MY DAILY THOUGHT

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August 19, 2014 – Creativity in Food

Apart from my hobby of occasionally taking photos (I say occasionally as I was speaking to a friend of mine last week who has just had his second child and informed me that he had taken over 40,000 photos of his first child in the first year of his life.  That’s a lot of photos!) some of which I  have shared with all of you, I have several other hobbies that I enjoy including bike riding (the two wheel non electric kind) and cooking. 

The latter is something I have always loved doing from the time I was a teenager and have from time to time shared photos on “My Daily Thought” of dishes cooked by me especially when I have gone to the trouble of preparing an 8 or 9 course tasting menu. 

In terms of my skills as a photographer, I think I do a reasonable job but it is fair to say that whenever I go to a photographic exhibition or look at images of some of the better photographers in the world, I am greatly humbled and find myself in awe of some of not only the images they have captured but their use of light and shadow and color in ways that I am not sure I will ever be able to do. 

During my travels over the last few months, I have found myself feeling somewhat the same way about my own somewhat limited culinary skills.   I do think that I am a reasonable cook but when I reflect on some of the meals I have eaten over the last month or so I am equally humbled by what I have experienced not only in terms of taste but also in terms of presentation which in some cases is nothing short of a wonderful work of art! 

I am a great believer that food to be fully enjoyed must not only taste great but the manner in which it is presented, if done properly, can enhance the experience to a whole new level.  This does not mean that the dishes have to be elaborately prepared.  Some of the best meals I have ever eaten are nothing more than very fresh ingredients served simply, whether it is a whole fresh fish or fresh tomatoes off the vine with a little fresh basil and olive oil dripped gently over the top.  

Over the last few weeks, a business colleague has been leaving fresh bread each weekend at my house which is as good as any bread I have eaten anywhere.   In the same way that there is a taste that exists when fish is eaten within hours of it getting caught, the same is true when you eat bread that has just come out of the oven!

The images reflected above are a sample of some of the dishes that I have had the great pleasure of enjoying over the last few months.  Some of the workmanship that has gone into the design of these dishes is quite remarkable.  Look at the design and time that has gone into the desert of a butterfly on a leaf shown in the first picture or the display of fresh red beets in the second picture topped with grilled red onions, burrata with a light splash of olive oil. The fourth picture is an appetizer in a restaurant called Uri Buri located in the old town of Akko in the north of Israel, consisting of fresh bread just taken out of the oven, Israeli salad (cucumbers, red onions, mint, fresh parsley, bell peppers and tomatoes) together with Carpaccio of fresh tuna, red onions and olive oil.  If that had been the only dish we had eaten for lunch it would have been enough!  Even the radish salad is a masterful creation and must take the preparer a reasonable amount of time to create that imagery.

If you weren’t hungry before you read today’s post, you better be hungry now as I know I am just writing today’s post!

“Ask not what you can do for your country.  Ask what is for lunch”

Orson Welles

(Photos taken in Israel and the South of France with my Samsung S5)

Filed under good food desert Akko uri buri daily thought

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August 13, 2014 – Faces of Outside Lands

After posting some pictures yesterday from this year’s Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park held this past weekend, a number of people sent notes asking if I would include some additional pictures so here they are!  Rather than let another week go past, I thought I would just put these images up today. 

None of the pictures in today’s post are of the musicians who performed at the festival.  Rather, they are all of people who were in the audience who came for three days to do nothing but listen to some great music, eat some good food, perhaps drink a nice glass of cabernet or pinot gris but more importantly, have some fun. 

This weekend, there were no angry faces in the crowd. No one crying or screaming except for the occasional sounds of a baby who was rebelling against their parents for making them leave early instead of staying for the last performance of the day. 

It is the people who attend these festivals who are just as important as the bands themselves for without the energy coming from the crowd, just sitting in the audience or standing with 20,000 people can feel a little flat. 

So today’s post is dedicated to the people who’s pictures are included above and to everyone else who took part in this past weekend and made it the great event it was. 

