RECYCLING PAPER WITH REPAPEL

When Bruce and I first committed to traveling to the Dominican Republic (the DR) aboard the Adonia and participating in Fathom’s Impact Travel program, our vision was locked on Chocal.  Volunteering at the cacao plantation and chocolate factory was what I had my heart set on, and Bruce was pleased with the plan.

Once aboard ship, though, our cohort leader, Colin, persuasively talked us into signing up to volunteer at the paper recycling co-op.  RePapel is a women’s entrepreneurship initiative which turns wasted paper from the local community into recycled paper products that are sold to consumers.

We told Colin there was no way we would give up one of our Chocal activities, though, and RePapel was booked solid for our only available time—the Friday morning before the Adonia would set sail for her return to Miami.  Sitting at 7th and 8th on the waitlist didn’t look promising; so, we opted on Friday to see if there were some no shows out at the RePapel bus.

As it turned out, we were in luck!  A lady on our Chocal bus the previous day overheard us talking about our plan.  At breakfast on Friday morning, she came over to our table to say her husband didn’t want to go; so, she wouldn’t go either.  Would we like her tickets?  Heck yeah!

Off we went to RePapel where we would help produce paper beads for jewelry and recycled paper for handicrafts to be sold by the women.

By working with the women of RePapel, we would help the ladies generate more income for their families.  The co-op allows for flexible work schedules, so the women can spend more time at home caring for their children.  Fathom’s website states, “Unemployed or underemployed local residents are able to transition to self-supporting entrepreneurs, proving that community-driven economic initiatives empower and sustain communities.”

Upon arrival at RePapel, we could hear the ladies singing.  Our group of volunteers broke out in big smiles, looked at each other, and laughed.  These ladies were having FUN!  They were very happy to see us and gave us a warm welcome, as we made our way to the courtyard where we were split up into small groups.

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Bruce and I were first sent to the jewelry workshop where we used strips of colorful paper that had been torn out from discarded magazines.  We were shown how to make paper beads; however, Bruce and I were old pros at this task, since we had taught the handicraft in arts and crafts classes aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line cruises.

Next, we were given a piece of cord to string a necklace from the paper beads and a variety of other beads made from dried tree seeds.  These necklaces would be sold in their gift shop.  Time was quite limited at this station, so I quickly assembled this necklace before our group was transferred to the paper recycling station:

The first step in this process is separating the clean portions of used paper from the portions with ink.  We sat on the patio in a circle with one of the ladies while we tore sheets of the paper apart to separate these portions into different bins.  While we worked, our guide answered questions about life in the DR.

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The next step in their paper recycling process was to mix the small bits of torn paper with water in a washing machine to begin breaking down the fibers in the paper.

The wet, pulpy mixture is then scooped out of the machine and dumped in a blender (yes, the same kind you have at home to make your smoothies) to further break apart the fibers.

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The fun part in the process came next.  We were given a wooden-framed screen to use as a sifter to extract the cleaned recycled paper pulp from a huge sink where it was dumped from the blender. We then took it over to a table where we turned the screen over onto a piece of cardboard, pressed the screen, and then carefully lifted the screen off the wet paper.  The newly-created paper was transferred to the cardboard to dry on racks out in the sun.

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Once the paper is dried, it is removed from the cardboard and stacked onto another table.  Here, used roll-on deodorant bottles get a second life as a manual “iron” to smooth out the screen pattern marks and wrinkles in the paper.  This required some muscle—a great dryland workout to keep my swimmers’ shoulders and arms in shape!

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These sheets of paper were ready for the women to make stationary, greeting cards, and other handicrafts for sale.  I bought a five-pack of some cute little greeting cards with matching envelopes.

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The entire time we worked side-by-side with the ladies, they sang and danced.  From what I read from another blog, this isn’t their usual workday routine.  When the Fathom volunteers come to help (for a couple of days every other week), though, they are just so happy to have us there!

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Bruce and I were happy to be there to help these entrepreneurial women, and we were thankful we had the opportunity to do one last Impact Travel activity before the ship set sail for home.

The following are scenes from the neighborhood around RePapel:

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Just outside of the co-op where they were drying work gloves and clothes out in the sun.

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I photographed this cute little barbershop from the bus window.

 

IT’S STILL MY FAVORITE SHOT!

Since starting my blog nearly five years ago, I have been pleasantly surprised by the wonderful comments I’ve received not only from friends and family, but also from other bloggers who have read my posts from all over the world.  It has been very gratifying!

Yesterday, I received a very different response to my blog. I was introduced to a company called Light. They are a start-up aiming at perfecting a new camera technology that was shared with me along with their Vantage Project on Pinterest.  I was asked to write a story about my favorite photo for their site.

