This was my very first SLR camera (Nikon F50). Got it in 1997 (still have it today). It was through this lens and viewfinder that I really started “seeing” the world for the very first time…nearly 25 years ago. Long before social media platforms and algorithms ruled people’s lives, I was out there documenting this planet on 35mm film in some of the wildest environments on Earth…and having to make prints if I wanted to share any images (yes, the Flinstone era). It’s been quite a journey and an incredible education. This year, I will reflect greatly on the past 25 years of exploring, experiencing, learning and, most importantly, discovering who I am and what this world is all about through the wonderful mediums of travel & photography. #GWAGB25
Posts Tagged With: nature photography
Big THANKS and shout out to my buddy Vinny (www.beensentoe.com) and author of the webcomic Tako-Salad for hooking me up with the new GWAGB logo! Check out his work, he’s a true talent if there ever was one! By the way, the Gringo loves taco salads. Be sure to get your weekly dose of Tako-Salad every Tuesday.
So, as the clock tics its final tocs to closeout another year, I always find myself getting a bit reflective (and I’m not talking about my pasty Wisconsin-bred winter skin tone.) Like most people, I like to reflect on the year that was, and imagine the year ahead that might be. It’s an inspiring time of year for many of us. Time to remember the good, leave the bad behind and embrace a fresh start. For me, I’ve gained the most inspiration in life from the people I’ve met around the world, listening to their stories and hearing about their dreams. I’d like to share an experience that I had a few years back, one that continues to inspire me daily.
A few years ago I was hiking in the Canadian Rockies, up in Yoho National Park. I had just completed the most challenging hike of my life and I was sitting in my wilderness hostel one night, all alone, just nursing a few blisters. It was a shared room with 4 beds. Several hours went by and no one else had checked into the room, so I assumed I would have the room to myself. Later that night, while I was preparing to go to bed, an old man walks into the room wearing a headlamp and heavy winter gear and kindly introduces himself. He was layered from head to toe with backpacking attire, a bit out of breath and had an adrenaline high on his face as if he had just escaped the jaws of a grizzly bear. At first I thought he was the owner of the hotel coming to greet me, as his guest. Turns out he was a 77-year-old backpacker who had just completed the full Iceline Trail, the one I had just completed a shortcut version of a few hours earlier. This is a serious hike (at serious altitude). My shins and knees were still throbbing like teenage girls’ hearts in the presence of The Beatles in the 60’s. My first thought was to ask the man if he could spare some BenGay. It was probably the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done. A straight-up joint killer. This old man had hiked about 7 miles further than I did, the full loop, and he looked fresher then I had when I limped back off the trail several hours earlier (though he was 40 years older). As roommates for the night, we ended up chatting for quite a while. He was a very interesting person, one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He’s the type of guy who had done everything, been everywhere, and had interesting and adventurous story after story recounting memories that spanned every decade that I had been alive. He said he originally came from Hungary. As a child (from a Hungarian-Jewish family), he lived through the Nazi invasion and occupation during WWII. Lost some family members to the war and concentration camps. As a young adult, he joined the military and was involved in the Hungarian Revolution against the Soviets in 1956. He said he had traveled to over 80 countries in his lifetime. I figured he had been a nomad all of his life, getting an early start on his travels through immigration and the military, but he told me he didn’t start traveling until he was well into his 40’s, after a divorce and a fresh start in life after decades living under Soviet communist rule (and a dictator for a wife). He said he felt like he hadn’t lived until he started seeing the world and began carving out a new path in life. He told me that on his 75th birthday he made the biggest checkmark on his lifetime bucketlist, spending a week hiking through the Peruvian Andes and climbing up to Machu Picchu. He did this at 75. Two years later, as I would sit and speak with him, it was obvious that he was still going strong and chasing his next goal in life.
There’s no excuse why we all can’t have a fresh start in life. Health factors aside, time and age impose no limit to what we can achieve and when we decide to do it. The only obstacle is in our mind. Only our minds can create that illusion of expiration. I can only hope to have such fervor for life at the age of 75. To wake up and still feel that motivation, that drive, to do something you’ve always wanted to do…but just never did it. Why do we give up on our goals and dreams? When we ask ourselves why, the most common reason is fear…fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of an expiration date, fear of what people might think. Those are all just petty excuses for putting something off and avoiding change. If you think your “time has expired” to live a life that makes you happy or to pursue your next goal in life, you’re wrong. Some goals and dreams may not be attainable due to the timing of things, understandably, but if you’ve dreamed once in your life you can dream a million times more. Set new goals. Have something to get motivated for. (Like James Brown said: “You gotta have mooo-tivation!”) Who said we are only allowed to enjoy dreams while we’re asleep? We have every liberty and opportunity to enjoy and live out our dreams while we’re wide awake. And don’t let your mind conjure up an excuse for why you can’t start living the life you want today. Make a change if you’re unhappy. You owe it to the rest of your life. As the 77-year-old man with the backpack proved to me, any day is a great day for a fresh start.
