About Me

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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.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pic of the Day: Dinner in Venice

So much more than just excellent food goes into creating a memorable meal. Environment can sometimes play as significant a role. Dining alongside the Grand Canal is itself an adventure.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pic of the Day: Outhouse

Sometimes when you follow a trail in the woods, you find the most unexpected things...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pic of the Day: Slowly Dying in the Desert

The Mojave Desert near Ludlow, California.

After several successful decades as an important way-station along Route 66, Ludlow was forced to move a quarter mile to the west because of Interstate 40, leaving a good portion of the town to die in the desert.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pic of the Day: Anatomy of A Photo

I find the image below to be quite interesting for the way it illustrates a variety of approaches to photography. The man leaning on the car hood is my friend, writer Harlan Ellison. The man in the brown shirt is ace photographer Rod Searcey, one of the best portrait photographers in the business and a man I'm pleased to consider another friend. When creating his portraits, Rod takes the time to create a scene, carefully lining up the shot with the subject posing to create a complete image.

The other two individuals are close friends of Harlan. The woman to the far right is capturing her own version of the picture, standing further back, though she might be using a zoom with her point and shoot. The casual draping of her coat indicates this was probably more of an opportunistic picture and not as thoroughly considered as the image Rod is creating. Hers is more of the classic "snapshot".

The third and last approach to this scene is my own -- which in this case is a bit between the other two methods illustrated overtly here. I am essentially an opportunistic photographer in these situations. There are times when I set up shots and carefully execute them -- images such as my martini series. Those are images which I approach in a deliberate manner. 

But when I'm shooting out in the world, I watch what is going on around me and wait for something to line up the way I want it to. This means that when something presents itself which grabs my attention and I think will make for a good photograph, I can grab as it happens. Sports, news and event photographers use this approach. (It's not like you can ask a linebacker to hold a pose while he tackles a receiver...)

(Rod also works in this way for some of his own editorial shots of famous people and events.)

So despite the initial reaction you might have had that there are two photographers at work in this picture, there are three.

(You can see Rod's work at Rod Searcey Photography )

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pic of the Day: Dazzled in the Park

This dazzling walkway is in a small park in the Mexican town of Concordia, Sinaloa.

Beautiful it is. Restful, not so much.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pic of the Day: Morning Glories

This was one of the very first shots that convinced me to do more with a camera than just take "trip pictures". On a drive across the country, my wife and I chanced to stay in an inn in Santa Fe which had the most beautiful morning glories, encouraging me to go out early to capture in the light of the next day.

There is no color correction or other post-shot corrective work. Caught this "in camera" using an old Pentax camera borrowed from my wife (and now effectively "Mine, all mine!").

Some morning glories to start your day today.

Friday, April 24, 2015


"What intrigues me the most are those things in the distance, on the horizon. That is where I want to go; what I want to see next."

As I write this I am on a Westbound flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Dallas. There I'll make a connection to my eventual destination of Santa Ana -- more commonly known as John Wayne Orange County Airport.

Me in Japan, ca 1965
Join Wayne is my second preferred airport in the LA metropolitan area, at a time when my definition of "preferred" has a different meaning than it did a decade or so ago. Back then I didn't really give much thought to which airport I was using, just the flights and getting to the destinations involved. If I needed to get from Point A to Point Z I simply selected the flight and made my way to whichever airfield the arrangements required.

Atop Mt Haleakala
In many cases this default airport was LAX. And to give the giant monster its due: there is an excitement and energy level in flying from LAX that doesn't really exist at the smaller fields. But it's not just size -- I don't get the same "vibe" from equally large facilities such as DFW or PHX. But I do from others like MSP or JFK. 

(My favorite airport, Long Beach, was at the time still involved in a decade-long local legal morass on noise reduction -- which seriously hampered any airline from doing much, basically killing it as an option for me...thankfully that's no longer the case.)

