Safari 2018 – Day one Amsterdam

First picture in Amsterdam

Travel day is never fun, we had to make sure that everything is in order for the four legged kids. Dinner with the two legged variety was the night before, to make sure they have our itinerary.

An hour and a half before we were to leave I had a mini panic attack. Inspite of the fact I bought a brand new iPad for back up, the 250GB of camera cards all of a sudden just didn’t feel like enough! Off to Henry’s I went and bought another 64GB of fast cards.

This panic attack occurred because of my first digital trip in 2004 when I took only 256 MB of cards and ended up going into internet cafes in Italy to back up on CDs at the time. Then I remembered running out of capacity and having to stop in some sort of camera/hardware/grocery store in rural Colorado to buy one more card! Oh, I also just remembered deleting pictures from my last card with space to take more pictures of Venice at night.

I think I have the math right when I say that with the collective capacity of our phones, iPad’s and cards we have TWO THOUSAND TIMES the storage data for this trip versus the first one to Italy. After all I’m adding video and shooting raw images that are thirty megs each! I’m NOT going shopping for rates cards in the Serengeti!

Our vehicle of choices for leg one

I got home feeling more at ease with the last minute purchase and wanted a last minute snack. I opened the fridge, to discover that the inside temperature was warmer than outside temperature, the fridge just died!

We spent the last hour feverishly throwing out defrosted freezer food, and took what was salvageable to the downstairs fridge. We used up the last hour and fifteen minutes really quickly!

Our neighbor graciously drove us to the airport where we meet our travel companions. Overnight flights are no fun! Especially if you don’t sleep on the plane. Even with a sleeping pill and maybe a glass or two of wine to speed up the sleep, I didn’t sleep. Adrenaline is such a tough cookie!

This isn’t a good or bad thing, I’m looking like my brother more and more!

We got to our hotel at 8:00 AM, but check in is at three! This is where the Kerba schmoozing paid off! I somehow managed to talk to the young lady into finding us two rooms that were ready… God, I needed that nap!

Near our hotel Monet Gardens

Ous first to do item after a truly refreshing sleep was the Rembrandt house. Donna and I absolutely love his work and there was no way we would miss seeing that. It was marvelous! If that wasn’t enough, the city kindly arranged to have a Rembrandt festival to welcome us.

In and around Rembrandt house

Then back tour hotel room we went, to prepare for the evening at the Red Light District. I was looking forward to that photo challenge. No pictures allowed of the Windows, they haven’t met Naguib and his surreptitious camera yet!

With all the security and fines involved, did you really think I would post any;-)

We had a nice dinner and a leisurely stroll back to the hotel for the night. I’m writing this blog at four AM Amsterdam time. Here are some more pictures of day one.

Part of the recreation of the “Night watch”

Goodnight after a great first day!

Our elevator ride!

My Bucket list trip

African Lion Safari

“I would like to think of myself as the consummate planner. ” Naguib

This isn’t just because of my chosen profession that I wrote that sentence. I’ve been articulating goals and identifying what was important to me since the end of high school. In my mind, those weren’t necessarily considered lofty goals by anyone else’s measuring stick, they were simply my goals.

Sometimes those goals were monetary in nature other times family goals. When we were first married, Donna and I would go for a walk around our neighbourhood and discuss what we would envision for our future. I will write about our cottage story another time.

Cottage skyline
Cottage sky, Oxtongue Lake

My goals were sometimes career goals. At first those involved certificate courses for pure interest, then licensing courses, followed by more advanced designation courses. Eventually, shifting entire client lists from one regulatory body to another. Finally, in my latest move even changing companies and the entire way we do business. Some of the business goals were because there was a wave coming and I didn’t want to be swept by it. The burning desire was to be riding the leading edge of it. I love what I do and I’m truly passionate about making a difference. More than that, I’ve been like a sponge. My clients have taught me more than I will ever teach them.

Part of the maturing process is seeing the circle of life at play. My journey of self discovery could also be because I’ve reached one age milestone after another. It could be that I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made. I’m a son, a father and now even a grandfather and it could be by shear osmosis that I’ve gotten wiser.

I learned to figure out what’s truly important to me. You see for someone who’s entire livelihood revolves around people and their money, I really don’t care much for the accumulation of millions and millions of dollars. Don’t get me wrong, my ultimate savings goal is “enough” plus one dollar! The tough part is knowing what is “enough”.

Bet you can’t do that! The Wilds, Ohio

One of the themes that started developing was that I love taking pictures of animals and have driven to relatively close and convenient venues to get pictures of them. At first I was content with just zoo pictures. Metro Toronto zoo and even the famous San Diego zoo. I then graduated to African Lion safari just outside of Hamilton Ontario. I’ve always wanted more.

