Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mayan Calendar

It was this image I shot of a Mayan calendar on a wall in Antigua, Guatemala, almost 20 years ago, which gave inspiration to the Mira Terra Images logo design.  I loved the particular color of green surrounding it, which has always resonated for me.

The Mayan calendar itself represents a long period of time, which comes to an end on December 21, 2012. In Guatemala, they are celebrating not the end of the world, but the cosmic dawn of a new era.  I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Photographic Tribute to Oscar Niemeyer - Brasilia

When I explored Brazil's capital city Brasilia with my camera, I was convinced that it's principle architect, Oscar Niemeyer, would have made a brilliant photographer. Every structure demands an eye for composition, and every vantage proves his plan to be incredibly photogenic. I felt as if he stood back and cupped his hands in a frame as his designs were constructed, to check they symmetry, scale, and impact of his artistic vision. 

I was particularly struck by the space and mood inside his buildings, for these structures were not just designed to look good on the surface - there was a distinct environment within each design that enveloped me the moment I stepped in. It was not so much about the physical walls and architectural elements, rather, it was about the space between, the shape of the emptiness which surrounded the elements. As I entered, I too became an element in this space.

Interior staircase at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, home of foreign government affairs.

Same staircase takes on an entirely different character just a few strides to the left.

I was no longer looking at it, I was taken in as a part of it. It was more a sensation than observation. While the camera does justice to the design of the structure, there is little to convey the design and mood evoked by the empty space. It is an experience.

Basilica of Brasilia: Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady

Inside the Bailica of Brasilia, the shape of emptiness is complimented by floating figures, angels. The sensation of floating amongst them is present, though intangible, a feeling that transcends the physical. Outside of the same structure, the figures are standing, bound to the earth, and we can tangibly move about them, feeling them by touch. Intended or not, the whole design reflects the constraints of our human being (external), and the freedom of our spiritual being (internal).

Exterior - Basilica of Brasilia

Speaking of earth and the heavens, Niemeyer's design of the national museum ties both together beautifully.  Otherworldly, yet of this world.

The National Museum of the Republic

With his recent passing at age 104, Oscar Niemeyer has shaped the emptiness he leaves behind, bringing all of us that much closer to heaven on earth. 

Also of interest: Brasilia: A Study in Composition

Friday, November 23, 2012

Travel Gratitude 2012

2012 has been an amazing year of travels, and I am so grateful to do the work I do.  For this photo post I picked just one image to represent each destination I traveled to and photographed this year. Click on the destination title to see the full gallery. Enjoy!

This Varanasi shopkeeper checks his cellphone as a sacred Brahma bull settles in the shop.

An early morning skier weaves a trail thru fresh powder snow at Beaver Creek Ski Resort.

Arches of Meknes, one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Morocco.

Colorful beach umbrellas line Disney's Castaway Cay.

The view of St. Basil's and Red Square from the Baltschug Kempinsky

Color adds interest to the otherwise mundane flats over the train station building in Lille, France.

This Amboseli matriarch and her family coming straight at me is my current screensaver.

Between travels I discovered cool spots in my hometown while shooting for

Flying over Namibia's Skeleton Coast reveals huge colonies of Cape Fur Seals.

Sighting an elusive leopard of Savute finishes the day's game drive in Chobe National Park.

The sunset from Bumi Hills, Zimbabwe, with a lone elephant on the shores of Lake Kariba.

A curious Galapagos Sea Lion frolics and plays for the underwater camera.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Elephant I Didn't Want to Watch

"There are three things in this world that man never tires of watching: a sunset, the ocean, and elephants."  - Swami Ramakrishna

As I sat recently with my good friend and photographer Mark Whitley watching the slideshow of elephant images in my last post, he shared the above quote with me. It's a well known saying in India and we're not sure who originated it, but Mark sourced it from Swami Ramakrishna, so he's getting credit.  Regardless who said it, oh how true this rang for me! I could watch elephants endlessly! That probably explains why I assumed everyone else would sit through my slideshow of nothing but elephants. But hold on, those are not zoo postcard shots. I observed the elephants in the wild and made a point to wait - capturing moments of the unexpected: behaviors, relationships, and of course babies - so that I wouldn't bore my viewer with countless shots of an elephant just standing there.  I understand, a slideshow takes time to watch, and if your attention span is like that of Mark's, you can instead look at the entire gallery of elephant images on one page here. Take a look now, before you read on.

