Colorful Daegu

This is what South Korea calls "Colorful Daegu".  This city of over 2.5 million is, in my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated travel destinations in the world.  This south-central city is bustling, full of culture, color and history. Like Seoul, it has a skytower (called the Daegu Tower), mountains to climb, religious sites, the arts and high tech colorful cityscapes.  But unlike Seoul, you don't have nearly the congestion or traffic. 

A small part of the city of Daegu, South Korea.  

A small part of the city of Daegu, South Korea.  

A Buddhist Temple in the middle of the city surrounded by apartment buildings.

A Buddhist Temple in the middle of the city surrounded by apartment buildings.

A pretty little walkway on Apsan Mountain.  This is just after exiting the Gondola, this path takes you up the along the top of the mountain.  GREAT hikes in this area!

A pretty little walkway on Apsan Mountain.  This is just after exiting the Gondola, this path takes you up the along the top of the mountain.  GREAT hikes in this area!

Lots of Buddhist Temples... everywhere....

Lots of Buddhist Temples... everywhere....

Pavilion in the city center.  

Pavilion in the city center.  

There's a lot more to Daegu but this is a good start!

A Travel Guide to Monument Valley's Only Hotel, The View

Monument Valley as seen from the observation deck at The View.  Photo taken at dusk. 

Monument Valley as seen from the observation deck at The View.  Photo taken at dusk. 

If you've ever wanted to visit the iconic location of Monument Valley in Arizona just over the Utah border, you'll have to do some preparation.  There's only one hotel in Monument Valley; The View.  

Monument Valley is in Navajo Nation and The View owned and operated by the Navajo.  The hotel is careful to respect the culture and people of the Navajo and therefore is unobtrusive... it fits very naturally into a corner of the valley as a mountain descends next to it.  While out in the valley, you won't even notice the hotel because it's color and formation blend right in with the rock it is built upon.  That really gives it a very natural, respectful feeling making it more experiential than touristy.  

Since Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park, there is a $5 entrance fee per person to enter and there is no alcohol permitted.  But it's okay.  You'll be intoxicated with your surroundings and won't even miss that nightcap.  

Last year, my road trip out west took me to Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.  Monument Valley, with it's famous buttes and reputation for famous western American movies, is less than 2 hours south of Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, and about 2 hours east of the Antelope Slot Canyons in Page, Arizona. It's an easy shot from Moab down Rt. 191 to Rt. 163 with a couple easy turns and you're there.

I went in early November and the rooms at The View were nearly sold out, even though the high season had ended.  The double-edged sword in visiting during the low season, which is typically November through March, is that you have a better chance of getting a room but if you don't book far enough in advance the locally run dive hotels will all be closed until late spring and you'll be out of luck.  Unless you don't mind camping.  I'll get to that in a bit.

This is me enjoying the private balcony on my first floor room.  The view was beautiful. 

This is me enjoying the private balcony on my first floor room.  The view was beautiful. 

Booking for The View must be done months in advance during May through September.  Prices are higher and being the main (and in the off-season the only) gig in town, chances of availability are slimmer.  I planned on being there in October but because of the government shut down last October I had to redo my schedule (what with National Parks closed and all) so I was able to book two weeks out, but I checked before my arrival just for kicks and the rooms were completely sold out.... in mid-November.  So planning ahead is vital.  I would leave at least a month to book in The View at Monument Valley from November - April and 2-3 months during the summer peak season.  

As for rooms and pricing, in the off-season they range from $179 (after taxes) to $303 per night.  Although in the dead of winter, December through January, you can book a room for $123 to $258 per night.  Imagine pricing for the high season........ if you're lucky enough to get a room in say August it'll run you $236 to $371. 

The rooms, from top to bottom, are the Premium Star View (3rd floor), Premium Valley View (2nd floor) and Valley View (1st floor) rooms.  The higher you go, the higher the price, but the truth is that even the "worst" room has the best view.  All rooms are basically the same but for the level and price.  Each room comes with a fabulous bathroom, nice bed(s), space and a private balcony overlooking the valley.  I'm not the only one saying there's no need to pay $300 for a room on the top floor when the ones on the first level have nearly the same spectacular views.