A couple of years ago Donna and I discovered “The Wilds” near Columbus Ohio and what an amazing place that is! As much as those have incredible opportunities to take nice pictures, they left me wanting more. A Safari would be a team come true.

It’s bath time!. And a swim! African
Lion Safari.
Sharing wisdom in Metro Toronto Zoo

San Diego Zoo

Cuddly at San Diego Zoo

And now… A Safari in Tanzania

Then by chance, a photo weekend with a friend and fellow photographer Dave Taylor. Dave has earned more credit than “fellow photographer”. He has truly taken photography to a different level with forty books to his credit. He is an educator and tour organizer. I think he’s up to fifteen Safaris to this point. Taking six to fifteen people along for the ride. I had the pleasure of having a sneak preview of hit latest project – a guidebook to the Serengeti. Wow, just wow!

The weekend became almost an infomercial for a Safari. I was hooked. The sales pitch to Donna was easy, as long as I answered specific pointed questions and give her the right answers, she was in. We had promised our friend Yvonne Tyml to tag along with us. Then a mutual friend, Sandra Miller pretty much said that we couldn’t go without her. We had us a trip!

Dave Taylor In Algonquin Park
Dave Taylor, during the weekend long infomercial.

Dave survived a health scare serious enough to back out of going along with us and be our guide. However, he graciously connected us with his travel agent Elena Prountzopoulos who works at Alltours.

They connected us with Leopard tours. The outline of the trip was designed by Dave with the following parameters:

  • What would you do for yourself to have a serious photo opportunity Safari?
  • When is the best time to go and where would you go?
  • How many days?
  • Where would you stay?

Dave designed, Elena arranged for and Leopard Tours refined the trip to make it work more smoothly.

Today is the big day and I’m writing this blog on the airplane. All the research is done, camera gear checked and double checked. I had to buy the new IPad to give me a home to back up the images and now video.

Hurry up and wait sucks. With Yvonne, Sandra and Donna at Toronto airport

If the last trip to Yellowstone was any measure I would need tons of capacity for images. That Yellowstone trip was the one I took over thirty thousand images in two weeks.

This trip is almost here and designed for the photographer in me. Here’s hoping I have lots of opportunities.

There are already other stories to tell. Next posting – Amsterdam! This is my first blogging experience, feedback is most welcome!

“Ikigai, joie de vivre and la familia.” Celebrating Lucy!

The last thing I thought I would be doing at 2:00 AM the day I returned home from the trip of a lifetime is writing a blog entry. (It’s now 30 hours later and I’m done!)
We returned home late Monday afternoon, only for me to hear the news that my mother Lucy passed away on Saturday while we were in Amsterdam. The family, including Donna decided it was best for me to get the news on my return home. We realistically would have never made it home any earlier. The return flight was a mere thirty hours away. Going home earlier simply didn’t make sense.
I want to publicly thank my brother Kamal and his wife Colleen; my children Tara and Chris and their significant others; nephews Karl and Adam and their significant others as well as Myra who is my sister from another mother. Mom was Myra’s Canadian mother! They were all with mom through her last days. I know it wasn’t easy and I truly appreciate what you went through.
I find that writing and sharing images or as I call them “Captured Moments” is a cathartic exercise for me. I’m inviting you to meet Lucy through some of these pictures. I’m also inviting you to a deeper place in my heart and mind. Most, are from the safari, some were imported to complete the story.
Sami was the love of her life. His best friend was Lucy’s brother Alfred. Sami and Alfred would double date and bring their dates to Lucy’s mother’s house where Lucy made sandwiches for all of them. She must have made great sandwiches, because it lured Sami away. They were married for over 62 years.
Lucy in many ways embodied love and life. I’m borrowing terms from other languages because they somehow seem to fit in. Often times, you could hear mom and dad speaking in two or three languages in the same sentence. When pressed on that, they would simply answer “I didn’t realize I was doing that. I just used the words that made the most sense.”
IKIGAI, joie de vivre and la familia are collectively the embodiment of Lucy’s life and love.
The Japanese have “Ikigai” whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being. The word derives from iki, meaning life and kai, meaning the realization of hopes and expectations. That’s Lucy! “Joie de vivre” a joy of life, describe her as well. She brought joy to every life she touched.
I’m not an expert on animal families, but got a great schooling on the safari. Elephants are unique when it comes to families and stand out for their love and nurturing of the extended family. Like elephants, Lucy adored her family!
When thinking of mom the Latin term, “la familia”, which in ancient Rome was including not just the family, but community and even servants and slaves. With the exception of slaves, Lucy had an amazing network of family, friends and church community that she loved beyond words. She always wanted girls, but was blessed with two sons. Our wives became the daughters she never had. Then grandchildren started arriving on the scene. At first it was Karl, then Tara, Chris and finally Adam. She loved them all and each one felt special.
All of us got to share the love, but there was still a capacity for more, the great grandchildren came along!

