A long walk on an uninterrupted beach is like entering a stream of dreams.
You don’t know what you will see along the way or where your thoughts will take you.
Walking the stunning Costa Rican tropical beaches along the Caribbean coast south of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to Manzanillo leads you past rustic vendor huts, monkeys in swaying coconut palms, tiny villages, deserted coves, and long stretches of sand with only the sound of the waves to stimulate your thoughts.
For a photographer the different times of the day are important for the changes in lighting. But your moods and dreams are also influenced by the phases of the day. Photographers are always looking for dreams.
Timeless Costa Rican Dawn
Early morning light creates far-reaching but ill-defined dreams. Distant shores and vague but dangerous adventures emerge in the images in your mind. Sailing ships, pirates, tramp steamers, tropical land grabs, corrupt officials, empires built on bananas-tea-pineapples-coffee, jungle exploration, indigenous people struggling against invading imperialists and grappling with family and religious traditions, travelers seeking authenticity, missionaries…changes sweeping over the beaches and reaching deep into mountainous jungles.
The hiss of the waves moves with you as you walk on mile after mile. Monkeys in the jungle, birds calling, heat building….
The brightening morning sun creates a sandy paradise around you. Dreams of play and beauty float through your thoughts. Children laughing, adults feeling vitality, some in the sun, others finding shade at the edge of the jungle, life’s many stages all reveling in the warm joy. Your dreamlike walk eventually seeks solitude-a secret cove.
You clamber down through the jungle to a deserted cove. Sitting alone you dream of being ship-wrecked. Could you build a shelter, find fresh water and food? You are drawn to the end of the beach. What dreams are around the rocky point?
If you time the waves right you can stay on the rocky ledge and enter a new beach. But this beach has an end. After feeling like you could walk forever down this series of coves and points, steep slopes covered with dense jungle vegetation close your path.
You have left the small villages and beachcombers behind. Your dreams are of the primordial world. This feeling of isolation is strong. Although the modern world is close at hand, you can feel like an explorer. Given your dreams, what would you do with this beautiful tropical world? What if your footprints were the first ones? Your dreams have no bounds now.
Exquisite hours pass as your dreams roam to the horizon. Finally, the day has advanced toward evening. Your explorer dreams are giving way to hunger. It is time to find a soda (café) in Manzanillo and get a late lunch. As you walk back it is hot and you are getting tired. You have seen so much. Have your beach dreams created a new, rejuvenated you?
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.
Pickers, pluckers, pryers, and scoopers scramble over the rocks as the tide recedes. Each person has their own favorite tools and positions. Some people concentrate on the rocks, while others wade at the edge of the water. The waders have homemade tools that amount to a stiff butterfly net on a pole. They scrape and scoop in the shallow water filtering out the sand looking for treasures.
Poudrantais, near Pénestin, Brittany, France
The treasures that these Breton villagers are seeking are mollusks. Mollusks play an important role in Breton cuisine and coastal income. The plastic shell buckets on every table in restaurants attest to the popularity of ‘moules et frites’, the pervasive mussels and fries.
When the tide goes out in Brittany it goes way out. The seafloor is gently sloping. The expanse of exposed rock draws villagers who are happy leave their other chores and pick up free seafood.
Mollusks are grown and harvested commercially in many villages. Networks of vertical posts are seeded with mussels. When the posts are exposed at low tide mature shellfish are harvested using a boom on a barge. The barges work offshore while the locals clamor for their own harvest. Some of these posts are visible offshore, in the distance in the upper photo.
Boat Removal, Poudrantais, near Pénestin, Brittany, France
It is very common for boats to settle onto the sand or rocks in bays and harbors with each low tide. When people are done with their boats for the season they are removed by tractors at low tide. The boats are lifted off of the mud onto trailers and taken up the boat ramps to waiting trucks or to nearby storage.
There is plenty of activity at low tide. I sat and watched as people followed the tide out and worked the rocks. The scraping and prying sounds were sometimes drowned out by the noisy work barges as they methodically moved along the posts. In the foreground old tractors moved slowly back and forth extracting boats. Eventually all of this activity moved gradually back toward shore as the tide moved back in. It is an ancient cycle.
