At the end of my blog, I will share the things I did well and the not so much!
Sunset gives way to Blue hour over the Canadian TundraThe blue hour sets in as the sun goes down over the Canadian Tundra.
This summer I headed to the Canadian Arctic via Montreal, northeast to the Inuit town Kuujjuaq near Hudson Bay and then onto a float plane 100 miles west to Lac Dufreboy. Here on Lac Dufreboy, I had a gnarly and somewhat amusing introduction to the Tundra mosquito as my trip guide approached the aircraft with a hugely swollen right eye from the previous nights nasty bites!
I had done my research although I really could not believe they could be "that bad". Well they were. I was prepared for the attack of the arctic mosquitoes. My friend and veteran adventurer Jean, told me just how to avoid the horrible experience j my fellow travelers endured for days. I was bite-free!
The Tundra is massive area, a flat, barren, treeless,rocky wilderness where nothing really grows because of with a permanent frozen sub-soil or permafrost. During the short arctic summer, the frozen soil melts, leaving the ground very soggy. I imagine an area covered in marshes, lakes, bogs and streams. Plants grow on the higher ground in in bog areas does take place are plants that are short like reindeer mosses, a variety of wildflowers, grasses and ancient lichen that attach themselves to the rocks pushed millions of years ago by the arctic ice flow. And, for the first time of my life I experienced the taste of the purist water on earth and it didn't come from a bottle! It was the first time I had taken large cup, walked to the shore of the lake and drank it with with an incredible enjoyment. No boiling, no bleach and no bacteria... pure and clean arctic water.
The vast wilderness of the Tundra
My wild and vivid imagination had me tracking and photographing the elusive Tundra wolf or hours on end. The reality ... we searched, we heard, Each day, we took a little motorboat across the lake and walked through the marshes surrounded by swarming mosquitoes and black flies for hours to the location of "the wolf den" the guides said they discovered before our arrival.
However, my instincts told me otherwise. A single female wolf with a pup were seen entering the below ground den some 400 yards away. Yes, comparable to 4 football field. Merely a dot in my binoculars. For a photographer they could have been doing a wolf dance and were still beyond what I could do with my camera and lens.
We waited for hours hidden behind a natural blind and .... not a sign of a wolf. No one was home. Especially Mama and her pup.
After a couple of days, I made the choice not to revisit the den again and decided to go out on my own. I was finally alone and exploring the Arctic Tundra on my own terms. I probably had as much of a chance to see a wolf than the others who returned to the empty den back to the den to spend the night. I took my camera, a radio for communications, my compass and went off to explore the lake and Tundra hills on a beautiful summer day. I came across an old caribou kill. Bones picked clean but the skull still had fur and there was white fur all over the kill site. And, then I sat down leaning against an ancient rock and nodded off for a summer afternoon nap!
The vast wilderness of the Canadian Tundra
This is the start of your preparation after you have the clothes you plan pack. That includes everything you want think you plan to wear. I created an outdoor wash-line and sprayed every bit of clothing, thermals, pants, tees, jackets, hats,sleeping bag, backpact and even my Pjs. Everything was saturated and left outside to dry.
Read more about this product on their website sawyer's permethrin and make your own decision. For me, it turned out to be my BFF against the meanist bugger in the tundra.
BEN'S WIPES WITH 30% DEET
As a photographer, wearing a mosquito net over my face is a real pain. There were two short occasions where I had just had to wear one. My dearest friend, Jean Matusik suggested Ben's wipes. Yes, it does have 30% deet and I'm not a fan. However, she suggested that I tuck a wipe under my wooley hat. She told me not to use it as a wipe and so I did.
Neither product prevented mosquitoes from swarming around me but they never laid a bite. The Ben's wipe did save me wearing that darn net over my face. It made the photography part much easier. Ladies, if you have acrylic nails, the Deet melts the product and makes it sticky. I will know better next time. You can buy them most anywhere.
Inspiring voyage - April 2013
The Bolivian Andes - one of earth's amazing places-April 2013
One night while I was watching a show called “The Americas. Something caught my attention, a short minute about the Antiplano. The what? Bolivian Andes. Checklist Bolivia.
Google earth view of the largest salt flats in the world
In retrospect, I was a bit of a newbie at planning for these "off the grid" locations. The transition from "studio portrait" photographer to wildlife and landscape photographer is a learning process. It's like going back to school! I love geography but I did not do my homework. I should have gone a couple of months earlier to catch the rain, to capture the water on the salt flats. This was only my first trip and it is a place I will go back to.
After some planning and making sure I had a dependable guide company, flights from La Paz and Uyuni aand secured flights to Uyuni. I was on an American Airlines flight out of Miami south the highest airport in the world, La Nuestra Senora La Paz airport at over 13,300 ft and a very crowded city with over 2,000,000 people and by the way, there is only one traffic light. Crossing the street in downtown La Paz is a challenge but it seems to work.
