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Nature Photography in Panama

b 14 nature photography

Our time in Panama was a photographic treat. The country was lush, we were living in the middle of a growth of coffee trees, there was an animal rescue center in town that was about the size of a small zoo. They had everything there from large cats to parrots to monkeys. We went there a number of times and one of my finest photographs was taken there. The picture is a beautifully curved orange lily leaf and it probably took me 45 minutes to figure out how in the world to photograph it correctly.

b 15 curved lily

Photography is my art-form: when I decide to photograph an object it generally takes me from 20 to 40 minutes to work out the correct distance, angle, light, and lens. I also have to check depth of field every time I change lenses. As I mentioned above, photography lets me see things differently. But, it takes a while.

slave mindi and I could not take very many side trips, because of the nature of her job. She is what is called a “utilization review” nurse and needs a notebook computer that drives two different video screens because she is concurrently working in two databases. This means that if we want to take a trip that involves more than a weekend, we need to take the entire set-up with us — and then she has to work during normal working hours. It's hard to take side trips under those conditions. We only made a few excursions, but those we took were extraordinary.

With Moty Hen as our guide, we made two weekend trips: a tour of a one-man sugarcane processing facility, and the tour of a very small cigar manufacturing company.

b 16 boiling sugarcane

While the cigar manufacturing company had only six people rolling cigars from the tobacco leaves, you could see in one building the entire process from the arrival of newly dried tobacco leaves, through the drying and storage of those leaves, to cutting them up and distributing them to the people who are rolling the cigars, to the presses that compacted the leaves that resulted in the final product. You also saw the process of putting each cigar into cellophane and depositing them in cigar boxes. From there the boxes ended up in a substantial room that was carefully controlled for humidity.

b 17 cigar press

Before leaving this section, I’d like to put a plug in for Moty Hen. He is a really amazing/interesting man. He’s Israeli, but he came to Panama in 1984. Over his years traveling around Panama, he’s become something of a private guide. It’s not his primary line of work, but he’s amazing at it. If you can explain the kinds of experiences you’d like, he’ll arrange it. Deep-sea fishing? Visiting an indigenous tribe? Bird watching? He and his wife (Rita) were working on creating a bed-and-breakfast at the end of our time, there. Here’s a link to it. Should you ever find yourself in Panama, you’ll do well to contact him and let him be your guide. Oh—he caters to Israeli’s. He’s undoubtedly the only Hebrew-speaking Panamanian tour guide in the world. 

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Our Spectacular Frog Holiday

b 18 red frog stem

We took one spectacular four-day holiday. I had told our main guide, Moty (who is actually an Israeli who had lived in Panama for 25 years and spoke very good English), that I really wanted to photograph poison dart frogs. He arranged a trip for us to go by bus from one side of Panama to the other side across the Continental divide. It was about a three-hour bus ride. Of course you had to then add the hour that it took to get from Boquete (up in the mountains) to David (down by the sea).

Once we arrived at Bocas del Toro, Moty left us alone to settle into our rooms. When we next saw him he said he'd found a guide for us. He said that he found a guide who specialized in taking photographers around the islands to photograph poison dart frogs. I was delighted. Moty had the clever idea of incentivizing the guide by offering him five dollars bonus per species for the two days he had with us.

As a result of this, I was able to photograph something like 23 differently colored poison dart frogs. It was perfectly amazing. Sometimes when would we get to the island our new guide would run off and find a local person to help guide us just to speed things up. The locals knew which color frog was where. You might start down one path and find blue frogs and go down a little further and find yellow and black frogs. Truly an experience of a lifetime.

 

b 19 dime   b 20 blue frog   b 21 on hand

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