The Mendenhall Glacier
The ruins at Tulum
I'm certain it's a personal perception, and once again I have to look to my childhood for influence and guidance. I truly believe so many of my ingrained more visceral responses to travel come from my early years. I've alluded more than a few times to the influence movies and television had on my perception of the world. James Bond; Casablanca (despite being filmed in a studio); Lawrence of Arabia; It Takes a Thief; The Saint; I, Spy and other globetrotting tv programs and films gave me my first true look at the world beyond my front door, and I learned an excitement that came from realizing that I, too, could visit all those exotic places. 
(It didn't hurt that my parents were fans of those sorts of programs. Their influence was more profound than television, though more subtle in many ways. Dad, who was a career Naval officers, would send us postcards and pictures from around the globe as his various deployments took him from one exotic port to another. Hong Kong still looms large in my imagination precisely because he and my mother met there a few times while we kids sat at home, dreaming of what it must be like. It's still on my NOW list to this day.)

Polar Bears on the tundra
Then came things -- worldwide news events like The Olympics -- which showed me in realtime what the world looks like. And the nightly news, when "nightly news" actually meant News and not Entertainment. The Huntley-Brinkley Report was the family go-to, and their reporters around the world again brought exotic places and unpronounceable names right into our family room. 

Times Square
Today the world seems to have become much smaller. Much more everyday. The popularizing of air travel, and the ubiquity of broadcast programming, means things are becoming a bit more homogenous. Unless you looks specifically for the differences, Des Moines isn't all that different than Charlotte, except for the plants. 

Alleys in Croatia
(On this particular trip I stayed in a very nice Marriott, and had dinner at a very nice regional chain restaurant -- both of which were not terribly different from places I stayed at and dined at in places like Seattle or Albuquerque. Quite nice, but nothing that screamed "you're in the South!", even though the restaurant billed itself that way...)

But exploring the world still holds a mystique if you know where to go and where to look. 

The Great Barrier Reef
Travel expands the mind, or so the saying goes. I have yet to meet very many open-minded travelers who are not citizens of the world and who understand that what exists outside their front door is only an infinitesimally small part of the whole. 

As I sit here at 35,000 feet I look down at the world below, one which I have only just begun to explore, and wonder at what is down there. What cool stuff lies unexplored and waiting for me? 

That is what I want to find out and what drives me to my next destination.

That and the coffee, that is.

Driving in the Mojave Desert volcanic fields
Hell, Cayman Islands

The Explorer in Me - Where next?

Pic of the Day: Westminster Abbey

In less than two months we're headed to New York, London and Annapolis for our 30th Anniversary trip. Plans are for a renewal ceremony on the Thames with a Party at the Pub to follow.

The photo below, one of the older in my archives, is of Westminster Abbey.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Pic of the Day: Snorkeling the Na Pali Coast

It seems odd to me that despite the fact I'm not genuinely a "snorkeler" -- i.e. an enthusiast who plans trips around the experience -- I have snorkeled (and its cousin Snuba) in some truly wonderful places around the world. Below is a quiet cove on Kauai's rugged western shore. There aren't many of them, and not many boats will take you there for a short time in the water, but snorkeling along the sheer cliffs which continue to drop down steeply under the waterline is an amazing experience.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pic(s) of the Day: Evening at the Theater

Whether we're at home or on the road somewhere, my wife and I love live entertainment. Plays, musicals, bands, orchestras, even a smartly talented (but not pushy) busker plying their trade.

This last weekend we went up to Hollywood to see NEWSIES at the stunning Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. It's an Art Deco gem which adds so completely to the "eventfulness" of the evening that the theater itself becomes a draw.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pic of the Day: Venetian Overload

You may have heard the news, a couple of years ago, that Italy was going to limit the numbers and sizes of cruise ships allowed in the Venetian Lagoon. That limit has now gone into effect.

This shot, I think goes a long way to explain the need. Circa 2012.

More from the BBC

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pic of the Day: Packing it in

Huntington Beach is well known by its nickname: Surf City, USA.

At the end of the day, a lone surfer packs it in and heads home.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pic of the Day: More Puddles, More Jumps

I've mentioned puddle jumpers a few times in the last few weeks. Here's another. From Kailua-Kona to Kahalui, Maui. Mokolele Express...though if you look closely, this one reads "Expres".


