Feb 092014

The first view of Lake Atitlan was from up high on a winding road. Across the lake I could see the volcanoes I had read about. They each had a cloud sitting on top of them like a little hat. I managed to catch this one before the cloud moved on as the day heated up.

The dock in the foreground is one of the lake’s ferry stops, the little white boat is a ferry. I couldn’t figure out if there was a schedule or if they just bounced around the lake. People would wait for quite a while for a boat to turn up heading to where they were going.

cloud capped volcano and ferry stop with ferry on lake atitlan guatemala

Jul 182013

After arriving at Lake Atitlan, having left Antigua very early in the morning (a recurring theme of this trip was getting up early), we were rushed quickly to a waiting launch and took off across the lake. As we skimmed across the calm waters of Lake Atitlan, I was looking at the volcanoes growing up from the lakes edge.

As you know, I’ve visited Lake Como in Italy before. That morning, as I took in Lake Atitlan, all I could think was that a quote I’d read that morning was spot on:

Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.” – Aldous Huxley

After arriving at our first stop I immediately sought a photo of the small boat dock and looming volcano over the water. I wanted to catch the cloud that seemed to be snagged on top of the volcano before it disappeared.

Boat dock and looming volcano over the waters of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Feb 182012

When you’re told you have to stay 15 feet away from the gorillas unless they approach you, you think that sounds reasonable. In reality though, once we were there I don’t think there was a moment that I wasn’t within 15 feet of a gorilla. The silver backs are particularly intimidating. But in a moment like the one captured here you can see their soft side, playing with one of the little ones.

Silverback gorilla's soft side playing with a young gorilla surrounded by greenery.

Feb 082012

I’ve said before that everywhere you look in Rwanda seems to present a photo opportunity. Here’s more evidence. This was taken on the way up to the national park to visit the mountain gorillas. It was our first water break. I extended it by taking my time setting up for this photo. It was a tough walk.

Countryside in Rwanda, green fields and mountains under a beautiful sky.

Jan 272012

We didn’t have much of an issue with insects while in Africa, except for one member of our group with an odd fear of moths, and the men’s bathroom in Lusaka airport. It was like a horror movie. Lights flickering, bugs flying around and making the floor squirm along with the shuffling of an individual sweeping live bugs to the corners. Horrifying, but an experience none the less.

The reason I’m going on about bugs is that the flowers in this photo are farmed in Rwanda and used to make a natural insect repellent. I took this photo on our way up to see the mountain gorillas in the volcanoes national park. I’ve mentioned before that it was a tough walk. Pausing to set up for a photo is a great way of taking a rest without admitting that you need one. This is made easier by the fact that wherever you look in the Rwandan countryside you’re confronted with a beautiful view.

I’m pretty sure this is also the hillside where I left my Black Rapid camera strap. If you haven’t heard of these camera straps you should check them out. They let the camera hang comfortably at your hip or lower back and the connection system prevents the strap from twisting and getting in the way when you raise the camera to your eye. Going without it in Prague made life a little more difficult for me, I’ll be ordering a new one this weekend.

This photo is comprised of 7 images ranging from -3 to +3. I had to open up the aperture to get the flowers sharp enough. Unfortunately, I’ve traded off depth of field and the background gets a bit blurry. I’ve started experimenting with blending photos at different apertures to capture moving subjects while maintaining the depth of field only achievable with a smaller aperture. As soon as I find some success with this I’ll post an example.

View of mountains, clouds, green landscape, and white flowers farmed in Rwanda and used to make a natural insect repellent.

Dec 282011

It sounds cliché, but there is little in the world that is anything like visiting the mountain gorillas. The whole experience leaves you feeling like you’ve somehow spent an hour in an alternate dimension. Two and a half weeks earlier I was sitting in my cubicle in Bermuda. Now, five days before returning to work I’m surrounded by 24 wild and endangered mountain gorillas. They go about their daily business, seemingly unperturbed by your presence. But then, without warning, one of them decides to lock eyes with you. They look at you in a way that makes it really feel that they are engaging with you. Ultimately, they make a quick assessment of their new visitors. Then, as sharply as they’d turned their attention to you they continue their daily activities: munching on bamboo, cuddling with the children, or, as in my friend Cameron’s case, laying down and snoozing right beside you. Incidentally, the gorilla snoozing next to Cameron was the big boss of the group – the toughest of three silverbacks. He decided to take his nap shortly after he’d charged Cameron, who could do nothing but stand his ground. I’m not sure Cameron had the same experience when locking eyes with this guy as I did with the subject of today’s photo. I wanted to capture the moment when the gorillas calmly lock eyes with you and hope I’ve succeeded in the below photo. Feel free to post a comment and let me know what you think.

We were lucky in that we got to visit the Susa group, which are apparently the descendants of the group of gorillas that Dian Fossey lived with. It’s also the largest group and hardest to get to. On our three-week journey through Africa everyone we met that had heard anything about gorilla tracking in Rwanda told us that this was the group to see. As such, I made a point of asking our guide to try to make this happen. Upon arrival at the headquarters you are assigned a group and don’t typically get to pick and choose. He returned my question by asking if we were fit because it is hard work. We assured him we were capable with a couple nervous sideways glances. He agreed to try to arrange this but couldn’t make any guarantees.

He was correct, the walk up was tough but really made the experience all the better. Rwanda is a beautiful country, lush and green everywhere. It seems like every inch of ground outside of the national parks is farmed. Our walk took three hours and was straight up the side of a volcano. The first half of this was through farmland planted with potatoes and flowers that looked like daisies. Our guides informed us that they’re used to make insect repellent. The second half was through thick vegetation with the man in front using a machete to widen the path. The hike was an experience in itself and I intend to share a few pictures from our ascent in the future. Of course, I also have lots of gorilla photos I’ll be spreading out over the months ahead.

I’m working on adding some additional pages to the site including photography and travel tips.

Mountain gorilla of the Susa group in Rwanda locking eyes with the photographer.