Recently, I acquired a Wimberely Tripod head tripodhead.com that is great for sports and moving wildlife such as birds, The head is gimballed, and it is possible to level the base of the head so that it jibes with the horizon (If you do not have this feature, when the horizon is in the picture it can appear at a 30 degree angle or worse).
I first tried it out with kiteboarders in Pompano Beach, Florida, but because the tripod was sunk in the sand (I don’t recommend it, but what can you do?), I was re-leveling the head over and over. The pictures were much easier to take, however, as I could follow the action with my 500mm lens with no problem.
A week later, I visited the Conowingo Dam in Maryland to try my hand with the new head with wildlife – bald eagles specifically. The day was so-so, but I was able to follow the birds easily with the Wimberely. My verdict is that the head is expensive, but worth it for long-lens photography.
Better yet, I met Bruce DeBonis, a dedicated amateur whose site is TravelThroughPictures. Check out his blog for some photo tips. The blog is written in a self-deprecating style, which allows us to deal with our own photographic issues and be open to his suggestions.
This spring, I attended a lecture at Look3 by Eugene Richards, one of the best photojournalists in the world. There he said, “I like to attend these types of events where I see what other photographers are doing. It reaffirms the doubts that I have about my own vision.” Certainly a healthy attitude for a photographer to have.
If I am traveling and not on assignment, I rarely stay for more than two nights in the same town. Because the friend I travel with is gracious, I do have some time to photograph, but it is difficult to come up with cohesive stories about the locations we are visiting. Normally, the resulting images are a series of one-shots – interesting photographs, but of disparate subjects.
One way I can display them is to make “travelogue” slide shows, where I group the photographs visually and somewhat chronologically and then add music.
In this blog, I am not covering technical aspects of slide show construction or the programs that create slide shows, such as Microsoft Windows Live Photo Gallery, PowerPoint, Google Picasa, Apple iPhoto, etc. That blog is for another day. Here, I want to address the treatment of the subject matter.
Since I want to feature the still images, I do not use “Ken Burns” moves, or dissolves such as “ripple”. I use my own title slides, created specifically for that particular slide show, The music is usually one piece, hopefully establishing a mood or theme. Note: If you are presenting your slide show commercially – even as part of your portfolio, you must purchase the rights to the music, and this does not mean just paying for the track on iTunes.
The programs for organizing the shows are pretty sophisticated at this point in time, and the producer can time slide changes to musical beats, “clip” the music so that there is no dead space between tunes, etc. However, for better organization of the music and the images, you should leave the slide show programs and make a movie. Final Cut Pro and even iMovie are much more sophisticated and can create a professional product if you are interested.
The most important tip I can give in this blog is to edit, edit and edit some more. A five-minute slide show is a L-O-N-G slide show.
Here, I am presenting three “travelogues” that I produced in 2012. Note that the “key frame” presented for each show was not my choice, but established by YouTube. The show itself remains intact.
Hit the “full screen” button in the lower right on the tool bar to get the best effect. Also note that persons subscribing to the blog’s email feed will need to cut and paste the URL for each slide show into their browser to watch it.
The first show is on China, but not really. We only visited Beijing and the Yunnan Province, where we hiked for four days. The title slide helps clear up where we were.
The second show is about a week in Colorado, where we hiked several mountains in preparation for hiking up Mount Meru, a 15,000 ft. mountain in Tanzania. This slideshow has captions placed on some of the pictures to identify who the participants are for those who were not on the hike.
Lastly, a slide show on four weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar, where we did get to see most of the country.
I have also included two stills from a memorial slide show for my mother. Slide shows such as these have captions on every picture, adding contextual information. I have done several of these shows for others. Also, for friends, I put together award presentation shows, etc.
Slide shows are a great way to feature my photography – and yours too!
Note: I was in Africa for five weeks and did not have my computer with me. I will report on the trip in my next blog, but this one gives some tips on getting there.
If you are a transcontinental traveler and are making connections to a final destination, your travel times can be lengthy – sometimes up to 24 hours or more. My friend and I experience this half dozen times a year and have developed a strategy on these long flights to lessen the physical effects on our bodies.
