Story Time Sunday: Caribbean Celebrations

For today’s Story Time Sunday, I will be sharing my family trip to St Kitts and Nevis in 2006.

To coincide with my mum’s birthday, which is on the 31st January, I decided to share some snaps from our trip away. The original photos were shot on digital, however I couldn’t find the disc where the images are on, instead I scanned the available prints. There were a lot, many not in organised order and many not making the final cut for this post. Note: not all photos were taken by me, some were by other family members or individuals, so they are credited as ‘Williams Family’.

My mum holding a little kid (baby goat) outside a relative’s house, while I was still in frame (left corner)

It was January 2006, the Christmas holidays were over and it was still winter. I was 14, in Year 9 and in secondary school. The exact dates escape me, however I believe it was sometime in mid January when we flew out to Nevis. Some members of my maternal family came along, which mainly consisted of one aunty, a few uncles and some cousins. It was my first time ever going on a plane – yes, I can remember that experience very vividly as we took a connecting flight from Antigua to Nevis.

My cousins and I had never been to St Kitts and Nevis before. My mum hadn’t been back since 1981, around twenty five years ago at that point. Most likely my other relatives, including aunts and uncles, hadn’t returned back in a long time either.

This trip was very important for all of us; we learnt more about our family history and heritage, plus it was a chance for to meet extended and distant relatives while we were on the island. We briefly went to the town where my mum and her siblings grew up, who were primarily raised by their grandmother, unfortunately the house was no longer there. We soon went to the slightly bigger neighbouring island of St Kitts only for the day, which is famous for its Brimstone Hill Fortress – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At the top of the hill/mountain? Some relatives went their separate ways on the island, some going with other family members

Going to the Caribbean was a culture shock for my cousins and I, as we grew up in the United Kingdom, mainly in cities and were very fortunate to have access and resources to education and living. In our parents’ time, it was completely different; they didn’t have much growing up, but they worked very hard to provide for themselves and survive during tough times.

Another small family group outing in Nevis

Some family members stayed in various places around Nevis: my mum, aunt and one cousin and I stayed at a distant relative’s house. We were often woken up by a cockerel almost every morning. My uncles and other cousins (one uncle had taken three of his four daughters along) stayed elsewhere on the island. We didn’t hang around much, I was probably with my mum and aunt for the majority of the holiday.

The two weeks were slightly slow. It was an advantage as I wasn’t really missing school or any lessons, although I was possibly behind with all my schoolwork but I didn’t care. My dad was left behind in London, however he did book a flight to Florida a week later to visit relatives.

We managed to have a birthday dinner for my mum’s 50th, nearly the whole family was there including other relatives from the island. We went to a Caribbean restaurant somewhere in town. I do believe we had gone to the same place around a day or two before.

I was doing some weird leaning pose, which was the one highlight whenever we had a decent group photo (obvs, I am on the right)

Once we left Nevis, we went on another connecting flight through Antigua and then flew back into Gatwick. Back to the London life, although my uncles and some cousins went straight back to Leeds after landing.

I eventually went back to school the following week, so it was back to business and ‘normality’ for me. This break was well needed; it was absolute hell at school and I couldn’t wait to get away from it all.

Recently, my mum has expressed her desire to return back to Nevis, since it has been sixteen years. Other family members have since gone a few times, pre-pandemic and doing the same amount of exploring like we did.

Up The Mountains: Nevis has quite A LOT of mountains, compared to the ones I have seen in Switzerland, they are mighty high

Maybe one day, my mum’s dream will be fulfilled to finally go back to the motherland… once everything has eased completely…

Take care and stay safe

Story Time Sunday: Sagrada Familia Finally

For today’s Story Time Sunday, I will be sharing my trip to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

For a long time I had wanted to visit the Sagrada Familia, since I was a teenager doing textiles for GCSE and learning about the famous basilica in Catalonia. I was absolutely fascinated by its design and architecture.

It took nearly ten years for that to come into reality, which happened in April 2016 (while travelling around Spain) when I finally achieved my dream to finally go inside!!

So what is the Sagrada Familia? What’s the history behind it, and most importantly who was the man with the plan?

Antoni Gaudí was a Catalan architect, known for his modern architectural style of work – most are located in Barcelona. He was well known for his individuality and creativity twists, also for his use of ceramics, stained glass and carpentry.

Seven of Gaudí’s famous buildings were selected as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, some including Park Güell, Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia.

