Antigua – West Coast

Antigua, 21 September 2016

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

In our last full day in Antigua, we decided do explore the west coast.  Here we are, about to start in English Harbour.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

You might think that in a Caribbean island, everyone stays in a resort and it is very expensive.  Well, there can still be cheap accommodation options available if you look. (And we weren’t staying here but I also wouldn’t stay in a resort if I could avoid it).

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

A rather nice cottage nearby.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

And a range of local transport, possibly available for hire.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

You have to go inland from English Harbour before you can get to the west coast.  These early images are all in and around a small town called Swetes.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Tyrell’s Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

An old ruined windmill, a relic of the sugar cane era.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

We are at the coast now.  this is Carlisle Bay Beach.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This is nearby, atop a headland.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

So there are places to stay in Antigua that might be entirely free, if somewhat lacking in privacy.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

A bit further on, at Morris Bay is some more enticing accommodation prospects that may be quite cheap.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This one even has its own car in the lounge room.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

And there is a ruined windmill nearby.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Excellent views down the beach.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

I think “Location, location, location!” is the phrase.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

A bit further along the coast, we found some colour transitions between sand, sea and sky.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

I think this is probably Valley Church Beach.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Not sure where this house is, maybe Five Islands, beside the road though, heading to the north-west.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

We got to Fort Barrington National Park but didn’t have time to climb up to the fort.  I’d say this is a Martello Tower, rather than a windmill.  In other words, it is a small defensive fort from the nineteenth century (though not Fort Barrington).

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Nearby, this is Deep Bay.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

A sign we passed on the way back to English Harbour.

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Antigua – Half Moon Bay and Devil’s Bridge

Antigua, 20 September 2016

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

We went again to Shirley Heights for the view at dawn.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Another view of English Harbour, from a vantage point on the way back for breakfast.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Nearby, a hummingbird and cacti.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This is much later and we are on the road heading for the east coast.  This is a Poinciana at the side of the road, introduced from Madagascar.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Half Moon Bay.  You can see how it got its name.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Not many people around.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This is idyllic here but we had a less salubrious experience a bit earlier.  The road was blocked and we were turned back by a guard on a road leading to a beach near a resort.  We were told later by a local that this is illegal, everyone should have access to beaches.  Multinational resorts appear to be a new colonialism in the Caribbean and not have a good reputation with many locals we spoke to.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

It is three hours later and this is an entirely different beach.  This is Long Bay Beach, not far from Devil’s Bridge.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

A bit of weather out to sea.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This is Devil’s Bridge National Park.  You can see the natural bridge (bottom left) and the surge would be spectacular in a heavy sea.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

It seemed like a nice place for a bite to eat and a drink.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Unfortunately there didn’t seem to be anyone around.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Maybe if we came back in a few years.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

I didn’t see these people there either.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

On the way back, this is St Peter’s Anglican Church at Parham, built in 1840.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

… with a remarkable interior roof.

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, Devil's Bridge, English Harbour, Half Moon Bay, Landscape, Nature, Parham, Photography, seascape, Shirley Heights, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

(Church interiors with fisheye lens).

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Antigua – Fort Berkeley and Shirley Heights

English Harbour, Antigua, 19 September 2016

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

In the afternoon, we walk past Nelson’s Dockyard to visit Fort Berkeley.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Probably an eighteenth century ship’s anchor.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Looking back across the harbour at the marina.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Fort Berkeley, but from a distance.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This is the same view with a wide angle lens.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

The fort is quite small but this is evidently all that was needed with such a narrow mouth to the harbour.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

In the distance in the middle horizon is Shirley Heights, with another former military emplacement that we shall visit soon.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

The last cannon left of twenty-nine.

The British were in Antigua from 1632 and English Harbour from 1704.  This was the best harbour in the islands of the eastern Caribbean.  Enclosed by hills, it was protected against hurricanes so the British were able to shelter here whereas the French had to send their ships back during the hurricane season.  All the other islands changed hands several times but the French never captured Antigua.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Looking across to Galleon Beach.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Either a storehouse or a guard house.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

The sheltered stone steps leading up to the building on the right suggest that it was a store house supplied by sea, perhaps primarily for ammunition.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Passing by Nelson’s Dockyard again.  Didn’t need to make a phone call.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

We are now on the heights at the other side of the harbour, at Dow’s Hill, where there is the remains of a large barracks.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

A view of the spectacular coastline nearby.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Cacti and the sea.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Looking towards Shirley Heights, where we head next.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

View from Shirley Heights.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

The Royal Military Guard House at Shirley Heights (named after Sir Thomas Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands in the late eighteenth century).  There were four cannon on a platform beside the building and a signal post above it.