When I Book
I secure my seat assignments ASAP. I use seatguru.com (a Trip Advisor company) to look up the airline and airplane that I am flying. Seat Guru gives you information about the airline — website, frequent flyer program, lounges (clubs), check in (on line?), the number and sizes of bags etc. When I choose the airplane (equipment) it shows me the seats, their sizes, legroom, etc. and points out desirable and undesirable seats. Only then do I go to the airline seating chart and pick a seat. A bad seat makes for an ultra-long flight.
If connecting in Europe, many airlines will not give out seat assignments until the passenger arrives on the continent. I find out as soon as I can and get my desired seat.
I look for aisle seats, as they have more legroom and I do not have to climb over people to get to the aisle. Lately airlines are designating “premium seating” and try to collect a little more money from the passenger for those seats. Sometimes, if not filled, these seats revert to regular seats; other times airlines charge the passenger who books late the premium. I also found that if you are assigned a less desirable seat, ask for a seat change at the gate 15 minutes before the flight. With some airlines, the premium seats will revert at that time.
We ask for a special meal when making the reservation. My friend is a vegetarian, and we find that the Asian Vegetarian meal is usually much better than the mass meal that consists of chicken, pasta, beef, etc. We find that one has to double check with the airline about the special meal request, as they seem to have some difficulty communicating the request to the vendor.
Lastly, I have found that airlines sometimes change the flight times/equipment and send me (hopefully) an email to confirm and agree with this change. Please note that I ALWAYS check my seat assignment at that time, as the airlines are notorious for reassigning your seat (“You have an window seat and requested an aisle? Too bad, but it is only a 14 hour flight”, is a response I have heard from the flight attendant on a full flight.
I wear a long sleeved shirt and long pants on the plane. The cabins are rarely warm —usually cold. Compression hose are a good idea to prevent possible embolisms (blood clots) when one is sitting in the same position for hours at a time. My shoes are sturdy for the long walks between gates, but are easy to get on and off.
No one wants to enter the airplane toilets in stocking feet. Hardware stores sell boxes of plastic booties for industrial use. I take a couple of pairs in my carryon and wear them to the toilet.
I also check what the weather will be like at my destination. Rain? Humid? I carry a change of clothing with me if I know that there will be a radical difference in upcoming climate.
As mentioned, we request Asian Vegetarian meals when booking the flights. When boarding, I identify myself to the flight attendant as a recipient of a special meal. I do not drink alcohol, but consume plenty of water, as the plane’s air is usually very dry. The flight attendants are good at replenishing the supply during the flight. I use a towelette or hand sanitizer to clean up before eating.
I find a blackout eye mask is essential for sleep on an airplane. In addition, I have a noise reduction earphones (with an extra battery). Earplugs are an alternative, but not as good. Sometimes I take a blowup neck ring, but use it for lumbar support when the seats are not conducive to a good sleeping position. I can inflate the ring to the correct level – pillows don’t work as well. I grab a blanket when boarding, as I may need it for warmth. Also, I alternate sleep with books, movies or audio (my iPhone or supplied audio/video) to make the time go faster. I do not look at the flight progression map and see the minutes slowly tick away (a watched pot never boils!).
Every couple of hours, I leave my seat and walk the aisles. If I can, I do a loop, stopping in the rear galley area to do stretching exercises to loosen up.
About an hour before landing, I retire to the toilet to refresh myself before our arrival. I wash my face and hands with hot water and brush my teeth (I bring a travel toothbrush in my carryon). A little deodorant, and I feel like a new man! I don’t wait until the plan is on final approach (a half hour before landing) to freshen up, as I may not be able to leave my seat, and if I can, the toilet may be occupied.
• If the airplane is not filled, once on board I change seats if I do not like my assigned seat as well as the unoccupied ones. I then tell the flight attendant that I have changed seats.
• I have a lot of carryon – my cameras and maybe a long lens in it’s own backpack that I do not want to check (ever!). I get on board at the top of my boarding group even though I have an assigned seat, as the overhead bins fill up and when that happens, sometimes the flight attendants force you to check carryon.
• My carryon also has a collection of my favorite snacks so I am not subjected to airline peanuts and pretzels. Also, I can eat them any time I am hungry.
• As noted, cabin air is dry. I regulate my individual airflow to ensure that it is not stagnant.
• Many airplanes now have USB or 110 volt receptacles. I check with Seat Guru and then bring the appropriate attachments on board.
