Posts Tagged With: travel photography

Puerto Rico – “Isla Del Encanto” – Sunsets

Puerto Rico sunset 01(Aguada)

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.

Puerto Rico sunset 02(Vieques)

Puerto Rico sunset 03(Rincon)

Puerto Rico sunset 04(Rincon)

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Puerto Rico – Isla Del Encanto – waterfalls

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?

Puerto Rico - waterfalls

Puerto Rico - waterfalls 02

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Puerto Rico…”Isla Del Encanto”

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

PR

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Doing Your Homework Before You Travel

Question: How much would it suck to finally arrive after a brutal 8-hour bus ride to the Mayan Ruins of Tikal on a Saturday night (read all about it here), only to be told that the tours don’t operate on Sundays or Mondays, and you’ve already booked your flight out of town on Tuesday morning? Answer: LOTS! Yes, we’ve all been there one way or another. Travel experiences we’d like to just put on an Etch-A-Sketch and shake the hell out of until they are erased forever. I always say, my most successful and enjoyable trips have ALWAYS been a result of a good amount of research and preparation. For me personally, that means making the weekly visits to the book store in the months leading up to my trip.

book store

My travels always begin long before I even arrive at the airport. They begin the very day I decide where I’m going to go (and they kick into high gear right after that nerve-wracking click on the airfare “purchase” button). At that point, my focus shifts to all things related to that place…its culture, people, local customs and etiquette, native foods, road conditions, weather, where to buy Tums, etc….all the logistics of getting acquainted with and getting around in a place that is totally unfamiliar to me. I treat it like my homework…do the reading and take good notes! There are many resources available to us to help us do our homework before we travel. Book stores, such as Barnes & Noble (where I have logged hundreds of hours while consuming superfluous amounts of steaming Starbucks lattes), have a healthy supply of travel books, magazines, guides and maps for most countries around the globe. The internet is perhaps the most valuable resource out there. On-line travel sites such as TripAdvisor.com and VirtualToursit.com are essential for me because you can access forums, read reviews and communicate directly with people who actually live in, or are natives of your chosen destination, or those who have recently traveled there (the locals are always your best resource). This is very important if you want that “insider” information that isn’t available to you in a publication. Also, it’s the best way to get current information, such as prices, tours and bus schedules, or whether or not a particular hotel or restaurant is still in business. (Not to mention info about that little tucked away slice of paradise that only the locals can guide you to!) People always love to share information about their homeland and travel experiences and the forums are great ways to get the inside scoop from those who are familiar with the area you are intending to visit. Just make sure you’re not reading an outdated forum from 2005, or you might end up arriving at a former restaurant that has been replaced by a neon-lit strip club (though some may consider that a good score).

travel homework

In addition to being a travel, football and mint chocolate junkie, I am a total research junkie. I want to feel like I’ve already been to the place I’m going and know exactly where to go before I even get there. I admit, I get a little over-zealous with the studying and memorization of topographical maps, but it totally helps when you’re trying to figure out practical travel times and distances. A little preparation before you get underway can go a long way to help you avoid the pitfalls of an ill-prepared vacation (like applying for your passport or Visa last minute and having to nervously wait by your mailbox for your travel docs to arrive just days before your flight. Yeah…been there! You have no idea how much discontent you can have for the post office until you experience your entire vacation being held hostage by the mailman!) Map out your itinerary and learn as much you can about everything you are planning to do during your visit. By doing this, you’ve already removed 50% of the stress that is typically experienced by travelers: inconvenience. This is the benefit of doing your homework before you travel!

Now, if you’ll excuse me…it’s time to go suck down a Butter Pecan Latte and read a few more books on Puerto Rico…and listen to some Tito Puente. Salud!

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The last #FotoFriday of Summer ’14

Hope you guys had a great one! 

(image: Jericoacoara, Brazil)

Jericoacoara

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Stargazing…

I’ve never tried to photograph the night sky, until a few days ago. I’ve always been a fan of astronomy. I have all 12 episodes of Cosmos recorded on my DVR and I watch them religiously. Remember back in the day when textbooks taught us that there were 9 planets in our solar system? Then, in 2005, Pluto gets demoted to a “dwarf planet” and now there’s only 8 planets in our solar system and 4 dwarf planets. Huh? You’re telling me there’s not 9 planets and I actually got that question right on my 3rd grade test when I wrote 8? That’s what science does. It tells us that we don’t have to accept what we’ve always been taught to believe if we have the capability to evolve and discover new things…new ways of thinking. 

