When hard work pays off

September 20, 2010

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A couple of months ago I got an email from an editor of British Geographical magazine telling me that my submission for a photo story on the Rabari (which I had actually submitted a year ago) was to  be printed in the October issue of the magazine. A few days ago, when I returned from another trip to a remote part of Vanuatu I also received the news that they’d be using my image on the cover. Good news, I say, but let me share a little story that might be useful for some of you interested in having a career (if there’s such a thing) in travel photography.

In 2007 I travelled around West India along with my wife (then girlfriend) Tanya and my close Gujarati Indian friend Hardik. Our journey lasted for almost half a year. The aim of the journey was to photograph some of the last of the traditional Rabari people – the nomadic shepherds who have roamed the area for almost an entire millennia.

That particular journey was one of the most gruelling and challenging journeys of my life (ok, so I am not that old, but still). It was so difficult partly because it was the first serious project of my photographic career, partly because I had a motorcycle accident half way through and was very limited in movement for over a month, partly because the consequence of my limited movement made the project drag into the ridiculously hot months of West Indian summer (it got to 45C every single day) and finally it was difficult because the traditional Rabari were not all that easy to find, a lot of our time was spent on “field research”, arriving at certain destinations and having to ride (a motorcycle) hundreds of kilometers in some other direction because what we were looking for wasn’t there. I literally put blood, sweat and tears into that project, in fact so did Tanya and Hardik.

The project was funded by my previous print sales, cash from a wedding shoot that I’d done, some unemployment money I was able to save, as well as money I’d earned by working a few months in a photographic store just before the trip. Those were the days of struggle that undoubtedly all of us in the photographic profession go through at some stage (and I can only pray that I won’t have to go through them again).

The sole idea that I had for the images after the project would be finished was to have an exhibition. I was naive, thinking that an exhibition in Sydney could lift my status from a photographic nobody to somebody who could at least get an opportunity to keep making money doing what he loves. Perhaps I’d make a whole bunch of cash through print sales or somebody would notice my talents and hire me to shoot something, I thought. The outcome of the exhibition was a bit of a mixed bag. It was very successful in the sense that a lot of people came through the doors and saw my work, I even got some small critical appraise. However, it was a total failure as far as solving my financial problems – I sold three prints and one specially made album, which cost almost as much to produce as I sold it for. The cost of the exhibition and printing far outweighed the income I generated. I didn’t get a photographic job nor was I commissioned to shoot anything as a result of the exhibition either and so, by the end I felt a little doomed, like I was destined to go back to work in that photo store and to shoot weddings (no offence to those who do it professionally, it’s just not my thing).

Being fairly optimistic (and still naive), I didn’t let those thoughts pull me down for too long though. I realized that I was still at the very beginning of my journey and I had done something important – I laid a foundation for something good.  Photographically it was very important that I had created a body of work that I could be proud of. I have always been and still am a firm believer in that for a photographer (especially at the start the journey) the goal of creating strong work should precede anything else. In the beginning a photographer should work for his photos and as the photographer’s career progresses the photos start working for him/her. This was the case with the Rabari project and the latest publication in Britain’s Geographical magazine serves as a nice reminder of this belief that I have.

The publication comes over three years after the project was finished and there were numerous others in between. While the exhibition didn’t help me achieve what I wanted, the result or lack of it gave me a good kick up the backside. I understood that my work wasn’t done and began to contact numerous magazines and entered into various competitions. The most notable of the results was me winning Australia’s Capture Magazine’s competition for best young photographer of the year for a selection of images from the project ( I got a $2000 camera as a result and sold it on eBay to help fund more future travels). Besides that I won a few other, smaller competitions for select single images and was published in quite a few photographic magazines (through which I sold more prints), one of which was the magazine where Kym, the enthusiast photographer who ended up going on my workshop in India (which I really enjoyed) found me. I have also licensed a number of the images from the series for various uses. All in all I have been rewarded quite well for my work, the rewards weren’t instant, but they certainly came.

And so, what’s the lesson here? There are a few of them, the  first is that rewards do not always come in the shape or form that one  expects them to. The exhibition, which I had put so much hopes into was nice in some ways, but the bigger rewards as far as exposure to a wider audience and income came from places I hadn’t even really thought of. The next lesson is that creating a project or a  series of images which can be used for various purposes seems to be the way to go these days. Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket, it’s not like you shoot something for a big magazine, have your big pay-day and off you go on a spending spree, I have personally only heard of those days from some old-timers.

