Riding Through Port-au-Prince

haiti-2011-125-2-1He was waiting there, like he always does.  Just standing…and…waiting…

I have been cycling (this sounds more manly and adult than saying “riding my bike”) for about three years now. This is because my almost sixty-year-old knees remind me every day they are almost sixty years old. Riding a bike doesn’t make them feel almost sixty years old.

I love riding through the eastern Kentucky countryside,  riding through woods and past streams, riding past newly cut hay fields, and fields of cattle and horses. We ride past tobacco in the fields and in the barns, a wonderful smell that brings back memories of fall in Kentucky. We ride past fields of wildflowers.

What an idyllic experience to cycle through eastern Kentucky.

Until…

Many times we are snapped out of this pastoral bliss by the canine consternation, when your body goes from producing hot sweat to cold sweat.

Many people have dogs that protect their property from dangerous, middle-aged bicyclers that roam the rural routes, usually in packs, looking for free air to feed their flat tires.  Most of these mutts are not a threat. However,there are those who are threatening and we get to know those very quickly.  We ride many of the same routes and we know where the dogs come a-runnin’.

One particular mongrel stakes out his spot in the middle of the road when he sees us coming.  We lovingly refer to him as “Cujo”.   He has mastered the game of “chicken”, because he will not move.  He makes us decide the path we will ride, then the chase begins.  He is big, about mid-tire high, and muscular, a bad combination for possible contact with your high velocity velocipede.

Last week the aforementioned happened.  Cujo decided he wasn’t going to chase me, so he decided to stop me. He blocked my path like Dick Butkus plugging a hole.

My helmet now has a dent in the side after hitting the pavement with my head inside.  There was various scrapes and blood. There was groaning, but I didn’t cry.  Even now my insides feel like that side of beef looked after Rocky pounded on it in the meat locker

I took this photo of a man calmly riding his bike through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  There can’t be a calm ride through these streets.  It is ultimate chaos.  He has to dodge cars and trucks and motorcycles and buses and other bicycles navigating without lanes, carts pulled by animals, and  tap-taps (Haitian taxi’s) loaded with people and their belongings.  He also has to avoid goats, pigs, chickens, oxen, and “lions, and tigers, and bears”.  Oh MY.

Every day he is playing a real-life Frogger navigating the streets of Port-au-Prince.

I just had to miss one dog in the middle of the road in peaceful Stacy Fork.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

Cascades

Waterfalls, Morgan County 2011 061 2Water, water everywhere…

My apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I hope the need for royalty payments  for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner have passed.

This is a sentiment that many of us in eastern Kentucky have expressed over the past few months.  Some were duped by The Farmer’s Almanac website which I will quote, “Summer will be hotter and drier than normal, with the hottest periods in mid to late June, mid to late July, and early to mid-August.”

OK, maybe the “powers that be” changed the season of summer to be from July 24- July 28, because those days were hot and dry, except for the steam that rose out of the swampy goo.

Trying to mow my three acres in this saturated state has become my Waterloo…I’ll let you think about that for a minute.

This summer my grass has been growing at a faster rate than the seemingly, steroid infused mildew that was in the bathtub of my college fraternity house.

Mowing has become necessary again, however I cannot mow.  “Why can’t I mow”, you ask, quizzically.  Because IT’S RAINING!!!  I know you people living in California can’t grasp this concept of rain.  Maybe some pimply faced  intern at The Farmer’s Almanac confused California with Kentucky in the compiling of this year’s almanac.  Somewhere a California farmer is looking for blue mold.

I took this picture of cascades of a creek in the Yocum and Pleasant Run area of Morgan County, KY.  It resembles the water running through my side yard during the last storm.  Shortly afterward, I saw a small Asian boy leading a yak down my street.

My mower has been stuck in mud…stuck in mud…stuck in mud… three times this summer, because you can’t see the water standing in the yard because the grass is so high.  I went to the local hardware store to see if my old Snapper could be fitted with floats like a seaplane.  The amazing thing is I was not the first one to request this.  Since Snapper does not make a hover riding mower yet, I will have to wait for the rain to stop and then send out a dove.

While waiting on my yard to dry, I can always weedeat my gutters.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Ghost of Tybee Island

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Winter is coming……sigh.

I feel like that mighty oak that stubbornly refuses to drop its leaves, desperately hanging on to autumn, somehow thinking that if he never drops his leaves, winter won’t exist.