Villagers walked up the ramps past me carrying their finds. Their buckets and wire baskets were heaped with mussels. One regular put his mounded basket on the back of his bicycle and pedaled toward town. His rubber boots helped on the rocks and in the tidepools, but they weren’t the best shoes for cycling. He looked like he was there every day, so it must work for him.
Turns out that we do share the air and the water with Japan. We also share humanity. And their problems are our problems. The earthquake, tsunami, and power plant devastation are heart-breaking.
We knew that our atmosphere and the oceans circulated and that we were connected in that way. But we on the west coast of the USA have been reminded of this connectivity. We knew it, but we didn’t think about it very often. The Pacific Basin is so big ….
If you live downwind of Chernobyl you were reminded previously. You lived through the uncertainty and lack of information. To a greater or lesser degree we are all downwind and downstream when these events occur.
We don’t know yet how the struggles at the power plants will turn out. Radiation has been released. It may get much worse or it may be partially contained. But the long-term outlook for people near those facilities is horrible. How far away is safe – across an ocean, in another hemisphere?
It would be easy to panic. There are false and malicious reports circulating on the Internet. Fake radiation maps and other catastrophic reports should be checked out at urban legend fact check sites. Sick minds can be creative too.
There are some things that we do know and actions we can take. In far northern California and continuing up into British Columbia the Gorda, Juand de Fuca, and Explorer Tectonic Plates are pushing to the east and subducting under the North American Tectonic plate. Earthquakes resulting from infrequent abrupt movements of these plates can cause huge and widespread damage. At a minimum, every household should check the recommendations of the Red Cross and have emergency supplies and shelter. Are you prepared for natural disasters where you live?
It is hard to talk about travel photographs and cultures today. Across that ocean there is so much suffering and loss. Each time we hear of a natural disaster we are shaken. We think of the people in New Zealand, Australia, Haiti and each place where disaster strikes. And each time the natural disaster is compounded by man-made disasters that are also instigated.
We know that the tectonic plate under this ocean is pressing toward us. But we don’t know what else is coming our way. Today is another day to appreciate what we have and to treasure the people who are important to us.
Oh, and it’s also a good day to work on that emergency supply kit!!
Or you could put it off until this weekend or next month. Nothing is really going to happen here ….
Tides and cultures have ebbed and flowed over the Armorican peninsula (Brittany) of northwestern France. It is a challenging land at the edge of the European continent. It is a place where you can walk along the shoreline and not see another person.
The autumn, after the holiday crowds have left, is a good time to explore the deserted shore. But the weather becomes stronger. Brisk winds sweep across the English Channel.
Walking becomes boulder scrambling. It is made more challenging because your eyes are watering from the wind, and you are cold. (Of course, there are also calm sunny days still before winter.)
The section of Brittany called the Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast) is a short length of coast where the sea has met its match. The granite is tough, although jointed. The waves very gradually pry apart and carry away particles of the coarse grained rock along these joints or cracks. Many strange and interesting forms are created by this physical weathering.
The shapes and colors of the rock vary wildly. Some of the forms have been named. Even though it is called pink granite some shades are more orange and brown. The rock is decorated with mollusks and lichens making it even more interesting. No matter how far you scramble you find new and bizarre rock formations.
But this is not untouched wilderness. Nearby there are intact medieval stone villages. Each one gathers around its cathedral. These villages are still vital. Tourism helps them, especially the market towns. The outdoor markets are great! They also have thriving agricultural and fishing industries. Their histories are rich. Restaurants and cafés serve local seafood and produce, and provide relaxing places to pass time and absorb Breton culture. It is easy to find a beautiful little stone village with a great hotel or a rental beach house.
Bretons are great hosts. But you will find them at the ocean when the tide is low. They will be there next to you scouring the rocks for mussels and other shellfish.
This rocky shore is an interesting and rewarding place to spend time.
What’s black and white and red all over? Coco Verde!
[Audio suggestion if you use Pandora: Open new tab-Go to Pandora.com-Create a New Station-type in Adriana Calcanhotto and enjoy some warm Brazilian vocals. But come back here to escape to a hot beach!]
It’s early morning and you have walked for miles along the beach. Your sandals are caked with sand and the sand is grinding under your feet. You can feel the heat building. The sun is warm on your back. You are already sweaty. People who are running and cycling in the other direction have to squint because of the intense sun in their eyes.
