Tag: “About”

Hidden Treasures or Heaps of Trash

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Hidden Treasures or Heaps of Trash?

This blog is a collection of brief illustrated travel vignettes which use photos and sparse text to transport you to another time and place.

» Escape from the pressures that the world surrounds you with. Step into the photos. Let your imagination spring to life! «

The stories are only magnets to pull you into the scenes. The stories are simply creative writing descriptions and perceptions inspired by travel. I am trying to guide you away. Your participation is helpful.

Your imagination is much richer than any over-produced video.

These blog posts are not chronological. They are not intended to be read in order, nor do they describe ongoing travel events. They are not ‘live reports’ from the road. In fact, they are written between trips to help me escape back to these places, also.

They are also not merely documentary. There are some illusions, some allusions, and some fantasy.

They are created for your entertainment.


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Please use the SEARCH box above to find stories that may interest you.

Or click on one of the tags to the right. It will guide you to all the stories related to that subject.


There are 173 brief stories to read at this point!

You can return here whenever you have two or three minutes. Go far away. Return stimulated.

As you look around you can decide whether there are hidden travel treasures or merely heaps of ….

Lost in Traduction

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Yes, traduction, from the French verb traduire (to translate). I think.

This illustration explains why I haven’t been posting very frequently to this blog recently:

Conjugating and Memorizing....

I am in my second semester of French at Humboldt State University. And I am putting a lot of time into studying and learning. I have had great professors and classmates. Everything is ideal for learning, well except for maybe my aptitudes or abilities. Or my age.

Naaah, it couldn’t be my age.

I would very much like to be able to comfortably converse and express myself in French. I have been able to learn the written material and memorize rules etc. But comprehending spoken French or expressing even simple things in French have been real struggles. I need more opportunities to speak and listen. But it is a hard hurdle to get over.

This is a brief post just to partially explain the infrequent posts recently. I have also been busy with several exhibitions and advance trip planning for upcoming travel. I am getting excited for the next trips! More information soon.

Shadows of Spain

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Travel photographs are an exploration of photography as well as an exploration of place. In this case the location was a courtyard in Málaga, Spain.

Málaga is an interesting gateway to Spain. The international airport is connected to the main rail station by a short city rail line. Our hotel was a short walk from the station and was in the old town. Nearby there are several blocks dedicated to pedestrian shopping and restaurants. Old Málaga is very pleasant for strolling and dining outside on the plazas.

During our stay in Spain we rode the train around Andalucía and saw as much as we could in Cádiz, Zahora, Córdoba, Granada, and many small villages along the coast. Near the end of our stay we returned to our old town hotel in Málaga. Late in the evening after we had walked back from dinner I started photographing out our hotel window.

Outside the hotel there was a courtyard with one lane for vehicle traffic marked by blocks. The light was dim but there were many lights so shadows were cast in multiple directions. I photographed the courtyard, at first just seeing the geometric shapes. Each element had several shadows. I started keying in on the shadows and the narrow range of brightness. The images were subtle, but interesting.

Geometric Shapes and Shadows, Courtyard, Málaga, Spain

As often happens when you spend time working on a scene new elements came into the image.

The first new element was a person running across the courtyard. I was using only available light so the shutter speed was slow. Movement created challenges. This person has at least two distinct and intriguing shadows. The shadows are a different shape than the running person because of the angle of the light sources. The blocks again have multiple shadows.

Runner and Shadows, Málaga, Spain

The second new situation was two bicyclists. They were doing tricks using the planter boxes and other features in the courtyard. Some of their shadows are distinct and some are faint. In this photo the cyclist on the left is doing a ‘wheelie’ and his shadow records it precisely.

Bicyclists With at Least Three Shadows Each, Málaga, Spain

I treated this as a learning exercise with low light photography and shadows. I converted the photographs to simple black and white. To me, in this case, the range in brightness and shadows are the interesting aspects of these photos. This is one of the rare times that I have artificially converted photographs to black and white. In general, I favor color photographs because they better represent the real world. Other people prefer to use one channel of overall brightness and show the photographs as black and white. I understand the art of black and white, but I think a lot is lost with that artificial presentation. Some photographers will disagree strongly with that opinion and characterization. I also think that color photographs hold as much artistic power as photographs depicting only overall brightness. But it is traditional to think otherwise. Artistic expression is possible with both approaches.

Please comment if you have an opinion! If you are viewing the list of all the blog postings, you can leave a reply by selecting this post from the blog list or click on ‘…Comments’ above by the title of this posting.

Anniversary Walk on the Beach!

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Flying home I am transfixed by the curve of the Earth speckled with building popcorn clouds above and rippled blue below. Memories of island days are still strong. Savoring memories of the warm air and the intoxicating relaxation brings comfort.

