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.

Posts tagged ‘nature’

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.

Giraudel Flower Show 2016

_DAG8956-smWe were fortunate this year to attend the Giraudel Flower Show in Dominica, where we live now. This special event was held in the village of Giraudel situated on the slopes of Morne Anglais, one of the tallest mountains in the south. The village of Giraudel is known as the “flower basket” of Dominica.

At the entrance to the show

At the entrance to the show

Rich volcanic soil and frequent rains make ideal conditions for growing flowers and healthy vegetables this village is famous for. The Flower Show started in 1973 and grew out of local celebrations of Achievement Day, showcasing local produce, crafts and the best gardens. Since then it was run every second or third year with a bigger break after devastating hurricane David. _DAG8903sm

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

We, the Flower Grower Group, recently bought this piece of land and finally have a permanent home for the show,” explains Sybil Alfred- one of the organizers who is involved from the very beginning. “It is very much a community effort, everyone contributes in a different way and everyone is welcome – from small individual growers to commercial flower shops and gardens”.
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”We went into the small house containing flower arrangements. “This year’s general theme is ‘Flowers in a changing environment’”, says Sybil. “When you look around, you see trees being cut, too much garbage and destruction. We say- stop this and concentrate on natural beauty instead.” The display space is divided into sections with different themes and corresponding flower arrangements. Some of the themes are: “Prevent destruction”, “Protect nature’s diversity”, “Resilience”, “Bury careless damage”, “Eat local”, “Harmony with nature” and the last one: “We will bloom again.”

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The display is colourful and striking. Different varieties of Anthurium, Ginger and Costus are the most frequently used plants, together with Alstroemeria, Dahlia and Marigold. I really like a bouquet made of blue Agapanthus- these showy globes are three times bigger than what we grew in our garden in British Columbia, Canada. I truly started to be fond of these strong combination of reds, orange and yellow only when we begun to work on our book “Exotic Gardens of the Easter Caribbean”. As a gardener, I’ve always preferred pastels, whites and textural plants – but here, under tropical sun these vibrant colours really make a strong statement against the background of intensely green rainforest.

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We step outside into the sunshine and wonder around another section showing a variety of natural landscapes and different growing conditions on the island: from lush rainforest of the interior to dry Caribbean coast. This section is skilfully put together by Desmond Augustine, owner of the local plant nursery and a master florist. Here the display includes funky mannequins impersonating workers in the fields.
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But this is not everything: there is a tree house with ferns, a shade garden, a field of colourful zinnias, bromeliads… there is still so much to see! We had a wonderful time discovering all corners of the Giraudel Flower Show and ended up buying beautiful peace lily, spathiphyllum wallisii to be planted in our garden later on. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable Sunday afternoon.
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I wish you were here!
Until next time!
– Margaret.

If you enjoy this story, please SHARE, let your friends read it too!
Thanks!

Story by Margaret Gajek
Photos: Derek Galon, Ozone Zone. Please respect copyright.

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

Click Share if you enjoy this post!

(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.

 

Dominica – We Arrived!

So, we did it! We said goodbye to Victoria, BC, Canada, and left for Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean! Flying from Victoria through Vancouver and Toronto, we had three days in Barbados before getting on the final LIAT flight to Dominica.

Hunte's Gardens, Barbados - in October 2014 (photo Derek Galon)

Hunte’s Gardens, Barbados – in October 2014 (photo Derek Galon)

Air Canada prepared for us a farewell surprise – they lost our luggage. We arrived in Barbados in rather warm long-sleeve Canadian clothes, and were kept on a warm side for two extra days until our luggage materialised again. That did not stop us from visiting our favourite places in Barbados – the Welchman Hall Gully and Hunte’s Gardens. Both places look quite amazing, they matured and changed quite a bit since our last visit.

Hunte’s Gardens are now  a definite #1 attraction on Trip Advisor, and we fully agree with it.  It is an unbelievably designed, beautiful garden full of nooks and surprises.  Photographing it was actually our first job in the Caribbean as Caribbean residents. Despite the sweat  (our warm clothes) we spent several hours documenting recent changes all over the place.  These photos will be used by Virgin Atlantic for their guide to Barbados, and by Barbados Tourism Board for a local tourist map.