Later that morning, over coffee, Mark asked me "So what was new, what was the most unusual thing you saw or experienced on your last trip to Kenya?" He was looking for a funny story, I'm usually full of them when I return from an adventure. But this time, the thing that stuck with me, the story to tell, was not funny. Perhaps it was not that unusual either, but it was a first for me. I responded, "I saw an elephant I didn't want to see. I  saw....a victim of poaching."

(This story is told in more words than images. The images can be disturbing. However, if you want to see an image, simply click on the highlighted link of the descriptive text)

As we were unloading at the airstrip in Meru National Park and heading toward camp, I noticed a helicopter circling over a nearby area of the park. At first I thought, oh no, this can't be, helicopter safari tours? No, that can't be right. Meru is far too remote and off the beaten track. Maybe an emergency medical rescue? But then, why did it look like a long rifle pointing off the front? Were they tracking poachers? Having never been to Meru before, I couldn't begin to second guess. I happened to be hosting a family with me that had never been even to Africa before, so I ignored the chopper, brought no attention to it, and didn't ask any questions of our guide. Soon enough, it was gone and forgotten about. Even before we reached the camp. And once we reached camp and settled in, we were in another world, and it felt like we were the only guests in the entirety of Meru National Park. Nothing, no jeeps, no cattle, no tourists, no planes, no helicopters, nothing but wilderness and wildlife as far as the eye could see in any direction. For the entire three days we were there. (That's why Elsa's Kopje has won numerous awards as the best safari camp in Africa, and deservedly so).

Sunset from Elsa's Kopje, Meru

Our days and nights in Meru stretched long and were well balanced with exciting game drives and relaxing down time. Our guide George, an excellent tracker using sight sound and smell, knew where the animals were and also the best points to photograph them. We came across so many elephants, and so many older males with beautiful long tusks - these seemed to excite George more than anything else. Me too. After reading about the history of poaching problems in Meru nearly wiping out everything in the 80's, it was so wonderful to see so many species including tusked elephants and horned rhinos populating the park today.

It was our third and final morning at Meru, and we had yet to see any lions. George was excited to get going with news of a lion sighting (by another driver/guide from Elsa's), and couldn't wait to take us to see it. Apparently, it was feeding.

We approached the spot and were overcome with a most horrific smell, unlike anything I have ever smelled before. Clearly, something was dead and had been dead for a few days.  As we slowly approached, I could see the lion through the brush, which appeared to be laying near a large boulder and feeding on something. As we neared, I realized it was not a boulder, but a swollen elephant carcass, and the lion was tearing away at it's leg.

I wanted to look away, to turn away, but I couldn't.  This is nature, after all.  One animal's death is another animal's sustenance, and such is the cycle of life and death in the wild.

We all watched with covered faces, but the thick stench seemed to permeate hands and scarves and blankets and it took all the strength I had not to gag.  We were parked at the rear of the elephant carcass, with a good view of the lion.  I remember pondering the unusual position of the elephant - it had simply fallen to its belly but had not fallen over on to its side. The back end of the elephant was very unpleasant and I made a point not to include it in this first shot I took of the lion feeding on an elephant leg. It was a beautiful blonde male lion, and I even tried to exclude the elephant altogether in appreciation of lion, but it's hard to hide the fact the the lion is eating an elephant leg. After a few moments, we notice another lion slowly approaching the carcass. It was another male, and because the first male was not bothered, George said they were likely brothers.  Both lions moved to the front end of the elephant. The horrible smell seemed to linger at the rear.

When George noticed my camera in my lap and my blanket on my face, he asked if our view was okay or did we want to move to another position. My immediate reply was "Yes. Upwind." Laughs of relief broke the solemn silence, allowing us all to catch a breath, and George started up the engine.  I could sense a reluctance on his part, there was hesitation in his eyes.  But he commented that the light would be better from the other side and moved slowly around to where the lions were.

 He was right. The morning light was perfect, casting a gentle glow on the lions and the front of the elephant carcass. Certainly, beautiful light. But not a beautiful subject. What kind of photograph would this make?  It didn't really matter, all I cared was that I could take a deep breath and observe without needing to hold my nose and wipe my choked up eyes. It was so refreshing I even imagined I was smelling the ocean. Funny how powerful the sense of smell is, even memories get permeated.

