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The Gentleman Wayfarer

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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.

Mark Paulda, accomplished photographer and wandering wayfarer, doesn’t just showcase scenery in El Paso 120; he makes a powerful statement: “El Paso is not at the edge but instead at the very center of some remarkably amazing landscape.” Paulda subverts the notion that El Paso is merely a desert city in the middle of nowhere by taking his audience on journeys to striking destinations within a 120-mile radius of the border city.

Alongside photographs of mountainous locales like the Hueco Tanks, Paulda includes photos of such variety that some might not believe these locales are within a two-hour drive of El Paso. The breathtaking White Sands of the Tularosa Basin are only ninety-five miles to the north; the untouched rivers, delta, and lake of Elephant Butte, merely one hundred and twenty miles away. Paulda has captured these and many more stunning settings in gorgeous color.

By capturing the magnitude of these sublime landscapes with aerial shots, and bringing viewers to the heart of each scene with ground shots, Paulda reveals the grandeur of a terrain that, for many of us, has been off the map.

From Beautiful Now Website ::

El Paso 120: Edge of the Southwest, by photographer Mark Paulda, is a love song to the Texan border city of El Paso and its surrounds.

“El Paso is not at the edge but instead at the very center of some remarkably amazing landscape,” Paulda tells us.

He shows us with incredible insight and artistry, wIth breathtaking aerial and ground-based photos of the mountainous Hueco Tanks, the White Sands of the Tularosa Basin, the pristine rivers, delta, and lake of Elephant Butte, and within 120 mile radius of the little desert metropolis.

Paulda’s photos are ripe with stunning color and dramatic composition, as they capture scenes, like secret treasures, that we might never come to see any other way.

Legend of Mont Saint Michel
by Guy de Maupassant

I had first seen it from Cancale, this fairy castle in the sea. I got an indistinct impression of it as of a gray shadow outlined against the misty sky. I saw it again from Avranches at sunset. The immense stretch of sand was red, the horizon was red, the whole boundless bay was red. The rocky castle rising out there in the distance like a weird, seignorial residence, like a dream palace, strange and beautiful-this alone remained black in the crimson light of the dying day.

The following morning at dawn I went toward it across the sands, my eyes fastened on this, gigantic jewel, as big as a mountain, cut like a cameo, and as dainty as lace. The nearer I approached the greater my admiration grew, for nothing in the world could be more wonderful or more perfect.

As surprised as if I had discovered the habitation of a god, I wandered through those halls supported by frail or massive columns, raising my eyes in wonder to those spires which looked like rockets starting for the sky, and to that marvellous assemblage of towers, of gargoyles, of slender and charming ornaments, a regular fireworks of stone, granite lace, a masterpiece of colossal and delicate architecture.

As I was looking up in ecstasy a Lower Normandy peasant came up to me and told me the story of the great quarrel between Saint Michael and the devil.

A sceptical genius has said: “God made man in his image and man has returned the compliment.”

This saying is an eternal truth, and it would be very curious to write the history of the local divinity of every continent as well as the history of the patron saints in each one of our provinces. The negro has his ferocious man-eating idols; the polygamous Mahometan fills his paradise with women; the Greeks, like a practical people, deified all the passions.

Every village in France is under the influence of some protecting saint, modelled according to the characteristics of the inhabitants.

Saint Michael watches over Lower Normandy, Saint Michael, the radiant and victorious angel, the sword-carrier, the hero of Heaven, the victorious, the conqueror of Satan.

But this is how the Lower Normandy peasant, cunning, deceitful and tricky, understands and tells of the struggle between the great saint and the devil.

To escape from the malice of his neighbor, the devil, Saint Michael built himself, in the open ocean, this habitation worthy of an archangel; and only such a saint could build a residence of such magnificence.

But as he still feared the approaches of the wicked one, he surrounded his domains by quicksands, more treacherous even than the sea.

The devil lived in a humble cottage on the hill, but he owned all the salt marshes, the rich lands where grow the finest crops, the wooded valleys and all the fertile hills of the country, while the saint a ruled only over the sands. Therefore Satan was rich, whereas Saint Michael was as poor as a church mouse.

After a few years of fasting the saint grew tired of this state of affairs and began to think of some compromise with the devil, but the matter was by no means easy, as Satan kept a good hold on his crops.