Hunte's Gardens - lower level (photo Derek Galon)

Hunte’s Gardens – lower level (photo Derek Galon)

 

Our welcome surprise in Dominica!

Our welcome surprise in Dominica!

Dominica greeted us with truly beautiful weather and very smooth proceedings through customs. We felt like returning home. A short ride brought us to the apartment we are renting in Eggleston – a village high in hills above capital town of  Roseau. A nice surprise – Dutch friends who live in Dominica dropped off some grocery shopping for us, along with a fine composition of local exotic flowers! Thank you!

Evening view at Caribbean Sea - from patio of our apartment in Dominica.

Evening view at Caribbean Sea – from patio of our apartment in Dominica.

So, here we are, awaiting arrival of our car ordered from Japan, taking care of formalities (permanent residency permit), and accommodating to the new life style. The last one is not so difficult, as getting around is a true delight to us.  Super friendly people, relaxed atmosphere – it all is just what we need at the moment.

View from our apartment at hills and volcanic mountains of Dominica.

View from our apartment at hills and volcanic mountains of Dominica.

Today we received news from Canada that our container started its journey from Victoria to Dominica, so we will be awaiting its arrival in about a month time.

Our container gets off -  first meters of 7,000 miles journey

Our container gets off – first meters of 7,000 miles journey

In regard to our photography work – it seems like a nice start. We are discussing with Montserrat Ministry of Tourism a week-long photo shoot in Montserrat (it would be lovely to return there – remember our volcano shots?), and we are also getting accreditation for the International Creole Fest here in Dominica. We arrived right in time for this huge yearly event. Three days and nights of concerts, with participation of the best Caribbean and international artists. We may not stay awake until 6am every night (yes, concerts end at 6am!), but I am sure there will be lots to photograph while we will be awake!

Stay tuned! And SHARE/FOLLOW if you like this!

Cheers!
Derek
(please respect copyright of my photos)

Today Is The Day (personal thoughts)

Today, after some 28 years of living in Poland and next 26 years spent in Canada – we are moving to Dominica! It will be a major challenge. Will we enjoy and handle it all? Well, we already changed our country of residence before, and we hope we will cope. We plan to put all our skills, professional experience and enthusiasm, to promote the beauty of Dominica and other Eastern Caribbean islands. But will the Dominica be good for us? So many unknown factors.

walking in Victoria, Canada...

walking in Victoria, Canada…

We went for a last stroll on Pacific shore, right here in Victoria, British Columbia – on Vancouver Island. It is a beautiful place indeed, and some people say we must be crazy to leave it for an unknown future. Perhaps we are a bit crazy, but we hope to find the new destination rewarding, with a more balanced life-style. We hope to leave behind the race for better jobs and always more money, we hope to find a bit of time for ourselves.

My last photo session in Victoria - with friends Michael Ward (on photo) and Jon Hoadley.

My last photo session in Victoria – with friends Michael Ward (on photo) and Jon Hoadley.

Yes, changing the life style is perhaps the most appealing factor behind our decision. But still, before we can hope for that, it will be a hard start. We don’t have a place to live and we will need to quickly rent something, we don’t have any gigs in the Caribbean yet. We are not kidding ourselves, it will be a hard start. But we really hope it will be worth it. So, will the Caribbean be good for us? We love this region and were always happy to return to do our photography and publishing work. But it is different to be visiting – even frequently – and living there permanently. So many unknown factors. We will be newcomers. We will need new contacts, opportunities, friends…

We know one thing for sure, whoever will hire us for world-class photography services or our internationally awarded publishing – will not regret. We know we are good at what we do. It is for others to try and discover it… so, perhaps we also need others’ good will and a bit of trust.

Ah, there is one more thing we will need – some good luck! We hope you can wish us good luck…

Thank you!
Derek

PS.
We will be posting progress of our moving and settling in Dominica here. We will stop in Barbados to see friends (Hunte’s Gardens, Welchman Hall Gully, and others), then we will fly to Dominica a few days later.
Stay tuned and Follow this blog to get all these news. And of course – please Share and Like it!

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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