Sarah and I made a trip to the US Virgin Islands in December. We spent a few days relaxing, snorkeling, drinking rum-based beverages and of course shooting. Sarah recently got herself a Nikon D70s like mine, which made our shooting outings much more enjoyable for both of us. Maybe she’ll start a photo blog too!
The image here is of a windmill from the ruins of the Annaberg sugar plantation on St. John. Sugar production figures prominently in both the history of the West Indies and the history of the African slave trade. I highly reccomend the book Bittersweet: The Story of Sugar by Peter Macinnis for a fascinating account of the development of sugar as a commodity. This plantation was divided into smaller farms when slavery was abolished on the island (some years before the American Civil War). The sugar refining methods of the time were labor intensive enough that it was not profitable to produce sugar without slave labor, so the land would have been given over to subsistence farming by the former slaves. Walking around the site is sobering when you consider the conditions under which the slaves were forced to work, the danger they faced during the refining process, as well as the ruggedness of the terrain from which the cane would have been harvested. Today, most of the population of the USVI are descended from the African slaves that worked these plantations.
Somewhat less soberingly, St. John is also home to a population of some 400 wild donkeys, whose ancestors no doubt also worked these plantations, and a large population of wild chickens. No sugar cane remains, as the vast majority of the cane that was farmed here was of a sterile variety and was grown by planting shoots cut from other plants.
I’m now doing all of my shooting in RAW format, which is a revelation. The cost is the loss of a lot of the built-in scene mode type adjustments, but you get a lot more information and dynamic range in the file than with a jpeg. Sarah got me a copy of Aperture for Christmas, which does a brilliant job of handling the RAW workflow, and I’m sure does a better job at RAW conversion than could be done in-camera.
On this trip I also shot a few rolls of film, which I still need to get processed. I got a Nikon Action Touch off eBay, which is an old auto-focus point-and-shoot which is capable of going underwater (you can focus it manually underwater). So hopefully I’ll be posting images from our various snorkeling outings soon. The rest of the above-ground set can be viewed here.