Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rich-Joseph Facun: Darshana Ganga


There are a couple of images captioned "moksha" on Rich-Joseph Facun's Darashana Ganga gallery that are certainly disturbing, but the remainder of his gallery show us Varanasi and its streets at its grittiest, and being one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, it is a gritty city. This is a work in progress, and I suspect that more images will be forthcoming.

For centuries, Hindus have sought "moksha", the release from the cycle of life, death and reincarnation by dying in Varanasi or having their remains cremated on the ghats alongside the Ganges. Hindus from across India and beyond, often choose to live out their last days in this 5,000 year-old city.

Rich-Joseph Facun is a photographer based in Abu Dhabi, who specializes in documentary projects dealing with personal Independence, pursuit of dreams and the discovery of self-identity. He studied photography at the School for Visual Communication at Ohio University.

He documented the life of a Navajo family in 2001; a project that gained him a Pictures of The Year award. He was also named as one of PDN's 30 New and Emerging Photographers amongst other numerous awards. His work has been published by various publications ranging from The New York Tines to FADER magazine.

Amongst Facun's many galleries, I particularly liked Merchants of Main Street, a collection of very nicely toned photographed of stores from all over the USA.

WSJ Photo Journal: Pushkar Mela

Photo © Kevin Frayer/Associated Press-All Rights Reserved

The WSJ Photo Journal with a photograph by Kevin Frayer has reminded me that the Pushkar fair (or mela) is taking place from October 30 to November 2 this year. It is one of the world's largest camel fairs, and is held in the quaint town of Pushkar. At that time, hotel rooms and other accommodations are available at a hefty premium, especially at the venerable but ideally located Pushkar Palace.

While it's famed for its camels, the fair is also a marketplace for livestock including the reputed Marawri horses. It has recently become a magnet for tourists, both local and foreign, with tour agencies setting up itineraries centered around the fair itself as the main attraction. Photo trips also abound, since the camel traders, the sand dunes of the Thar Desert and the setting sun prove irresistible to photographers hoping to capture the Rajasthani essence.

Although a one-time-must-see event, the Pushkar mela itself has become a tourist event rather than a genuine tribal camel trading occasion. The actual trading itself takes place days before the start of the event, and by the time tourists arrive, most of the trades have been competed, and only the stragglers are left.

You can read my take on Pushkar fair in an early (and acerbic) post on this blog under the title "Reheated Itineraries".

ABEL & COLE ORGANIC FILLET STEAK REVIEW


Following on from my two other Abel & Cole reviews, which you can see here, Victoria asked if I would like to sample their Organic Fillet Steak.

Abel & Cole are experts at packaging and they send chilled goods in a polystyrene insulated box (which is returnable), lift the lid and there are your chilled food items in perfect condition, alongside a few reusable ice blocks. I should mention, Abel & Cole products are delivered by a friendly and polite driver.


My fillet steak was delivered alongside the free range chicken which was double wrapped, and there wasn't any sign of leakage from either product.

I cooked my fillet steak to medium - first heat your griddle pan, then prepare the fillet steak by anointing it with olive oil, season with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. To the hot and smoking pan I added the steak, cooking the first side for 3 minutes, turning it over and cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a warm plate, cover loosely with foil to rest for 5 minutes or so to ensure you have a juicy and tender piece of steak.

The fillet steak seemed to vary on tenderness, graduating from tender at one end to meltingly tender at the other, and was very tasty and succulent.

I made a simple red wine sauce to serve with my fillet steak, which is basically cooking a small chopped onion in butter, adding red wine to the pan, reducing to a third, then adding a couple of teaspoons of redcurrant jelly. Lastly, adding small cubes of butter to both enrich the sauce and give a wonderful sheen.

If you are looking for a reliable, quality and traceable fillet steak for a special occasion, I wouldn't think you could go far wrong with one from Abel & Cole.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Coming Soon: Bhutan Galleries!

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved


Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I'll be soon posting two galleries of some of my work made during my Bhutan Photo~Expedition a few weeks ago.

One is a multimedia photo gallery of Monks' Debates at the Kharchhu Sangha in Bumthang (which has already been seen by subscribers to my newsletter), while the other will showcase some of the dancers at the Jambhey Lakhang tsechu in Chamkar.

