Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Richard Van Le: Cao Dai

Balian in Canggu-Image Copyright Tewfic El-Sawy

Richard Van Le is a New York City photographer, with impressive images from Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

His website has a handful of galleries, and his images of the Balians (Balinese rural healers) managed to capture the mystical elements of these healers' profession. I documented Balians during my stay in Bali, and I recognize some of them in his gallery. However, it is his work on the Cao Dai in Vietnam which I recommend on TTP.

Cao Dai was established in the Southern regions of Vietnam in the early 1920's as an attempt to create a perfect synthesis of world religions. It is a combination of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism, Geniism, and Taoism.

Van Le's website is Flash-based and you can visit his Cao Dai and other galleries here

Complexities of Conflict Photography

On February 23, The International Center of Photography held an event titled Taking Sides in Conflict Photography, and three of the panel joined Leonard Lopate of WNYC to discuss the challenges of covering the conflicts there, and the ethical questions of photographing events in the region. They also talk about whether their own backgrounds and ethnicities factor into their work. Isa Freij was born and lives in Palestine.

Isa Freij, a cameraman for CBS and a documentary filmmaker, Shaul Schwartz of Getty Images, and Heidi Levine of Sipa Agency are all currently working in the Middle East. Isa Freij was born and lives in Palestine. Shaul Schwartz was born in Israel and lives in US. Heidi Levine was born in Boston and has lived in Israel for 20 years. I wouldn't describe any of these three people as particulalry articulate. There's some stumbling and hesitation in their replies, but on the other hand I also think that it's refreshing to hear unrehearsed/unprepared responses on major media outlets.

This is the first podcast on TTP. Click on the icon to download the WNYC mp3 to your iTunes:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nuri Bilge Ceylan: Turkey Cinemascope

Baker Boy in Urfa-Image Copyright Nuri Bilge Ceylan

While scouting locations for his latest film, the award-winning Turkish film maker Nuri Bilge Ceylan has photographed superb panoramic monochrome scenes all over Turkey during the past five years. These superb photographs were exhibited in international venues, and gleaned clamorous praise from critics and the public.

Ceylan's website offers us 70 panoramic images of exceptional quality and composition. The size of his images is 17x46 inches, and are of archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper. My favorite is the one above, entitled Baker Boy in Urfa. There are many others that I single out, such as Man in Mardin, Mothers & Daughters, Village in Cappadocia and Street in Birgi.

An excerpt from the Evening Standard in London: "Nuri Bilge Ceylan possesses an exceptional sense of composition, and often shot where an arcing road gives views in two directions: Curved Street in Winter, Istanbul, opening onto a hill framed with old houses, and Baker Boy in Urfa, posed between the receding arms of a cobbled alley."

Here's Nuri's website: Turkey: Cinemascope

Monday, February 26, 2007

India: The Holy Caves of Ajanta

Image Copyright Sam Hollenshead/Polaris for The New York Times

One of the objectives of TTP is to blog about worldwide sites that are of interest to travel photographers; preferably uncommon sites that are off the beaten path. However, travel photographers are also interested in popular travel destinations so that they can sell their photographs of such places to travel catalogues, to accompany travel essays in magazines, and/or to publish in guidebooks or travel books.

The Ajanta Caves is one of those sites. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated as such back in 1983 as one of India’s first, along with the Taj Mahal. It consists of a series of 29 caves that have been carved deep into this sheer face of a horseshoe-shaped cliff a few miles from the old walled town of Ajanta, hidden away in the deep gorge gouged in the high Deccan plains by the Waghora River about 300 miles inland from Mumbai.

The New York Times has published a slideshow of photographs on the Ajanta Caves by Sam Hollenshead/Polaris, and accompanied by a terrific narration by Simon Winchester.

The Holy Caves of Ajanta

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Beyond The Frame: Tattooing Monks

From The Tattooing Monks of Wat Bang Phro-Copyright 2005 Tewfic El-Sawy

For this week's Beyond The Frame feature, I chose my image of a Thai being tattooed, his skin being pulled tautly by his friends.

I had heard of a monastery not far from Bangkok that specialized that had the best tattooing artists in Thailand. These artists were Buddhist monks who worked virtually around the clock, tattooing religious designs on Thais and the occasional foreigner.

With a taxi driver who seemed to know how to get to Wat Bang Phro, and about half an hour of frenetic driving, we got to the monastery. Before allowed in, I was first interviewed by a senior monk who wanted to be reassured that I did not intend to defame the practice in any way. Allowed then to photograph as I pleased, I walked in a room where two monks were busy. They used long metal rods, sharpened to a fine point, and had uncanny precision in their work. I watched in disbelief how fast the monk's hand moved...it was just a blur. Here, antiseptics range from regular rubbing alcohol to a local rice wine, and toilet paper paper to blot any blood. I was told that the ink was made from snake venom, herbs, and cigarette ashes. The monks' talents as tattoo artists are available for an offering of orchids, a carton of Thai cigarettes (preferably menthol-flavored) or perhaps a few Bhats towards the upkeep of the Wat.

The tattoos, as inscribed by these Buddhist monks, are defensive in purpose since they are to protect the wearer from any harm. Here in Thailand, tattoos are considered by many to have powerful powers, and to prevent bad luck in general.

It was quite difficult to find a good spot to photograph in this room. The sunlight came through two windows, but the corners of the room were dark, and I couldn't ask the monks and their 'clients' to hold a pose. This was purely a situation where one photographs as one can, irrespective of angles. I was on top of them, to their side...anywhere I could find some space.

EXIF: shutter speed 1/13 sec.- fstop 5.6 - iso 200 - focal length 28mm - no flash fired.

Tyler Hicks: POYi Award

Image Copyright Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

I'm glad that New York Times' photographer Tyler Hicks got the POYi's Newspaper Photographer Of The Year award. His photography is superlative and incisive. His images of last summer's war in the Lebanon (as the one above of Lebanese women at a hospital with their children after their village was destroyed) brought the conflict to life on the NYT's pages.

This award is apt recognition of Hicks' professional integrity which came under attack from agenda-driven bloggers because of his work in the Lebanon.

More photographs from Hicks' of the Israel/Lebanon conflict are here: POYi

Saturday, February 24, 2007

India: The Bathing of a Saint

Eternal flame at Bahubali's Feet - Image Copyright 2002 Tewfic El-Sawy

The Mahamasthakabhisheka is an important Jain festival held once every twelve years in the town of Shravanabelagola in the state of Karnataka (India). The festival is held in veneration of the 18 meter high statue of the Bhagwan (or Saint) Gomateshwara Bahubali. The most recent anointment took place in February 2006, and the next ceremony will occur in 2018.

As the Mahamasthakabhisheka begins, consecrated water is sprinkled onto the participants by devotees carrying 1008 specially prepared vessels. The statue is then bathed and anointed with libations such as milk, sugarcane juice, and saffron paste, and sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric, and vermilion. Offerings are made of petals, gold and silver coins, and precious stones.

I did not attend the Mahamasthakabhisheka, but I traveled to Shravanabelagola in 2002, and experienced for myself how arduous it is to climb up (and eventually down) the endless stairs that the pilgrims take up to the statue. An incredible site of tremendous significance for Jains, and highly recommended when a festival is scheduled.

Michael Robinson Chavez, a photographer with the Washington Post, documents the unique festival of Mahamastakabhisheka.


