Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mr. President playing games. Hearts and hearts and hearts and hearts. Such an amazing creature. The guys on the boat reported this fellow as the biggest loggerhead they'd ever come across and all he wanted to do was play! Heck, that's really all I wanted to do too... so we were quite a good match.

I still can't get over how unbelievably fortunate we were on this trip. On a night dive, just a day or two prior to this meeting, we were also graced with the presence of a stunning manta ray. Now these creatures are just about as elegant as the ocean gets. Spanning about nine feet in wing-span, the ray just wanted to come check us out, you know, see what the source of light in a dark ocean was. Neither of us had a camera, but in many ways, I am so, so glad. We just stayed perfectly still in the water as the ray floated back and forth about a foot away. It was such a heart-stopping experience that I really just did a crap job of relaying it. I honestly don't know how to accurately recount what I saw. With the music in my headphones as I write and recall, my eyes are getting a bit watery with overwhelming happiness (I'm cheesy, leave me alone) and my brain just doesn't want to put this into writing. Maybe that makes me a poor writer, but I could tell it to you for hours and hours with a light in my eyes, though can't for the life of me convey that expression over the internet. I don't really know if that's a bad thing or a great thing.

You often wonder why you are able to experience these things. Why that moment? Why you? Is it your energy? Is it the animal's? Is it a compatibility of the two when neither of you feel the least bit threatened? Is it the attitude on life that enables you to jump into the Coral Sea at night and travel 70 feet below surface? What's the worst that can happen? A cool epitaph? Guess so.

I cannot stress enough how frequently perspective can change when you let go of everything that makes you hold on tight to things you think are your thing, as Mr. Matthews would say. To step out of your microcosm you've become attached to and continue to grow. Never forgetting where you came from, but always building upon it. Before I left for this trip I had the habit of concerning myself with the behavior of people who really didn't care at all about the things I found to be most beautiful, trying to keep them close, when really, there was nothing to be kept close to. I convinced myself that strong faith in who I saw in many of them was who they really were or who they would eventually become. Dear Alli, who they choose to become has nothing whatsoever to do with you (duh) and your opinions (again, duh), Love, the World. It's not a matter of which is right or which is wrong, but a matter of preference. I seem to desire a distance from the familiar, while others wish to achieve and maintain it. One way is certainly not better than the other, just different. I suppose you just want for them to see the beauty you are seeing, but it is absolutely something that cannot be taught, just experienced firsthand and often, solo. Besides, they undoubtedly are seeing their own form of beauty as it is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder.

All legs of this trip so far have retaught me that there is a great big gorgeous world out there. I want to do everything one human can possibly do to peer into every nook and cranny, to never ever ever stop learning about absolutely everything. At the rate I'm moving and learning, I'm going to have to dip into other languages to continue to find synonyms for beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful, stunning, amazing etc., etc., etc. or else this blog is going to get redundant pretty soon. At the moment, I'm truly a vagabond and once again homeless, but I couldn't possibly imagine a better life.

Guys and Dolls, it is my undoubted pleasure to introduce you to the President of the Ocean.

Having met him about 30-feet below, this stunningly gorgeous and ancient turtle followed us up to the surface! As we made our ascent, I had no idea this guy had snuck up behind us until Kerrin gave me the turtle signal and an excited point from the boat. I turned around, popped my regulator out, shouted to my dive partner and put my snorkel in to swim back toward him. He played around for another 5 minutes and then casually departed. I'm pretty sure I had the biggest snorkel grin on my face in the world in those moments swimming back to the boat.

I can't even begin to thank my Swedish buddy, Robin, for snapping this shot of my dive partner and me (obviously the diver wearing a 5mm hood in 80° water) with this huge loggerhead turtle.

These guys are called Sweetlips! When you get them in a school, their colors against the ocean's blue backdrop are uber colorful/awesome. Too bad I didn't do that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hi guy!

"Shark. Jellyfish. Moray Eel. Barracuda."

Quote from comedian Ralphie May... Any divers out there, please, please watch this. Heck, even if you don't dive, please watch this. Passed to me by the one and only, Chaps McColon.

Too bad they aren't actually "cuddlefish"- cuttlefish is much less lovable. The cool thing about these guys though is that they change color as the go... wish I could do that.


For those of you who have never photographed anything underwater, let me tell you, it is an entirely different beast than photographing anything on land.

