Thursday, 31 January 2008

Washington Post: Ashura Festival



Here's a graphic video clip of the Shi'a ritual of Ashura from the Washington Post's Jack Fairweather, who is traveling around Central Asia and the Middle East in search of answers to the question of what does Islam mean to young people. The clip is rather amateurish and I don't know if it was because videotaping the ritualistic flagellation is prohibited.

Nevertheless, it's an unusual glimpse in a ritual which has its counterpart in Catholicism. It takes place amongst the Shia communities of the Middle East and beyond, and Ashura is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar.

It is commemorated by the Shi‘a as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 After Hijra ( corresponding to December 10, 680 AD).

Sunni Muslims do not self flagellate (in fact they consider it as barbaric), but believe that Moses fasted on that day to express gratitude to God for liberation of Israelites from Egypt. According to Sunni Muslim tradition, Muhammad fasted on this day and asked other people to fast as well.

Washington Post's Islam's Advance article.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize

Image Copyright © Fazal Sheikh -All Rights Reserved

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, established in 1996, gives £30,000 (nearly $60,000) to the winner. This year's shortlist was announced and it highlights the work of Britain's John Davies, the Danish photographer Jacob Holdt, Esko Mannikko from Finland and the American Fazal Sheikh, who were chosen from 90 nominees put forward by experts worldwide.

Drusilla Beyfus in the Daily Telegraph in London, writes this about Fazal Sheikh and of his most recent work "Ladli": "Described as an artist-activist, he (Fazal) is known for creating sustained studies of communities around the world. Realistic black-and-white portraits are Sheikh's fire power and his primary evidence. The frame is filled with close-ups that capture the emotion of the sitter - those dark eyes speak volumes. In some shots, a head is shown turned away from the camera's lens, for reasons that become apparent in the accompanying testimony.

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, for which The Daily Telegraph is media sponsor, is at the Photographers' Gallery, Great Newport Street, London WC2, from February 8 to April 6. The winner will be announced on March 5.

The Daily Telegraph's Article

The Photographers' Gallery in London

Lorena Guillén Vaschetti: Dance

Image Copyright © Lorena Guillén Vaschetti -All Rights Reserved

Lorena Guillén Vaschetti is a photographer from Argentina, who studied anthropology and architecture. She studied photography at New York's ICP, NYU and at the New School.

I feature her work on ritual dances of the Australian aborigines: a gallery she titles Painted Rituals. Her saturated photographs of these dances only show the dancers' feet and bodies, and ably manages to convey the sense of movement. An interesting photographer with a novel way to depicting dance photography.

Through Lensculture.com, here is Lorena Guillén Vaschetti's Painted Rituals

Her website is here

Monday, 28 January 2008

Bhutan: Photo Expedition News

Image © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I'm pleased to announce that the Bhutan: Land of the Druk Yul Photo Expedition (October 3-October 17, 2008) is sold out (due to unprecedented demand, I had to increase the participations to 11 photographers), and there's another number of photographers on its wait-list.

Some have asked me to organize and lead another photo expedition to Bhutan in February-March 2009, and this is being considered.

Kash & Shabana

Shabana with Kash Gabriele Torsello

In a few days, an Italian plane carrying an Afghan four-year-old girl and her father will leave the Kabul for Rome. The young girl is Shabana, who suffers from a mysterious tumor, that if left unchecked causes severe nerve damage and, ultimately, death. Now, she will undergo her second operation, in Rome, which will bring together Western and Afghan surgeons.

Shabana's story so far, including her first operation in Kabul, results from the work of Italian photojournalist Kash Gabriele Torsello, who was kidnapped and detained in Afghanistan. Since his release, Kash has been working to develop a program of medical and cultural exchanges between Afghanistan and Europe. Shabana’s operation in Rome is due to the photojournalist's efforts.

One of the paragraphs of the press release mentions that "Shabana’s case has been followed by European and Afghan experts alike, the little girl’s illness is a peculiar kind of tumor that affects 10% of Afghan children. The surgery will be led by Doctor Fabio Abenavoli, President of Smile Train Italia, who after visiting Shabana in Kabul in 2007 decided to organize her hospitalization at the Fatebenefratelli San Pietro hospital in Rome. The ultimate aim is to enable Afghan doctors to cure many other Shabanas in Afghanistan, Insha'Allah - God Willing."

For further information, visit: Kash & Shabana

Venice Carnival


The Venice Carnival 2008 is scheduled for January 25 to February 5. The Venice Carnival is the most internationally known festival celebrated in Venice, Italy, as well as being one of the oldest. The carnival, with its tradition of mask-wearing, has existed in some form or another since the 13th century. The masks themselves - along with the traditional bauto (hood and cape), tabarro (cloak) and tricorn hat - were favored because they conferred complete anonymity on their wearers.

The above photograph is courtesy of _Olia i klod , a Franco-Russian couple & Flickr members.

TTP Recap of the Week

For your convenience, here's the past week's (January 21-January 27, 2008) most read posts on TTP:

Marcus Bleasdale: Rape of a Nation
Another Mac Air Review
Canon EOS 450D

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Another Mac Air Review

Ryan Block's review of the Mac Air (or just Air) on Engadget is the most thorough I've seen so far. Before this review was available, I instinctively thought that the Air would be a difficult product to decide on...and this write-up seems to confirm this.

The reviewer describes the Air as being a tough call, being hard to justify its price with all its compromises, but a technical wonder nevertheless. It's doubtful if the Air will be a primary machine for users, as it's not going to replace users' main workhorse. I haven't seen the Air at the Apple store yet, but I sense that it's an 'into the future' machine... Apple is anticipating what mobile wireless computing will be in a few years, and the Air is it.

I'd love nothing better that an ultra-light from Apple such as this one...saving a few pounds from my hand luggage when traveling would be wonderful. However, I will wait for further reviews before getting all excited.

Engadget's Mac Air Review

Diversity of Devotion: Brooklyn Library

Image Copyright © Marcia Halperin-All Rights Reserved

The Brooklyn Public Library is exhibiting the Diversity of Devotion Photo-Documentary Project from January 15-April 19, 2008. The exhibit is in the Grand Lobby of the Library.

The project was developed and curated by Jenny Jozwiak, an award-winning travel and culture photographer whose work has taken her to 37 countries.

I was pleased to be one of the jurors in the Diversity of Devotion project, and glad to see its impressive (and deserved) success . Much of it is due to Jenny's tireless efforts.

Brooklyn Public Library's Diversity of Devotion

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Image © Tony Cenicola/NY Times-All Rights Reserved

The New York Times features an interesting article about the discovery of “the Mexican suitcase”, which held thousands of negatives that the legendary war photographer, Robert Capa took during the Spanish Civil War before he fled Europe for America in 1939.

The suitcase — actually three flimsy cardboard valises — contained thousands (around 3500) of negatives of pictures that Robert Capa, one of the pioneers of modern war photography, took during the Spanish Civil War before he fled Europe for America in 1939, leaving behind the contents of his Paris darkroom.

According to Brian Wallis, chief curator at the International Center of Photography, the Capa negatives appear to be remarkably good after being stored in what "essentially looks like confectionery boxes."

