Oct 242012

Baobab trees really are fascinating. Grand in stature they loom over the Zambian landscape like giants frozen in time. Surprisingly, they are completely hollow on the inside. We got to experience this first hand when our guides took us to a lodge where they’ve actually put a door in the side of one of these mammoth trees that opens up to reveal a bathroom! This discovery was pretty shocking, but  I found that people actually used this toilet more shocking. Just above head height, sleeping inside the tree were a handful of bats. I wonder how many people wound up running out with their pants around their ankles after startling the bats.

Another interesting thing about baobabs is that their greatest enemy is elephants. Using their tusks, they peel the trees and eat the bark, causing big holes to form. We can see the result of this practice in today’s picture.

Baobab tree with large doorway-size hole in trunk caused by elephants in the center of a dirt field in Zambia.

Jun 152012

Packing for Iceland

I’ll be finishing off packing for Iceland  in a minute. I fly out tomorrow morning and am really, really excited! I finally bit the bullet and bought a carry on bag I’ve had my eye on for a while (I know, that sounds pretty sad). But, I hate checking bags and have perfected traveling light, even with my camera gear. I find I never really need much while out on the road. I went to Africa for three weeks with just my Lowepro Flipside and a messenger bag (a.k.a a man-purse). I liked that setup, I could sling the messenger bag over my shoulder below my backpack and walk around with my hands completely free. Admittedly, it was a little difficult packing everything into these two bags while rushing in the morning with a banging hangover. I’ve taken this configuration a step forward in buying the Air Boss by Red Oxx which was designed with input from the creator of an awesome site on traveling light: OneBag.com. It’s basically a carry on luggage sized messenger bag with really cool compartments… perfect. I think I could travel indefinitely with this configuration, and my tripod fits inside!

Today’s Photo: Entering Southlands

I drive by this spot all the time and think I should stop there sometime to take a photo. One day, a couple of weeks ago, I actually did. It’s funny, I’ve never seen anybody there when I’ve driven past before. Of course when I decide to stop there’s a couple of German tourists there taking photos of their own.

I framed up a few shots looking up this road trying to capture the feeling of this big tree looming over you. Then, I realized that in order to do this I’d have to drop the camera down much lower. I was also having a lot of trouble with lens flare as the sun was beaming through the leaves in the left of the frame. I had to carefully position the camera so that the sun was hidden behind one of the branches.

I’m glad the plans to turn this place into a hotel didn’t go through. I think I’ll be making a return to this area again sometime soon, so I can explore the property beyond the entrance-way.

Banyan tree growing over a dirt road creating a tunnel at Southlands, Bermuda

Something Interesting: OneBag.com

I like this site so much I’m mentioning it twice in one post. It’s not much to look at, but take some time to read about and you’ll suddenly realize that you’re taking far too much stuff with you when you travel. I’m now a convert to the belief that wheeled luggage is a seriously flawed concept and basically evil: www.OneBag.com

May 222012

After drinking copious amounts of wine and petting cheetahs (preferably not in that order) this is your view as you leave Spier Winery. This is where we started our wine tour and from here we went for what may have been the best meal we had in South Africa. It’s called bobotie and it’s delicious. Our guide described it to us in much the way that I’m going to describe it to you and all we could think was that it sounded odd. We decided to go ahead with our guide’s recommendation just the same and were certainly please.

Bobotie is a minced beef dish. The beef is mixed up with raisins and spiced up. It has a bit of a curry flavour. It’s cooked in a small casserole and topped off with a really thin layer of egg. They served it with mango chutney and sliced banana. Like I said, this combination of ingredients sounds odd but it really is delicious.

Long straight road of brown soil between lavender and bushes leading to Spier Winery in Capetown, South Africa

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Apr 072012

Tip-toeing about the lot enclosing this dilapidated barn I was on edge. There was a small house about 20 feet away, but I couldn’t tell for sure if it was inhabited. There was no-one about to ask if I could wander about the property, but I knew there would be some good photos about. Sure enough, there were.

This was about as far as I was willing to go down this dirt road. If someone had pulled in I’d have preferred to be visible from the road. I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I was a prowler hiding from view. It’d also allow me to walk straight over to them to say good morning and hope they were as friendly as everyone else I’d met around Niagara-on-the-Lake. As it turned out, nobody showed up.