As you may have figured out, I've been unable to recount tales of my incredible week aboard Mike Ball's live-aboard dive boat for the past 2 weeks or so. It really makes me sad that I couldn't share as I went along, as writing in the present is always more detailed and progressively exciting. As I pull some images, I'll attempt to tell you about all the wonderful people and outrageously crazy experiences I've had in the past two weeks. It will be harder than I'd like as a) internet is hard to come by and b) I'm on to my 6th or so leg of this trip in Sydney and funny/great things just keep happening. For example, an anarchist/feminist cat from Bushwick, Brooklyn kicked me out of a good friend's girlfriend's harbor-front apartment last night. This thing honest to goodness hated every fiber of my being... trapped me on a barstool, locked me in the kitchen. Had to get a hotel. Good times... haha.

There is so much to write and sort through, that I'm a bit overwhelmed at the moment, despite this delicious cappuccino and cozy internet wi-fi cafe on Darlinghurst Road in Sydney, Australia.

Please bear with me!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Delay, delay, delay. Back from the Great Barrier Reef and safely tucked away in the hills of Cairns, Australia. I have fairly fickle internet possibilities at the moment, so I'm afraid images/stories will have to wait a bit longer. I'm pretty bummed about it actually, so I thought I'd toss this message up whilst I wait as well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Well ladies and gents, friends and foes, cowboys and indians...

I've managed yet again to fall head-over-heels into the extraordinary. I mean heck, I bought my plane ticket to Cairns, Australia no less than three days ago. As Einstein said, "If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."

What is this lunatic doing THIS time? Well folks, she's yet again living on a floating apparatus and hiking jungles, this time with world-class diving, exploring, cuisine and company. When you combine the forces of the United Nations and and the forces of Panasonic, you get a world of cool. Really, nothing on the face of God's Great Earth is cooler than this and I still can't believe I'm here... though at times I feel like I'm in Florida. Weird.

I shall wrap this up tomorrow because the kind little Asian at the front desk needs to close the lobby area. Also strange. So I shall leave you with the wild local fish that I had for dinner, which is now resting peacefully in my stomach. Delightful.

Mr. Barramundi

Photo: Low tide outside Cairns. Parasailer in the distance.

Low tide? Orrr muddy field with stream?

I wonder how you get to be a specialist...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Final road shot. Haha. I'mmmm a terrible blogger. Still posting about the trip annnnd I've been in LA for a week.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I have never felt so small in my entire life.

After staying in Buffalo Bill's Plywood Castle just outside Tulsa the night before, we decided that following the advice of the gas-station guy at midnight in Flagstaff was our best bet for roadside accommodations, part deux.*

"Excuse me, Sir... Is there lodging available right outside the national park? We'd like to get a few good hours of sleep and see the canyon at sunrise."

"Oh sure. Just take 89 north. Where 89 meets 64, yeah, I think there are some places there."

Well Mr. Gas-Station-Guy, what you failed to mention was that those motels you spoke of are in fact located where 180 meets 64...


Upon the realization that the lodging options at 89 and 64 were nonexistent, our two choices were to either go back to Flagstaff or venture into the park to see what we would find. I would probably chalk our decision up to at least number 17 on my list of top 20 greatest decisions ever made.

Ummm soooo, you need a reality check? You need to reevaluate your priorities? You need something to kick your butt? One caliginous abyss coming right up! I advise a drive around the canyon's perimeter in the middle of the night. Holy. Moly.

Standing up there with the wind and the darkness, you just feel you need to grab hold of something. You could be 15 feet away from the edge, but the stillness and visual proximity of such an awe-striking site provokes an oddly calm fear. I assume that fear is the catalyst for the humbling, defenseless aura that suddenly envelops the microscopic being that you are, but who knows? I could be wrong.

To continue, we emerge from the park, almost having had a 12-foot-tall buck plow through us (ok, I'm exaggerating, but it was HUGE), to find the promised land of parkside lodges. We briefly rejoice with hoorays and hurrahs until we think about onnnne wee little detail.

Oh hey, Shasta and Alli, it's LABOR DAY WEEKEND. Haaahaaaaaa. They say two brains are better than one and if that's the case, I hate to think of... ok, I just don't want to think about it.

Having found, literally, the last room within 100 miles, we rested up, only to wander back into the park a few hours later. We missed sunrise this time, but one day, when I go hiking/riding through the canyon, I will see it every single day of that (pending) adventure.

And don't get me wrong, the canyon is unbelievable in the daylight too, but having your first views of it in dim moonlight is terrifyingly bewitching and incredibly thought-provoking.

So tiny, we are. So, so tiny.

You've built a dam to hold this stream;
And you'll break your back to pan this gold.
A 24-carat mind, so what did you think you'd find?
Don't trade it for shining things that will clip wings in your soul.

