Boarding Pass – Louis Vest

Today is a Boarding Pass first. A couple months ago my good friend Margaret Vest was featured, and today will help explain where she got her eye as we look at her father, Louis Vest. For awhile now I’ve been oogling his photos on flickr, and although I’ve never met him, I feel like I know him so much better after this post. If it weren’t for Margaret, I’d never know that her dad is incredibly shy. Until he went to India, he’d typically shy away from people pictures, but found the people there incredibly warm and inviting and easy to photograph. It’s something that I definitely can relate to. For me, I was always incredibly shy growing up, but it was through photography that I learned to use my camera to help me communicate and help me break out of my shell. But as you will see below, it was his India photos that really struck me, but it is so easy to get lost in all his incredible shots. {Thanks, Lou!}

{Partially completed, abandoned moai on the rim of the volcano at Rano Rarako. }

Last trip taken:
With Margaret to Easter Island. It was a fantasy trip that both of us wanted to do.
{Moai found inside the extinct volcano at the quarry Rano Raraku. The moai like this one were cut from the side of the volcano and stood up, but never were moved out of the quarry. They are slowly sinking into the ground. }

Next trip on deck:

Hiking trip in the Pyrenees with my wife, Emilce. We take a long hiking trip every year. It started out as a “guy’s trip” with friend of mine. We’d do a cross country trek somewhere. The idea was to find places where we could keep walking for 10-14 days in the same direction without having to come back at the end of the day to where we started. We started with the Camino Santiago, an old pilgrimage trail in northern Spain and then did the Alpine Route across Switzerland, another series of hikes in Zion, Utah; and the Rockwall Trail in Canada. After that he got real busy at his day job and had to cut back on the hiking. The first summer he had to bow out we had planned to go back to Europe to do the famous Tour of Mount Blanc – a walk through Switzerland, France and Italy that makes a circuit of Mount Blanc. When Pat had to cancel out and I was faced with going alone, Emi stepped up and said she’d go. After that hike she was hooked. We did the Offa’s Dyke trail across Wales the next year and then the Alta Via One in the Italian Dolomites last year. Northern Spain has tons of good hiking trails. We’re going to do bits and pieces of the trail that runs east and west through the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The whole hike can take more than a month for a young hiker in great shape. We’re not so young any more and stop a lot to take photos. We’ll start off in San Sebastian, Spain and head east… see where we end up. We only have the first few days planned. After that the route will depend on what we learn from other people on the trail and locals. Since we don’t have enough time to do the whole trek we’ll try to do the highlights and take public transportation in between.
{“The hot pink and electric blue just aren’t working for me. You got anything with some serious color? [India]}

Place I’d go back to again and again:

Going back to someplace again and again is a foreign concept to me. Life is so short and there are so many places to see. I loved the Canadian Rockies and want to go back there, but do I want to go back there more than I want to take a road trip down to Patagonia? Hell no!
{Twelve day trek on the Alta Via 1 in Italy: looking across the lake toward the Rifugio Croda de Lago and the Beco de Mezodi in the background. }

Place I’d recommend to a friend:

Depends on the friend and what kind of trip they’ve got in mind. For hiking old school, carrying tent, food etc I’d recommend the Canadian Rockies. For more civilized hiking I like Europe where there’s a village hotel or staffed mountain hut at the end of every day so the backpacks are a lot lighter; I’d recommend the spectacular Dolomites. For a pina colada / trashy novel beach vacation there’s Puerto Escondido; the surfer hangout in Mexico. Easter Island is great for an educational trip that will challenge you to read up on it beforehand and to think about the big issues of life, striving, religion and fate. And there’s always Paris for lovers.

{India: Girl in the cab next door}

Preferred method of transportation:

Flying is a necessary evil, but once I’ve gotten where I want to go walking is what I like to do. It’s healthy, you see a lot and somehow it stirs the mind to conversation. A good walking friend can make the time pass unnoticed. I enjoy photography and walking lends itself to that. At the end of the day you’ve got a good appetite and you’ve earned your meal.

{Deep fried goodness: India}

Place I’ve never been but am dying to go:

{The Chai Man- He knew all the street kids on the beach and their families and their stories. It takes a lot of villages to make a city. He struck me as a very wise and gentle person. I like this one because I think it shows that about him.}
{Nina. Taken on the beach in Mumbai, India. She was down on the beach with a baby brother. The chai man said she was one of 13 kids and the parents used the kids to scrounge for money from people on the beach. He recommended we buy them some food instead of giving them money because the parents would take the money. There wasn’t much for sale on the beach at that time of night except tea and ice cream. She sat and talked to us while she poured tea from cup to cup to cool it for the baby. The chai man said that he and the other people who worked on the beach looked out for them and the other kids as much as they could. They all seemed like a little community within the larger city around them. Not entirely bleak, but heartbreaking all the same. . . It’s a fact of life all over the world that the poor give much more to others as a percentage of what they have than those who are more fortunate.}

Place I’d never go back to:
Ha! Be careful. You’re asking a guy who LIVES in Houston. I said I’d never go back to Annapolis when I graduated. One of the guys set his radio to the Annapolis station and left it there as he drove west until he had the satisfaction of hearing it fade off the air with distance….but it turns out we made so many really great friends there that we find ourselves returning every 10 years for class reunions. Be careful what you wish for.

