Thursday, October 31, 2013

2013, Day 303 - Preening

This morning we got off to a sunny start.  From our seventh story windows we could see men fishing just off the beach of our hotel so we both put on some clothes and wandered down.  When we arrived it was clear that they have an eager flock of pelicans waiting for their rejects to be tossed back into the water.  Why work when someone practically hands you a meal?

After watching them work for a while Francene found a piled rock breakwater further down the beach where the pelicans were congregating.  It was still early and most were just standing quietly in the shade but as the sun rose they began to hold our their wings to the warming light and to groom themselves.  Birds came and went and I captured a few good frames but I liked this guy grooming his head on his back.  It looks so awkward and uncomfortable that I had to share.

We stayed too long watching the bird but it was so much fun.  As other people began to come see what we were looking at Francene and I decided that was our queue to leave so we went back to our room to get cleaned up so we could head into town to meet her friends for breakfast.

Our arrival was a little late as it took us some time to walk from where the bus dropped us to the restaurant.  It was rather unremarkable but we caught up with everyone so it was nice none-the-less.  Afterwards we wandered around the old part of the city center looking at shops and checking the menus at restaurants.  Soon we were sweating pretty heavily so we ducked into a little coffee shop for a drink, some air conditioning, and a bit of internet access.

By now it was well past noon so we decided to head back to the hotel for a little rest.  That means another harrowing ride on one of the local busses where the drivers race every car on the street and each other as well.  Still, it is a bit of a rush.

Much of the afternoon was spent enjoying the air conditioning, reading, and relaxing.  It was peaceful and by about four o'clock we agreed we were hungry so we went back into town where we wandered for a while before finding a place that specializes in Mexican cuisine heavily accented with mole, a rich savory sweet sauce.  It was delicious and very filling but no so much that we couldn't split a frozen banana with a caramel center dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in almonds.

By this time it was dark and there were lots of little kids trick-or-treating along the waterfront.  We walked its length where we reunited with some of Francene's friends briefly before deciding the sprinkles of rain combined with the hot weather was encouraging us to retreat for the evening.

Tomorrow my friend Araceli arrives so we will probably sleep in and hang around the hotel until she gets here.  I am looking forward to a lazy morning!

Canon 1D X, Canon 70-200/f2.8L IS Mark II
200mm, f4, 1/2000 sec @ 400 ISO

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2013, Day 302 - Lapping

This morning we woke before dawn to finish packing for an early morning flight trip to the airport.  Sadly, we were getting ready to leave El Salvador but fortunately to meet up with some friends in Puerto Vallarta.  By the time we got to the airport the sun was just cresting the horizon and we had what was probably the prettiest sunrise of our entire trip thus far and there was a chorus of birds to greet us as we collected our bags from the trunk of Luis' cab.

It was a quick and uneventful flight to Mexico City.  We were in the exit row which afforded us a seat close to the front of the plane and tons of leg room.  Our layover in Mexico City was about three hours but we had to go through immigration and customs so that ate up some time, especially as we had to recheck our bag for our next flight to Puerto Vallarta.

Our next flight was on a tiny jet with only three seats for each row but the flight was just over an hour so it wasn’t like we had far to go.  We arrived in Puerto Vallarta and our bags quickly followed.  This is where things went a little wonky.  Our hotel had people to meet us and provide transportation, that much was good.  Unfortunately due to some miscommunication and some confusion on the hotel’s end the cab company didn’t have our hotel information.  Long story short, he took us to the wrong hotel and by the time we got there and figured it all out almost an hour had passed.  Once discovered the error was quickly corrected but at the cost of a fifteen dollar cab ride back to the right hotel.

Finally at the right place the surly woman at the counter checked us in and when we asked about internet access we were told it was seventeen dollars per day for each connected device.  What a ripoff!  Oh well, it is quite obvious that Puerto Vallarta is a big bucks vacation destination.  I think both Francene and I were happy that our plans do not have us staying here too long.  The city is pretty but everything is expensive and crowded, I could eat out at home for less and get more.

But we had a decent dinner with a nice beach view for too much money and afterwards walked along the waterfront for a while.  Soon we saw a church in the distance so we wandered away from the water and further into the city.  It turned out to be Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, it was quite beautiful but hard to photograph because a lot of the surrounding buildings were constructed so close it is hard to find a good angle.
As it was getting late and both Francene and I were starting to feel the effects of our early morning we decided to find a convenience store and take cold drinks back to our hotel.  So we jumped on the bus back to Marina Vallarta; the driver was something of a maniac, changing lanes to pass cars, edging past other busses with literally less than an inch to spare, slamming on his brakes to avoid collisions.  We hurtled down the road and even making constant stops we made good time back.  So here we sit, both staring at computers, only one connected to the internet, trying to prepare all of our outgoing communications so we can get the most out of a five dollar hour-long connection.  It is just about my turn and then I am going to bed.
Canon 1D X, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
16mm, f4, 15 sec @ 320 ISO

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013, Day 301 - Billowing

After a leisurely morning around the apartment our day was pretty much consumed by tedious errands.  There were some odds and ends that Tim needed so we went in search of those but only after a marathon session of trying to get a cell phone working.  We were encouraged to carry a local phone which we purchased last week but many of the advanced functions didn't work so we took it back to the store where we purchased it.  After a long interlude they sent us to their main office who in turn made us wait for about an hour to admit that it couldn't be fixed and we needed to get a new phone which meant sending us back to where we started.  Once there they insisted we needed both receipts and we had only one so we had to go back to the apartment to get it and then return to the store.  It was even more tedious that this recounting.