Until next year’s festival! 

(Photos taken at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park – August 2014)

Filed under outside lands daily thought golden gate park Golden Gate Park

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August 12, 2014 – Outside Lands

For the third successive year in a row, I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday of last week in Golden Gate Park attending at Outside Lands, a food, wine and music festival which has been held every year for the last seven years. 

Unlike the insanity of Coachella which is held in the Southern California Desert in April when the temperature can be over 100 degrees during the day, there is, by comparison, mellowness to this festival, which for me, is my favorite music event of the year.

Not only is the setting in Golden Gate Park, which is green and filled with tall Eucalyptus trees (that remind me of Australia – although with no Koala Bears as one Australian musician pointed out to the crowd) as distinct from the dust fields that you can find in the desert, but the temperature during the day tends to be in the high 60s and low 70s and drops off in the evening as the fog rolls in off the ocean. 

Unlike Coachella, where there is definitely an element, particularly amongst the younger crowd who are there in part for the social interaction with their peers, as distinct from being principally driven by the music, at Outside Lands, people are clearly there for the music and to enjoy three great “chill” days in the park.  The fact that there is a large selection of different foods offered from diverse ethnic backgrounds, as well as wine and beer tents where you can sample a reasonable variety of beverages, are a bonus rather than a driving force to get people to attend.

Despite the crowds that attend (probably over 100,000 in three days) there is largely no pushing and shoving and people are patient as they make their way from one end of the park to the other to listen to the different acts.  Even with the more popular acts, there is not a huge element of people trying to push their way forward to the front of the stage as the bands begin to play, despite a large number of people who waited patiently for sometimes hours to stake out their favorite viewing spot. 

It is true, that in my case, my son and I each had purchased VIP passes which gave us preferential viewing for the two main stages which was a definite plus as it meant that for almost any act, you could show up 10-15 minutes before the act began and still be assured of a pretty decent place to stand and watch the relevant band. 

One of the things I found of interest for me personally this year, as distinct from previous years, is that although in the past I have been somewhat driven by the ability to hear the likes of classic acts that I grew up with such as Paul McCartney, Neil Young, and Stevie Wonder, this year I was genuinely more interested in both listening to and experiencing new talent as well as witnessing what it is that today’s youth is driven by. 

When I was younger, in order to get a rich, full sound, a band would need to be comprised of not only two or three guitarists, a bass player, drummer, perhaps a couple of horn players and some back up singers, in addition to the lead singer, today, some of the biggest acts that performed at Outside Lands were one or two people standing on a stage with a series of computer driven sound devices that could recreate the sound of a full orchestra and horn section as well as pump out a great rhythm which would cause the crowd to jump up and down, use their hands and shout out the words of what were often remixed songs. In one case, a 23 year old DJ from Australia who is known to the crowd as “Flume” performed in perhaps one of the largest crowds ever to have attended a single event at Outside Lands attracting probably close to 25,000 all of whom were standing and dancing on the grass.  Even people my age!  I heard, witnessed and really appreciated for the first time how much talent some of these young kids have and why they are so popular.  The integration of sounds as well as visual images which are constantly changing on digital screens on the stage creates a total experience that is truly impressive. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I was very happy to hear Tom Petty play his classic hits from 25 years ago and if Led Zeppelin decided to make a return to the stage, you can count me in. But certainly next year I won’t be as hesitant to say “no” to the newest sounds that today’s musicians are creating!

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Plato 

(Photos taken at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park, California – August 2014)

Filed under outside lands arctic monkeys spoon imelda may haim duck sauce dum dum girls

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August 5, 2014 – Akko

In the Northern coastal plain of Israel, located on the Mediterranean Sea, is the historic town of Akko, a town that is now listed by the World Heritage Organization in part because of the preservation of remains of a historic town dating back to the Crusader era in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Akko is  also recognized as one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world.

The earlier name “Acre” appears in the tribute list of Thutmose III in the 15th Century BC and appears to have been settled as an ancient city during the early Bronze Age in about 3000 BC.  In the 15th Century it became an important location for the Ottomans as an active and vibrant port used for trading throughout their empire.

