The Condado Series: Crustacean

•January 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment


Shot on location in Condado, Puerto Rico.

I grabbed this shot after parting ways with my friend Eric in Condado. We’d been out for a walk (which, for me, means photowalk!) and Eric had to split for a couple of errands, so I walked down to Ocean Park and strolled along the ocean side rocks. This bit of red caught my eye down below, but there is a railing which indicates that rock combing is a bad idea. There is also a heavy police presence in the park, keeping an eye on tourists and locals alike.

Well, I wanted the shot. So I waited for a few minutes taking innocent pictures of the pretty water and watching for a break in the nearest officer’s constant gaze. Finally, he took out a cell phone and appeared to be texting someone, so I hopped over the railing.

I figured that I had maybe 3 or 4 minutes before he noticed that I was no longer in sight and ambled over to see where I’d gotten to. So I whipped the D300 into action and snapped about 10 frames from a couple of angles and zooms. Sure enough, a couple minutes later I was being hailed from the railing 30 feet above. Busted!

A quick apology to the officer in spanish, along with a compliment on his vigilance in such a busy area, and I was on my way.

The Good Lord watches over idiots and small children, it seems.

Crop: Fibonacci Spiral.

Joy (and dancing)

•October 26, 2008 • 1 Comment

I came across this video the other day and it resonated with me, so I thought I’d include it in this journal. I do hope that you enjoy it. For more information about Matt Harding, click here. If you enjoy the video, you can find an HD version here.

More posts from me are forthcoming – I’ve been super busy flying, promoting air safety, and launching my photography business – not to mention the most important job of all: being a Dad. I’ll have some great photos from the Islands, including a gorgeous wedding ceremony in Fajardo, PR and some fall pictures from my home in Virginia. Until then, please consider dancing wherever you are just for the fun of it. Even better, find a few crazies to dance with you!

La Princesa – An Assortment of Photos

•June 30, 2008 • 2 Comments

This post contains an assortment of photos taken primarily in Old San Juan this week. There is no particular focus or topic – just a splash of pics that depict various things around the Old City. This one is a favorite of mine; I love the colors and textures of various buildings throughout the islands.

This shot could be from almost anywhere, but it’s from the facade of a bank building in Old San Juan. There is an interesting mix of architectural styles, ranging from classical to modern. Every corner is filled with history, providing plenty of eye candy and brain food for the adventurer.

San Cristobal at sunset. Lots of great light in this one.

Along the top of the city walls in Old San Juan. I wonder what this looked like 200 years ago…

A streetlight in front of La Princesa, which was once the most feared prison in all of the Caribbean. These days it houses the Puerto Rico Tourism office.

Here is a daytime shot of the fountain at La Princesa. Those of you who have been follownig this journal from the beginning will recall this fountain from my collection of night shots in Old San Juan.

Here’s another aspect of the fountain at La Princesa. The fountain itself is a wonderful representaiton of the history of Puerto Rico from an artistic point of view.

Some flowers near the fountain caught my eye. As usual, I have no idea what plant this is. If you DO know, please post a comment!

I must have taken about 30 shots of the water looking west from the fountain. I tried everything I could think of to capture the beautiful sparkling waters and dynamic sky, but I sorta failed. This was the best shot I could make, and it really doesn’t capture the scene, sadly.

A passing frigate bird, in the middle of a molt, came close enough to get a quick shot. These birds have a large wingspan – I’m guessing 5 feet or more.

The southwestern end of El Morro is featured in this shot. There is a walkway under the turret which follows the outside wall all the way around the fort. It’s a great walk, with lots of sea and spray – not to mention the dozens of feral cats which roam the rocks and control the rat population.

I caught Brenna in a moment of zen as she looked out over the bay and San Juan Harbor. Moments later I was growled at when she realized I was taking photos which included her.

The next few shots, including this one, were taken by Brenna using my D300. She has a great eye and an interest in photography…

A great frame by Brenna. There is just enough of a soft focus to make this photo something other than the usual flower shot.

Of course, she can also shoot crisp and clear images as well. This tree is rather well known – you can find it along the Ave. La Princesa.

Here’s one from the pubic gardens outside of the fortress walls.

Brenna did a bit of street photography while we wandered around. Good stuff!

