Saturday, January 30, 2010


More Valentine's offerings, this time it is the turn of the cupcake, plus a cheeky little apron!

The cupcakes are a basic sponge mix of 125g each of butter, caster sugar, self raising flour, 1 tsp vanilla extract, two large eggs and a couple of tablespoons of milk added after the initial 'all in one' mixing of the ingredients. Twelve muffin cases are placed in a muffin tin and filled with the cake mixture. Bake at 200°C/Gas 6 for approximately 20 minutes.

As the cupcake tops need to be flat, if they peak, just cut some of the cake off. After cooling make up some royal icing to cover the tops, allow to set a little, and top with fondant shapes.

I decorated mine with red and white fondant icing, coloured sprinkles, gold disco dust and sugar roses. Let your imagination run wild to put the necessary Valentine's Day pizazz into them.

Thank you Victoria.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Update 2: Delhi

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Notwithstanding everyone's assurances in Delhi that the thick fog which currently envelops it is not unusual, I have never seen it as dense...and it's colder than I expected. Having said that, it's always a joy to be in Delhi at the cusp of another photo~expedition.

Two of the photo~expedition members are already in Delhi; Terri Gold and Wink Willett. With the gallant and delightful companionship of my friend, Anamitra Chakladar, we have gallivanted on Chandni Chowk, ate Karim's kebabs, rode on a time machine with the oldest established deed writer in Delhi and tranced in Nizzam Uddin Dargah with the sounds of qawwali. Mohit Gupta joined us, and I came across Peter Aronson as well...all in a matter of moments at the shrine of Nizzam Uddin!!! It probably wasn't a coincidence, because the venerated Sufi saint must have made it all possible somehow.

This evening, the rest of the group will meet in the lobby of the posh Lalit Hotel, which is our home for our nights in Delhi. Being within a stone's throw from Connaught Place, I planned on having dinner in one of the many area's restaurants, however Connaught Place is a construction site at this time, so we'll eat in.

Tomorrow it's Udaipur...the gateway to the rest of the itinerary.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Update 1: On The Road: London

As much as I love London, I must say that it's quite dreary at this time of year, so I'm glad it's only a short stop over this time.

I flew Virgin Atlantic's morning flight from Newark to London, and had two small carry-ons with me. My small Domke and a canvas laptop shoulder bag. I "linked" both with carabiners, and had them stuffed with all my photo gear as well as my Acer netbook. All my cables and electronic "support system" were in my checked-in luggage, including my 70-200mm lens.

The security check was polite, fast, efficient and thorough. My Domke bag was singled out for a quick swab by a TSA agent since it had all the gear...and within a minute, I was cleared.

On arrival, I checked my main bag and found that the TSA had opened it and left me a note saying that it had done so. My TSA-approved locks were there as I had locked them. And nothing was missing.

Efficient and professional.

The second test as to my carry-on configuration will be tonight as I check in to my Virgin flight to Delhi. I expect the lines at Heathrow's security will be long.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quinn Ryan Mattingly: Puja

Puja from Quinn Ryan Mattingly on Vimeo.

Quinn attended the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Manali last summer, and photographed (and videographed) one of the rituals occuring right at the heart of this northern Indian town. Rajasthani families descend on Manali during the summer season looking for work and to escape the torrid heat of their state. Naturally, they bring their own rituals, which include daily prayers when some the devotees enter into trances, transported by the music and the chants. His multimedia essay merges stills and video, and brings you to the scene extremely well. I have seen the ritual first hand, and I must say that it's almost as if I was there again.

Quinn Ryan Mattingly is a documentary photographer currently based in Saigon, and most of his work aims at giving voices to those who are unable to be heard, and is working with former and current street children in Saigon.

Some of his other documentary stories are from Vietnam, and Nepal (as well as a book on Blurb). His photography essays can be seen here, and he also has a blog that chronicles some of his photography as well.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Nick the Editor of asked if I would choose a cooking gift on a budget from Tesco.

I chose an almond KMix Premium Handmixer by Kenwood which also comes in red, black and white. It's robust, stylish and comes complete with it's own stand to hold the mixer, dough hooks and beaters. The mixer operates at 350 watts and making cakes is a doddle. It also has five speed settings plus a very useful pulse setting.

Meringues, lemon coconut drizzle cake and Yorkshire Puddings were put to the test this week and the mixer performed all of the tasks with ease.

This mixer would make a great present, also Kenwood have put the mixer in a wonderful black presentation box with a photograph of the K-Mix on the outside.

A few suggestions for cooking gifts, are the Salter Slimline Stainless Steel Digital Scales, Cast Iron Reversible Grill, Kenwood Chrome Food Processor and the Philips Handblender, and are all under £50.

Tesco voucher codes from can help you save on cooking gifts.

Thank you Nick for supplying the KMix Handmixer by Kenwood.

NGS: India's Nomads

The National Geographic has just published an online feature on India's Lost Nomads. I consider this to be a highly auspicious coincidence as I am about to embark on the Tribes of South Rajasthan & Kutch Photo~Expedition™, whose objectives is to document some of these tribes in a similar geographic area of India.