That wasn’t enough she and dad accumulated “adopted daughters” they loved them as much as any parent would love a child. I won’t name any of my adopted sisters for fear of missing one or two of them and hurting feelings. They know who they are!

Dad used to say he had a very professional law practice in Egypt then again in Canada. It wasn’t until he hired mom to be his receptionist that his practice became truly a family oriented office.  Clients would have to go through the “Lucy interrogation” prior to being allowed to enter the inner sanctum where dad was the king. She would find out where they are from, what their martial status was, how many children they had.  Names as well as their ages were extracted from the unsuspecting people.  All of a sudden dad was getting invited to client weddings and christenings and their children’s weddings. I used to say mom had the second largest Christmas gift list behind Santa.
Before I shift away from the office. We all have many stories, but, one still stands out – – mom, much like dad was anything but a techie. Her new job as receptionist meant she would have to answer a phone that had many extra buttons. Getting a grasp of all the extra buttons was difficult at first. A case in point was the young lady who was calling from a payphone. She called asking for Sami, no problem, Lucy instead of putting her on hold, hung up on her. The woman called a second time and mom hung up again. Finally the woman called a third time and begged her not to hang up, she was using her last quarter! Lucy was indeed a quick learner…after this episode she knew what the hold button did.
What can I say about her deep love of the extended family both at Saint George and the Egyptian club. Can’t forget the Friday night friends, oh and the Canadian friends. There were the clients who became lifelong friends. Can’t overlook the neighbours or condo friends. Wait I almost overlooked the community she had at Holland Christian Homes or her Southbrook friends. She touched many, many lives!

It was always about you and not her!

It didn’t matter much how she was feeling, Lucy always asked about you and your family first. It was more important to her. My brother called her nightly at the appointed time 9:30. My call while not random was usually in the morning on my way to work. We had to report in on the family and our days. Her phone rotation was huge. I once calculated that in dad’s 62 years being married to her, she was on the phone for over six and one half years!

The Saint George Connection

Lucy fiercely supported St. George first and foremost because of an incident that happened to her in Egypt. As a result of the connection with St George, if dad didn’t take her to her beloved church on Sunday, she would insist on driving past another church also named St. George where she would make the sign of the cross and they can go on with the week.
The St George family also became important when she and dad were no longer able to make the trip. She would ask Lillian Scott to light a candle or two depending on who asked her to pray for them – it could be a job interview, health issues or whatever the concern was. Mom charged five dollars for that candle and ask Lillian to light it up on her behalf. Any event they had, in lieu of gifts it was a donation to St George church.
You should get Lucy better by now. Today is her funeral day. Just like when dad passed away, the pain of the loss is huge. However, I know in time, knowing the immense number of lives she touched in a positive way will help. It will be the big picture and small things that I will remember which will bring a smile to may face.
I will miss opening the door of her fridge on my way to say hi to her and stealing a piece of cheese. (By the way, when we went to pick up her pictures from her retirement home to take to the funeral home, I opened the fridge one more time and had one last slice of cheese from her fridge! It tasted so, so good!)
There is comfort in knowing that she is no longer suffering and she is reunited with and is walking beside Sami now- the place she truly belongs!

Farewell for now Lucy, wife, mom, mother-in-law, grandmother, great grandmother, adopted mother, fierce protector…it sure has been an amazing journey and you’ve touched an enormous number of people. The world is indeed left a better place because of the massive footprint you left!

Please share this in memory of Lucy

Portfolios – “Black and White”

I’ve been taking pictures since the first semester in high school. Over time a number of themes have become evident. You’ve seen one published already – “Upside down”.

On the Road Again, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Black and White photography has made a significant come back in the last ten years. The image has to be much more dramatic by way of composition, light and texture in the absence of colour.

This portfolio as in all the others is a work in progress. Come back often.

BC 2015

The stories I can tell! British Columbia, 2015

Nova Scotia, 2017

The Magic of Paris at night, France 2016

Slot Canyon; Page, Arizona

Slot Canyon, Page, Arizona 2017

Sedona, Arizona 2017

Monument Valley, Navajo lands, Utah 2017

Musicians – there is also an entire portfolio revolving around musicians in concert. It will follow sometime in the near future.

Things happen for a reason – Phillip

Have you ever considered how one small innocuous thing happening can change your life’s course? This is the story of how I met Phillip.

It’s not often that someone comes into your life and impacts it so profoundly and so immediately. Phillip Fourie did that for me, or to me, or made me do it. It really doesn’t matter which one it was. The impact has been significant.

It started rather innocently enough when I received a call from someone (Phillip Fourie). He had seen my images at the Mississauga garden counsel. He was rather persuasive and persistent. Phillip had a proposal about a high end Mississauga magazine that I had to absolutely listen to before I was allowed to decline. Little did I know!

Around the same time as that phone call, two other completely unrelated things happened.

