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“Traveling is SO Broadening”
A little bit about China
Unconventional Travel Tips
“T’is The Season for YOUR FLORIDA ADVENTURES”
14 th Annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in Titusville
Traveling is SO Broadening
My Grandmother used to say that “traveling was so broadening”! I’m sure she meant that phrase in an educational sort of way, but after this year’s world-wind schedule with trips to the Pantanal, Brazil in June/July, Kenya in August, back to Northeastern Brazil in September, and on to China in October, I’ll agree that all that traveling is very broadening!!! (Right onto the now very-broadened backside !!)
Have you ever eaten large doses of airline food? Even after making those infamous personal promises not to touch the stuff, you do it anyway out of shear boredom. Well, trust me….You can watch only so many movies, edit so many of your trip’s images, read only so many magazines or books, chat with your neighbor only so long, (even when he has been snoring next to your ear for hours & hasn’t heard a word you’ve said---not that much of what was said was important anyway—by this time it’s mostly ‘bibble’) Other than the excitement and anticipation of what the next meal will bring, the only other ‘in-the-air’ highlight of long travel is the trip to the restroom! Whether needed or not, it is the only excuse to get some exercise & uncramp the legs or twisted backbone. However, this too, offers many challenges, especially if you are located in the middle or inside seat, or the much-coveted and sought-after window seat!! This venture is even more of a challenge if your neighbor or neighbors are asleep.
Great thought has to be given and decisions have to be made. Do I wake them remembering the phrase “better let sleeping dogs lie”?!! Or…Do I climb over them? This thought alone conjures up some pretty interesting visions in your already-crazed imagination!! This can become an even greater challenge if your neighbor is asleep and his dinner tray is still down--- with his half-full glass of red wine on top of it and his stubby little fingers tightly wrapped around the stem of this fine plastic airline china!! Now you wonder HOW can you best maintain your dignity, especially in light of the fact that your seat is at the front of this ‘cattle car’ section of the plane, and every non-sleeping passenger from your seat number all the way to the back of the plane will be witnessing your calisthenics!! Now, of course, the not-needed trip up the aisle has suddenly become a very much-needed emergency. Yes, “traveling is very broadening”—And in an educational way, too! My education or lesson learned was… always, always, always, always select an aisle seat! Today’s Tip #1!!!!
My only experience, & vivid childhood recollection of China is the memory of my mother’s words ringing in my ears as she sternly said over and over again that I was to “think of the poor children in China who would be so grateful for that piece of bread crust you want to get rid of….”. This was being said as I was trying to slip the dreaded crust to the dog or throw it behind the radiator!! It is little wonder that I arrived in China this last October resenting the little children of China!! However, this all changed once I started seeing their beautiful little faces, up-turned and anxious for their picture to be taken. One revelation was how happy and anxious the parents (or grandparents, who do a lot of the babysitting) were to have their little one’s picture taken, which is totally the opposite reaction of many of the other countries I visit.
There was not much in the wildlife department that I saw, which probably has something to do with the 1.4 billion people that inhabit that country. However, visiting the Great Panda Bear refuge and seeing these magnificent animals play and interact with each other and their babies was the highlight of my visit. The raccoon-look-alike Red Pandas were a completely new species to me, as I didn’t know they even existed. Fortunately, like the Great Panda Bears, they, too, are protected.
The weather was not at its best, but we did have a few good opportunities to shoot the beautiful rice terraces that I was told took six hundred years to build. I’m not sure that is an accurate fact, but with three-weeks of facts about this 3,000-year-old culture being thrown around, I’m really not sure of anything!! However, I am very sure of one thing (& I tried to document it---tho’ not well)…..I have never, ever seen so many ingenious modes of transportation! Some in frighteningly dangerous road situations, some crazy looking, some pretty cool-looking, but all seemed to be functional & serving a purpose that worked for its owner/creator.
Travel & Photo-gear Tip
The quotation “Necessity is the mother of Invention” seems especially applicable during major travel trips—especially when dealing with expensive camera gear. For years I’ve been absconding, swiping, hording, and stealing all those cheap, clear, plastic shower caps generously provided by most every hotel/motel/lodge around the world---and not for the use they were intended. They come in handy in so many ways, but my original use of them was to keep the electrical components of my off-camera flash clean and dry while mounted on the camera during inclement and/or dusty weather. This still enabled me to see the back panel adjustments easily etc. (It doesn’t have to be raining hard to short out your flash---moisture getting into the camera’s shoe connection can be fatal to the flash and maybe to the camera also). The shower cap is also a quick, lightweight, cheap, compact tool to quickly cover the camera, or your cell phone, or those expensive ear-phones, your passport, or wallet, etc. etc. the list goes on….
