Posts Tagged With: Nikon
Life goes by pretty fast. Time is the one thing we can’t control. All we can do is make the best of it. Without moments of pause and reflection, we can’t really appreciate time. Most people are allowed a lot of time in life, but we often frown upon it because we feel we don’t have enough of it or that it is passing by faster than we’d like it to. I believe time should be measured in moments, not by clocks or years on the calendar. We can’t slow time down, but when we slow down and enjoy moments in time, the less we will worry about “having” time and the more we will enjoy “living” in it.
(Rainbow Bay – Eleuthera, Bahamas)
This was my first morning on my recent trip to the Bahamas, up early (5:45am). I always love to catch the sunrise on my first day in any new place. It’s my way of connecting with nature…having some personal time in my new surroundings. This is the best way to set the tone for the experience that lies ahead. Sit in silence. Get a feel for the environment. Breathe in the freshest air of the day. Listen to the earliest whispers of the wind and sea. You can’t beat it. You really can’t. (unless you brought along a rum bucket and an endless supply of jelly donuts)
Just wrapped up the first leg of the #FreedomTour 2015 (literally…got my knee sleeved up as a result of some rugged hiking and shifty-legged Glidecam work. Took me a few embarrassing attempts to jump up on that rock, lol). The first stop was in the Eastern and Western Sierras of Central & Northern California (my home state). It could very well be the most beautiful and naturally diverse state in the union (but I’ll leave that judgement for a later day…once I’ve seen all 50 of those bad boys.)
Autumn in California…we’ve got some colors too folks. 🙂 More photos and video clips coming soon. Walking and gliding (sometimes stumbling) through nature…nothing quite like it.
If you spend enough time in a desert landscape – under a scorching sun, surrounded by endless monotone dunes whose wind-carved domes blend seamlessly into the next – sometimes you start to imagine things. The “mirage” is a real thing. I often imagine buckets of cold beer and a Vegas pool party (as I enjoyed when I stayed at the actual Mirage). But sometimes you stumble upon a real life oasis. The endless horizon of white turns into a revitalizing mosaic of green and blue. Wild animals graze in the goodness of nature’s gift to this remote and barren land. My eyes, though stinging from the sunscreen-laced sweat dripping down my forehead, have not fooled me on this day…even with the bikini-clad woman trekking the dunes in the middle of nowhere (I’m surely suffering the effects of dehydration…or am I?) This is the contrasting beauty of life. I tell myself to take a moment, pause, breathe it in…and promise that the next time I hold a glass with an ice cold beverage in my hand I will raise it in its honor. #Jeri
So here I was, in the jungle of Petén, Guatemala just a few short weeks ago. I made my way up the zigzagging wooden staircase that ascends to the top of Temple IV in the mighty ruins of Tikal. Far less neck-slapping of mosquitos this time around. A dry, sunny April day made for an incredible contrast to my last experience in this mystical world of wonder, which saw me slipping around the ruins wearing a bright yellow rain slicker that made me look like a greased up banana with legs…hairy legs, even less flattering to the locals (perhaps not to the howler monkeys). I had made this trek and climb before, about 7 years ago. Same green bag, different shoes and camera. You always know you’re in a special place when, even though you’ve been there before, it feels like a unique experience the second time around, one that has your eyeballs peeled away in total awe of your surroundings, with an equal or greater impression felt than that of your first visit.
The jungle is raw, alive…constantly whispering its stories of the past though ancient structures and their decipherable remains. It breathes a silent air and echos a mystical tune as you stand above a canopy of endless green and inhale sweeping views of this storied land that has harbored centuries of warriors, kings, slaves, innovation, peace & prosperity, death & destruction. La Selva Maya – The Mayan Jungle. It’s still there…with the same sun casting its rays upon it daily, whether dampened or glowing. Oh, the stories it could tell…
This morning on the beach in Acapulco, Mexico…host city of Tianguis Turístico México 2015. The shadows have since shortened and the temps have risen. A beautiful place to be.
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.
What is it about trekking through the jungle that sends omenously cool vibrations sprinting down my spinal column? It’s wild, unpredictable, mysterious – kind of like walking into a strip club in Vegas on your 21st birthday – it’s just an exhilarating (and intimidating) place to be. So when I heard about this massive ancient Mayan site embedded in the remotest of remote jungles near the southern end of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make the trip down to check out the remains of what was once among the most influential sites in the history of the Mayan Empire: Calakmul.
From what I understood, it was a bit of an effort to get there. There’s only 1 hotel within a 60km radius and if you Google “Calakmul” on a map you end up with a location marker that lands in the middle of absolute nowhere within a huge Biosphere Reserve just north of the Guatemalan border, several hours away from anything remotely familiar to the average Mexico traveler. This is the beauty of traveling to places like this. Only the adventurous few will make the effort, so the experience will feel unique and untainted and you’ll never have to worry about crowds, traffic jams or crying toddlers in strollers begging for ice cream while you pass through the turnstile. (No, I’m not a big fan of Disneyland, you guessed correctly.) An exit south off of highway 186, which slices horizontally through the state of Campeche, took me on a long, lonely road flanked by endless miles of a subtropical forest that has seen only the most intrepid of travelers pass through its sequestered corridor.
