It’s been a couple of years since I last visited the Khutzeymateen Inlet. A situation I hope to correct in the new year. I may even lead a tour there next fall. Thinking about the Khutzeymateen, it’s easy to relive the bear encounters (for me, those can be seen at this link, this one or this one) as they can be intimate in a way that I find unique and mesmerizing. For whatever reason, I’ve been recalling the mists that rarely disappear in the valley. It clings to the trees as the wind and sun push wisps, walls and blankets of fog up and down the steep mountainsides. The continuous motion tears holes in these terrestrial clouds. The view changes endlessly as they drag across the landscape exposing islands of forest here and a rocky shoreline there.
And, it certainly doesn’t hurt having these elements as the backdrop for bear photographs either!
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.
A window into a traditional Tibetan home in a rural village. This was from one of my day trips out of Shangri-La and up into the front range of the Himalayas in the northern corner of Yunnan province. Many of the people living in the small mountainside towns, farms and villages are ethnic Tibetan. It was an honour to see some of their culture during a visit to this village.
It was interesting as this is a place that tour buses stop during day trips into the mountains so it is a tourist focused place but the people living there had a joy and vibrancy about them which stood apart from many similar locations. I really enjoyed the couple of hours that I spent there.
The countryside surrounding Shangri-La is a rural landscape of small farms, fields and villages divided by densely forested hills, soaring mountains and deeply carved rivers. When I was in China last month I spent a couple of days driving the narrow roads that connect these places. These are a selection of these scenes as I experienced them.
One of the smaller temples within the Sumtseling Monastery (also called the Songzanlin Monastery and Ganden Sumtseling Gompa) that I visited was Chatreng Khamtsen.
The temple is on a lower level from the main assembly and the temple where I listened to the monks praying and photographed one particularly friendly gentleman. The flowers caught my eye as I walked down the stone staircase and after framing the image above with the temple’s main entrance on the right side, I went inside to have a look.
I found it to be empty of people while filled with murals, bronze statues and deep silence. It was a calm respite and I enjoyed a quiet moment to make an offering and light a candle for my family under one of the icons. The beauty and spirituality of Sumtseling is immense and I will share more from this most special place.
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!
I spent the morning and evening at the Songzanlin Monastery (also called Sumtseling Monastery and Ganden Sumtseling Gompa) yesterday. Sutra chanting, deep tones which carried around the upper complex, drew me to the Duke Khamtsen building. Prayers were ongoing in the hall behind this gentleman with roughly twenty monks intoning and drumming. This was marked by the occasional sounding of a long horn. I stayed there listening for a long time during which I spoke with this monk now and then. He was very friendly and when I asked whether photographing this outer entrance was allowed, as photographing the inner hall during prayers is not allowed, he said it was and offered to be in the picture. The photographs were infinitely better having him in them. When I showed him, he approved and pulled a couple of his friends over to show them too. It could not have worked out better. The photographs are one thing, but he best part was being able to be in this moment enjoying the prayers, the feeling of well being and a little time with my higher self.
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.
I always love photographing him and when he’s in motion doubly so! This was on the first day of our boys trip and set a great tone for the weekend.
Following on from the abstract portfolio that I updated a couple of weeks ago, the second portfolio whose refresh is complete, is for my people photography.
The set includes a cross-section of images from a visit to Myanmar, my coverage of the Tsuu T’ina Nation’s annual Pow Wow and a couple of my children.
If you are interested in looking at these photographs, please click either image, or this link, to open a separate page with the portfolio.
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.
This evening I was working with some images from a trip in 2010 to Myanmar. I put together this small set from a walk along one of the market streets in Yangon’s Chinatown. People worked, shopped, talked and lived on this street. Vibrant, crowded, loud and unusual were some of the thoughts I recall from this stroll on my first day in the country.
(click for a slideshow of the images)
Last year when I was traveling in Myanmar we spent several days on the plains of Bagan. The dry season had a firm grip on the land and the fields and dirt roads erupted dust trails with any traffic passing through. These clouds of dust drew our attention to a small village where we talked with several of the farmers and cart drivers.
In the afternoon, the light was warm and there were nice images available with a nod or a smile from one of the villagers serving as approval to click the shutter.
At the suggestion of one of the farmers, we agreed to meet them in the early evening at one of the nearby fields that spread out from an impressive temple ruin.