So watch this blog!

My Work: Bhutan Monks, A Cat & TV

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

This photograph (click it for a larger version) was made at the Wangdichoeling Palace in Jakar, Bhutan. Built in 1857, it served as the principal summer residence of the first and second kings of Bhutan; Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck (1862-1926) and Jigme Wangchuk 1905-1952). Virtually dilapidated, it is now occupied by monks and novices who use some of its rooms.

It's within a stone's throw from the Bumthang Amankora Resort, whose daily rate for a single suite is $1300!

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

This photograph (click it for a larger version) captured two novices clandestinely watching a Bollywood movie at the Chimi Lakhang. The temple is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who is colloquially referred to as the Divine Madman, and is popularly considered to be a temple of fertility.

Footnote: I'm immensely gratified to have been mentioned in Lou Jones' excellent Marketing Travel Photography: Portfolio and Identity on Photo.net.

Under the paragraph titled Editorial Portfolio, Lou writes:

"Take a look at Magnum’s David Allen Harvey online magazine. He has some of the best talent working in the genre represented on his web site. Tewfic El-Sawy’s thetravelphotographer.blogspot.com has a unique vision with his site."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

April Maciborka: India


Every now and then I stumble on a website that, to my mind, reaffirms the essence of what a travel photographer is, or should be, all about. So I hope you will agree that April Maciborka is one of those who carry that particular torch.

Her style, as evidenced by her various portfolios, matches my own visual philosophy: "travel photography meets photojournalism". Other travel photographers showcase lovely photographs of posed and smiling people...but that's not what this style is about.

The range of April Maciborka's work is certainly impressive. She seems to hail from Toronto but traveled and lived in South and Southeast Asia (as well As Africa) during the past four years, after graduating from Sheridan College with a degree in Photography. Her photographs have been published by American Photo Magazine, PhotoLife and PDN (where I first saw her work).

Take your time in exploring her many galleries and portfolios...it will take you quite a while. But if you prefer the type of travel photography in which ethnic minorities smile stiffly for the camera against the background of a perfect blue sky, you may want to look elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mariela Furrer: Timket, Ethiopia


I'm often asked to lead a photo-expedition to Ethiopia and I always demur, citing the infrastructural difficulties (mostly in the South) of setting up such a trip, and the concomitant high costs. However, as can be seen in Mariella Furrer's Timket gallery, Ethiopia is one of the most visually and culturally magnetic countries in the world. These images bring back the emotions I felt when hearing the beautiful chants at dawn during the Timket festivities.

Mariella Furrer is a photographer and photojournalist who has lived in Africa her whole life. She attended the Documentary Photography & Photojournalism Program at the International Center of Photography in NYC, and has since been working as a freelance photojournalist based between Kenya and South Africa.

Mariella has been awarded grants from the 3P Foundation, France and the Hasseleblad Foundation, Sweden. She has received an Honorable Mention from UNICEF Photo of the Year 2005 and has been nominated for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography 2006.

Timket is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany, and is celebrated on January 19 or 20.

For my own photographs of Northern Ethiopia, including those of my few days in Lalibela during Timket, drop by Footsteps in North Abyssinia.

Canon 7D: Shadow Image?


Photographers seem to have discovered a flaw in the new Canon EOS 7D, which results in a shadow of the preceding frame showing up in the following image when the continuous shooting mode is chosen.

The flaw was confirmed by Canon in Japan and elsewhere. Canon announced that it "is currently investigating and analyzing the cause of this phenomenon, and we are planning to release a firmware update to address this issue."

Canon USA actually has this on its website:

In images captured by continuous shooting, and under certain conditions, barely noticeable traces of the immediately preceding frame may be visible. This phenomenon is not noticeable in an image with optimal exposure. The phenomenon may become more noticeable if a retouching process such as level compensation is applied to emphasize the image.

This just reaffirms the wisdom of never buying the first edition of any camera (or computer, for that matter). Waiting for the bugs to be discovered by the impulsive (or impatient) buyers always pays off for those of us who prefer to wait.

It should be said though, that as far as I've read so far, no one has been able to replicate this flaw in the cameras supplied for testing.

