When traveling in a new place, I’m drawn to the backgrounds, the negative spaces, the tapestries of color and texture that exist just behind the people and cars and advertisements and graffiti. That background is what differentiates one place from another; it’s what makes a place a place. But it can be hard to photograph [well] because there’s all that other stuff in the way. And I didn’t have the weeks or months, let alone days, to immerse myself in the buzzing energy of Oaxaca enough to anticipate those moments of perfect urban composition.
As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a handy conceit. I was struck by how many Volkswagen Beetles were plying the cobblestone streets of the old city. So I took a photo of one or two—I love the juxtaposition of an old car against an interesting facade. I found that the familiar and graceful shape of the Beetle was a convenient foil for my true intention—to capture something of the place behind it. So what started out as a whim, turned into a sport, and I began walking the streets of old Oaxaca intent on collecting Beetles in their natural habitat.
As part of our Thanksgiving desert pilgrimage, Stephanie and I drove down to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the border with Mexico. The park protects the desert wilderness surrounding the northernmost range of the organ pipe cactus. We had just enough time to drive the mostly unpaved, 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive, before heading back to Phoenix to catch our flight home to San Francisco.
It’s incredible that you can be in the French Alps after only an hour and a half drive from Cannes—and yet Stephanie and I had never been to the mountains on any of our previous visits. So in preparation for our September trip, we suggested to her mom and aunt that we all visit Saint-Martin-Vésubie and spend a couple of nights at a bed and breakfast there.
An open drain runs through the center of Saint-Martin-Vésubie
On our approach to Nice, the plane flew over the Mediterranean just west of Fréjus. As it banked to the east over the sea, I was rewarded with a tremendous view of the Côte d’Azur. I didn’t have a map or a camera, but I made a mental note of a beautiful bay that resembled a Mandelbrot set, and nearby, a sizable red rock separated from the mainland by a narrow, shallow, teal blue strait. I wondered if one could swim (or even wade) out to the rock?
That evening I described to Stephanie what I had seen and suggested that we go find it. After a quick survey on Google Maps, I discovered the bay to be the Rade d’Agay, and the rock to be the Île des Vieilles (named after a Mediterranean fish called a wrasse in English). The following Saturday, Stephanie and I decided to go to Agay in order to rent a kayak and with any luck, reach the island.