This last image came as the ox teams were heading back to their homes. The grandpa and grandson took turns looking back as the rising dirt kicked up by hoof and wheel wrapped the carts and rose upwards.
Nuns at prayer in a convent in the Sagaing Hills in Mandalay, Myanmar in Southeast Asia.
In 2010, I made a goal that I wanted to photograph people more. My first love is nature photography (landscapes and wildlife) but the more portraiture, street and travel photography that I do, the more I enjoy it. To support this extension of my art, I have attended lighting workshops, read a wheelbarrow full of books, tried to spend more time photographing humans and shared some of the knowledge gained with other photographers in my ecosystem.
Much to learn and practice yet but 2010 was a good step forward. I’m excited to build on this momentum and see where the people I photograph in 2011 take me.
Here are some of my favourite images from last year.
My trip to Myanmar in February was a really wonderful experience. Photographically, this land is fantastic for the variety of people, cultures, landscapes and other opportunities. Here I wandered through Yangon’s Chinatown and was able to have a few good conversations with the residents as they spoke Mandarin as a first language instead of Burmese.
I was fascinated by these young men who ran blocks of ice from trucks, up the cobblestone street to these ice crushers and then back down to the dock for the fish to be packed in. Very hard work done barefoot without any breaks through the morning while the fish are being shipped out around the city and beyond.
This marble carver in Amarapura works in his family’s yard along a street filled with stonemasons. These craftspeople create incredible statues from the alabaster mined from the hills in the surrounding Mandalay area. Again, very hard work.
The monks of Southeast Asia are magnets for many photographers, and I was no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with many of these men that I met and loved photographing them in their surroundings.
A very kind man who I gestured and chatted with briefly in Old Bagan after he motioned me over to have a look at my camera. He was happy to let me photograph him and gave this picture a nod when I showed him the screenshot.
Probably the coolest guy I met in Myanmar. This gentleman had a group of younger monks and lay people circling him and they were having an animated conversation which I enjoyed watching as much as I enjoyed making this photo.
The younger monks line up to receive offerings from the community, grateful for the dedication of these boys and men to the faith they all share. The food collected is distributed among the monks and eaten in silence. A large portion is distributed outside the brotherhood to the less fortunate who wait patiently for the monks to hand it out. There is a dignity among even the poorest which can be glimpsed in the photograph of the man below but I was not able to wholly present here.
In Amarapura while walking through a monastery, I looked in on this monk as he swept the courtyard seemingly lost in the repetition.
Thank you for scrolling through a few of the highpoints of the year with me.
Up early with the kids this morning and I had a little time to revisit some photographs I made of some monks inside a weathered temple in Bagan.
I like how the monotone changes neutralize the dominance of the colourful robes and put different emphasis on part of the image.
(as always, click on the photograph to see a larger version)
I remember it was about 38° C outside but with the thick stone walls of the building, inside it was much cooler aided by a soft breeze (which you can “see” if you look at the blur in the robes of the rightmost monk).
These files were converted into a duotone of silver and dark grey using Adobe Lightroom’s split toning feature.
The Travel Photographer of the Year awards have announced their shortlist and I have images in the hunt across three categories. The TPOTY is a major competition out of the UK so it is pretty exciting to have some of my work recognized to this stage.
The image of the monks on the bridge at sunset in Amarapura in Myanmar is one of three images that are in the running for the single shot category. The nuns at prayer and the lone fisherman are the other images that have been shortlisted in this category.
The following four images are finalists for the World in Motion portfolio category.
The last set is a really fun category to be shortlisted in. It is the New Talent category. The portfolio I entered was for Bagan in central Myanmar. The objective was to sell a location, a journey or an idea. From the TPOTY website: “Tell the story of a place, a destination, an experience, a journey, even a travel commodity, but sell it to us. Make us want to experience it. This category is for photographers looking to start a career in photography. Your images should give the judges a real sense of the place or travel experience and entice them too. This is your travel advert.” I tried to share the wonder of Bagan across the four images. It was an interesting exercise to cull through all of the photographs I made in Bagan and select four that provided a window into the people and the land.
With this competition’s international profile, there are many very high quality entries so it is exciting to have a range of work reach the final round. The winning images will be announced in the next couple of weeks so we’ll see what happens.