A Moment In Time, Rincon, Puerto Rico

Last week the New York Times ran a wonderful interactive photographic project called "A Moment in Time." On Sunday at 15:00 GMT or 11A here in PR around the world photographers were invited to submit images of their place and circumstances. The photographs were placed on a fabulous rotating globe and sorted by topic, location and recommendation votes.

Here is the photograph I submitted:

It was taken with a telephoto-lens just down the beach from the Lemontree... as seen from our main courtyard. Sunday is a slow day here and the morning unfolded quietly. Down the beach are beach houses which have been in families for a couple of generations. A morning of family, calm and tranquility.

You can check out the image in the NYTimes here as well as read about the entire project.

At this time this image has been the most recommended in the Puerto Rico pile.

A Sunrise and Sunset in Rincon, Puerto Rico

Yesterday, I was up just after the sun rose, and as I customary do, I stepped out onto the terrace for a look around. This time of year the sunrise has moved from due East, over the mountains towards the Northeast and is partly blocked by the mountains. The scene was not particularly unusual, actually rather ordinary for a tropical sunrise. The day would be calm, at least until 2:00 pm when the rains would come... clearing off an hour or so later. I think it was just the ordinariness that attracted me. I had my 35mm lens mounted and just shot off a couple of frames.

Here is what I saw:

The day moved on and errands were run. We had a wonderful visit from our oldest son, freshly returned from the mainland, and brimming with stories and anecdotes. Just before dinner, I stepped out onto the terrace and saw the beginnings of sunset. The boaters heading for home and the pelicans looking for a last meal before they snugged down in a tree.

Here is the scene:

The sun sets now to the West/Northwest and so the light that you see looking due East is reflected light, with the light brighter higher up in the sky and shadows appearing towards the water.

It struck me that the two images, early morning and late afternoon were parallel scenes... with just the direction of the light separating them. In another blog I wrote that we tend to keep track of the passing of the day by the sun... certainly much more profoundly and meaningfully that we ever did in New York City.

That low door in the wall in Rincon, PR

Today was a paperwork day, some revision of the advertising for the Lemontree and then tax matters. In thinking about copy for the Lemontree I wanted to speak to the essence or soul of the experience that guests have when they stay with us. So much of advertising is written in "real-estate speak"... grandiose with promise of extraordinary amenities and luxury. Well... for us this place is an enveloping experience not just a swank bedroom for a couple of nights... its also a place for love... of all kinds and of privacy away from the rush of media and hard edged demands of a social scene. We welcome people of all persuasions looking for... something not to be had in their cities at home. It was then I recalled a quote from Brideshead Revisited... here it is:

"But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that gray city."

I realized then that for many guests, the Lemontree could be that low door in the wall ...for grownups looking to reawaken their spirits here in our enchanted garden by the sea.

Conjunto del Sol takes Rincon, PR

Suerte!... our band, Conjunto del Sol, has been active this month with three public performances. The most recent was last night at a fund raising and social gathering of the International Friendship Club. The setting was the restaurant Fagon de la Curva on Carr 115 in Rincon. We played on the roof top bar as the sun set. Our play list consists of about 12 numbers. What makes our group distinctive is that we play traditional Puerto Rican songs on traditional instruments. Here on the island the ancient hill's tradition is for small groups of family and friends who gather to play and listen to the old tunes... and so we participate by sharing with others our love of the Isla and of its traditions.

Last night friends from the North were down visiting... we had not seen them for many many years and so it was a double pleasure... to play and to visit. Denny took some video of the group... Bella playing the Tiple, Charlie on the Bordonua, Chela on the Guiro and Chucho on the Bongo. In the first clip, we are playing Fiesta en Naranjito, a lively song with an engaging lilt. In the second clip, we are playing an island favorite, Verde Luz. Many people started to sing as we played this song. The words are below.
Here are two clips (only a small segment of each song)... enjoy.

These are the words to Verde Luz...first in Spanish and then in English.

Verde luz de monte y mar, Green light of mountain and sea,
isla virgen del coral, virgin island coral
si me ausento de tus playas primorosas, if I miss your exquisite beaches,
si me alejo de tus palmas silenciosas, if I move away from your palms silent
quiero volver, quiero volver. I want to return, I want to return.

A sentir la tibia arena To feel the warm sand
a dormir en tus riberas, to sleep on your shores,
isla mía, flor cautiva, Island mine, flower captive
para ti quiero tener. I have for you.

Libre tu cielo, Free your sky,
sola tu estrella only your star
isla doncella, quiero tener, island girl, I have,
verde luz de monte y mar. letra traduzca light green mountains and sea.

Valentines Day, Rincon, PR

Here in Puerto Rico, we are very sentimental. Valentines Day always brings a flurry of activity as folks scramble for their special valentine's flowers and candy. One doesn't have to look far though, as the roadsides are crowded with stands selling flowers, candy and large baskets for your sweetheart. Some of the vendors take to the street, as the fellow in the photograph above, so there is absolutely no excuse for forgetting your valentine's gift!