The View Restaurant is just down the hall and I admit I only ate there once but was happy with it.  The service was so-so but I ordered take out, so I could eat from my balcony overlooking the buttes as the sunset.  The Navajo Taco is huge... it's 2 meals for a single person... and it was fantastic. By far the best taco of any kind I've ever had.  And the Navajo soups are fabulous so don't be afraid to sample.  But if the restaurant isn't to  your liking... you don't have much choice because there are no other choices!  So make the best of it.  :)

Just outside of the restaurant is the observation deck, which wraps around to the side of the premises.  This is where many famous photos of the valley are taken and serves as a photographer's camp at sunset and sunrise.  I was up before 5am to set up my equipment and it took perhaps a minute to get from my room to the observation deck.  No need to get up super early to get great shots.  

Now if the only hotel in the area has no rooms, the park does allow for camping.  Monument Valley's Campgrounds allow you to pitch a tent or park an RV (recreational vehicle) for a reasonable fee (fee list here).  There's a store in the registration office, located in The View, for water, ice and other supplies to make your stay more comfortable and a nearby bathroom with shower.  Who knows, it might be a more memorable experience to sleep in the valley's floor rather than a hotel, anyway.  Certainly less expensive.  

So remember..... if you want to visit this iconic location in America's great southwestern desert region, book early!  The View is the only show in town and fills up fast!  

Looking out over the valley towards the famous buttes.  The View hotel is out of frame to the upper left.  

Looking out over the valley towards the famous buttes.  The View hotel is out of frame to the upper left.  

Confusion Abounds over U.S. Forest Service's Proposal on Commercial Photography

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed restrictions on filmmaking and commercial photography that is alarming many photographers, with fines for not having a license to shoot in National Forests $1000 if caught.  Pop Photo puts it this way:

           "The rules would require members of the media, commercial outlets and non-profit groups to apply for special use permits (which could cost up to $1,500) except in cases of breaking news. Photographers and filmers shooting without a permit could be fined up to $1,000."

The U.S. Forest Service has always required a license for professional filming within it's borders, but the gray area worrying independent and professional photographers refers to "commercial photography".  So if you are doing a portrait session or plan on selling your images, or are taking images for a client, you will need a pricey new permit to do so.  

The U.S. Forest Service insists that "the proposal does not change the rules for visitors or recreational photographers. Generally, professional and amateur photographers will not need a permit unless they use models, actors or props; work in areas where the public is generally not allowed; or cause additional administrative costs."

On the other hand, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell tried to reassure those concerned that “The fact is, the directive pertains to commercial photography and filming only – if you’re there to gather news or take recreational photographs, no permit would be required. We take your First Amendment rights very seriously.” 

So... then..... an independent freelancer such as myself would only need a pricey permit if I were using a prop or working with a model or actor, yet the directive pertains to commercial photography, which essentially refers to work done for a client or that is meant for profit.  

Yes, it's a bit confusing.   

Photographers at Zion National Park.... thankfully this doesn't apply our National Parks... yet, unless they have designated national forestry areas in them.  

Photographers at Zion National Park.... thankfully this doesn't apply our National Parks... yet, unless they have designated national forestry areas in them.  

The question I have not been able to find an answer to pertains to the proposal itself.  My assumption is that any "proposal" from federal agency such as the U.S. Forest Service would require Congressional approval before implementation.  Surely a Federal Agency cannot simply issue edicts at will without oversight and accountability.  Although, now I'm recalling some of the actions of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and I'm starting to wonder...

The bottom line is that it if you didn't need a permit before, you probably won't need one now. The difference is the hike in price.

U.S. Forest Service's directive on Commercial Photography and Filmography can be located here.

