Out of the Mountains and Down to the Sea

MONTERRICO, GUATEMALA–Looking out to the Pacific. The coast of Guatemala feels like an entirely different world than the highlands. Fuji X-Pro1, 7 Artisans 18mm f/6.3
UFO lens

By Andrew J. Tonn

MONTERRICO — The road straightens out after the turns and twists of the highlands and it feels like you are sliding towards the coast down a palm-lined slide.  The change comes on suddenly.  You have fought the traffic to get free of Guatemala City and corkscrewed down the mountain.  You are in one environment and then you are in another.  Mountain trees give way to the vegetation of Central America’s low, hot plains.  When you roll down the windows the cool, thin air is now thick with heat and water and the smells of the coast.  Slow-water mangrove swamps, fish, sweat, palms, corn, coconut, salt, oil, smoke, and the sea.  Your hands relax on the wheel and your foot comes off the gas and the sun is a different kind of bright.

There is an enervating quality to the Guatemalan highlands.  They exist in a state of semi-dreaming, a relatively vast region of transition.  There are places where the vale between worlds seems thinner, where you feel the hand of the Creator and that you might step through to somewhere else if not careful.  I have felt this in Varanasi, in parts of the Navajo Nation, in Oaxaca, and once in a strange thicket of woods in central Ohio.  But the whole of the Guatemalan Highlands has this feel of being not entirely of the physical realm, a place of smoking volcanoes, water, and clouds between two vast continent, hot and fertile, cold and rocky, crushed into a narrow isthmian land by the fist of God Almighty.

You often don’t realize you have been living in this waking dream until you leave.  The sun in Antigua is hot and bright and will burn you like Icarus, so you stay to cool shadows.  Purple flowers fall from trees like rain.  The mountain nights grow cold and sometimes you see red lava glowing on black volcanoes.  The longer you spend at Lake Atitlan, the harder it is to escape.  You are deep in the crater of an ancient volcano, with the water filling it deeper still.  Every moment the clouds change, the surface of the lake changes, the wind brings a different feeling and after long, the act of packing up and finding transport and lifting oneself out of the caldera seems just a little too hard.  It is one of my favorite places but I determined long ago I would never be fully seduced by it.  It is not my native home nor do I desire to make it so.  It is my favorite place but I always feel an almost breathless relief upon leaving it, feel the spell of suddenly broken and it is later hard to remember exactly how it felt and what kept you in thrall.

So it is leaving the mountains for the coast.  When you see the palm trees and smell the sweet bitter salt of the ocean, you are free of the mountain’s glamour.  Under the mountain’s spell you seem relaxed but you are under an unrealized tension, existing in a liminal space where maybe we are not made to spend to long, at least not without surrender.  Maybe if you eat the lotus the tension will leave and you can stay on and on, forgetting year by year what came before until you too disappear into the mist.

A Single Photo: A Bucket of Baby Sea Turtles

MONTERRICO–A local Guatemalan NGO prepares to release hundreds of baby sea turtles into the Pacific Ocean. Note, this is a color photo. The baby turtles are all black and grey. Fuji XT-4 with 35mm f/2 Fujinon.

MUDDY BUDDY JEEP JAM ’18 AND THE FUJI X100F

When I set off to any event, I bring a camera I can trust, one that I’ve extensively used in the field and know is reliable. I’ve never used the Fuji X100F in the field as a primary, actually I’ve never done anything more than shoot a few photos and toss it back in my bag. It’s the only digital camera I took with me to cover the Muddy Buddy Jeep Jam 2018.

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THE WILDS or A JEEP AMONG LAND ROVERS

It may look like deepest Africa with fields stretching over rolling hills and wide open plains that resemble the Serengeti, but it is, in fact, The Wilds of Ohio. The Wilds is a nature preserve filled with African wildlife. Every so often, this wildlife refuge was home to an off-road event exclusive to those who owned a Land Rover. We brought a Jeep.

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TOLEDO JEEP FEST 2018 & THE LEICA 28/ƒ5.6 SUMMARON M RERELEASE

This weekend, right in Jeeps hometown where the legend is created, was the Toledo Jeep Fest. Thousands of Jeeps show up for 3 days of celebration of all things Jeep. From the Friday night headliner (this year it was KC & The Sunshine Band) to the collectible and historic Jeep show at the Seagate center and the parade with over 1600 Jeeps.  The Toledo Jeep Fest is widely regarded as one of, if not the best, Jeep show in the nation. Saturday I got in my own Jeep, headed north and took the newly rereleased Leica 28/ƒ5.6 Summaron lens with the M10 along for the ride.

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QUADRATEC 5/8TH” D-RING SHACKLE

I’ve had my 2012 Jeep JK for almost 2 yrs now, and one of the first things I did was swap out the front bumper and install the D-ring shackle mounts. These mounts bolt on directly through the bumper. The bolt goes in through the rear of the bumper, forward into the shackle mount. I tossed on a couple of Quadratec D-Rings and rode off into the sunset.  Continue reading “QUADRATEC 5/8TH” D-RING SHACKLE”

THE 1959 CJ-5 RESTORE: PART 1

I’ve always wanted an old classic Jeep. Ever since I was a little boy and got my first Matchbox Jeep.  The model has changed throughout the years, it’s been a Scrambler, a CJ and even a Wagoneer, but the idea of bombing around town and trails in a proper classic Jeep has always been a dream.

In Sevierville Tenn, just a couple hours from Nashville was sitting a 1959 CJ-5, the price was right, the engine had just been rebuilt and it was surprisingly free of visible rust and damage, showing no signs of ever having lived a life off-road, it even came already equipped with manually locking hubs. This would be the perfect starting point for me to build the classic Jeep I’d always wanted….

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FILSON WORK GLOVES (GOATSKIN)

Filson makes a lot of excellent gear, from rifle cases to shirts, pants and duffle bags. They have a rich history as an American outfitter and a reputation for uncompromising quality, but gloves are an easy thing to get wrong.

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GOBI RACK AXE/TOOL MOUNT

Not too long ago I made the choice to go with GOBI (review coming later) for Yeti 1’s roof rack, not just because of the racks overall quality but because of the range of add-ons offered from GOBI. GOBI is a premium product that comes at a premium price. But how about the accessories?

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JEEP JAMBOREE AT BADLANDS OFFROAD PARK 2018 UPDATE: DAY 2 ((Published 2018/06/02)

Day 2 at the Indy Jeep Jamboree! I love driving my Jeep, and I had a fantastic time day 1 at the Jamboree. But this being my first Jamboree it was difficult jumping in and out of my own rig all day while trying to capture photos of the event and really get a feel for the Jamboree. So here on day 2, I rode along with one of my fellow Jeepers (Thanks Eric!) so I could focus on capturing the event. Today we visited The Badlands rock quarry and ventured further into the woods through creek beds and rock gardens…  Continue reading “JEEP JAMBOREE AT BADLANDS OFFROAD PARK 2018 UPDATE: DAY 2 ((Published 2018/06/02)”