I realise I’ve been posting quite a few Australia-focused shots recently. Which has more to do with photography (one part of this website) but far less to do with travelling (the other). So I thought I’d throw up a sprinkling of shots taken over the last little while from different corners of this beautiful planet we call home for a few brief years…
A street scene in the exquisite and historic Antigua Guatemala. Generally known simply as Antigua (literally ‘old’ or ‘antique’), the city was the colonial capital of Guatemala until the place was effectively leveled by a series of earthquakes towards the end of the eighteenth century, when the capital was relocated to its current location in Guatemala City. Guatemala City is the fourth capital the nation has enjoyed since colonization during the sixteenth century. The first capital was founded on a pre-existing Mayan city and was moved after a series of indigenous uprisings. The second was destroyed by volcanic mudflows. Guatemala City has so far managed to last a little over two hundred years and while it has experienced its fair share of disasters, it’s still standing. Let’s hope they don’t have to move it again, because they’re starting to run out of alternatives…
Antigua is a pleasant and peaceful little town. Heavy on tourism, the central area is a grid network of narrow streets arranged about a central plaza, home to a grand and intricately-worked cathedral, and walkways covered by colonial archways. Rich in atmosphere and history, and overshadowed by looming volcanic cones, it’s well worth a visit to anybody passing through this delightful Central American nation.
Golden light from an evening sun catches in the smooth-flowing waters of the mighty Niger River. During the rainy season (when this was taken), the river fills a broad plain nearly a mile across , swallowing ephemeral islands and swamping fields along the banks. At the peak of the nine-month dry season, it constricts into a narrow channel just a dozen metres wide in places, impassable to boat traffic, and so insignificant that herders drive their cattle across it on foot, forcing them to swim just a few seconds where the flow has all but choked to a standstill in the fierce heat.
From Niamey’s Grand Hotel, the view over the river at dusk and the surrounding countryside is one of the perks in a city that is largely devoid of them. Hot, dry, dusty, and the capital of a country that frequently takes bottom place in the UN’s list of underdeveloped countries, Niamey has the feel of a village of a million people. It is an isolated island in the middle of the Sahel, landlocked and generally ignored by the rest of the world. However it is a gentle place, incredibly safe and very relaxed, and with a number of locales where a meal and a cold beading Biere Niger go down extremely well. Many things about Niger I do not miss, but I would gladly find myself in Niamey for a quiet evening out with friends once again.
The Niger River is one of the world’s great rivers, providing a vein of life that cuts through West Africa’s southern Sahara region and connecting a network of cities and civilizations that once flourished here. Nearly 4,200m long, it rises in the hills of Guinea and Sierra Leone, just a short distance from the western Atlantic coast of Africa. From there it flows counterintuitively inland, carving a path through the interior of West Africa, and then arching its way deep into the Sahara where it reaches its zenith near the ancient city of Tomboctou. From there it swings south, passing through Gao before reaching Niamey, and from there on a straight shot through Nigeria where it pours itself out across the infamous Niger Delta. The sense of life and freshness it provides the otherwise-dessicated Niamey can’t be underestimated. Like many cities with ‘soft’ features, it forms the heart- and the character- of what would otherwise be a stop well worth missing on a journey across the continent.
South Australia (2006)
Yellow Canola (Rapeseed) clashes with a cloud-spotted blue sky at the foot of the Remarkables Ranges in South Australia state. On a photographic road-trip through the area with my brother, we’d spent some time ooh-ing and aah-ing over the bright colours and beautiful contrast of the sun-soaked flowers. It was a perfect day for photography, and my biggest regret was that I hadn’t yet purchased a polarizer filter for my brand new Canon EOS 350D/Rebel XT, bought the day before we went on the trip. It would have made better use of the blue skies, but irregardless I was pleased with how this image turned out. South Australia is, in my opinion, one of the underestimated corners of this vast and varied continent. Full of quirk and character, there are a thousand dramatic landscapes to be discovered in a state that seems to receive very little tourism or international interest, and I for one can’t wait to head back for some more voyaging, camera in tow.
I’ve always loved the open road. As a traveller I enjoy the reality of being on the move. So long as the wheels are turning or the jets are revving or the hull is slicing past the waves, I’m happy. California is like a traveller’s dream. A great wide expanse of spectacular and varied country, beneath a strong blue sky, connected by one of the world’s best networks of driveable roads. I spent five days driving around CA, and I loved it.
This highway wound its way across the landscape of Death Valley. Deserts are among my favourite biomes, and Death Valley’s mix of salt flats, scrubland and barren mountain ridges was simply spectacular. I spent less than 24 hours in the park and it rates to this day as one of my most memorable photo shoots. Going back when the light’s a little sharper and the temperature’s a little lower is high on my agenda, and I’m glad I have a growing contingent of friends in-State who I will shortly be relying on for a return visit…
Colourful boats are drawn up on a beach in Ile de Gorée. Gorée is a small island in the harbour, fifteen minutes’ ferry ride from Senegal’s capital, Dakar. Once a minor node on the network of the Senegambian slave trade, today the island is a tranquil little escape from the bustle and mayhem of one of West Africa’s largest cities.
Although billed as a major hub of the slaving triangle of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Gorée is considered by modern historians as insignificant, and most of the slaving that happened here was incidental to larger centres of activity. Despite this, the island continues to draw visitors to the slaving museum. It’s real charm lies in the peaceful and laid-back nature of its narrow streets. Colonial homes lean close together to provide deep, shaded alleys where the sound of footfalls echoing on cobbles mingles with the quiet hiss of breaking waves, the murmur of a sea-breeze, and the catcalls of a gull soaring overhead. After the frenetic chaos of Dakar’s winding streets, the industrious energy of the port, and the vibrant colours of its varied inhabitants, Ile de Gorée is an island not just in geography, but an island for the soul as well.
Seen from a nearby hill, late autumn sunlight falls like gold vapour on downtown Edinburgh. My work takes me to a wide range of exotic locales in developing countries, but I rarely find myself in more sedate haunts. On this occasion, a few days’ R&R on the way out from an African posting gave me a chance to catch up with friends in the UK. I spent a couple of pleasant days in Edinburgh with old friends from University. In true fashion, the city was bitterly cold and swept with a wind that threatened to sear exposed extremities. Although I’m not a fan of winter in the British Isles, there is something about the cold that lends a sense of coziness when you’re cooped up inside a nice warm pub, with wind and rain hammering against the windows. I can’t say I miss it very often, but every now and again, a nice wintry afternoon sharing a pub with an open fire and a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale would go down very well indeed.