Friday, September 26, 2014

Angel's Pool and Victoria Falls

When I arrived in Livingstone, Zambia, I had one goal: to reach the Devil’s Pool on the edge of Victoria Falls. When I arrived at the park just before sunset I was ready to go but was instead told that the information I’d been given earlier about booking the trip had been wrong. This mishap, seemingly common in places in Africa, was disappointing, but provided me with the opportunity to visit another of the pools, Angel’s Pool, and to get to know a wonderful Zambian guide in the process.

While Devil’s Pool is a small eddy at the very precipice of the falls, inciting feelings of danger and adrenaline, Angel’s Pool is serene, sunken and surrounded by high walls of basalt. During the dry season, when the flow is the lowest, the walls rise 15 feet above the surface of the pool.

To get there, I hired a guide from the park who I had met that morning for 200 Kwacha, or roughly 30 dollars. His name was Obino Simwaba. Obino had been working in the park for seven years and said he loved his job. He is a bespectacled man of roughly 30 and despite his tan park ranger uniform, looks as though he could be teaching at a university. 

He began to lead me through the upper wash as the sun was setting, which is a series of small and medium sized streams separated by rock, sand, and stranded flotsam, all of which are part of the mighty Zambezi River.  We walked on dry rocks until the only path was wading through the streams, at which point we removed our shoes, and with an extended hand, Obino said, “We hold hands so we don’t fall.”

I took his hand and stepped into the surprisingly warm water onto the surprisingly slick rocks. Most of the wading distances were short, just 50-100 feet, but the algae on the rocks made crossing difficult, especially with a large backpack of camera gear on my back. Obino was steady though, diligently picking the safest and easiest path, based on years of experience.

The slippery riverbed was in stark contrast to the sharp dried moss that thickly lined the dry rock after the wading was completed. Obino, who had done this trip countless times, had feet accustomed to the surface. I picked my way gingerly, always falling slightly behind. Obino took only one detour, to quickly backtrack and tell some travelers to stay off the ledge of the falls. I noticed he had been watching them as we passed, muttering to himself “It’s not safe.”

We arrived at the Angel’s Pool about 30 minutes prior to sunset. Because of the low flow, the pool was hidden behind deep walls of basalt, and would have been difficult to find without a guide. As I explored Obino stood watch, and when I came close to the lip of the falls, he only said two words to me, “Take care.”

The water in Angel’s Pool appeared dark due to the black basalt rock that formed the basin. But it was deep and warm and calm, with my splash being perhaps the only disturbance through the entire day. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, Obino continued to stand watch, a silent sentinel constantly vigilant despite my perceived lack of danger.

The sun set lower, and as I’ve seen only here in Africa, didn’t produce a glowing orange sky, but simply became an orange and pink orb that hovered above the horizon. Obino and I watched as the sun disappeared behind the mist and the thunder that is the main falls, and then turned to pick our way back through the rocks and streams in the blue light that is the beginning of dusk. Just before we reached the final embankment, we rounded a corner in high grass, Obino in the lead, and stumbled upon a bull elephant. Obino immediately turned and brought me back from where we had come. There was no time for a photo. “These are wild animals. This is their territory. We must go around,” he said. With his guidance, we made it back to the park gate just as the light left the sky.

Angel’s Pool indeed. But who, in fact, was the angel?

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Desert Forest

I'm writing this post after the fact, as I'm no longer living in Tucson, Arizona.  This was the last photography project that I completed prior to leaving.  Tucson really is full of surprises, none more unexpected than the forest landscape that emerges from the mountains that border the city.  While Arizona is one of the hottest and driest areas of the country, a gain in elevation is all that is needed to cut through the desert landscape and reveal a forest of towering trees.

I was able to spend a weekend on the summit of Mount Lemmon, a 9157' peak and was constantly struck by the stark beauty of this world.  Trees grew from the dry ground and although the green was expansive, a view from the top showed how quickly this growth dropped back towards the desert valley.

