Kreuzberg: living graffiti
When I visited Berlin last summer, I spent an early morning and, a couple of days later, a late afternoon touring around Kreuzberg. This borough is divided into two major districts, 36 and 61. I didn’t know enough about them to distinguish them – everywhere I went was heavily covered in graffiti. This street art was an integrated part of Kreuzberg and often reflected the lives passing in front of it.
It was an immersive experience to photograph surrounded by this art. And one which was a great challenge to show that integration of the art with the people. That is what drew me back a second time on a visit where I only had five days in Berlin. I’m glad I did, it was a really interesting place to visit.
Blasting off from Berlin
The week flew by here in Europe with a weekend in Gent and then five days in Berlin. I met up with my cousin and two other very close friends and had a blast the whole time. It was fast but I am a little surprised how much was stuffed in. Last night, I spent the evening around Alexanderplatz and went up the Fernsehturm for a true bird’s-eye view of the city. Berlin’s TV Tower is referred to by some as the toothpick and the TV asparagus I’m told. I expect there are more nicknames but its status as an icon of Berlin and a dominating presence in her skyline elevates it above reproach in my book.
When I was down on the ground, the Berlin lacht festival was in full swing so the performances, partying and laughter overran the square. This image shows a bit of the colours and mood of this event – all under the watchful eye of the tower with a lump in its throat.
Anyways, a quick image while I wait for my plane and get home to my kids. I will share more from the whirlwind soon I hope.
I crossed the pond last night to come to Berlin for a whirlwind visit with my cousin. I did find Berlin, and him so the trip’s off to a great start. We’re off to Belgium for the weekend and then I will be looking forward to finding much more of Berlin.
This was a quick shot of transportation by transportation while waiting for the metro on the U7 at the Jakob-Kaiser-Platz station.
Working with clay in Ni Xi
A good friend and great photographer, Jorge Sarmento, and I rented a van and driver yesterday and drove out into the countryside. We didn’t have any set agenda so we were just exploring the mountains and valleys as we went. Our driver was a Tibetan and was from a small village called Ni Xi about 40 kilometres from Shangri-La. We found that out when we asked about visiting that town which is renowned for its black pottery which results from baking it in the kiln without any coatings or glazes. He drove us to his friend’s home who is an apprentice potter. When we arrived, we asked if he would mind if we photographed him at work and he had no problem with that. As we watched he created a tea-cup on this small wheel. It was great to watch him work with his hands and tools to shape the final piece. Along the way I learned that he was five years into his apprenticeship but I was not able to ask how long he would study under his teacher. I absolutely loved watching the craftsmanship and ease with which he worked. There was mastery in his work. The two men were smoking while the cup was being made which gave Jorge the idea to increase the volume of smoke. We had a puff of smoke blown in through the open window, with both men’s approval, which rolled and wrapped around as seen in this image. It was a great idea and elevated an already compelling scene considerably. Thank you Jorge!
Prayer wheel in golden light
The Dukezong prayer wheel lies in the heart of Shangri-La’s old town and stands over 24 metres tall (80′) atop Guishan (which translates as Tortoise Mountain). It is a small hill but along with this massive bronze Tibetan prayer wheel is adorned with two beautiful structures that are the main buildings of the Dukezong Temple.
I arrived in Shangri-La earlier in the day and went exploring with a recently made photographer friend once unpacked. We made our way to the old town, which is a siren’s call for most visitors to Shangri-La, and was charmed by the vibrant people and character buildings. Jorge needed a coffee and that sounded like a great idea. We retired to a second floor coffee shop which afforded a great view of the street and Guishan. With great coffee soon in hand, the clouds offered us a gift by parting to the west. With the sun close to setting, the warm light glowed on the wheel and the temple. The coffee was forgotten for a few minutes at that point in favour of photographing. A great start to my visit to this most interesting of places.
Covering Shwe Dagon in gold
The Shwedagon Zedi Daw is a nexus point for Myanmar’s Buddhists. It’s history goes back more than 2600 years and it is an amazing place of humanity, faith and spirituality. The main stupa is sheathed in gold foil as are many of the parapets and other buildings on the grounds. I went there twice when I visited Myanmar in 2010 and think I could return many more times and always find new things catching my eye. On my second visit, I watched these workers gilding a new, or maybe restored, tower. It was a hot day and while one gentleman found a ball cap to be sufficient protection, the other preferred a more encompassing head cover. This was detailed work and they were attentive to the task at hand. I had to wait a little while until one of them looked up from the tower and glanced out over the crowds walking around Shew Dagon.
A walk around Granville Island
Granville Island is a favourite place of mine to stroll around on a rainy day in Vancouver. To be clear, it is great in good weather too but when it is wet the industrial-artistic buildings, galleries and walkways reveal beautiful details. The wood gleams, the rusty browns and reds in weathered metal become deeply saturated and the blooming flowers of mid-March glow despite the grey skies.