The town of Akko became part of Israel in 1948 and today has a population of close to 50,000 people and is actively inhabited by both Jews and Arabs who have found a way to live together in relative peace.

In the middle of Akko, is the old Arab Souq where local residents can shop for fresh fish and vegetables as well as buy clothes, toys and of course candy.  Most of the pictures above were taken in and around the Old City of Akko as well as in the Souq.  People were incredibly friendly and were more than happy for me to take their photo including the three young children as well as the older man drinking coffee.

One of the vendors on the street is selling fresh nougat in a variety of flavors which we certainly have to buy while another is selling fish that has just come out of the sea only a few hours earlier.

In the outdoor cafés the older men sit around and play dominos and the younger men sit and smoke hookah. It was nearly 100 degrees and quite humid when we were there and the effects of the warmth can be seen from the woman taking a rest from the market.

Although not evidence from the black and white picture of the men standing in swim suits, they are staring down below them at a drop of close to 100 feet and are deciding if they will jump or dive into the water which unless you get good clearance, could land you on some very jagged rocks.  We were told by one of the locals, that people do jump there from time to time but in the five minutes we stood waiting, no one seemed to have enough courage!

If you do decide to go to Akko, you should know that it is home to the restaurant “Uri Buri” considered by some to be the finest seafood restaurant in Israel and accordingly you should definitely book in advance.  The restaurant is located in a very simple and unpretentious building dating back to the Ottoman era and was certainly one of the highlights of our visit.

At a time when the fighting in Gaza highlights the conflict between Hamas and Israel, it is important to remember that there are many cities within Israel where co-existence of Jews, Christians and Muslims has worked with relatively few issues.  In Tel Aviv, the old port of Jaffa is another such location which is slowly becoming one of the trendy and more desirable locations to live in the city and has become home to some of the best restaurants in the area.

“The only alternative to co-existence is co-destruction.”

Jawaharial Nehru

(Photos taken in Akko – July 2014)

Filed under daily thought akko co-existence Israel souq smoking hookah

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July 29, 2014 – What are we fighting for?

Having just returned from Israel and watching and reading every day of the current events taking place in Gaza, I felt compelled in today’s “thought of the day” to write and post something relevant to this issue.   Today’s post is in a form that is different than what I have done before.  Instead of posting a collection of photos, I have instead posted a 3-minute video on YouTube which can be found by clicking on the image above.  Once the site opens, click on the option to watch in full screen mode and in HD.

The video is a collection of images taken by me in Israel and in the surrounding areas over the course of a number of years and serves as a reminder as to why it is we are engaged in a war right now.

During World War II and the Holocaust, over 6 million Jews lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis, as did millions of other people from around the world.  With the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe that grew in the 1930s, it became clear after the war, that the Jewish people must have a place of their own where they could feel safe and never feel the possible threat of another Holocaust taking place again.  The return of Jewish people to the Middle East and the establishment of the State of Israel became that place.  

It is and is supposed to be a place where children can play safely on the streets and in their homes.  A place where people can openly practice their religion without fear of persecution.   A place where people can swim in the beach without fear of an invasion from the sea.  A place where a man can sit in a chair on the street and read the daily newspaper quietly without the contents of such paper being censored.   A place where on Shabbat people can pray at the Western Wall and celebrate the Sabbath. A place where people can shop for food in a marketplace without concern of a terrorist attack.

In an ideal world, this is a place where children from all religions and backgrounds can play together, without regard to whether they are Jewish, or Christian or Muslim and just play together because that is what children are supposed to do. 

This war, and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East is robbing the youth of that right to have a childhood.  To have to grow up in an environment where sirens ring out in the middle of the night and where mothers and children have to run to a shelter for protection is not the way it is supposed to be. 

We are fighting this war so that historical sites can be preserved but most importantly we are fighting this war for future generations so that perhaps one day all children can have a place where they feel safe to play and grow up in the Middle East.   