Construction of Sagrada Familia began in 1882, which is still unfinished as of 2021, plus during my two visits to Barcelona in 2011 and 2016 with cranes still visible. It is expected to be completed by 2026, delayed yet again due to the ongoing pandemic. It will also mark one hundred years since Gaudí’s death in 1926, aged 73 after being hit by a streetcar in Barcelona. He is buried in the crypt inside Sagrada Familia.

I don’t exactly remember what day I went, but I had gone past it a few times during my four day stay and prior to going inside. I even photographed the outside a couple days before my visit.

To access the Sagrada Familia, I had to purchase the tickets from the tourist information centre (or tourist office). I had to choose a time slot when I wanted to go in. This was probably done to regulate on how many people could go inside at a time. I did come a little earlier than scheduled on the actual day, so to pass some time I had a hot chocolate at the Costa Coffee directly opposite. I was actually shocked to see a Costa in Spain!!

Anyway, once I got inside I was so amazed; it was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking, it felt so surreal due to the modern touches and detail. Gaudí allegedly said: “My client is not in a hurry,” possibly referring to God, also remarking on the long construction process. No wonder and not surprisingly, Gaudí probably had his focus on this project for so long. He had wanted the outcome to come out the way he had envisioned, but sadly only a small percentage was from completion when he died.

I spent some time walking through the basilica, carrying my heavy Canon DSLR and admiring my surroundings slowly – from the colourful stained glass windows to the perfectly carved ceiling. I couldn’t simply leave Barcelona without stopping by Sagrada Familia – that would be impossible, but I finally did it after all these years.

The Shot that has a thousand stories, probably one that I am most proud of

I would like to return again soon, since it was worth the four days, but this time I will be taking my film camera and some colour film!!

I would highly recommend anyone, who is planning on visiting Barcelona, to make sure you go to Sagrada Familia. It’s something to add onto the travel itinerary and worth the experience.

Take care and stay safe

Story Time Sunday: Valentine’s In Valencia

Story Time Sunday is a new feature on my blog, where I will be sharing a few personal anecdotes or interesting tangents from my life over the years. Most of them aren’t exactly photography related, although I will be sharing some photos and images in some posts.

My Story Times will be posted on the last Sunday of every month. I will try my best to make them short and sweet; something lighthearted and fun before the start of the new month.

Today’s Story Time Sunday is a throwback from February 2015, when I spent Valentine’s weekend in Valencia, Spain. I just wanted a break from university for a few days. Spoiler alert: this wasn’t a romantic getaway!!

Flags United: Valencian Community flag (left) and the Spanish flag (right)

My friend Zulaykha, who I have known since secondary school, was residing near the city at the time, where she was living with a host family. She was an assistant for a programme called CAPS, a language school helping Spanish children speak English, while taking a gap year from university.

We arranged to meet up during the weekend to go exploring around Valencia. We went to the famous huge indoor market, Mercado Central (translated as ‘Central Market’), where there were numerous stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dried foods and nuts – to name a good few.

For lunch we went to a small cafe, this is where I had the city’s most famous dish, paella. Mine consisted of rice, lobster (I believe), beans and a few vegetables. I was impressed, not to mention glad that I went out of my comfort zone by trying the local cuisine.

My paella dish was delicious. Whenever I go to Spain I would have a big pan of the stuff!!

Soon after we went to the Museum of Fine Arts, close to the city centre. We probably spent over an hour or so there, exploring a few rooms of various artists from over the centuries, including Spanish painter such as Francisco Goya, plus Valencia’s renowned artist Joaquin Sorolla.

My time with Zulaykha ended in the early evening. It was nice to meet up with her after all these months. Where she was staying was an hour away by train, so we said our goodbyes at the main station before I headed back to my hostel. I wouldn’t see her again until later on in the year back in London.

Now by myself, I spent the last couple of days exploring the city (again), the beach and hopping on the tour bus. I would also take photos of the wooden doors, something that really fascinated me, especially with the craft, patterns and design.

I decided to spend my final day at the City of Arts and Sciences (better known in Spanish as ‘Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias’). Thanks to the tourist pass I had, I went inside for free. I started off at the Museu de les Ciences Principe Felipe, where it housed many scientific artifacts and displays such as the human body, biology, physics and climate change.

Afterwards I went to L’Oceangrafic, literally opposite the science museum. It’s similar to an aquarium, but actually it is an oceanarium. I saw plenty of sea creatures and mammals, as well as many exotic fish and exotic birds.

