Monthly Archives: January 2014

I learned something today…. How about you?

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

One of the most unique places in all of San Diego County is the Cedros Avenue Design District in Solana Beach.

Cedros Avenue Design District in Encinitas, California

Cedros Avenue Design District in Solana Beach, California

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Los Angeles Times called the Cedros Avenue Design District “a stroll down a charming European side street.” It’s 2½ blocks comprising around 85 unique shops, boutiques, galleries, home & garden stores, and dining and entertainment. Find original jewelry and fashions, home décor, furniture, art, collectibles, antiques, tapestries, and more. The North County home of the world-famous Belly Up Tavern makes its home on Cedros Avenue, as do many renowned architects, designers, builders, and interior decorators.

One of my favorite stores is the David Alan Collection of unique wood décor at 241 S. Cedros Avenue.

David Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Take a look at these offerings:

Wagon WheelsDavid Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Trees etched into wood planks (my kind of art!)David Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

David Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

David Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Uh, nice kitty?………………..David Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Reclaimed boat wood and boat lettersDavid Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

David Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Who knew that you could actually buy reclaimed boat wood and boat letters? I can think of things to do with the reclaimed boat letters but my creativity is lost on the reclaimed boat wood. Nonetheless, I love the reclaimed part. Remember, don’t throw things away….. there is no away!

Lastly,

if

you

have

young

children

in

the

room

who

are

easily

frightened,

let

them

watch

television

before

looking

at

the

final

picture.

Ready?

Look…………………….

David Alan Collection

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those are from a set of 95 Wayang Golek puppets, all from a single theatre troop and handcrafted in the 1930s. Wayang is Java for theater. Scholars believe that Wayang Golek puppetry originated in China and arrived in Java in the 17th century. The oldest known traditions of Wayang Golek are from the north coast of Java in the Pasisir region.

The doll puppets are carved from wood and operated by control rods connected to the hands, body, and head. They are manipulated by the dulang, the puppet master, who also spoke their parts and coordinated their movements to music from an orchestra.

Wayang Golek thrives today, and Indonesian children often recognize the characters and know the stories well by the time they reach adulthood.

So……. I learned something today. How about you?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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My kind of pledge of allegiance

Opinion

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have never really cared for the Pledge of Allegiance ever since my high school senior English teacher, Mrs. Edith Head (but not THAT Edith Head) diagrammed it on the blackboard in class. That was back in 1973.

When one understands sentence structure, it’s obvious that most people, especially Christians (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” or something like that), should be a little upset. It starts, “I pledge allegiance to the flag….” Huh? I’m supposed to pledge myself to an inanimate object? Hmmm. I don’t think so. And I’m not even a Christian!

It goes on, kind of like an afterthought “….AND to the republic for which it stands….” That’s certainly good, but then it gets bad again: “….one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

When one understands religions, one would naturally ask, “Under whose god?”

And even at the tender young age of 18, it was evident to me that there was no “liberty and justice for all.” Liberty and justice was reserved for the rich and the white. I don’t think anything has changed in 41 years.

At a recent home inspection, there was a pledge of allegiance hanging on the wall, a pledge that I fully support:

I pledge allegiance....

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I pledge allegiance
to the Earth
and all the Life
which it supports.
One Planet,
in our care,
irreplaceable,
with sustenance and respect
for all.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

We’re supposed to walk on those?

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Many years ago, shortly after I came to San Diego, I signed on as a consultant working in the wireless telecommunications industry. We built cell sites so your cell phone would work, and for that I apologize. Of course, if I didn’t do it, someone else would have….

I had been with the company just a couple of months when everyone from around the nation flew to Boulder, Colorado, for a team weekend. During that weekend, I won a $100 gift certificate for meeting the most people and having them sign my team book as proof. I was also asked by the company to talk on fire….

Wait! What?