There is beauty everywhere,
But you've got to get out of your own way.
Allow yourself the comfort of others
And relish in the secret sweetness
That is unique to every day.

*None of this road trip was planned out whatsoever per the norm, other than a) we knew we were driving west b) we had to get there in 3 days or less and c) I was bringing Halloween Moose Munch as my primary form of sustenance.

My dear friend/road warrior/canyon goddess, Ms. Shasta Cross.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Good work, Shasta!

At this point in the trip, I was both driving and on the tele, limiting my shooting skills. Not to say I've never done all three at once before (helllo Central PA fall foliage), but fortunately, the lady in the passenger seat is a) a fast learner and b) a good framer.

"Shas! That's gorgeous! Bump up both the ISO and the shutter. Look at the rain in the West! The lightning in the South, the pink clouds in the North! Look! That ray of light is the coolest thing ever!"

I'm not quite sure if the title should be a) "Are you giving photo lessons in the car?" or "Al, you're gonna kill me, I keep getting the dashboard in the frame." Both are equally endearing, so when in doubt, use a backslash.

(Example: "I'll have the taco/burrito" "The what?" "The taco/burrito." "Ok, do you want a taco or a burrito?" "The taco/burrito." "One taco and one burrito." "And a cookie. Thanks!")

I find that appropriate here too. Or maybe I should call it, John/Shasta.

Or maybe I should shut up and let the photographer name it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Methinks sitting cow indicates approaching rainstorm... dark sky, schmark sky.

Also, big fan of the colors here... hahaha no pun intended.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

NYC -> Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania train: September 1st
Pittsburgh -> Columbus, Ohio via car: mere hours on the 5th, deliciously spent at Bob Evans.
Columbus -> Los Angeles, California via car: 5th-7th

Once upon a time, Shasta Cross was looking for a co-pilot to drive cross-country from Ohio. A little girl named Alli had never done that before and was more than ready to make it happen. And so they did.

Photo: Shooting the passing sunset (somewhere in Missouri) through a pair of honest-to-goodness 1970s Vuarnets given to me by Mr. John F. McClellan.

A little bit about Vuarnet and why John, me and everyone who has ever put them on their face LOVE them:

1957: Invention of the Skilynx lens. The history of the company begins with the meeting of two opticians, Roger Pouilloux and Joseph Hatchiguian, who were developing night-driving lenses. It is by associating various surface coatings (more or less dark coloring on different but very luminous glass bases) that Joseph Hatchiguian discovered a lens which allows one to see the sun without being dazzled and increased its luminosity in dark weather. Glass of this quality and with this capacity of absorption did not exist.

1960: Vuarnet Sunglasses. Pouilloux and Hatchiguian watch the news and see Jean Vuarnet, interviewed after his win at the Olympic Games (Squaw Valley), wearing the sunglasses Pouilloux had given to the entire French ski team. Contacting the skiier, the two opticians then got approval to name their Skilynx Acier sunglasses after him.

1984: Vuarnet sunglasses are official partners of the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

In conclusion, if you...

a) like your view of the world to pop with extraordinary depth every time you look out a window
b) prefer warmth in images (though now they make many a shade of lens)
c) value and appreciate a great lens
d) don't understand the overwhelming and recent trend toward the Ray-Ban Wayfarer

... then Vuarnet is probably an excellent choice.

Hell, I love these glasses so much, I had to call John while driving to tell him how stoked I was to be seeing the country through these lenses. It just couldn't have waited.

So it was decided that we were going to write to Vuarnet to see if they will cut a filter for Nikon lenses. Wish us luck!

Friday, September 04, 2009

"Warhol's enthusiasm for life was rivaled only by his love for the methods of capturing it. He loved the framing device - the camera, the silkscreen, the empty box, the tape recorder, the shopping bag, the telephone - as much as the content it framed." - quote on one of the walls at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

This town and its people have a lot. A lot of what, you ask? Well, a lot of a lot. I've found that some of the ideas I've held as a staple all my life are quite foreign outside the steel of this city, but c'est la vie. You work hard, you keep working hard - at whatever it may be. Warhol did it. Try, try and never give up. That's what my parents always taught me, anyway.

I shall miss this town more than usual.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My name is 905 and I've just become alive...

I know I'm a photo blogger, but right now, I have no photos for you. On a nine-hour Amtrak train, I have the most delightful ray of sunlight on my face, the Who (as per my extended travel tradition) pumping through my earbuds, the words of two of my greatest friends in my head and the world feels as if it's tilted on its proper 23.5 degree angle for once. The beginning of yet another beautiful voyage.