That dawn sun shines brightly on black and white stones on the walkway. The stones were hand-placed in an artistic pattern that repeats continuously for more than two miles. The warm sand, the blue sky, and the green palms contrast strongly with the vivid red of the tables and chairs.
You have a decision to make. Do you stop and get a snack or coffee before you head out across the sand, or is your breakfast still holding? There are many vendor huts like this one along the beach. Each hut is named. The yellow pennant on this hut says ‘Coco Verde’ or green coconut in Portuguese. The daily delivery of coconuts is stockpiled for afternoon drinks. OK, a green coconut isn’t black and white and red all over, but this hut and the walkway are.
A few volleyball and football players are making their way onto the beach. The crowds will arrive later, in the heat of the afternoon. There are still expanses of sand open for you to set up your spot for the day. The bustle of the traffic is loud along the oceanfront boulevard, but the sounds of scooters, buses, and trucks fade if you move across the sand toward the gentle surf. There you will hear only the soft hiss of the waves, gulls calling overhead, and the constant shouts from the games nearby.
Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro is coming to life. You are there in time to see the deeply tanned regulars claim their territory.
This photograph was taken in July, in the heart of Brazil’s winter. Expected high temperature on that day was around 27°C (80°F). As I write this on December 22, snow and freezing temperatures are causing holiday travel havoc across northern Europe. Much of North America is shivering. Today in Rio de Janeiro the predicted high temperature is 37°C (99°F).
I hope that this Copacabana photo has brought you some warmth wherever you are. If you are listening to Brazilian music maybe the feeling will last. Happy holidays!
The far northern California beaches have the surfers, the fun, the sand, but the rest? Not so much.
On beaches like Agate Beach shown in this photograph you can spend hours walking, beach-combing, looking for rocks, enjoying the scenery, or just sitting listening to the waves wash across the coarse sand, without dealing with crowds.
This isn’t a beach where you can drive up and walk onto the sand. You have to work to get there down a trail and stairs.
In the summer the coastal areas of northern California are often foggy and cloudy, at least in the morning. So sunny times are to be celebrated. Several days may pass between sightings of the sun.
These beaches don’t have some of the ‘attractions’ of southern California beaches, or the vendors of Mexican beaches, or the seemingly endless volleyball and soccer matches of Copacabana, or the charms of the Côte d’Azur of France, or the ancient wind-swept stone villages of Brittany, or even the shells and high-rises of Florida.
But when northern Californians have time they can enjoy dramatic and quiet beaches and find that there are very few other people out on the beach. Like other rural coastal areas it is hard to make a living in these small towns. And like tough Breton farmers, fishermen, and shop-keepers they find a way. They find a way to enjoy these beaches when they can. They don’t miss the ‘amenities’.
Pão de Açucar and Praia Vermelha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It is now the heart of summer in the northern hemisphere and the heart of winter in the southern. But winter can feel like summer.
If you have harsh winters you may long for winters that look like the beach in this photo.
The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are normally sunny and warm throughout the year. Although as I write this they are having a cold snap.
This photograph was taken in the month of July so this is as ‘wintry’ as you would expect Rio to be. Typical winter daily high temperatures are around 75 degrees F (24 C).
This is a view over Praia Vermelha to Pão de Açucar, commonly known as Sugarloaf, although that may not be an accurate translation of the original name. Praia Vermelha or Red Beach was a quiet, uncrowded place when we were there. Sugarloaf is one of several massive granitic peaks that surround Rio.
There is a cable car that goes to the summit of Sugarloaf. It is barely visible in this photo as it arrives at the terminal. It is a two part cable car. The first part ends at Urca Mountain where there are some information displays, tourist facilities, and vendors. The second part spans over forest and exposed rock to reach Sugarloaf.
The cable car began operation in 1912. I find it an interesting coincidence that 1912 was also when a train began operating through a four mile tunnel through the Eiger and Mönch (in the Swiss Alps) to Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe. There must have a flurry of engineering dreams at the beginning of the 20th century. Tourism and sight-seeing drove some amazaing projects. Shortly after the construction began on the train to Jungfraujoch in 1898, a cable car was planned for the Aiguille du Midi (near Mont Blanc) in 1905. But the construction of that lift was not completed until 1927.
