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September 2020

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Though we take it for granted, and frequently curse it to high heaven, the London Underground is a real wonder. Yes, signal failures cause delays at the most inopportune times, we are sometimes packed in like sardines, stuck in tunnels – but, the Underground is indeed a working man-made miracle. The Tube network is the oldest and longest underground railway system serving a major city. Its history goes back to 1863, its conception even earlier. The Tube has driven engineering developments and creative design, and has featured in countless books, songs, films and poems. The Underground has been the site of births and deaths, and bombs planted by everyone from pre-war anarchists to suffragettes, the IRA to the Islamist suicide bombers of 2005. Yet this venerable railway system keeps going, keeps growing and keeps enabling more than one billion Londoners a year to make their daily commute.
While I am unashamedly obsessed with motion photography, what strikes me most at almost every station is the design deep in the bowels of London. From Canary Wharf to Southwark to Green Park, and well beyond, the creative design of London’s Underground stations inspires me, and sparks my imagination. It really is a must for an architectural detective, and there are nineteenth- and twentieth-century survivals everywhere, with arcaded embankments, cast iron columns, wooden platform canopies throughout the system.

At Baker Street, the Edwardian panelling is as good as in an ocean liner.; at Coven Garden glazed brick arches the color of toffee and canary yellow bands. They are della Robbia blue at Knightsbridge. Piccadilly Circus has a complete art deco feel, and circular. Tottenham Court Road is busily graced with mosaic murals by Eduardo Paolozzi, and at Canary Wharf one can find the remarkable Norman Foster’s beautiful station. And everywhere there is Edward Johnston’s sans serif lettering, the red, white, and blue symbol, and the colored map which is both a work of art and very clear.

Nearly everything needs cleaning, and no doubt a bit of mending, though more times than not we can overlook this on our way through the meandering tunnels. We hear live music, can be pushed or shoved, we mind the gap, and even our step, while making our way through the labyrinth well below the London streets. Volumes of photographs could be included from the twelve lines within the London Underground, but in this edition only the Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo, Piccadilly, District/Circle, Victoria, and Piccadilly are included. Enjoy the ride, and feel free to share your favorite Underground stations at any time.

BASIC UNDERGROUND FACTS

Number of miles/km traveled by each Tube train each year:  114,500 miles/184,269km

Total number of passengers carried each year:  1,107,000,000

The London Underground has 402km (249 miles) of track, making it the second largest metro system in the world in terms of route length, after the Shanghai Metro.

Average train speed:  33km per hour / 20.5 miles per hour

Proportion of the network that is in tunnels : 45 per cent

Longest continuous tunnel:  East Finchley to Morden (via Bank)  27.8km / 17.25 miles

Total number of escalators throughout the network:  426

Station with the most escalators:  Waterloo 23

Longest escalator:  Angel – 60m/197 feet, with a vertical rise of 27.5m / 90 ft

Shortest escalator : Stratford, with a vertical rise of 4.1 m

Total number of lifts (elevators), including for stair lifts:  164

Four passenger moving conveyors: two at Waterloo, and two at Bank

Shortest lift shank:  King’s Cross – 2.3m / 7.5 ft

Carriages in London Underground’s fleet:  4,134

Total number of stations served:  270

Total number of stations managed:  260

Total number of staff:  approximately 19,000

Station with the most platforms:  Baker Street – 10

Busiest stations:  Morning peak – Waterloo with 57,000 people entering

Per year – Waterloo with 82 million passengers

The Underground name first appeared on stations in 1908

London Underground has been known as the Tube since 1890, when the first deep-level electric railway line was opened

The Tube’s world-famous logo, “the roundel” (a red circle crossed by a horizontal blue bar), first appeared in 1908

An Average of 2.7 million tube journeys are made on the tube daily.

The deepest lift (elevator) shaft is at Hampstead on the Northern Line, and is 55.2m deep.

There are two tube station names that contain all 5 vowels – “Mansion House,” and South Ealing.

The oldest tube line in the world is the Metropolitan line, which opened on 10 January 1863.

The first escalator was introduced at Earls Court in 1911.

The shortest escalator on the tube system, with only 50 steps, is at Chancery Lane.

Almost 60% of the London Underground is actually above the ground, and not underground.

Only 29 stations are south of the river Thames, out of 287.

Edward Johnston designed the font for the London Underground in 1916, and it is still in use today.

Harry Beck designed the tube map in 1933, and was paid only five guineas for the job.  His design still forms the basis of today’s tube map.

