Monthly Archives: March 2013


Backyard Birds from February Snow Days 500mm f/4 lens

CardinalIt’s fun to put out bird food during a snow storm.  The backyard birds come out and make for some very nice photos.

There were two big snows in February.  It was very common to see Backyard Birds like Cardinals, Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, Starlings, and Goldfinches.  And of course whenever you put out bird food, it’s only a matter of time before the neighborhood squirrel comes over and wolfs down the bird food.

SquirrelThe images in this posting are all taken with my 500mm f/4 lens.  The birdfeeder is on our patio and I setup a tripod in the kitchen.  The photos are taken through our new bay window.

Cardinal and GoldfinchI did have a few challenges.  It was windy outside, so the branches were wiggling back and forth.  The birds were not sitting still.  And, the sky was over cast so it was a challenge get the right mix of shutter speed and aperature. Most of my images had some blur.

Jaffa Clock Tower

Old Jaffa Walking Tour

St. Peter's ChurchBackground for my Old Jaffa Walking Tour: We were in Tel Aviv for a week’s worth of business meetings.  After our last meeting, we took a pre-dinner ride a couple of miles south to start our brief Old Jaffa Walking Tour.

Our hotel is located in Tel Aviv, right on the Mediterranean.  From our hotel we can faintly see the clock tower from St. Peter’s Church and the Minaret of Al-Bahr Mosque / Sea Mosque.  Even though our hotel and Jaffa are both on the Tel Aviv Promenade, a stretch of boulevard full of people out for the evening, we decided to save time and took a taxi to Jaffa.

Gate of FaithOur taxicab driver took us to the Abrasha Park at the top of the hill named Tel Yafo in Old Jaffa.  We walked around and saw some interesting sites:  a small park area with a sculpture named “The Gates of Faith,” “Tel Yafo Excavation” — an archaeological dig of an egyptian fortress, the “Wishing Bridge,” St Peter’s Church.

We started walking down the Jaffa Hill, following the Mifrats Shlomo Promenade, the walk way closest to the water.  We saw the Minaret of Al-Bahr Mosque / Sea Mosque, a beautiful view of the Tel Aviv night-time cityscape, Arab Hebrew Theatre of Jaffa.

Sea MosqueWhen we got to the bottom of the hill we wandered among small food market along Yefet Street near the HaPishpeshim Market area.  We walked to the North East entrance of Old Jaffa and saw the Jaffa clock tower then took a taxi back to our hotel.

Jaffa is a port city that dates back 1440BC, with archaeological evidence suggesting its origins go back to 7500BC.  This is a nice small place to visit.


The Old Jaffa hill isn’t that big, but if you are pressed for time, I recommend doing what we did and have your taxi drop you off at the top of the hill and walk down.  If at all possible, do a little bit of research before you go; there’s lots of history right in front of you; if you don’t read beforehand or have a guide, you will miss the significance of this beautiful harbour town. Link to Jaffa WIKI

We went there early evening; it had just turned dark.  In Abrasha Park and on the promenade along the water way, there were lots of people, siteseers like us and families going out to dinner.  We felt very safe.

Tel Aviv City scape

Dome of the Rock

Old City of Jerusalem Tour – Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian Quarters

Church of the Holy SepulchreBackground on my Old City of Jerusalem Tour: I was in Tel Aviv on business and for my first day, my host arranged with the hotel for me to take their semi-private Old City of Jerusalem Tour.

Our guide met three of us in the lobby of our hotel.  We drove to Jerusalem. For our first stop he took us to Mount Scopus.  It’s on the northeast side of Jerusalem, looking down on the Old City.  From there, he pointed out the sights we will soon be walking by, most notably, the Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount / Haram esh-Sharif religious site.

We drove to the southwestern corner of the Old City of Jerusalem and parked outside the walls at the Zion Gate, just outside of the Armenian Quarter on Mount Zion.  Nearby we saw the Dormition Abbey, Room of the Last Supper (Franciscan Church of the Coenaculum) and the Tomb of King David.

