Tuesday, July 9, 2013

TED on Tuesday: Camille Seaman: Storm Chaser

Image courtesy TED and Camille Seaman
As a keen traveller, I have taken more than my share of photographs at each stop on my extended journeys. As good as some of these photographs are, I still don’t consider myself a real photographer. I am more the happy amateur who occasionally gets lucky and is able to get the lighting and the angles right to come away with some half decent images.

Camille Seaman on the other hand, has been taking photographs all over the world, and since 2003, she has focussed her eyes (and cameras) on some of the worlds most fragile environments. Seaman's photographs have been published in Newsweek, Outside, Zeit Wissen, Men's Journal and more, and she has self-published many books on themes like “My China” and “Melting Away: Polar Images” through Fastback Creative Books, a company that she co-founded. In 2008, she was honored with a one-person exhibition, The Last Iceberg, at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.

In today’s TED on Tuesday, I am featuring two short presentations made by Camille (who was raised as a Shinnecock Indian), at TED conferences. The first, highlights her nascent career as a storm chaser hunting down and photographing supercell clouds―some of which can be 50 miles wide, reach sixty thousand feet in the atmosphere and release grapefruit-sized hail. The second short video features stunning images of those fascinating monoliths we know as icebergs.
“Storm-chasing is a very tactile experience … The colors in the clouds, of hail forming, the green and the turquoise blues. The movement, the way they swirl … As I stand under them, I understand what I have the privilege to witness is the same forces, the same process in a small version, that created our galaxy, solar system, our sun, this very planet.” ~ Camille Seaman
Camille Seaman: Photos from a storm chaser

 “It is not a death when [icebergs] melt; it is not an end, but a continuation of their path through the cycle of life. Each iceberg has its own individual personality. Some refuse to give up and hold on to the bitter end, while others can't take it anymore and crumble in a fit of dramatic passion.” ~ Camille Seaman
Camille Seaman: Haunting photos of polar ice


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Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Photos: Monument Valley, Utah

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Friday 19, October, 2012 was the day I ‘died and went to heaven’, and here are the photos to prove it. Ok, so my idea of heaven may be different from yours, but I will take Monument Valley’s stunning landscape any day, over some mythical landscape in the hereafter.



The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 m) above sea level. The floor is largely siltstone or sand derived from it, most of which was left behind by the rivers that once carved out the valley. The vivid red colour comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone, while the darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their colour from manganese oxide.


A very modest $5.00 will get you entry into the park, where the adventurous can embark on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road route that passes some of the largest and most spectacular land formations.


The buttes are clearly stratified, and reveal three main layers. The lowest layer is known as the Organ Rock Shale, the middle is de Chelly Sandstone, and the top layer is the Moenkopi Formation.


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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Monument Valley, AZ/UT

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My travel journal entry for Friday 19, October, 2012 begins:

Today I died and went to heaven - and I have the photos to prove it.

Yes, that was the day I fulfilled a life-long ambition to visit Monument Valley. The valley spans the Arizona/Utah border, with the most iconic buttes and mesas on the Utah side. It was everything I expected it to be and more. Even in the middle of the day the setting was larger than life, with massive red monoliths dominating the landscape.

I had been driving my Dodge rental car up from Flagstaff, Arizona for several hours, watching as the landscape slowly changed from pine forested open country to vast expanses of dry desert covered in the valley's distinctive vivid red―a colour which is produced from iron oxide exposed in the siltstone covering the valley floor. In many respects the colour of the earth reminded me of the rich reds and ochres of the Australian outback, especially in an area often referred to as the ‘red centre’.

Welcoming billboard on the Arizona/Utah state line
Monument Valley (Navajo: Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks) is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line near the Four Corners area. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation, and is accessible from U.S. Highway 163. [Wikipedia…]
The American director, John Ford used the location for a number of his best known films, including his now classic 1939 movie, Stagecoach, and The Searchers, while the latest Hollywood film to feature scenes shot in the valley is The Lone Ranger, which coincidentally opens today in the cinema complex a few minutes walk from where I sit writing this.

One of the massive outcrops in Monument Valley

To my surprise, the cost to enter the park was a very modest $5.00. Once inside the park visitors can drive on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road (a 2-3 hour trip) that passes some of the largest and most spectacular land formations. Guided tours are also available, as are horse rides and overnight camping trips. Apparently, hot air balloon flights are also available between May 1 through October 31, although I did not see any during my visit.

Sadly, my day trip to Monument Valley was over way too soon. The eleven hour round trip outing left me tired but exhilarated, and wanting much more. Far from removing the valley from my ‘bucket list’, the area remains among the top ten locations on the planet I want to visit or return to. When I do return to Monument Valley, I want to make the Navajo Tribal Park a major part of my experience, and I figure the only way to do that properly is find accommodations inside the Tribal Park.

Thankfully this is easily done following the construction of The View Hotel, located right inside Monument Valley.

The View Hotel [image courtesy The View Hotel website...]

The View Hotel is the only hotel located inside Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park adjacent to the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitors Center. Each of the hotel’s 95 rooms features a private balcony with unobstructed views of the valley floor, and the massive sandstone monuments that tower out of the stunning landscape.

Just writing and thinking about my visit, makes me want to pack my bag and catch the next flight to Los Angeles! But patience is the order of the day, at least until next year. Then all being well, I will make my return to the valley of my dreams.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Armchair Travel: Rewilding Europe


Rewilding Europe wants to make Europe a wilder place, with much more space for wildlife, wilderness and natural processes. The organization aims to rewild one million hectares of land by 2020, creating 10 magnificent wildlife and wilderness areas of international quality. To this end the organization has already begun focusing on Europe’s huge areas of abandoned land, and on providing a viable business case for the support and promotion of wild nature.

To date, Rewilding Europe has focussed on five regions: Western Iberia, the Eastern and  Southern Carpathians, the Danube Delta, and Velebit (Croatia).


Rewilding Europe is an initiative by WWF Netherlands, ARK Nature, Wild Wonders of Europe and Conservation Capital.

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Video produced by Studio Kuskus Berlin…

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