It was a warm evening when we rode the cable car on Sugarloaf. We stopped at Urca Mountain and enjoyed the view over Rio. It was our first day in Rio and we were exhausted from travel and hungry. We had flown overnight with a surreal early morning stop in São Paulo. As we walked around Urca Mountain we came across an empanada vendor. To be honest we weren’t sure if we could trust these small pastries that may have been sitting out all day under the heat lamps. But it turned out that the flaky crust filled with cheese and chicken was so good we ordered another. Maybe it was our condition, but they sure hit the spot.
This photo was taken nearby in the middle of the day. There were several fisherman working in the bay out of small boats. On some days the air is not this clear and visibility is reduced. Praia Vermelha is a little out of the main tourist crush. And the restaurant overlooking the beach is a great place for lunch. Food is purchased buffet style and sold by weight.
We enjoyed Rio, especially walking along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches on Sunday morning when the road is closed to cars. We also had a great dinner at a samba club downtown and were impressed with the energy of the dancers. Our friend in Rio took good care of us and the people were friendly, although you do have to be careful especially at night, like most big cities.
If you enjoy soft warm sand and gentle waves, Rio is a great bet.
The attached organisms have the small, sandy basin to themselves again. The sprinkling of shells on the rock are exposed to air between tides.
This jointed granite is on the famous Pink Granite Coast of northern Brittany. Sometimes the joints in the rock form regular rectangular shapes like this tidepool, but most of the time they are more abstract.
The coarse sand at the bottom of the tidepool settled out of the wave wash. The fine white sand lining the sides may have blown in at low tide to coat the sides as the water receded, like bathtub rings.
This tidepool is shaped like a window and gives us a view into a small world where these organisms spend their entire lives.
The gently sloping Breton shore exposes vast stretches of this granite at low tide. There is a nearly endless variety of sizes, shapes, and depths of tide pools.
Then as the tide flow returns each of these separate worlds rejoins the Atlantic Ocean and become just an irregularity on the bottom.
Dreaming about travel. Savoring travel. Remembering travel.
Decent and kind people who you don’t share a common language with. Unexpected challenges. A smile. Patience. A comfortable seat at the window on a long train ride deep into the Alps. Curiosity with rewards. Quiet narrow country roads. Wind rustling the leaves of trees along a river whose name you can’t pronounce. Sheep bells in the Pyrénées. A muddy river in spring flood flowing out of a Mexican jungle. Birds with impossible colors.
Menus, mysterious and stressful. The enjoyment of getting what you thought were ordering and discovering that it is so much better than you dared imagine. How do they make it taste so good? Not sure exactly what was in that, but wow. A walk along the beach after sunset in the safety of rural Brittany.
Villages with two names. Road signs. Changing trains, reading the departure board, making the next train with only seven minutes between arrival and departure, trains that are on time, deciphering conductor announcements. Returning the rental car without damage, whew. Base jumpers landing in wildflowers at the base of the canyon wall. Hundreds of football and volleyball games mixed in with the Sunday crowds stretching for miles on Copacabana Beach. Soft white sand, gentle waves, warm humid air. The music of Portuguese or French or … conversations.
Glaciers, waterfalls, stone houses, slate roofs, startling soaring cathedrals, ancient art, life-like sculptures, bigger than life, lines for tickets, listening to animated but unknown languages on the Eiffel Tower observation deck. Watching out for pick pockets and keeping a hand on your luggage in the train station. Trying to tell the taxi driver the location of your hotel. Favelas and community refuse burning piles. Riding the bus to the beach. Riding the tram to the Mediterranean. Riding the bus from the airport, bleary-eyed, tired, disoriented, not understanding the conversations around you.
The Metro stations. Long walks across Paris. TGV. Beach vendors trying to sell horrible looking fish on a stick. Authentic fajitas in a beach restaurant. Traveling by cable car and electric train in the Bernese Oberland. Walking up the hill from the train station through the village to your hotel. Learning about Austria and The Netherlands from the hotel staff. Trying to figure out the street map in Nantes. Failing. Trying the hard cider of Brittany, but not the ‘moules et frits’. Sorry.
