Thursday, September 29, 2016

Photography....The Possibilities

I love retirement. It’s exactly what I hoped for and more. And having the option to say yes to the offer of an overseas assignment when they come my way is a real plus. It’s a great way to continue to see the world, meet incredible people and absorb other cultures so different from my own.

I planned well ahead for the day I would turn 65 and face mandatory departure from my job with the State Department. I learned to make jewelry so that one day I might find an outlet to sell them so I could keep making necklaces, which I really enjoy. 

I also love photography and have thousands of beautiful photographs from around the world. I have many of them posted on another blog dedicated to just photos. The address for that blog is  When I was traveling, my friends would say “Share your shots!” So I set up that blog as a place post them and also serve as a memory book of where I’ve been and what I have seen.

For over 2 years I've been trying to figure out a way to market my shots. I looked at lots of websites where photographers sell ‘stock’ photos. Stock photos are images that are uploaded to an online agency and sold with a commission to the photographer. The commission can be anywhere from .50 to $150.00 or more per photo sold. And just who are the customers? Normally they are magazine publishers or advertisers. Maybe they need a picture of a mountain scene for their ad for hiking boots. Or a cute puppy for an ad for dog food. As a rule, the profits aren’t huge but it’s a start. And who needs huge profits to start anyway?

I found a website called Fine Art America. It came highly recommended to me by another photographer. You upload your photos and they sell them in lots of different formats.  You can have a photograph put on canvas, a tote bag, greeting cards or a framed print. A really fun idea is to have a photo put on a mobile phone case. They have lots of iPhone and Galaxy mobile phone models to choose from.  I currently have 77 photos for sale on my shop and most of them would look great on a phone case. 

With Christmas just a couple of months away, I thought I would self-promote my photograph website as a suggestion for a very cool Christmas gift. Maybe you went to Venice and never got that terrific shot of the canal and gondolas. Or you love elephants and would love a photo of the head of a beautiful elephant with a chunk out of his ear! Or maybe you would love to see a field of olive trees in Florence, Italy on your wall. Or a beautiful Texas sunflower on a tote bag.

The link to my Fine Art America shop is below. I hope you’ll take a minute to visit it and browse the photos. When the page opens, you will see my photos. Click on any photo and it will open to a page where you will see all the items you can have the photo put on.  

Thanks…and please let me know what you think!   My Fine Art America site

Monday, September 19, 2016

Temburong, Brunei and My Big Hike

So...I was asked if I wanted to go to Temburong, Brunei and climb the stairs to the observation site and look out over the tops of the trees of the Rain Forest, or canopy. I knew I wanted to see some of Brunei while I was here for 4.5 months so I was happy to be invited. Sure, I said.  I was told that there were 1000 steps to the top.  When I took a trip to Sri Lanka, I managed to climb the approximate 1200 steps up the rock known as Sigiriya Rock.  Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress built 1600 years ago with the ruins of a castle at the top.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and downright amazing. I did need some encouragement to keep going..."we are almost there!" Let me tell you, I was told that so many times, I felt like Jack of Jack and the Beanstock!  I finally made it and the view was a one of a kind, 360 degree drop dead gorgeous view. I was so glad I fought on and made it to the top.

I thought...if I made it to the top of that rock, I can climb the 1000+ stairs so I can look out over the canopy of trees of the Rain Forest in Brunei. But...that rock was 5 years ago.

There were 3 of us on this trek and our guide. We started out in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei taking a water taxi through the maze of waterways that snaked through mangroves and miles and miles of wild palms. The trip lasted about 35 minutes and was most pleasant. When we arrived and left the water taxi behind, we were met by our guide. We piled into his van, very old but apparently dependable.  The countryside was really pretty. It's a whole different feeling about the countryside when you're in the rain forest. Lots of greenery, monitor lizards and snakes. 

Soon the van pulled off the road on to a dirt and gravel parking lot. Breakfast! We need energy, our guide says.  Breakfast was Roti with egg.  Roti is a delicious crepe-like dish, very thin and a fried egg (yolk broken) cooked inside it.
Roti with egg
It was pretty darn good.  With tummies filled, we headed back to the van and more driving. The road was pretty bad and he had to nearly stop for some of the potholes. 

Soon, he pulled off the road again and we were told we had arrived for our second boat trip. 
These boats are called long boats and they are long...maybe about 25-30 feet long and about 12" deep.  We boarded our wooden boat, one at a time, based on size. Things needed to be balanced, you know?  

For the trip in, I was in the front and could sit on the 6" wooden board that they referred to as a seat. I chose to call it a 1 by 6 masquerading as a seat. My butt will never forgive me for this excursion.  We donned our life vests and headed up (yes, up) the river. Within minutes we approached our first rapids. Remember I said we headed UP  the river.  The 'captain' who was manning the outboard motor at the rear revved it and we charged ahead full steam. Another person was perched on the very front of the boat and had a long stick, maybe bamboo, ready for action. I wondered kill an alligator? Bat away a savage bird? No, her job was to look out for big rocks and push the boat away from them. 

