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Fountain City, Knoxville, TN

Saturday, February 23, 2008
This may seem really obvious to my computer savvy readers, but I just want to remind everyone that you should never open email attachments or even click on links in emails unless you are 100% positive that they are safe and have been sent by someone you know.

For instance, someone could easily send out emails that look like they are from me or someone you know even though they are not. If you ever receive an unexpected email and are unsure then you can always email or call the sender to check. For links, you can open a browser window and go to the site yourself rather than following a link that may actually be installing a virus on your computer. It can be really tempting to just trust an email when you recognize the sender or if the email says, for instance, that someone you know has sent you an ecard, but it's better to possibly miss out on a real card than to end up a victim.
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Fountain City, Knoxville, TN

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Just in case you didn't happen to notice... there was a total lunar eclipse tonight. We went out for a few minutes around 11pm to see the shadow as it started moving off of the Moon. 

It's a little too cold to stay out for long tonight, but it is kind of cool to see so I dug out an old composite photo that I took a few years ago.

The first shot was taken during totality while the Moon was completely covered by the Earth's shadow. Because the Earth is blocking most of the sunlight, shorter wavelengths of light are scattered. Only the longer orange and red wavelengths can bend around and still reach the Moon which is why you get an orange color cast.

Once the shadow has moved off some, the Moon is much brighter and looks a lot like most other nights. However, the normal phases of the moon are not caused by the Earth's shadow, and that is your random fact for the day.

If you missed out on seeing the eclipse then you'll have to wait a while. While it is possible to have up to 3 total lunar eclipses in one year, we won't have another one until December 2010.
Lunar Eclipse Photograph

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Freedom of the Seas, Caribbean

Saturday, January 19, 2008
I promised to do a post on my holiday cruise so here it is.

This was my first time cruising, but I'm already wanting to go again. If you haven't gone before, you really should try it. We sailed on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas to the western Caribbean with stops in Labadee, Haiti; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico before returning to Miami.

Our ship was the biggest on the seas although I'm sure another will be along to take that title shortly. Since I haven't cruised before, I can't really comment on how a big ship compares to a smaller one. There were several things that we didn't take advantage of such as the flow rider surfing on board, the climbing wall, the amazing gym and spa, the nightclub etc. We did attend dinner in the formal dining room every evening and see most of the shows. The ice show was my favorite (yes they even have an ice skating rink on the ship).

The food was amazing. Contrary to what I'd heard, you really can't get food and drink at all hours though. We had an especially hard time finding something to drink during non-meal hours. There are, of course, always options to buy, but next time I will purchase the soft drink plan. You buy it on the first day of the cruise, and it entitles you to "free" soft drinks all the time (which would come in handy when the free restaurants are closed).

We didn't see our stateroom attendant much, but he did come in and clean up our room all the time. I'm not crazy about people messing around with my stuff too much, but it's their job. They expect a big tip at the end of the trip so I felt like I had to let them come in and do their job. Each evening while we were gone to dinner, he came in and left a chocolate on our pillow and a towel animal on the bed. Those were kind of fun, but again... I'd rather not have it and not have to pay. The tips for the attendants, servers, etc at the end of the trip were a big expense.

We had a room in the center of the ship, and next time I want a balcony or at least a window. It's fun to see the arrival/departure from the ports and to see the sunsets. If you're inside the ship then it's harder to know when to go up on the deck, and I missed some of that. I really wanted to see some nice sunsets, but the ones that I caught were blocked by clouds.

We had great weather on the trip. The top deck was very windy while we were sailing though. The first and last day are spent at sea so that's when everyone's around the pools. It was hard to find seats near the pool so we ended up out in the exposed areas, and it was rather chilly in the wind.

After we returned from the cruise, we spent a few days in Miami before Marcus's family headed home. It got downright cold while we were there, and I was glad that our cruise had been the week before the cold front. Our hotel was on the beach, but we didn't even go down to the water because we were so busy and then it was cold. In Miami, we spent a day each at South Beach, The Everglades, and Key West. Key West was really too far for one day, and we got there too late to do much of anything before returning to Miami. I've always wanted to go there, but I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to see/do more. The Everglades were really neat. We walked a couple of trails and saw a lot of alligators as well as crocodiles, turtles, birds, fish, and a snake.

