Monday, November 30, 2009

Hotel Chocolat Jolly Santa

I've been 'hanging around' in the West Midlands in a cellophane packet decorated with snow flakes, waiting patiently to be photographed, and I really am the best Jolly Santa around. Even though I have waited and waited, I'm still a Jolly Santa - just look at me!

The back of my body is made from thick milk chocolate. The front of my body is milk, dark and white chocolate. My feet, hands, face and cheeks are milk chocolate. My body, arms, nose, eyes and hat are made from dark chocolate and my beard, moustache, rim of my bobble hat and bobble are all white chocolate.

I have asked not to be eaten until after Christmas because I've still lots of work to do, handing out Jolly Santa's for Christmas Gifts, delivering Christmas presents, and of course chocolate gifts, after all I have got my best Jolly Santa outfit on!

After Christmas when my work is done, I'm going to travel from the West Midlands to Kent, where I know two wonderful little boys who will just love a Jolly Santa - ah!

Many thanks to Hotel Chocolat for the opportunity to review Jolly Santa.

Sunday Break: Chinatown's Columbus Park

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I thought New York City's weather on Sunday was just perfect for a few hours of street photography on Chinatown's Mulberry Street, but ended up spending an interesting time at Columbus Park (Mulberry and Bayard). This is the only park in Chinatown, and is built on what was in the 19th century the most dangerous slum area of immigrant New York.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Now, it's the venue of choice for hundreds of Chinese residents, a few of whom I saw were practicing tai chi, while others (mostly women) were playing mahjong and card games, and groups of men were engaged in numerous games of xiangqi. Many more occupy the benches, socializing with their neighbors or with strangers, listening to the songs of birds in their cages.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

At the corner of Mulberry & Bayard, there was a large band of traditional musicians accompanying a handful of elderly Chinese opera singers, surrounded by an appreciative audience. I had come prepared...and brought my audio recorder to capture its unmistakable sounds. The musicians used a panoply of Chinese traditional musical instruments, such as the yangqin, a sort of dulcimer with a near-squared soundboard, and played with two bamboo sticks, as well as the jinghu, a small two string fiddle, a circular bodied plucked lute called the yueqin and the recognizable gu and ban, a drum and clapper.

I was racking my brains all evening trying to remember the title of the movie that featured Beijing opera characters, and which won the Cannes Palme d'Or. It's Farewell My Concubine, the 1993 Chinese film directed by Chen Kaige, and adapted from the novel by Lilian Lee.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

POV: The Old Boys Club Crumbled

Paul Melcher is his blog Thoughts of A Bohemian has penned an interesting and provocative post on the Black Star Rising blog, and one that I am in full agreement with.

Paul Melcher's premise is best summarized by this quote from the post:
"Once upon a time, cameras, processing, access and distribution were the privilege of the few in photography. The business was an Old Boys Club with high barriers to entry. But now, anyone can join."

Actually, the walls surrounding the Old Boys club have crumbled like the Berlin Wall in 1989.

I've taught at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshops in Mexico City and in Manali (India) in 2008 and 2009, and I was struck at how few "Old Boys" there were. The preponderance of attendees and instructors were outside of the so-called "inner circle". Young talented photographers from Latin and Central America, and more from South Asia and South Eastern Asia that I ever thought existed, joined these workshops and demonstrated fresh outlooks to photography and the creativity to break rules, taboos and barriers.

And as Melcher says, it's all about your Point Of View. So forget infantile tribalism masquerading as networking...stop wasting time on Tweeter and Facebook...forget trying to cannibalize other photographers' ideas, projects (and yes, even photo itineraries)...and develop your own vision...your own POV...your own sphere of creativity...ignore the dying throes of the old and go take some photographs instead.

With The Travel Photographer blog, along with many others, introducing the work of talented emerging photographers to tangible new opportunities as it has, and will continue to do, the walls of the "Old Boys" club have indeed crumbled to dust. Good riddance!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Haj & Eid El-Adha

Photo © AP Photo/Hassan Ammar-All Rights Reserved

I wish Eid Mubarak to my Muslim readers, and I refer them to The Boston Globe's The Big Picture for great photographs of the event.

Friday, November 27th, was the start of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim "Festival of Sacrifice", which is based on the tradition that Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice his son Ismail to God.

As I posted in a POV a couple of days ago, Muslims celebrate it by slaughtering animals to commemorate God's gift of a ram to substitute for Ibrahim's son, distributing the meat amongst family, friends and the poor.

Speaking of Islam. I frequently read Asim Rafiqui's blog, The Spinning Head, and one of his latest posts will certainly resonate with all fair-minded persons.

