Newsletter: Escapes: Savoring your picture-perfect summer vacation

Two boys try to get a soccer ball in Jalisco, Mexico; and an exhibit of umbrellas with ballet slipper feet in Tel Aviv.
(John Allred, left, and Joanie Merrill, right)

Funny how the smallest encounters become part of the circle that is life. During the work leading up to our annual Summer Vacation Photo issue, staff writer Christopher Reynolds contacted many of the readers who submitted pictures to let them know their work had made the first cut, including a reader who shot a beautiful scene in Namibia.

In an email response, that reader, Matt Ebiner, a geography professor at El Camino College, told Reynolds this wasn’t the first time they had been in touch.

“I clipped the article since I was planning a trip to Bolivia for the summer of 1996,” Ebiner told Reynolds in a recent email. “I brought it with me to the witches’ market and showed the photo to the lady vendors. They were so interested since they hadn’t seen the photo, and I let them keep it.

“I believe I wrote you a letter afterward (pre e-mail) telling you about taking your article down there and how it was well-received, and you wrote back to thank me for letting you know.”

Twenty-two years later, Ebiner’s picture (below) was featured in the reader photo issue that ran Sept. 16 in print and online.

Serendipity at play? Definitely. Many of these photos were the result of the unplanned. Zac Reeder of Agoura Hills was waiting for a water taxi in Venice; Thomas Brod of Los Angeles was waiting for a float plane that would whisk him to San Juan Island. Marsha Chan of La Cañada Flintridge was on a photo tour in Iceland when music from a church drew her attention.

All of them submitted beautiful pictures that were part of this celebration of summer and of travel.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the very lucky travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. Lucky? Yes. Because I had a chance to see many of the 1,700 or so photos readers sent in for this issue. Those pictures tell me two things: Our readers work hard to find the essence and the beauty of a place and to preserve it and their generosity in sharing means others, who may never go to Africa or Italy, get to feel a part of the larger world. You can see many more of these photos online at To whet your appetite, read on.

Matthew Ebiner, Covina ¦ Namibia

Ebiner reached this Namibian desert scene on Aug. 6. The acacia trees in this area are said to have died more than 500 years ago, when shifting sand blocked a river. Oh, and Ebiner didn’t come across this view by accident. He drove more than two hours in the predawn dark, then walked for 30 minutes to catch the dunes and skeletal acacia trees in sharp, early light. He had a digital single-lens reflex camera with him, but got this image with his Samsung Galaxy S9 phone.

Reader photos
  Matthew Ebiner

Don Drissel, Seal Beach ¦ Xizhou, China

Drissel was in a market in Xizhou where he spotted this child through a window. Drissel waved and got the grin in return, then snapped with his Nikon D500.

Reader photo
  Don Drissel

Ken Lee, Los Angeles ¦ Mammoth Lakes

Lee made the Lake Mamie image in the wee hours of June 13 while on a vacation at Mammoth Lakes. He used a Nikon D750, long exposure, high ISO and several other complicated night photography techniques.

Reader photo
  Ken Lee

Gary Amico, Studio City ¦ Zimbabwe

Amico took this image of his son James, 12, and a Zimbabwean woman on a July visit to Imire Lodge. Amico said the lodge had arranged a visit with a family, and Hilda, the woman of the house, took a liking to James. Amico captured the moment with his iPhone 10. On the same visit, “We learned how to make peanut butter, we plowed fields” and got a firsthand look at village life in Zimbabwe.

Reader photo
  Gary Amico

Dan Wyman, Oceanside ¦ Stelvio Pass, Italy

Wyman and his brother, Dave, took a driving-and-bicycling trip in Italy in July. Stelvio Pass was a highlight, the highest paved road in the Italian Alps and beloved by bicyclists, motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts. It gains 6,000 feet of altitude over the course of 15 miles, including 48 hairpin turns. (They’re numbered; this is No. 5 near the top.) “You have to make these wide turns and hope nobody is coming the other way,” Wyman said. He took this picture from the patio of Rifugio Garibaldi, a mountaintop lodge at 9,045 feet with alpine views in every direction. His camera: a Sony HX90V.