The pictures in this clip are not just of Jewish Israeli children but Arab Israeli children playing in the markets in the old City of Jerusalem and in Akko as well as on the Dome of the Rock.  All of these children should be entitled to have the same thing.  The right to grow up in a safe, healthy and loving environment. 

I pray each day that the current fight will come to an end soon and that in the interim, the loss of innocent life on both sides can be kept to a minimum. 

(Photos contained in the attached clip taken in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Jericho, Safed, Akko and the Port of Jaffa during 2006-2014)

Filed under thought of the day Israel fighting Gaza loss of innocent life

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July 22, 2014 – Death Valley 

About three weeks ago, over the July 4th weekend, I decided to take a trip out to Death Valley, a place, according to Wikipedia, which holds the record for the highest “reliably reported” air temperature in the world which was 134 degrees. 

Given that it was the middle of summer, it is fair to say that a number of people questioned the sanity of my judgment to drive out to the desert and wondered why, if I had a free weekend, I wouldn’t have decided to stay home and enjoy the beach in Southern California. 

The truth is, I hadn’t been to Death Valley in over 23 years and thought it might be an interesting place to take my camera, my new light-weight carbon fiber tripod, and shoot some pictures of the desert during, what arguably might be, the hottest time of the year. 

I had originally planned to go by myself but at the last minute, a good friend decided to join me for the two-day journey despite knowing that I would be stopping constantly to try and capture something interesting with my camera. 

We got on the road at about 6am, taking the 14 freeway through Mojave and then headed up to the entrance to the park, taking the non-traditional route driving up through the Searles Valley which, in part, is filled with old towns that now show signs of virtually being ghost towns. 

We arrived at the Park and headed to the large sand dunes in the middle of the day where the temperature in the car showed that it was 117 degrees outside.  There was a light breeze blowing through the flats, which probably made the temperature feel a little closer to 125 degrees.  After taking a few photos in what was unbearable heat, we headed to Furnace Creek (an appropriate name) where we would spend the night.  On arriving at the hotel, we were shocked to learn that the hotel was running at 80% capacity and that by the end of the following week would be almost at full capacity.  Apparently this is a popular time of year for Europeans to come and visit the park. 

After a swim in the pool, where the water was surprisingly pleasant, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out for some afternoon hiking.  From the time we decided to take a shower and head to the restaurant/bar at the hotel, a sandstorm started to blow creating extremely limited visibility, certainly not ideal for taking pictures and hiking.  The barman said that it was only the second time since he had been in Death Valley that he had seen a storm of this veracity. 

In the hope that the storm would blow through within a reasonably quick period of time, we headed in the direction of the storm deciding that this would be the area that would hopefully clear first and were pleasantly surprised after about 20 minutes that the sky did start to clear.  We were heading in the direction of “Badwater” which is the lowest point in North America, when a ranger forced us to pull off to the side of the road and tell us that we would have to get off the highway as there were flash flood warnings that could generate massive amount of rain and flooding in the space of an hour.

We did eventually get to see the lowest point, and an area called “Devils Golf Course” and hiked up the short path to Zabriskie Point which offers spectacular views of the desert especially late afternoon and first thing in the morning when, if you are lucky as a photographer, you can catch the “golden hour” of sunlight. 

The next morning we hiked below Zabriskie Point starting at around 7am and were confronted by two hikers who had just found a dead body on the trail.  It seemed that a hiker had passed out from heat exhaustion, possibly with a lack of water, and then never recovered.  Several days later, the papers reported that it had been one of the English actors from “Harry Potter”.  This tragedy made me reflect that I would have been foolish to have hiked or even travelled out into the desert alone.  Apart from the fact that in many places there is no cell phone coverage, if you are hiking and were to twist an ankle so that you couldn’t hike any further, it could be days before someone finds you with the outcome not particularly positive. 