Friday, November 27, 2009

NGM: Martin Schoeller: The Hadza

The National Geographic brings us The Hadza, a collection of photographs by Martin Schoeller. He is a German photographer who assisted Annie Leibovitz in New York in the early nineties. He continued on his own and worked for The New Yorker under contract since 1999 and also for Rolling Stone and GQ.

According to Wikipedia, the Hadza people, or Hadzabe'e, are an ethnic group in central Tanzania, living around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. The Hadza number just under 1000, and they are the last functioning hunter-gatherers in Africa.

The New York Times LENS blog also features Schoeller's work, which was based on an assignment for Travel and Leisure magazine. The Hadza were not re-enacting a lifestyle for tourists, but living in a way that had basically not changed for thousands of years.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

POV: Nepal's Gadhimai Mela: Atrocity?

Photo © Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP/Courtesy WSJ-All Rights Reserved

Here's a thought to coincide with Thanksgiving, one of our most hallowed of celebrations.

The Bariyapur festival (also known as the Gadhimai Mela) has been in full swing in Nepal for the past few days. As you can read in the following excerpt, the age-old festival involves slaughtering of thousands of animals as sacrifice to a Hindu goddess of power.
The ceremony began with prayers in a temple by tens of thousands of Hindus before dawn Tuesday. Then it shifted to a nearby corral, where in the cold morning mist, scores of butchers wielding curved swords began slaughtering buffalo calves by hacking off their heads. Over two days, 200,000 buffaloes, goats, chickens and pigeons are killed as part of a blood-soaked festival held every five years to honor Gadhimai, a Hindu goddess of power.
Animal sacrifice has had a long history in Nepal, an overwhelmingly Hindu country and, until recently, even in parts of India. Notwithstanding, animal-rights protesters from all over the world have decried and criticized this religious tradition as barbaric and atrocious.

My knee-jerk reaction when I saw this photograph on the Wall Street Journal's Photo Journal was one of revulsion, but then I remembered that we, in the United States, will consume 45 million turkeys for Thanksgiving alone...and while the slaughtering methodology may be slightly different, it's still an uncomfortable parallel, isn't it?. If you need to be reminded, you can always look for the clip of ever-hilarious Sarah Palin giving a press conference while a couple of turkeys were being "prepared" in the background.

And for the religious-minded, let's not forget The Binding of Isaac, in Genesis 22:1-24, which is the story from the Hebrew Bible in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah, but an angel intercedes at the very last minute, and Abraham then sacrifices a ram (who, as luck would have it, was placidly munching grass around the corner) instead.

Similarly, Islam requires Muslims to offer a sacrifice by slaughtering a sheep, cow, or goat during the Festival of Sacrifice or Eid el-Adha. It similarly commemorates Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son Ishmael (not Isaac as in the Hebrew Bible) in the name of God, who sent a ram instead, thus sparing Ishmael's life. To this day, thousands upon thousands of bleating sheep are slaughtered in Muslim countries because of a religious tradition originating from the Hebrew Bible. Interesting, huh?

As I said, just a thought on this Thanksgiving day. Have a nice one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Graham Ware: Bhutan

Graham Ware joined The Travel Photographer's Bhutan: Land of the Druk Yul Photo~Expedition, and has produced an audio slideshow in QuickTime format of some of his various images made during the trip, coupled with live audio recordings gleaned during the tsechu festivals, religious pujas, the Sangha debates of the monks and a Bhutanese folk song.

A medical technologist based in Chandler, Arizona, his interest in photography started in 2000, with most of his focus at that time on wildlife and landscapes. However, he admits to have discovered photojournalism in 2004, and it is then he joined the "dark side". Last January he joined Gary Knight and Philip Blenkinsop on a photojournalism workshop in India, and professes to have been totally hooked. Some of his photographs from this India workshop are on his website.

Graham's panoply consists of a Canon 5D mark II, a Canon 1D Mark III, a 24-70 L 2.8, a 35 L 1.4 prime, and a 70-200 IS L 2.8 lens as well as a Sony PCM-D50 recorder.

An extremely agreeable travel companion, with a keen sense of cultural curiosity, Graham is hoping to help schools and hospitals in Bhutan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

BURN: Michael Loyd Young: Blues

Photo © Michael Loyd Young/Courtesy BURN-All Rights Reserved

Those of us who love the blues will really appreciate Michael Loyd Young's Blues, Booze & BBQ audio slideshow. It appeared on BURN magazine which is an online feature for emerging photographers, and is curated by Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey.

A foot-thumpin' piece...highly recommended viewing with your loudspeakers turned on really high!!!

The Delta blues is one of the earliest styles of blues music in the United States. It's called that because it originated in the Mississippi Delta, famous for its fertile soil and pockets of dire poverty.

Historically, with its history of slavery, racial oppression and discrimination, plus baking heat, rampant illiteracy and poverty, the Delta was a cruel place for many African Americans well into the middle of the 20th century. The blues documented the experience of southern blacks better than any other form of cultural expression.