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pic of the Day: The Grand Design

The Sydney Opera House is a justifiably famous and dramatic architectural wonder.

Inside, the two main theaters are each enveloped in dramatic staircases which allow patrons easy access to their designated doors and seating areas. 

It's a grand stairway for a grandiose building.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pic of the Day: Alcoholic TMI?

Airport men's rooms are usually questionable affairs in the best of times.

Imagine my surprise at encountering this remnant of someone else's party at the Minneapolis airport last fall. Clearly they wanted to have a good time, but...in the men's room? At an airport where there are numerous bars?

I'm known for my collection of martinis, but they're always consumed in public and documented by my camera. This is something else again, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

As they say: Sign of a serious problem.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


"Everyone keeps asking you for pictures, and after a while you get tired of that. I always say, They are in the archives."
                                                       - Annie Leibovitz

A rhum shop on St Martin
Every once in a while I have to make a lame attempt at organizing my photographic archives. Having tens of thousands of raw files -- plus any of those which have been duplicated and/or edited --It usually goes well for the first few hours, but then segues into doing something with a shot I'd forgotten about or I find some other way to occupy my time. I rather suspect it's similar to editing a novel while combatting ADD at the same time.

But it needs to be done on a fairly regular basis, which I admit to doing only very haphazardly. 

My photographs are maintained in three ways: on a computer -- currently a Mac G5 we have in a room we have dubbed "The Middle Room" even though we only have two such rooms in the house. Second bedroom is a much more accurate description -- the actual operational "office" is located in what was a former dining room, the table and chandelier from which have been moved to what would have been our Living Room. 

Clear as mud?

Menu of the Angel Diner, Wisconsin
Anyway. A large section of my archives are stored in the G5. Copies of those files are also spread amongst some six external hard drives in everything from their original Raw File form to fully edited portfolio works. 

A relatively small number of active files are in our iMac in the office, and another large set are burned onto CDs.

Kids in a fountain, Puerto Rico
In my time working with digital, which I began noodling with in 2004 during a trip to Florida, I have only lost two sections -- a painful and irritating lesson. The Grand Canyon and a section of photographs of Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta have gone missing. I still have some of the edited shots from those trips, but the raw archives are somehow missing. 

(I have the feeling they were on an external drive that committed suicide a few years ago -- but unfortunately the drive was so completely demolished not even a data-retrieval company could save the images.)

So now, everything is stored in triplicate if not more.

End of the day, Long Beach
As with any photographer, there are shots I'm embarrassed at having taken -- the quality or the subject matter or the execution....doesn't matter. It's not a great shot, so while I keep it in the archives, the photo will never see the light of day. Even the experiments -- a few years ago I was playing with time exposures and light streaks. A few of the shots turned out okay -- the New York Cab ride in the rain seen here may not be your cup of tea, but I think it's a cool shot -- while others are simply "not good".
California Coast

But while parsing the archives and trying to beat them into submission may not be a terribly fun or creative endeavor, it's a necessary evil. And it IS fun to uncover some images you'd forgotten about, rekindling the memory of that particular adventure.

The images in this column are such shots. Recent "finds" which I hadn't so much forgotten about but neglected to remember.

If that makes any sense at all. It's O'Dark Thirty. You try making sense during your first cup of coffee...

A Tuesday night on Duval Street, Key West

Pic of the Day: JAZZ!

The Maison Bourbon, Bourbon Street, New Orleans, one of the many homes of Jazz -- America's home-grown musical genre.

I am a tremendous fan of jazz, and not solely because my wife is an accomplished jazz singer and performer. I was raised by my parents surrounded by their record collection, featuring many of the greatest talents. Everything from Dizzy Gillespie to Gene Krupa, Billy Holiday to Cleo Lane, and Charlie Byrd to Brazil '66. Jazz was a part of my childhood.

It's a dynamic musical category, with dozens of sub-genres and styles, each with a different feel and approach, yet all undeniably coming from the same musical origins.