Sounds of the lapping waves in Rincon, PR

Last night I was out on the terrace listening to the waves and I was reminded of how often guests have told me how much they enjoy going to sleep listening to the waves. I took the video below of those lapping waves. It was darker than usual and so without the shine of the moon, the video is dark/black. You can hear the waves though and almost imagine yourself with your eyes closed, drifting off to sleep. Push the button and listen...

This morning I went out onto the terrace, was greeted by the waves again and saw this incredible sunrise...isn't the sun brilliant on the water?

Below is a little video of the lapping waves from this morning.
Nighttime and morning, the waves are with us, gently ebbing back and forth, beseeching us to relax and dream.

A Parallel Universe... in Rincon PR

The light that comes to the earth from the sun consists of short wave length ultraviolet light, visible light and longer wavelength infrared light. The largest fraction of light is actually infrared. Our eyes can see only in the visible light range. Existing side by side with what we take for ordinary visual reality is a parallel reality created by the reflection of infrared light, to which our eyes are insensitive. One can use a filter on a camera to block out all but infrared light and then record images that are created by the reflection of infrared light off surfaces.

One of the technical problems with making photographs using infrared light is that it takes a longer time to make such an exposure. Thus, if you use an infrared filter you usually should use a tripod to steady the camera and avoid motion blur from any small movements of the camera.

I have worked previously with infrared exposures of landscapes and I'm sure that you have seen images such as the one below of the Lemontree... taken yesterday using an infrared filter. Usually these images are converted into black and white photographs as you see.

In these images the green foliage is rendered as white because chlorophyll fluoresces the infrared light. Like the tropics with snow?!

Without the benefit of a tripod I also made a couple of other infrared photographs. One a portrait and the other of shaded leaves in a tree.

What is really cool about this use is that infrared seems to hide imperfections and shows the skin with a smooth porcelain like glow. She was looking almost directly into the sun, as you can see from her eyes, and yet the photograph is not blownout and looks rather intriguing.

Finally this last image was taken under the canopy of a large tree on the beach... again hand-held.

While there is some motion blur, what I really like is how the leaves are rendered in white and the veins and termite trails are shown as black. It produces a great design and an almost abstract take on the tree branch.

It is possible to have a digital camera permanently converted infrared. This then makes it possible to capture this non-visible part of the spectrum just like shooting in the visible range. Here is a site that offers tutorials and a camera conversion service. Should you decide to do a conversion and try infrared, let us know how you like it!

Sylvia, the rehersal for ARF Benefit, Rincon, PR

So much activity and so few blog entries... oh my. These include a great New Year, an opening of Todd's new photography exhibition at Rincon of the Seas, work on a new musical play-list in preparation for our performance in early February, the return of high season here at the Lemontree and... ta ta, moving the rehearsal with Rincon Players into high gear.

Yesterday, the players in our play reading group, Rincon Players, went to the venue for our staged reading of Sylvia on behalf of ARF, the Rincon Animal Rescue Foundation. We began to work out the blocking for the production and to consider some of the challenges of the space for performing the actual production. The performance is scheduled for the 17th of February and so, we have our work cut out for us!

Big waves continue in Puerto Rico

We went up to Isabela yesterday afternoon late. The waves up there were amazing so we took this still and video! Still rolling in STRONG. Puerto Rico has experienced waves this large and powerful only twice in the past ten years...March 2009 and Now. Usually the waves here are much more gentle and behind the Lemontree we often have "lakelike" conditions. Soooo, these waves bring us joy and excitement and the thrill of seeing something that seldom happens. We've still had guests in the water here at the Lemontree and surfing on the northern beaches of Rincon. Living right on the ocean one comes to take each day as it is presented and enjoying the thrill of what nature brings to us.

Big waves come to Rincon, PR

The surf and weather report forecast big waves coming to the northern coast line of Puerto Rico and thus Rincon's northern beaches. I decided to go over to the northern beaches and see what was happening. I went to Domes near the lighthouse park. I took the video of the waves rolling in. My camera isn't equipped with a telephoto lens so I couldn't capture the big ones that were far off and yet you will get the impact of the waves and the sound of them rolling in.

Then, I went on up to Maria's Beach and watched for awhile. The folks in the photo above were "would-be surfers" but the waves were a too big! Cars were parked along all of the surfing beaches with everyone eyeing the waves and wishing they could be out in the crashing surf.

The last video I took south of Maria's looking north. Again, you will be able to get a sense of the waves impact as they hit the beach. There are a few surfers out there and will look like dark specs in the video!

