Thursday, December 06, 2012

Another detail from the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, which are a giant museum of outsider art, with every flat surface of an old building mosaic'ed, often with pieces of mirror. It's a fun spot and worth a moment if you're ever in Philadelphia. On the flip side -- cheesesteak sandwiches are pretty much not worth it. Sorry.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Of Philadelphia

Your intrepid correspondents, stuck for the most part in the U.S. this year, have done their able best to explore everything within reasonable driving distance that we haven't seen on previous spins through Washington/Arlington. In November, we made a weekend trip to Philadelphia, a thoroughly enjoyable city that we had only ever visited previously for exactly 24 hours due to problems with connecting flights to Europe. Philly is a swell town, but somehow other than pictures involving a baby in front of some famous landmark, we only managed to take pictures at the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, pictured above. More soon.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Watch this space...

We think maybe we're going to get it together to post some more stuff here.  I don't know how.  We've been pretty busy learning Portuguese and keeping a baby alive.  This will under no circumstances turn into a blog where we post stories about our family.  But a lot of our photographic efforts have gone into pictures prominently featuring a baby, lately, and so we've had an inadvertent pause.  But we've been doing this thing too long to just let it die out of inattention now, so we're going to try to get some more travel photos up here soon for whatever modest audience we ever had -- hopefully enough to fill the gap until we can start sharing photos from Brazil sometime in January!

Above:  Harpers Ferry Flea Market.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Detroit Is Not All Urban Decay

After several pictures of graffiti and such, here is a snapshot of fall foliage in a nice park along the River Rouge in the suburbs. Yay!

Monday, October 15, 2012


Love this graffiti tribute to Yvette, near the abandoned train station from last week. The portrait is undeniable.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Seraphs Agency

The abandoned houses are perhaps the saddest part of Detroit. Some of them were obviously beautiful homes, once. This one has a sign that reads "Seraphs Agency," whatever that is. Actually, looking at the windows, this one might be somewhere in between entirely abandoned and just in desperate need of a lawnmower.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


In addition to the entirely overgrown and derelict buildings, Detroit features a number of vacant storefronts with interestingly old-timey advertising on the fa├žade. Bonus points for any reader who can tell us what used to fill in the missing parts of "__I__ES D____S" before they installed windows here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How Did You Know?

It is true, I do love graffiti. At least, when well executed. A fun idea can overcome lack of craft, as I think maybe it does in this case. Detroit offers a lot to choose from.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Of Detroit

We went to Detroit! We visited some friends in the nearby suburbs, and while we did get some pictures of babies cavorting and such, the staff photographer did not take a lot of Holla-appropriate photos of the nearby Red Robin. But we did take a few pictures of the craziness that is urban Detroit, or what's left of it, between stops at the Motown Museum and Eminem's trailer park. For example, see above a massive and entirely abandoned building that was once, we gather, a train station. This was not an anomaly. Not entirely sure if the planters of grass in front of the building are also the result of neglect, but I suspect so. For the rest of this week we will attempt to scrape together a few pictures worthy of publication from the few we snapped while in the Motor City.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


This was perhaps as poignant a memorial at the Antietam battlefield as any of the more carefully sculpted monuments and pillars.

Not really related: the battlefield preservation people have a tough job finding the balance between enough information about who stood where when to make the reenactors and Civil War buffs happy, but also provide simple enough context for normal people to understand why a given site was significant without having to wade through walls of text. I think the Antietam people (and the Gettysburg people) do a pretty good job of it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Of Antietam

While gallivanting about the Western Maryland/Eastern West Virginia area, we made a stop by the site of the battle of Antietam. It's kind of a nice place. Pretty rolling hills, a nice little stream, a number of historic monuments but not like Gettysburg which has so many you can barely see the landscape anymore. The star attractions of any civil war battlefield, of course, are these olde-timey fences.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Last one from Harpers Ferry

Ok, last picture for now from Harpers Ferry. Fun fact: the location used to be called "Harper's Ferry" but eventually people got too lazy to include the apostrophe. Hooray for efficiency!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Where were we? Oh, yes... Harper's Ferry

Normally the Holla winds up on inadvertent hiatus when our day job is kicking our ass too much to focus on blogging. Our day job at the moment is becoming fluent in Portuguese in four months. It's tough, but it's not like the ass-kicking that an actual job can deliver. Really, it's our personal life that's been kicking our ass of late. Which is sort of a nice problem to have, but nonetheless, it's diverting attention away from the Holla. It was also probably fine to not be doing this marginally Foreign-Service-related blog over the last few weeks because I don't really have anything I should be saying in this forum about Libya, but for the last couple weeks, there wasn't really anything else in Foreign Service world.

