There is nothing like experiencing a place for the first time. I have traveled all over Western Europe, but the closest I have been to the southeastern nations is Greece and Turkey. Now I am traveling to the native land of my good friend and long time assistant, Gavriel Jecan.
Other than as the home to vampires, gymnasts and despots, Romania remains unknown to most. We will travel to Gavriel’s ancient hometown of Brasov, nestled in the Carpathian Alps. Brown bears come down from the mountains and roam the outskirts of the city. We will be traveling just as the untouched forests in the Carpathians are turning golden, which will lend a great backdrop to the very traditional 12th century villages we will be passing through.
We will visit several orthodox monasteries, famous for their medieval murals, and we will engage the diverse peoples—Roma, ethnic Hungarian and German, as well as Romanian—all along the way. With Gavriel as our guide it will be like visiting a good friend, not like traveling with a standard tour guide.
Those who follow me know that I have traveled much of this world. One of the places that I have enjoyed going to most is Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. It has essentially been isolated from the rest of the world for the last 50 years. Despite this I have always been greeted by warm and friendly people.
Myanmar offers unlimited photographic opportunities and it is one of the easiest places to photograph people. The traditional cultures have remained fairly intact throughout the country. Working with guides and assistants with whom I’ve worked before, we will be visit monasteries where we will work with monks. To witness and photograph a Buddhist monk prayer session is an amazing and memorable opportunity.
Myanmar is going to change in a very short time. We’ve seen it start to embrace the outside world. Therefore, I want to lead a small group of people to Myanmar one last time to share the traditional locations I’ve grown to love. It will most likely be my last trip there. I hope you can join us next February, when leaving cold North America and Europe will be a nice break!
Celebrate and give back to your parks with the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Park Service for National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 29. National Public Lands Day provides us the chance to give back to special places in our own backyard like Mount Rainier National Park. Join hundreds of other park supporters and help repair park trails, clean up campgrounds and picnic areas, and plant native vegetation.
National Public Lands Day is a great opportunity to help Mount Rainier and spend the rest of the day recreating or relaxing in the park. With free admission, feel free to bring a friend or make it a family outing, and enjoy the experience together.
RSVP: Please RSVP to Sean Smith so we can plan projects accordingly.
OTHER INFO: There will be free admission at the park that day. Parking will be available at the White River Campground. Please bring warm clothes and be prepared for weather changes as this work day will take place rain or shine! Sturdy work shoes are also needed, as well as gloves, lunch, and water. Sunscreen and a hat are also recommended. Please note that pets are not permitted on park trails.
Please join us!
Sincerely, Sean Smith
One of the things I enjoy most, besides taking photographs, is taking people along with me to some of my favorite locations. Sharing the experiences I love with others is very fulfilling. I’ve been taking small groups of people to some of the locations where favorite episodes of Travels to the Edge took place. As seen in one of those episodes, Japan in winter is simply magical. Much of the wildlife has been habituated to people, and therefore translates into amazing photographic experiences.
First we’ll visit the snow macaques that live in the mountains about two hours west of Tokyo. Here in an isolated steep cut valley with an amazing mountain lodge are three extended families of macaques, numbering around 50. Because they are the most northern primate on earth, they have the longest, luxuriant fur of any primates, particularly in the winter months. They come down from the pine and oak forests and for a couple of hours a day they hang around a natural hot spring. They have been habituated to people visiting them there, so you can photograph from within inches without interrupting their behavior, which is very animated and fun. It is a photographic bonanza.
After visiting the macaques, we will travel to the northern island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido reminds me a bit of Alaska, full of forests of birch, pine and fir with a back drop of beautiful volcanic mountains. There are also large lakes and wild running rivers, and hosts three species of bird wildlife that are extraordinary to photograph. The Japanese Crane has been symbolized in Japanese culture for thousands of years due to its grace and beauty. Giant whooper swans come in the winter months from nesting in Siberia. They have been fed by locals for years, helping them sustain thru the winter, as well as creating an easy and wonderful photographic opportunity for us! And often Steller’s sea eagles will swoop around the same area. They are massive black and white raptors that winter over on the icy shores of Hokkaido.
The days are short in February on Hokkaido, but the beautiful hues of sunrise and sunset are protracted allowing us hours to capture quite stunning images. After sunset we will have time for a hot bath at the lodge before eating a traditional Japanese meal. After dinner we will have time for lectures and critiques before calling it a day. With the abridged daylight, it really allows for a nice schedule to fit everything in and still have enough hours for a good night’s sleep! Since we travel in and out of Tokyo, you will get to experience the surreal and wonderful contrast that Japan has to offer, not only the very modern and bustling city, but the natural and beautiful countryside.
I invite you to explore this unique and rich habitat with us.