There is a restaurant that can open here and a brass band that plays on Sundays.  But we weren’t told about that when we arrived the previous night so either it had finished or more probably it wasn’t happening because we were there in the off season.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Remains of a cannon.  I wonder if it shattered in anger.  Underneath the crown is GR for George Rex, which doesn’t tell us much because it could be George I, II or III and is therefore between 1716 and 1820.  It’s clearly not an American cannon and therefore doesn’t relate to their George I (1789-1797), George II (1989-1993) or George III (2001-2009).

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

A view looking north towards Indian Creek, Stand Fast Point and Mamora Bay.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Close by the Guard Station is the remains of another barracks.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Back now at our accommodation in English Harbour, as the evening slowly descends.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife .

Antigua – Morning at English Harbour

English Harbour, Antigua, 19 September 2016

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

We hired a car in Antigua and drove around as shown on this map.  The airport is at the top and we stayed at English Harbour, which is at the middle bottom.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This is a view in the early morning from where we were staying at English Harbour.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

These days there is a marina.  In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was Britain’s main naval base in the Caribbean.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

We went for a drive and walk to the coast a bit further south.  Here we are looking back towards English Harbour and it is Fort Berkeley at centre left, built in 1704.  We will visit there later.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

From the same spot, looking south.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

A frigate bird overhead.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

From the same viewpoint as the earlier image including Fort Berkeley, but showing the context with a wide angle lens.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This is a Turk’s Head or Barrel Cactus, endemic to the Caribbean.  Also known as Mother-in-law’s Pincushion.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Closer view with a tiny flower.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

This is Galleon Beach, Freeman’s Bay, so we’ve driven all the way around to the beach on the other side of the harbour behind Fort Berkeley in the previous images.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

Back on the docks at English Harbour.  A fishing boat has arrived and the fish are circling.  These are quite large, say about a metre long but they are not the target.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

There are swirls of activity as bits are thrown out.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

It’s a bit like a koi pool but this is the ocean.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

They are bringing the catch ashore.  I presume it is tuna.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

The crabs are interested too.

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Antigua, Architecture, English Harbour, Fish, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Street photography, Travel, Wildlife

And just a few minutes later, we have some tasty fillets.

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St Martin to Antigua

St Martin, Sint Maarten, St Bartholemey, Antigua, 18 September 2016

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Taking off from Princess Juliana international Airport in Sint Maarten.  Right beside the airport.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

This is a St Martin (as opposed to Sint Maarten) view, looking north over Simpson Lagoon with Marigot at the right at the end of the lagoon and Anguilla on the horizon.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

The inner suburban area of Sint Maarten.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

That strip in the middle is Philipsburg, commercial centre of Sint Maarten.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

 

The docks area of Philipsburg.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

This is now Saint Barthelemy, an island to the south-east of Sint Maarten.  The main centre of Gustavia in the foreground, Gustavia Industrial Zone in the cove at mid left and Gustaf III airport.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

The beaches are Anse du Gouverneur and Anse de Grande Saline. Saint Barthelemy was Swedish from 1784 when Louis XIV exchanged it for trading rights to Gothenburg, to 1878 when they gave it back.  It was then part of Guadeloupe but has been separate since 2003.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Antigua.  This is McKinnon’s Pond and Runaway Bay, near the main town of St Johns.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

St John’s.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

This is the Coolidge Cricket Ground, colloquially known as the Sticky Wicket Stadium, where Curtley Ambrose and Viv Richards no doubt played many times.

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Near the airport with some older buildings.

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Aerial Photography, Antigua, Photography, Saint Barthelemy, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Having arrived where we were staying at English Harbour, I am on the floor with the dog at the local general store.

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St Martin – Market and Beaches

St Martin, Sint Maarten, 17-18 September 2016

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

In the morning we went to the Marigot Markets.  Here are some fishermen preparing fish beside the sea.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

A huge array of shells.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

These locals appear to have locked themselves out of their car.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Markets in the background.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Next we went to Maho Beach, which is right beside the airport.  This sign on the fence at the beach and also at the end of the runway warns of the dangers but not all people take notice.  It is particularly dangerous when a plane has backed up to this end of the runway to take off.  People can cling to the fence to experience the jet blast but they can get blown away and unable to hang on.  About nine months after I took this photograph, a woman from New Zealand died here when she was blown off the fence and hit her head on te kerb.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Here is the beach, the runway just to the right.  We saw this view from the air as the plane came in a couple of posts ago.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

And there’s a plane on the way.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

There it goes….