Here's a look at the New York Times' interactive feature showing the contents of the suitcase. I think that the suitcase has more mystique, more atmosphere and more flair than any of the current hard drives put together.

PDN Interview: Steve McCurry

Image © Steve McCurry-All Rights Reserved

PDN just published an interview with Steve McCurry. I can't say there's anything new or exciting to be learnt from McCurry's answers, but I found this one to be right on the money:

"When asked what those two years of travel taught him, McCurry says simply, “Just because someone’s wearing a turban, doesn’t mean it’s an interesting photo.”

PDN's Steve McCurry: An Interview with PDN

Friday, 25 January 2008

Multimedia: The Whale Hunt

"In May 2007, I spent nine days living with a family of Inupiat Eskimos in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost settlement in the United States. The first several days were spent in the village of Barrow, exploring ramshackle structures, buying gear, and otherwise helping the whaling crew to prepare for the hunt. We then traveled by snowmobile out onto the frozen Arctic Ocean, where we camped three miles from shore on thick pack ice, pitching our tents about ten feet from the open water. Boats were readied, harpoons prepared, whaling guns loaded, white tunics donned, a snow fence constructed, and then we sat silently in the -22 °F air, in constant daylight, waiting for whales to appear."

This is how Jonathan Harris starts his statement on
The Whale Hunt, a multimedia storytelling experiment. He documents the adventure by taking photos every five minutes and in times of high adrenaline, increasing the pace to match his heartbeat. Starting at the Newark airport and ending with the butchering of the second whale, Harris took a total of 3,124 photographs over the course of nine days."

The Gaza Ghetto

Image Copyright © Ibraheem Abu Mustafa-Reuters-All Rights Reserved

I think this is one of the more poignant photographs of the Palestinan exodus from Gaza over the past few days. Egyptian officials estimate that about 120,000 Palestinian have crossed into Egypt since the border was toppled by Hamas militants on Wednesday. Palestinians have been returning with consumer goods that have been lacking since Israel closed its own border with Gaza last week — everything from cigarettes to televisions, generators, washing machines, milk, cheese, sheep, goats, cows, camels, diesel fuel and gasoline.

Maybe the Nobel Peace prize winner, Elie Wiesel will speak out; after all, he's the one who said "..."...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all..."

From the Washington Post's Gazans Break Border Wall

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Canon EOS 450D / Digital Rebel XSi


Canon has also announced a new compact digital SLR, a 12.2 megapixel EOS 450D (Digital Rebel XSi). It boasts various improvements and enhancements over the EOS 400D. The estimated list price is $800, and its main features are:

* 12.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor
* Canon’s EOS Integrated Cleaning System
* 3.5 frames per second
* 3.0” LCD with Live View shooting
* 9-point wide-area AF system with f/2.8 cross-type center point
* Picture Style image processing parameters
* DIGIC III image processor
* Digital Photo Professional RAW processing software
* Fully compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses

The interesting improvements from my standpoint are the spot metering (4%) and the Live View. The fps rate is 3.5 and the FoV is 1.6

The 450D is okay....but let's be serious, where's the successor to the 5D?

Further details at Digital Photography Review

New Canon EF200mm


Canon has issued a press release introducing its Canon EF200mm f/2L IS USM at PMA 20. The lens is claimed to be significantly lighter (2520g/5.5 lbs. vs. 3000g/6.6 lbs.) than its predecessor, the renowned EF200mm f/1.8L USM lens, while adding OIS and a weather-resistant design. It has a close-focus setting of 1.9 m/6.2 feet and a circular aperture system that enhances its background blur rendition at wide apertures.

The new Canon EF200mm f/2L IS USM is scheduled to be available in April at an estimated retail price of $6,000...and if you think that's not much, Canon has also introduced the new Canon EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM scheduled to be available in May for an estimated retail price of $12,000.

TTP: One Year Later...


As I wrote a few weeks ago, I had no expectations that The Travel Photographer blog would become so popular and read in such large numbers. I'm flummoxed but immensely gratified by the response. It's been educational for me, as well as great fun...so I look forward to another year of blogging about interesting photography projects from existing and fresh talent, about innovative ideas and news affecting documentary-travel photography, about new hardware & software...and naturally, to post my occasional rants.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Marcus Bleasdale: Rape of A Nation

Image © Marcus Bleasdale-All Rights Reserved

MediaStorm brings us Rape of A Nation, a gut-wrenching multimedia feature of Marcus Bleasdale's work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an estimated 5.4 million people have died since 1998, the largest death toll since the Second World War, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). It also reports that as many as 45,000 people die each month in the Congo. most of which are caused by malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, and neonatal problems; results of a devastated economy.

The feature is by Marcus Bleasdale, a photojournalist (now with VII) who spent eight years covering the brutal conflict within the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Widely published in the UK, Europe and the USA in publications such as The Sunday Times Magazine, The Telegraph Magazine, Geo Magazine, The New Yorker, TIME and Newsweek and National Geographic Magazine, Marcus has received acclaim for his work over the years, including several prizes and awards.

This is a top-notch production merging all visual elements of multimedia: quality photography, heart-thumping video and a strong narration. The transitions from still photography to video are very well done...and although I'm not a fan of mixing B&W with color photography, I didn't mind it much in this feature.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Shane Bauer: Darfur

Image © Shane Bauer-All Rights Reserved

Shane Bauer is a freelance journalist who aims to expose social, political, and economic issues around the world. Fluent in Arabic, his work has largely focused on the Middle East and North Africa, where he has spent much of the past five years. He has also worked in Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Cuba, and throughout the former Yugoslavia. His writing and photography has been published in the US, UK, Middle East, and Canada including publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, Aljazeera.net, and E: The Environmental Magazine.

His website features a very well done multimedia slideshow titled Darfur Rising. I especially commend his ability with ambient sound and narrative.

Darfur Rising

Monday, 21 January 2008

NY Times Magazine: A Cutting Tradition

Image © Stephanie Sinclair/NY Times-All Rights Reserved

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine brought us an 8 pictures photo-essay by Stephanie Sinclair titled "A Cutting Tradition" which accompanies an article authored by Sara Corbett on female circumcision in Indonesia.

I was initially glad to finally see a serious topic addressed by the Magazine in a photo-essay format. After all, it's about the cruel, abhorrent and abominable tradition practiced in some Islamic countries on the pretext that it's condoned by Islam. However, the tradition of female circumcision does not originate from Islam nor from the Qur'an, nor is it condoned by either. For more on this, here's a link from the BBC. The tradition has been banned by many Islamic and African countries, and the internet is replete with articles from reputable news organizations confirming this.

However, after reading the accompanying article and looking at the photographs, I regret to describe the photo essay as 'lazy'. I'm not claiming that the photojournalist was lazy; just that what was published as the photo essay was lazy. Stephanie Sinclair's work credentials are impeccable, and her humanitarian efforts are praiseworthy. She founded Operation Azra, a charity aimed at helping a Pakistani woman who burnt by acid thrown by a male relative. So I have no questions as to her professionalism and compassion.