Update (November 5): Corrective Firmware from Canon is now here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NYT: Ariana Lindquist: Heshun (China)

Photo © Ariana Lindquist/NY Times. All Rights Reserved

The New York Times featured a short slideshow of Ariana Lindquist's photographs of Heshun, in Yunnan province, China. With beautiful scenery and abundant cultural traditions, Heshun is one of China's earliest border trade town, and is a perennial favorite of film directors, photographers, and painters.

Heshun is located on China's southern border in Tengchong County, and was once famous for its wealthy merchants who traded with India, Burma and the interior of China itself. Its location on the tea caravans route made it also an important hub for the tea trade.

During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, caravans arrived to Heshun ply their trade. They would bring silk, jewelery, books and Western commodities to exchange for jade.

I am tempted by articles like these to set up a photo expedition to Yunnan province...perhaps in 2011?

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Frame: Chhath Festival

Photo © Dar Yasin/AP. All Rights Reserved

The Frame, the photography blog of The Sacramento Bee, is one the main three large sized picture blogs, along with the Boston Globe's The Big Picture and the Wall Street Journal's Photo Journal.

It brings us 19 photographs of the Chhath festival where Indian Hindu devotees offers prayers to the sun. The festival is also known as Surya Pooja (or prayers to the sun) is observed in the eastern part of India 8 days after Diwali, the festival of lights. The festival in celebrated in the regions including but not exclusive to the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi as well as Mumbai.

Traditionally, Chhath festival devotees fast and offer water, milk and fruits to the sun god at dawn and dusk.

I'm glad to see that my friend Yasin Dar's(a Kashmiri photographer with AP) was amongst those published by The Frame.

Field Report: B&H & Adorama


Well, I succumbed to the "bigger is better" axiom and decided to add a 16gb SanDisk Compact Flash card to my inventory.

In arriving to this decision, I was guided by two facts: the first is that the images files from Canon 5D Mark II are monstrously large and that, although my 8gb CF cards are quite adequate, I filled them up a number of times in the midst of a photo shoot. The second reason is that SanDisk was offering interesting rebates on its cards, which meant $20 off the 16gb baby I got.

After spending an hour browsing at B&H, and touching-feeling-playing with the newly released Canon 7D (it feels solid, well balanced and its 8 fps sounds really good to my ears...but we'll see about the image quality), I was told that the SanDisk Extreme III Compact Flash Card were sold out. B&H was a madhouse this Sunday...presumably all from the traffic generated by Photo Plus Expo that took place the past few days.

So my next stop was Adorama where I did find the product I needed. While the delivery system at Adorama is far from being as sophisticated as B&H's, the card and its rebate sheet were readily available. The traffic was also very impressive at Adorama, with long lines at their cashiers.

Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak: India

Photo © Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak-All Rights Reserved

The face on Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak's website's cover is haunting...I can't tell if she's smiling or not. Have a look, and then explore his galleries which include photographs of East and West Africa, Maghreb countries, the Middle East and India, among others.

Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak is from Pozanan in Poland, and his photographs were published in CNN Traveler, National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Newsweek, Globtroter, FAO, Lonely Planet and many more international and national publications.

He also won a couple of prestigious awards to include the National Geographic Competitions in 2006 and 2007.

I haven't yet had the chance of exploring every single gallery as Swiatoslaw has been photographing virtually everywhere, but the one that captured my attention was his work in India. As you can see from the featured photograph, he's not shy in showing the unusual. His style and processing of some of his photographs remind me of Zackary Canepari's work.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

POV: Antiquities & Colonialism

© Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters. Courtesy The New York Times

Antiquities and its politics are hardly topics that stay for long on my radar screen, but this time it involves Egypt, my birth country so I'll take a stab at the recent news which involves the bust of Nefertiti, currently displayed in a Berlin museum. What does this have to do with travel photography, you ask? Not much...but I need this off my chest.

A New York Times' article (written by Michael Kimmelman) on this issue starts as follows:

"As thousands lined up to catch a glimpse of Nefertiti at the newly reopened Neues Museum here, another skirmish erupted in the culture wars. Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, announced that his country wanted its queen handed back forthwith, unless Germany could prove that the 3,500-year-old bust of Akhenaten’s wife wasn’t spirited illegally out of Egypt nearly a century ago."