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Nearby we saw these posters for a forthcoming Sint Maarten election.  Lots of big posters may not amount to much it seems.  At the previous election the party of these posters won only around 1% of the vote and it no longer exists.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Nearby this sailing ship was tied up at a wharf.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Could it be a surviving Dutch fluyt from the seventeenth century?

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

No, it’s quite modern, either a replica or a fantasy.  Semper pro gradiens (always progressing) is the motto of Sint Maarten.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

In the afternoon we went to Petit Plage, just north of Grand case, for a swim.  I didn’t take a camera with me because I didn’t want to leave it unaccompanied on the beach though as it turns out I could have because there were not many people around.  But I have no images of that to show you.  This is the beach at Grand Case late in the afternoon.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

An old house on the street in Grand Case.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Next day we were due to fly out in the afternoon but had enough time to visit Happy Day Beach for another swim.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

There were no other people around when we turned up.

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach, Landscape, Maho Beach, Marigot Markets, Photography, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Some people turned up while we were there and were swimming as we left.

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Around St Martin

St Martin, Sint Maarten, 16 September 2016

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

On our first full day on St Martin we circumnavigated the island, starting from our accommodation near Grand Case.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

 

And here we are at Grand Case, looking north from the beach.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

This is looking south along the beach, from about the same place.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

As you can see, it had the feel of a charming village and was the gastronomic centre of St Martin and Sint Maarten.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

An old house in need of restoration.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

From the beach.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Anguilla in the background.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

It must now be much changed, first devastated by Hurricane Irma, which passed directly over  a year later, and now presumably largely closed down by CIVID-19.

Here is a link to a French Government video showing the devastation of the hurricane over Grand Case.  Maximise it to full screen to run it otherwise it will be very small.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Here we are a bit further north at Anse Marcel, essentially a self contained resort.  No shops or eateries that we could see but beaches are public and Jools went for a swim.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Lizard and hibiscus flower on the beach.  Not set up..

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Looking back at Anse Marcel from the road out.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

We stopped off near Cul de Sac Bay to find a view.  Saint Barthélemy is in the background.  It separated from Guadeloupe in 2003 to form a separate French Overseas Collectivity.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

An egret at the water’s edge.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

We are a bit further on at Orient Bay.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

It was a bit too tourist-focused for us so we kept on going.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

We found a nice quiet place for a swim at Le Galion.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Not far past Le Galion, we are at Rotary Point.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Now more toward the south west corner of the island, looking over Guana Bay (at the left).  We are now in Sint Maarten.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

An abandoned mansion, that may have been wiped out by a previous hurricane.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel .

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Meeting some of the locals.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

A view over the commercial centre of Philipsburg.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

We are now back in St Martin at Fort Louis, near Marigot, built in 1797 by local subscription (since there were no local taxes).

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

In July 1808 the fort, defended by 28 men was attacked by about 200 men from a British squadron.  They were after the stocks of coffee that the knew to be in the port.  This did not go well for the British.  Seven including one of the Captains were killed, 18 severely wounded and 140 captured.  And they didn’t get any coffee.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

A wreck somewhat more recent that 1808.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Arawak Indians settled the island about 3,500 years ago and Carib Indians displaced them more recently.  Following their arrival in the region, the Spanish didn’t bother to colonise and the Dutch were the first to settle in 1631.  French and British outposts quickly sprang up but the Spanish arrived and threw them all out in 1633.  However the Spanish deserted the island in 1648 and both Dutch and French returned.  They quickly realised there was no point in a war and agreed to divided the island between them.

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Anse Marcel, Architecture, Fort Louis, Grand Case, Guana Bay, History, Landscape, Le Galion, Orient Bay, Photography, Rotary Bay, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Street photography, Travel

Back at our lodgings again, looking over Grand Case.

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Santo Domingo to St Martin

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St Martin, Sint Maarten, 15 September 2016

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Santo Domingo Port.

This is just after taking off in the plane.  The next eight images are flying along the south east coast of the Dominican Republic and the first ones are at or close to Santo Domingo.  They’re through a plane window of course so there are sometimes some reflections from inside the plane.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

AES Andres electric power plane and LNG importing facility.

 

Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Still the port, incorporates both of the previous images.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

San Pedro de Macoris.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

El Soco.

