Independent Canadian book publishers working in Dominica, W.I. specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions, and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

Archive for the ‘Derek Galon’ Category

Secret Bay… once again!

Secret Bay as it looks today

Recently, we felt lucky again to work at the Secret Bay eco-resort here, on the island of Dominica. We felt lucky because this is one of our favorite places on earth. We witnessed the birth of the Secret Bay when six years ago we photographed the first, newly constructed villa called Zabuco, and watched with excitement their further development over the years. This time, our job was to photograph two Ylang-Ylang villas, a newest addition to six already existing ones.

One of Ylang Ylang villas

 

Shortly after arrival, when carrying our photo equipment (heavy!) and setting it up, I felt it again: calm joy of being there, my blood pressure decreasing, my muscles relaxing. The place is of extraordinary beauty: situated on a cliff with stunning wide view of the Caribbean Sea visible from every villa and bungalow. Looking at the new villas I’m amazed how well they fit into the landscape; they look like they were always there!

Covered patio with kitchen blends inside with outside space

We’re photographing the state of the art equipped kitchen entirely open to the surrounding nature. Inside the villa, sliding doors and huge windows allow the inside space harmoniously blend with the outside.

Another angle on patio reveals its fantastic view

Secret Bay was built by sustainable methods: all the surrounding trees were preserved, only higher brunches were trimmed to open up the amazing vistas. We’ll write more about sustainable development of Secret Bay for the next MACO magazine; please check it out.

While working on our first Caribbean photo coffee-table  book  “Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean” we saw many extraordinarily beautiful homes and resorts all over the Caribbean. Secret Bay is unique among them; it has it all: breathtaking location, exceptional organic architecture, fabulous food and unpretentious friendliness of people who work there. Being here is a very special privilege for us. After work, we take a swim at the Secret Beach and night snorkel – what an uplifting and blissful experience!

 

Ylang Ylang villa with its swimming pool connected by hardwood patio.

We did not post anything for a while, and we missed you! We will try to publish another post soon. It is just that we are getting incredibly busy at times – working on many projects such as photo-shoots of Miss Dominica, photo sets for hotels and resorts, and also – building our own little house! But that is yet another story…

Stay tuned! Cheers!

Margaret

Story by Margaret Gajek, all photos by Derek Galon. Please respect the copyright.
Thank you.

The Nature Island Still Rocks!

_DAG1505_6_7-Panorama-sm-sAbout a month passed since the tropical storm Erika lashed  Dominica, flash-flooding it with about 15 inches of rain in mere 10 hours of time. It was in the news around the world, so I won’t repeat the tragic ordeal we all experienced here. With the destruction and heavy losses, the whole country stood together working hard to patch the biggest wounds as soon as possible. Countless and  huge  landslides are in most part cleared, temporary bridges are being installed, whole villages keep working together on major cleanups. Both airports are reopened and the tourist season will start soon.  And guess what? Dominica is still as beautiful as ever!
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We both were anxious to find out what happened with most popular and beautiful attractions, making the Dominica what it is – the “Nature Island of the Caribbean”. Weather became beautiful once again. We packed our photo and video gear, and went on hiking.  Trafalgar Falls – the iconic falls were easy to drive to, and we were impressed how quickly landslides were cleared off the long, winding road. The falls themselves changed a lot. Not only they are now devoid of much vegetation, exposing huge, bare boulders (some of which are freshly fallen, pushed by massive power of flooding waters), but also another surprising change occurred. _DAG1453_4_5-sm-sHidden for decades, hot sulfur springs running next to the taller waterfall were uncovered by the storm. So, now the waterfall is joined by picturesque hot springs, clearly visible thanks to their sulfur-stained, intense orange rocks. The milky water running down the spring mixes with fresh water of the waterfall in a small rocky pool, making it a delightful option for a nice, warmer bath.  We went up and close to both falls which was a bit tricky as we had to drag with us about 20 kilograms of photo gear, and it is not a typical hike but rather jumping and climbing between huge builders, constantly up and down. Our efforts were well rewarded by the beauty of the newly reshaped falls. To be so close to them, to hear hiss of falling water, feel the cool breeze of tiny droplets – it was quite magical experience. We photographed, filmed with drone and regular video camera, and enjoyed every minute of this blissful time. It was so good to see the falls in full glory, perhaps even more unique than before._DAG1475_6_7-sm-s

See them up and close as we did, simply play the HD video we are sharing with you. We hope you will enjoy!