We decided to take a horse drawn carriage around the outside of the Old City. Our young groom was a wealth of dates and happenings as we passed the various landmarks along cobblestone streets.

Our view from the back seat.

The last photo in this mashup – the French Navy was in port, which drew a number of comments from passers-by. We didn’t spot any french sailors – itlooked as though the ship was getting ready to make way, judging by the activity on the dock.

El Yunque

•June 19, 2008 • 4 Comments

After many false starts, delays, and unforeseen circumstances, I finally made the ascension to one of Puerto Rico’s truly amazing treasures: the Caribbean National Rain Forest, known as ‘El Yunque’. Joining me for the voyage were Mary, her son Luichi, and my daughter Brenna. As we slowly wound our way up through the Luquillo mountains, we were impressed by many gorgeous vistas.

There is a ton of material about El Yunque on the net, so I won’t be inserting a ton of stuff in this post due to the rather large number of photos I intend to post.

**Note to families of photographers: It’s ok to leave your shooter behind when visiting here… really. He or she will be mesmerized by the thousands of shots which present themselves every few feet, so go ahead: run, dance, play under the canopy and fear not for your loved one (who is muttering ‘I need another 16 gig card…’)

Fortunately for me, I wasn’t completely alone in my viewfinder. My daughter takes a moment here to say ‘STOOOOP!’ You see, even though she totally digs the shots I take of her, she never wants to be photographed.

Kids.

I feel the need to make the usual disclaimer, the one found most frequently withinj these pages: I have no friggin idea what I’m shooting when it comes to most flora and fauna. But I love to learn, so please feel free to leave a comment about what the photos contain (no one will mock your superior intellect – really!)

This thing-a-ma-bob seems to grow from certain palm trees. It looks neat and doesn’t appear to be edible. Although, I might try boiling it just to be sure.

Now, after we scored a sweet parking spot (the force was with us) we decided to make the mile hike to the largest waterfall in the rainforest. The forest contains rare wildlife including the Puerto Rican Parrot, which is one of the ten most endangered species of birds in the world. Its scientific name is Amazona vitatta. The Puerto Rican parrot is a small amazon parrot, about a foot in length, bright green, with red forehead, blue primary wing feathers, and flesh-colored bill and feet. Its primary habitat is the upper zones of the Luquillo Mountains. And nope, we never saw one. But we did see lots of awesome vegetation.

Snails are very common, as are the coqui – the tiny tree frog which is fabled to live only in Puerto Rico and now Hawaii. The coqui serenaded us with their songs during our entire visit, increasing their decibel levels right after the passing rainshowers. Yes, being a rainforest it rained intermittently all afternoon. I rather enjoyed it.

Geckos are also quite common along the trail, and they come in a variety of colors. This one had just jumped up from the gravel path and hadn’t yet changed its colors.

The hike to the falls is primarily downhill from the parking lot. Along the way are cement stairs, rock paths, mud trails, elevated logs, bridges and more. The trail system and a few of the improvements were originally created during the Great Depression by the CCC and WPA.

Another snail climbs for the canopy. I wonder what they do up there, and what prompts them to come down?

Many of the concrete castings contain impressions made by the original workers in the 1930′s. I couldn’t find a clear example to shoot, but they are interesting and occur often along the trail.

There are many spots which invite a picnic, a soaking of feet, and the zen of falling water. I didn’t shoot any pictures of them, but there are numerous picnic shelters along the upper third of the trail, too.

These intertwined trees housed a coqui among their roots, but I couldn’t find it the little bugger for a shot. Coqui are very small, about the size of your thumbnail.

After about 45 minutes of downhill hiking, we made the falls. Photos really don’t do it justice – it is magnificent. I didn’t have a wide angle lens on me – I only brought the 70-200 mm f2.8, so my attempts to capture the falls do sucketh. Why only the long lens? Well, it was raining off and on. Not the occaisional drizzle, mind you – I mean full on tropical rain. So I thought it best not to try a lens change and just packed my workhorse for the hike. Ya, I’m a wuss.

(A note for Santa: Please Sir, I would love a Nikkor 12-24mm wide angle zoom for Christmas. I’ll even be good. I promise.)

I totally loved this road sign in the middle of the rainforest… the moss and lichen say it all.