What I'm unclear on however, is whether the photo editors chose these photographs to shock or to inform? There is no narrative thread in the photo essay...none. All of the photographs are of unfortunate young girls going through the procedure, looked over by their mothers and medical attendants. Where is the narrative 'texture'? Where are the contextual photographs? Where are the photographs of the mothers consoling their children as they arrive? Were the mothers saddened or happy with this horrible procedure? Where are the portraits of the mothers and their daughters after the procedure? Having seen other examples of Stephanie Sinclair's work, she must've photographed all over the place, especially as the article mentions that she had full unfettered access at the clinic to photograph at will.

On the other hand, I found the article as authored by Sara Corbett to be fair and even-handed , although I was surprised that it quoted a dubious statistic. I'm not an statistician, but its parameters are risible.

So here's a photo essay limited to these 8 narrowly focused photographs...was is the editors' decision to cull them down to these 8 based on layout design, space, or was it just lazy editing, or for their shock value....? I can't answer that. All I know is that I expected better from the photo editors of the Sunday Times Magazine, especially on an issue such as this one.

The article ends with this: "Nonetheless, as Western awareness of female genital cutting has grown, anthropologists, policy makers and health officials have warned against blindly judging those who practice it, saying that progress is best made by working with local leaders and opinion-makers to gradually shift the public discussion of female circumcision from what it’s believed to bestow upon a girl toward what it takes away."

The photo-essay: Inside A Female Circumcision Ceremony

The article: A Cutting Tradition

TTP Recap of the Week

For your convenience, here's the past week's (January 14-January 20, 2008) most read posts on TTP:

Fazal Sheikh's The Victor Weeps
1 on 1: Candace Feit
Shahidul Alam's Brahmaputra

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Fazal Sheikh: The Victor Weeps


I won't describe Fazal Sheikh as documentary photographer because he's much more than that. His subjects include Indian widows, Sudanese and Somali refugees at camps in Kenya, survivors of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the indigenous people of Pantanal, Brazil, and immigrants from Mexico.

He makes formal portraits of his subjects; he interviews them and tells their life stories...he lives among them and lives like them. His are portraits of human dignity. Nothing else I can write will adequately describe his craft and his humanity.

In a previous post on Fazal, I wrote: "Here's the work of a photographer who, by any definition, is the pride of this profession; Fazal Sheikh not only makes pictures, he presents us an unblinking, but immensely compassionate view of the poor and disenfranchised...he doesn't only photograph, but interviews his subjects about their lives, he adds his own commentary on the people, their country, and the situation in which he finds them."

Fazal starts The Victor Weeps with this: "To Sheikh Fazal Ilahi, the grandfather I never met but for whom I am named." I, too, was named after my grandfather and never met him...and my father was named after his grandfather and he never met him. Perhaps that's one of the many reasons I found this photo essay so compelling.

Here's the agonizingly beautiful The Victor Weeps...it's an incomparable photo essay that must be savored over time...slowly viewed and read. The prose is as beautiful as the photographs, and give them texture and meaning.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

The New York Times : Peshawar

Image © The New York Times-All Rights Reserved

The New York Times brings us a slideshow feature on Peshawar, the frontier town in Pakistan, legendary for its gun markets and home to a community of gunsmiths proud of their ability to make exact copies of weaponry. Peshawar literally means 'High Fort' in Persian, and is known as Pekhawar in Pashto. It's a major Pashtun city.

Interestingly, the photographs are not credited to a photographer, but the newspaper has confirmed that the photographer's name was withheld for safety reasons.

The accompanying article describes how the Taliban and its cohorts are now concentrating efforts to take the city and extend their militant influence in the area, and have selected the Pakistani police and its army as particular targets.

The black & white photographs suit the gritty subject matter very well.

PS: Call me a skeptic and a cynic if you like, but something's unusual here. The feature doesn't name its producer as well...so it's a totally anonymous production. I'm not clear as to the reason for this total anonymity. Aren't there any photojournalists working in Peshawar...was that photojournalist disguised in a burka? It doesn't look it. I have no answers...just skepticism vis-a-vis something that isn't clear.



Have a look: Peshawar Under Siege

Friday, 18 January 2008

1 on 1: Candace Feit

The Travel Photographer blog will occasionally post interviews with both travel and editorial working photographers. This interview is with Candace Feit, a full-time freelance working photographer currently based in Dakar, Senegal and working throughout Africa. Candace worked for numerous publications—including the New York Times, Time magazine, Le Monde, and the Christian Science Monitor, among others.

1) TTP: When did you decide to become a photographer? Who or what influenced your decision?

CF: I had always been interested in photography, but in a pretty general way. I had a job working in marketing for LEGO in NY. After a few years they decided to close the office and move people to the United Kingdom. I realized I did not want to keep doing what I was doing and took it as a chance to leave that behind and really do what I wanted to do. I am lucky enough to have a few good friends who are also great photographers - Mike Kamber and Ruth Fremson are two who helped a lot with feedback and advice – so I have been very lucky as far as encouraging influences.

2) TTP: Do you have any formal training regarding photography?

CF: No formal training – besides a couple of classes at ICP- just lots of shooting, looking at work, revising, and going back out shooting. After about a year of doing that, I finally felt like I could make a semi-adequate picture.

3) TTP : if you had the choice, where is your favorite place to live and work as a photographer in the world and why?

CF: I have loved living and working in Africa. It’s been a great few years. I’ve become more excited and interested in photographing in the US. I’ve been interested in small town America since taking a road trip around the US in 1994. I’ve also never been to Asia or South East Asia, and would love to live/work in either India or Japan at some point.

4) TTP: Describe your own favorite image, and describe how you went about creating it.

Image © Candace Feit-All Rights Reserved

CF: This is one of my favorite images which I made during a trip to Goree Island in Senegal. I had a friend visiting me in Dakar and so we went to Goree. The sun was going down and I found these kids out on a jetty playing around with this Halloween mask, which just seemed surreal. So I shot a few images of them and it was one of those instances where I felt very connected and as if I was seeing something strange and surreal. I shot it in film and so had to wait to see it, but was really excited by the result.

5) TTP: Describe a day in your professional life.

CF: On assignment: Get up, wait, go shoot, edit, shoot some more, wait for good light, shoot more, edit. Working in West Africa can be very slow, be it waiting for permissions, trying to get from point A to B once on assignment, or waiting around for cars and planes. It feels like most of my time is spent waiting around for something.

At home: invoice, research, pitching new stories, archiving. Trying to figure out the ebb and flow of freelance life has been tough – I feel like I have finally realized the importance of staying motivated and getting all of the administrative stuff out of the way during the downtime.

6) TTP: Tell your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, most touching story from a photoshoot!

CF: The funniest and most bizarre happened in the same place. I was in Noadibou, Mauritania in June 2007 photographing a story about over-fishing in West Africa. I went out toward dusk, hoping to make some nice pictures, and we ran into these men from Western Sahara who had a bunch of camels and were selling camel milk by the side of the road. We pulled off so I could make some pictures when we saw them tending to a baby camel. I guess the baby was sick and not taking milk so they were “bottle feeding” it with a small tea pot. The guys asked if I had any medicine for stomach aches, because I guess this baby camel was sick with diarrhea and was in dire shape. So I went back to my hotel and sent some Pepto and Immodium for the baby camel… apparently it fixed him up because the next day when we checked up on him he was taking milk again and seemed on the road to recovery.

