Rome, 2006

Double Decker bus in Rome

One of the great pleasures of photography for me is fleeting, found images. It’s the challenge of not only seeing possibilities converging, but reacting fast enough to catch the shot: getting the right camera position, lens, exposure settings, the peak moment; all done more with fluid muscle memory than conscious thought. It’s my version of sport hunting.

I had a free day before our workshop started and spent hours just walking the city, from breakfast until after midnight. Several times I stepped into a shop to ask for directions and was usually encouraged to catch a cab. Maybe Romans don’t walk, but it was easy, like Paris, and it was the best way to experience the place, even the hazardous pedestrian crossings on some of the busy roundabouts.

Going back to the same location several times during the day (Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, The Forum) offered different takes as the light moved and redrew the description of the spaces, plus, in the morning, local foot traffic; later in the day, tourist hordes multiplied by lots of tacky trinket street vendors; late at night, lovers. My favorites: The Forum for people watching, and Galleria Borghese. I could sit and study Bernini sculptures for hours. I am in awe of how he could create flesh and flexing muscle tone under clothing, from stone.

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Savannah, 2023

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted….” Ecclesiastes 3, 1-2; King James version (or The Byrds if you prefer)

Savannah has an extensive urban forest, dominated by old oak trees. These trees have survived wars and hurricanes, the invention of the automobile and the airplane (and help protect us from some of the side effects of that). Many of them were planted when it would have taken less than 30 minutes to walk across the City, a city that is now over 100 square miles in area.

So, it is not frequent, but not surprising to spot the sad green tag, an obituary, posted on a tree, informing a neighborhood that damage, disease, or just age requires the City to safely remove it. I understand, I accept, but for a while, walking through that square, I will see the gap and have a visceral sense of something elemental missing.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” Greek proverb.

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Zanzibar, 2006

“South” at Emerson & Green in Stone Town.

Of all the hotel rooms, in so many places, over the years of traveling for work, this was the first time, only time, the room had a free-standing door. “Room” might be an inaccurate word here.

During those years of traveling, I had some very nice surprises in lodging, a place better than expected, or a serious upgrade. I was overnight in Las Vegas to meet some folks to head out to Death Valley and had a reservation at Caesar’s Palace for the gathering spot. The hotel was overbooked and offered me a very attractive package if they could just buy me a room somewhere else that evening, but it was our convening place so I had to decline. Then they gave me one of the suites (seriously, it had more square footage than my home) they reserve for the high-rollers, requiring me to agree that I would only stay one night. I can’t imagine they thought they would have any trouble dislodging me if I tried to stay, so it was easy to say yes.

Barbara and I had just finished leading a photo safari in Tanzania and were treating ourselves to a few days R & R on Zanzibar. I don’t remember how we came to reserve this place; all we knew was it was a little larger room, but not the biggest. We arrived at Emerson & Green’s and discovered a group of buildings with rambling, interweaving, connecting corridors and stairwells and, following our check-in host, came out on an open rooftop, with this free-standing door. He opened it and the bridge to the other rooftop was the entrance to our room–cross, turn right, three steps down.

The green roof on the right was the large bedroom, with fourposter bed (and mosquito netting that worked), all in lush, dark wood, and cool shadows. There was an open courtyard sitting area and the green roof on the left was “the facilities,” which included a large stone tub that extended partially into the bougainvillea-roofed space. There was even a mosque nearby, and the tinny loudspeaker’s call to prayer several times a day became part of the sensory experience.

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Jamaica, 2005

Jake’s, Treasure Beach

A friend asked if I would photograph her destination wedding, in Jamaica. Yes. Barbara and I stayed in the resort facility with the couple’s friends and family and photographed the various activities, formal and incidental.

After the last of the goodbyes, and all departed, Barbara and I headed to the other side of the island for a few extra days, to what sounded like a fun, quiet getaway place, next to the beach. This was December, and being able to bask on the sand for a little while felt great. I really liked the place. Interesting island architecture, vibrant colors, vegetation on the verge of taking over, giving everything a “back to the garden” feeling. I could have wandered around the place photographing it for days, as the light continuously changed the landscape.

The problem was that an opening in the mosquito netting allowed a swarm of very small biting critters into the bed overnight; bugs with the discriminating taste to only bite Barbara, and not me, for whatever reason. Based on her misery the next day, they must have been ferocious in their attack. I don’t think I will ever get her to go back to Jamaica.

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