By the time we got the phone issue addressed it was time to pick up Tim from work so we headed off to collect him.  Sadly for him the building's air conditioning went out and wearing a suit in the heat and humidity is no fun at all so the car was quite a relief for him.  We then went off to look at some furniture and then headed back to the apartment to an incredible sunset after which we went to dinner and now we're back packing our bags so we can head off to Mexico tomorrow.

Canon 1D X, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
34mm, f4, merged layers of 1/500 and 1/250 sec @ 4000 ISO

Monday, October 28, 2013

2013, Day 300 - Back to work

Today was a day pretty much devoid of photographic interested.  We got up early to go to the United State Embassy which is a little bit of a production.  At the guardhouse we had to surrender our passports and were not allowed to hold on to our phones or cameras for security reasons and were issued visitor's badges.  The only reason we were admitted at all is because Tim works for the US Treasury and he is considered a diplomat so we were his guests.

Once on the grounds we had a little breakfast in the cafeteria.  Most of the people at the embassy are Salvadoran, I would say about two thirds, and the rest are Americans.  In the span of a little more than an hour I saw more tattoos than in my week traveling around El Salvador.  Once we had eaten Tim took us on a short tour and then we stopped by the travel office to see if they could be any help with the next part of our adventure but they weren't even remotely helpful.  I wasn't holding my breath but was a little surprised how indifferent they were because we received the same help that any employee at the embassy would get.  Oh well, we like the pick your own adventure style of travel anyway.

Since the travel office was a bust we stopped by the bank on the grounds to withdraw a little cash and change some large bills for smaller ones.  That didn't take long and soon we were leaving the embassy and heading to Salvadoran ministry of finance where Tim works.  Seeing as the travel office didn't offer any assistance we thought Tim's assistant might have some ideas.  Carmen was great, she is a tiny little woman that looks like a Latina Annie Potts from Ghost Busters, but when she ran into some difficulties we didn't push her to do more.  We were trying to resolve a very small issue and I think when the time comes it will be easily managed.

We left Tim at work and Luis drove us to run some errands.  Tim needed a printer so we bought one for him and then he needed some household tools so we picked those us as well.  Proud of ourselves, Francene and I headed back to the apartment to drop off the proof of our productivity and, once there, we decided to spend a day in catching up on some work be both had to do.  Plus we had all that food we bought at the Mercado Central that needed eating because Tim probably won't once we're gone.

It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, the views from this building are amazing and we got caught up on a lot of little things.  Before we knew it Tim was walking through the door and the next item on the agenda was dinner.  It took us a while to decide where to eat and by that time another spectacular storm had hit and it was pouring rain.  So we called Luis who picked us up and shuttled us to dinner at a nice Lebanese place not far away but it did mean navigating heavy traffic.

After dinner we came back to the apartment and I have been left as the last man standing to finish my post before hitting the sack.  I think the time has come...

Below is a picture I took yesterday at La Libertad of the pier.  The half closest to the shore is a covered fish market where the fishermen sell their catch.  Beyond that the pier is crowded with boats and at the end are the cranes that lower the boats into the water.  When we arrived it was dark and stormy with a choppy sea of big waves.

Canon 1D X, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
24mm, f5.6, 6 sec @ 100 ISO

Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013, Day 299 - Fraught

We awoke early this morning to some impressive rain, it was dumping.  To make matters worse we had a day trip out to the coast planned, but we're Portlanders and a little rain isn't going to scare us off.  So we got dressed and went downstairs to meet our guide Stephanie.  She was ready to whisk us away and so we set off, windshield wipers frantically trying to keep up.

By the time we reached La Libertad about half an hour later it was sprinkling heavily so we grabbed our stuff and went for a walk along the waterfront out towards the pier.  The current pier is one made of concrete but the old pier was an incredibly long affair, three times longer than what currently exists, and it had railroad tracks running the entire length to make the transportation of goods faster.  Today it is used solely for fishing and at the end of the pier they have two cranes that raise and lower fishing boats from the pier to the water and vice versa.

We wandered the length of the pier looking at the morning's catch which ranged from dorado to snapper to shrimp to calamari to sole.  Many of the fishmongers proudly showed us their wares.  When we reached the end we were treated to the lowering of a boat into the ocean which is a slightly harrowing process, especially when the wind picks up.  But the fishermen made it safely and headed out to try their luck on the choppy waters.

After exploring the area around the pier we returned to the van and headed south down the coast for a little breakfast on the beach.  We had a nice view and after placing my order I walked down to the water to take a few pictures, nice long exposures.  Soon I heard breakfast arriving so I decided to cut my shooting short to eat breakfast since we didn't have time before leaving San Salvador.

Our bellies full we headed further down the coast to a could nice viewpoints before turning around and traveling back north past the pier to up a narrow road between beachfront homes where were stopped at an anonymous alleyway.  Stephanie led out down the alley to the beach where we were greeted by a smiling gentleman who runs a turtle sanctuary.  With the support of the community and donations from visitors he buys turtle eggs from local fishermen and places them in artificial nests in a large enclosure to protect them from predators.  After forty-five days the babies hatch and he collects them to release into the ocean.  While we were looking at the enclosure one little guy managed to squeeze his way out so we named him Wilbur and followed his journey down the beach and into the ocean.

