Eventide: Nevis Part II

•May 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Mount Nevis

Tonight finds me back on Nevis, my favorite Caribbean island, and I decided to explore a different part of the island at sunset. In the 5 months that I have been flying to Nevis, I’ve only seen the top of Nevis Peak once. Today she was hiding as usual behind her cloudtop guardians, which made for fantastic photos as the twilight deepened.

Got monkey?

My old friends the Green Monkeys. They were about 100 yards off and being quite shy, so I wasn’t able to score a nice close-up. I can’t say for sure, but I think that this may have been the same family group that I photographed on my previous visit, since they were in the same location. I stayed for about 20 minutes hoping for another close up in the trees, and they did oblige me by coming quite close, but the thicket we were in was too dense to shoot through. Soon enough, we parted ways and I continued my walk.

Nevis Foothills

The foothills of Nevis Peak are quite steep in places. Someday, maybe on a personal visit, I hope to climb the mountain. To my friend Marty: whatever it is that we have to do to get you here, let’s do it! You’ll love this place!

The road home

I made a roughly 3 mile circuit, and on the road back to the hotel I saw a couple of mongooses! I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a clear photo, but it was awesome seeing them. Mongooses were introduced to the island in 1870 to ‘help combat the rodent population’. This was my first sighting of wild mongoose, so I was stoked.

The Gates

Here is the entrance to our hotel, the Mount Nevis Estate, which I covered in a recent post. I love this place and I highly recommend the resort. For more information, see the hotel website.

The gatekeeper

Once inside the gate I walked the grounds, enjoying the beautiful view of St. Kitts across the channel. I bumped into the food and beverage manager and enjoyed a lovely talk, leaving the dining room library with a basket of freshly made pumpkin and banana breads for the morning. Honestly, if you value serenity and the natural world you’ll love Nevis. I don’t know of a more beautiful spot on earth!

The Map:

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Sunrise Coffee in Anguilla

•May 5, 2008 • 1 Comment

Mmmm

This morning finds me in Anguilla at the end of a hellish 4 day trip. The flights themselves were pleasant enough; there were just too many of them. In any event, I made coffee at the crack of dawn and enjoyed the early light out on the apartment patio. This particular hotel offers suites with kitchens, which is nice. Sadly, we are only in the hotel for 8 hours – not enough time to cook!

SO, the facts: Anguilla was first settled by Amerindian tribes who migrated from South America. The earliest Amerindian artifacts found on Anguilla have been dated to around 1300 BC, and remains of settlements date from 600 AD. The date of European discovery is uncertain: some sources claim that Columbus sighted the island in 1493, while others state that the island was first discovered by the French in 1564 or 1565. The name Anguilla derives from the word for “eel” in any of various Romance languages (modern Spanish: anguila; French: anguille; Italian: anguilla), probably chosen because of the island’s eel-like shape.

Anguilla was first colonized by English settlers from Saint Kitts, beginning in 1650. Other early arrivals included Europeans from Antigua and Barbados. It is likely that some of these early Europeans brought enslaved Africans with them. Historians confirm that African slaves lived in the region in the early seventeenth century. For example, Africans from Senegal lived in St. Christopher (today St. Kitts) in 1626. By 1672 a slave depot existed on the island of Nevis, serving the Leeward Islands. While the time of African arrival in Anguilla is difficult to place precisely, archive evidence indicates a substantial African presence (at least 100) on the island by 1683.

The island was administered by England, and later the United Kingdom, until the early nineteenth century when – against the wishes of the inhabitants – it was incorporated into a single British dependency along with Saint Kitts and Nevis. After two rebellions in 1967 and 1969 and brief period as a self-declared independent republic headed by Ronald Webster, British rule was fully restored in 1969. Anguilla became a separate British dependency (now termed a British overseas territory) in 1980.

The Big View

Here is the bigger view of the patio. I wish I could have lounged here for an hour or so reading the paper, chatting with Mary perhaps… but alas, the needs of the airline come first.

Next week: Nevis revisited, and an island you’ve never heard of!

The Map:

Danny and Little Danny

•April 28, 2008 • 1 Comment

Up!

Last week you may recall my mentioning a photo shoot in Puerto Rico. Well, my client was kind enough to allow me to share a few of the shots from that session – thank you Danny! Danny and his 8 month old son Little Danny have a very close bond, and shooting these photos was truly a pleasure.