Travel practice does pay off. It becomes possible to spend time in a crowded place like Oahu and avoid travel problems so you can concentrate on getting to the end of the road to those deserted beaches. There are no distractions from learning and planning activities.

There is no time to get caught up in the stresses of Honolulu. Even though Oahu is a popular place, it is still easy to find long stretches of sand that are quiet.

A Lucky Couple, North Shore, Ka'ena Point, Oahu, Hawaii

This trip was about celebrating our anniversary. Annie and I celebrated our 30th anniversary walking on the beach, so to speak. We are still a lucky pair!

We made no specific plans before arriving except to seek enjoyment, togetherness, and relaxation. And we wanted to spend as much time on the beach as possible.

Our days were filled with long walks on beautiful beaches, leisurely drives along the shore, watching surfers, skydivers, and gliders, eating in beach-side restaurants, buying fruit from farm stands, and just lying in the shade in beach parks listening to the birds sing.

“What beach do you want to go to today? Do you want to hike in the morning and then go to the north shore? The waves are big today and the surfers will be out enjoying them. That should be photogenic. Maybe we can find a quiet beach with overhanging trees to frame the photos.” But photography is not a priority on this trip.

North Shore Surfer

It was a great anniversary trip and I just wanted to share that with you. That is today’s travel story.

Tweet the Raven, ‘Nevermore’

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Venice, Italy

One forty or less,

Here, is not success.

If pleasant escape is your goal,

A few characters more guide your stroll.

(111 characters)

This morning I read advice that blogs should be less than 500 words because attention spans are shrinking toward very short text messages and tweets.

I don’t agree with this simplistic conclusion. People seem to have time for reality TV shows and the stream of superficial nonsense that passes for news.

For example, the average American watches over 35 hours of TV per week. I know averages are problematic. Still, that is several hours per day per person! That is a choice, not an attention span issue.

Sometimes we want a brief update with immediacy, but other times we want to spend a few minutes and think a little.

This blog is for people who like to let their imagination travel while reading. Each posting is an illustrated short story. The photograph and words are the guides to another place and time.  Some are longer than others. I do not apologize.

I do try to create a place for you to go to for two or three minutes. The more vivid I make the description, the easier it is for you to go there. Most of these postings are less than 500 words. Sometimes it takes a few more words to fill in the sounds, smells, and feelings. Parsimony is the goal.

This photograph was taken at an outdoor café in Venice, Italy. I know it is not a raven. But it still triggered this posting.

Follow this link if you want to read Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Raven.

The poem is 1,125 words and 6,299 characters and was written in 1845. It lacks immediacy and exceeds the tweet limit, but probably still worth a couple minutes. Choices.

Wandering and Wondering

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Wandering in the Mojave Desert, California, USA

I was wondering who wandered through this blog and associated website last week. From a partial scan of the statistics I see that the web hosts of the visitors were in Sweden, Russia, Germany, Israel, Canada, The Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, Samoa, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, India, The Slovak Republic, South Africa, and places across the U.S.

I welcome you and I am honored. I hope that your time here is interesting.

Some of those countries may not have terrain like the Mojave Desert shown in the photo above.  So I hope you enjoy looking at some different terrain.

This posting is brief and describes this blog and my plans for the future.

This blog is more than a year old at this point. You can see in the “Navigate by Tags” panel on the left that you can visually escape to many places by wandering through the past postings. Just click on one of the tags to see all of the postings that were assigned that tag. Or you can use the Blog search box in the upper left of this page. Enter a term like Copacabana, for example, to see a list of the postings about that beautiful beach and Rio de Janeiro.

There are 125 stories now in this blog. I enjoy telling these brief stories and I hope that they stir your imagination.

What’s next? Here is a quick look ahead for my plans for this blog and the website:

We are preparing for our next photography trip, which will be a walking tour from village-to-village near Cahors, France. We will walk along the Lot River for several days and then go cross-country over to the Aveyron River. That should provide opportunities for photographs of rural village life and the countryside between villages.  At the end of that tour I will continue on to Budapest to photograph for about a week in that area. So the photographic emphasis will be on rural lifestyle and architecture in south central France and Hungary.

And I am working with Corey McKrill, the web designer at Jupiterwise Design, who will refurbish my main website. This redesign will occur during the next several weeks. I am looking forward to improving the web design and experience.

I will also photograph locally before we travel to France and Hungary. This means walking in our community forest and getting street images downtown and at events.

Later in the summer and fall I will attend several art fairs. These will be a good chance to meet people and talk about the photographs and they will augment my online gallery at   http://davidhowell.imagekind.com

Sorry for the personal information today. But periodically I try to explain the goals and plans for this endeavor. I will get back to story telling soon. If you need a story to get away from your daily routine, just scroll down or click on one of the tags on the right and pick a posting. Enjoy!!