L’Agora: opened in 2009, opposite Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe and next to the Assut de l’Or Bridge
L’Oceanogràfic: bigger inside than out

My time at the museums ended, so I went to the nearby beach, which I had already been through there a few times by then. I went to a bar there to have tapas – and it wasn’t the best; mine was lukewarm and not as appetising. The nuts I had at the side were a bit of a saving grace, at least it was nice.

I flew back to London on Monday morning, on the same day my dad had returned back to Jamaica some hours earlier. 

It had been almost four years since going to Spain at that time. It was nice to go again and go to another city along the coast.

Took a snap of this man, who was reading a Valencia guide book while near the beach!!

I did enjoy my time in Valencia. It was worth the weekend break; I think I covered what I had to do in a short amount of time with no itinerary at all. If I could, I would certainly return again, possibly work my way around the region heading towards Barcelona. Most likely stay for a week or two…

Take care and stay safe

Tried and Tested Thursday: Samsung in Seaford – Samsung A21s

For today’s Tried and Tested Thursday, I will be discussing shooting on a Samsung A21s mobile phone.

Last week Wednesday, I went on a day trip by myself to Seaford in East Sussex for the first time. I was originally meant to go on the 11th November, however the government announced another lockdown would begin from Thursday 5th November until Wednesday 2nd December. Thankfully I was able to bring the trip forward at the last minute.

Worth the long walk to take this photo. My boots got muddy during the process

I bought a new phone towards the end of last month, a Samsung A21s for £149.95 from Argos. It was on special offer at the time and I had really wanted an upgrade for a while. My previous phone was also a Samsung, model A3 2017 which I bought in October 2018. The old handset was running out of space, plus the operating system was a bit outdated, so I needed a faster and efficient replacement at a reasonable price.

For the last few years, my mobile phone has been my digital camera, since I sold my Canon DSLR that I had for a long time (still have the Canon Powershot in my drawer). The phone is lighter, quicker and convenient to use at any time. Alongside with my film cameras that I have, my mobile phone has been part of my photographic life and work.

The Seaford trip was a chance to test out my new phone’s camera and its functions. I also had two film cameras with me: Minolta X-700 and Olympus XA2, both loaded with Kodak Portra 800 and Kodak Tmax 400, respectively. They were enough to shoot for the one day.

Note: the photos posted are in their original size; no cropping. It is larger in terms of file size

I took my first Samsung shot as soon as I got off the bus, just a random direction sign. I noticed afterwards there was a small vignette in the corner of the photo. It could have been from the phone case.

I started my trek walking through the Seven Sisters National Park, along Cuckmere River heading towards Cuckmere Haven, to the beach, the cliffs and finishing off at the famous Coastguard Cottages. Initially, I didn’t anticipate how long it would take for me to go around the national park, but it was worth the whole day exploring non stop for hours until it went dark.

The sky was clear and the weather was quite nicer, a little bit of a breeze here and there. I took some shots while walking along the Cuckmere on my phone, plus both film cameras. It was quite a juggle!

This isn’t Photoshopped or anything like that! The filter managed to get a reflection of the pebbles on the beach

At first I was confused on why my phone took square-ish sized photos rather than the standard full size ones. Then I realised there were options of full size photos, similar to panoramas or landscapes (or portraits) depending on what way you hold the phone.

The first few photos down the Cuckmere were shot at 3:4, then I would switch into full size once reaching near to the cliff and beach. I would go back and forth both size settings throughout the day.

Another interesting feature on the Samsung A21s that I discovered, was the camera burst mode – similar to continuous shooting or al servo found on most DSLR cameras. I had to press firmly onto the shutter button, then the phone would take three or four continuous shots. Weirdly enough, they were saved on the phone’s internal drive rather than the SD card. Even my image gallery made a GIF from one of the burst mode shots.

A timelapse GIF of my journey. I stood still when taking this, not knowing it was on burst mode til later

Afternoon came, it would gradually get darker after 4pm. The sky would soon turn into a pastel gradient mixed with blues, oranges and even a tinge of red, with the sun dipping down. This was a great opportunity to capture the sunset, although it can be tricky at times to take them; making sure the shutter and aperture are on the right settings, as well as both the exposure and composition when using a film or digital camera. With some phone cameras, the exposure settings are just contrast and brightness. I chose to go full on automatic on mine and hope for the best soon after.

