Friday, December 30, 2011

POV: The Travel Photographer Looks Back At 2011

I thought of ending 2011 with various "look-backs" and favorites that appeared on The Travel Photographer's blog.

1. Photo Expedition/Workshops:

I rate the Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop as the most logistically challenging, but also most rewarding from a documentary standpoint, of my photo expeditions. As I've written in previous posts, the participants (most had no prior knowledge of multimedia) produced highly commendable audio-slideshows during the two weeks spent in Kolkata.

My comprehensive verdict and epilogue of the Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop was published on October 28.

From the In Search of the Sufis of Gujarat Photo Expedition™, I produced my favorite audio-slideshow and photo essay The Possessed of Mira Datar. It documents the pilgrims who flock daily in their hundreds to the shrine of a renowned Sufi saint in Gujarat.

2. Favorite Photo Essay By Photojournalist:

There's no question that it was the terrific photo essay in The New York Times titled Cairo Undone by Moises Saman. It made me recalibrate my earlier thoughts about photographing in Cairo.

3. Favorite New York Street Photography Event:

In the early days of November, I ventured to Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, and spent a few hours photographing the Occupy Wall Street movement. As I wrote in the blog post, I sympathize with most of the OWS positions. Some of the photographs I took are featured on The Leica File.

4. Favorite Photo Festivals:

I'm not a big photo festival goer, so I only attended two in 2011...but I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the biannual Delhi Photo Festival in October (regrettably for only one day), and attending the annual Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap. Both of these festivals were extremely well organized and the attendance was phenomenal!

5. Favorite Photojournalism Workshop:

The Foundry Photojournalism Workshop is my hands-down favorite. Not only because I'm one of the faculty members, but because it's really fantastic. The photographers in the faculty generously share their knowledge and time, its staff, administrators and local volunteers make it wonderful successes year after year, and simply said, the participating photographers "students" are the future...and it's personally rewarding to be part of this.

6. Favorite Short Vimeo Movies:

I loved Miehina, The Kyoto Geisha by Glen Milner. Extremely well produced, and instrumental in shaming me in not having visited Japan yet.

And I also loved A Dos Pasos Del Corazón: The Photographer Of Seville by Sergio Caro and Ernesto Villalba. A beautifully produced movie about an elderly wedding photographer.

7. Favorite Photographer "Americana" Category:

Carolyn Beller takes that one with her The Mississippi Delta photo essay, which I imagined viewing with a song by Howlin' Wolf or John Lee Hooker (as only two examples) blaring in the background.

8. (My Very Own) Favorite Prediction:

No one takes my prediction seriously (at least publicly) but I predict the advent of a mirror-less Leica...a $3500 Micro Four Thirds Leica. I know it's wishful thinking, but that's what my Nostradamus crystal ball tells me when I look in it.

And another of my silly predictions was that I'd never take pictures with an iPhone. Yes, I do now.

9. Favorite Love-Hate Relationship:

I have a love-hate relationship with my Leica M9...many photographers share this emotional dichotomy. I imagined it would not last as long, but it has. I love the M9's handling, heft and durability and abhor its shortcomings...and yes, it makes really great pictures when I know what to do.

And my Dumber Than Dumb moment of 2011 is when I exhausted myself polishing my Elmarit 28mm lens because the view through my just acquired M9's viewfinder was smudgy. The more I polished the more it got smudgier...of course, I was polishing the lens with my thumb squarely on the viewfinder window....a rangefinder newbie brain fart.

10. (My) Favorite Street Photograph:

It's really a subway photograph...but is of the trio of women on the F train, which I titled "The Sleepy, The Anxious And The Bored".

11. My Most Popular Blog Post:

The most popular post on The Travel Photographer during 2011 is a POV titled Is Shooting From The Hip Photography?. Many many thousands of views on that one. Wow!

12. My Favorite WTF? Rant:

It's the WTF?! Be A Sucker And Publicize A Book...For Free. The very best of my world famous acerbic rants.

13. Favorite Photographer "Travel" Category:

And here he is...Tim Allen is the The Travel Photographer's favorite travel photographer of 2011. Tim is is a English photographer with a hefty professional background, who has won prestigious awards. He has worked with indigenous communities throughout the world , most extensively in India and South East Asia.

No ambivalence. One of the best there is.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Old Amsterdam Cheese

Old Amsterdam is a premium aged Gouda cheese with a smooth texture and rich, robust taste. It isn't comparable to the salty Gouda we all know but has a rich delicious flavour.

The story of Old Amsterdam Cheese is all about passion, dedication and craftsmanship of the Westland family who have a cheese obsession. The cheese is produced using a secret recipe - a family-owned starter culture and a unique ripening process. Master cheesemakers oversee every procedure, ensuring each cheese meets their taste and quality, to determine when each batch of perfectly ripened cheese should be released.