Panoramic taken from just outside the airport at La Paz - 13,300 ft. I stitched vertical images.
Altitude is a funny thing...Age, youth,physical fitness do not seem to determine how you might respond to these kinds of altitudes. I was hoping that I wouldn't get sick and have to return to sea level, meaning I would have to go home.I did make every effort to put the odds in my favor, I took altitude medication and got some advice on taking nighttime Tylenol, a good anti inflammatory. Landing in La Paz was like landing on the moon. I hit the altitude wall. I went from zero sea level from Florida to over 13,300 ft. My brain slowed all the way down and I had trouble remembering a simple three number lock. So much so, Bolivian customs had to cut my lock, I couldn't t remember three simple numbers.
When we reached the hotel, they had us drinking coca tea, a staple for altitude stability. I never stopped drinking tea the entire week!
The Hotel Rosario - downtown La Paz
The next morning on Amazonas Airways for the flight south to Uyuni at an altitude somewhere about 12,500ft. Uyuni is home the the largest salt flat desert in the world high in the Bolivian Andes. On the little island made of salt blocks visiting tourists leave their mark as they walk around the dried flats.
The salt flats high in the Andes - Visitors place the flags as if they had reached the Everest summit.
Not too far away is the yes... the hotel on the salt flats, made of salt. Chairs, tables, beds, walls and all the decor is made from salt. The floors are carpeted in salt. Different and off the grid.
The Salt Hotel at over 12,000 feet.
Locally made salt. Adding iodine and bagging dried salt
We left the Salar De Uyuni south, stopping at a volcanic island in the middle of the Salar called the Island of Incahuasi, which is inhabited during the dry season to offer tourists a place to rest and eat. Its' a place where all the tourist stop and grab that "Kodak moment" And, by the way, it is the only place for miles in the vast salt flats to get something to eat.
From then on, we went south and as the sights of tourists began to fade, we climbed in altitude through the Siloli Desert and the active Tomasamil Volcano as we climbed from 10,240 ft meters to 13,444 ft and we just kept climbing! We drove along the Chilean border to San Pedro de Quemez.
I traveled south with my guide visiting the most amazing places, El Lago Verde, El Lago Rojo sprinkled with Bolivian flamingo, vast areas of amazing sights. I would get out of the car and stand there in constant amazement, hypnotized as I viewed the beauty of the desert thru my lens of my camera. lens.
The railroad that from the north to the south with Argentina and Bolivia on the right side of the rails.
The view of the little town of San Pedro de Quemez
Resident flamingos at around 14,000 ft.
A visit into the cave miles into the great salt flats.
Riding the salt flats as we go south
Local resident in Uyuni
El Lago Rojo with feeding Flamingos -Flamingos' become smaller to adjust to high altitudes and grow larger when they migrate to Argentina
El Lago Verde and again speckeled with migrating flamingos
Then southern most stop in the Andes... a challenge and an expedition to earth's wild places!
My next inspiring journey .... South Dakota to photograph iconic wild mustangs and buffalo.
DESTINATION - HAVANA, CUBA
GEAR: CANON MARK 5D II
Original notes from my trip to Cuba... May - 2011
"Cuba is an ultimate travel contradiction ... a dynamic mix of music, the finest Flamenco dancing and ballet, World Heritage Sites, amazing history and revolutionary politics and a feeling of life sucked out of it by unbending burden of socialism. What I see is a Cuba dusting its' communist cobwebs and a people putting their hopes on both sides of the straights of Florida"
HABANA - CUBA 90 MILES FROM MIAMI 2011
Welcome. So, this is my first Bucketlist Photographer blog post on my new site. Where am I going … well anywhere I find that special moment behind the lens and all I can think is... OMG what a sight! I have had a few of those OMG moments but life is short and I want more! I love the feeling of being mesmerized by the sights I see thru my lens.
First of all, I hope to keep your interest with the images, the experiences and about the gear I use when I travel. Feel free to ask questions and to post your comments. With that, let's get going. First stop .... Havana, Cuba 2011.
To tell you where I am going …. I have start to tell you something about where I have been and some of the experiences along the way. This year, the President sent an olive branch across the Florida straights to the island of Cuba, a place so near and closed off to most Americans for more that 50 years and – I traveled to Cuba as an American Photographer. It was an experience from the start!
I was on the prop plane for a short 45 minute flight to a place that is lifetime away. Unimaginable. As we entered Cuban airspace, I thought about Fidel Castro's long life, living beyond the lives of so many American presidents; Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Reagan, Bush one and two. Amazing right? As the flight attendant announced our imminent arrival passengers clapped and shouted, "Cuba, Cuba". We landed in Havana and the first thing leaving the airport billboard of President Bush... The statement below his image ... not very flattering!. I stayed at the Telágrafo Hotel … a short walk to the beach. There we were able to trade in some dollars along with a penalty paid to the government to purchase money that was used only to exchange with local Cubans. It was illegal to use American dollars in Cuba although I suspect there are many dollars hidden in mattresses and holes in the walls of many Cubans!