To Recline or Not to Recline

The frequent traveler already knows that most airlines have small, packed seating which can be tolerable if you only have a short flight.  If you get claustrophobic, however, you might be in trouble.  The need to recline in flight for some is a no-brainer.

But there is a debate as to whether its appropriate to recline the seat in flight.  Of course it is. You paid for that seat and that tiny bit of plane space and the seat does come equipped with a reclining button, and it's not as if the recline is all that spacious anyway.  Yet if you're like most people, you'll worry about the person behind you losing their space because of your desire to recline. And we are all so polite after all that we really do care.

I tend not to recline for short flights but on an 11 hour flight from Seoul to Auckland or a 13 hour flight from Atlanta to Seoul you'd better believe I'm reclining.  It's usually the larger planes that make those international flights so reclining isn't as impactful an issue... Korean Air and Delta are great for those long flights... but domestic flights with smaller cabins or smaller leg room are trickier.  

I  choose not to recline on smaller planes for shorter flights, unless there's a vacancy in the seat behind me.  On longer flights a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do and I recline if I need sleep.  It's always good to keep the peace with the other inmates, so to speak, so I let decorum be my guide but I also reserve the right to recline if I need the rest.

To recline or not to recline... what do you do?


Security Concerns over ISIS on Ft. Bliss

Last week Judicial Watch reported that the out of control terrorist group ISIS may be planning an attack on the military base at Ft. Bliss, TX in El Paso as ISIS has a presence in Juarez, Mexico.  I live on Ft. Bliss and this is how close we are to Juarez:

The view of Juarez, Mexico from I-10.  I thought this was still El Paso because there is no distinguishable wall or marking to differentiate it from Mexico.  

The view of Juarez, Mexico from I-10.  I thought this was still El Paso because there is no distinguishable wall or marking to differentiate it from Mexico.  

As a newbie to El Paso, I've been warned by a local photographer to "avoid Juarez at all costs".  It is easy to get funneled into Mexico with the road system and if I happen to have a shell casing in my car, it'll mean "serious trouble".  Apparently just accidentally cross over the border can be a scary ordeal.

That said, with ISIS reportedly planning a potential terrorist attack on Ft. Bliss from Juarez, security has been stepped up on post. The Department of Defense is denying that the increased security measures have anything to do with an ISIS threat, it's just there to keep family members and visitors safe (from????  And why start strict security measures on post only after the report on ISIS in Juarez surfaced?  I hate it when the DOD isn't honest.  It's not like they're fooling ISIS or deterring an attack by denying why security is ramped up).

The 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 is tomorrow.  I am of course hoping it will come and go without incident but this border town is particularly vulnerable, as are border towns all across the south in which the government is not taking seriously this threat to our nation.  

Additional images will follow.  If need be. Hopefully there will be no need.  


When to Use LED Lighting Instead of a Flash

I've written several times about my Manfrotto Continuous LED Light, which is an essential part of my gear.  Now I'm going to suggest the best usage of this LED light, based on my year long experience with this type of lighting.

Verses a flash (such as a Canon Speedlite), an LED comes in the handiest in low lighting situations. The darker the better.  While that may sound obvious, LED has its limitations, which is why its important to know what your intent is in a particular photo shoot.  

For example, I used my Manfrotto Continuous LED Light when shooting my model in natural light.  When natural light is not enough, you'll need to rely on an alternative light source to fill in the shadows to adequately illuminate the subject.  

In the shot below, the model was too far away for the lights in the LED to be of any consequence.  She was perhaps 8 feet from the camera.  I simply used auto ISO in this instance instead of a flash.  This was not a good instance to use the LED light because of the distance and brightness of the natural light.

However, the LED is perfect for close-ups.  In this natural lighting, my model needed just a bit of illumination and since I was 3-4 feet from her, it did the trick perfectly.  

I shot some behind-the-scene footage at the Traditional Latin Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Savannah, GA in July.  The sacristy of the Cathedral is dim but with some natural lighting... again, the perfect scenario for an LED light.

