Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tom Bourdon: Varanasi Holy Man

Photo © Tom Bourdon -All Rights Reserved

I thought that Tom Bourdon's photograph of a sadhu offering water to the sun on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi would be a perfect choice to end my blog posts for 2009. It projects the optimism we ought to feel today while we are at the cusp of welcoming a brand new year.

Tom Bourdon is UK born, and is an award winning international travel photographer who specializes in photographing religious and cultural festivals/celebrations across the globe. To my knowledge, he's one of the very few who specialize in documenting festivals, and if I'm not mistaken he might be traveling to the Kumbh Mela this year in Haridwar. If he does, you can bet he'll have splendid images to show.

Happy New Year to all my readers...and looking forward to see you again next year!

NGS' Traveler: Best of 2009

National Geographic Traveler's Editor-in-Chief Keith Bellows presents his favorite pictures published in his magazine throughout 2009. The audio slideshow features 14 photographs made by various photographers in countries ranging for Malaysia to Peru.

I'm always intrigued how photo editors choose the photographs that are published, but I haven't learned much from Bellows' narrative. This collection actually mystifies me...sure, there is a bunch of lovely photographs but many are pedestrian and unimaginative, to say the least. The photograph of the four women on a bench in Shanghai is one of those. I looked at it for a while, trying to figure out the reason(s) for its inclusion here, but honestly couldn't.

I don't know if this was rush job put together by novice interns, but it's certainly not a shining effort by the National Geographic.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Michael Bednar: Eagle Hunters of Mongolia

Photo © Michael Bednar -All Rights Reserved

I like big pictures, and Michael Bednar's website galleries have such large photographs, that viewing them is a virtual immersion into his imagery. His photo story about the Eagle Hunters of Mongolia is a visual treat...especially since it features not only environmental portraits of the hunters and their eagles, but also breathtaking imagery of the stunning Mongolian landscape.

For Kazakhs, hunting with eagles is ingrained in their cultural heritage, and historians believe hunting with birds of prey was practiced by nomadic tribes in Central Asia almost 6000 years ago.

Michael Bednar is a travel and documentary photographer based in Vancouver. He started by discovering the diversity of life and cultures in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. After some years of globetrotting, Michael returned to Canada to attend the Western Academy of Photography and secured a diploma in Professional Photography.

He worked at daily newspapers in Southern Alberta, and eventually turned freelance, with his photographs published internationally.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mathias Braschler and Monika Fischer

Photo © Mathias Braschler/Monika Fischer -All Rights Reserved

Vanity Fair magazine has featured the work of Mathias Braschler and Monika Fischer, who dedicate themselves to documenting in portraiture the human cost of the climatic changes.

Schlepping large-format cameras from Timbuktu to Siberia, and from Australia to the Alps, Braschler and Fischer visited 21 countries during 2009, and have photographed the inhabitants of deserts, mountains, forests, and glacial valleys....thus documenting examples of accelerating environmental changes.

Both photographers were nominated in Vanity Fair's Hall of Fame for their work.

Via Photojournalism Links

New York Times' 2009's Travel Photos

Photo © Justin Mott/NY Times -All Rights Reserved

Continuing the wrap up of the "Best Of" for the year, here is The New York Times' best travel photographs as picked by their own photo editors, and which were published in the newspaper's Travel section during 2009.

The photographers whose work is shown in the feature are Chris Bickford, Peter DaSilva, Lalo de Almeida, Josh Haner and Todd Heisler, Andy Isaacson, Michael Kamber, João Pedro Marnoto, Kevin Moloney, Justin Mott, Michael Nagle, Jeff Pflueger, Susana Raab, Scott B. Rosen, Brian Sokol, Vanessa Vick and Dave Yoder.

I was surprised at the statement made in the feature that 19 photographs are the maximum number for The New York Times slide-show player, and wonder why that is so.

Monday, December 28, 2009

American Photo: Images of the Year 2009

American Photography Magazine is featuring Images of the Year 2009 . Rather predictably (but deservedly) Ed Kashi is the Photojournalism Category Winner with his essay documenting the Trans Amadi Slaughter, an abattoir in Nigeria that had sprung up after petroleum-related pollution destroyed local fisheries.

Photo © April Maciborka -All Rights Reserved

Other winners in the Photojournalism category are Larry Louie, Ed Ou, Andrew Biraj, April Maciborka, and Achille Piotrowicz. I thought that April Maciborka's work (above) documenting shrimp farmers in India was the best. Her toned photographs are really impressive.

I featured April Macibroka on this blog earlier this year, in which I thought that her work exemplified the essence of what a travel photographer is, or should be. The post can be found here, so I'm glad she earned the recognition that she did.

NYT: 2009 The Year in Pictures

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

The newspaper version of the New York Times's Week In Review yesterday was a real fillip for photojournalism. The totality of the first page was of Tyler Hicks' superb blurry photograph of a US soldier in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, and much of the section was filled with the remarkable photographs by Emilio Morenatti, Moises Saman, Jehad Nga and Rita Castelnuovo.

On the section's second page, I paused at the editor's decision to publish two photographs by Tyler Hicks of the utter devastation of the Gaza Strip and the terrific loss of innocent lives, and the nearby positioning of a third photograph by Rita Castelnuovo showing a group of Israeli soldiers grieving over the loss of a colleague. I imagined the editor's cerebral gymnastics as to how to present a "balanced" view of the Gaza atrocity with a couple of photographs. Ah well...

As I said, the Week In Review section this week is a job well done. You can see it as a slideshow on the NYT's website.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Unearthing Asia Magazine

Unearthing Asia bills itself as a travel 'zine focusing on culture, lifestyle and attractions all around Asia.