We are lucky because it is the height of turtle season and after showing us around his facility we were allowed to release about thirty babies on the beach and follow them as they made their way to the ocean.  Thirteen years ago when I was in Australia my brother and I were supposed to go out to a turtle sanctuary to help release the hatchlings but a spill at the docks meant that no one could leave so we missed that opportunity.  Now, more than a decade later, I finally got the chance to watch these amazing little creatures find freedom in the ocean.  While I know that only one in a thousand will actually make it to adulthood I hope all of our little friends beat the odds and live long happy lives.

Happy with our morning we decided to return to San Salvador.  Even though it hadn't been very long since breakfast we stopped at a roadside restaurant because they are famous for their sopa de gallina, hen soup.  Francene ordered a bowl while Tim ate a sweet Salvadoran quesadilla and I had a couple pupusas.  The soup was declared delicious and in short order we were back on the van.

Once back at the apartment we had a nice afternoon of relaxing and settling Tim in a little more.  Art was hung, furniture was moved and then moved back, laundry was finished, and it is even possible we cleaned up a little bit.  Although I don't think any of us were that hungry we did go out to dinner at a Salvadoran seafood place.  The servings were massive and what we thought would be a light dinner turned out to be a copious amount of ocean-dwelling creatures.  A huge platter of fried calamari, crab, clams, shrimp, onions, jalapeƱos, and potatoes started the meal followed by a grilled fish covered in garlic and grilled chicken plus a couple more gourmet pupusas.  I tried a bit of everything and ate much more than I had intended and I get the distinct impression that is a common affliction in our group.  Oh well, it was delicious.

Disgustingly full we returned to the apartment to unwind a little before getting some sleep.  I think that might come sooner rather than later.

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f5.6, 1/640 sec @ 100 ISO

Saturday, October 26, 2013

2013, Day 298 - Sunbathing

There was a lot of flora in our day today.  This morning we got up and had a light breakfast of yogurt and fresh pineapple that we purchased at the Mercado Central yesterday.  It was so sweet and juicy that it left a sticky puddle on the cutting board.

Luis picked us up early, earlier than we should have left really but due to some miscommunication that is completely my fault.  So our plan to visit some museums we awry because none would have been open so we asked Luis to take us to see something he thought all visitors should see; he suggested a nice viewpoint and we agreed.  Along the way he stopped at a relatively low elevation vista spot before taking us up further to Puerta del Diablo, the Devil's Door.

The peaks were originally a single mountain that split due to being erosion caused by heavy rains.  However there is a more colorful story about girl who falls in love with an demon and when her father finds out he chases it off.  During his flight the evil spirit breaks through the rocks and plummets to his death.  I like this story better, the explanation of rain is just boring.

Here we hiked us a steep trail over rocks with steps cut into them.  It was a strenuous climb, according to Francene's FitBit it was the equivalent of thirty flights of stairs.  At the top we found ourselves enveloped in clouds pushed on by a cool breeze.  We rested and watched the clouds move past us long enough to take a few pictures before a new bank rolled over us again.  The views were incredible and it was a nice way to pass much of the morning.

Because we had seen a few places selling plants on the way up we asked Luis if we could stop off so we could buy a couple of house plants for Tim's apartment.  He only just moved in and it is a little barren.  Being the stellar guy that he is Luis immediately obliged.  We made our purchases at one small nursery and although there were a lot of great local plants in bloom we decided to go with things whose care requirements were already known to us.  So Tim ended up with a beautiful philodendron and a really amazing stag horn fern which is mounted on a piece of wood.

Next we needed a pot for the philodendron because it came in a black nursery bag so that meant another stop where we found some great pottery and many of the same plants at a higher price.  For eight dollars we got a nice large pot and a couple small bags of soil to use in our transplanting.

By this time it was getting to be late and we were getting hungry so after a quick stop for cortizone cream at a pharmacy with an armed guard out front we asked Luis to take us to a good lunch spot.  We ended up at a nice cafeteria-style place right before the lunch rush.  All three of us had a local vegetable kind of like a cross beween squash and jicama covered in cheese, dipped in egg, and fried with a nice salad, a side of beans and rice, and a cool beverage.  I chose a tall glass of horchata that we very well spiced.  It ended up being a lot more food that it initially appeared to be and by the time we were finished all three of us were stuffed and for less than five dollars per person.

Full to bursting we went back to the apartment to clean up a bit before Tim got back from his work trip to Washington DC.  Unfortunately that only kind of happened, I repotted the philodendron and just as I finished cleaning up he walked through the door.  We spent the afternoon catching up and putting together his new grill on the balcony.  Since Tim hadn't eaten since breakfast we went for an early dinner at Pollo Real.  Tim had never been and the food there is both good and cheap.  So we had a nice dinner and came back to call it a night.

Tomorrow we're getting an early start so I am eating my banana and local chocolate (cinnamony and spicy) and heading to bed.