7) TTP: What types of assignments are you most attracted to?

CF: Ones that are assigned by good editors! A good editor makes a huge difference to me as far as how I feel taking more risks or bringing back something that I am excited by, instead of being desperate to please. I just worked with a photo editor at the Chicago Tribune Magazine who is such a person. He communicated very well before the assignment, gave me a good amount of freedom and once I filed all the pix gave me some detailed feedback as to why they used what they ultimately used.

8) TTP: How would you describe your photographic style?

CF: Evolving. I’m shooting a lot of medium format film these days so I think that is definitely influencing my composition when I switch over to 35mm. Working mostly in Africa, I find myself photographing in a lot of challenging situations, so I work to slow down and try to find the beauty in whatever I am photographing. Easier said than done, but it is something I am conscious of and always working on.

9) TTP: Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven't already?

CF: I’d like to work on some longer stories in 2008. After a couple of years running around spending a week or 10 days someplace and trying to capture a few stories, I’d like to get a bit more immersed in something. I look at something like Larry Towell’s Mennonites which he worked on for over a decade – and that kind of dedication and resolve is something I admire greatly. That’s a kind of depth I’d love to aspire to.

10) TTP: Describe the photo gear, as well as (if digital) your computer hardware and software you use.

CF: For assignments I generally use 2 Nikon D200 bodies, with a variety of lenses depending on what I’m shooting and how much gear I can bring along. Usually some combination of a 12-24, 17-35, 28-70, 20mm. I recently bought a 18-200 so I keep that packed in case I need a long lens, though I don’t use it much, but I always feel like I should bring it along. I also almost always bring my Hasselblad 501c (80mm) with a bunch of Kodak 160VC, 400VC, velvia 120. I’ve been using the Hassleblad more and more for personal work and it’s become my default bring around town camera. I use a Macbook, usually just with Adobe Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop. Filezilla for FTP (I think I read about it on thetravelphotographer, actually) – which is great, and free.

What The Duck



What The Duck

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Canon Digital Photo Professional


Canon is offering a new tutorial to teach us how to use its latest version of Digital Photo Professional (DPP) with which to edit and process RAW files. Elizabeth Pratt shows Canon users how to use Canon's RAW workflow solutions.

I've tried DPP a couple of times, and while it needs getting used to (as everything else), I found it to be well equipped to do the job. It's a tad on the clunky side but it's free for EOS Canon users!

Thanks for Imaging Insider for the heads up to this tutorial:

Digital Photo Professional

NY Times: Panama

Image © Tara Todras-Whitehall/NY Times-All Rights Reserved

The New York Times featured a short slideshow of photographs of the Kuna Indians. It appears that the San Blas islands have remained little-known by tourists for many years, but that it may not remain that way for long.

New York Times' The Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands on Panama’s Caribbean coast still believe that each person has a good and a bad spirit, and that after death the good spirit needs help to get to heaven. They number about 35,000 and the majority live in the San Blas Islands, and on the mainland in the Madungandi reservation, while a small percentage live in the capital city, Panama.

The Kuna women wear wrap around skirts and hand-made blouses known as "molas", while the men wear traditional Kuna shirts. The women also paint their faces with a homemade rouge made from achiote seeds, and usually wear a nose ring and paint a line down their nose.

They grow plantains, bananas, and avocados, and other fruits, as well as corn, and tubers.

New York Times' San Blas Islands

More (and better) photographs of the Kuna Indians: Global Photographic

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Shahidul Alam: Brahmaputra

Layout © Zone Zero-All Rights Reserved

Here's one of my favorites multimedia presentations by Shahidul Alam, one of the most prominent photographers and educator in South Asia. He became the president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, and founded the Drik Picture Library and "Pathshala" - South Asian Institute of Photography. He is also a director of Chobi Mela, the festival of photography in Asia, and has been awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2001, for his contribution to photography. He is on the advisory board for the Eugene Smith Memorial Fund and the National Geographic Society.

Brahmaputra may seem outdated now, but it's still a marvelous multimedia project featuring a journey from Mt Kailash to Lhasa, through Assam down to Bangladesh. The photographs are small and the multimedia add-ons are not as impressive by today's standards, however there's no question that Brahmaputra is one of the multimedia projects that led the way.

Via Zone Zero: Brahmaputra

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

MacBook Air


As rumored, Apple launched an ultra-thin notebook called the
MacBook Air. The 3 lbs Air has a wedge-like shape that tapers down to 0.16" thick at the front base. Its 13.3-inch screen is LED backlit, and a backlit keyboard. It multi-touch trackpad which, like the iPhone, allows the user to rotate photographs, pinch and widen the windows, etc.

Its technical specifications are 1.6 or 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, and 80GB hard drive. No optical drive and just one USB port. The price is $1799 and shipments start in 2 weeks.

I can exhale now.

Update: The battery can only be replaced by Apple...this is a huge drawback.

Adobe Elements 6 Podcast


Adobe Creative Suite's website provides us with Terry White's videowalk-through of the newly announced Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Macintosh. It's a thorough introductory tutorial which is useful if you contemplate buying or upgrading the product.

As mentioned in my earlier post, Adobe announced that Adobe Elements 6 is available for pre-order for an estimated street price of US$89.99. The software will later be available at retailers. The actual availability is expected to be in March 2008.

The reason for the "pre-order" announcement is easy to figure out: Adobe had originally announced that the software (for the Mac) would be available in early January, so -by pre-announcing it in this fashion- it doesn't have to admit to delays. I never pre-order anything, so all this PR verbiage is wasted on consumers like me.

At a suggested retail price of $90 for Elements 6, why would anyone buy CS3 which costs 4-5 times as much?

Thanks to Imaging Insider for the link to the podcast: Adobe Elements 6 Podcast

Monday, 14 January 2008

Felice Willat: Burma

Image Copyright © Felice Willat-All Rights Reserved

Having co-founded Day Runner Inc, Felice Willat is now founder and president of Tools With Heart, a company that develops products to enhance personal discovery and well being. A successful entrepreneur, and with a strong background in network television production, Felice is also an accomplished photographer, and recently returned from Burma.

Felice's lovely photographs of Burma and its resilient people can be seen on her new website...she's generous with her work, and her gallery features over 90 photographs. I found her photographs of the fishermen of Inle Lake to be especially striking for their color, composition and luminosity...and although her remaining photographs are equally beautiful, I chose the one above for this post. The colors and the perfectly diagonal alignment of the fisherman's stance, arm and oar make it my favorite.

The Intha fishmen of Inle Lake use a leg-rowing technique, and fish the waters of the lake with a conical netted trap.

She hopes her photographs capture the poetic nature of its people and places...I'm sure you'll agree that she succeeded.

