A few more images capturing a snapshot of some of the journeys I’ve been privileged enough to take over the last couple of years…
Gilded sand lies in soft swathes across the southern Sahara Desert, in the north of this landlocked and critically-impoverished nation. Stuck in Niger over Christmas during a field posting, I joined friends for a 5-day trip through the wild north of the country, and it proved to be one of the most dramatic and satisfying travel experiences of my life to date. An absolute highlight by any standard was the time we spent among the dunes of Tizirzak, where wind-blown features among fair sand-dunes were the foreground to the dramatic backdrop of the barren and jagged Aïr Mountains. One of the most inhospitible landscapes on the planet, it was memorable for its stark, fierce beauty and isolation. We barely saw another group of travellers in five days of driving. To this day, I have seen few scenes that compare with the drama and allure of the dunes of the Sahara.
I spent a long weekend at a resort not far from the Sunshine Coast mecca of Noosa. I’m not much of a beach-vacation type most of the time, and this was no exception- I found myself generally bored and listless. I did however manage to find a bit of time to photograph the sun going down over the Noosa Lakes, close to where I was staying. The light was fantastic throughout. After falling in the estuary, I took this shot of the light after the sun had vanished. The water has taken on the texture of burnished gold. I shot with a neutral density filter, which is in effect a piece of darkened but colourless glass, and which in essence allows the shutter to be left open for longer without overexposing the frame. Here, I left the shutter open for a good half minute or so, with the result that the blemishes in the water have smoothed themselves out, and the golden clouds have blurred themselves in the passage through the sky. When it works, using ND filters are one of my favourite photographic techniques.
New Zealand (2007)
I’m a Kiwi. Sometimes I feel a bit of a fraud identifying myself with Aotearoa. I’ve lived there for less than six years, or somewhat under one fifth of my total existence. Growing up a Global Nomad, or Third Culture Kid (TCK), I’ve been a little bit free to pick and choose where I want to belong. Really, I’ve chosen not to belong anywhere, and my defacto home becomes wherever I open my backpack. However, the one nation I do identify with consistently, and with considerable pride, is New Zealand. (I’d like to point out that I do in fact hold a Kiwi passport, and spent the early years of my childhood there, so my claim to NZ citizenship isn’t entirely fabricated). I too this shot of a rocky outcrop in the Hauraki Gulf north of Auckland during an all-too-brief trip home with some friends. We spent a week or so driving around the northern half of the North Island, and enjoyed pretty good weather for the most part, as well. New Zealand is another country where I really just want to spend a good block of time with a car, a good pair of walking shoes, and my camera. One of these days…
A dear childhood friend of mine lives in Arizona with his wife, where they happily enjoy a far more geographically-stable existence than I do with their burgeoning clan of three children. I went and visited them for a few days over the Independence Day weekend in 2005, where they were staying with relatives near Sedona. Although we’re in irregular contact, our paths haven’t directly crossed since- although I know that they will before too long. It’s tough being apart from people you care about, but equally it’s nice having friends scattered globally with whom you can touch base when you travel. Such is the way of the nomad.
I took this shot at dusk as I arrived in Sedona. The outcrop is known as the Courthouse, and it stands like a monolith over this picturesque south-western town. Visually, Sedona is far and away one of the most beautiful settlements I’ve visited. Nestled among striking ochre sedimentary rock formations, it seems to burn with fire as the sun goes down, while during the day it sits beneath a flawless blue sky. I took this shot during my early days of investigating digital photography. The image itself is of no real technical merit, but the subject never ceases to bore me to look at. Creation at its finest.
Periodically my home, Melbourne remains in my opinion one of the most understated travel destinations in Australia- and by inference, the world. Although I’ve lived here perhaps four of the last six years, I rate it as easily the most livable place I’ve spent time, echoing the international surveys that generally score Melbourne in top spot alongside Canada’s Vancouver, also a desirable place to spend time. Sydney tends to get the attention as a tourist destination, with its Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and a handful of azure-watered beaches. Move away from the waterfront, however, and in my opinion Sydney looses its charm.
Melbourne, by contrast, has a little of everything to suite everybody. A range of great millieu’s throughout the city provide great cafés, restaurants and even shopping [shudder]. It has a vibrant and built-up Central Business District with all manner of services and conveniences, not to mention a hip and varied nightlife. Among my favourite features of Melbourne are the quirky little pubs and clubs dotted around its backalleys, so that I rarely seem to end up at the same place twice when I go out. Within minutes of the city are long stretches of sand that wrap right around the eastern arm of Port Phillip Bay, while to the West lead to the world-renowned surfing spots near Torquay. Sweeping views of the Bass Straights offer themselves from the Great Ocean Road, while to the north of Melbourne, the gentle country of the Yarra Valley’s wine region open up into great expanses of open plains to the north and west, while the Great Dividing Range provides dramatic country for hiking, climbing, horseback riding, and at a pinch, skiing (although as a sworn affecionado of the Canadian Rockies, I have to say Mt. Buller is a bit of a let-down).
This shot is of one of the more quirky Melbourne attractions, and one for which I have little time myself, except for the grotesque vibrance of the colours. Luna Park is a time-honored fairground metres from the waterfront at St. Kilda. This shot is about as close as I ever plan to get to it, but I did like the angle and the ferocious contrast of lines and tones.
Tomboctou (Timbuktu) is synonymous with the concept of the nomad. For travellers, it represents a destination as far-flung as it’s possible to go, the proverbial ends of the earth. In fact, so proverbial is its connotation that when I mention it in conversation, more than once people have asked me, “is Timbuktu real then?”
Not only real, but once a vibrant hub in the life of the original nomads of the Sahara. Tuareg caravans gave the city its wealth towards the beginning of the second millenium, when salt dug from pits in the desert was brought here on vast camel trains featuring hundreds of the beasts, and where slabs of salt the size of table-tops would be traded weight-for-weight with gold. It became a centre for Islamic scholarship, with one of the great ancient libraries once stored here (the city is now home to an audacious project to identify and restore ancient Islamic manuscripts being funded by Libya’s Moammar Ghadaffi), and is considered to be the third holiest city in Islaam, after Mecca and Medina. Its fame spread throughout the African continent, until the Moors heard of its fame in the fourteenth century and sent an army south from Marrakech. The invaders seized the northern half of Mali, and it has bourne the scars of the conquest ever since. The door pictured above is of a style unique to the area, but bears the visual influence of the Moroccan architecture which can be seen throughout Tomboctou on its mosques and classical buildings.
Tomboctou is a hot dusty town in the middle of nowhere. Perched on the southern edge of the Sahara, abandoned by an arm of the Niger River that has since filled in and left it stranded far from a water course, it is one of Francophone West Africa’s best-known tourist destinations, but it is still well off the beaten track in every sense imaginable. I visited in the peak of the hot season, and I can safely say that even after a year of living in Niger, I have never been consistently hotter, nor consistently more dehydrated, than during my time there. However it is a mystical and exciting place, with narrow side-streets filled with blowing sand, and exotic, otherworldly architecture that stimulates the imagination. A traveller in Africa should ensure that northern Mali is high up on their list of must-see places.