Tag Archives: Photo shoot

Belize Jewel Series: Tony Rath Photography

Earlier this month, I received a request from my publisher to submit an author bio and photo for my guidebook by December. It has haunted me ever since, because a) I cringe when I have to write about myself in the third person, and b) if you ask me how many times I’ve been in front of a lens since becoming a travel photographer four years ago, I can count them on one hand.

For all the months I’ve spent in Belize, the multiple round trips, the gorgeous backdrops I’ve captured and experienced, the thousands upon thousands of shots — I’ve rarely, ever felt the need to be in them. If I have a photo, either a tour guide or friend suggested it, or it was a quick handheld shot. I just don’t think about having my photo taken anymore. Ironic, for someone who used to model on the side, years ago — from bridal to local runway shows in Washington DC — and who loved doing the “tourist” thing back in my 20s (you know, the obligatory stand-in-front-of-everything photo).

Well, I spent the past week in Dangriga, to continue my work on the South Coast chapter and to attend the November 19 Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations.

Anyone who knows Belize and Dangriga, knows that the best photographer in the country lives here (in my humble opinion, he is the best). It’s a name you’ve probably even seen yourself, online or in print: Tony Rath.

I met Tony in person last year, albeit very briefly, but like most Belize aficionados, I was familiar with his photography long before, gazing at his stunning landscape and underwater shots.

This time around, I was finally spending time in his town. After sharing my plans for my South Coast chapter with him, he kindly offered to show me around the South Water Caye Marine Reserve and helped me coordinate my days on the islands. I had already been to the cayes and snorkeled from there, but I wanted a deeper understanding of the southern reef and a fresh look at the area for the next edition of Moon Belize.

The thing is, you can only be around a photographer so long before you become their subject. I didn’t notice his Canon telephoto lens on me at first — the image below shows I had no idea he was shooting, the morning of the Settlement day reenactment. Exhausted but thrilled to be there to capture the event, I was up at five in the morning and had only slept for two hours after the all-night parties, drumming and dancing in the “sheds” in town.

After a couple of days of pure festivities and immersion in Dangriga and the Garífuna events in town, we headed to South Water Caye, where Pelican has a sister property (some of you might recall how much I love that place).

Within minutes, we were off to explore the reef. How often do you get to snorkel with a trained marine biologist, and in Belize?  Not very often. Tony identified different species as we went along — I even learned how to dive in for closer looks, with >>

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Meeting and Photographing The First Lady of Belize, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow

“So Lily, you’ve been in Belize all of two weeks, and now you’re on your way to the Prime Minister’s home, where most Belizeans have never been. How do you feel?”

Dyon, who is in charge of Media Relations for the Belize Tourism Board, is half-joking from behind the wheel, but we both realize it’s pretty mind-blowing.

While I may have expected some of the adventures awaiting me on my Matador Road Warrior gig in Belize, like caving or hiking up Mayan temples, I never expected this one.

Two weeks in Belize and I got to meet the First Lady, Mrs. Kim Simplis-Barrow. Not just meet her but spend two days with her, getting to know her, photographing her at her office, at home with her daughter and her husband Prime Minister Barrow, and on her site visits to a children’s home and to the hospital in Belize City where she’s helping build a new pediatric intensive care unit. I saw a woman who takes her role seriously and wants to make a difference in her country. A woman who is clearly beautiful on the outside, but cares more about what’s on the inside, and wants to continue making her mark on Belizean children’s lives.

“Education is the key” – that’s her main message through her Lifeline Foundation. With two Master’s Degrees under her belt, it’s a message she learned young, and it’s one I grew up with myself. My siblings and I always knew that if we wanted Dad to be happy and if we wanted to make something of our lives as he has with his, we had to not only do well in school but also make it at least through college. It wasn’t something that was up for discussion, it just was. As an adult, I can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like or where I’d be today if my father hadn’t had the will and determination to get an education, walking miles and miles to school every single day, despite his humble origins as a young boy from the village of Endebir in Ethiopia.

When I first laid eyes on Mrs. Barrow, I was stunned. She may as well have come straight out of the pages of Vogue. I even meant to ask her if she was related to Liya Kebede! Same tower height, similar features, so model-esque and gracious. But speak to her and she’s the most down to earth and approachable person you’ll meet. Who else brings Belizean Kakaw or chocolate for their photographer? 🙂

The final images – I wish I could share with you all but you’ll have to be a little patient as they have a special purpose.

The past couple of days have been interesting, inspiring, eye-opening and an absolute treat. It was an honor to photograph the First Lady and her family. All thanks to Julie Schwietert, Managing Editor of Matador Travel and creator of the awesome Road Warrior Program, who needed photos of Mrs. Barrow for one of her important projects and entrusted me with the task.

An unforgettable experience for sure; I can’t even imagine what other surprises are in store over my next ten weeks in Belize!

Sitting across from Mrs. Barrow at Belize City restaurant "Celebrity," where she kindly treated me to lunch after the morning shoot.

End of a two-day shoot - time for my own photo with the lovely Mrs. Barrow and her family.