When I used to live in Vancouver I would head down to the market on the island regularly. When dark clouds greeted us one morning during a visit my friend Jack and I made to Vancouver in March, my memories of Granville in the rain came back and it was fun to wander around there once more.
Eventually we did head into the market for a little while. The food was, as usual, incredible and we walked out with several bags of fruit as a temporary keepsake from the morning.
I didn’t buy any fish but I did ask the gentlemen presiding over the chilly group below if I could photograph. The rough, inconsistent pattern caught my eye.
All of the morning’s hard work built up a thirst so we stopped by the Granville Island Brewery’s Taproom. These lightbulbs looked like they were from someone’s Steampunk dream and I was compelled to ask a couple if I could lean over next to them in order to grab a quick shot.
On the way out of the maze of buildings, this metal rail contraption drew my attention. It wasn’t in motion, I’m not even sure that there was anything that did move, but it was really cool.
A little earlier, I had really enjoyed the metal construction art at the entrance to the Ocean Concrete yard along the island’s waterfront facing the inlet. The two pieces seemed like distant cousins with the house suggesting a slightly more inviting alternate reality. It is a very cool place where even a concrete company gets into the artistic vibe.
Another great tour through Granville Island. I’m looking forward to the next one, rain or shine.
I enjoyed experiencing some of Sedona’s mystical places and the spiritual moments that have drawn ancient cultures and continues to pull people.
This trip was too short to really dive in but this photograph of the sun in the forest on the West Fork Trail near Sedona suggested something of the experience.
Hawaiian Landscapes: Kaua’i Sunrises
I was able to enjoy three consecutive sunrises down on the eastern shore of Kaua’i in the last days of our trip in December. I went to a couple of different spots between Kealia and Kapa’a and each offered a different perspective of the coastline. Here are a few of the photographs I liked from these mornings on the water with the rising sun.
A defiant shelf of rock juts out into the surf while the sun drives through a set of breaking clouds. Before dawn, these clouds were knitted together and lashed the coast south of Kealia with a heavy rain. I was happy they had the good graces to separate and catch the early morning light.
A break between waves allow the water resting in these small tidal pools to reflect the color in the sky along the shore just north of Kapa’a.
Spray from the waves hitting the rocks was a challenge and demanded frequent spot cleanings. In this image above, I found the water spots on my lens were diffracting the sunlight in the middle of the image which added to the motion in the water and drew my eye up to the sun. I liked these rocks grouped just off shore and enjoyed trying to show the movement of the waves and sunlight in that time just after sunrise there.
The color lasts for only a couple of minutes this close to the equator as the sun seems to jump into the sky very quickly. This large cloud bank was in good position to catch the pink light as the sun pulled clear of a distant storm on the edge of the horizon.
The sun halo I could create here stole the show from the foreground rocks so I centered on it and eliminated any strong elements that would distract from this interesting optical illusion.
Hawaiian Nightscapes: Crescent moon over Hanalei
On two separate evenings, I photographed the sunset from a viewpoint overlooking Hanalei Bay. It is the wet, stormy season on Kaua’i’s north coast which was still warm and pretty sunny. It does help to create amazing clouds and when the sun was long gone I was still shooting the clouds, the moon and the afterglow. The picture below was from a few minutes earlier when the glow up the coast was at its strongest point.
Hawaiian Seascape: Soft water and black rock
This time of year the northern coast of Kaua’i receives the heavy swells that hit the shoreline unchecked from the open water of the Pacific. I was waiting for the sun to rise and the low light of dawn allowed me to use a shutter speed of four seconds. This long exposure blurred the rows of spiky waves softening them into a supporting role, allowing this dramatic chunk of rock standing apart from the shore to be the dominant subject in the image.
Hawaiian Landscapes: Sunset in Koke’e State Park
We went up highway 550 in the southern part of Kauai which takes you from the ocean’s edge up to and along the Waimea Canyon. It is a beautiful drive with great views of canyon and over the Pacific Ocean. The drive up rewarded us with two different rainbows over the canyon which we could stop and photograph both times. We went up in the afternoon so that we would be in nice, warm evening light by the time we were at the top of the canyon. That worked out really well and Bobbi and I both took some lovely images on the way up. After weathering a heavy rainstorm while we were looking over the Kalalau Valley we headed back down and as the clouds cleared we found the sun was falling fast and we stopped at a bend in the road in the Koke’e State Park.
The sunlight on the clouds started out these incredible yellows and golds. Within a couple of minutes, oranges and then purples entered the scene. It was beautiful light and the silhouettes of the trees against these colors were really interesting. It turned out to be an unusual and wonderful place to watch a Hawaiian sunset.