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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, December 17, 2011

Goin' Walkabout

Whenever my wife and I head out on a trip, I have a once-per-location practice of going out for a photo expedition in the early morning or late afternoon -- when the lighting is at its most dramatic. I used to refer to this practice as "going walkabout", but as our travels have begun taking us into some pretty rural and remote areas, It's become more of a "drive and walkabout" sort of thing.

I've found, since I began doing this, that it gives me a genuine taste for a place. By that I mean a real feel for the genuine character of a locale without its makeup on.

Hollywood Blvd at night
I’ve written elsewhere on about this. What is very important to me when I’m on the road is to have a perspective on a place you don’t see duplicated elsewhere. First of all it gives me a personal perspective unique from the experience of so many other people. I can remember one such moment just outside of SkagwayAlaska, as I was taking early morning pictures of the cemetery there. (Cemeteries are among my favorite subjects. I don’t know why, and my wife is kinda creeped out by it.) As I was shooting, I realized I was hearing the sounds of a waterfall off in the forest. Sure enough, I found signs and a little trail that lead off into the trees.

Philadelphia after a blizzard
Roughly a tenth of a mile up the hill I found a tremendous cascade of water flowing down the side of a mountain, feeding a stream that eventually joined the Skagway River a quarter mile down the road. I stood at the base of this waterfall for several long minutes, astounded that the view of all this water pouring down onto the rocks and small pond was mine – for me alone. I was the only person in the world who could appreciate it at that one particular moment. There is a sensation there that cannot be recreated or even conveyed effectively (as you can tell!). Yes, I took pictures, but they don’t do the moment justice and never will.

British Columbia Rain Forest
I have other times similar to this. Watching the sun rise over the Colorado River. Taking pictures of a Route 66 art-deco gas station in Shamrock, Texas, as my car alarm suddenly starts blaring – while parked next to what can only be called a “seedy” motel. Instant visions of shotguns being leveled from the motel’s windows convinced me to forget taking pictures and get the car, and my ass, out of there as fast as possible. Or the time, in New Orleans, when I beat a hasty retreat from a confrontation between two store owners over the spraying of hose water “accidently” onto the other’s merchandise.

Or the time I was on “walkabout” before sunrise 
on Waikiki Beach. A woman who was walking the opposite direction leaned across to tell me I was “ringing” while taking pictures. Turned out it was my friend Larry back on the mainland, telling me he’d just been laid off from our mutual employer and could not be happier about it. I got some good shots that morning.
North Carolina Beach

Ocean Drive, Miami Beach
It’s an odd habit, I admit. The last thing most people want to do on a trip is wake up early, but for me it has its own special merit. Getting the real taste of a place comes when, as I say above, it hasn’t got its makeup on yet. In the early hours of “watering the sidewalks” before the tourists wake up and start their day.

Before the crowds hike up and surround the waterfall.

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