The informative article is by John Lancaster, who was East Asia bureau chief for the Washington Post, with pictures by Steve McCurry. Here's an excerpt:

"Gadulia Lohar (their name comes from the Hindi words for "cart," gaadi, and "blacksmith," lohar) are among the best known; others are herders, such as the Rabari, famous throughout western India for their bulky turbans and familiarity with all things camel. Some are hunters and plant gatherers. Some are service providers—salt traders, fortune-tellers, conjurers, ayurvedic healers. And some are jugglers, acrobats, grindstone makers, story­tellers, snake charmers, animal doctors, tattooists, basketmakers. All told, anthropologists have identified about 500 nomadic groups in India, numbering perhaps 80 million people—around 7 percent of the country's billion-plus population."

80 million people in 500 nomadic groups??? Our CF cards will melt from the overuse, and we'll run out of storage space!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The EVIL Cameras

WIRED's Gadget Lab blog has a fresh article titled 5 Reasons To Ditch Your DSLR, which essentially reaffirms my prediction as in my earlier post POV: Travel Photography Adjustment.

To paraphrase the WIRED article, the 5 reasons are smaller size, great quality of images, interchangeable lenses, speed of operation, low-profile, but are expensive.

By the way, EVIL stands for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens. It also seems that with an adapter, these cameras can accept many DSLR lenses.

I am extremely interested in these cameras, particularly the Lumix GF1 (above), and will certainly look into on my return from India.

(Via the always informative The Click.)

On The Road: Rajasthan & Gujarat

I'm completing my packing today, cramming the last few items in my bags as best I can, hoping that my checked in luggage won't burst at the seams with all the cables, chargers, and photo paraphernalia that just won't fit my carry-on.

Tomorrow, I'll be on my way to meet up with the rest of the Tribes of South Rajasthan & Kutch Photo~Expedition™ group in Delhi (after stopping en route in London). I'll be in Delhi on January 20.

I'll be in Delhi for a couple of days before the official start of the photo~expedition, and will meet with some of my photographer friends (some alums of the Foundry Photojurnalism Workshop and others), as well as undertake a few personal projects. I plan to attend a qawwali evening in Nizzam Uddin, as part of my Sufi project.

I will try to update the blog whenever I get the won't be a problem in London and Delhi (where we will be staying in a posh hotel), however it may be difficult to find the time or accessible internet connections during the rest of the expect sporadic but entertaining posts.

Friday, January 15, 2010

POV: No To Walking Billboards?

Here's a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek post.

In the midst of packing my stuff for about 3 weeks on the road in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and at the risk of being tarred and feathered by the various manufacturers of photographic soft accessories such as Think Tank, Domke, Lowepro etc, I thought my readers would be interested in my alternative choice to the high priced pouches that are marketed and sold by these companies.

With the exception of my Domke camera bag (which I love dearly because of its ruggedness and quality), I prefer not to carry products that have prominent logos/names for a variety of reasons; some reasons are legitimate and others just silly and whimsical.

As an example of the logo-less products, I bought no-name pouches for less than $6 each from an Army Surplus Store in the West Village. They are made of rugged canvas, have belt loops, with metal fasteners, and are perfect to carry my sound recorder, mic & a small gorillapod, or a small lens and other stuff, while in the field. Sure, they're not as sleek or modular as those sold by any the above-mentioned manufacturers, but they're cheaper, and are certainly as resilient. At these surplus stores, one can find bags and pouches (easily adapted for cameras), apparel and a myriad of other stuff a quarter to one-half the price of logo brands.

With this in mind, why should I be a walking billboard for manufacturers who charged me top dollar for the product(s) anyway? Heck, I can even have these canvas pouches printed/embroidered with a The Travel Photographer logo. With my own exclusive line of photo pouches, I'd go in business and be a millionaire in no time!

The logo shown in the picture is don't get too excited (yet).

But first, I'd better learn how to photograph products better. The picture above is so bad that I can't get myself to put my copyright notice under it!

WSJ Photo Journal: Magh Mela

Photo © Rajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press-All Rights Reserved

The preponderance of religious bathing festivals in India is really confusing. The Wall Street Journal Photo Journal featured the above photograph of a Hindu holy man drying his clothes after a ritualistic bath in the River Ganges during the annual Magh Mela in Allahabad. However, the Ardh Kumbh is also being held in Haridwar from January 14 to April 28, there are two overlapping religious festivals with the same rituals.

Magh Mela is observed during Magh and Falgun months (Hindu calendar) for nearly 45 days, and this year ends on February 12, 2010. The ritual of bathing at the Prayag Sangam in Allahabad has a great significance, and attracts millions of devotees to the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.

It is believed that bathing in sacred rivers during these festivals breaks the circle of life & death, and liberates Hindus to attain moksha.

Personally, I'd much rather attend the Magh Mela over the Haridwar Ardh Kumbh. Of course, neither can come close to what I experienced during the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, but Haridwar (despite the relative proximity of Rishikesh) is a pretty awful town, hence my bias.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dialects at the ICP

Mansi Midha's photography work, along with that of 26 other talented photographers and photojournalists will be seen at the International Center of Photography in an exhibit running from January 15 to March 28, 2010.

The venue is held at the ICP's Education Gallery on 1114 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street with an opening reception on January 15 from 6:00–8:00 pm

Dialects presents recent work by the 27 photographers from What We Saw, the collective formed upon their graduation from the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program at ICP in 2008. The group is made of members from 15 countries including the United States, Mexico, South Korea, India, South Africa, Turkey, Australia, Germany, and Brazil.