So, now we could see the head of the elephant carcass, which George had said was a male. The ears had been nibbled almost completely off - this was the work of hyenas last night.  The trunk was already gone. The first lion was standing in front of the elephant's face and pulling at the leg, but when he moved, I saw the gaping hole where the trunk had been eaten away. As for the tusks....there weren't any. Two chiseled craters remained in the flesh below the eyes. But the tusks were gone.

"How did this elephant die?" I asked. George paused a moment before responding. "Old age."
Nobody questioned it, and nobody questioned the absence of the tusks. Except for me. I was trying desperately to put 2 and 2 together and not come up with 4.  But still, I had to ask.  I didn't want to embarrass George, but I also wanted him to know that while we might be polite and likely ignorant on the way elephants live and die,  we weren't completely naive. It was obvious the tusks had been removed.

"So where are the tusks?" I asked.  George explained that they were removed by the Kenya Wildlife Service after the elephant died.  I had a thousand more questions, but this was a satisfactory answer, which also likely explained the helicopter activity I had noticed several days before.  

We observed a while longer, watching the two male lions feed on a dead elephant.  I couldn't help but think how disgusting that rotting meat must be after days in the hot sun, and this lion's expression certainly reflected that distaste.

Then, just when we thought this lion had enough, he got up and tore open a huge chunk of skin above the elephant's back leg. WHAM. The stench flew at us like a ton of bricks.  Cameras dropped, blankets up, and we all had seen, and smelled, enough.  There was no reason to hang around,  neither the light nor the subject matter were going to get any better.  Every direction was downwind, so we agreed unanimously to move on.  I don't remember how many minutes or miles it was before we spotted something cute and cuddly to redirect our thoughts, but the image of the elephant stayed with me.  Along with a thousand unasked questions.

Next stop, Amboseli, and a morning at the Cynthia Moss Research Station. Bad news in big waves. The human-elephant conflict in the area has worsened. An elephant had just been killed by the local Masai in retaliation against the Kenya Wildlife Service and something that was said, or inferred, or misunderstood, between tribal leaders and the KWS. The background on the continued conflict is explained in this recent National Geographic article: Amboseli's People & Wildlife.  But the tension in the air, and the obvious devastation of the once-forested Amboseli into it's current dry barren state ridden with dust devils (partly the result of more elephants than food in the very park meant to protect them), made trying to enjoy and appreciate the newborns in Amboseli a bittersweet experience. Still, I could have lingered for days watching them, despite the chattering of Chinese tourists packed in jeeps also watching them.  I just hope that with the Chinese traveling more, and seeing the (tusked) elephants in the wild, it will leave as much an impression on their psyche as it does my own. But the ivory finger points in all directions, including west.  

Less than a week after the Meru elephant sighting, we were two flights and a world away in the Maasai Mara, or more accurately, the Olderikesi Wildlife Conservancy, an exclusive concession and the location of Cottar's 1920's Safari Camp.  Enter our host and guide Calvin Cottar, a fourth generation Kenyan, a silver level guide, and an Honorary Warden for the Kenya Wildlife Service.  Not to mention a straightforward and articulate voice of the realities of life in Kenya, the human-elephant conflict, poaching, working with the Masai, and many other issues. If anyone might be able to shed some insight on the elephant at Meru, he would.

He studied the few photos I had taken.  He agreed that the position of the elephant was odd, and that it was not a usual way that elephants come to fall when they die naturally (or by illness/starvation).  Then he spotted something, and said, "There it is. A clean shot to the head."  He went on to tell me whom he suspected of taking the shot, and why.  Indeed, the elephant was a victim of poaching.

As with conservation issues in any country, nothing is black and white. Political issues come in to play, and everything is far more complex and complicated than we hear about from outside Kenya. But one thing is undeniable: regardless of the different laws in different countries, poaching is at an all-time high in Africa, and is motivated and driven by money alone.
As long as elephant ivory and rhino horns are valued by wealthier non-African countries, the whole of Africa suffers. When this article came out in the New York Times this week, Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy,  it prompted me to get writing.  Enough time has passed to digest and objectify this eye-opening experience, and while I don't have the answers or a solution, I have come to realize what I can do to contribute positively.

*I will continue to promote and encourage wildlife safari travel to African countries. Tourism is a vital and important industry and many African countries depend heavily upon the contribution it makes to their struggling economies.

*I will continue to travel to Africa, to escort small groups on safaris, to observe and respect the wildlife, and to respect and engage with the locals. 

*I will continue to shoot with my camera, capturing and sharing images of elephants and rhinos living in the wild.  And I will continue publishing and sharing them.