The Traveling Part

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The Alhambra, Granada, Spain (photo by Annie Howell)

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain (photo by Annie Howell)

The reason I haven’t posted in a while is that I am gathering new images. And I am learning. Travel is a great teacher and is humbling. I am on a five language trip, and I am not that good with English!

I am on a trip including southern Spain, Morocco, the Dolomite Mountains in Italy and maybe a quick drive into Austria. My wife and I had a wonderful time in Andelucia. The days are long and it is hard work. I start the days with a general plan and even hire guides to help me focus and gain access to tricky areas. For example, the ancient walled city (medina) in Fez, Morocco is a chaotic stream of every imaginable person and every kind of vendor crushing together with chickens, camel meat stands, sandal makers, brass artists, souvenirs, cafes, donkey carts, and musicians. It was helpful to have a lifelong medina resident guide me, teach me, and help me avoid offending people while photographing.

Next will be the Atlas Mountains and walking to Berber villages for several days. Again, I will hire a guide to help me so I can concentrate on photography.

The photo in this post was taken by my wonderful traveling companion, my wife Annie. It is by one of the entrances to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I hope to return with many interesting images and will post them here with short stories. Take care.

What Lies Ahead?

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Self Portrait, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Self Portrait, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

The desert is a harsh setting. Only the adapted and fortunate survive. Lessons have to be learned quickly. Decisions carry serious consequences.

National parks and monuments in the desert are good places for contemplation. The landscapes are enormous and the mind can wander farther than the views. You are not distracted by artificial urgencies. The commercial world is not represented.

The desert allows a person to sort through the experiences of the past and evaluate the lessons that should have been learned. It is also a perfect setting for clearly thinking ahead and planning the future, if you can plan the future. You can at least decide on a path. Sometimes you will have to adapt to changing conditions, but the lessons previously learned can help you be prepared to deal with unexpected challenges, with integrity. Your values help you focus on the things of lasting importance so you can keep moving forward.

Of course none of us knows what lies ahead. Each of us plays our small but pivotal role within our family and community. If we are fortunate we are also supported by family and friends.

The reason for this philosophical post is that for the first time since I retired in January 2010 I can look ahead and plan my path with more freedom. Over the past several months I have been working under a contract to edit and prepare training material for a satellite image processing course. This was an activity that I was working on when I retired. Fortunately, it was one of my favorite parts of my work and I got to work with good friends.

Last week we held the training course in Texas. The participants were great to work with and it was fun. It is reassuring to interact with dedicated people who will lead innovation in the work that you spent your career on. I will probably help teach the course again next winter, but it definitely feels like I have completed that work. I may  continue to support that satellite remote sensing  and digital soil mapping work periodically.

But this is the start of a new path. I was fortunate to have had a challenging career filled with what I thought was useful work. Now the photography and maps will be the main focus.

I start this path with a new photo exhibit in a local wine tasting room in the beautiful seaside town of Trinidad, California. The opening reception was yesterday at Moonstone Crossing Tasting Room. My wife and I both have art on exhibit there and it was fun to spend the afternoon with our friends talking about our endeavors.

My path ahead includes this blog, so I hope that you enjoy the brief travel escapes. Today I have been more philosophical, but I will generally focus on travel stories. We will also travel on dedicated photo excursions. The next subjects will be southern Spain, Morocco, and Italy. I will continue to work on my website and develop new and custom map products. I will also work on new local images for photo note cards.

And, of course, I will continue to treasure my wife, our two wonderful daughters, and our families. The lessons that I have learned have taught me that the consequence of that decision is a contented and meaningful life. They help me adapt and enjoy the path.

Pardon me for the personal nature of this post. The photo is in Joshua Tree National Park and is a self portrait.

You Call That Work?

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Mojave National Preserve, Kelso, California, USA

Mojave National Preserve, Kelso, California, USA

OK, photography won’t solve climate change or reduce our dependence on petroleum. It won’t provide new jobs or feed hungry families. This one job doesn’t do that much to feed my family either.

So why spend days planning and hours shooting photographs? Is it really work if you enjoy it? What is the value? Are you contributing anything?

If you will excuse a somewhat personal and serious posting, I wanted to talk about these issues from my perspective. I used to work as a soil scientist. Now I am a photographer.

My previous goals included obtaining a graduate degree in a rigorous field science and applying that to providing useful and reliable information to people who manage natural resources. I spent over three decades conducting field work (hand excavation of soil pits to determine soil properties) and eventually developing and implementing new methods. Computer technology, remote sensing (satellite image analysis), statistical models, and geographic information systems were added to the field data to help create useful maps of soils.

