Father and Daughter

Tourists.

Father and Daughter.

Lisbon, Portugal

Originally from Bosnia, this Father/Daughter duo was on my walking tour of Lisbon. She immigrated to Vermont several years back, works as a dental hygienist and was able to help her father immigrate to Vermont recently too. Together, they were traveling to some of the countries that were on his Bucket List. I enjoyed hearing their stories of the ‘Old Country’.

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Natasha

Natasha in Lagos 1 Vintage

I was engrossed in taking pictures of the spectacular sandy beach coves of the Mediterranean in Lagos, Portugal when this lovely lady strolled by along the water’s edge. Keen not to miss the opportunity, I asked if she’d mind if I took her picture.  She happily gave me permission. We did a quick series of shots together, exchanged contact info so she could have a copy of the images, then each of us went on our way.  She liked the results. So did I!

 

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Bartenders

Tragatá Tapas Bar.  Ronda, Spain

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Street Chic

Tourist. Lisbon, Portugal

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The Valet

Tivoli Avenida Luxury Hotel.  Lisbon, Portugal

My first day in Lisbon was so rewarding in many ways.

My stated goals for this two week trip was to get to spend quality time with  my brother. That was first and foremost.  It’s been a long time since Bill and I connected on a deeper level and had a chance to catch up on each other’s lives.  Beyond that, Photography, Wine and Food (in that order) were what I was wanting to saturate my time with.

There was rarely a time that I didn’t have my Nikon D750 with me.  I always had my iPhone7 in my pocket, which takes pretty amazing pictures but it was my Nikon that really grabs tremendous pictures. So, heavy and intrusive as it can be, that’s what I worked with intentionally to capture the very best images of our vacation that I could.

The Nikon digital SLR camera can be a challenge though in Street Photography.  Most people are pretty comfortable with having their picture taken with an iPhone or Samsung – whatever their phone of choice is- and quickly hit a smile or a puckered kiss if they’re sassy enough.  But when I raise that Nikon to my face and look through the viewfinder, there’s an immediate separation from the person when the camera covers my face.  The subjects sometimes balk and get a little more defensive about what I’m up to.  Its the same objective – to take their picture – but it changes very quickly when I raise a serious camera versus what people perceive as an amateur snapshot from a phone held at eye level with the photographer’s face still visible.  It takes a little finesse to gain and hold trust with my Nikon. But, I’m very good at it. I’m friendly and quick, always using a warm smile and carefully evaluating my subject for compliance and willingness.

There’s also a difference in street photography between a candid, unsuspecting shot of an interesting person who doesn’t know you’ve taken their picture (like sitting in a sidewalk cafe) and a more personal portrait.  In the case of a more intimate shot where I approach the person that I may find uniquely interesting, I do ask for their permission to take their picture and I might even ask them to pose. I might actually give some direction or take a series of shots to be sure I’ve caught what attracted me to them in the first place.  In these cases, I always offer my business card or a means for them to receive a copy of the pictures I took. Free.  If they’re kind enough to pose for me then the least I can do is provide an act of kindness back to them.  Whether I capture a person, unaware of my presence, in a carefree moment or if I make direct contact for a more personal portrait, I use very different skills. I’ve worked hard to be successful with both types. I can be respectfully clandestine or I can be friendly and trustworthy.  It takes practice and patience.

In either case, I’m always on alert as I walk through the streets.  In Lisbon, my first day out, I saw this doorman at the adjacent hotel. I was going to head up to the SkyBar for a rooftop view of Lisbon in the evening and have a glass of Portugese wine, when this fella reached to open the hotel lobby door for me.  As soon as I saw him I knew I had to have his picture.  He was unique. He had a charisma about him and I could tell by his outfit that he didn’t mind having attention called to him.  Since I didn’t have my Nikon with me, I returned the next afternoon with my camera and asked if I could take his portrait. He gladly agreed.  I showed him the result on my little camera screen and he was quite pleased.  I emailed the hotel with a copy to be forwarded to him.