The article goes to great lengths to describe this request as being a riposte to the recent political snub suffered by Egypt when its candidate for the UNESCO head position wasn't successful. It seems that a group of intellectuals (led by a triumvirate of Jewish writers or polemicists in Europe, as well as French and Germans) argued that the Egyptian candidate had expressed anti-Semitic comments in the past.

I don't disagree with that possibility, but so what? Egypt is well within its rights to demand the return of every item of its patrimony. The German museum generates a considerable amount of money from displaying what is Egypt's most famous Pharaoh queen (well, almost as famous as Cleopatra). Does Egypt see a dime from this revenue?

The article also informs us that over the years Egypt has requested for Nefertiti to be returned, but Germans point out that Ludwig Borchardt, who discovered the bust at in 1912, had Egyptian approval to take it to Berlin.

And 1912 is the problem. At that time, Egypt was ruled by Abbas II (one of the vestiges of the ruling Albanian house of Mehmet Ali) who, when showing a few weak signs of nationalism, was neutered (I hope only figuratively) by Lord Cromer. In 1914, Britain declared Egypt its protectorate and deposed of Abbas. Under these circumstances, an "Egyptian" approval is highly dubious, and Borchardt may have exploited a bureaucracy made malleable by the presence of various colonial powers, which at that time, had special privileges in Egypt. A similar case involved the Axum Obelisk which was plundered from Ethiopia by Italy, and was returned in 2005.

If Mr Kimmelman wanted to tie a more plausible news event to this request, he should consider the implications of the recent murder of Marwa al-Sherbini, a pregnant Egyptian pharmacist who was stabbed 18 times by an Islamphobe German man in a Dresden courthouse, and the flaccid response of the German media and its police to this hate crime. This was interpreted in the Muslim world as evidence of a deep-seated Islamophobia in Germany...so I'm sure that Germany is not on Egypt's most favored nations' list at this point of time.

Setting aside hypocritical politics and the residual ills of colonialism, there's no question in my mind that countries' patrimonies such as the bust of Nefertiti, the Elgin Marbles, the Ishtar Gate and a plethora of other lesser-known artifacts should be returned to their rightful owners.

Haven't the erstwhile colonial powers plundered enough?

It's off my chest now...sort of.

Books: Claudia Wiens: Burma



Claudia Wiens was based in Cairo, and is now in Istanbul working as a freelance photographer, and is represented by Getty Images. She has now published a book of her photographs of Burma and titled "Of Dung-Beetle Messengers And Infamous Crickets" which, although I haven't seen yet, does provide Claudia's interesting visual narrative of this lovely country and its people. Have a good look at the section involving Nats.

I'm glad that Claudia chose this blurry image for her book's cover since, as regular readers of this blog know, I'm enormously partial to motion blurred images myself. Good choice, Claudia! For further images of Burma and other galleries, visit Claudia's website.

I met Claudia at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop (FPW) in Mexico City, where she worked on a project involving female Lucha Libre wrestlers.

A previous post of Claudia Wiens on TTP is here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Zhou Mi: Where The Ganges Flows...


Here's a black & white photo essay Where The Ganges Flows... by Zhou Mi, documenting his traveling down the Ganges from its source in Gangotri to Kolkata, passing through Rishikesh, Haridwar and Varanasi.

It brought to mind the classic book Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby, which may have been the photographer's inspiration.

Zhou Mi was born in Wuxi, Jiang-Su, China and worked as an engineer in his country before gaining a M.A. Communication Arts from the New York Institute of Technology. He then worked for Young & Rubicam Inc./ K& L Advertising before being a freelance photographer in San Francisco.

An eclectic photographer, Zhou Mi's galleries are mostly black & white and range from documenting lost and found objects on San Francisco's beaches to Burning Man festival in Nevada, passing through a photo essay titled Wu Yong in Kangding, Sichuan.

CEDAR WOOD OVEN BAKING PLANK REVIEW AND RECIPES


Clive from Cookequip has sent me a collection of interesting premium quality products to review for him.