Here's the Slideshow

John McDermott: Images of Asia

Image Copyright John McDermott

John McDermott has been photographing Southeast Asia since the early 1990s, and traveled extensively throughout the region. During these travels, he developed a strong interest in the many cultural heritage sites and ancient historical ruins spread across the continent.

He witnessed the total eclipse of the sun at Angkor in Cambodia in October of 1995, and seeing the monuments in the eerie surreal light of the eclipse, inspired him to use infrared film to render the subjects most closely to what he saw then. His superb prints combine the impressionistic, moody effects of infrared film with a subtle sepia tone to achieve this effect.

McDermott's gallery in Siem Reap is a must for anyone visiting Angkor Wat, who has an interest in beautiful imagery.

From his simple-to-navigate website, I've chosen his excellent Indochina gallery which showcases images from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia.

Here's Images of Asia; Indochina

Metal or Silicone Baking Trays


I decided to buy into silicone baking trays, they come in an array of tempting colours and designs.
However, I have now found it is impossible to love a silicone baking tray, they always look so clinical and unused, and anyway you still have to put them onto a rigid baking tray otherwise they just flip flop about!
Metal baking trays always have signs of being used, old deposits that won't budge no matter how hard you try. They look loved, also they bring back memories of baking days of old. You have to grease and line them even though the lining paper can sometimes be a struggle. I don't want perfection - just a cake that looks homemade.
A muffin or cupcake never looks the same unless it is in a paper case - well it just looks undressed! Part of the fun of eating a muffin is prizing it out of the case.
A muffin out of a silicone tray always looks lonely and unloved to me - but one in a muffin case, well that's a wonderful sight.

BILBERRY 'MUCKY MOUTH' PIEWaiter, there's something in my ... pie!



This is my submission for the food blogging event.
Waiter, there's something in my ... pie! hosted by Cook Sister

I made this recipe with some blueberries I had frozen last summer when they were in season. The recipe has been made by the catering team at the National Trust's Penrhyn Castle Tea Rooms in North Wales where it has been one of the most popular items on their menu. It comes from the National Trust's own collection of Victorian recipes. It takes its name from the children's habit of collecting bilberries and shoving handfuls of them into their mouths - with predictable results.

THE BOOK OF OLD TARTS - BY ELIZABETH HODDER

ISBN 0747221057 - Page 86

Serves: 6-8 people but can easily be scaled down.

Skill Level: Moderate.

Taste Test: The pastry melted in the mouth and the blueberry and apple combination tasted fresh.

Firstly, I had to make a rich sweet shortcrust pastry which called for quite a lot of sugar, I omitted most of this and only used 14g as I could see from the filling ingredients list that lots more sugar was to be used. The pastry case had to be baked blind - and on eating the pie I was pleased about this because the filling would have made the base soggy. Instead the base had a wonderful crunch to it.

I used a 20cm, and not the 23cm loose-based pie tin recommended and scaled down the filling ingredients. In the original recipe 675g of blueberries were stated, but I only had 500g and so I used these. If you use the original recipe to the letter I would scale down the amount of caster sugar, in both the pastry and filling, otherwise the pie will be far too sweet.

The surprise ingredient in this pie is using fresh mint. I have to admit I left this out, purely because I wanted to make sure I was going to enjoy the pie – after all, I did use up my stock of blueberries.

I served the pie with homemade yoghurt - the acidity from the yoghurt complimented the sweetness of the pie perfectly.

Kitchen Equipment used: Magimix Food Processor.


For a 23cm (9 inch) pie you will need 350g (12 oz) of rich sweet shortcrust pastry.

Rich Sweet Shortcrust Pastry: 225g (8 oz) plain flour, 1 large pinch of salt, 115g (4 oz) butter, 55g (2 oz) caster sugar, 1 egg yolk, 2 tablespoons very cold water.

Whiz the flour, salt and butter to breadcrumbs in the food processor, add the egg yolk and water, whiz again until the mixture just comes together. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes. Roll the pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm, and use to line the loose-based pie tin. Prick the base all over with a fork and brush the pastry base with beaten egg. Place on a pre-heated baking tray in a preheated oven (180°C/350°F/Gas 4) and cook the pie base for 25 minutes.

Turn the heat up to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5.

Filling ingredients:
2 large granny smith apples (or dessert apples), peeled, cored and thinly sliced.
225g (8 oz) caster sugar (I would reduce this to 170g/6 oz).
Juice of half a lemon
1 heaped tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint(optional)
675g (1½lb) blueberries
115g (4 oz) icing sugar

Place the apple slices in a bowl and sprinkle with half the sugar and the lemon juice. Toss to mix and leave for 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, place the apple slices in the pre-baked pastry case. Mix the mint (if using), with the blueberries and then put them on top of the apple slices. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and juices from the apples. Place a pie raiser or an upturned eggcup in the centre of the tart.

Roll out the remaining pastry for the lid and place over the filling, sealing the edges. Make a slit in the centre of the pastry lid. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the apple slices are soft. Remove from the oven and allow the tart to rest and cool.
Do not remove the pie from the tin until cool otherwise it will crumble.

Placed the icing sugar in a bowl and slowly add a few teaspoons of very hot water, mixing until you have the right consistency, drizzle over the pastry crust in no particular pattern.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fado: Lisbon Journal

Image Copyright Michael Barrientos/NY Times

I haven't been to Portugal yet, but the fado, the closest it has to a national form of song, is one of my favorite music genres. The New York Times brings us a multimedia feature about fado, with the voice of Misi, the current fado diva, and voices of other fado singers in a Lisbon cafe. Misi's voice and status in Portugal reminds me of the late Edith Piaf...the quintessential voice of Paris.

Fado, or fate in Portugese, is characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. The music and the songs speak to home-sickness, longing and nostalgia. Some musicologists believe it has its roots in Africa, and is influenced by Arabic music.

In the "Lisbon Journal" multimedia (slideshow) feature, don't miss frame #11. Photographer Michael Barrientos has perfectly captured the expressions of the restaurant's cooks as they watch the ongoing fado performance.

I'm curious as to why the New York Times hasn't graduated to more advanced slideshow viewers, and is still stuck to the rather dorky 'frame-by-frame' model. The "Lisbon Journal" would have been so much more effective had the NYT used Soundslides or similar software, and it would have been really a 'multimedia' experience. The audio edit could've been done better since the sound track stops almost abruptly.

Here's the slideshow Fado Feature

Here's the accompanying Article

Picture of the Year International

Image courtesy of POYI

POYI is in the process of announcing its awards over the coming three weeks. The above photograph (not yet attributed publicly to a photographer) was given the Award of Excellence in the Human Conflict category.

Here's the photograph's caption:

"ANGRY CHILD" An Iraqi boy looks out from a room where women and children are sequestered at Sgt.Trevor Warrior of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment of the Second Infantry Division (the 'Stryker Brigade') December 2, 2006 in the tense Shulah neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq. Soldiers with the 1-23 were searching house-to-house for weapons or other insurgency-related items, and women and children of the house usually are placed in a separate room from men during these searches.

Here's what I would add to the caption: The child will not forget his anger nor his fear. The women will not forget the humiliation. No one in the Middle East forgets.

Picture of the Year International

World Press Photo 2007 Follow Up

Readers of TTP may remember my post of February 13, 2007 in which I offer my opinion on Spencer Platt's photograph of Lebanese youths cruising in a bombed Shia neighborhood of Beirut, and which was awarded first place by the World Press Photo 2007.