Above all that I have already mentioned though, I have written this blog post to remind and to encourage those talented photographers who might be a little discouraged with the way things are turning out for them or even feel totally lost at the moment.  Remember the part about hard work. Remember also that creating truly worthwhile photography is what really matters at the end of the day. Remember that you might not be rewarded instantly, as I wasn’t,  but if you believe that your work is worth something, keep fighting for it, get it in front of editors, you don’t need any special connections or contacts for this, I simply sent emails and submissions to names I’d found on the internet or in magazines on the newsstands.

If you have put in the work, if you have something of value, you will eventually meet positive results – that’s the bottom line and that’s the main point that I hope comes across from what I’ve typed here.

Ok, that’s about enough of that. The magazine goes on sale in October, probably only in the UK (though I may be wrong). Below are some screen grabs from the preview PDF which I was sent.  I’m still in Vanuatu, but I am near the internet, so expect more posts and photos in the coming days.

rabari02 rabari03 rabari04rabari05

Fishing on Maskelyne Island

August 31, 2010

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Those who have been following my blog for a while know that I have a bit of a photographic obsession with fishermen and things related to fishing. It’s not that I like fishing myself (I find it a little boring), it’s that there’s something about the visual aesthetic in the things around fishing that appeals to me. All those gadgets – boats, canoes, nets, sails, oars. Of course I do love eating fish and whenever you’re photographing fishermen, there’s a good chance that there will be at least some fish for dinner. If you ask me, that’s a great bonus.

Because so much of Vanuatu is along the coast, one would think that fishing would be done in every single coastal village. While there’s certainly a lot of fishing, it’s not quite as widespread as I imagined. Nevertheless one of the places I visited – Maskelyne Island, also known as Ulleveo was pretty ideal. Here people mostly fish with small canoes and the process involves a lot of rowing, casting fishing nets and even the occasional use of the local spear gun called “lastic”, probably because essentially it’s just a piece of elastic tied to a piece of wood. I’m proud to say that I tried it out and even managed to spear one fish.

Anyway, the process promised to be pretty interesting and photogenic and I had been dying to use my underwater housing to photograph something besides coral and fish (no offence to coral and fish, it’s just that these subjects just bored me eventually). I went on two little fishing trips – one with a bunch of local children, the other with a few guys around my age. The children were spear-fishing and unfortunately they didn’t go for very long because the sea was a little rough, so rough that I almost floated away because of not initially wearing my fins.

The older “boys” technique included the use of a net. They’d spread it out and then someone would start swimming and making strong splashes in the water in the hopes that the fish will frantically swim towards the net and get caught in it. Once in the net the fish would meet their doom as one of the chaps would swim towards it, spear it, extract it and put it into the canoe. At the end of the trip guys didn’t get much fish, turns out I was always in the wrong place while taking photos. I’d scare the fish and cause them to flee in the wrong direction. To console my fishing mates I decided to buy them a bucket of kava, which they appreciated greatly.

About the photos, these aren’t my greatest photographic achievements, but these are the better shots of what I’ve created so far using my Aquatech housing. The big problem was that to shoot something like this (at least the underwater part) truly effectively one needs to know what the heck is going on, what to expect and I didn’t know either. I’ve learned though and my next destination – the remote Banks islands will hopefully provide me with plenty more opportunities to photograph this sort of stuff.

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One of the main reasons I got the housing was to get shots like these. What I mean is shots taken from the level of the water. It’s not underwater stuff, but without the housing you just ain’t getting a shot like this one.

In this particular scene the younger boys are getting ready to jump back into the boat after doing some spear fishing.

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One of the youngsters taking aim at a fish with a “lastic”. Boys start doing this sort of stuff from a very early age. By their teens they are incredibly good swimmers and I guess they’re not bad at shooting either.

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The older guys looking around for the right spot to cast the net. They have a few favourite spots which they come back to all the time and they can recognize them without GPS or anything alike. Another interesting example of a close bond between people and land or in this case water.

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Spreading the net for the fish to become tangled in. I like how the light penetrates through the water, creating a fairly dramatic effect. The thing that I’ve learned so far about light and underwater photography is that – the more light you have the better.

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Often the fish hide in underwater burrows and amidst the coral. The fishermen know where the best potential hiding spots are and always make sure to check them out.

A note on the Aquatech housing. I’ve been using the housing for long enough now to form some kind of an opinion on it. I have to say that it’s pretty cool, though there is a bit of a learning curve as in how to get the most out of it and how not to accidentally destroy your camera. I almost killed my 5D MKII because there was a little knob which got loose. I didn’t realize that water could come through because of that. Luckily it didn’t get too loose and the results weren’t disastrous,  there was simply some leakage. Still, the camera began to act strange and though it’s back to normal now, I can only hope that some vital part inside it is not meeting a slow death by salt water as I type this.