To this day, the Delta is still the emotional heart of the blues for musicians, fans, travelers, and historians.

For another post on Delta Blues, you'll find the American Diversity Project equally interesting, as it featured the work of 12 young documentary photographers and photography students in and around that Mississippi area.

The sharp-eyed of you will notice that T-Model Ford is featured in both multimedia pieces. He's an 80+ old blues singer, who only took up guitar playing when he was in his fifties. It's his voice and guitar that you hear in Blues, Booze & BBQ.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Viewbook: Francesco Giusti: SAPE

Photo © Francesco Giusti/Courtesy Viewbook-All Rights Reserved

Francesco Giusti lives and works as a photographer in Rome, Italy. He recently won First Prize in the Viewbook Photostory competition for his documentary series, SAPE.

SAPE is the acronym for Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes, which loosely translated from the French means "the society of persons who are elegant and have an 'ambiance' about them" other words, dandies. Most of the SAPE members are found in The Republic of Congo.

I won't repeat what is already explained in the blurb accompanying Francesco's gallery, but in essence a member of the SAPE considers himself as an artist, and dresses up in his personal style with the appropriate accessories, for the sake of being unique and original. A real SAPE, or sapeur, is not only elegant but has to be a gentleman and a pacifist. They carry amusing and eccentric nicknames (one of them in the series is named Christian Dior), parade in the streets and congregate in bars.

My thanks to Kate Wilhem of Peripheral Vision who reminded me of Hector Mediavilla, another photographer whose work on the Sapeurs was published in Zone Zero magazine. I had forgotten that I had posted Hector's work here.

Tangentially, this post is also about Viewbook, an interesting and easy to use online portfolio service. It has three options for creating online portfolios and galleries, which can be tried free for 30 days.

I tried the cheapest version "Basic" which only costs $4 a month, and allows one to upload up to 250 images. I tested its Image Manager which works very well, and uploaded about 16 large (1000x667 pixels at 72dpi) images in no time at all. Most of my images are about 0.75 mb, but it seems the maximum file size is 10mb per image, and can be resized if necessary. The maximum length is 1024 pixels. Not bad.

I haven't yet tried the two other options: Standard and the Pro.

For an attractive, simple and quick website for photographers, I found this to be one of the better alternatives available. I was pleasantly surprised at how simple setting it up was. Here's my trial gallery The Dancers of Tamshing Goemba on Viewbook. It took me less than 5 minutes to put it all together. However, my photographs were already prepared and ready to upload.

You can compare that version to the original gallery of my website.

(I am not at all connected to Viewbook, and this should not to be construed as a commercial endorsement.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Enjoy porridge season with Mornflake.

I have a selection of 9 Mornflake cereals to give away in a lovely hessian shopper. The prize includes oats favourites, as well as Mornflake Extra Crispy Mueslis, Mornflake Very Berry Oatbran Flakes, the original Mornflake Oatbran Flakes and Mornflake Oatbran - a smoother hot cereal alternative to porridge, for sprinkling on cereals and salads, soups and casseroles and baking use in muffins, scones, pancakes, waffles and biscuits. One of the highest sources of beta-glucan – oatbran is the soluble fibre absorbed into the bloodstream that helps remove cholesterol.

To be in with a chance all you have to do is answer two simple questions:

1. Where are Mornflake oat cereals made?
2. What is the name of the family who have milled for 14 generations and still make Mornflake oat cereals today?

Please note: This competition will end at midnight on Sunday, 29th November 2009.
The competition is open to UK Residents only.
The winner will be chosen by random.
The prize contents are subject to availability.

Please pop back to see if you are the winner and let me have your email details, I can then arrange for your prize to be sent to you.

With porridge season now well and truly underway - for those of you who don’t partake in this healthiest of breakfasts all year round - what better way to start the day than with one of the Mornflake range of oats made by the UK’s oldest milling experts.

Milled in Cheshire since 1675 by the Lea family, Mornflake cereals are made from the finest quality British oats and milled in a special way perfected by 14 generations of the same family to create the renowned delicious taste and texture.

Choose from Mornflake SuperFast Oats – milled to retain natural taste and texture for the creamiest hot porridge and chopped for a quicker start to the day – also great for baking use or Mornflake Superfast Oats with 20% added bran – mixed with wheatbran. Other favourites include Mornflake Organic Oats, organically grown and packed with nutritional goodness and complex carbohydrates for slow energy release to keep you going until lunchtime which are also available as Mornflake Organic Oats2Go microwave sachets for an instantly nutritious breakfast from sachet to bowl in 3 minutes.

