Photo Locale of the Month – July 2017

Russia has been in the news a lot lately, and for all of the wrong reasons.  From allegations of influence in the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election to questionable political alliances (read: the supposed selling of arms to Syria and North Korea) to nauseous partisan bickering over which U.S. leader has a better grasp on U.S.-Russia relations, all media attention on Europe’s largest country portrays it as a political dinosaur still fighting the Cold War.

While the country’s visa hassles only serve to reinforce this negative image, patient travelers who actually make the long journey to Russia will find a surplus of absorbing experiences to behold.  Visiting Red Square in Moscow, for five decades one of the most intimidating places in the world, is one such experience…and a photographer’s delight.

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Photo Locale of the Month – June 2017

Nashville has been in the news a lot lately.   The Nashville Predators, an NHL expansion team that debuted in 1998, are fighting for the Stanley Cup.  They won their last two games, and the the city’s nightlife-rich streets have been filled with even greater than the usual number of revelers.  Additionally, the 2017 Country Music Awards air this Sunday on CBS, and the CMA Awards are the city’s perennial Big Event.  If that isn’t enough, it was just last month that Governor Bill Haslam announced, from Nashville, that legislation recently passed naming Tennessee the first state to promise free community college tuition.

Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the south, and last year it surpassed Memphis, three hours to the east, in population.  Downtown Nashville, its Cumberland Riverfront in particular, has much to offer.

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Photo Locale of the Month – May 2017

Of all my travels around the world, I don’t think I have ever been to any country with as much history and with so many jaw-dropping sights as China.  I was fortunate enough to visit the PRC three times, and to visit Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as well.  (I will leave it up to you, Loyal Reader, to decide whether or not those last three destinations are part of China or not.)

still haven’t made it to Tibet, home to the North Face of Mount Everest, and to the Potala Palace, which looks stunning in pictures.  One day.  I have, however, explored several sections of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China.

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Photo Locale of the Month – April 2017

It has been five years since I last visited Europe, and six years since my first, and thus far only, visit to Spain.  I visited with a friend in April, 2011, and flew into Barcelona for two days, which was not enough time by half.  The Catalonian capital was enchanting enough, and the unseasonably warm weather instilled us with high hopes for how the rest of the trip would go.

Alas, eight days of late-season rainfall swept in a few days later, dampening our spirits (no pun intended) to the point that we hightailed it out of Spain one week earlier than expected.  We finished the trip in Paris, which is a delight to visit in any climate and which was greeted by an early summer.  One city we did visit in Spain before the worst of the weather moved in was Granada, a mid-sized Andalucían borough with roughly 235,000 people.  As regards tourism, Granada has one mainstay, the massive, UNESCO-protected Alhambra.

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Cuba Photo Gallery: The Propaganda

It is no secret that Cuba, for many years a no-go destination for most Americans, is rife with propaganda.  Much of it is anti-American, or anti-Capitalist, and an equal amount of it is pro-Castro, or pro-revolution.  Throughout my travels to China, Russia, the Ukraine, and Syria, I have always found a certain kitschiness in images of Mother Russia, of the working man sowing fields “for the people,” of that great hammer-and-sickle, of the Fearless Leader.  Even Mexico has its share of anti-colonial propaganda, from urban graffiti to the murals of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.  Some of these images are impressive, artistically-speaking, while others make me laugh.  The key, I think, is to take them with a considerable grain of salt.

Here is a gallery of Cuban propaganda as photographed by yours truly.  They are in no way a reflection of my political beliefs; I don’t condone the violence that accompanied Cuba’s revolution.

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Cuba Photo Gallery: The People

I have not, historically speaking, been good at photographing people.  From time to time, I’d notice a person during my travels who had that photogenic something that I knew needed to be captured, and – after getting their permission – I would try my best to photograph them, being cognizant of their time and any cultural sensitivities.  I always made it a point to show them the picture afterwards, and frequently offered to email them a copy of the image.

The results were mixed, however.  That gap-toothed Asian woman along the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall?  I captured the smile but zoomed in too much.  The curious boy standing near the Istanbul tram that ran through Sultanahmet?  He posed, soldier-like, but I forgot to crouch down to his level, and his head appeared the size of a giant pumpkin.