I hoped to go see what promises to be an interesting event, but I've too much to do before traveling next day.

Mansi was the hidden (and frequently visible) energy behind all the on-the-ground arrangements for the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Manali, and I believe she's also involved in the one in Istanbul this coming summer.

Haiti's Tragedy: f/8 And Be There

Photo © Tequila Minsky /NYTimes-All Rights Reserved

The old adage (sometimes attributed to Arthur Fellig aka Weegee) of "f/8 and be there", meaning that being on the scene is more important than anything else, was borne out with the story in The New York Times that Tequila Minsky, a freelance New York City photographer, was in her hotel in Port-au-Prince when the horrific earthquake hit this capital city of Haiti.

Ms. Minsky transmitted some of the first photographs of the earthquake in Haiti, pictures that instantly conveyed the awful human toll.

The LENS blog of The New York Times bring us that story, along with its harrowing images, including Ms Minsy's own voice describing the scenes.

Kevin German: Mount Everest

Not many people have their 30th birthday at a base camp of Mount Everest, but Kevin German is one of them, and Luceo Images showcases his photo essay here.

Kevin German studied photography and journalism at Washington State University, and worked for newspapers from California to Florida. In 2008, he moved to Vietnam to focus on humanitarian documentaries, where co-founded the collective Luceo Images. He has won numerous awards, and his clients include Bloomberg News, CNN Traveller, Forbes, International Trucking, Monocle Magazine, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Asia, Time, Vanity Fair, and others.

His photo essays on Vietnam such as In The Footsteps of Ghosts and Forgotten are particularly compelling. Also have a look at the short video Voice of Hope about the undocumented Vietnamese living in Cambodia.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

POV: Travel Photography Adjustment?

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm using the final few days to organize my photo gear before flying to Delhi to lead my Tribes of South Rajasthan & Kutch Photo~Expedition™ which starts January 23.

Since the attempted airline incident on Christmas day, I've been fiddling with various options in order to maximize the amount of indispensable gear I can carry in one small bag on my international flights. Having gone through these hoops a few times already, I am convinced that travel photographers will have to rethink the amount and type of the photo gear they carry on international flights.

Apart from trying to limit the number of hardware we carry on our international flights traveling for assignments, or trying to cram the contents of two or three carry-ons into one, I sense that there's a ready consideration to migrate from our heavyweight DSLRs to smaller digital rangefinders. For instance, searching online for the new Panasonic GF1 at B&H, Adorama and J&R (the largest camera troika in New York City) reveals that the three stores are sold-out of this model; fact that seems to underscore the popularity of this particular model. Of course, there's always Leica, but investing in ten of thousands of dollars in a new system is daunting, even if money were no object.

It may be sooner than we think that these new rangefinders will become the cameras of choice for travel photographers; perhaps not as primary bodies at first but certainly as backup tools. I can see myself in the field using my Canon 5DII with a couple of lenses, and toting the Panasonic GF1, ideally with a 20mm lens...or its 14-45mm zoom.

Here are three examples of new digital rangefinders that may provide viable alternatives to carrying our massive Canons and Nikons and their lenses. None of those are pocket camera per se, unless we're talking about coat pockets, but they're small enough.

1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (About $900 in kit form) I handled this rangefinder-like (to be more precise, it's a Compact Micro Four-Thirds Camera System) camera at B&H for about 20 minutes, and found its handling to be quite comfortable. There were many menu quirks that I quickly found irritating or incomprehensible, but there's no doubt that this is one heck of an interesting camera. For a comprehensive review, Thom Hogan has written an exhaustive article about it here. I also liked Craig Mod's field report which reviews the GF1's performance during a 16 days trek in the Himalayas.

2. Olympus E-P1 Pen Digital Camera (About $660 in kit form) This is another Compact Micro FourThirds Camera System. I haven't had the chance to handle this camera yet, but it's only a matter of time when I head back to B&H. Once again, I like Thom Hogan's write-up on it, which can be found here. Another hands-on review is by Ken Tanaka and published on The Online Photographer.

3. Leica X1 (About $2000 with 24mm f2.8 lens) I don't think I've noticed this camera in any of the retail stores I've been to recently, so it's probably not yet available . A hands-on review on the Luminous Landscape is here. The price makes this camera a distant third in my line-up, but it's an option.

There's also the Canon G11 which some people like, but I've owned its predecessor and it was extremely disappointing, so for me at least, it's out of consideration. Sorry, Canon.

Massimo Berutti: Afghan Vaccination

Photo © Massimo Berutti-All Rights Reserved

The Wall Street Photo Journal has featured a photojournalistic gem on its Photo Journal titled Vaccination Diplomacy of black & white photographs by Massimo Berutti.

In my view, it's a singular gem because it's not an Afghanistan reportage of foaming-at-the-mouth wild-eyed hirsute mujahideen aka jihadists aka Taliban (or whatever the mainstream media's stereotype flavor of the day is), isn't about a bloody military offensive or counter-offensive, and isn't about showing dead and maimed people we don't identify with and frequently demonize. No, it's about how the Taliban, Karzai's central government (corrupt as it it may be), Unicef and the World Health Organization are partnering in trying to eradicate polio through a wide ranging campaign.