After a lengthy drive deep into the jungle, with every revolving digit of the odometer reminding you that you are advancing one frame further from civilization, I arrived at the Calakmul visitor’s center/museum. Plenty to see there while killing time, but my eagerness to explore had ignited my appetite so I grabbed some Doritos and an empanada and then hopped in a van with a few other travelers to make our way down another long (dirt) road, which really reassured me of the remoteness of this ancient wonder. Upon arrival to the ruins site, I performed my typical jungle-trekking ritual of mosquito repellent-bathing, calf-stretching and a second round of mosquito repellent-bathing. There was a lovely scenic walking path leading to the actual ruins, passing through an expanding canopy of dense forest with filtered sunbeams penetrating the jungle roof like a laser light show transmitted from heaven. The environment here is raw, stimulating, overwhelming to the senses…it kind of reminds me of walking through the olive & pickle market in Spain back in the day. The deeper I get into it, the more I start salivating. I finally arrive to the actual ruins and am immediately thrown into the set of Apocalypto (“please don’t let me run into a black jaguar on its lunch break”, was my first thought). The ruins were imposingly present throughout the area and seemed in a very natural state. I climbed to the top of the first structure I saw. The view (and the 60+ steps) took my breath away.
Standing above the jungle canopy atop the remains of an ancient structure of a kingdom that once rivaled Tikal as one of the grandest and most powerful cities of the Mayan world will quickly halt your mind into “pause” mode – and then force you to reflect on the former reality and historical scope of your surroundings. This was the land of rulers and kings…the turf of brave and brutal warriors and conquerors (and angry little monkeys, but we’ll get to that). The view of adjacent temples popping up through the blanket of vegetation in the distance is one that your brain will quickly file into the category of “Holy Shit – Awesome!”. Several large structures were scattered throughout the area, and if each one could speak I’m sure it would have countless tales spanning centuries of discovery, war, peace, famine and wonder. (That, or it would tell me to “clean your shoes before walking on my face, jerk!”) The surrounding jungle sprawls out endlessly in all directions, and the louring echo of howler monkeys adds an eerie soundtrack to the surreal scene that quietly envelopes you. When you sit there and think about the history that a place like this has written in its fraction of existence on Earth, and the countless lives that lived and were lost here, you are humbled…and you are also reminded of your very fortunate place in the annals of time. We live in a time where science answers many of the natural wonders that the original inhabitants of this land would never understand…a time where technology allows us to connect with and discover the farthest corners of the globe…a time where you won’t get sacrificed for being on the losing side in a game of kickball. As I explored Calakmul, I remained humbly cognizant of its historical significance. I walked among symbols of great power and strolled through ancient hallways of artistry and wonder.
Now let’s get to these monkeys that were ready to engage with me in a full-on turf war. What began as a cordial initial encounter, with the natural underpinnings of curiosity, quickly turned into a Clint Eastwood “Get off my lawn” scenario where the native tree-dwellers began to express to me just how peeved they were with my presence in their “jungle hood”. I hadn’t been briefed on the hospitality of the local monkey community before entering the area, therefore I just continued to go about my business, observe them, photograph them and proudly reinforce to them (by standing my ground) that there wasn’t gonna be any Planet Of The Apes-inspired ego flung in my direction. What WAS flung in my direction, however, was a tree branch straight towards my head by one of the two feisty little hairy bastards that I was shooting in the trees above, followed by some maniacal gestures of chest-beating and flashing of the teeth (those teeth are no joke!). This isn’t how I typically like to be received into a new place. The capuchins in Costa Rica posed for my camera like girls auditioning for a Lowrider magazine cover on Instagram. There was no “Welcome” mat on these two monkeys’ front porch. They began shaking the tree branches and beating on their chests like little King Kong wannabies. Oh, hell no. It was getting serious now. I was dealing with some bonafide bullies. As soon as that tree branch came flying towards my head, I was reminded of my surroundings in this “wild” and “unpredictable” jungle environment. This isn’t like being at the zoo where you’re able to laugh and make faces at an animal and feel safe from retaliation due to the security provided by the double-paned glass or steel cage that lies between you and the animal. This was the wild wild west of Mexican jungles – untamed and virtually unexplored – and these monkeys were the last holdouts of their village who weren’t gonna backdown from any foreign “bandits” armed with cameras and binoculars. I must admit, the intimidation tactics did work. (Again, those teeth are no joke!) I didn’t stick around too much longer to find out of they were bluffing. I wasn’t in the mood for a face full of poo that day, or a couple of jungle hoodlums trying to bully me for my bananas. Their aggressive behavior was enough for me to wrap up my photo shoot and quickly move along. Monkeys 1 – Gringo 0.
The fact that you can visit one of the world’s most fascinating remnants of ancient times and experience the full ambience of the natural world that surrounds it makes Calakmul a “must-see” destination on anyone’s Mexico travel list. Here, you can enjoy Mayan ruins that rival all of the grandeur and scale of the ruins of Chichen-Itza, but in a much more exotic and remote (and far less manicured) environment. You’ll also escape the crowds of day-trippers and local vendors trying to negotiate the “good price for you” sale of painted jaguar masks and plastic pyramid paper weights. If Chichen-Itza is Starbucks, then Calakmul is your out-of-the-way coffee shop reserved for enjoying an authentic blend in a quiet environment. Calakmul offers its visitors a chance to enjoy some seriously impressive ruins and experience the environment the way the ancient Maya saw it – in a natural state, remotely enclosed by the very jungle that witnessed its rise and fall. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a close encounter with the modern-day native inhabitants of this exotic land…the wildlife. There is an abundance. Just watch your back. As soon as a tree branch comes flying towards your head it might be your cue to continue your tour and move on to the next structure. As I was reminded, it’s best to never outstay your welcome in the wild…a lesson I also learned in the chaotic urban jungle of Mardi Gras in New Orleans back in 1996, but that’s a story for another day.
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.