He thought the thing over for about six months; then one morning he walked across to the shore. The demon was eating his soup in front of his door when he saw the saint. He immediately rushed toward him, kissed the hem of his sleeve, invited him in and offered him refreshments.

Saint Michael drank a bowl of milk and then began: “I have come here to propose to you a good bargain.”

The devil, candid and trustful, answered: “That will suit me.” “Here it is. Give me all your lands.”

Satan, growing alarmed, wished to speak “But —”

The saint continued: “Listen first. Give me all your lands. I will take care of all the work, the ploughing, the sowing, the fertilizing, everything, and we will share the crops equally. How does that suit you?”

The devil, who was naturally lazy, accepted. He only demanded in addition a few of those delicious gray mullet which are caught around the solitary mount. Saint Michael promised the fish.

They grasped hands and spat on the ground to show that it was a bargain, and the saint continued: “See here, so that you will have nothing to complain of, choose that part of the crops which you prefer: the part that grows above ground or the part that stays in the ground.” Satan cried out: “I will take all that will be above ground.”

“It’s a bargain!” said the saint. And he went away.

Six months later, all over the immense domain of the devil, one could see nothing but carrots, turnips, onions, salsify, all the plants whose juicy roots are good and savory and whose useless leaves are good for nothing but for feeding animals.

Satan wished to break the contract, calling Saint Michael a swindler.
But the saint, who had developed quite a taste for agriculture, went back to see the devil and said:

“Really, I hadn’t thought of that at all; it was just an accident, no fault of mine. And to make things fair with you, this year I’ll let you take everything that is under the ground.”

“Very well,” answered Satan.

The following spring all the evil spirit’s lands were covered with golden wheat, oats as big as beans, flax, magnificent colza, red clover, peas, cabbage, artichokes, everything that develops into grains or fruit in the sunlight.

Once more Satan received nothing, and this time he completely lost his temper. He took back his fields and remained deaf to all the fresh propositions of his neighbor.

A whole year rolled by. From the top of his lonely manor Saint Michael looked at the distant and fertile lands and watched the devil direct the work, take in his crops and thresh the wheat. And he grew angry, exasperated at his powerlessness.

As he was no longer able to deceive Satan, he decided to wreak vengeance on him, and he went out to invite him to dinner for the following Monday.

“You have been very unfortunate in your dealings with me,” he said; “I know it, but I don’t want any ill feeling between us, and I expect you to dine with me. I’ll give you some good things to eat.”

Satan, who was as greedy as he was lazy, accepted eagerly. On the day appointed he donned his finest clothes and set out for the castle.

Saint Michael sat him down to a magnificent meal. First there was a ‘vol-au-vent’, full of cocks’ crests and kidneys, with meat- balls, then two big gray mullet with cream sauce, a turkey stuffed with chestnuts soaked in wine, some salt-marsh lamb as tender as cake, vegetables which melted in the mouth and nice hot pancake which was brought on smoking and spreading a delicious odor of butter.

They drank new, sweet, sparkling cider and heady red wine, and after each course they whetted their appetites with some old apple brandy.

The devil drank and ate to his heart’s content; in fact he took so much that he was very uncomfortable, and began to retch.

Then Saint Michael arose in anger and cried in a voice like thunder: “What! before me, rascal! You dare — before me —”

Satan, terrified, ran away, and the saint, seizing a stick, pursued him. They ran through the halls, turning round the pillars, running up the staircases, galloping along the cornices, jumping from gargoyle to gargoyle. The poor devil, who was woefully ill, was running about madly and trying hard to escape. At last he found himself at the top of the last terrace, right at the top, from which could be seen the immense bay, with its distant towns, sands and pastures. He could no longer escape, and the saint came up behind him and gave him a furious kick, which shot him through space like a cannonball.

He shot through the air like a javelin and fell heavily before the town of Mortain. His horns and claws stuck deep into the rock, which keeps through eternity the traces of this fall of Satan.

He stood up again, limping, crippled until the end of time, and as he looked at this fatal castle in the distance, standing out against the setting sun, he understood well that he would always be vanquished in this unequal struggle, and he went away limping, heading for distant countries, leaving to his enemy his fields, his hills, his valleys and his marshes.

And this is how Saint Michael, the patron saint of Normandy, vanquished the devil.

Another people would have dreamed of this battle in an entirely different manner.