It was started by Nikolas Tjhin and Michelle Lee, whose initial idea was to publish a travel related real-life publication, but as the costs were prohibitive, decided to publish it online. It's available online and downloadable in PF format.

If my understanding is correct, it can also be found in paper form in South East Asia.

It may be an interesting addition to travel photographers who seek new venues for their photographs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

POV: New Luggage Rules For Photogs?

The news media are reporting that the incident on the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit was certainly an attempted terrorist attack. This is causing extra security measures being implemented on all flights destined to the United States, which include body searches of all US bound travelers.

As I mostly fly Virgin Atlantic, I visited its website and it now (as of December 26) advises its passengers of additional security measures, which will cause traveling photographers considerable difficulties, especially regarding their camera bags.

The new regulations include restrictive hand baggage allowances for all passengers flying into all US airports, and have now been reduced to only one item of hand baggage.

According to Virgin, This item should not exceed 23 x 36 x 56cm, (approx 9 x 14 x 22 inches) and 13lb/6kg in weight, and should only contain the items needed during the flight.

Knowing the herd mentality of airlines, it won't be long before this restriction may be applied to all flights, in order to either economize on fuel or to generate fees on additional (or heavy) check-in luggage.

And here's the worst part of the regulations: "...should only contain items needed during the flight". This is not good news for us, folks.

Is the way forward to dump all our expensive gear in a Pelican hard case(s), check it in (and pay for it), and spend the flight praying that the case(s) and contents make it back to the US from wherever we are flying from???

And the coup de grace? From CNN's website: "There were no reported delays from Heathrow Saturday, but passengers boarding a U.S.-bound Virgin Atlantic aircraft were told there would be no in-flight electronic entertainment in the wake of the incident."

Nori Jemil: Bhutan

Photo © Nori Jemil -All Rights Reserved

Nori Jemil is a writer, photographer and a teacher who joined The Travel Photographer's Bhutan: Land of the Druk Yul Photo~Expedition™, and she has produced a broad body of work during the trip's two weeks' duration.

The above photograph of a novice was made at the Wangdicholing Palace, which had served as the principal summer residence of the first and second kings of Bhutan, but currently houses novices and monks.

Photo © Nori Jemil -All Rights Reserved

This vertical photograph was made at the ancient Ura Goempa. The normally quiet temple was bustling with monks when we arrived, as a prominent judge had just died in the Ura area, and funerary rites were being held in its small ceremonial hall. The photograph captures the wisps of smoke rising from incense sticks, next to the head monks who were officiating the ceremony.

Photo © Nori Jemil-All Rights Reserved

The above photograph of a novice throwing his cape over his shoulders was also made at the Wangdicholing Palace and monastery.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Nori was commended for her entry in the Travel Photographer Of The Year's New Talent 2009 - A Traveller's Tale competition with a series of four narrative photographs on an island in Chilean Patagonia.

She was also the runner-up in the Landscape category of the 2008 Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year competition with her photograph of the Cerro Torre and Monte Fitz Roy mountains in Patagonia.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Nikon Festival: "Today..."

I thought this short movie would be appropriate for Christmas Day. It's courtesy of the Nikon Festival. Just click the arrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays To TTP's Readers...

Oh, and my photography New Year's Resolution? It's to go wider, increase my use of prime lenses and to be more complex in composition (ie more layers, etc).

And to counterbalance excessive seasonal consumerism, here's an end-of-year bit of wisdom: No-name soft gear (bags, pouches, jackets, etc) available at Army Surplus stores are often as good/tough/reliable/useful as branded and much more expensive products. A $5 no-name canvas pouch or a $30 branded one? It's a no brainer.

I wish all the best to my blog's readers, its Google followers, my Twitter page followers, and many others.

The Travel Photographer blog will soon be three years old! Incredible!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Travel Photographer's 2009 Picks

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

Rather than imitating the "Best of 2009" photographs that are put together by various media blog sites, I thought that I'd show those photographs that are best reflective of my photographic style and interest, which were made while on my Photo~Expeditions™.

The galleries in which these photographs appear are linked in the credit notice under each photograph.

The first photograph is of a pensive worker at a trader's "godown" in Mattencherry (Kochi). The area is where trade in spices such as pepper and turmeric, as well as ginger and tea was conducted. It still has remnants of this trading activity, but it's not what it used to be.

The worker wasn't posing...he was just standing there against this beautifully colored background.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy |Theyyams-All Rights Reserved

Theyyam is a unique ritual which is performed only in Northern Kerala. After a complex preparatory ritual involving elaborate make-up and meditation, the performers are incarnated as deities, and dispense advice and counseling to the throngs of devotees who attend these rituals. It's a living cult of several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs, and is observed by all the castes and classes in this region.

I have never been so close to a living deity before!

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy |Kathakali-All Rights Reserved

Another favorite photograph was made at a Kathakali school in Thrissur in Kerala. I had arranged to spend half a day at the school to photograph the preparations for a Kathakali performance, and had total access to the performers being dressed for it. It was interesting to see that rigid wholesale plastic bags for basmati rice were used to fashion petticoats for some the dancers. These provide support and lift to the pleated yellow skirt seen in the photograph.

Kathakali is one of the oldest theater forms in the world, and originated in Kerala and in which dancers/actors take part in performances based on Hindu mythology, such as the two epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy |Gnawa!-All Rights Reserved

The Gnawa (or Gnaoua) Music Festival 2009 in the coastal city of Essaouira was a sensational visual and aural experience, and an opportunity to photograph musicians belonging to the mystical Sufi religious order in Morocco. Descended from former slaves from Sub-Saharan Africa, these musicians perform a particular rhythmic (some say cacophonous) style of music, part African, part Berber and part Arab. Many of the hard core devotees of this music experience trances and loss of consciousness.