Reader photo
  Dan Wyman

Marsha Chan, La Cañada Flintridge ¦ Iceland

Chan spied this rural church on a photography tour of Iceland. She was eager to capture the striking formation of clouds over a stark building. As she shot with a Canon 5D Mark IV, she could hear the sound of a singer and keyboard inside the church, and soon after, a wedding party appeared, walking on the road. She snapped pictures of them too, but she liked the bare building and landscape better.

Reader photo
  Marsha Chan

John Allred, Palm Springs ¦ Jalisco, Mexico

Allred, strolling back to his Airbnb rental after dinner on July 17 in the Jalisco town of Ajijic, used his iPhone 6 to capture these boys struggling to recover an errant soccer ball. Allred reports that the recovery was successful. Ajijic, on the northern edge of Lake Chapala, is an hour’s drive south of Guadalajara.

Reader photo
  John Allred

Joanie Merrill, Carpinteria ¦ Tel Aviv

Merrill snapped these umbrellas with her iPhone6 on a trip to Israel. She found them — and their handles in the shape of dancers’ legs, all crossed at the ankle — at the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater in Tel Aviv.

Reader photo
  Joanie Merrill

Again, to see more of these photos, including the Bali photo by Andrew John Marton of Los Angeles that ran on the cover of the print edition, go to

Wait, more color

If you are now kicking yourself for not capturing great photos on your summer trip, you can make it up to yourself on a fall trip. And you don’t have to spend a fortune to see fall color, Terry Gardner writes in the Money Matters column. California has a beautiful autumn. It’s underappreciated, but you’ll appreciate the money you’ll save by staying in the Golden State instead of hopping a plane for New England, which promises great hues but also high prices.

Meanwhile, Mary Forgione offers five ways to find the best leaf-peeping times in California and the rest of the U.S.

Fall color
Fall colors are abundant, as sheep and horses graze in Bishop, Calif., just a car trip away. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

What we’re reading

You have to love this opening line from Richard Rubin in the New York Times Travel section: “A lot of people could have said ‘The past is never dead — it’s not even past,’ but it was Faulkner who said it, which makes sense when you consider that he was from Mississippi, and in no place is the past less dead than in Mississippi.” His piece “Outrage and Courage Line the Freedom Trail” sent chills down my spine. “It’s 2018,” I kept saying to myself. “It’s 2018.” To which the piece seems to respond, “Your point?”

The adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true” is especially true on some review sites. But that doesn’t keep some people from trying to snow us. Now, the joke may be on them — or at least one of them, you’ll read in Afar magazine’s piece about the owner of a fake review service who got a nine-month jail sentence. It’s based partly on a TripAdvisor investigation. The fraudster also paid a fine of more than $9,000.

Are you going to start a new job? If so, Travel & Leisure has a suggestion for you: Take a vacation, Erika Owen writes, going on to suggest 20 places where you can explore, unwind and get ready for your new gig, including Krakow, with which our recent story by Andrew Bender heartily concurs.

A statue of a medieval student pays tribute to Krakow's heritage as a university town. Andrew Bender

End paper

We continue to hold a good thought for all of those affected by Hurricane Florence and the floods it has left in its wake.

Meanwhile, I’ll be gone for a few days, so you’ll be getting a fill-in next week. While I’m swilling rum punches, Chris Erskine will be laboring to produce the next Escapes newsletter. You’ve probably heard of him. He’s written a few things for the Los Angeles Times, oh, and a couple of books. He also works with us in Travel from time to time, and this is one of those times, bless his socks.

I’m still on the hook for the Vegas Escapes newsletter, so look for it in your inbox on Sept. 27.

Until then, if you have comments, concerns or questions about this newsletter (you can subscribe to it and a host of others at, or you want to know what to do if your refrigerator dies a couple of days before you’re supposed to leave town, write to I should have an answer to that last question by then. As always, travel smart and safely. We’ll be here to welcome you home, even if it’s going to smell like an animal died there.