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Isla Catalina and La Romana.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

La Romana.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Boca de Yuma.

Juan Sanchez Ramirez landed at Boca de Yuma in 1808, coming from Puerto Rico, and routed the French, who at that time controlled Hispaniola, in the Battle of Palo Hincado.  He then became Governor of the Spanish Colony of Santo Domingo until he died in 1811.  He is known as “the father of the Dominican Republic”.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Juanilllo, the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic.

 

Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Puerto Rico was probably covered in cloud (so I have no other images of the main island) but this is Ceiba Ferry Terminal, at the eastern tip of Puerto Rico.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Vieques National Willdlife Reserve and Punta Este, Vieques Island, Puerto Rico.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Culebra, Puerto Rico.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

 

St Martin/ Sint Maarten is an island divided between France and the Netherlands.  This is the western tip, Les Terres Basses, St Martin. Anguilla in the background.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Cupecoy Beach. Sint Maarten in the foreground to the right, St Martin behind. Simpson Bay Lagoon behind the Sin Maarten buildings. The little white terrace houses on the left edge of the beach are half in St Martin and half in Sin Maarten.

This image provides a good summary of the difference between St Martin and Sint Maarten at the time.  Sint Maarten was an overdeveloped cruise ship destination, with multi-storeyed hotels and casinos, and more than 50% urban.  St Martin was more just a place where people lived with some nice undeveloped locations, much more interesting to us.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Sint Maarten, moving a little along the coastline.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

A resort near the airport.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

And here we are coning to land low over the beach.  I will have an image in a later post showing how this looks from the beach.

 

Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

This is a view from where we were staying at Over the Hill Guest House in Grand Case, nearing sunset.

We knew we were in the hurricane season in the Caribbean but fortunately we did not encounter one.  A year after we were there, St Martin and Sint Maarten were hammered by Hurricane Irma, which passed directly over the island.  95% of buildings in St Martin were damaged and 60% rendered uninhabitable.  Also, 70% of the buildings in Sint Maarten were damaged and a third destroyed.  Our accommodation appears to have reopened after being closed for around a year though now they probably have few guests due to COVID-19.  Most of the buildings in adjoining properties show in Google Earth as still levelled to the ground.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Houses on a nearby hill.

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Aerial Photography, Dominican Republic, Photography, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, seascape, Sint Maarten, St Martin, Travel

Night-time view in the same direction.

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The Need for Speed

This is a detailed article about rebuilding my computer, using new technology for very fast and heavy-duty photographic processing. I originally wrote it at the beginning of the process and have comprehensively updated it at the end.
(Note: This is still an interim update; Not quite finished yet).
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Index

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Asus Hyper M.2 x16 Card, Backup, Computer Upgrades, Computers, Equipment, Laptops, Motherboards, Photography

The super-fast tongue

(Panther Chameleon, Peyrieras Nature Reserve, Madagascar).

From the images I took, at 9 frames per second, I estimate the full extension of the tongue takes about 1/5th of a second.

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Context

COVID-19 may impel many people to upgrade their PC, either for working from home or because they are now going to spend more time there. I am also going through this process, though both my cause and my objective is different. I need to replace the motherboard of my PC and I am looking to upgrade my PC specifically for heavy duty photographic processing.

I have both Nikon and Fuji cameras. My main Nikon camera is 47MP which produces very large files (52MP) and for either Nikon or Fuji I may perform computer-intensive operations to combine many exposures. This can be for increased depth of field, extending tonal range, creating panoramas or some combination of those. Processing infrared images in Photoshop and scanning film can also be demanding on resources.

Many of these operations I either was not performing or with much smaller files when I last upgraded my motherboard. Therefore I prefer to take account of these greater tasks and the possibility they may increase in the future in ways I now don’t anticipate. I hope that if I have a more efficient computer I may be able to free up some of the time I now spend processing.

I’m hoping that anyone can understand what I write and that it will also be useful to people with detailed knowledge. I’m definitely aiming at a high-end PC but I’ll also cover alternatives for people who have lesser financial resources or lesser processing needs. Feel free to ask questions.

I have already written an article on Computers for Photography which is more general than this one and which contains links to other informative sites. This article includes new technology that is not covered in any of those links.

