Friday, October 31, 2008

Film: I've Loved You So Long

In London I've watched the French movie Il y'a Longtemps Que Je T'aime (or I've Loved You So Long), and was totally enthralled by the virtuoso performance of Kristin Scott Thomas. I don't want to divulge anything of the plot, except that her performance deserves an Oscar and, along with Couscous, this film reignited my love for the cinema.

Why can't Hollywood produce cinematic gems like these two instead of its usual fare of infantile "blockbusters"? This, of course, is a rhetorical question since most of us know the answer.

The NY Times has a review of I've Loved You So Long.

Foundry Photo Workshop 2009

Eric Beecroft and his team have just announced that the second Foundry Photo Workshop will be held in Manali, Manali-Kulu Valleys, Himachal Pradesh, Indian Himalaya from 26 July - 1 August 2009.

This second Foundry Photo Workshop will follow the extraordinarily successful workshop which was held in Mexicio City in June 2008.

Many of the original instructors have confirmed their participation. These are Mike Robinson-Chavez, Andrea Bruce, Tewfic El Sawy, Adriana Zehbrauskas, Ben Rusnak, and more to come.

For further details and date of registration, go to Foundry Photo Workshop

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Praful Rao: Of Monasteries & Men

Photograph © Praful Rao-All Rights Reserved

I had the pleasure of meeting Praful Rao in Thimpu, Bhutan which he was visiting at the same time I was there. Praful is a self taught photographer whose passion for photography spans his lifetime. He describes himself as a generalist, choosing to capture whatever catches his eye or creating photographs from impromptu themes conjured in his mind. While most of his photography is of people and nature, he has also gotten involved in minimalism, still life and still enjoys doing B&W work.

Here's a lovely multimedia slideshow: Of Monasteries & Men produced by Praful. Some of the photographs are of the enthronement ceremony of the third reincarnation of Domo Geshe Rimpoche, in Tharpacholing Gompa in Kalimpong (a part of the district of Darjeeling in West Bengal). Following the ceremony, the young lama was whisked away to Mysore for further theological studies. Some photographs were also made at the Tongsa Gompa, the oldest Buddhist monastery in Kalimpong, and others are of Bhutan. I particularly liked the above image for its shadows and saturated color...a compelling composition by Praful.

Praful tells me that the background music is by a young Nepali flautist, called Manose Singh. The track was traded for a photograph by Praful that'll be featured on the artist's forthcoming album.

An earlier post on Praful Rao and his photography was published by TTP here (link).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Tale of Two Bags

A month ago, as I was retrieving my checked-in bag at Heathrow (I've stopped over in London from New York, en route to Bangkok then on to Paro, Bhutan), I thought something wasn't quite right but in a hurry to get a cab, it's only later that I saw that my TSA-approved lock was missing.

I unzipped my bag and saw that someone had opened all my zipped-up pouches holding chargers, batteries, cables, a sound recorder and a couple of hard drives. Nothing was missing so it wasn't a thief...but it was someone who checked every electronic item in the pouches, to the extent that the tiny SONY microphone I use with the audio recorder was removed from its little bag, and was found on top of my socks...just like that. There was no note from the TSA...nothing to indicate that it was the TSA which had done that. Since nothing was taken, I assume it was their staff that opened the lock, failed to return it, and thoroughly rifled through my electronic stuff.

Ralph Childs, a participant in my Bhutan photo expedition, had the same experience on his flight from Chicago. The TSA-approved lock was also missing, with no note from the TSA. In his case nothing was taken and his belongings weren't rifled through.

While it gives me comfort that the TSA seems to be really screening bags, and appreciating that its staff is under-trained and overworked, I am still taken aback that Ralph and I (flying from different US airports) lost our combination locks, and there was no note indicating that the TSA had been through our bags. In my case, I'm just annoyed that electronic items were strewn around in the bag...losing an item would've been a nuisance, although I could've replaced it in London or Bangkok.

Moral of the story: Keep every item you depend on for your work in your carry-on luggage...and remember that TSA locks are great if and when the TSA staff have the ways to open them (or take the trouble to)...if not, you can kiss them goodbye.