Camerons Large Cedar Wood Oven Baking Plank.
Camerons Chicken Beeroaster Deluxe with Vegetable/Potato Clips.
Camerons Smoker (as used by Mat Follas on Masterchef and also demonstrated by him on ITV's This Morning Show this year).
A huge selection of Wood Chips to use in conjunction with the Smoker or for using on the barbecue to flavour food.
A pack of 6 Beech Wood Wraps.
Recipe Book

Reviews for the above products will be appearing on here shortly, so please pop back and read how I/we got on, because my husband has also taken a very keen interest in using these too!

I will be revisiting these products after the first initial reviews have been posted, so please look out for future recipes, including some from the Recipe Book.

CEDAR WOOD OVEN BAKING PLANK

The first product I have chosen to review is the Large Oven Baking Plank which is made of Cedar wood.

The Large Oven Baking Plank measures 38mm x 267mm x 432mm, but there is also a smaller version. There are two bolts which run through the width of the plank and these must be kept tight. If cracks appear then it will be necessary to tighten the stainless steel rods which go through the plank.

The Cedar wood imparts a subtle flavour to the food and you will also find your food stays moist. Also, because you are using very little oil, it is a very healthy and low fat way to cook food.

Presentation of food is always important and you can take the Oven Baking Plank to the table and serve straight from it (always take care because the board is very hot and retains heat, do not place the Oven Baking Plank directly onto any surface).

The first, and most important thing to do, is oil the hollow cooking area on the Oven Baking Plank with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (this will help prevent cracking). Next, you place the Oven Baking Plank into a cold oven and set the temperature to between 180°C and 200°C, depending on what you choose to cook. After 10 minutes you can then pop your ingredients on to the board to cook for your chosen time.

After you have used the Plank you must let it cool down completely, then wash with soapy water. Leave to dry completely and then oil the complete Plank.

With the onset of winter and the barbecue season over (unless you have a BBQ with a lid), the Oven Baking Plank adds another dimension to oven cooking. I'm always looking for other ways to cook food and I am now definitely an Oven Baking Plank convert.

Click on all of the photographs for a close up view of the product .

PORK CHOPS WITH SAGE, ON A BED OF ROSEMARY AND THYME WITH ROAST POTATOES



Put the oiled board into a cold oven for 10 minutes at 190°C.

Meanwhile, parboil the roast potatoes and then simply spray with olive oil.

Take your Pork Chop and press a sage leaf on to the meat, season with pepper. Lay a bed of thyme and rosemary leaves on the board and place the pork chops and potatoes on top, along with a red onion. Cook for approximately 1½ hours until the meat is tender.

The meat was deliciously moist and tender and had a subtle Cedar flavour. The kitchen is filled with Cedar aroma whilst the food is cooking and everything smells delicious.

MEDITERRANEAN VEGETABLES WITH MELTING BRIE


Same method as outlined above - simply rub two tablespoons of olive oil into the baking area on the Oven Baking Plank and place the plank into a cold oven and set the temperature to 190°C. After 10 minutes place your chosen food onto the plank.

You will need: 175g baby new potatoes, 1 red onion cut into wedges, 1 large sliced courgette, black pepper, ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary, 4 tomatoes sliced into wedges, 2 slices of Brie, basil leaves to garnish.

Cook the potatoes for approximately 15 minutes and drain, lay a bed of rosemary and thyme on the Plank, add the potatoes and wedges of onion and spray with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle over the cumin seeds, cook for 45 minutes.

Add the courgette slices to the board and cook for 15 minutes, now add the tomato wedges and cook for 10 minutes.

Lastly, add the Brie slices and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the Brie has melted slightly. Season to taste.
NOTE: Don't be tempted to use Light Brie as I did because it just won't melt!

All of the vegetables cooked perfectly and again had a subtle Cedar wood flavour.

SALMON STEAKS WITH COURGETTES AND CHERRY TOMATOES


Again, oil the hollow on the Oven Baking Plank and then pop into a cold oven at 190°C for 10 minutes. The courgettes take approximately 45 minutes to cook (you can see from the photograph I didn't give mine quite long enough to colour up, but I am learning).

Add the cherry tomatoes to the board 15 minutes after the courgettes went on. Add the salmon portions for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Season the fish and vegetables and serve with slices of lemon.