What Are Your Strategies?
This is my strategy for surviving lengthy flights. You may have some others. I invite you to put them in the comments section of this blog, and I will incorporate them (with credit!) into the main body.
I am an Information Volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club. At their Highland Center in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I recently gave a lecture entitled “Trail Pix: How Not to Let Photography Get in the Way of Backpacking, and How Not to Let Backpacking Get in the Way of Photography”. I have given this talk several times to help amateur photographers understand what equipment is necessary on the trail (these days surprisingly less than in the past) and how to organize your gear to be ready for that fleeting image and yet not be weighed down with extraneous gear.
Though Hikers at Madison
View from Madison Hut
My friend and I were volunteering and hiking as part of the AMC’s President’s Society, a group of like-minded hikers that hike a half-dozen treks each year to different locations in the Whites. The hike that we were on was a 3,700 vertical foot climb to Madison Springs Hut (one of eight AMC huts that do not have road access). The AMC also provides campgrounds, shelters, lodges, etc. that they maintain along with the actual trails. Check them out!
For some of us, hiking is a way to stay fit, enjoy the outdoors, and visit pristine places on this earth that are still available to all for a modest fee, if anything.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Jade Snow Mountain China
The past several months have been filled with these adventures for us. In China, we hiked Leaping Tiger Gorge along the Yangtze River and then down to several “rice valleys” to visit with the ethnic people of Yunnan Province. In Croatia in late May, we hiked along the Adriatic Sea to out-of the way beaches.
Wild Grasses Colorado
Lone Cone Colorado
In July, it was off to Lone Cone Mountain, near Norwood Colorado where we spent a week living at 8,300 and then trekked up the mountain for three consecutive days up to altitudes topping 11,500 feet. Later in the week, we tackled Engineer Mountain near Durango at a similar altitude, but we started at 10,000 feet.
Returning to the East Coast, we took on several day hikes in Maryland and then a short walk along the beach in Rehoboth, Maryland. We will take another Maryland hike on the Appalachian Trail the last weekend in August.
Mr. Mu’s Mother-in-law China
Much of this is to prepare for a fall trek up a pretty tall mountain in Africa. Workouts in the gym and Yoga sessions round out our training. You will have to read my blog after the African trip to see how we did!
On most all of these hikes I take my DSLR (the serious camera). I make some interesting images that transcend “happy snaps” that most people take on the trail. For me, it is payback for carrying a DLSR and I can preserve the memories of these amazing journeys.
I have been remiss in posting to my blog recently. I know that the main purpose of a blog is to capture the immediacy of what is happening in the moment, similarly to tweets and social media posts.
But being the “Traveling Man”, I have been quite busy this summer starting with a workshop with 10 students at Horizon Workshops in Chesapeake City, MD, immediately followed by an around the world trip that lasted a month, then LOOK3 the photography festival held in Charlottesville, VA in early June.
Two days after arriving home, we had a family reunion with over 40 people at my house. Fortunately my daughters help to stage the event and a good time was had by all.
Following the 4th of July, I took off for my cottage in Canada where I am organizing this post.
So what is this blog about anyway, Bob?
There are many “Must See” places in the world – the Pyramids, The Taj Mahal, The Statue of Liberty, The Eifel Tower, Ayers Rock, Big Ben, etc. The trouble is, as the population of the world increases and travel becomes more viable for many, these Must See locations become inundated with tourists. Gigantic cruise ships and large tour buses spill hundreds of thousands of visitors each year into these icons, where the local population ask for more, since the tourist dollars are clean and plentiful.
Summer Palace, Bejing, China
I recently found myself in Beijing (The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, etc.), Paris (The Eifel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, etc), Venice (Piazza San Marcos, The Grand Canal, etc.), Dubrovnik (The Old City), London (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, etc.), Toronto, (The CN Tower), Baltimore (Fort McHenry), and Washington, DC (The White House, The Washington Monument, etc.).
Following is a short guide to how I am able to visit these attractions (once!) and get the most out of the experience.
