Last month I was fortunate to find myself in the neighbouring Caribbean island of Barbados, somewhere that I have always wanted to visit. Although I was there for only two days of non-photographic work, I had to take a few hours to explore the environs around my hotel. Fortunately, these environs encompassed the UNESCO World Heritage site known as The Garrison. Needless to say, those two hours reminded me of the simple pleasures that can be had with a Nikon in hand.
The Garrison was designated a World Heritage Site (WHS) in 2011 by UNESCO. According to the UNESCO WHS website, this is due to the “outstanding example of British colonial architecture consisting of a well-preserved old town built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.”
From what I was able to see – which was centred around the Garrison Savannah race course – I was quite impressed with the preservation and usage of the buildings. Some were still used by the Barbados Defence Force, while others were private homes, some were museums and others were used by various government agencies.
Although I was impressed by the pride that our Barbadian neighbours have in their historical structures, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of “what if?” What if Jamaica invested in their built heritage sites in the same way that Barbados has invested in The Garrison? In historical Spanish Town there are numerous structures which date to the 16th century when it was known as Villa de la Vega and was Jamaica’s capital under the Spanish occupancy. A similar historical zone centred on Emancipation Square and the Cathedral could have been created. My uncle who was raised in Spanish Town, says that when he was growing up there was a large Brick Barracks that was used as a school – until it fell into disrepair. Such is Jamaica’s story…..
However, my task that day was not to mourn the deficiencies of my own country, but to celebrate and document how Barbados has been able to harmoniously make the past a part of their present and future.
A week in Bonn. I was fortunate to experience this a few weeks ago thanks to UNESCO-UNEVOC who invited me to attend a panel discussion on TVET skills and heritage preservation that coincided with the meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in July. During this week I was able to balance work with some sightseeing, photography and I admit, eating like a tourist.
Let me explain. I believe that when travelling to a foreign country, you should experience the culture, and one of the best ways to do so is to eat like a native, not as a tourist. Unfortunately I was unable to do so due to me limited (non-existent) grasp of the language. I admit the reason for this is solely my own. In spite of valiant attempts by a colleague to teach me usable German so that I could at least help myself in basic communication and experience the local cuisine. I failed miserably.
On the evening that I arrived, my search for dinner ended up at “Pizza Boy”. Yes the menu was in German, but I saw a name was quite familiar: “Hawaiian”. I pointed, nodded my head to the query of “beer?” and that was my first meal in Germany. For the next two days, I repeated this pattern with minor variations. On day two I substituted “Hawaiian” with “Boston” and on day three I was adventurous, and ordered a pizza without at English name. I have no idea what it was but it had the number “4” in it, which I assume referred to the number of different meats on the pizza. I also substituted the beer with apple juice. In my defence Pizza Boy was one of the few eateries that wasn’t chock full of smokers. I admit that I will eat moderately unhealthily at times, but I draw the line at second-hand smoke. After all, my body is a temple. One that is in need of more maintenance as the years go by, but still…..
After three days of work, pizza and the hotel’s standard breakfast of sausages, toast, eggs and bacon I was able to do some sightseeing in the Bonn city centre which reflects the history, culture and pride of the former capital of West Germany. Home of Beethoven, his imposing statue glowers from pride of place in front of the Postamt building. The centre itself is deceptively large due to how compact the streets and buildings are arranged. Just when I thought I had seen everywhere, I made a turn into an unknown location that required exploration. This ended up being an intriguing mix of upscale shops and historical monuments and buildings, many of which were undergoing repairs.
One such structure was the Basilica of St. Cassius & Florentius, which dates to the 13 century. I spent some time walking around it, trying to get a suitable angle that didn’t involve restoration work and was not satisfied with my results. Then I noticed something…people were exiting the church. Needless to say, I entered. Immediately I was enveloped by the quiet and cool, dim light of the interior, which possesses Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque elements. This juxtaposed with the heat of the European summer as well as the bustle of the city centre.
After spending a few minutes to relax and offering up a prayer I made my way back out. An evening meal was becoming a priority and I decided to try something different. I found a restaurant and ordered and ordered ..not pizza but pasta – without the beer! Okay, I will admit…it was a Pizza Hut restaurant.
So after an eventful week in Bonn I now need to restart my running regime and get back in shape. My desire is not fueled by all of the bicyclists that rode past me on the streets, nor by the fit looking runners that strode past me in the heat of the day. It is none of these reasons. The reason why I have been inspired to return to fitness after a week in Germany is really very simple. Eating badly in Bonn.
New challenges….that’s something that we should never shy away from. This semester I embarked on such a challenge when I was asked to be the photographer in the newly revamped course, “Food Styling, Photography & Writing” in the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at the University of Technology, Jamaica. I say this was a challenge because most of my time as a photographer over the past 20 years has been spent as a photojournalist, with not much time spent in the studio. So to say that I was a bit rusty is an understatement. However I took on the challenge because, as all teachers know, you never stop learning. In fact, if you believe that you have stopped learning, you might as well stop teaching.
So what did this challenge entail? First of all, let me give you an overview of the course. The main lecturer was Chef Leroy Myers. I have no idea how his food tastes, but he is a very skilled food stylist. He was also able to teach the students how to creatively arrange a variety of dishes, under the themes of eggs, fruits, sandwiches, meat, ice-cream and beverages.
My task was to light and shoot the subjects arranged by the students. The shooting was easy (I so love my Nikon D800E!). The lighting…not so much. At least not during the first shoot. Why? Space. I shot in two main areas – a classroom where the students also used to prepare the dishes, and an outdoor atrium. Both had their unique challenges. For the indoor shoots, I ideally would like to have at least six feet between the table and the two lights and umbrellas that I had set up. This was not possible, so the first set of photos had distracting shadows that I was not happy with. Fortunately the ceiling was white. So within the space, I bounced the two Smith-Victor lights off the ceiling and violà, I had created a soft-box. The outdoor shooting was easier. It was done in the morning when there was still shade in the atrium which provided soft lighting. Here I used the Nikon Speedlights wirelessly, the SB-910 as the main light and the SB-800 to fill-in when required. Here are the best shots.