I love that moment on a plane when you begin your final descent into a new country and you catch that first glance down onto foreign soil. What are the colors? How is the light? What does the landscape look like? I’ll never forget watching the sunrise over the flat dusty plains as I touched down in Africa, or seeing the Patagonian glaciers of Chile streaked in time. Looking at Guatemala from that little frame, I was enchanted with the layers of volcanoes dancing along the horizon line of a setting sun.
It was just a weekend getaway, a short stop through Antigua, one of the most beautiful and romantic places I’ve ever seen. We didn’t have time to wander around, but I swore I would come back someday to photograph it and stay at the heartbreakingly beautiful Meson Panza Verde. We had a late dinner there on our last night in Guatemala where I discovered its enchantment. From there, we ventured around the lakeside town of Panajachel where the fashion accessory brand Mercado Global‘s design offices are located. The purpose of this trip was to discover the craftsmanship behind these artisanal bags. We spent a little time in Santiago Atitlan and in the hillside town of Santa Catarina Palapo where we slept in a dream villa.
I have many takeaways from Guatemala. The fruit is incredible. The people, so petite, have beautiful traditions they keep despite the reach of globalization. I loved comparing their dress to how the Peruvian women dress, each in their specific way. The colors in their clothing are mimicked in the textiles of the market and in the lush landscape, bursting with flowers in hues of sherbet orange and hot fuchsia. As we wandered through the old colonial built towns, there was the distinctive sound of women’s hands patting out corn tortillas. I’ll never forget the way they tasted hot off the griddle. I loved how drivers would honk as a courtesy, a way to say thank you. Perhaps my favorite feature of this beautiful country though are her volcanoes. It had not been since Bali that I found myself gazing upon such a scene. Every day brought a new view: sometimes we spotted smoke billowing from the top of a volcano, sometimes we admired their silhouettes against a setting sun. I found them a constant reminder that the earth is alive beneath our feet, and as I stood in Guatemala, I was reminded of how alive I am, too.
Continue reading “Snapshots from Guatemala”
“…see the jungle when it’s wet with rain…”
As I write this, I am somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and the United States. I always request a window seat because you never know when you’re going to get that perfect shot of the sun rising over South America or see a distant thunderstorm illuminate the horizon on your descent into Singapore. I was just lost in thought gazing out the window and thinking about how flying’s magic is not lost on me. The fact that you can close your eyes in New York and wake up in a world you’ve only dreamed of in what seems like minutes still leaves me in childlike wonder.
I ponder sometimes if the pace of our distances allows us more or less? What would Darwin have accomplished in the era of air travel? Part of being a freelancer is never knowing which way the current will take you nor how hard the undertow will be but I feel so incredibly lucky to have seen so much of the world through my lens. I haven’t yet figured out what the ultimate influence will be on my life’s work of all the lands I’ve seen, and to be honest I am still exploring…it’s true what they say: “The more I travel, the less I know.”
Cover image originally from HERE
Second image is flying out from New York
In the 1950s, my grandfather Beck was stationed in Berlin. Growing up as a child, I was always so fascinated by the old black & white photos of him from this era in this place unlike anything I knew on the country roads of Texas. I’ve always wanted to go and walk in his footsteps, to think of him as a young man, his family so far away, the devastation of war in front of him. We walked from East to West, we studied the differences from old photographs. We wandered the streets of Scheunenviertel and Kurfürstendamm. We had pretzels and beer, schnitzel and sauerkraut and look back in time of a city that changed so much.
Continue reading “Part III: Berlin”
Paris is so much to me…a constant source of inspiration, of light study, and beauty. When we stepped off the train from London at Gare de Nord, the smell hit me, that same familiar Parisian smell of coffee and cigarettes, and dusty old books in a garden of roses. The hotel, so quaint, with the Eiffel Tower framed between the walls of the street. We sat in cafes and drank wine, watching the people go about their day, their loves, their minds lost in their own thought. I wonder what they are thinking and have I thought that same thing before? We climbed the stairs of Sacre Coeur, danced with the states at the Louvre, and watched the sunset on Pont Neuf. On a poetic day we found ourselves on a train to Normandy, on a walk through the beaches of Omaha in silence, imagining the horror of war, looking up at the fate of too many. I always love Paris – it’s never goodbye but only I’ll see you soon…. and soon I did.
Continue reading “Part II: Paris”
We descended upon London, totally embracing being tourists – drinking London’s pride ale, eating fish & chips, visiting Westminster Abbey and the London Tower. We walked through Hyde Park in the rain and looked in awe at the crown jewels. We looked out over the vista of an English countryside, quiet and lush in the early morning mist at Windsor Castle, before turning back the hands of time to the wonders of Stonehenge. We laughed over a cup of tea at Oxford and watched the students walk by with our future in their hands. The beautiful streets, so proud, the people so elegant, I’ll always remember London as lovely as the classical music playing at Dean Street over the sound of soft falling rain.