The cheese came with it's own board and cheese slicer. I served my cheese on Christmas Day with grapes, apples, dried apricots, walnuts and plain biscuits. We all agreed, this gourmet cheese was very special and how fortunate we were to have this on our cheeseboard. The cheese can also be melted and used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Fascinating fact: Astronaut Andre Kuipers received NASA's formal consent to take his favourite cheese - Old Amsterdam - on board his next space mission (December 2011). He will share this on board with his American and Russian colleagues. The Dutch ESA astronaut will step on board the International Space Station for the second time and stay in space for six months. Please click here for more reading....

This wonderful award winning cheese is new to supermarkets in the UK and is well worth looking out for.

Thank you to Old Amsterdam Cheese and Leanne.

Enric Mestres Illamola: India

Enric Mestres Illamola is a Catalan photographer specialized in portraits, wedding photography and is a photography teacher in various schools in Barcelona (Spain). He traveled to India no less than 6 times, mostly traveling as a tourist, and photographing portraits along his route. He uploaded a series of these portraits, as well as some street scenes, on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sandy Chandler: Videos & Book...Kolkata & Durga Puja

Sandy Chandler has been busy the past few months. No, make that real busy.

She participated in my Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo~Expedition & Workshop™ in October, and having produced a highly commendable black & white audio-slideshow (at top) during the workshop, also returned home with a trove of images and audio tracks recorded live during the two weeks in Kolkata.

Back home, she produced a more light hearted view of the festival which views it from what she calls "Another Side of Durga Puja", and features its mixture of spirituality and commerce.

As she describes it, "the annual Durga Puja festival in Kolkata celebrates Durga, archetype of Great Goddess Mahadevi of the Hindu Pantheon. The festival sees huge, elaborately crafted sculptures installed in homes and public spaces all over the city. At the end of the festival, the idols are paraded through the streets accompanied by music and dancing and then immersed into the Ganges river."

Sandy is currently working towards her MA in Art & Religion at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology (Graduate Theology Union) in Berkeley, and these slideshows are part of her projects for this degree.

Others would be resting on their laurels, but she also self-published an 80 pages book titled Durga Puja which can be bought from Blurb.

Sandy Chandler is an award-winning and passionate travel photographer. Her photography captures the souls and spirit of the land, its culture and people.  Her previous photography books are Carnevale: The Fantasy of Venice and Calling the Soul:The Spirit of Bali Cremations.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Evgenia Arbugaeva: Following The Reindeer

Photo © Evgenia Arbugaeva-All Rights Reserved

I think featuring Evgenia Arbugaeva's photo essay Following The Reindeer is timely in view of the season where the children in us perhaps long to see them in the sky being led by a jolly man dressed in red with a white beard...but these reindeers are real, and live in the Republic of Yakutia...not in the North Pole.

Yakutia is located in eastern Siberia and stretches to the Henrietta Islands in the far north and is framed by the Laptev and Eastern Siberian Seas of the Arctic Ocean. It's a region with considerable raw materials. It large reserves of oil, gas, coal, diamonds, gold, and silver. The majority of all Russian diamonds are mined there, accounting for almost a quarter of the world's diamond production.

Evgenia Arbugaeva is of Yakutia, and works as a freelance photographer between Russia and New York. She documented the reindeer herders/breeders of the region, who are the Even, the Evenk, the Yukagir, the Chukchi and the Dolgan.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Xmas And Happy 2012!!!

(Click To Enlarge)
I wish a merry Xmas, and happy holidays to all my friends, blog readers, Google and Twitter well as to some of the hardy photographers who joined, and keep rejoining, The Travel Photographer's Photo Expeditions/Workshops™:

Jim Hudson
Mary Kay Hudson
Jan Lammers
Li Lu Porter
Maria-Christina Dikeos
Felice Willat
Joyce Birkenstock
Ralph Childs
Torie Olsen
Alia Rifaat
Tony Smith
Cathy Scholl
Dan Bannister
Beverly Anderson-Sanchez
Rosemary Sheel
Charlotte Rush-Bailey
Sandra Chandler
Gul Chotrani
Terri Gold
Nuray Jemil
Jenny Jozwiak
Gavin Gough
Larry Larsen
Penni Webb
Laurie Snow-Hein
Pat Demartini
Betsy Gertz
Lee Ann Durkin
Bonny Willet
Wink Willet
Kongkrit Sukying
Ron Mayhew
Rose Schierl
Lynn Padwe
Graham Ware
Kayla Keenan
Bo Jugner
Chris Schaefer
Carlos Amores
Teerayut Chaisarn
Colleen Kerrigan
Sharon Johnson-Tennant
Kim McClellan
Kris Bailey
Zara Bowmar

I'm working on a couple of new destinations for the latter part of 2012 and early usual, these will be announced via my newsletter and on this blog.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Travel Photographer's On The Lightbox App

I am pleased to have The Travel Photographer's blog featured on LIGHTBOX, the new and beautifully designed social photo app for Android. This blog, along with National Geographic, 500px, Fotopedia and a few others, is featured under Photography.

The idea behind LIGHTBOX's new photo journal feature is to provide a stream of updates others can follow, share, like and comment on....which TechCrunch describes as a lazy man's Tumblr.