Looking down through three floors from a balcony watching samba dancers on a crowded floor. Watching (in person) the televised sheep-shearing contest during the celebration of the return of the sheep from the high mountain pastures in Luz-Saint-Saveur. Seeing the streets lined with piles of plastic wine cups the next morning. The marching group with giant bells on their backs. The brass band marching through town and into a living room and playing inside a tiny stone house. Running for cover from a downpour in Rennes and finding shelter in a brasserie with other storm refugees. Seeing the evil but intact German blockhouses built on the rocky shoreline of Brittany.
Arriving at the Swiss border at Geneva on the train from Chamonix and finding out we had to get off and find our way to another station across town. The end of the line. Looking in vain for art in Geneva, but stumbling onto a choir performance inside the cathedral. Discovering that those white kitchen garbage bags that we packed fit perfectly over our rolling luggage while waiting in the rain for the ferry across Lac Léman. The banners and flags in Bern during the Euro 2008 football competition. The fiddle player and guitarist standing in the bank doorway below our hotel window waiting for customers to emerge with refreshed funding. Their three songs never got tiresome. The organ grinder and his cat who played there in the mornings. Far Breton breakfast treat and espresso. And all that new music and those weird movies.
Trying for a record-breaking long café lunch in Paris but only making it to 52 minutes. Must learn to savor more. An awkward semi-French/semi-English conversation with the family who owned the Gite that we rented at the beach in Brittany. We and they understood each other enough to know that we liked each other and had a lot in common. They had a loving family with two daughters and had a sense of humor. They were kind to us and tried to help us feel at home. We did.
History, geography, literature, art, and humanity are all enriched with travel. They are given context and life. Days are filled with planning and anticipation, then adventure and new experience, then memories and a new outlook and broader view of the world where you are-because of the world that you saw, the people, and the culture that made sense to the families you met. Their culture may be different but they built it because of their history and resources. It works for them.
The challenges of travel encourage growth and reflection. I know that is not an original thought. But it sums up how I am feeling today. I have reduced my travel and use a bicycle for local transportation. But when I do travel I intend to learn as much as I can. I look forward to the next trip with excitement. Although, I probably wouldn’t have the nerve to wear the propeller beany cap.
Is it warm where you are? Do you have sand on your feet?
Do you have time for a leisurely stroll down the beach? Can you hear the samba and the waves washing over the bright sand?
Can you sit for a few minutes and watch the football and volleyball matches on the beach?
In the northern hemisphere it is supposed to be spring. As I look up through the redwood forest canopy the sky is filled with heavy rain. There is enough light to see the water accumulating on the redwood branches and sprays (the name for small branches of redwood needles). Big heavy cold drops are splashing on the ground below the branches. It is good to have a normal rainfall year. I should be thankful, and I am. But it will be good to have some clear days soon. We haven’t seen much sun for months. I guess I needed a photo of a sunny place. Maybe you do too.
This photo shows a beach vendor on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The vendors are strung along the broad walkway along the beach. Each vendor’s hut is named, e.g., Côco Verde.
It was a warm morning before a hot day in Rio. This vendor is advertising several fish dishes, fried potatoes, and drinks. The caipirinha is referred to as the national drink of Brazil. It is made by crushing limes, sugar and ice, and adding cachaça (fermented sugarcane). Batata frita are fried potatoes and corvina is a type of fish.
The prices are in R$, the Brazilian currency called the ‘Real’. The exchange rate when this photograph was taken in 2006 was: 1 Brazilian Real = 0.46002 US Dollar.
The bright blue sky and this warm colorful scene are a welcome change from our “spring” weather. I hope you enjoyed this beach escape!
Do you need a long walk on the beach? Will it be time alone to sort through your thoughts or a chance for an uninterrupted talk? Are you going into town to get salt water taffy? Do you need a book or a maple bar and coffee? Are you going to look at the current art on display or to buy a kite? Is the tide low enough to get around the points and get in a long run to the south? Are you going dune-jumping, or playing hide-and-seek in the beach grass, or are you building a classic sand castle with a moat?
Family memories are made by the bucketful at beaches like this. I was introduced to this beach by my wife and her family. Her parents had bought a beach cabin here and there was a long family tradition of summer trips to Cannon Beach, Oregon.
The rock in the distance is Haystack Rock. It is a famous Cannon Beach landmark. It is a seastack, or an isolated resistant rock left behind during coastal erosion. Cannon Beach is a small town that provides great vacation get-aways, art, and fun. Our own daughters have many memories of our family time there. Our photo albums are filled with a progression of photos of them from toddlers to adults out on the beach, or playing in the dunes, or taking the secret trail through trees over the dunes to the beach.
