Photo Friday: Dougga (Tunisia)

International Travel, Photography

UNESCO qualified Dougga as a World Heritage Site in 1997, believing that it represents “the best-preserved Roman small town in North Africa.” The site, which lies in the middle of the countryside, has been protected from the encroachment of modern urbanization, unlike Carthage, for instance, which has been pillaged and rebuilt on numerous occasions.

Dougga provides some of the nicest Roman ruins I’ve had the privilege to come across. I was also fortunate enough to be exploring the area on Christmas day with my future wife–thank you, Santa.

Photos taken December 25, 2009.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition


tucsonTucson Botanic Gardens
Tucson, Arizona

My best friend (who taught me photography) had recently moved from Southern California to Tucson and I made a visit out to see him and his wife that winter. Always looking for photo outing opportunities, we stopped by the Tucson Botanic Gardens on a grey day, where I came across this unusual juxtaposition.

Photo taken December 27, 2006.

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Photo Friday: Mormon Rocks (California)

Photography, Southern California

Cajon Pass is a mountain pass between the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California. It was created by the movements of the San Andreas Fault. The Mojave Desert pass is an important link from the Greater San Bernardino Area to the Victor Valley, and northeast to Las Vegas. In 1851, a group of Mormon settlers led by Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich traveled through the Cajon Pass in covered wagons on their way from Salt Lake City to Southern California. A prominent rock formation in the pass, where the Mormon trail and the railway merge, is known as Mormon Rocks.

There is no one trail that encompasses the area. The photos below were taken at three separate locations. There is an easy to follow mile-long trail beginning at the Mormon Rocks fire station located on Highway 138 just west of Interstate 15.

Photos taken April 3, 2011.

Prior to the Pageant (Gonzo Writing Challenge)

Southern California

“Is it a penguin? No, . . . a pelican? No . . . you know, they have ’em at the zoo. They look like they’re in suits.” “Penguins.” “They don’t have knees.” “What?” “Penguins don’t have knees.” “Birds don’t have knees, do they?” “Sure they do. But penguins don’t.” This is the most interesting conversation surrounding me while I wait for the display of five pieces at this Working Press Night preview of the Pageant of the Masters, which doesn’t formally begin for another month. I am cold and regretting having my hair cut short the day before.

I arrived an hour earlier and toured backstage with my obligatory name tag among a herd of others equally branded. I felt like a blood cell trying to work my way through a clogged artery. Four hundred press in attendance and most seemed interested in blocking my way. In my slow crossing I can see some makeup being administered to a young man simultaneously being blinded by the seemingly constant flash photography. I also notice that along the upper edges of the beige walls are painted Styrofoam heads, sequentially numbered, giving the makeup artists sculpted guides to follow.

Flash. Another photo taken. I work my way past wardrobe, past the few available individuals being interviewed by short, gray haired men with blue-inked ball-point pens and flip-top notepads, to the wall of photographs depicting past glories in the field of “living pictures,” as they put it—essentially cast members painted and outfitted and placed in life-sized art, portraying lovers or baseball players or intricate ornaments. My eye wanders to a vacant corner of the opposite wall where an Emergency Exit Plan is hanging.

So I’ve been sitting in this firm, narrow chair in Laguna’s Irvine Bowl amphitheater for an hour, listing to the slowly gathering others talk about their first times. One lady behind me says hers was back in ’69 and that she’s been coming back for more every year. Another’s was five years ago but this is her first time back. It is only women discussing their first times. I don’t let on that this is mine.

An hour in the growing dark and gathering fog and forty-five minutes behind schedule, the presentation of the pieces finally begins. By this time so many camera operators have coalesced on the platform set up for them before the stage that I am sure those of us behind them are going to see the collapse of more than the Berlin Wall during our lifetimes. The exhibition lasts less than thirty minutes in all, including four minute staging periods between pieces. I wonder about the lady whose first time was back in ’69 and whether it is still as good for her now as it was then. I am too numb from the night’s increasing chill to contribute my own response.

Backstage and up-close the makeup work seemed rough, nearly amateurish, and the outfitting too brash and cartoonish, but on stage, properly lit, the living pictures do become art. At once these scenes are transformed from people made-up in oversized settings to an artist’s bold brush strokes or the distinctive look of cool porcelain. Of the five pieces shown the first and fifth are the best. The first, an eighteenth century “Pastoral Fantasy,” for it portrays the delicacies of miniature porcelain with great detail and color; the fifth, “Perfume Bottle,” for it is a striking, sculpted form set against a black backdrop, and because I have a thing for nude women painted gold, arching their backs.

As I leave I realize two things: The small band in the corner is playing the same song they were when I entered the park two hours prior, and that the fair amount of press that had left before the fifth piece was displayed did so so they could be first in line for the free food. Grilled chicken. Smells good, but it is late and I am numb and have a long drive home.


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