Rather than pondering my options, I immediately decided on my favorite photograph that dates back to 1987.  It’s hard to believe it has been almost thirty years since I captured this shot at the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta!  I was excited to try out my new Canon A-1 (identical to my dad’s beloved camera) and two Tamron zoom lenses.

As a (mostly) self-taught, (mostly) amateur photographer, I shoot photos for my own satisfaction, concentrating on what makes me happiest:  COLOR.  One of my passions is travel photography, and color is like a magnet for me.  I see something colorful, and I am immediately drawn to it.

In Albuquerque at the hot air balloon grounds, I was like kid in a candy store– or, more accurately, me in a chocolate shop!  Color surrounded me, and I didn’t know which way to turn first.  There were literally hundreds of multi-colored hot air balloons in various stages of inflation preparing for a mass ascension into the crystal clear New Mexico skies, and I wanted to see– and, photograph– them all.

Back then, digital cameras and SD cards didn’t exist, and the cost of film and developing was expensive.  I was on a tight budget, so I had to balance being selective with not letting great shots go by uncaptured.  (Wow, how photography has changed…)

The warm hues of this particular balloon grabbed my attention, because of the way they looked so saturated in the early morning light.  The stripes also made for interesting composition– especially since one of my favorite “rules” in photography is the Rule of Thirds:  The Rule of Thirds states that an image is the most pleasing when its subjects or regions are composed among imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds– both vertically and horizontally. (www.cambridgeincolour.com)

 

As I approached the inflating envelope of the hot air balloon, one of the crew opened a flap and invited me to take a peek inside with my camera.  I looked towards the lighter side of the envelope and was delighted to see the shadows of others watching the balloon being inflated from the other side.  The man with the baseball cap grabbed my attention, as did the child who was waving his arms.

One shot is all it took.  I trusted the terrific metering of my new A-1, and I knew the photo I had captured was exactly what I was after:  Saturated color, composition using the Rule of Thirds, texture from the wrinkled fabric of the part of the envelope still bunched up on the ground, and those great shadows.  Other than knowing the photo was shot using my Tamron 28-70 zoom lens with the camera on auto, I haven’t a clue of the technical data.  Who had time to notice?  “Mr. Peanut” was about to launch from the other end of the row, so I made a mad dash in pursuit of my next shot!

At the time, I was sure I would be happy with that photo and others I had shot at the balloon grounds, but I had no idea what the future would bring as a result of my favorite shot.

My dad encouraged me to enter some photo contests with it, so I entered it in the Del Mar (San Diego County) Fair as well as Price Club’s photography contest.  (Price Club is now Costo.)  Much to my surprise, I won “Best in Color” at the fair and Price Club’s grand prize!

Between the video camera I won from Price Club (and sold), and cash prizes won from various contests, that photo netted me more than enough money to pay for all my film, developing, photo albums, and travel for that Albuquerque trip, and more.

After nearly thirty years of incredible travel photography experiences, I would have to say this is still my favorite shot!

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LIFE’S LITTLE PLEASURES: YOU JUST MAY NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE MISSING

In my August 14, 2011 blog post, I SEE MORE WITH A CAMERA IN MY HAND, I wrote about the details I discovered when photographing macro—things I would ordinarily miss when I am not shooting pictures.  Some people would argue that travel photographers miss what is going on around them while they are shooting photos, but those of us who take the time to study our subjects and compose our shots (rather than carelessly snapping away) would passionately disagree.

Sure, there have been plenty of times I have quickly snapped shots on the go when I didn’t have the time and luxury to stop, but given the opportunity, I thoroughly enjoy taking the time to study my subjects.  Beautifully displayed fruit, photographed for my 2011 blog post are a perfect example.  Having a camera in my hand inspired me to stop, study, and shoot.  I left with a greater appreciation of the beauty of the fruits and vegetables I enjoy eating so much, because I saw them as more than just food.

Today, after dropping Bruce off for kayak fishing, I grabbed my camera and took a stroll along the shoreline near the boat ramp.  The previous day, we had seen hundreds of crabs scurrying about in the sand, but we didn’t pay much attention as we launched our kayaks.  This time, though, with camera in hand, I bent down to study these little creatures and see if I could photograph one before it ran off.

Setting the camera to shoot macro, I was able to fill the frame with this little guy that was perhaps an inch wide.  As he stared at me with his claw open and ready to defend himself, I admired his interesting features.  Who knew a little crab could have such fascinating eyes?

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ollowing my short stroll along the Guana Reserve shoreline— there was no way I was going to venture too far off the beaten path and meet up with another alligator—I made my way to the beach to enjoy the sound of the Atlantic Ocean waves crashing on the shore.  The tide was low, so the beach was very wide and full of little shells that had been deposited in the sand by the rolling surf at high tide.  As I gazed out at the waves and reflected back on my kayak surfing days in California, I could hear the crunch of the shells underfoot as I made my way along the beach.  I didn’t give it much thought; the sound was appealing to me, so I continued to absent-mindedly walk across the shells.

