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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


This looks more like an image from the 1960s, and likely is duplicated as such. But for me it's a memory of the early 1990s.

Giverny, France. Where we walked amongst the plants once tended by Monet, and dined at the Hotel Baudy where he once may have dined.

Love Monet, even if it means just following in his footsteps.

But this IS a Citroen, and it IS in the French countryside. The rest may be at your imagination.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


I've been working through my archives and adding in a few new images I've been able to scan off of a series of old 35mm negatives. Some work, some are old enough the scans are, well, rather colorful in all the wrong ways.

But in the meantime here's one that worked quite well, I think. The Grand Canyon.

As if you needed to be told.

Monday, November 28, 2016


I was ten years old the first time I remember crossing the country in a car.

My father and I set off to California from Rhode Island on a grand road trip designed to give us father/son time on our own as we moved yet again, for the seventh time in my young life as a Navy Brat. As part of the journey my Dad let me pick a handful of places to visit along the way.

As a kid, and as an adult for that matter, I am fascinated with all things astronomical. So the chance to see a for-real impact crater was too much for me to miss as we traveled down Interstate 40 the day following a visit to the Petrified National Forest and before reaching the Grand Canyon. 

(To a 10-year-old rock logs are interesting, but this is a meteor crater!)

Years later I revisited the crater with my wife, who may have been a little less enthusiastic about it than I was, but she's a trooper and we spent an hour or so looking at the big hole in the ground.

Meteor Crater, Arizona. It's among the first of the the places I went which fostered a love of natural wonders and exploration of the world around us. Certainly worth a side trip if you're in the area.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Long storied as a center of Southern California beach culture, Venice Beach  is a study in contrasts: bodybuilders, bohemians and blue hairs all converge on this stretch of the Pacific to shop, watch and burn some calories.

Buyer beware...


My wife and I were both up just now, both of us suffering from that most damnable malady: insomnia.She's just gone back to bed and will likely catch a few hours to make up for the middle-of-the-night disruption.

I pretty much accept that I am up for the duration. It's 3:45 Pacific Time and the usual math runs through my head as "I will be up in an hour and fifteen minutes anyway, so if I go back to bed now it will take me a half hour to fall asleep, which gives me only 45 minutes of snoozing before the alarm sounds". In other words, not worth the effort.

Of course, the time I rise in the morning is completely arbitrary. I am currently not employed by a company which requires I be at an office at any given time, but have kept myself on that schedule. My father, who has come to live with us, rises at 7am and requires a number of things -- coffee, juice, breakfast -- which are part of his morning routine but he is unable to provide for himself.

So I sit here, in the dark, cocooned in its blanket of silence, writing a nonsense blog entry with virtually nothing to do with travel.

But a couple of items worthy of your distraction.

First, look up to the left hand side of this column and you will see the bright white box that is a link to the Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Kickstarter campaign. As many of you know, Harlan is a good friend of mine. He's a an immensely talented person and his works deserve long term care, a project another friend of mine, Jason Davis, has offered to take upon his shoulders given a successful finish to the campaign. I urge you to visit that link and read about the project, donating and/or sharing as your means allow. On behalf of Harlan and Jason, I appreciate any consideration on your part.

Secondly, I have just finished and submitted -- many months behind schedule -- the second entry of a nine article series for Project Torchwood, documenting the various filming sites around Los Angeles for the BBC/Starz television program Torchwood Miracle Day.

It's a fun little photographic project which gets me out of the house and on the road for mini-days, wandering around the LA area (some less savory neighborhoods than others) shooting buildings and settings such as downtown, Venice Beach and the well-known urban wilderness we call Griffith Park.

When part 2 is up I'll provide the link, but the first part can be viewed here.

(Looking up) I can see by the clock on the computer it's up to 4am, so I'm off to find something else to occupy my time. It's doubtless going to involve Photoshop...

Good morning. In three hours I'll put up the picture of the day. Wonder where we're going? Check in again and enjoy.


Friday, November 25, 2016


After a day full of shopping (shame on you), you might be needing this.

The (Black) Friday Martini. It's awaiting you at your favorite bar.

(And thank you for contributing to the economy...)

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Today is the American Thanksgiving Day, a day upon which we take the time to appreciate those things in our lives which are good. My ancestors were at that first Thanksgiving dinner alongside Native Americans, and while we -- the collective we -- have made numerous mistakes over the intervening centuries, we are all merely human and must work to improve ourselves a little bit at a time. We are not perfect, and will never achieve perfection, but believe in the need to strive for it.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday -- Canadian too, on a different day -- but it's a day in which all people, everywhere, may take a moment to themselves and appreciate those things that make our lives worth living.

I am thankful for my family and friends. They are a source of love, inspiration and energy which make my life such a positive one. 

