The Greatest Gift Of Life On The Mountain Is Time

Road To Fort Bay Winds Down Below Thais Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Road To Fort Bay Winds Down Below Thais Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

“The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time. Time to think or not think, read or not read, scribble or not scribble — to sleep and cook and walk in the woods, to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills. I produce nothing but words; I consumer nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. By being utterly useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.”
― Philip Connors

Though this quote is in reference to hiking and camping on the mountain, I still think it sums up the essence of my coming here, particularly that last bit. I love the city I live in, but equally do I love this rugged rock, the peace and tranquility of its folks and its setting, above and below the water. People ask me if I miss the city, and my general answer is no, I’m focused on wringing out every bit of distraction free relaxation until the day I leave, and on the plane, I’ll get excited about where I’m going; I’m so much better at living in the moment at this stage in life, no apologies or regrets.

When you walk down the steep and sidewinder curves of The Road down to Fort Bay, you can take a mild detour to climb onto the hill above the harbor, across from Bunker Hill. Rather than looking towards the sea, where the Dutch Navy frigate was bringing in 60,000 liters of relief water to the hospital, the government building, and the old folks home due to our current drought, I looked back up at Thais Hill, which looms over the road, and up to the edge of the St John’s Flat, close to where I live. Never a shortage of new angles, and this one really shows off the rugged nature of this auld rock, forever subject to the wear and tear of weather, the thin wisps of stratus clouds high aloft and skimming the atmosphere. Not bad, Saba, not bad at all.

Who’s Mutty, Why Is He Proud, And Who Cuts His Hair?

Weekly Supply Ship At Fort Bay, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Weekly Supply Ship At Fort Bay, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

A Short Treatise On My Photographic Approach

My commitment to a new picture each day on the blog until I leave this tiny island in the Caribbean demands a degree of photographic creativity; I’ve rejected a number of pictures that look too much like direct repeats…same color palettes and/or too similar views from a particular location. Saba is five square miles of paradise, but any creative photographer like me still needs to keep an eye out for transforming even the mundane aspects of their surroundings into something new, fresh, or dramatic for a compelling image, and that can happen in a few different ways:

  • Macro or Micro Zooming in much closer than the level of detail the brain normally pays attention too or vice versa, zooming out for a far wider perspective than most photographs.
  • Geometric Perspective Much is written about having a photographic”eye”, and while some talent is undeniable, I still believe certain aspects of pleasing visual geometry can be taught or learned through the glory of digital image trial and error, myself as one example. The trick for me was learning how to flatten the 3D my brain perceives the world with into the 2D world the camera sees, then take a boatload of pictures and figure out why I did or didn’t like a particular image, which in my reptilian simplicity, was figuring out how my brain was reassembling a 2D image back into 3D perspective. A big part of that is geometry within an image frame, and how it leads your eye to construct depth.
  • Digital Post Processing Folks who’ve been reading my blog a long time know my philosophy on images, and opinions of images…you either like a picture or you don’t, you either hold on it and take it in longer than a few seconds, or you move on with a Ho-hum. “Did you Photoshop that?” seems to be a question that implies something about the image is false, or faked, and therefore either too good to be true or not worth looking at. But that’s at odds with images as art, which is that digital post is part of today’s creative imaging process. Leave the f-stop and technical discussions to photographers who feel that’s important stuff. In any case, digital post might be as simple as taking the clutter of colors on a photo competing for eye attention and making it black and white and shades of gray, which gets immediate oohs and ahs. Lots of creative options in the post.
3 Original Images Used For Today's Final HDR Blog Picture
3 Original Images Used For Today’s Final HDR Blog Picture

Today’s photograph takes on a mundane subject–the 60 meter 681 ton supply ship Mutty’s Pride
that arrives in Saba’s Fort Bay harbor weekly with essential food and supplies. I’ve taken a bunch of pictures of the ship over the months, but never had one that rung my bell. This time I took 3 pictures exposure bracketed for the different light…the dark mountains, the clouds, and the brightly colored ship, and combined them to create a High Dynamic Range (HDR) photo that attempts to balance the contrast that our eyes can see, but cameras can’t, then played with exposure and saturation to rebuild the true colors washed out by the intensity of the Caribbean sun. The result takes on an painting quality I like, and I hope you enjoy it as well. I won’t always yak on about process like this, but for the new and learning photogs out there, maybe this will be a helpful post. Cheers!