When I first thought about shooting pictures of the desert, I wasn’t sure, given the hazy light conditions what I would find but if you are patient and look carefully, especially in the later afternoon or early morning when the sun can create some wonderful shadows, there is great beauty in the desert, even when the temperature is 117 degrees that is definitely worth seeing! 

(Photos taken in Death Valley – July 5 and 6, 2014)

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July 15, 2014 – Israel

As many of you know, I have spent much of the last week in Israel where I was invited to attend the Jerusalem International Film Festival.  It is fair to say that in the days leading up to my departure from the United States, there were a number of people, including family and friends, who questioned whether or not, given the current “situation” with Gaza whether I was still planning on going.

This is not the first time I have been in Israel when fighting has been going on within reasonable proximity of where I have been staying or visiting.  During one of my visits a number of years ago, I had been touring in the north of Israel near the Lebanese border hiking in one of the national parks only to return to Jerusalem to learn that fighting had begun with Lebanon less than 12 hours after I had left the region.

This was certainly the first occasion where I had been in a country where sirens are going off in different parts of the region all day and all night.  The first time this occurs, it is certainly a little unnerving, perhaps because of the uncertainty that exists as to what is going to happen next.   As someone who lives in Southern California and who is exposed to earthquakes, there are some similarities to what happens when a siren goes off.  Like in an earthquake, you are able to assess very quickly whether or not the earthquake is going to be a bad one where there is a real risk of significant destruction as was the case in 1994, the year in which my daughter was born.   Such is the case here in Israel as well.  Within 90 seconds of the sirens going off (less if you are unfortunate enough to be in the south of Israel right now where they are constantly being bombarded with rockets) you generally hear a large “boom” which is the sound of the Iron Dome (or “kippat barzel” in Hebrew, coming from the word “kippar” which is what Jewish men wear on the heads) intercepting and destroying the rocket, after which people resume their daily life in a way that almost ignored what happens moments before.  Of course, after an earthquake in California, local residents make comments such as “that was only a 4.5 earthquake”, making light of a situation where visitors to the area might not be as quite amused!

Whether you are on a street in front of a café, or in a neighborhood with apartments, when the sirens sound, people beckon you to come into their buildings for safety especially if there is no apparent “shelter” near by.

As a result of the “situation” that exists right now in Israel (I use this word as many Israelis do not regard themselves as yet being “at war” – a further acknowledgement of the day to day life that people in this part of the world must face on a constant basis) the opening of the Film Festival was cancelled.  It has typically been held at  “The Sultan’s Pool” which is a beautiful outdoor area below the Old City of Jerusalem but for safety reasons it was decided that there couldn’t be public gatherings of more than 200 people which is why perhaps the scheduled concert of Neil Young tomorrow night was also cancelled. 

Many friends then asked if the festival would be cancelled but in Israel, even at times of war, life continues on, in part, because this is the way it has to be, otherwise daily life would constantly be in a state of flux.

Despite times of uncertainty, over the course of the last few days, I have not underplayed the risk that exists in being here but I do have a new respect and appreciation of what people in this part of the world have to experience on a daily basis.  For those of us who live in the United States or Australia, or other countries that have largely been spared from this kind of lifestyle, we are fortunate.

For those people who live in this part of the world, and in other regions that are constantly subject to attack and outbreaks of violence, I pray for peace and that it come sooner rather than later. 

There is no doubt that peace in the Middle East is not something that is going to occur overnight. It is unlikely to occur any time in the next few years but one can only hope and pray that there will come a time soon when we at least start moving in the right direction.

(Photos taken in Israel – July 2014)

Filed under Israel Jerusalem Tel Aviv Peace daily life daily thought

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July 8, 2014 – A year of photos
Today is somewhat of a historic day for me.  Today’s post represents 365 consecutive days of me posting a picture or pictures together with “my thought of the day.”  During the last year I have posted over 950 images!

It is hard for me to believe that I have not missed a day in the last 12 months.  Certainly there have been times when it has been a struggle. There were a couple of nights where I finished work very late or got home after being out at a party in the early hours of the morning and the idea of sitting down for an hour and writing my daily thought was a little challenging.  There have been times when I have been on a plane travelling back home to Australia or on business to Europe, and there is a need to plan in advance so that something can get posted while I am in mid-air is taken care of.