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f4, 1/400 sec @ 100 ISO

Friday, October 25, 2013

2013, Day 297 - Wrapping up

We started our day even later than yesterday but it was a good one.  We were picked up by Luis, a taxi driver that Tim regularly uses, who was all set to spend the day with us.  It turned out that he did a lot more that drive us around.

First we set off to find a cell phone.  Tim thought we should have a phone that works and he told us not to be cheap so Luis took us to a massive mall and we comparison shopped.  The idea was to buy a phone outright so that we could use it elsewhere so we found a relatively inexpensive Samsung that supports two SIM cards.  That way you can use it in two countries at once of can use one carrier for a better rate in some areas and another carrier for the others.  It kind of makes sense to me.

Phone in hand we then went to the Mercado Central, the city's central market.  It is huge and it was a bit late in the day so not as crowded as it would be first thing in the morning nor was it quite a cool out.  Luis walked us through, introduced us to new fruits and vegetables, procured samples of this or that so we could taste them.  We had a blast and because the cupboard was bare at Tim's place we did a little shopping.  First we purchase a bag for our shopping, it only makes sense to have something to carry all your food home and we wouldn't want to be wasteful.  Then we started looking at the various fruits; we bought passionfruit, a pineapple, bananas, a watermelon, and a few other native fruits that we didn't recognize but wanted to try.  When Francene saw the makings of a good salsa our focus shifted to tomatoes, cilantro, a native variety of avocado, onions, and peppers.  With the idea of a salty savory food our palettes shifted to the other extreme and we bought coconut candy, a sugar and nut candy, fresh fruit drinks, and when we found a woman working chocolate by hand we had a sample and had to buy some of that too.  It was rich and sweet with cinnamon and a heavy dose of hot pepper that gave it a nice kick.  By the end we had the makings of a feast and only spent a few dollars.  Below is a picture of a fishmonger's stall and a woman cleaning up from her day's work at the market.

Even though we had been sampling all morning we skipped breakfast and were ready for lunch.  When we told Luis we wanted something local he took us to Pollo Criollo, a busy little place that specializes in chicken.  I didn't have the chicken, I had beans and rice with a side of pasta salad served with a couple hot tortillas.  Francene had a chicken soup and Luis had a chile relleno stuffed with cheese and chicken.  It all looked good and my seemingly plain lunch had a lot of great flavor.

Next we presented Luis with a challenge, furniture.  Tim get issued furniture by the US government since he works for them and it is the same across the globe.  Literally, one company has the contract to provide furniture to employees of the US government working overseas and this place looks almost identical to his place in Cambodia.  It is very traditional American style furniture and some of it is fine but the rest is kind of bad.  So we asked Luis for help and he started making calls to friends and family, even to his mother, and he came up with a number of suggestions.  Most were nothing amazing but one was exceptional so Francene and I started plotting...  What furniture would she like to see at home in a new years?

Finally we decided to return to the apartment to relax for a little bit before heading out again in the evening.  Just as we were pulling up to the building the sky opened, the wind picked up, and it started to dump rain.  When we got upstairs and looked out the window there was a wall of clouds advancing over the city and soon the buildings across the street were totally hidden by the clouds.  Thunder rocked the city setting off car alarms and we began to wonder if maybe we were done for the day.

In time the rain stopped and as the sun was setting the clouds broke a little bit but we decided that it was late and that we should just get dinner and call it a day.  So we wandered the neighborhood and looked for anything that wasn't an American export.  By the time we stumbled upon a Chinese restaurant we decided it would be good enough and had a light dinner.

After a pleasant walk back to the apartment we had a banana each with a little of the fresh chocolate and spent the evening catching up with the rest of the world thanks to the internet.  It was nice and tomorrow Tim gets back into town so the partying should really start with his arrival :)

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
24mm, f2.8, 1/160 sec @ 2500 ISO

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013, Day 296 - Meandering

There is a worrying pattern that we perpetuated today, getting a later start.  Because we were checking out of our room we decided that we wouldn't need to be out the door until eight o'clock.  That was because there would be breakfast and packing prior to our departure.  Given that it was our last morning in Suchitoto I got up early and wandered around the town when it was still half asleep.  There were women walking down the cobbled streets with baskets of fresh baked breads balanced on their head, dogs were napping in doorways, and people were cleaning the central square.  It was beautiful and tranquil.

I returned to our hotel a short time later to have breakfast with Francene.  Once we had eaten I headed back to the room to finish packing but got sidetracked by a couple of jumping spiders.  Fortunately the call of nature needed answering and kept me from too much distraction.  I answered and finished packing just as Robert arrived.

We packed up the truck and headed to our first stop, El Salvador's only UNESCO World Heritage site, Joya de Ceren.  It is a Mayan farming village that was buried in ash after a volcanic eruption in the year 590.  That ash fell quickly and covered some areas up to eight meters deep; these conditions helped to preserve their community very well.  Fortunately they have found no bodies which suggests that they had plenty of notice and were able to evacuate before the eruption.

Next we made our way to Cerro Verde National Park.  It is at the top of a volcano and is covered in dense jungle.  When we arrived at the top there was a thick layer of clouds obscuring the view.  Undeterred we went on a short hike to the abandoned hotel and restaurant and the accompanying viewpoint.  It was a neat place, very obviously built in the fifties with some impressive modern architecture.  Francene and I explored the area which Robert tried to keep an eye on us so we just split up and frustrated his efforts completely.  It was beautiful to walk through the rainforest as it was obscured by the clouds, that is what is pictured below.

