Category Archives: photo

Gnaoua or never

Essaouira is a great place to end a trip through Morocco. The cool air and wind from the sea felt wonderful after the intense heat of the desert. Seagulls wheeled and cried, and waves crashed on the rocky shore and nearby islands. The smells of salt and fish blew through the air.

essaouira

Walking through the narrow streets in the medina, I fell in love with the shades of blue. Against the high white walls of the old houses, shutters and doors are painted pale blue or turquoise. Sometimes they’re surrounded with a border of yellow. I wanted to paint everything in my house white and golden yellow and pale blue.

essaouira

And Essaouira is mellow. Even full of Moroccan visitors and European tourists, it felt relaxed and peaceful. If I lived in Europe, I might make it a regular vacation spot.

We were there for the Gnaoua and World Music Festival. (It’s also spelled Gnawa, but I seem to gravitate toward spelling Moroccan names the French way rather than English). Pronounce all the letters: Guh-now-ah. The title of this post, by the way, is stolen from some posters and t-shirts we saw at the festival. Continue reading

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Sahara road trip, Part I

We were a little nervous about renting a car in Morocco. But we asked a lot of questions, listened to stories from other travelers, and decided to do it.

Sitting on the couch at Mami Tours, we asked: is it an automatic? Does it have air conditioning? Does it have a CD player? Yes, yes, yes, he said.

Two out of three isn’t so bad. It’s just that it’s been a long time since I’ve driven a car with manual transmission. And that was in New Zealand, on the other side of the road. And car.

But it comes back to you.

Even on roads like this.

winding road in the atlas mountains

With goats crossing. (Sorry for the windshield smudge in the photo.)

goats crossing the road in the atlas mountains

Mara took the wheel first and navigated the traffic and roundabouts of Marrakesh and our first taste of Moroccan highway. Once we started to approach the Atlas Mountains, we switched.

goats grazing in atlas mountains

The Tizi-n-Tichka Pass is Morocco’s highest road pass, reaching 2260 meters (7413 feet) before descending again. The road winds through pale rock, green valleys, red rock, cedar forest, and black rock before it brings you into the desert. Continue reading

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A fes in Fes. Or a fez in Fez, if you rather.

French spelling, English spelling, whatever.

I bought a fes in the town of Fes. My brother used to collect hats, and I couldn’t help myself. I gave it to him when I got back yesterday.

Since internet wasn’t quite as easy to come by in Morocco as I’d anticipated, I’m going to write a bit about my trip now that I’m home.

We arrived in Fes late in the day. Once we finally landed in Casablanca (after the saga of the cancelled flight and the unhelpful airline and the new flight a day later with a layover that hadn’t been part of our original itinerary), we took the train to Casa’s main station and then hopped the express train to Fes.

When we stepped off the train, bleary-eyed and travel-weary, the sky was pink from the setting sun, and the call to prayer echoed even through the station. The moon was already rising. Finally, we were where we wanted to be.

The Fes medina (old city) is said to be the world’s largest car-free area. The little car we’d gotten into parked outside a gate, and we took our bags and followed our driver into the narrow streets. Some were steep enough to have steps on one side. All curved and intersected unpredictably. It was getting dark, and only men – and a couple of mules pulling carts – walked the streets. Small groups of men sat on low chairs, smoking and talking drinking glasses of mint tea. Continue reading

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Hungry? Sushi.

My latest Bargain Bites column in the Hartford Courant is now up. I reviewed the new Sushi Palace in North Haven, because what’s a better bargain than all-you-can-eat sushi, tempura, maki, dumplings, seaweed salad, miso soup, teriyaki, Japanese noodles, red bean ice cream, and – well, you get the idea.

Thanks to everyone who waited patiently (or at least with the pretense of patience) while I photographed their food that they were so eager to eat.

I’m starting to get a little better at low-light indoor photography, but I still have a lot of work to do. Too much bokeh in these shots.

Read my scoop here.

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Snow

It snowed yesterday and last night. When I went to sleep, snow was blowing in every direction, filling the air with white. I didn’t think it would add up to much.

I didn’t realize how much snow we’d gotten until I pushed open the door to my building and could barely open it wide enough to get through.