When I started this process a year ago, it was largely as a result of a number of you, who are still daily subscribers,  who reached out to me and said that you would like me to post some of my pictures on the internet on a regular basis and so as a result of this, I spent a few weeks, trying to find the name for a website and then deciding to set it up on Tumblr with a lot of help from my son for which I am extremely grateful.

I can say in all honesty, that there has never been a time when posting each day has become a chore and something I have not wanted to do.  To the contrary.  With only a few exceptions, I almost never know what picture I am going to use or what I am going to write about until I sit down at the end of the day which usually takes place (as it is tonight) some time after 11:00 PM.  I have over 70,000 images stored on my computer (as well as nearly every negative I have shot since the age of 6) and so each night I find myself going back in time looking at images to see what inspires me. My photos are organized by date and subject matter and accordingly I will look at the various folders, see the description and then decide what might be interesting and so I open up the folder and look at all of the images. In doing so, I completely relive the moment in which that collection of images was taken and so for me the “trip down memory lane” is always an incredibly happy experience for me.

For each and every one of you who has followed me this past year or part of the year, I am extremely honored.  Over the course of the year, I have had my images looked at in more than 60 different countries around the world which I have to say is pretty darn cool!

I am sorry to have to say, that starting today, I will no longer be posting on a daily basis.  As much I love doing it, the hour a day that I have spent over the last year has meant that I have been going to bed a little too late and not having the energy to get up quite as early as I would like so I could do some exercise which if I am going to continue to take pictures for a long time, is something I need to do.   Accordingly, starting today, I will be posting once a week, although don’t be surprised if pictures and thoughts come up more often than that from time to time, especially when I am travelling.  I know the post is called “My Daily Thought” which will no longer be completely accurate but I will try and make sure that the posts I do put up on a weekly basis are a collection of images and hopefully something you will enjoy. I can assure you that if I didn’t have a real job (unrelated to photography) that pays me a salary that allows me to travel and buy the occasional piece of camera equipment, I would be more than happy to post on a daily basis.

As for today’s picture, it is an image of a young girl standing in the park in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Interestingly enough, and I did not know this until a few minutes ago, the picture was taken on July 8, 2006, eight years ago to the day.

Given that at the time this is being posted I will be on a plane to Israel, it is also appropriate that this be today’s picture.  The young Arab girl in the photo has a truly beautiful face and smile.  She and her young friends were very happy to stand and let me take pictures of them.  But there is a hint of sadness in her eyes and her smile that suggests that even at her tender young age, when she should be doing nothing more than being carefree and having a great time as a child, she is aware of some of the problems and the conflict around her which means that she is being robbed of everything a childhood is supposed to be.  Given the current situation in the Middle East, with the loss of too many young children, it is sad to think that not enough progress towards peace has taken place over the last eight years.   All we can do is pray and hope that the people making decisions will do so rationally and quickly and try and put behind them old prejudices.

I hope that you if liked today’s post, you will still be around in the weeks to follow.

(Photo taken in the Old City of Jerusalem – July

July 8, 2014 – A year of photos

Today is somewhat of a historic day for me.  Today’s post represents 365 consecutive days of me posting a picture or pictures together with “my thought of the day.”  During the last year I have posted over 950 images!

It is hard for me to believe that I have not missed a day in the last 12 months.  Certainly there have been times when it has been a struggle. There were a couple of nights where I finished work very late or got home after being out at a party in the early hours of the morning and the idea of sitting down for an hour and writing my daily thought was a little challenging.  There have been times when I have been on a plane travelling back home to Australia or on business to Europe, and there is a need to plan in advance so that something can get posted while I am in mid-air is taken care of.

When I started this process a year ago, it was largely as a result of a number of you, who are still daily subscribers,  who reached out to me and said that you would like me to post some of my pictures on the internet on a regular basis and so as a result of this, I spent a few weeks, trying to find the name for a website and then deciding to set it up on Tumblr with a lot of help from my son for which I am extremely grateful.