Shiho Fukada: E&P Winner

Photograph © Shiho Fukada-All Rights Reserved

Editor & Publisher has just announced its 9th Annual Photos of the Year winners. Shiho Fukada, won the grand prize for her work in The New York Times covering the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China. The Travel Photographer offers its congratulations to Ms Fukada for the well-deserved award.

An outstanding photographer, Shiho Fukada has been featured many times on The Travel Photographer. Here are some of the links:

Kashgar Photo Essay

PDN Photo Annual 2008

Digital Photo Pro Magazine

TTP's Photo of the Year 2007

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lourdes Segade: Bhutan & Nepal

Photograph © Lourdes Segade/All Rights Reserved

Lourdes Segade is a Spanish photojournalist, based in Barcelona. Her work is often seen in Spain, where she publishes in Sunday newspaper supplements such as La Vanguardia Magazine or El Semanal, and in other magazines such as Yo Dona or Revista, of La Vanguardia newspaper or other publications, like DAMn, The New York Times and the IHT.

She has shown her work in screenings at several festivals, including the International Meeting of Photojournalism in Gijón and also the Albarracín Photo and Journalism Seminar, both in Spain. She's a member of the French collective, PictureTank, and is a co-founder of the EVE Photographers, a collective of emerging women photographers.

I feature Lourdes' portfolio titled Nepal & Bhutan: A Glimpse, as I'm already experiencing serious withdrawal pangs from my Bhutan photo expedition. I particularly liked the photograph of the dancer's skirt at the Punakha dzong during Losar...a wide angle shot, with just a touch of blur.

Foto Week DC: Nov 11-22, 2008

A week long celebration of photography is scheduled for November 15-22, and will mark the launch of FotoWeek DC, the first annual gathering of a diverse and wide-ranging photography community in the nation’s capital, including photographers, museums, universities and all those involved in the profession across the metro D.C. area, including Virginia and Maryland.

FotoWeek DC seeks to bring together all photographers and imaging professionals from every discipline to join with the public in celebration of the medium.

More information is available on FotoWeek's blog, which I'm glad to see is using the same color scheme as The Travel photographer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bhutan Photo Expedition: Novice & Dahlias

Photograph © Tewfic El-Sawy/All Rights Reserved

Here's a photograph made at the Dechen Phadrang monastic school in Thimpu. We had the necessary permit to visit the school, and spent a number of hours photographing and interacting with the novitiates. The photograph is obviously posed, and I chose a spot at the school's lakhang where the light was just right.

The novitiates involved in the photo shoot had a bunch of dahlias, and were glad to pose for us. I usually much prefer spontaneity and movement in my travel portraits, but posed portraits are often useful for stock purposes.

David Lang: Street Photographers

Photograph © David Lang/All Rights Reserved

David Lang worked in New York City for a well-known photographer specializing in portraits and celebrity shoots, but moved on to work for the International Organization for Migration. He documented the organization's relief efforts following the tsunami in Sri Lanka. He also worked with UNICEF in the Maldives, and Internews in Pakistan.

David has an interesting collection of galleries of his work in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Morocco...for TTP, I chose to highlight his work on Street Photographers in Kabul. In many countries of the world, street photographers perform their craft in cities' streets, on corners and in "holes-in-the-wall", and they provide a public service by producing passport-sized photos for IDs etc.

Afghanistan is one of these countries, as well as India, and a myriad of others. The technique in processing the prints is -by our digital standards- prehistoric, and may well be considered as a dying art.

My thanks to Emmanuelle Rey for the link to David's work.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bhutan Photo Expedition: Taktshang

Photograph © Tewfic El-Sawy/All Rights Reserved

Yech! Britain has now switched to Winter Time, and it'll get darker earlier from now on. The weather forecast calls for it'll be a miserable Sunday. Perhaps it's a message from the gods that I ought to stay in and start reviewing my thousands of images from Bhutan, process them and put Lightroom 2.1 through its paces.

Here's a photograph (a postcard view) of Taktshang Goemba, also known as Tiger's Nest, near Paro. Taktshang is probably the most famous of monasteries in Bhutan. It literally hangs on a cliff at over 10,000 feet. The legend behind the monastery is that Padmasambhava (or Guru Rinpoche) flew there on the back of a tiger. The only way to the monastery is by foot (or on mule-back), and the trek takes about 2 hours depending on one's fitness, and on the condition of the trail.