Anyway! We're back for now, and here is another picture of an olde-timey coffee grinder or something from Harper's Ferry!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Old Buildings in Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry is a pretty small town, but there are some nice clusters of buildings that are either historic or just look old. The staff photographer liked how these were clustered together.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Railroad Bridges over the Canal

Historic Harpers Ferry is mostly historic for John Brown's raid on the town. His goal was to spark a anti-slavery revolution, but instead he just managed to get a couple paragraphs in every high-school history textbook. In visiting the town, we also learned of its importance as a transit route, including canals and railroads, which is actually kind of boring as history goes. But the view of these railroad bridges going over the canal and through a tunnel was kind of nice.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Harpers Ferry

We spend a couple days in historic Harpers Ferry, which apparently for typographical reasons or search engine optimization removed the possessive apostrophe from its name at some point. This is an old building associated with the locks of the C&O canal, which follows the Potomac up to Harpers Ferry. Sadly, some highway safety people later added an ugly guardrail, which found its way into this picture from every angle we tried.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More from Gloucester

Lobster traps on the docks at Gloucester.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gloucester, Massachusetts

Apologies for another strategic pause. While not traveling to exotic foreign destinations, we have managed to go to a few fairly interesting places on the East Coast of our own United States lately. So over the next couple weeks, some random photos from recent weekend trips. Above, a view from the harbor in Gloucester, Ma.

Friday, August 24, 2012

From the "Separated by a Common Language" Files

Perhaps our favorite picture from the most recent trip to Delhi, stretching the limits of the zoom on the iPhone camera. Like most images from this trip, this is not at all a great piece of photography. But... "Delhi Milk Scheme"? If you've got a scheme going on, why advertise it as the name of your store?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

All India

More speeding-taxi photography.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Separation of Church and Taxi

Taxis in India almost always have a nice assortment of religious icons and such on the dashboard and hanging from the mirror. This taxi was one of our favorites. Relatively understated as these things go, and the Durga (I think?) Riding a Tiger sculpture is a fantastic touch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lodi Gardens

On our last day in Delhi, we reserved a bit of the afternoon for tourism. We'd seen the major attractions on a previous trip, and were feeling a bit beat, so we went to relax in the Lodi Gardens. The gardens are a nice park not terribly far from our hotel, and would be ripe for some nice photos if we could have been there under different lighting conditions, and if the batteries on our camera didn't die that day leaving us with only the iPhone's acceptable but limited camera.

Anyway, we did not realize before arriving that the gardens are in fact the grounds of a series of tombs of 15th-Century rulers, which are the kind of thing you just bump into in some parts of the world. The other notable feature of Lodi is a multitude of young couple necking, occupying each niche in the old tombs and in many of the marginally secluded spots in the surrounding area.

Monday, August 20, 2012

RIP Delhi Police Cables

Another snapshot, but I was amused by what appears to be a makeshift shrine at the tomb of the Delhi Police Cables, whatever that means.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Connaught Place

Connaught Place is, I guess, the commercial heart of New Delhi. Old Delhi has more atmospheric bazaars. And New Delhi has a fair number of weird (to our eyes) shopping enclaves that are sort of a cross between high-street shopping and a strip mall. But the Connaught area, a series of concentric circles and radial avenues emanating from a circular park, is the main, central shopping district with multiple blocks of streets lined with shops and such. And yet, it's not much to look at.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kake Da Hotel

A pause from the marginal photography for a day of marginal snapshots. But we thought this restaurant, the Kake Da Hotel in Connaught Place, was worth documenting.