Brenna enjoys a chat after lunch with Mary and Luichi. Lunch was my doing: albacore with shredded carrots, celery and dill on sesame bagels, with red potato salad on the side. We enjoyed a brief, though moist meal together next to the thundering water.

This was about as ‘wide’ as I could get for a shot of the falls base. The water was very chilly, I’m guessing 60 degrees and only a few dared to enter it.

After watching everyone else have fun in the water, I begged and pleaded for Mary to join me in the negative ion stream. Somehow, after only a few minutes, she relented. Brenna took the shot with my D300 and 70-200 mm telephoto, which is a real bugger if you’re not used to it. The thing weighs a ton, but she made a very nice photo despite the numerous challenges in front of her.

Oh, and in a word, shrinkage. That water was COLD.

Another fine shot taken by Brenna, finished in Lightroom with a bleach effect. I’ll probably go back and finish this photo again in a different style, but I kind of liked this look.

This was a great shot, in my opinion. It is un-cropped, un-retouched, straight off the camera. This is why I love the D300 and Nikon lens system SO much… with even a smidge of aptitude you can achieve great shots. I intend to put this on my wall at home in a 16 x 20. It’s even better looking big.

Brenna and I both shot this on the way out of the rainforest. Her shots came out exceptionally well, although her point and shoot later became a victim of the sands of Playa de Isla Verde. I really need to get her shots in here for y’all to see. She has an artist’s eye for composition, and I’m hoping the recent gift of my Olympus E-500 kit will be as big a turn-on for her as it was for me.

The last shot of this series. I fully intend to return to El Yunque in the future, and I strongly enocourage all who venture to Puerto Rico to go take a look. We only grazed the surface of the rainforest in this afternoon of hiking and shooting; there is a whole world of diversity within this rainforest and I can’t wait to go back.

The Map:

For some reason (perhaps Mars is in retrograde or something) the map isn’t lining up properly in this view, despite my many attempts to correct it. To see the spots I’ve marked for you, pan up to the north, or zoom out a little.

Really Bad News

•June 2, 2008 • Leave a Comment

We recently received some really bad news in San Juan regarding American Airlines and American Eagle: AMR Corporation announced a huge reduction in flying in San Juan which will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs. When I started this journal, I intended to catalog my first year in the islands. That ambition may end early, as I have some dire decisions to make: AA891, my ride to work, has been canceled as of September 3rd. So now I have no way to get to work.

Here’s what the press is saying:

(Bloomberg) — American Airlines parent AMR Corp. will record costs of $1.27 billion to reduce the value of parked aircraft and pay severance to workers who lose their jobs as it cuts flights in response to record fuel costs.

AMR expects to eliminate about 8 percent of its total workforce, or 6,840 jobs, when it reduces capacity in the fourth quarter, the company told workers at American and American Eagle in a message today. The job cuts would be the most among those announced this year by U.S. carriers.

American, the world’s largest airline, and other U.S. carriers are cutting flights and jobs as a near doubling of fuel prices over the past year erodes profits. Before today, the biggest airlines had said they would cut 11,850 jobs and park 431 aircraft later this year.

“Everybody is going to be taking these charges to adjust the accounting,” Ray Neidl, an analyst with Calyon Securities in New York, said in an interview. “It’s going to be big.”

AMR will have a non-cash charge of about $1.2 billion in the second quarter to reduce the value of Boeing Co. MD-80s and Embraer 135 regional jets, the company said in a U.S. regulatory filing today. Employee-related costs will be $70 million.

Paring Flights

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline plans to ground as many as 120 aircraft, end service to eight airports and reduce flights from its hubs to blunt the impact of fuel costs, which the Air Transport Association said may push U.S. carriers to record losses of $13 billion this year.

“Once you decide to ground planes, you either need to sell them or park them,” Daniel Kasper, managing director of airline consulting firm LECG Corp., said in an interview. “If you sell them, you’ll know for certain how little they’re worth. Demand for these planes isn’t robust.”

The non-cash expense related to the aircraft doesn’t affect liquidity “or our ability to pay our bills,” Chief Executive Officer Gerard Arpey told employees in an e-mail.