Mont Saint Michel and the Milky Way

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence (available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/au/)

El Paso artists paint the town red – and just about every color.  More than a hundred murals dot the city, capturing the region’s cultural pride with depictions of community leaders, religious figures and other symbols.  Segundo Barrio (a neighbourhood along the USA – Mexico border) and downtown bear the lion’s share of these public art pieces; the neighborhoods themselves have become fitting places for art walks.

A 1975 mural in Segundo Barrio, at 513 Father Rahm Ave., is one of the oldest outdoor art pieces in the city.  Artists Arturo Avalos, Gabriel Ortega, Pablo Schaffino and Pascual Ramirez painted the Aztec geometric patterns that adorn the wall.  It’s become a symbol of pride for the area, nodding to El Paso’s close ties to Mexico and indigenous peoples.

Many other murals reflect the city’s cross-border cultural connections, like Animo Sin Fronteras (Spirit Without Borders), which features Melchor Flores flexing his muscles in the hear of downtown at Mills Avenue and Stanton Street.  The mural, by artists David Herrera and El Mac, captures the universal struggle for justice.

Also downtown, Reflection of the Desert, painted by Creative Kids, a nonprofit educational community-based art agency, showcases the desert landscape and the local ethos – a woman gazes across the horizon with determination El Pasoans are known for.  You’ll find this mural along the pedestrian walkway to the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Centre.

Murals in Union Plaza, a restaurant and nightlife hub next to Southwest University Park, present El Paso iconography, from the Star on the Mountain to “La Equis” in Ciudad Juárez. El Paso Wings, for instance, is a hidden picture hunt.  As you gaze at the work, Mount Cristo Rey, Aztec figures, the UTEP Miners’ pick, and other images reveal themselves – all reflections of the city’s vibrant culture and pride.

 

The Red Rock Ranch in the Beach Mountains, two miles north of Van Horn, is one of the only public tours offered on private land in West Texas.    Some of the rocks on the ranch are more than a billion years old, among the oldest in Texas.

The Pre-Cambrian sandstone outcropping found at Red Rock is one of only four natural Precambrian sandstone exposures in the Western Hemisphere.  Who knew something like this existed in West Texas let alone Van Horn.  And with that, you might even be asking yourself where in the world is Van Horn?   The easy answer is Van Horn is right near Sierra Blanca, which you will not know either.  If you travel Interstate 10, however, you would have no choice except to pass through Van Horn either on your way to or from El Paso.

Back to the fascinating Red Rock Ranch, which is home to Darice McVay.   If we are to believe her, a host of imaginary friends dot the wide expanse landscape.  “Imagination can be as creative as one wishes,” according to ranch owner Darice McVay. “E. T. under a camel’s chin, Donald Duck or Puff the Magic Dragon, an Indian satellite dish and Red Rock Ranch’s very own Easter Island rock” are all rock formations created by wind erosion over millions of years.  If you dive into the stories with Darice, you’ll not only chuckle but also be mesmerized by the natural beauty that will surround you.

Many of these formations are naturally balanced, as if a sculptor has worked magic.   The tour ride through Red Rock Ranch is “nice and easy” and as smooth as a Frank Sinatra ballad.  There is no rush on this fascinating tour.  If you are fond of rugged desert landscapes, you’ll be more than satisfied you took the time for Red Rock Ranch.

Do be aware, however, you have to ask around in order to take the tour.   Van Horn is small enough and the people are friendly enough so you’ll easily be led in the right direction.  Just to give you an idea how friendly Van Horn folks are –
my visit was chronicled in the local newspaper as if I were a celebrity.

Being a gentleman in our modern world is more than being polite; more than holding a door; and more than knowing which fork to use.   A gentleman also means more than a dashing wardrobe.  The character of a man and his actions every day, all day throughout the year.  

What’s true is the traits are common sense, though I’ve been fortunate to have wise men in my life.  Some of the men were fathers, teachers, random people I’ve met while travelling and one man in particular.  Mostly, this one man  influenced me in so many ways, and during particular situations I find myself asking “what would Bert do?”  Then, I act accordingly.

Please have a look at my Ultimate List of A Gentleman’s Rules To Live By – a Guide To Being a Modern Gentleman, if you will.  As you read through, keep in mind each of our lives and life experiences is different.  What works for me, and what I think a gentleman may be, could very well be different to you.  Feel free to add to the list or even create your own list that suits your life.  The following 50 Rules for Being a Modern Gentleman are what works for me.