The fish was beautifully moist with a subtle Cedar wood flavour and definitely benefited from this way of cooking.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Robert Caplin: Cuban Life

© 2009 Robert Caplin-All Rights Reserved

I came across Robert Caplin's work through a recent interview published in The New York Times' Frugal Traveler. Moving from this interview to his website, I immediately saw that much of his work was typically that of a quintessential travel photographer.

Caplin started out in Athens, Ohio, with a Nikon N50 film camera, but subsequently moved over to Canon, currently crams his expensive gear into a cheap bag and is enamored of one of the least sophisticated cameras on the market today: the iPhone.

He is also a full-time freelance editorial, corporate and portrait photographer based in New York City, and works regularly with The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News, and has also been published in the National Geographic.

It's been a while that this blog hasn't seen work from Cuba, and Caplin's lovely work on Cuban Life fills this gap. Drop by and it will transport you to the streets of Havana. If only there was an audio track of Cuban Son!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Unfolding the Vivian Maier mystery...

Vivian Maier, Self Portrait

I have some information to share about Vivian Maier. I met with two of the people Vivian was a nanny for in the 1950's and early 1960's today. They gave me some information that contradicts what I heard from other sources (this source is accurate). But, all in all, she is still somewhat of a mystery, even to them.

Vivian came here from France in the early 1930's and worked in a sweat shop in New York when she was about 11 or 12. She was not Jewish but a Catholic, or as they said, an anti-Catholic. She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved. She wore a men's jacket, men's shoes and a large hat most of the time. She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn't show anyone.

I have many very interesting stories and peculiar facts about Vivian but, I'll wait to share them in the book. If all goes well, I'll share the specifics shortly.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Beta


Adobe just announced its Lightroom 3 as a public beta version, which means anyone with an Internet connection can download it and start putting it to the test. You do not need to own (or have tried) a previous version of Lightroom. The version of Lightroom 3 beta software available for download is offered in English only. You can download the beta and use it until the product expires on April 30, 2010.

By the way, those who are on a Mac PowerPC are out of luck. Lightroom 3 Beta will not download on your machines.

Notable new features are:

* Brand new performance architecture.
* State-of-the-art noise reduction.
* Watermarking tool
* Portable sharable slideshows with audio, which allows us to save and export slideshows as videos.
* Film grain simulation tool

I'm interested in two of these features; the grain simulator and the sharable slideshows with audio. However, the latter does not seem to allow any adjustment (or sync'ing) individual frames to the audio....so it has a long way before it can be used for semi-serious multimedia. I'm sure the reviews will start flowing in soon.

Magnum: In Silence: Susan Meiselas

© 2009 Susan Meiselas/Magnum-All Rights Reserved

In Silence is the beautiful and powerful work (a combination of still photography and video) by Susan Meiselas as featured by Magnum In Motion which deals with the tens of thousands of Indian women and girls who die during pregnancy, while in childbirth, and in the weeks after giving birth, despite the Indian government's programs guaranteeing free obstetric health care.

Each year half a million women around the world die in childbirth. Twenty percent of those deaths are in India, and most are preventable with access to proper healthcare. Both photographer Meiselas and reporter Dumeetha Luthra traveled to India for Human Rights Watch to retrace the steps of one woman who dies after giving birth to a son.

I watched this feature a couple of times, saddened by the combination of red tape, ignorance, indifference, by the overwhelmed doctors and staff, and by the undercurrent of corruption at the Indian clinics...all of which indirectly and directly cause this high level of mortality.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Work: Debate At The Sangha

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Just a short post today to share the above image (still undecided as to the placement of the title) from a project I'm currently working on.

Debate At The Sangha will be a gallery of photographs made during two of the weekly debates at the Kharchhu monastery in Chamkar (Bhutan). I've also recorded the animated debates as they were occurring, along with the traditional hand-clapping and the sound of the prayer beads, so it'll probably end as a multimedia essay.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New! EOS-1D Mark IV


Canon has just announced the EOS-1D Mark IV, a 16.1 megapixel digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) camera body, and the successor to the Canon EOS-1D Mark III. It is the first Canon APS-H format DSLR to feature HD video recording at 1080p resolution.

