Sue and I were asked by our dear friends Jade and Mahea to shoot their wedding in Hawaii.  How could we say no?  We spent two weeks playing on the big island with friends.  Here are some photos to share…

© John David Becker 2010

Yep, we saw double rainbows too…

© John David Becker 2010

Volcano National Park was our first stop.  We’ve walked around calderas like this one before, but never IN a caldera.

© John David Becker 2010

This is the view from the bottom.  It was pretty fun to walk the smooth martian surface and climb among the bus-sized pieces that pushed upwards just before solidifying.

© John David Becker 2010

The last time this caldera was active, magma was seen shooting up 1,500 feet and higher from the volcano.  From where I was standing inside the caldera, it would have been about as high as the sun, give-or-take.

© John David Becker 2010

Across from the Caldera was a Lava Tube.  It’s pretty interesting to think of liquid Earth flowing through here like water through a straw.

© John David Becker 2010

We didn’t get to see any lava flowing into the ocean, but we did get up at twilight to see the orange glow of the lava pool inside one of the calderas.

© John David Becker 2010

This little pheasant character wasn’t so stealthy.   His little brain probably thought, “they’ll never see me while I peak through this blade of grass!”

© John David Becker 2010

Yeah, natural sea arches are pretty amazing.  Makes you ponder…

© John David Becker 2010

I like things that seem out of place.  You could look 17 miles in every direction and not see a single palm tree.  This little gathering grew out of the lava fields to make their own oasis.

© John David Becker 2010

Big waves crashing 60 feet into the air…

© John David Becker 2010

From sea to mountaintop.  Mauna Kea rises 14,000′ above the ocean and clouds below.   This makes for astronomical astronomy.

© John David Becker 2010

Sunset with friends is also a great way to celebrate your ascent.

© John David Becker 2010

Sunset on one side means one crazy shadow on the other.  When you’re this high above the earth starting at Sea Level, the resulting shadow is like nothing you’ll see anywhere else.  Technically, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world starting from the sea floor.  If you look really closely, you can the shadow of me waving on the peak of the mountain.

© John David Becker 2010

The Milky Way looks pretty appetizing with almost no light pollution at 10,000′ ft.

© John David Becker

When you take a sip of your drink from the peak of Mauna Kea and seal it up, the return to sea level has a funny affect…

© John David Becker 2010

Tree’s still have beauty in their afterlife…

 

© John David Becker 2010

© John David Becker 2010

All good things must come to an end.  In this case, the road was blocked by a 6′ blanket of lava.  Appropriate ending to this post.

© John David Becker 2010

Mr. Bird and his Sonic Arboretum – a landscape of speaker horns in all sizes by sculptor, inventor, and luthier Ian Schneller – create a sonic and visual ambiance at the Guggenheim for the Dark Sounds series.

Guests wandered the spiraling gallery showcasing the “Haunted” exhibition.  Worth checking out, but the Andrew Bird performance was a one-off event (August 6th,2010).

© john david becker 2010

a mug for my coffee.  it’s an object.  sits on my desk day after day.  it serves a purpose.

this particular inanimate object somehow came alive the other day.  it’s purpose was different.  it radiated an energy that i had somehow forsaken.  it has less with what this mug said to me at that moment —  it was actually what this mug said to everyone else that arrested my attention.

i started compiling a list of the life affirming gifts i received from sailing on Semester at Sea in 2003 and again in 2008.

1.  my wife.  i met her early on in my first voyage.  i remember everything about that moment we first spoke.  it transpired into long talks off the coast of Singapore while refueling, overnight trains up to mountain villages in India, and long long walks on island beaches off the coast of Brazil.  eventually we married and it has been an incredible ride the entire way through.  half the people at the wedding sailed around the world with us that first time.  within a year of our marriage we were on the new ship to sail around again.

2.  i sailed around the world.  point to point.  twice.  over 28,000 miles each time.

3.  i survived 30+ foot seas off the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.  i’ve also seen the calmest seas imaginable and some of the most awe inspiring sunsets.  there’s always a give and take.

