. Pretty neat, huh? Of course you can massage any photo that you have in your IOS devices photo library.

Not bad for a $1.99 app. I was actually able to grab it while it was for FREE on iTunes for a few days. That freebie is now $1.99.  Still a very worthwhile purchase. I can see this blossoming into a more upgraded app as the developers get more positive feedback from users.

The developer is Code Organa, L.L.C. and the app requires IOS 6.0 or later, and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod. The app is optimized for iPhone 5, and works very well on my iPhone 4S.

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