Yep, they asked me to walk on fire. I could not convince myself to do it. Purposefully walking on fire is kind of like purposefully inhaling smoke into your lungs. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Out of more than 500 people, though, there were only about 30 of us who declined the experience.

Last year when I was at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden, I was in the eucalyptus forest when I came upon a walkway that begged me NOT to walk on it. Everyone else, of course, was walking on it as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Maybe walking on walkways is natural, but walking on this one just seemed wrong.

Here are some pictures of what I chose NOT to walk on:

Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway art at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Would you have walked on that beautiful art?

Be truthful!

Smile if you would lie and say, “Sure! I would walk on those!”

Location of Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

….right there by mama’s side!

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

As much as I love going to SeaWorld, the Zoo, Safari Park, botanical gardens, and aquariums, there is a certain sadness connected to those places because many of the plants and animals they have there are endangered in the wild, usually because of human hunting or development.

Thus there’s always a certain king of joy when one sees plants and animals in their natural habitats.

Such was the case recently when I was way out in the boondocks where I saw many barrel cactus growing in the wild, specifically the fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni). Other common names include Arizona barrel cactus, candy barrel cactus, and Southwestern barrel cactus. It looks like these beauties:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That second one looks like it is growing out of solid rock!

Tradition says that the barrel cactus is a source of water for people lost in the desert, and there are records of Native Americans using it for that purpose. However, the water within the plant contains oxalic acid, which can cause diarrhea on an empty stomach. Great! If I’m lost in the desert without water, it’s highly likely that I probably don’t have any food, either!

Barrel cactus (Echinocactus sp. and Ferocactus sp.) are sometimes called “compass cactus” because they are great exhibitors of phototropism–growing towards the light–as shown by this golden barrel cactus:

Golden Barrel Cactus in Balboa Park, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Look at the shadow from the rock and you can see that it is, indeed, facing the sun. Here in the United States, most of the sun comes from the south, so the barrel cactus commonly faces south. Ergo, “compass cactus.”

Phototropism is exhibited in houseplants, too, as they usually grow towards the light—smile if that makes you think of Poltergeist, “Come towards the light Carol Anne.” Unfortunately, phototropism can cause house plants to look rather ungainly, which is why my wise old grandmother always rotated her houseplants, to give both sides the opportunity to get some of the light.

As with most cactus, the barrel cactus needles are quite dangerous. In my home state of Texas, we called them “horse cripplers” because a horse accidentally stepping on one, even a rather small one, could cripple it.

Additionally, a barrel cactus puncture wound is considered a dirty wound. If the puncture is deep enough to draw blood, lots of antibiotics may be needed, as well as several months for the wound to heal properly.

Barrel cactus can get quite large and tall. The golden barrel cactus in the picture above is one of the largest I had ever seen. That one, and several others, are located in the Desert Garden in Balboa Park here in San Diego.

However, my trip to the boondocks in East San Diego County provided me the opportunity to see some fishhook barrel cactus that were as tall as me (6’3″), like this one:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My favorite one, though, was this four-feet-tall gal with her three little ones clinging to her side:

Fishhook barrel cactus

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Even plant babies know that the best place to get love and food is right there by mama’s side!

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Imperial Beach Surf Dog Competition

Music on Mondays–The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Some readers might not know that I have a few billion digital music files and that I listen to them in chronological order.

The oldest digital file in my music collection is “Lover” by Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers & Hammerstein fame. You know, musicals like “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” “The King & I,” “The Sound of Music”), dating to 1932.

The newest digital file is the EP “American Authors” by American Authors.

I happened to listen to 1986 this weekend and thought I would share a song by Timbuk 3 (instead of Timbuktu; get it?). It’s titled “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades.”

And I thought they were on drugs…………..

