- The Thumbnail Traveler
- Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
Many people who live the occasional glass of wine don't realize that the state of Virginia is an up and coming wine region. Hundreds of years in the making, the state is getting a good reputation for white wines and cabernet francs with a good deal of taste and texture.
The shot below was taken on a rainy winter day on a vineyard between Sterling and Front Royal.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Piha Beach is a vast, flat beach located on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. It's possible to spend a few minutes completely alone, even though you're within sight of a hundred other beachgoers -- all spread out and equally alone.
Being that this is a coastal area not too far from a rainforest, the weather is a bit unpredictable. Don't worry, it will change in another few minutes.
It's a fascinating place.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
One of the larger wine operations in Western Australia's Margaret River Wine Region is Xanadu, where we sat down for a mind-afternoon snack of cheese, crackers, and a wonderfully crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
For one brief afternoon, we were in Xanadu.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
As I write this a massive blizzard is striking New England and parts of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. I've been in blizzard conditions, and snowed in -- the last was in Philadelphia some seven years ago. The picture below was taken from my hotel window, and the second morning of the storm.
Batten down the hatches, guys. Our thoughts are with you.
Monday, January 26, 2015
The area of Sydney called The Rocks is a gentrified area with shops, galleries and cafes.
But it wasn't always that way.
Along a wall, on a very short alley called The Suez Canal, are a handful of metallic silhouettes each with a quote from a poem, a politician, or an historic document, noting something of The Rocks' more sordid past.
This is one of them.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Have you ever been someplace and could not escape the feeling you were being watched?
On one particular trip I was on my customary early morning walkabout/shoot, venturing out into the small French village of Chenonceaux in the Loire Valley. It's a well-known wine region, and I thought the rising sun on the vines would be an interesting subject. It was cool and bright when I set out, getting pictures of the town and surrounding vineyards.
As I was shooting I got that feeling. Of being watched. After a few more minutes I paused, looking around to see if someone was there. It was then I noticed a black cat, sitting silently in the center of a row of vines. Just watching.
A few moments later it stood and sauntered away into the fields, apparently finding me not to be terribly interesting after all.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
(Continuing this week's inadvertent foodie theme)
Like millions of other people around the globe, my day starts with a cup of caffeine. Or three. Hence my personal travelers' mantra: "All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee".
(Heck, one of my favorite travel programs is Todd Carmichael's DANGEROUS GROUNDS, which deals with coffee, danger, and exploration all in one hour.)
When I'm traveling, particularly if it's purely an adventure day wandering around and exploring my surroundings, one of my favorite things is to find a local coffee house*, plunk down a couple bucks for a cup -- sometimes splurging on a latte, as below -- and watch the people and world go by.
Vancouver, BC, is a city with a terrific coffee (and tea) tradition, boasting some wonderful local options such as Gastown's laid-back little Smart Mouth Cafe, or the larger Caffe Artigiano regional chain of higher-end coffee houses (cup below). Just googling Vancouver BC Coffee yields a treasure trove of local options -- and this can apply to almost any city, anywhere.
Coffee. It's what's for breakfast.
*Sorry Starbuck's. I can, and sometimes do, get your coffee when I'm on the run. But not when I'm exploring.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Another entry in my "meals to remember" -- odd how they're always a diner or barbecue place -- is this one in Arizona. With all due respect to Guy Fieri, the categories ought to be Restaurants, Joints or Dives....
Sally's B.B.Q. in Sedona. The town has some really nice restaurants, but Sally's isn't one of them. Nothing fancy, just someplace to eat.
And to make the point clear: a little humor for the "turists".
I think Sally likes to think of herself as a Joint, but that's just a guess. The food is, as you'd guess with any place like this, something special.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
I'm known for photographs of wine and martinis.
But every once in a while I just want a cold beer. Like this one in Ensenada, Mexico. Perfect for a hot, lazy afternoon with friends.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
One of the advantages of a road trip is the opportunity to see things which seem to come out of another time and place. This is the Pueblo of Laguna. Despite all appearance, this is not old Spain, or South America, or Mexico.