Look out for the special promotional packs of Mornflake Organic Oats and Mornflake Superfast Oats on shelf until the end of the year offering a bakeware set from The Jane Asher Home Baking Collection at the special price of £9.99+p&p (normally on sale for £25). The promotional packs will also feature a series of exclusive recipes developed Jane Asher for Mornflake and which include Oat and Apple Traybake, Squidgy Oat Cake and Oat Scones.

Paul Nicklen & The Leopard Seal

I normally don't post about wildlife photography, but this has become so viral on the internet that I had to mention it here. It's an incredible slideshow of National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen's encounter with a leopard seal. Leopard seals are carnivores and munch on penguins like we do on popcorn. On average, females are generally slightly larger than the males, and can weigh between 500 and 1,300 lb, while males are between 440 and 1,000 lb.

This leopard seal "adopts" Nicklen, and tries to feed him penguins for 4 days. I haven't a clue as to how the photographer and his crew have had the fortitude to remain photographing and filming this.

More clips here on NGS' blog.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Abel & Cole asked if I would like to try a rolled piece of Organic Belly Pork. Usually I don't buy a piece of belly pork rolled but just buy it in a slab, and so this was a complete change for me.

The first thing I noticed about this joint was how the rind had been scored into diamonds shapes. Also, there was a good fat to meat ratio. First impressions are everything to this cook.

I smothered the rind with sea salt and rubbed in lots of ground fennel seeds. The joint was then blasted at a high temperature for 30 minutes before turning the oven down to resume the cooking. During the last 30 minutes of cooking I added some white wine to the belly pork for extra flavour and to make a delicious gravy.

The exposed meat, the best pieces in my humble opinion, were delicious and the interior of the meat was soft, tender and juicy.

We thought it was the best piece of belly pork ever to have graced the table in our house, there was hardly any waste - other than the string the joint had been tied up in!

Every joint of meat on the Abel & Cole website is traceable and it is always very comforting to read about the animals and producer regarding the meat you are about to order.

LENS: Tyler Hicks & The Tabligh

Photo © Tyler Hicks/NYT-All Rights Reserved

It's been a while since I featured a war-related photojournalism piece, so I thought The New York Times LENS blog brought us a couple of days ago an interesting On Assignment gallery from Tyler Hicks on the Tabligh Jamaat.

I like the clever way the photographer framed the above image, as he had to photograph surreptitiously and very quickly because photography was banned from the Tabligh gathering for religious reasons.

Wikipedia describes the Tabligh (which means "conveying of message") movement as an apolitical religious movement, whose principal aim is reformation of Muslims, and was founded in India by Muhammad Ilyas as a voluntary, pacifist and independent movement.

The New York Times reports that it's "a missionary movement that spreads revivalist Islam through its followers, who travel the world on preaching missions. The movement convenes in Raiwind, Pakistan, once a year. Attended by as many as 1.5 million people, it is the largest gathering of Muslims outside the annual pilgrimage to Mecca."

American authorities believe the movement incubates "jihadists".

For further reading, The New York Times has a 2007 article here.

Note: For stereotype busting, have a look at Matthieu Paley's fascinating coverage of the annual Lal Shabaz festival when over one million Sufis, devotees and onlookers, join this chaotic pilgrimage which cannot be more different than the austere Tablighi gathering.

Yes, person's Islam is not another's, even within neighboring countries.

Friday, November 20, 2009

WTF Department: Do I Look Stupid To You?

I recently got this rather terse but pseudo friendly email the other day (it'll remain anonymous because I'm a nice guy) from presumably a very busy person who cannot find the time to type full sentences:
wd apprec. recg detailed itinerary info (hotels, meals, transportation, etc.) on your India tour.
excellent website.
What's wrong with this request, you ask? Nothing...except here's the deal. The person who emailed me this is married to a well-known photographer, and they both periodically lead photo tours themselves...and have been to India (and to that specific area) a number of times. That's what Google is for, isn't it?

So this is a rather lame (and arguably unethical) attempt to get the full itinerary I spend a long time researching, so they could either set one just like it (and charge double or triple what I do), or compare it to their own...refine theirs, re-price their costs, etc. A sort of industrial espionage!!!!

Note that the fellow is not asking for just the itinerary...oh no, it's an in-my-face request for details on hotels, meals, transportation and even the etc (just in case he forgot something). In other words, the whole friggin' enchilada.

He doesn't even mention that he's interested in joining my trip, which is what people on the level normally do.

I savored the drafting of my response, and then emailed it to him saying that (1) the Tribes of Rajasthan & Gujarat Photo~Expedition™ had been sold out for over 4 months (with a long waiting list), and (2) I screen who joins my Photo~Expeditions™, and finally that his request didn't pass the stench test.

I am disinclined to withhold information from peers and friends if and when they ask for it frontally and honestly...and I try to help whenever I can. There's a number of photographers in the photo tour business who can attest to that.