I highly recommend an LED continuous light such as the Manfrotto for low light situations when a flash and diffuser is overkill.  The LED gives the photography the ability to control the light brightness manually and it can be hand held as well.  At about $330, it's a pretty good deal.

Wanna Be a Landscape Photographer? Don't Quit Your Day Job

It's a sad fact that very few people can make a living as landscape photographers.  Check out these depressing quotes from these 3 photographers interviewed by Digital Camera World:

Colin Prior:  It’s very difficult to make money from landscape photography, full stop. In terms of stock I think we’ve reached a point where it’s largely worthless. People are expecting not to pay for photographs, and if they do pay they don’t expect to have to sign a licensing agreement for a limited time. Magazine editors increasingly tell me they don’t have a budget for photographs. The only way a photographer can make a name for themselves is by being extraordinary, otherwise there won’t be any publishers willing to risk investing in their body of work. I would advise young landscape photographers to do something else for a living. It’s sad, but anyone who tells you anything different isn’t looking at the marketplace properly.

Paul SaundersI would keep landscape photography as a hobby...

Tom Mackie: The money is gone, unfortunately, especially if you’re thinking about getting into stock landscape photography. If you’re a photographer starting out and you have a few hundred images, forget it. You have to have thousands to make the sort of money we were making back in the good days.

Ye, gads, that's depressing!  In my experience, those comments are becoming more and more true.  The field is gutted with amateurs and unless you're the incredibly talented and entrepreneur-literate Trey Ratcliff, you're not likely to make a living being a landscape photographer.  Most of the jobs at magazines and newspapers are not only taken, they're dwindling.  

Photographers have to multi-task.  That may mean taking on clients for portraits to bring in the main money if you want to be a full time photographer or having an editing business on the side, but I cannot think of a single person who sustains himself by just selling prints alone.  And yes, you have to be exceptional at what you do.

In my case, I struggle as a landscape photographer, which is a shame because it is my passion.  But the days of Ansel Adams are being replaced by Tom, Dick and Harry with iPhones making money on Instagram.  As a military wife, it's hard to build a solid clientele when I move every 11-24 months on average.  That's why being cyber-savvy is so crucial today, as Trey Ractliff has mastered.  

But as this is my dream and I absolutely love photography and photojournalism, I will press on in an effort to snag the right opportunity.  I will announce future endeavors as they open up, such as photo walks and photo trips with perhaps some tutoring, but in the meantime I'll be out there shooting.  

These were taken in our new home in El Paso, Texas in the past couple weeks:


Documenting the Latin Mass

I'm excited that I've been asked to document parts of the Traditional Latin Mass for the last two weeks that we'll be living in Georgia.  My husband is an active duty soldier and is currently stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga, but we will be PCSing (as they call it... it means moving to our new duty station) in Texas in two weeks.  I'm very excited about photographing the vesting of the Priest in the sacristy before Mass, which is a beautifully meaningful ritual practiced in the Latin Rite.  Also the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has the most amazing cantors and I will be photographing them as well. 

My main concern in photographing the Latin Mass is always reverence and respect.  I never want to interfere with anyone's ability to assist at the Mass or experience the Mass. I wrote about how to photograph a Latin Mass in a previous entry and i will be following those same guidelines. 

I'm really looking forward to this!  I love documenting the beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass!

I'll Miss My Church!

It's hard for me to believe I've only got 2 weeks until we relocate to El Paso, Texas at Ft. Bliss from our home here on Fort Stewart, GA.  A lot goes into a military move... or I suppose any move... although it's old hat now since we've been doing this for 21 years.  All 6 of us will be starting over again.  Two of my kids will be in college, one working full time and looking into a possible vocation in religious life and the other starting high school.  

And I am tidying up my portfolio, websites and plan on hitting the ground running.  In the meantime, I still have some photography obligations that will keep me busy.  I'll keep ya posted along the way!  You can always check me out on my social sites like Facebook, Instagram and Google+.  