This photo required a slightly different treatment to the usual. It was so bright that I realized my exposure bracketing would need to extend to -4. In order to get my Canon 5d Mk II to take this, I had to set it to auto bracket the following: -4, -2, 0. After this I fired off an additional three frames at -3,-1,+1. I took a look at the exposures and realized that the +1 had captured all the details in the shadows and I wouldn’t need to go any further. I combined these in Photomatix prior to polishing up in Photoshop.

The title of this photo is inspired by the Beatles’s. I had to go into work today and The White Album is my go-to when I need to get my head down and get some work done. I just decided to give it another listen so found it on YouTube. As I tried to think of a name for this photo John Lennon sang the line “the sun is up, the sky is blue” in Dear Prudence. I decided that was fitting.

If you’re ever in need of a bit of The White Album and don’t have it to hand, I found it all here:



Dilapidated wood and corrugated metal barn on a dirt road with a bright sunburst sky in Ontario, Canada.

Jan 142012

I’ve made it to Prague! I’m staying in a pretty cool little hotel/hostel called the Mosaic House Hotel. It’s got a very tempting bar downstairs in the lobby. I did set out with my camera earlier but it turned out to be more of a scouting trip. The sun set surprisingly early, it dipped below the horizon by 4pm. However, at 5pm it still looked like the sun had just gone down. It was quite strange. I think I’ve found some good shots and plan on going out tomorrow morning to get them before there’s so many people about.

“At the crossroad, which way to go?” sounds like it could be a line from a blues song, maybe it is. This is another shot from Rwanda, and if it looks vaguely familiar it’s because you’ve seen part of it at the top of this page. Just to the right of this shot is an orphanage that we visited. When we got there the kids came running out and greeted us. One even embraced Cameron in an enthusiastic hug. We’d brought a football for them, which they quickly went about playing with, and destroying. We’d been there about twenty minutes when we discovered that the ball had split. Fortunately, Cameron had packed the roll of duct-tape he’d insisted on bringing to Africa. He’d also insisted on bringing parachute cord, which was vindicated when it acted as a belt for me during white water rafting and a chin strap for Soniko’s hat. We got the ball patched up nice and quickly. Then, 2 minutes later, it happened again. Cameron went to work and covered the entire ball in what had to be two layers of duct tape. It’s officially indestructible.

When Cameron saw my banner above all he said was, “Why did you take a picture of a dirt road?”

I didn’t have much of an answer at the time but now I remember. I set up for this shot because I liked the contrast between the wet and dry tracks. I got all set up and a truck decided to drive up the track on the left, moving me aside and sloshing the water about as it went. I thought it was going to ruin the shot. To the contrary, the truck pushed the water up so that the wet soil met the dry at the midpoint of my frame. Excellent timing.

Two dirt roads meet, one dry and one wet, forming a triangle of green in the Rwanda countryside with the mountains in the distance.


Dec 292011

This is the driveway to the Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch. After two days of adrenaline, cage diving with great whites and going on a combat flight in a Huey Helicopter, it seemed a good idea to have a more relaxing day. Wine was the perfect solution. That being said we still decided that we had to stop off at Cheetah Outreach to become acquainted with a few big cats on the way to our first vineyard. We didn’t want the day to feel too safe. After enjoying a wine and chocolate pairing (mandated by Shannon’s exuberant cheer while hearing the options), which involved 6 or 7 wines and three chocolates, everyone was suitably mellow.

Not mellow enough, however, to prevent them heckling from the car as I set up for this photo. The reason for this one and only display of tensions at my photo taking was quite understandable. I spent so long setting up, and adjusting the positioning of my camera that we were too late for the game sampling lunch we had planned. Fortunately this disappointment was replaced by one of the great experiences of our trip – bobotie. It’s a South African dish made with minced beef, raisins and spices topped with an egg film. It looks like a cottage pie but that’s as far as the similarities go. It’s also served with mango chutney and bananas. I have no idea how anyone decided this combination was a good idea. When I’m next in South Africa this will be one of the meals I seek out.

In the end, I’m happy with this picture and my time-wasting resulted in a great meal, so it all worked out nicely.

Dirt driveway to the Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa flanked by lavender and bushes and storm clouds overhead.