The Story of Photos Over Time As often happens, I sat down at my computer one morning—on the desk, a hot coffee to my left and Harriet, our 16-year-old Maine Coon, looking out an open window to the right—and decided to revisit photos I’d taken. …
Chicago, Illinois The gritty and storied streets of Chicago are only five hours away, by car and train, from our front door. Yet, it’s on the extreme other end of the spectrum as far as worlds go. Grit, characters, flashing lights, buildings—so many tall, beautiful …
We were sitting in a plane, about to take off from a small airport toward Placencia. A pilot and co-pilot checked switches, controls and gauges while we passengers were facing a stretch of runway that ended at the sea.
A couple of thoughts entered my mind here: This is the most beautiful view I’ve ever had from inside an idling airplane; and, I know how much runway a plane requires for takeoff, this doesn’t seem like much. Being a passenger in a plane is not the time or place to lose courage or confidence. Let the adventure begin.
Our plane lifted in time to avoid water contact and we soaring with the sea birds in no time. The pilots were pros and they landed us with perfect smoothness and precision as we touched down minutes later.
You’ve seen them: someone posts pictures from an aquamarine-water coastline paradise, and you wonder: How do I get there? It looks too good to be true but lucky for you, it’s not. Placencia is located in the Central American country of Belize, on the 16-mile long Placencia Peninsula, with the small fishing village located at the tip. Around 6,000 people live on the peninsula with 1,500 of them located in Placencia.
It’s one of those locations that are peaceful, immediately. As soon as stepped out of our taxi into the warm air, we marveled in the quiet that surrounded us. Up above, pterodactyl-like profiles of frigatebirds’ wings were visible as they glided without flapping their wings for what seemed like an eternity. As we walked toward the heart of the village, we saw mango trees all around and noticed iguana tracks in the sand.
Placencia’s Beautiful Vibe
There are a couple of routes to take to and from the heart of Placencia. One is Placencia Road, where motorized vehicles are allowed. The other is a sidewalk that holds the distinction of being the “World’s Narrowest Main Street” according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Coming from the Rust Belt in the Midwest, the amount of vibrant color was not lost on us or taken for granted. The colors we saw were bright and numerous. When you’re accustomed to earth tones or dirty-snow tones, seeing bright pinks and yellows is quenching for the eyes.
Sea and Seafood
A couple of snorkel trips were on our agenda and we couldn’t wait. Whale sharks migrate off the coast of Belize between March and June snorkeling with them was our top priority. Thanks to the fairness of the local dive-shop operators, we decided against snorkeling for whale sharks since there numbers had been low at the time we were there and our chances of seeing one would be slim. Instead, we opted for a couple of different snorkel trips; each one providing us with encounters with tropical fish, turtles and nurse sharks.
Seafood is a specialty here because of its proximity to the sea. There is no shortage of eateries in the village and surrounding area. Our favorite restaurant—we went there twice—was Rumfish and Vino. As soon as our menu-browsing eyeballs landed on conch ceviche, lionfish and red curry snapper, we needn’t look any further. Our choices were solidified as soon we tasted each dish; all of it was divine and fresh.
Bowling in Belize
When it is as beautiful outside as it is in Belize, it can seem sinful to do anything within the confines of walls. This is especially true when that activity can be done in almost any town back home. When that activity though is at the Jaguar Lanes bowling center, you best get inside and roll.
This place caught our attention during a day when we rented a golf cart to travel the length of the peninsula. We saw its sign on our Belizean-home return trip and pulled in promptly. There are four lanes, paper score cards and carved jaguars to guard your gear.
A couple of Belikins—the national beer—in hand, bowling balls selected, and we had the ingredients for a perfectly balanced good time. With the exception of the barkeep and a couple of guys watching fútbol on the television, we were the only ones there. We’d have played all day there if league play wasn’t about to take over the lanes for the evening. Plus, we had more of Belize to check out.
See You Soon Belize
We met a host of locals and characters on our excursions. Everyone was extremely accommodating, helpful and relaxed. With an annual average temperature of approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit, even the temperature was welcoming.
In fact, everything about Placencia was laid back. It’s easy to walk around and get lost—although, not too lost since it’s a small peninsula, which is perfect. Tourism is a thriving industry in Placencia, but it’s not overwhelmingly so. We enjoyed walked when we could since it afforded us the opportunity to slow down even more, see the art crafted by locals and enjoy the pace of daily life.
Before the trip, I thought one week would be plenty of time in Placencia; in fact, it wasn’t quite enough. That’s a good thing. Leaving a place as quiet, beautiful and welcoming as it was and wanting more, just means we’ll have to return, as soon as possible.
Small Town Texas There was a brief period of my life when I called Houston, Texas home. Houston is an amazing city. As one of the United States’ most populous cities, it offers something for everyone. I’d moved there in 2009, when the recession was …
An Epic Race Returns Let me tell you about Wilco Road: It’s a narrow, tree-lined road with high banks and a bevy of turns that connects the village of Empire to the Empire Bluffs trailhead at the top of the hill. It’s steep and short—I’ll …
The Biggest Single-Day Mountain Bike Race in the U.S.
The saying goes,”If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” In northern Michigan that weather could mean a 40-degree temperature fluctuation, rain, sun, snow…all of it, in one day. Add a 29-mile course of Michigan trails then combine thousands of riders and you have the Iceman Cometh Challenge, the biggest single-day mountain bike race in the U.S.