Really though, Las Vegas. It’s one of the few places I’ve been to that I actively disliked.
{Moonset on the Petrochemical Industry. Unfortunately this is a small crop from a bigger image. The original was handheld from a moving ship so the results are sketchy, but someday I plan to go back to a place nearby with a really big lens and a tripod so I can do it right. }

Most memorable trip:

In 1958, when I was nine years old I took a trip that probably programmed my brain for a life of travel when my father was transferred from an air force base in Texas to a new station in Japan. We did a grand family station wagon tour of the American West through the Grand Canyon, Mojave Desert, and Yosemite to San Francisco where we boarded a passenger ship (air travel was not so common then) to Tokyo via Hawaii. I remember whales, dolphins, a dramatic nighttime rescue at sea and the complete freedom of the ship owing to my age and a mother who was stupefyingly seasick across the entire Pacific.

{Fall in the Zion Narrows. Taken in Zion Park, Utah. }

How do you prepare for a trip?

I don’t. I pack at the last minute and always forget something. I either go with someone who loves to plan and plot (my wife or daughter Margaret) or with someone who is comfortable winging it (my hiking buddy, Pat). We obviously have to do some research for the hiking trips, but often only plan the first few days, leaving the rest open for modification depending on mood, weather, and local recommendations. I just talked to someone yesterday who had a great trip in Cuba where they rented a car and drove around the country picking up hitch hikers (it’s more common there, apparently everyone does it) and just going with them wherever they were headed. They were full of stories about places and people they would never have met any other way.

{The wedding horse : India}

How do you record your travels?

I love photography. I tried to keep a journal, but I’m not very diligent about it. The photos are more than adequate.

{Pinwheels for sale just after sunset at the beach in Mumbai, India.}

What is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?

Light at dusk. Whatever the low sun is shining on, whatever the place is famous for. In Spain, the churches. In India, the people. In Switzerland, the mountains. In Scotland, the deep fried Mars bars.
{Lodi Gardens: This was the place I liked best on my (very) short visit. . . For me, photography is a lot like fishing. While some people get up early and grab their rod and reel I get up with my camera. We go out to see what we can catch. Lodi Gardens was like the world’s best fishing hole. I hope you enjoy the photos I took there as much as I enjoyed taking them. }

How many photos do you take on a trip?

With a digital camera and memory cards that come in multi-gigabyte sizes? I take thousands. As the day goes on and at the end of the day I delete tons of them and only keep the ones with promise. On a 10 day trip to India recently I ended up with 1400 photos. I deleted 2/3 of those at home and ended up with around 500 photos. Out of those, about 125 made it into a slide show that even my harshest critic liked. Out of those I have a half dozen that I really liked and might print and frame someday.
My designer travel kit:
I work as a ship pilot and have to carry two bags to every job. When I leave the house it’s usually for around 12 hours but could be a couple days. One is a kit with a personal navigation computer that is provided by the pilot association. The second bag is for my personal gear. I have found a photographic niche in documenting life on the ship channel so my personal bag is photo oriented. It’s a Lowepro Fastpack 200 camera bag that is small, but (somehow) holds:
Nikon D700 camera with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached.
17-35mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom
50mm f/1.8 lens
1.7 teleconverter, remote shutter release, 2-3 lens filters, extra camera battery, extra CF memory cards
Beanbag camera support and lens cloth and lens brush
Marmot Precip raingear, tops and bottoms
Mini Maglight
Novel and a couple of unread New Yorkers
Cliff bar and a couple of Expresso Love energy gels
Toothbrush and paste; Pen and mechanical pencil; Sunglasses

When I go on a trip I just have to remember to put my iPod and assorted battery chargers in there.
{Taken in Houston’s Barbour’s Cut Terminal from another ship. Thanks to Sam Abell who told me one time that people who take pictures of the sunset itself usually miss the best shots. Look at what is being lit by the sunset. [view here for original image and better color] }

What do you do after a trip? how long after a trip does this happen?
As you can guess from the above my post trip goal is to weed through the photos I’ve taken to distill it to a bearable slide show. I post photos on Flickr that I think a broad number of people might be interested in. The slide show is mostly for family so it gets more narrative content than Flickr does. It can take a couple of weeks or more of desultory late night glass of bourbon with manchego cheese effort to get it done. I do two levels of work. One for sharing with the family. Another is looking for the elusive spectacular photo that I really like. It’s like going fishing.
{Ganesh on a dashboard. The background lights are out of focus because I used a really wide opening on the lens (f/1.8) which gives a very shallow focal plane. The out of focus effect in the background is called by a Japanese word, bokeh. Some lenses are famous for great bokeh. I suspect there are several Flickr groups dedicated solely to photos that express good bokeh. Once you are aware of it you see it all the time. Movie film lenses do it too. }

OneEighteen on Flickr

Click here for ALL the past editions of Boarding Pass.


  • Wow. What an interesting and in-depth article. Thanks so much for sharing. The man obviously loves photography, and it really shows in his work.

  • How fantastic! Such a great perspective on life and travel.

    I just took a look at his flickr photos and it really makes me want to go to Houston!!


  • Louis-
    Best wishes getting into FotoFest. Your pics are certainly worthy, and show a Houston that not many Houstonians get to see. Hope to get to view your work there.
    Breathtaking travel pics too!

  • Ah, I loved this post. So chock full of amazing photographs (I laughed out lous at the caption under the photo of the Indian cloth-market). Extremely well done.

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  • Pictures are so beautisul and clear..Canadian Rockie and Fall in the Zion Narrow are the pictures i like most..its a road trip..or which transport is better to go there..The way you explain everything about these place i can see that you had blast there..i also plan trip to atleast one place you mentioned

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