This uneasy arrangement recognizes the Taliban stranglehold over large areas of Afghanistan, and the anti-polio campaigners are only welcomed in the villages if and when they show a letter signed by Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, which requests the people to cooperate. It seems that Mullah Omar promptly issues a new letter for every vaccination round, and the World Health Organization staff print thousands of copies, distributing them to the anti-polio volunteers.

So the power of reason and dialogue works, and the trite cliche of winning hearts and minds is effective after all!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

POV: To Pay or Not To Pay?

I've read a post on the Lightstalkers forum that a popular photo blog featuring documentary photographers will start charging photographers a review/publishing fee. The $50 fee is said to help cover the editing and administrative time involved.

The photo blog features an emerging documentary photographer every 2-3 days, and claims that as a result, a number of photographers have received assignments or made sales.

The reaction from the handful of photographers in the post's thread to this announcement has been understandably negative, especially in the current environment.

I can't really pass judgment on decisions of others, except to say that in the (very) hypothetical event that I decide to monetize The Travel Photographer blog, and need to defray administrative time et al, I'd do so by adopting the route many bloggers have done...either by using AdSense, or becoming an affiliate to the large number of online stores (Amazon, B&H, etc) rather than charging a fee to the already struggling photographers.

However, I will not monetize The Travel Photographer blog. I reject affiliations and commercial linkages of any type. I've said as much in an earlier post last year, and I will continue to welcome submissions from travel and documentary photographers whose work fit the DNA of this blog, without strings attached.

So is my blog totally altruistic? Not entirely. It serves to publicize my own work and my Photo~Expeditions™, but it also provides one more platform for the work of new, emerging and established photographers, adding a sliver of exposure for those photographers who want and need to showcase their work as widely as possible.

The formula has been working for the past two years, and my blog's readership and followers, as well as my mailing list membership, continue to grow exponentially. Why should anything change?

Noor & Nikon Workshop

Here's news I find uplifting, and which proves that altruism is not dead in the photo industry..

NOOR photo agency and Nikon have agreed to support documentary photographers from emerging markets all of over the world through the organization of annual motivational masterclasses.

The next program will take place in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, at the Foundation of informational and cultural projects FotoDepartament on 22-26 March 2010.

The masterclass will be accessible to young and aspiring documentary photographers from the Baltic countries, the former USSR countries (CIS), Belorussia, Russia and the Ukraine.

During the five days of the workshop, the 15 participants, together with the three member photographers of the NOOR agency, will share their experience, work on portfolios, improve their editing skills and learn how to pick up a story.

The workshop is free of charge; travel and accommodation costs will be reimbursed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Greg Constantine: Ardh Kumbh Mela

The Ardh Kumbh is being held in Haridwar from January 14 to April 28, 2010, and knowing that a number of photographers are making their way to attend it, I thought it opportune to post Greg Constantine's Ardh Kumbh Mela audio slideshow which was held in Prayag in 2007.

The main objective in attending the Kumbh Mela is to bathe in the Ganges. It is said that bathing in sacred rivers during Maha Kumbh or Ardh Kumbh breaks the circle of life & death, and liberates Hindus to attain moksha. Pilgrims & sadhus will descend in large numbers from India and elsewhere on Haridwar to bathe in the Ganges during these three months.

To underscore the importance of such events, it is estimated that more than 17 million Hindu pilgrims took part in the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayag over 45 days beginning in January 2007. On January 15, 2007 which was the most auspicious day of the festival, more than 5 million participated.

I attended and photographed the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, which was attended by approximately 60 million people, making it the largest gathering in the world.

Greg Constantine is based in Southeast Asia since early 2006. His photo essays have been internationally published in various publications (IHT, The NY Times, CNN, Stern, The Economist and PDN to name but a few), and he also has been the recipient of a number of international awards.

My own slideshow of the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela is here.

For the sake of completeness, there are a number of posts on the Kumbh Mela on The Travel Photographer's blog (do a search), but here's an outstanding one of the Ardh Kumbh Mela 2007 produced by BFC.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

National Geographic Does Big

© Harikrishna Katragadda/Courtesy National Geographic-All Rights Reserved

The National Geographic Society's website been completely rejigged to present what its SVP Rob Covey describes as having a new, super-clean look with high-tech underpinnings.

Using well chozen buzzwords, the website is described as having "high impact visuals with uncluttered typography to provide a new standard in usability". I just love the wordsmithing used here!

What I'm pleased about, and what it really boils down to, is that the National Geographic’s photography can finally be seen in a large format, and it joins other print media such as the Boston Globe and the WSJ (among others) that have been bringing us larger pictures on their photography blogs for a while.

Here is the National Geographic's new, improved and larger Photo of the Day. The photograph I chose is by Harikrishna Katragadda, a photojournalist at Hindustan Times and a participant in the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop (Manali).

The photograph is of 10-year-old Savita holding her little brother, protecting him from rain showers in Uttar Pradesh in India.

NYTimes: 31 Places To Go In 2010

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

The New York Times published a feature on the 31 places to go in 2010, as well as an interactive world map listing its readers' (and its own) top recommendations.

I suppose the results, which so far list Istanbul as the readers' first choice, will provide the editors with assignment ideas for its photographers and writers to work on this year. It follows that interested travel photographers may want to look at these results which could predict eventual gigs, or photo editors' interests.