For 30 years the event has been taking place with the course always starting in Kalkaska, Mich. before meandering through woods toward the finish line in Traverse City, Mich at the Timber Ridge RV and Recreation Resort. The finish line for this event is two blocks from the house I grew up in. I’ll never forget waking up and seeing cars parked in front of my house; it was then that I knew this event was big.
Due to COVID-19, the race was cancelled this year but here’s to it returning next year. These pictures are from last year when the race was self-assigned.
The race always takes place on the first Saturday of November; participants can wake up to dry trails or snow-covered trails. For years I’d cover the event by driving to the starting line and photographing racers preparing before being sent off in their assigned waves, beginning at 9:00 a.m. With racers on the trail and almost everyone finished, finishing or close to finishing; the professional riders would start in the afternoon. Because of this, I’d miss out on the pro riders starting and riding, I’d only see them when they finished.
Since this particular year’s Iceman coverage was completely up to me, I waited until the afternoon to photograph the pro riders in hopes of capturing some portraits of them before the race and some action shots later, on 35mm film.
Upon arrival to the Iceman Cometh starting line, most of the professionals were making the pro decision of waiting in their heated cars before cycling 29 miles in the cold. As they trickled out to ready themselves, and their gear, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and approach some strangers for some portraits. Everyone was extremely agreeable and kind.
The light was as perfect as light can get: soft diffused light from a sky-wide blanket of thick clouds just enough sun reaching through to provide some warmth to the light.
Photographing Strangers: Always Worth It
It’s always uncomfortable approaching strangers to ask for a portrait. Especially on this day. With professionals, it’s tough to tell if they’re going to be so focused on the day and their mission of winning, it’s easy to talk one’s self out of asking for a picture. Here’s the thing though: You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
There have been so many people who’ve agreed to a portrait than who’ve not agreed. So, it’s worth it. On this day, no one refused a portrait. I was serious about my objective and they could understand and accept it. It was a mutual respect.
After photographing portraits, I made my way toward some trail sections to capture some action. My lens for this entire day’s shoot was a 50mm and I’ll tell you what, that’s a versatile lens. I’ve written it before but if you can muster some creativity and energy (for zooming—using feet of course), the 50mm lens is all you need.
When the day was done and the film was correctly processed, scanned and shipped back, I was reassured about my decision to use film for the portraits and action photos. Specifically for the portraits—a story can be told in one portrait based on the person, the eyes and the setting. I was more than happy with the three portraits I’d made. The racer in the grey vest ended up winning the men’s division of the race.
The takeaway from this post is that whatever event or non-event you’re photographing, take the time to make some portraits, at least one; you’ll be glad you did and your photos will only improve with practice and experience.
Seize the Time to Create My Canon 1V has fresh batteries, my vehicle was running great and I’d just received a shipment of 35mm film (Kodak Portra, of course)…the day was mine. On top of that, the fall color is looking like someone increased the …
The Motor City Detroit is a giving city. It’s given us techno, assembly lines, Motown, the auto industry, Diana Ross, Jack White, Eminem, Sheefy Mcfly and an infinite number of other artists, chefs, tradespeople and good, hardworking folk. Various lists ranking cities based on size, …
In the Simon and Garfunkel song America, a line from the song goes, “It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw.” Growing up two and a half hours north of there, that song reference was the first I’d ever heard of Saginaw. People would talk about how it’d fallen on hard times and that it wasn’t a place to exit your car. Take the time to look though, and Saginaw has some beautiful people and architecture.
After years had past—and with a recently-earned photojournalism degree added—wouldn’t you know it, I was accepted as a photo intern at the Saginaw News. Naysayers be damned, I’m going to Saginaw. The thing about going there, or any community for that matter, is that people live there. This is why I didn’t care what type of reviews it received. To connect with fellow humans and to hear their stories is, in many ways, the ultimate gift. It’s also a fulfilling way to live life and grow as an individual.
Native Americans lived in Saginaw until a boom in the lumber industry resulted in the expansion of the city. Manufacturing industries then took hold in the community and again brought numerous jobs to the area. Crime and recession has indeed dealt some hard blows to Saginaw since then.
I try to return to Saginaw any chance I have to take a sojourn down memory lane and to take stock of how the area is faring. The last time I was there it must’ve been about a year ago, the streets were eerily quiet, even more than I remember them. The remnants of once powerful structures now resembled skeletons and brick bodies of their former glorious selves.
These images here are not a true representation of Saginaw as a whole, of course. Most of these images are from the downtown area. Outside of downtown are neighborhoods, shopping centers and parks. On most of my recent trips there I’d have my Mamiya 7 medium-format camera. This would result in me slowing down and carefully absorbing the surroundings.
While at the newspaper, I covered many notable stories. Some of my favorites were simply the slices of life I’d see everyday or groups that were taking initiatives to improve their communities. While driving through neighborhoods with dilapidated homes, I’d see children playing together and having the best time. Or friends hanging out and laughing together. No matter how bad a community may seem, there are lots of bright moments happening there, every day.
Metal Mayhem Bump-n-Run, demolition derby, automobiles attacking automobiles…whatever you want to call these events, they’re fun. Sine this one was dubbed Bump-n-Run on the festival agenda, we’ll go with that. Although ‘run’ seems like a stretch considering it indicates some sort of consistent speed. After …