On nearby cliffs, I noticed other smaller structures and buildings, and was told that these were meditation abodes, where lamas and high-ranking monks come to meditate for varying lengths of time. It seems that some remain in meditative seclusion for 3 years, 3 months and 3 days.

We trekked up the trail, and were rewarded with this incredible view of the monastery. The trek was arduous, especially on the way down as it was raining and the going was very slippery in some areas. At the start of the trek, an enterprising elderly Bhutanese was selling poles he had hand-fashioned from branches, and they sold like hotcakes. Mine came in very handy on more than one occasion, and a member of my photo-expedition liked his so much that he took it home to the US. I've bemoaned the appearance of souvenir vendors at the foot (and beyond) of the trail, but the pole seller was really offering a useful service.

John Stanmeyer on Malaria Project

John Stanmeyer is a co-founding member of VII, and works regularly on assignment with National Geographic magazine. Here's is a recent interview (via Canon Professional Network) of him discussing his latest long-term assignment with the magazine, involving the global scope of malaria.

A thoughtful interview with one of my favorite photographers...John Stanmeyer's Malaria .

This blog has previously featured John Stanmeyer's Malaria work (link)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

NYT: Roots Of Faith & Strife

Photograph © Rina Castelnuovo/The New York Times

The New York Times featured a slideshow of Rina Castelnuovo's photographs of Joseph’s Tomb, a stone compound in the heart of Nablus that "many Jews believe is the final burial place of the son of Jacob, the biblical patriarch." The accompanying article is by Isabel Kershner.

The article reports that ardent and devout Jewish pilgrims, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, arrive throughout mornings' early hours to pray and worship at the site. Their goal is to make such visits weekly, and to re-establish a permanent presence that existed before 2000 so that Jewish pilgrims will able to come as they wish.

Some Palestinians declared the tomb an Islamic holy site and painted the dome green, justifying the declaration since Joseph is considered a prophet in Islam, and his story is related extensively in the Qur'an. Amazingly, after the city of Nablus was handed over to the Palestinians, a mob ransacked the structure, smashing the dome with pickaxes and setting the compound on fire. Naturally, this was probably done to prevent Jewish orthodox settlers to lay claim on the other words, "we'll destroy a religious site so that no one can claim it as their own". There are always two sides to each story but the religious xenophobia from both Jews and Muslims is just staggering.

Anyway, back to photography: Ms Castelnuovo's photograph above of Orthodox Jews throwing themselves on the grave of Joseph is in my view the most powerful in the slideshow.

Photo Plus Expo in New York City

Although I'm still in London, I ought to acknowledge the self-proclaimed "Most Important Event in Photography: October 23-25, 2008" in New York City's Javits Center. Frankly, I wouldn't attend it even if I were there, since it's a sort of convention-like event that showcases new products that I'll eventually read of on the internet. Unless I were to specifically meet other similarly-minded photographers, or get some promotional freebies (never happened in my case), I give Photo Plus Expo a pass.

Don't get me wrong. I think that such events are terrific for the industry, but they're just not for me. I'm not a tech head, and my interest in what I call "hard gear" is essentially limited to Canon products. If I want to tantalize my permanent lust for computers,, monitors and hard drives, I drop by the Apple store...for Canon cameras, ah well...B&H is a handful of streets north of me...that's the extent of my interest in that kind of stuff.

Having said that, I read PDN's reports on some of the event's seminars, and here are some interesting nuggets:

From a photographer called Blake Discher:

* Start a blog (separate from your web site), and make sure the first words on the blog are your keyword phrase.

* Get the URL that’s your keywording phrase, if you can. (in my case, I got

From Louisa Curtis:

* Client expectations are that they prefer web sites to show large images showing quality work; they expect photographers' sites to load quickly and operate intuitively; they don’t want to wade through clutter; and they want to be able to contact photographers easily (ie, put your phone number on your web site, not just your e-mail address).

From Kat Dalager:

* Web site design should support the photographer's brand so that it’s easier for clients to remember you. It’s all about functionality, and convenience of getting in and out.

From Amy Salzman:

Forget the moving pictures, forget the music, leave out the bells and whistles. (I disagree, but I guess she's referring to commercial photographers rather than photojournalists or travel photographers).