Well, it seems that these Lebanese youths have now been interviewed by a freelance journalist, and they certainly appear to be defensive about how their appearance in the photograph was interpreted by the rest of the world. Naturally, they profess that their driving in a convertible car in glamorous clothes was grossly misconstrued.

Here's their explanation as to the reason why they were dressed as they were:

"Hey, we're Lebanese," says Noor. "It's not like we dressed up like this to go visit the Dahiye. We dress like this every day. On any other day, nobody would have given us a second glance. It was the contrast with the destruction in the background that made the difference." There is something the world needs to understand about Lebanon, adds El Khalil. "Glamour is a very important part of life here. It transcends class. Even if you're poor, you want to look glamorous."

"Even when you're poor, you want to look glamorous". What a moronic statement. Has it occurred to these zombies that a lot of their compatriots died in the Israeli attacks?

Here's the full text of the article via PDN

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bruno Barbey: Morocco

Meknes, Morocco- Image Copyright Bruno Barbey

Bruno Barbey is a French photographer, well known for his uncompromising work and for being an early member of Magnum. Over four decades, he has journeyed across five continents and numerous world conflicts, and although he does not consider himself a war photographer, he covered the civil war in Nigeria, Vietnam, the Middle East, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ireland, Iraq and Kuwait.

His work has appeared in most major magazines in the world. A prolific author who often exposes and expresses himself in book form, he has frequently worked in Morocco, the country of his birth and childhood.

His website is not the most attractive, however I bring it to you for his splendid work on Morocco, despite the low resolution of the images. One of these images is made in Meknes in 1985 and is well worth your time. The yellow ochre walls of the mosque, and the hunched figure wearing the traditional Moroccan djellaba appearing through the archway, is simply a classic. Another one taken from above a public fountain is also delightful. His galleries number 9, 10 and 11 have panoramic style images of Morocco as well.

Bruno Barbey

Canon: Rumors Were Right

DPreview.com reports that Canon has today announced the latest generation of their EOS-1D series. The Mark III has a ten megapixel APS-H (1.3x FOV crop) CMOS sensor and can shoot at ten frames per second. It features the updated DIGIC III image processor, a new 19 area Auto Focus system, up to ISO 6400 and a 3.0" LCD monitor (with a live view feature). The Mark III should ship in April for US$ 3999.

I've been waiting patiently for such this announcement. Now, let's wait and see if it's as good as the press release promises.

DPreview

Format Pixel

Format Pixel is a new Flash-based online application that allows you to create 'page' based presentations, and to create your own online magazines, brochures, catalogues, portfolios and so on. Using the formatpixel online editor you can design page based projects, layout text, upload your own images, add interactivity and customise their appearance.

In my earlier post of February 16, 2007 I introduced Latitudes magazine, an attractive Italian travel "webzine", which is in all probability created by a similar program.

It's a very elegant way of presenting one's portfolio, however it's not as easy as it looks to set it up. I tried the free trial and was unsuccessful in changing image sizes once these were placed on pages. There's no guidance on the website that I could find. Maybe someone will test it and be more successful than I was.

Format Pixel offers a free trial version which allows the uploading of only 512k (which is an anorexic limit as it isn't enough to upload a high resolution image which this application really requires), and there are other paying versions starting from about $30 a year for 5 mb to $80 for 20 mb. Users are given their own URL to showcase their projects.

Although the application certainly produces beautiful results, I think that photographers will not bother with it. It's expensive, and there are other products available. My guess is that this business model will not survive a year.

Here's a sample.

The main website is: Format Pixel

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Aaron Huey: Sufism In Pakistan

Uch Sharif, Pakistan- Image Copyright Aaron Huey

Aaron Huey is a professional photographer who has shot all over the world, from the religious schools of the Taliban, to anti-American protests in Iran, lost temples of Eastern Burma and the tribes of the Caucasus. He worked in New York City in 2001 as assistant to photographer Steve McCurry.

His photographs have been published in the December 2006 National Geographic, and further photo essays are scheduled to appear in the National Geographic Traveler (3 features in 2007), Smithsonian Magazine (2007), and GEO France (early 2007).

Huey's website includes many interesting galleries, and perhaps predictably, I've chosen his gallery "Sufism in Pakistan" for this TTP post. The above image of a Muslim Sufi at a grave in a Muslim cemetery is breathtaking. The luminosity and the composition of this image are wonderful, and it's no wonder that the National Geographic chose it to appear in its December issue. Also look for the colorful and expressive Sufi musician in the Sufism gallery. It's a shame that there aren't more (or larger) images.

In my view, there's no question that Huey has long left McCurry behind.

Aaron Huey

POV: Attitude

Badnor Village (Rajasthan)- Image Copyright Tewfic El-Sawy


I travel to many countries around the world which gives me the opportunity to photograph people of different and varying cultural backgrounds, but I've always grappled with the problem of how best to approach and photograph people to show the essence of their personality, without being intrusive and rude.

When I started off photography, I relied on a long lens such as the Canon 70-200mm almost exclusively. It gave me the ability of photographing people from a comfortable distance, and I could sneak off a few shots before being 'discovered'. I no longer use this technique as it isolates me from my subjects, removing any intimacy from the final photograph.

Some people don't seem to have any problems in invading personal spaces. In Bhutan recently, I saw tourists walk up to a monk in a monastery or to a farmer in his field, stick a camera in their face, looking down at the LCD to make sure they got the shot and scoot off without a word of thanks.

I now use short lenses such as the 28-70mm, or the 16-35mm, any of which I have on all the time on my camera. I approach people I wish to photograph openly and just ask permission to do so, using sign language if I have to. If it's a static situation, I always take the time to show them their pictures in the LCD, and even ask them to change the pose if I feel another is needed. I flatter the people I want to photograph, and that removes any inhibition they may have. If my objective is to photograph women, I start photographing their children if any are available, and I show them the pictures. Invariably, the women will accept to be photographed...their husbands may grumble but as I include them in the picture-taking, they relent.

Now, in certain cultures such as in the Middle East and other Muslim countries, this approach would get me into trouble. I got into such trouble in the souk of Marrakech while using my long lens, photographing an elderly man on the sly. Someone noticed what I was doing and tipped him off. The result was not pleasant. Another unpleasant experience was in a Sufi shrine in India, where I was photographing a woman in the throes of a trance at close quarters. She suddenly snapped out of it and grabbed a rock to throw at me. Needless to say, I left in a hurry and she missed.

The other tricky issue relates to whether a travel photographer should pay to photograph someone. I generally avoid doing that, and often refrain from photographing if asked for money. Some people advocate buying something from vendors (when they are the subject of the photographs), but I prefer promising 6x4 copies of the photographs...and I keep my word! In the event that my subjects are musicians or dancers, then I gladly tip them for sharing their art...but not for the photographs. A distinction which I make clear to them.

Finally, I always try to learn a few words in the local language...and thanking people in their own langugae is always appreciated...and gets you laughs.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jasmin Shah: Everyday India

Everyday India- Image Copyright Jasmin Shah


Jasmin Shah is a young photojournalist, who graduated from the University of Montana in 1999. She worked overseas and currently freelances for the Chicago Tribune, among other publications.