My latest use was for my feet! The “catch” here is you need to steal your roommate’s cap also--(assuming you have two feet!)!! Most places leave two caps per room, in case you weren’t aware of this trivia. China was cold and rainy much of the time and I had failed to pack the appropriate foot gear. Cold, wet feet can be a miserable way to spend your days, especially when there is no hope of ever drying out your socks & shoes until you return home (or better yet, just leave them at the departure gate!). I spent most of the almost-three-week-trip with shower caps on my feet & didn’t suffer a wet or cold moment!!! (Oh, periodically you have to confiscate replacements, which is an easy, slight-of-hand off the maid’s cart or your roommate’s side of the sink.) On colder wet days, I’d wear them next to my skin under my socks. Otherwise, I’d slip them over my dry socks, protecting them from my clammy, damp, smelly shoes!! There are a million other uses for these cheap, plastic, motel-give-a-ways, which I’ll share along the way, or use your imagination! Tip #2!!
The Luggage Nazis
Yes Grandma, “traveling is soooo broadening”!! For instance, I’ve seen the killer instinct kick into place while watching a seemingly sweet little grey-haired elderly lady be pushed to the brink of insanity by a security officer waving wands over her body, forcing her to remove articles of clothing, and then the ultimate insult of opening her carry-on bag, displaying all her ‘intimates’ for everyone to see who is standing within spitting distance! (By the way, everyone—and I mean everyone—spits in China!!) At some airport in China (who can keep track which one), I was pulled aside and brought into ‘ The Room’ for a brief interrogation regarding an object in my check-in bag that their x-ray machine could not identify. Two male members of my group had to stand there & witness the transactions…..which simply put, was watching me ripping the carefully-packed items out of the bag to try and find the object in question, which turned out to be a spare camera battery. I was sternly informed that it was against all policies to carry batteries in the ‘checked’ luggage. My response was that I thought it was against all policies to carry batteries in you ‘carry-on’ luggage. “Well, it is--that too” I was informed. As my blood pressure rose, and my voice was about to reach a very high-pitch, readying itself to ‘spew out’ a string of unpleasant sentences about “where am I supposed to carry my blanket-blank spare batteries you blanket-blank fool?”, when a sudden moment of common sense & sanity kicked in. A little inner voice whispered “Joanne, you are an American in some Chinese airport. You obviously have broken a law--at least in the eyes of this official who also has a weapon, and could care less about where to carry your spare camera batteries--and now your clothes and other belongings are scattered all over the place,plus you have to get out of ‘The Room’ to catch a plane!” So I zippered my lips, blessing little voices and silently & sheepishly tucked the battery in my vest knowing full-well I’d get stopped at the next check-point for that horrific infringement. I hurriedly repacked my bags, politely said thank you to the officer for correcting the ‘error of my ways’ and left ‘The Room’! Well, now, there are two members of my traveling group that know for sure, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I do Not shop at Victoria Secrets!! Never, never, ever argue with the Luggage Nazis. Tip #3!
The Luggage Thieves
“You want the good news or the bad news?”---“Is the glass half empty or half full?”---“Every cloud has a silver lining”….You are now probably wondering ‘ Where is she going with this?’ And you should as it has an odd twist. Bear with me a moment. For years we traveling photographers have plotted, schemed, lied, lay awake nights, had night-mares, paid hefty insurance coverage, and made ourselves sick with worry all in an effort to protect and preserve our expensive camera equipment from theft and/or damage while we are traveling, especially during airline travel. Upon landing at our destination, paranoia usually sets in regarding our checked luggage. If you doubt me, just watch the faces of your fellow photography travelers while standing at the baggage pick up turnstile. We’re cool & calm watching bags go in a circle until about the 50th bag has gone by and our camera luggage has yet to show up. We start to fidget, scowl, even perspire, as we frantically start looking around to see if some other passenger has inadvertently touched our precious luggage. Suddenly everyone around us is a hardened criminal ready to take off with our valuable gear!! Then there is the airline itself to deal with and all their new rules which are made up and changed on an hourly basis, as are the extra charges!! After 911, security has gotten ‘over-the-top’, and continues to get worse.
I’ve spent many, many dollars on TSA locks that never seem to make it back home. I buy ugly pink ones, or putrid-green ones with the conviction that no sane person will steal these. I am consistently wrong--not about the ‘sane part’, but the part about them getting stolen. But I should be grateful, (and I am) that thus far, my camera equipment & luggage has gone unscathed and made it home with me, even if it is without the TSA locks! Throughout the year, I give a number of speaking engagements and slide presentations. The number one question that is consistently asked of me is; “how do you travel with all your gear, especially airline travel?” Due to government security & airline rules & regulations, and my diminishing ability to lug the heavy stuff around, I have to check much of it. This is cause for concern and a great many prayers are uttered throughout the trip. Due to all the weight restrictions & charges, I now use a heavy-duty canvas, zippered bag which is much, much lighter than the preferred Pelican Bag, which can be run over by a Mack truck and not be harmed!!
