Back to Basics in St. Bess

I spent the past weekend re-discovering the parish of St. Elizabeth on Jamaica’s south-west coast. It has been nearly ten years since I have explored this very scenic and laid-back part of Jamaica and that weekend we took a much-needed family vacation. Our base was Jake’s Hotel and I was able to introduce the family to Y.S. Falls, Black River, Great Bay and Lover’s Leap. However, for me the most important time spent photographically was sunrise at Calabash Bay on the Sunday morning. It was important because it helped me to re-focus my photography and recapture my passion.

Sunrise over the raised coral reefs at Calabash Bay, St. Elizabeth

Over the past few years, I have not been doing much personal photography. This was due to not having enough time to dedicate on myself and my original passion – outdoor photography. This has had a negative affect on me, so much so that earlier this year my nutritionist told me that I must shoot at least once a week to reduce my stress levels!

Sunrise at Treasure Beach, en route to Calabash Bay.

Decades ago, I used to combine my photography with my love for geography and the conservation of Jamaica’s unique natural heritage. Hiking and exploration was the norm, but due to the demands of teaching and researching, I haven’t done much recently.

Chilling on a sand dune

However, while staring out at the Caribbean Sea (I’ve always loved the sea) as I was warmed by the morning sun, I received a revelation. For the past year I’ve been trying to figure out how to use my research to educate Jamaicans of our natural and cultural heritage. That Sunday morning, it hit me. For my research, I’ll focus on educating Jamaicans about our cultural heritage while for my personal shooting I’ll get back out and explore and hike in Jamaica’s wild places. This will re-ignite my photography, reduce my stress and help to restore my balance. I’ll be sharing the stories on my blog, so watch this space….

Beach house on Calabash Bay, St. Elizabeth.

The Streets of San Miguel

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to spend a week in Mexico, participating in a study tour of 5 universities courtesy of the USAID funded Advance Program. As you can imagine, it was a very intense week, travelling between Mexico City, our base in Queretaro, Aguascalientes and San Miguel de Allende. 

La Parroquia, Church of St. Michael the Archangel.

La Parroquia, Church of St. Michael the Archangel.

It was at the latter location – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – that we were provided with a half-day breather, which I spent exploring with camera in hand.

A vendor pauses from selling her wares in San Miguel de Allende.

A vendor pauses from selling her wares in San Miguel de Allende.

 

 A vendor pauses from selling her wares in San Miguel de Allende.

A vendor pauses from selling her wares in San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2008 for two reasons. The first was that it “acted as a melting pot where Spaniards, Creoles and Amerindians exchanged cultural influences”. 

 I think I was able to capture this with photos of two vendors, one selling out in the streets and the other within the shelter of one of the many historical buildings which were converted to souvenir shops. To emphasize this dichotomy, one vendor accepted Visa, while the other accepted only cash. 

Secondly, San Miguel de Allende integrated “different architectural trends and styles on the basis of a 16th century urban layout”. The most famous landmark is the pink, neo-Gothic parish church of San Miguel de Allende (above). The current structure dates to the 18th century, although its origins trace to the 16th century. 

The entrance to Igelsia San Pablo, (St. Paul’s Anglican Church)

The entrance to Igelsia San Pablo, (St. Paul’s Anglican Church)

Outside one of many shops on the streets of in San Miguel de Allende

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The challenge was – with just a few hours on a wet afternoon – to capture images that reflect this rich and varied heritage. Whether I was successful or not, one thing is sure – another trip to Mexico is definitely on the cards. 

Twilight on the streets of San Miguel de Allende.

Twilight on the streets of San Miguel de Allende.

 

From Finance to Photography

So it’s been two weeks of posts, featuring both personal and professional highlights of my life. I now want to share some events that led me to become a photographer and my need to come out of my (dis)comfort zone.

The year was 1997. I had already spent four years in the financial sector, and had been in photography for nearly ten years.  How’d I end-up in finance? Well, after high school I took two years off and ended up working in a commercial bank. After leaving university I couldn’t find work in my field, so in 1993 my former boss called me back in. By the summer of 1997 I was a 28 year old operations manager at the bank’s stockbroking firm, in charge of money market operations. Interest rates in fixed income securities were at an all-time high (50% p.a.) and everyday was crazy and chaotic with new investors looking for new investments. And I oversaw all of that – deadlines, deals, trades, securities, and making sure that every aspect of these multi-million dollar transactions was neatly tied-up. If I messed up….thank God I never found out what the consequences were.

How did I feel about the job? When I was offered the position in 1996 I got a buzz, eager to meet a new challenge. I was a licenced investment advisor, having successfully passed the Jamaican Securities Course, and the position came with all the perks – allowances and company car.  However, one year into the job, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. Early mornings and late hours at my desk resulted in me acquiring the complexion of the wall. When I parked my car in the morning, I sat for minutes, waiting for the chest pains to subside before I trudged upstairs to my office. I had to get out…but where to?

Les Pitons, Soufriere, St. Lucia

While working in finance over the years, I had managed to squeeze out time for photography and writing travel articles for SkyWritings and UNFOLD magazine. The former was the in-flight magazine for the now-defunct Air Jamaica, and UNFOLD magazine was a Caribbean magazine based in New York. So I started thinking….could I possibly? The turning point was a week in November that was spent in St. Lucia for SkyWritings. The first day there – hiking and photographing along the south coast near Vieux Fort – I knew that this was what I had to do with my life.

Thinking about leaving the security of a job in the finance industry and actually doing it, is a process. Another key moment was a lunch-time talk with a dear friend, Marcelle Smart in early 1998. I told her how I felt about my job, shared my thoughts about my future and told her that I didn’t want to live with regrets. She told me to just do it – leave and pursue photography. That talk accelerated the process of leaving finance for photography. 

At this time, my Christian faith wasn’t was it used to be, or what it is now. However with such a major decision, I knew that divine guidance was required. So I prayed and prayed. It was another few months before I resigned, leading to another chapter of my life, filled with multiple challenges…..but that’s for another time.