Each of the 400+ escalators do the equivalent of two round-trips around the world in kilometres every week.

Angel station has the third longest escalator in Western Europe, with a vertical rise of 27.5 meters (90 ft), and a length of 60 meters ( 197 ft ), which takes 80 seconds to carry passengers up, or down.  It has a massive 318 steps.

Bank Station has the most escalators of any Tube station, with fifteen escalators, and two moving walkways.

Few stations do not have buildings above ground – these include Regent’s Park, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, and Bank.

The air in the underground is, on average, 10C degrees hotter than the air at street level.

The Jubilee Line was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, but did not open until two years later, but serves stations which originally opened over 100 years ago.

The District Line serves sixty different stations; Piccadilly Line serves fifty-two; and the Northern and Central Lines serve fifty-one and forty-nine stations respectively.

The Piccadilly Line was the first of the deep-level tube lines to be converted to a one-person operation, where the operator drives the train, and controls the operation of the doors.  (August 1987)

The Circle Line, which opened in 1884, was described in The Times as “a form of mild torture which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it.”

The London Underground runs 24 hours a day only at New Years, and major events, such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The shortest distance between two adjacent stations is 260 meters ( 0.161 miles ) between Leicester Square, and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line.  The journey takes approximately 20 seconds, but costs £4.30.

The phrase “Mind the Gap” originated on the Northern Line in 1968.

A flaming hot desert day— you know, when the proverbial egg can be fried on a rock—is my favorite time to visit Hueco Tanks.  

The Hueco Tanks are regarded the world over as one of the best areas in the world for rock climbing. The formidable rocks, which seem to be arranged by pitch and toss, present an obvious but not daunting challenge. At best, I rank somewhere below amateur status as a rock climber, and might very well be a pro at stumbling, whether it’s up or down.  

I can’t say I’ve ever made it to the highest point here.  The enjoyment for me is in my clueless but ever-so-careful methodology, negotiating from one level of boulders to the next—not to mention the simple pleasure of breathing the immaculate, flushed air.

My improvisational drama comes when reaching an outlook offering an unobstructed view of the idyllic, wide-open space sweeping its way across the rugged desert floor to the Hueco Mountains, miles away.    The fun part of Hueco Tanks is negotiating the often slick (and hot) rocks while also holding my camera in a safe position.  One wrong move and not only do I risk tumbling and crashing, but so does my pricey DSLR.

Over thirty million years ago, an upheaval of molten rock from the earth’s interior created these four-hundred-foot-tall granite hills that seem to spring out of the Chihuahuan Desert floor outside of El Paso.  There is an awesome, heart-expanding grandeur in this place.

Long before climbers discovered Hueco Tanks, Native americans were drawn here because its huecos, a Spanish word for “hollow,” trap and hold drinkable water— the most valuable desert commodity.   Not much more than a century ago, Hueco Tanks held the only dependable source of water between the Pecos River and El Paso.

The Hueco Mountains rise in southern New Mexico and extend twenty-seven miles south into Texas, generally along the El Paso-Hudspeth County line just east of the city of El Paso.   The highest point of the range is the Cerro Alto Mountain (6,787 feet).

Lying between the Hueco and Franklin Mountains, the Hueco Bolson, a dropped- down area four thousand feet above sea level, contains sedimentary fill nearly nine thousand feet thick.

If it is adventure you seek, or you simply want fresh air and an abundance of natural beauty, Hueco Tanks should definitely be added to your travel list.  Far West Texas is far off the beaten path tho’ well worth the effort when you want to get away from it all.

 

Colorado is famous for its 52 fourteen thousand feet mountain peaks but one of its hidden treasures is situated in a river valley at 7,700 ft. in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.  Here lies the spectacular mountain town of Ouray in Southwest Colorado. This small intimate community is nestled in some of the most rugged and towering peaks of the Rockies and is set at the narrow head of a valley and surrounded on three sides with 14,000 feet snowcapped peaks – Ouray has been eloquently nicknamed the “Switzerland of America.”

Ouray officially began in 1876 with the eager stroke of the mining prospector’s pick; however, the future brought with it those simply inspired by its beauty.  Because of Ouray’s majestic peaks, cascading waterfalls, natural hot springs, the famous Million Dollar Highway and its reputation for being the Jeep Capital of the World, modern visitors flock to Ouray as much for its beauty as the miners of the past did for the riches they hoped to find.

