Photography in St. Croix

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Walking around in Christiansted St. Croix and enjoying the old buildings.

Camera Miss Lone Star TravelsBelieve it or not, it took a long time to take this picture.  Please notice the rooster at the corner of the frame.  He was elusive but he had to be in the picture.  We were coming from doing a little shopping and life seemed to slow down.  We strolled down this old street and I could picture how it was to walk on this same street hundreds of years ago.  It was an “ah ha” moment, indeed. I loved Christiansted Harbor and the old town although it wasn’t packed with tourists or filled shops.  It was quiet and there was enough to entertain us as we walked along.  We ate at a local place for lunch and we were content.  The light was coming through the tight street at an interesting angle.  There were vines and moss growing on the old walls.  The proud rooster patrolled his territory.  I hope he would of this picture.

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Captain of the Miss Lone Star

The Best Time To Take Pictures

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Sometimes it takes a long, long time to get the right pictures!

My wife is a professional photographer and she has always said that the best light is at sunrise or when the sun is going down.  At first, I disputed this fact in my mind because I had always got what I thought were good pictures throughout the day.  Our trip to St. Croix taught me that I was definitely wrong about my thoughts on light.  We spent this afternoon stalking the perfect photos as the sun went down.  This was the first time I really saw all of the opportunities for amazing pictures as the sun went down.

A photographer has to be dedicated to pack all of the gear required, first of all.  You have to scout out great locations and then find interesting settings, second.  The camera settings have to be perfect and the focal point has right on.  Then it’s time to take pictures!  Repeat. Repeat.  Repeat.

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What Is The Story Behind Your Pictures?

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What is the story behind this picture?

I look at the Internet for many hours per day and I see a lot of pictures.  I’m sure it is normal for me to wonder about the story behind the picture.  In my case, getting there is only half of the problem and taking it can be another thing altogether.  I want to be a good story teller and we have so many great pictures.  I can only imagine how many pictures we will gather as we cruise throughout the Caribbean.

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Sink or Swim

It was about two months ago that I broke the news to my parents about our upcoming journey to move aboard our 37′ Cruisers Yacht, and take a year to cruise the Caribbean, ending up in St. Croix. Had I been able to make the two calls to my Mom and Dad at once they would have both replied in unison, “You had better get the kids into swimming lessons, yesterday”.

Sink or swim

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Move to the U.S. Virgin Islands!

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I think it is a good idea to move to the US Virgin Islands for a number of reasons.  Many people don’t understand that the US Virgin Islands is an US territory and no passport is required to visit or move there.  I’ve wondered many times why it took me so long to find it, being an US Citizen.  The USVI is nicknamed “America’s Caribbean” and it holds true to its name. Continue reading

The Beauty and Virtues of St. Croix

St. Croix warmed our hearts and we wanted to share our experience with the people of the Virgin Islands.  I spoke to an Editor of the Virgin Islands Consortium and I was asked to write a piece for the publication.  It was published today. Virgin Islands Consortium January 22, 2015 Recent first-time St. Croix visitor, Robb Hamic, shares a first-person account of the adventures, sights, sounds, and people he and his wife, Aubrey, encountered while on island. In many respects, his journal entry serves as a reminder of the often-overlooked beauty — both natural and interpersonal — that surrounds us in these U.S. Virgin Islands we call home. May we ever be mindful of it, and see our islands, and their people, with fresh and loving eyes. -VIC Staff