From there we started our journey along the Ruta de las Flores, the path of the flowers.  It consists of a series of mountain communities with some distinct features but united in their proliferation of flowers and for coffee cultivation.  Given that we were on a bit of a time crunch we stopped first at Juayua which is known for its weekend craft festivals and for their black Christ in the community's largest church.  After we stopped in Apaneca to appreciate some amazing views and we ended up in Ataco where we toured the brightly-color city and were able to purchase some of the local coffee which is supposed to be the best in the region.  Before hitting the road again we stopped off at a restaurant called Portland after our fair city that is owned by a gentleman who lived there before returning to El Salvador to get a little refreshment.

Our next stop was San Salvador and on our way into the city we stopped off for dinner.  I had a very nice meal of pupusas, stuffed tortillas that are lightly fried; the ones I ordered were filled with a combination of beans, cheese, chiles, leafy green, and a local squash.  All were excellent and I already know I will miss them when we leave.

Once we filled out bellies we proceeded into the Zona Rosa where Tim's apartment it located.  It is in the nice part of town and his place on the twenty-second floor has an incredible view.  So we unloaded our bag, bid farewell to Robert, and settled in for the night.  Tomorrow will, with a little luck, be a more leisurely day but I am going to get some rest.

Canon 1D X, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
16mm, f5.6, 1/4 sec @ 100 ISO

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2013, Day 295 - Guided

Another early start this morning but we did get to sleep in a little later than yesterday.  I leapt out of bed when I saw the sun was just beginning to rise over the lake to grab my camera and get out to capture the moment from our balcony.  Despite being a number of viewpoints around the city our balcony has the best view with the least obstructions.  I am sure there are better vantage points elsewhere around the lake but in Suchitoto this is the place to be!

Robert picked us up shortly after the sun climbed into the sky and we set off in the direction of Cinquera.  Along the way we stopped off at Cascadas Los Tercios, a waterfall over basalt columns with rather steep and treacherous access.  It was a brief detour that was followed by coffee and pastries out of the back of Robert's truck after we crossed a recently rebuilt bridge.  After our refreshments we walked on a private road that parallels the river we had just crossed to do a little bird watching.  A partial list of the birds seen includes swainson's hawks, cooper's hawks, gray hawks, kingfishers, sandpipers, herons, egrets, orioles, hummingbirds, flycatchers, cormorants, doves, and vultures.  The raptors we saw in the hundreds, mostly from a good distance, as we are on their migration route.

We then hopped back into the truck and continued further down the road towards Cinquera.  Not more than a couple miles had passed when we took another detour, this time to a farm.  There we met Tomas (pictured below), his wife whose name escapes me, and his granddaughter Estephanie.  His wife and granddaughter proudly showed us their embroidery and jewelry respectively.  Estephanie's jewelry was made from seeds and nuts on thread.  They were pretty impressive and some were rather ornate.

Tomas took us on a hike down narrow trails clogged with heavy mud and cattle dung, through the jungle into the cultivated fields and off to a large stone in a rather remote area with Incan petroglyphs.  It was interesting but perhaps not worth the grueling hike in the ninety degree heat ankle deep in mud and torn up by the thick brush.  Still, it was an interesting site recently discovered and proudly displayed by one of the farmers.

When we got back to Tomas' house Estephanie showed us where we could rinse off the mud caked all over our legs and feet.  Feeling slightly better we again returned to the truck only to stop five minutes later at a small women's cooperative where they make more jewelry with seeds and nuts.  Most of it had heavy Catholic influences and I fear to touch any of it lest I burst into flame on the spot.

And again we pressed on towards Cinquera.  It took a little while down bumpy unimproved roads to reach the small town where we stopped for lunch.  Again I had beans and rice with tortillas; the lunch yesterday was better but only because it was exceptional, this was quite good too.  We also found out why there are what looks like built-in baby gates, to keep the stray dogs from wandering in to beg.  It is always tempting to offer them a few morsels but it only encourages them to beg and when more come and competition increases fights will follow to which the people will not respond patiently.  So I resisted with difficulty.

Once we had eaten Robert introduced us to his friend Raphael.  Raphael was a rebel fighter during the civil war and talked to us, with Robert's assistance, about his experiences.  In fact the public square has the tail end of a downed helicopter on display as well as wrought iron fences decorated with old inoperable machine guns.  Now Raphael works as the senior park ranger for one of the largest national parks in the country and he is a leader in the community projects.

One such project is an iguana farm which we went to see.  They had large enclosures with corrugated steel walls that extended five feet underground topped with wire holding hundreds of young iguanas with a few large breeding females mixed in.  I asked what they intended to do with all these lizards and the response was that they hadn't decided.  Step one, breed lizards, step two, well, we will get to that once we achieve step one.  So now they have to start thinking about the future.  Do they make lizard hide products, do they sell them for food, do they work with the government to obtain permission to sell them as pets at home and abroad.  They even have a few green iguanas that are actually blue in color.  They are not the endangered blue iguanas but a mutation in the green iguana that causes turquoise blue coloring.  If these are what people in the pet trade refer to as axanthic they could be worth hundreds of dollars each.