TOC.
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Priority for Speed

My main objective is a search for processing speed. As linked to in my earlier article, Image Science suggests that the order of priority for spending money on a computer is:

  1. Monitor and Calibrator
  2. Disks
  3. Fast Ram
  4. Video Card
  5. Processor
  6. Motherboard
  7. Case

TOC.
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Some Component Considerations

– Types of Hard Disks

I’m going to ignore the monitor and calibrator here (See information on that in the other article). The next priority is disks and the reason for that is that different types of disks and different combinations of them have very different speeds.  Note also that I’m talking about disks and not drives.  You might have a C drive and a D drive that are merely logical partitions of the same physical disk.  Here I’m referring to the physical disks.

  • Disks can be SATA or NVMe. SATA disks are usually powered by SATA cables though sometimes can mount directly to the motherboard. NVME disks mount directly to the motherboard and are much faster.
  • HDDs or spinning disks are those big heavy things that have been around for decades. They are one kind of SATA disk. An example is the Western Digital (WD) Black, which spins at 7200rpm. Another example is the WD Blue, which spins at 5400rpm and is slower.
  • Standard SSDs are small and oblong but squarish, and also SATA. They don’t have moving parts and are rather like a big USB stick. They are faster and more expensive than HDDs and many people use them as their C Drives or boot disks.
  • M.2 SSDs are a more recent standard. They are long and thin and smaller than a “normal” SSD and mount directly to the motherboard.
    • SATA M.2 SSDs have about the same speed and cost as a “normal” SSD.
    • NVMe M.2 SSDs are more expensive and significantly faster.
  • Your motherboard can also allow you to combine disks in a RAID array either for increased speed or increased security or both. They are usually of the same model and capacity of hard drive and can be SATA or NVMe and HDD. or SSDs. There are four different kinds of RAID. Let’s say we have four hard disks.
    • RAID 0 writes to all disks simultaneously and appears as one disk. The four disks make it four times as fast as a single disk but if one disk fails, you lose all the data on the RAID.
    • RAID 1 appears as two disks but each of those virtual disks contains two disks, one of which has a copy of the other disk. You lose no data if a disk fails and the speed is the same as a single disk.
    • RAID 5 appears as one disk, simultaneously writes to three disks and uses one disk for data validation. You should able to recover your data if a disk fails. It is about twice as fast as a single disk.
    • RAID 10 appears as one disk, simultaneously writes to two disks and uses two disks for data validation. You should able to recover your data if a disk fails and maybe also if two disks fail, depending on which ones. It is twice as fast as a single disk.
    • Some people have experienced problems with the reliability of HDD RAID but this has improved over the years, and SSD RAID should be more reliable than HDD RAID

TOC.
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– The Hard Disk Race for Speed

So how do these disks compare for speed? Let’s have a race to find out.

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Asus Hyper M.2 x16 Card, Backup, Computer Upgrades, Computers, Equipment, Laptops, Motherboards, Photography

Serpent Column and Thurmose III’s Obelisk at Constantinople Hippodrome.

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This is an image from the Hippodrome of Constantinople/. This is where they did their chariot racing, at least until Constantinople was occupied during the Second Crusade in 1202. The first event of the ancient Greek Olympics is also believed to be a chariot race. Chariot racing was the pinnacle of speed in the ancient world.

In the background is the Obelisk of Thutmose III, Pharaoh 1479-1425 BC. It was brought to Constantinople in 390AD, and only the top third survives. In the foreground is the Serpent Column. This was originally erected in Delphi in 478 BC to commemorate the final defeat of the Persian army at the Battle of Plataea. It originally had three serpent heads that supported a golden bowl but the bowl was lost or stolen during the Third Crusade and the heads fell off in 1700. (The upper jaw of one remains in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum). Both of these were on the Spina, or the ridge in the middle of the Hippodrome that the chariots raced around.

These days we have various kinds of football clubs (though currently inactive due to COVID-19). The Hippodrome crowds divided into Blue and Green factions (and originally there were also Red and White). They were also a bit like criminal gangs, and disputative to the extent of starting civil war. The Constantinople Hippodrome was 750 metres long and 220 metres wide (including seating). A lap was about a kilometre and a race was 7 laps, so the race was over 7 kilometres. There were two very tight turns at the end of the track for each lap. For the main races, the chariots were pulled by four horses.

TOC.
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– and we’re off and racing!

The Hippodrome is U-shaped and the mouth of the U houses the starting bays. We have six chariots lining up for the race, representing different hard disks. We have a WD Blue HDD, a WD Black HDD, a 4 disk RAID 5 array of WD Red HDDs, a Samsung 860 EVO SSD, a Samsung M.2 PCIe 970 EVO Plus SSD and a 4 disk RAID 0 array of Samsung M.2 PCIe 970 EVO Plus SSDs. (Times will correspond to read times, write times are somewhat slower.)