Parranda in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico

Yesterday was a wonderful day. We invited by a good friend who is active in a local Parranda in San Sebastian called Los Nietos de Papa or Grandchildren of the Father, to join in and follow the group. At Christmas time, many towns host these large semi-professional groups of musicians and costumed dancers as they make their way from house to house on large trucks. The groups are followed by a small caravan of cars and some smaller trucks with advertising. Traffic is blocked and at one point we could hear at least three parrandas moving around San Sebastian. The groups stop at homes to which they are invited and play a set complete with joyous and sometimes frenzied dancing. The group of musicians and caravaners is feted along with the neighbors with refreshments and light snacks. The progression of playing and singing continues well into the night. For this particular day, the Parranda finished its day at a local amusement park and entertained about 5,000 people!

Our day began early with a stop at the organizing point. Here all of the dancers gathered and the group was fed well... Typically the day begins with an asopao (thick soup) but today we were served another Christmas staple, lechon (roasted pork). After a benediction and dedication to this year's parranda, the players, dancers and followers mounted up and began the progression.

While these large parrandas play a particular variety of music and the show is top notch, the concept of the parranda and the playing of live music by small groups of local musicians is alive at all levels of play and performance. At a family gathering, a couple of family members may take out their insruments and play the favorites... or a small group of friends may play at one of the hundreds of holiday parties. Though it is without the benefit of a large sound truck and dancers... the same spirit of joy and love of music and place are present.

Christmas Meal at the Lemontree, Rincon PR

Today is Christmas Day in Puerto Rico and across this green island families are gathering, meals are being prepared, enjoyed and shared. Marilyn, the assistant manager here at the Lemontree, told us that she would bring by a Christmas meal for us... and wow did she, all the Puerto Rican favorites. Of course the lechon... pasteles, rice and gandules, macaroni salad and potato salad... and to top it off, a delicious postre.

This year our oldest son who teaches at the University in Mayaguez is with us... and so with the help of some coquitos ( a PR Christmas drink we actually created this year) and the movie, Holiday Inn, we watched and heard Bing Crosby sing White Christmas (click and you can too!) while outside the sun shone, the waves gently lapped up on the beach and the palms swayed. How is that for multiculturalism?

In a little while we will go off to a friend's house for and evening Christmas dinner... ah yes...the Christmas spirit is alive and very happy in Rincon, Puerto Rico.

Christmas Parties in Rincon, PR

The time has come and all over town Christmas parties have been offered. Friends inviting friends, family gatherings and music especially Parandas... more on these at a later date.

This evening we went to the home of a good friend who participates with us in one of several overlapping groups. She had invited about 25 others who we see during the year... all full time residents. The food was excellent as she is an incredible cook and baker... the conversation and catching up was delightful.

Of course there was some music in the form of an electric keyboard. Bella Janehas been eying these instruments for some time and tonight she had a chance to try one out and to see it demonstrated by a real pro-what fun!

A word about these photos. It is said that the best camera is the one you have with you... and so it was tonight. These three shots were taken with a very old cell phone camera... e-mailed and picked up on an ipod touch and quickly edited and then sent back by e-mail for posting on this blog. All work on mobile devices...whew, do we live in a technological age! The photos created have the presence of a glance and so you have gotten a peek into our Lemontree life tonight.

Reflected Landscape at Rincon of the Seas, Rincon PR

Today marks the official opening of my (Todd Davis) new exhibition of photographs at the hotel Rincon of the Seas. The show includes 13 black and white images and two very large infrared panoramas. I have been shooting in and around Rincon for several years and this show marks a departure from most of my work. Usually, when we think of the tropics we do so in color... hot and saturated. In doing so, our seduction by the color masks the extraordinary forms and subtle tonalities that are all around us. For those of us who live here full time, we can become habituated to the drama of the changing landscape. So, to return some of the freshness and vibrancy to looking, I have chosen to capture the tropics in black and white. All of the images have been shot in Rincon. I have printed the images on Velvet Fine Art Paper which enables a much richer viewing experience.

The show is noted in the El Coqui and a featured event and runs from December 20 till February 20. You can see the images at Rinconimages.com, look for the Reflected Landscape gallery.

If you are interested in owning a print they are comfortably priced at $99 for a framed and matted image and just $55 rolled. The panoramas are offered at $299 framed and $99 rolled, shipping is additional. To purchase please call 787-546-8858.

Christmas has come to the Lemontree, Rincon, PR

Christmas or Natividad has crept up on us this year. We had been slowly getting the Lemontree decorated with bows and wreaths but today we caught fire and the Lemontree blazed with light. Here in Puerto Rico we are a bit late as most people set up their decorations over Thanksgiving weekend. Many houses are decorated to the hilt so our yule display is a bit, how shall I put this... minimalist... . The central courtyard is festooned with lights, some with little Frosty the Snowmen..., illuminated candy canes and our festively lit palm. Here we celebrate till Epiphany or as it is known in the Spanish world, Three Kings Day.