Cheers to a fresh start…and Happy New Year!
One of several things you are guaranteed to find on the island of Puerto Rico (besides delightfully potent and colorful rum concoctions, fried pockets of meat-stuffed plantains at every turn and the infectious beat of Caribbean rhythms that can force even the gringoest of gringos to break into a Carmen Miranda-like hip shuffle) is an epic sunset. In order to find the best ones, however, you must leave the tourist-mousetrap of San Juan (which does offer up some rather enticing bait) and head towards the western end of the island where the final footprints of day slowly fade away behind the dreamy Pacific. Sunsets on a tropical island always seem more enjoyable than those viewed from anywhere else. They just do. Several theories here: 1) It could be the consistently dramatic island skies, which are typically filled with swirling and color-bending clouds that hover above the ocean like seagulls in search of surface appetizers, reflecting the lovely golden and pastel hues of the “magic hour”. 2) The calmness and serenity of being on a landmass surrounded by water and fringed with photogenic palms, isolated from the rest of the world and so far away from the monotonies of the “normal” life back home, which forced you to buy that ticket in the first place. 3) Feeling like you are in a privileged place at the perfect moment in time while all of your friends back home are sitting at a desk counting the tic-tocs until they can leave behind the office grind and dive into the not-so-flowing stream of rush hour traffic. 4) You’ve just consumed your fourth Piña Colada or Mai Tai, and everything you witness is “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!”. Yeah, fruity drinks injected with alcohol do have that effect on me sometimes. The only downside of that is being able to properly focus your camera or iphone as the Earth beneath you begins to spin double-time. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that Puerto Rico offers up sunsets that can rival those found anywhere around the world. On a stage that has been set to provide much drama, beauty and inspiration to all those who come out to watch…the sunsets of Puerto Rico have played a praiseworthy role.
As promised, I must honor my word and bring you the best of the best from last month’s Puerto Rico adventure! I found so much beauty and diversity all throughout the island, I don’t really know where to start. So I’ll just spin the jog wheel on the mouse and see where the cursor lands. (Spinning…done) This secluded waterfall (near the town of San Sebastián) was found as a result of Doing Your Homework Before You Travel. It’s a bit of an effort to get here, but that’s the whole idea, verdad? I mean, yeah…you can take the easier roads to some of the more accessible falls right off the highway (à la Maui’s Road to Hana, where you don’t even have to leave your vehicle…but good luck getting a decent photo without navigating your lens through the human traffic jam)…or you can get your numb-from-the-car-ride buttocks off the path, trek through a Jurassic Park-like environment, get some mud on the shoes, donate to the local mosquito blood drive and reward yourself with a spectacular slice of nature that can be quietly enjoyed in the company of a very few other lucky travelers, or even alone, if you time it right. The falls were pristine and the dip in the natural pool was a (testicle-shrinkingly) perfect way to spend the afternoon. Did I mention the water was cold?
Hey guys, I’m fresh off a tour of the “Island of Enchantment”…and it is as advertised! You’ll be hearing about and seeing plenty of it soon. 🙂 – GWAGB
Follow all the adventures (and dinner plates) on Instagram!
Yesterday was Ansel Adams’ 112th birthday. Though I didn’t receive any notification on my Facebook feed, I would have surely posted a tribute photo along with a “Happy Birthday AA” message on his wall (had he been alive and kind-hearted enough to accept my friend request). Though I’ve never really “studied” his work per se (I was a bad student), I have always recognized, respected and admired his talent and vision, his contributions to the medium of photography and his true craftsmanship, which took place in the darkroom. Inspired by his love of the land, he brought images to life using primitive equipment, his vivid imagination and his mastery of techniques during the developing process. These days, the “darkroom” of a digital photographer doesn’t even have to be dark. My “digital darkroom” is right next to my dining room window, consists of a computer and a mouse, and the only chemical in sight is the screen cleaning solution (which never gets used). But the fundamentals of photography remain. The relationship between your subject and the light that falls upon it is paramount, and no one nurtured this relationship better than Ansel Adams. In his timeless nature photography, he understood that “the natural landscape is not fixed…but is as transient as the light that continually redefines it.” (Kind of like girls in the nightclub when the sound-activated strobes are in full effect.) His iconic black & white images which evoked a powerful sense of compositional balance and perspective helped to establish photography among the fine arts. For him, the most important approach to his art was “beauty comes first”. He pretty much nailed it folks.
Here are a few images that I’d like to share as a humble tribute to the legendary Ansel Adams. Of course, I had the benefit of digital technology, photoshop and a camera that didn’t weigh as much as a bowling ball when I snapped these. Though he probably stepped foot in several of these same spots at some point in his career, there is no doubt that he put a lot more work and “previsualization” into his images…and spent a whole lot more time watching them come to life.