By this time Francene and I were pretty beaten up and ready for some relaxation so we headed back to the hotel.  It took quite a while due to delays caused by road construction but we made it eventually.  We stopped by our room briefly, rinsed more mud and dirt off, and went for a swim.  It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon and we watched the storm clouds roll in.  Eventually we had a nice fish dinner on the veranda while watching the colorful sunset.  They we went back to our room to rest until Francene went out again with Robert to the old leftist bar in town.  I stayed back because I don't drink and wanted to get some photos processed and blogging done.  Now you're up to speed and I am going to bed!

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f4, 1/250 sec @ 8000 ISO

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013, Day 294 - Hormigas!

This morning we got started before dawn to ramble out to an organic farm where they grow and process indigo.  It was a pretty place and we got to see how they extract the dye from the leaves, aerate the water, transfer it into another massive tub where natural agents are used to pull the dye from the water, and how it is then filtered to dry and process into a powder.  Kind of neat and really great that the whole farm is organic.

After see the process we then took a tour of the farm to see the variety of crops they grow.  Along the way our guide Robert pointed out the different birds we were seeing and two of the more senior gentlemen who manage the farm identified all kinds of plant and insect life.  I love bugs and they did a great job indulging me by turning over wood, digging out grubs, and generally getting excited.  We also saw what looked like a wild gerbil with two babies dangling from it while it scampered up a tree.

We then made our way into a village called La Mora where we met one of the many farmers in the area.  After a roadside snack we hiked up into the mountainside farmland to see all their various crops.  Here they harvest most of the corn fresh but they leave rows of stalked which they bend in half so the ears can dry and the reinforced stalks can be used to support many varieties of beans.  We saw sorghum being grown for animal feed, turnips, squash, and loroco, which is a kind of flower that is commonly eaten with egg and cheese dishes.  It was definitely interesting and we did end up at the top of a hill with a nice view and the remains of an old brick building that survived the civil war.

Once we made our way back down the mountain and to the truck we headed off to another small community.  There we had a simple lunch of beans and rice with fresh tortillas before heading onward to see the local schools.  They consisted of a few brick buildings with open windows but looked well used and in good shape.  Robert told us that most kids don't finish high school and only a really small percentage make it to higher education.  Educated people make two to three times the minimum wage which he said is a good salary but the transition between primary and secondary school is often very difficult due much higher expectations than are generally met so kids get frustrated and choose not to continue.

Upon leaving the school we headed back to Suchitoto where Francene and I took a swim and relaxed for a couple hours before Robert returned and took us on a walking tour of the city.  Most of it we had seen before but we had a quick snack and he gave us a little more background on the non-profits that he works with.  It was a nice way to spend an evening and now it is time for some well-deserved rest.

Below is a picture of some leaf-cutter ants as they haul small flowers down the tree and into their nest.  These little guys moved really quickly so there were a lot more misses than hits :)

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f4, 1/160 sec @ 800 ISO

Monday, October 21, 2013

2013, Day 293 - Observer

We arrived just before noon in San Salvador after an overnight flight with little sleep and a three and half hour layover in Texas but we made it!  Our guide met us at the airport and whisked us off to Suchitoto, a small picturesque town about an hour and a half from San Salvador on a man-made lake.  The buildings are stucco, something relatively uncommon around here, and the streets are the old cobblestones.  It is a very pretty place although we only got glimpses as we drove through town to our hotel.

Our room has an amazing view of the lake and after dropping off our luggage we made out way to their patio where we had lunch.  It was a lovely fried fish fillet and a nice potato dish with veggies and cheese.  Although we hadn't eaten much of substance since the day prior I still think the food was genuinely good.

After lunch we lazed around, read, and basically killed time.  It was already mid-afternoon and we thought a walk down to the lake for sunset and and light dinner would be nice.  As we wandered down the cobblestone streets we saw children everywhere playing and I couldn't help but take a few pictures.  My favorite is the one below of a boy sitting in his window behind the bars watching everyone else play.  There are lots of windows and doors with bars, it allows for a cool breeze off the lake and saves energy.  In doorways and on stoops parents watched their children play and some ducked in and out while preparing dinner.

It was a happy sort of energy, lots of laughing and camaraderie.  Throw in a few street vendors making delicious smelling food and you have a  good idea what our walk was like.  The lake was further away than we thought and we caught only the tail end of the color so when we were done it was off to the central square to see the church and find some food.

For dinner we ended up getting a sampling of pupusas and some grilled veggies to split between us.  Pupusas are made of a masa dough that is filled with all kinds of things like beans, cheese, vegetables, and meats then fried.  They were delicious and surprisingly filling.  The vegetables were good too, nicely grilled with lots of flavor and a couple of sauces to accompany them.

Our bellies full we wandered back to our hotel to call it an early night.  Tomorrow we are getting up before sunrise and are off adventuring again!

Canon 1D X, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
55mm, f5.6, 1/320 sec @ 640 ISO

Sunday, October 20, 2013

2013, Day 292 - Succulent

The adventure begins; I am writing this quick blog post from the United lounge at Portland International Airport and am about to embark on an adventure with my friend Francene.  Along the way we have other friends joining us.  This is going to be another grand adventure although in this we're going to do a little more flying by the seat of our collective pants but that is part of the thrill!  I hope to see a lot of varied landscapes; deserts, jungles, oceans, lakes, and I will share it in the form of a blog post on, I hope, a daily basis.

Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f4, 1/200 sec @ 200 ISO

Saturday, October 19, 2013

2013, Day 291 - Old man

Well, it is down to me and the old man.  The other three dogs are off to their respective accommodations while I am gone so it is just me and Stubbs.  He's has taken all of the chaos well and will go to stay with one of my friends tomorrow in preparation for my impending departure.  He will be in good hands until I get hope but for now he and I get some one-on-one time.

Canon EOS M, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
45mm, f2.8, 1/60 sec @ 1250 ISO

Friday, October 18, 2013

2013, Day 290 - Pink flames

All I can see in this picture is a bee in pink flames.  I guess the shape of the flower petals just have that look to my eye.  Still, I like it, how the petals look like water color and the sharpness of the bee contrasts.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that if we like our work then we've met our goals.

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f8, 1/160 sec @ 640 ISO

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013, Day 289 - Glimpse of autumn

I keep missing fall.  It is completely my fault, it always seems like the ideal time to travel because work winds down as the holidays approach.  Sadly this has led to me missing the fall color and I am about to do it again.  Next week I will be ensconced in the warmth of Central America and while it is sure to be an amazing adventure I will think wistfully of the autumn that I am missing at home.  Until then I had a little preview of color at Ruckle Creek last weekend.

Canon 1D X, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
16mm, f11, merged layers of 3.2, 6, and 13 sec @ 100 ISO

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013, Day 288 - Drenched

There is nothing more pathetic looking than a fuzzy animal soaking wet.  That goes for bees as well, this guy was waiting for the sun to come out after a storm to dry off and warm up.  He looked so sad perched on the dahlia that I couldn't help but exploit his obvious misery by taking his picture.

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f5.6, 1/250 sec @ 1600 ISO

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013, Day 287 - Spiked punch

The benefit to a sleepless night is that it allows you the opportunity to carve out a little more time in the day for yourself.  It was still dark when I got up so after walking and feeding the dogs I drove out to the Eagle Creek trailhead to hike out to Punchbowl Falls.  I had never been before and was a little distressed to find one other car in the parking lot with all the door open, things strewn everywhere, and the driver-side window smashed.  While I know that these placed are often a tempting target for thieves it was almost enough to make me turn around and leave but I didn't.  Instead I did what I do when I worry about leaving my car in a theft-prone area; I packed the contents of the glove compartment in my bag and left my empty car unlocked with a small note in the driver-side window noting that it was unlocked.  I would rather them rummage through a whole bunch of nothing than break a window.

After cleaning up the car I set off down the trail.  It was still quite early and there was some fog nestled along the creek as I hiked in.  With the possibility of a break-in on my mind I didn't linger too long, only about half an hour to explore a few vantage points and then I packed back out.  Next time it would be nice to take a buddy and a little more time.  The Columbia River Gorge is full of these little gems only a short hike off the road, I think I need to make a list so I can make sure I don't miss out on too many more.

Canon 1D X, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
35mm, f2.8, merged layers of 1.6, 3.2, 6, 13, and 25 sec @ 320 ISO

Monday, October 14, 2013

2013, Day 286 - Flit

I remember this little butterflies, skippers, from my childhood.  They would flit around my parent's garden and I always wanted to catch them but they were much faster than other butterflies.  Those  short wings allow them to change directions quickly making them a hard target to capture but I always had fun trying.

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f5.6, 1/320 sec @ 640 ISO

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2013, Day 285 - Shrouded

As the sun set this evening in the gorge some low-lying fog rolled into the valley below.  It was an incredible evening, I went out to the gorge with my friend Julie who, despite being a native Oregonian, has never seen the sights.  I think I impressed her although we ran out of time faster than I expected but we got a nice sunset and even a few stars.

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f4, merged layers of 1.3, 2.5, 5, and 10 sec @ 320 ISO

Saturday, October 12, 2013

2013, Day 284 - Twinkle twinkle

Another shot from my evening at Vista House last weekend.  The first image I shared was taken before the lights inside turned off and this one was lit by the scattered street lamps.  I think the stars are a little most visible in this picture.  The only thing I would try to do differently is get rid of the lights reflected in the windows which could have been easily accomplished if the lights were still on inside.

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
16mm, f2.8, 25 sec @ 1000 ISO

Friday, October 11, 2013

2013, Day 283 - For your thoughts

Every year I take a family portrait of my friend Christine and her dogs for their annual holiday card and today was that day.  Miss Penny isn't the most cooperative subject, she is easily distracted and finds much in life rather overwhelming so taking pictures outdoors can be very hit-and-miss.  Still, we were patient and persistent so we should have some great candidates for this year's picture.  Afterwards we went inside to catch up and while we were enjoying the comforts of home I took a few more pictures of Penny.  She's such a distinguished lady when the outside world isn't trying to force its way in.

Canon 1D X, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
24mm, f3.5, 1/250 sec @ 10000 ISO

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2013, Day 282 - Brownish area with points

This is part of a hibiscus, the flowers make for some great tea as I learned in Indonesia.  I love the spiky heads on the stigma, all the fine hairs that contrast with the bunches of pollen on the anther.  The life of a macro nerd :)

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f5.6, 1/320 sec @ 320 ISO

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013, Day 281 - Fringe

It was a sunny day and it was nice to be warmed through after waking up to find it in the low forties outside.  This was one of the dahlias at Old House Dahlias and I love how clean and crisp the whites are and how the petals almost look fake in their beauty.  Funny isn't it how something can look so pretty that we doubt such perfection can exist?