In the meantime, here's what I'll miss most about leaving Georgia.... the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Savannah.  We commute an hour one way every Sunday to go to the Traditional Latin Mass there, and it's a thing of beauty!  But thank God there is a Latin Mass community in El Paso, as well.   

Why I Don't Like "WanderLust"

"Wanderlust" refers to a strong longing or impulse to wander and explore.  I get it.  It's a disease that afflicts people with adventurous spirits to have an overwhelming urge to travel. Is it nature or nurture?  Who can tell, but most photographers and travel writers have it.    

I'm not judging, but there's something personally unappealing about the term "wanderlust".  I'm sure it's the "lust" part because the "wander" part is awesome.  It connotes something illicit or undisciplined and for me, loving travel and photography is something very good and pure.  It brings out joy, which is innocent, and wonder, which is humbling.  

It's also something very serious.  This may sound like a judgment but I'll say it anyway. Wanderlusters choose the adventure to satisfy themselves whereas to me these adventures are about bringing a profound respect to the place being visited and to learn from it like a student from a teacher.  In a sense, no matter how good I get at my craft (I understand the term "good" is subjective), I am always subject to my surroundings, to God's creation and to the history of what has brought the place to where it is today.  That usually entails some sort of war, death or struggle mixed in with the beauty, so for example a to visit Vietnam couldn't be just a vacation or professional opportunity, it would be a reverent endeavor to find the truth there in that place.

On my trips to New Zealand, I experience the epitome of what I'm talking about.  It isn't "wanderlust", it's something completely superior.  It's about joy, happiness, giving and taking, learning and teaching, innocence and wisdom all in one.  I'm more like a child looking for her long lost parent and finding him day after day, or like a sojourner who finally finds home sweet home. It's a permanent satisfaction, not a temporal one. Which doesn't mean I don't want to do it again and again and again....

The world's best road trip.... Rt. 94 into Fiordland National Park in New Zealand's south island toward Milford Sound.  Image here. 

The world's best road trip.... Rt. 94 into Fiordland National Park in New Zealand's south island toward Milford Sound.  Image here

It's really about discovering God, even though you believe you already know Him completely.  It's about being thoroughly freed and empowered by His creation while feeling an overwhelming sense that you are, for some inexplicable reason, being permitted the privilege of entrance into the inner sanctum of some grand kingdom.  It's the juxtaposition of feeling like a totally free slave.  

The experience of then bringing the back-story and the photography of these mystical places to the eyes of others is one of sheer joy.

It's more a matter of enlightenment, sojourning or living the exploration than anything associated with lust, and maybe I'm too hung up on words, but I will someday find the phrase I am looking for to replace "wanderlust".  I'm at a loss today, but on my next adventure?  Maybe not.   Maybe I'll find it there.

This isn't a sight you see every day!  The Delicate Arch and the stars in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  Image here.

This isn't a sight you see every day!  The Delicate Arch and the stars in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  Image here.

Portrait Photography

It's true, I am a landscape photographer, but I'm beginning to enjoy portrait photography, too.  It's all about the people and the setting.  I don't do studio work and try to use as much natural light as possible.  Here are some examples of what I've done.... I will be available in the El Paso / Fort Bliss, TX area in July for a limited amount of portraits. See ya then!  


Regina Travel Blog - Mirinae Shrine

You may know I am a Travel Editor for Regina Magazine and Regina just published it's blog, Regina Travel Blog. My pictorial essay on the Mirinae Shrine of the Martyrs in Korea was just published.  Here it is, called A Church of 10,000 Martyrs. I'm posting some more facts, or the whole story, below to give a better understanding of this amazing pilgrimage and why St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean priest and first martyred priest in Korea, is now the patron saint of South Korea.  More pictures on Regina's blog...

St. Andrew Kim Taegon is memorialized at the Mirinae Shrine in Anseong, South Korea.  He was the first Korean priest as well as the first Korean priest martyred in Korea, and is the patron saint of South Korea.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon is memorialized at the Mirinae Shrine in Anseong, South Korea.  He was the first Korean priest as well as the first Korean priest martyred in Korea, and is the patron saint of South Korea.