The 7 kilometre race is over in 8 minutes 25 seconds, won of course by the 4 disk Samsung M.2 PCIe 970 EVO Plus SSD RAID 0. After all, it is a new chariot pulled by four strong horses. In that time, the WD Blue has covered 90 metres. I guess you can’t expect too much from a donkey and a cart. In the same time, the WD Black covered 125 metres, the WD Red RAID 5 array 200 metres and the Samsung 860 Pro SSD 460 metres. All of these have been lapped seven times and didn’t make the first turn, at 500 metres. The single Samsung M.2 PCIe 970 EVO Plus SSD did better, completing one and three quarter laps, or 1,750 metres, and was lapped only six times.

TOC.
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– Costs of Horses and Chariots (or Hard Drives in modern parlance)

Of course there’s a cost for better and more high tech chariots, quicker stronger horses and more accomplished charioteers, or in general, for increased performance. This also applies to the different kinds of hard drives. If we take one terabyte disks as an example, a WD Blue HDD costs about $70, a WD Red HDD $95, a WD Black HDD $135, a Samsung 860 EVO SSD $260 and a Samsung M.2 PCIe 970 EVO Plus SSD $350. (Current prices in Australian dollars, though they may change quickly in these times). There are always compromises but square wheels don’t help much in chariot races while only the generals can afford horses from the Arabian Peninsula.

The kind of disk you choose and whether you combine them can have a huge effect. So this is why disks are the most important component in computer speed these days.

TOC.
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– USB and disks

Speed of disks is one thing, if you need to connect an external disk to your computer, the connection speed or USB speed is another. This should be straightforward but a number of aspects are unnecessarily confusing. Speed is commonly given in Gbps – but that’s not Gigabytes per second, it’s gigabits per second and there are eight bits to a byte. Also, the changes in naming conventions have become downright bizarre. I’ll give a summary here and express speeds as megabytes per second with Gbps in brackets. Then I’ll explain how that compares to speeds for the different kinds of disks.

  • USB 2 has a speed of 60MB/sec (480Mbps)
  • USB 3.0 has a speed of 625MB/sec (5Gbps)
    • but its name has changed to USB 3.1 Gen 1, then USB 3.2 Gen 1 and all names are concurrent (!)
  • USB 3.1 has a speed of 1250MB/sec (10Gbps)
    • Name changed to USB 3.1 Gen 2, then USB 3.2 Gen 2. Equivalent to Thunderbolt 1.
  • USB 3.2 has a speed of 2500MB/sec (20Gbps)
    • Name changed to USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. Equivalent to Thunderbolt 2.
  • USB 4 will have a speed of 5000MB/sec (40Gbps) but is not yet generally available.
    • It is equivalent to Thunderbolt 3.
  • Note that USB-C merely refers to a different plug though is usually USB 3.1 or higher.

Now let’s compare that to hard disk speeds.

  • A big heavy clunking hard drive (HDD) has a speed of say 120MB/sec to 150MB/sec. So connecting it with USB 2 will slow it down by 50% or more but USB 3.0 will work fine. Anything more than USB 3.0 will work but will be superfluous though because the HDD can’t match the connection speed.
  • A smaller squarish SATA SSD (or a SATA M.2 SSD) will have a speed of around 500MB/sec. In this case, connecting it with USB 2 will slow it down by nearly 90% but USB 3.0 will be fine and anything higher will work but be superfluous.
  • The very small oblong NVMe M.2 SSD (and not the identical-looking SATA M.2 SSD) will have a speed of 1700MB/sec to 2400MB/sec. So you need USB 3.2 to take full advantage of this one. This is an emerging option but you can already get relatively inexpensive and compact NVMe M.2 enclosures and plug them into a USB port. (This would be the ultimate option for backup while travelling).