4.  i sailed through the panama canal.  sounds silly, but it was my gateway to a full circumnavigation by ship.  the first time there was a 3,000 mile gap closed by airplane.

5.  i was drinking sumatra coffee one morning and my friend Brian told me to look off the port side.  what was there?  the island of sumatra.

6.  i’ve seen snapshots of the world twice and can tell you what kind of difference five years make in third world countries (and some 2nd & 1st world too).

7.  i can differentiate stereotypes from archetypes in societies dotted around the globe.

8.  i’ve been swindled, cheated and blindsided but never hurt, maimed or killed (obviously).  i have more fears and reservations about American Suburbia than international travel destinations.

9.  the work i’ve done, whether in the realm of photography or volunteer work, while with Semester at Sea has been the most rewarding i’ve ever done.  seeing my work used for promoting such an amazing program makes me proud.

10.  i am a different person thanks to my work with Semester at Sea.  the people i’ve met, the experiences i’ve shared, the things i’ve seen have all culminated into the person i’ve become and the values i hold dear.

the intention is not to brag about accomplishments, but to remind myself of the incredible experiences i’ve been fortunate enough to share with dear friends and most importantly my wife.

we move through our days and we live in the moment.  to be reminded of your journey can make the destination that much sweeter.  if someone see’s that mug and asks me about it, i can share some of the most important stories of my life.   thanks mug!

F’03, S’08 and E81

Varanasi deserves a visit from everyone.  you want to put your life in perspective?  what happens in Varanasi is life in it’s various forms being played out for you.  what would normally be personal and intimate becomes public.  it’s the full cycle of life and death performed by thousands of faces each day.

Ganges River at Dawn. Varanasi, India 2009

The sun has not yet risen but thousands of visitors are ready to greet her arrival.

Varanasi, India

i would love to know the story about this structure.  what seems like part of a temple is now half sunk in the river bed.

Prayers to the rising sun. Varanasi, India

everyone has their own way, but showing deep appreciation for that which gives us life is essential to the compassionate heart.

Morning bathing in the Ganges River. Varanasi, India 2009

just one touch will absolve you of a lifetime of sins.

morning worship of the sun. Varanasi, India

this morning ritual is part of a larger, more grandiose display held every night in front of this ghat.  it is a huge tourist draw (both domestic and foreign) as well as a huge money maker for the ghat.  Other ghats have seen it’s success and try to emulate it.  Oddly enough most of the performers are from Nepal (cheaper labor).  This ritual in the morning has no audience and therefore feels like it retains authenticity…

fishing gear. Varanasi, India

these fishing baskets were scattered along the ghats but i didn’t see them put to use.  the ganges is so polluted it can hardly sustain life.

bathing in the ganges from the opposite bank of the river. Varanasi, India

large groups of people gather on the opposite banks of the river to bath.  they set up little camps where they can worship or change or even sell food and drink to other visitors.

guided prayer. Varanasi, India

once this man finishes his prayer, a tilaka will be placed on his forehead symbolizing the third eye or minds eye.

sadhu earlier morning prayer. Varanasi, India

one of the few things i did not capture extensively was the burning ghat.  i sat there for an hour pondering it.  photography was frowned upon at the burning ghats but when the locals weren’t constantly reminding me of that, the foremen in charge of the daily cremations would promise me up-close access for a bribe.  I thought it best just to move on.

Varanasi is compelling and is saved from being labeled a tourist trap thanks to the legitimacy of it’s religious value and stature.  I’m glad we went and I’m glad we’ll never need to return.

candle offerings down the Ganges River. Varanasi, India

floating candles down the Ganges River is a beautiful site to behold.  these offerings can be done for countless reasons, but for us we had our intentions set.

Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in the Hindu faith.  the Mother Ganges river snakes through it and the temples line the banks for miles with stairs that decent into it’s depths.

boats travel up and down with visitors.  occasionally a boat will go out with the body of a child,  a Sadhu or pregnant woman to be submerged in the river.  they are not allowed to be burned at the burning ghats.  people line the stairs day and night doing ritualistic bathing, praying, exercises and socialization.  it is a true cultural hub.

we rented a boat at dawn the day after I learned of my grandfather’s passing away.  i wanted to honor him in the only way i new how considering we were a world away and months from returning.  we lit candles and set them afloat down the river.  i said a prayer.  we then lit a few more candles for our first cat, Harper and poured the remainder of his ashes into the river.  it was a very powerful moment of completion in a very powerful place.

this photograph is from the bow of the boat that took us out that evening.

the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Agra, India

this is one of many photographs i’d like to publish of the Taj Mahal.  it’s the second one on this blog.  we spent a morning there after taking an overnight train from Varanasi.  had to haggle quite a bit for a rickshaw that wouldn’t rip us off too bad.

we spend the evening before looking at the Taj at sunset from across the dry river bed.  it wasn’t until we were inside the compound the next day that we were able to fully appreciate the detail and beauty of this monument to love.

I’m starting a new series called “pictures i like” for the sole purpose of motivating me to share.  Sometimes as a photographer, sheer volume can be a difficult mountain to climb.  By sharing photos as they inspire me, I’ll be more apt to work through them.  When I look for stories and portfolio pieces of work, the pressure of maintaining a level of artistic merit can overshadow the enjoyment of a picture for pictures sake.  Sue and I always remind each other to take “we were there” photographs.  Enjoy…

Sue Fan on a bamboo swing in the Garden of Dreams - Kathmandu Nepal 2009

Download a free 11-song sampler of the artists featured by NPR Music and public radio stations at this March’s South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

Featuring:
“Written in Reverse” by Spoon from Transference
“The High Road” by Broken Bells from Broken Bells
“I Learned the Hard Way” by Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings from I Learned the Hard Way
“Canadian Girl” by The Walkmen from You & Me
“Girl In Love” by Smith Westerns from Smith Westerns
“Airplanes” by Local Natives from Gorilla Manor
“Everywhere I Go” by G-Side from Starshipz And Rocketz
“Cleo’s Song” by JBM from Not Even In July
“Achille’s Heel: IV. Shur Landing” by Brooklyn Rider from Dominant Curve
“Hannah” by Freelance Whales from Weathervanes
“Swim” by Surfer Blood from Astro Coast

To download the ‘NPR Music At SXSW Sampler’ on iTunes:

1. Download iTunes for Mac or Windows, free of charge at http://www.iTunes.com.
2. Open iTunes and click iTunes Store.
3. Click Redeem under Quick Links.
4. Enter the code here (expires April 30, 2010). Your download will start immediately. Enjoy.

i heart free music.

Never has the focus of energy been more present in my life. A walking meditation; calm, assertiveness, patience, forgiveness, aloofness are so important in training a riley dog. For someone who generally lives in the now, I am no dog. I have to learn to be in the exact second I’m in, otherwise, it’s all lost on him. Tacoma is a hard dog (corrections don’t affect him much, if at all), but also one who is insecure and anxious, has been abandoned, flinches like he may have been hit, has been dropped off in the middle of NYC where there is no quiet place to train or play – he must walk among a dog on every block, children running at him from every other corner – with so much love in his strong heart and excitement in his tiny brain, he is a little unsocialized, incredibly fast at learning, but surprisingly unaware.

As he stares out the window and then back at me and then lies back down for his 16th nap of the day at 8:43 am, I wonder what is running through his mind. If he simply waits for our next adventure, is waiting for me to leave him, or doesn’t think that way at all. If I could anthropomorphize my animal for just one minute, I think of all I could learn. Instead, I rely on my energy for us to relate and understand each other. I wish we could get there faster. I suppose we all walk at our own pace and while we both tend to be fast, perhaps only literally.

I’m exhausted. Summiting is certainly not what we had in mind in naming him after a mountain. Thank goodness for trainers (from our obedience class to YouTube), dog whisperers, and good friends. Puppy updates to come.

we met some of the last generation of tibeten refugees who fled tibet after china’s invasion. their hardships, their stories, their culture stay with them. and though in nepal they cannot vote, they cannot buy land, and they have limited freedoms, they live. and their faith pours out in a glow of beauty.