I've been waiting for a worthy successor to my beloved Canon 1D-Mark II and this may just be the one, effectively doubling the megapixel count but more significantly for my style of photographing, the 10 frames per second makes my heart sing.

Some of its features are:

* 27.9mm x 18.6mm; 16.1 effective megapixels APS-H CMOS sensor
* Dual DIGIC 4 image processors
* New autofocus module (45 AF points with 39 cross-type AF points)
* Integrated sensor cleaning system
* 1.3x crop factor
* 100–12800 ISO speed equivalent (expandable to 50, and to 102400)
* Magnesium Alloy weather sealed body
* Live preview mode
* 10 frames per second continuous shooting
* Dimensions (WxHxD): 156 × 156.6 × 89.9 mm

The suggested retail price is estimated to be $4,999.

For fuller details, go to DPReview.com.

The question is whether the new Canon 1D-Mark IV is worth the $3,300 price premium over the recently released Canon 7D, whose specifications are nothing to sneeze at.

As a reminder, the 7D has a new 18-megapixel APS-C sensor with a 1.6x crop factor, and is equipped with dual DIGIC 4 chips to speed processing of large 14-bit files, as well as to handle the shutter's 8-frame-per-second top speed. It retails for $1,699.

The proof will be in the pudding as they say, and the quality of the images will determine that issue. Rob Galbraith DPI refers to the 7D and the new Mark IV as such:

The EOS-1D Mark IV is meant to be a better-specified camera than the 7D in most respects, and ought to be, given the much higher price tag on the camera being unveiled today. That said, the 7D incorporates several features that didn't make it into the EOS-1D Mark IV, features that would be equally useful in Canon's latest news and sports camera.

These include the 7D's combo mode switch and start/button, Q button for quick access to key camera settings, unparalleled control customization options, an electronic level and revised 63-zone meter.

POV: WTF! This Is My Photo Shoot!

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I don't know if it's the bottled water in Bhutan, the crisp Himalayan air, the scent of the pine trees or the excitement of the festivals...but some tourists lose their sense of civility when faced with opportunities to photograph. And I mean tourists, not serious and experienced photographers.

Having arrived at the Chimi Lakhang monastery in Bumthang, I was glad to find two young novices lighting candle lamps, and asked them to pose in a certain way to take advantage of the light coming through the rather grimy window. It took quite a while to have them just right where I wanted, but as I was giving hand signals for minor adjustments in the novices' stance, a bunch of European tourists had entered the room. Without a glance at my direction, or asking for permission, or even a smile of acknowledgment, out came a motley collection of cameras, ranging from DSLRs to compacts, and a paparazzi frenzy ensued with hundreds of flashes bathing the room in an ethereal light.

Naturally, there was nothing for me to do but to hold my breath and wait for them to leave, which they did taking their own sweet time. Seeing there were more tourists about to enter the room, I rushed to the door and locked it...ignoring their loud protestations. Although I managed to photograph the novices as I intended, the mood had evaporated, and the light had changed.

During the festival preparations at the Thangbi Mani Lakhang, the courtyard was suddenly filled with a group of elderly Japanese tourists with heavy DSLRs hanging from their necks, who eagerly photographed everything in sight. They were so excited that they intruded on many of my friends' photography. You lifted your camera to photograph a smiling Bhutanese youngster, and one of the Japanese tourists would be literally shoving you to take his or her turn at photographing the same subject. It got so bad that one of them shoved his lens hard unto the back of Carlos Amores' head.

It was then that I had a "conversation" with the guide working for the Japanese tourists, and carefully explained what would happen if that rowdy and thuggish behavior didn't stop. He tried to make light of the situation, so I had to repeat my 'advice', using shorter and better chosen words. Within 10 minutes, the Japanese were nowhere to be seen.