I'm not at all surprised that Istanbul is the top readers' recommended destination, but I slightly puzzled by the following choice of Colombia. I've been to Istanbul a few times, and I can understand the choice...and as I haven't visited Colombia or any of the northern South American nations, I must profess ignorance as to its attractions.

As for Sri Lanka, which is one of the top 31 places to go to, I must say that I'm of two minds. In March 2004, I found Sri Lanka a little bland. Let me be quick to qualify this by saying that I'm referring to its visual blandness relative to the sensory overload that is India. This is patently unfair as few countries can compete with the colors of India. The country has also been in the throes of a nasty civil war between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority, as well as being badly hit by the tsunami, both events which have had a negative impact on tourists who visit.

Notwithstanding, the New York Times article on the island nation mentions a number of singularly attractive boutique hotels such as the Sun House in Galle. I can vouch that this small property is incredible, and seemed to be extremely well managed by a British expatriate. Its sister venture is The Dutch House, which is equally lovely.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Recent Kudos To The Travel Photographer

I think the British are on and you'll know why I say this.

Adam Westbrook is a freelance multimedia journalist, blogger & lecturer with several years experience in television, radio and online. His blog is one the best multimedia-biased on the internet, and if you haven't bookmarked yet, you should.

He recently published a free e-book titled 6×6, wich is a series of six blog posts giving advice to the budding multimedia journalists. This is a must-read e-book for anyone who's interested in getting started into journalistic multimedia, and one that I shall use in my own teachings of the subject.

In his Best of the Blogs 2009, Adam kindly lists The Travel Photographer in the Photojournalism category saying "Tewfic El- Sawy niftily picks up the best photojournalism from around the world and showcases it. A forward thinking blog, the Travel Photographer also presents new multimedia from photogs." It shares this recognition with Livebooks' RESOLVE and The New York Times' august company indeed.

Also from Great Britain is Ian Furniss, a photographer whose website showcases his remarkably luminous landscape work of the United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. Despite having faced sad personal circumstances in 2009, he wrote an uplifting blog post titled The Inspirational World, which lists a number of his favorite photographers. I am one of those, and I'm indebted to him for writing such a generous opinion about my work.
"I should emphasise that there is no particular order to this list but the next photographer i’d like to introduce you to, if you haven’t been already, is Tewfic El-Sawy, otherwise known as The Travel Photographer. I came across his work through his blog which in turn I came to through Gavin’s site. His blog was a revelation for me at the time because I was so wrapped up in learning about photography, that I had no idea it could be anything other than serious work. Tewfic El-Sawy manages to put humanity back into photography in a way that i’ve yet to come across anywhere else. His photography is nothing short of stunning and each image is captured with the same honesty & humanity you feel reading the words of his blogs. I’m sure there are many who could tell you all about the technical skill, but for me what is important is the feel of an image and these are images you feel right through to your bones."

As I said...the Brits are great.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Book Event: 100 New York Photographers

The 100 New York Photographer book, in which my biography and four of my travel photographs of Ethiopia, Bhutan, and Burma are prominently featured, will be the subject of a book signing event at Rizzoli Bookstore at 57th Street in New York City on January 22, 2010.

The book's author Cynthia Maris Dantzic and special guests (presumably some of the photographers in the book) will be at the event. Unfortunately, I will be in India at that time, so I had to convey my regrets to the publishers.

The book groups the work of 100 New York celebrated photographers to include Vincent Laforet, Jay Maisel, Mary Ellen Mark, Joel Meyerowitz, Annie Leibowitz, Jenny Jozwiak and Pete Turner.

If you are in New York City and have the time, I'm certain that it'll be a worthwhile event. Click the above picture for a larger version.

Peter Turnley: A Life In Photography

Photo © Peter Turnley -All Rights Reserved

Peter Turnley just penned an introspective published on The Online Photographer, which he describes as one of the few times he so exhaustively expresses his connection to the passion of seeing and photographing.

Here's one of the most insightful excerpts:
"People often ask me how I keep my spirit from becoming cynical, jaded, and pessimistic about the human condition after having witnessed so much despair, so much suffering, and so many conflicts. I try to respond honestly and truthfully, that there are many actions of man that sadden me, distress me, and challenge my optimism. But each time I mentally calculate the sum of what I have seen, I am reminded of the many times that I have seen people of all kinds persevering despite tremendous adversity, and their example leaves me with hope."
A couple of months ago, I met Peter Turnley over a tapas dinner hosted by my friends Wink Willett and Neal Jackson in a neighborhood West Village restaurant. The conversation was interesting; mostly about photojournalism and its ethics, spiced with some of Peter's experiences. All I knew about him at the time was that he was a celebrated photojournalist, having published his work in publications that were and still are household names. I also remembered that he had a twin brother; fact that frequently confused foreign authorities when they showed up to cover the same story.

I also had a flashback to a moment after September 11, 2001 when, finding that I couldn't bring myself to photograph at Ground Zero, walked back through Tribeca and saw Peter (or perhaps it was his twin David...or perhaps even someone else with some resemblance to the Turnleys) on his way to photograph the site. Having a bunch of cameras dangling from our shoulders betrayed us as photographers, and we looked at each other for a second or two, perhaps with a flicker of recognition...but we each went our separate ways. I forgot to mention it to Peter.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


My grandson celebrated his 5th birthday a couple of months before Christmas, but somehow the cake didn't make it to the blog. I've rectified this now and here is Spiderman............

