Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.
What can I say about the photograph above?
My birthday is in June. On each birthday between 2009 and 2013, I had spent my birthday in a different city. In 2009, it was Portland, Oregon. In 2010, it was San Diego, California (where I experienced my first earthquake, by the way). In 2011, it was London, England, UK.
In 2012, a decade ago, I spent my birthday in Juneau, Alaska.
In 2022, I spent the day doing some photography (it’s taking me forever to complete the post-processing of my Minneapolis cityscapes!), some cycling through Seattle, and chatting with family and friends throughout the day. I had a splendid day.
One of the biggest surprises I received was a birthday greeting via cell phone from my favorite teacher from high school and his lovely wife, both of whom are serious, long-term globetrotters. (I recently had an indelible reunion with them in a small town in Wisconsin during my visit to Minneapolis in April). They recorded a charming video that featured themselves with an amazingly gorgeous rural landscape behind them. My teacher and his wife said something along the lines of: “Happy Birthday, Tosin, with greetings from Iceland!”
Even though it was a wonderful surprise and such a kind gesture, I was instantaneously jealous for a millisecond because I wanted to be at that spot with them. There appeared to be a very lush, green, and massively high plateau behind them, and the grey overcast hovering above the landscape in the video had me yearning to be traveling again (but I’ve decided to postpone travel in 2022 for reasons I’ve mentioned in previous articles). In my lifetime, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about Iceland from nearly everyone I know who has visited. I don’t think I can recollect any negative comments, in fact.
Given the stunning images I’ve seen over the years, I now query whether it’s possible to take a bad picture of Iceland.
Alas, the imagery from the 20-second video had me feeling nostalgic about some of the natural landscapes I had photographed in the past. The closest match I could conjure for Iceland (which I have still yet to visit) was Alaska — an American state that I didn’t think I would ever visit. However, my relocation to Seattle in 2007 and fervor for domestic and international travel thereafter yielded the opportunity.
I originally wanted to visit Anchorage, since that was the major city of the state and appeared to have a skyline I could work with via photography. Upon some guidance from one of my coworkers at the time, who grew up in Alaska, this plan changed. He advised against Anchorage and suggested Juneau instead for its aesthetic and natural beauty. The flight was only 2.5 hours long, which was perfectly feasible for my purposes.
Another reason why I hadn’t imagined travel to Alaska was partially because of safety. I asked my coworker directly about whether black people actually existed in Alaska. After a few seconds of awkward silence, he admitted that there were barely any — except for people visiting by cruise ships from Seattle. (This turned out to be true. I saw a grand total of three people who looked like me when I was there. I’m certain they were a family. Though strangers walking on opposite sides of one of Juneau’s downtown streets, we all waved at each other upon immediate recognition of our mutual melanin).
My experience in Juneau that June was not a bad one. In fact, I loved my visit and most of the people I did interact with were incredibly friendly. Also, the best pizza I ever tasted was at a restaurant called Bullwinkle’s. It was so good that I think I ate there twice!
This entry for my TIAA challenge is a reminder of my unexpected elation of being in Alaska shortly after I arrived at Juneau International Airport. The rural, mountainous landscape encapsulating the green, rolling valleys enchanted me — so much that I had to park my rental car along the shoulder of Route 7 several times to capture images of my surroundings before reaching the city center. That’s how spellbinding I found Juneau less than half an hour after landing on my birthday.
Given this experience, I think it’s only fair to share some of the scenery that mesmerized me with all of you. These images of Juneau will have to suffice until I get the opportunity to visit Iceland or New Zealand or Chile for some new landscape images. Enjoy and take care.
Oh! I forgot to mention where I spent my birthday in 2013. That would be my birthplace of Madison, Wisconsin — another fascinating experience as I visited the hospital where I was born too.
24 articles down for the TIAA challenge. 28 remain!