In 2015 we visited Jardin des Plantes, that wonderful botanical garden built by royal decree in 1635 with France's oldest zoo, green houses and a museum of natural history.
Inside the museum on an upper floor overlooking the skeletons of dinosaurs, we stumbled upon a photo exhibition of the staff's work life during the German Occupation.
Almost the same scene as above but with snow. The woman is a scientist we'll see below. Two keepers are feeding the lion.
A scientist is trying to organize the museums' papers!
Here's her working cataloguing skulls!
Cara - Tuesday
Annamaria on Monday
Until quite recently, I was unable to look back at the many of the trips that David and I took together because he did almost all the photographing, and he took 35MM color slides. The film he used was the best way, in those days, to capture really fine images. But that technology went obsolete. And then, when the bulb blew out on our slide projector and I couldn't find a replacement, I could not see his photos. There I was with forty-four boxes containing carousel slide trays, most of them holding about a hundred and ten slides, none of which I could view with any level of satisfaction.
A few months ago, I bit the bullet and sent the slides off to be scanned: All 5460 of them. Once those precious pictures were in digital form, the first ones I went to look at were of our trip to Galapagos. I had one image in mind that I really wanted to see again. It was one I took of David. I'll show it to you in a few minutes.
Cruise passengers in single file.
Almost all the shots you will see here were taken by David Jay Clark, who is still of this world, but as many of you know, barely. He had a great eye--for art and for taking photographs. What you will see below, with two obvious exceptions, are his shots. The only one I cropped is the one of me at the very top.
On almost every one of the many tropical islands David and I visited in our travels, one could buy a tee-shirt with the name of the place, followed by the words "An Island Paradise." The only place that ever felt like paradise to me was Galapagos--because (as I was taught about the Garden of Eden before the fall) the animals are not afraid of people. Birds did not fly away. Reptiles did not skitter off.
David worked with a light meter and a camera that required him to set the F-stop. That sort of thing. Here are a few of his birds.
This--I think--is one of the finches. For which, thanks to Charles Darwin,
Galapagos is famous.
Penguins at the equator!
My favorite birds were the boobies...
...especially the blue-footed boobies.
All the boobies, viewed straight on, have a goofy kind of look. That is because their eyes are unlike the usual eyes of bird species. Ordinarily birds eyes are on the sides of their heads and give them great peripheral vision. Boobies are built to see very well looking straight ahead. Here's why. They are fishing birds and catch their prey by diving into the water and taking the fish on the way up. So they have to see well directly ahead.
I loved watching them fish.
They circle over the ocean in squads of fifty or more. When one of them spies a school of fish, it dives. Then a few others take the cue. And then--wow! Ten, twenty, thirty birds are folding their wings and hitting the water, going straight down. Soon they are are emerging with fish in their beaks.
If they are lucky, and most of the time they are, they get away with their catch.
But they have to watch out for this creature. The frigate bird:
The frigate bird, displaying during the mating season.
Frigate birds are fast and very manoeuvrable. I think they take their name of the English ships of old. The birds get their speed and agility from how light they are. Their bones are hollow and they have no oil in their feathers.
But they eat fish, even though they can't dive into the water. The lack of oil in their feathers means they would sink and drown. What they do is harry the boobies who are carrying fish, until one of them drops his catch. The frigate bird then swoops and catches the fish in midair.
I learned when researching my first novel--City of Silver that Spanish Galleons, tubby, heavy craft, were loaded with silver from the mines of Potosi and traveled up the west coast of South America toward Panama on their way to Spain. The Spanish ships were often attacked by lighter, faster English frigates that stole the product of Spanish labor: ingots, ships, and all. I think the frigate birds got their name for the similarities in these two ways of making a living.
Speaking of British frigates, they hung out in Galapagos while they were waiting for ships of packed with silver to come along. While there, they loaded up on fresh meat, including giant tortoises. As a result, the lovely creatures' numbers were decimated. By the 20th Century, they were endangered. Thanks to animals bred in captivity and then returned to their natural habitat, they now number more than 19,000.