Felice Willat's Burma

TTP Recap of the Week

For your convenience, here's the past week's (January 6-January 13, 2008) most read posts on TTP:

Ganga Sagar Mela
Apple New Sub Notebook?
1on 1: Gavin Gough

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Ganga Sagar Mela

Image Copyright © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Although the above photograph is of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, another similar Hindu religious festival is underway. The period from January 12-15, 2008 is the auspicious date for the annual gathering of Hindu pilgrims during Makar Sankranti at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata.

Pilgrims arrive in their thousands from across India in the first week of January to bathe in the waters of the Ganges before it merges in the Bay of Bengal. The pilgrims offer prayers to Lord Surya, and subsequent to immersing themselves in the cold waters of the river, they ritualistically offer water to Lord Surya; a ritual which washes off their sins.

It is expected that the number of pilgrims will reach at least 500,000 on the most auspicious day of Makar Sankranti. It is also rumored that non-Hindus have to obtain special permits to attend, and photographers have to apply in Kolkata. There are few options for accommodations on the island.

Sunday Rant VI

This Sunday's rant is all about photography...so the purists can rejoice this week. On a professional photography forum, I've recently seen venomous replies in response to a post from an editor of a Northern European magazine requesting photographers of South Asian images to contact him. The rather inept editor added the incendiary statement that his magazine had a limited budget, and I'm paraphrasing here...couldn't pay market rates for the photographs.

Hell broke loose, and photographers crucified the hapless editor for trying to exploit them...for trying to get their photographs for next to nothing while being handsomely paid by the advertisers of the magazine...and worse.

So here's the core of my rant: firstly, this sort of knee-jerk behavior from photographers alienates magazine editors, who may decide to shop elsewhere for their photo requirements. Secondly, this particular editor didn't ask for free submissions. That would certainly warrant the poisonous reaction he got from photographers. No, he was reasonably clear that he'd pay for the photographs, but due to budgetary constraints, the payments would be lower than prevailing market rates.

Let's examine this rationally, shall we? Corporations outsource everything...everything gets outsourced these days...from customer services to surrogate motherhoods. If I was a magazine editor responsible for its bottom line and to its shareholders, I would certainly look very seriously into outsourcing my photography needs. Globalization forces are at work in every industry...and photography is an industry like any other. If a magazine editor can satisfy his/her magazine's needs from photographers in India, Pakistan and the Middle East, at a fraction of what photographers in the West will charge... at comparable quality and delivered in a timely fashion, of course he/she would.

Globalization (and the internet/tech advances) has upended the status-quo...the South Asian photographers, the Middle Eastern photographers, the Asian photographers have all emerged as worthwhile competitors, and have proven many times over that their work is as good, frequently better, and as professional as any other. However, because their local costs of living are generally lower, they are willing to accept below market rates...rates that are or were determined by entities in the West.

There will always be magazines that only publish the best of the best...there will always be ample opportunities for the so-called 'legendary photographers'...but the rest of us will have to compete heads-on with photographers from all over the world, and must accept that ground rules have changed, and we must adapt. So let's not blame magazine editors for exercising financial acumen and waste our energy on silly arguments...let's be honest and agree that if we were offered a service (say digital printing as an example) from India or China at a cheaper cost to us than one we use in Manhattan, and provided the quality and delivery time were the same, most of us would give our business to these offshore service providers.

My suggestion to photographers who get all exercised about "lower than market" rates is simple...if you don't like what's offered, ignore it and move on....you'll live longer. The reality is that some photographers who don't have your cost of living standards will send in their work and accept lower rates. The culprits are not the magazine editors', nor the photographers who do...but market forces. Are there nasty magazine editors who will always try to nail photographers? Of course, but this is not about the bad apples...it's about the straightforward ones, who try to do the best for their magazines.

So we need to learn new skills and invent new ways of publishing our work instead of wasting our energy and credibility by piling on others who are only doing what we would do.

Let me be very clear: not paying for photographs on the pretext that 'it will enhance the photographer's career' is a scam and rip-off. I don't care whether the photographer is a beginner or a seasoned professional...it's still a rip-off. There are some exceptions to that, but very few.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

FotoFlot

FotoFlot (probably pronounced "photofloat") is an innovative way to display one's photographs without glass, thereby eliminating reflections, and without frames. The sizes of FotoFlot displays range from 7.5"x10" to 15"x30", and these hang from the walls with a magnetic system which, according to the company, is a snap to use.


FotoFlot uses digital printing equipment designed for professional photofinishers to print the images on photo paper, then mounts/fuses them to a 1/8" thick acrylic, laser trimmed to the sizes chosen. It uses a silver halide photo processing, and it prints on matte finish paper.

Apple New Sub Notebook?

There's something in the air...the blogosphere is abuzz with Apple rumors. The rumor buzz is usual a few weeks before the MacWorld Conference & Expo (January 14-18, 2008) in San Francisco, and this year the rumor-mongers expect that Steve Jobs will announce a new $1500 sub-notebook MacBook Pro, which will be 50% thinner than the present laptops, and will employ flash memory instead of a hard drive, but no optical drive (which will be separate).

Depending on its configuration, this new sub notebook (if it indeed materializes) may well be ideal for traveling photographers. Light, small and providing all the necessary software would be the answer to many problems now facing us. I'm holding my breath on that one.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Adobe Elements 6 For Mac


For those who don't need Adobe CS3 (or find it too expensive) for their Apple computers, the company has announced that Adobe Elements 6 is available for pre-order for an estimated street price of US$89.99. The software will later be available at retailers.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Macintosh will run on Leopard, (Mac OS X v 10.5), as well as previous versions of Mac OS X starting with 10.4.8.

Adobe Elements 6

Update: Here's an informative first look 'hands-on' of Photoshop Elements from NetGuido via Imaging Insider.

Neeraj Mahajan: Gypsy Souls

Image © Neeraj Mahajan -All Rights Reserved

Neeraj Mahajan is a commercial and documentary photographer living in Delhi. Despite having graduated in hotel management from Australia, he chose to make a career out of documentary photography, and a few years later branched into advertising photography as well. His father, a street photographer himself, was an early mentor, followed by Pradeep Das Gupta who provided him professional guidance.

Neeraj has many documentary projects, either completed or work-in progress:"Sinners"is is a multi layered photo essay based on the concept of redemption and faith in the Hindu religion. "Rhythm Divine" is an essay of images of people, religious sects and holy places dissolving into each other, and "Gypsy Soul"is on the nomadic gypsies of India.

I've encountered Rebari and Raika gypsies during my photo travels in Rajasthan and Gujarat. They are nomadic herders of camel, sheep and goats...and not all of them welcome photographers with open arms. It is perhaps because of my misadventures with the Reabari that I chose Neeraj's Gypsy Soul photo essay to feature on TTP.

His website's navigation is somewhat quirky but explore his Travel & Documentary galleries and you'll be rewarded by his interesting black & white photographs which have the unmistakable 'feel' of a seasoned street photographer.

Neeraj Mahajan

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Digital Photo Pro: Shiho Fukada

Layout © Digital Photo Pro magazine-All Rights Reserved

I'm really pleased, but not surprised, that Shiho Fukada, TTP's Photographer of The Year, is the subject of an article entitled "A Different Kind of Briefcase" published in Digital Photo Pro magazine (below for link).