These shots were taken with my D300 and a 50mm ( f1.8 ) lens in natural light at Danny’s home in the mountains of Puerto Rico. The drive to Danny’s house was hair raising, which will be no surprise to those of you who drive in the mountains. In fact, I have met a number of people who flat out refuse to drive up there at all!

Close

I think this is my favorite from the shoot. It was a great moment to witness.

See me?

I loved seeing father and son interact, and the lens seemed to pick it all up very well.

Huh?

Did someone say dinner is ready?

Trio

Mom looks on as we play around and have fun.

Keys Please...

Next Little Danny will be asking for the car keys.

Comfort

Nothing beats hanging out with Dad!

I’d like to thank Danny and his lovely wife for their gracious hospitality and for the opportunity to capture their young son in images that will please them for a long time. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and I learned a great deal from the experience.

I’ll be doing another shoot with these three in Condado very soon using a beach theme, so stay tuned for more portraits from the Caribbean.

The Comforts of Home

•April 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Coffee Making Essentials

Just a quick post today from home, before I head back to the islands for another trip and -breaking news- a paid photo session doing portraiture!

Gathered here is a very quickly composed shot from my kitchen. As many of you know, I love to cook for fun and relaxation. Among my kitchen essentials are the burr grinder and milk frother for espresso, my lovely knives, my olive oil, and my pilón from the Dominican Republic. I did a little research about the pilón, since it is such a staple of latin cooking, and here is what I learned.

It turns out that the pilón was first used by the Taíno Indians. Conquistador historians like Fray Iñigo Abbad, and Fernández de Oviedo mention having seen the Indians use giant size vases to mash different things. The ancient pilones were much like the pilones of today. Same shaped but quite rustic. Taínos would step one foot on the base to prevent it from tipping over when hit with the giant macetas. Taínos used large hollowed out tree trunks to form waist high pilones. The hole was approximately 25 inches in diameter – of course they often varied in size. Some were small hand-held pilones but still larger than the ones we use today. Since Taínos used them – pilones were found in all the Caribbean Islands. The hole for the pilón was burned out and carved using simple rustic tools. Giant macetas were carved out of trees also.

The final product depended on the talents of the carver. Some were very rustic, most were just plain practical. Some were well finished smooth and shiny on the outside. Some were pieces of art with elaborate carvings but I’ve never seen any of those myself. Pilones found in Haiti tend to be more elaborately decorated, even today. Taínos used the pilón and maceta to mash corn, spices, medicinal herbs and other things. Ingredients to make body paint were also processed in a pilón. With the introduction of the coffee bean into our culture, the pilón took an even more prominent place in our history.

Mine was hand made, hand picked, and even hand delivered and I wouldn’t part from it without a fight.

Casper in the sun

Just aorund the corner from my kitchen is the patio. During the temperate months, this is a great place to enjoy the hummingbirds, butterflies, and a refreshing iced beverage. I’ve become a fan of the Mojito… hey, if it was good enough for Hemingway, it is certainly good enough for me.

Flower1

Springtime is flower time, and despite our precious meadow being flattened and made into town houses there are still wildflowers here and there. My flower knowledge is even weaker than my bird skills, so I’ll leave the identification bit to more competent hands.

Flower2

Another gratuitous flower shot. They are just too pretty NOT to take pictures of, ya know?

For the Birds!

•April 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The Manor

Since the cherry blossom post was such a hit, I thought I’d share a few more photos from where I reside in Virginia, being that it is springtime and there are so many beautiful things to see here. We are very fortunate to have had, in our town, a very wealthy family which decided to bequeath their estate to the Audubon Society. The former estate is now a nature preserve, albeit a relatively small one, which supports an old hardwood forest, a pine forest, a spring fed pond, and a very large meadow. The grounds are fantastic, and the number of birds which transit the preserve throughout the year is impressive. I’m not a bird guy, so I’ll refrain from even trying to identify the subjects of my photos – if you are a confident birder, then please, share your knowledge with us!

Peekaboo

This fella was playing peekaboo with me, darting all around and peeking out when I wasn’t looking.

Friends

The feeders around the manor were attracting several species, all of whom were sharing the perches.

