“I find it odd to confine life events and creative evolution to the arbitrary boundaries of a calendar year, but, as I have noted before, I welcome the excuse to pause and examine the progress, trends, and implications of my experiences in the past months.” Guy Tal
Odd or not, the tendency to compartmentalize our lives into blocks of 365 days is as good a way to reflect as any. A calendar year works as well as a birthday or anniversary year for that purpose. And I fear that if it wasn’t for the annual reminder, many of our species would not bother to look back at all, occupied as we are with running around, faces glued to electronic devices of all kinds in our real or imagined “busy-ness.”
As I looked back through my photographs from 2018 I began to realize that it was truly a year of departure for me, both literally and photographically.
Kathy & I “departed” from the workplace after 40 or so years of work.
We “departed” the shores of the U.S. for another continent for the second straight year
My photography “departed” from the norm, as more and more of my photographs had people in them
My photography “departed” from the norm, as more and more of my photographs were finished in black & white
Even more of my photos taken “in” a place are not “of” or “about” that place
We spent a month (actually 28 days) at the beach, the longest either of us had ever been away from home
I’m not sure what to make of the fact that more and more of my photos have people in them. I’ve historically considered myself to be primarily a landscape photographer, and have often responded to requests to photograph weddings and portraits with something along the lines of “notice that most of my photos do not have people in them. Thanks, but no.” I do think that as I get older I find that experiences and relationships have taken a higher priority than trophy icon shots or sunrises and sunsets. Oh, I still get my share of those, but for the most part the photos that call my name are the ones that bring back memories of a place, or more likely the memory of my feelings that I had when I was in the place. Venice is a good example. As much as I loved Tuscany, the few hours that I spent – mostly alone – wandering around Venice in the early morning is one of my most cherished memories.
I chose this collection of photos not because they are my “best” or “Greatest Hits” from 2018, but rather because they represent how I feel about the things I did and places I went, and how I felt while I was there. It’s not that these are photos I never would have taken previously, but more that they are photos that better capture my memory of a place, not just documenting what I saw.
Kathy & I wish everyone a Happy New Year. We’ve got lots planned for 2019 and are looking forward to getting started!
Merry Christmas to all, and thank you for continuing to follow along with our adventures. We are still working on plans for 2019 but it promises to be another year of fun and discovery, with a few photos along the way!
Here in the southeast US, winter takes two forms. The first is “the leaves are gone and it’s cold,” and the second is “OH !@#$%.” This coming weekend appears to be “OH !@#$%” and it isn’t even officially winter yet! The forecast is calling for 8-12″ of snow and low temperatures in the 20s. We’ll see, but it looks like the confidence is pretty high. Yikes.
One of the things that Kathy & I have been talking about for this winter is what temperature to set the thermostat at. Now that we’re home every day we don’t want to leave it set at 65 degrees like we did when we worked. But we don’t want to keep it set too high, as we’d like to keep from blowing the gas bill out of the proverbial water. So ‘what to do’ has been the question.
Perhaps not coincidentally, I have found myself somewhat more sensitive to the cold this year (yes, I know that it hasn’t gotten cold yet!). While my philosophy has always been to make sure I am wearing adequate clothing before turning up the heat, I’ve been finding it necessary to resist turning it too high this year.
At one point I told Kathy – jokingly – that maybe we should think about moving to Arizona. But at some point yesterday we decided that even if the gas bill doubled – which it won’t – it would still be cheaper than moving to Arizona! Although I will admit to looking at cruises leaving this weekend to see if we could escape to the Caribbean! But we opted to tough it out here at home, and turn up the thermostat if we need to.
I’ve said previously that Kathy would make a very good photographer if she was willing to carry a camera and learn a few basic skills. I’m extremely fortunate that she is willing to tag along with me, and on occasion carry a camera and/or lens. Once in a while she points something out to me and says, “like this.” Here are a few of those “like this-es” that she has seen lately that I might (probably) have walked past. Not because they aren’t photo-worthy, but because she’s seen something I haven’t seen.
I was just corresponding with a friend about the recent flooding in Venice, Italy. There had been some flooding in the spring but of course it was gone before we got there. They had put up temporary elevated walkways in the spring but even those are under water now. Glad we didn’t need to deal with that then!
I’ve attached a photo I pulled from the news and combined it with one of mine. You can see the tops of the trash cans in the flood photo, but the tables and chairs are under water (assuming they didn’t take them in).