Thank you for reading my words.  As always, they come from the heart.  And a special thank you to Mark for sharing the perfect quote, and for asking the right question.

Monday, September 03, 2012


Elephants are perhaps the most interesting and beautiful animals to watch and to photograph, especially in the wild. When you really take time with elephants, you discover that no two are alike, and each one has it's own story, personality and mannerisms. It's about individuals, it's about relationships, and it's about the beauty and wonder of these amazing creatures.

To showcase some shooting trophies from my recent safari in Kenya, I've created this slideshow for you to enjoy. Which elephant image is your favorite?

Elephants - Images by Kymri Wilt

On location: Kenya's Meru National Park, Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara National Park, and Sheldrick's Wildlife Trust in Nairobi; Tanzania's Lake Manyara.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Capture the Colour

These may not be the most beautiful or obvious choices, but each tells a story, and gives me the opportunity to share what I was sensing behind the lens when I captured not just the color, but the moment in time.


The winds blow tirelessly along the fringes of Patagonia, where locals endure a brutally cold existence. While the days are long and the light is magical, the air stays damp and the skies are more often gray. However, in the coastal town of Puerto Natales, Chile, I captured a bit of sunshine in the bright yellow paint clinging tenaciously to this weathered home.
More on Patagonia: Spirit Dreams


When the gong rang out indicating lunch time at Chimi Lhakhang Monastery in Bhutan, I poised my camera ready for swarms of students pouring out into the courtyard. Instead I captured red in this precious moment - one young Buddhist monk was the first to skip out the door, well ahead of the others. Clearly, he'd had enough of meditating that morning!
More on Bhutan: Travel Photography Nirvana


The Cultural Complex of the Republic in Brasilia in Brazil is one of many white buildings designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, whose work is anything but's downright other-worldly. The sun was scorching hot in this planned city laid out smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Turning this moment into a story are two human figures walking in the shadow of the great white "planet" as it appears to set beyond the horizon.
More on Brasilia: A Study in Composition


After combing through endless images of nature's green in my archives, I thought about the color green as a symbol of the environment and sustainability. I took that thought a bit further and settled on an image that tells a story of a sustainable recycling project. I was visiting the Penduka Development Cooperative in Windhoek, where job skills are taught to the under-privileged women of Namibia so that they may earn a living. These green wine bottles drying in the sun will be recycled into glass beads from which the women make beautiful jewelry to sell.
More on Namibia: By Dune, Full Moon, & Hot Air Balloon


My daughter and I had just gone dog-sledding on a glacier in Alaska, and we were visiting the camp where the pups train and play. My daughter greeted every dog she could find, but when she picked up this adorable husky pup, I just had to capture the matching blue of their eyes.
More on Alaska: Dog-Sledding on a Glacier

This was no quick and easy post, by the way! Take a look at my choices for yellow alone! And the task of choosing 5 other bloggers to participate is no easier than selecting the photos, for there are as many travel bloggers out there as there are images in my archives! That said, here are my nominees:

Matt Long of Landlopers
Erin Halvey of A Sense of Place
JD Andrews of EarthXplorer
Brendan van Son of Brendan's Adventures
Anabela Salvador George of Jet-Lagged Journeys

Finally, thanks to Vi of Travel Tips for turning me on to this contest via a comment on my recent post, Made In Morocco.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Made in Morocco

From the souks of Fes to the D'jeema el Fna of Marrakech, Morocco is an incredible shopping destination. What makes shopping so special here is that in most cases, you can see the workmanship that goes into whatever it is you consider buying, and you can watch and meet the very person who has labored long and hard to create a finished piece.

There is something to be said of a Moroccan artisan selling their work. Pride of craftsmanship goes hand in hand with quality of goods. Whenever I see something I want to buy, I ask "Did you make this?" and suddenly what might initially appear to be a vendor hawking junk becomes a friendly and personal conversation during which they share a pride of skill and labor, and I earn an education into not only the making of a piece, but the person and family behind it. The value (for me anyway) grows as the price gently comes down. Friendly smiles, and a sincere interest and appreciation for the livelihood of another will make for a pleasant shopping experience here when you take the time to look behind the product. Of course, there is plenty of junk out there too, but take a moment to seek out the back corner of a quiet stall or shop and you will discover for yourself that one man's junk is another man's prideful labor and livelihood. This is the heart and soul of the shopping experience in Morocco.

Join me on this photo journey through the souks and markets of Morocco to see just a few of the things for sale, and what has gone into making them.