I have gotten better, however.  I felt especially brave – and as curious as that young Turkish kid – while exploring Cuba, and snapped dozens upon dozens of pics of Cuban locals going about their business.  Fishing, singing, selling, relaxing.  The camera gods smiled upon me those three incredible weeks.  Here are some of my favorite shots, along with any relevant commentary:

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Photo Locale of the Month – March 2017

It has been less than 24 hours since my plane touched down in Knoxville, marking the end of an unforgettable, nearly six-week trip to Mexico and Cuba.  I slept like a baby last night, and have spent much of this morning sorting my dirty laundry and uploading pics – thousands of them – to my computer.  The trip itself had the usual ups and downs, with plenty more highs than lows, but lots of time for self-reflection.  I thought about previous travels to Latin America and to places all across the globe.  I thought about my old life in Mexico City, and about the possibility of settling down there again in the not-so-distant future.  I thought about my mom, whom I miss terribly.  I thought about my dad, who I know has had trouble sleeping and filling the void in his life left by my mom’s passing.  Lastly, I thought about my own mortality.

So you could certainly call the trip “profound.”  I know that many of my Loyal Readers are looking forward to seeing trip pics and hearing stories about what it was like to return to Mexico for the first time in two-and-a-half years, and about whether Cuba really is as colorful, as anti-Capitalist, as – dare I say “backwards” – as it is often portrayed in the West, particularly by the U.S. media.  Those stories are coming; I have dozens to tell.  But first, the completist in me wants to continue my monthly travel photo gallery series.  The images below were uploaded prior to my recent trip, as a way of back-logging content for March.

Colonia del Sacramento – “Colonia” for short – is, for many travelers, the only part of Uruguay that they take the time to visit.  Most of them, myself included, see the small colonial city on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, just upriver from where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean, as a day trip from Buenos Aires.  It was March of 2011 when I woke up before daybreak in my Argentine hostel and stumbled, bleary-eyed, across the city to the Buquebus ferry terminal.  Border formalities are handled before boarding, and I found myself with two more stamps in my passport.  Less than 90 minutes (and two coffees) later, I was in Uruguay!

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Photo Locale of the Month – February 2017

Asia is the largest continent and home to 60% of the world’s population, according to UN estimates.  If you visit worldometers.info, you can literally watch the population “uptick” by one person per second.  Despite these statistics, however, I have spent less time in Asia than I have in most other regions of the world.  This needs to change.

One Asian country that I have had the pleasure of visiting is Thailand.  The country, a peaceful monarchy east of Myanmar and north of Malaysia, is famous for its warm waters and sandy beaches, often backed by towering cliffs.  There is so much more to see, however.  Elephant camps, jungle villages, steamy urban cities…and temples.  Lots of temples.  I was particularly taken by the Buddhist temples of Bangkok.

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Photo Locale of the Month – January 2017

León is the longtime liberal stronghold of Nicaragua, and the nation’s second-largest city.  Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, León, 11 miles from the Pacific Ocean, has for centuries battled with older Granada, on the western shores of Lake Nicaragua, for ruling supremacy.  They took turns assuming the role of capital of Nicaragua for centuries, until neutral Managua, somewhere in between the two cities, took over the role permanently.

But the León of today is different than the Leon of the 16th century.   Modern León, in fact, sits 20 miles east of León Viejo (Old León), destroyed by an earthquake less than 100 years after its founding, and subsequently buried under layers of volcanic ash by nearby Momotombo, the still-active volcano that sits across another lake, Lago de Managua, from the ruins.

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Photo Locale of the Month – December 2016

Nuremberg, Germany recently celebrated its 950th birthday.  (Eat that, Dubai!)  My love affair with the Franconian capital and home of sausages, lebkuchen (holiday gingerbread cookies) and Nazi War Crime trials began when I was still a child.  My father spent three years of his life (“The best three years,” he sometimes claimed) in the U.S. Army, stationed on a base just a short train/bus ride from Nuremberg.

Although my dad’s Army time was during the height of the Cold War and his station was less than 60 miles from the border with Communist Czechoslovakia, his time in the Army went without incident, the Cuban Missile Crisis call to arms notwithstanding.  My dad raved, throughout my childhood, about how much he loved Germany, the German people, and medieval Nuremberg in particular.

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