This scenic little town is in New Mexico, an hour or so west of Albuqurque. It evokes a distant past with an almost filmic picturesqueness (is that a word?).
Located on the north side of Interstate 40, this little gem catches your eye and is an unexpected stop in the drive across the desert.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Whenever I go to the more exotic locales -- Australia, Central America, the Arctic Circle, the Caribbean, etc -- I love seeing the local wildlife. Animals we cannot see in the wild here in Southern California. This is one of the driving motivations behind three of our N.O.W. Life List projects: an African safari; an cruise down the Amazon; and Antarctica.
Recently I posted a photo of a polar bear taken in the far north of Canada. Switching climate zones, I present a pair of parrots from the Mexican Riviera Maya, near Tulum. Unlike the bears, these were domesticated and not terribly interested in eating us for breakfast.
Monday, January 19, 2015
When I travel I have a regular morning ritual which is shared by millions of other people around the planet. Showering, shaving, morning pills, brushing the teeth -- all those things society and marketing companies tell us we ought to be doing.
This shot was made one morning while my wife and I were in Palm Springs. As the coffee lifted my morning fog, this struck me as a photogenic moment.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
My wife and I have done the actual, for real "crossing Abbey Road" thing -- and may do it again while we're in London celebrating our thirtieth anniversary this June.
On the other hand, some people just come by it naturally.
Lahaina, Maui. Definitely NOT Abbey Road.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
It's no secret I love food. To date, this was the absolutely very best most-incredibly-tasting cannoli I've ever eaten. Anywhere. Anywhen. If I'm not clear: it was delicious.
The other three people present at the table will testify on my behalf. We started out with two of the pastries split four ways and finished with four of them, if that tells you anything.
Enthusiastically consumed at the Ristorante Le Quattro Fontane in Taormina, Sicily.
Friday, January 16, 2015
The world has changed since I captured this moment of a little boy caught up in a thoughtful moment.
Serious thoughts, as only a little boy (or girl) could have.
Today I would never photograph a child without parental permission, not because it's illegal or unethical to do so, but because it's so commonly misinterpreted as suspect. In this case, the photo was made on a cruise ship, and the boy was sitting alone on deck next to the pool.
I decided to use it because the image, I think, tells a wonderful little story that I want to share.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
I have often remarked upon the difference between a traveler and a tourist. Writer G.K. Chesterton puts it quite succinctly, in fact: "The traveler sees what he sees, the tourists sees what he has come to see."
I have found that it is that kind of "touristy" myopia which leads to some of the unfortunate behavior by some people while they are "on vacation". Some of us are good travelers, while others are ugly tourists.
In the below shot -- taken on Kapalua Beach on the northwest shore of Maui -- is of a bunch of tourists harassing a sea turtle which has wandered up to the shore.
Despite clear signs to stay at least 20 feet from the animals, the man in the baseball cap stood no more than a meter away, constantly shoving a GoPro in the poor creature's face. A crowd of similarly oblivious people gathered to watch.
All of them were repeatedly warned to stay back by a number of other people on the beach, but for at least five minutes this poor turtle was prevented from gaining shore. It was not until someone told them the authorities had been summoned that the majority moved on.
Except for the man with the GoPro and his wife. He stayed right where he was, defiantly arrogant towards anyone who called him off. (I think his character was shown clearly as his wife, the woman in the blue t-shirt, was knocked down repeatedly by the surf and he paid no attention, remaining focussed on bedeviling the turtle.)
I am certain he has shown the video repeatedly to friends, completely unaware of just how brutally offensive his actions were.
Perhaps Chesterton ought to be edited just a bit: "The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist pays no attention to anything but himself."
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
As a traveler, I understandably spend a significant amount of time in airports. I've blogged about them before.