The photograph was made during a performance by Ganga Zagora, a Gnawa group from the south of Morocco, at the ancient zaouia of Sidi Bilal within the walls of Essaouira. The large castanet-like hand cymbals used by the Gnawa and seen in the photograph are called querqab.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy |Street Barbers of Manali-All Rights Reserved

This is a simple portrait of a Rajasthani woman, whose magnetic but innocent beauty just jumped at me. I was photographing at a Rajasthani encampment in Manali while teaching at the Foundry Photojournalism Workhop, and there she was, under a tent and tending to a small child. I was told that the Rajasthani families in the camp were seasonal migrants, coming to Manali to work and escape summer's torrid heat in their home province. Apart from her radiant smile, she was very shy.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy |Dancers of Tamshing-All Rights Reserved

One of the many photographs I made while on my Bhutan Photo~Expedition™ during the Tamshingphala tsechu near Chamkar in the heartland of the country. This dancer was rehearsing his steps for the dance of the stag and hounds (Shawa Shachi), and his agility was such that his jumps were almst to fast for my camera to capture.

I was glad to photograph his spinning as much as he was willing to do, as these photographs were used to create the illusion of movement with the "flip book" technique in a slideshow.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy |Budhha's Apprentices-All Rights Reserved

One of my favorite photographs of Bhutan made during the aforementioned photo trip last October. Photographed a the Chimi Lakhang monastery in Wangdue, and proving that Buddhist novices (usually called monklets) are still children. Here, a novice is perched on the window sill of the abbot's room, watching an Indian television serial. Fearing of being discovered, his companion runs away.

Being dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman, the temple is popularly considered to be a temple of fertility.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A short trip to Brazil…

Hi there!

Long time no news. It has been a busy year, what with launching our brand new budget adventure travel website South America Adventure Travel just last week. I’ve not really had the time to write much, let alone travel…

But, last week I finally got a chance to escape and went to Brazil for 6 days to join my long time friends from Germany, Gerd and Christel. They had been to Galapagos the week before (on the Nemo II, an excellent Catamaran for those who like to travel in style without losing the sporty element of being out on the open seas). They arrived at Sao Paulo Guarulhos Airport about 3.5 hours before me and took a day-room in the Caesar Park Hotel just 5 minutes from the Airport, to relax a bit after the night-long journey from Guayaquil.

As soon as I arrived, I picked up the car that we had reserved with Budget and went to pick them up. After a healthy breakfast (Caesar’s Burger Special with lots of black coffee) we got in the car and drove toward Paraty, some 4 hours north on the coastal road between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It has rained severely in almost all of Brazil for the past weeks, so we were happy to arrive in Paraty and hide ourselves in the beautiful Pousada Arte Urquijo ( for a day or 2…

Paraty is a town with an amazing history: everything from sugar cane, coffee and tobacco to precious stones and gold, to the famous Cachaça (which the Portuguese transported to Africa to serve as a currency in the slave trade) have passed through this town over the past centuries, bringing some serious wealth and development. All this was in the past however, and for the last century the main commercial routes from Minas Gerais (where most of the country’s riches came from) to the coast ended up running through Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, leaving Paraty behind in a slowly declining colonial state.

Ironically it was these last “100 years of solitude” that put Paraty back in the spotlights about 30 years ago, when a Brazilian TV broadcasting company decided to shoot a now famous “Telenovela” (soap opera) in the, by then, almost completely forgotten town. Many Brazilians love and vigorously watch these soaps, and that was how Paraty returned to their mental map. Since it had remained virtually unchanged for so long (as our guide told us: Paraty is “preserved by poverty”), it had an excellent colonial charm and soon enough the first new explorers began to arrive from Rio and Sao Paulo to find the perfect weekend hide-out. Shortly thereafter the first investors came; old colonial structures were purchased and converted into comfortable second homes for the well-to-do of these, the two largest of Brazilian cities. The word Paraty apparently sounds like “Paradise” in French (when expressed in that beautiful language) and today most of the foreigners investing in the region come from this European country. But the editor of the famous Harry Potter books has also found a second home here, and brought with her her insatiable craving for literature, resulting in Paraty now hosting Brazil’s annual book fair and the town having some seriously well-stocked book stores!

Luckily, the place has not lost its original looks; as a matter of fact it is becoming more and more beautiful as time goes by. Paraty wants to become a part of UNESCO World Heritage and much is being done to preserve and restore the town to its original state.

Just across our lovely Pousada, Richard and Yara Roberts run their “Academy of Cooking & other Pleasures” and we were lucky enough to secure an evening with them learning how to prepare typical dishes from the Minas Gerais province. We started with a black bean soup, which was followed by a Linguiça risotto with crispy collard greens and a green salad with pumpkin seeds and Canastra cheese, and then rounded it all off with a stunning “Doce de Leite” parfait with candied banana. Yara is a famous cook and she met Richard (a former CEO of several large international companies) in Paris. Their love of the gourmet life somehow led them to Paraty where Yara purchased a house some 25 years ago - the very same place that formed the backdrop of a great evening of preparing and enjoying a wonderful meal (accompanied of course by several caipirinhas, an excellent Argentine wine and some of the best Cachaça I have tasted in years). Yara and Richard are great hosts and we had an excellent conversation that led us straight through the evening. It was not before well past midnight that we made our way back to our hotel… Yummy!