I can say in all honesty, that there has never been a time when posting each day has become a chore and something I have not wanted to do.  To the contrary.  With only a few exceptions, I almost never know what picture I am going to use or what I am going to write about until I sit down at the end of the day which usually takes place (as it is tonight) some time after 11:00 PM.  I have over 70,000 images stored on my computer (as well as nearly every negative I have shot since the age of 6) and so each night I find myself going back in time looking at images to see what inspires me. My photos are organized by date and subject matter and accordingly I will look at the various folders, see the description and then decide what might be interesting and so I open up the folder and look at all of the images. In doing so, I completely relive the moment in which that collection of images was taken and so for me the “trip down memory lane” is always an incredibly happy experience for me.

For each and every one of you who has followed me this past year or part of the year, I am extremely honored.  Over the course of the year, I have had my images looked at in more than 60 different countries around the world which I have to say is pretty darn cool!

I am sorry to have to say, that starting today, I will no longer be posting on a daily basis.  As much I love doing it, the hour a day that I have spent over the last year has meant that I have been going to bed a little too late and not having the energy to get up quite as early as I would like so I could do some exercise which if I am going to continue to take pictures for a long time, is something I need to do.   Accordingly, starting today, I will be posting once a week, although don’t be surprised if pictures and thoughts come up more often than that from time to time, especially when I am travelling.  I know the post is called “My Daily Thought” which will no longer be completely accurate but I will try and make sure that the posts I do put up on a weekly basis are a collection of images and hopefully something you will enjoy. I can assure you that if I didn’t have a real job (unrelated to photography) that pays me a salary that allows me to travel and buy the occasional piece of camera equipment, I would be more than happy to post on a daily basis.

As for today’s picture, it is an image of a young girl standing in the park in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Interestingly enough, and I did not know this until a few minutes ago, the picture was taken on July 8, 2006, eight years ago to the day.

Given that at the time this is being posted I will be on a plane to Israel, it is also appropriate that this be today’s picture.  The young Arab girl in the photo has a truly beautiful face and smile.  She and her young friends were very happy to stand and let me take pictures of them.  But there is a hint of sadness in her eyes and her smile that suggests that even at her tender young age, when she should be doing nothing more than being carefree and having a great time as a child, she is aware of some of the problems and the conflict around her which means that she is being robbed of everything a childhood is supposed to be.  Given the current situation in the Middle East, with the loss of too many young children, it is sad to think that not enough progress towards peace has taken place over the last eight years.   All we can do is pray and hope that the people making decisions will do so rationally and quickly and try and put behind them old prejudices.

I hope that you if liked today’s post, you will still be around in the weeks to follow.

(Photo taken in the Old City of Jerusalem – July

Filed under young girl dome of the rock daily thought

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July 7, 2014 – Death Valley

For most people, spending the July 4th weekend hanging out by the pool with friend and family, going to the beach, firing up the barbecue or perhaps going to visit distant family members or friends for a few days, seems like a good way to enjoy the weekend.

When I explained to my colleagues at work and told my family that I was proposing to go to Death Valley for the weekend, I got a variety of puzzled looks and certainly the same question from everyone, namely, why would someone want to drive to the lowest place in the Northern Hemisphere and one of the hottest places on the planet given the available options to do something else.

A legitimate question but given that I had not been to Death Valley in nearly 25 years and certainly never in the middle of the Summer, it seemed like an interesting time of year to take my camera and new tripod and take some pictures.

Although my original intention was to go by myself, one of my closest friends asked his wife if he could get away for a couple of days and so after watching fireworks and having a barbecue with them on Friday night, we got in the car and started driving towards the desert on Saturday morning at 6am wanting to make the most of the day given that we would have to return on Sunday.

