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.

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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.

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Martinique

Beginning of this year has been extremely busy for us, filled with new, exciting, and often challenging projects. Among other activities we contributed articles and dozens of images to several publications including two last editions of MACO Magazine – the ever-popular Caribbean lifestyle magazine. Our write-ups are about unique and quirky homes on Dominica island where we now live. MACO also featured our story about rebirth of Montserrat after it’s last devastating volcano eruption. When our family came from England for a visit, we decided to take a short break from work, and travel with them to a neighbouring island of Martinique._DSC7245

We boarded catamaran ferry operated by L’Express des Iles which links a few nearby islands with Dominica. From the ferry you can really see how extraordinarily beautiful this mountainous island is, covered with lush greenery and surrounded by turquoise coral reefs.

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Last glimpse at Dominica – heading to Martinique

Our boat left calm Caribbean Sea and entered rough Atlantic waters. With strong winds it could be a rough ride. Fortunately, the day was calm and soon we were able to see silhouettes of approaching Martinique. It is much more populated than Dominica – over four hundred thousand people live there. From a boat you can clearly see quaint little villages dotting the coastline, and much bigger concentration of population around the Fort-de-France area. It is a metropolis comparing to Dominica with only seventy-two thousand inhabitants.

photo: Derek Galon

Bibliotheque Schoelcher by architect Pierre-Henri Picq

The first thing we noticed after leaving the ferry terminal in Fort-de-France was an elaborate, colourful building of Bibliotheque Schoelcher on the other side of grassy lawns of La Savanne park. Its architecture has a fairy tale quality, and perhaps could look more at home somewhere in Turkey or Italy – maybe because of eclectic, curious mixture of different designing influences including Byzantine, Art Nouveau and ethnic building traditions of French colonies. Library is named in honour of Victor Schoelcher, the French cabinet minister and influential abolitionist. In 1883 he donated books from his own collection to the people of Martinique and was inspiration for this development.

This intricate building was designed by Pierre- Henri Picq in 1884, built in Paris, displayed at the 1889 World Exposition and shipped in pieces to Fort-de-France. Picq is also an architect of other city landmarks like Cathedral St-Louis, Grand Marche – covered produce market, and corner building of Magasin du Printemps. His another eye-catching building, the Museo Artequin in Santiago, Chile, perhaps resembles Bibliotheque Schoelcher the most. Interestingly, in most English speaking travel guides (including Lonely Planet) his last name is spelled Pick, which explains why I couldn’t find any information about him on-line on English sites.

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Patisserie Friandises des Iles – our most favourite, perhaps the best small chain in Martinique, with shops in Fort de France, Schoelcher, and case Pilote.

The old city of Fort-de-France is small but full of interesting buildings and… patisseries. Our sightseeing was seriously distracted by our weakness for sweets – but how can you resist delicious French eclairs with fluffy, delicate and fragrant cream?

We took a drive up the scenic coastal road north, which goes through old fishing villages. Our favourite was Case Pilote with old stone church and a charming town square with town hall, a water fountain in the middle and yes, a delicious patisserie.

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Fountain in Case-Pilote

Atmospheric town of St Pierre has a fascinating and gloomy history. On May 8th , 1902 the whole city was totally destroyed by pyroclastic flow from erupting volcano of Mont Pelee in 10 short minutes. The speed of black clouds carrying volcanic gases and burning ash was over 670km per hour and temperature as high as 1,075 degrees C. Wikipedia brings a very detailed description of this tragic eruption. Nearly 30 thousand people lost their lives. One of the lucky escapists was a prisoner named Cyparis, locked in a jail cell.

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Mont Pelee

Not much have been left from the original city. The most impressive ruins are of an old 18th- century theatre, which once seated 800. It was built in 1786, reconstructed in 1831, resembling a theatre in Bordeaux. Well preserved a double set of stairways gives a sense of grandeur and an enormous scale of the building.