I study nuclear science, I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher who wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades

I gotta job waiting for my graduation
Fifty thou a year will buy a lotta beer
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades

I’m heavenly blessed and worldy wise
I’m a peeping-tom techy with x-ray eyes
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades

Yeah, I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades
Yeah I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades, I gotta wear shades
Gotta wear shades, got to wear shades
I’m heavenly blessed and worldy wise
I’m a peeping tom techy with x-ray eyes…..

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Happy (would have been) birthday #103 to my wise old grandmother

My wise old grandmother

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Many decades ago, specifically December 1965 to May 1973, I would often argue with my wise old grandmother about why I had to do specific chores around the house, like

  • washing the dishes,
  • drying the dishes,
  • washing AND drying the dishes,
  • hanging out the clothes (smile if you remember clothes lines in the back yard),
  • taking out the trash,
  • pulling the weeds,
  • mowing the lawn—twice a week during the summer, which is why I’ve never had grass on my properties; QUIT FERTILIZING THE DARN STUFF!
  • edging the sidewalk,
  • pruning the oleanders…..
  • oh, the list is endless.

Always—always I say—after about ten minutes of arguing, she would simply say,

JUST DO IT!

If you think you’ve heard “Just do it!” before, Nike the shoe company claims it as a trademarked slogan. I say they stole it from my wise old grandmother. Greedy, big corporations……………..

Happy (would have been) birthday #103 to my wise old grandmother!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Erotica & Pornography

Feather? Or the whole chicken?

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Erotica & Pornography

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Replacing skies with Photoshop

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I think one of the most common tasks that people use photo editing software for is to replace skies. I think that because there seem to be more tutorials for that task than any other. Unfortunately, too many people doing tutorials have no clue about how to do a tutorial, in my considered humble opinion. I think they learned something new and decided to do a tutorial, even though they have never done a tutorial before in their lives.

I have been exploring replacing skies for almost twenty months now, and I have finally developed a workflow that is easy and precise. However, I’m going to keep it to myself because I don’t want anyone else to know….

Just kidding.

One of the reasons why sky replacements either (1) look bad, (2) look fake, (3) don’t look good, (4) look sloppy, or (5) look really atrocious is because people don’t understand perspective relationships. The picture of the sky needs to match the perspective of the photograph.

One guy’s tutorial told us to go out and take a few hundred pictures of skies so that we would always have one to match any perspective. That’s not necessary if you understand how to use the transform controls in Photoshop, which I will show you. So here we’re going to not only replace the sky but make the sky match the perspective of the photograph.

I’m using Photoshop CC, but the basic theory here will work in any program that uses layers and masks.

Here are the two pictures were are going to use:

Inspected house

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Clouds

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Right click on each picture, select Save picture as, and save it to your computer. Make sure you know where you’re saving it because we’re going to need to find it and open it in Photoshop.

Now open Photoshop and open both pictures.

Once you have both pictures open, look at your rulers (if your rulers aren’t showing, click on View ► Rulers) and you’ll notice that our house picture is 600 pixels wide while our clouds picture is 1200 pixels wide, a 2:1 ratio. That’s the ratio I usually use because it allows me to choose the part of the sky that looks best in the picture; you’ll understand as we go along.

First we need to select the sky. Trees and little protuberances on buildings can make it difficult to select all the sky with some methods, but I’m going to show you a great method that makes it very easy to make sure those trees and protuberances make it into the picture since they make the picture itself look more realistic.

With your house picture in the window, click on the Quick Selection Tool:

Quick Selection Tool

Quick Selection Tool

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

With the Quick Selection Tool selected, look at your option bar and click on the Brush Picker, inside the red square in the graphic below. A pop-up window will then show you the options for the Brush Picker, and we want a size of about 30 px (red arrow) for this exercise, and a hardness (yellow arrow) of 100%. The other defaults can stay as they are.

Brush Picker

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now select your sky. You don’t have to be real exact at this point because we’ll take care of that in a future step. Right now, though, make sure you select all of the sky. If there is some sky showing through the tree, go ahead and selected the tree, too. As you select, you’ll see the infamous marching ants highlighting the borders of your selection.