Every year I refuse to admit winter is coming.  I don’t put my outdoor grill up.  I don’t put the garden hose up until it is solidly frozen.  I don’t clean the filter in the furnace.  I keep my short pants and short sleeve shirts where they are readily available. My wife mistakes this as procrastination or worse yet, laziness.  She is probably right, however since I am writing this, I will use my own self-awareness evaluation.

I look out the window and I see the leaves in my yard covering the grass…sigh.  The only tree in my yard that is hanging on to its leaves is a small sapling that has grown to adolescence in my gutter.  You can see the above analysis from my wife as to why it is still there.

Sometimes I battle winter by thinking about the beach, which is why I am using this picture.  I took this timed-exposure of myself dancing on the beach at Tybee Island this summer.  It was our last night on the beach and I wanted to get a shot of the lighthouse at night.  Big Surf Daddy (as some may recall, my beach alter ego) took over.

Big Surf buries himself deep within during the winter months.  Madam Zelda would not be able to channel him to the surface even with the most cooperative séancers at her disposal.  He has never experienced darkness at 5:00 PM or snow on Halloween.  He has no idea what flannel sheets feel like, or what a comforter is.  He thinks snow cream is some sort of cocaine smoothie.

This is a  picture of  Big Surf’s last night of consciousness on Tybee Island.

I am sure he is already sending threatening texts to Punxsutawney Phil about his forecast.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

Faculty Recessional at Graduation

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I have been emancipated from the financial vise of undergraduate education…free at last!

I have written my last tuition check, my last apartment rent check, my last food dispensing check, my last parking ticket reimbursement, and my last college calamity check.

My two children are now college graduates.  At this moment, I am glad we never had a third child.

My daughter and son graduated from Morehead State University in Morehead, KY.  This is a beautiful small school in the hills of eastern Kentucky.  It is a state school and public university, one of the top public universities in the south.  I am honored to have both of my kids to now be alumni of the same school as their dear old dad.

Morehead State was close enough to where I live in West Liberty that I could go over and take them out to lunch or dinner on numerous occasions.  College students are always up for a free meal.  More importantly, it gave me a chance to spend some valuable time with my two favorite young adults and also spend a little time back on the college campus that I remember so fondly.

This is a picture of my son’s graduation from Morehead State.   He can be seen in the picture…he’s the good-looking one.  My mom and dad are also in the photo and that means a lot to me.

I was always drawn to the color and pageantry of the college commencement…this doesn’t mean that I want to attend them every year.   I love the multi-colored robes the faculty wear.

At my daughter’s graduation last year, I tried to get a shot of the movement of the faculty during their recession.  I did not have a tripod, so I could not get a good shot of what I wanted.  This time I grabbed my tripod and we sat in the same spot behind the stage.  I was pretty happy with the result.

The faculty always seem to be in a hurry when they leave the ceremony.  I always wondered what would happen if one of them tripped, would it look like a massive pile-up on the Autobahn?  I assume they want  to start their vacations by getting out of there as soon as possible.  Much like my wife and I are now in a hurry to jettison the extra money we will have to spend on ourselves if we can recover from paying for seven years of undergraduate expenses.

So to all of us who graduated our offspring this year…congratulations to us.  Let’s hope they can get a job so they can buy us a meal.  I will order lobster at market price.  Before the check comes, I will be moving out of the restaurant faster than this faculty.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Taking Liberty Road Curve

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I saw the speedometer needle shimmy past the 100 mile per hour indicator. The landscape was blurring past like some angry impressionistic painting. I was so excited.

I was about eight or nine years old and was riding in a tan Pontiac GTO going up “new” Index Hill. That was not very difficult for the muscle cars of the sixties. Many of these cars were gone by the time I was old enough to drive and I remembered them fondly as they circled and peeled out of the Freezer Fresh drive-in. I circled in a 1965 two-toned (aqua/bondo) Corvair. I could not peel out.

This was the first time I had ever gone over 100 miles per hour in a car.

When the driver let my brother and me out of the car at our house, I told the driver in pre-adolescent lingo how impressed I was with his fine automobile and his daring driving skills. I also told him what every teenager would love to hear after cradling someone’s precious children in a land rocket speeding merrily along the road, “I’m going to tell my mother about this ride.”

Now the driver was not to keen about this certain revelation and informed me that my mom would probably not be too interested in the details of this little afternoon drive. He must have made an impression on me because, to this day, I have never told her.

I took this picture one late summer evening on Liberty Road, outside of West Liberty, KY. I wanted to get a sunset photo as it set over a field of wild flowers. The sky was not cooperating so I sat there for a few minutes and watched a few cars taking this curve.

