The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System. It gets its name "milky" from its appearance as a dim glowing band of white arching across the night sky. There are billions of planets in the Milky Way and billions of stars.
The Milky Way has a relatively low surface brightness <>. Its visibility can be greatly reduced by background light such as light pollution <> from cities or stray light from the Moon <>. I found it a bit difficult to photograph. The first problems to overcome are finding a dark night without clouds. A new moon is perfect. The final piece of the puzzle is to find a dark place without city or other nearby lights. In other words, the remote wilderness is perfect. Once a desirable location is found, it seems to me that the composition needs something of interest in the foreground. I tried a location with desert sand dunes and that left something to be desired.
Picture A was taken in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia using a Ger in the foreground. A flashlight was used to paint light on the Ger. The problem with this seems to be the 30 second exposure. If you look closely the stars are beginning to leave streaks in the sky. I prefer round dots of light. I was hobbled by not having a faster wide angle lens with me.
Picture B seems to be an improvement. It was 15 seconds which basically eliminated the star streaks. I had turned on some lights in the cabin which made the building glow, but too much light spilled out to the front sides. I could not find a way to control this.
Picture C is my best effort so far. The quiver trees make a nice foreground and the horizontal format provides a full view of the entire Milky Way. By using a 10 second exposure I am unable to detect any star streaks due to the rotation of the earth. The only thing that I could not control was some unwanted light in the far right corner.  This was an outside light at a lodge a few miles away. Several photo attempts were ruined when a vehicle traveled down a road in the distance. The quiver trees were ,painted, with light from a flashlight during the exposure. Since I was using a very wide 8 mm lens it appears that I was farther away than I really was. The closest tree was probably not more than about 20 feet in front of me. I did learn one important lesson to remember in the future. An old fashion bulb flashlight provided the warm light you see here. When I used a modern LED flashlight the light it produced was very white. This would be fine for some things but I was not pleased with the results on the quiver trees.

Suez Canal in Egypt

What a difference a few feet can make. Pictures B & C were taken precisely 1 minute and 3 seconds apart while passing through the Suez Canal. Yet they look like they were from two completely different places in the world. Both pictures were taken at The Ferry Road which connects the 23 July Road on the west with Highway 50 on the east. We were on the Royal Caribbean *Legend of the Seas*, which was the lead ship in a northbound caravan of about two dozen ships (our cruise ship plus freight, container, and petroleum ships). Our convoy began forming and heading north about 5:27 AM. We would exit
into the Mediterranean Sea at 3:27 PM the same day. I am told that a ten hour transit time is about normal. By the way, passenger ships always go before freighters.
The Suez Canal was opened in 1869 after about a decade of construction. It shortened the Europe-Asia trade route by 5,903 miles. The canal was run by the British and the French until 1956 when it was nationalized by Egyptian president Nasser. Over the years more and more ships would use the canal which resulted in a longer and longer wait time. The speed of ships is limited to reduce wake and wave erosion of the canal walls. The north and the south bound convoys could only pass in one place, the Ballah by-pass and that required one convoy to stop and wait for the other to go by.  A widening expansion was completed in July 2015 so now the convoys can pass without a wait.
While certainly more efficient, from a photographers perspective the 101 mile long canal is not nearly as photogenic as it was before the expansion. Prior to the expansion, a day spent out on deck as the ship sailed through the canal provided a lot to see because it was narrow and both sides were visible. There were many things along the banks such as ferry landings,
houses, farms, vehicles, trains, and a few towns. Of course these things are still there but now much is out of sight. What we see now is mostly military outposts and sand. The Mubarak Peace Bridge (no picture is included) completed 2001 is the only vehicle bridge across the canal. The El Ferdan Railway Bridge, just north of Ismailia was completed in 1918, is the longest swing bridge in the world with a span of 1100 feet. Until the expansion there was one place, the Ballah by-pass where if you were out on deck, you could see one or two ships from the other convoy waiting and they appeared to be sailing in the sand. See picture E. I have provided GPS coordinates for each picture should you want to see the exact spot on a map.
A: Suez, Egypt, the southern entrance to canal from the Red Sea. Evergreen
Ever Lasting and Maersk Line container ships, second and third ships in
north-bound convoy.  
B: Military Post along the canal just north of Suez, Egypt. Taken April 29,
2013 at 6:48 AM.
C: Row boat at ferry crossing just north of the above military post. Taken
April 29, 2013 at 6:49 AM.
D: Al Ferdan Railway Swing Bridge across the Suez Canal. Taken April 29,
2013 at 11:48 AM
E: Container ship in the Ballah by-pass. Taken same date as above at 12:36