Although my blog has only been recently featured the LIGHTBOX's lineup, The Travel Photographer has already garnered over 600 followers!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Ashaninka: Mike Goldwater

Photo © Mike Goldwater-All Rights Reserved
In Focus, the photo blog of The Atlantic magazine, featured The Ashaninka, A Threatened Way of Life; photographs by Mike Goldwater. Be sure to view the photographs in the 1280px option if your monitor allows it.

The Ashaninka are an indigenous people living in the rain forests of Peru and in the State of Acre of Brazil, and are one of the largest indigenous groups in South America. Their number is estimated between 25,000 and 45,000.

Current threats are from oil companies, drug traffickers, colonists, illegal lumberers, illegal roads, conservation groups, missionary groups, and diseases. Roads are being built into the forest to extract mahogany and cedar trees for export to markets in the United States and Europe despite an international embargo. Religious missionary groups are intent on changing Ashaninka culture and belief systems, ignoring the impact on their long term survival.

Mike Goldwater is a photographer, who ran the Half Moon Gallery in London's East End from 1974 to 1980, and who created the magazine "Camerawork". He also co-founded photo agency 'Network Photographers' for photojournalism, documentary photography and corporate work.  He traveled to over 70 countries and his images were published in major magazines around the world.

You may also wish to see Tatiana Cardeal's work on South American indigenous people.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Update on Recent Events

Hey guys. I know I have been gone from the blog for some time. Thank you to all of those who have emailed me to express concern. I know it is over due, but I wanted to let you know what is going on.

Unfortunately, about a month ago, I ended a long term relationship with my girlfriend. I have been kind of under the weather since then, and have found it hard to motivate myself to generate posts.

I hope to be back soon, hopefully after I have figured out all the logistics of the separation. I know I usually don’t use the blog for personal matters, but I wanted to give you guys an explanation for why I have been gone.

Xavier Zimbardo: Holi!

I first came across the work of Xavier Zimbardo a number of years ago when I bought his book India Holy Song, whose description on a book-selling website says that it included photographs made in "textile-dyeing factories of Rajasthan bursting with seemingly endless, undulating streams of saturated jewel-like fabrics in astonishing hues, from aquamarine to amethyst to the deepest ruby red". I mention this because I researched the location, and organized a photo shoot there on one of my early photo expeditions to Pushkar. It was quite a thrill to recognize some of Xavier's 'models' as workers in the factory!

This movie is exceptionally well made, and was a collaborative effort including many technicians. The explosions of color...the pink, the fuchsia, the neon-green and yellow powder accompanied by a pulsating soundtrack (which I believe was recorded live).  The movie was made with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm f/4 L, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L, and is featured on Canon France Vimeo page.

It's incredibly difficult to photograph and video in such an environment, and I wish there was some indication as to how the photographer and his team managed to keep their cameras and lenses safe from the hurled powder. While the 5DMark II is claimed by Canon to be weather-proof, its innards could easily be affected by the fine powder.

Xavier Zimbardo is a French photographer currently based in Sarcelles, a Parisian suburb. His work was featured in several European and international photography publications such as Zoom, Camera International, and Photographers International. He's a recipient of several grants and prizes, including those from the Kodak Foundation and the French government, and has had solo exhibitions of his work at museums and galleries throughout France, as well as in Athens, Sicily, Milan, Odense, and Montreal. His work is on permanent display in several museums worldwide including Paris's Bibiliothèque Nationale and Maison Européenne de la Photographie. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

Photo © Tsolmon Naidandorj-All Rights Reseved
Despite my antipathy for photography contests, I always keep an eye on two; TPOTY (The Travel Photographer Of The Year) and The National Geographic.

The winners of The National Geographic Photo Contest were announced this week, with the grand prize awarded to Shikhei Goh for his capture of a dragonfly riding out a rainstorm in Indonesia. As usual, National Geographic has featured winning photos from this year's contest on its website. The contest judges this year were National Geographic magazine photographers Tim Laman, Amy Toensing, and Peter Essick.

I had a look at the submissions and the results, and (although not a nature photographer) agree that the photograph of the dragonfly is worthy of a recognition, but I do not agree with judges' choices for the finalists of the People category.

Had I been a judge, I would have chosen the Kazakh Hunter by Tsolomon Naidandorj as one of the finalists in the People category.  It's exotic, it's dynamic and it's powerful and well composed.

Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest are also featured on In Focus, the photo blog of The Atlantic.


A Christmas Cake with all the usual sparkle we can safely get away with at this time of the year.

It was my first visit to Cake International at the NEC Birmingham this year and I have no idea why I have never made the trip before. Fortunately, I have a very understanding husband, who made no comments regarding my purchases, only to say, did I get everything I needed for my Christmas Cakes, bless!

Back soon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mario Gerth: East African Faces

Mario Gerth traveled to 65 countries on five continents and witnessed all kinds of civil upheavals. A German part-time banker and photojournalist, he has concentrated his recent work on Africa...and the slideshow above showcases Ethiopian tribes, some in color and others in stunning monochromes. I particularly like Chapter 3 of the slideshow which consists of gorgeous square format toned portraits...conversely, I thought the panning movement all through the slideshow was a little too much.