Most people don’t really know what a soil scientist does. But a person has to be motivated to contribute something of value in order to deal with the hard physical labor in remote locations, the heat, the snakes, the wind, the cold, the rain, and the challenge of figuring out complex landscape patterns. I was motivated by the value of what we soil scientists produce. Since life on earth depends on what grows in, passes through, or decays in the soil, it is obvious that we need to know about the soils around us. We all benefit when somebody goes out there and figures them out and makes us a map.

I am still involved in soil science and remote sensing applications, but I have turned my attention to photography. In particular, I am interested in travel photography. My value system is based on hard work, integrity, responsibility, and doing my part. Old fashioned perhaps, but still important values. So after many years of professional service I still need to contribute. I don’t want to be satisfied with what I have done and now go on extended vacation. These are common motivations-nothing too noble.

So what am I trying to contribute and is it really work?

I am trying to contribute a vantage point to a different place and time. Somewhere vivid and interesting where you can see, feel, and maybe hear and smell new things. If I can put you there, yes, maybe you hear and smell with your imagination. These photographs can provide an escape to a place you have not experienced or a reminder of a place that you enjoyed in the past. I hope that you can savor what it is like to be there. The value of this is that whatever you deal with each day, the brief moments that you can escape to another place can be relaxing, rejuvenating, stimulating, or fun. Maybe this can help you get more out of your day or trigger ideas. Maybe they will just help you feel better for a few minutes.

Is it work? Well, I guess it doesn’t need to be work. But I approach it as a professional endeavor. I will tell you, for a person who has spent many years dealing with hard science and facts, it is interesting to try to create art. When I am traveling for photography I plan and spend each day with photographic themes and goals. I am willing, and sometimes forced, to ad lib. The days are long. I put a lot of thought and energy into pursuing the theme for each day. I learn a lot, especially from my mistakes. The photography and site challenges are combined with cultural and language challenges. My wife helps me a great deal. And we are planning excursions to Spain, Morocco, and other places in the near future.

So I am still motivated to contribute something of value. But now I am contributing creativity rather than facts. I hope that you enjoy this work. Thank you for your patience with this personal explanation, if you read this far! When I started this posting I didn’t know where it was going, but maybe I needed to get that off my chest.

The self portrait above was the result of a long, weekend afternoon in the Mojave Desert. I was trying for a very long depth of field so you could see the late afternoon shadows of the gravel and sand in the foreground (OK, I’m a soil scientist, sorry) and the shrubs, but still see 20 miles across the basin to the mountains beyond.

It was a hot, quiet afternoon. Can you hear the wind rustling in the brush? Can you smell the baking vegetation? Can you imagine the shadows moving across the scene as the clouds float by? Can you feel the setting sun on your back?  Photo:  1/40 s at f/22

You can visit my online galleries to view more of my portfolio. Click the Photography link above.

Why Earth Map Photo™?

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One version of the business logo.

One version of the business logo.

Where did this business name come from and what does it mean?

I chose this name in 2005 to indicate the geographic extent that I am interested in. It also describes the elements of the business.

I understand that it is an unusual business name. It is sort of choppy and combines three disparate concepts.

The simple explanation is: 

I don’t limit the photographic locations to one region. I will  continue to work in places scattered around the planet – EARTH.

I make custom maps (and have an extensive professional background in geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, landscape modeling, soil science, and map and graphic preparation) – MAP.

I have dedicated a great deal of time in the field over the last several years developing skills in artistic travel photography – PHOTO.

The business is an intersection of travel, map creation, and photography.


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Working in the French Alps, Chamonix, France (Photo by Holly Howell)

I am a travel photographer and map maker. My education includes a B.S. and M.S. in Natural Resources (emphasizing soil science, GIS, and remote sensing) from Humboldt State University.  My professional background is in managing soil survey geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing analysis, satellite image processing, statistical modeling, GIS training, and digital soil mapping throughout California. I also collaborate nationally and have presented our work at Global Digital Soil Mapping Workshops in Montpellier, France, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Logan, Utah held by the International Union of Soil Sciences. I retired in January 2010 after 32+ years with the same employer. But I continue to work in and be interested in GIS and map creation and image analysis.

I am now turning my attention to developing my own travel photography and map business.  I sell prints, matted prints, and framed prints of photographs of intriguing scenes of my home area (north coast of California) and more exotic locations. I also create and sell custom maps using high resolution aerial photographs, or topographic maps, with or without hillshading enhancement. All prints are archival quality and can be mounted on museum grade backing and protected with archival mat.

I enjoy this combination of technical precision and creative expression. My photography skills and interests are expanding as I work and study in different locations.

On this blog I will tell brief stories about some of the photos and maps. You can visit my online galleries to view more of my portfolio. Click the Photography link above.




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