She has a number of galleries on her website, but what attracted me the most is the freshness of her images in the gallery 'Everyday India'. The simplicity and, at the same time, complexity of her compositions, along with the images' saturated colors, are marvelous. In her 'Everyday India' gallery, one of the photographs is of a man on a rickshaw, throwing back his head to eat paan while a Mc Donald's restaurant is in the background. Isn't it just perfect? Her street photography is beautiful, and she makes judicious use of shadows in her images (as the one above).

Jasmin Shah

Partial Color/Sepia

Peeping Toms (Bali)- Image Copyright Tewfic El-Sawy


Here's a simple Photoshop technique to convert an image to sepia, and paint spots of color back into it.

1) Open your image file In Photoshop, and select Image>Adjustments>Desaturate to remove all color from the image. The image should be still RGB.

2) Your image will now appear in black & white.

3) Go to Image>Adjustments>Photo Filter, and choose Sepia. In the Sepia dialog box, Adjust Density to your liking and also check Luminosity. Click OK when you're satisfied with the sepia image.

4) Select the History brush from the tool palette. Choose a brush size appropriate to the spots you've chosen to color in, using the palette located just under the file menu bar. The brush hardness should be 100%.

5) Using the History brush you can now “paint” the color back where you want it. Don't paint all in one stroke, but stop and go so you can undo any errors without having to start all over again.

6) Continue the process until the area is complete. Save.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Jan C. Schlegel : Pain & Beauty

Tibetan Monks- Image Copyright Jan C. Schlegel

Jan C. Schlegel is a photographer from Germany, whose ethno-photographic work is in the tradition of Phil Borges. His black & white portraits are partially toned, rich in details and in depth.

His black & white photographs are made with a 4x5 field camera on T-max film, enlarged and printed on fiber base photo paper, and partially toned with chemicals of Schlegel's own mixture. The lengthy process is then finished by selenium toning the photographs.

His photographs are of children and older people in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mali, Algeria, Pakistan and India. He assures us that no one in his posed portraits wear any make-up, nor were they asked to wear any special dress. Nothing was staged and nothing is fake.

I found the quality of these photographs to be remarkable. His website claims that he succeeds in not only creating artistic photographs, but in documenting the uniqueness of his subjects...the people who posed for him. Absolutely.

Jan C. Schlegel's Pain & Beauty

Film Loop Studio

Film Loop Studio is a free download and creates a a slideshow of any images or photos. It offers collages, title frames, text, tattoos, bubbles, frames and transparency tools to enhance story telling for both Mac and PC users.

I found it very easy to produce a slideshow of photographs, however there's no audio capability so far. The slideshow can then be added to a website, a blog, etc. The advertisements appearing on the side of the player are distracting but I suppose they have to generate some income after all.

World Press Network uses Film Loop for some of its photo essays. Here's a feature on India's Snake Charmers on the dying craft of snake charming in Orissa. The photographs are by Adrian Fisk.

WPN's India's Snake Charmers

Film Loop Studio

Katharina Hesse: The Stilt Walkers of China

The Stilt Walkers- Image Copyright Katharina Hesse

In recognition of the Chinese New Year, another highly talented photojournalist to grace TTP blog is Katharina Hesse, a photojournalist living in China and Germany. She holds a graduate degree in Chinese studies from the Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris, and is one of a few foreign photographers who are accredited by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and lived in China for more than 13 years. In 2003 and 2004 she covered China for Getty ’s news service. Hesse is self-taught in photography, albeit with a temporary apprenticeship under Peter Turnley.

Apart from her sensitive work documenting the North Korean refugees in China, have a look at her photo essay on the stilt walkers of Yanqing. It seems that the tradition of stilt walking has virtually vanished from other Chinese towns and cities except in shows for tourists. Its relative remoteness has protected Yanqing's traditions, and farmers proudly continue their annual stilt walking performances that culminate in the annual contest for best costumes and performances among neighboring villages. Stilts were first used hundreds of years ago in China when farmers stood on stilts to pick fruit from trees.

Katharina Hesse

Sunday, February 18, 2007

LAMB SHANK STEW WITH CREAMY MASH


I have been working my way through various cookery books over the last year or so to find a lamb shank recipe that I have been really pleased with, and this is it. The Australian Women's Weekly cookery books suit my style of cooking. Fearing whether or not a recipe is going to work just isn't an issue with these books - all the recipes I have used in the past have been wonderful. I am looking forward to trying other lamb shank recipes now from their books.

THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S WEEKLY -
FOOD WE LOVE


ISBN 186396477-0

LAMB SHANK STEW WITH CREAMY MASH
- PAGE 71


Serves: 8 people (but can easily be scaled down).

Skill Level: Moderate.

Taste Test: The meat was meltingly tender and the sauce was rich.

This recipe lends itself to being made in the slow cooker - it only takes 5 hours on high. If you do use a slow cooker you will have to dice the vegetables finely otherwise they won't cook.
I made this for two people and so the recipe had to be scaled down accordingly, but I kept the 500ml of red wine in and used half a litre of chicken stock.
It says in the recipe to strain the pan juices and then discard the solids (what a waste!!). I strained the pan juices and served the diced vegetables separately, after all they were cooked in red wine.
I made the mash but left out the cream and I didn't use all of the butter it states in the recipe. Buttered spring cabbage was served with this dish.
The sauce and meat were fabulous - what more can I say but try this recipe for yourself and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Kitchen Equipment Used: Alligator Vegetable Dicer.

Beyond The Frame: Gotipua Dancer

Gotipua dancer - Image Copyright Tewfic El-Sawy


For the inaugural Beyond The Frame feature, I chose this image of a Gotipua dancer.

At the tail-end of a solo photo expedition in the tribal belt of central India, I stopped in Raghurajpur,a small village of artists and dancers about 20 miles from Puri in Orissa. I photographed Bibhuti Bhusan Champati, a young Gotipua dancer in front of his house in this small village, as he was waiting to perform. I had watched him, and others of this dancing group, expertly applying his make-up, under the watchful eye of their dance guru.

The tradition of Gotipua was introduced in remote villages of Orissa after the tradition of Devdasis was abolished following the Mughal invasions of India. Since women were forced behind purda during that period, dance masters trained pre-pubescent boys into the nuances of Devdasi’s dance to keep the tradition alive. The dancers wore feminine attire and applied make-up, but were not allowed to dance inside temples. Over a period of time their style of dance changed, and adopted many acrobatic elements. It was only after about 50 years ago that the Gotipua dancing style was admitted into the fold of classical dances of India.

Bibhuti's small house was painted in brilliant indigo, with intricate designs, dazzling in their colors, influenced by Hindu mythological paintings. After the photo shoot, his father asked for money for having allowed me, as he put it, "to use the colorful background' for his son's portraits. Bibhuti was at ease posing for my camera, probably used to tourists, foreign and local, who see him perform the Gotipua dancing in Puri and other major cities in India and even abroad.

EXIF: shutter speed 1/60 sec.- fstop 5.6 - iso 100 - focal length 70mm - flash fired.

Adobe CS2 Offer

For those who have Adobe Elements and $300 to spend, here comes an interesting and worthwhile offer from Adobe. Adobe Photoshop Elements customers are now entitled to buy Adobe CS2 software for $299, which is a saving of $350.00 off the regular price of $649.00.

All you need is the serial number of the Elements software. The CDs are in either Mac or PC versions. The offer expires on February 27. Once you install the CS2, you can try out the CS3 Beta as well.