It had to be chocolate cake, I then brushed the cake with apricot jam and topped it with blue fondant icing. The Spiderman figure came complete with his own web and my husband made a cake band, cut carefully from Spiderman wrapping paper.

My grandson loved his cake and only this week proudly showed me his Spiderman figure. He even said I make lovely cakes - they learn very early in life!!!

If you need an idea for a boys birthday cake this is easy to make, colourful, and even comes with a toy...............a definite winner.

Stephen Alvarez: Maya Underworld

Photo © Stephen Alvarez -All Rights Reserved

As readers of this blog know, I'm a proselytizer of large photographs for websites portfolios, and have made this preference very obvious through various postings and with my own photographic galleries. I cannot understand photographers who still exhibit dinky small photographs on their my view, they're not taking proper advantage of the medium.

So it's with pleasure that I feature Stephen Alvarez's Maya Underworld, a gallery of 22 large photographs for a story originally published by the National Geographic Magazine, and which showcases the religious rituals and ceremonies of today’s Mayan peoples in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. This is but one of Alvarez's of sensational galleries, so take a tour of his website as well.

Stephen Alvarez is a photojournalist who produces global stories about exploration, culture, religion, and the aftermath of conflict. He has been a National Geographic photographer since 1995. His work won awards in Pictures of the Year International, Communications Arts and was exhibited at Visa Pour L’Image International Photojournalism Festival.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gulf Photo Plus Responds

Mohamed Somji of Dubai's Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) has responded to my criticisms which I raised in my earlier post. Here's his response:

Hi Tewfic,

Thanks for your blog post about our annual event. We had a quick email exchange last year and believe me, I would like nothing more than to have more local/regional Arab and Asian photographers but please understand a couple of things:

(i) The event caters mainly to commercial photography interests: lighting, fashion, photoshop, landscape, etc. - we have always struggled to fill in the documentary workshops.

(ii) The tutors we bring in have international acclaim in their respective genres. I would be very happy to invite Arab/Asian photographers for these particular type of workshops

But, I'm afraid in those genres, I have yet to come across photographers who I would have considered inviting and as someone who teaches workshops, you will appreciate that a good photographer does not necessarily make a good tutor.

I know Munem Wasif well and I had invited him to come to Dubai but I guess he was/is busy with his projects and the same with Farah Nosh so please understand that we are always open to the idea of bringing regional photographers and we do our best to promote local talent. I have reached out many times to Arab photographers to teach/present and we started a Slidefest evening which we aim to repeat again in Feb/March where we promote Dubai based photographers.

We are a young organisation and slowly making a foothold in the photography scene and I'm fully committed to nurturing photography in the region and promoting the work of Asian, Arab and African photographers.

Thanks and look forward to hearing from you.

Mohamed Somji

Asian Geo: Photo Contest 2009 Results

This is a belated post on the results of the Asian Geo magazine Photo Contest 2009 results. Some exceptional photographs have been compiled by the magazine in a flash-based flip viewer which is mildly irritating to use, but the quality of the photographs more than compensate for this. Sometimes simplicity is best, but the desire for innovative presentation techniques trumps reason.

Graham Crouch has won the Grand Prize in the Faces of Asia Category with his photograph of a malnourished infant being weighed in Mahdya Pradesh, India. However, don't stop at his compelling photograph...and continue to the remaining submissions, which are all of very high quality.

The main Asian Geographic magazine website is here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

Canon has quietly released the new EF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS II USM. It claims that while its physically similar to it's predecessor, the new lens features a revised optical design, incorporating a fluorite element and no fewer than 5 UD elements for the correction of chromatic aberrations.

According to Canon's press release, photographers can now stand nearly 8 inches closer to their subject and achieve sharp focus and tight crops. The Image Stabilization is enhanced allowing it to compensate for shutter speeds up to four steps slower than 1/focal length, a one step improvement over the previous lens model.

The minimum focus distance has also been reduced to 1.2m, with a corresponding increase in maximum magnification to 0.21x, along with a modification resulting in a wider focusing ring.

There are no price indications yet, and the availability is in April.

The 70-200mm lens is one of my favorite lens, which I use often while photographing festivals and religious rituals. Actually, I have two. An older model (non-IS) which I've had for a decade now, and that has been dropped so many times that it sounds like a baby's rattle. It was the source of much hilarity from the participants in my Bhutan Photo-Expedition. The new one is the predecessor to the just announced model.

There's also a rumor floating around that Canon will soon announce a new version of the 24-70mm f2.8 with Image Stabilization. The IS feature will certainly add a hefty mark-up in its price.

POV: Gulf Photo Plus (Dubai)

If anyone thought Dubai's financial difficulties would diminish its appetite for hosting international cultural hooplas, they ought to think again. Dates for the annual Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) event have been confirmed as the 1st to the 6th March 2010. This is trumpeted as the region’s only hands-on dedicated photography event.

It will be a week long event packed with over 50 workshops, 90-minute seminars and panels, an exhibition featuring work by the invited photographers, etc. The event will start with an exhibition featuring selected works from the 12 visiting photographers including Joey Lawrence (TTP's Travel Photographer's of 2009), David Nightingale, Robin Nichols, Bobbi Lane, Joe McNally, David Hobby and Zack Arias. Also scheduled is a video SLR workshop presented by Vincent Laforet, and a fashion photography seminar by Melissa Rodwell.