For the whole reporting, drop by the very informative PDN Pulse.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jehad Nga: Master of Chiaroscuro

Photograph © Jehad Nga/All Rights Reserved

One of my favorite photographers, Jehad Nga, has just launched his my estimation a master of the chiaroscuro (the contrast between light and dark), Jehad Nga was born in Kansas, but moved when young to Libya and then to London, where he was raised. In his early 20s and living in Los Angeles, he discovered a book by photographer Natasha Merritt. The book convinced him that he could use his own digital compact during a backpacking trip to southeast Asia. By 2002 he was traveling through the Middle East, and by the following year, Jehad made his way to Baghdad photographing for the New York Times.

Over the recent years, Jehad covered Somalia, Kenya, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Darfur, Ethiopia and Iran, providing stories for major publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time, Fortune and Forbes magazines. He also won several honors, including American Photo magazine's Emerging Artists 2007 issue and for World Press Master Class 2008.

His website showcases his talent in the shadow and light play, and while all of his galleries have wonderful images that simply befuddles the mind as how he managed to capture them, my favorite is titled Shadowed By The Sun...a visual treat.

Jehad's work has appeared on many occasions on The Travel Photographer. Here are some of the links:

Somalia Through A Lens
Somalia On The Brink
Ethiopia's Stone Churches

Bhutan Photo Expedition: Just Because

Photograph © Tewfic El-Sawy/All Rights Reserved

I found this photograph amongst the thousands I made during the Tamshing Lakhang tsechu during my photo expedition Land of the Druk Yul. It appeals to me just because there's a human story unfolding here...unfortunately, I was whisked away to another spot before I could find out whether this was a monk greeting his wife and child, or whether he was the uncle, brother or just a friend. All I know is that this beautiful woman and her child had been waiting outside the lakhang for a while until he emerged, smiling broadly at them.

This is totally unrelated to this photograph, but I just read a hilarious post on David duChemin's has references to intestinal mutiny, a threatened body cavity search, a brief rant about how Kathmandu was maggoty with tourists, and an apt description of annoying European and American tourists.

I encountered a lot of those characters as well in Bhutan. The issue with Bhutan itineraries is that no matter how hard one tries, you'll invariably meet the same annoying tourists over and over again...either at one of the festivals or worse, at the same hotels. It's quite simple to identify the various nationalities...if they're really loud and look freshly showered in the mornings, they're usually Americans...if they hijack the only plate of butter from the buffet (and I have to walk up to their table and retrieve it), they're usually French...and as my friend Gavin Gough pointed out, they're British if one steps on their toes, and they're the ones who apologize.

The wisdom one acquires from traveling is just breathtaking, isn't it?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Adriana Zehbrauskas: Daily Life Mexico

Photograph © Adriana Zehbrauskas/All Rights Reserved

Adriana Zehbrauskas is a Brazilian photographer/photojournalist, currently living in Mexico City. She received her degree in Journalism in 1989 and then moved to Paris where she studied Linguistics and Phonetics at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Adriana worked as a staff photographer for Folha de Sao Paulo for 11 years, traveling extensively throughout the country and abroad, covering a variety of subjects. She also worked as James Nachtwey’s assistant in Brazil and New York, and studied with Mary Ellen Mark in Mexico and with Susan Meiselas in Colombia.

She's a frequent contributor to the New York Times, and her work appeared in Newsweek, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Paris Match, Le Figaro Magazine, Elle U.S.A, Architectural Record, Time for Kids, The International Herald Tribune and La Nación, among others.

I had the privilege of meeting Adriana during the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Mexico City. Knowing the quality of her work, and despite having to teach my own multimedia classes, I was sorely tempted to play hookey and attend hers as a student...maybe the second Foundry Workshop will provide another opportunity to do so. I also had the pleasure of visiting her lovely home for lunch with a group of photographers, and can personally vouch for her gracious hospitality.

While I emphasize with Adriana's Faith portfolio, I was also struck by her images of her Daily Life in Mexico; the above photograph of a street musician in Oaxaca just clinched it for me. An immensely talented photographer, with an enormous capacity to share her talents with others.