Adobe CS2 Offer

Audio: Microphone Mount System

It was recently suggested by Bill Putnam, a photojournalist, that a solution to the problem of photographing and recording audio at the same time would be to use a Light Wave Mini Mount. Rather than switching his camera for his audio recorder and vice-versa to do so, he attaches the Light Wave Mini Mount to the camera's flash shoe for his microphone and does both. He uses a mono microphone with a narrow sound cone.

The downside to this system is that the microphone will catch the sound of the shutter, and possibly one's breathing...but it's an idea to be considered. I suppose it would be workable for ambient sound, by editing the shutter noise out...but that would not work for interviews.The other downside is that the mount is quite pricey at $165.

It's available at : B&H

Light Wave Systems

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Natalie Behring: Shanghai Portraits

Shanghai Portraits - Image Copyright Natalie Behring

As The Travel Photographer blog has a significant number of readers hailing from China, I thought it's time for Natalie Behring to make an appearance here. She is a freelance photographer/photojournalist based in Beijing, and covered major stories across Asia, Mideast and Africa for major international magazines and newspapers. She has also worked for numerous NGOs.

Natalie's portfolio is comprehensive, ranging from China to Papua New Guinea. However, it's her B&W gallery Portraits of Shanghai which I chose for this post.

Look for Portraits of Shanghai on Natalie Behring

Michael Yamashita

Image Copyright Michael Yamashita

For over 25 years, Michael Yamashita has combined his passions for photography and travel by documenting the Asian continent for National Geographic. He has covered such diverse subjects as the Mekong River, the journeys of Marco Polo, The Great Wall of China, and much of Japan.

Yamashita decided that he wanted to become a professional photographer in the mid-70's, and started submitting images and pitching ideas to travel magazines in Japan, as well as in Hong Kong and Singapore. His images were bought by Singapore Airlines, for their brochures and calendars.

Returning to the United States a few years later, he started his career of with the National Geographic where he worked as a free-lancer for over 25 years. His recent Geographic stories have been long-term assignments, many of which have evolved into books.

A thorough professional, and a classic travel photographer. Here's a gallery of his images, courtesy of Double Exposure magazine.

Michael Yamashita

Canon Reviews

For Canon users: We all need a quick source of information and simple hands-on reviews on Canon cameras and lenses. The Digital Picture provides recommendations in simple non-technical (well, almost) language, and reviews on most Canon cameras and lenses.

It's a great first (and for some, the last) step when we are considering to either upgrade or supplement our Canon equipment.

The Digital Picture

Beyond The Frame At TTP

A weekly feature titled Beyond The Frame will appear on The Travel Photographer each Sunday. Beyond The Frame will give the background story on images I photographed during my travels. Cultural, historical and religious background, as well as information, anecdotes and EXIF data (if digital) will be part of Beyond The Frame, to give you the 'whole picture'

Friday, February 16, 2007

Travel: The Year In Pictures 2006

Image from Sacred Faces of Angkor Wat-Copyright 2006 Tewfic El-Sawy

Lonnie Schlein is the picture editor of the Travel section of the New York Times, and in this interactive feature he shares how he personally chose the best photographs for the newspaper's Travel: The Year In Pictures 2006.

While I agree with some of his choices (such as Jehad Nga's photograph of an Ethiopian woman coming out of church), I still don't understand how picture editors narrow down images. It must be a talent acquired after years of experience, a sort of gut feel...but this multimedia presentation did little to shed light on the thinking process.

Travel Pictures 2006

Jobo Giga-Vu

Rob Galbraith's website reports that JOBO just announced that an upcoming firmware revision for the Giga Vu Pro Evolution will add an on-screen loupe to the photo storage device for working photographers. The loupe will provide users of this mobile image storage device with a button in the unit’s zoom menu that makes a rectangular loupe appear on the LCD screen so photographers can closely examine important details of their pictures.

This model has a bright 3.7-inch screen (640 x 480 pixels) and is available in capacities of up to 120GB. It can also play movies and music files and has support for RAW files too. The street prices are about $500 for 40gb to $900 for 120gb.

In contrast, the new Epson p3000 (40gb) has a 4.0-inch screen (640-480 pixels) and is retailed at $490. I wouldn't be surprised if Epson didn't follow through with a firmware of its own.

The jury's out.

Jobo Giga Vu

Latitudes Magazine

Not only does this monthly web-only Italian (also in English) magazine contain wonderful travel imagery of countries ranging from Bhutan to Sudan, but it presents it in a cutting edge multimedia format, adopting a book -or magazine- format, with effective sound and visual effects embedded in some of the photographs. Naturally, as in most magazines, you'll find some advertisement, but I just flip on.

In a future post, I'll introduce you to the software used to build the book-like Flash presentations such as this stylistic and imaginative Latitudes magazine.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Amanda Jones

Image Copyright Amanda Jones

Amanda Jones is a prolific writer and photographer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work appears in travel magazines, and her short stories have been published in several travel anthologies. She has also done story development for National Geographic television, and her photography series Timeless, black and white photographs of African tribal peoples, was exhibited at a United Nations film festival.

Her photography is essentially aimed at travel magazines and travel catalogs/stock libraries. She photographs 'nice' portraits, mostly verticals and double-spreads for magazines, and to accompany her travel writings. If you thumb through travel magazines, you'll notice the verticals, the wide space to the left or right of images to accomodate text or titles, etc. It's a style of travel photography that generally doesn't appeal to me, but it does sell and I do it as well.

I've chosen her work in the Ethiopian south, namely in the Omo Valley, for inclusion in TTP. She has also written a short article for the London Sunday Times on her adventures with the tribes of the Omo Valley which is funny and informative. Her introduction to the Mursi tribe echoes my own essay Brief Encounters; The Mursi published in Outdoor Photography last year.

Amanda's Omo Valley gallery is here

Her accompanying article is here

Amanda Jones Travel Photography

Flickr In Stock Photography?

A recent post on Dan Heller's (a talented and versatile professional photographer) blog has added his voice to the rumor that sites such as Flickr and Shutterfly may be considering entering the stock photography business. He asserts that the world of photography will surely get involved in user-generated content, and predicts that sooner or later, these sites will recognize the enormous potential of monetizing user-generated content, similar to what YouTube has done.

Here's a couple of Dan Heller's views:

"As I've been arguing since I got into the photography business, Truism #1 states that more people have photography as a hobby than as a profession. Therefore, the basic fundamental principles of economics make it inevitable that photo businesses will have to expand into a hybrid of consumer/pro-photo sharing/licensing models. Not doing so will be career suicide."

"It is inevitable that someone--whether it's Flickr or other photo-sharing sites--will eventually figure this out and engage in some form of business that monetizes user-generated photography."


I have so far not used Flickr despite its many advantges. The reason is that Flickr (or Yahoo, which is its parent company) requires that those who submit photographs etc agree to granting it worldwide royalty-free non-exclusive license to use these photographs...always a stumbling block for self-respecting photographers.

I expect if Heller's predictions are indeed realizable, that separate terms will have to cover the business monetization model of photo sharing. Notwithstanding, his post prompted me to visit Flickr and I must tell you that the quality of some of the photographs are just spectacular, whether travel or photojournalistic. Incredible quality...and I'm now considering joining, and to keep an eye of future developments.