The shot of the Coastguard Cottages wasn’t exactly the way I had wanted it to be, nevertheless it’ll do for now. My attention would soon turn into making my way to the nearest bus stop heading back to the city centre.

I hope the film versions come out better

I went to a fish and chip restaurant called Trawlers, not too far from the train station. I didn’t eat anything for hours, only a bag of Doritos during a short break en route to the cliff.

Highly recommend Trawlers, btw!! The cod was perfect; the batter was crispy and tasty

I had to do the obligatory snap of my dinner. The camera has a food shot mode, which is basically a filter with a focus mode, similar to a depth of field on a standard camera. Note the mid section of the photo, the chips are in focus while the surrounding subjects such as the cutlery and salt/pepper shakers are blurry. Since food photography has gained popularity all thanks to social media, my guess is Samsung, if not other phone brands, added this feature to cater (no pun indeed) to its target audience of today’s social media generation or photography enthusiasts.

My muddy boots and joggers. My mum was shocked to see me when I got back home

So am I happy with my new phone overall? Yes!! I feel satisfied with the camera, also how easy it is to use – the apps, features and navigation. I can see myself having this phone for many years to come until it is due for another upgrade, hopefully not too soon!!

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: A Weekend in Milan

My third stop in Milan was short. Literally very short, just a weekend stint. It gave me the chance to relax and recharge before heading to my final destination to Venice on Monday.

The only way I could shoot Duomo was tilt my head up to avoid getting people in my photo

I have to be honest, Milan didn’t impress me much. I found it somehow overrated and underwhelming, although there were a few nice parts, the city itself didn’t ‘wow’ me.

I spent most of my time wandering around Piazza del Duomo where the Milan Cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are both located. Even that got boring quickly, however I had my camera to take candid shots of random passersby.

90 percent of people here were taking selfies

Milan does live up to its reputation as being the ‘fashion capital of the world’, with its famous fashion week hosted there twice a year, plus a variety of famous designer brands based in the city, such as Armani, Missoni, Valentino and Versace.

Almost everyone and anyone at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping centres, were fashion forward. It was like a never ending catwalk in the centre of Milan; almost everyone was dressed to impress. The Galleria has endless designer shops, restaurants, boutiques and even a luxurious hotel (since has closed).

The roof of the Galleria is absolutely amazing. I have to admit, I did really admire the Italian style architecture
A bar right outside the Galleria

The Piazza was the centre of the selfie obsessed tourists, many taking shots of themselves in front of the Cathedral. There were even some people selling selfie sticks left, right and centre for a couple of Euros. It was hard to get through crowds of people who possibly wanted a quick snap or a few! I went through a nearby park for some peace and quiet, which I can’t remember the name of but I know it is a reasonable walking distance. I think it is near a castle or a fort; it escapes me what it was.

Throughout my trip, I was in touch with Ivan, whom I met on the train from Zurich. He told me about Expo Milan (or Expo 2015), a world fair that was happening in the city with its theme based around ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy For Life’. I did see it advertised around Milan. The event began from May and ended in October 2015. Sadly, I didn’t go as my time was limited. I think Ivan went and asked if I wanted to come along.

Originally shot in colour. I had cropped it focusing on the four religious sisters, who were passing through the Piazza

Milan ended on an indifferent note. I don’t know if I would go back again in the future or not. I met a few people who shared similar experiences; not being overly impressed or found it boring. Had I explored more, maybe my opinion might have changed. Who knows…

The final stop of my solo trip was Venice, a two hour train ride heading towards Trieste close to the Slovenian border.

My trip would slowly come to a close the same week. I would return back to London life after spending ten days abroad discovering and exploring parts unknown. It would soon be back to normality on home turf.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Zurich to Milan – A Country Crossing

Saturday morning arrived, I departed from Switzerland to Italy. My first Italian stop was Milan, only for a couple of days until I went to my last stop in Venice.

I arrived at the main station early and because of my Interrail pass, I could take any train at any time. I decided to take the 11am one going straight to Milan, which was a four hour journey.

As I was looking for a seat in the second class carriage, while dragging my suitcase and heavy backpack, I bumped into (not literally) an Italian man who was also looking for a seat. We were like, ‘we’ll settle here’. We sat opposite each other throughout the whole journey, just talking about travelling, Switzerland, Italy and the fact his name is Ivan (unusual for an Italian name) and his surname is Ferrari. He stated he didn’t own the namesake car, however he knew someone with the same surname who did.