If you have a chance you should really try and book an evening with Richard and Yara; you will be mesmerized! Also, the best Cachaça in Brazil apparently comes from a place called Salinas, so make sure to look or ask for a bottle coming from there when you order; it is not exported, so you can only get it in Brazil…

From Paraty we made our way to Angra dos Reis, where we parked the car and took a private boat transfer to the Pousada Estrela da Ilha ( at our next destination: Ilha Grande. Wikipedia says:

Ilha Grande is an island located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, and part of the municipality of Angra dos Reis. The island is largely undeveloped and noted for its scenic beauty, which includes tropical beaches, luxuriant vegetation and a rugged landscape.

Ilha Grande is one of the most pristine remnants of Brazil's Atlantic rainforest, one of the richest ecosystems in the world and a hotspot for biodiversity and conservation. It holds some of the largest remaining populations of many endangered species, including the red-ruffed fruit crow (Pyroderus scutatus), the brown howler monkey (Alouatta fusca), the maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus) the red-browed Amazon parrot (Amazona rhodocorytha), and the broad-snouted cayman (Caiman latirostris). The seas around the island, which are also protected, feature a unique convergence of tropical, subtropical, and temperate-zone marine life, and may be the only waters in the world where it is possible to see corals and tropical fish along with Magellanic penguins and Southern right whales.

The entire island is a protected area, with most of its territory included in Ilha Grande State Park, and the rest subject to stringent development restrictions. Small-scale ecotourism, however, is encouraged, and the island, which is road-less and off-limits to cars, features over 150 km of hiking trails connecting the handful of coastal villages and hamlets where lodging is available, to each other and to the many beaches, mountain peaks, waterfalls, and pristine forests.

That about says enough I would say, except that it is a lot more fun exploring the island when the sun is out… Instead we had almost constant rain, which sadly forced us to stay indoors most of the time. However, we had one beautiful morning when we actually glimpsed some blue skies through scattered clouds, and took a beautiful walk along the Saco do Céu Bay, along the beaches of Caxadaco and Lopes Mendes. After that we took a boat across the bay and had a marvelous lunch (yes this trip was about eating and drinking mostly…) at the restaurant “Reis Magos”, apparently one of the best places out there for excellent sea food. Afterward the owners took us back to the Pousada in a small fishing boat, and even though the weather turned terrible immediately after our little outing, our day was made already and we spent the rest of the afternoon dozing in our hammocks, overlooking the bay, perfecting the art of doing nothing…

Next day we headed back to the coast to pick up the car and make our way to Rio de Janeiro. I have been there several times, but the place does not cease to amaze me. Not sure what to write about this trip, as this time I did not really go out much (yes it was still raining…), other than that the view from the pool bar on the roof of the Porto Bay International Rio Hotel we stayed at is excellent! I will give you a short recap (again Wikipedia helps out) in case you’ve never been (in which case you have to make sure to go very soon):

Rio de Janeiro ("River of January") is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America. The city was the capital of Brazil for nearly two centuries, from 1763 to 1822 during the Portuguese colonial era, and from 1822 to 1960 as an independent nation. It is also the former capital of the Portuguese Empire. Commonly known as just Rio, the city is also nicknamed A Cidade Maravilhosa or "The Marvelous City."

Rio de Janeiro is famous for its natural settings, its carnival celebrations, samba, Bossa Nova and hotel-lined tourist beaches, such as Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, along with its slums. Some of the most famous landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Christ, known as Christ the Redeemer ('Cristo Redentor') atop Corcovado mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) with its cable car; the Sambódromo, a giant permanent parade stand used during Carnival and Maracanã stadium, one of the world's largest football stadiums. Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and will be the first South American city to host the event.

The city also boasts the largest and second largest urban forests in the world: Floresta da Tijuca, or "Tijuca Forest." and (almost connected to the first) the forest in Parque Estadual da Pedra Branca, or White Stone State Park.

This trip, apart from relaxing at the hotel and having too many Caipirinhas at the bar, we had another great culinary experience; Azul Marinho (check out reviews in Fodor’s Guide to Brazil). Located at the base of one of many hotels at Arpoador (which divides the neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema), this little restaurant’s kitchen has blown the minds of many. We had a feast of individual stone grilled sea food dishes, including sea bass in rock salt, lobster, giant prawns, and the like, enjoying a street capoeira show before, and a beautiful sunset towards the end of the meal. Kristofer, our half Moroccan, half French waiter, deserves special praise as he made us feel like royalty during the entire evening. If you make it to Rio one of these days and manage to go for a bite at Azul Marinho, please send him my very best regards!

And that was already the last evening with my friends in Brazil. The next morning I got up at 6AM, had a light breakfast, checked out, got the car and drove straight back to Sao Paulo. A friend met me at Guarulhos airport and we had a spectacular lunch in Café Journal (, making it pretty much the best stop-over in a long time. After that I flew back home, back to Karin and the kids, back to my real life, the life I had missed dearly, but still with a taste of Brazil in my mouth…

I just checked out our web page for some info and came across this little gem: Tropical Treasures of Rio, Paraty and Ilha Grande. Seems there is more to do, more to see, more to enjoy…

Happy trails,


Emyr R.E. Pugh: Environmental Portraits

Photo © Emyr R.E. Pugh-All Rights Reserved

In his short website biography, Emyr R.E. Pugh describes himself as a linguist, translator, interpreter and a documentary photographer based in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia....but I think he's way more than that. I have no way of knowing how good his translation skills are, but what I do know is that he's an excellent documentary photographer.