Fantastic weather continued, and just couple of days later we decided to check the trail to Boeri Lake, and our favourite Freshwater Lake. Driving up the steep road to Laudat, once again we were impressed with amount of work done to clear dozens of huge landslides. Parts of the road damaged by floods are already being restored and fixed.

We arrived at the beginning of trail without problems, and started the one hour long hike to Boeri Lake. The views were breath-taking and hike was fun. In one spot we had to take hiking shoes off to cross a shallow  river, which added a flavour to our walk. The trail survived Erika really well and  the whole hike was really enjoyable. Arriving at the end of path, we looked in silence at the serene, small but amazing Boeri Lake. [Group-6]-_DAG1683_4_5__DAG1704_5_6-8-images-sm-s
It is the highest freshwater lake in Dominica, set in an old volcano crater at 850 meters above sea level. Air is cool and fresh here, lush greenery around  – pristine and unspoilt.  We were alone, enjoying the serene feel of the place. The weather was fantastic and lake full of vibrant green and blue colours. We were told most times it is misty and cloudy here, with lake looking mostly  black and eerie. Seemingly we were lucky to catch it on one of these clear, sunny days.  Looking closer we were surprised to realize that water level was clearly much higher than usually. Grass and smaller plants were visible some two feet under water, adding a green carpet to the shallow shore of the lake. _DAG1719_20_21-sm-s

As we descended back, we decided to stop at the nearby Freshwater Lake, which is in the same area and located just slightly lower. We were there just 6 weeks earlier, and saw it covered with low clouds, mist and fog. At this time, however, it looked sunny and happy, inviting for a quick, refreshing swim.  Never before we saw this place with no wind at all, so calm, fresh and still. I just had to fly our drone and film it.

Same as with Trafalgar Falls, we would like to share our hike with you and show you our short video clip. We hope you will enjoy!

These two trips awaken our appetites to see more. We plan to visit other places soon, filming and photographing them for you.
So, subscribe to our blog and be among the first to know our new posts. And if you like what you see – please SHARE with friends.
Until next time, cheers!

Derek and Margaret

Please note: all images/video are copyrighted, please respect our rights. no usage without authorization. Thank you!

Hiking around Freshwater Lake

We had a nice hike last week – around the Freshwater Lake in the Morne Trois Pitons Natonal Park. It used to be our favorite place when we were coming to Dominica as visitors, only for a short time. Now, because we live here, we have an opportunity to take our time and hike the entire loop around the lake and enjoy stunning vistas.

Freshwater Lake, Dominica

Freshwater Lake, Dominica. Sun behind fast moving clouds creates spectacle of lights.

When we left the capital town of Roseau, car thermometer showed 31 C; upon arrival to parking lot, temperature dropped to 20C. We are on elevation of over 700m above sea level, high in the mountains, at the heart of the island. There’s always wind blowing clouds of mist soothing the skin after scorching heat of the city. We breathe deeply fresh air and take a first look at the lake. It’s situated in a valley surrounded by sharp peaks covered by montane rainforest, dense patchwork of every shade of green color. The natural beauty of the place is astounding; it is also very calm and serene. As we start to hike, thoughts and noises in our heads gradually quiet down, and we fell under charm of this magical place.