The five-day weather forecast suggested that the temperature in Death Valley may drop from 116 degrees down to 112 and so we were hoping for the best.  Instead of taking the more traditional route which would be up Highway 395, we took the back way through the town of Trona (which will be the subject of another posting at some point) which was truly fascinating.  Certainly we were one of the only cars that seemed to be travelling along this route.

Other than a brief stop in Mojave for breakfast, we pretty much drove straight through to the entrance to Death Valley other than stopping every 20 or 30 minutes whenever I would see something that looked like it might be interesting to photograph.

Our first stop inside the Park was at the Mesquite Sand Dunes where the temperature was close to 117 degrees with the sun straight up in the sky.  Sadly the best time to photograph the dunes is at sunrise which was going to be at 5:30am the next morning although the blogs recommend that you get to the dunes 45 minutes beforehand so that you can hike out to a good spot. This would have meant getting up at around 4am which given the lack of sleep we had the night before was not a possibility.

From the Dunes, we headed to Furnace Creek (an appropriate name given the temperature of where we were staying). On checking in at the hotel front desk, we were told that there was no cold water available out of the taps and that to cool the water, we would need to put bottles in the fridge.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat with the intention of heading back out only to find that one of the worst sand storms to hit the area in some time had started blowing, making visibility incredibly challenging but nonetheless we figured we would head in the direction of where the wind was coming from hoping that the sky would clear.  After heading down the road for about 20 minutes, a ranger’s car approached us only to inform us that we would have to get off the road as a result of a flash flood warning and so we had to retrace our steps and find another part of the desert to photograph.

I was however lucky enough to captures some interesting shadows that came into view around sunset which is captured in the first photo.  The second photo is of a lone tree in the sand dunes I mentioned above. The third picture is of one of the many dried up riverbeds that now contains hardened salt deposits.

Despite some of the hiccups during our all too brief stay, we did have a great time and certainly ate some wonderful steaks in the evening that made the trip all worth while, to say nothing of the good company I had in the car with me who was incredibly patient with me stopping all the time and taking my tripod out and taking over 350 pictures!

(Photos taken in Death Valley – July 2014)

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July 6, 2014 – Miami Beach

When summer comes around, there is no doubt that one of my favorite things to do is head to the beach.   If you have followed my postings for a while, you know that I am not a big fan of overcrowded spaces so I tend to look for locations where you can still get a little bit of room between you and the next person on the beach.

Although the heat can be a little overwhelming in the summer, one of the best times to go to Miami is around May when the water in the ocean is still warm enough to swim in but the crowds have not yet taken over.

If you happen to go over Memorial Day weekend (as we did) you will find that it is also “Hip Hop” weekend when the entire town and South Beach gets taken over by lovers on Hip Hop.  Perhaps over the next few weeks or months, I may share some of photos from my stay during Hip Hop weekend. I have now found people so willing to be photographed as I did over that three-day weekend.  It is interesting to note that this is a weekend that many of the locals move out for the weekend and rent out their houses or apartments for decent amounts of money.  In the year that we were there, there were a number of shootings and fatalities that weekend so perhaps that is one of the reasons so many of the locals leave.

One of the nice things about the beach in Miami is that not only is the water pleasantly warm enough to swim in but if you don’t show up right in front of the main hotels, you can find plenty of wide open space to enjoy the wide sandy part of the beach and the rich turquoise blue ocean which is quite shallow for about 40 or 50 yards making it an ideal place to swim and not get too concerned about being caught up in rips over overpowering waves.

In the three days we were there, the weather was in the mid 80s during the day and would drop down to the high 60s low 70s in the evening.  What could be better than that?

The apartment we were staying in was about 20 stories up making it an ideal place to look down and take pictures of the beach in front of us and certainly a wonderful spot to photograph the sunset which was very reminiscent of the kinds of sunsets you get in Hawaii.

Well, that is about it for today.  Hope to see you all tomorrow.  Same “bat” channel!

“Almost everything strange washes up near Miami. ” 
― 
Rick Riordan

(Photos taken in Miami Beach – May 2011)

Filed under miami beach sunset ocean south beach daily thought