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Double set of stairs to amphiteatre

Depth of the stage allowed for big productions, ranging from classical to vaudeville as well as great operas. Setting for the theatre is as spectacular as the building itself – located on a hill with spectacular views of the sea and Mont Pelee.

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Mt Pelee seen through old gate of theatre

In times of its glory it must have been an awe inspiring sight. Curiously, the theatre was closed down shortly before the eruption of Mont Pelee as a result of huge loans for renovations in 1900, that couldn’t be paid off.

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Old, rusted trasnformer in theater ruins.

 

We wandered through the narrow streets of this fascinating town ending up (of course!) in another delicious patisserie.

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Remainings of the theater

Back from this short trip, refreshed and excited, we got back to our work with new energy – but this is yet another story…

Until next Time! Cheers!
Derek and Margaret

If you like this story, please Share and Like it.
Story by Margaret Gajek
Photographs by Derek Galon – please respect copyright.
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Front of a typical old house in St Pierre

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

Independence Day – part II Dominica Creole Fest

Beautifully dressed children going with mom to join parade

Beautifully dressed children going with mom to join parade

During the Independence Day celebrations in Dominica, all restaurants and hotels are serving festive Creole food. Street food stands are dressed up in national colours, and people proudly wear traditional dresses.CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0293

We went to our favorite Fort Young Hotel to try some of the traditional dishes. As we’re vegetarians, we skipped traditional “goat water” – a kind of a broth/stew, and concentrated our interest on roasted veggies with breadfruit and plantains, cassava bread, callaloo soup and colorful salads – all very delicious!CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0428

Walking through the streets of Roseau feels like taking part in a fashion show: almost everyone is wearing some version of national costume made of colorful madras cotton. The history of this fabric is fascinating. Produced in Southeastern India, it made its way to all corners of British colonies including Caribbean in the 18th century. It is believed that its criss-crossed pattern was influenced by tartan worn by the Scottish regiments in India. CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0286However, unlike tartan with particular patterns representing one clan, Caribbean madras is used by everyone in endless variations of colors and patterns. The only limit is one’s creativity, although some rules may apply as Adrianna Henderson explains in her article about national dress of Dominica:
http://ciad.org.uk/2012/05/07/adrianna-henderson-on-the-national-dress-of-dominica

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The best costumes are awarded in a special ceremony called Wob Dwiyet. Next day, the winners take part in a street parade; a dazzling display of vibrancy and color. My favorite part of the whole costume was a headdress, a creative combination of a hat and a head wrap worn in a fantastic number of shapes; each one a unique showpiece creation.
Check the link to this interesting article, if you wish to know more.

CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0277We end this story with a bunch of colorful photos from the streets of Roseau and from Fort Young Hotel, where during lunch time we also enjoyed watching a dance group performing to traditional Jing Ping music.

Stay tuned, if you like it – share, and FOLLOW to be notified about next posts! Thank you!

Margaret

All photos copyright Derek Galon. Story by Margaret Gajek. Please respect our copyright. No usage without authorization, please. We are now available in Dominica for photography and publishing. Contact us for more info.

Creole Fest decorations at Fort Young Hotel brought to mind decorations we see in North America for the Thanksgiving Day.

Creole Fest decorations at Fort Young Hotel brought to mind decorations we see in North America for the Thanksgiving Day.

 

 

 

Lots of tasty Creole food at the Fort Young Hotel.

Lots of tasty Creole food at the Fort Young Hotel.

Traditional Jing Ping band performed along with a dance group at Fort Young Hotel.

Traditional Jing Ping band performed along with a dance group at Fort Young Hotel.

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Notes From Linz

_DAG8388We came to Linz in Austria for the judging session of the famous Al- Thani Photo Awards,  superbly organized by Chris Hinterobermaier and his efficient staff. They also run Trierenberg Super Circuit – one of the largest and most prestigious international salons of photography. This hard-working team was very hospitable, and it was tremendous fun to be around them. You can separately see Derek’s series of posts about the judging experience at Al-Thani. This post is about our impressions from visiting this interesting city.