The trail is made entirely of steps held together by wooden logs and tree fern trunks. We’re lucky it isn’t raining; it can be really slippery. Apart from the wind, there is only glass flute-like sound of mountain whistler (rufous- throated solitaire) singing long notes, beautiful and soothing. We climb steeply uphill taking a closer look at the unique vegetation found only on higher elevations. Shrubs and trees form a dense, low growing thicket dripping with moisture from the swirling clouds. There seems to be more ferns, bromeliads and epiphytic plants than anywhere else. Some plants are striking like Lobelia stricta with spiny leaves or epiphytic vine with red and yellow flowers (Alloplectus cristatus)

Finally, we are at the top of the ridge, and views are amazing! We can see Freshwater Lake shrouded in mist and all volcanic peaks of the interior. Standing there, you can see both sides of the island (how small this island really is!): to the west there is Caribbean sea, to the east, distant views of Rosalie Bay on the Atlantic side. The path descents and climbs up again yet to another peak with slightly different vistas, equally stunning. _DSC5429_30_31

After the walk we feel thoroughly refreshed and amazingly light-hearted. We have to return there soon.

Actually, we may return indeed, as while hiking and enjoying the natural beauty of this place, our old idea of creating a coffee table book about Dominica rippened in our minds, and we just decided it is time to do it. Therefore in upcoming months we will be travelling the island scouting for most picturesque locations, photographing, interviewing people, and collecting all material for this fine task. It may take up to a year to produce it, but we hope it will be as nice as our Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean, Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean – or even better, as our publishing experience over last years accumulates, helping us do what we love better and better._DSC5438

We will keep you posted on progress of our works, therefore please subscribe to this blog, and share it with friends.
Cheers!
Margaret and Derek

All photos by Derek Galon, writing by Margaret Gajek. Please respect copyright.

Serenity

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Morne Guay, our current home.

Last couple of months were a busy time for us. We received our residency documents, created proposal for publishing a tourism magazine, edited videos for Tourism authority in Montserrat  (lots of my photos from 3 months ago are already on their new Web site, check it out!), and took some more photos and aerial videos for clients in Dominica. We are also updating our photo competition site and work on improving our culinary skills – in order to soon open so called “closed door restaurant” here in Dominica. On top of that we meet with our architect and builder, preparing our land to build our new home.  So, why do I title this post “Serenity”?

Well, work is something we will always do and have, being idle is not our thing. But the place we rent now – one of the oldest inhabited houses in Dominica – it radiates sense of peace and serenity. Mornings with breakfast on patio with fresh breeze, afternoon coffee watching yachts on Caribbean sea, listening to birds, hissing sound of bamboo wadding in wind – it all is quite a new experience for us. A bliss of serenity, harmony and peace. We love every moment spent around this house, and we want to share with you a few insignificant, but lovely things we just experienced.

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A male Cigarron awaiting female

We noticed amazingly big bee-like insects clumsily flying in our front garden. Totally black, insanely huge – like a small hummingbird – they make strong impression and lots of noise. We tried to find more about them and found only a skimpy info on line. Someone said there are huge black bee-like insects which are sting-less and clumsy. Local name for them is Cigarrons as they bring to mind flying black cigar. We started watching them and soon noticed that the huge black one is actually female. Males are about only 1/3 of their size, nice brown and more bee-like.

Did meet one!

Did meet one!

They hide in dense bushes where they fly in small circles, performing a sort of dance and trying to attract these big black females.  I was lucky enough to take couple of photos. Hopefully those who see Cigarrons will enjoy these photos – and also appreciate our impression that indeed these are sting-less (or at least not using stings in aggressive way). I intruded with my camera quite enough to irritate a more aggressive insect. But these big ones don’t mind.

Glassy Point cliffs on Atlantic side of Dominica

Glassy Point cliffs on Atlantic side of Dominica

We went for an excursion yesterday. We visited a place called Glassy Point. What a magnificent rocky shore of Dominica! Atlantic side can be rough, but seriously beautiful at the same time.
Here is a photo taken from the sharp cliff.