“The fact that some of our company’s key assets have declined significantly in value underscores, in stark terms, the seriousness of the challenge we — along the with rest of the airline industry — face as we navigate our way through an environment of skyrocketing fuel costs and a slowing economy,” Arpey said.

Capacity Reductions

U.S. capacity reductions will be 12 percent at American and 11 percent at Eagle, and will amount to about 8 percent of AMR’s global total, which includes international service. Eagle operates smaller aircraft to ferry passengers to American’s hub airports. The company will be “reducing our workforce by an amount consistent with our capacity reduction,” Arpey said.

American will eliminate as many as 900 flight attendant jobs, or about 4.7 percent, effective Aug. 31, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said today. American previously said management and support staff would be cut by 8 percent, without providing a number.

The airline also said today it reached agreements with the attendants union and the Transport Workers Union for early retirement offers. Members of the unions must be 50 or older, have worked for American at least 15 years and not be on furlough to qualify. The airline also is offering leaves of absence and part-time work to help reduce involuntary layoffs.

Job cuts at the Transport Workers, which represents mechanics and six other work groups, haven’t been quantified.

Most airline labor agreements contain furlough provisions that guarantee employees a chance to return to jobs before new workers are hired. The recall rights last for five years. Furloughed workers can file for unemployment and are eligible for employee rates on medical insurance premiums.

The pilots union at American Eagle last week reached an agreement with AMR that may save at least 100 jobs. The plan includes leaves of absence, part-time work and the transfer of 10 aircraft back to Eagle from Trans States Airlines.

AMR fell 23 cents, or 4.7 percent, today to $4.62 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has fallen 67 percent this year.

La Parrilla! Heaven in Luquillo…

•May 13, 2008 • 14 Comments

Tonight we struck gold.

There is simply no other way to describe this evening’s meal at my new favorite restaurant, La Parrilla, located in the beachside town of Luquillo, Puerto Rico. Luquillo is about 30 minutes east of San Juan on the northeast coast of Puerto Rico and, as covered in a previous post, it is a very popular destination for natives and visitors alike.

My girlfriend Mary and I invited two of our colleagues, Deb and Eric, to join us for an evening out at La Parrilla. Pictured above is a lovely Red Snapper, de-boned, stuffed with shrimp, and grilled to perfection – just one of the perfectly prepared dishes that we sampled tonight.

Mark

Chef/owner Ricardo Alvaro greeted us soon after our arrival, and we immediately hit it off. All four in our group have been labeled ‘foodies’, with our own herb and vegetable gardens, well-used kitchens, and often-requested recipes, so it was a real pleasure to chat with a professional chef whose intense passion for great food really shows in everything he does.

On Chef Ricardo’s recommendation we selected a fresh lobster, which he then split and grilled, finishing with a 4 cheese fondue in the upper part of the shell. Simply amazing! Chef Ricardo is shown above with our prize shortly before we demolished it.

Here you can clearly see that delicious 4 cheese fondue inside of the lobster’s shell, which really put this dish over the top. Also noteworthy is the freshly prepared sangria, which is light and refreshing.

Arroz con Pina

It seems like every dish at La Parrilla is a home run. This is a plate of Arroz con Pina, a specialty of the house, featuring Puerto Rican short-grained rice flavored with curry, fresh pineapple, and grilled shrimp. Yucca sticks added immensely to the palette of flavors presented by Chef Ricardo.

Deb & Eric

Eric and Deb pose for a quick snap before we start the meal.

You guys know that I rarely make recommendations or promote specific properties unless I truly believe that excellence is in the offering and, as such, it is truly a pleasure to recommend La Parrilla as a ‘must visit’ while you’re in Puerto Rico. Chef Ricardo Alvaro’s masterful culinary abilities and warm personality will make it a meal to remember, and trust me, you’ll be back to visit often. I know that I will!

La Parrilla is located in the Kiosk area of Luquillo in Kiosko #2, right on Highway 3. To contact the restaurant directly, call (787) 889-0590 or drop Chef Ricardo an email at laparrillapr@yahoo.com. I know that he’ll be delighted to hear from you!

The Map:

Canouan – the awesomest island you’ve never heard of.

•May 11, 2008 • 2 Comments

Welcome!