  
1.    Be yourself and yourself only.  Don’t try to be something you think someone else wants you to be.

2.    Don’t do or say anything that makes others feel uncomfortable.   

3.    When someone tells you something in confidence, let that secret stop with you.  Never share anything someone tells you.

4.    Learn the art of conversation.  Be able to talk about almost everything.  If you’re unsure, “I don’t know” is a respectable answer.

5.    I might not like what the truth is, but it is the truth I want to hear.  Truth can be understood and dealt with in a civil manner.

6.    If you are going to impress, be sure to impress in the way you intend.  In other words, be natural and you’re sure to impress.

7.    Never cancel at the last minute unless something drastic happens and you genuinely are unable.  And very importantly, don’t accept an invite then say no with a lame excuse at the last minute.  

8.    Don’t be late unless your tardiness comes with an honest and genuine excuse.

9.    Not every moment is golden (and successful).  Try to get ‘it’ right the first time, and if you don’t, make the second time count.

10.  Remember your good manners at all times even at the most inopportune times.

11.  Be interested and interesting – be the man people want to associate with.

12.  Be a genuinely good listener.

13.  Know your alcohol limits, and respect them.  And sometimes, know when not to drink alcohol at all.

14.  Avoid anger without reason.  Don’t ever ‘fly off’ the proverbial handle in public.  Just don’t do it.

15.  Know when and how much to tip.  A dollar isn’t enough.

16.  There will be times you’re wrong.  Don’t be afraid to admit it.

17.  Don’t give advice unless you’re asked for it.  You’re not an expert in someone else’s life.

18.  Never turn up to a party, friend’s house, or dinner empty-handed.  Always have a host/hostess gift even if it’s simple.

19.  Be loved and liked by those who know you.  It’s ok if everyone doesn’t like you.  Not everyone will.

20.  Practice chivalry and understand that courteous behaviour is not at all dead.  It IS ok to open the door for someone.

21.  No one likes arrogance especially when it is not warranted.  It’s not at all attractive.

22.  Don’t ever be too proud to apologize.

23.  Saying thank you goes a long way.  Say it.  And always send a written thank you note.

24.  Don’t judge based on other people’s judgments.  Give everyone a chance – your chance.

25.  Don’t strive to be the centre of attention.  If it happens, let it be.

26.  Don’t regret the things you’ve done, only the things you haven’t.

27.  Television and the internet are the biggest black holes of our time.  Live and experience life firsthand in real time.

28.  Take risks.   Break out of your comfort zone. 

29.  Learn to go with the flow.  Let ‘it’ be.

30.  Be confident and realistically believe in yourself.

31.  Watch what you eat, take care of what you wear and have pride in how you conduct yourself.

32.  Confront boredom by making a change.

33.  Travel whenever possible.  Follow passions and indulge in guilty pleasures even if you want to run naked on a beach.

34.  Be spontaneous.

35.  Take a compliment as well as you can give one.  

36.  If you invite someone  for dinner or drinks, do not ask, suggest or expect to split the bill.

37.  Allow yourself to be challenged.

38.  Life’s too short to only work, eat and sleep.

39.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask for directions.

40.  Remember that most people do what is inspected and not what is expected.  So true.

41.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.

42.  There are a time and a place to use English slang; otherwise, use the English language properly.
S’up is not acceptable.

43.  Have your own thoughts and beliefs based on your own personal experiences.  There are too many sheep in the world.  Don’t be one.

44.  Be original even if you’re quirky.  And if you are quirky, embrace it.

45.  Wherever you are in the world, be inclusive.  Division by any means gets us nowhere good.

46.  If you think you have the skills, creativity or means to help someone, do it without wanting anything back.

47.  Learn when and how to say no.

48.  Know when to keep your mouth closed and when to be quiet.

49.  When you first meet someone, look them in the eye when you shake their hand.

50.  If you say you’re going to do something, be sure to do it.  Don’t let your words be hollow.

Venice Italy is pure magic.  This is Venice and magic is what I tell everyone who asks me for travel advice.

Consider nearly 400 ancient bridges to cross, tall campaniles defining the city’s skyline, stone walkways,  150 canals, 139 churches, a myriad of fascinating museums, St Mark’s Square and Italian gelato that will satisfy your tastebuds as you meander your way through the timeless islands.  