And here is another unrelated story  adding to our experience:
There were couple of wild dogs living in our area. We heard them at night, and sometimes saw them far away, but they are very shy. And just 3 days ago a dog – female and a mother – decided our place is the safe place. She drops off her 5 puppies at the edge of our lawn, disappears for hours, and they just play around. She comes and goes. we give them leftovers from our diners, and they love it! So, suddenly we have 5 little puppies, and a friendly mom.
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Well, not much of a big story, but all these little things add lots of colour to our current life. We hope you enjoy reading about them.
Cheers, until next time!
Derek and Margaret

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(all photos by Derek Galon, please respect copyright)
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PS. We just have a small announcement, we are selling 1 acre of land in Giraudel, Dominica. it is a prime location. Have a look if interested, thanks!
https://dominicalandforsale.wordpress.com/

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Roseau and last cruise ship of the season. Aerial photo from session I did for a client.

 

Carnival Fun in Dominica (2015)

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On a typical winter day, tourists get off cruise ships in Roseau to explore narrow, sleepy old streets and lanes and take some snapshots of tiny, cute houses built here long ago.

It all changes during Carnival time. Streets are full of activities, and the town is bustling with music, performers and excited crowds. Specially the two last days of Carnival season (13th and 14th of February) are full of colour and activities covering all streets of town.
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The festivities take place day and night. Concerts and performances in Fort Young Hotel and other places go until late hours (so late it’s rather early) At some 4 in the morning a strange parade fills normally quiet streets signalling part of Carnival called J’ouvert. Under cover of darkness a mocked wedding ceremony is repeated over and over. Strangely dressed brides and grooms of all sorts create an unusual mystery like from a fantasy or dream, only to disappear in early morning hours. But one does not wait long for more fun. The colourful parades – so attractive to all tourists and locals – draw large crowds of people awaiting spectacularly dressed performers. And they come in big numbers. _DAG6351

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Different t-shirt bands, kids’ groups, amazingly dressed adults and official winners of several Carnival categories march together through Roseau forming a long, noisy stream. Dancing to Caribbean rhythms, this parade later regroups forming smaller clusters of people having fun. Two full days and nights of dance, music, food and drink, and most unusually dressed performers are certain to make strong impression on all visitors.

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We photographed for a few hours on streets of Roseau, catching the most spectacular creations. Some dresses go actually far behind typical dress as you know it. They are whole contraptions surrounding parading performers and actually being wheeled along them on little carts. Whole compositions of most unusual props, balloons, ribbons and many other colourful things are mixed into each spectacular creation.
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I am happy to show you some of awarded dresses and best performers of this Carnival in Dominica.
Perhaps you should consider enjoying them next year in person!

Cheers!
Derek

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All photos by Derek Galon, please respect copyright.

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Watching rainbows on a New Year’s day

 DSC04701-2  We’re renting an apartment high on the hills in a quaint village on Dominica island. Our apartment is small but it has a large terrace with a really stunning view of the capital town of Roseau surrounded by lush hills and Caribbean Sea. Usually, we have our breakfasts there. Sipping morning coffee we watch this awe-inspiring view in silence. It’s still a rainy season with occasional passing showers followed by periods of sunshine. DSC04094

From our vintage point, we watch a spectacular display of rainbows suddenly appearing in front of us and quickly vanishing. Very often they form a complete semicircle, an impressive arch filling the sky with colors. Sometimes, we can see fragments of the  circle or an accumulation of rainbow-colored fluffy clouds. Today, “our morning rainbow” was especially impressive: it looked double!

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There was the first semicircle arch outside which appeared to be a second one, but thinner and fainter. I was much surprised when I noticed that the second bow had color pattern inverted. What a treat to see! All the colors of the main rainbow were really intense, very saturated and easy to distinguish: even bright orange and violet which are usually blurred.

Dominica is a land of rainbows: I saw many in different locations on the sky or near waterfalls and lakes around the island – but nothing as spectacular as this one. This phenomenon was also witnessed by our frequent visitor here, the Smooth-billed Ani, a medium size bird with black plumage and parrot-like bill. He seemed to be totally unaware of the subject of our fascination.