However, that doesn't mean that I will share the one-of-a-kind itineraries and other stuff that I worked very hard to research and develop. Get that, Mr. Husband-Of-Well-Known-Photographer?

WSJ Photo Journal: Street Barber

Photo © Manish Swarup/AP/Getty-All Rights Reserved

The WSJ Photo Journal brings us a daily collection of fine photographs from photojournalists spread all over the globe, and this one caught my attention. It's by Manish Swarup of a man getting a shave at a roadside barbershop, decorated with portraits of Hindu gods and goddesses, in New Delhi...and the poster of the Swiss lodge in the upper left hand corner!

Street (or roadside) barbers are an important profession in India and elsewhere, and they can set up shop virtually anywhere they please. Naturally, many of them have to pay a form of "contribution" to sundry forms of authority, if you know what I mean. Typically, it's almost a hand to mouth existence despite the daily stream of clients needing a shave or a cut.

For more photographs of this profession, you can check my recent The Street Barbers which I made in Manali (Himachal Pradesh).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twitter & Google: Lots of Followers

I am chuffed (a British colloquialism meaning delighted) that The Travel Photographer blog now has over 300 Google Followers, over 500 Twitter Followers and is listed in 80+ lists ....and that's not counting close to the thousand subscribers to my newsletter mailing list.

Thank you! It's another a milestone on this blog's (almost) three years' life.

Global Post: Finbarr O'Reilly: Senegal

GlobalPost brings us a feature by photographer Finbarr O'Reilly. The photographer came across performers of the Dseu Renaissance de Pikine theater group, and was smitten by the intense colors he saw when the female artists put their traditional headscarves and applied black makeup and markings worn by the Toucouleur people of West Africa.

The "Toucouleur" possibly originates from the French (slightly misspelled) meaning "all-colors", and are Muslims who live mostly in the Senegal River Valley in Northern Senegal and Southern Mauritania.

The theater group seeks to keep alive West Africa's superstitions, oral storytelling, and narrative skills of the griots.

Finbarr O’Reilly joined Reuters in 2001 as a freelance text correspondent in Kinshasa, Congo and spent two years covering Central Africa’s Great Lakes region from Kinshasa and from Kigali, Rwanda. He took up photography full-time in 2005 and covers West and Central Africa for Reuters, based in Dakar, Senegal. In 2006, he was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year.

NYT: Lynsey Addario : India's Coconuts

Photo © Lynsey Addario/NYT-All Rights Reserved

The New York Times has featured a photo gallery by photojournalist Lynsey Addario documenting coconut pluckers in Kerala, India.

Having visited and photographed in Kerala a number of times, I saw many of these coconut pluckers (as well as palm toddy tappers) climbing the trees with an incredible agility...and yet, it never crossed my mind to document them and their occupation.

It appears there's a scarcity of coconut pluckers in Kerala which threatens to undermine the production of coconuts. The captions of the gallery informs us that India produces 15 billion coconuts a year, and just about every one is plucked by hand!

As visitors to India know, every part of the coconut tree and it fruit is used for food, moisturizers, furniture, and religious offerings.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dan Bannister: Bhutan

Photo © Dan Bannister-All Rights Reserved

Dan Bannister is a commercial, industrial and editorial photographer based in Calgary, Canada, who joined my recent Bhutan: Land of the Druk Yul Photo~Expedition™, and I'm pleased to feature a selection of his fabulous work that he is showcasing in his Bhutan slideshow.

Photo © Dan Bannister-All Rights Reserved

A consummate professional, Dan's work spans the world from travel stock and magazine features to oil and gas annual reports, advertising imagery and environmental portraiture. He regularly travels the world capturing interesting, high quality travel photography to add to his travel stock photos portfolio. He has a wide selection of royalty free and rights managed travel pictures in his travel stock photos portfolio from destinations in Canada, the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, China, the Caribbean and other destinations.

Photo © Dan Bannister-All Rights Reserved

Dan's travel work has appeared in The New York Times, Canadian Geographic, Our Canada, Connecticut Magazine, Rough Guides travel guides and numerous airline in flight magazines. His commercial client list includes some of the biggest oil and gas and industrial companies in Canada.

One of the important benefits of photographic trips is the informational synergy that accrues to its participants from rubbing shoulders with each other during photo-shoots. We all learned quite a lot from Dan during the Bhutan trip, especially as to his lighting techniques and stylistic approaches...while debating our occasional divergent points of views on photography was always useful and interesting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WTF Department: Leica M7 Hermès

From the British Journal of Photography comes the news that Leica M7 Hermès edition has just been announced representing a collaboration between Leica and Hermès Paris. My readers may be interested to know that only 200 units will be available...and to make it even more exclusive, only 100 will be in orange and 100 in a green.