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Linz is not only industrial city but also a vibrant cultural centre hosting numerous festivals (including electronic art) and art exhibits. The various artistic events are held in striking glass and steel (and glowing at night!) Lentos Museum of Art, in Brucknerhouse on the banks of Danube river, or in Musiktheater, the modern opera house.

In the Old City

In the Old City

When we arrived, the city was already in Christmas mood, Altstadt – the old city decorated with lights, street vendors were selling hot cider, perfect for cold winter evenings. If you are not into hot cider, you could grab a delicious cappuccino, or some hot food – typically different kinds of wurst (sausage).

Stained glass window in one of numerous churches of Old City

Stained glass window in one of numerous churches of Old City

Walking in old town, we were lucky to notice a small announcement on Ursulinenkirche door about a late evening music concert held there. We decided to go, and for us, it was a truly memorable experience. Not only performance was great (what a superb choir they have!)  but also the ambiance: main church’s altar lit by candles with their lights reflected on gold ornaments and baroque putti.

_DAG8389Being in Linz it’s difficult not to notice an excellent network of long, silently gliding trams, a part of great public transport service. They run like clockworks, and add to the image of efficient, prosperous and well kept city.

Linz is known as the birthplace of one of the oldest pastry recipes ever recorded: the famous Linzer torte. As I was eager to compare my homemade version to the original, I started to visit various pastry shops and bakeries.  My tasting experience resulted in gaining a few extra pounds, as I found  local pastry shops totally irresistible. With my tests still inconclusive, I feel I need to return to Linz soon, and continue trying some more of their exquisite pastries…

Thank you for stopping by, have a great Holiday Season!
Margaret Gajek

If you like this post, please SHARE, and Follow us. Cheers!
_DAG8387All photos copyright Derek Galon.

Ozone Zone International Photo Salon 2013 – Results

Grand Prix - NGO HOA, Vietnam - Two Friends

Grand Prix – NGO HOA, Vietnam – Two Friends

I recently posted a longer article about my judging experience at the famous Al-Thani Photo Award in Austria.  Today, I would like to share with you news about our own Photo Competition – the Ozone Zone International Photo Salon 2013. I love photography. I live for photography. We all love photography at Ozone Zone. Travel photography, photojournalism, documentary, fine art photography, nude art, black and white, macro photography, nature – you name it!  All these categories – they have one common thing – they help us see our world, discover new details, learn. Many such photographs give us also the joy of an encounter with art.

Being passionate about art and photography, we decided early-on this year to organize and sponsor our own Photo Salon. And we all decided it will always have a specific angle – our angle:  promoting a positive message.

Mateusz Liberra, Iceland - Mysterious Place, SILVER

Mateusz Liberra, Iceland – Mysterious Place, SILVER

Some time ago one of our internationally acclaimed photo coffee table books “Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean” won the Nautilus Award, given for “contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, green values, responsible leadership and positive social change, as well as to the worlds of art and creativity.” We treasure this award because all these values are close to us, and that exactly is our angle, we decided. Our Photo Salon should promote fine, artistic photography with a positive message to the world.

We commissioned production of an on-line submission software, and opened our Salon for the first time in the summer. Received images were not as numerous as one would dream, but that was understandable without much advertising, word of mouth, or any major patronage. However – it was the QUALITY of some works which impressed us highly.  We received lots of top notch images. Very impressive ones.

Goran Jovic, Croatia - The Line, SILVER

Goran Jovic, Croatia – The Line, SILVER

From time to time I get invited to sit in jury of different salons and competitions, therefore I have a chance of seeing thousands photos – including the best world photographs of the highest calibre. And what I saw among entries of our salon was simply wonderful. It was amazing to see some of the world’s finest photographers participating in our Salon. Of course, it pushed the overall level of our competition up, and some photographs – still being decent – fell short of getting to the finals. That is, sadly, the role of jurors – to reject sometimes very good images in order to pick the absolute best. If you ask me – it can hurt. I sometimes have to  reluctantly reject really great images, and I feel almost guilty about it. But there can be only one The Best, or Second,  or Third Best in each category.
To those who did not qualify, I say – thank you most kindly for entering. We all in the jury saw lots of potential in your entries, and we do hope that next time you will score better. Don’t give up! You should know that your images were in excellent company, and overall level of entries was really impressive.

