2011-2014 Time Lapse Project
I am currently working on an independent time-lapse video project focusing on the progress of the new One World Trade Center Tower until completion. The video will show the emergence of the tower on the New York skyline.
More updates to follow soon....
I was supposed to be flying to Guatemala City via El Salvador on Saturday May 29th. On the Friday I heard that Volcano Pacaya had errupted, killing several people and closing Guatemala Airport so I had to figure out a plan-b for how to get to Antigua Guatemala from El Salvador. I was considering staying the night in the San Salvador and getting an early bus but definitely wanted to avoid a night in the Homicide capital of the world if at all possible. I had a sleepless night in Brooklyn trying to figure out what I was going to do. I ended up emailing a shuttle bus company at about 4am and getting a reply as my plane was boarding later at 10am. I managed to arrange a shuttle pickup from El Salvador airport to Antigua Guatemala in 20 minutes on email on my phone as my plane was boarding thanks to modern technology and the swift replies of a Gentleman in Guatemala who I would end up having quite an adventure with.
We had a scary landing into El Salvador due to strong winds from a tropical storm that I would also become familiar with. The flight, however, landed early in El Salvador and the shuttle bus was late due to roads and bridges being closed so I had to wait at the airport for about 3 and a half hours. We finally got going in the bus with the owner of the bus Erwin, the driver, and Orlando a guy from Guatemala city who was randomly picked up at the airport. The rain was heavy as we set off but the going through El Salvador was pretty quick. We passed numerous pickup trucks with people getting drenched in the back. The rain didn't let up at all. It started getting more dangerous as it went dark, we passed through flooded areas of road and had to slow to go through 1-2ft of water. We got to the border and jumped out of the bus to show passports, then jumped out again on the Guatemalan side. It was dark and the offices had no light. We had to pay a legit bribe to the policeman since he said he would have to keep the passports overnight. I didn't fully understand what was going on since all the conversations and explanations were in fast paced spanish.
We got going again after the border and passed through more flooded roads and passed a car that had been hit by a large boulder that had fallen down the side of the roadside. The rain was torrential and there was spectacular lightning that appeared scarily close. There seemed to be a general theme of carnage outside and my eyes were gripped on the road ahead from my seat in the back. There were also trees down across sections of road. About 30-40 minutes after crossing the border a pickup truck passed us in the opposite direction with the driver yelling something to us. He must have been yelling that the road ahead was flooded. We slowly approached the stretch of road. A slope uphill that was heavily flooded with fast moving water flowing downhill, towards us. The driver made the questionable decision to try and drive through it, (probably because any detour would have added hours to the journey) to the left side and slowly headed up the hill. The water rose up about 3ft and over the top of the radiatior. The headlights flickered and went out as the engine flooded. The sudden quiet from the loss of power highlighted the sound of the flood water which sounded like white water rapids. As we lost power we slid/floated back down the hill a few yards and shifted to the left where we ended up precariously tilted half of the bus in a road side ditch, the other half still on the road. The driver got out into what was now waist deep water to try and push the bus backwards. Soon after stepping out, a large 16-wheel big-rig truck passed on the other side of the road, too big to be affected by the water, the truck didn't slow and passed through causing a large wave to pick up our minibus and wash it ten yards down the road whilst ignoring Erwin's futile shouts for it to slow down. They probably hadn't seen us as we weren't emitting any light. The bus settled in a slightly more precarious position, tilted in a roadside ditch. It felt like the bus was about to roll over as the flood water rose. The driver managed to cling on while we were swept down the road but hurt his foot in the process and the bus had now taken on about a foot of muddy water. All this time, there was still torrential rain and very close lightning. Erwin jumped out too and went to try and get help. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere and hadn't been through a town for about 20 minutes, sitting in a flooded and precariously perched minibus in the dark. With the language barrier it was hard to know what was going on and what the plan was.
The flood water continued to rise and there were suddenly some bangs on the back of the bus and shouts instructing us to abandon the bus and climb out of the back window. I grabbed my camera bag, we clambered to the back, opened the back window and climbed out into the waist deep flood water. We walked downstream in a line holding each others shoulders, taking small steps whilst standing side on to try and prevent being swept off our feet. The flood water was ridiculously strong and in hindsight having seen the path of what was now white water heading off into the Guatemalan countryside, a slip would have meant curtains. We kept walking downstream to where the water passed down the side of the road and the road was clear, about 50 yards from where the bus was still perched. At this point it was probably around 10:30pm. We waited around 2 hours outside in torrential rain watching the flood water change the landscape in real time, I suppose we were waiting for help but I still wasn't too sure of the plan. It was getting very cold and there clearly wasn't any kind of official help. Erwin said his wife was going to come and pick us up but she was about 2 hours away and ended up not being able to make it due to flooded roads and bridges down.
Some passersby appeared from nowhere with torches and umbrellas which was handy. I spoke a little to Orlando who spoke some English. He asked me where I was from and mentioned Wayne Rooney after hearing my answer. The flood water on the road had now subsided a little. It was only about a foot deep around the bus so we climbed back into what was left of the bus to take shelter. It was still raining, the kind of rain that soaks you to the skin after being out in it just a few seconds. It went quiet again for a while whilst Erwin and the driver disappeared to get help. Later they returned with a bunch of guys in a pickup truck, the plan now was clearly to try and pull the bus out of the ditch. This plan seemed moot since I couldn't comprehend the bus working considering it was full of flood water and vegetation. The guys hooked up a rope and began trying and failing to pull the bus out of the ditch. After about 20 mins of trying different methods we ended up with a few guys pushing from the front while myself, Orlando and Erwin stood up inside the back of the bus and jumped up and down. I remember thinking standing in the back of a bus, jumping up and down with the back door open while a pickup truck a few yards away was labouring to pull us out might not be the safest thing i've ever done. Nonetheless, it worked and we got the bus out of the ditch.
The pickup truck guys disappeared after shaking hands and I was wondering what we do now. It emerged that now the plan would be to try and jump start it. I wasn't hopeful on our chances of getting it going again after seeing it get battered by floodwater for so long, all the while expecting it to get washed away, never to be seen again. Erwin, Orlando and myself pushed while the driver executed a 3 point turn. We pushed it out into the dry, or at least not flooded road and began pushing as fast as we could. Each time we would get up to full speed, the failed ignition attempts would stop the bus in its tracks. We did about 5 attempts at pushing the bus as fast as possible until we had covered about half a mile, running and pushing at the same time, and finally got the engine running again. I could not believe it. We had to keep it running for a while just to dry it out and eventually we very slowly set off again. At this point it was probably around 1:30am and we very slowly headed further into Guatemala.
Almost every stretch of road had some sort of devastation on it. Fallen trees, boulders and lots of mud slides. Some of them looked very fresh and I didn't fancy getting involved in anything falling down the steep slopes on the sides of the road. We headed onwards and upwards into hilly, mountainous areas where the roads were particularly treacherous. Almost every corner involved the driver creeping through the gap between a large mud slide on one side and a sheer drop on the other. My heart was in my mouth for about and hour and a half of this then we pulled into a small town where Erwin had decided we should stay for the night (or what was left of it) since the roads were too dangerous and apparently a bridge had collapsed that meant we would have to take a detour. We stayed in a small hostel room in a small town, I think called Don Pancho but still no idea really where it was. We woke up at about 8am after a few hours sleep in wet clothes and got going again. Erwin made the driver sleep on the back seat of the bus which was still damp. In Spanish and some mime he told me he was shivering all night. We continued to drive through mountain roads and were above the cloud for the most part. I got to see a wide variety of beautiful and devastated countryside areas. Many of the roads had huge mudslides deposited onto them but they were much easier to negotiate in daylight. We travelled about two hours and stopped for petrol. There was a long discussion about the state of the bus and Erwin and the driver had a large argument as we got going again.
We ended up dropping Orlando off on the outskirts of Guatemala city at around 11:30am, I thanked him for the translations. We set off again, at the time I had no idea where we were and when I was going to make it to Antigua. I was getting a little tired since I had left my place in Brooklyn at 6am the day before, had been travelling since, and still didn't know when I would get to my destination. We stopped off at a McDonalds where I asked when I would get to Antigua. I was told about an hour but from what I understood they had to make a stop in Guatemala city. We headed through Guatemala city and stopped at a petrol station in a pretty sketchy area. We weren't getting petrol so I was wondering what we were doing there. We waited a painful 15 mins or so then Erwin's wife arrived to take me to Antigua while they got the bus repaired/cleaned up. Erwin's wife spoke decent English so we chatted about our ordeal. It was only now that I could actually comprehend making it to Antigua. It took a little while since the roads were down to one lane where bulldozers were moving large amounts of earth off the roads. I finally made it to Antigua just before 1pm and later found out the full extent of the storm damage - 165 killed and around 100 still missing in Guatemala due to tropical storm Agatha. A large sinkhole swallowed an entire building in Guatemala City, not far from where i'd been, the photo's of which were seen all around the world.
Shanghai - May-June 2010
Everything fell into place for a trip to Shanghai at short notice. I managed to get a Chinese visa within 4 hours of applying for one at the Consulate and for some reason the shortest and most direct flight was also the cheapest. Staying just around the corner from the Bund provided amazing views of the iconic Pudong Skyline. Highlights included a visit to the Shanghai World Financial Center observation deck a daytrip to the historic town of Tongli, built on a series of canals, and walking up and down the Bund with what seemed like the entire population of Shanghai.