The sidewalk hadn’t been shoveled. And the snow came up over my boots and almost to my knees.

So I walked in the road. There weren’t too many cars out. People were just beginning to shovel and snowblow their way out.

As I walked down a plowed main street, I passed all the side streets that hadn’t been plowed yet. One car had managed to make it down the narrow one-way between the parked cars and the heaps of snow from previous storms, but it was blockaded in: the street ended in a pile of snow from a passing plow. There was nowhere for the car to go.

A few blocks later, a mini-plow had actually cleared a block of sidewalk. I climbed over the snowbank at the curb (snow way over my knees!) and saw a policeman shoveling. With an ice pick. A car was trying to get into the parking garage used by jurors and judges and lawyers and other people for the nearby courthouse, and the cop – without a proper shovel – was trying to clear enough snow to let it in. I wonder how long it took.

As I walked, I took some pictures with my questionable little cell phone camera, because everything was too lovely for me not to.

The street, up by where I used to live. There really is a sidewalk between the building and that tree.

A parking meter.

Snow in an open brick gate.

Arched windows and a little tree on campus.

Once I’d gotten to work, stopping briefly at a bakery where I was the day’s first customer, I learned that I didn’t need to come in for almost two more hours. I ran into a colleague on the street, and we were the first ones in the building. When we opened the door,  it made the day’s first mark in the snow on the top step.

 

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Tiny adorable animals that make you squee

After seeing Tiny Adorable Animals That Will Make You Squee, I knew I had to do my own version. I don’t get to hold any precious fuzzballs held in the palm of my hand, and I don’t have any tiny limbs wrapped around my fingers, but I did see a whole lot of baby animals in the Galapagos, and they take my breath away with their fragile beauty.

I don’t know why I’ve felt the need to spend so much time looking at tiny adorable animals. That’s not usually an obsession of mine. I usually spend my interwebs time reading classical music blogs and news, drooling over recipes, catching up on Metafilter, skimming Twitter, and bettering my mind at the New York Times. But lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my photos of the Galapagos, and the photos by the people I traveled with (as we start to send each other our pictures). And I love the baby animals.

Maybe I’m trying to bring back the simple happiness of being in a beautiful place, and the thrill of being so close to wild animals that aren’t afraid. Maybe I miss the sunshine, the powdery beaches, the clear turquoise water. Maybe it’s a sign that I don’t entirely lack a maternal instinct. But I think it’s more than that. I think that with everything else going on in the world – particularly in the wake of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Justice John Roll, and so many other people, which has really affected me – I can take comfort in tiny adorable animals. So please forgive my indulgence in the (literally and metaphorically) fluffy. Besides, I’m off to review an opera tonight. That’s intellectual.

These baby sea lions aren’t hold-in-your-hand tiny, but they’re really young.

I’ve already blogged about this baby blue-footed booby, but I adore it. My brother asked on Flickr, “Is this a Muppet?” I think it should be.

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Bru-ing photos

I’ve taken photos ever since I’ve had a camera. I developed photos at summer camp but could never get my fill, and once I got home I never had access to a darkroom. Since then, I’ve had a few prints made now and again. I’ve put my favorite shots up on Flickr. But I haven’t really done a whole lot with my photos.

People always say, “You should really do something with your photographs!”

And I always say, “Yeah, I should!”

And then I don’t do anything.

Until a certain awesome pianist came by one day and said, “I was talking about your photographs to the new owners of Bru, where I get coffee every day, and they’re interested in showing them! Drop them a line.” So I did. And they told me to stop by. So I did, and I talked to Lipgloss Crisis, who does lots of awesome stuff with art and other artsy things. And we’re on for my first photography exhibit.

The show opens December 3 and features photographs from my last couple of trips to Central Asia, plus work by Nick Thigpen, Tim Mannle, and Bayardo Caceres. Bru is at 141 Orange Street, near Chapel Street, in New Haven.

A to B Flyer

(In the flyer, designed by Nick Thigpen, the guy on a raft is a photo I took in Yangshuo, China, when I was riding a rented bike long past the point of soreness because I was so drunk on the scenery of steep karst hills, quiet rivers, and bright yellow and green rice fields.)

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