Above is the view directly behind my table. Staff photographer visible in the mirror, drenched in sweat, snapping the picture with his phone, and not looking anywhere near as dapper as the presumed founder of the restaurant in the garlanded portrait. Below, the kitchen area, immediately in front of our table and looking out on the street in a truly radical take on the "open kitchen" philosophy. The food was really good, if a bit challenging to eat cleanly.

Also, because it is tiny and there are few tables, we shared with a guy who claimed to be a relatively successful Indian blues guitarist, who was very excited to talk about blues and rock with an American guy and name all the famous guitarists who had
come to India back in the hippie era, before moving on to discussing Syria and international relations and such, about which your correspondent artfully engaged without ever mentioning his profession as a diplomat. So overall, Kake Da Hotel obviously gets five stars for food, five stars for ambiance, and a bonus five stars for clientele. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Essential India

It wouldn't be a trip to the developing world without a picture of someone carrying something ridiculously large and/or heavy on a bicycle. Voila!

Monday, August 13, 2012

India Some More

We are back from another inadvertent layoff! Sorry, etc.

In the meantime, our day job was keeping us away from our far more important editorial duties here at the Holla with, among other things, a trip to India. As a day-job trip, we mostly ran around to meetings with various interesting people in government and industry to discuss U.S.-India trade relations. The staff photographer was mostly limited to what he could shoot out of the taxi window on the way to meetings, which is apparently a skill that has atrophied some since our days in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, over the next week or maybe more, a few of the random hits from the great field of misses in five days in New Delhi.

Friday, July 20, 2012

No Really, Many Drops.

Yeah, it was pretty wet.

So once again, we're not really sure what we're going to post here next week, so we may wind up with another tactical pause. But we'll be back with something or other soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Many Drops

Again, we humbly submit that it's worth looking at a closer version to see the image in the drops. Or not. Up to you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Even a pocket camera can take a decent photo from time to time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One Drop

If you have a moment, we would recommend checking this one out big enough to get a look at the drop on the tip of the flower. As with all the pictures this week, taken with a point-and-shoot pocket camera. The mist probably wouldn't have been good for the big SLR, but it might have been worth it to get a little closer. Ah, well.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Northern California is basically "the Pacific Northwest." As illustration, this week we offer five pictures of water on the plants along the coast. It wasn't quite raining, but it was sort of violently misting.

Friday, July 13, 2012


One of the few landscape shots we have from Russian Gulch. Too many cool details were absorbing our attention.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

X Marks the Spot

A couple more from the same fence. We found the thick metal wire holding the fence together irresistible.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


An obscure mold that grows only on other molds. Well -- these molds are only occasionally growing on each other -- but it made the editors here think of the notorious DMZ. Not so much we can say about moldy fenceposts, other than that we thought they were photogenic though sometimes resistant to classic photo composition, as seen here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The staff photographer was quite taken by the awesome varieties of mold growing on a fence at the Russian Gulch State Park, which fence was perhaps designed to help prevent you from falling in The Russian Gulch.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Russian Gulch State Park

I believe we will be showing you a bunch of pictures from Russian Gulch just north of Mendocino. It is, like most of the Northern California coastline, pretty spectacular.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Caterpillar Obstacle Course

This crazy fuzzy caterpillar easily navigated the table-top obstacle course we set up for it. (That's it for the creepy-crawly stuff. One slug and one caterpillar is enough, and I hope has given us enough time to get some more interesting pictures ready to go starting next!)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Old Stuff: Banana Slug

So we paused to gather our thoughts and before we knew it, the Holla had been dark for over two weeks. Our humble apologies to our small but loyal readership!

So here's the deal: This blog is mostly about travel photography. We take pictures we like, sometimes with stories or semi-trenchant observations, as the Foreign Service and our own whims take us around the world. Unlike a lot of Foreign Service blogs, we're not real worried about keeping anyone up-to-date on our personal/family events. We also take a pretty leisurely approach, so most of the content here is not about stuff that happened today or even yesterday. But eventually, when we're assigned to the U.S. for work and/or training, since we don't put baby pictures or birthday party pictures or whatever up here, we run out of travel stories and photos to share.