Daniel Zukowski USA - MIle 3, Los Angeles Marathon,  GOLD

Daniel Zukowski USA – MIle 3, Los Angeles Marathon, GOLD

And to those who see their images accepted as finalists – most sincere congratulations! You did well, you did compete against the most heavy guns of today’s photography. Thank you for sharing your images with our viewers.  Same words of thanks and congratulations go to our winners – a really amazing bunch of photographs. It was real joy for all of us in jury to see your entries! Cheers!
We did not expect to see such a high level of excellence, and while we recognize some of photographers’ names as being on the top lists for a while, we also noticed some new faces. Great work, thank you again!  We promise to work hard and prepare for you the Second Photo Salon in 2014. We will improve our submission software, reach for a patronage of PSA or perhaps FIAP, and try to make it as good for you as possible. And lets hope next year we will see many more entries – and have much more attractive awards for you!

Michiel Vaartjes Netherlands – Dark Falls, BRONZE

Michiel Vaartjes Netherlands – Dark Falls, BRONZE

Allow me to present here the list of winners. This list, along with list of all finalists is shown on our Web site here. Also on our Web site – here- you can see a slide show of all accepted and awarded works shown in a random order. I hope you will enjoy the slide show. What you see here are just a few examples of the fine works we received.

Mohd Khorshid, Kuwait - Standing Alone, BRONZE

Mohd Khorshid, Kuwait – Standing Alone, BRONZE

AWARDS:
Grand Prix – NGO HOA, Vietnam – Two Friends

Creative/Open
Michael Block, USA – Umbrella Ceiling GOLD

Asad, Bangladesh – Risky Journey SILVER

June Groenseth, Norway – Mix of Good Moments BRONZE

K.M.Asad, Bangladesh- Pray Time JUROR’s CHOICE

TRAVEL/NATURE

Goran Jovic, CROATIA – Ultimate Transport GOLD

Mateusz Liberra, Iceland – Mysterious Place SILVER

Michiel Vaartjes Netherlands – Dark Falls BRONZE

Mohd Khorshid, Kuwait – Standing Alone BRONZE (additional)

June Groenseth, Norway – Comet Pan Starrs and Aurora Juror’s Choice

 

NGO HOA, Vietnam - Man and the Sea, SILVER

NGO HOA, Vietnam – Man and the Sea, SILVER

MONOCHROME

NGO HOA, Vietnam – Day Work GOLD

NGO HOA – Man and the Sea SILVER

Swee Hoe Lim -Malaysia – Before The Storm BRONZE

 

June Groenseth, Norway - Comet Pan Starrs and Aurora,  Juror's Choice

June Groenseth, Norway – Comet Pan Starrs and Aurora, Juror’s Choice

PEOPLE/PORTRAIT

Daniel Zukowski USA – MIle 3, Los Angeles Marathon GOLD

Goran Jovic, Croatia – The Line SILVER

Viet Van Tran, Vietnam – The Yellow Umbrella BRONZE

Goran Jovic, Croatia – Rain Boy BRONZE (additional)

Andrey Kharabarin RUSSIA – Tale of Time Lost JUROR’s CHOICE

Congratulations again to all winners and finalists!
Cheers! Derek Galon

K.M. Asad , Bangladesh- Pray Time, JUROR's CHOICE

K.M. Asad , Bangladesh- Pray Time, JUROR’s CHOICE

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If you find this story worth your time, please SHARE and FOLLOW our blog. Thank you very much for stopping by.

If you are a photographer, please check our Salon’s web site in the spring, and we hope to see your entries. You may also be interested in my other article – recommendations for preparing your photos for best international photo competitions. See it here.
All photographs COPYRIGHT of their authors. No reproduction or copying allowed.

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