Despite the trees, this forest could never be described as any type of Eden.  The desert was always too close, encroaching at every opportunity.  Lighting storms that frequent the summit had reduced many of the trees to greyed scarecrows, whose shriveled limbs appeared as if rain had never brought life through their bows.  These corpses seemed a constant reminder of the harsh life below, perhaps even a warning, as if the desert was kept at bay only by the lack of oxygen.

There certainly was no lack of sunshine at this elevation.  In fact, at times even though the temperature was less than in Tucson, the height of the peak was noticeable as one felt the gain in proximity to the sun.  It felt as if it was resting on your shoulders throughout the day, forcing the visitors of the park to take cover under any shade the trees could provide.

 As with most things in the desert though, the transition from daylight to dusk is more magical than in most any other part of the country.  All the inhabitants breath a collective sigh of relief as the sun makes its retreat from the daily onslaught that is desert living.  The beauty that comes from these sunset hours can only be explained as the sun congratulating those who have not perished on a battle well fought, while the colors emitted breath a beautiful warning of the harshness to return at next dawn.

To view the rest of this series please click here.

Comments and questions are always welcome.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Freighthoppers and Lunch with the Homeless

I didn't know what to expect when I set out to photograph some of the travelers - some would call them homeless or vagabonds - that often can be found on 4th Avenue in Tucson. What I did find though challenged any preconceived notion that I might have had about those living on the streets.  I believe the general opinion of those without homes and means is that they are dirty, unhappy, riddled with addiction and hopelessly lost.  What I found in my brief encounter with a group of five travelers can only be summed up as happiness and beauty.

I met this group of travelers in front of the local Goodwill store and as they asked for some money for food, I decided to enter their world and facilitate some photos by buying them lunch. Fifteen dollars bought some turkey, tortillas and cheese and they agreed to have lunch with me. What then happened challenged the first assumption of all homeless being filthy. While these people were covered in dirt from riding the rails as their form of transportation, each of them went into the Goodwill restroom to wash their hands prior to eating. Then, as we began to talk, I realized that this group had in fact freely chosen to live this life without homes and that they were, overall, extremely happy to be living and begging on the streets. Smiles and laughter were much more common than any complaints.  One traveler in fact, was heading to California to meet his newborn son and couldn't hide his pride in the fact that he was a father.  Even their pet dogs seemed to relish the freedom of this lifestyle, despite not knowing were they'd find their next meal.

While this is only a single meeting out of millions of homeless around the country, and that my short encounter is not indicative of these people's entire human experience, it did help me solidify the idea that a book should not be judged by its cover. Not all homeless have addictions, or are hopelessly dirty, just as not all those with comfortable jobs are happy.

For a more comprehensive look at the lives of those riding the rails as a form of life, I recommend that each of you follow this link to Mike Brodie's incredible work.

For my full online portfolio please follow this link here to visit

Comments and questions are always welcome.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dessert at Food for Ascension Cafe

I recently created some images for a local cafe in Tucson that specializes in vegan and gluten free food. As I work to finish my MBA I can't help but be drawn to restaurants who are progressive and are creating really healthy food. I'm not vegan, so I'm not referencing that directly, but simply stating that I respect those who are concerned about what goes into our bodies as our fuel. Everyone has to eat and so many in the United States make choices about their food that can be based off of information that may not be correct or in their best interest. These decisions have lead our country to a place where so many are getting sick and the rate of diabetes, while already high, is growing at five percent every year. Because of this, whenever I get a chance to help out a restaurant that is dedicated to health and well-being, I get really excited.  

The Food for Ascension Cafe is located just off of 4th Avenue in Tucson, AZ.  They source local food and when possible grow their own.  The desserts looked absolutely delicious and really are a great option for those who are looking for foods that may fit their dietary restrictions.  

Above is an image of their home-made truffles.

Above is an image of their blueberry and lemon-vanilla ice cream. I was lucky enough to try this after the photos before everything melted and it was amazing.

The last image from the Food for Ascension Cafe. Thanks for stopping by.