Emyr won Grand Prize in the National Geographic Traveler 2009 World In Focus Contest with this lovely photograph of Master Weng, a master calligrapher in the village of Tunjiao (southwest China), who is seen preparing to write a traditional blessing.

Most of his galleries on his website are portraits; some environmental and others straight facial studies. I gather these were photographed in Hohhot (Inner Mongolia) and Guizhou (Yunnan).

My favorite style of photography is most assuredly photographs taken of people where they either live or work, or in situations that tell a story about who they are and what they I find Emyr's work to be really compelling.

I hope that Emyr will be tempted by multimedia...I can just imagine an audio slideshow of Master Weng in his cramped studio, describing his work among ambient sound.

I was tempted to delay this post until the first days of January, in order to include his work in next year's The Travel Photographer Of 2010, however decided that since I'm the editor (and chief coffee-maker) of this blog, I can do as I please and will include Emyr in next year's poll. I think my readers will agree.

To those of us whose knickers are occasionally pretzel shaped about expensive cameras and lenses, Emyr works with a Canon 40D and a 17-40mm f4...I'm just sayin'.

fotoflōt: Innovative & Cool

I recently received one of my photographs that had been fotoflōt'ed, which means it had been printed on quality photographic paper and then fused on to a 1/8" thick acrylic sheet (10"x15" size).

I chose one of my Theyyam photographs to be fotoflōt'ed, and I'm very pleased by its frameless design, and by the protection it provides to the photograph. The acrylic has low reflection and low glare, and it's a cinch to hang on my walls because of its magnetic wall mounts.

Via fotoflōt's website, I created an account and uploaded (directly from my hard drive...about a 5 minutes wait because of its size) a TIFF version of the Theyyam photograph, and it was totally hassle-free from there on. Within a couple of hours, I received an email from the company saying that my photograph was being processed, and would arrive to my address within two weeks.

Less than 8 days later, I received another email from the company informing me that my fotoflōt frame had been shipped and I would receive it in a couple of days.

I received it as promised, and I ought to add that I really impressed by the packaging, which protected my fotoflōt'ed photograph very well.

An innovative and aesthetically attractive alternative to old-fashioned picture frames. Well recommended.

Monday, December 21, 2009

TTP's Travel Photographer Of The Year Is....

Photo © Joey Lawrence-All Rights Reserved

Joey Lawrence!!!!

The Travel Photographer's readers have voted, and the award goes to Joey Lawrence who gleaned 45% of the total votes cast amongst the four candidates.

Joey is the young photographer I raved about in a post this past summer. He has been shooting commercial photography, photojournalism and music videos around the world by the age of 17, and has the established reputation of being a pioneer of new aged digital hyper-realistic photography, lighting and manipulation.

Joey Lawrence's website is replete with phenomenal photography: his most recent is of the Mentawai (a tribe who live on the Mentawai Islands, off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia). He also photographed the Mursi in Ethiopia's Omo Valley and other tribal groups, as well as of Abyssinian Christian holy men, and the Aghori sadhus in India.

If you haven't already, set aside some quality time to savor Joey's galleries, as well as his thrilling blog. You'll be amazed...that's all I'm going to say because you'll soon know what I'm talking about.

A well deserved applause from the readers of The Travel Photographer blog!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Andy Isaacson: Central Asia

Andy Isaacson is a writer and photojournalist whose work The Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan has just appeared in The New York Times, and was published in Slate and National Geographic Adventure, among others.

He seems to have made a specialty of photographing Central Asia after traveling in Asia for over a year. He considers Brooklyn and the San Francisco Bay Area as his home.

I visited his photography website WorldWebEyes, and greatly enjoyed his diverse portfolios, and was slack-jawed at the beauty of the uncredited music he added to his web site. It must be Tajik or Uzbek, as many of his photographs are from that region, and there are many inflections in the song that sound Persian or Turkic. This plaintive song is just wonderful. Normally, I always turn off the audio embedded in non-multimedia websites, but this time I kept it on and replayed it many times.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Global Post: Whirling Dervishes

Photo © Nichole Sobecki/GlobalPost-All Rights Reserved

Global Post features an article and photographs by Nichole Sobecki titled Death of Rumi Breeds A Lively Dance relating to the most celebrated mystical poet of the Islamic and Sufism, and how the Mevlevi religious order founded by the poet celebrates his life 800 years on, with performances by Sufi whirling dervishes.

The Dervishes are Sufi Muslims who have chosen an ascetic way of life, and were known their extreme poverty and austerity, very similar to the Hindu sadhus.

Sufi whirling is a non-passive form of meditation which is practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. It is a dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which the dervishes seek to reach the source of all perfection by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning around in repetitive circles.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

When I started taking photography seriously a little over 10 years ago, I attended a Sema dances at the Galata Mevlevihanesi in the Beyoglu area of Istanbul. I recall being seated next to a professional photographer, who intimidated me with his air of utter confidence. He started photographing with a bunch of top level Nikons, and so did I with my shiny new Canon Elan II (I just checked and used models are sold for $70). The above photograph was one of my better results, which I am quite sure was a fluke. Whatever it was, I think Nichole Sobecki's photograph is much better.

As the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop will be held in Istanbul, I wager that documenting the dervishes at the Galata Mevlevihanesi will be one of the students' project.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poll: Follow Up

Some days days ago, I posted a new poll asking my readers to choose The Travel Photographer's Travel Photographer of The Year, and so far Joey Lawrence is leading, with Zackary Canepari not too far behind.

So head for the poll here and, if you haven't already, cast your decisive vote for one of the four superb photographers.

