This is one of my favorites from our recent visit to St. Martin, and it just seemed like an appropriate photograph for February! I had already made it into a wallpaper for my phone and tablet, so what the heck. Might as well put it on the computer desktop too.
I hope everyone has a great February…spring’s coming!
The second stop on our recent cruise was the island of St. Martin. St. Martin is an island that is divided roughly 61/39% between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the two parts roughly equal in population. It is the smallest sea island divided between two nations with inhabitants and the division dates to 1648. The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern French part comprises the Collectivité de Saint-Martin (Collectivity of St. Martin) and is an overseas collectivity of France. Collectively, the two territories are known as “St-Martin / St Maarten”. Sometimes SXM, the IATA identifier for Princess Juliana International Airport (the island’s main airport), is used to refer to the island.
Unfortunately, most cruise ship passengers don’t bother with all those details. They mostly know that it is either a place to shop and get good deals or go to the “nude beach.” But Kathy and I know better, and we know how to make the best of our visits there.
The best way to see St. Martin is with a knowledgeable guide. Ship tours are OK and you can always get a taxi from the port and they will do just fine. Whenever Kathy & I book a cruise that stops at St. Martin, the very next thing I do is get in touch with our friend Joyce Hanley. Joyce is a native of Nevis living on St. Martin. We have toured with Joyce numerous times. This time she even took us to her house to show us her garden with numerous native plants, vegetables, and even coconuts. It’s always interesting to see what they look like on the tree, and not the way we see them in the grocery store. And coconut water? Forget that stuff you buy in the store…hack off the top of a coconut with a knife and drink up. Good and supposed to be good for you!
We’ve been to St. Martin numerous times, and while we love to tour and see something different every time we go, there is only so much we can do when we are only there for the day. This is another place where a longer visit would be the way to go. The best way to get to St. Martin from Charlotte is to fly, and one of the great places to go on St. Martin is Maho Beach. Maho sits literally on the end of the runway to the airport, and when they planes land they clear the beach by just a few dozen feet. That makes for quite a sight. I’ve never gotten the nerve to actually go out on the beach directly below the glide path. I guess I need to spend more time at one of the nearby bars to work up my “courage.”
We’re not big shoppers, so we spend most of our time walking around the small towns taking photographs. Sometimes we will slip into a shop or gallery, and there are a number of great restaurants where you can sample everything from local dishes to French cuisine. We stuck with local dishes this time and had lunch at a great little place in Marigot, on the French side. We also spent time walking around Grand Case, another beachfront town on the French side that is known for nice hotels and great restaurants. That would definitely be a place to return to, although I think I would need to learn a bit more French to really get along. Even more than many nationalities, the French appear to be more willing to treat you well if you make the effort to learn their language. I can’t say I blame them.
I’ll probably wrap up the cruise photos with a post with any stragglers that I didn’t fit into a previous post. I just finished up a weekend with a rented Fuji X-T1 and once I process a few photos from that experiment I will post some photos and some thoughts. Suffice it to say that I was very impressed with that little camera and am looking forward to working with the files and making a full evaluation. More to come on that!
On our recent cruise, Kathy & I spent a day exploring San Juan, Puerto Rico. While a number of cruises originate in San Juan, not many cruise lines stop in San Juan these days. It is a little too far for most ships to reliably make it in two days from Florida, and it probably isn’t as popular as St. Thomas or St. Martin because the shopping isn’t right next to the dock. Since the second favorite pastime of cruise passengers (behind eating) is shopping, most of them don’t like to venture out of sight of the floating buffet line, so having to walk a block or two in a “foreign” city is beyond their comfort zone. Cruises from Florida that do call on San Juan typically only spend the afternoon and evening there before moving on to a more popular island.
Kathy & I love San Juan, and our original itinerary called for us only being in San Juan from 3:00 to 10:00. A medical emergency a few hours out of Fort Lauderdale required us to return to port in the middle of the first night, making it impossible to get to San Juan as scheduled. As it turned out, it also made it impossible to get to St. Kitts, scheduled to be our second port, on time. So we ended up in San Juan on the day we were supposed to be in St. Kitts (follow all that?). 😉
Being in San Juan instead of St. Kitts was an easy trade for us, because we know our way around town pretty well and enjoy walking there. I was originally excited about the possibility of photographing the Christmas decorations around town after dark, but our schedule change put us there only during daylight hours. Being the type of people who go with the flow, we made the best of the time we had and had a nice day there.
One of the highlights of cruising into or out of San Juan harbor is sailing past Castillo San Felipe del Morro. The fortress is now a U.S. National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been given many other historical designations. The fortification, also referred to as el Morro or ‘the promontory,’ was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborne enemies. The water at the entrance to the harbor can be especially rough, and the waves crashing against the shore make for an imposing sight, whether from the sea or the shore. It is always amazing – and quite a relief after two days at sea – to feel the ship enter the calmer water of the harbor.