We met some new friends on North Shore Beach while taking photography

We met some new friends on North Shore Beach while taking photographs

We got settled down into our seats for the final leg of our trip to St. Croix, U.S.V.I. I sat next to a retired St. Croix schoolteacher with a happy face and a warm smile. She had the look of an educator. She was a life-long resident of St. Croix and was returning from a trip to visit her son in Delaware. I tried not to ask too many questions about this foreign place, but I never had the chance to talk to a local. Maybe if I were patient, she would tell me all that I wanted to know. My wife and I had an uncommon reason for visiting the beautiful U.S. Territory of the Virgin Islands. We have already decided to move to St. Croix, sight unseen. There was no job to transfer us and we didn’t know a soul on the island, save this kind schoolteacher sitting next to me. I grew up dreaming about cruising my own boat in the Caribbean and one day living on an island. I suffered an injury after getting blown up in the U.S. Army that somehow made the possibility of my dream come true. My wife inherited my dream, through our marriage, and I was fortunate enough to adopt her two children. We decided months ago to “set the date” for our move and settled on St. Croix for a number of important reasons. We currently live in Austin, Texas and neither of us has ever lived on an island. Maybe I am crazy, but I never once considered the potential of us making a poor choice in our new destination. We were immediately struck with the warmth of three people on the plane who heard our story. We exchanged names and numbers. Our new friends offered to show us around and introduce us to people whom we might have things in common. I think we were both surprised to feel this level of acceptance from people who actually seemed to care that we were to make this island our home. Growing up stateside made me feel unimportant and sometimes irrelevant. I feel very much like a name or a number and not a member of my community; despite trying really hard to fit in and assimilate in the large place we call home. I hoped it would be different in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We awoke the first morning from our apartment in Christiansted to hear the faint sound of the ocean. After drinking a couple pots of coffee, we drove off in our Jeep to explore our future home. We were astounded at the diversity in the scenery of the island and its laid-back feel. We walked on a few dozen beaches and captured beautiful images from our travels. We are photographers and it wasn’t hard for us to find thousands of landscapes and creatures to record. Being a normal man, I chose to not bring a map. We spoke to a guy on the street as we set off and he asked us if we knew where we were going. He imparted this knowledge to us, “The island isn’t that big and if you get lost, who cares!” We proceeded to get lost in the warmth and happiness of the people who call St. Croix their home. We stopped to get a drink from a roadside stand after combing a North Shore beach. Our host, Bernard, sat with us and we visited for half-an-hour. He cut us some sugar cane and laughed, saying he didn’t see many tourists that carried their own knife. He told us that it wasn’t hard to fit in on the island and he moved back after living in New York and St. Thomas. He introduced us to his daughter who was home from school in Chicago. She dropped off some coconuts for him to make drinks. We shook hands and he asked me for my name again. We drove down the road and saw a beautiful old-school house adorned with vibrant colors facing the Caribbean. We stopped to take some shots of this building that was in the front of a small community that went up the hillside. We were on location for a few minutes and a couple of guys drove up playing loud music. I’m trespassing was my first thought, being from the mainland. The guys hopped out and said hello, shaking our hands. They explained that the school was in disrepair and vacant for many years. They came down to clean up the bushes. We continued taking our photos and set up a tripod so that we could both be in the picture. “You wanna make a picture with us,” said one of the guys. “Of course, get in here,” replied my wife, and we all set down for a group photo. We had fun taking the pictures and they said they made the photos so much better, which was obviously true. We spoke for thirty minutes about nothing and everything. They explained that they live up the hill and wanted to make their community look better, so they came to clean up the school. The man next door had horses that they rode from time to time and there was a baseball field up the road. Everybody gets together at the beach on Sunday and sometimes they cook up some fish. They said we could come anytime after hearing that we planned to move to the island. They were both immensely proud of their community and said we would like it best on the North Side. We had to get on down the road for some more exploring, but not until they asked for our names again and gave us warm handshakes. We found ourselves in the rainforest many days and nights. We both loved the terrain and found many out-of-the-way places to abuse our rental Jeep. We happened upon a farm and met one of the guys that works it daily. We drove up during the middle of the day when no other people were around. He was getting some fruits and vegetables together for a market. He gave us some fruit as we talked for a long while. Upon leaving, he pointed us to a road that took us all over the farm. I never noticed a ‘NO TRESPASSING’ sign, and he never looked at his watch to mark the time missed from his work due to our visit. I wondered many times why more people from the mainland didn’t immigrate to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The price of real estate is relatively low, services are readily available, and although the cost of gas is twice that of Texas, the island is only twenty-eight miles long. In Texas, we may drive errands that take us farther. I retired from the Army at a young age and receive care from the Veteran’s Administration for my medical needs, which exist on the islands. The people are warm, the sun shines and the trade winds usually blow from the east. There is a strange absence of ‘NO TRESPASSING’ signs. We traveled 250 miles in that Jeep and talked with dozens of local people who we found on beaches, hills and restaurants. I noticed that people often asked for my name twice and fully expected to see me when I returned. It was always a good feeling and I have to admit, unexpected. I moved to Texas eight years ago and remember a saying I heard about people becoming Texans: “I may not be from Texas, but I got here as soon as I could.” In writing this, I think I will come up with my own saying when we move to the U.S. Virgin Islands in six months. Robb and Aubrey Hamic are travelling to the U.S. Virgin Islands from Austin, Texas in July 2015 aboard their boat, “Miss Lone Star.” Robb is retired from the U.S. Army and is a service disabled Veteran. He was an investigator, private security company owner, and tactical firearms instructor. Aubrey is a professional portrait and landscape photographer. Visit their blog here. Feature Image Credit: Frederiksted, St. Croix/Robb and Aubrey Hamic

St. Croix Long Exposure Photography

A view from Protestant Cay in Christiansted Harbor, St. Croix, USVI

A view from Protestant Cay in Christiansted Harbor, St. Croix, USVI

I love Aubrey’s eye for photography.  She shot this image as we were headed to dinner one night in Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI.  She used time lapse photography when taking this photo.  This particular image was taken with a tripod and a twenty second exposure.  There was a little movement on the dock and the boats because of the ocean.  This effect causes the blur that is apparent because of the twenty seconds of exposure during the photo.  It was shot with a special wide angle lens through her Canon 5D Mark III camera body.