The Big Picture Does 2009

Photo © Menahem Kahana-AFP/Getty Images -All Rights Reserved

Photo © Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters -All Rights Reserved

Photo © David Gray/Reuters -All Rights Reserved

One of my favorite photography blogs is The Boston Globe's The Big Picture which has recently featured a look over the past 12 months through photographs. These photographs were spread over three parts.

Out of the total 120 photographs, I've eliminated all photographs dealing with politics, demonstrations, violence against Palestinians, wild-eyed so-called mullahs and anything that has to do with either Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. I'm frankly tired of seeing photographs like these in our media day in and day out. I happen to think that no one really "sees" them anymore. They've become just wallpaper of sorts.

So the above three photographs are those I found to be my favorites out of the 120.

The first photograph is of Orthodox Jews belonging to the Vishnitz Hassidic sect who are peforming a dance as they celebrate the Jewish festival of Purim near Tel Aviv. The photographer is Menahem Kahana.

The second photograph is of a young Kazakh hunter with his hawk during an annual hunting competition near Almaty, Kazakhstan. The photographer is Shamil Zhumatov.

The third photograph is of a Chinese performer dressed in traditional costume singing during the lantern festival in the city of Tianjin, east of Beijing. The photographer is David Gray.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Street Flavors of Bali: Warungs

Photo © Basil Childers/The New York Times -All Rights Reserved

The New York Times' Travel section brings us a welcome feature (especially to those of us living in the frigid North-East) titled Street Flavors of Bali describing some of the island's street food vendors, known locally as warungs.

The slideshow starts off with Naughty Nuri's, a Ubud institution, which occupies a modest shack and where tourists flock to sample its typical menu. During my photo~expedition in 2007, we were supposed to dine there but the wait was too long and we went elsewhere. Another well known spot is Ibu Oka, in the center of Ubud, which only offers roasted pork for a pittance. Naturally, it's a magnet for tourists and locals who sit shoulder to shoulder at its wobbly tables. Despite having an aversion for pork, I ate there once just for the experience and can vouch that its clients walked off with satisfaction.

However the real warungs are those I frequented when traveling on my own in Bali. The no-name roadside stalls and shacks that offer skewers of chicken sate (or satay) grilled to perfection on a few embers of wood coal, and accompanied by pungent tiny red onions. The New York Times article by Gisela Williams mentions Immodium, but I have never had any problems in Bali.

The third warung mentioned in the article is Merta Sari, known island-wide for its sate lilit ikan, a minced fish satay. I've never been, but it will certainly be on my list for my forthcoming Bali: Island of Odalan Photo~Expedition&trade at the end of July 2010. (It's sold out but a wait-list available).

2009 Travel Photographer Of The Year*

Photo © Johan Ensing via TPOTY -All Rights Reserved

The Travel Photographer Of The Year has announced the winners of its 2009 competition. Travel Photographer of the Year 2009 was awarded to G.M.B. Akash, an award-winning and well-known photographer from Bangladesh, who was unanimously voted as the outstanding entrant in the 2009 awards by the judging panel for his vibrant photographs.

There were many more awards and recognitions granted to other well known names such as Karoki Lewis, Larry Louie and Poras Chaudhary...most of whom have been featured on The Travel Photographer blog.

While Akash's quality and scope of work is impressive, I also very much liked the photograph submitted by Johan Ensing of the Netherlands of the fishermen cleaning their nets by Erhai Lake, in the Chinese province of Yunnan (above). His entry won Best Single Image in a Portfolio - People of the World.

I'm also pleased that Nori Jemil of the UK was commended for her entry in the New Talent 2009 - A Traveller's Tale competition with a series of four narrative photographs on an island in Chilean Patagonia.

Nori was one of the talented photographers on my Bhutan Land of the Druk Yul Photo~Expedition&trade this past October.

TPOTY will be shortly making available Journey Three for sale, a portfolio book containing the winning and other highly placed images from the competition.

*According to The Travel Photographer Of The Year's judging panel: Caroline Metcalfe, Steve Bloom, Jeremy Hoare, Nick Meers, Chris Weston, Simon Bainbridge, Andrew James and Manfred Zollner.

LaCie Rikiki

LaCie just announce the availability of one of the smallest mobile hard drives on the market, which was dubbed by the company as Rikiki. It appears that Rikiki means "tiny" in French. The august L'Académie Française would frown mightily at this claim as it's certainly not in the language of Voltaire, but slang.

Having cleared the linguistic mishap, LaCie Rikiki is available in 250GB, 500GB, and soon in 640GB capacities. The Rikiki is a user-friendly choice, regardless of whether you’re on a Mac or a PC. LaCie Backup Assistant is included to help manage backups. The price is priced between $75 and $150.

Despite the aesthetics of the Rikiki, I prefer the sleekness of the 500GB eGo Helium I bought some weeks ago...and my LaCie Rugged Hard Disk, but that's me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Magnum In Motion: Alex Webb's Istanbul

With the third Foundry Photojournalism Workshop scheduled to be held in Istanbul in June 2010, I thought of featuring Alex Webb's Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names showcased on the Magnum In Motion website as an inspiration to those interested in registering for the workshop.

The audio slideshow shows us Alex Webb's vision of Istanbul, a city of minarets, ATM machines and designer jeans. A historical and imperial city, Istanbul was the capital city of the Roman Empire, of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. As one sees from the slideshow, the storytelling possibilities available in such an ancient city are just enormous, and will provide a wealth of exciting visual opportunities to photographers.

As for the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, it has just posted details of my class: Introduction to Multimedia Storytelling.