There are as many ways to enjoy San Juan as there are people, but Kathy & I frequently start our visit at the Paseo De La Princesa , which winds around below the walls of the old city to the original city gate. From there we enter the gate and work our way up to El Morro. After enjoying the sights and sounds (and breezes!) at that highest point, we work our way back through town to the port.
I took quite a few photos in San Juan, but don’t think I got anything that will be artistically significant. I did manage to get some new views of familiar subjects. I think because I had been thinking in terms of a late afternoon and evening visit I had some preconceptions about what I would shoot, so I spent most of the day reacting to what I saw instead of on a course that I had pre-visualized beforehand. Sometimes that serendipity can lead to new and interesting things, but often it doesn’t.
We spent some time hanging out at Plaza de Armas, one of the main squares in San Juan and originally designed to serve as the main square of the city. In addition to a fountain with four statues, the plaza is home to a large number of pigeons, which spend their time doing what pigeons do – looking for handouts of free food and making messes. The pigeons make for an interesting photo subject when someone tosses seed in the air and they all scramble to get their share.
Kathy & I never mind sampling a bit of the local cuisine, and often look for interesting places to have lunch while spending the day ashore. Pizza and beer isn’t exactly a native Puerto Rican dish, we did have local beer, so I think that counts for something! Plus it was really good pizza and salad, so we felt like it did the job and were happy to have given it a try.
In general, San Juan is just a pretty nice place to visit, a good place to spend a day, and we enjoyed it very much. As it often does, a day spent in a nice place convinced us that we need to come back and spend more time there. Perhaps I can brush up on my Spanish and think about spending a week or so there sometime in the near future. It’s an easy flight from Charlotte, although it can be tough to get a good deal on airfare. And it can be a little pricey to stay and eat in the Old San Juan area, but I think it could be worth it in order to have more time there for dining, sightseeing and photography.
It’s hard to believe that just a month ago Kathy & I were plying the warm waters of the Caribbean on a cruise. This morning in Charlotte we tied a record low of 8 degrees. I suppose there’s some justice in that. But no matter, this being North Carolina we’ll be back into the 70s in no time. I hope!
Those of you who are familiar with my work know that I love to photograph architectural details and other interesting lines and shapes while we cruise. A person can’t drink umbrella drinks all day (Kathy says ‘oh, yeah?”), so I take pictures!
I’m working my way through some of the highlights, so as I process them I’ll probably throw a few out onto the blog, and at some point I may put together a gallery on my website. In the mean time here are a few photos of warmer times. Hope to see things warm up soon!
I’m a few hours early, but here is my wallpaper for February. I generally shy away from sunrises and sunsets for my wallpaper, but this one looked pretty nice and I thought it was a photo someone wouldn’t mind looking at for a month, so here it is.
This photo was taken on the last night of our recent cruise. The land is one (or more – it’s hard to tell) of the Bahamas islands. I don’t often get to include land in the foreground when we’re on a ship, and while it doesn’t add a lot it is an extra element of interest. Great sunbeams and color make this a special sunset.
Here in the south we’ve survived our 72 hours of “winter” and will be soon looking forward to spring flowers and buds on the trees. For those of you in the colder climes – sorry! 🙂 I hope everyone has a wonderful February, wherever you might be!
Considering that last Friday I was enjoying a sunny and warm day in St. Martin, I didn’t have much hope that today would be a better day. But with the forecast of impending inclement weather, my office closed at noon. What a deal!
One of the things that is interesting – and sometimes frustrating – about living in a place where it hardly ever snows, is that no one really knows what to do when the weather gets “bad.” Those of us from up North, at least for a few years after moving here, scoff at the locals who run out for milk and bread and prepare to hibernate until the temperature gets above freezing. After a few years we realize that we also don’t remember how to drive on ice and decide it’s a good excuse to stay home, or go home if we are out.
The difficult decisions are for the schools and for the parents who have kids in school. I hadn’t been at work for 5 minutes this morning when I heard a couple of Mommies wringing their hands about how bad the weather was going to be. Then at about 8:00 we got a little bit of sleet and freezing drizzle, and the brave talk about hanging around until noon was gone. The schools went from dismissing 2 hours early, to dismissing at noon and then “we’re closing NOW!” And the roads weren’t even bad, although they look a little slimy out there as I write this.
I’ll take a little time off however I can get it. And I’m obviously putting it to good use – writing a blog post and processing a few photos. Some of my favorite activities!
