2015 has been a lively year….one of visual and cultural extremes. Six weeks in SE Asia and four in the Outback of Montana. One experience of culture, the other of emotional beauty. Both so memorable where does one begin.
At the beginning, I suppose.
The Promise of Vietnam was exotic, a promise that had elements of hesitancy on my part as well as heightened expectations. We were returning to the war fields of the 60s and 70s, to a place where we lost so many young men, to a place where the war was lost. But where was Vietnam today?? Lots of stories about renewal and the embracing of Western culture without leaving their own behind. About the reunification of the country. So with my husband, a veteran of that long ago war, and our friends Mags and Allan, also a veteran who was based in Saigon, we set out to explore the New Vietnam. From the Mekong Delta to the mountains of Sapa we immersed ourselves in their cities, celebrating Tet in Hue along the Perfume River.
But before Saigon and southern Vietnam, we spent a week in Cambodia visiting the ruins of the Angkor Wat region. A photographer’s greatest challenge while traveling I have found is to capture the true essence of the area. In Cambodia I tried to capture the history and the grandeur of the numerous kingdoms from over a thousand years ago. My husband, Ellis, had visited Angkor Wat when he was in the army, and there were only the four of them walking the grounds which were heavily cloaked in the vines and trees of the forest. Today there are thousands of people from all over the world visiting, with busloads of tourists outside each ruin. So a bit of the mystery was lost and the imagination needed to be engaged. That and patience. I have found that patience is your best ally while traveling. Sitting and waiting and watching. I was able to get dozens of photographs of just the ruins because I had envisioned printing them using a technique that would make them look like the original photographs taken by the early French archeologist Henri Mouhot, who had uncovered the ruins back in the 1860s. It was a singular experience that has given me unique memories of a land that once not only thrived but dominated the entire region.
On to Saigon, the Mekong Delta, Na Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and Sapa, by planes, trains and automobiles. The trains seemed to be vintage 1920s, the cars and planes modern. The average age of those we met was 25-35, so it is a very young nation with a lot of “can do” attitude. Up in the Highlands on the border with China where the Hmong, Yao and Tay live, the cultures are intact and thriving, seemingly untouched by the communist regime. And everyone speaks English. What war??
I returned home with over 2,000 photos taken on my Sony a-6000, the perfect travel camera. I found myself almost giggling at the end of the day, having had so much fun roaming the streets of a very different culture, small camera in hand….almost invisible. Now I need to figure out what to do with 2,000 photos, mostly street scenes of people going about their daily routines.
And then there was Montana…….
Last July we took off for a Road Trip to Montana, a 5,000 mile wandering of the mountains and wheat fields and river valleys. In search of nothing but hoping for deliverance. We had had a death in the family and I felt the need to wander without any time schedule or compass. Each day was something to be discovered and cherished, no agenda to adhere to, no goals to be met. Just drive and wander the Big Sky Country of my parents. I was hoping to find some magic in the skies, and what I found was wonder. Daily thunderstorms and early morning stillness. Sunshine and downpours, skies filled with streaked clouds high in the sky and horses running wild down below. The openness and untouched (except for the barbed wire) beauty of the vast landscapes was exactly what I was needing, and Montana never fails to live up to the hype. I will return for another 5,000 miles, making Montana my home away from home.