I got my tripod out and climbed on top of my Ford Escape. I always like slow timed exposure photos and started photographing cars as they took this curve. I like the above shot. It shows the stream of the headlights along with the subtle reflection on the guard rails and road. I also got a little of the color of the sky.

As I look at this photo, I think of all those teen-age drivers that had the thrill of driving those muscle cars and how fast they took this curve. I wonder if they ever told their moms.

If you like this photograph, you can see more here.

Wrigley Falls

Wrigley Falls sets in a picturesque little alcove off the side of the road, outside of the small hamlet by the same name.  Wrigley is located in  northern Morgan County.   And yes it is named after William Wrigley,  the son of the business mogul who gave us Spearmint gum and Wrigley Field in Chicago .   Mr. Wrigley was also a president of the Morehead & Northfork Railway that went through this small town  in the early 1900’s.

I have a strange “six degrees of separation” with the Wrigley family.  You see, my mother was born in Wrigley and lived there until she was a young girl and I also have seen two baseball games in Wrigley Field.

Some of my earliest memories of Wrigley involved my grandfather taking me fishing at Lost Point Lake.  I was only four or five years old at the time.   I also remember getting soundly beaten in a junior high basketball game in a small, crowded, steamy gymnasium that also served as a school cafeteria.  We were the “big, bad town team”.   It was my first encounter with a hostile crowd, not in the mean sense, just not cheering for us  so loudly.

I won’t say anything else about  that game because I have not come to grips with that defeat some forty years later.  It’s probably  one of the causes of some of my self-doubt issues or maybe my maturity level hasn’t progressed beyond the eighth grade.  The latter is the more likely case according to my wife.

I processed this picture in black and white because of the contrast of the falls that was shot at such a slow shutter speed.  It looks like a spotlight on a small stage.

If you are driving on KY Route 7, turn west on Route 711 and drive a couple of miles.  The falls will be on your left.  You can’t miss it…just like the Wrigley Wildcats couldn’t miss that fateful night many years ago in that small gymnasium.  Did I mention the gym was small?

If you like this picture, you can see more here.

Sometimes Haiti is a Blurrrrrrrrrrrrr

What happens when you combine chaos and potholes and put them in a centrifuge along with yourself, oh, and add chickens, roosters, goats, and an occasional pig… then hit spin?  Oh, not just spin…hyperspin.  You have a typical street scene in Port au Prince.

I loved being a part of it.  Of course I wasn’t driving the bus.  That bus was a renovated Morgan County school bus that was shipped to Haiti to serve a pastor and his churches.  You can see it as the background blur in the above picture.  It was sitting on the side of the street because a rather large rock was wedged  between the back two tires on the driver’s side.  It took a while for my friends to hammer it out.  I, of course, went across the street to take some shots of the moving traffic.  This particular shot I really liked because it shows the movement of the street and it was so typical of Haiti, yet so atypical of America.

This was my first trip to Haiti.  I tried to learn some Haitian creole before my trip.

During one particular conversation on the above bus, I was trying to communicate with some locals we were transporting to a church service.  We were in the back of the bus being tossed about like the crew of the S.S. Minnow due to the less than immaculate road conditions.  I was trying to convey to them in my fluent creole that the ride was not smooth, as if they were not aware of the situation.  I kept saying the same phrase over and over hoping to get some sort of acknowledgement.  All I received was blank stares.

Later, as I was sitting in the church service, wondering why my exquisite creole did not register with my bus companions, it suddenly hit me.  I was telling them, “My name is bumpy”…over and over and over again.

If you like this picture, you can see more here.

Bottom of the Falls

This picture appeals to what little artistic appreciation is within me.  Incidentally, the part of the brain that appreciates art is the anterior insula, a deep fold in the cerebral cortex.  My anterior insula must be buried very deep in my cerebral cortex.  Come for the photos, stay for the anatomy.

I took this shot of the bottom of a small waterfall on Route 519 in Morgan County, KY.  It  is usually hidden from the sight of traffic when the leaves are on the trees.  It is not a very pretty waterfall and I was disappointed with all of the shots I was getting, especially after I slid down the hillside through the briars to get there  (I am sure that graceful tumble was not out of sight of traffic, but to my knowledge it hasn’t shown up on YouTube).