On the other hand, I was surprised to read Shiho's difficulty in selling her fascinating photo essay "Life In A Brothel"...a photographic project about the sex trade in Bangladesh, which can be seen on her website (below for link). According to the informative article: "Fukada describes the response from the American magazines to whom she has pitched the project: “Third-world brothels have been done to death. What else do you have?”

What else does she have? Well, she's got plenty...but that's hardly the point, is it magazine editors? The point is that she cares about that poignant story and she intends to share it with the world at large.

The article (written by Louis Lesko) also reaffirms what anyone who sees her photographs immediately knows: "Shiho Fukada is a storyteller first. Photography wasn’t the goal for her; it was the vehicle to realize her passion for telling stories. And that’s one of the reasons why her work stands out so significantly. She’s totally committed to the narrative."

Read the article in Digital Photo Pro here

Shiho Fukada's website

Benoît Marquet: Fishermen of Kashmir

Image © Benoît Marquet-All Rights Reserved

Benoît Marquet is an independent photographer based in New Delhi, who specializes in news and documentary photographic assignments from South Asia.

He has worked in Kashmir, and his website showcases a photo essay (Kashmiri Fisherman) on the fishermen who ply their trade on Dal Lake. The life of a Kashmiri fisherman is no different from other fishermen all over the world. Waking up before dawn to fish and returning home just after sunrise, the Kashmiri fishermen have a difficult time making ends meet. It's probably a dying profession, with his children working in other occupations.

Srinagar is said to have been founded by the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka during the third century B.C. Dal Lake, the Jhelum River, and a looping canal that joins the two effectively make an island of Srinagar's busiest section.

Dal Lake is surrounded on three sides by mountains, and it is the home to houseboats and gondola-like shikaras. These provide transportation the lake and its floating gardens. It's estimated that there are 602 houseboats on Dal Lake, supporting a population of nearly 60,000 people. An interesting factoid about the houseboats: During the Raj, the ruler of Kashmir did not allow the British to build homes on Kashmiri territory, so to circumvent the law, they built houseboats.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

65th POYi

Image Copyright © Muhammed Muheisen/AP -All Rights Reserved

The 65th Pictures of the Year International competition is open, and invites entries to the world's oldest and one of the most prestigious photojournalism contest. The deadline for the entries is Friday, January 18.

I found the above photograph by Muhammed Muheisen (The Associated Press) of Muslim pilgrims praying at Jabal Al Rahma ("the mountain of forgiveness") holy mountain, outside Mecca, to be one of the most powerful in the 64th POYi. It was awarded Third Place in the Feature category, and it's proof that non-Western photographers are rapidly and deservedly making their mark in the photojournalism world.

65th POYi

Sandra Steele Kunz: Women of the World

Image Copyright © Sandra Steele Kunz-All Rights Reserved

Sandra ("Sandy") Steele Kunz is a photographer based in Central Oregon who has her camera lenses firmly trained on the world, but especially focused on India, Bhutan and Indochina. Her favorite photographic subjects are Buddhism and environmental portraits of women and children. Most of her photographs are spontaneous, and she generally avoids arranged photo shoots.

Sandy was one the first photographer to join my inaugural photo expedition to India, Nepal and Bhutan in October 2000, and she has been on every single one since then. So I know first hand that her passion for visually documenting Buddhist culture is exemplary, and that her empathy for women and children is exceptional. I have her extraordinary photograph of a woman holding a baby in Orissa (above), and it currently graces my office. It speaks volumes as to her skills.

I'm glad to see Sandy's newly-minted website.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

1 on 1: Gavin Gough

The Travel Photographer blog will occasionally post interviews with both travel and editorial working photographers. The first interview of 2008 is with Gavin Gough, a full-time freelance working photographer from Great Britain.

TTP: When did you decide to become a photographer? Who or what influenced your decision?

GG: I've entertained ambitions of being a photographer since leaving school but followed a more mainstream career until a sabbatical in 2003. That year off gave me the opportunity to change track and became the launching point for my new career. Realizing just how quickly time is passing is a great motivator and once I had made the decision I knew that the remainder of my working life would be devoted to photography.

TTP: Do you have any formal training regarding photography?

GG: I attended a series of classes many years ago, some of which were taken with a really inspiring teacher who was the most observant person I have ever met. He was the first person to teach me that seeing things with a “photographer's eye” would reveal different viewpoints and perspectives. Other than those early classes, I am entirely self-taught.

TTP : if you had the choice, where is your favorite place to live and work as a photographer in the world and why?

GG: I am lucky enough to be able to work anywhere in the world but I especially enjoy working in the Indian sub-continent and South East Asia. Nepal feels like a home from home, and away from the beaten track, it is still very unspoiled and the local people are charm personified.

India is a photographer's dream but like a world apart. Impossible to sum up in a few sentences, it is a chaos of contradictions, and remains one of the most hospitable places I know.

Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos are a delight to visit. I once owned a rickshaw in Cambodia and thought I might use it to show tourists around Angkor if the photographic work didn't take off. I've been completely seduced by Vietnam and it is a place where I can easily imagine living.

My main base, however, remains in England as it really is one of the few places in the world where you can get a decent cup of tea. The Uruguayans are enthusiastic tea-drinkers too so I'm always happy to go back to Uruguay.

TTP: Describe your own favorite image, and describe how you went about creating it.

GG: I really struggled to find an answer to this question. Perhaps because I find it easier to talk enthusiastically about other people's photo's (I try to maintain the stereotype of a self-deprecating Englishman), although it's really just that my favorite photo is different on any given day.

So, for today at least, I have selected one of a Hindu religious teacher or “Swami” taken in Varanasi in northern India as a recent favorite. I was walking along the bank of the Ganges shortly after sunrise and turned a corner to be confronted by the sight of this man standing on his head, performing his ritual morning yoga routine. I obviously didn't want to interrupt him so discretely snapped a couple of frames before he turned himself, with great elegance, up the right way, at which point I asked if I could continue to take photographs.

He was a charming man and we talked for some time before he offered to show me the nearby ashram where he was staying. It was another example of how photography can open doors and help make friends.

I like this particular picture because it tends to make people do a quick double-take when they first see it. Although his face is obscured, I love the round spectacles lying on the ground, carefully placed there before he began his exercises.

This photo will form part of a panel that I'm exhibiting in London in February '08.

TTP: Describe a day in your professional life.

GG: On location I'll be up and out before sunrise, ready to catch the first light. I will often stay out all day, shooting details and interiors if the light becomes harsh and I will be back at a pre-chosen location at dusk and for an hour after sunset. I'll spend the evening uploading the day's photos to a laptop, making my first selections and beginning the process of cataloging.

I love waking up with the knowledge that if I want to pack a bag and go to Belgium, Bolivia or Bhutan then that's my call. I hesitate to paint too rosy a picture though as “Travel Photographer” is a title that many people assume brings with it equal measures of glamor and wealth, neither of which is true.

TTP: Tell your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, most touching story from a photoshoot!

