April 2009 Archives


Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico -- 30 April 2009 | Permalink
2 pictures

It was about seven in the morning, and we were walking along the road between Rio Lagartos and San Felipe, having given up on the bus. The motorcycle, with two men on it, passed us in the opposite direction. As it passed, the passenger smiled at us and proudly held up something long and thin and white.

“He had an alligator!” exclaimed M. Abruptly, we heard the motorcycle coming back. It pulled to a halt just a little distance away, both men grinning broadly.

“We thought you might like to take a picture.” said the passenger, holding out the reptile.

We had seen a crocodile from the boat the day before, a burly creature perhaps a metre and a half long, sunning itself on a mangrove branch. As we drew closer, it slipped into the water and disappeared. The animal we were being invited to admire was of a different kind: slender, barely forty centimetres from tip to tail, its mouth lined with tiny white pointed teeth. Its captor held it firmly by the throat and tail, and it remained motionless in his grip, looking back at us, unblinking. I snapped a couple of quick pictures, and then the trio on the motorcycle took off again. We never did find out if it was destined to be breakfast or a very small pair of shoes or if they were simply taking a family pet out for a ride.

My crocodile. Let me show you it.


Rhapsody in Pink

Ria Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico -- 29 April 2009 | Permalink
4 pictures

Each year, large flocks of American Flamingos come to Ria Lagartos to breed. The birds paddle in the shallow waters in huge numbers, feeding on brine shrimp. Their unusually-shaped beaks are used to filter the muddy water and separate out silt and water from their food.


Attack of the killer swine

Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico -- 29 April 2009 | Permalink
3 pictures

The swine have struck. We were turned back at the gates of Chichen Itza at 8am this morning. According to the man at the gate, the site and all other archaeological sites in the Yucatan are closed indefinitely, by order of the Ministry of Health, as part of measures to reduce the spread of swine flu. In hindsight, this may not have been one of our better-timed vacations.

The question of the day has now changed from “Which imposing Mayan ruin shall we see next?” to “I wonder if our return flight has been cancelled yet?”



Cobà, Quintana Roo, Mexico -- 28 April 2009 | Permalink
4 pictures

A small collection of photographs from the Maya ruins at Cobà.



Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico -- 28 April 2009 | Permalink
4 pictures

A small collection of photographs from the Maya ruins at Tulum.


Another swine mess

25 April 2009 | Permalink

Choosing to take a vacation in a country that is now seen as Ground Zero for a potential pandemic may not rank among our smartest moves ever. However, we will cross our fingers and carry on. On the bright side, cases of swine flu seem to be being reported mostly in the North, and we're headed for the Yucatan. And who knows, we might even be safer there than here in New York. Watch this space for further developments ...


"In C"

New York, NY, USA -- 24 April 2009 | Permalink
1 picture

I don't know if I can really describe “In C”, but it was like nothing else I've heard — or seen. The sound seemed to ebb and flow on its own, although a small bald man — billed in the program as 'Director of Flight Patterns' — occasionally walked gravely through the orchestra, holding up a numbered card to let the musicians know where they should be, or raising one stern hand to quiet an unruly section. His intervention was minimal, however: only in the final pattern did he really step in to manage the recommended crescendos/diminuendos. Riley is billed as a 'minimalist' composer, which suggests the idea of something spare and austere. “In C” was as rich and complex as you could ask for, the music not minutely pre-scripted but emerging naturally from the interactions of a stage-full of gifted musicians playing every imaginable kind of instrument (the Kronos Quartet at the front of the stage were backed by conchs, didgeridoos, guitars, keyboards, four German women playing mysterious wooden objects that looked like unfinished architectural models, a choir of teenagers, trombones, a bathroom's-worth of white plastic piping, a half-dozen different percussion instruments, Margaret Leng Tan on toy piano and glockenspiel, and even one performer who was listed as playing 'Ancient and Neglected Instruments').

What I noticed above all was that everyone on the stage seemed to be enjoying themselves enormously.



New York, NY, USA -- 04 April 2009 | Permalink
5 pictures

I was late leaving home, so by the time I reached Wall St, the NYPD had intervened to close down the pillowfight. The air was still full of flying feathers, and thick drifts had accumulated all across the intersection of Wall and Broad. Small groups of displaced pillowfighters, pillows tucked under their arms, wandered around lower Manhattan, looking rather lost and forlorn.

By the time-honored trick of eavesdropping on the cops, I learned that a smaller pillowfight had broken out in City Hall Park, so I hurried up there in the hope of getting a few action shots. Fortunately, there were still perhaps a hundred high school kids cheerfully slugging it out there.

For the record, photographing pillowfights presents a novel challenge. It's like sports photography, in that everything moves fast and motion blur is everywhere, but a massed pillow fight is even more of a melée than most team sports, and your composition is apt to be constantly disrupted by large, fast-moving white objects. By the time that the police finally showed up to put an end to the fun (having either tactfully taken their time walking up from Wall St or stopped in a donut shop along the way) I had a great many pictures featuring pillows, but not too many that were actually usable.