Bright rope lights go up the stairs and illuminated wreaths add holiday cheer. Recently in San Juan we saw a kind of shooting star or falling star light which if we can find it might find a place at Lemontree next year.

We also set up our own tree which is positioned in our sun room and so is visible to our guests. Years ago we created a "tree of life" and continuing that tradition, our tree is still decorated with ornaments signifying "life." Collected from many holidays to various places and visits to museums and shops, we have animals of the jungle and farm, glass fruits, vegetables and berries, fish, birds, and sparkle is added with glass icicles. Taking out the ornaments and hanging them, memories of Christmas's past flooded back. Funny how a simple little ornament can spark so much.

Don Jaime Alicea, and heart of Puerto Rico

This Sunday, we and our friend Dennis, had a very powerful experience. We visited Master Artesano Don Jaime Alicea in Vega Baja. Don Jaime is a maker of the traditional instrument of Puerto Rico, the Cuatro. He welcomed us into his very modest home, sited up in the hills with the La Cordillera Central in the background and just a glimpse of the Atlantic. His workshop has an uneven dirt floor and wooden shutters for windows, and yet, from the ceiling were hanging some of the most magnificent musical instruments I have ever seen. In the center was his workbench with several unfinished cuatros in various stages of construction. The cabinet doors around the shop are fully adorned with some old, some newer signed pictures of world class musicians who have come to Don Jaime for cuatros which he has created for decades from native Puerto Rican woods.

Its difficult to convey in words the quality of the workmanship he puts into the instruments but I can give you a sense of how they sound. Check out this and this and this for a bit of heaven as played by Don Jaime. He passionate playing is of the tradition of the hills of Puerto Rico - powerful and with exuberance.

We felt honored to have the opportunity to see his taller and to handle and pluck the strings of his instruments. We shared an intimate hour with him, listening to him play his powerful songs, drinking the sweet coffee brought to us by his wife and simply basking in the warmth and gentle glow of his taller.

Visitors to Puerto Rico usually focus on the high rise mega hotels and beaches of the San Juan metro area or the beaches of Rincon and the west. What are often missed are the treasures of the hills and mountains. Up high, people have been living for centuries, buffered from drag of popular culture. Here the musical traditions of Puerto Rico's past continue. Musicians like Don Jaime and hundreds and hundreds more are called marquesetta (sort of like back porch) musicians. They are passionate players of Puerto Rican music and have unbeatable skills, yet are modest, religious, and steeped in family and the traditions of 500 years. It is through this music of the island that the cultural integrity of Puerto Rico continues to be lived.

Reflecting on our visit, I realized that it wasn't just the quality of the instruments or the passionate music that we left considering. We left realizing we had just met a great and gentle man. He isn't puffed up or boastful, he is simply a master artesano of the cuatro who continues to create them to be played by others who share his passion.

Brown Booby at the Lemontree in Rincon PR

Yesterday we received a call from our neighbor. A most unusual bird had landed on her terrace. She wanted us to look out and see what the bird might be. It was at some distance but I knew at once it was a Brown Booby. Very exciting as very rarely do we see one of these. The only other time I remember was five years ago when I was working as a dive instructor on one of my first trips out to Mona Island... I was leading a tour and we had just surfaced when one of these birds landed just a few feet from me. It would duck its head under the water and look around, probably for fish... assuredly not at me. These birds are native to the Caribbean and yet are rarely seen. Here at the Lemontree we regularly see Pelicans, gulls, Frigate birds and Sandpipers by the shore, but not these Boobys.

Today I was surprised to see the bird again, but on our terrace. I grabbed my camera and slowly began to shoot moving carefully closer and closer. I was sure the bird would take off but no, he just stayed calm and kept an eye on me.

The boobys are reputed to be long lived and mate in stable pairs. When I lived in the city I never came into contact with a creature that was not man-impacted in some way. Yet, here by the shore, one has the possibility of all kinds of encounters with the world as it might have been a thousand years ago. The basic rhythms, melodies and the occasional adornos eternal.

December Sunrise over Anasco Bay, Rincon, PR

A couple of mornings ago I woke up a bit earlier than usual... although we rise typically with the dawn. Perhaps it was Irene the cat meowing to go out to greet the guests or perhaps just a sense that I had slept sufficiently. I went out to our central courtyard and lo and behold looking due East... just before the sun crested the mountains, was the most dramatic display of clouds and light and color I have seen in several months.

The posted picture really captures the vista. The reds and purples, the dramatic shape and texture of the clouds, and then the yellow with tinges of pink on the horizon following the rising sun.

Of course, many of our guests like to sleep in... after all it is a vacation and some no doubt have been out the night before... yet here by the sea many follow the rhythm of the day and also rise early... catching the cool morning breeze, ready for what the day holds.