There are no cars in Venice.  The roads are indeed the city’s canals and if you want to be transported, your only choices are the iconic gondolas, private water taxis and public waterbus which is the vaporetto.  If you’re lucky, Venice will experience a mild Acqua Alta while you’re in St. Mark’s Square as there’s nothing quite like it.

You might feel as if you’re on a movie set as Venice doesn’t seem real at first tho’ the city is indeed a living breathing real place where people live and work.  Be respectful as tensions toward tourists run a bit high these days.

Be prepared to think you’re lost but also be prepared to throw away your map as a map will only frustrate you.  Meander your way through the narrow alleys and simply be pleasantly surprised when you reach one of the public squares where you’re sure to find shops and cafes.

Venice is splendid to discover.  Take your time and take it all in.  The city is pure sensory overload.  Enjoy the video presentation with images captured purely with an iPhone.

If you’re keen to learn more about how to capture great travel photos with your own mobile telephone, consider the following photo composition tips :

Rule One 

Simplify the scene.

When you look at a scene with your naked eye, your brain quickly picks out subjects of interest. But the camera doesn’t discriminate – it captures everything in front of it, which can lead to a cluttered, messy picture with no clear focal point.

Remember, don’t let your camera rule you.  You rule the camera!

What you need to do is choose your subject, then select a focal length or camera viewpoint that makes it the centre of attention in the frame. You can’t always keep other objects out of the picture, so try to keep them in the background or make them part of the story.

Silhouettestextures and patterns are all devices that work quite well in simple compositions.

The simpler the shot the bigger the impact

Move in close to cut out other parts of the scene
Silhouettes and shapes make strong subjects
The balloons radial lines draw you into the frame

Rule Two

Fill The Frame

When you’re shooting a large-scale scene it can be hard to know how big your subject should be in the frame, and how much you should zoom in. 

In fact, leaving too much empty space in a scene is the most widespread compositional mistake. It makes your subject smaller than it needs to be and can also leave viewers confused about what they’re supposed to be looking at.

To avoid these problems you should zoom in to fill the frame, or get closer to the subject in question. The first approach flattens the perspective of the shot and makes it easier to control or exclude what’s shown in the background, but physically moving closer can give you a more interesting take on things.

Rule Three

Horizontal vs Vertical

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and take every picture with the camera held horizontally.  In fact, I was taught to shoot this way and only this way.  It took time for me think of turning my camera vertically.

Try turning it to get a vertical shot instead, adjusting your position or the zoom setting as you experiment with the new style.

Rule Four

Avoid The Middle

When you are a newbie, or just starting out, it’s tempting to put whatever you’re shooting right in the centre of the frame. However, this produces rather static, boring pictures. One of the ways to counteract this is to use the Rule of Thirds, where you split the image up into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and try to place your subject on one of these imaginary lines or intersections. 

Let me say, however, this is an overrated approach.

Instead, move your subject away from the centre and get a feel for how it can be balanced with everything else in the scene, including any areas of contrasting colour or light. 

There are no hard and fast rules about achieving this kind of visual balance, but you’ll quickly learn to rely on your instincts – trust that you’ll know when something just looks right.

Rule Five

Leading Lines

A poorly composed photograph will leave your viewers unsure about where to look, and their attention might drift aimlessly around the scene without finding a clear focal point. 

However, you can use lines to control the way people’s eyes move around the picture.

Converging lines give a strong sense of perspective and three-dimensional depth, drawing you into an image. Curved lines can lead you on a journey around the frame, leading you towards the main subject.

Lines exist everywhere, in the form of walls, fences, roads, buildings and telephone wires. They can also be implied, perhaps by the direction in which an off-centre subject is looking.

Rule Six

Dutch Tilt

Horizontal lines lend a static, calm feel to a picture, while vertical ones often suggest permanence and stability. To introduce a feeling of drama, movement or uncertainty, try the dutch tilt technique.

You can need nothing more than a shift in position or focal length to get them –wider angles of view tend to introduce diagonal lines because of the increased perspective; with wide-angle lenses, you’re more likely to tilt the camera up or down to get more of a scene in.