The Mirinae Shrine located in Anseong, south Korea is renowned for having the tomb of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and acts as a memorial to 103 Korean martyrs.  

 Andrew Kim Tae-gon was born on 21 August 1821, in Chungchong Province, Korea.  Andrew's parents were converts to Catholicism and Andrew went to seminary in Machao, China when he was about 16. Andrew's father was martyred in Korea in 1839 during a set of persecutions by the Korean government. Andrew Kim Taegon was ordained as a priest in 1845 and returned immediately to Korea.  He was 24 years old and Korea's first Catholic priest.  After serving Catholics in Korea with great faith during this time of persecution  for nearly a year, Andrew Kim Taegon was arrested, tortured and beheaded in Seoul on September 20, 1846.  At his death, he was only 25 years old.  

The body of Andrew Kim Taegon was carried by faithful friends to Mirinae in Anseong, Korea, where hsi was buried in secret on October 30, 1846.  The local ordinary who ordained Andrew Kim Taegon lies next to the Saint in Mirinae as was his deathbed wish.

Both Andrew Kim Taegon and his father, Ignatius Kim, were beatified byPope Pius XI in 1925.  St. Andrew was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and is now the patron saint of Korea with his feast day celebrated on September 20th.   

St. Andrew Kim Taegon was known for his bravery which he exhibited by serving in Korea during a time of terrible persecution because his people were "sheep without a shepherd".  The Mirinae Shrine is one of many in Korea that honors the thousands of martyred Korean Catholics during the persecutions, but is especially moving because it holds the body of Korea's first priest, and Korea's martyred priest, St. Andrew Kim Taegon.  

Making Music the Backstory to Your Pictures

Synonymous with photography are road trips, and my favorite way to make a road trip into a lasting memory is with music.  There's nothing more freeing that exploring a new part of the country, or the world, with a song blaring from the car stereo and singing along. 

I burned a copy of my favorite iTunes to a CD on my road trip out west in November, and it's one of the most important items I packed.  Whenever I hear Paramore's "Still Into You" I can feel all the sensations that go along with zipping down Rt. 191 from Moab, Utah, to Monument Valley.  And bumping along the ridiculous loop at Monument Valley with its potholes and dust comes vividly back to mind when I hear "Wake Me Up" by Avicii. Or how about "Life is a Highway", the Rascal Flats version, reminding me of the road trip into Colorado with an amazing sunset?  These are all priceless memories that help keep the backstories to my photographs fresh and happy.  

And at the same time, I cannot think of Arches National Park without hearing "Trouble" by Neon Jungle.  Or New Zealand's Mount Cook without hearing Arvil Lavigne's "Innocence". 

It's like a gift that keeps on giving.  The image reminds you of the song, and the song reminds you of that place you don't want to forget.

It just makes the whole experience doubly memorable.  The images capture the moment, but the music captures the spirit of getting to that moment.  

Life is a Highway, baby!  Rt. 163 into Monument Valley, Arizona.

Life is a Highway, baby!  Rt. 163 into Monument Valley, Arizona.

A Review of Savannah's River Street

Last weekend, the hubby and I spent a romantic Valentine's Day getaway on the riverfront in Savannah, Georgia.  I must highly recommend River Street, the cobblestoned one-way riverside strip with restaurants and incredible stores that runs parallel to the Savannah River.  The mix of retro, modern and classic combined with a good dose of famous southern hospitality on the River Front is really quite fun.

One of River Street's old fashioned candy stores.

One of River Street's old fashioned candy stores.

Savannah is no New York City, and River Street is no Times Square.  You won't find glaring lights, neon signs, obnoxious drunk people, car horns or large jumbo-trons advertising models in underwear.  Instead, you'll find a quaint tranquility surrounded by friendly people and a sense of time warp.  Although Savannah is thoroughly modern, it also oozes an old fashionedness that doesn't rely on gimmicks and bright shiny digital billboards to seduce you.  The feeling that people from 100 years ago were walking the same streets doing the same things is seduction enough.  It really does take you to a kinder, gentler place.