A beach like this is so many different things to different people. The Killamuck and Clatsop people provided whale blubber to the Lewis and Clark Expedition near here. The beach is about 80 road miles west of Portland and individuals and families have moved here or visited here for generations.
On sunny summer days the beach near town can be packed. On stormy winter days it is empty. Each person and family bring with them their interests and needs. Each person finds different things under the Haystack. Photo: 1/2000 s at f/5.6.
No strolling beach vendors, no high-rise hotels, and no traffic. Just the beach. And agates!
The edge of a continent without the commercialism. The Pacific washing soft sedimentary deposits. The slow immense pressure of the subducting Gorda tectonic plate pushing under the North American plate lifting up more material for the beach. Deep under this beach the Gorda plate is pushing from left to right.
This is Agate Beach in Patrick’s Point State Park near Trinidad, California, USA. A long, steep trail leads a few people down to this long stretch of sand. At the far north end of this beach is Big Lagoon, where a narrow spit separates the Pacific from a freshwater lagoon. The soft sedimentary deposits that form the bluffs do produce many water-rounded pebbles, some of which are collected as agates. I prefer to collect small, perfectly rounded white pebbles. I keep them in a shallow glass bowl like a rock garden. Time passes surprisingly quickly when you are absorbed in sorting through sand and pebbles. It is easy for your thoughts to drift. There are no intrusions. In the background you hear only the wave wash and the gulls.
I am a person that prefers mountains, but my wonderful wife is a beach person. I have learned to enjoy beaches thanks to her. We have walked together on beaches in France, Brazil, Switzerland (lake), Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Maryland, and Hawaii. We try to balance our mountain time with beach time and city time. There are interesting scenes to photograph in all these locations which helps me build a varied collection of photos. I try to show you that variety on this blog. Photo: 1/500 s at f/5.6.
A practice field in the heart of football country.
Copacabana is a 4 km (2.5 mile) long beach. In the early morning it is used for exercise before work and school. During the day and until well past dark it is used for football and volleyball as well as relaxation and sunbathing.
There is a six lane street along the beach, Avenida Atlântica. It has a broad meridian and wide walkways on each side. The walkways are paved with hand-placed stones. (Search for ‘Copacabana Rocks’ in the search box within this blog to see a photo of the pattern.) So with the traffic lanes, meridian, and walkways it is a very wide avenue.
Each morning at a set time the police lead a reversal of traffic direction on one side of the street so that all six lanes of traffic travel in the same direction. This is to help the inbound commute. In the evening this is reversed for the outbound commute. This is an efficient way to deal with traffic congestion.
But, on Sunday, they are even smarter. All six lanes are closed to vehicles. The Avenida Atlântica becomes a massive neighborhood block party. On a warm sunny day, people stroll slowly with their families. There is live music and food vendors. People take time to talk or sit in the shade on the curb and watch people go by. There are bikers, runners, and skaters also.
And still it gets better. The entire length of the avenue along Copacabana is filled with people. But if you continue around a rocky point at the west end of Copacabana you emerge onto an equally famous beach: Ipanema. The Avenida Vieira Souto is also closed to vehicles. This adds another 3.7 km (2.3 miles). The vendors and music vary in the different neighborhoods. You can spend all day walking on these closed avenues from one end of the beaches to the other and back. The avenues are bustling the entire way, and on sunny days, the beaches are packed also.
The Carioca of Rio de Janeiro love to be on their beaches. The photo above is from the west end of Copacabana looking east. Everywhere you look as you walk the beach there are soccer balls and volleyballs flying. Photo: 1/750 s at f/5.6
I know a local painter who loves to paint rocks. She paints rocks in various settings, many of them under or near water. I thought of Julia Bednar when I was scrambling over this intricately jointed pink granite at low tide on the north shore of Brittany.
This is the Côte de Granit Rose, the Pink Granite Coast, near the village of Le Diben, France. The shore is very gently sloped so when the tide goes out, it exposes huge fields of tide pools. Not only is the granite colorful, but also, it is covered with marine organisms that add patterns and textures.
