A New Year – A new archaeological site.

January 4, Location: Belize City, Belize

Belize City was built were a mangrove forest used to be, so essentially the substrate for the city is mud, sand, and broken sea shells, at an altitude of plus or minus three feet above sea level. Building here made sense in the days of the pirates and Baymen who needed access to a fresh water river, but it makes no sense today when it floods during the storms, and is battered down during the hurricanes. After the city was almost entirely destroyed when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore in 1961, the government decided to move the capitol twenty miles inland. 

I started my excursions today with The Archaeological Conservancy. We began with a morning tour of Belize City. The most interesting buildings were the ones that had sank several feet during the flooding. We stopped to view and old overgrown cemetery, then paused to remove the sticker plants from our trousers.

We then travelled to the ruins of Altun Ha. Having looked at the logistics of Belize City, I have become interested in the Urban Planning issue of how to get fresh water to a city. Altun Ha has a well and a reservoir. The site has some interesting connections with the northern ruins of Teotihuacan, and are the most visited ruins in Belize because they are the closest to where the cruise ships land. I am glad to have seen them. Each site I visit further impresses me with the art and industry of the ancient Maya.

Altun Ha, Belize


Once I was a host, now I am a tourist.

January 3, Location: Belize City, Belize

I stopped by at the local crafts market that caters to the cruise passengers. Those of you who have seen my collections, know that I love crafts, but sadly there was nothing here that I wanted to bring home with me. There are an number of stalls and shops selling the same cheaply made souvenirs.  

There is a large, colorful sign at the edge of the harbor that says, “Belize” for the benefit of family photo takers who need to document where they are.

I am strangely having trouble with the language. They speak English here, but I keep answering with Spanish words like “hola” and “gracias.”

A New Year – A New Country

January 2, 2019 Location: Belize City, Belize

I am embarrassed to say that my current educational taught me very little about the history of Belize, but as luck would have it, there was a Dinner Theatre show tonight called Belizerewind with dancing and musical numbers on this subject. I took a taxi from my hotel to the venue.

The taxi driver said that his name was Byron. He said  “Byron like the poet who was friends with Frankenstein and that one other guy.” This sounded like a reasonable explanation to me. 

Belizerewind presentation

The presentation was a bit like taking someone from overseas to a pageant about the USA starting with Plymouth Rock and running to the end of World War II. Only here the pirates were the founding fathers. The presentation was interesting and I could make out most of it, but at some times the fast dialogue the Caribbean accents were a little hard to follow. (I remember that when the TV networks are afraid of what someone may say on a live microphone, they cover the show with a five second delay, giving the broadcasters a chance to bleep out any speech they found objectionable. My brain works like this on the accent. I can hear it, but there is sometimes a few moments delay before my brain can understand it.)

A New Year – A New Journey

January 1, 2019, Location: LAS Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

I stayed up to watch the New Years Eve fireworks and make photographs. I got some OK pictures, but shooting fireworks has become a bit like cheating in the digital age. You just set up your tripod, try various exposures, keep shooting until the show over, go into editing, discard a hundred or so, and keep the handful that you like. I shouldn’t complain though, back in the film days, there was really no way to re-evaluate your exposures until the next fireworks event.

New Year’s in Las Vegas

Some see the new year as a re-set point when one plans re-adjustments on their journey of life. For me it is definitely a journey, as I am at the airport on January 1, getting ready to board a plane to the country of Belize.

What is the purpose of this journey? 1) I am the innkeeper for an inn catering to international archaeological travelers. How can I advise our guests about other archaeological sites and wonders without seeing them for myself? I can glean much from the guidebooks, but I really can not have any true opinions about things I have not personally experienced. 2) I love archaeology, and am fond of exploring new places. 3) I am a photographer and would like to see if I can create some interesting images. 4) I want to get in a bit of birdwatching. 5) I want to revitalize my sense of wonder.

A new day

Location: Indian Lake Ranch, Oregon

It is wonderful to spend Christmas with the family at Indian Lake Ranch in Oregon. I will miss them, but each sunrise promises a new day.


Dark skys and meteor showers.

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatán, Mexico

Earth is experiencing the Geminid meteor shower, and I am in Santa Elena, Yucatán, a small rural pueblo in Mexico that gets very little light pollution. This makes it an excellent place to view meteor showers, particularly on dark moonless nights. So I set my alarm for the early morning hours and climbed up to the rooftop to view the stars.

The last time I paused to view a meteor shower in a dark sky, I was in the quiet of the Nevada desert. Here at the edge of the village the dogs and roosters know that something is going on and are asking the humans to wake up and take notice.

This gives us a chance to become philosophical. The abundance of stars show us that we take up only a small amount of space in the galaxy. The briefness of the meteors show us that we are only here for a small allotted amount of time, but their brightness lets us know that for a few brief moments we can leave a trail of light. As one brief flash to another, I wish you a good morning. Let us make the best of the day.

Things to do with the lights on.

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatán, Mexico

My doctor told me that I could fall asleep faster if I did not watch TV or use computers two hours before bedtime.  Apparently there have been studies showing that looking at light sources can excite parts of the brain and keep one awake. Watching TV is not really an issue for me, but no computers? What? I mean this is where I get my news, check up on my friends, work on my business interests, play mindless games, write legible essays and process my photography.

So if it will help me to sleep better I decide to give it a try. But, I am on my own this month there no one to talk to at night, no TV, no computer, what can I do with this time? I choose to read.

Finding reading material around the house is easy, as I am a compulsive book buyer, and don’t mind reading five or six books at the same time.  Books on Maya history, the philosophy of travel, science fiction novels, books recommended by friends, books recommended by hotel guests, books recommended by other books. One book I am reading, “Better With Age” by Alan Castel claims that people who read more than average, then to live longer and have sharper minds. So this may be a good thing.

And, am I getting more sleep at night? Frankly, no, but I am very much enjoying my reading. This is something I have put off for far too long. I will be starting to post a few book reviews on this blog.

More photo tips

Location: Black Rock City, NV

lazers at night
ƒ4.5 1/200 ISO3200

Art instillation
ƒ5.8 1/200 ISO3200

One of my friends asked me about how I calculated the exposures for my  images.  If you look at the camera data, you can see that I like to play around a bit with what the camera can do. These are not not textbook exposures, but they do show how one can photograph directly at the sun with the aperture wide open, and how when photographing light sources at night you don’t worry about what the meter thinks. You are going to get your blacks anyway, so shoot in manual mode, and experiment until you find a look you like. How much blur, how much detail and how much saturation looks good.

Don’t meter, just play with it. Then look back at what you have just shot, and make whatever adjustments you like. Shooting in Program mode, is like going on a date and looking for the most average person possible. Somehow that never was my goal.

Photo tips

Location: Black Rock City, Nevada

Tips for photographers.  I have found that many of the most interesting shots at Burning Man are to be found at sunrise,

Sunrise with heart

Train at sunrise

sunset,

Flag at sunset

and at night.

Sometimes you can use camera shake to your advantage.

The Temple at night

Light up the night

For best results when photographing fire, get a programable camera, and use it in manual mode. The cameras in most smart phones are difficult, if not impossible to properly adjust, and all you will get is black, orange and undefined light.

Temple Burn iPhone 7

Temple Burn Canon Rebel