Disclaimer:  generalizations that you won't find obnoxious drunk or rude people are not binding.  You may find a few, depending upon the tourists, occasions, events or holidays.  I'm sure there are unruly Savannahians but I have been fortunate enough to not encounter them.

View of the Savannah River from our room at the Hyatt Regency. 

View of the Savannah River from our room at the Hyatt Regency. 

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency on the waterfront.  The best part of this hotel is its location, which literally straddles River Street for a block.  We had a high end room, the room with a View, but the bathroom looked a bit old and there was no frig or microwave.  I expected more from the Hyatt, but then we loved River Street so much that we really didn't spend that much time there.  However, the room service menu is good, the interior of the hotel is gorgeous and the restaurant, lounge and shops in the lobby are a definite plus.

Another view from our room at the Hyatt Regency. 

Another view from our room at the Hyatt Regency. 

Now comes the fun part... leaving the hotel!  River Street is old cobblestone with a set of railroad tracks running through it, sandwiched in between the Savannah River on one side and a string of shops, stores, bars and restaurants on the other.  The sidewalk that traces along the river has areas for docking ferries and boats as well space for small concerts, which is always occupied by a man playing the saxaphone or another singing with his guitar.  Donations appreciated!  But they are singing the classics, from old rhythm and blues to memorable sitcom ditties from The Jeffersons or Sanford and Son.  The air is full of character as these various sounds ring out and make Savannah what it is.  You might also find artists with their easels painting the landscape or sketching people.  

Fountain along the River Walk on River Street.

Fountain along the River Walk on River Street.

The shops along River Street are loads of fun.  Several candy stores have barrels full of candy that can be grabbed by the handful and stuffed into bags.  And these candy stores are big, complete with rooms full of retro memorabilia, working trains suspended from the ceiling, and lots of free samples.  You can also watch as the candy is made fresh on the premises.  


There are also plenty of cute Five & Dime stores along River Street that have great stuff like this:


The River Street Market Place is down a bit further and hosts local vendors who sell some pretty interesting things, too, most hand made in Georgia.  My favorite was this:


The most charming experience of the night was a moonlight cruise and dinner aboard the southern beauty, the Georgia Queen Riverboat, which docks on River Street in the Savannah River.  The Valentine's Dinner Cruise was about $135 for the two of us, but a typical moonlight cruise is less than $23 per adult.  I was surprised at the level of catering the staff gave to patrons.... reservations are required and for $6 more you can reserve window seats.  The experience was uniquely southern with lots of hospitality from waiters and staff.... it's not every day you can find a romantic venue for a Valentine's Day that makes you feel like you've actually had a great date night while children and babies enjoy the experience, too.  There's something about the music, food and atmosphere that makes all feel welcome and like we've gotten our money's worth.  


The menu was a surprising hit.  I assumed it would be an overpriced buffet of cafeteria type food, but instead it was an array of wonderfully fresh salads, sea food and perfectly cooked southern gourmet dishes... my favorite was the Shrimp and Grits.  The bar was great... fantastic Margaritas and a specialty cocktail called the Georgia Peach. Wow, was that wonderful!   

Shrimp and Grits!

Shrimp and Grits!

Our personal experience on River Street aside, which was wonderful, it's hard to imagine that anyone wouldn't have as memorable a time as we did.  There's a little something for everyone, and the thing that will stick with you is the charming southern warmth with a sense of stepping back into time exclusive to Savannah, where happiness comes from family and friends and a good conservation and a stroll along the river on a cobblestone street.  There's something very timeless, old and classic about Savannah, and River Street captures it perfectly.

River Street in Savannah, GA.

River Street in Savannah, GA.

More images from our River Street excursion can be seen on my public Facebook page, Imago Dei Photography, HERE.