Last August I was in Honolulu for a meeting. Hurricane Iselle was, simultaneously, making a head-on approach to the islands. My flight out was scheduled for 11pm, and the general assumption was that the hurricane would disrupt air travel -- and, indeed, ended up canceling flights that night.
I arrived at HNL several hours before my flight, figuring the place would be a madhouse.
Not so much.
(Incidentally, our flight was the last out of HNL that night, after two other flights had actually canceled because of the oncoming storm. Our pilot quite correctly considered it would be a bit bumpy on the outset, but not too bad afterward. Everyone else got to spend the night at the airport....)
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
Even just the name conjures images of stardom and fame. Of the Academy. Of movie stars. Of the glamor of the thirties and forties and fifties -- Bogart, Bacall, Kelly, Astaire.
My first exposure to the idea of Hollywood came in reruns of I Love Lucy, when the Ricardos and Mertzes trekked across country so that Ricky could do a movie. It was in those shows I learned of the Brown Derby. Of moviemaking and the studios.
Decades later, when I moved to LA my eyes were admittedly a little starry, and my ambitions certainly so. But reality set in and despite a continuing but tenuous connection to movie and tv production, I have learned to live with tempered dreams. In a way this shot represents that for me: bright and glaring, with a little bit of false glitz.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Department Of "Wait, I Always Thought...":
I have always thought of the below vehicle is properly called a "Hansom Cab". That's what I've seen referenced, that's what they call it when you're approaching drivers in New York, New Orleans and other places they are found -- and that's what all of my friends and acquaintances seem to call it.
Only it's not.
In preparing today's Picture of the Day I ran across this shot in my archives of a New York "Hackney" carriage. Even the name of the digital file was "HansomCabCentralPark".
But in doing a bit more research for this little entry I've found a Hansom Cab is a two-wheeled conveyance -- much to my surprise.
(Here is a Hansom Cab, should you wish to see what it really is.)
This is a Hackney Cab, just off Central Park on a damp winter day.
Friday, January 9, 2015
The tiny town of Churchill in Manitoba, Canada is known for the confluence of exotic wildlife which takes place at the town's virtual doorstep. During the summer you get beluga whales, summer polar bears and mosquitos -- while in the winter you get polar bears, arctic owls and arctic foxes. And lemmings, which essentially serve as food for the rest of them.
Some five years ago last October we ventured into the wilderness for a couple of days at the Tundra Buggy Lodge, a series of huge trailers pulled onto the tundra to serve as an arctic Inn and research center, thirty plus miles from Churchill adjacent to the Hudson Bay. On our first full day, for perhaps eight hours, we wandered around the terrain inside an immense mobile Tundra Buggy (think Humvee on massive amounts of steroids) watching some thirty bears as they plied their day -- with a momentary glimpse of an arctic owl, and a playful arctic fox that coveted around the Tundra Buggy's immense tires for a brief few moments.
As a special additional item to the Picture of the Day, here's a link to a short video of our first day out in the wilderness:
Polar Bear Adventure
If you would like more information, you may contact Frontiers North Adventures, I'm certain they'd be happy to give you the details.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
The Disney monorail system is commonly held up as a shining example of the technology in regular use. Despite the fact the system has never been truly successful other than a short-distance transit system (like Seattle's or many major airports') the monorail has been replaced in futurists' minds by electromagnetic and rail-based high speed machines. There are a few still under consideration and construction (operational in Mumbai, Seattle and Las Vegas and under consideration in Tennessee), but by and large other, grander, systems seem to have become the norm.
This is unfortunate, because as an image of the future, you really can't get more iconic than a monorail -- and for many of us, the Disney versions were the first we not only saw, but rode. And in a way, we touched the future.
(Taken in EPCOT Center, April, 2004)
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Mickey's Fun Wheel, Disney's California Adventure Park. The end of a long day, as the Onshore Flow begins to assert a chilly effect upon Southern California.
The park underwent a major -- and by all accounts hugely successful -- renovation a few years back.
And from his vantage point above the lake, Mickey seems pleased.