Timeless Pier: A Saba Less Travelled

Fort Bay Pier, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Fort Bay Pier, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

Two If By Sea

It’s easy on Saba to forget that the two primary transportation hubs to the island: the pier and the airport, are relatively modern conveniences. Though The Road was built in 1937-1953 the airport came along in 1963, and the Fort Bay pier was only completed in 1972, and it has been rebuilt and repaired from hurricanes several times since, due to its exposure. The current Fort Bay pier is huge concrete chunks as breakers, but I thought this picture kinda captures the vintage feel of it, complete with Saba’s dramatic cloudscapes. Enjoy!

Faces, Flowers, and High Vistas

Saba Day
This past Friday was the 37th Saba Day, an analog to the US July 4th holiday, albeit largely ceremonial in its origin, as Saba has been tied to the Netherlands in one form or fashion since 1816. I bopped down to The Bottom, where a drum corps of local teens played beneath an orange tent next to a newly opened cultural center for the island, replete with articulate, nattily dressed dignitaries from surrounding Dutch islands–St Maarten, Statia, Bonaire, St. Kitts and Nevis. Of course, this was the first day I forgot to bring my camera, and there were some truly excellent faces among the crowd.

For consolation, I brought my camera back for the annual Wahoo tournament later in the day down in Fort Bay (the 80 ft pier that is the only way to get to Saba by boat). It’s a big deal, as other island fisherman boated 2 hrs through choppy six foot swells just to get here, and another several hours fishing. Waiting for each boat to come in was a ritual, as the concrete pier was lined with folks eager to help offload the boat to the truck that carried the fish to the weighing hook.

This group of three Statian fellows had the tiniest boat, caught 3 barracudas and had to throw them back, so they came up nada for their 6-8hrs investment. Michael, furthest on the left here,  confessed to be “scared” most of the morning, as the waves were quite a bit higher than the draft of their boat, despite ultimately having  faith in William (far right), the captain. My landlady/wild pal Tricia is also here, dressed up in her hat and having a grand old time, while her husband Michael (yellow shirt in the fish tournament collage above) bargained with various fisherman to see if he could get fresh mahi or wahoo for that night’s meal at Brigadoon.

I’m scheduling a few hikes soon with the island’s local flora/fauna expert James “Crocodile” Johnson and I don’t wanna bore folks with pictures of flowers sans story, but a collage of vibrant island colors doesn’t seem too bad a preview. C’est la vie.

More vista views: IMHO, there are very few, if any, angles or views of this island that don’t make me stop and cherish what I’m seeing.


First pic above is a side view of St. John’s flat where my cottage is to show the cliff heights, and below it, a more painterly picture of St. John’s looking down from the top of Mt Scenery (2877 feet), the island’s highest hike, which I finally managed yesterday.

A stormy morning view from my cottage. It’s high season here, and that also means precious rain. More on Saba’s “gold from the sky” later.

A picture of Windwardside from the top of Mt Scenery; the haziness is a King Kong island fog blowing past where I’m looking down from.


Flowers on high gazing down on Windwardside

Police Story, Part 3

Preamble:  Saba is an unbelievably peaceful island;  The Unspoiled Queen, as her locals aptly proclaim.  Major crime simply doesn’t happen here, or hasn’t in many many years, doors generally stay unlocked, everyone waves and says high,  hitchhiking is legal and friendly locals have stopped and waved me aboard for a ride as they see me walking the roads every day.  So night or day,  folks don’t ever feel “unsafe” here, as everyone knows everyone.  It’s Mayberry in the Caribbean, truly.

All that said,  petty theft happens from time to time. I’m Hawaiian in roots and heart, so the personal nature of island politics, personalities, and drama as happen here on Saba from time to time are not unknown to me. They just don’t usually happen the second day I’m here. 420 friendly notwithstanding, there are a couple folks on the island who are into more problematic drugs..e.g. crack, and everyone on the island knows who they are. Tricia had warned me that she had strong circumstantial evidence to believe a fellow named Cisco had swiped the camera of my cottage’s former tenant, and I should keep an eye out. Lo and behold, my first night in the cottage, the wind blowing hard outside, I heard a knock at 9:30pm. I opened the door, and a skinny dark face with ruined teeth stared back at me, a wool cap covering what looked to be rasta locks. I guessed he might be Cisco, though not sure.

The door frames of the cottage are about 5’10”, so I pretty much consume the space, if ya know what I mean, so I didn’t feel much apprehension; more curiosity.

“Is the lady still here?” he said.

I assumed he was talking about Else, the former tenant. “No,” I said, “She left last week. But I’m here now.”

He mumbled something I couldn’t understand, and disappeared into the night. Weird, right?

More to come in part 4 in a later post.