The Leica M7 Edition Hermès will be available in the UK from December 2009 from authorized Leica dealers at the suggested retail price of £8550 (or $14,000).

I really (I mean really as in seriously) hope to come face to face with whoever has such a camera dangling around his or her neck. It's not about the jaw-dropping price (although that's a stunner), but about the crass ostentation that it exudes. I'm reasonably certain that Leica has done some market research, and knows that there is a minuscule number of people who may be attracted to the Leica M7 Edition Hermès.

I have some ideas as to what demographics these people may belong to...but I still would like to see one, and then roll on the floor laughing.

On a more sober note, I suppose that this is more of a collector's item, like a great vintage wine or whatever it is that people collect these days. It's not really a camera that'll be used much. After all, the leather cover might get scratched!

Denver Post: The Last Tribes

Photo © Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images-All Rights Reserved

The Denver Post is another newspaper website that brings us large photo galleries from varied sources, including parts of the world that are less well known.

This particular gallery documents the Penan; a tribe found mostly in the northern parts of Sarawak near Miri, Baram and Limbang. The nomadic hunter-gatherers Penan are one of the last in South East Asia. Out of the 10,000 Penan living in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Borneo, only 200 nomadic people are left. They are a gentle and softly spoken people with a highly egalitarian society and little gender division.

Nomadic Penan move in groups of up to 40 people, but groups form and split regularly as sago palm flour and game is sought from different areas in their territory (roughly 100 sq miles on average).

For further information of the Penan, go here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tom Van Cakenberghe: The Living Goddess

Tom Van Cakenberghe is originally from Antwerp, Belgium and lives in Kathmandu, Nepal since 2004 and works as a press photographer.

His website brings us a number of galleries on Nepal, but most interesting to me is The Living Goddess photo gallery...where he captured luminous (and candid) images of the Kumari. He must have been granted special access to be able to make these images. There's no further information on his gallery, but the best known is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu, who lives in the Kumari Ghar, a palace in the center of the city.

Worshiping a pre-pubescent girl, who is not a born goddess, as the source of supreme power is an old Hindu-Buddhist tradition in Nepal.

The traditions of the Vajrayana sect of Mahayana Buddhism, girls 4-7 years old, who belong to the Nepali Sakya community, and have an auspicious horoscope, are chosen on the basis of 32 attributes of perfection. Among these are the color of eyes, shape of teeth and voice quality.

There are further Hindu-Buddhist rituals that follow which finally determine the real Kumari.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Ever thought about cooking Beeroaster chicken? I have been writing my food blog for over three years now and have seen this method of cooking chicken on numerous food blogs, somehow I never seemed to get around to having a go.

Clive from Cookequip sent me the Chicken Beeroaster Deluxe which comes complete with a tube, drip pan and vegetable clips - this is by far the safer option for using this method of cooking.
The Beeroaster can be either used in an oven or a barbecue with a closed lid.

The Beeroaster comes with a cooking guide and recipes.

The tube can be filled with beer, ale, wine or fruit juice to flavour the chicken and to add to the flavour experience a rub can be sprinkled on the outside of the chicken and also inside the cavity.

I poured beer into the tube, rubbed Cajun seasoning over the outside of the chicken and lowered the cavity of the chicken onto the tube until the legs reach the bottom of the drip pan. Then the Beeroaster was placed onto the barbecue and a couple of potatoes were put onto the vegetable spikes. We then closed the lid of the barbecue and cooked the chicken for 1½ hours, the potatoes took 1 hour, you can also put corn onto the vegetable spikes and this takes about 20 minutes to cook.

The skin was golden and crispy, the meat was tender, moist and flavoursome. You don't even need to baste the chicken, it just takes care of itself - couldn't be simpler!

My husband is taking a keen interest in the Beeroaster and next year I'll be putting more postings on here with recipes. I'm sure the man in your life won't mind opening a bottle of beer now and then, so that you too can have Beeroaster chicken!


Beech Wood Wraps come in a pack of six - Beech wood gives the food a sweet and mild flavour and is an ideal choice for cooking fish and seafood.

Halved spring onions were placed onto the wrap then topped with salmon and anointed with soy sauce. Sprinkle with brown sugar, red chilli and grate over some ginger. I served the cooked salmon with a vegetable stir fry and the salmon was extremely moist and delicious.

Here is how to use the Wood Wraps: Presoak the wraps in water then pat dry. Spread olive oil onto the area where you will be placing the food, this is to stop the food sticking to the wood wrap.

Place the food onto the oiled area and wrap around the food. Tie with string or a spring onion leaf (I tried the spring onion for photographic purposes but got in a mess!!). Place the wraps onto a baking tray and then into an oven 180°C. My salmon took about 20 minutes to cook. Remove the string, open up the wood wrap and serve.