Hellers' excellent article/post is here

To check out Flickr

Books: Frontline by David Loyn

I'm currently reading Frontline, which is the true story of the British mavericks who changed the face of war reporting. So far, it's mostly on how a handful of British eccentric public school graduates (is that tautological?) decided to report on the conflict in Afghanistan, bending all rules and conventions.

A fascinating read, not well written by any means...a bit anecdotal but a must for anyone interested in war reporting and conflict photojournalism.

It's found in hardback here in the US, but was available in paperback in the UK.

PDF Slideshow

Photoshop has a frequently overlooked but very useful – and super simple- feature which generates PDF slideshows of images in a matter of seconds. These PDF slideshows can be emailed (or burnt on CD) to photo editors, clients and friends to view your work. Since Adobe Reader is on virtually all computers, there's no difficulty in viewing the PDF slideshows.

Here’s how simple it is:

1. Open File Browser in Photoshop.
2. Click on File>Automate>PDF Presentation
3. The PDF Presentation Dialog Box>Browse>Select Images
4. When images are selected, select Output Options>Presentations
5. Select Presentations Options: Advance after 3-4 seconds
6. Select Transition type
7. Save
8. The PDF Options dialog box opens: Click OK
9. The PDF Presentation Saved on Desktop
10. Right Click (on Mac) to create Archive of PDF for an email-able zip file.

For ways to send large files, look at my earlier post: Send It!!

Radhika Chalasani: Widow City

Ms Chalasani is a New York-based photojournalist, and covered Vietnam's emergence from isolation, the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide, and the famine in Sudan; coverage for which she received many coveted awards.

Her most recent work on Indian widows in Vrindavan is the principal reason for her appearance on TTP. Her gender may have granted her easier access to the widows, but that takes nothing away from her talented compositions. See for example, her choice of viewpoint in the image of the widow getting a haircut, in the one of the broken sink in a widow's hovel and the final image of a cow sharing a narrow alley with an elderly widow.

Again, her website is Flash-based, so no shortcuts are available. Her gallery on the widows is titled Widow City

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bamix Handheld Blender


Gordon Ramsay has put his name to a new Bamix model and I have to say this looks very sophisticated compared to my old white one. However, it still does the same job as mine and so I will get down to the nitty gritty of describing how this works.
Compared to most other handheld blenders it is very powerful and works at approx. 15,000 r.p.m.
It comes with a mincer blade which makes light work of making batters, it will chop, mince and puree, and is also great for blending soups and sauces.
The beater - aerates cream and will whip up soup.
The whisk - stirs and mixes shakes, drinks and purees.
The processor - grinds coffee beans, chops nuts, makes castor sugar and grates Parmesan cheese.
My model also came complete with a jug.
The Bamix is very powerful and so take a word from the wise - make sure you keep the blender head immersed at all times whilst it is whizzing around or you will decorate yourself, and the whole kitchen, but thats another story!!

Pascal Meunier: The Baths of Cairo

Cairo hammam - Image Copyright Pascal Meunier

The featured photographs introduced in this post are a revelation for me, as I had no idea that public baths still existed at all in Cairo, the city of my birth. It appears that during the 12th century, the Egyptian baths were the most beautiful of the East, the most convenient and best laid out. Today, excluded from the government's restoration plans , the hammams of Cairo are decaying.

Pascal Meunier is a documentary photographer based in Paris, whose latest photographic works focus on Arab-Muslim culture. A culture which endlessly talked of and criticized these days, but seldom understood nor appreciated.

For the past eight years, Pascal has reported on cultural traditions from Mauritania to Malaysia, passing through Iran, Libya, Yemen and Egypt on the way. The objective of his photography is to capture the cultural heritage and traditions that are swiftly vanishing. He also shows a Muslim world in change, overtaken by modernity, but increasingly anxious to preserve its values. He photographs with a Leica MP.

I found his images of the Cairene public baths to be brooding, saturated and atmospheric. As I said, a revelation and certainly a potential personal project when I next visit.

Pascal Meunier's Les Derniers Bains Du Caire

Birth of A Canon Lens

Here's a virtual tour of the Canon lens plant. The tour takes us through the entire process of producing a Canon EF 500mm f4 IS USM telephoto lens, starting from the raw materials used to make the glass to its final hand assembly. Thanks for the link Ralph!

Canon Virtual Tour

Kalpesh Lathigra: Brides of Krishna

As promised in my post of yesterday, I bring you Kalpesh Lathigra a London-based freelance photographer, working for most of the United Kingdom's newspaper magazines, including the Sunday Times Magazine, and The Independent Magazine. His work ranges from photographic essays of the American Midwest to the aftermath of the Asian tsunami. However, the reason for his being included on this blog is his insightful photographic essay on the Indian widows, aptly entitled Brides of Krishna. His work in Vrindavan predates mine, and I wish I had seen it before I set out on my trip.

Paraphrased from Kalpesh's Brides of Krishna: " To be a poor widow in India in the 21st century is to still suffer social death. It (Vrindavan) has become a place of sanctuary, yet a more sinister tale of corruption and greed lies below the surface. In many ways the widows have become slaves to the ashrams without which they have no real way to survive."

An enormously talented and sensitive photographer, Kalpesh's Brides of Krishna is well worth visiting.

There are no shortcut links to Brides of Krishna since the website is Flash-based. Here's the link to his main website and you can navigate to his galleries.

Vodka Cleaner?

During my recent photo-expedition in Bhutan, while immersed in photographing the festival of Prakhar, totally focused on the whirling dancing monks of the monastery, and crouching to capture their movements, disaster struck one of the expedition’s participants. Her Canon 20D wouldn’t work...it just froze. Nothing worked. Removing and replacing the battery didn’t work. Replacing the CF card with another one didn’t work. Nothing.

Suddenly an epiphany! I removed the lens from the camera, and with a corner from my t-shirt carefully wiped the contacts on the lens mount and those on the camera. Presto! The camera worked again. Gunk had prevented the electronics to connect properly….but I knew that my wiping would not be sufficient if we were to prevent that problem from happening again during our coming many photo shoots. None of us had alcohol-based cleaner, so we wiped down the connections on our lenses and cameras, and hoped for the best.

Back at our hotel in Bumthang, I noticed that one of us had a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka (just for medicinal use of course). Another epiphany! A few drops of the liquid on a lint-free cloth proved to be an excellent cleaner of electronic connections on our cameras’ mounts. Needless to say, our cameras worked perfectly for the remainder of the expedition. James Bond may disapprove, but you can try this at home if you like…just don’t get vodka on the camera’s sensor!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Islamic Numerology & Panoramas


Image Copyright 2006 Travis Fox/Washington Post

The Washington Post has a really interesting article today for people like me who are interested in uncommon cultures, religious rituals and photography. The article is about Islam and numerology, and is by Travis Fox reporting from N'djamena in Chad, who writes of a fascinating practice that mixes Islamic theology, African folklore, and shamanism. A ‘feki’ (an Islamic scholar of sorts) is called upon to cure illnesses, to predict the future and to resolve crimes.

The ‘feki’ uses Muslim prayer beads, mysterious numbers and various diagrams to resolve a multitude of social issues. It made me think of kabalistic practices, and other similar rituals. The link to this article is below.

Notwithstanding this interesting practice, it must be said that mainstream Islamic theology ridicules numerology and fortune-telling. More orthodox Islamic scholars condemn these as being in conflict with the teachings of the Qu'ran.