I hope everyone has an excellent last weekend of January. Spring is right around the corner – sunny and warmer tomorrow!
I’ve been away for a little while, but it looks like everyone has behaved. Kathy & I just returned to Charlotte from Fort Lauderdale, disembarking our cruise ship this morning after 10 days in the Caribbean. Sitting in the airport this morning, I looked at the weather forecast and thought seriously about hopping the flight to San Juan instead. 🙂
I’ll have some photos to post once I get them downloaded and processed, but for now here’s one I took with my tablet and processed with Snapseed. The Nexus 10 has a pretty decent camera, but it’s a little tough to hold a tablet still in the breeze on the deck of a moving ship. The colors are a little juicy, but that’s the whole point of Snapseed, right? 🙂
I had intended to post this from the airport this morning, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the photo into the post from my tablet. Strange. I guess I’ll need to do some research.
The nature photography group that I belong to is an affiliate member of the Photographic Society of America, or PSA. We have recently begun participating in a number of their competitions, some of them for projected images but most of them for printed images. Because I consider the well-made print to be the intended final result of my photography, I began to submit some of my work to be considered for entry in these competitions. We’ve got a lot of members and each club is limited in the number of images they can submit in each category, plus each photographer is limited in the number of their images that can be in any one submission. It’s all very complicated to me and I have a hard time figuring it out so I generally don’t bother trying. I just send my stuff in and if it gets picked it does, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. No big deal either way.
I did have one of my photos win an Honorable Mention in one of the projected image competitions a couple of years ago, and that was nice. I’ve been working hard at getting better with my printing and am very proud of some of the work I have submitted, so I was hoping that one or more of my prints would do well.
I received an e-mail this morning with images of the winners from the most recent competition. Mine was not included in the list of winners or those receiving honorable mention. I won’t go into a lot of detail regarding how I feel about the winners, since they obviously appealed to the people who were doing the judging. But I’ve come to the conclusion that, at least for the purposes of these competitions, the kind of work I’m submitting isn’t what the judges are looking for. I’m just not using enough software.
This is not intended to be sour grapes or anything, and to conclude that would be missing my point. But I’d be interested in knowing if there is some place or some way to get meaningful and constructive feedback on printed work that is more representative of traditional photography, rather than heavily manipulated and/or highly processed images. Maybe I’m just entering the wrong category in these competitions, but I can’t imagine that I’m the only one experiencing this. Does anyone actively participate in a print review group? Is anyone interested in starting one? It’s something I’ve considered for a while, but there just aren’t that many people printing their work these days. And of those who do, it doesn’t seem like there are many people whose goals are similar to mine. I’d be interested in knowing the thoughts of anyone reading, and might even propose that a few of us give it a try and see how it goes. Send me an e-mail or reply in the comments.
When I ventured into this photography thing as something more serious than taking snapshots, I started off, as a lot of people do, shooting nature subjects. Kathy & I would drive around with Kevin Adams’ Waterfalls of North Carolina book, looking for waterfalls and shooting anything we found interesting along the way. At one point it seemed like I had a knack for finding “magic moments” where the morning or afternoon light provided gifts of dramatic clouds, fabulous sunbeams and great sunrise and sunset colors. I was a Nature Photographer, and proud of it.
I still find myself attracted to the mountains and to the woods, but I’ve also realized that there are photographs to be made everywhere. I’ve made photographs in small towns, large towns, on cruise ships, on Caribbean islands, at the beach, in the mountains, you name it.
The difficult thing is that it’s hard to break old habits. When I think about photographing fall colors I automatically think about heading for the mountains. Same with spring wildflowers, or sunrises and sunsets. But the seasons happen everywhere, and there are photographs of all kinds to be made in lots of places besides those we think of first. The challenge is to come up with new ideas. Fall at a bluegrass concert in Floyd, VA perhaps. Wildflowers at a park or garden in Statesville. The possibilities are endless.
The thing I love most about photography is that it so personal. I can photograph whatever I want, wherever I want – within reason, of course! Rather than limit my travel to traditional photographic icons, I like seeking out subject matter wherever I am, in places where it is harder to find, and where I have to work a little harder to find something that appeals to me.
Paul Lester recently wrote on his blog a post titled “Where I Connect” about reviewing his images in preparation for a critique session at an upcoming workshop. Paul wrote that he “connects” with nature and people. He and I are attending the same workshop and in going through the same exercise I’m finding that while I still do a lot of nature photography I have been connecting more and more with things other than nature, which is interesting since I have traditionally considered myself a nature photographer. I’ll probably come up with a mix of material, but it’s an interesting process. I don’t like labels anyway, so maybe I’ll just start considering myself a Photographer, without any prefixes. And I’m proud of that, too.