The type of trips Mike Glad prefers requires a 20-hour flight, significant jet lag and visits with indigenous people.
The Modestan has trekked to Yemen with armed guards to see the Queen of Sheba's homeland, made his way to rickety wooden monasteries in Myanmar and hiked to remote villages in Pakistan.
"I don't like seeing any tourists," he said.
Nearly 50 of his photographs from his exotic travels are on display in the exhibition "Other Worlds" at the Chartreuse Muse Gallery in downtown Modesto. He also is showing native crafts from his personal collection, including an ornately carved wooden door from Mali and Ethiopian lip plates.
Glad, 62, makes his living by owning 22 Midas auto repair shops, but his passion is the arts. In recent years, he made two films, "Spirit of the Maya," about Mayan culture, and "Recycled Life," about people who work in the Guatemala City garbage dump. The latter was nominated for a 2007 Oscar for best short documentary.
The year before, one of Glad's photos of a man in Pakistan was selected by a team of judges from more than 30,000 entries as Costco's International Photo Contest grand-prize winner.
He attributes his success in photography to hard work and dedication to his craft. When he travels, he usually goes alone and spends all his time taking shots or editing.
"To get a good picture, you've got to take a ton of pictures," he said.
Tall and energetic, Glad gets excited when he talks about his work. He has a hard time finishing a thought on one photo before he rushes off to talk about another. It is obvious he loves what he does.
When he takes pictures, he seeks out images that make an emotional impact.
"I'm always looking for a metaphor or analogy in my mind," he said. As an example, he thought of his shots of two Myanmar monks walking down a long hallway as an analogy to people making their way through life.
Sometimes, he alters the photos to make them stronger. In one shot of a little girl in Yemen walking behind black-robed women, he eliminated white pearls from one of the women. The girl stood out more when all the robes were a simple black, he said.
Born in Pensacola, Fla., Glad was the son of a naval aviator and grew up in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe. He attended the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta on a football scholarship, graduating with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering in 1968.
He relocated to the Bay Area in 1976, living in Fremont, and moved to Modesto in 2000 to be nearer to his valley stores and because of the lower housing prices. He and his wife, Jeanne, have been married 33 years and have three children.
Glad said he travels so far off the beaten path to see communities that aren't Westernized. He is keenly aware that traditional ways of life are fast disappearing and he thinks it is his duty to record what he sees and preserve it for others.
In the 1970s, he took pictures for several travel magazines, including Delta Airlines' Sky Magazine. One of his photo was used for the cover of the January 1977 Travel Magazine.
Glad took most of the photos in the Chartreuse Muse show between 2000 and 2008, making one or two international trips a year. He always has received compliments from friends about his photos and decided to get serious about it. "I ratcheted it up in my mind and said go for it," he said. "Quit fooling around and see what you can do."
Viewers seem particularly struck by his photograph of handprints on a wall in China. They want to know why the prints are there or if they're for some ritual. Glad said he doesn't know — that it's probably graffiti.
He is proud of a shot of smiling women on a truck headed to fields in China.
"Here, they're going to kill themselves on rice paddies all day," he said. "Look at the joy."
Glad said he is never worried about safety in his travels because he takes proper precautions. If someone gets upset, he retreats. But sometimes, he runs into trouble. Once in Ethiopia, he was detained and questioned by police who wondered why he was up at night photographing the moon. Soon after leaving Yemen in 2007, some Spanish tourists were killed by suicide bombers at the same ruins he had been photographing.
Most of the time, the native people are friendly and welcoming, he said.
Wherever you are in the globe, people take pride in their home, love their children and enjoy learning new things, Glad said. While details vary, every culture has its religion and morals.
"The one thing that always amazes me as I go around the world is the great similarity in beliefs and traditions."