It’s been a while since I last posted; for that, I apologize. It has been a crazy month. I drove down to New York from Toronto via Niagara Falls, skipped down to Grand Cayman a couple of days later for one night before heading to Cuba, then spent nearly three weeks in the Southwest United States before arriving in LA yesterday. Currently, I am typing this post as I relax in the business class cabin of All Nippon Airways, snacking on good old rice crackers, bound for Japan. So much has happened in between. Here are but a few of the highlights. For the purposes of catching up, I’m only going to post quick snapshots taken with my phone (Sony Xperia Z3) for this post. Future posts that break down each stop will feature better photos, I promise!
Grand Cayman: I created a new term: Fresh Off the Plane and onto the Boat; I landed in Georgetown in the early afternoon and drove straight to the dive shop, and into the 82 degree F water. It had been a very long winter in Toronto and I needed that sun more than anything. I paid for, but failed to make it to my hotel that night, as I ran into a friend from my banking days, and we had a great time catching up and playing Rock n Roll bingo at the local bar. I was unfit to drive to my hotel so I did the right thing and my gracious friend allowed me to stay at his villa for the night.
In Cuba I hired a fully-restored, green 1955 Pontiac Limited Edition and took a road trip around the countryside for a week. I visited the beautiful colonial towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad and explored the tobacco fields and topography of Vinales on horseback. I befriended my driver and my bartender from Havana and so the Three Musketeers made a grand old road trip out of our week and became friends for life.
Despite what you may have read recently about Cuba and the US and how US bank cards and credit cards will soon work, the reality was very different and I ran out of money. The night before my departure from Cuba, I had bills to pay and no way of accessing cash as I had run out. I went through a genuine scare of thinking I wouldn’t be able to leave the country. This came to be resolved through the help of my dear bartender friend and here I am now.
I returned to snowy New York for a couple of days before flying out to Santa Fe to begin my much anticipated photographic workshop with National Geographic legend Sam Abell. The week flew by and I am forever changed by the words of wisdom, the philosophy, the mannerisms, and the greatness of Mr. Abell, let alone his outstanding prowess in carefully crafted, micro-composition photography. He is a photographer, an adventurer, a precocious and generous spirit, and a treasure to humanity. Our group of 13 was so lucky to be with him, and we were even invited to two after-parties at his beautiful adobe home.
At one of those parties, I met Sam’s best friend in photography, Arthur Meyerson. Inexplicably, he pulled me aside and told me my work was the best in the whole workshop that week and that he wanted to stay in touch. To top it all off, Sam presented me with a rare box set of his books, signed by him personally. The words: “For George, With thoughts on you, your personality & sensibility, your strong work & intelligence. It was meaningful to meet you at the outset of your promising life in photography. —Sam. Santa Fe, 2015.”
I love Santa Fe dearly and this was my second time there. But if you had told me that the culmination of my week would have resulted in something like this, I would never have believed you. I left Santa Fe with a newfound confidence in my abilities, but still with many unanswered questions about what to do with my alleged “talent.”
I then fulfilled a personal dream and drove around the Southwest for a week, covering 2,362 miles (4,100kms), or roughly the distance between Vancouver and London, Ontario, if driven in a straight line.
Highlights included White Sands National Monument at sunset, the Sanctuary at Chimayo at dusk as locals rehearsed their Easter procession, Mesa Verde National Park at sunset, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, including Mesa Arch at sunrise as I just beat a huge group of Mainland Chinese tourists to the best photographic spots, Dead Horse Point State Park, Bryce Canyon for a stunning moonrise, Zion for three nights and two massive and impressive hikes, including a 17-mile day and endless photos.
After that, it was off to Lower Antelope Canyon for a photo tour, negotiating the hordes of tourists in the place was no easy task, Horseshoe Bend for sunset, and then on to Monument Valley. This stop may well have been the number one highlight for me as I went out for sunrise in an empty park at 5:30AM. The lunar eclipse was in full view, and then the sunrise was spectacular. Here’s a slideshow of some of the snapshots I took with my phone.
That day was capped by a trip up the unpaved, allegedly scary, cliff-hugging Moki Dugway, which led to Muley Point, a relatively secret place with views that go on for miles and miles and give you a full scale perspective of Monument Valley and its surroundings. Then a 5-hour drive into Albuquerque and some well-deserved rest at the Tamaya Retreat just outside town put an exclamation point on my Southwest tour.
Finally, a brief stop in LA to see my friend in his swank Marina del Rey pad for 36 hours, just before taking off for Japan. 35 days and in excess of 6,000kms driven in three different countries. Scuba diving, hiking, horseback riding, driving, hiking, shooting photos, attending workshops, hunting for ATMs that work: I feel like I almost did it all in the past month.
I’m overdue for some posts, and I hope to catch up a little. It won’t be easy. I have a lot planned for Japan. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve been back. Japan is the country I know best. I’m in for a treat when I get to writing about it. And so are you.
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