TOP's Canon G10 Review

The Online Photographer blog has a recent review of the Canon G10 by Edward Taylor, which is interesting on many levels. I'm in the market for what the article/post calls a DMD (Decisive Moment Digital) other words, a small camera that is easily portable and that can deliver a near-DSLR quality image, and one that I can use for whenever I get a street photography whimsy attack.

The dilemma will arise when I buy the Canon 5D II. I'll then have my trusted 1d Mark II as back-up when I travel, so where does that leave the G10, if indeed I get it? Is that what they call a Solomonic decision?

The G10 is attractive, not only because of its price, but because it's small (although larger than its predecessor, the G9), is solid, starts up fairly quickly, it has a wider 28mm to 140mm (equivalent) lens, it shoots RAW and the image quality is reported to be good.

I'm tired of reading highly technical gibberish-laden reviews that are seemingly written for rocket scientists...and chancing on such a meat & potatoes kind of review is a breath of fresh air. It tells me what I need to know...I may not agree with all of it, but at least I understand what I read.

Update: I now have the G10. Here are my first impressions. (Link)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bhutan Photo Expedition: Le "Chimping"

Photograph © Gavin Gough/All Rights Reserved

Here's a Soundslides candid behind the scenes look at the going-ons during the Bhutan: Land of the Druk Yul photo expedition. All photographs are courtesy and copyright of Gavin Gough (those of him are obviously not...unless they were self-taken).

As can be seen from the above photo capture, we were singularly adept at the art of chimping during the Thangbi Mani tsechu.

Book: Monumental India

As is my habit when I'm in London, I dropped by the High Street Kensington branch of Waterstones to browse its offerings of travel photography books. In the middle of a wobbly table, there was a large brick-colored sleeve enveloping The Monumental India Book by photographer Amit Pasricha, with an introduction by William Indiaphile and a damn good writer as well. Glancing at the price tag, and finding it to be a rather steep GBP 100 (at today's exchange that'll be about $165), I drew a sharp breath and flipped its pages...really savoring what I viewed.

The handsome book contains breathtaking panoramic views of India, its regal monuments and religious sites. It's obvious that Amit was given unfettered access to many hidden treasures. According to the Times of London, the photographer used "cutting-edge technology that enables a panoramic vista of up to 360 degrees, shot in several sections, to be encompassed within a two-dimensional picture – an impossibility with the naked eye."

An online preview of the book can seen here (LINK) Recommended.

Also, and courtesy of the TimesOnline, a set of ten photographs can be seen here (LINK)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bhutan: Land of Druk Yul Expedition

Photograph © Tewfic El-Sawy/All Rights Reserved

Here's one of the many images I made at the Tamshing Lakhang during the Tamshingphala festival in Bumthang, Bhutan. This was one of the festivals or tsechus on my Land of Druk Yul photo expedition's itinerary. It is of a young monk practicing with a conch shell before one of the festival's dances. The conch is used in Tibetan Buddhism to call together religious assemblies, and during rituals is used both as a musical instrument and as a container for holy water.

Tamshing is the original home of sacred dances that are celebrated at traditional Tsechus (festivals) throughout Bhutan, and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in Bhutan. The temple and monastery are remarkable for their direct connection to the Bhutanese saint Pema Lingpa.

The 37th Frame

Pete Marovich, a photojournalist based in Harrisonburg, Virginia has started The 37th Frame a few weeks ago. The site seeks to bring to its readers the best of photojournalism and photography on the internet, by searching web sites of newspapers, magazines and independent photographers around the world, and posting links to the work.

Marovich states that his objective is to create a central place where photographers and fans of great photography can find exceptional photographs and essays. Having visited The 37th Frame (what a cool name!) a few times already, I look forward to many return visits in the months to come.

My thanks to Cathy Scholl for bringing it to my attention.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Another Me Project

Photograph © Achinto Bhadra

The Terre des hommes Foundation (Lausanne, Switzerland) conceived the Another Me project in which the documentary photographer Achinto Bhadra and counselor Harleen Walia guided 126 girls and women through a healing journey of psychological transformation. Achinto’s portraits record trafficking survivors’ imaginative visions of themselves as human, animistic and divine beings of power, love, revenge and freedom.