Scanning the list suggests that if you expect to see local, Middle Eastern, or regional names amongst the invited photographers, you'd be badly disappointed. It's sad, isn't it?...but this has always been a symptom in the Gulf, and to a lesser degree in the rest of the Middle East. Some would call it the pathetic legacy of colonialism, and a habit of cultural dependency.

Here are questions the organizers may want to think of. Why aren't the talented and courageous Palestinian photographers, who risk their lives to document the daily horrors of Gaza, also invited? Why doesn't GPP also invite some of the immensely talented Bangladeshi documentary photographers who document the impact of poverty and floods on their homeland? Why don't you invite the Kashmiri photographers...why don't you also invite the emerging Afghan photographers...the incredibly prolific Indian photographers? The Malaysians...the Iranians?

What's the point in promoting the work of well-established Western photographers who already get more than their share of exposure in Europe and the United States? Aren't the local, Mid Eastern and regional photographers also entitled to get their work exposed in Dubai? Why don't you use Dubai as a hub to expose native and regional talent to the world? Dare to break the cycle of this addictive dependency on Western talent and promote your own...and that of your region. Yes, perhaps GPP won't attract as many Western sponsors at first, but it will attract the best non-Western photographers...and the sponsors will return soon enough. This is the future...leave the past where it belongs.

By the way, I have the feeling that GPP's organizers haven't caught up with the news that the old boys club has crumbled. And by the way #2, TTP's vented in a previous post about the same issue here.

I know, I know, I let me get back to the event. Details have yet to be posted on Gulf Photo Plus's website, but can be seen here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

NYT/Adam Ferguson: The Hazaras

Photo © Adam Ferguson /NYTimes-All Rights Reserved

Today's The New York Times features a photo essay of Adam Ferguson's photographs titled The Resurgence of the Hazaras. Those who have seen the movie The Kite Runner (and/or read the book) will remember that the Hazara (Shi'a) minority of Afghanistan were historically dominated and discriminated against by the Pashtun (Sunni) majority. It's the same old and sad story of religious discrimination and divisiveness that has (and continues to) plague our world.

However, it appears that after the US invasion in 2001, the Hazaras have swiftly remade their circumstances, and in some provinces are overtaking the Pashtuns in many areas. The resurgence is largely built on education, as the Hazaras emphasize educating girls as much as boys, and adopt a stronger belief in gender equality.

I chose the above photograph because it shows a Hazara classroom where a poster of Immanuel Kant, the 18th century influential German philosopher, is displayed on its wall. Among other thoughts, Kant criticized the practices of Christianity and its rituals, as well as its hierarchical church order. I wonder what these young students know of him, and what is taught about his philosophies.

Adam Ferguson is an Australian photographer who trained with Gary Knight of VII, and is now based in Delhi. He has been recognized as a PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers To Watch 2009.

Previous posts on Adam Ferguson's work appeared on TTP here.

POV: Flying For Photographers (Part 2)

Politico and other news outlets reported that the TSA (effective January 4, 2010) has tightened its rules for all travelers flying into the United States from foreign countries. This means tightened random screening, and all passengers from terrorism-prone countries will be patted down and have their carry-ons searched.

So far there's no clarification as to limits on personal carry-on bags except for those imposed by some carriers last week.

A photographer friend who was flying from Manila to Los Angeles early yesterday emailed me saying that all passengers on his flight were handed a travel bulletin before entering the terminal. More than one carry-on was not allowed, and the weight and size of those were rigorously monitored. He was allowed his camera bag, while his wife carried his netbook.

It seems that all carriers flying into the United States will only allow one small bag as carry-ons. Flights from the United States may not have the same carry-on limit.

I've toyed with the notion of taking my Lowepro Stealth 650 AW shoulder bag or my Lowepro backpack, but I decided not to risk aggravation or difficulties at either the check-in counters or security. My decision is to pack my gear as tightly as possible into one small camera bag. I crammed three lenses, two Canon bodies with battery grips, a Marantz PMD 620 recorder and a netbook in my Domke F-8.

The remaining dilemma is where to stow the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L. Ah, well...I'll find a way. I just don't want to buy yet another camera bag....I already have 6 or 7.

As of two days ago I planned to carry my canvas laptop as well...but on second thoughts it will be stowed in my checked-in bag. And just in case, I will fly wearing a safari jacket with large pockets.

If only the Leicas were not so expensive!!!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday Snaps with a Macro Lens

There's no shortage of subject matter for the macro lens over the Christmas holidays.

Lights, decorations, gifts, food - the list is almost endless. What is difficult, at least for me, is finding the time. Getting that great photo can take a while as you search out the best angle, find the right lighting and then experiment with different apertures and shutter speeds.

I decided to focus on photographing Christmas tree decorations. These tiny ornaments make an appearance once a year when, for a few weeks, they combine with the tree lights to glisten and glow, brightening up the darkest time of year.

Armed with my Sony A350 DSLR and Sigma 50mm macro I set about trying to capture something of Christmas through the lens. The only other piece of equipment was a borrowed tripod - an essential for indoor photography in low light conditions.

I spent about four hours taking photographs of two different trees and I'm pleased with the results. I'm still working out how to create pin-sharp images but these will do for now. The process taught me a few lessons about macro photography that I'll share in due course - the main one being that a tripod alone is not the answer to using a slow shutter speed.