Well, a new situation has just been brought to my attention that I must share with you. From what I can glean, there is no point in ever buying another expensive TSA luggage lock or a lock of any kind. This is “the good news…” and is “the Silver Lining…” or the only reason “the glass is half full” part of the story. Now comes the “bad news part…” I’m recommending that you go out and buy yourself a nice new pen, and then come back and get on your computers & take a look at: Openingabaggage.wmv which you will find on YouTube. It’s an ‘eye opener’ as well as a ‘luggage opener’!! Tip #3 (Would love any & all feedback & remember this only applies to zippered bags, I think!)
“T’is the season” for the Snow birds to arrive, the migrating birds to all be here after their journeys South, the nesting, mating, feeding, flights and all that wonderful activity that draws most wildlife & nature photographers & lovers out in full force. The days are now usually balmy with blue skies, puffy-white clouds, & gentle breezes blowing. From now through May is my special time here in Florida.
The Pontoon boat & Fotoboat have come out of ‘mothballs’ or drydock, are tuned up and ship-shape for their up-coming duties in the months ahead. My shoes are re-soled & polished and ready for the ˝ day or full-day ‘Strolls with the Pro’ portion of the Florida Adventure Series! I am ‘reconning,’ or sniffing around, to find those special spots where the wildlife is doing its thing. Every year is different, offering new scenics, new activities, new nests, and often, a new species will arrive on the scene. I’ve already heard from a number of you Northerners with your arrival dates and vacation plans, and requests for Your Florida Adventure. Everything is in the works, and I’m anxious to get ‘out there’ with you, and share with you what this fabulous State has to offer. For those of you not sure what The Florida Adventures entail, please visit my website: www.joannewilliamsphoto.com , tap on the top bar at the SafariTour section, and scroll down to the Florida portion which explains in detail each of the different adventures I have to offer. Prices vary so please call. You might even want to take a look at some of the other adventures; Africa, Madagascar, & the Pantanal Brazil. The Pantanal trip plans are almost finalized. The first tour will be taking place in June 2011.
Once again, I’ll be participating in this fun, informative, rewarding, & educational event. If you like wildlife, (birds, Florida panther & other wildlife treats are always in attendance) and you like to see the latest equipment—binocs, cameras, video, luggage/backpacks etc.—and you like viewing all different forms of artwork---photography, paintings, wooden, clay, ceramic crafts by local & non-local artists—and if you like in-the-field workshops or walking/boating ventures—bird watching adventures, and photography outings conducted in the field by some of the best professionals in the business---and the added bonuses of various presentations. If you like any and all of the above, then this is the event for you!!
I personally will be conducting two in-the-field wildlife photography outings (I call them Strolls with the Pro), and on Saturday afternoon, the 29 th, I’ll be giving a presentation called “Born Free”. This is about a 50-minute slide-music production I have put together for, not only your viewing pleasure and enjoyment, but hopefully to give you a little more insight into Nature’s treasures and messages. There will be plenty of time afterward for any discussions or questions you may have. As usual, I will have my double booth display with brochures, pamphlets, and other information regarding all my tours, workshops etc. There will be signed-by-me mounted images for sale and custom orders available. And, as always, I am available to visit with you and discuss your personal work, and help with any photo questions, problems, and/or critiques. For the past few years, many have wanted to participate and take advantage of this time, so in order to accommodate everyone, I’ll no doubt have to have a sign-up sheet for an appointed time. If you are seriously thinking of coming to this wonderful Festival, I suggest you check into accommodations soon as this little city of Titusville gets pretty busy and you do not want to be left out!! Your best bet is to go to the Festival’s website www.space.coast.com for details. Touch base with me and let me know if you are going to be there, and if there are any special requests. You have to sign up directly with the ‘powers that be’ through the Festival for any workshops you wish to attend---the calendar is on the website.
It is that time of year again…
And, of course, “Keep Your Aperture Your Priority”!!
If you are interested in any of my tours, click on their corresponding link below:
Photo Researchers, Editors, and Publishers:
As stated in previous newsletters, at no obligation to you, send me a “want list” of images you are looking for that may coincide with a trip I’m about to take, or have recently taken, and I’ll do my very best to seek out that subject and shoot it with your request in mind. This may save you some expense, give me a specific mission and possibly a sale of that image. It’s a ‘win, win situation’!
A quick reminder that my library of 35mm original slides houses approximately 75,000 images, and my digital library presently holds over 100,000 (and growing-hourly)!
My website holds an in-depth Stock Shop for your quick review: www.joannewilliamsphoto.com