The girls and women in the photographs, from 8 to 25 years old, are survivors of trafficking, rape or abandonment, or are the children of sex workers. They have been in the care of Sanlaap, a non-governmental organization based in Kolkata, India. The photography sessions were conducted at Sanlaap’s Sneha Girls Shelter.

The project's photographer is Achinto Bhadra, who studied photography at Chitra Bani, Kolkata and at the London College of Printing. He's a recipient of the Charles Wallace Scholarship. As an independent documentary photographer, he has spent years photographing the urban poor and marginalized children and women for national and international development agencies. Sukkot

Photograph AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh-All Rights Reserved

The Denver Post is another of the newspapers adopting large format images for its Captured Photo Blog of photo galleries, multimedia and video. While many of its features are of Colorado, it also offers international coverage such as the festival of Sukkot, which occurs during the latter two weeks of October in 2008. This Jewish festival commemorates the 40 years of wandering in the desert after the exodus of Jews from Egypt some 3200 years ago.

Browsing the photographs on the Sukkot feature, I stopped at the above image, which I initially thought to be of a Muslim imam, but is of a member of the Jewish Samaritan community. According to tradition, the Samaritans are descendants of Jews who were not deported when the Assyrians conquered Israel in the 8th century B.C. Click on the image to see it in a larger size.

The rest of the photographs are on the Denver Post's Captured

Sunday, October 19, 2008


ISBN 9780718148584.

Following my posting for Chianti Baked Meatballs by Jo Pratt from her book In The Mood For Food, I dipped further into her book and have cooked a small selection of recipes.

Unfortunately, I am not able to put the recipes on, because it would take forever. I have only been able to find a link to one recipe, which is a shame.

Marshmallow Meringues with Mango and Passion Fruit.

These meringues were possibly the best I have ever made, we loved the crisp outside and the marshmallow centre. For the mango and passion fruit cream, I simply pureed a mango and swirled this into some sweetened Greek Yoghurt along with the passion fruit. This simple dessert was delicious and I loved the scented yoghurt.

Cherry & Almond Cake

It is National Baking Week from the 20th to the 26th October 2008 here in the UK and this is the recipe I have chosen, to celebrate everything that is so wonderful about baking.

Orange Caramel Yoghurt

A definite hit, but the oranges need to be segmented and not cut across into thin slices. If you get any horrible membrane from the orange then this will ruin the dessert.

Ginger & Banana Trifle

Wonderful - anything made with ginger cake is a hit with me! Just an assembly job using Grand Marnier to soak the ginger cake, stem ginger and bananas. I topped the trifle with whipping cream but I think the sharpness of creme fraiche would be better.

Sticky Maple Pears

I didn't have any maple syrup and so used a good honey instead. The recipe says to crumble amaretti biscuits over the pears, but if you do this then the presentation gets very messy.

Honey-Seared Salmon with Sesame Noodles

I confess to cheating on this one - I bought a bag of stir fry vegetables instead of the spinach, bean sprouts and springs onions - it still tasted great. Also, I added to this a sweet chilli and ginger sauce bought from Marks and Spencer! I have made this twice now and it's fabulous. The recipe is here.

Cheese, Onion & Potato Pie

Oh dear! The potato was very sloppy due to the amount of milk required in the recipe. Also, for us there was far too much cheese. I used Red Leicester, which is a cheese I would always add to cheese and potato pie, purely for colour. I'll go back to this another time and adapt the recipe.

Extremely Simple Beef & Ale Casserole with Horseradish Dumplings

After the casserole had finished cooking, I tried the sauce but it really wasn't to my taste and so I added a few mushrooms, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of English Mustard. Also, the dumplings didn't have any suet in them, I'm sorry but suet dumplings always win hands down for me!

I also made Parmesan-crusted Chicken with Avocado Salad, but unfortunately no photograph for this one! This one was another great recipe.

On my 'to do' list from the book Roast Sea Bass with White Wine Potatoes and Vine Tomatoes and also Roast Chicken for Two In One Pan.

All of the recipes have turned out well in this book, and I know that I will return to some of them time and time again.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Verdict: Bhutan Land of the Druk Yul

Photograph Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

After almost 3 weeks of not posting, getting back in the "groove" is not as easy as I thought it would be, but what better way to restart this blog's activity than by writing on the results of my photo expedition in the Land of the Druk Yul.