Smooth-billed Ani (from cuckoo family) on a nearby bush.

Smooth-billed Ani (from cuckoo family) on a nearby bush.

This fleeting moment of beauty will stay forever in my memory. In two weeks we’ll move out of this apartment and “we’ll lose the view” However, I’m sure that rainbows will still be here without us- witnesses and admirers- as stunningly beautiful as always.

Wishing you all a happy New Year filled with colorful rainbows where ever you are,

Margaret
(Photographs by Derek)

Huge cruise ship docked overnight in Roseau looked from our patio like a giant Christmas ornament

Huge cruise ship docked overnight in Roseau looked from our patio like a giant Christmas ornament

Revisiting Montserrat

Revisiting places you are fascinated by or feel affinity with is a very special treat. We were lucky to had an opportunity to come back to Montserrat, British Overseas Territory nicknamed “the emerald isle of the Caribbean.”

photographing outdoor activities...

photographing outdoor activities…

Life on this beautiful island was changed forever after series of volcanic eruptions on Soufriere Hills in the mid-1990s. Two-thirds of the island was destroyed including Plymouth -the capital town buried by a 40-feet thick layer of lava and volcanic debris.

photographing Volcano from St Joseph's hill - the closest possible point, already in the dreaded  zone V.

photographing Volcano from St Joseph’s hill – the closest possible high located point, already in the dreaded zone V.

Nineteen people lost their lives, eight thousand were forced to leave the island. Today, the volcanic activity is closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory with state of art facilities. Life is concentrated in the “safe zone” up north, where a new capital town is been constructed, and a new airport and marina recently opened.

Mutual attraction - Margaret photographing wild donkeys wondering over destructed old airport area...

Mutual attraction – Margaret photographing wild donkeys wandering over destructed old airport area…

Government’s renewed focus is on bringing new visitors to the island, and we were part of a creative international team working on a new promotion of the island, photographing it’s top attractions.

preparing our drone in the dreaded Volcano Exclusion Zone V

preparing our drone in the dreaded Volcano Exclusion Zone V

photographing volcano from a boat

photographing volcano from a boat

Along with the crew from London and Barbados, we were travelling island up and down, day and sometimes night, photographing and filming many different places. We are not at liberty to show you “official” photos, because they soon will be used in a major international promotion. However, we can share with you some photos showing us in action. We hope these will also give you a glimpse of this fascinating place….

photographing iguana gave me a chance of resting flat for a few minutes - a rare treat during busy schedule ;-)

photographing iguana gave me a chance of resting flat for a few minutes – a rare treat during busy schedule 😉

The island had changed a lot since our first visit 2 years ago. Perhaps the most striking difference for me was its lushness: some parts of the island which I remember as covered in ash are now filled with new vegetation. Boat tour around the island was a highlight of this trip for me: watching an awe inspiring, breathtaking scenery. As usually, we all worked long hours and hard …
We were able to get permission to enter the exclusion zone to photograph Plymouth, this time also using our drone which proved to be very helpful. You can read about previous our experience and see more photos in our earlier posts:

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/montserrat-another-photo-shoot-trip-to-the-caribbean/

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/new-pompeii-montserrats-old-capital-destroyed-by-volcano/

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/plymouth-the-new-pompeii-margarets-notes/

leaving the zone V for a safer ground...

leaving the zone V for a safer ground…

We hope to be back in Montserrat for some more work, and would like to thank MDC, the Tourism Director, our amazing hosts and Montserrat Government, for having us in this brilliant international team. Not only it was a fascinating work, but we all became good friends.

We also thank you for stopping by at this post. Until next time – and Happy New Year to you!
If you like this post, Share and Like it, or Follow to be updated on further stories. Cheers!

Margaret and Derek

Margaret with our boatman after boat tour, along with Patrick and Mark from our creative team.

Margaret with our boatman after boat tour, along with Patrick and Mark from our creative team.

Written by Margaret Gajek, photographs by Derek Galon and Margaret Gajek. Please respect the copyright.

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