The tide pools fill with sand which supports other organisms, both plants and animals. The tide pools are usually very clear and the sand is clean. When the water drains away, the white sand is left to trace the shape of the pool. The coarse granitoid sand is washed or blown into the tidepools.
The tide pool in this photo is only a few centimeters across and less than a centimeter deep. You are looking straight down through water to the small plants and miniature shells that look like gems. The white sand is covered with water, but the rest of the rock is exposed.
The Côte de Granit Rose is famous for the fantastic shapes formed by the rock. As the rock weathers along linear joints, or cracks in the rock, the surf carries away the broken fragments and sculpts lifelike and abstract shapes.
At low tide, you can spend hours crawling over the rocks. But in many places you will share the tide pools with locals who turn out to look for mussels and oysters. Each person has their own special gear for collecting these shellfish. Some use little hooks to pry individual mussels off of rocks, while others use a sturdy net on a pole and scrape the sand accumulated in the shallow water beyond the rocks. The nets look very much like butterfly nets except they are scooping with them, rather than waving them in the air. Each person has a wire basket or plastic bucket to carry home what they find. At very low tides, popular collecting rocks near villages are covered with people hunched over prying and scraping. When the tide returns, the crowds retreat.
The pink granite is also used for construction. Many homes in Perros-Guirec are made entirely of pink granite. Even deck railings and pickets are pink granite.
We spent several days on these rocks. I took MANY photographs, so I will post some of the others that show some of the rock shapes at another time. You can also search for ‘The Tide Abides’ in the search box above (in this blog) to see an example of the granite shapes. Photo: 1/80 s at f/22
When I went for my morning walk today the traffic and honking were hard to ignore.
The geese are heading north along the Pacific coast!
The coastal overcast provided a neutral gray background for low-flying flocks of geese. They were very low and very loud.
I go for a short walk to start each day. We live in a redwood forest. So it is hard to see very far toward the horizon. But if you look straight up through the overhanging redwood branches in forest openings you can see the sky. I could hear the geese approaching, but could not see them until they were directly overhead. They were not very far above the top of the redwoods. Their formations were ragged as they were not very far from the marshes nearby where they probably started the day.
The sound catches you off guard when the first geese of the season fly over. It sounds like strange laughter or chattering. Robert Redford described it as a “cocktail party” in the great movie Sneakers.
I was able to photograph at a local birding festival last year, and will again this April. I had not been involved in birding since early in my college days. My assignment was to photograph the bird watchers, not so much the birds. These photographs would be used to publicize the event.
This spring bird migration festival is called Godwit Days. It is held in Arcata, California, USA. There are over 100 different field trips over several days to marshes, forests, rocky shores, and bays. To find out more about it, visit their website at: http://www.godwitdays.com/
The photo above is from Godwit Days last year. This was a shorebird field trip. The participants had great overviews of rocky shores along an easy trail. It was fun to tag along and see their enjoyment and fascination. I used a small step ladder to provide a view over their shoulder in many settings. Most bird watching photos show a front view of a group of people looking into telescopes or binoculars. But you have no idea what they are looking at. I thought it would be more interesting to stand among them and provide a view of what they were seeing also. This photo is taken from a more distant position to show more of the setting. Photo: 1/320 s at f/6.3
If your image of California is of freeways, smog, congestion, and crowded beaches that’s fine with us.
Even though most of California is rural, that is not its media image. We often, only half-jokingly, say that the north coast of California is rainy, foggy, gray, cold, and miserable-you would hate it. That is our selfish way to keep the crowds down. In truth, it does have that kind of weather, but some people love it. The small towns and uncrowded forests and beaches are a bonus.
It takes a particular kind of person who lives with purpose, and is willing to strive for enjoyment, to thrive on the far northern coast of California. The Hollywood weather and easy access to every imaginable store and service of southern California, or even the San Francisco Bay Area, are thankfully distant. It is OK with us if we are lumped in with the crowded parts of California in the minds of people in surrounding states. We continue to savor the beauty of the redwood forests, the mountains, the rivers, and the beaches.
Economically, it is a difficult area. Tourism is important. So there are those people who are forced to admit that we have sunny days. Right along the coast the summer temperatures are moderated by the cool marine breezes and morning fog. (OK, sometimes the fog stays for days, but….) People from the hot, crowded parts of California seek shelter in campgrounds and coastal motels. But they are well-advised to bring a coat.
