Russian Far East

The Chukchis live in the extreme northeastern part of Siberia, known as the Russian Far East. The Chukchis are reindeer herders and have inhabited this region for about 7,000 years. Life in the frozen tundra has always been harsh, but they are proud self-sufficient people who value their freedom. Beginning about 1649 until about 1778, the Russians tried to conquer the Chukchis. The land was finally conquered but not the people.  Around the 1930s the Soviets tried to indoctrinate the Chukchis to the Soviet style of life. It was very difficult for these nomadic people to adapt to the settled life the Soviets wanted.
After the Soviet Union broke up, life in Chukotka gradually reverted to some of the old ways of life. It was the young people who had become used to a comfortable village life that resisted. The pictures that you see are from Yttigran Island. The first, was at Janrakynnot Village (population 358). I photographed two men as they arrived in their boat. The Chukchis
make their boats from walrus skins attached to a wooden frame. After everyone got out of the boat it was pulled up on the rocky shore. Using a type of sign language I managed to convey to one of the men who came in the boat that I would like to photograph two children, who were playing nearby, in the boat. It was agreed so he placed the children in the boat. I really
liked the way the children were dressed. The natives were curious and excited about our small group being there. Visitors seldom show up in this remote area.
Picture 2 is a place on Yttigran Island called Whale Bone Alley.  At the northern tip of Yttigran Island are hundreds and hundreds of whale bones. It is thought to have been begun about 600 years ago and there are many stories as to why this place was created. I like the simple explanation given by some of the locals. They say that it was just a place where native tribes came together to slaughter and store their whale meat. Not only do we see bones that were left behind, but a number of pits have been discovered that were used to store meat. Some of the pits still had fossilized whale bits in them. No doubt due to the fact that whales are so large, it was easier for the hunters to butcher their catch as a group.
It is a bit haunting to stand among such a huge field of bones. I have seen nothing like it before. While I was at Janrakynnot Village I tasted walrus meat and whale meat. Let's just say that I did not ask for seconds, nor did I come home and try to find or order any of this meat. The walrus meat was tough and hard to chew, while the whale meat was very fat. Most likely it is an acquired taste.

Dodge City, Kansas

Dodge City, Kansas was named for nearby Fort Dodge which was constructed in 1865 to assist in providing protection for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. The need for protection came from the Indian Wars in the West. Outside of town in the prairie are still wagon tracks from the Santa Fe Trail.
The town of Dodge City began when a rancher, Henry J. Sitler built a sod house just west of Fort Dodge. He had a cattle business in the area which was located near the Santa Fe Trail and the Arkansas River. His house became a convenient stop-over for people using the Santa Fe Trail.
Construction of the Santa Fe Railroad was approaching from the east and in 1872 Dodge City was officially staked out. From its beginning until 1886 Dodge City was an important cow town. With the arrival of the railroad Dodge City became a destination for cattle driven to market from as far away as Texas. Cattle would be driven to Dodge City and then taken to
slaughter houses in St. Louis and Chicago by rail. In 1883 Dodge City had a collection of saloons, gambling halls, and brothels. Gun fights were common and no other town could match Dodge City as a true frontier settlement of the Old West. Deputies Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp were famous lawmen operating in Dodge City around 1885 and 1886.
Cattle from Texas were known to carry splenic fever so the Kansas legislature established a quarantine line which prevented cattle from reaching the stockyards in Dodge City. Therefore the cowboys, gamblers, brothel owners, and saloon keepers moved on west to more productive areas. This is when Dodge City gradually became a sleepy little western town. Many of the original buildings have been restored as you can see in the picture. The famous Long Branch Saloon and the China Doll brothel can't be seen in the picture because I chose an angle which included the old wagon instead.


*Bee-eaters eat bees. The most widespread of the bee-eater birds is known as the Little Bee-eater shown in the attached picture. We know that in most bird species the male bird is more colorful than the female. However, an exception to that is the bee-eater species. Both male and female look alike.*
*The Little Bee-eater* is widespread and this bird may be the most numerous of all bee-eaters. The ones I photographed were found sitting in the reeds along the Chobe River in Botswana. Bee-eaters are social birds so family groups like to sit together on a branch. Pairs sitting together are often so close together that they touch. Groups may also roost together in a row as well. The morning I took this picture was a very cool morning, around 50 degrees, and just after sunrise so the habit of sitting close against each other undoubtedly helps to keep the birds warm. I saw as many as seven in a row but unfortunately there were too many reeds in the way to get a good photo of them. These are very small birds that we were photographing from a bouncing boat.
While honeybees are their main diet, they will also pursue all types of flying insects. All venomous bees and wasps that are caught on the wing are brought back to the perch where they are de-venomed by pounding and rubbing, thus immobilized and eaten. Bee-eaters are programmed to catch things on the wing. Once an insect lands the bee-eater ignores it, even if the insect is in plain sight.
The little bee-eaters are highly aerial. They take off strongly from their perches, fly directly without undulating and are able to change directions quickly. They rarely hover.