A very memorable day for me was when we visited Isabela Island. I had been reading Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle as we traveled from island to island. I recognised one of the locations we visited as one I had read about:
I was pretty sure an amazing coincidence had taken place. We we returned to the ship I checked the book and found I was right. (Albemarle Island is now called Isabela)
We were there on September 29th. Just as Darwin had been:
September 29th.—We doubled the south-west extremity of Albemarle Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed between it and Narborough Island. Both are covered with immense deluges of black naked lava, which have flowed either over the rims of the great caldrons, like pitch over the rim of a pot in which it has been boiled, or have burst forth from smaller orifices on the flanks; in their descent they have spread over miles of the sea-coast. On both of these islands, eruptions are known to have taken place; and in Albemarle, we saw a small jet of smoke curling from the summit of one of the great craters. In the evening we anchored in Bank's Cove, in Albemarle Island. The next morning I went out walking. To the south of the broken tuff-crater, in which the Beagle was anchored, there was another beautifully symmetrical one of an elliptic form; its longer axis was a little less than a mile, and its depth about 500 feet. At its bottom there was a shallow lake, in the middle of which a tiny crater formed an islet. The day was overpoweringly hot, and the lake looked clear and blue: I hurried down the cindery slope, and, choked with dust, eagerly tasted the water—but, to my sorrow, I found it salt as brine.
So happy to be in the footsteps of Darwin!
Here is that photo of David that I am so happy I can see again. He is standing under an opuntia cactus--YES! a prickly pear plant. But in Galapagos, they grow to the size of an oak tree!!
--Susan, Every Other Sunday
My father died unexpectedly, ten years ago, on the day that would have been his 65th birthday. In the years since his death, I've learned to appreciate, even more deeply, our shared passion for photography--especially the way his photographs taught me to view the world.
Dad took the "expected" pictures: family vacations, kids growing up, panoramic views of spectacular sunsets and many, many portraits of his beloved and spoiled cats. But for every such photo he took, he took at least two close-up photographs of flowers, butterflies, bugs, or bees.
Dad didn't take this, but he would have, had he been there.
Dad taught me to look more closely at the world around me, and that doing so would often reveal unexpected details other people will often miss.
Looking over my photographs from my recent travels on the Nakasendo (a preserved section of the 17th century travel road through the Japan Alps), it's clear his spirit, and his lessons, still influence me behind the lens. Today, I'd like to take you on a tour of the Nakasendo, through the lessons my father taught me about photography--none of which were consciously in my mind as I shot the images. I realized only after the fact that even though Dad never visited the Nakasendo, each of these photos is one he would have taken, had he been there.
The kanji on this old waypoint marker read "Nakasendo"
Dad loved sardonic humor (there's no question where I get it) and liked to photograph things that made him smile.
Schroedinger's trail is, and is not, the way forward.
Some of the greatest gifts nature has to offer are the ones you have to be still and patient enough to see.
Moth sunning itself on a leaf near the side of the trail.
You'll miss some of the most interesting things in life if you're too busy or too preoccupied to stop and look, with the eyes to see the things that flitter, creep, and crawl.
A dragonfly resting on the cobblestones of the ancient travel road.
Or if you forget to raise your eyes and see the larger view. And when you see it . . . take the time to frame the image to direct the eye and convey the moment as strongly as possible.
The view from a rest point on the Nakasendo.
Dad often photographed his subjects not just from the expected angles (straight on, center frame) but from unusual perspectives. Sometimes those shots were terrible, but sometimes they were far more interesting than the "usual suspects."
I shot this shrine entrance from the front, and from this side approach. This shot is infinitely better.
While walking along the river to visit Otake-Metake falls, I stopped to listen to the river and watch it dance among the stones. Had I not stopped to appreciate the river, rather than just the falls, I would have missed the two stone cairns someone (or, more likely, a series of someones) created in the middle of the stream. I climbed down the bank, said a prayer, and added a stone to the top of the left-hand cairn before stepping into the stream itself to snap a photograph.
Dad's lesson here? Balancing the weight of the stones in the foreground with the angle and weight of the water at the back.
These are the things you miss if you stay on the path and hurry to the destination.
When I returned to Magome after the hike, I walked through the street seeking subjects I hadn't photographed on previous visits. I heard angry chattering from the nearby eaves, and discovered a nest of nearly-fledged tsubame (swallows) waiting for dinner.
Yet another gift I would have missed if I hadn't been "looking" with more than just my eyes.
More than anything else, Dad taught me that a camera is more than just a tool for recording life as it passes by around you. It does that, too, of course, but the powerful shots--the ones that make you think, or feel, or experience something you didn't expect--are a fusion of the lens, the moment, and the mind and heart of the person who snapped the frame.
Thank you, Dad. (And thank you for indulging me in this bit of ancestral photographic navel-gazing along Japan's historic travel road.)