This week is a bit different. There is no story to share and the pictures are a bit different. Attached is a small sample of the "little pictures" from the Caribbean. You see, Margaret likes to cruise. There is generally never a time when we do not have at least one cruise booked for a future date. Living in the Atlanta, GA area, it takes the better part of a day to
drive to a cruise port in Florida. Therefore we like to spend longer than 7 days cruising. Florida has cruises sailing out of several ports, generally Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, or Tampa. So often we book back-to-back cruises out of the same port. For instance for a 7 day round trip Ft. Lauderdale cruise we will stay on the same ship for two sailings. Other times we will get off of one ship and take a taxi to another ship sailing out of the same port that same day.
I have said all of this to tell you that we have sailed to most of the Caribbean destination multiple times. Over the years we have taken many of the tours that are available so it is not uncommon for Margaret to never get off the ship. When in port most passengers go ashore and leave the ship to Margaret and a few others. So peaceful she says.
I on the other hand always go ashore and ramble around exploring with my camera. In the past I have taken pictures of the tourist spots, markets, local people, historic buildings, and harbors. Now it seems I find myself looking for the "little pictures" that capture the local flavor and not so obvious to those passing by. These are six such examples from a cruise on
the Holland America *Eurodam* and the Royal Caribbean *Enchantment of the Seas, *taken back-to-back the fall of 2009 in the Caribbean.
A - Tunnel in Castillo San Cristobal (old fort) in San Juan, Puerto Rica. The trick was waiting until no one was walking through. Taken October 20, 2009 at 3:35 PM  
B - Fence on Cork St. in Belize City, Belize. I liked the shadows and side lighting against a deep blue sky. I passed by this same location about mid-day and with the sun high in the sky and clouds. It was a completely different looking scene. Taken October 15, 2009 at 9:16 AM  
C - This is a portion of the back of a chase lounge at the Margaretville Cruise Center at Grand Turk, Island. Taken October 19, 2009 at 7:17 AM  
D - Umbrella that had blown into the Salt Pond at Cockburn Town, Grand Turk Island. I chose an angle using a long lens to show only the umbrella, part of the reflection, and the water. Taken October 19 at 9:32 AM
E - Balloons tied to a pole at a refreshment stand at Half Moon Cay, Island in the Caribbean.  By getting in close you do not see a group of balloons blowing in the wind but see only shapes and colors. I carefully chose an angle that makes it hard to tell what the subject is. Taken October 23 at 10:15 AM  
F - Shadow of a ladder on a yellow wall at Cozumel, Mexico. I selected only the upper portion of the ladder which I felt was much stronger than the entire wall. Again, another time of the day and this scene is not the same. Taken October 14, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Sweetwater Mill, Atlanta, Georgia

