Friday, November 27, 2009

Autumn in British Columbia

My return to Vancouver after my great adventures in Europe was an opportunity for me to embrace my home with a fresh set of eyes. I was graced with the beautiful colors of changing leaves. Here are some shots from October.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Two days in Barcelona is definitely much too short. My trip wound down to an end and I quickly rushed in the rich beautiful city of Barcelona into my trip. I wandered frantically through the maze of streets to soak up as much as I could but in the end I was overwhelmed by the culture, architecture, history, food, cafes, beaches and overall ambiance.

I absolutely adored the creative energy in this city. I visited several churches and art museums but I was also inspired by the local street art and graffiti. Skateboarders roamed freely through the squares and street performers lined the boulevards. I could have easily spent a month here to embrace every aspect of this bustling city.

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Lisbon Portugal

Portugal was never in my travel plans but this spontaneous visit was a pleasant surprise. Lisbon the nations capital refreshed my inspiration with grand pedestrian boulevards lined with slick white Portuguese tiles. The Hausseman-like configuration of buildings and streets offered me with the perfect ambiance to promenade through the historical sites of the city. The steep hills and narrow streets through some parts of the city were often a laborious workout but I was never more than a few steps from a homely cafe or bar. I fell in love with Lisbon and added this city to my list of places I would like to live in.

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Tariffa Spain!

After relaxing in the chill atmosphere of Chefchaouen, I was not ready to return to the busy hustle of Tangier streets. I spent an afternoon in Tangier uninspired and I was ready for Spain.

I took a 35 minute ferry over to the southernmost point of Spain in a small windsurfing town called Tariffa. The beautiful small town boasted a gorgeous long beach with steady strong winds which on a good day attracted more than 200 kite boarders to its shores. The old city is still was fortified by old Moorish walls as this port was once an important link between Europe and Africa.

I took this time to regroup my thoughts after my exhilarating travels through Morocco. It was nice to meet fellow travelers again and enjoy a cerveza or sangria by the beach.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chefchaouen - the city in blue

Chefchaouen is a beautiful city built in the Rif mountains with a rich history influenced by Spanish settlers, moorish exiles and Ghomaras farmers. The old Medina buildings with its Andalucian influence have red tiled roofs and are all painted in bright shades of blue.

I stayed here for several days to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and learn about the surrounding mountain culture. I soon learned that the main source of income for the families in the mountains above was the cultivation and sale of hashish or what the locals call "kif". This highly potent product was sold easily and unregulated throughout the city making it a popular retreat for young spanish travelers. For young Moroccan entrepreneurs, Chefchaouen is a popular pit-stop before heading into the mountains to negotiate large quantities of kif to resell in the main cities.

I was inspired by the beautiful blue streets and steep rocky mountains. I spent many hours wandering the steep streets trying to capture the essence of this peaceful city.

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Quick Stop in Ouazzane

After a few days in Tinerhir I was eager to head north to Meknes. I took the only available bus at 5:30 in the morning heading through the Atlas mountains. The bus weaved through the varying rich landscapes of Morocco. We started on the edge of the desert brush into the rocky Atlas hills. We continued on until we rolled into a lush green valley. The green valleys elevated again and I saw the first glimpse of evergreen trees in Morocco. Shepherds and nomads speckled the fertile landscape as the bus rushed on stopping at random villages to fill its seats.

I arrived in Meknes the imperial city at around 3:30 in the afternoon. I was tired and eager to find a bed for the night. I wandered to the budget hotels and they were all full for the weekend. I wandered the Medina looking through the Riads but the prices were heavily inflated due to the tourists. I had lunch, regrouped and realized I had seen enough of Meknes. It was a shame to skip the ancient ruins of Volubulis but I had enough of the touristy scene. I set my sights on Chefchaouen in the rif mountains.

I waited another 2 hours at the shared taxi station for a taxi to fill up going north. In the end I could only manage to find a seat going to Ouazzane. I traveled for another 2 hours in a shared taxi of 6 people. I arrived in the darkness and wandered the streets of dusty Ouazzane until i found a bed at Hotel la Poste. After traveling for 16 hours and through hundreds of kilometers, I was happy to catch some sleep.

The next morning I took these shots at Cafe la Poste of some of the locals and the shopkeeper.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tinerhir and Todra gorge

After my desert adventure I went east towards the mountains. I ended up in a town called Tinerhir. The town itself was not very charming but only 15 km north into the atlas mountains was the beautiful Todra gorge.

I rented an old mountain bike with dodgy brakes from town and headed up the road. The climb was steep but I was glad to go for a bike ride. After a sweaty climb in the afternoon heat I had a speedy downhill section down towards the gorge. The worn out brake on the bike gave me an extra sense of adventure and I reached my destination with my adrenaline pumping.

Todra gorge itself was over developed with hotels built right into the gorge itself polluting its waterways. I was not impressed and decided to bike back up to the top of the road.

I found a spot on the road which overlooked Tinerhir and its surrounding landscapes. I decided to wait for the perfect light so I parked my bike and waited. Curious locals stopped several times to chat when they saw my tripod setup. I had a chance to photograph a tailor in the village nearby. I waited for the late light and it paid off. I rode back downhill into Tinerhir with
my rickety bike with the setting sun. It was a good day.

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BW landscape

Our drive back to Ouarzazate was beautiful. Once we got back onto paved road the others fell asleep but I could not keep my eyes off the rocky mountains and clouds. I ended up doing a series of landscape photos of what I saw. When I was processing these photographs I realized how close they resembled the classic landscapes of the BW greats like Ansel Adams. I immersed myself for hours in my digital darkroom perfecting the tonal planes and this is what I came up with.

More pictures from Morocco here

4x4 adventure

The morning after the storm we set out early in our 4x4s after a quick breakfast and one last look at Erg Chigaga. Mustafa was a little more anxious this morning and rushed us along. We would find out soon why we needed to make good time.

The easiest way to navigate though the desert is to follow river beds and channels. So far in our trip Mustafa had a easy time navigating and even joked about his internal GPS of the sand people. That morning we understood that he was not joking.

We arrived at our first flooded river 15 minutes into our drive. It was not too deep for the 4x4s but the problem with fine sand is that combined with water they become a slick gooey mud that can bog down the best land machines. We saw several other vehicles taking detours and getting stuck crossing rivers. The guides consulted each other and we set out into the untracked sand. It seemed like we were going in circles as they detoured every time we saw a flooded channel. Mustafa stayed calm and assured us that this was his home and backyard. He was right, and his expertise soon led the way for the rest of the convoy which had began to follow our lead. We navigated into the rocky mountainside and we avoided the flooded desert roads.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sand formations

The natural formations and patterns made by simply sand and wind astound me. I spent a great deal of time focusing on these patterns. Here is a compilation of my favorite shots of sand and dunes.

for more desert photos click here