The tribes depicted in Gerth's photographs are sedentary pastoral people living in south west of Ethiopia, on the western bank of the Omo river. Unfortunately, the survival and way of life of the tribes of South Ethiopia are under threat by various projects planned for the area, especially a massive hydroelectric dam that affects the Lower Omo River.

In an earlier post, I had written various tribes of the Omo Valley are adept in soliciting money for images and how ready they were to pose without much guidance. But the question here is what came first...the tourists with their cameras giving out a handful of birrs or the demand for money from tourists for each snap.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Afghan Box Camera Project

Photo Courtesy The Afghan Box Camera

I was very glad to have stumbled on The Afghan Camera Box Project website a few days ago. For quite a while I had given up on posting anything to do with Afghanistan, since the photographs published in various media were either repetitive, unimaginative, stereotypical or plain silly....but this website touches on culture and photography.

The purpose of the Afghan Box Camera Project is to provide a record of the kamra-e-faoree (which in Dari and also in Arabic means 'instant camera') which as a living form of photography is on the brink of disappearing in Afghanistan. It's one of the last places where photographers continue to use a simple type of "instant camera" to make a living. The hand-made wooden camera is both camera and darkroom, and generations of Afghans have had their portraits taken with it, usually for identity photographs.

The project is the work of Lukas Birk and Sean Foley.

The railway station of the Cairo suburb where I grew up had a wooden camera photographer, and I recall (dimly, I admit) had a brisk business. I also came across a wooden camera photographer in Havana, Cuba who showed me how he developed the photograph he made of me.

Two of my friends, Divya Dugar and Frances Schwabenland have produced work on wooden cameras being used in Jaipur in Rajasthan, while Rodrigo Abd has produced Mayan Queens with a 19th century wooden camera of the indigenous women competing to become the National Indigenous Queen of Guatemala.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Iced Reindeer Christmas Cake

A Reindeer Christmas Cake for my two small grandchildren and their Mummy and Daddy! I know it's unusual for small children to like fruit cake, but they both really enjoy it.

A very easy cake to decorate using Christmas red icing, two sizes of reindeer cutters, a Christmas tree cutter, red glitter, small red and gold stars, a dusting of snowflake sprinkles, and two different ribbons. Some of the items were purchased on my day out to Cake International in Birmingham last month, and as you can see I used my time well!

Back soon!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Poll: Which Cover Is Best?

Which Cover Should I Use For My Forthcoming Book On Kolkata?

Top Image 
Bottom Image free polls 

I am thinking of self-publishing a photo book on Kolkata, which will group photographs of the Durga Puja festivities, along with environmental portraits and street photography of this iconic Indian city. My first preference is for the photographs to be black & white, although I may decide for color once I have them all lined up.

I thought of asking for my readers to vote on which cover they prefer...the two suggestions above are just quick dummies. The final cover and typography will be better produced.

My thanks to all who take the time to vote.

Review - The Silver Spoon: The New Edition

A small slice of The Silver Spoon.

Cake with Orange Icing taken from the chapter Dessert Cakes caught my attention, with an easy to follow recipe. The sponge has a moist soft crumb and although I made more icing than specified in the recipe, I felt the liquid measurement was too generous and not enough icing sugar. True to say I didn't make the icing to the recipe, and perhaps next time I make this, I will stay with the recipe!

I was delighted when asked to review the above book - memories of a magnificent display showcasing Phaidon Press in a department store at Westfield Shopping Centre London, came flooding back.

The revised edition has a fabulous new red cover and is the heaviest cookery book I have come across. In total there are 1,504 pages, 400 colour photographs, over 2,000 recipes, and chapters including First Courses, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, Desserts and Baking, just to name a few. Italy's best-selling cookery bible, The Silver Spoon, was first published in English in 2005 by celebrated publishers Phaidon Press, has sold over one million copies worldwide and is also the most successful Italian cookbook of all time. There are chef endorsements from Giorgio Locatelli to Gennaro Contaldo and praise from leading UK newspapers and magazines.

The book promises to set alight the nation's taste buds for authentic, home-cooked Italian food and is fully revised and updated for modern kitchens. The Silver Spoon is the definitive book on Italian cooking and stands alongside other culinary classics such as The Joy of Cooking and Larousse Gastronomique.

Most of the recipes are traditional and regional Italian dishes, whist others are more contemporary additions. For the English edition, the ingredients and cooking times of some recipes were updated in the light of changing tastes and lifestyles. Others have been left virtually untouched to retain their unique characteristics.

The Silver Spoon offers the opportunity to make Italian gastronomy part of your life, whether you are cooking simple family dishes or something for a special celebration.