Swakopmund, Namibia

When photographing, Always look behind you. It was probably 30-40 years ago when another photographer made this statement. I have long forgotten if I read it or was told in person, and certainly do not remember who said it. But this piece of advice has since been part of my thoughts when out photographing.
Last month during my photo trip to Namibia we had a few hours to ourselves one afternoon. Some in our group of ten people went shopping; others relaxed with a coffee, tea, or beer. Still others took a nap, but I grabbed my camera and went exploring the seaside town of Swakopmund, Namibia.  We were staying at the centrally located Hausa Hotel so a short walk along Theo-Ben Guriab Avenue brought me to the corner of Tobias Hainyeko St. where there is a yellow building with an attractive garden lined with palm trees. This is the Altes Amtsgericht built as a school in 1906. The building was renovated in 1976 after it had fallen into disrepair and now serves as the magistrates office.
I was walking along the edge of the garden towards the ocean and paused to take a few pictures of the colorful benches next to a row of palm trees. When I got to the end of the benches and walkway I stopped and looked back. A woman had taken a seat on one of the benches. Wearing a red jacket, she was perfect to anchor the yellow and blue wooden benches. Now I had my picture!
Picture A is the first picture taken. Picture B is the Always look behind you final picture.

Foynes, Ireland

This week is a departure from the previous weeks. Typically, I try to feature a picture and add a bit of commentary. This week is more about the story with pictures perhaps giving a bit of meaning to the story.
In June of 2015 Margaret and I were on the Regal Princess sailing from Europe to New York by way of Denmark, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, and Canada.  The Regal Princess had sailed a few miles up the Shannon River and docked at the small hamlet of Foynes, Ireland in County Limerick. The 2006 census showed Foynes with a population of 606 souls (The Regal Princess had about 6 times as many passengers). Most of the passengers who chose to go ashore took a tour to the town of Limerick which is about 20 miles from Foynes. Since we had visited Limerick before I chose to go for a walk. I began by walking a trail along the river photographing wild flowers and river scenes. After a mile or two I had come to a road heading inland from the river. This is the road that I was walking when a car stopped and a man lowered the passenger side window and asked if I was going to the cemetery. My reply was: I did not know there was a cemetery ahead.
The man in the car, Damien Barren, said that there indeed was a historic site on top of the hill that contained the walls of an old monastery as well as a burial ground. I indicated that this might be a place that I should visit. Damien told me that it was a good distance to walk and required going through a number of gates. He said that he would be glad to take me there. So I climbed in his car and off we went.
Now let me digress a bit and tell you that when I returned and told Margaret and some table mates the story, the first reaction I received was: You mean that you got in a car with a total stranger? The answer was Yes, but he had very kind eyes so I was not concerned at all.
We went to Knockpatrick Cemetery. This was the historic site where St.Patrick (386-461 AD) is said to have knelt and prayed. In the cemetery are the remains of a churchyard with the kneeling stone of St. Patrick, a blessed well, and the wall of a monastery. The graveyard which is much newer has markers dating from 1738. Damien showed me the graves of some of his family members. Knockpatrick is situated on the highest hill in the area so it was possible to see for a long way, even up the river to Shannon Airport and beyond. Looking out from this site, the green of Ireland was most evident.
I was glad that Damien had taken me to the site. On my own I might have never found it and if I had I would not have known any of the history. He was right, it also would have been a very long walk. The attached photo shows one of the several gates used to keep livestock in or out which had a set of steps next to the gate. This was called a stile which allowed people on foot easy access without having to open and close the gate. I do not recall every seeing a stile before.
My adventure was not over. Damien asked if I would like to stop at his house for a cup of tea. My answer was affirmative so not only did I enjoy a good cup of tea but got to meet his dogs, received a tour of the house where he raises small song birds and toured his very nice greenhouse used to grow vegetables. He is a very talented man because much of the house was
also built by him. Now to complete a most memorable afternoon, Damien also drove me back to the ship.
I will forever be grateful for his kindness, and we have kept in touch.