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f5.6, 1/320 sec @ 800 ISO

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2013, Day 280 - Memories

This is Frankie's uncle Bados.  Sadly, over the weekend he passed unexpectedly.  He was running in a field and, against all odds, struck post that he didn't see.  The vet's office was only a mile away but he didn't make it that far.  Bados was one heck of a dog, not only was he an amazing companion to a dear friend but he was one of the top rated racers in the country and on top of that his beautiful conformation won him many awards in the show ring.  At just four years old he was taken too soon but his memory will live on in his siblings (all thirteen of his littermates), his nieces and nephews, and his offspring but mostly he will live on in the memory of the countless people whose lives he touched.

Canon 7D, Canon 70-200/f2.8L IS Mark II
125mm, f2.8, 1/3200 sec @ 400 ISO

Monday, October 7, 2013

2013, Day 279 - Beak

Canon is such an odd company sometimes.  I know the EOS-M hasn't been very successful in the US but I think they were silly not to release the 11-22/f4-5.6 IS lens here.  The biggest problem with their mirrorless offering is a lack of suitable lenses.  Yes, they have a great EF adapter and a ton of other lenses in EF mount but they made the EOS-M almost too small for any of them to be well matched.  I bought the 11-22 from a dealer in Hong Kong and it is a really impressive little piece of glass.  The IS works well and it is sharp even wide open and the price is really very good.  Below is a picture of my pup Frankie taken at 11mm to show the distortion caused by such a wide angle.  Maybe I'll share a photo at 22mm some time, this little gem can focus really close!

Canon EOS-M, Canon 11-22/f4-5.6 IS STM
11mm, f4, 1/40 sec @ 100 ISO

Sunday, October 6, 2013

2013, Day 278 - Zooming

I missed the Worldwide Photo Walk yesterday, life has been so hectic lately that it slipped my mind when signups started.  Instead I had my own little adventure at Vista House.  There weren't many clouds in the sky yesterday and I have been meaning to get out there for months so I finally just did it.  It was a bit of a surprise how many people came while I was there and I integrated some of their light trails into my photos because lemons and lemonade and all that.  I was pretty pleased with the results but I am going to have to do more homework on photographing stars...

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24/f1.4L Mark II
24mm, f2, 15 sec @ 400 ISO

Saturday, October 5, 2013

2013, Day 277 - Bleak

I probably spend too much time thinking about zombies.  For year, before the most recent trend, I've thought about what I would do in the case of a zombie apocalypse.  Not that I have a plan per se but I have some ideas of the first steps.  It all really depends on if they're shambling or running zombies.  Maybe I should prepare for runners just to be safe.  In the meantime I processed t his photo with zombies on the brain, I wanted something a little post-apocalyptic so I went for muted colors with a slightly muddy cast...

Fuji X-E1, Fuji 18-55/f2.8-4R OIS
37.4mm, f5.6, 1/340 sec @ 320 ISO

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013, Day 276 - Basking

Today we had a really wonderful break in the weather.  Still chilly this morning but with sun and by the afternoon it warmed up nicely.  While walking the dogs I noticed a couple large jumping spiders on their as-yet unripe tomatoes so when I got home i grabbed my camera and went back out the door.  He was still obligingly sunning himself on the green fruit and as I moved to take his picture from multiple angles he turned to follow me completely unperturbed by the camera.  Notice his metallic green chelicerae, on these daring jumping spiders (their actual name) they are either blue or green, and his orange coloring will generally fade to white as he matures so their is a pretty young guy.  Hopefully he is able to find a safe refuge from the approaching cold.

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f8, 1/160 sec @ 400 ISO

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013, Day 275 - Sprouting

I guess it is that time of year when I stop taking pictures of flowers and resort to fungi.  We get so many kinds although I've never been out foraging for mushroom.  It seems like something I should learn how to do, I have a couple friends that do and they come home with huge amounts of delicious chanterelles.  Maybe I can trick one of them into taking me along.

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f5.6, 1/25 sec @ 500 ISO

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

2013, Day 274 - Melting

With high winds and rain most of the remaining dahlias are looking pretty shabby.  This one I captured during a break in the rain still shows life but soon they will all be gone.  If we don't get a freeze it is recommended to dig up the tubers by the second week in November and, as hard as it is to believe, we're already in October.  Oh well, there's always next year.

Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f5.6, 1/250 sec @ 320 ISO

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

2013, Day 273 - Whoa!

Most of the temples in the Angkor complex have very steep stairs and that steepness forces more pious body position when ascending.  However it makes the descent treacherous as the stones have a buildup of lichen and are very worn with age.  Today is my friend Nicole's birthday and we had a great time exploring Cambodia.  She became elusive, one minute she was standing next to me and when I turned to say something to her she would be gone.  Yep, she's tricky like that and a great photo buddy; happy birthday Nicole!

Canon 1D X, Canon 70-200/f2.8L IS Mark II
70mm, f3.5, 1/160 sec @ 4000 ISO