Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Validating our travel experiences

The 19th Century Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, himself a travel writer, once penned: "For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The great affair is to move."

And, if digital cameras had existed during Stevenson's lifetime, perhaps, he would have added to his travel experience by taking pictures, too.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris
Like Stevenson, I enjoy travel for travel's sake.  Europe fascinates me and I can't wait to revisit Chicago and New Orleans, two of my favorite American cities.  There's always a discovery, or two, awaiting me on each trip.  As someone who particularly loves urban travel, I look forward to seeing iconic landmarks ~ not just to admire and learn about them in detail, but to photograph them, too. Up close and personal, they are amazingly larger than life not to mention extremely photogenic, too.

Big Ben in London
For me, documenting iconic landmarks validates my travel. Just a few "icons" I've been fortunate to see and digitally document include:  The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Big Ben in London, and closer to home, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Last weekend, perusing hundreds of digital travel photographs stored on my MacBook Pro reminded me of countless pictures I've shot of the Space Needle in Seattle, both during daylight and at nighttime. Because we have long-time friends living in the Emerald City, Seattle is a frequent and enjoyable travel destination for us ~ and the Space Needle, that iconic landmark of the Pacific Northwest, always is there to welcome us.

The Space Needle
at twilight, 2006
Although I've lost count, we've probably made at least 20 visits to Seattle over the past 15 years.  It's a relative short flight from the Bay Area to Seattle ~ about 90 minutes ~ and, a route well travelled by both Alaska and Southwest airlines. Many of our visits have coincided with attending Bumbershoot, Seattle's annual music and arts festival, held over Labor Day weekend on the Seattle Center grounds where the Space Needle prominently resides.

The Space Needle:
Seattle's iconic landmark
after dark
at Bumbershoot, 2009
Thus, photographing the Space Needle, which was constructed for the 1962 Seattle's World's Fair, is a long-standing tradition of mine whenever we visit.  It doesn't matter that the appearance of the Space Needle, whose top floor observation deck is 520 feet above ground (an antenna extends the height to 605 feet) and provides beautiful views not only of the downtown Seattle skyline but also of Mount Rainier, the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges and of Elliott Bay and the surrounding islands, hasn't changed much.

A difference of 40 years:
The Experience Music Project
and the Space Needle, 2008
What does matter and makes a difference to me is this: There are so many different and interesting angles and locations to frame a shot of an iconic landmark, like the Space Needle.  Standing in line to enter the Sky Church of the Frank O. Gehry-designed Experience Music Project remains one of my favorite shots because of how it captured in one frame a difference of 40 years of Seattle architecture, the compression of space, and the appearance of a wisp of a cloud ~ and I decided to tilt the camera (something I don't often do) for a different effect.  That's what makes the discovery, and documenting it with a photograph, fun for me.

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, sometimes, it's the touch of a colorful, personal photograph that speaks more eloquently than any picture postcard can.

All photographs by Michael Dickens, copyright 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009.

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