There are many wood wraps to choose from, including a pack containing cherry, cedar, maple, oak, walnut and beech, enough to keep any cook happy!

A few more ideas for using wood wraps are on the Cookequip website.

POV: Twitter This Twitter That

I've been on Twitter for a while now, and I must say that I haven't gotten it yet. I follow a handful of talented photographers and other professionals, and I am extremely happy to be followed by many more...I must be doing something right... but here's what I find rather puzzling:

1. I only "tweet" my blog posts, and on occasions some stuff that I find interesting in the realm of photography and photojournalism. I do not "tweet" about trivialities that occur in my daily life, since I suspect that no one is (nor should they be, frankly) interested in those. Others do "tweet" about such stuff, and I don't understand why they think that anyone is remotely interested if they suddenly sprout a pimple, or whether Grandma Ida's apple pie tasted like cardboard last night. Isn't that what is diagnosed as narcissism ??

2. There's the phenomenon of "re-tweeting" which I also find puzzling, especially when a group of photographers "re-tweet" each others tweets as a matter of course. Now, I understand the concept of tribalism, and how 're-tweets' are useful for marketing purposes, and that it's to show membership in the good ol'boy network kind of thing, but why re-tweet virtually everything???

3. There are tweeters who follow thousands of other tweeters...when do they find the time and focus to read/scan/parse/skim all these tweets? As I said, I follow a handful of talented people, and I still don't have time to do their tweets full justice.

All this was triggered by an article appearing in The New York Time titled The Value of Twitter Data which in essence, tells us that a start-up company is selling very large sets of data harvested from 500 million Twitter messages, which also include the senders and recipients of 1 billion @ messages, re-tweets and favorites.

Since it is probable that I have no say in that data mining activity, I'd rather my tweets to have a little substantive content than being about nothing...but perhaps that's only me.

Seriously, I believe that Twitter can be a useful marketing and networking tool, but will quickly loses its efficacy if not properly harnessed and used.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

La Santa Muerte: Lorne Matalan

Photograph Lorne Matalon-All Rights Reserved

Here's an audio slideshow of photographs by Lorne Matalon of La Santa Muerte, which is a saint-like figure worshiped and venerated in Mexico, probably as spiritual fusion of Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs. Its cult attracts those who are inclined to seek the non-traditional ways for spiritual solace, and many of its followers live outside of the law.

Lorne Matalon has been reporting from Mexico for The World since November 2007. He covered the Mexican 'war on drugs' from the front lines, going on patrol with the Mexican armed forces. He also covered immigration and economic stories from south of the border. He worked at NPR Member Stations WUNC and WBUR, also filing for NPR from Haiti, Panama and Mongolia. Lorne is a contributor to National Geographic's Ethnosphere Project and a National Fellow at the Explorers Club of New York.

While in Mexico City, I visited Tepito, the infamous barrio where many of Santa Muerte sanctuaries are found, and produced my gallery: La Santa Muerte.

More posts on La Santa Muerte appeared here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kirsten Luce: Kashmiri Family Portrait

Here's a new portfolio by the talented Kirsten Luce titled A Kashmiri Family Portrait; a family living with the ghosts of their loved ones.

Kirsten is a freelance photojournalist working in New York City. Her work was published in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Time, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Houston Chronicle, Miami Herald (International Edition), AP, Bloomberg News and CARE International.

Apart from gleaning various awards, she was a key staff member of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Manali last summer, which is when she continued on to Srinagar to produce these soulful and sensitive Kashmiri images. Many of those images are beautiful with lovely light, but my favorite image is that of the young girl combing her hair.

An interview with Kirsten was published on TTP here.

OP: Mystical Adventures Photo Contest

Outdoor Photographer magazine has announced a Mystical Adventures Photo Contest, with a sponsorship of India's Ministry of Tourism.

According to the rules, submissions must be in keeping with the general theme of the Mystical Adventures Photo Contest, including, but not limited to photos of historical locations, landscape and travel, but I'm not sure if the submissions are restricted to a Indian theme or not.

The prizes are mostly of photographic gear, and there's no entry fees that I noticed.

As in all and every photography contests, I strongly encourage all interested photographers to make sure they carefully read the contests' terms and conditions, especially since misunderstandings between organizers and contestants over terms, prizes and other issues sometimes occur.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Work: The Dancers of Tamshing Goemba

Here's a gallery of new photographs made during my recent Bhutan: Land of the Druk Yul Photo~Expedition™.

The gallery is a collection of photographs of various performers at the tsechu at Tamshing Goemba near Chamkar town, in the religious heartland of Bhutan.

The performers range from the jovial jokers who wave wooden penises around, and whose principal role is to distract spectators, to the more austere Black Hat dancers who are defenders of the "dharma" and who battle enemies of Buddhism.