Western WallJewish Quarter. We entered the Jewish Quarter from the Zion Gate, walked North along the narrow Habad Street to the Cardo, the Roman market place excavated in the 1970s.  We then made our way over to the Hurva Synagogue and the Wohl Archaeological Museum.  And from there, we made it to one of the major destinations:  The Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall, or Kotel).  From here we are right next to the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock which we first saw on Mount Scopus.

Dormition AbbeyMuslim Quarter. We then started walking North along El Wad street in the Muslim Quarter. This then connected with the Via Dolorosa, where the first stations of the cross are marked.  We followed Dolorosa, turned down Beit HaBad street, then made our way to Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter.

Christian Quarter. The church is built on the Hill of Calvary the place where Jesus was crucified and buried.  After we toured the historic church, we continued our tour, walking by the Church of the Redeemer, Omar Mosque and then settled in for shopping and lunch on the Muristan market street.

Edicule of the Tomb of ChristArmenian Quarter. We then walked West to the The Citadel, Tower of David medieval fortress, near the Jaffa Gate in the Armenian Quarter.  We walked South along Armenian Patriarchate Street, visited the Cathedral of St James, then headed South back to the Zion Gate and to our car.

King DavidOur tour guide did an excellent job explaining the history, the different religious view points, and made it all exciting and fun.  By the time I was done, it became a big blur of one historic site blending into another.  Seeing things 3000 years old next to other things that were 1000 years old, next to things that were built 100 years ago was really cool!!

Tips:I recommend anyone who comes here to first do some homework.  Watch a tourist video or study a tour guide.  I was glad I took lots of pictures and GPS tagged everything; it was only after my tour and I started putting captions on my pictures did I realize the significance of what I was seeing. If you come to the Old City, please do some homework and hire a guide.  The experience is life changing!
Mosaic of Christ's anointing
Door of Humility

Bethlehem Tour – Church of the Nativity

Gilo-Bethlehem CheckpointOur Bethlehem Tour started at the Gilo-Bethlehem Checkpoint at the Palestinian Territories border.  A taxi driver met us and drove for a little while, then we picked up our tour guide, then we drove and parked in Manger Square, right in front of the Church of the Nativity  with the spire from the nearby Mosque of Omar visible.

Star of the NativityChurch of the Nativity.  We entered through the Door of Humility, we walked through the main part of the church up to the Main Alter and the Alter of Circumcision. Our tour guide then took us down the steps to Grotto of the Nativity   We saw the Nativity Manger, the 14 point Star of Nativity (place of Jesus’s birth).  Along the way, our tour guide told us about the history, reminding us that the Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic religions each had a different places to worship in and near this church.

This church dates back to the times of Constantine (380 AD).  The building we toured was constructed in the 6th century and has been updated, restored and remodeled many times over the years.  Our tour guide gave us an excellent overview of many parts of the structure including the interesting role of the Crusaders.

Church of St. CatherineChurch of St Catherine. We left the church, moved our way over to the Cloister of St Jerome, then the Church of St Catherine.  This is the Church from which we see mass on TV Christmas Eve from the Holy Land.  There are many beautiful statues, reliefs and other pieces of art.  While this church’s current form and design are from  the 1800s, with recent remodeling in the 1940s, the church dates back to the 15th century.  St Catherine shares a wall with the Church of the Nativity.

After our tour, our driver and tour guide took us to a gift store, then drove us back to the Gilo 300 Checkpoint.  While nowhere near as big as Jerusalem, Bethlehem was a very good place to visit.

Gilo 300. Just so you know, the process of going through the Gilo-Bethlehem check point at the separation wall, was not that bad.  It was a little unnerving just being dropped off and trusting that someone would be on the other side waiting for you, but there was, and we had no problems.  Further, the Bethlehem tour guide and driver were both very, very nice.

Door of Humility

Tour Guide “shopping” process. Another point for you to know, there’s an unwritten expectation that you will patronize the gift shop.  They sell very nice wood carvings, jewelry  statuettes, books and post cards.  I bought a couple of really nice tour books.  I’d budget spending $30.  I’d been through this with other tours in other countries; this is how our tour guide makes money; if you like your tour guide, buy something nice; if you don’t, just buy a little trinket.  Our guide was learned, respectful, and made an extra effort to tailor his presentation to each member of the group.