Night Sky

As I was admiring the night sky this past week while camping up in California’s Golden Trout Wilderness, I couldn’t help but hear the voice of the great Neil deGrasse Tyson (the biggest astrophysicist pimp on the planet), who reminds us that our Earth is a speck of “cosmic dust” among the “billions of stars within billions of galaxies” in the expanding universe. Though I couldn’t see it with the naked eye, my camera was able to capture the Milky Way galaxy rising above the mountain peak (centered). The Milky Way (the galaxy to which Earth belongs) is just one of hundreds of billions in the universe. For every sparkling dot in the sky (within our limited view), there could possibly be a solar system and potential life-supporting planet, with conditions similar to ours. We are special and unique no doubt, because this is our home, and there will never be another Earth and the incredible variety of life that it sustains. (Thank God, can you imagine another alien form of the Kardashian family out there polluting the minds of its fellow life forms? They might actually recognize Bruce Jenner to be one of their own.) One can’t help but wonder, how does the night sky look from any of those other billions of floating rocks out there? The timeless and unanswered question of “Are we alone?” will always find its portal to the minds of the curious and open-minded inhabitants of one fortunate rock that was able to find the perfect path around its star, enabling it to sustain life and breed a (sometimes) civilized society with the capability to exercise an endless imagination.

Oh yeah, there was a “Super Moon” out that night too. In my younger and immature days of old, I probably would have posted a picture of my ass right here. You guys are lucky social media wasn’t around in the late 80’s. 😉

Super Moon

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Fresh off the trail…

…well, not exactly “fresh” if you’re talking about cleanliness and hygiene. Just got back from Maggie Lakes in California’s Golden Trout Wilderness. 4 days of backpacking, hiking, camping, fishing and drinking boxed wine during a hailstorm. Pics and blog to follow…after a nice warm shower and a pedicure. 🙂

GWAGB(Golden Trout Wilderness – California, U.S.A.)

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GWAGB on INSTAGRAM

Follow all the adventures (and dinner plates) on Instagram!

D.James_GringoWithAGreenBag

GWAGB_Instagram

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The best drunk photo I’ve ever taken

“Tequila Sunset”

I thought I was seeing things for a minute. I had just stumbled off the tequila tour. Not the tour of the town, which is actually named Tequila, but the tour of the fermented blue agave juice that made this Mexican town famous. Yes, you can find some pretty good tequila in Tequila (unlike the town of Gin Gin in Australia, which produces no special selection of gin to brag about). I had sampled a good variety of the notoriously potent local spirit that day. My brain was buzzing an amplified “buzzz”, like listening to an alarm clock stuck in a bee hive. My palate was saturated from the variety of flavors of the agave’s “sweet nectar” (almond, vanilla, fruity, earthy, nasty, etc.) and the sugary staleness of a burnt churro that I picked up on the way back to the main square. In my intoxicated state, I found myself staring up at this gorgeously sunlit church, face filled with awe like Elliot and his little sister looking up at ET’s spaceship. Suddenly, a swarm of birds began to circle the church dome like they were caught in some sort of holy orbit. “Look at all those DAMN birds”, I thought to myself. “Wow…wait, is that one bird or many? Shit, am I seeing centuple here?” My head is already spinning from the multiple (let’s say 8) samples of La Cofradía and this orchestra of synchronized birds busting endless 360’s around this church isn’t helping my mental equilibrium. All I knew was that I had to get a photo of this “heavenly” sight or I might wake up the next day and forget it ever happened. The late afternoon light was absolutely gorgeous…stunning…and I’m not just saying that cuz I was wearing tequila goggles. It was an epic scene of divine symbolism being blessed by nature (a vision which may inspire a future book entitled “When Mother Teresa met Mother Nature…”). I pull out my camera, fumble around with the settings a bit and fire off a round of 3-5 shots every time those birds circled around and exposed their sunlit underbellies. I did this for about 15 straight revolutions, ending up with around 50-60 shots of the exact same thing. I’m pretty sure the ratio of bad (blurry) ones to good (sharp) ones was about 20:1, so I had to make sure I had this shot nailed. (They don’t teach you the “rules of composition while under the influence” in photo school.) This was one of the good ones:

Tequila, Mexico

I believe this is the best “drunk” photo I’ve ever taken (besides that one at Mardi Gras in ’96 where those two young college girls from Lithuania were…whoa…). I also like to imagine it as the best photo of this church ever taken, considering the level of intoxication of the photographer. Not easy to focus on still objects after a half-dozen shots of tequila, let alone flying ones.

It’s both ironic and poetic:  The best photo I’ve ever taken (“shot”) while under the influence of tequila happened in a town called Tequila, standing in front of a church named “Santiago” (which translates to Saint “James”), and it was in the state of Jalisco, which can be translated as “plastered”…of which I was quite at the time. Another irony is that the one and only thing I collect from every place I visit around the world is a shot glass. However, I forgot to pick one up in perhaps the most symbolic place in the world to get one. I blame the host of my tequila tour for that one…though I do appreciate the generous sample session I was offered that day. Well worth the price of admission and a burnt churro.

Tequila

Tequila-01

Tequila-02

Tequila-03

 

 

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