(And one side note: Yes, I know Williamsburg, above, wasn't the site of the first Thanksgiving. I simply have not been back to Plymouth with my digital camera. So I went with the next best thing.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


A short detour here at the Thumbnail Traveler. I've been asked a couple of times if I recognize the poem used in Volvo's television commercial for the Volvo S90 -- the focus of the piece is the open road, and a narration about the freedom of driving.

The poem, Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road, was originally written and published in the mid1850s, when the open road would far more effectively be traveled by a horse than it would be luxury sports sedan.

The sentiment holds, however, for anyone who is familiar with wanderlust, and the need to be out on the open road heading for somewhere, anywhere.It's a poem any traveler needs to have in their repertoire, not for memorization, but perhaps for motivation.

The car company's television commercial borrows a handful of lines and re-edits them together in such a way as to be more representative of the mood and image they are promoting for the vehicle they are advertising.

But since it's a beautiful poem and resides in the public domain I am copying the first stanza below.

If you would like to read entirety of the poem or perhaps learn a bit more about poetry in general, The Poetry Foundation is a good place to start.

And with that, the first part of Whitman's opus:


Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 
Healthy, free, the world before me, 
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. 

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, 
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, 
Strong and content I travel the open road. 

The earth, that is sufficient, 
I do not want the constellations any nearer, 
I know they are very well where they are, 
I know they suffice for those who belong to them. 

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens, 
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go, 
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them, 
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.) 

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Baltimore's Inner Harbor was a true example of urban renewal when first created in the late '90s. It served as an example to many other cities around the country on bootstrapping reconstruction of blighted areas. 

It's a beautiful mask on a troubled city.

Friday, November 18, 2016


I'm in a generous mood, so once again I offer the promotional 
first chapter from my new book CHASING MARTINIS.

Click on the first image and page through the pop-up .

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


I rarely share other website's or companies' content -- though I may start doing so in the future -- however I love this new commercial from London's Heathrow airport and wanted to share it with you all.

It truly captures a beautiful spirit and will make you smile as we enter the holiday season.

We all really need a happy holiday season this year...maybe this is a good place to start.


A simple look at today's posting time will reveal the truth of this photograph.

I call it "Insomnia 2"

(Because there is a photo already titled "Insomnia" in my oeuvre. It's two hours later...)

Good morning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


This falls more into the category of "Humor of the Day" than it does Travel Photograph. Heck, you can't even tell where we are, let alone see anything terribly representational. However, I've mentioned quite a few times that the best photographs tell a story.

This is not a great photograph, but I have a handful of shots that, to me, tell me a story...or at least suggest a story that must be told.

I was in downtown Portland on a photo walkabout when I passed the Police Headquarters building and noted a pair of lady's sandals on the sidewalk. No one around on what was, at the time, a relatively quiet street corner.  How had they gotten there? Why were they off the feet of the presumed owner? Is she now, somewhere in the city, wondering where her shoes are?

Somehow it appealed to my sense of humor and I took the shot. Granted, it's not a travel photo in any way other than the plaque noting the Police Headquarters, not even identifying the city involved -- nor is it a great composition. I am sure that a reasonably capable mystery writer could create something great with this as a jumping off point. Alas, I am not such a writer.

But for some reason it makes me smile and suggests a greater story may be afoot.

(Yes. Pun intended.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Shot as semi- companion pieces, the photograph of sunset on the Mississippi River (on left), contrasts nicely with the image of sunrise on the Colorado (on right).

I shot one as a landscape to capture the broadness of the Mississippi as it curved its way around a bend, the other as portrait to capture the sunlight as it bounced off the surface of the Colorado. One is shot from Mississippi (near Vicksburg) facing into Louisiana, while the other is from Nevada (near Laughlin) facing towards Arizona.

The red-hued Mississippi sunset also contrasts with the blue-tinted morning Colorado.

As noted, a study in contrasts.

Monday, November 14, 2016


"Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting."  
                                                                   - author Joyce Meyer

We've all had bad days, many of which may take place at an airport. Let's face it: airports are ripe for bad-dayage in many ways. 

But maturity tends to bring a bit more patience and when we're confronted by a challenge we respond with more of a "okay, so how do we fix this" instead of the more youthful "it's YOUR fault and you need to fix it NOW!"

Most of us, that is.

A couple of years ago I was on my way from Long Beach to Las Vegas, and rather than drive I made the decision to fly. Time-wise it would take longer, but it would give me time to do a little work as well as not be concerned with spending nine hours (round trip) on the road. But fate can be a bitch when she wants to be, and the most convenient flight to Vegas wasn't a JetBlue direct flight, but a USAir (*now American) indirect flight through Phoenix.

Phoenix is not, for the record, my favorite airport, and I've learned to navigate it pretty well and never missed a connection. Sky Harbor is a leviathan of an airport, and gates are often ten or fifteen minutes apart, depending upon the crowd you encounter upon arrival.