TOC.
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A normal approach to a fast photographic PC

Now the usual approach to upgrading the motherboard for a reasonably fast photographic PC would be as follows:

  • You’d want a motherboard with DDR4 RAM and it would be good to have at least two M.2 PCIe ports. There are lots of choices, one is an Asus Prime H370-A for around $200. It needs to be able to fit into your case though (This one is for an ATX motherboard. You can have micro ATX, ATX and extended ATX cases).
  • Then the CPU, though you really don’t need the fastest and most expensive CPU. You might get an Intel i7-9700 CPU, perhaps an i7-9700F for about $550.
  • You’d also need an appropriate CPU cooler from maybe $60 to $150. (Also needs to fit in the case).
  • Then you might add say 32GB RAM from a good brand such as G.Skill or Corsair for between $230 and $300. (You could also get by with 16GB though 32GB is better for Lightroom and Photoshop).
  • You’ll also need a suitable graphics card but it doesn’t need to be a high end one, perhaps a GTX 1660 with 6GB memory for around $360.
  • Then you’d need to add hard disks which you might be able to transfer from your existing PC. With this motherboard you could add up to six SATA disks, which could include an SSD as a boot drive (C Drive). Then you have two M.2 PCIe SSDs as fast processing drives. Alternatively, don’t have the SSD and have one M.2 PCIe SSD as your boot drive and a larger one as your processing drive.

TOC.
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The approach I’ve taken

I’ve opted for seriously fast processing disks, including four M.2 PCIe SSDs combined in a RAID array. This is the chariot and four horses that can blitz the field at the Hippodrome. To do that I’m using an Asus Hyper M.2 x16 card which can mount four such SSDs. You can see a detailed overview of it in this review (which has six pages, in case that’s not obvious).

– CPU, Motherboard and PCIe Card

You will have a number of slots on your motherboard called PCIe slots that you can mount cards in and they come in different lengths. You probably have a graphics card in one of the full-length ones. You can also have different cards for different purposes and one such card is the Asus Hyper M.2 x16 card. It is only $90 which makes it sound like a cheap option but to mount all four SSDs you need another fully powered full length (x16) slot. This requires an expensive CPU and motherboard. Specifically, you need a CPU that supports at least 44 “PCIe lanes”. So in terms of Intel CPUs, neither an i7 9700 nor an i9 9900 fit the bill and I went for an i9 10900X ($1070). For the motherboard I went for an Asus Prime X299-A II ($600).

I have 6.7TB of data, including 6TB for photographic images. The old computer had a 2TBx4 RAID 10 array for 4TB of storage plus a 6TB WD Black and a 500GB M.2 PCIe SSD. I had 2.9TB on the RAID 10 for images, 3.4TB on the WD Black for older images and other files, and 365GB on the M.2 SSD for the Lightroom Catalogue. There was also a 256GB SSD for the boot drive. (It is essential to have at least 10% free space on a drive and preferably 20% or it may become unreliable.)

I intended to have both a SATA RAID 5 of HDDs on the new computer as well as a RAID of NVMe SSDs. It was only later I found out in Intel FAQs that I couldn’t have both (Asus documentation didn’t cover that and Asus Support didn’t know). So since the NVMe SSDs are much faster than SATA HDDs, I’ve opted for an NVMe RAID and single SATA HDDs. So I’ll keep the 6TB WD Black, I’m currently using another HDD and I may replace that with a 4TB WD Black later. I chose an Intel option because it seemed to offer a SATA RAID 5. Had I realised that wasn’t going to work, I probably would have opted for AMD which is currently cheaper and more powerful.

TOC.
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– M.2 NVMe SSDs

The new motherboard allows up to three M.2 NVMe SSDs on the motherboard. I have a Samsung 960 EVO in one as my boot disk and a Samsung 970 EVO Plus in another for my Capture One catalog. I also expect to have four 500GB M.2 NVME SSDs on an Asus Hyper M.2 x16 card which I have specified as a RAID 0 array using Intel Virtual RAID from CPU or VROC. They are Intel 760p SSDs and for X299 motherboards they have to be Intel SSDs which is another thing not mentioned in the Asus documentation but that I found later in an Intel FAQ.

People with older PCs can potentially add an Asus Hyper M.2 x16 card to get an M.2 slot even where the motherboard doesn’t already have one. Your CPU won’t support a VROC RAID but depending on your CPU and the PCIe lanes on your motherboard, the card will support one or two M.2 SSDs, though not the full four.

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– RAID 0 Precautions

RAID 0 gives a very fast drive but if any of the SSDs fall over, all the data is lost. This may be a bridge too far for some people but here is why I am comfortable with it.