Here is my house picture after selecting the sky.

House with sky selected

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now make sure that your Foreground and Background colors are set at their defaults. Just type d and the colors will change to their defaults:

Foreground and background defaults

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Making sure that your Quick Selection Tool is still selected, look at your options bar again and click on Refine Edge:

Refine Edge

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That will bring up a new window with lots of options, and the part of your picture that IS NOT selected will turn black.

Refine Edge options

Refine Edge options

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Black in Photoshop means that it is hidden from whatever we doing. If it’s showing, that means that whatever we do will affect that section of the picture. So if we were to replace the sky now, we would also replace the pine trees since they are showing, i.e., they are not covered by black. We want those trees to be in black so that they do not get replaced when we replace the sky.

There are many functions in the Refine Edge window to help you with your task, so it really doesn’t matter how complicated the picture might be. You just have to find the right combination that works, and that is where the History panel can come in extremely handy. I’ll do a tutorial in the future on the power of the History panel.

First make sure that your settings are like mine, and below the graphic I’ll explain what these settings are doing.

Refine Edge options

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Starting at the top with View, I almost always use On Black so that I don’t get distracted from my task. I like to black out whatever I’m not working on.

Next, under Edge Detection, make sure the box is checked next to Smart Radius and, for these pine trees with their skinny pine needles, set the Radius to 0.5 px.

Adjust Edge is where you can really help Photoshop work with really complicated pictures, like a blonde-haired girl with her head on her blonde dog. Photoshop can easily separate blonde from blonde by using those controls.

We’re lucky with our picture because there’s good contrast between the green pine trees and the gray clouds, so change your settings to match mine. Smooth and Feather help Photoshop create a smooth contrast between the trees and the clouds, and we’ll want that same smooth contrast in our new picture.

Finding the right settings for Smooth and Feather could take you a couple of weeks—another area where the History panel can come in so handy—so I’m going to show you an ever better way to accomplish this task quickly and easily if you don’t need absolute exactness and preciseness, which we don’t when we’re posting a picture 600 pixels wide to the Internet.

Just to the left of Edge Detection, you see a brush. Click and hold on that brush until a flyout window appears, and then choose Refine Radius Tool so that there is a little black box to the left, indicating that it is selected.

Refine Radius Tool

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Set the brush size of your Refine Radius Tool brush to about 15 px:

Refine Radius Tool brush size

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now simply click and drag your mouse cursor over your trees; it’s called painting. Try to stay as much on the trees as possible so that Photoshop doesn’t think you’re wanting to paint out the clouds. Release the mouse button after each tree and you’ll see that Photoshop magically converts the green trees to black:

Painting out the trees

Painting out the trees

replacing skies 13

Painting out the trees

Painting out the trees

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Once you’re done painting the trees, simply click OK in the Refine Edge window:

Click on OK in the Refine Edge window

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You should be back at your original picture with marching ants that look something like this:

Sky selected but not the trees

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now let’s go get the new sky and insert it into our picture.

Click on the tab that holds your cloud picture and select the whole picture: Click on SelectAll or use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl A. That should put a marching ants border around the cloud picture:

Selected clouds

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Copy the picture with either the keyboard shortcut Ctrl C or the menus, EditCopy.

Go to the tab that holds your house picture. Now we are going to insert the copied clouds (they are in memory) to your picture, specifically the area that is bordered by the marching ants. This is a special type of insert, though. Click on EditPaste SpecialPaste Into. This tells Photoshop to paste whatever is in memory (our clouds) into the area bordered by the marching ants. Notice that the keyboard shortcut is Ctrl Shift Alt V. (I love how keyboard shortcuts can be long now, and they still are faster than clicking on menus.)

Here is what I got when I inserted the clouds:

Sky replaced

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Are you as unhappy with that as I am? Not to worry. We’re not finished, but we don’t have far to go. This is where understanding perspective comes in handy.