Back to temporal matters: one of the photographs in the article is made with a panoramic camera, and I found that it really offers a wonderfully realistic view of the room in which the ‘feki’ works along with his clients. Since I wondered whether a panoramic camera would be a worthwhile investment, I discovered that professional panoramic cameras do not come cheap. The cheapest Horseman panoramic camera retails for about $1900, while the Linhof goes for $2900. These come with no lenses. However, I suspect that the photograph in the article is made with a consumer-type digital camera set in panoramic mode. I will research this further.

The article is here

The panoramic image is here

Widows of Vrindavan



Trailer from White Shadows - Copyright 2006-2007 Tewfic El-Sawy

One of my photographic projects which left me with an indelible sense of compassion is the one I did of the widows of Vrindavan in India. As I write in White Shadows, my multimedia project on the subject:

"I am not a polemicist, nor an activist nor am I sufficiently knowledgeable of Indian social issues and culture, but I sense that religious tradition (in this case, Hinduism) is used to justify the dreadful treatment of widows, and that it is really poverty that lies behind the decision to force them out from their families."

There are many talented photographers who have also documented the widows of Vrindavan. I intend to introduce you to them in the coming few days.

My multimedia gallery 'White Shadows' can be seen here

World Press Photo 2007

Image Copyright 2006 Spencer Platt (Getty Images)


The World Press Photo in Holland announced its 2007 winners, and Spencer Platt deservedly takes first place with his picture of a group of young Lebanese driving through a South Beirut neighborhood devastated by Israeli bombings. The picture was taken on 15 August 2006, the first day of the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah when thousands of Lebanese started returning to their homes.

To me, this picture is the epitome of what photojournalism ought to be. A single picture says it all. The image of wealthy privileged Lebanese cruising a devastated neighborhood in South Beirut (aka a poor Shia neighborhood) says it all about the 'two' Lebanons. There's the privileged, moneyed, Western-leaning and (usually Maronite Christian) minority on one side and the downtrodden, poor, disinfranchised Shia majority which bore the brunt of the Israeli destruction last summer on the other. It's the classic tale of a divided nation where the minority elitist class govern, while the majority have little say in their country's future and their own economic advancement.

Just look at the picture: The women are in revealing dresses; one is holding a handkerchief to her nose (to protect her from the stench of death and destruction, or was she just blowing her nose?) and the other is blithely taking pictures on her cell phone. Are these young people going to volunteer to help fellow Lebanese who've been wounded and killed in the bombings? Are they going to donate blood? Are they going to donate funds to help those who are homeless? I just don't think so. To me, these people are on a sightseeing drive through devastated neighborhoods, and will return with their stories and cell phone images to show their friends while wasting their nights away in Beirut's nightspots. If I'm right, then what a despicable behavior!

To me, this picture foretells the future of the Lebanon.

World Press Photo's website

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bolivia: The Tinku Ritual

Image from The People of Pachamama-Copyright 2002 Tewfic El-Sawy

The New York Times and its sister company, the International Herald Tribune report today from Bolivia on the unusual ritual of Tinku, a word that means “encounter” in both the Aymara and Quechua languages, which was once widespread throughout the Andean world, predating the arrival of the conquistadors. Anthropologists say it now tenuously exists just in an isolated pocket of Bolivia, seven hours southeast of La Paz by bus on a dirt road.

The ritual involves dance, drinking chicha, a fermented beverage made here from rye, and then fighting breaks out until blood stains the dirt alleyways. It's a combination of harvest or fertility ritual and a chance for young men to show off in front of women from other communities.

I recall a festival on the Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca when I visited Bolivia in 2002. The locals were celebrating a harvest festival, and although there was no violence, I thought that chicha did flow rather too freely.

The slideshow is of photographs by Evan Abramson of the NY Times: The Tinku Ritual

Kloie Picot: One Shot More

Bushkashi in Afghanistan - Image Copyright 2006 Kloie Picot

Kloie Picot is a Canadian photojournalist and filmmaker specializing in documenting conflicts, critical social issues, cultural events and religious rituals from around the world. She is also pursuing the multimedia field by combining her photography, video and sound.

Now based in Taiwan, she travels and works extensively in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Far East. She spent 8 months in Israel and Occupied Palestine filming 'Shots That Bind' on the lives and work of Palestinian photojournalists in Nablus. It is there where Kloie became enthralled with the split-second capture of moments which conflict photography exemplifies.

Kloie was kind enough to send me a DVD of 'Shots That Bind', and I was mesmerized by the remarkable hard hitting documentary.

Her website is fresh off the press, and I take great pleasure to introduce it here.

Kloie's One Shot More

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cleansed of Sin By The Ganges

Image from Pilgrims of the Kumbh Mela-Copyright 2001 Tewfic El-Sawy

The Washington Post has published a gallery of images from Allahabad, where the Ardh Kumbh Mela is winding down. This is one of the holiest Hindu festivals, when millions of Hindus bathe in the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna. I've posted earlier about this festival. The images are by Indian photographers working for AP and Getty. The first image is of Western Hindus bathing in the Ganges, a rather incongruous choice for an opening photograph.

The gallery is:here

VII Agency: Podcasts

Some members of the photo Agency VII have video podcasts of their lectures at the Pasadena VII Seminar last April. James Nachtwey and Ron Haviv's video podcasts were my favorites.

Here are VII Video Podcasts

Mark Seager: The Palestinian Taxi

Mark Seager is a talented freelance photojournalist who spent a number of years in Palestine and Israel, documenting the real story behind the events afflicting this part of the world. I recently met him in London’s Soho district where we had coffee and exchanged views on photography, multimedia etc.

He just produced a slideshow using Soundslides called “Palestinian Taxi”; a documentary slideshow grouping his photographs, his narration and ambient sound. A must-see documentary for its feel of reality, and for its message. A big hand for Mark.

Mark Seager's updated Palestinian Taxi

Have you heard?

Pushkar Fair-Copyright 2002 Tewfic El-Sawy

A celebrity photographer is offering a 14 days photo 'workshop' in India in November 2007. The itinerary is expected to include a few days at the Pushkar Fair. I say 'expected' because the itinerary isn't ready yet. However, the cost of the workshop is ready at $7100 per person, and the workshop will accommodate 14 photographers. Yes, fourteen. The deposit to secure a berth on the workshop is $2000.

Being a compulsive number cruncher, here’s my back of envelope analysis. I’ve set up and led a similar itinerary before, and I know that current land costs for such a tour can be arranged for no more than $2500. If what I claim is true (and it is), this means that the celebrity photographer’s margin on the workshop is easily $4500 a head. Assuming (and it’s a fairly reasonable assumption) that the workshop will sell out, the celebrity photographer is looking at $63,000 for 14 days work. That's $4500 a day, folks. Nice work if you can get it.

There are enthusiastic people willing to pay a $4500 premium to attend such an event with a celebrity photographer, and I hope they get their money’s worth. Mind you, with 14 participants in the workshop, I'm not sure how much time each participant will get with the -hopefully accessible- celebrity, but having sharp elbows will help. As for me, “I just report and you decide”, as they say.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Send It!!

There are a number of options available to photographers who need to send large high-resolution image files to editors and clients. The traditional method is burning the image files to a CD or DVD and mailing them. If speed is of essence, FTP is commonplace but it requires downloading specialized software and can be quite complicated to use. Most e-mail providers have a maximum 5-10 megabytes limit on file attachments on a message, so what can we do if our image files are larger?