The present year-round population of approximately 800 swells considerably in the summer months as thousands of travelers visit this unique valley but the town can not grow much and is only six blocks long and six blocks wide.  It is not uncommon to find a wandering bear or a family of deer crossing Main Street.  Ouray is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Whether you set out to conquer the mountains with rope and carbineer, on foot, bike, or four-wheel drive—there’s a route for everyone. There are panoramic vistas, mountain basins with waterfalls and wildflowers gracing each turn.  Autumn is truly an outstanding time of year, with aspen stands and mixed conifer forests exhibiting glorious displays of golden colors and an inspiring winter wonderland waiting to be discovered should one visit then.  At night when the lights meet the formations of ice and snow they join in a shimmering dance of magical light. There are few inhabited places where one can look up to view millions of stars and see the Milky Way so pronounced.  It’s no wonder that this area has been described as the “Gem of the Rockies.”  Remarkably, about two-thirds of Ouray houses original Victorian structures, both private and commercial, and have been lovingly restored in order to preserve their turn-of-the-century charm.

Ouray is the perfect retreat for rest and relaxation. Throw away your cares to experience the area’s outdoor opportunities or stop in one of the many reputable art galleries, shops and restaurants  that line Main Street.   After only a day you’ll find you, too, are a local and will realize this is one place you’ve visited that you won’t want to leave.  Only a nine hour drive from El Paso, this is a vacation you will want to remember for the rest of your life.  Take a step back in time to enjoy the Victorian architecture, friendly mountain people and a peaceful atmosphere that runs on its own time.  Reward yourself – escape to the dramatic and breathtaking beauty of Ouray and transform yourself in this year-round recreational playground.

For most of us, This is Paris –
“I love Paris in the spring time 
I love Paris in the fall 
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles 
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris every moment 
Every moment of the year 
I love Paris
Why oh why do I love Paris 
Because my love is here
I love Paris every moment 
Every moment of the year 
I love Paris
Why oh why do I love Paris 
Because my love is here”
There are so many iconic sights and neighborhoods in Paris so you can’t go wrong anywhere you go.  My best suggestions are learn how to efficiently use the Paris Metro and know where your walking so you can navigate your way on foot.
My next suggestion is one I’d give no matter where you travel in this world.  Don’t be a tourist.  Don’t act like a tourist.
If you know a handful of French words and can string together a sentence, use them.  The French appreciate anyone who tries to speak their language.  Parisians might chuckle at you, but they mean it in an admirable way.
Being in Paris is more of a feeling than rushing around checking off a list of things to do and see.  Walk along the Seine River and wonder what it must have been like a hundred years ago.   Bring out your artistic flare and imagine what it must have been like for Gertrude Stein to give Picasso, Henry Matisse and Ernest Hemingway their big break.  Splurge and enjoy proper French cuisine at a Michelin Star restaurant.
Feel the energy of Paris.  Have a sordid affair and know first hand what romance is.  Paris is romance and as she shines and glows at night.  Take every bit of her deep into your soul.  And if you want to take the words affair and romance literally, know that the French make great lovers.  Trust me, I speak from experience.
Throw caution to the wind and let yourself go.  This is what Paris is for me.  Go visit Paris for a once in a lifetime experience.  And while you are doing this, you’ll pass the brilliant Parisian sights along the way.  Snap a few photos, if you must, but take my advice and you’ll have memories to last you forever.
If you’re keen to capture Paris with your camera, know Paris is a playground for photographers.  Keep the following travel photo tips in mind as you click your camera’s shutter.
Get Up Early and stay out for sunset

The Blue Hour is my favorite time of the day.  It’s also the best time to shoot, so get outdoors one hour before sunrise and one hour before sunset.  The lighting is incredible, as is the lack of tourists.

Always Ask permission

Don’t be shy about taking photos of people on your travels, but always ask.  It’s impolite if you don’t.  Plucking up the courage is daunting, but the worst they can say is no.

Practice and Watch

Photography is a lot of fun, but it’s also challenging.  Before you go on your next adventure, research techniques, attend workshops, watch how-to videos on YouTube, and practice.  Practice a lot.  Improving your craft will make snapping on your travels rewarding.

Shoot Straight

Ever taken a photo of a beautiful landscape only to find later on that you weren’t holding your camera phone straight? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. Luckily, your iPhone can automatically straighten an image or you can do it manually in the phone editing app.

Choose Your Background

When you travel, you’re often spoiled with choices when it comes to taking photos.  So when picking your background, look for lots of texture, patterns and color.

Get Into Nature

Get outside and into nature on your travels.  Hike trails, climb mountains, explore forests, and swim in waterfalls.