THE TELÁGRAFO HOTEL
So this was Castro's Cuba. Stepping out of the hotel and into the streets was like you stepped into another time. Old American cars going up and down the streets, some in amazing conditions and then not so much but incredibly fun to photograph. Since I am Argentine, I do speak the Spanish language and getting around proved very easy. Now, an American with a pro camera on Castro's island... I was watched and it was obvious each time I stopped to engage conversation and take a photo, it became obvious.
I went down toward the beach along the Prado. a beautiful walkway down the center of Havana toward the Malecón de la Habana, the boardwalk where everyone gathers to walk, people watch, swim and fish. In the same area is the old lighthouse ...say more about it and the palace and the Bacardi rum building and the bulding that looks like ours.put images as you break it up
EL PRADO - THE GRANITE WALKWAY TOWARD THE BEACH
THE ENTRY TO THE HARBOUR - REYES DEL MORRO
A VIEW FROM THE ROOF OF THE HOTEL - INHABITED BY SQUATTER FAMILIES
It was sad to see the some of that amazing colonial architecture is such a state of deterioation. For over a half a century, Fidel left things to decline, a slap in the face to capitolism. Casto took away these amazing homes from their owners and turned it over to the people. The problem. There was no incentive to maintain these homes and the many hurricanes that have battered the island just took their tool. Most are probably not safe to live in.
But, this is not all of Habana or Cuba. This is the downtown area. Much of the historical sites are under renovation today, by the other brother. We went to an area outside the downtown area, Miramar. A beautiful neighborhood, like something you would find in South Florida ... like Miramar, Florida! Perhaps that is where Fidel Castro and the Castro family live? No one really knows where they live. The Cuban people do know "Fidelito", the Doctor son of Fidel Castro. You can find more about Fidel and his personal life at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidel_Castro. Alot of great information. I have been told that the beaches along the coast and hotels are just amazing to behold. They say that they are too far for Castro to think about! They get tourists from all over the world and south America.
I enjoyed the feeling of being safe in Havana... apparently no one really want to break the law... they dont want to spend time in Fidel's jails. Can't be much fun! You go in and really never get out! I walked around town with my Canon Mark II and a couple of street lens and always felt safe. I found this movie theatre ... the lights on the marquee didn't work but people were still going to the movies and I just stood there wondering... more that 50 years and the image says it all.
A PICTURE SPEAKS A THOUSAND WORDS
I also went to visit the Hemingway estate ...
We went to …. where the Hemmingway estate is located on the other side of the Trans Bahia tunnel. Now this is a place that truly stopped time. The home as Hemingway left it ... a memorial to the writer who loved Cuba, where he wrote his most famous novel, The Old Man and the Sea and where he took his own life.
AN INSIGHT TO HEMINGWAY'S LIFE
HEMINGWAY'S OFFICE WITH HIS VIEW OF THE OCEAN AND WHERE ACCORDING TO THE CARETAKERS IS WHERE TO HE TOOK HIS LIFE
ABOVE: WHERE TIME STOOD STILL AS HEMINGWAY LEFT IT
Not too faraway from Hemingway's estate stood a home that was once an ocean front estate. Once a glorious home on facing the ocean, now dying a slow death. There were multiple families living there and the great stairs were falling apart event though there were the original furnishings and oriental rugs in appalling conditions. No running water. What were they trying to prove?
BELOW: THE INTERIOR OF AN OCEAN ESTATE
THE EXTERIOR OF THE AN OCEAN ESTATE
There are amazing places to visit and I look forward to the day I can further explore the island just 90 miles away from our shores. Here are more images from my visit in 2011.
RENOVATION UNDERWAY IN DOWNTOWN HAVANA
EL CAPITOLIO BUILDING - LOOK FAMILIAR
THE ONE AND ONLY TROPICANA SINCE 1939
THE HOTEL NACIONÁL - WHERE THE FAMOUS, THE INFAMOUS, SPORTS HEROES AND POLITICIANS CAME
ENJOY THE CARRIBEAN
DRIVING ALONG THE STRIP OF THE MALECÓN WITH THE HOTEL NACIONÁL IN THE BACKGROUND
ABOVE AND BELOW - THE TABACCO FARM THAT CULTIVATES CASTRO'S FAVORITE CIGAR - COHIBA
ABOVE : CROPPED TOBACCO
THIS IS HANGING AT FIDEL CASTRO'S WAR MUSEUM WHICH WAS ONCE THE GREAT PALACE OF PRESIDENT BAPTISTA
© LUCY UNSWORTH