Derry Bunting had approached me previously and wanted me to join him in a collaborative of photographers. He would be an agent for artists and photographers. His first limited edition prints would be a partnership with me. We made two below is the “Heron in the Mist”

Another friend, Al Seymour, was having breakfast with us at a church men’s group. At that event, Al shared with us a concept he had about a high end custom built garden shed business. His drawing was made with a dot matrix printer.

Go forward another three weeks and I get that phone call from Phillip. Sensing an opportunity to assist Derry, I called him and asked him to be in my office visiting around the time Phillip would show up. Derry and I decided that if the opportunity presented itself, I would broach the subject of his business. Not only that, but if it was the right fit, we might even bring Al’s project up.

Phillip came into my office and his proposal was for me to do photography for the magazine in exchange for the byline, and seeing my images broadcast to over 20,000 homes. Additionally, I made a deal to get my financial planning practice a discounted ad. I’ve always wanted to be published in a high end magazine.

Phillip told us more about his magazine and there seemed to be wonderfully aligned objectives. It was a win-win situation. We were able to tease a free ad out of Phillip for the limited edition prints to boot!

I sensed the perfect opportunity to mention Al’s wonderful sheds. I suggested an article featuring a back yard before and then after a shed was built might be interesting. No apparent interest was shown for that idea and we ended the meeting.

Three days later, I get a number of calls from Phillip. How would my friend Al like to have his shed not only in the magazine, but featured on the front cover. He would have a high gloss full colour image of his sheds in 20,000 homes. Because of time pressure for the magazine publishing deadline we needed to have the shed ready and photographed in three weeks. I replied to Phillip with a little fib, I had to connect with Al and find out where he stored or built one. I promised to get back to Phillip within two days.

Within seconds of hanging up I put out an all points bulletin for Al. We tracked him down and the conversation went very much like this. “Hi Al, I have a proposal for you that you are not allowed to refuse! How would you like to have 20,000 full colour high gloss images of your shed in some of the best homes in Mississauga. That image would not only be in the first ever issue of this high end magazine, it would be featured on the front cover!”

Al wanted some time to think about it. I gave him long enough for me to catch my breath. Then I asked, ” By the way how long would it take you to build one?”

He thought about it and said “Two to three months.”

“You’ll have to do better.” I said. “In fact, if you can implement my plan we can be ready sooner. Our deadline to press date is three weeks! Tell me, yes Naguib, we can do it.” An hour later, Al called and gave the go ahead. I called Phillip and told him the truth, Al is in the process of building a shed that would make him proud of the first cover of the Mississauga Quarterly.

We met early the next day, to plan the shoot. Our outdoor studio was going to be like a movie set. We also needed to remember that the look was to be that of a spring garden. It was April!

My plan was as follows:

  • We only need to have a front face with windows and a door plus one side
  • The roof has to be shingled on the one side
  • Landscaping must also have plants in bloom and a walk leading up to the front door of the shed. Box plants for the windows.
  • Lighting for the walkway
  • A barbecue and furniture would complete the look
  • The shed must face the early morning sun for mood lighting. Oh and did I mention that the sun must be shining?

Al was fortunate enough to have in-laws who had the space to build our set on their driveway. We marshalled a lot of resources, borrowed plants and windows as well as a door. A high end barbecue was donated just for the shoot.

The day of the shoot was supposed to be overcast, but we got sunniness really early before it hid behind some clouds We did the shoot in less than an hour.

It’s been exactly fifteen years since this project went from a piece of paper, to the starting of a construction business. That stretch saw the launching of a magazine that the city could be proud of.

It also unleashed the photographer in me. One that only saw the possibilities and not the obstacles. It taught me to be brave enough to realize that when an opportunity presents itself, to grasp and to jump in. It’s the stuff that enriches life’s journey. It taught me that seemingly unrelated things happen for a reason and we may not be smart enough to know why until it all fits together.

We’ve all gotten closer and have had many adventures since. Stay tuned for more.

See, Don’t just look

I’ve been capturing special moments with my camera since 1969 in high school.

Over the course of time a number of recurring themes became obvious. I love taking pictures of just about anything. Nature in all its glory holds a special place in my heart.

It could be the night sky or birds big or small, it’s whatever presents itself. Special moments appear out of thin air as if they were meant to be.

There will be plenty of other opportunities to share. Now have a look at the following four images. They have one thing in common. Your job, dear reader is to figure out that common theme.

Have you figured it out yet?

All four images are presented to you “upside down” they are reflections.

There is a lesson here. I’ve been using these images for well over twenty years in financial seminars. They are representative of my opinion- things are never as bad or as good as they may appear at first.

This is true with our everyday life. One simply needs to check the news to prove my point. So don’t get all tied up in knots over everything that happens. See what the whole picture is, don’t just give it a cursory glance.