You see, the water was only about 12" deep and the bottom of this river was covered in rocks, some larger than others which would do damage to the bottom of our boat. Oh, I forgot to mention that prior to boarding this boat I saw the 'captain' with a can, shoveling out water from the bottom of the boat. My confidence was not at its highest level.

Every once in a while, the gal up front would point her finger to the right or left and he would guide the boat right or left. Other times she would frantically work that stick in the water, hitting a rock and pushing the boat away from it. I have to say that after a while, it didn't bother me because the scenery I was seeing had the full attention of my eyes. This Is The Rain Forest! Trees were over 20 stories tall, so many different varieties of palm trees...monkeys in the trees...huge hornet nests. The banks of this very shallow river were solid beautiful white or black rocks, worn smooth by the current of the water.  We probably forged upstream over 5-7 rapids. These were kind of mini rapids but the Captain did have to rev up the engine to get us up and over them and the stick lady up front had to work hard, guiding the front of the boat away from and through the rocks. And yes, we did hit many many rocks.

After about 40 minutes we arrived at the beginning of the hike to the top. We all had to sign our names in a huge, nationality, age. When I wrote my age, the man looked at me and gave me the look, as if to say "Lady, are you sure you want to do this?" I just smiled. Little did I know....

Soon we arrived at a hanging bridge, not a bad bridge at all. A suspension bridge. The view was beautiful from it. Very well made. Very safe.

A new guide took us under her wing and with backpacks in place, we headed upward behind her.  I say upward because the first few stairs went up, then we went severely down, then a few back up, then more down. I asked if all these steps were part of the 1000 steps to the top. She turned to me and just shook her head.  Oh hell...I was going to be worn out before I started the 1000 Steps!

The steps. Oh, those lovely steps. They are made out of wood. Some were 9" deep, some were 4" deep. In some places there was a wooden rail to keep you from falling into the forest.  Some places it was a nylon rope with knots tied every few feet. Some steps had a 5' rise, others had a 9" rise. I think there was a whole lot of drinking going on when the stairs were built! About every 100 or so steps, there was a covered spot to sit. Catch your breath. Wait for your heart rate to drop below 125. Curse yourself for thinking you could do this.

Did I mention that my 2 friends were in tip top condition? Regular hikers. 30 years younger than me?

About half way up (when I was informed that I was only half way up) I suggested that the guide and my friends go on ahead. I needed to rest more than they did and I didn't want to hold them back. I convinced them that I was just fine but they needed to keep their pace and I needed to keep mine. So off they went.

If I sat and rested and felt myself able to take deep breaths again, able to not feel my heart beating out of my chest and able to shake off the wobbliness in my legs, I felt I could move on.  Going at my own speed was better for me. I would stop and pretend to be admiring the beauty and vegetation as others trotted by me. Damn them. I do think I was the oldest one on that 1000 Step staircase to the top!

At one point, I decided I had had enough. No mas. So I sat for about 10  minutes and felt much better. I realized that to have come this far and not reach the top would surely be something I would regret forever. So, off I went again. Poco a poco. Little by little. And finally I could hear lots of chatter...Chinese chatter. The last group that passed me snickering, I think. Sure enough, I reached the top. Our guide was sitting there and she looked at me and said "You OK?"  I wanted to say.."Hey, do I look OK???"  But I just said "Yes...I wanted to make it to the top."

She pointed to the metal structure and said "Top that way."

Oh crap.

There stood this tower, about 6' square or so, made out of metal. With a big Warning sign.  It was probably 20 levels of 7 steps each. And that was what would take me to the top and a catwalk to the FIRST level! I decided I was as far as I could go. I sat there for about 10 minutes and then saw my 2 friends walking down trail from the topmost top.  He said I could make it up the metal structure and the view was great.

My mind said go for it. My legs said are you kidding us? I took a deep breath and headed upward. I stuffed my iPhone into my bra since I didn't have pockets in my pants and I damned sure wanted a picture once I got up there. Up, up and up some more I went. I made it. I was at the most Top of Top I was going to get. Even if I had wanted to make it to the very top, I would have had to go up yet another damn tower and that meant down this one and up and down the taller one. Not happening.

I was happy with my view.  

It wasn't like the ones you might see if you google Rain Forest Canopy.  I had made it to the Canopy level, not the Emergent level. The Emergent level is where your are at the tops of the trees or above.

The way down the steps was much easier. I had brought an old pair of sneakers and the bottoms were slick so I had to be careful to not slip on leaves and on inclines, or declines. The long boat ride back was fun but I was now in the back and no room to stretch out my legs. Riding the rapids were much more fun going with the current and I was able to get a few videos.

Back at where this hike began, we were served lunch of chicken curry, rice and vegetables. For dessert, we had 2 bunches of those wonderful little finger size bananas. Love them!

Today is the day after. My quadriceps and calves are screaming at me. "What the hell were you thinking???" I have taken Advil.  The Empire State Building has 1800 steps. I climbed over half that distance. And took the stairs back down, not the elevator.

It is clear to me that when I return home in November I will be joining the health club again.  And this time around, I'll use it.