However, when we were heading to Afghanistan, we were just too busy to worry about posting anything. So there's some good stuff (reasonable opinions could differ) from 2010 that has just been clogging our hard drive, unshared with our adoring public! Among that stock is record of our time in Northern California in 2010. We've already posted 30 pictures from Northern California in 2011. But these are different. So, here they come, starting for no good reason with this less-than-amazing picture of a banana slug. Wildlife! The pictures are going to get better, we assure you, but hey, banana slugs are cool.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Morocco 48

Ok, last picture from Morocco for now. Next: something from the archives, perhaps.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Morocco 47

The Djemma el Fna by night. We really could be done with the Morocco pictures, but we're not 100% sure what to do next, since we've mostly just been hanging around Washington and using the camera for family photos of the kind I don't care to put here and most people don't care to see. We'll figure out something soon, but we can't promise what...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Morocco 46

And so, with a little time to spare, we made it back to Marrakesh, whence we would depart. Another opportunity for delicious food and entertainment on the Djemma el Fna. During daylight, the square kind of sucks. The snake-charmers and water-sellers asking you to take your picture with them are amusing only briefly. But at night when all the musical acts come out and the restaurants start grilling, it is one of the coolest places in the world. I would happily go back tomorrow.

Above, one such musician, whose trained pigeon/dove would at times sit on his head as he played banjo. Nicely representative mixed crowd of locals of tourists also on display.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Morocco 45

We took the somewhat more luxurious although perhaps less "authentic" option of bus travel from Ourzazate to Marrakesh, rather than more Grandes Taxis. The scenery on this trip, going over the High Atlas mountains, is pretty spectacular. But rather than pretty pictures of mountains, here are a couple shots of people we saw from the bus window along the way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Morocco 44

At the end of hours and hours of riding with six other men in a steamy Mercedes, as described yesterday, we arrived at roughly the midway point between Marrakesh and the desert. Ourzazate has a cool old Casbah and some actual non-scamming guide types who have figured out the game: They promise you that they aren't guides and that you won't need to pay them and they just want to show you around their neighborhood and practice their English. Then they give a concise but thorough and interesting explanation of some of the sights in the Casbah. And then they say good-bye and actually don't demand money from you, which, in my particular case actually results in a big tip. Bigger than the guys who run the same scam and then say "ok now you give me money... no that's not enough." Maybe I'm the exception.

Anyway, street scene from Ourzazate above.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Morocco 43

Four pictures today from our epic trek back from the desert. At this point your correspondent was traveling solo, with no particular agenda. Did we mention this before? Traveling without reservations or plans is really liberating and a great feeling and something we promised as naive young backpackers never to stop doing and then eventually stopped doing. Or at least, did less. I think the culprits were: 1. Latvia, because we were mostly going on three-day-weekend hops around Europe and didn't want to waste time looking for a hotel once we were there; and 2. Afghanistan, because when we were getting away from Kabul we were going to splash out having things arranged ahead of time with nicer hotels; and 3. Those nicer hotels are pretty easy to get used to.

But in Morocco, for a bit, we did it right. I would not trade away the snazzy riads we had reserved in advance, but having an unstructured portion of the trip turned out pretty well. We tried to travel in a mostly local manner, which in returning from the desert involved a series of three city-to-city grand taxi trips. These earned zero points for comfort, which is a true traveling snob's test of "authenticity." The taxis hang out at a central spot until they have enough passengers to make a city-to-city trip worthwhile, which generally means seven men packed into the bench seats of an old beat up Mercedes. Seen at top, my view from the back seat, second of four, which I quickly learned is the very worst seat in the taxi. Below that, one of these fine pieces of automotive technology from the exterior.

Above, the view from one leg where I managed to score the shotgun seat. Best moment from the trip was probably driving through desert, as above, when one of the gentlemen in my taxi asked to be let off up ahead in the middle of nowhere. He got out at some high-tension power lines, where he had tied his donkey to one of the pylons. He was, I presume, preparing his donkey for the ride the rest of the way home as our taxi sped away, quickly re-filled to seven passengers by someone on the side of the road. Below, yet another picture just for kicks, waiting for the taxi to fill to capacity in Tagounite.