Continue reading “Part I: London”
Of all the activities Juma Lodge provides, my favorite was the jungle walk, a serious hike through the Amazon Rainforest. The breathtaking flora and fauna, the steamy nature of the air around you, the wild views of dense tropical rainforest reaching stories high above your head to the fallen leaves under your feet. It was – in one word – BEAUTIFUL. Leaving the lodge by boat, we ventured to a new part of this dense forest. I loved when our boat would enter into the tree canopies; it was like entering a magical world full of natural secrets. We started by clearing the path through the jungle with a machete, then learned how to climb Acai Trees like the natives by making rope out of leaves, how to communicate far distances with a stick and a tree, that Babasu Gongoin (beetle larvae) tastes just like coconuts (and according to our guide, Bill Gates loved them on his walking tour!), and how to separate palm leaves in order to fold them into forest crowns. Not your typical Monday activities in Manhattan!
After a refreshing swim at the end of our hike (remember it’s like 100000% humidity) we had lunch cooked over an open flame and took a dip to cool off. That evening we went fishing for piranhas which later became part of our family style meal. The journey to get here, the monkeys, and being forced to disconnect from the rest of the world will put this place, deep in the heart of the Amazon, forever deep in mine.
and FYI- Manaus is only a 5 hour flight from Miami, what adventure you take from there is up to you!
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All the greatest adventures require a great journey to reach them. This would be the third time, after Safari and Patagonia, I have dedicated over a day just in travel to reach a destination… but it is worth every transfer. Two flights, two buses and two boats and halfway through there, we said goodbye to WiFi and cell service. After passing pink dolphins, and navigating through large trees jutting out of the water, we motored up to the Juma Lodge just as the sun was setting. Being so far removed from modern civilization, we had ventured into an unknown world.
On Juma Lake in the Amazon River, we climbed the stairs to our treehouse bungalows. Our first night spent in the rainforest, we lay on the deck looking up at the night sky, almost bursting with stars of every size and color. We started to live by nature’s standard – it was such a funny thing, the moment we took away the every day technologies, we were all in bed by 10pm and up at 7. And what a wake-up call it was. Each morning we would hear a “knock” on our door, up and down all the cabanas, only to find a monkey waiting outside, climbing up your limbs to be cradled in your arms or sit on your shoulders. It was an awesome experience. We would swing in hammocks on the deck, suspended high above the waters below, and relish in a afternoon thunderstorm that brought a bit of relief from the humidity.
I think back on this experience and I can’t believe it lives in my memories. To see a part of the world so untouched, still so mysterious, and so influential in our modern day medicines and sciences, it almost felt spiritual, like we were sleeping close to ancient gods and all they could do was smile down upon us.
Where the two rivers meet – the above image illustrates the Rio Negro (black water) and the caramel-colored Amazon River flowing side by side but not mixing due to the different makeup and temperatures of the two rivers. This was the last Instagram I got out before we lost service!
Continue reading “Journey to Juma Lodge”
What comes of all the creativity that pours out of Savannah School of Art and Design?… SCAD President and co-founder Paula S. Wallace answered that question with shopSCAD, a unique store in the heart of historic Savannah, Georgia where students and alumni can showcase their talents though innovative handmade works of jewelry, paintings, sculpture, pottery, housewares and more available for purchase. ShopSCAD is always on my list of *must do* Savannah visits every time we are in town! So inspiring!
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If you remember from our #RRExotic Instagrams, this past January our team headed out west to sunny Palm Springs to shoot Rachel Roy‘s Spring / Summer 2013 Campaign. We spent the first couple of days location scouting with our amazing producer in areas all around southern California. We danced on boulders in Cougar Buttes, walked the sands of Joshua Tree, found a desert oasis at the Salton Sea and felt the colors of the earth at Painted Canyon.
When we are location scouting for a story, we look for the scenes that have been playing out in our imagination to come to life. We look at the light, we imagine the scene and we take test shots. When we get back to our hotel, we go through the images and match them up with the looks our stylist has sent stills of from the fitting the previous day back in NYC, plan out routes and timing and make lists for the next day of what we are still looking for. I love location scouting; all the possibilities are ahead of you, you just have to see it.
Here are some snapshots of our journey to and around California taken with an old point and shoot Olympus camera, a Polaroid Spectra with ImpossibleUSA film, Fuji Instax and a Canon 1DX.
Also, this place in Palm Springs was AWESOME.
Continue reading “Rachel Roy Travel Diary”