You can also introduce diagonal lines artificially, using the ‘Dutch Tilt’ technique. You simply tilt the camera as you take the shot. This can be very effective, though it doesn’t suit every shot and is best used sparingly

The Dutch Tilt can be used for dramatic effect and helps portray unease, disorientation, frantic or desperate action, intoxication, madness, etc….  

Rule Seven

Space to Move

Even though photographs themselves are static, they can still convey a strong sense of movement. When we look at pictures, we see what’s happening and tend to look ahead – this creates a feeling of imbalance or unease if your subject has nowhere to move except out of the frame.

You don’t just get this effect with moving subjects, either. For example, when you look at a portrait you tend to follow someone’s gaze, and they need an area to look into

For both types of shot, then, there should always be a little more space ahead of the subject than behind it.

Rule Eight

Backgrounds

Don’t just concentrate on your subject – look at what’s happening in the background, too. This ties in with simplifying the scene and filling the frame. You can’t usually exclude the background completely, of course, but you can control it.

You’ll often find that changing your position is enough to replace a cluttered background with one that complements your subject nicely. Or you can use a wide lens aperture and a longer focal length to throw the background out of focus.

It all depends on whether the background is part of the story you’re trying to tell with the photo. In the shot above, the background is something that needs to be suppressed.

Rule Nine

Be Creative With Colours

Bright primary colours really attract the eye, especially when they’re contrasted with a complementary hue. But there are other ways of creating colour contrasts – by including a bright splash of colour against a monochromatic background, for example. 

You don’t need strong colour contrasts to create striking pictures, though.

Scenes consisting almost entirely of a single hue can be very effective. And those with a limited palette of harmonious shades, such as softly lit landscapes, often make great pictures.

The key is to be really selective about how you isolate and frame your subjects to exclude unwanted colours.

Rule Ten

Breaking The Rules

Photo composition is basically a visual language – you can use it to make your pictures pass on a particular message

Just as we sometimes use the written word to create a deliberately jarring effect, we can do the same with photos by breaking with standard composition rules.

When you understand the rules of composition and then break them on purpose things start to get interesting

It’s often best to break one rule at a time, as John Powell does in the image above.

Just remember: for every rule we suggest, somewhere out there is a great picture that proves you can disregard it and still produce a fantastic image.

“The images of El Paso and 120 miles around conjure so vividly something of the character of the wonderful Southwest. Under a sky that seems limitless, the roads invite one to travel, to explore, to become a pioneer. When I see these great unending routes, piercing the vastness of the territory, they trigger in me the beginnings of an understanding of the importance to the American people of the concepts of freedom and opportunity.”

Daragh McDonald
London, England UK

All too often the El Paso area is an afterthought in any publication chronicaling West Texas or the Southwest. When I view photography books illustrating this vast area or read magazine articles, the message I receive is always the same: “Oh, by the way, there is a dusty place in far West Texas called El Paso; it is stuck in the middle of nowhere.” This corner of Texas is a footnote, if you will.

No doubt this area is overlooked due to El Paso’s distances from other civilisation. I say this lightly, though there is some truth to the thought. After all, El Paso seems to be a never-ending drive from other cities: twelve hours from Dallas, nine hours from San Antonio, four hours from Albuquerque, five hours from MIdland-Odessa, and seven hours from Phoenix. So yes, I do undertand why this area is considered the “edge” and off the radar for most.

It seems perfectly natural, if one mainly travels along Insterstate 10 through West Texas and southern New Mexico, for a traveler not to give El Paso much thought. As one looks out the window of a moving car, the easy conclusion would be that there is not much more to see than a plethora of tumbleweeds, desert brush, a few mountains, and a sea of wide-open space. Quite frankly, the roads one usually navigates move directly through the least interesting parts of the landscape.

Admittedly, the shape of this book didn’t immediately occur to me. I, too, based my judement of the area on Insterstate 10, not really piecing all the bits together, despite the fact that I am based in El Paso. The adventurer in me would visit the areas covered in this book independently; each a day trip and roughly a two-hour drive, or 120 miles, from El Paso. White Sands National Park in Southern New Mexico and the Guadalupe Mountains – Salt Flat area are two of my favourite destinations, though the landscape found in Lincoln National Forest at Cloudcroft has always offered an interesting contrast to the desert plains – and the cooler climate from the heat of the Chihuahua Desert.