GG: I've been mugged in Rio (who hasn't?), robbed in Florence (I still maintain that my best-ever pictures were lost that day), held by Maoist rebels in Nepal (they were very polite) and chased across Saharan sand dunes by shadowy masked men (I think they were probably only trying to sell me a night's accommodation), all of which sounds much scarier than it was in reality.

The downsides to my work are easily outweighed by the positive experiences though and they are too numerous to recount. Photography is a great ice-breaker and, if approached with the right attitude and with sensitivity, carrying a camera can offer ways to quickly break down barriers.

I am frequently touched by the generosity of strangers and the hospitality shown by those who often have much less than I do. Time and time again I have seen that it is often those who have least who offer most. Making friends via photography is a rare privilege and I have been fortunate to have made many friends during my short career so far.

TTP: What types of assignments are you most attracted to?

GG: Ones that pay the biggest daily rate! Seriously, the money is a big incentive. I have a mortgage to pay and new equipment to buy. I know that sounds mercenary but it's a real luxury to be able to pick and choose assignments based purely on your own whims. I am a working photographer after all.

Having said that, whatever the assignment, I will try to put some time aside to shoot just for myself. Of course, I love to arrive in places that are new to me most of all so would prefer to go to those places first but you should see how much I spend with Canon, Adobe and Apple every year! Believe me, I go where the money takes me!

TTP: How would you describe your photographic style?

GG: This follows on from the last question in that I'm usually showing the best of a location for the benefit of travel companies and stock libraries. So there are lots of blue skies and smiling faces in my commercial work as these wholesome, unspoiled views are the best sellers.

However, I've always been a great admirer of the more gritty, editorial style and although I am a million miles from being in the company of those well-known editorial shooters, It is clear that I am now tending towards a more editorial style in my personal work.

TTP: Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven't already?

GG: The winner of this year's Travel Photographer of the Year competition won an opportunity to photograph the Dalai Lama and I would gladly have swapped all of my other awards and successes for that chance.

TTP: Describe the photo gear, as well as (if digital) your computer hardware and software you use.

GG: I use Canon EOS 1Ds MKII bodies with a selection of Canon 'L' series lenses ranging from 16mm to 200mm. The Canon IS f/2.8 70-200mm is a gorgeous lens. I carry gear in either Lowepro or Crumpler backpacks although I'm still searching for the perfect camera bag.

I work with a MacBook Pro on location, backing up to LaCie All-Terrain external drives. I process RAW files with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS3 and I manage my photo library with iView MediaPro.

Monday, 7 January 2008

WPost: Praying for Benazir



The Washington Post has featured a short video by Travis Fox on the gatherings following Benazir Bhutto's assassination in December.

Her assassination hasn't only caused enormous havoc on internal Pakistani politics, but it also created considerable resentment between the dominant Punjabis and the remaining tribal and ethnic minorities. Many Sindhis (like Benazir) believe that she wasn't assassinated because she opposed extremism and advocated democracy, but that she was killed because she was a Sindhi.

According to the Washington Post: "Few believe the country is in imminent danger of fracturing again. But Bhutto's death has exacerbated ethnic tension in at least two ways: It has angered non-Punjabis because of her status as a member of a minority, and it has eliminated one of the few Pakistani politicians whose reputation transcended ethnicity."

As Gust Avrakotos (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the excellent movie Charlie Wilson's War) says: "We shall see".

TTP Recap of the Week

For your convenience, here's the past week's (December 31- January 6) most read posts on TTP:

Update on Batteries
Revamped Photo-Expeditions Website
Heathrow's New Baggage Rules

Sunday, 6 January 2008

News: Heathrow's New Baggage Rule

According to the BBC, most UK airports are preparing to let passengers take more than one piece of hand luggage on flights from Monday, to coincide with extra security checks.

Heathrow, which is an absolute disgrace in terms of passenger service, is one of the airports where two hand luggage pieces will now be permitted. It seems that new scanners have now been installed, and this will facilitate security checks. The other restrictions regarding liquids etc are still in effect.

For those of us who travel from New York to London and back, British Airways will allow two pieces of hand luggage per passenger, while Virgin Atlantic will allow one piece of cabin luggage per passengers in Economy and Premium Economy Class (plus laptop, handbag or similar); and two pieces of luggage per passenger traveling first class.

This will provide some relief to photographers who have lots of gear to carry on board. Of course, weight considerations for carry-on luggage are still in place, but at least one hurdle has been removed.

Streets Eats In Bangkok

Image © Josef Polleross /New York Times-All Rights Reserved

To compensate for my irascible Sunday rant on Manhattan brunches, here's a slideshow from the New York Times on Street Eats in Bangkok. The photography is by Josef Polleross, and the accompanying article is written by by Joshua Kurlantzick who has experienced Bangkok street restaurants for a decade.

He writes on what most frequent travelers to Thailand know well; the best food in Thailand is served by street vendors and at small neighborhood restaurants. What I didn't realize however, is that it's because of historical reasons that Bangkok has some of the best street food in the world. It has long attracted migrants from all over Asia, so its street cuisine, both from street carts and in tiny eateries, blends many Asian and South Asian styles of cooking.

The article provides information as to the names and locations of these eateries, so the next time I'm in Bangkok, you'll find me there.

Sunday Rant V

Here's a non-photography related rant, and it's about Sunday brunch. Yes, brunch...the meal that is neither fish nor fowl...neither breakfast nor lunch and neither this nor that...the hideous meal that's supposed to combine breakfast and lunch.

Living in an area of Manhattan that seemingly has more restaurants and cafes than people, I'm getting increasingly ticked off by this in-your-face scam which restaurants love to heave on its patrons every Sunday. Why do restaurants love brunches? Because it's a breakfast with the price tag of a decent lunch. You do the math: a couple of eggs, a bunch of left-over reheated spinach (if you order eggs Florentine), maybe a few dry rashers of bacon, and worst of all a glass of orange juice mixed with plonky champagne called Mimosa, or some other revolting variation. Moreover, anyone can cook a brunch. On Sunday, the higher-paid chefs can stay home, have a proper lunch, and leave the "understudies" to cook on brunch days.

The argument for the brunch scam is that people wake up late on Sundays, and take their time before having their first meals. I have no problem with that. These people can have a late breakfast wherever and whenever they want. What I have a problem with is that the majority of restaurants in the area do not offer lunch on Sundays...just brunch at lunch prices. In fact, I've sat down in restaurants on Sundays a few times and got haughty looks because I asked for a "lunch" menu...snotty up-and-down looks as if I had just walked in from the Gobi desert.

You want to know why they don't offer you a lunch menu and a brunch menu on Sundays? Because a three-year old would immediately realize that brunch is a scam...and would order from the lunch menu. The restaurant owners wouldn't like it and the chefs would hate it.

I admire whoever started this brunch scam...I really do. Charging lunch prices for a three-dollar breakfast and getting away with it is chutzpah with a capital C.