All of the festivals we photographed at were regional (or less), since I make it a point not to bother with the large tsechus in Thimpu or Paro. Incidentally, I heard the Thimpu festival was held outside of its traditional venue in the dzong's courtyard because of the number of the tour these large well-known (and well publicized by travel & tour companies) festivals are never destinations for my photo expeditions and never will be.

The local or regional festivals (tsechus) offered us an enormous amount of photo opportunities, as I made sure we were in the very heart of the activities as well as behind the scenes to capture the best there is in such events. Mostly through the hard work by our fixers and guides, and occasionally by serendipity, we ended the expedition with an hefty amount of photo inventory that will certainly occupy us for many months to come. Especially notable was our first day at the Tamshingphala festival, when the light was incredible due to the earlier thunderstorm. The photographs made in the lakhang's inner courtyard are just luminous.

Some members of another photo tour saw us photographing in the Tamshing monastery's inner courtyard, and joined us. Out of professional courtesy, I decided not to mention that what they were shooting so gleefully was actually a private photo shoot that we had pre-arranged, and made some donations to make it happen. In reality, the organizer of this photo tour should've thought of that, and arranged it...but he didn't.

On the downside, I noticed a number of souvenir vendors displaying their wares to tourists on the path to Tiger's Nest, and outside of a number of monasteries visited by tour groups. Nothing's really wrong in that since people need to make a living...but it was disconcerting to see them in areas where there was none just 2 years ago. There's absolutely no hassle involved, nor any touting...the Bhutanese are too polite for that...but it's a new phenomenon.

As is usually the case with travel in Bhutan during the high season, there's no firm guarantee as to whether we would end up in the hotels on our itinerary. We largely did however. However, the quality of accommodations vary from one hotel to the other...and we experienced tiny rooms (in realtor's parlance also known as "charmingly rustic") with wood-burning stoves, to enormous suites with all modern amenities. I was told that clients of large tour operators such as Mountain Sobek had the same hotel experience to the one we had. In fact, there was one such group in our hotel in Wangdue, so being part of a tour group set up by a large international travel company is no guarantee for uniform accommodations.

In Jakar (Bumthang) we were asked by our originally chosen hotel to share, by doubling up, our rooms, and I refused. So our guide Sonam, assisted by Ugyen and Norbu, found us alternative accommodations at the just-opened beautiful Peling hotel in Tamshing. Not only was this hotel a few minutes away from the scheduled festival, but it was the nicest hotel experience we've had in Bhutan. Despite teething problems (frequent power outages) during its soft opening, the staff of the Peling hotel were incredibly nice, accommodating and helpful. The owner of the Peling hotel is said to be one of the queens of Bhutan, and the hotel will eventually be a prime choice for many travelers to the area.

Finally, the group's synergy and chemistry was notably good on this photo expedition. The tribute for such an amicable and agreeable environment goes to the participants who were extremely supportive of one another. Much credit is deserved by our local support team of Sonam, Ugyen, Norbu and Dawa, who all performed their duties as guides, fixers, comfort blankets, picnic organizers etc. perfectly well. Our travel agents Samdrup of Jachung Travel in San Francisco, and Pema of Adventure Travel Bhutan in Thimpu, also kept a daily watch over our progress. Arranging for a support staff of 4 to our 11 members is a testament to the quality of these two travel companies.

I'm not shy of blowing my own horn when it comes to my expeditions, and I can justifiably tout the logistics and conduct of the Land of Druk Yul photo-expedition as having exceeded even my own high expectations. We consistently "scooped" other competing photo tours during the festivals, and stayed in accommodations where much more expensive tours also stayed...we were at festivals earlier than the rest of most groups, and this allowed us to pick our favored positions, make contacts amongst the festivals' clergy, and thus photograph behind the scenes.

The above photograph is of the dancers during the Tamshingphala tsechu who traditionally take the role of jokers...essentially warming up the crowd before the ritualistic dancing starts. if interested in the details, click on it for a larger version.

I'll be working on many more of my photographs made during the festivals, and as I also managed to record beautiful ambient sound, I'll eventually upload a multimedia feature.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I thought I would share with you, one of the surprise presents my husband so thoughtfully bought for me last Christmas. I had been hinting I would love to be the owner of a set of these in white for ages.
For both of us he bought a beautiful coffee mug and saucer each. They are part of the NewWave collection by Villeroy & Boch.