I could tell this was going to be a very successful trip!

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Travel Advisory

Travel Advisory: It’s very easy to let fear keep us from traveling abroad, what with the news media reporting all kinds of horrible things that happen both here at home in the States or overseas. But my experience has been that fear makes us suspicious, untrusting and keeps us separated from each other. We’ve got to acknowledge legitimate dangers but we cannot allow that to keep us from action.

In my travels, not just this last trip I took, but in all the places I visit, I find that people are so fun, so hard working and so happy to share what they have. A fragile introduction quickly turns into a careful opening up process and the next thing you know, you discover that people all over the world are the same – friendly, happy, curious and helpful. They’re trying to deal with life just like us. Sure, there are some real jerks out there – we need to be watchful just like we are at home. But I’ve had so many good things happen over and over again that I truly believe that making connections with people, strangers or not, makes for a happy world where we can understand each other better, where we can respect each others differences and be courageous enough to LOVE each other when fear makes us want to retreat and avoid. Nope, that’s not my style. I like getting to know people.

I love making that connection. I love the adventure. I love to travel. Be careful and be safe of course, but go explore this wonderful world that God has opened up to us. It’s so rewarding!

In the photo below, I had been watching these three Spanish men at a sidewalk bar, hanging onto their table as they drank heavily, smoked and carried on a very lively conversation. Sometimes, carrying a camera around these kinds of places pisses people off and they shout or turn their backs until the ‘tourist’ goes away. They watched me carefully and I was about to move on when this lady selling lottery tickets walks up. Immediately, the guys turn her around and gesture for me to take their pictures. What looked like a rowdy bunch turned out to be the same old game – guys trying to score with the gals and the gal loving the attention. Tickled by the whole thing, I quickly focused, composed and …Click! Got it! What a fun bunch they turned out to be.

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Portugal, Spain and Italy

My brother, Bill and I just got back from a trip to Portugal, Spain and Italy.  It was the first time we’d traveled extensively together on our own. We’re both experienced travelers and we’ve usually traveled with our wives or kids or in a group, but this time, it was just me and him.  We had a blast!

Our trip started in Lisbon.  I barely made it out of Houston. Hurricane Harvey was about to roar in from the Gulf of Mexico. I called United Airlines three days before my planned departure to see if I could catch an earlier flight to avoid a cancelled flight once the storm hit.  They waived all fees and got me schedule to leave Saturday afternoon. As it turns out, if I didn’t take that flight, I would have been stuck in Houston for the next 5 days until the flood waters receded and people could reach the airport again.  I made a great decision to leave early!

Bill and I loosely based our trip around the Rick Steve’s travel shows that we both love to watch.  Bill put together a spreadsheet and our itinerary quickly took shape.  We coordinated back and forth to confirm our plans, get our logistics and transportation decisions defined and to keep track of who would make which reservations.  That all took place in a little over a week and – we were ready to go!

I’ve got lots of stories to tell along with gobs of photos to share too.  I’ve got tips and some observations to pass along.  I am fluent in Spanish and that really helped in these countries with latin based languages. But I found that English is pretty well understood almost everywhere we traveled.  I also found that people were absolutely wonderful to us.  They treated us with happy smiles and helpful answers to our questions.  They were polite and friendly.

Our first night together in Lisbon, trying to let the fog of jet lag clear, we took the elevator of the adjacent hotel to the Sky Bar.  The skyline of Lisbon was breathtaking – with the sun setting and the sky filled with fluffy clouds. I wanted to capture the moment, with the good looking bartenders too and the next thing you know, they invited me to join them in the bar for a fun shot together.  That’s kind of how our whole trip went! Just having fun with all the people we met.

So, the next few posts will  be all about this adventure.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Then I hope you get inspired too and make your travel plans to visit some of these same areas.  Chow!

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