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.

Saturday, March 31, 2018


On this middle day between Good Friday and Easter, I cannot help but recall this quote from the Christian Messiah, encouraging his followers to embrace the strangers they encounter.

Today's leaders encourage them to fear the stranger, and that has created a world in which modern Christians lose touch with the teachings of the Messiah, and thereby lose their soul.

Something to consider in this weekend of his rebirth.

Friday, March 30, 2018


Once again it's Friday. *yay*

And since Friday nights, Martinis and Jazz go together, today's feature is from 
the Bayside Restaurant in Newport Beach. Live music (jazz) and a terrific bar.

See you there.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


Philippe's, near L.A.'s famed Union Station.

Home of the original French Dip sandwich.

Get in line and wait your turn. Business suits, grungies, the hoi palloi and the down and out.

Open Daily, now serving breakfast.

Beware the mustard.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Much to our national disgrace, the current administration continues to fail Puerto Rico when it comes to recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria. Six months after 15% of Puerto Riquenos - who are American citizens - don't have power.

Meanwhile the administration had fallen over backwards to help when Texas was hit a month earlier.

It's humiliating and wrong. We used to be better than this.

This is the view from El Morro.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


There are a few regions of the world which the name alone conjures an iconic image.

Siberia. Tibet. India. Sahara. California. Amazon.

To me, and to millions of other people, "Tuscany" is one such place.

Monday, March 26, 2018


My mother was born March 26th, 1933. 

85 years ago today.

My (future) parents at the prom.

In Loving Memory.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Most of the U.S. is suffering inclement weather. Thunderstorm, snowstorms, and heavy rain.

But a look at the calendar shows Spring got here last Tuesday, and went relatively unremarked upon given the weather conditions. But, as it always does the weather's going to improve.

Quoting Peter Sellers' famous character Chance the Gardener, "In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again."

Gotta start working on that Summer tan...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Easily one of the most whimsical, delicate and colorful museum displays in the world, the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle is a wonderful collection of glasswork from Dale Chihuly's studios.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Key West is a truly liberated and hedonistic part of the country. People from all walks and lives come to this island to escape from their worlds back home. Sometimes that involves liquor, and sometimes just letting your hair down, metaphorically speaking.

In this tavern you can do both. THE BULL AND WHISTLE is famously Key West's only clothing optional pub, in addition to a storied past of its own. This is truly a place to escape the shackles of the world, if only for an evening of festivities.

And no, we didn't go in - a shame really, I'd imagine their martinis are excellent.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Might as well continue this for the week. The last two entries have been taking flawed images and working to make something a bit more painting-like out of them. It's a process that by and large is nothing more than a way to exercise my skills on Photoshop, and make an effort to create something above and beyond what was captured in the photographic image.

The below was shot in the early morning on Baie St Jean on the Caribbean paradise island of St. Barths. It's a wonderful little island with a French flair and a casual but uber-wealthy vibe. 

Something about the composition has appealed to me for years, but I haven't taken the time to play with this image to try to create something better. The original is flawed in that it's too stark, with the peninsula cleaving the shot in half. Even lightening up the shadows reveals too little definition to really soften the image.

It occurred to me that some cropping and heavy color enhancement might make a more interesting image. While it looks like a black and white original it's not. Full color, but it's all washed out by the chiaroscuro*.

Let me know what you think.

The original image. It almost seems like two separate shots combined between the boat floating on a morning bay and the sun rising over the island.The sun's light completely washes out almost all color.

By boosting the color and pushing the shadow intensity up considerably we get a little of the texture of the island and clouds, but the color is completely off.

For the final image I boosted the reds and cyans up considerably, getting more of the clouds and water, and enough of the island to give it something less than the monolithic blackness of the original. Then, playing with a dry brush filter I gave it just a very slight texture which brings out more of the clouds against sun's sphere. There's also a reflection of the sun's light more effectively framed in red on the water.

I'm still not happy with the sickly yellow color of the sky and the tell-tale white strip along the top of the hill, but that will have to wait until I have a bit more time. I'll post that in the future.

* (Contrast between the dark and light sections of the picture). 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


No, I'm not going to be offering a Masterclass here, but wanted to share a bit more of the process.

In this case the image is a pretty good one, it just needs a bit more contrast and perhaps a color boost.

This is a windswept shoreline along Maui's northeastern shore, just off of the legendary "Road to Maui". This is a beautiful little cove and town, with a dramatic and spectacular lava rock shoreline.

Very picturesque. This little composition seemed evocative of the works of one of my favorite contemporary artists, James Coleman.  His early commercial works are beautiful and romanticized paintings of tropical settings.

So I was led to experiment on my own images to see if I could create such a work starting with one of my images. You'll need to click on each image to see it in more detail than the thumbnails below.

The original is a nice composition, but in need of color enhancement I think.