The pictures themselves will come in useful later this year as illustrations for seasonal articles.

Eric Beecroft: Delhi Nights

Photo © Eric Beecroft -All Rights Reserved

Readers of this blog are familiar with Eric Beecroft as he's been mentioned on its pages quite a number of times; most often in connection with Foundry Photojournalism Workshop of which he is its energetic co-founder.

Eric teaches photography, photojournalism/documentary photography, history, geo-politics and anthropology for the Walden School, a public charter school in Utah. He spends a few months a year traveling and leading photo expeditions of high school students and adults.His photography is mostly documentary work, photojournalism, and adventure/outdoors photography.

He recently updated his website with photographs of Delhi at night, and of the famed Rohtang Pass in the Indian Himalayas.

I particularly liked Eric's series of Delhi at night. It's a different world at that time of day, and certainly a departure from the stereotypical crowded markets scenes of the city, as well as being not one that many have photographed.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Work: Godown Worker (Kochi)

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy |Traders of Kochi-All Rights Reserved

Amongst my undeclared 2010 resolutions is to experiment with black & white photography...well, sort of. I'm revisiting some of my favorite photographs of last year, and seeing how they turn out if converted to black & white via Lightroom presets. Having limited patience and not being a pixel-pusher, LR presets (especially if they're free) are ideal for me.

Some of my favorite photographs lend themselves quite well to black & white treatment, especially if I apply a smidgen of toning. Others just don't respond as well, but I expect that this is a natural consequence of seeing and shooting in color. To really be able to see in black & white, one needs to shoot it in-camera, rather than process color images. Wasn't there an old trick that photographers used to see in black & white which involved squinting at a scene? No matter how much I squinted, it never worked for me, so I don't know if it's true or not.

The color version of the above photograph (click for a larger version) is part of my Traders of Kochi gallery. The streets of old Kochi, or more specifically, Mattencherry, are virtual live theater, with its bazaar-like alleys, and traditional godowns and stores stocked with all types of rice, dark brown nutmeg, red and green chillies, earthy ginger, black pepper and other spices.

I hope to photograph in Chandni Chowk when I'm in Delhi in a couple of weeks, and I plan to experiment with black & white (or at least, pre-visualize in B&W) as much as I can.

As for LR presets, they are all over the internet, but I found some particularly interesting ones on X-Equals, blog of Chicago-based Brandon Oelling.

Friday, January 1, 2010

POV: Flying For Photographers

The recent increase in security procedures and passenger/luggage screening is/will driving/drive photographers (and others) bonkers, as it’s most probably going to get tougher to get camera gear on board a commercial plane, whether flying from the US, flying to the US or flying between countries that have nothing to do with the US. Many of these new restrictions are nonsensical, and will be relaxed...but some will stay with us, like the rather quaint requirement that we remove our shoes.

Let's remember that airlines are essentially lemmings, and their managements realize there's a possible opportunity to make more money in checked-in (or excess) fees from these new rules. They're also painfully aware that passengers have had enough, and that traffic may well drop if the restrictions are too onerous. So the airlines (such as Virgin) will temporarily waive fees on excess check-in luggage if it arises from having too much or too heavy hand luggage...and then suddenly will stop the altruism, and will start to charge its hapless passengers.

As I wrote in an earlier post, we need to be prepared and plan accordingly. "Expect and plan the worse, and hope for the best" is a useful cliche in this situation. I will soon fly to London and onwards to Delhi to start my Tribes of Rajasthan & Gujarat Photo~Expedition™, and I expect the hassles to be stringent and time-consuming. As it stands, we cannot lock checked luggage unless we use the so-called TSA-approved locks (or lose the locks), which means that once our luggage disappears in the airport's entrails, our expensive gear is exposed to whoever takes a fancy to hard drives, lenses, etc.

Since we can only bring carry-ons limited in size and weight, we now have few options. The days of rolling backpacks with tons of photo gear are probably least internationally and in the short to medium run. Small camera bags crammed with gear will be the only way to go, provided the bags do not exceed airlines' weight restrictions. I'm already at this stage using my minimalist set-up, of which I wrote of here. However, I still need to have ancillary electronic gear (chargers, cables, perhaps an extra lens) packed in my checked-in luggage...and my fingers will remain crossed until I get to Delhi hoping that nothing is missing. Gear insurance is great, but won't help you until you return to make a claim, and being in Rajasthan without a 70-200 lens sucks.

It's conceivable that the new small bag rule (9 x 14 x 22 inches and 13lb/6kg in weight) will only apply on my return flight from London to New York, which would make things somewhat easier. But I have heard and read of instances where passengers on non-US bound flights were told they had to abide by that rule as I'm not too optimistic.

I also read in the newspapers that full-body scanners are being installed at more airports, but some politicians and advocates are voicing serious concerns at these devices because of privacy issues. Please...I'd be willing to stand naked in front of a TSA agent for as long as she wants, provided I'm allowed to carry all my gear on-board. Eye-candy I'm not, but if that's what it takes, I'm all for it.

Seriously though, I understand many passengers find the idea of being scanned and their privacy invaded in such a fashion to be totally abhorrent, but there's always the pat-down option instead of the I'm not too fussed about the fuss. I want to fly safe and have my gear near me...that's not too much to ask for, is it?