Several web-based companies transfer huge files over the Internet, and have proven to be a viable alternative to FTP. These are:

Pando offers software to transfer files. It’s free up to 1 gigabytes of data.

YouSendIt also transfers large files. It allows files of up to 100 megabytes free with its YouSendIt Lite service.

There are online file-storage services like Xdrive which provides 5 gigabytes of storage free of charge, IBackup and FilesAnywhere that allow photographers to upload large files and mark them for sharing by clients and editors.

Sasha Dean Biyan

Sasha Dean Biyan was an aeronautical engineer and a consultant until becoming a full time photographer. He lived among indigenous tribes in Papua New Guinea and Borneo, and spent considerable time in the Amazon jungle living with the various tribes of the area. The technical and aesthetical foundations of his photography are remarkable, but it seemed to me that many of his ethnographical galleries were influenced by fashion. Intrigued, I looked his work up and discovered that he was also a successful fashion photographer. Mystery solved.

His Earth Pilgrim website is flash-based, and its navigation is somewhat quirky. The background music is new age, which I promptly turned off. My favorite gallery of the seven different galleries is Alma (Soul). For the most part, the black and white portraits stunning, and are technically spot on. Just look at the second portrait in the Alma gallery: a portrait of a Muslim Indonesian woman in Solo, whose face and eyes are simply mesmerizing…and how about the expression of the Peruvian man in Pitumarca? Yet, other photographs feel bland and “sanitized”. Compare Sasha’s work with that of Phil Borges, and you’ll know what I mean.

In my opinion, his work hardly qualifies as travel photography, but it’s certainly beautiful. My thanks to Felice for referring me to his website: Earth Pilgrim

Image Copyright Sasha Dean Biyan

Friday, February 9, 2007

Megapixels Myth?

Here's a just published article by David Pogue, the NY Times tech guy, who explains the reasons why the more megapixels a camera has doesn't mean that its pictures are better....and that all this hype and spin about megapixels is nothing but a marketing ploy by the camera manufaturers to sell more expensive cameras, and to unecessarily accelerate obsolescence.

In a test, he and his associates compared large prints using the 16.7-megapixel Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II flagship camera in a studio, three photos of the same subject were taken at three different resolutions: 7 megapixels, 10 and 16.7. The results were virtually the same.

So are the photographs using the 16.7 mps Canon virtually identical to those using a Canon EOS 30D 8.2 mps? In my view, I think they would be very close...and almost impossible to tell apart unless the photographs are blown up to print sizes such wall-size retail displays where the 16.7 mps would have the advantage. However to state the obvious, the lens used on both cameras should be the same.

Read the article:
Breaking The Megapixel Myth.

Tritone Your Photographs!

Inle Lake Fishermen - Image Copyright 2003 Tewfic El-Sawy

I occasionally decide that some of my photographs would look better in black and white, but I rarely leave them as B&W and prefer to give them a warm tone. In the above photograph of the fishermen on Inle Lake in Myanmar, I used the following technique in Photoshop (I use Mac but I expect that Windows would be the same) to tritone it:

1. Open your image (RAW or jpg), and make all your normal adjustments in terms of levels, curves, brightness, etc (but do not sharpen yet). Flatten the image.

2. Go to Image>Mode>Greyscale in the menu, which will convert your image into black & white. Then go again to the menu, and choose Image>Mode>Duotone. This will bring up the Duotone options. Under the Type pull-down menu, select Tritone where you will be given the choices of 3 inks to choose from.

3. Select these three types of inks: Black, PANTONE 1205 C and FOCOLTONE 5011. This is done by ticking on each square of the ink samples in the dialog box. Click OK to confirm your three choices.

4. Your image should now be warm toned and probably darker than you’d like. So go to Image>Mode>RGB and switch the mode back to RGB.

5. Open your Levels adjusments and user the sliders to increase the highlights and mid-tones to the levels you feel is right for the image.

6. At this stage, you can sharpen the image and save it.

John Stanmeyer

Image Copyright John Stanmeyer/VII

I met John Stanmeyer at his beautiful home and studio in Bali where he was conducting a photojournalism workshop. He is the co-founding member of VII and a contract photographer with Time Magazine since 1998. He has spent over 7 years focusing on Asian issues and has been working on a book about AIDS throughout Asia, as well as continuing his photographic documentation for a book on the radical changes in Indonesia since 1997.

For this workshop, he sponsored two Indonesian photographers who would not have been able to attend otherwise. In an interview, he said “They were taking brilliant pictures with busted equipment but they never photographed enough. At the end of the day, they only showed us a few photos. Finally, I discovered they couldn’t afford flash cards and were using only one 256 mg card. How do you support these talented people who try to communicate in difficult situations under difficult economic conditions? Their homes are in the places that we can afford to fly into and then can leave while they must stay and try to keep communicating.” The last sentence is also applicable to us, as travel photographers...don't you think?

A remarkable photographer, a wizard at photo editing and a genuinely nice guy, here’s John on Apple’s Aperture. I chose this multimedia feature because it shows him at work in his Bali home studio. He was working on that particular photograph when I was there as well!

John Stanmeyer on Apple Aperture

Thursday, February 8, 2007

PDN 's Travel Photography Contest

The venerable Photography News Digest (PDN) magazine has published results of its World In Focus contest. I found David Sacks' Light Rain photographed in Uganda to be excellent, and well deserving in winning the Human Condition category. The woman carrying her baby, the tree in the distance and the movement of her skirt all contribute to a well balanced composition. The image's toning also adds considerable 'gravitas' to the image. I imagine that its color version might not be as compelling.

The remaining images in the contest range from being excellent and well worth the accolade to being pedestrian and lackluster.

One of the few really ho-hum images is one by Deborah Young photographed in Angkor Wat. What bothers me here is not the image (although I don't see what attracted the judges to it) but the caption that accompanies it. The caption says "Taken at the ruins of Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a child monk sleeps while hundreds of tourists walk around him." Who are they kidding? Anyone who's been to Angkor knows very well that such a thing will never happen. Never. The caption writer (whether it's the photographer or someone else) is making it up. This novice (there are no such thing as a 'child monk') would be virtually trampled to death if he was to lie down as he is doing in this photograph. No, this image is posed, and not very intelligently at that. I have nothing against posed photographs, but what I do find ridiculous is the caption. Oh, another thing...the ruins are that of Bayon temple at Angkor Thom.

Top Image Copyright David Sacks
Bottom Image Copyright Deborah Young

Coffee Time


I love coffee, but I overdosed on caffeine, now I have to drink mostly decaffeinated. It's not all bad news though some decaffeinated coffee is really good. Look out for coffee that has been decaffeinated using the water method. Some decaffeinated coffee is really rough and undrinkable.
Every day I make myself a cup of cappuccino using one of the espresso coffees in the photograph. Because my limit is now one cup of coffee - it might just as well be one of my tried and tested favourites (I have tried many - believe me). Last weekend I went to Borough Market in London and opposite is a fabulous coffee house Monmouth Coffee, the coffee is amazing, and a cuppuccino to go, is heavenly to drink, whilst browsing the stalls around the market.
Powdered espresso is brilliant for using in cakes as is Camp coffee (chicory and coffee essence).
Do I drink powdered cappuccino - yes - occasionally - even though its full of chemicals, sometimes its just so quick and convenient.
Anyway, how does it get froth on the top?