A Wonderful Concept: PhotoPhilanthropy

PhotoPhilanthropy's stated mission is to promote, support and connect photographers to non-profit organizations around the world. It has created a community for photographers, photo enthusiasts and non-profit organizations to network, to tell their stories, show their work, exchange ideas, find opportunities and financial support for their efforts.

It also encourages student, amateur and professional photographers to publish photo essays designed to educate and engage people in a wide variety of social campaigns.

Interestingly, it has also created The PhotoPhilanthropy Activist Award; an annual endorsement of excellence for professional, amateurs, and student photographers.

For the award, it received 219 essays from 187 photographers residing in over 30 different countries. Of these entries, 150 were from professionals, 49 from amateurs and 20 from students.

The 2009 Grand Prize winner was photographer Zoriah Miller on behalf of the International Rescue Committee.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

POV: On Unpaid Photo Internships

A famous award-winning conflict photographer seeks an intern, for 3 days a week for three months, with demonstrable experience in photo and processing related tasks, but the position is unpaid.

And the blogosphere and photography forums erupt! Perhaps for good reason.

As one can imagine, photographers of all stripes with opinionated but honest points of view, others with axes to grind and a lot of personal luggage, all made their voices heard...which made for an interesting read.

Unfortunately, some of the commentary devolved into personal attacks on the famous photographer's character, and used ad hominem arguments. Such comments demean those who make them, are counter-productive and unnecessary. Yes, perhaps a tad understandable...but certainly not defensible. Understandable because of the state of the photo industry, and its throes during this difficult transition phase. Let's be honest, there's considerable frustration out there.

In the other corner of the ring are those (not too many) who claim that they'd take the unpaid internship job in a heartbeat...just to gain the experience to be working (albeit briefly) with the famous photographer. Some even go so far as saying they would pay for the privilege.

In my view, that is also not right. I recall my father telling me - at the very start of my career and on hearing that I had been hired by the then largest international bank in the world, then being sent on a 9 months arduous training course - that I ought to pay them to train me. Not surprisingly, my response was to roll my eyes as far back as they would go. I still have the same view.

There's also the notion that offering a non-paying internship brings only the most dedicated candidates...those with a can-do attitude and the hunger to work hard no matter what. The notion has merits, but it also has exploitative connotations.

So here's my personal opinion:

If the scope of the internship is essentially to bring coffee and doughnuts, push paper, make photocopies, and assist the famous photographer's assistants, then it's a job and should be paid as such.

If, on the other hand, the internship is truly an opportunity to learn, observe, assist and be part of the famous photographer's work flow, then it's an internship in the real sense of the word. Such an opportunity can provide tangible rewards to the intern's future photo career. Who wouldn't want a letter of recommendation from such a renowned photographer?

Having said that, I also believe it would be commendable for the famous photographer(s) to provide a stipend to the intern; some token amount to at least cover out of pocket expenses, such as food and transport. After all, we're talking about New York City, an incredibly expensive city. It's possible the famous photographer had no idea that a request for an intern was made, and that it was his assistants/staff who decided to bring in extra help or to cover some of their vacation time, and getting a worker for free would be an ideal solution.

Luminaries of the photo industry have a responsibility to use their immense influence and put forward their example to encourage newcomers, and those who are still struggling to make their talent visible. Generosity is always an admirable trait in people, and rarely goes unrewarded.

As to those who believe that fame spoils people, here's a quote by Somerset Maugham:
"The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel.”
There are many examples of this being true. The Foundry Photojournalism Workshop is such an example. A dozen or more of excellent and established photographers give up a week or more of their time to teach and encourage emerging photographers...and they make a difference.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jehad Nga: Turkana

Photo © Jehad Nga -All Rights Reserved

What a way to start the week!

I've described Jehad Nga as being a master of chiaroscuro and his new work Turkana just reaffirms and even compounds this well-deserved appellation. His new work is just beautiful and details of each photograph must be slowly absorbed. In Jehad's photography, I guess less is more...and his play of light against the colorful garments is just exquisite.

To view Turkana, log on to Jehad's website, and click on From Here On-In Galleries.

The gallery's overview starts with this:
"Forgotten by a government that hardly felt as their own, Kenya's Turkana tribe is withering in number as a drought devastates the Horn of Africa."
The Turkana are a Nilotic people of Kenya, numbering about 340,000, who live in the Turkana District in northwest Kenya, a dry and hot region bordering three countries, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia.

It's expected that an exibition of the Turkana photographs will soon be shown at the Bonni Benrubi gallery in New York City.

Jehad was born in Kansas, but moved to London, where he was raised. In his early 20s and living in Los Angeles, he discovered a book by photographer Natasha Merritt. The book convinced him that he could use his own digital compact during a backpacking trip to southeast Asia. By 2002 he was traveling through the Middle East, and by the following year, Jehad made his way to Baghdad photographing for the New York Times.

Over the recent years, Jehad covered Somalia, Kenya, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Darfur, Ethiopia and Iran, providing stories for major publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time, Fortune and Forbes magazines. He also won several honors, including American Photo magazine's Emerging Artists 2007 issue and for World Press Master Class 2008.

I featured Jehad Nga many times on TTP. You can catch all the posts here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Work: Chinatown Chinese Flutist

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Matt Brandon's slideshow featured yesterday prompts me to feature this photograph I made of a Chinese Opera flutist playing his instrument in New York City's Chinatown.

I chose this photograph to underscore my view that hands (especially those who have "history" to them) can tell visual stories, almost as well as faces, provided these hands are doing something...and sometimes, even at rest.