Take Natural Shots

Sometimes posed photos on your travels can lack a certain authenticity.  Shoot your subject doing something from his or her normal daily life; crossing the street, exploring a marketplace, and lunching with friends are great places to start.

Use the Rule of Three

When taking photos on your travels, divide the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, otherwise known as the rule of three.  It’s well known in photography circles that if you place the subject along these lines or at their intersections, it creates more interest in your images.

Photograph a Variety of People

Photograph people dressed in national costume as well as locals handpicking fruit in a market—mix it up between men and women, children and adults to get a variety of photos.

Get Higher

This is my favorite tip because shooting Instagram photos from higher ground equals an amazing view.  Try it!  And, try going down low, too.

Lighting is King

The difference between good lighting and bad lighting is simple—natural light.  Always shoot in natural light, and avoid using flash on your phone.  If you still can’t quite get the image bright or light enough, simply use the brightness tool in a photo-editing app.

Use a Great Caption

Even though Instagram is a photo app, sometimes (if not all the time) the caption is just as important.  Use puns, humor, and emotive descriptions to connect with people.

Get Off the Beaten Path

Some of the best photos I’ve taken have been when I explored beyond the beaten path.  My Kathmandu images and Macao photos are a great example.  Road trips are perfect for taking photos where there is no one other than you and the landscape in front of you.

Give Perspective

To give a subject perspective, whether it’s a waterfall, a mountain, or a bustling city, get a person to stand in your photo wearing a bright top or jacket to give the photo perspective.

Don’t Stop Traveling

It’s simple. To take the best travel photos, don’t stop traveling and exploring.  Whether it’s your own city, a road trip out of town, or an adventure abroad, never stop moving and taking photos.  Practice does indeed make perfect.

El Capitan, projecting from Texas’s highest mountain range, watches over me as I wander the barren salt flat at its base.   A pulsating wind whips down from the Guadalupe Mountain range as I survey the area for the ideal spot to set up my camera gear.  Each of my steps disrupts the slightly soft, cracked surface, leaving an unmistakable trail behind.  I stop, making sure my footprints are out of the image frame, when all of a sudden a blast of wind rips off my hat, sending it in a rapid tumble across the dry lake bed.  I lurch for it, my hand grabbed empty air, then I stood still and watched the hat whirl into the dusty West Texas sky and tumble only to disappear into the desert brush half a mile away. 

Strangely, there was an odd delight for me watching this, and I must wonder if El Capitan let out a slight chuckle at nature’s power over me.  Perhaps one day I will venture back in search of the lost hat, though I would be more inclined to search for new ways to capture these scenes in my lens.

The Guadalupe Mountains encompass parts of the most extensive Permian lime- stone fossil reef in the world.  Over two hundred fifty million years ago, a four- hundred-mile-long limestone reef formed along a shelf in the Permian Sea.  These mountains are part of the reef’s remains, shaped by thousands of years of  continuous weathering.

Guadalupe Peak is the highest peak and highest point in Texas, standing at 8,749 feet.  In 1972 the Guadalupe Mountains were designated a national park.

The meandering Salt Flat seen today at the base of the range is what remains of a series of shallow seas that covered much of the area two million years ago.  Sediments washed into the seas from the mountain slopes.  The water evaporated, leaving behind a thick layer of minerals, primarily table salt or gypsum.

I often find myself exploring Salt Flat as I find the landscape fascinating.  The stark white gypsum juxtaposed against the brown Chihuahua Desert is remarkable.  It almost reminds of the person who likes to stand out from the crowd, which by the way, I’m in complete agreement with.   The imposing Guadalupe Mountain range in the background simply epitomizes the popular saying – “Everything is bigger in Texas”.

Throughout West Texas and southern New Mexico, two-lane desert highways stretch to vanishing points on horizons that seem to reach infinity under a limitless dome of sky.  West Texas driving is like this.  It’s this wide open space that gives me a true sense of a spirit of freedom.

Four wheels rotating on the steamy blacktop, moving me forward to what looks like the edge of the earth.  Mile after mile, the landscape steadily zooms by, yet the destination ahead remains motionless, in full view.  Other than a stray tumbleweed rolling across the pavement on a windy day, or a few passing cars racing by, there is only wide-open space feeding the spirit of freedom I so very much adore.  Only in the western United States have I found this, and it is something I look forward to after being confined within urban boundaries and tall buildings of London or Hong Kong.  Often, it is the journey that opens my mind to any possibility, permitting me to truly appreciate the destination.   The drive also allows me nothing but time, which in every day life, is limited.