Eating is a serious matter in Italy and as soon as the temperature falls, everyone is ready for a warming plate of Braised Beef with Barola, which is the recipe I chose to make. The beef topside was placed in a Barola, vegetable and herb marinade for 7 hours, browned all over and cooked on the hob until tender. I kept some of the cooked marinade vegetables back and pureed the remainder with the cooking liquid to make a sauce. A straightforward recipe, easy to make, a photograph to accompany the recipe and a great one pot dish.

A section in the book includes 23 Silver Spoon Celebrated International Guest chefs from around the world and their menus, including contributions from Theo Randall, Ruth Rogers and Georgio Locatelli here in the UK, Paolo Lopriore (Italy), Mario Batali (United States) and Robert Marchetti (Australia).

How did I fair in a domestic kitchen, located on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border and where to begin with a book such as this! My overall experience using the book was excellent, although to date I have only cooked two of the recipes, this is a very exciting book for lovers of Italian cuisine (and this includes me). The recipe selection is from easy, to recipes for the keen cook and gourmet. I'm not sure if I would recommend this book for a beginner because it assumes a level of cooking ability and confidence. Interestingly, I always presumed this book would be beyond my capabilities and now after studying the book, albeit over the last two weeks, it has proven me wrong.

More photographs have been added to this revised edition, but a photograph speaks a thousand words and even more photographs would be appreciated. To do justice to The Silver Spoon, I will revisit this again next year and make a few recipes, post them on the blog and give an account of how I get on.

Hopefully, the Fresh Pasta Chapter will encourage me to dust off my pasta machine, there are so many delicious recipes....maybe, next year!

Thank you to Phaidon Press and Lucy for the review copy.

Tascam DR-40 In Santa's Bag

Having received Santa's approval, I walked into B&H the other day (by the way, it was in really crowded. The line for the cash payment option at the cashiers almost extended to its front door!) to explore my options for an upgrade in my field recorder.

I currently use the Marantz PMD620 which I've had for a couple of years. It has served me well, but has begun to show its age (or rather its use). The only issue I've had with it is its small screen, and when I need to change settings whilst in the field, I find difficult especially if my hands are slippery with sweat (as in Kolkata, for example).

Oh, all right...I admit it. The PMD620 is really perfectly fine but I wanted a Xmas gift. End of story.

So after deliberations, I sprang for the Tascam DR-40 Field Recorder, which features built-in condenser microphones that are adjustable depending what the sound source is. Ambient would require the microphones to be wide apart, while an interview from one source would benefit from the mics to be adjusted closer together.

The B&H sales guy suggested I also bought the power supply (it only comes with a mini USB cable and a 2gb SD card) but since I'll be using it outdoors, I wasn't interested. It's much cheaper than the Marantz PMD620, but is also larger. As I can't open the box until Xmas, I can't compare them side by side. I held the Tascam at B&H, and it's a handful...which is what I wanted. The Marantz felt a little flimsy. I suspect the sound quality won't differ much, despite the directional microphones...but I'll soon find out. I will still use the Marantz when I need to be discreet whilst recording...pretending that it's a iPod or something.

Incidentally, Tascam is a division of TEAC Corporation which, as most audiophiles know, is a huge name in the audio world. I recall having a TEAC high-end cassette recorder, along with a heavy-duty TEAC amplifier some years ago.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Paolo Patrizi: Ha Noi

Photo © Paolo Patrizi-All Rights Reserved
"a relic of the many lives of a magical city, steeped in beauty and seductive charm."
And that's part of Paolo Patrizi's statement opening his gallery of Ha Noi which is a mix of very attractive street and documentary photography. From the Ha Noi gallery, I especially liked the photograph above...the colors, and the blur of the nón lá hat; this can be nowhere else but Viet Nam.

I met Paolo Patrizi briefly at the Delhi Photo Festival, and subsequently in November during the Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap. He's a documentary photographer, currently living in Japan. He started his career in London working as an assistant to other photographers, and having done freelance assignments for British magazines and design groups, he started to develop individual projects of his own.

Paolo's work is featured in leading publications and is exhibited internationally. His photos have won several awards with the Association of Photographers of London, The John Kobal Portrait Award, The Lens Culture International Exposure Awards, The World Press Photo, The Sony World Photography Awards, The Anthropographia Award for Human Rights, The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. His photographs are part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His work appeared in the Observer Magazine, Stern, Panorama, Corriere della Sera, GQ, Courrier Japon, Geo, XL Semanal, Przekroj, K-magazine, Handelsblatt, European Photography, Kaze no Tabibito, Vanity Fair, Sunday Times Magazine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pete Muller: TIME's Best Wires' Photographer

Photo © Pete Muller-All Rights Reserved
It's no surprise to me that the editors of TIME magazine have chosen Pete Muller as the best photographer on the "wires".

Why do I say that? Well, let's go back to my post of Wednesday, 18 May 2011 in which I described his photography as terrific and excellent....and reminiscent of Jehad Nga's chiaroscuro style.

TIME magazine tells us that of the millions of photographs being sent through the news services (“the wires”) in 2011, the work of Associated Press freelancer Pete Muller, 29, stood out. It continues to say " His exceptional photographs—focused on Africa and particularly Sudan—take an individual approach to storytelling, one that combines a distinctive aesthetic with journalistic integrity."