Leather Goods

For Sale:

The tanneries where skins re bleached and dyed

Stretching and softening the hides

Treated and dyed leather


For Sale:

Potter working with clay

Hand-painting designs on ceramics

Painted ready for the kiln


For Sale:

Dying the silk threads

Silk Spools ready for loom

Weaver at loom making silk scarf

Fresh off the looms


For Sale:

ceramic tiles

cut into shapes

laying out pattern

And everything else...





Dedicated to the artisans and craftsmen of Morocco, I appreciate your work and treasure what you make for sale!

For more, visit my full Morocco Image Gallery, and be sure to check in to twitter #Frifotos to see what else is "for sale" around the world!

Friday, June 08, 2012

World Oceans Day - Surf Around the World

"Es que ese mar que a tu playa va tambien bana la mia"
- Irene Farrera (El Mismo Mar)

The ocean connects us all. The same sea that goes to your shore also comes to mine. Regardless of race, nationality or religion, we are all united by the vast ocean spanning our planet. It is a humbling entity, and certainly deserving of our awe and respect every day, not just on World Oceans Day.

For Saving Trestles, California

Lucky me, I'm an island girl, born in Coronado, California (recently named Top Beach of 2012). I grew up barefoot on the beach with my toes in the waves. I can't imagine what my life would be like without the blessed familiarity and profound appreciation for the ocean. When I am away from it, I feel different- like a toddler who has strayed too far from her mother. Perhaps it's a primal element of being human, but the closer I am to the ocean, the more I feel at home. It's a comfort like none other to breathe in the salty negative-charged ions of fresh churned sea air....ahhhh!

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

I surf. For pleasure and for health. No, I haven't surfed my entire life, nor do I run out the door with a board when the big swells roll in - when that occurs, I'm more likely to run out the door with my camera, tripod, and a gigantic telephoto lens. But ever since I caught and stood up on my first outside wave, and looked over to see a mother and baby dolphin riding the same wave not 10 feet away, I was hooked. I was in my element. I was at one with nature. Surfing, more than any other sport or activity I can think of, promotes physical, mental and spiritual health while being completely at the mercy of something greater than yourself...greater than anything else on the planet...the ocean.

Green Wall (La Jolla Shores), California

I also travel. For a living. While my destinations don't always involve sandy white beaches and rolling waves, I do make an effort to get to the closest shore and check out the local surf scene, whatever that may be, wherever I go. When I can, I capture a photo of the surf, preferably with a surfer. So in honor of celebrating World Oceans Day, I dove into my archives and fished out some favorite images of surf scenes around the world. I will also be sharing images from this post and many other ocean and surf shots all day on twitter, as I guest co-host the #Frifotos theme of #oceans with National Geographic Traveler. Ride the wave along with us and enjoy!


Peninsula Valdes, where the surf is populated with Sea Lions:


Bathsheba Beach


Brazil has so many beautiful and surf-worthy beaches. My favorite spot to watch the surf (and surfers) is Prainha:

But Copacabana can toss around some mean rips, and I watched the helicopter make no fewer than 7 rescues in the space of an hour!

Rio Beach Rescue - Images by Kymri Wilt


Wickanninish, Vancouver Island, British Columbia:

Related Blog Post: How Cool is Ucluelet?



Hong Kong

Ok, it's a stretch, but with a sense of humor will appreciate this related blog post:
Stand Up Paddle Surf Safari in....China?


Manuel Antonio

Playa Esterillos



Talk about a wave all to yourself!


River Surfing in Munich (hey, it counts!)



Giant's Causeway


So I only caught a glimpse, but still, boards and wetsuits hanging out near Kamakura.




...and the dirtiest water I've ever seen surfed, in Lima


Praia de Guincho, Cascais - one of the most beautiful surf spots anywhere


My first glance of Indian Ocean waves, along the Whale Coast/Garden Route:


Muizenberg (Cape Town)

Related Blog Posts:
Where Oceans Meet
Winter in Cape Town


Bora Bora Reef


Waikiki, HAWAII

And, finally, home sweet home, Cardiff by the Sea, CALIFORNIA

Related Blog Posts:
Big Wave Surf, Cardiff
Roxy Jam Women's Longboard Pro at Cardiff Reef
On Being Active, Surfing & Advertising
San Diego Natives of Paradise
Rob Machado, Because He Cares

My favorite moments are those spent with my daughter in the ocean.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Happy World Oceans Day!