My visits to Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site directly east of El Paso have been sporadic, although I enjoy my amatuerish attemps at rock climbing, and City of Rocks, between Deming and Silver City, New Mexico, allows my imagination to run wild thinking I am visiting the Flinstones’ Bedrock. Van Horn? Indeed, the Van Horn area – the “Gateway to Big Ben Country” – offers some of the most rugged and inspiring landscape in far West Texas. Seeing the sunrise over the Sierra Vieja mountains at the Coal Mine Ranch will be forever etched in my memory, and the largest collection of Precambrian rock formations in the wold at the Red Rock Ranch is a delight.

Most notable for me, however, is El Paso, as this is home. The Franklin Mountain range runs directly through the city and is the largest urban state park in the United States. For me, the Franklins are old friends that I miss when I travel around the world. In fact, this range is literally just outside my back door, and my friend Eric and I hike its slopes almost weekly.

Each of the aforementioned destinations is “just around the corner” in local terms, since driving times to other areas are four hours or more. While each of the areas photographed for this book have captivated me, I find the roads to and from equally fascinating. I believe the wide-open spaces that unfurl along these long, unobstructed roads epitomize the spirit of freedom many of us in the West feel.

Whilte I travel quite often throughout the world, each time behind the lens of my camera, I can safely say the landscapes of West Texas and Southern New Mexico touch my soul more deeply than any other place.

A spirit of freedom that is second to none wells up in me when I stand upon a high desert ridge; the sky above me opens up its cobalt tent, and the land below it stretches toward a horizon that seems to recede into infinity. Not only do deep fresh breaths fill me, but I can actually hear my breathing because the sounds of the cosmopolitan world are nowhere nearby.

The weight of the world swiftly lifts off my shoulders – I begin to connect with that which is around me, begin to move back toward my own centre. In a way, this great landscape offers me the freedom to feel whole again. No competeing demands tug at me from different directions. This is silence. Time is once again my friend.

The roads pictured in this book were avenues I traveled for the most part, but it was in the air where El Paso 120 came together. As I flew around the area in a twin-engine plane with Suzie Azar, my pilot the the former mayor of El Paso, I realised El Paso is not at the edge but right in the middle of an amazing landscape. And it is a landscape that is quite significant to the rest of the world, as you will discover as you flip through the book.

One might think I deliberately used a mathematical compass on a map to draw out what would be included in this book, but this is not the case. Flying above it, as a bird would, allowed me the opportunity to pull together what I had already explored on the ground. Surveying the land from atop El Paso’s Franklin Mountains, I can glimpse each of the areas portrayed in El Paso 120. A number of these destinations, all within striking distance of the city, are significant icons in the natural world.

Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas, at 8749 feet. El Capitan, a massive limestone formation is the Guadalupe Mountains most recognisable feature.

The remarkable City of Rocks is a fantasyland of wind- and water-sculptued volcanic rock. Only six other places in the world have anything like them.

Near Kilbourne Hole, New Mexico, a lava tube (cave) at Aden Crater yielded up the skeleton of one of the last giant ground sloths in North America. The nine-foot-long skeleton, with much of its skin and hair still preserved, is now at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

At White Sands there is the world’s largest gypsum dune field, where great waves of gypsum lap nearly three hundred square miles of desert. White Sands National Park preserves a major portion of it.

Then there were Hueco Tanks, known in the nineteenth century as the last source of water between the Pecos River and El Paso. The site is now one of the most popular destinations in the world for rock climbers.

Not only have I had the luxury of discovering the El Paso area, but each trek has helped me find my balance. I can think clear thoughts. Any and all stress goes away.

I have traveled these roads from El Paso countless times to escape the pressure of cosmopolitan life. I get lost behind my camera. My mind wanders with each trek, wondering what the area was like underwater millions of years ago, or what the Spanish explorers thought when they came upon this terrain, making their way northward. Can you imagine what they must have though when out of the brown desert arose the larges white gypsum sand dunes in the world? The idea of this fascinates me and in turn inspires me to venture further.

As you view my photographic exporation, I hope you, too, discover that El Paso is not at the edge but instead at the very centre of some remarkably amazing landscapes. One may think 120 miles is a long way to get anywhere. But within these wide-open spaces, it’s only just down the road and around the corner.

With good fortune during my next journey, I shall find you discovering firsthand El Paso and the wonders radiating 120 miles in all directions from the city.

Make sure you say “Hello,” when we cross paths.