Other wire photographers who were recognized by TIME are Finbarr O’Reilly,  Kevin Frayer,  David Guttenfelder’s, and Rodrigo Abd, as well as John Moore.

The Frame: The Virgin Of Guadalupe

Photo © Anita Baca-All Rights Reserved
Did I realize that the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 14th Street (not far from where I live in New York City) would commemorate one of Mexico's most important religious holidays this past Monday? Of course not. I only find out stuff like that after the fact.

However, The Frame of The Sacramento Bee has featured 17 photographs of the celebration of this popular religious festival in Mexico City when millions make the pilgrimage to honor the dark-skinned virgin, said to have appeared to an Indian peasant on Dec. 12, 1531.

According to the captions accopmpanying the images, an estimated 5 million people from across Mexico arrived at the basilica Monday carrying large frames, wooden sculptures and ceramic statues of the virgin on their backs. The Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is recognized as a symbol of all Catholic Mexicans.

I chose to feature Anita Baca's photograph (above) showing a pilgrim who journeyed by foot from the state of Hidalgo, posing for a photo in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, while a fellow pilgrim stands by, not only for its colors but for its composition. Notice how the curve of the dark sombrero matches the curve of the icon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kolkata's The Cult of Durga

My main project that came to be from the Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo~Expedition & Workshop™ which I led and organized is The Cult of Durga.

In contrast to my previous audio slideshows that on average are 3 minutes in length, The Cult of Durga is's just over 5 minutes. I also broke a few of my own rules with it. Using the Ken Burns effect on a couple of occasions is one of the most obvious. I decided against a tighter edit,  thinking that reducing the number of photographs would've eliminated some important components. So I left it as I produced it in Kolkata.

Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival in South Asia that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. It's the most important religious and social event in Kolkata. It involves a series of rituals which start from the production of effigies, building of the pandals, offerings of flower and worship, and then finally immersion of the effigies in the Ganges.

The Durga Puja event is celebrated over no less than ten days, but it's the last four days – Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami – that are celebrated with considerable joy and fanfare when the ten armed goddess riding the lion and slaying evil is worshipped with immense zeal and devotion.

This documentary audio slideshow starts with the fashioning of the effigies of Durga which is supervised by certain rites and rules, which include that the clay used for these effigies must be collected from the banks of the Ganges. It then follows the transport of the effigies to the pandals and homes. I also photographed the dhakis, the traditional drummers who accompany the effigies to the pandals, then it was the "kala-bau" snan processions to the Ganges where banana plants are cleaned and draped in a cloth along with nine types of leaves, and on to the last day of the festival when the Durga effigies are brought back to the river for their final immersions symbolizing the goddess' return to her abode in the Himalayas.

And for those who are interested in that kind of stuff, I used a Leica M9, a 5D Mark II and a 7D. The audio was recorded with a Marantz PMD 620.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nigel Slater's Coffee and Walnut Cake

Do you think Nigel will approve of the way I have decorated the cake? I am guessing not, but I fell in love with these little coffee cup chocolates and decorated my coffee and walnut cake with them instead of the usual walnuts. Well, it is coming up to Christmas...........and if it looks good and tastes good, then that's ok with me.

These coffee cups were made especially for me (well perhaps not!). Here we have cappuccino, caramel macchiato, hazelnut latte and espresso.

The cake is light and fluffy, the buttercream can be made stronger with the addition of more coffee to counteract some of the sweetness, the tiny coffee cups are's good enough to make you forget Christmas is on the horizon!

The cake keeps well and here is the recipe:

You will need: 2 x 21cm greased sponge tins.

For the cake: 175g softened butter, 175g unrefined golden caster sugar, 65g chopped walnut pieces, 3 large eggs, 175g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas Mark 4. Beat the butter and sugar until light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time to the butter and sugar, beating well after each addition.
2. Mix the flour and baking powder together and mix gently into the cake batter. Stir the dissolved coffee into the cake mix, followed by the chopped walnuts.
3. Divide the cake mixture between the two cake tins, smooth lightly and bake for 20-25 minutes.

For the buttercream: 200g softened butter, 400g icing sugar, 2 tsp instant coffee granules, 60g walnut halves.

To make the buttercream:

1. Beat the softened butter until soft and pale, add the icing sugar and beat until soft and fluffy. Dissolve the coffee granules in 1 tbsp boiling water and then mix into the buttercream. Fold in the walnut pieces.
2. Spread one of the cakes with a third of the buttercream, then place the second sponge on top, and spread the remaining buttercream on the top, and around the sides if you wish.

POV: Color or Monochrome?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I've meaning to address this question for a while now, especially as I seem to have entered a monochromatic phase in my own photographic evolution. With a couple of exceptions, all the photo essays I produced over the past 18 months have been in black & white...those of Bali, the one of tango in Buenos Aires, and those of Gujarat...all black & white.