I even made a banana cake with passion fruit icing to match my lovely coffee cup and saucer! This is an Australian Women's Weekly recipe from the book Home Baked - one of my favourite baking books.

This week I met Jan from What Do I Want To Cook Today, a fellow food blogging friend, and we decided to make a trip to Birmingham. Whilst we were looking at the the Villeroy & Boch NewWave collection in Selfridges, it reminded me that I ought to post about my lovely mug and saucer. Jan and I both love kitchen gadgetry, pots etc, and it is a real joy to look around with her. Thank you Jan for another really enjoyable day out.

Hopefully, sometime in the future, I will manage to post about our coffee machine, grinder and where we source our fresh coffee beans. The foam on top of the coffee in the photograph is light years from what we are achieving now. We now know how to surf and texturise the milk to make micro foam. My husband has all the makings of a fine Barista, but alas, I am still a Barista in training. Unfortunately, latte art is still not achievable by either of us!


As I have dared to mention the word Christmas, perhaps you are now thinking you can't possibly find the time to blog, and just how stressful it can get, with cooking, posting and commenting.

How about sending for a Berocca's Blogger Relief pack. I first saw this last winter on a blog, applied for the pack and last week received mine. The pack consists of Berocca tablets which is an effervescent orange drink full of vitamins and minerals, a pen holder, bubble wrap keyring, a glass, a USB panic button, stress ball and a pen!

Well, we all need some fun sometimes, don't we?

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Antonia over at Food, Glorious Food is hosting her first blogging event British Food Fortnight Challenge.

Antonia and I share a passion for puddings and so with this in mind, I have made Sussex Pond Pudding, I chose a Delia recipe I have yearned to make for a long, long time, but have never somehow got round to making.

Sussex Pond Pudding is usually made in a large glass bowl and steamed for about 3 hours. This is, to me, the best of all the suet puddings. A whole lemon is placed inside the suet lined bowl with equal quantities of butter and sugar placed around the lemon, this is then topped with a suet pastry lid.

Now for the pond, once you cut into the pudding the buttery, lemony juices pour out around the pudding creating a pond. A piece of the cooked lemon is served to everyone along with the pastry and juices.

Note - if you don't prick the lemon all over with a skewer before placing in the pastry lined bowl you risk the lemon and your pudding exploding - how do I know this you may ask, it happened to a friend of mine who had cooked this for us! Mary Norwak in her book of English Puddings, tells of a similar pudding where you leave the lemon whole and the pudding is called Lemon Bomb because of the exploding lemon!

There is also another version of this pudding that includes dried fruit to the mixture, and this is called Kentish Wells.

Recipes can be found in the following books, and obviously in many others - Jane Grigson in her book English Food, English Puddings by Mary Norwak and The Pudding Club.

Antonia has asked, as far as possible, to use British produce. For this challenge I used the following:

Self-raising flour Leckford Estate, Hampshire (purchased from Waitrose).
Wyke Farms, Somerset, farmhouse butter.
British milk.

Now back to Delia's recipe - these one portion size puddings were really easy to prepare, I was a little worried that I would be short of pastry to line the pudding basins, but as usual, Delia had allowed just the right amount. The pudding basins are lined with a very thin suet pastry. The addition of fresh white breadcrumbs to the suet mix, gave a very light texture to the pastry. This pudding certainly wasn't a poor relation to the huge pudding that would normally be served. Sussex Pond pudding isn't a pretty pudding, but boy does it taste good!!

Here is a lovely nineteenth-century rhyme - all about boiled puddings, of course.

Mother Eve's Pudding

If you want a good pudding, to teach you I'm willing,
Take twopennyworth of eggs, when twelve for a shilling,
And of the same fruit that Eve had once chosen,
Well pared and well chopped at least half a dozen;
Six ounces of bread (let your maid eat the crust);
The crumbs must be grated as small as the dust;
Six ounces of currants from the stones you must sort,
Lest they break out your teeth and spoil all your sport;
Six ounces of sugar won't make it too sweet,
Some salt and some nutmeg will make it complete,
Three hours let it boil, without hurry or flutter,
And then serve it up - without sugar or butter.