For me, travelling is 50 percent travel and 50 percent travel photography. So as you can imagine, after 25 years or so I’ve amassed a pretty big pile of travel photos, both in prints and in digital files. Among those thousands of shots are a few that seem to distill a special, once-in-a-lifetime moment I’ve had in places scattered across the world, from Tahiti to Ecuador. Today, I thought I’d share five favourite photos with you.
Moorea, Tahiti, 1994
On a circle Pacific trip, I found myself sharing a little A-frame cottage on Moorea, one of the islands in the group that makes up Tahiti, with my travelling friend Theo. On the first evening, as the sun was setting, I waded out into the water and perched on a rock with my camera to see the sun set over the lagoon. The next few minutes were a mesmerizing show, as the sky and clouds were painted in a beautiful, delicate palette of blue and pink. This shot, and the one at the top of this post, are still two of my favourite all-time photos.
Otavalo, Ecuador, 2005
High in the Andes, the town of Otavalo is a famous for its twice-weekly markets, where local Quechua people sell the colourful woollen goods they create on the looms almost every family has in its home. But it’s also a centre for local farmers, who show up at dawn on market day to sell their sheep, goats, cattle and horses in a scene right out of the middle ages. Arriving around 5 a.m., I met these Quechuas, dressed in their traditional ponchos and leading their sheep to market. Their clothes, their sun-weathered faces, and the curious gaze of the young boy paint for me a portrait of native life, here and around the world.
Fox Glacier, New Zealand, 1994
A backpacker’s bus trip across the south island of New Zealand took me to the Fox Glacier, one of the country’s many adventure spots. I chose the most spectacular adventure, a helicopter flight to the top of the glacier and out among the mountains toward Mount Cook. The pilot gave us a lot of thrills by skimming the peaks and crags on the way up, but the magic moment was when we landed on the top of the glacier and stood out in the snow, high above the world.
On the way to Besakih Temple, Bali, Indonesia, 1994
Bali is a wonderland no matter which part you visit, but when you venture into the mountains, amid the lush, green rice terraces, it takes your breath away. While staying in Ubud, the island’s cultural centre, I took a tour up to the Besakih, or “mother” temple, high in the mountains. The scenery on the way up was jaw-dropping as we drove through a paradise of palm trees, rivers where native children splashed and played, and rice fields that farmers still ploughed using water buffalo. I’ve never forgotten that feeling, and I’ve always dreamed of going back.
Copan Ruinas, Honduras, 2007
I’m fascinated by the world of the Mayans, and on a 2007 trip I travelled into the mountains of Honduras to see Copan, called the “Florence” of the Mayan world for the quality of its artwork. The ruins were amazing, but just as impressive was the abundance of birds and animals living around the forested site. Best of all was a flock of gorgeous scarlet macaws, one of the world’s most beautiful birds. They were everywhere, attracted by free food, and it was possible to get close enough for photos, including this one of a couple of buddies sitting on a fence. They seemed happy to have their picture taken, and years later this one still adorns a wall in my apartment.