Dinner

This hawk was about 120 yards off, enjoying a rodent from the nearby field. This shot was handheld, and frankly I am shocked that it came out with ANY clarity. The bird was just a dot in the lens. After a couple of minutes, another hawk (a mate?) came by and squawked enough to make this one take flight with the mouse dangling.

Cleared for Landing!

OK, I said I wasn’t going to try identifying the birds, but this one seems to look like a goldfinch. The next few frames were shot with a 70-200mm zoom (f2.8), which produces some very nice, crisp shots… even at 200mm.

Alllmost Theeere!

Almost there! Looks like the Missus was already enjoying an afternoon snack.

Isn\'t love grand?

Isn’t love a beautiful thing?

Meanwhile, on the gorund...

Meanwhile, on the ground, some LBB’s (little brown birds) were busy foraging in the grass. This one was quite pretty, I thought.

I\'m a bird....

OK, this isn’t a bird, but Ms. Squirrel sure acted like one! I had a lot of fun shooting this series of photos – it was a departure from my usual shots of people and places. Hey, if you’ve got a camera, get out there and get some shots of your local wildlife. I promise, you won’t regret it!

The Cherry Blossoms

•April 10, 2008 • 1 Comment

Having just returned from a meeting in Toronto, Mary and I decided to peruse the Tidal Basin in Washington DC where the world famous cherry blossoms were said to be in bloom. I’m glad that we did. The National Cherry Blossom Festival was just about to kick off, and by visiting on a weekday we avoided the crowds.

For my friends in the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world: The National Cherry Blossom Festival annually commemorates the 1912 gift to the city of Washington of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan and celebrate the continued close relationship between our two peoples.

In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two of these trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. By 1915 the United States government had responded with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1927, a group of American school children reenacted the initial planting; the first festival was held in 1935, sponsored by civic groups in the nation’s capital.

On the Steps

Mary relaxes for a moment on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, Cherry Blossom goods in hand. What many folks don’t know about the cherry trees around the tidal basin is that it is an ongoing project which has spanned many generations.

In 1965 three thousand, eight hundred more trees were accepted by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. In 1981 the cycle of giving came full circle. Japanese horticulturalists came to take cuttings from our trees to replace Yoshino cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood. With this return gift, the trees again fulfilled their roles as a symbol and agent of friendship. The most recent event in this cycle occurred in the fall of 1999. It involved the formal planting in the Tidal Basin of a new generation of cuttings from a famous Japanese cherry tree in Gifu province reputed to be over 1500 years old.

In 1994 the Festival was expanded to two weeks to accommodate the many activities that happen during the trees blooming. Today the National Cherry Blossom Festival is coordinated by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., and over a million people visit Washington each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and participate in the Festival that heralds the beginning of spring in the nation’s capital.

From the Inside: Impressions of El Morro

•April 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Entrance Herald

In previous posts, I have mentioned the grand old fort of Puerto Rico: El Morro. So I’ll skip the historical review of this majestic citadel and dive straight into the photos. As I entered the stronghold, the royal coat of arms and pillars immediately transported me to the early colonial period.

These iconic garitas have been widely recognized as symbolic of Puerto Rico. I can imagine standing watch through the night, looking out across the campfires of the settlement, ships masts standing tall in the harbor under the tropical moon.

Hold.... HOLD... FIRE!

The 9 pounders (and larger cannon) on the site are silent now, but they were deadly in their time. This one peers across San Juan Bay looking for marauders. Archaeological efforts are ongoing here, which was really nice to see.

I’d actually trade in my current job for a slot working as a guard at El Morro in the 18th century. This office space may not have all of the comforts of 21st century living, but I’d do it just the same. I’ll bet the rum tasted better back then…

There are 6 levels within El Morro, and many of the interior buildings are reasonably well preserved. There are stores room, powder magazines, stables, barracks, dining halls, and all of the other structures one would expect to see in a small city.

OK, just one more garita. The ones overlooking the ocean are best of all!

I wasn’t the only one taking pictures today… here’s my daughter with her point and shoot taking some very well-composed shots of her own.

El Morro is the kind of place that transports you to days long past – you just can’t help it! The narrow cobblestoned corridors, the fantastic views, and the nooks and crannies make this a fun visit for just about anyone.