  1. I have everything backed up to a local Drobo and to the Cloud. The Drobo is a black box of drives connected to the PC and I back up using Acronis. For my Cloud backup I use CrashPlan though for most people BackBlaze is cheaper and would be sufficient. For more on backup see my article Backup for Photographers.
  2. My Lightroom catalog will be on the RAID 0 drive. I have a separate and frequent backup for just that catalog. Lightroom working files can take up a lot of space but most of that is previews. Currently my Lightroom working files take up 350GB but the catalog itself is only 2.4GB. It’s not essential to get the previews back because you can always regenerate the ones you need in Lightroom whereas restoring the catalog itself should be very fast.
  3. I will have a copy of my working photographic images on a SATA HDD (in the computer) as well as the RAID 0.
  4. For both Lightroom and Capture One, I save changes to the catalogue rather than to sidecar files. The RAW files are unchanged. So if I lose the RAID 0, I would simply need to point the catalogue to the SATA HDD with the other copy of the files. This would cover all of the original files and any changes in Lightroom. The only files I would need to restore from backup (as needed) would be JPEGs and TIFFs I have generated in other programs such as Photoshop, Zerene Stacker, Autopano Giga, SNS-HDR or Capture One
  5. The SSDs have a 5 year warranty so failures should be infrequent. They should be much more reliable than HDDs.

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Asus Hyper M.2 x16 Card, Backup, Computer Upgrades, Computers, Equipment, Laptops, Motherboards, Photography

Iceland Farmhouse uploading to The Cloud.

TOC.
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– Intel and AMD

My Intel X299 motherboard only supports Intel SSDs for RAID (VROC RAID), either on an Asus Hyper M.2 x16 card or the motherbard. If you want a RAID 5 or RAID 10, this requires a $250 hardware key but RAID 0 does not require a hardware key. Other SSDs such as Samsung SSDs are not compatible for a VROC RAID either on an Asus card or on the motherboard though they are fine to operate as single disks.

You can also get hardware keys for non-Intel SSDs such as Samsung, at $170 for RAID 0 and $400 for RAID 5. They definitely don’t work with X299 motherboards, either for an Asus card or directly off the motherboard, and Intel’s X299 VROC FAQ says only Intel SSDs are compatible so I’m not sure where you can use them.

I understand AMD motherboards don’t have this problem, you don’t need to pay extra for a hardware key and you can use non-intel SSDs. An AMD alternative, specifically an Asus Prime X399-A motherboard ($460) and an AMD Threadripper 2920X CPU ($800) is quite a bit cheaper than the Intel alternative and appears a better option though you can’t have a RAID 5. I haven’t checked out the fine print for this option though.

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Concluding Comments

You can buy an off the shelf PC or get a custom one; if you want a high performance PC specifically for photography you may prefer a custom one. You can buy a custom PC from somone like Aus PC Market (as recommended by Image Science) or specify it yourself and either get someone to put it together or do that yourself. You can get a new PC or upgrade the components inside your case.

The prices I cited above will of course change over time and new options will become available.

Some thoughts on issues when renewing a PC:

  • You should read all manufacturer specs and the manual, and also consult the Qualified Vendor List (QVL) to make sure the components are compatible.
  • I found the Asus documentation was deficient in important respects and I also needed to consult Intel FAQs.
  • If you are upgrading RAM, you need to replace all your RAM rather than adding more, even of the same specification. Otherwise, your RAM is much more likely to fail.
  • Some vendors are better to deal with than others, especially if you encounter compatibility problems and need to return an item. I recommend Scorptec.
  • Back up your computer image and make a boot USB
  • Acronis lets you transfer your operating system to different hardware.

I don’t claim to be an expert, I just investigate what seems to be appropriate, do my research and follow my own path. I’m also not responsible for what you may encounter if you follow my example. Not many people would need a PC like this one, it all depends on your processing requirements and your budget. What you already have may be quite sufficient.

Also consider my earlier article, Computers for Photography which is more general and contains useful links.

Feel free to make comments or ask questions, though, to which I will respond to the best of my abilities.

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Appendix 1: Links about computers

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Appendix 2: Links about building a PC

Santo Domingo Monochromes

12-14 September 2016, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

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Links go to posts with the colour versions of the images (where there may also be more information and context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies. (Click on any image to see it larger).

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Art vendor in the centre of the old city.

Catedral Primada de America.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Around the block from the Cathedral.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Inside the Cathedral.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Museo Casa de Tostado.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

A statue of Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés in front of the Tower of Homage.

Fortaleza Ozama.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

This vehicle was parked in the street right outside where we were staying, in the centre of the old city.

Wandering in Santo Domingo.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes or the Church of Our Lady of the Mercedes.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Calle Hostos.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Monasterio de San Francisco.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Alcázar de Colón.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Museo de las Casas Reales.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel

Edges of the Old City.

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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Architecture, Art, Black and White, Cars, Dominican Republic, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Santo Domingo, Street photography, Travel .

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