Research before you go
With the Internet, you can drill down on where you want to go for the best experience at a reasonable cost. In this world, no one needs to rely on travel agents to plan their trips (more on this later). Lonely Planet and other guidebooks are on line. Trip Advisor is invaluable (more on this site later). Once you determine your destination look for TV shows like Rick Steves and YouTube videos that you can stream for more knowledge of the location. The US State Department gives information and background on all the countries of the world. Spend the time and you will be rewarded.
Look for Local Connections
“My daughter is in the Peace Corps in Bangwanaland, and loves it!” This comes from an acquaintance of yours. So, what is her email address? Would she mind if you contacted her about local conditions/customs? Does she know a local guide and/or a great place to stay?
A friend says, “I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro two years ago”. You say, I am going in October. Can I have lunch with you and find out some of the “dos and don’ts”?
You get the drift.
Are you Sure You Want a Tour Package?
Jester Hats, Piazza San Marcos, Venice
Here is my take on packages. You pay an extra 15 to 20 % to have a company put together a tour for you. Normally, on this tour you will be with others that you do not know (sometimes, in the case of cruise ships, thousands that you do not know).
The tour operators set an “all inclusive” agenda and include the major sites, but usually this means that you will be informed of where you will stay, when to get up, when the transportation leaves the hotel, when the transportation leaves the attraction, etc. You could customize the trip with the tour operators, but the cost may be prohibitive, as they are able to get “group rates” with larger numbers of tourists following the same itinerary.
Recently I spoke with a couple that had just returned from China on a “five star” tour. They said that they stayed in top of the line Marriotts and Hiltons (in China?). I asked what one of the properties cost, and the answer was that it was included in their fee, as was everything else. Most interesting, they said that their guide said the Chinese referred to Caucasians as those with “round eyes and big noses”. Really?
Which brings me to another point about guided tours. For the most part, they are homogenized and abbreviated to fit the tour.
Many people think that Bed and Breakfasts are sub-par to hotels. Au contraire! They will help integrate you into the general community where you are staying. The proprietors will give you local tips on places to eat, what cultural events are taking place, etc. Best of all, if you want them to, they will engage you at breakfast or in the evening to discuss history and local politics, problems in their country and the perceived differences between their county and yours. The conversation will also help break down the stereotypes that you may have about their city/country. Invigorating!
Look at Trip Advisor to pick a Bed and Breakfast or a hotel and to verify what sites to see in your location. You can book right on the site. Trip Advisor rates the hotels and Bed and Breakfasts by how previous travelers review them. Many establishments cherish the reviews and make sure they have a top-notch venue and good customer service. I usually pick the number 3 or 4 rated B&B and have yet to be disappointed.
Perhaps you can stay with a friend that you know. Implicit in your request can be the possibility that they can stay with you while visiting your town.
Booking Rail, Bus and Ferries
With the Internet, you can book and pay for very intricate travel itineraries. Following is an example of one such that I completed in the US in March and executed to perfection in May:
Saturday, May 26
Leave Venice to Ancona, Italy by rail Train # 9439 at 3:39. Bob has tickets.
Arrive Bologna, then Train #9819 arriving in Ancona at 7:36 PM.
Ancona to Zadar, Croatia at 2200 via ferry, AB deck. Check in at 8:00 PM Depart 10:00 PM.
Jadrolinija Ferry Terminal, Booking Number 002856757
Sunday, May 27
Arrive Zadar, Croatia at 0700.
Tour Zadar and then take bus to Split.
Send text message to House Sandra mobile when leaving Zadar for pickup at bus station in Split.
Overnight at House Sandra, Booking number 390417930
I made all of these arrangements on the net with no travel agent involved.
Caramaran Ferry to Hvar, Croatia
Find out what the “high season” is for the area you want to visit and then go just before or just after. The accommodations may be less expensive, but most importantly, you will avoid the big crowds, In Hvar, Croatia we had perfect weather in May, and all the locals reminded us not to come in July and August. In Venice and Lijaing, Yunnan, China the crowds were overwhelming in May. I can’t fathom what they might be in the high season.
The ferry to Zadar, Croatia holds over a thousand people. On May 27, see above, there were 83 individuals.