My most recent Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo~Expedition & Workshop™ suggested this notion to its participants:

"Participants will merge their still photography and audio to create compelling narratives. While black & white photography may lend itself better in the context of this particular workshop, it is left to each participant to decide on whether to produce narratives in color or monochrome."

My reasoning behind this recommendation was straightforward. I insisted in having the participating photographers focus their photography purely on the documentary narrative rather than being seduced (and distracted) by the powerful colors of India, of Kolkata and of the Durga Puja in particular. I also wanted the participants to capture the rawness of what they photographed...not embellished by the bells and whistles of color.

In that, I succeeded. The participants' projects were all very well edited and produced, and were focused on the rituals of the event, with no splashes of color to divert the viewers' attention from the going-ons. Yes, the garlands of marigold were gray in their audio slideshows instead of brilliant yellow, the women's vermillion powder was also gray...but this didn't diminish the power of their visual narratives.

My own recent Khari Baoli: Old Delhi's Spice Bazaar audio slideshow was shot in color but produced in  monochrome; a decision that was difficult to make because -as seen from the one of its still photographs (above) - the yellows of the turmeric burlap sacks, the purple of the porter's head cloth along with the various degrees of whites and grays of the scene, all make it much more seducing to the senses than its monochromatic version. So should I have opted for color instead?

No...because my intention in the audio slideshow was not to 'seduce' with colors but to do so with the grittiness and edginess of the monochrome...the same rationale I followed in suggesting monochrome during the Kolkata workshop.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Travel Photographer Of The Year (TPOTY) 2011

Photo © Louis Montrose-All Rights Reserved

The annual (and impatiently awaited) Travel Photographer Of The Year competition results have been announced, with Louis Montrose being awarded the coveted title.

Louis was born in London, but grew up in New York City, and lived in the San Diego area of southern California for many years. Formerly an Elizabethan scholar and professor at The University of California, he now pursues his calling as a photographer full time.

Amongst the talented other entrants, I noted that Sergey Anisimov, Timothy Allen, David Lazar, GMB Akash, Matjaz Krivic, Richard Murai, and Larry Louie are all recognized for their work.

The winning images from the Travel Photographer of the Year competition 2011 will be exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in London from 21st June to 19th August 2012.

A niggling thought about TPOTY: with a couple of exceptions, all the winners and runners-up (and judges) seem to be from Western countries. Having seen the quality of photographic work by Asian and Latin American photographers, I am surprised that none have won in a category. It may well be that TPOTY's 'reach' is limited to Europe and the USA and if so, I hope its founders will exert efforts to make it better known in Asia and South America to name but two continents.

Here's also a short movie of TPOTY's Exhibition Opening last year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

BBC GoodFood Show Birmingham - Winter 2011

I was invited to a blogger's lunch at the BBC GoodFood Show Birmingham courtesy of Sainsbury's. The Try team served us a wonderful buffet lunch showcasing their latest goodies for Christmas and the New Year. We were spoilt for choice and came away with loads of inspiration and new ideas.

Just some of the delicious food we were able to sample!

The Sainsbury's Try Me team gave demonstrations throughout the day.

A selection of Sainsbury's Taste the Difference goodies for Christmas and New Year there was also opportunity to taste party food, indulgent desserts, cheese and wine.

New to the show this year was the Sainsbury's Village. Here you could meet some of the producers who bring us some fantastic products. I was guided through a flavoured sea salt tasting with the Cornish Sea Salt Company including garlic, onion, chilli, smoked, salt and pepper and the original Cornish Sea Salt. These products can be purchased in Sainsbury's supermarkets.

Beautifully decorated frying pans.

Vibrant Fruit Twist Drinks.

Wharfe Valley Flavoured Rapeseed Oil.

Liquorice in so many colours and flavours it was difficult to make a choice.

Olive fans were spoilt for choice there were just so many to choose from.

Spice Boys - one of my favourite stands.

Great British Bake Off - I looked forward to watching this on TV every week.

World Cheese Awards 2011 with over 2,500 cheeses on display!

We were also treated to seats in the Sainsbury's Supertheatre to see the MasterChef Champions League starring Mat Follas vs Tim Anderson, compered by John Torode and Gregg Wallace which was great fun.

A snapshot of my very enjoyable day at the Birmingham Winter 2011 BBC GoodFood Show. There was also a drinks area but I must admit to favouring food.

Thank you to Sainsbury's for a great day out.

Comparison Between Modern and Early 20th Century Cold Weather Clothing

It is an unfortunate fact that when people set out to prove something they already strongly believe, they knowingly or unknowingly tailor data to reach the desired results. Clearly that is something that each of us has to encounter at some point. Of course, the way to correct for those misconceptions, is to perform well controlled, duplicatable studies, so that the results can be judged by the rest of the scientific community.