After trying to get some waterfall shots and being disappointed with the results, I started looking at different compositions and shooting in black and white.  Sometimes shots in color don’t do it for me.  Always keep in mind that black and white gives a different perspective to the shot and it may work.  That was the case with this photo.  I did not like it in color so I processed it in black and white.  Immediately it took on  contrast, not only of the black and white, but also the softness of the water with the hardness of the rocks.

I wish I had something else to say about this shot, to espouse some wisdom on race relations or world peace…but I got nothin’.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Moving Through Florence

Florence is a beautiful city.  I wish I could expound on its history and setting and sound worldly and knowledgeable  but I cannot.

You see when my wife and I were planning a trip to Italy, she wanted to do a tour so we would know what we were seeing and know the history and the meaning of it all.  At least that’s what I thought she was thinking.  As it turned out, not having faith in my honed sense of direction, all she was thinking was to prevent us from getting lost or kidnapped in a foreign country.  Nevertheless, I was able to convince her that we would  be able to navigate on our own and it would be more relaxing.  I’m sure the tours did not stop for gelato every half hour like we did.  I hate looking at watches and having to be somewhere at a certain time, especially on vacation.  We did download a few of Rick Steves’ tours on our iPhone and iPod and that was very useful.

Like Rome, there were some things that amazed me about Florence.  I was struck by the number of people riding bicycles in the city and weaving their way in and out of traffic and through pedestrians, and there were a lot of pedestrians.

As you may be able to tell from my previous blogs, I like to photograph motion.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it is because it requires some skill and technique.  To show motion in a still photograph is pretty cool.  Since the digital age, more and more photography is relegated to the processing programs.  I think I like motion because it still has to be done through the camera lens.

Anyway, I took numerous shots of bicyclists in our three days in Florence.  This shot is my favorite of all of them.  I did it in black and white to give it more feel and drama.  This was taken outside of the Uffizi gallery along the Arno River.

Don’t be fooled by this photo and think all I like to take is motion shots,  I shot a couple of thousand pictures in Italy…one good thing about the digital age.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Rome at Night

My wife and I went to Italy in the late summer of 2010 to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We tried to plan a trip for our 10th, 15th, and 20th anniversaries but something was always coming up and preventing us  from doing so (those darn kids  we have to take care of).  I’m sorry, did that thought slip out?

Rome was our first stop in Italy.  We landed in Rome at about 9:00 AM after a sleep deprived flight from Detroit to Amsterdam to Rome.

Our first clue as to the fast-paced life in Rome would be the taxi ride from the airport to our hotel.

We “spun the chamber” at the taxi stand and hopped in our ride, seemingly an  innocuous event.  The cab was small and did not look like it had enough horse power to match my first car, a 1965 Corvair that would shake and shimmy at 50 mph.  Looks can be quite deceptive.

After informing our driver of our destination, he welcomed us on our first visit to Italy. I did not know we were preparing to embark on a taxi ride that would make the New York and Chicago cab drivers look like they trained behind the reins of an Amish wagon.  While my wife and I were still in a sleepless haze, he shot out of the taxi stand with a sly grin. I felt like Slim Pickens riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove minus his level of excitement.  We weren’t sleepy anymore.

Can you be terrified and at the same time be impressed?   Those thoughts don’t seem to go together, but oddly enough that’s what I was thinking as exhaustion turned to shock.   We watched our driver perform levels of multitasking heretofore I thought were not humanly possible.   He was talking to someone on bluetooth in Italian, while he was typing on a keyboard in the seat beside him and following the progress of his fingers on a monitor mounted on his dashboard, at the same time turning to pleasantly converse with us in English, all the while driving 70 miles per hour (sorry, 112 km per hour).   He was speeding through traffic along roads that had four lanes painted, however, there were six lanes of cars.  The one task he did not perform was to look in his rear view mirror as he navigated this roving chaos.  My wife and I quit talking after five minutes.  Instead we just looked at each other as if to memorize the face of the one we loved so we could be sure to recognize each other in the afterlife.

Rome is an incredibly wonderful city to visit.   Like that cab ride, I was ever amazed at how fast and furious the city moved.   I wanted to get a photo that showed the movement of Rome.   This photo was taken during our night walk across the city.   I did not have a tripod so I had to hand-hold this shot.   We stood at this intersection and watched the traffic for a few minutes while I contemplated  how I wanted to compose the shot in the camera.  I was pleased with the result since I had to hold the camera and shoot at 1/25th of a second.  It captured the movement of the traffic while keeping the buildings in focus.

We stayed in Italy long enough to make us long to return.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.