Tamshing Goemba was established by Pema Lingpa in 1501, and is the most important Nyingma temple in the country. Its external murals (as seen in the photographs) are badly damaged by the elements, but those inside the Goemba are magnificent.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sumit Dayal: The Sundarbans

Photo © Sumit Dayal-All Rights Reserved

Sumit Dayal is a freelance photographer, traveling extensively to cover stories in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. While of Kashmiri origin, he spent his childhood in Kathmandu and was educated in Delhi. He graduated from the Documentary and Photojournalism Program at the ICP in New York.

His work documents the plight of marginalized people, disappearing cultural traditions and changing landscapes in South Asia. Some of his clients include Time, Glamour, Vrij Nederland, Shell UK, Soros Foundation and Nepali Times.

His diverse galleries range from fine art photography to editorial photojournalism, and from documenting his memories of Kashmir to the urgent environmental issues faced by the Sundarbans in India.

The Sundarbans is the largest single block of tidal mangrove forest in the world, and lie at the mouth of Ganges, and spread across areas of Bangladesh and West Bengal. Rising sea levels have swamped many islands of the Sundarbans, and thousands of families have lost their homes.

Rant: Email Newsletters

I use Campaign Monitor to send my (almost) monthly newsletter, which informs my subscribers of my new photo galleries and forthcoming The Travel Photographer's Photo~Expeditions™. Although these newsletters are only sent to those who subscribe through my sign-in box on this blog, I still get a spam notice, or even two, once in a while.

So here's the rant:

1. The mailing list for my newsletter is by subscription only. In other words, the person wanting to subscribe has to fill in his/her email address and his/her name in the sign-in box.

2. Upon doing so, each subscriber gets an auto-rely from me thanking them for subscribing, and saying that they can unsubscribe at any time by clicking a clearly marked link on the newsletters.

3. So why report my newsletter as spam? Even though I have a minuscule spam rate, it's annoying. Sending a newsletter costs me money, and if subscribers change their minds, the unsubscribe option is there! So use it, for heaven's sake!

The definition of spam from Wikipedia is this: "Spam is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately."

Obviously, my newsletters are neither unsolicited or indiscriminate.

So is it illiteracy? Confusion? I'm mystified.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Penelope Gan: Malay-Chinese Opera

Photo © Penelope Gan-All Rights Reserved

Although Penelope Gan works in the financial industry in Kuala Lumpur, she's also passionate about photography, and particularly about photojournalism. She recently embarked on documenting various social issues that concern her, and produced a number of audio-visual photo essays to assist a number of local NGOs and government organizations that are involved in resolving these issues. An alum of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Manali this summer, she attended Ami Vitale's class (and mine).

She recently worked on what I deem to be an captivating project, documenting a special brand of traditional Chinese opera performing in Kuala Lumpur. According to Penelope's blog, the Chinese operas initially made their appearance in the mid-19th century when large numbers of Chinese migrated to Malaysia (or Malaya then) in search of employment and economic opportunities. Having settled in their new country, the Chinese brought in opera troupes from China, performing their art and mirroring the cultural developments in China.

The Malaysian Chinese opera may soon be a relic of the past, as it unsuccessfully competes with changing cultural tastes, and against the current of technological advancement and globalization. This makes Penelope's project timely, and I hope she is able to finalize it soon. The merging of what I imagine will be stunning visuals and the audio is something that I am certain will be awaited by many people.

So go for it, Penelope!

DPReview: Canon 7D Review

From DPReview's just published write-up on the new Canon EOS 7D has this interesting paragraph:
"In some respects the 7D is even a better camera than the EOS 5D Mark II and a viable alternative for all those who do not want or need a camera with a full-frame sensor. Its 8 fps continuous shooting speed and highly flexible AF system might even make it a consideration for credit-crunch battered sports photographers on a budget."

The full comprehensive review runs to 30 pages, and is worth to read very carefully if this camera is of interest. I am interested in the $1,700 Canon EOS 7D as a second camera to my current full-frame low-light capable 5D Mark II, and for its 8 fps capability, so I will parse every word before I make any decisions.

Update (11.21.09): For another review of the 7D, check Bob Atkins' here.

I've handled the 7D for a few moments at B&H (oblivious of the theatrical throat-clearings and discreet shoves from other gawkers), and can vouch that it's solidly built and that it's frames-per-second sounds really fast. I read somewhere that it's more like 7 fps than 8, but that's being pedantic.

I'm not a sports photographer, but in my line of work I do need fast continuous shooting speed, so this camera (and at this price) may come in handy. The other option is the expensive ($5,000) full frame EOS-1D Mark IV with its 1.3 crop factor, 10 fps and 16 effective megapixels APS-H CMOS sensor.