He told me that he spent some time in Zurich and was heading back home. I believed he stopped at Como S. Giovanni station, although he lived somewhere in the Ferrara Province along the coast. Thankfully our interesting conservations didn’t stop there, we have been in touch through Facebook Messenger ever since.

A big lake that I don’t know the name of, however it is far away from Zurich

During the train journey, I was admiring the lovely scenic views; the mountains, the lakes and beautiful landscapes. I took out my camera to shoot some shots, trying to avoid getting reflections or lens flare in my photos. This was the starting point of capturing scenic journeys on transport, train or bus (odd occasion on the plane), especially if they go through interesting places. Not only did I admire the Swiss scenery, but also the architecture heading towards the Ticino region – the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, where the buildings were Italian style mainly Neoclassical and Villa inspired.

I arrived at Milan Centrale a little after 3pm. My hostel was literally around the corner and was easy to find. I was ready to relax and unwind during my short time in the city.

This was my first time ever crossing the border to another country, as well as doing an open jaw flight. It wouldn’t be the last time I would be doing city stops or leaving from another place, or going through different countries. It was an enjoyable experience many times over.

I am quite proud of myself that I managed to accomplish this on my own, looking back in retrospect. I never thought I would ever do this in my lifetime.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Friday Night in Zurich

It was my last night in Zurich before I departed for Milan the next morning. I went out and about in the evening in the city centre near the main station.

Lake Zurich from the port

I remember that night being so peaceful, close to being quiet. I wanted to capture Zurich’s nightlife on camera as well as experience it first hand. I shot mainly candids of people walking about and shop fronts, almost in the same vein as the street photography I did back in London with the Canon DSLR.

The evening sky went from a dark pastel gradient to pitch black within a short space of time. Thankfully I wasn’t out for too long as I had to get my stuff packed and get up early the following day.

I enjoyed my brief stay in the city. I think I did quite a lot during the three days I was there, apart from exploring Old Town and going to Lake Zurich, although I did see some part of it from the port.

I loved going through Zurich’s main station, where it had a cool water feature with illuminating lights. The station was probably Switzerland’s answer to London’s Kings Cross or Euston Station. It was very spacious with many platforms; trains going to other places in the country, also across borders to Italy, Germany, France and Austria.

The good news is that I’m travelling to Switzerland next month, where I will be spending my birthday mostly in the mountains. I will be starting from Zurich, then through to Lucerne and ending in Geneva. I only booked everything ‘last minute’ just Sunday gone (at the time of writing and typing this).

A rickshaw whizzing through the city centre

It has been three years since I was last in Switzerland, and Zurich was the last place I had been to (via Germany).

I’m beyond excited. I am counting down the days.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Kunsthaus and A Wander

Note: I apologise for the severe delays. I decided to put a halt on the Solo Travel series for a bit as I had heavy work commitments last week. So for now, I will be posting as much as I can before this month ends. Thank you and apologies again

My next stop was Zurich, which was around two hours away by train from Geneva. I remember that day well; it was over 30 celsius and was very hot. I had to drag my suitcase up the stairs at the station near to my hostel. My stay in Zurich was only for three days until I went across the border to Italy.

During my stay, I went museum and gallery hopping. I probably went to at least three or four museums/galleries in one day, but my most memorable one (and possibly favourite) was the Kunsthaus Zurich. It has a collection of art from all over the world, including Swiss artists, most notably Alberto Giacometti, who is well known for his sculptures. It was the first time seeing his work at a gallery. A couple years later, the Tate Modern in London would have a Giacometti exhibition of his work that was rarely seen in public for many years; from sculptures, prints to paintings.

I did some wandering and exploring around Zurich in between museum stops. I took trams to various places, even walked to few such as the city centre.

I did my usual candid shots in the city of everyday life, like I did in Geneva and even in Italy. I tried to obscure people’s faces by shooting from behind with some successful and some not, nevertheless I was satisfied with them. I was able to do some wonders during the editing process on Photoshop with some subtle changes and tweaks.

Sadly I missed the chance to go around Old Town, which happens to be very close to the main station. It would have been great for street candids and shots especially during the day, and also capture the classic Swiss architecture such as the churches and old buildings.

I would eventually return back to Switzerland some months later in May 2016, and yes I would eventually go through Zurich’s Old Town at last and finally see the lake during the day!

Take care and stay safe