It is still possible to have a memorable family beach cookout and not see any other people on the beach. It is one of our favorite summer activities. Several times each summer we have potlucks with family and friends. We stay to watch the sunset before fording the coastal stream and climbing the long, steep, crumbling steps back to the car. That is the ‘striving for enjoyment’ part.
The reward is a beautiful deserted beach like the one in this photograph. Photo: 1/350 s at f/2.2.
On a warm, sunny day like this I don’t think that these guys cared too much about how many fish they caught. In Rio de Janeiro it seems like people have plenty of time to enjoy the ocean and the beaches.
On the busy beaches, like Copacabana and Ipanema, there are football and volleyball games strewn as far as the eye can see. They start early and continue under the lights after dark.
This is Praia Vermelha, or Red Beach. It is on a quiet bay with a commanding view of the famous mountain called Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf.
This group of fishermen looked like they spent a lot of their days on this bay. I hope they had better fishing results on other days than what we saw. They couldn’t feed their families or make a living on the few fish they caught while we were there.
But they were jovial. Even though it was a ‘bad’ day of fishing results it seemed like they would rather do this than real work. This was just a quick snapshot out of a restaurant window. Photo: 1/750 s at f/5.6.
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Several generations had passed through this chateau before Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America.
The chateau served as a strong point on the shore of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) during hundreds of years of armed struggle. It is situated in Yvoire, France, east of Geneva, Switzerland on the south shore of the lake. The national boundary runs through the middle of the lake. The north shore is in Switzerland and the south shore is in France. That is why the lake has two names.
Construction of the chateau began in 1308. Later, during one of many battles it was over-run and the interior was set on fire and the roof was burned out. It sat for 350 years without a roof! The restored roof and the rest of the chateau look old now. It is hard to imagine that a building that was open to storms for hundreds of years could be made usable again.
Yvoire is a beautiful, restored medieval village. Apparently it is crowded with tourists during the summer. But we were there in May, so there weren’t very many people in the village. There are great walking trails along the lake and through the farmland nearby. It is surprising (to an American) to see marked trails going through rolling farmland and woodlands which appear to be private land.
One morning we walked quite a ways south of Yvoire along the lake through a dense hardwood forest. The bird songs were very loud and varied. We came to an opening and looked up a long grassy knoll to see another restored chateau sitting by itself. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like to live in that chateau by the lake with its own small harbor hidden in the forest.
It had been a very rainy night before I took this photograph. All of the lakeside restaurants had to take down their terrace awnings and all of the outside tables and chairs. It was a violent lightning storm with heavy rain. In the morning when I went out before dawn it was still lightly raining. But it started to clear after dawn. The remaining clouds made the sky interesting. And a large hawk flew over as I was photographing the chateau from the small harbor breakwater. There was just enough sunlight to add a warm color to the stone of the chateau. Photo: 1/100 s at f/18
There are more Yvoire photos in my online galleries. Click the Photography link above.
Juan-les-Pins means the yellow pines. It is appropriate that these lounges and umbrellas are a rich yellow color.
This is one of my wife’s favorite photographs. It is also one of the first photographs that I sold.
Juan-les-Pins is a small town on the Mediterranean along the Côte d’Azur. We had arrived late in the evening the night before. We were staying in a nice little hotel a couple blocks from the beach. So after we unpacked we decided to walk down to the beach and look for a restaurant.
It was a pleasant warm evening and we found a restaurant ON the beach. The linen-covered tables were arranged on the sand down to the edge of the waves. It was a beautiful setting and a little fancy for us. We had a great meal with the sound of the waves in the background.
The next morning we went for a walk in the bright sun, again looking for a restaurant. And since we had had such a great meal at the place the night before we went to see what kind of breakfast they served.
The restaurant was completely gone! Someone had manicured the sand with a tractor and then a hotel employee had carefully set up all of these lounges and umbrellas. In a large print of this photo you can see him on the right finishing the work. He carefully raked out his footprints so the sand was perfect for the first guests who wanted to rent a lounge.
We discovered later that our hotel had a breakfast that couldn’t be beaten. But we were shocked at the overnight transformation of this section of beach. Photo: 1/2000 s at f/6