We had many more instances of rude and uncivil behavior, but these were generally from tourists who were not serious photographers. Photographers realize how difficult it is to photograph in similar circumstances, and are usually very sensitive to each others' space. In my experience, the worst offenders are the French and German tourists, and the Japanese (but only when in the safety of a group).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Alia Refaat: Vedic School

Photo © Alia Refaat-All Rights Reserved

I'm pleased to feature an audio slideshow by photographer Alia Refaat showcasing her work at a Vedic school in Thrissur, Kerala. The photographs and audio were made during my Theyyams of Malabar Photo Expedition at an ancient Vedic 'gurukul' (or training/boarding school (very similar to the Buddhist monasteries for novitiates), where we were treated to a demonstration of this way of teaching the sacred Vedic scriptures.

Alia's Soundslides audio slideshow Vedic School is here, and you'll see she successfully applied the various multimedia techniques such as the flipbook to convey the sense of movement to her stills. A nicely done photo essay....lovely and atmospheric photography by a talented photographer.

As mentioned in earlier posts on this blog, Alia (aka "Coucla") Refaat is a commercial photographer from Cairo, Egypt.She studied Mass Communications, and trained at Spéos Paris in commercial, portrait and studio photography. It was Alia's inaugural travel photography expedition, and her resulting photographs were featured in a series of solo exhibitions in Cairo, where she also appeared a number of times on televised interviews.

Alia's main website is here, and previous posts on her work are here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Charbonnel et Walker Review


Victoria, who represents Charbonnel et Walker noticed I wrote a short posting regarding a mystery gift sent through the post to me a couple of years ago and asked if I would like to introduce you to some of their very special chocolates.

I will give you a brief history of Charbonnel et Walker, as sent to me, by them:

Their flagship store on Old Bond Street, is their oldest store, they have been at Old Bond Street since 1875. All of their chocolates are handmade in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Many are made to Madame Charbonnel’s original recipes. they specialise in traditional English favourites such as Rose & Violet Creams etc.

They were established in 1875 when King Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales) visited Paris and met Madame Charbonnel who was a chocolatier for the Maison Boissier chocolate house. He loved her chocolates so much he persuaded her to come back to London to set up business with Mrs Walker on Old Bond Street. They have connections with the Royal Household ever since and feel much pride and privilege to be endorsed with Her Majesty’s Royal Warrant.

You can also read more about the history of Charbonnel et Walker on their website.

English Rose & Violet Creams

English Rose & Violet Creams are one of Charbonnel et Walker's most renowned products. The essential oils used in these are Traditional Attar's; oils extracted from the petals of these flowers. Each chocolate is finished with a crystallised petal. These are plain chocolates with a minimum of 60% cocoa solids. May I suggest eating the petal first before eating the chocolate cream, somehow this seems to be the optimum way to enjoy them!


These were just so pretty it was difficult to bring myself to eat any of them - I didn't want to spoil the box of chocolates and I left tasting these until last. I just wanted to sit and look at these beautiful chocolates.

Banoffee Truffles

Banoffee Truffles are one of their newest truffle creations and described by them as a delicious, handmade creation of white chocolate, butter, natural banana extracts and caramel enrobed in a milk chocolate shell.

They have described these truffles much better than I could and all I can say is think 'banoffee pie'!


The box isn't particularly easy on the eye, but when you lift the lid and are met with the banoffee aroma you can forgive them.

The Classics Book Box Milk & Plain Assortment - you can see the menu card here.





An assortment of both plain and milk chocolates. The chocolate to the left in the photograph is Truffle Cafe - a smooth truffle centre with a wonderful coffee flavour coming through.
Fudge Chocolate - to the right in the photograph, with a firm chocolate fudge centre.

All of the above are smooth chocolate with extremely flavoursome centres and I am very privileged to have been given the opportunity to taste them. They are definitely the most special chocolates to have ever made an appearance in my house.

May I suggest:

English Rose & Violet Creams perhaps for a very special Grandmother.
Banoffee Truffles for a special person in your life.
Classic Book Box Milk & Plain Assortment for an after dinner treat.

Victoria also sent me some literature outlining their Christmas 2009 range of festive chocolates and listed below are a few of them.

For her: Ettinger for Charbonnel et Walker Pink Leather Chocolate and Jewel Box.
For him: Port and Cranberry Truffles.
For grownup children: Drinking Chocolate and Mug Gift Set.
For small children: Milk Chocolate Assorted Christmas Shapes.

Now, I can only hope my husband reads this posting............................

Thank you Victoria.