Ahhhh… Welcome to Canouan! Canouan is one of the Grenadine Islands belonging to St Vincent, measuring just 3.5 miles by 1.25 miles. The capitol village (indeed, its only village!), Charlestown, is a pleasant community of island descendants and seasonal workers. A barrier reef runs along the Atlantic side of the dry Canouan Island. It is outlined with rounded hills beneath the “Maho”, 900-foot tall Mount Royal which is recorded as the highest point on the island. Two bays, Glossy and Friendship, serve to mark the northern and southern sides of the island.

Today we were surprised to learn (while preparing to depart for Canouan from St. Lucia) that the newly refurbished airport terminal and runway were officially entering service. Due to the official ceremony and ensuing celebration, we had to hold at 2000 feet over the island before landing while spectators were ushered from the apron. This afforded us fantastic views of the island, however, the airplane’s windows were too dirty to shoot through so I don’t have any aerials.

Mother\'s Day Champagne

On arrival at the Tamarind Beach Hotel, Mary and I enjoyed a bottle of our favorite champagne to celebrate Mother’s Day. We had a lovely time talking together, watching the sunset, and relaxing in the pink and orange hues of twilight.

Beautiful Canouan Island is located 25 miles south of St. Vincent, which, from 1871 to 1979 was part of the British colony of the Windward Islands. In 1979, the island became independent with a secure democratic government based upon the British system. Local lore recants several stories about the Arawak indians, who arrived in bunker canoes. These new residents brought fire-burners, plants and animals, basic farming and fishing skills with them. Legends tell of relative peace for 1500 years until a tribe of fierce fighters, known as the Caribs, invaded – wiping out the Arawak villages.

Sunset

More than 200 years after Columbus laid eyes on St. Vincent, Europeans established a permanent settlement on Canouan. Its mountainous and heavily forested geography allowed the Caribs to defend against European settlement longer than on almost any other island in the Caribbean. After the Caribs were defeated, they joined slaves who had escaped repression on Barbados by following the trade winds westward to St. Vincent, as well as those who had survived shipwrecks near St. Vincent and Bequia.

The mixed descendants of the island warriors and the freed Africans (who became known as the Black Caribs) proved to be fierce opponents to settlement efforts in the region. Fearing domination by the increasing waves of settlers, Carib leaders allowed a French settlement on the island in 1719. In 1748, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (which ended the Austrian War of Succession) officially declared the islands impartial to Britain and France.

WOW

In 1990 an investment group known as Canouan Resort Development (CRD), Limited, signed a 99-year lease agreement with the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for the construction and operation of an international residential resort and club on Canouan Island.

After an initial period when the construction of the resort had been contracted to third parties, in 1994 CRD Ltd. created the fully owned subsidiary CCA Limited to act as general contractor. Since then, CRD Ltd. has presided over the construction of the Canouan International Airport (CIW), Tamarind Beach Hotel and Yacht Club (TBH), the Canouan Island Raffles Resort, numerous general purpose and luxury homes and villas, the CCA Warehouse and the Canouan Police Station. They pretty much own the island…

Driving

The next morning, we were treated to a luxurious ride to the airport. The island’s many hills and valleys made for a bit of excitement at times, and the views were beautiful. The rough roads made shooting from the car impossible, however.

No Insurance Required

I spotted this island resident and couldn’t resist a shot. There are numerous tropical flora and fauna here – I tried shooting a few of the birds, but they were just too quick for me. They only stay in a spot for a second or two and then flit away to the next spot.

 More flowers

If you’ve been following my posts for any length of time, you know that I just can’t resist tropical flower shots. These flowers were nestled in the top of a tree and were visited every few seconds by various birds. The buds are large – about the size of your hand.

Another gratuitous flower shot. I just love em!

Mary

And finally, on arrival at the field, we cleared security and prepared for departure to St. Lucia. Here’s a shot of Mary reviewing and signing our numerous pages of official paperwork prior to departure. Each page has to be signed with various entries since these are all international flights. In the background is the flight attendant jumpseat for the #1 position, and the main entry door.

Canouan is a rare and unexpected treat for the modern traveler. The curious financial arrangement between private industry and government doesn’t appear to hamper the island in any tangible way, and it is well worth a visit. Like Nevis, this is a spot where utter tranquility is not only possible, it is practically required during your visit.

The Map:

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.