Phoenix International
I arrive in Phoenix and it's a mess. Rush hour and tens of thousands of people thronging their way through the walkways between gates. I make my way to my connecting gate well ahead of time and start looking around for a place to sit. That's when I notice the very long line at the gate counter, and I look up at the flight information to note that my flight is delayed by a couple of hours.

It happens, but it's never a fun thing. As I'm settling in for the long run I overhear that another flight to Las Vegas has been canceled,  and they're trying to rebook as many passengers as possible on this flight. Again, it happens, but it's never a fun thing. At least the flight is a short one and the compressed cabin will be only a brief test of passenger endurance.

The ZEN of Flying...and waiting
I note, however, that the additional delay has not gone over well with a handful of the people from the earlier canceled flight. One man, in particular, seems very agitated. He and a couple of other passengers grumble loudly and head off "to the bar".

Two hours later we get additional bad news.

The aircraft we expected to board has been  pulled for maintenance. The air conditioning isn't functioning correctly and the inside of the jet is over 100F. Ouch.

(Now, I will say up front and freely that if an airline wants to pull an aircraft for maintenance they have my FULL and unwavering support. If they're not comfortable with putting it in the air, I'm not comfortable boarding. Delays are no problem, provided we work together to get me where I need to go.)

The expected time for them to get another aircraft adds another hour to our delay. Ugh. Three hours total. Luckily I don't have any appointments in Vegas that afternoon, though this means we'll be arriving at around 6pm instead of the expected 3.

The promised land
Oh. And we're moving gates from the very end of one PHX terminal, to one about halfway up the adjacent terminal wing. Only about a five minute walk. As a large group. Lots of grumbling and unhappiness, and I note the agitated guy is nowhere to be seen. Likely still in the bar, which is not good news.

We get to the gate and at this point I've started talking to some of the other passengers who are themselves frequent flyers. (Frequent flyers kinda recognize each other. It's a weird experience, but you can see them in the way they stand and the way they respond to the terminal around them. Can't really explain.) (Well, that and we tend to have the smaller carry-on bags.)

We buckle down at the new gate, and it turns out several people noted Mr Agitation. And we're all wondering what will happen when he gets back to the gate to discover we've all left without him. There have been numerous announcements of the gate change, so maybe he heard it from the overhead.

No such luck. Twenty minutes or so later he appears at the desk, yelling at the gate crew about the changes and delays. No amount of explanation is going to help, and the fact that everything is out of their control means nothing to him. He leaves, loudly, and is still angrily talking up a storm as he sits down.

A few minutes later an aircraft we are told is from the maintenance area pulls into the gate. The flight crew will go on board to check the systems and begin readying the aircraft for flight. A half-hearted cheer goes up.

And then it happens. You can see nobody at the counter wants to make the announcement. Finally the senior person gets on the overhead to let us know that, ahem, the aircraft isn't fueled and we'll need to wait until the jet fuel company can bring over a tanker truck and fill 'er up.

Just say "no"
Predictably there are more comments from Mr Agitation. He departs again "for the bar".

(Side note: you can see where this is going. Strong recommendation from anyone who flies regularly is "if things get hairy, DO NOT drink alcohol". Just sayin'.)

The truck and Mr Agitation arrive back at the gate at around the same time, and we're told, via overhead, that it will take about ten minutes to compete the refueling and we would probably start to board. This is too much for Mr A, and he storms the desk, screaming and cursing in a way that would embarrass even a sailor.

The gate personnel try desperately to cool the situation, but it's not working. He retreats but then reconfronts the staff. Eventually -- all this occurring as the other passengers watch the entertainment wishing we had popcorn -- security is summoned and he is questioned. Voices are lowered. He realizes the very thin ice he's on, and he agrees to calm down. Security hangs around just in case.

Minutes later, to an honest cheer and clap, we're told we're boarding, and my group is called first (the benefits of frequent flying..). The two guys I've been talking to also queue up and we're passed through to take our seats. The rest of the process is going relatively smoothly, when Mr A boards and loudly announces "It's about fucking time!", apparently assuming the rest of us are on his side.

No need to be like that
Personal Note: 

"Dear Mr. A,

Not on your side.

The Passengers"

Mr A disappears into the rows behind me, dragging a larger-than-permitted "carryon".

We wait for it. Amused glances from several of us who have bonded over Mr. A's tribulations. 

It takes just a moment. Then, from the back: "Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!" 

And boom, there he goes.

Voices, and finally calm. Mr A seems mollified. The flight attendance all are exchanging glances which tell us the story isn't finished.

Las Vegas
The last of the passengers board and the usual announcements are made. The head flight attendant keeps looking out up the jetway, and sure enough she gets on the overhead to announce one more brief delay. A slight second later two security officers board the plane and escort Mr A off to a fair round of applause.

The doors are closed and we finally taxi and lift off to Las Vegas. 

We arrive three and a half hours late, directly into the middle of a raging storm.

But that's a story for another time.