That's my rant and that's why I don't do brunches.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

One Shot: Vinayak Das

Image Copyright © Vinayak Das-All Rights Reserved

Vinayak Das was born in Calcutta, and according to his biography is completely self taught as a photographer. He specializes in documentary and people photography. He particularly enjoys honing his current skills in working with natural light and subjects of social and cultural interest.

His biography also tells us that he is currently working on a project called 'Bangalore Markets'( A look at the traditional heritage market places in Bangalore). Yakshagana ( A look at Karnataka's traditional Folk Art Form ) and Reflections of Life are two of his new projects that will be ready in this year. He is a contributor to Visage, one of India's leading stock photography agencies. Vinayak has been involved closely with several TV shows in India. He also writes for The Economic Times, The Times of India, The Statesman and The Telegraph.

For this One Shot feature, I chose Vinayak's image of a Yakshagana dancer in his stunning costume and make-up. Yakshagana is a traditional theater form combining dance, music, spoken word, costume-makeup, and stage technique with a distinct style and form, performed in India's Karnataka state.

For more of his skilled imagery of the Yakshagana and other projects:

Vinayak Das

Friday, 4 January 2008

NY Times: Karachi After Bhutto

Image © Tyler Hicks/New York Times-All Rights Reserved

The New York Times brings us this slideshow of Karachi street scenes from one of my favorite photojournalists, Tyler Hicks. The title, Karachi After Bhutto is self-explanatory, and portends an major political upheaval in this critically important country.

It's been reconfirmed this morning that our mass media hasn't lost its timidity in reporting on the current political theater in Pakistan.

Here's an article in the NY Times reporting on yesterday's meeting of journalists with Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, who rejected any suggestion that he or any members of the Pakistani military or intelligence agencies played a role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

This sets the tone of the article:

" In a televised question and answer session that lasted more than 90 minutes, Mr. Musharraf appeared relaxed and confident, telling journalists that they often got their facts wrong and that they did not understand the situation in Pakistan."

On the same event, here's the final paragraph from an article from the British newspaper, The Independent :

"Instead one was left wondering why Mr Musharraf appeared so desperate to explain himself to the world? Does he genuinely believe he is badly misunderstood? A clue, perhaps, came in his final exhortation to the media – words that were cut from the television broadcast. "Please," he said. "I am not a fraud, I am not a liar."

I know from where I'll continue to get my international news, and you can tell it's not from the New York Times.

For some levity: I've chosen the above photograph because of the white cat meandering among the stains of betel juice and the other detritus. Isn't it amazing that it manages to remain spotless?

Karachi After Bhutto

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Update on Batteries

It appears that the flap on the recent pronouncement by the Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding traveling with lithium batteries was much ado about nothing.

Ken Geiger, Senior Editor for Technology at the National Geographic Society has just written a clarifying post on its blog, in which he essentially says that the checked baggage ban is directed only at large lithium batteries. According to his calculations, even high-end digital SLRs, like the Nikon D3 and Canon 1Ds MKlll, use lithium-ion batteries that are below the DOT's threshold.

He also learned that the DOT will restate the wording of the ban on Lithium batteries in checked bags, to make it clear that only larger packs are affected (much larger than typical digital SLR or notebook batteries).

Notwithstanding, I'll repeat my earlier advice: Pack your spare batteries in ziplock bags, cover the terminals with electrical tape if these have no covers and carry them in your hand luggage.

Ken Geiger's NGS Post

Olympus LS-10 PCM Audio Recorder


GIZMODO reports that Olympus announced its new LS-10 Linear PCM Audio Recording Device, a portable professional recording tool for "musicians and everyone who values high-quality recording."

It weighs 5.8 ounces and can track stereo 24-bit 96kHz linear PCM uncompressed. It can record and play back in WAV, MP3 and WMA. The LS-10 has two gigabytes of internal flash memory and also features an SD/SDHC removable media card slot to further expand its capacity. It can run 12 hours on two AA batteries. The LS-10 Digital Audio Device has an estimated street price of $399.99 and will be available in January 2008.

The GIZMODO reviewer adds this: "The only thing I'm truly wary of is the user interface—Olympus has given its recorders some supremely ugly interfaces in the past, and there's no indication that this will be any more intuitive than its predecessors."

GIZMODO's post on Olympus LS-10 PCM Audio Recorder

LaCie Rugged All-Terrain HD

LaCie just announced that it increased the capacity of its Rugged All-Terrain Hard Disk's to 320GB. It's available in USB 2.0 and a USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and FireWire800 version for speedier data transfers.

The company claims that the Rugged (and the new 2.5-inch Little Disk) now offers the largest capacity available for any single-disk portable drive. The LaCie Rugged is a tough portable hard drive, and is designed to protect data against bumps, bruises and hard knocks. Its aluminum shell and rubber bumper protect it from table-height drops for extra protection.

The LaCie Rugged in the 320GB capacity will be available late January.

LaCie Rugged All-Terrain HD

Andrew Gibson: Bolivia

Image © Andrew Gibson-All Rights Reserved

Andrew Gibson is a British photographer who works on cruise ships, which has given him ample opportunities to travel and photograph far-flung places.

He specializes in South America, in particular Argentina and the Andean regions of Boliva and Peru. He plans to move to Argentina to focus on his photography and writings.

The body of his work is slanted towards art-travel photography rather than documentary travel photography, and he often tones his photographs as his lovely image of a church in Puerto Chivica in Bolivia.

There are two reasons for featuring Andrew's work here on TTP; one is that he makes available copies of his e-books in PDF format to anyone who wants to download them. He has three books: Bolivia, Cementerio de Recoleta, and Central Park in NYC. You may want to do the same when circulating your portfolios to editors, clients or even friends...everybody has a PDF reader on their computers.

The second reason is that his blog has an interview with John Cleare, which I encourage you to read. With 45 years experience, he's an inspiration to all photographers, whether interested in mountaineering (as he is) or not. Cleare is not just a photographer, but also a mountaineer, wilderness traveler, writer, author, filmmaker and lecturer.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

NY Times: Medicine Hunter

Image ©Jennifer Szymaszek/New York Times - All Rights Reserved

The New York Times seems to have recently enhanced its multimedia features available through its website. These appear to be better edited (except for some of its "fluff" travel slideshows) and are more interesting both visually and content-wise. Let's hope this continues since it provides creative opportunities and avenues to photojournalists and photographers.

A recent multimedia feature is on the efforts of an ethnobotanist who calls himself the Medicine Hunter and about his quest in Peru to study indigenous medicinal plants. His goal is for people to use safer medicine, and by that he means plant medicine.

In Peru, he is studying maca, a small root vegetable that grows in the country's central highlands. He describes it as “a turnip that packs a punch. It imparts energy, sex drive and stamina like nothing else.”

If this is true, the maca will catch like wildfire in the United States, where about 36% of all adults ingest some form of complementary and alternative medicine. The baby boomer generation will provide an enthusiastic target market for the enterprising companies that will make maca pills.

The photographs are by Jennifer Szymaszek, who also recorded the audio. Note to photographers: start learning (and start using) audio recording techniques as soon as you can, if you haven't done so already.

NY Times' Multimedia Feature: Medicine Hunter in Peru

NY Times' Article: On a Remote Path to Cures