This is the enhanced image, which I think is rather nice and could easily be an illustration, perhaps for an article on dealing with inclement weather in paradise.

The final image is a creation using a dry brush filter to give it the appearance of a painting, with small tweaks to color and contrast.

Would love to know your thoughts. Please comment below.

Monday, March 12, 2018


Most of my posts here relate to travel and adventure, but this morning, in a fit of insomnia related partly to my dog, I'm posting this series of pictures which detail some of the things I do with my photographs which don't quite "make it".

In other words, they are somehow flawed and cannot really be used or sold in their original condition. You'll see what I mean below. These images are from a trip I took to Boothbay Harbor in Maine in the mid-90s. Obviously well before the popularization of digital photography.

This shot, on film, has been in my archives for the following two decades and rarely trotted out. Originally it was in good shape, but the years have not been kind to some of my negatives, resulting in color loss. In addition the scanning process to digitize the image results in color imperfections and other flaws.

So this morning I've been playing around with Photoshop to create one of my digital paintings, using the original shot of Boothbay Harbor. I'm happy with the finished image, and will be adding it to my "Digital Painting" portfolio available on Etsy.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the process and the result.

The original image as scanned in:

Murky. The colors are washed out and tinted.

The image as color corrected:

Much better, but the sky is still distorted and "off". Lots of photographic artifacts (blotches and dots). The image is still a bit dark and the whites are too glaring, overexposed.

The image using a Watercolor Filter, cropped for composition:

By focussing the composition on the red boathouse (actually an artisan shop)  we get the pop of red against the more muted background. The artifacts in the sky now become stylistic elements of a watercolor, and the whites are pulled back into the rest of the composition.

Enlarged this looks quite nice, which is why I'll be adding it to the Etsy store. The use of filters and image altering software to create a completely new piece of art isn't new, but I've only begun really playing with it in the last few years. It's an opportunity for me to create something different from my photographs, with a new artistic outlet.

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


Having a large photographic record of my travels is wonderful for the memories it stirs when I go back to review some of the shots. The larger archives, not just those special images I have sold or posted on my own.

It also allows me to go back and see a place where there may have been more recent news or changes to the environment. Buildings which no longer exist. Signs. Tourist spots. Natural areas which have been substantially altered by nature, or man.

Route 150 is a relatively minor road. The official name is Casitas Pass Road. I took this image, along with dozens of other shots, as part of a project for the cover of a music CD. 

This one wasn't used, of course. 

What makes this image special is that it documents an area which was completely destroyed by the 2017 California wildfires which races through the hills surrounding Ojai and Lake Casitas.

The damage, I am told, was profound and complete. No doubt new growth will replace the old, but this place, as shown in the image below, is no longer there.

Route 150, west of Ojai. As it once was.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


One of the things I love most about travel is the opportunity to try new foods and tastes. That's one of the reasons the blog and associated websites are moving towards a newer focus on not only places we go, but the foods and drink that go along with those places.

Last year's mega-Road Trip - "Nineteen Days, 25 States, 6000 Miles" - was no exception. We sampled wines in Missouri and Virginia, down-home cooking' in North Carolina, seafood in Pensacola and quite a few other regionalized dishes.

One of the more enduring discoveries was this stuff: Crystal Hot Sauce.

We ran across it in New Orleans, where sauces are pretty much legendary and obligatory. It was sitting on a table with Tabasco and Cholula, the industry titans. So we sampled the Crystal after a local assured us it was "Better'n Tabasco".

It's a completely different taste and experience. Crystal, which seems to be available much more widely than I had anticipated, is perfect for eggs, Mexican food, sauces and much, much more. It's a more subtle Louisiana spiciness versus the vinegar heat of Tabasco. 

A bit of New Orleans in your cupboard.

(This is not a sponsored post, BTW. I just love the stuff and discovered it while traveling. Enjoy.)

Monday, March 5, 2018


Yeah, the mixture of French and Spanish in that title tells you it's Monday and 
I'm in desperate need of caffeine. Good weekend, but long week ahead.

Here, have a cup on me. 

Ah, too late, the dog's got it.

Welcome to Monday.

Friday, March 2, 2018


Once again we find ourselves blissfully at the end of another work week, with two whole days with which to entertain ourselves. Or do the chores that have piled up all week.

Either way calls for a martini.

This Summer's day edition is from sunny Laguna Beach, California. 

Perfect for a cold and rainy Winter day...

Thursday, March 1, 2018


I am unsure of why, exactly, it is that we all seem to be fascinated by trains. From the streetcar to the large multi-mile freight trains that criss-cross the globe, humans seem to have a loving relationship with this mode of transportation.

As a young kid we would often go to the nearby train tracks to await the passage of the 6:00pm train to the city, or whatever the local equivalent was.

At some point a trip from Chicago to Portland or Seattle is on the bucket list.

I love trains. And it seems everyone else does as well.