What a year, eh? Here’s a look back on the year through my eyes.
In late January I flew to Eugene, Oregon, where I was hosted for several days by friend and fellow global photographer Paul Jeffrey and his wife Lyda. I drank coffee, read an article about the first person-to-person spread in the U.S. of this thing called Covid-19, and wandered around Eugene, including to the campus of the University of Oregon to photograph student life (see above).
In early February, after a few days in Seattle, I spent several days on the Olympic Peninsula, hosted by another friend. We made a day trip to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the continental United States (see above). I also took the ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, and spent parts of three days there before heading back to Washington State and, on February 18, catching a red-eye to New York City.
My stay in New York was brief — about 12 hours — but that was enough time to walk several miles and take pictures, including of these mounted NYPD officers.
And for all the negatives about social media, it was thanks to Instagram that two friends realized they would be in NYC at the same time. I first met Marta in the Spanish city of Malaga in 2014, and then saw her again for a few hours in Zurich in 2018. For our third visit, we met up in Manhattan in order to ride the train together to JFK airport. The hour flew by, as we were about to do — she to Madrid, and I to Helsinki.
I was in Helsinki only for a couple hours, waiting to catch a flight to Tallinn, where I spent about a week — again with a gracious host who early one snowy morning would hug me goodbye, even though I was sick and smelled poorly of onions from the previous night’s dinner at an Azerbaijani restaurant.
From Tallinn I took a bus to Tartu (see above) and stayed two weeks, enjoying the city, the people I met, and the university library and a couple fine cafes where I did some writing. It was while in Tartu that the world began to rapidly move toward states of emergency as the coronavirus turned into an urgent pandemic.
I took a bus to Latvia’s capital, Riga, and stayed at a hostel I had fallen in love with in 2015, the Tree House Hostel. But less than 24 hours after arriving, the government announced that the borders would shut, beginning in about 48 hours. Like most of the rest of the hostel, I hopped onto a laptop or phone and urgently worked on a plan. For me, in the end, the plan was to catch a flight back to the States. Flight booked, I joined three other people from the hostel for an afternoon train trip to the beach in Jurmala, where we walked together and shared a meal, all of us aware that something dramatic was taking place in the world, and that in going home the next day, we would be going to something new, too. This knowledge, this moment in history, bonded us. We took the train back to Riga at sunset (see above) — the last sunset I would see in Europe in 2020.
Aeroflot set me down in JFK on March 16, and everything felt very different compared to when I had left JFK just four weeks earlier. I stayed most of a week in New York City — again grateful for hosts, especially ones who would put you up during the onset of a pandemic — and wandered 60 miles on foot around the city, taking pictures. I took in the eery emptiness too; it was as if a wave of unknown size and force was about to hit the city, and its shadow was already being cast.
From New York I flew to central Florida, where I would stay with family through the end of 2020. Never in my life had I gone nine months without moving beyond such a tight radius to home. Contrary to popular perception though, I mostly didn’t mind since I had plenty to keep me occupied.
In addition to working on a book about the Camino de Santiago (still in progress), I worked on several other home-based projects, including making pictures of thousands of pieces of memorabilia and travel artifacts. Why? This was partly in case a hurricane one day destroys my stuff. But it was also a way to spend time with the past and retrace how I got to where — and who — I am now. In the process, I also stumbled upon another book idea.
The picture above, by the way, is a 1997 Athens-Corinth train ticket. It was in a letter to Corinth that the Apostle Paul wrote about love being patient, kind, etc. And it was on the train from Corinth to Athens, holding this ticket, that I saw a man on a motorcycle try to beat my train at an intersection and lose his life.
I also worked on several photo galleries for my website, including one sharing a photo from each day walking the Camino de Santiago.
On Election Day, November 3, I took my cameras out of home hibernation and walked through the neighborhood, photographed a few campaign signs, and then walked to a nearby voting precinct. In the picture above, two Trump supporters are waving to traffic at about 7:00 p.m. as polls closed.
In mid December, my family stayed a week in Cocoa Beach — a vacation tradition for us since the early 1990s. Cape Canaveral is nearby, and SpaceX made their 26th and final launch of 2020 at the end of our week there. What you see in this picture is the rocket booster returning for landing, several minutes after launching its payload into orbit. Incredible.
I wish us all well in 2021.
If you would like to help support my work financially in 2021, you can do so monthly via Patreon, where contributions begin at $2/month, or with a one-time contribution via PayPal. I can’t promise your contribution will bring world peace, but I can promise it will be used well.
Thanks to all who have been part of my journey this year, in big ways and small, whether I had onion breath or had just brushed my teeth, whether I was on the road or confined to home.