I just didn't want to try to keep a big camera safe during our shore excursions so we used Marcus's point-and-shoot mostly. In Jamaica, my mother-in-law and I watched as everyone else climbed up a waterfall. In Grand Cayman, 4 of us went out to swim with the stingrays and do a little snorkeling. In Cozumel, I snorkeled with my husband Marcus and my brother Andrew. We saw a lot of really cool fish and an eel, but you'll have to just take my word for it. We had purchased an underwater housing for Marcus's camera so that we could take photos, but then we forgot to charge the battery before going ashore. I think that Cozumel was probably my favorite port, but Grand Cayman is definitely the most upscale. Unlike the other places where you're mostly surrounded by tourists, we saw a lot of poverty in Jamaica. The people seemed to have great attitudes though. Everywhere you go, you hear "No problem, Mon!"

Since my camera was in the safe for much of the trip, I didn't come home with a lot of photos, but here are a few.

The sunset over Haiti as we were sailing away and another sunset.
Cruise Wrap Up

Cruise Wrap Up

The sea of grass that is the Everglades (it's actually a very shallow and slow river)
Cruise Wrap Up
Mangrove trees and a slough where alligators like to live. Winter is the best time to visit because it isn't unbearably hot, and the mosquito numbers are down.
Cruise Wrap Up
This anhinga caught a fish that was too big for it to eat. Apparently the bird thought it was safer around people than in the swamp with the alligators. We watched for several minutes while it wrestled with the fish on the walkway railing.
Cruise Wrap Up
The little turtle followed the larger one around for a while and then climbed on its back. Visitors on the Anhinga Trail walk above the swamp on wooden walkways, but we were often only feet away from the wildlife (good for me since I didn't have a telephoto lens with me). Also, if you purchase binoculars and trek them around the Caribbean just so that you will have them when you visit the Everglades, don't forget and leave them at the hotel like I did!

Cruise Wrap Up

A view of one of the walkways in the Everglades and, just to be random, an art deco building at South Beach.

Cruise Wrap Up
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Home, Knoxville, TN

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
This isn't photography related, but I've been sick with a migraine this week. I'll get pics of from Saturday's wedding as soon as I can.

Brrr...  I haven't actually had to go out into the cold, but the weather men say that it's darn chilly out there so yesterday I made chili. I'm not a fancy cook, and my main requirement for a meal is that it is simple. Here's my simple chili in case anyone else is in the mood for a warm and easy meal.

Main ingredients from the pantry (Bet you'll never guess which grocery store I use):
It's Chilly Outside

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce (most of a 29oz can)
  • 1 (16 oz) jar salsa (choose the spiciness you prefer)
  • 4 tablespoons chili seasoning mix
  • 1 (15 oz) can light red kidney beans
  • 1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans


    1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the ground beef and the onion and saute for 10 minutes, or until meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain grease, if desired.
    2. Add the ground black pepper, garlic salt, tomato sauce, salsa, chili seasoning mix and kidney beans. Mix well, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour.


    • I don't like cutting up onions so I often leave it out and just use the chunky salsa with onions.
    • No you do not have to drain the cans of beans. Just dump them in.
    • We buy a 3lb package of ground turkey and brown it all at once over medium/high heat (stirring constantly). I then use one pound to make something (like spaghetti or hamburger helper) and keep the other 2 pounds in the fridge for chili the next day.
    • Dump the meat and remaining ingredients in a spaghetti pot, cover, and bring it to a boil before turning the heat down to low (2/10). Stir the chili after ten minutes. If it starts to stick to the pot then the heat is too high. If it isn't bubbling then the heat is a little low. Just be sure to stir regularly during cooking or it can stick and burn on the bottom.

      Chili is also really good served over tortilla chips with cheddar cheese, tomato, and sour cream on top, but this is what I had available.
      It's Chilly Outside

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    On Location, Knoxville, TN

    Thursday, January 10, 2008
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    Happy 2008, and I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season! After a few weeks away, I am finally back sleeping in my own bed!

    So where have I been? I first went on a Christmas cruise to the Caribbean with my brother, my husband, and his family. Then we spent New Years in Miami before I flew to Tampa for a photography convention where I was inspired and educated by some of the best photographers in the world.

    I'll try to post photos from my trip later, but here are a few portraits that I did of my convention roommate who recently started her own business in Texas - Jennifer Kelly Fine Photography.

    I'm Back!
    I'm Back!
    I'm Back!

    I'm Back!
    I'm Back!
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    Welcome to the Nancy Hellsten Photography blog! This is the place to be if you’re looking for wedding ideas and photography promotions or if you just want to view some great photos and see what I’ve been up to. If you or someone you know are getting married, having a baby, or just want some relaxed portraits with the family, please visit my website or contact me for more information. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for visiting and check back often to see what’s new.