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Archive for November, 2009

Scene from War Photographer

I’ve been a big fan of the work of James Nachtwey for a while.  He’s one of the preeminent photographers in the world, made famous by his work documenting war torn countries.  I was reminded of him today when one of my Journalism professors showed us a documentary about him called War Photographer. The film was an interesting look at how he does his work and it reminded me of just how powerful his images are.

Nachtwey’s work is one of those things I wanted to encourage people to see because it brings to light things that people should be aware of in order to be a world literate adult.  I admire his work so much because it shows the cost of war on a human level.  While I highly admire his bravery and honesty in documenting human tragedy it is his skill as a photographer that most impresses me.  His photographs are intimate and honest, they capture something so human and sad that seeing it changes you.

Rwanda, 1994 - Survivor of Hutu death camp.

I was fascinated to watch the contrast on film between Nachtwey and some of the other war photographers.  Many of the other photographers were carrying these huge telephoto lenses that they were using to take pictures of things from a distance.  Nachtwey on the other hand had a much shorter lens that required him to get closer to his subjects. To me this is what makes him such an amazing photographer, he is close enough that you actually see people.

People have a phenomenal ability to become desensitized to the world but I believe that if we don’t face these things we risk allowing them to happen again. I’ll let Nachtwey himself get the last word, since I think his perspective on it is so fitting:

“I have been a witness, and these pictures are  my testimony. The events I have recorded should  not be forgotten and must not be repeated.”  -James Nachtwey

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It seems that Facebook has been paying attention to my recent searches for airfare to Frankfurt:  I have started to see ads pop up on the side of my screen listing deals on airfare through various airlines.  I saw one that caught my attention, one through Lufthansa, a carrier I trust, that was offering a round trip flights to Frankfurt with a starting price each direction of $278, before taxes.

After I got over being upset that Facebook was monitoring where I browse I figured I would take a look at the link and see if the deal was legitimate.  It seems far too low to be real but I do know that one of the positives of the current economic climate is that it’s getting cheaper to travel, so I thought there was a chance that it might have been legitimate.  The link brought me to the US section of Lufthansa’s site. I started by entering a couple of dates within the range that I talked about in my first post about getting there . and indicated I wanted to fly from PDX to Frankfurt. I also indicated my dates were flexible and selected my way through the basic options and ran the search.

I was actually really disapointed by the results, which I expected to at least be in the same range as the results of my Expedia search ($1189.80), but the cheapest flight in those date ranges was a whopping $1795!  That is a more than $600 dollar difference!  I’m sure that somewhere Lufthansa actually is selling a flight to Frankfurt from the US for $278, but I’m guessing it is only a very small number of flights out of cities in the Eastern parts of the US at very specific date ranges.

In a way I shouldn’t really be surprised given that I know that it is a lot cheaper to fly from the east coast than from the west and that the specials like the one advertised are usually only available to people traveling at very specific times.  As I mentioned in the last post you tend to miss out on the best deals if you buy immediately before you want to go or to a lesser extent, if you buy well in advance.  There’s nothing more tricky than buying airfare and the prices are incredibly dynamic; shifting up and down multiple times based on a variety of unpredicatable factors.

I’m not going to rush to buy a ticket directly from Lufthansa any time soon, that price was a little on the ridiculous side.   I’ve heard good things about them but not nearly good enough to merit that cost.

I think that my next step may be to contact a travel agent and see what kind of deal I can get that way.  I’m interested to see how they compare to my own searches, as the only time I’ve ever bought a ticket through an agent, my flights to and from Norway when I did study abroad, I feel like I didn’t get a great deal. I later found out that a couple of my friends who had flown the same flights within a day of when I did paid $200 less than me.  Still I’ve got friends who swear by travel agents and I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t investigate the option.

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When I was living in Norway I saw some really amazing things.  It’s a gorgeous country and because I knew I was only there for a little while I really pushed myself to get out and see everything, be it distant locations or just to a part of the city I’d never seen.  When I would talk to many of my Norwegian friends about where I was going I was always surprised that they had never been to many of the famous landmarks and fjords I was visiting, despite the fact that they hardly had to go further than their own backyard.  I realized though, that there were many places near my own home that I had never been.  Places I have no excuse for not visiting.  I resolved that I would treat wherever I was living as a tourist would, so that I would get out and see the wonders around me instead of putting it off till later.

I wish I could say that I have been a success at this, but I haven’t.  It’s not as easy to do as it sounds, the mountains and coast are close but it’s still hard to keep up the momentum in a place you are so settled into.  I’m going to try to challenge myself to live a bit more like a tourist and take in the cool things that are closer to home, and I want to challenge everyone else to do this too.

My start came this weekend.  I took a trip to Florence (the one on the coast of Oregon, not the one in Italy) to go camping.  I had a lot of fun wandering around on a rainy beach and watching some very brave/foolhardy surfers.  Check out the pictures:

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I was looking through a travel photography book the other day at a used bookstore and I found a great quote by Maya Angelou that says exactly what I tried to say recently in my first post.  It’s typical of me to find a quote that says perfectly what I wanted to say several days after I spent quite a bit of time struggling to express the idea on my own.  I’ve always believed that the mark of a truly great writer is the ability to say something big with very few words.  I used 697 words trying to express this idea and I was never as satisfied with my result, and Maya says it infinitely better with a mere 35 words:

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

-Maya Angelou (American Poet, b.1928)

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