• If you want a quick tour of a small city, hire a taxi for a couple of hours with a driver that speaks your language well enough to be an interpreter. Don’t be shy. Interview a number of them until you find one where the negotiated price is right and you can really communicate with the driver. Or,
• Take the “Grey Line” tour. For a few bucks, a bus tour can really orient you within a couple of hours,
Ancient Walled City, Yunnan, China
Naxi Woman in Her Home
• Hike to locations where there are no roads. Many tourists will not make this effort, but if you do, the rewards are great. In non-tourist areas people act naturally. In major tourist areas, visitors often have paid for pictures. At first it was a pittance, but each year the locals have upped the ante.
• Travel light. No one cares if you wear the same outfit for several days. Use your bathroom sink to wash out undies and socks.
• Be flexible. Don’t get hung up on your schedule so much so that if something changes it throws you off. Adapt and you will find that sometimes your alternate plans are better than the one you originally decided on.
Visiting a major tourist attraction for a day or two might yield a few nice images for a photographer, but individually they will never tell the story of the place. In order to do that, the photographer has to spend the effort to research the location and spend enough time there to understand how s/he feels about the place. They then must be astute enough to communicate these feelings and thoughts through their images. The final essay is a series of connected, imaginative, cognitive and provocative photographs.
This is nearly impossible to do without real work. Think about other art forms. Could a novelist spend two days in Venice and write a book?
For the most part, you get out of photography what you put into it. Your results may vary. Happy travels!
Recently the Mitchell Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland accepted one of my photographs for the exhibit “Image and Imagination”. It is a juried show. The exhibit opens May 24 and the show is up until June 12, 2012 . My photograph is titled Cloud Gate — Under the Bean, taken in Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois.
As a working photojournalist, it is always gratifying when one of your images is accepted as art. As a Tom Kennedy, the former Director of Photography at National Geographic said once, “Photojournalism at National Geographic is like the photographer riding a bicycle down a line between art and information. The rider can’t veer too far to one side or the other.” In other words, the resultant photograph has to be understandable, yet not trite.
I recently attended a talk by three Miami Herald photojournalists called Photojournalism in the Digital Age held by the South Florida Camera Club at Artserve in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
The photojournalists are Patrick Farrell, Al Diaz and Carl Juste. One might call them “newspaper photographers”, but they would only be partially correct. These three individuals are committed – to their craft, their unique vision and to creating photographs that are both honest and impartial.
And they are excel in what they do. In 2009, Patrick Farrell won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for his devastating photographs of the aftermath of the 2008 hurricanes in Haiti.
I have attended many presentations by photojournalists, but these three provided their view of difficulties and advantages working “In the Digital Age”. They expressed a lament for the potential loss of their publishing platform, The Miami Herald, with the advent of the Internet. As Carl Juste said, “The Herald is still breathing. It is on life support, but still breathing”. He went on to talk about the fourth estate (a term used to emphasize the independence of the Press), and rhetorically asked who else would fund “month and a half long” projects to help viewers understand issues of the day in human terms.
Interestingly, none of the three bashed the Herald. They have all been furloughed by the publication, they now have to purchase their own equipment ($$$), and their compensation from the newspaper reflects a living wage — not even close to the income of the one percenters.
Patrick, Al and Carl are humbled being able to do what they do. I hear this from most photojournalists, but these three view their profession as a game changer. And it is.
Farrell, Diaz and Juste have all covered Haiti, as the country is part of Herald’s regional coverage, considering how close it is to Miami and the immigrant population. By comparing these photojournalist’s individual coverages, you can see the way each approach a similar subject, and how each has a particular style to tell riveting stories from that nation.
To see the power of their images, go here for Patrick Farrell’s work in Haiti; for Al Dias go here; and here for Carl Juste.
In addition, here is Patrick Ferrell’s website to see his other coverages:
I offer this poem in tribute to these three dedicated individuals…
I am witness
to transgressions, corruption and greed.
Using my photography to share stories that
provide understanding and enlightenment.
I am witness
to natural disasters and the natural world.
Documenting their effects on humankind that
validate the power of nature and its beauty.
I am witness
to swimming pool openings and public meetings.
Presenting my subjects in ways that
transcend the mundane of everyday life.
I am witness
to wars, aggression and violence.
Recording horror, misery and shame that
fill my world with skepticism, not cynicism.
I am witness
to social problems and health issues.
Seeking answers to ethical questions that
communicate fundamental human responses.
I am witness
to love, neglect and indifference.
Illustrating affinity and malevolence that
relate to everyman as we navigate through our lives.