First of all, that cloud is way too big for the picture. It’s obvious that the sky has been replaced.

Second, if you look at daylight landscape pictures, you’ll notice that the horizon is always lighter than what is directly above you. That is caused by perspective. Things that are closer to you tend to be brighter with more contrast.

We need to resolve both of those problems here, and it’s very easy to do. It’s even easier if you make sure that your cloud picture is bigger than the picture with the sky to be replaced, and having clouds in the picture makes it even easier to create something that looks realistic.

So, after inserting the clouds, we want to move them around. Click on your Move Tool (red arrow) and then click on Show Transform Controls (yellow arrow).

Move Tool and Show Transform Controls

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You probably won’t be able to see the transform controls because the cloud picture is twice as large as the house picture. Hold the Control key down and hit the 0 (zero) key on the keypad. Don’t try to use the numeric keys at the top of your keyboard. If your keyboard doesn’t have a keypad at the right, the keypad is probably in the center of your keyboard and shows as blue figures, meaning you have to access them with a function or option key.  Or you can use the menus: click on ViewFit on screen.

That should give you something looking like this:

Screen shot showing transform controls

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Just for fun, click on Show Transform Controls again and you’ll see that square disappear. We need it, though, so make sure it’s showing.

Now simply click, hold, and drag those square boundary markers to resize your cloud picture. You can position the clouds anywhere you think looks nice. Here’s my final picture:

Final picture

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you look closely at that middle pine tree, the tallest one, you can see some glowing in the branches. There are two ways to get rid of the glow. The first is by learning how to use all of those controls in that Refine Edge window, specifically the Smart Radius, Smooth, and Feather controls. You can spend hours working on just one picture.

An easier way I’ve found is to always use a picture that has a good supply of clouds throughout the picture so that you can move those clouds around and put them behind any problem areas. It’s faster by at least a few dozen hours!

There is one other way to resolve that problem but I haven’t found a good work flow for it, yet. When I do, I’ll let y’all know.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Inspected house made more beautiful

Blah to beautiful with Photoshop!

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I always like it when my home inspection Clients are satisfied with the home inspections I do for them.

Occasionally, though, a Client will call with a different matter.

I include pictures in my reports, usually of problems and problem areas. However, on the front page of the report is a picture of the front of the property that I inspected. Here is the picture from an inspection earlier this week:

Inspected house

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Yep. It’s a picture of a house, specifically a manufactured home. A pretty blasé picture.

Now that my Photographic Art venture is viable, I decided that I should start including a Photographic Art picture of the home. I decided to replace the cloudy sky with a more beautiful sky, and bring some contrast and depth to the home and the plants. When I finished, I had this:

Inspected house made more beautiful

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My Client called to ask me where I got the picture. I told him that I took a picture at the inspection, and since the picture was pretty blah, I used Photoshop to make it more beautiful. He was amazed. I pointed him to my Photographic Art Catalog, so who knows where this might lead somewhere down the road. Maybe he’ll buy billions and billions and billions of my work!

Tomorrow, just for my wonderful readers, I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to not only replace skies, but how to easily select detail like you find in those pine trees, a technique that works with anything that has a rough outline, like hair on a person’s head, cat and dog hair, etc. So be sure to tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel (smile if you grew up watching Batman!).

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photographic art logoVisit Russel Ray Photos.

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Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
CA BRE #0145857201 HomeSmartDiamondSmall copy 2

02 HomeSmartRWnameOnly2 copy

►►►►◄◄◄◄

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Spoiled dog

….I want to come back as one of his dogs

Picture of the Moment

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I recently met a man who claims to have fourteen dogs. I could only find nine of them. However, if I get reincarnated, I want to come back as one of his dogs!

Spoiled dog

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Spoiled dog

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There was nowhere for me to sit; I sat on the floor so I could pet the dogs….

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos