Sunsets and Opportunities (Another look)

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous  (A repost from 2016)

The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Sometimes that is true, sometimes that is not-so-true.  Then again, sometimes pictures need words to express the details or the emotion of an event.  And, sometime pictures create more questions.  Here are a few that do all of the above.

These were shot within a thirty minute time frame in locations that were about two miles in distance.  Shooting fast and keep moving to change the scene I was able to capture these images at North and South Beach on Tybee Island.  The weather, nature and God take care of the colors.  Photoshop helps to darken, lighten and intensify what is already there.  If the color is not hidden in the original image, it is hard to make it work.

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The Tybee Lighthouse on Tybee Island, Georgia from North Beach.

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The setting sun moves behind the lens on Tybee LIghthouse.

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Lifeguard stand #16 near the Tybee Pier.

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The last rays of sun looking from the Tybee Pier toward the pavilion.

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.


© J.D. Byous 2018, All rights reserved.

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Bravery and defiance… Savannah’s history underfoot

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Johnson sg c1900

Johnson Square and the Greene monument, c.1900.

Bravery and defiance… Savannah’s history underfoot

by Jim Byous

It was here, directly underfoot.  If you close your eyes you can feel it… at least some folks tell me they can – the history, the struggle, the conflict.  The starting of a new colony in the wild and woolly new world.  The start of a new nation in a time of enlightenment.  The attempt to create a new confederacy and a new nation in the south.  Johnson Square in Savannah, Georgia was where, over the years, debate rang out and the results enacted.

The Greene monument in Johnson Square

The Marquis de Lafayette laid the corner stone for the Greene monument in Johnson Square. Greene and his son are buried beneath it. Photo Morgie McCormick.

The Nathaniel Greene Monument is the centerpiece of Johnson square.  Its cornerstone, placed in 1825 by the Marquis de Lafayette, was finished in 1830 to honor Greene for his contribution in the Revolution.  Lafayette did lay the cornerstone, but the monument’s purpose changed over the half-decade before completion.  The original monument was to be to two Revolutionary War heroes, Greene and Casimir Pulaski.  Between the start date and the years-later finish, Pulaski would have his own monument a few blocks away in Monterey Square.  Greene had fought to reclaim Savannah from the British, as did Pulaski.  Pulaski died just after the battle having suffered a mortal wound in a daring charge on the Spring Hill Redoubt that stood on the east side of town.

When James Oglethorpe came to set up the new Georgia Colony in 1733 he, with the help of Colonel William Bull of South Carolina, drove the stakes to create this square first.  So, no bull, Bull street became the avenue that runs around it.  Today the common joke is that Bull starts at City Hall and flows through the city.  (Cue laugh track.)

The 20th century sundial in Johnson Square.

The 20th century sundial in Johnson Square.

Once known to residents as The Sundial Square, you can now see a replica… that sometimes has sunlight and sometimes does not… buildings and trees surrounding the park make it difficult to read.

The participants in the early Johnson Square events meant business – sometimes deadly business.  In the early days, for infringements of the rules, justice was often laid out at the end of a whip.  After two workers at Trustees’ Garden killed hogs for rooting out plants, they were flogged in a public display of correction.  The same fate came to a woman who continually gossiped.  She was flogged, then dragged behind an ox card from the whipping post to Wright Square… and back.  Don’t know if she continued her nattering, but history’s silence suggests that she did not.

Morgan at eest fountain Johnson Sq

This 2008 image of photographer Morgie McCormick in front of the east fountain in Johnson Square. The mirroring fountain on the west was the site of the Indian pavilion.

The round fountain on the western side of the square occupies the spot of an important milestone in peace for the young colony.  In October 1757 Royal Governor Henry Ellis met with the leaders of the Upper and Lower Creeks who represented twenty-one Indian towns.  An open pavilion stood there where they all met to talk and enact peace.  After that time conflicts with the Native Americans were peaceful in Georgia’s territory, but conflicts were common in South Carolina and other regions.  A walk around the sprinkling nozzles will allow you to tread on historic ground.

Tarring and Feathering in Boston

Tarring and Feathering in Boston. Savannah had similar episodes.

Later, the seeds for the American Revolution in Georgia were planted, nurtured, and born here.  Tax collectors found harrowing rebuke here, tarred and feathered, they suffered a painful, scarring act that is now too torturous for civilized conduct.  Effigies of other officials including King George III burned and glowed in balls of fire, probably a few feet from the Liberty Pole that stood in the square.

The Declaration of Independence was read in this square in 1776 next to that Liberty Pole that marked the gathering spot for the Sons of Liberty.  It was also read aloud in Reynolds square and at Fort Halifax in Trustees’ Garden near the present-day Pirates House Restaurant.  The Sons of Liberty were a constant headache for Royal Governor James Wright… until he, at last, boarded a ship and sailed to England.  His loss of hundreds of acres of land must have been an equal blow to his ego.

The Gadsden flag on Greene's monument in Savannah's Johnson Square

This 1860 image from Harper’s Weekly shows the Gadsden flag on Greene’s monument in Savannah’s Johnson Square.

At the beginnings of the American Civil War citizens who supported secession from the Union held rallies around Greene’s monument to voice their disfavor with “Northern aggression.”  A Gadsden flag, the early symbol of American Revolutionist resolve, hanged from Greene’s granite obelisk.  Local tradition says that when Union General William T. Sherman captured the city in 1864 one of the first things that he searched for was that flag.  He found it and took it home with him.

So, says tradition.

When you visit Savannah, take in the sites, the architecture, the restaurants, and the night life.  But remember where you are walking.  You’re walking on history.


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Finding beauty in the broken

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous (a repost)

Finding beauty in the broken can be a blessing of the mind and spirit.  In these images the refractive qualities of glass and light interact to evoke one’s vision of whimsy or conversely reveal one’s demons. It’s a Rorschach test in glass and light.

Watchers of the Fire, photomicrograph of Hertzian cone in plate glass.  Height of area about 1mm.

Watchers of the Fire, photomicrograph of Hertzian cone in plate glass. Height of area about 1mm.

I was surprised at some of my own interpretations… more demons than expected buffered by substantial whimsy.

Some included here are studio portraits of the small one-half-inch-in-diameter glass cones.  They emphasize the shapes and beauty-of-form in an attempt to transcend sterile science photos that grace the endless pages of academic journals.  Many photos may have hidden features.  Some do not.  The viewer creates his or her own vision, so look closely.

Other images reveal surreal extensions of the viewer’s mind where shapes are interpreted and features created from personal experiences, beliefs, fears and wishes.

The image, “Watchers of the Fire” is interpreted by some as adventurers around a camp fire.  Others see the same shapes as demons watching the fires of Hell.  You may find another personal interpretation.

I discovered these images while revisiting a photographic record created and compiled during nine years of laboratory studies on the physicalities of Hertzian fractures.  By cropping closer, hidden and surreal images were highlighted in many of the photos.

View more of this portfolio of glass

The Eagle Has Landed, photomicrograph of Hertzian cone in plate glass.  Width of area about 1.5 mm

The Eagle Has Landed, photomicrograph of Hertzian cone in plate glass. Width of area about 1.5 mm


The Ascension, photomicrograph of Hertzian Cone.  Width of  area about 1 mm.

The Ascension, photomicrograph of Hertzian Cone. Width of area about 1 mm.

For more images go to

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

© All content copyright J Byous Company 2018 all rights reserved



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Flowers are to enjoy.  So do it!

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

Wild blackberry

Wild blackberry

by Jim Byous

Wildflowers as well as garden flowers have always been an interest to me, looking for them and at them and studying them, intellectually.  In my younger years I spent endless hours checking floral features off as i poured over a book on plant taxonomy.  Wind poppies that grow around Mount Diablo near San Francisco are among my favorite that I have photographed…  Icelandic poppies from a home garden too.   They create a mood that you don’t have to analyze or evaluate.

You can go on about the environmental benefits or agricultural problems or taxonomic history or medicinal value… The thing about flowers is that you don’t have to say much.  Flowers are to enjoy; to simply look at.  Sometimes we need to slow down and enjoy life… just stop and smell the rhododendron.  So, do it!


This is called Jacobina or Brazilian Plum, justica carnia. Thanks to Sharon Harrison for the help finding the name.

My son in law, Greg McCormick, loves to garden.  Some of these images are from his yard as well as a field nearby.  The others are from the garden of our cousin, Larry Harley.  When we retired we packed everything in to storage and moved into a small garden apartment on his property.  Fortunately he too loves to garden, a talent and ability which neither The Beckster nor I have been able to cultivated.

Here are a few images to enjoy.

Greg’s Garden

Larry’s Garden

If you like travel, history… and images like these, we will feature flowers from our travel locations as we go.  Hope you enjoy them. – Jim and Becky.



Here is what we use capture images for our site.

Camera: Panasonic Gh4 and G7.  Nikon D7000.

Lens: Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 ASPH as well as 14-140mm I.O.S. kit lens, both hand-held. Nikon 18-105mm DX VR lens.

Light: Open shade or cloud diffused natural light

Processing: Adobe Photoshop CC 2018


Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

© All content copyright J Byous Company 2018 all rights reserved


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The other, an Uzi in his hands, sits on the fender of the patrol car – Panama 1998.

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.  Please comment at the bottom of the page.

By Jim Byous

Child in El Piro

A child walks down the main road in village of El Piro, Panama past palm thatched houses found along the Pan American Highway.

Sweat pours from my forehead, my shirt is soaked from within.  I feel like if I walk I will slosh.  It’s hot.  I don’t like hot.  Our trip along the Pan American Highway is about to be interrupted.  My driver, Pablo, slows as two Panamanian policemen question motorists.  Some cars are ordered to the side of the road, others continue at the officers’ direction.  One policeman stands on the double yellow line, the other, an Uzi in his hands, sits on the fender of the patrol car smoking a cigarette.  The car looks new, about a year old, 1997, maybe 1998.  Cars move forward.  Now it’s our turn.

A hacienda along the Pan American Highway in Veraguas, Panama.

A palm-thatched home along the Pan American Highway in Veraguas, Panama.

My Spanish is rusty… very rusty.  I can barely communicate.  Pablo greets the official.  He instructs Pablo to the shoulder of the highway.

Me, in broken Spanish, “What’s up?”

Pablo, in broken English, “Don’t know.  I’ll be back,” he says and walks slowly back toward to the two well-armed men.

I have two Nikon cameras in my lap.  My instinct is to raise one to my eye and shoot photos.  I hesitate.  The policeman and Pablo are pointing toward me.  It’s a serious conversation.  I put the camera down on the seat.  Pablo jogs back and leans in the window.

“We have to pay a fine,” he informs me.

“How much?” I ask.

Pablo searches for the words then answers, “Cinco dollars.”

An Ngobe mother brings her sick child to the clinic at El Piro.

An Ngobe mother brings her sick child to the clinic at El Piro.

In Panama they use U.S. Dollars.  They have their own currency, the Balboa. But I guess the dollar makes it easier for tourists to pay bribes.  I reach into my wallet and hand him two five-dollar bills.  He grabs them, turns without looking at them and jogs back to the policemen.  They converse a bit more, this time friendlier.  Pablo walks briskly back, climbs into the small pickup with me and we drive away.

“What did we do?  Why were we fined?” I asked.

“Stopping in the highway,” he said, a grin grows on his lips.  “Against law to stop in highway.”

“A bribe,” I say.

“Si, mordida… a bribe.  They make extra money.  Everybody pay mordida,” he says as he hands the second five-dollar bill back to me.  Mordida is a good term.  It means to bribe, but it also means to bite.  I guess they are the same in these situations.

I push the money back to him.  “Para la problema.  Para usted.”  I think I said it right.  He handled the situation well.  I wanted him to keep the extra money.  I would still have to pay for the truck and gas that he “rented” from his cousin.  Later ten dollars would cover the four-hour round trip toward the town of David, near the Costa Rica boarder.

We had started in Canazas, a corregimiento, or small town, in the province of Veraguas, Panama.

Downtown Canazas 1998

Downtown Canazas, Panama, 1998.

I am shooting pictures for a team of doctors and dentists who were organized by a mission group from Southside Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia.  At this time, 1998, the village is supported by the Santa Rosa gold mine.  Protests are now organized as a weekly occurrence by the chief of the Ngobe people, often referred to as the Guaymi tribe.  I will learn later that the mine management would close it down to pacify the locals, only to reopen many years later when gold prices soared.

It is said the Canazas is authentic Panama.  If you want to experience the country at its core, visit by Canazas area.  I agree.  The population of the village is mostly Mestizo people who are a mixture of Spanish and native American.  The Ngobe speak their native language along with Spanish, a necessity for commerce.  In the jungle there are many villages where Ngobe is the only language, making communication with outsiders difficult.

Guaymi Mother and children

An Ngobe (Guaymi) mother and her daughters wearing traditional naguas dresses.

Our road trip to the western part of the country is to find an area where indigenous people offer trade goods.  It’s there that I’ve heard that one can buy a chaquira, a wide, beaded, lacy-looking, traditional neckwear now worn by the native women on special occasions.  And, I want to buy directly from someone who makes them… I want one from a Ngobe craftsman, not imported for the tourists.  My studies have told me that the torque-like jewelry was originally close to twelve to fourteen inches in diameter and worn by men.  That account is from records made shortly after Columbus visited the area in 1502.  I asked one Mestizo man if Ngobe men still wore the ornate neck pieces he laughed and informed me that the chaquira was for women only.  He emphasizes, “only.”  I guess I am 500 years off in my data.  History is corrected and tersely delivered to me.  I will later learn that some men wear the older style chaquira in ceremonies and when doing a traditional dance called the Jeki.  Guess he was wrong.

Right now, I am not sure where Pablo and I are.  I suspect we are approaching La Pita, a wide-spot-in-the-road in the province of Chiriqui whis is an area that borders Costa Rica and has the country’s highest mountain, Volcán Barú.  Pablo knows of one woman who sells chaquiras in a roadside stand.  It’s a long drive, but absolutely stunning landscape… except for the policemen.

The jungle terrain along the Pan American Highway.

The jungle terrain along the Pan American Highway between Canazas and El Piro.

Later I will learn that this area will grow to be a tourist destination.  The Los Quetzales Trail that spans the mountains, Pacific side to the Atlantic side, will become a favorite trek to hikers.  The northern city of Boquete will become a haven to expats, American, European, Canadian, and will become a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.  Jazz festivals will flourish.  But that’s in the future.  Today few people hike the path.


The glass-bead chaquira from our adventure on the Pan American Highway.

Ahead on the left is a small, palm-covered hut.  On the open front wall, palm fronds flutter in a light wind above three bamboo racks that hold pendants, necklaces, and chiquiras.  A lady in a brightly colored, red and white, moomoo like, naguas dress greets us from inside.  I spot two chiquiras that I like, one is red and white beads in a band about three inches wide.  The other is smaller, around 2-and-one-half inches wide.  It has rows of “X” shaped bead patterns in primary colors.  It’s beautiful.

“Cuantos es?” I asked using my latest acquired local lingo for “How much?”

“Diez,” she answered.

I looked at Pablo. “Ten dollars each… good price,” I say studying the lacy, glass-beaded pieces.

“No,” he said.  “Ten dollars for both.  About right.”

Guayme Girl El Piro Panama

Cultural tradition requires no smiles during a picture. She would stop me if she started grinning.

It is hard to believe, five dollars for a necklace of tightly-woven glass beads.  It must have taken several hours to make it.  I handed the lady a ten-dollar bill and walked to the pickup for the ride back to Canazas.  We do not see the policemen on the return trip.  When we arrive, I settle the final fare with Pablo and he returns the pickup to his cousin.  It was an interesting trip.

Grabbing my cameras, I walked to the local hospital.  Hospital is a loose term.

In reality it isn’t more than a clinic.  An archaic clinic. The Georgia doctors are to be here one week only.  Word has spread across the province, so lines are long.  The locals aren’t in a hurry.  They stand in long lines, chests to backs, as they wait their turns.

Guaymi Boy

An Ngobe boy in El Piro.

Some of the Indian families had walked three days through the jungle to have a chance to see a physician.  Some came that far simply to have their children checked, wanting to make sure they are alright.  This may be their only visit with a doctor or nurse.  Free healthcare is rare or non-existent in this region of the country.

Volunteer Barbara Grimm takes a break in the sweltering heat. Local kids, used to the heat, wear their Sunday best to visit the doctors.

Volunteer Barbara Grimm takes a break in the sweltering heat. Local kids, used to the heat, wear their Sunday best to visit the doctors.

The doctors at the hospital charge everyone regardless of their need… no pay no healthcare.  The clinic physician is already upset because the Gringos are cutting in on his paycheck.  Our free medicine is a major thorn in his cash balloon because he gets a cut from all of the med purchases. We Americans must walk gently, else he may banish us from the clinic.

Ngobe family

An Ngobe mother and her children.

When I discredit the term “hospital” I am serious.  The small, multi-winged facility is mostly open-air wards.  Outside on the sidewalk and in the courtyard chickens and skinny, malnourished dogs walk about freely.  There is no nursing staff.  Families must stay with patients to give them basic care.  Our volunteers who support our medical staff are busy.  They fight the heat and stale air in the poorly ventilated rooms.  Everyone is disheveled and sweaty.

Panamanian who worked on the canal

A Panamanian man who helped build the canal.

I meet an old man who as a young man helped build the Panama Canal.  His strong frame can still be seen under his frail exterior and his face is rutted with character lines.   I snap a few photos as he stands in the corridor.  He is friendly and proud that I am taking his photo.  A chicken pecks its way past his feet.  Excusing myself I say goodbye to shoot a few more images of the corridors, then walk outside to find a breeze.

Canazas is situated on a slight hillside that rises to the northeast.  Most buildings along the highway have open entrances, some with doors, some without, some with chain gates to protect the interior from night visitors.  Many are in bright colors.  I have noticed that many impoverished

A store in Canazas

Stores have wide eves to provide shade on bright, sunny days

countries and cultures use bright colors.  I suppose they help a meager existence feel better.  The tin-roof eaves of the town’s stores jut out several feet to provide shade as the sun moves overhead.

Villagers gather underneath to avoid the sun’s mid-day heat.  One young, schoolgirl leans against a shaded wall.  She is standing on a pile of gravel stored for future construction.  I snap her photo then move on.

Ngobe girl Canasas Panama

A young schoolgirl leaned against the wall to avoid the sun.

Ahead is a small saloon.  It has no glass in the single window and no door to cover the entrance.  The interior is dark with blank walls.  A simple plank bar stretches most of the way across the 10 by 12-foot room.  The barkeeper stares at me for a second, then swats a fly beside a stack of mis-matched glassware.  To my right a man drinks beer from a long-neck bottle.  He is the only customer and is sitting on a simple, strongly built, four-foot-long bench.  It is painted white and shows signs use from many years of service.  I think the man is Ngobe, he looks too short and small to be Mestizo.

Portro is what I think he said

In one work he instructs me, “Portro.” The light from the door is dim so I steady the camera by bracing it on my cheek and brow. Holding my breath, I carefully press the shutter release and take his picture.

He eyes my cameras, then stands, staggers, holds his hands up as if taking a picture, the bottle still in his hand, staggers again, then clicks his finger as if taking a picture.  “Portro,” he says.

“Portro?” I say confused.  I don’t know the Ngobe or Spanish word for portrait, so I assume he is trying to speak English.

“Si, portro!” he repeats.  His face grows into a slight frown.  He is upset that I don’t understand.

“Si,” I answer.  He sits down on a wooden bench and strikes a pose.  He is content.

Bar patron Canasas Panama

He quickly loses interest and begins staring out the door, so I snap a few more images, then order something to drink.

It’s dark, outside it is heavily overcast.  The light from the door is dim so I steady the camera by bracing it on my cheek and brow.  Holding my breath, I carefully press the shutter release and take his picture.  He smiles and swigs more of his drink.  He loses interest and turns toward the doorway.  I snap a few more shots and thank him.  He does not respond so I turn to the bar to order a soft drink.  It’s an orange soda that I’ve not seen before.  It’s good.  I am thirsty and extremely hot.

Nurse Heather Donnelly in El Piro

Nurse Heather Donnelly bathes a child with a skin rash in El Piro.

It’s time to go back to the hotel in Santiago so I walk back to the clinic and board the small, crowded vehicle for the ride to the hotel.  It smells of body odor and peanut-butter sandwiches left over from lunch.  On the dash a portable, twelve-volt television is duct-taped in place.  We pull out on the road and wind through the hills down to the main road.  The driver’s attention bounces from the road to the TV.  The World Cup is on.  Nothing diverts Panamanians from the World Cup, not traffic laws nor tickets.

On the main highway our speed increases and fluctuates between 60 and 70 miles per hour.  I can see the speedometer.  As the action on the screen increases, our speed increases.  A lull decreases our velocity.  “Gooooaaaal!” the announcer yells.  The driver bounces in his seat waving his fist in the air.  Our speed increases.  He is amazing.  We have not veered nor varied from our lane… though many on the bus are openly praying.  World Cup is king.  We observe the ritual, like it or not.

Savannah Dentist Russ Clemmons listens to symptoms through a translator.

When we arrive at in the hotel parking lot it is late, we are tired and hungry.  A group of volunteers are walking to the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant just down the road so I follow, order and eat.  The smell is the same as home.  Fried chicken is fried chicken, but the words on the overhead menu are hard to translate.  The windows of the business grab my interest.  The Panamanian climate is hot and humid.  The air-conditioned interior causes the large array of plate-glass windows to sweat.  Moisture is thick and blocks the view outside except for the wet lines where the water condenses and runs down the glass clearing the fog.

My friend, Nicky Pipkin, and a doctor that I do not know sit with me.  They have been in small rooms seeing patients all day.  They are two of three doctors and two dentists in Canazas.  Only one of three exam room has air conditioning, so the men switch off.  The other two rooms are windowless.  For the patient’s privacy the door must remain closed, so no air circulates.  It’s hot, energy draining work.


People from Canazas and the jungle regions around wait in line to see a doctor or nurse.  Chickens and dogs wander the corridors of the hospital.

Nicky, a surgeon, is a bit dejected.  A young girl came to him who had a large growth on her neck.  If not removed it would eventually cut off her breathing and she would suffocate.  He does not have the tools nor the facility to perform the surgery.  Conditions are too primitive.  Tools for surgery are non-existent.

“At home it is a simple procedure,” he says.  “But, I can’t do anything about it.”  A father of two daughters, he has a softened heart for others.  He is not handling the hopelessness well.  I doubt that he will return next year.

Waiting to see the dentist

Waiting to see the dentist.

When we walk back toward the hotel it is dusk.  The sun sets before we arrive.  Passing through the lobby I continue to the outside courtyard and the colonnade that leads to my room.  One light bulb illuminates each forty to fifty-foot section of walkway.  It’s dark.  To my left a large, tall, Mestizo man in a baseball cap looms over me.  A sawed-off shotgun held in his left hand rests over his shoulder.  He is not smiling, but I see that he has no intention for harming me.

“Buenas.” I say, using the recently learned local slang for “Good evening.”

“Buenos,” he replies.  He is telling me he is “good.”  But he draws it out gruffly and deliberately, “Buueee…nos,” meaning, I assume, “I am watching for trouble… don’t bother me.”  He is the night guard.

Child in Canazas

A child waits with her mother to see the doctor in Canazas.

I walk on to my room, crank the air conditioner to its highest setting, then fall into the bed.  I am not tired, I am exhausted.  In the morning I awake and step into the shower… cool water, not hot.  It feels good.  When I finish I grab a towel and step out onto the clay-colored terra-cotta tile.  In front of me, between the me and the door, a scorpion.

He is tan to beige colored, about four to five inches long.  His tail is looped up and over his back just as all the photos and drawings depict.  I don’t like bugs.  I don’t like big bugs.  I really don’t like big bugs that bite, or sting or look like spiders.  This guy fits all the Jim’s-phobia traits.  Scorpions are carnivores.  I don’t think he will eat me, but he may cause me to kill myself getting away.  My boots are past him in the next room and stomping him with a bare food is out of the question.  I am perplexed.

Jim in Panama

The author with the “hospital.” Between is the bus with the TV taped to the dash.  Look close and you can see it.

Stripping long strings of toilet paper from the roll next to me I wad them in to a ball, lean over the invader and smash him in to the tile.  He is now mush.  I am a satisfied, naked man gloating over his first scorpion kill.  There was something primal in the moment.  But, later my clothes and boots are closely inspected before I put them on.  I don’t like bugs.

The ride to El Piro is a different vehicle; different driver, different route, with no live World Cup.  We pass miles of jungle hills, cane fields and banana plantations that are spotted with small huts. Most have palm-thatched roofs and mud walls.  On some, the walls are augmented with corrugated-tin panels.  On others the roofs shine with the silver-blue and rust gray metal coverings.  Most buildings here, like those in Canazas, have construction material stacked or piled nearby.  Many Panamanian houses and businesses are under constant construction, assembled as finances permit.  Buy a few concrete blocks and store them until you have enough money to continue.  Repeat until the job is finished; a pile of gravel here, a stack of tin there.

Sombrero Pintada cowboys

Cowboys drive cattle down the center of the Pan American Highway in Veraguas Province, central Panama. Some wear sombreros pintados, real Panama hats made in the area.

We are at the half way point.  We slowly weave through a herd of cattle.  We drive slowly to avoid scaring the animals that cover both lanes of the highway.  One cowboy carries a caution flag several hundred feet behind so drivers have time to slow down.  The others cover the herd’s flanks to hold them in and push them down the road.  All have Sombrero Pintadas, Panamanian style cowboy hats of loosely woven palm with wide brims that are folded up in the front.


One hundred yards in front of them we stop the car.  I need a picture.  Stepping out of the front passenger door I click off a few photos with my telephoto as they walk closer.  As I turn to get back in the car the cattle spook and scatter into the trees and brush along the roadside.  Cowboys scramble.  Cattle run.  I jump into the car.

“Let’s get out of here before I get shot,” I order.  The car speeds away.  I feel guilty, but… I got my pictures.

A few miles farther and we turn off the highway and follow a dirt road a short distance to El Piro.  Huts line the road, partially concealed from view by banana plants and jungle growth.  Half way through the village is a plain rectangular building with a flat roof – the clinic.  Dr. Harry McGee greets us at the car.  He has been treating the locals for the past two days.   He stands tall for his 72 years, especially since he was told earlier hat his heart had given out and he would soon die.  That was several years back.  He had found alternative treatments and defied the experts.  He is still going strong.


Watching the exam rooms while waiting.

Here in El Piro there is no air conditioning to rotate into as do the doctors do in Canazas.  He doesn’t mind.  Harry is also from Savannah.  His home and practice had been in Monterey Square a few doors away from the Mercer House, during the time when Jim Williams’ antics there influenced the best-selling book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  Harry gave up his practice after his diagnosis.  Now he was working for free and seemed to be loving it.  I have not seen him without a smile on his face since we arrived.

Later he asks me if I want to photograph him working in the exam room.  Exam room is a loose term describing a plastered bay with a wide, uncovered window that looks out to the side yard.  Spectators stand outside waiting their turns and watch as the exams run their course.  I continue to click, sometimes blocking an onlooker’s view.  After several patient consultations using tongue depressors, syringes, and blood-pressure cuffs the time comes for a Ngobe woman’s pelvic exam.

“Let’s get started,” Harry says, sliding the lady’s nagua up to her knees as she lay on the table.  He turns to catch my eyes.  He has a glint in his.

“Catch you later,” I say, and leave to find other things to record.

Nearby, under a modern pole-barn-styled pavilion, nurse Heather Donnelly bathes a toddler in a shallow pan.  The basin contains a creamy-colored mixture.  She dips her glove-covered palm in the liquid and rubs it over the rash-speckled body of the child.  The baby is covered with tiny red spots.  A chill runs down my back as I watch and shoot.  The crying child fidgets.  Rashes do that to me too.  I don’t have to break out to start my own fidgeting.   The spots make me itch so I move on.

A few feet beyond is my backdrop.  My intention is to make portraits of the indigenous people.  The bright colored dresses make perfect subjects so I’ll concentrate on that for a while.  I shoot a few portraits of mothers and children.  Only one man volunteers to participate.  Across a patch of grass stands a young girl holding a baby.  I motion to her asking if I can take her picture.  She smiles and nods.  I shoot several frames then approach her to talk.

Young girl and her daughter

An 11 year old Ngobe girl and her daughter.

“How old are you?” I ask.

“Eleven,” she answers.

“Is this your little sister?” I point to the baby.

“No,” she smiles.  “My daughter.”

I find out later that incest and children having children is common in the culture.  There are other practices that I am not accustomed to.  One young woman has lost many of her fingers in a workplace accident.  She severed part of her hand with the swing a razor-sharp machete while cutting sugar cane.

“I will have to have children with my father,” she tells a volunteer.  “With my hand like this no one will marry me.”  She is matter of fact, as if it’s just a fact of life.  Incest is common and the custom if a young woman can’t find a husband.

Harry McGee steps out of the clinic to cool off.  I walk over to talk.  A baby cries from a hut across the main dirt road about 100 yards away.

“Want to photograph a new born?” he asks.

“Sure.  Did you deliver it?”

“No, the nurse did.  Tell her I sent you over.”

The nurse with Tomassasina's newborn.

The nurse with Tomassasina’s newborn in the doorway of the wattle and daub home.

I walk to the hut.  It’s woven bamboo and sticks covered with mud – typical wattle and daub construction, a method that is used around the world.  The nurse meets me at the door.  She is holding the new baby so I pose her in the door and take a photo.  She then escorts me inside and prepares the mother for pictures.  The structure has four small rooms.  Each is no larger than eight by eight feet.  The construction is hap-hazard.  Lines are not straight; the room sizes were obviously sighted and squared without measuring tools.  The nurse calls me into the bedroom where on a plank bed covered with cardboard Tomassasina Mendosa lies holding the child.  She smiles.  I shoot a few frames.

El Piro house

The Mendosa home in El Piro.

With a background in historical archaeology it’s a must do – I ask Tomassasina if I can measure and record her house.  I will pay her ten dollars if she will give me her okay.  Her eyes light up.  “Si,” she says excitedly. Reaching into my pocket I realize I only have a twenty-dollar bill.  The  Chiquiras and the Panamanian-Police-officer incident took my smaller bills, so I hand her the money.

“Here is twenty dollars,” I say in Spanish.  Ten for measuring the house and ten for the baby.”  She is grateful.  I take my notebook and tape measure from my pack and start measuring.  Working my way through the house I follow the rooms to a “porch” section on the back that serves as a kitchen.  A waist-high bench made from bamboo and branches holds a woven-palm cook top where sand and ashes insulate an open-fire stove.  It’s primitive, but genius.

Tomassasina Mendosa and her newborn.

Tomassasina Mendosa and her newborn in the bedroom of her home.

Walking to the front yard of the house I meet Tomassasina’s mother and sister who sit under a palm-thatched hacienda pavilion, caring for several children.  An infant swings in a basket that is suspended on ropes from a cross beam.  The grandmother is upset.  She walks past me and into the house glaring as she passes.  A few minutes later she returns.  She is all smiles, asking if I have any questions and how she can help.  The nurse leans toward me and says, “You gave them twenty dollars.  That’s one month’s salary here.”  We carry on a friendly, translated conversation until the nurse has to leave.

I pack my gear and say goodbye to the nurse and to the family.  Across the street, next door to the clinic, a group of men gather in an open section of one house.  It is the only house that I can see that has electricity.  The assembly’s attraction is a small, compact, black and white television set.  A makeshift wire antenna stretches upward nodding and waving under the palm thatching.  About thirty men have come in from the fields to watch Panama play in the World Cup.  World Cup is king here, too.  In unison they cheer when a player scores.  I smile.  At least they are not driving.

My ride is ready to leave.  I tell Harry goodbye and that I would see him on the plane ride home.  He still looks fresh.  He has beaten the odds for life.  He will die of a heart attack six years later while counseling a friend on the phone.  Harry was a tough and good man.  I miss him.


Grandma was not happy with me at first. It changed later.

In Panama City we check into our hotel rooms.  The group is meeting for dinner in a nearby restaurant.  After having trouble finding my way I arrive late to the dinner, so I order quickly.  It’s decent food.  Nothing to brag about.  Others have ordered coffee.  It arrives in small, white, ceramic cups that hold about eight ounces.  We talk.  They drink.  They finish.  The waiter removes the cups.

“Is the coffee good?” I ask.  Several tell me that it is very good.  They emphasize, “very.”  So, I call the waiter and try to order through my lacking, Spanish vocabulary.

“Uno café, por favor,” I say.

He speaks quickly, but I don’t understand.  I think he is asking if I want a small or large cup.

“Un piquito.” I say.  He looks confused.

“una pequeña taza?” he asks.

“Yeh., I guess.  Pequeña taza.”  He leaves and brings a cup to me.  It’s smaller.  Quite a bit smaller.

“Oh, you ordered espresso,” the lady next to me says.

“Did I? I just wanted a small cup of coffee.”


A line to see the nurse at the Canazas Hospital. Hundreds of people were seen by the mission group from Savannah.

It’s good,” she says smiling, then turns to talk to the lady beside her.  I add sugar and cream and take a sip.  She’s right, it is the best coffee I have ever tasted.  I drink it all.

We return to the hotel and the caffeine kicks in.  There is no sleeping.  At three-o’clock a.m. I am sitting by the pool on the hotel roof smoking a local cigar watching the ships line up to enter the canal.

“She was right,” I say.  “It was a great-tasting coffee,” I take another puff from the stogie.

“This was an interesting trip,” I say to myself.

My plan is to come back and ride horses across the mountains of Canazas Province from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  I never will.

That was twenty years ago.

It was an interesting trip.

It is an interesting memory.

Other things to do in Panama.

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Waiting For The Light

A repost from 2016

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Tuesday, then photos/photo tips on Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.


“There is only you and the camera.

The limitations in your photography are in yourself,

for what we see is what we are.” — Ernst Haas

Sunset on Isle of Hope, Savannah, GA.  Post sunset using a tripod.  The colors were in the light, but enhanced with Photoshop.

Post sunset using a tripod. The colors were in the light, but enhanced with Photoshop.

By Jim Byous

I love the light in Savannah, Georgia.  It’s different – daylight that is.  The light in California can also be beautiful but it can also be stark and sharp.  It wraps the subject differently.  In Oklahoma it is different.  Gorgeous, but the colors and shadows and hues for an image are harder to read.

But in Savannah it can be pre-visualized.  It’s not predictable, but pre-viewable.  Over the years I learned to watch the sky on the night before or during the late afternoon just before sunset.  The sky will give a hint of what could come. Faint tints of magenta, violet and other hues of light in the red range will often peak and wave before most eyes can pick them up.  The purpose of a beautiful photo is not to represent what is recorded on the film or sensor.  It is to record and represent the emotion found at the scene by the observer, then convey it in the image to the viewer.  That is a factor that changes recording into an art.

Many years ago, as a young photographer, I heard photo-icon Ernst Haas speak.  He talked of one of his inspirations, painter Claude Monet and his description of the light in paintings.  Monet saw the light when most did not, then put it down on in oils.  Haas was able to see the same light.  It takes time, learning to see it, but it is worth the wait.  I’m still learning.

Battlefield Park

Battlefield Park in Savannah at sunrise. Several shots were taken within a few minutes. They were pre-planned and marked so the images could be made in one setting.

Much of art is in timing.  In all art forms timing can be a hallmark of excellence or a stamp of rejection, a point of beauty or one of mediocrity and can determine the success of the work – or of its failure.  The leap of a ballerina, the swing of a baseball bat, a stroke of pigment across a wet and differing color, timing can dictate the value and desirability and the essence of art.

View of Skidaway Island from Isle of Hope, Savannah, GA immediately as the sun dropped below the horizon.  This was the light without tinting, but enhanced with Photoshop.

View of Skidaway Island from Isle of Hope, Savannah, GA immediately as the sun dropped below the horizon.

Life is like that.  We are put here with free will.  We all are born with differing mediums; oils, granite, speech, dance, light, mathematics.  Each person is the artist and designer of their destiny, the ultimate portrait of ourselves.  Each of us creates the outcome when taking a dull, blank plane of canvas or a shapeless lump of goo or a pile of junk and rubbish and creating something wonderful by turning it into something or nothing or letting it decay into oblivion.  We all start the same, wet and slimy, tied to the past by the cord that fed us and nurtured us and brought us to the beginning.  We all make ourselves what we are.

However, there are always outside factors.  The nudge in the wrong direction, the ball that curves, the paint that will not oxidize or dry, influences to change life’s direction or obscure the purpose.  The art of life is to know the differences or learn them as we progress.  We can wallow in the dung or we can use it as fertilizer that which will help us grow and reach upward.  The art of art is to act similarly, throw out the crap and keep the work that grows inspiration in others but especially that nurtures inspiration in you.

IPC from Kehoe House attic.
This shot is from the Kehoe House attic. The sun was setting behind the Independent Presbyterian Church, but not quite in full color bloom. After a short wait the color and the clouds came together.

Photography is like that. Sometimes catching the moment is instant. Sometimes it requires patience – lots of patience – to hold on beyond the this-just-doesn’t-quite-get-it phase to the shoot-fast-and-shoot-often period.

Sometimes in life and in art you see it forming.  You perceive it and plan for it.  It can be complex.  It can be simple.

Wait for the light.


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© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

Tags: Photography, Ernst Haas, Monet, light, art, Savannah

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The hell-hot, back-breaking, smoke-sucking profession.

Fire season is never the best time to vacation in dry areas.  Still, sometimes you go when you can go.  When you do remember that the people who protect the woodlands are a unique breed. Think about them when you travel through the patches of blackened hillsides and say a prayer for their safety.  It you are lucky you will get to meet a few.

The hell-hot, back-breaking, smoke-sucking profession

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It’s a hell-hot, back-breaking, smoke-sucking profession – firefighting.  I’ve been around fires.  I’ve experienced bad fires.  For a couple of years, I was a firefighter on a small-town department… long enough to acquire scars still carried.  That was in my youth and those were mostly house fires.  Wildfires are a different colored devil.  They’re mean, like they are out to get you.

0 0 Fire near Sonor California

Smoke above Sonora, California billows from the A-Rock fire in Yosemite National Park in 1990.

Those are experiences I have as well, but always through a camera lens.  And the people who fight those fires… tough.  That’s the only word I can find… just, tough. My fire training helped to know when to stay, when to duck and when to run.  I also learned that when in a wildfire environment you should listen to the crew chief.

From an overlook on Highway 120 just outside of Yosemite National Park had I watched a nearby slope explode in an awe-inspiring display.  The fire caught at the base of the 45-degree grade and climbed 400 feet in four seconds.  No person, no animal, could have outrun the flames.  That was during the Stanislaus Complex Fire in 1987.  Sometime between 2013 and 2014 the same sloped burned again according to images on Google Earth.  It happens often.

Fire near Two Dog Pass Tulomne, California

A CDF crew watches the backfire they set to eliminate fuel from the main body of flames during a mid-1980s forest fire at Two Dog Pass near Tuolumne California.

The latter in my lessons mentioned above, “run” is often the wisest action of the three.  During a fire in California’s central Sierra Nevada I did just that… Well, I didn’t run but I did drive out cautiously.  Following a lead to a location where structures were threatened, I came across a California Division of Forestry crew standing watch.  They were protecting a homesite with a few outbuildings that stood in a clearing that circled a small pond.  The first words from the crew chief weren’t encouraging.

Fire Boss

The Fire Boss and Crew Chief calls the shots, like this Mendocino County firefighter in 1987.

“We’re surrounded on three sides by fire,” he greeted me… smiling.  “If the wind doesn’t change you’ll be trapped with us.”

Interesting greeting it was.  “What will you do if it does?” I asked.

“We’ll drive the truck into the pond and get wet… Want to get wet?”

“If I need to,” I replied.  “But, only if I have too.”  I was well aware that my, now vintage, Nikon cameras would not favor moisture… nor flames.

He assured me he would inform me before it was too dangerous to leave.  I appreciated his candor.  Around the perimeter of the home firefighters sat waiting for the flames to advance.  One, thirty-something-Vietnam-Vet casually puffed on a cigarette watching the fire burn toward our location.

“It could circle around us if the wind holds,” he said.  “We’ll be fine if that happens.”  Smoke scrolled upward from his lips as he talked.  “This is like when I was in ‘Nam waiting for Charlie to attack… It’s tense.”  The fire too was his enemy as it advanced slowly and deliberately toward us.

He returned to puffing the fire stick in his fingers.  A few feet away a pine tree began to crackle, burning from the lower branches the flames then climbed, eating their way toward the top.  He and others grabbed hoses and showered the tree, stopping the flames.  An ember had apparently dropped into the branches and slowly kindled.

Fire Calaveras California c.1999

A fire in Calaveras County, Caliifornia, (c.1990) burned through mountain neighborhoods. Here the fire scorches the underbrush.  In the distance it is growing into a deadly tree-top, crown fire.

The ground below the tree sloped and rounded downward dropping toward the position where the main fire roared.  Some describe that roaring as being like the sound a freight train.  They are exact in their description.  A slow rumble quaked the ground underfoot.  Forest fires are raw power, like a gushing-spring-runoff-waterfall kind of power.  They fill the sky with acrid, burnt-pitch odors that tint light into a yellow-orange fog.  Behind the billows the sun peeks through, looking like a spotlighted, glowing disk.  It’s hard to breath in low-hanging smoke.  The taste of turpentine builds on your tongue.  We can taste it.

Fire Chopper Yosemite NP

Acrid, yellow-orange smoke reduced the sun’s appearance to a small yellow disk.

A few minutes later the crew chief informed me that if leaving was my intention, this would be the time.  It was.  I did.  Wishing them luck I climbed into my Jeep and drove toward the exit gap that lay between to ridges.  As I passed through, the fire was a few feet to my left, slowly burning its way downhill.  If it jumped the road on which I drove it would gain speed and close the circle around the firefighters.

Heat from the flames radiated through the side window.  I pressed the gas and sped past, to safety.  It was months before I learned the situation with those I had just left.  There was no news of fallen firefighters, so I knew they were safe.  Eventually I contacted them for a follow up interview.  Apparently, shortly after my brush with the flames, the wind changed and stopped the inferno’s advance.  Someone was watching over the crew.  No water.  No getting wet.  But, still a close call.

Golden Dragon Stanislaus Complex Fire California

A crew of Walapai hot shots saunter up the hill. I had witnessed them run at a constant speed over three ridges in steep, rocky terrain. They were amazing.

Hotshot crews are an amazing troop to watch.  It’s almost ballet, coordinated action, shovels scraping, Pulaski picks flying, combustible material being chopped, cut and pulled from the path of the fire.  Crews hike for miles with packs that are close to half their weight, fight the fire, then hike back to base.  Add a few chain saws to the load and the their endurance is a thing of beauty –  dirt, sweat and all.

All of the crews that I have seen have been amazing workers with near super-human abilities.  The most impressive crews for crossing terrain that I have witnessed were the Native American hot shots.  A Walapai (Hualapai) crew from the Bureau of Indian Affairs astounded me for their running ability.  I dubbed the group, The Golden Dragon.  Spotting them two steep and rocky ridges away they appeared to be one chain of golden-orange as they snaked along hillside.

They first came into site as they topped a distant ridge and began running downhill… not walking… running, as a group, single file.  A few minutes later they topped a second ridge across a steep, rocky canyon from us… still trotting at the same speed then again dropped into gap below me.  A short time later they jogged past my location on the trail.  None out of breath, none looking tired, all carrying their filled packs with tools and necessities.  I am still in awe.  A few days later later I ran across them in a Groveland, California restaurant, shook a few hands and felt honored for having done so.

Tough, yep!  I guess, but how does one describe a superhero?

Stay tuned for the second part of this story.

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

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