Kathy & I recently returned from a trip to Ohio to visit friends and family. One of the days that we were there, we visited Ohio’s “Amish Country” with our friends Bill & Cathy. There was an Amish area of western Pennsylvania when I was growing up, but I remember it as a place where my grandmother took her quilt tops to have quilted and to occasionally pick up a pie, some cookies or some cheese. It always involved stopping at someone’s farm or a small market and was always interesting because they seemed rather shy and didn’t socialize much. We did the business we came to do and then went on our way.
That was a long time ago, and I admit that the world has changed. But one of the things that struck me about this most recent visit to Amish Country was how commercialized it has become. While there are still genuine Amish farms, furniture builders and markets, they are almost overshadowed by these huge, I’ll call them “mega-markets” that support the throngs of tourists that visit each year. It is a far cry from the Amish country that I remember from when I was a kid.
As examples, what was once a small sales area of a local cheese plant is now a huge retail outlet, larger than the actual factory itself, selling something like 100 different flavors of cheese. A place that was once a general store is now a multi-level trinket outlet with countless items to take home and store in our closets along with plenty of gifts for the kids and grandkids. Kathy refers to all that stuff as the “mommy-can-I-gets.” A restaurant called “Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen” while possibly still owned by someone named Yoder, is essentially a huge dining hall with a kitchen and multiple buffet lines serving food that I wonder if the actual Amish would eat. Maybe I’m wrong but that was the impression I came away with. But the tourists love it!
While we were in Amish Country I picked up a local tourist magazine that essentially contained advertising for all the places the tourists are supposed to visit while they are there. I was struck by the number of ads for businesses that seemed to revolve around activities that weren’t actually Amish – fancy hotels, clothing stores, restaurants, music and play theaters, souvenir shops. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them were actually owned by the Amish and how much of the profits actually stay in the communities. It would be interesting to know if you could actually figure it out.
This isn’t all about the Amish or Amish Country, however, and my observations aren’t limited to one area of rural Ohio. In many ways this commercialization is a reflection of the overall focus on commerce in our society, and applies to cities big and small, islands in the Caribbean and cruise ports around the world. No longer is it enough to just enjoy the scenery on a walk down the main street in a cute little town in the middle of nowhere, but now our visit won’t be complete unless we have an opportunity to buy stuff. If you manage to even find the town itself it is almost a miracle! We’ve got antiques and gifts and fudge and restaurants galore, but too often the retail/tourism side of things has managed to erase whatever it was that caused the town to be interesting in the first place.
When we were in Italy, one of the highlights for us was exploring the towns of Tuscany on our photo workshop with Jeff Curto. Most of the places we visited seemed to be close to the original, and the commercialization fell way short of what we see here in the states. But a lot of the towns there, just like here, have undergone what I heard referred to as the “Rick Steves Effect.” Places that were once quaint and charming suddenly become famous and are overrun with tourists. Almost immediately these places lose what made them famous and become just another stop on the bus tour. It’s a lot like cruise ship ports – every one looks the same after a while because they all contain the same shops. But I digress….
I often comment about how places have become “Disneyfied” in that what tourists see bears little or no resemblance to what the place is best known for. Multimillion-dollar developments replace straw markets and rum shacks in the Caribbean. Gift and jewelry store chains promoted by cruise lines and tour companies sell merchandise in glitzy shops. Merchandise that comes from parts of the world far removed from the place in which it is being sold. There’s obviously a market for that stuff, as these companies seem to be successful and growing. But it makes it hard to experience a place for what made it worth visiting in the first place.
I know this may sound really negative, but that wasn’t my intention. It’s just that all of these things have gotten me to think about how I want to experience the parts of the country and the world that we visit. Do we want to check off a bunch of “must-see” tourist spots and buy the appropriate souvenirs, or do we want to seek out the undiscovered places that have as much or perhaps even more of the charm that made the famous places famous? Do we buy our souvenirs, take our selfies and move on, or do we slow down, look around and try to find the places that are just off the beaten path? It is an interesting challenge, for sure!
I was looking at the National Hurricane Center website this morning and saw a tropical disturbance in the gulf referred to as a “gyre.” I’d not seen that term before so I had to look it up:
“In oceanography, a gyre is any large system of circulating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements. Gyres are caused by the Coriolis effect; planetary vorticity along with horizontal and vertical friction, determine the circulation patterns from the wind stress curl.”