Originally what was known as the Sweetwater Mill and later named the New  Manchester Manufacturing Company is about 15 miles west of Atlanta, GA. This mill was built in 1849 and designed to produce a type of yarn from cotton called Osnaburg. The yarn was then used to make material for Confederate uniforms. What is left of the mill is located on Sweetwater Creek near the rushing shoals from which it got its power. The mill was five stories tall, which was taller than the tallest building in Atlanta at that time. It was indeed a very large mill, supporting an entire factory town. In 1864 the 60 to 70 employees at the mill were mostly women and children since most of the able bodied men were fighting in the Confederate Army. Only a very small number of militia, known as the "Sweetwater Guards" was stationed at the mill.
On July 2, 1864 the Union Calvary commanded by General George Stoneman captured the mill and village around it. July 9th the Union troops burned and destroyed then entire village and mill. General Sherman ordered that everyone connected with the mill be arrested. All those taken prisoner were taken to Marietta, GA and imprisoned with the workers from the nearby Roswell Mills which had also been demolished by the Union Army.
The group was then taken from Marietta to Louisville, KY and imprisoned there. Those that agreed to sign an "Oath of Allegiance" to the United States Government were then released north of the Ohio River in Ohio and Indiana. A condition of their release was that they could not return south until the war ended. Those that didn't sign the oath remained in prison
until after the war. Although many of the former workers were never heard from again, most made it back to Georgia after the war.
Parts of the brick wall and some of the machinery are all that remain today. The entire area is part of the Sweetwater Creek Park which has walking trails to the ruins.

The *Burj Al Arab (*Arab Tower) is a 5-star luxury hotel <> located in Dubai <>, United Arab Emirates <>. At 321 m (1,053 ft.), it is the fourth tallest hotel in the world <>; however 39% of its total height is made up of non-occupiable space. Burj Al Arab stands on a man-made island 280 m (920 ft.) from Jumeirah <> beach and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. The shape of the structure is designed to mimic the sail of a yacht. Construction began in 1984 and was completed in 1989.
The Burj Al Arab is one of the most expensive hotels in the world. It consists of 28 double story floors. There are 202 rooms, the smallest is 1820 sq. ft. and the largest is 8400 sq. ft. The time that I checked the smallest suite was $1,957.75 per night and the Royal suite was $18,776 per night. No, we did not spend the night.
Other than by helicopter (there is a helicopter pad on the roof), the only way to gain access to the hotel is through a gate and over a bridge that connects it to the mainland. When Margaret and I were there in 2013, only hotel guest and people attending tea or dining at one of the restaurants were allowed in the hotel. Almost a year in advance we had reserved space  n the Skyview Bar for their afternoon tea just to experience this marvelous and very talked about place.
Let me introduce you to the Skyview Bar located on the top floor. After the guard at the bridge found our name on the expected guest list, we were allowed across the bridge and into the building's ground floor. We were greeted and directed to an escalator that took us up to the mezzanine. The entire wall next to the escalator was an aquarium.  Upon reaching the mezzanine we found a reception desk, shops and elevators. We were free to walk about until our name was called for an elevator that took us up to the 27th floor. Again our name was checked off a list and we were directed to a tunnel type round entrance, with the walls resembling green electronic circuit boards, to the Skyview Bar. When we reserved our space there were several times that tea was served. We chose a time that had us finishing up at sunset. The view up and down the coast is excellent and photography was allowed in all areas of the hotel including the Skyview Bar.
The price in 2013 for afternoon tea was about $123.00 per person. Now I see that it is AED 620 or $150.00. As you might expect this was not an ordinary afternoon tea where a few sandwiches were served with a cup of tea. We ate slowly for several hours as tasty morsels kept arriving at our table. There was a selection of different kinds of tea, some of which I had never heard of (I had 3-4 different kinds), champagne, coffee, sandwiches, pastries, scones, and cakes, served with jams and cream. Lychee and rose sorbet added the finishing touch.
Did you know that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, England was the one who started the tradition of afternoon tea in the early 1840s? During this period traditionally there were only two meals served per day, breakfast and dinner, and dinner was not served until 8:30 - 9:30 in the evening. The Duchess often became hungry so she ordered a small meal of bread, butter and other niceties to be brought secretly to here boudoir.  She soon became exposed, and rather than being ridiculed she started to invite others to join her and her habit caught on, as "Afternoon Tea" became a tradition.