In this case, I think the hands and fingers of the flutist tell us that he's not a full-time professional musician...these are unkept fingers of a hard working man. The fingerless woolen gloves tells us that it's winter....and the Chinese script on the flute tells us where its holder is from...not necessarily, but probably. All that information from a simple composition!

The flute is a suona, a traditional Chinese musical instrument derived from Central Asia and beyond.

As a precursor to tomorrow's post by a master of the chiaroscuro (followers of this blog will know who I mean), I darkened the photograph in CS, accentuating the effect originally achieved through my camera's manual settings.

Having mentioned faces, I can't resist adding this Oscar Wilde's quote:
"A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Matt Brandon: Penang's Pulau Tikus

Matt Brandon has been photographing since he was 10 years old with his father’s Cannonet QL Rangefinder, and now specializes in NGO, relief and humanitarian projects. He recently moved to Malaysia, and frequently features audio slideshows on his The Digital Trekker blog.

Here's one of his latest production which he titled The Hands Of Rat Island. This self-assignment was completed over the course of 3 days, and was centered on a small market in Penang called Pulau Tikus or “Rat Island”. Matt decided he'd only feature the hands of the people in that market.

As interesting as hands (almost as faces) are from a visual standpoint, it's also interesting to hear the market hubbub captured by Matt's recorder. You'll also hear the inflections of Hokkien Chinese, one of the most common Chinese languages overseas, which is spoken by the Chinese-Malay.

Having traveled in Malaysia, I still recall the aromatic smells and exotic tastes of the wonderful Malaysian street food, which I've experienced in KL, Malacca and Penang...but I digress.

There are quite a number of posts on TTP on Matt Brandon, and these can be found here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

POV: Fate Of A Photo-Expedition Leader?

© What The Duck-All Rights Reserved

This will probably be my shortest POV ever, but is particularly timely as I'm leading the Tribes of South Rajasthan & Kutch Photo~Expedition&trade that starts in about five weeks!

Will this be my fate??? Nah...

(Cartoon strip seen on Bob Krist's Photo Traveler blog.)

Yuri Kozyrev: Yamal Peninsula

Photo © Yuri Kozyrev/NOOR-All Rights Reserved

Coinciding with the global climate talks in Copenhagen, Yuri Kozyrev (among the 9 photographers of NOOR photo agency) photographed climate stories with the purpose of documenting the consequences of global warning. Produced during the last two months, the project named Consequences is being launched during the United Nations Climate Summit, Monday 7 December through Friday 18 December 2009.

The Yamal Peninsula is one of the world's largest wildernesses where the indigenous Nenets people have migrated across for the past 1000 years. It is here that traditional large-scale nomadic reindeer husbandry is preserved. The Yamal Peninsula also holds Russia's biggest natural gas reserves. The Nenets have a shamanistic and animistic belief system which foments respect for the land and its resources.

MSNBC has featured Yuri Kozyrev's photographs as a photo essay titled Russia's Reindeer Herders.

Also check Consequences by NOOR.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ragnar Axelsson: The Hunters of Greenland

Photo © Ragnar Axelsson-All Rights Reserved

With the advent of the cold snap that's gripping New York these days, as well as the Climate Conference in Copenhagen, I thought it opportune to post The New York Times' feature on the black & white work of Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson.

Ragnar has been traveling to Inuit villages in Greenland’s most remote regions, over the past 25 years, documenting hunting traditions that are some 4,000 years old. He had to spend years hanging around the villages just to gain the trust of the villagers before being allowed on the hunts.

In the most remote regions of Greenland, Inuit hunters spend up to two months out on the ice, seeking narwhals, seals and polar bears. The environment is unforgiving, and temperatures can drop to minus 40.

Ragnar's The Hunters of Greenland, and Showcase: Black & Very White

Ragnar Axelsson is a staff photographer with Morgunbladid, Iceland's biggest newspaper since 1976, and has photographed in Faroe Islands, Greenland, Indonesia, Scandinavia, and Siberia, among others.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Foundry Photojournalism Workshop Istanbul 2010

Eric Beecroft announced the third Foundry Photojournalism Workshop will be held in Istanbul, Turkey on June 20-26, 2010.

The initial roster of instructors, who are giving their time to teach photojournalism to emerging photographers are (at the time of writing) as follows:

Lynsey Addario
Kael Alford
Andrea Bruce
Guy Calaf
Michael Robinson-Chavez
Rena Effendi
Tewfic El-Sawy
David Guttenfelder
Ron Haviv
Eros Hoagland
John Moore
Jared Moossy
Stephanie Sinclair
Anastasia Taylor-Lind
Ami Vitale

Visit the new website to register early and secure a spot in the third annual Foundry Photojournalism Workshop!

LumaLoop: Yet Another Camera Strap

After BlackRapid's success, another strap contender LumaLoop is entering the fray hoping that it can also provide an improved camera strap, one of photography's perennial Holy Grails.

James Duncan Davidson (a photographer) designed and made the LumaLoop, an across-the-shoulder strap with a quick-release lanyard, whose main claims are comfort and flexibility.

Those who have already used the strap report they like how the camera can be used while slung over a shoulder, and can quickly be released by squeezing the buckle. When not in use, the camera dangles at one's waist, and can remain there all day long.

The LumaLoop is $60 and comes in three sizes. Each strap comes with a lanyard.

From what I've seen on its website, LumaLoop uses the same general idea for an across the chest bandolier strap as BlackRapid, with the twist of having a quick release lanyard-to-buckle instead of a carabiner.

Here's a previous post as to how I "readjusted" my BlackRapid straps to avoid any unforeseen accidents.

LumaLoop first seen on The Click.