I am witness
In an era where economics of my profession prove difficult.
I stay committed in my pursuit of truth and justice
Post Script: After returning from Florida, I was in New York City and attended a “conversation” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring icons of painting and music, Chuck Close and Philip Glass.
The commitment and dedication to their art echoed Farrell, Dias and Juste in Florida. Glass spoke of art as pushing social and cultural ideas forward that will outlast the artists themselves.
Photography websites can be good, bad and indifferent. I recently was trolling for photographers to do work for an interactive app featuring travel guides to various cities of the world https://bobmadden.com/work/mobile-apps.php
I used Craigslist to place ads in a number of cities, and asked the photographers to put in the subject line the city that the ad appeared. In the body of their return email, I asked for a link to their work. I received hundreds of emails in return. I organized them by city and then opened the emails, immediately looking for the link and going to the images.
NGS Stock Sales
Even though I had specified that it was an editorial job, I received wedding sites, fashion sites, vacation picture sites on Flicker and Picasa, etc. Some played music, some took ages to load, some had slide shows, etc. Most had galleries, a biography and a contact page. It was a sobering experience. Reminds me of the joke: “What is the definition of ego? It’s the little bit of photographer that everyone carries down deep inside.”In my net travels, I have come up with a few photography-oriented sites that I thought I would share.
Above is the link to my stock images at National Geographic. Note that these pictures are editorial in nature and are quite different than the images on bobmadden.com. These images are placed there for commercial sales, and bobmadden.com deals with consumer sales. Once on the NGS site, under “Quick Explore” type in robert (space) madden and you can search my images and buy them.
Another site that aggregates like-minded photographers is The Photo Society whose mission statement reads “We are a group of contributing photographers for National Geographic Magazine, committed to telling the world’s stories through pictures” Again if you click on the logo when you are in my area of the site, it will take you to the home page. This site is extremely valuable to me, as all of these photographers shoot high quality images the world over. A client can get right to my site and me with one click, or browse through pages such as “Vignettes” or “Why We Do It”.
Burn Home Page
An interesting aggregation site is burn magazine, and the mission is “an evolving journal for emerging photographers.” Started and curated by David Allan Harvey, this site features photographic essays from all over the world and has a lively forum for comments/criticisms.
James Nachtwey Home Page
Individual photographers have compelling sites as well. One that is powerful and disturbing is James Nachtwey’s. His mission is described on his home page as follows: “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.” It’s hard to forget these images.
Can you see a pattern here? Mission. Purpose. These sites are more than the massaging of a libido.
Steve McCurry Home Page
Now, I would like to direct you to Steve McCurry’s site. His images are breathtaking and each is a jewel of color, composition and subject matter. The blog is different, as it is made up of images and poetry. Unexpected, but gripping.
Finally, if you are aware of any extraordinary photographic websites out there, please send me the URL and I will amend this blog to include them (Not YOURS silly. Remember the joke about ego?).
Note: Mild winter weather affected an eagle photography trip that I had planned for January on the Mississippi River. The eagles concentrate near dams when the weather gets damn cold. Up to 500 of them will take advantage of fishing in open water below just one dam. We decided to bag it and go in 2013. The eagles won’t know the difference.
This month’s blog (February) can be considered the opposite of my previous blog – The Urban Scene.
I went to Florida with a friend principally to photograph the wedding of a family member of hers, but we decided to take advantage of the trip to do some nature photography, be true to our active lifestyle, and get out of the “cold” weather; hence the Everglades.
According to their website, Everglades National Park is “…the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, featuring rare and endangered species. It has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance, significant to all people of the world.”
What is not apparent on the website is that this National Park is extremely close to two urban areas — sandwiched between over 5,500,000 on the Southeast coast of Florida, and nearly 2,000,000 on the Southwest coast.
Not to worry. This is the high season in the Everglades, and though there were a healthy number of people there, it was nothing like Yosemite or Yellowstone with their traffic jams. Indifference to the wilderness? Hard to say, but who cares.