I had my camera with me, though, and the mood struck to bend down and take a look at what was creating that crunching sound as I strolled along the beach.  At that moment, I discovered just how beautiful all those tiny shells (most no larger than my smallest fingernail) were that I had previously taken for granted and not given much thought about.  I never knew what I had been missing until then—one of life’s little pleasures.

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PHOTOGRAPHING FLIPPER AND FRIENDS

When I reflect back on my experiences doing action photography, there was only one subject more challenging than photographing dolphins in the wild from a kayak: snapping shots of small, fast-swimming fish while SCUBA diving (or even worse, snorkeling). Back in the 1980’s when I did underwater photography, digital wasn’t yet available, so I shot 36-exposure rolls of film using my dad’s Nikonos underwater camera. Getting one or two good shots from a roll was considered a success in the world of underwater photography, so the expense added up shooting through so much film in hopes of capturing a fish in focus and well-composed in the frame.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and I feel very fortunate to utilize digital technology in my photography. Although I no longer SCUBA dive, I shoot plenty of topside pictures during my travels, so it’s nice to be a shutterbug without the concern of expense.

Thankfully, that was the case today back at Fripp Inlet, because I shot dozens of dolphin photos that ended up in my netbook computer’s recycle bin, never to be scene again.

Photographing my dorsal-finned friends while they hunted down fish for lunch was a challenge, but it sure was an enjoyable one! It was so relaxing being out on the water listening to nothing but the sound of water lapping up against my kayak and the pfffffft sound of the dolphins exhaling through their blowholes. (Of course, it seemed like that mostly happened just before I had my camera focused on the right spot. It’s impossible to accurately anticipate exactly where those dolphins are going to pop up!)

The greatest thrill was seeing a dolphin jump out of the water right in front of me, and then repeat the aerial show twice more in rapid succession. I think he was taking a good look around to see just what (or who) that was floating on that pink thing above him (or her?). As you can see, my timing in capturing this acrobat was a bit off, because my waterproof camera lacks a burst mode. Oh well, better late than never!

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EUROPEAN RIVER CRUISE: PHOTOS TO REMEMBER IT BY

I have completed my photos from my European river cruise and would love to share it with you!  Check out my photo-sharing website at: www.ExquisiteCards.fototime.com

Scroll down to the bottom of the “Welcome” page to view the last two albums.  If you would like to read the captions, click on the first photo of each album, to view a larger image.  Click through from there and enjoy! 

If you prefer to view it as a slide show, click on the album then select “Start Slideshow”, under “Tools”.

I hope you enjoy the show!

I SEE MORE WITH A CAMERA IN MY HAND

When I first followed my father’s footsteps exploring the hobby of underwater photography, my dad handed me his camera with a macro set up and gave me these instructions: “For this dive, we are not going to cover a lot of territory. See that coral head down below? We are going to spend the entire tank seeing what little critters we can find to photograph.” I replied, in disbelief, “The entire tank (about one hour dive time at that depth), on just that coral head?” I thought my dad had lost his mind! “But, what about seeing the rest of area? We are going to miss so much!”

That was the last time I ever said such a thing. I saw more during that one hour of SCUBA diving than I had ever seen diving before, because I was forced to slow down and really look at details. I saw things I had never noticed before, when I wasn’t shooting photographs, and it changed my perspective of the underwater world from that day forward.

That was the best lesson my father taught me about photography. And, little did he know, it was a lesson that went on to serve me well in life: Slow down and explore; don’t just take things for granted or you might miss something really special. You might even observe a new and amazing feature about something you thought you were familiar with all along!

So, this is the approach I take when I have a camera in my hand. And, even when I don’t, being a photographer has trained me to be more observant about everything I see, and to appreciate things so much more.

Food is a perfect example of how I have learned to really appreciate something that many take for granted. A farmer’s market, especially when I travel, is no longer a pit stop where I grab some fruit snacks on the run or do my grocery shopping; it is an event- a destination. All five senses become engaged while I visually compose photos in my mind, then with my camera.

As a visual person, my strongest sense is sight, and I am drawn to bold colors, shapes, and textures. But, engaging the other four senses makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

Take a basket of strawberries at the farmer’s market, for example. Not only are they a gorgeous shade of red; their scent is intoxicating and their texture fascinating, with all those little seeds! But, what is that I hear being discussed between the farmer and his customer? That’s an interesting twist on a recipe for strawberry sorbet! And, I haven’t even tasted one of those strawberries, yet! But first things first; a tight close-up shot of just three of those delectable strawberries…

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