Earlier I did a post looking at the clothing choices of some early 20th century cold weather explorers. You can see the post here. In recent years people with agendas of their own have made claims, which in turn have been picked up by other people with their own agendas, and as a result, most scientific data about the clothing that I discussed has been lost amid romanticism, nostalgia and wishful thinking. A clear example is the tests that Graham Hoyland performed in 2006, using George Mallory’s clothing. The “test” concluded that the clothing is very comfortable and warm, along with a number of other overly romanticized musings on the subject, by a person who has the clear goal of establishing that Mallory was in fact the first person to summit Everest. I have seen at least several people who based on Hoyland’s statements (with no further independent research) have concluded that the 1924 clothing is superior to modern cold weather clothing. 

So, I decided to do some research and see if I can find any actual scientific studies, which produced data on the subject rather than subjective evaluations. Interestingly, I found that such tests have actually been performed on both George Mallory’s clothing as well as that of Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen: Benchmarking Functionality of Historical Cold Weather Clothing: Robert F. Scott, Roald Amundsen, George Mallory, by George Havenith, Department of Ergonomics (Human Sciences) Loughborough University. The photographs used in this post are from the study.    

The below picture shows a side by side of Scott’s, Amundsen’s and a modern cold weather suit, used in the test.


Here the same clothing can be seen on the thermal manikins.


Here you can see Mallory’s clothing as used in the test.


The study was performed at Loughborough University and the clothing of Mallory, Scott and Amundsen was compared along several categories and factors to modern cold weather clothing, containing fleece and down insulation. Of the vintage clothing, the warmest possible combination of items was used for the test, with the Amundsen clothing being tested with both the reindeer and seal skin outer layer in the alternative.

Each clothing arrangement was placed on a thermal manikin is a controlled temperature environment. The insulation values were measured in units of clo (1clo=0.155 m2C/W).

The first test looked at insulation without the addition of any other factors such as wind. The graph below shows the results.


The results clearly show that the insulation value of modern clothing is higher than any of the other options. The Amundsen clothing with reindeer shell has the next best insulation, followed by Amundsen’s clothing with the seal skin shell, followed by Scott’s clothing, and in last comes Mallory’s clothing. It has been mentioned by some people that Mallory’s clothing was lighter than modern clothing used on Everest trips. While objectively true, it also provides significantly less insulation.

The second test, or more accurately, calculation, shows the insulation value as compared to the weight of the clothing. In the chart below we can see the insulation value (clo) per kilogram.


Here we can clearly see that for the weight, the modern clothing significantly outperforms the vintage options. The modern clothing provides more than twice the insulation per kg than Scott’s and Amundsen’s clothing, and 1.65 times better insulation per kg than Mallory’s.

The third test looked at how much insulation is retained when the clothing is exposed to wind. The chart below shows the insulation value as a percentage of the static insulation.  


The modern clothing again shows to be the best, closely followed by Amundsen’s clothing with the reindeer shell.

A fourth aspect of the clothing was tested in a study by Dorman LE. Havenith, The Effects of Protective Clothing on Energy Consumption During Different Activities, Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009 105(3):463-70.

The study showed that not only weight, but also the bulkiness and layering of clothing contributed to energy consumption. Simply stated, bulky clothing makes it harder for you to move, and makes you use up more energy for the same tasks. The table below shows the increase in metabolic consumption caused by each clothing option looked at above. There is no exact data for Mallory’s clothing, but the study concluded that the layers of silk between the wool would make movement easier, decreasing the metabolic expenditure when compared to that of Scott who used similar wool layering.

Clothing Combination % increase of metabolic rate when sledge pulling % increase of metabolic rate when dog sledding






Modern Clothing



It is again clear that the modern clothing is a lot less cumbersome, and requires less energy expenditure to operate.

The conclusion reached by the above studies is that while Amundsen’s clothing provided better insulation than Scott’s, considering that Scott largely man hauled his sleds to the pole, unlike Amundsen who used dogs, the clothing would have provided adequate insulation. Both Amundsen and Scott would have found their clothing deficient during periods of inactivity, as was in fact noted by Amundsen in his journal. The big problem for Scott would have been the high energy expenditure required by the clothing. 24% increase in energy consumption is significant and would have greatly contributed to the expedition’s unfortunate end. With respect to Mallory, the studies concluded that his clothing would have been adequate down to -30 degrees Celsius. However, if any high wind speeds were encountered (above 40 km/h), or there was any inactivity, the clothing would have been deficient.   

The Travel Photographer In Asian Geographic Passport

"It is at these religious events that one connects with humanity at its basic denominator, and with the nobility of the human spirit."
That's a quote from a longer statement I made to accompany a handful of photographs published in the December issue of the Asian Geographic Passport which can be partially previewed here.

I am waiting for a hard copy of the issue to be mailed to me from the publishers, so that's all I can show at this time.

In any event, the religious rituals I submitted photographs of are the Theyyam rituals of Northern Kerala and of the Tsechus of Bhutan. The photographs are included in my Theyyam: Incarnate Deities and Tsechus!.

I am influenced by Sebastiao Salgado's philosophy which he described by saying: "if you take a picture of a human that does not make him noble, there is no reason to take this picture. That is my way of seeing things.". This is my way of seeing things as well...I find it impossible to photograph otherwise.