We located in Everglades City, a town that reminds my friend of “Old Florida”. The town was established in 1873, and in 1923, Barron Collier, a wealthy entrepreneur from Memphis, fell in love with the area and began buy land – eventually over a million acres. He drained the swamps and built a town, featuring a bank, a county court house, a laundry and incredibly put in a street car system! Barron agreed to finish the Tamiami Trail, the road from Tampa to Miami, for the state of Florida, which at that time was literally mired in the muck near Everglades City. The legislature was so grateful, they renamed the county Collier County as his namesake.
We stayed at The Ivey House, which features the old barracks built for Tamiami Trail workers, and now remodeled. The communal toilets, showers and washbasins still survive in what is now called “The Lodge”.
Why there? Because the Ivy House is owned by the same group that owns Everglades Adventures, a kayaking and canoeing company that rents boats and conducts tours into the backcountry.
Here is a tip to help those with limited time experience the best places in the Everglades to get close to wildlife:
• Take a sunset/night guided kayak tour with Everglades Adventures. Half of the trip though the mangrove tunnels is in the late afternoon, and the other half is returning with headlamps. In the open areas, we turned off the lights and experienced a starlit canopy where we picked out constellations and sat motionless in awe.
• Go to Shark Valley in the early morning and walk or rent bicycles for the 15 mile (out and back) paved path – highlighted by an observation tower at mid-point. The “straight” side of the path has a canal alongside of it that is loaded with alligators, turtles and many species of birds.
• Get to the Ernest Coe Visitors Center for a great overview of the Everglade history, the pressures on the Park, the wildlife that inhabits it, etc. After this stop, go to the Anhinga Trail boardwalk (fifteen minutes from the visitor’s center) to see close up more amazing species in their natural habitat. I was using a 300mm lens, and sometimes it was too long!
Following our Everglades adventures, we attended the Burrowing Owl Festival in Cape Coral, held at Rotary Park. Many representatives from local and national parks were there, plus other ecologically minded organizations. The festival featured captive animals to view close up, and the organizers took several busloads of people out to where the burrowing owls nest (in burrows of course). These critters are only about 10 inches high. Cape Coral has the largest concentration of these owls in Florida – over 2,500 nests. Although many owls were present at their burrows, a tip came from an owl aficionado: Come in early May when the chicks hatch and see them at the entrance to the burrows.
It will make for better pictures, and isn’t that what it is all about?
I have had many city assignments around the world, notably Sydney, Toronto, Washington, D.C. and as part of country or state stories I have covered Berlin, Seattle, Caracas, etc. I have included one image on this website (the Cloud Gate Sculpture, Millennium Park, Chicago) from these assignments, as generally cityscape images are too complicated for a wall hanging.
December 2011 and January 2012 were travel months for me, but generally for family gatherings over the holidays and a special birthday celebration in Yosemite NP in California. These trips included two visits to New York City and one to Los Angeles, where both scenes, while different, provided interesting subject matter.
In the past 20 years, professional photography of landmark buildings has become more difficult, as owners trademark specific images of their structures. The list includes the Chrysler Building, the Trans Am Building, and The Willis Tower amongst others. In addition, since 9/11, many stores and buildings with interesting public areas forbid pictures perhaps because of terrorist threats, but it is hard to know, as the arbitrators of the rules (doormen, clerks) most often did not make them.
Some National Parks and public grounds such as the Vietnam Memorial and the Washington Monument require professional crews to obtain special permission or they are shooed off. All that being said, it is still possible to capture cityscapes that reveal the flavor of a particular town.
My friend and I walk almost everywhere, which allows me to come upon many situations that would be difficult if I was in a car or cab. Lately, I have become more and more mobile – not taking my larger DSLR if there is no assignment or a specific subject that I am covering. My “cameras” range from my 8 Mb iphone to my Canon 5D (21.5 Mb) and include a Canon S95 (10 Mb) that my friend owns. The smaller “amateur” cameras surprise me many times with their versatility and that can make up for their shortcomings with lenses and small file sizes. All do well with details that often give insights on the city.
For instance, in NYC I captured the traditional holiday chestnut vendors, the ceiling of the New York Public Library, a bookshelf at the library, a worker in front of a tony Fifth Avenue store, and the 9/11 Memorial amongst many others.
A photo tip: If you photograph a building in its entirety, most often you show the architect’s vision, and not yours. If you are selective with your camera, often the interpretation of what the architect was trying to accomplish is evident in the details, and the image becomes “yours”. Sometimes less is more.