St. Croix Ground Lizard

The Protestant Cay was teaming with these small lizards, of course I scooped one up to investigate their “teeth situation” as I like to call it. As I lean in to take a closer look, this older man who was also visiting said “You know the little guy is endangered?”. I thought he was pulling my leg, I set the little guy down on the brick wall where I found him and went on to capturing other things.Saint Croix Ground LizardWhat would you know, when we got home and I was looking through our images I decided to look him up. Ameiva Polops Juvenile critically endangered! Once indigenous to St. Croix, they were almost wiped out by the introduction of the indian mongoose in the 1880s. They have since been trying to introduce them to other islands. In 2008 57 individuals were introduced to Buck Island, which is a beautiful nature preserve.

Check out his GREEN eye!


The First Mate of Miss Lone Star

The First Mate of Miss Lone Star

Christensted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

Saint Croix USVI

We took pictures of this sailing yacht at night and we decided that the image was “wall worthy.”  This is the un-edited image.  We were told that this boat spends the summers in Massachusetts and the winter around St. Croix.  It had a very large crew and they all had busy jobs, from what we saw in a couple of days of it being in port.  Christiansted was one of our favorite places on the island of St. Croix.  It had a very laid back feel and it was quaint.  The streets weren’t busy and there were more local people than tourists.  I have been all over the world and I can say it felt just like the hometown I never had.  The fort guards the harbor as it has since the 1700’s when the Dutch built it to guard against pirates.  It is ironic that the US Park Service maintains the Dutch fort and it is open to the public.

There were a lot of great shops and restaurants in town.  We dined at a place named Savant.  It was walking distance from our little Cay.  There was a shortage of fish because of the storms that surrounded the islands.  The owner said that he bought only one thirty pound fish for the night and was lucky to get it because nobody was fishing.  We were lucky to get a private table in their courtyard.  It was an interesting evening and we dined with some people we met on our Cay.  Our new “friends” were from North Carolina and the matriarch of the group invited us to dinner.  She was a really flamboyant gal who had done a lot in her time and we thought she would be good company.  Her friend who lives on the island was planning to join us and she said he had authored six books about the Caribbean.  We arrived on time and she chose our seats for us.  Have you ever met people like that?

We learned that she nicknamed herself “Catherine the Great.”  Seriously.  Cathy turned out to be obnoxious and one of the most condescending people I have ever met.  I guess she could command the room, in her mind, because she insisted on paying the large price of dinner.  Her Highness said that she would come and visit us when we moved to the island.  Luckily for us, her friend was worse.  He was a pompous man who seemed to think he was gracing us with his presence.  He had a very colorful life and probably had a lot to share but he didn’t.  He drank rum like it was free (actually it was) and didn’t speak to me about anything substantive except how he thought my wife was beautiful.  He mentioned to her that she was older than his girlfriend, which would’ve made that girl his granddaughter’s age.  Life is funny but at least we had something to laugh about.

I am so thankful that I married the woman who is my best friend and confidant.  I know that many people say that about their spouse but I know it to be true.  I spend all of my waking time with my girl and our kids.  We are so lucky that we don’t really fight or become irritated with each other.  It is rare.  She is the only person whom I could dream of spending a year aboard a boat with me.  I feel so lucky to have her and our kids.  It is my dream to get the opportunity to raise two little children.  I have three older kids and I love being their Dad.  The littles haven’t seen the Caribbean and I can’t wait until they see their first unspoiled island.

I saw a lot of people who were content with what they had on St. Croix.  People seemed to be happy with less.  We are spending a lot of time de-cluttering our own lives in our preparation to move.  I spend the good part of my day going through my training gear, gun stuff and bullets.  I can’t take it all and I don’t need most of what I have.  I spent a lot of time being a firearms instructor and it amazed me at how many stashes of bullets I had in my garage.  I think it has hit the hundred thousand mark or so.  It is a good thing that bullet prices are high and I will make a bundle selling what I can’t shoot, take or lose in the remaining months that we have in Austin.  I spent two hours separating varieties of bullets I had in one bucket.  I felt like a big squirrel counting my nuts.  I’m not sure what I needed with thirty holsters but I’m sure someone will be happy to take them off my hands.

I ended the day with a nice motorcycle ride to see our boat docked in the local lake.  I love to ride in nice weather.  I am really happy that my Harley is the only vehicle that we will take to the island.  I found myself dreaming about riding it through the rain forest of St. Croix.