All in all the housing works as it should. It’s great to have a port for a zoom lens (24-70mm) that allows it to be used as a zoom. Though I shot most of the stuff as wide as possible, I did need to get closer without physically getting closer a few times and you aren’t exactly going to be able to change lenses under water and so, the zoomable port is a huge bonus.

I will write much more about the housing later. I think it’s a good product and for the price range it seems like there’s nothing really better, so I think there’s some more valuable info I can share with anyone searching to get a housing for similar use.

Chief Ayar Randes

August 29, 2010

Chief Ayar Randes portrait

I mentioned Chief Ayar in my last post. I also mentioned that he is one of the favourite characters that I’ve come across through all of my journeys. Chief Ayar is a unique man, he is sometimes considered strong headed, very opinionated and one might even call him a little cunning.

Two things that matter to Ayar more than anything in the world are his land and his culture. He has needed to possess at least a little of the mentioned qualities in order to hold onto these in the quickly modernizing, changing world which swallows and absorbs everything in its path without waiting.

For Ayar, his land is much more than just land. He believes that the spirit of his people came from it, from the thick forest, mountain rivers, creeks and some of the most fertile soil on the planet. Ayar is of that land and the land is a continuation of him, it’s can’t be separated, like an organ vital to the body.

Ayar realizes that others might want to take his land away. Vanuatu’s infamous land disputes are a testament to that and in order to basically not get screwed, you have to be ready to fight and to protect your land and your rights. Before the fighting was done with weapons, now one must play by the rules of the modern world. Ayar has negotiated with the government to create a law which ensures that his land will never be sold and the only way it can be transferred is from generation to generation, just as it has been for as long as anyone can remember.

Should there be any doubt or dispute in the future, Ayar’s children, who have all been given modern, Western education will be able to stand up for their land. The youngest is studying law, the middle is a director of a trading company, both in Port Villa (Vanuatu’s capital) and the eldest owns a small shop, in a village close to the ancestral land.

It is the eldest son to whom Ayar has entrusted the task of keeping the family history and his tribe’s culture alive. He told me that he once pulled the boy aside and said “You’ve had enough white-man education, now it’s time to learn about kastom (the word used for tradition/culture in Vanuatu).” Ayar taught  his son how to beat the traditional, wooden gong, how to dance, how to paint masks, how to prepare ceremonies and sacrifice pigs.

It’s hard to tell whether kastom will indeed stay alive for generations, but the pattern which the culture follows in parts of Vanuatu defies reason, or at least it defies the reasoning of most white-men, as the locals refer to almost all Westerns. On Malekula, the home island of Ayar there were still cases of Cannibalism and tribal warfare until late 60s. Then, as majority of the population was finally converted to Christianity, the natives suddenly turned away from their past and at times even became ashamed of it. The Church did their best to discourage anything that would remind the people of their bygone  “savage” ways, calling grade-taking and ceremonial pig killing, which were vital parts of the culture for so long – sinful.

By mid seventies, in South West Bay, the area of Malekula island, where chief Ayar’s ancestral land is, most traces of what once made the  smol nambas, the formerly fierce cannibal warriors of the region distinct and unique was almost gone. That is until Ayar, inspired and influenced by the knowledge passed on to him by his father decided to hold a grade-taking ceremony, to kill a pig, to become a chief and to begin the revival of the smol nambas culture in South West Bay.

Fascinatingly, before Ayar decided to become a chief he was already a prominent Church member, which meant that he had close ties to the very institution which tried their best not to revive, but to rid the natives off of  their history and culture. This didn’t seem right to Ayar and after the pig killing that made him Chief, he went to the Church to pray.  This move was intentional, Ayar wanted to show that Church and kastom could go hand in hand, that they could co-exist. The way Ayar saw it, both were about love,  peace and respect for other human beings.

The Presbyterian Church had a different opinion and decided to “discipline” Ayar by keeping him away from Sunday services for three months. Unshaken and still convinced that Church and kastom could and should co-exist, Ayar went up into the hills to build a church there for the few unconverted or (semi-converted) tribes. Once the church was completed he started attending the services in nothing more than a namba (a banana leaf around the private member). This was a big no-no once again, but no one could discipline Ayar up in the hills. Again he wanted to show  how Church and culture could co-exist, but to his surprise the mountain natives quickly exchanged their nambas for “white man clothes” and began to move away from their ancient traditions without ever really looking back. Unknowingly and unwillingly chief Ayar pushed the only remaining purely traditional people away from their history and culture.

This story would have a very sad ending, if it were to end this way and in most cases, in most countries, it would have. But let’s get back to what I said about the way that the pattern which the culture follows in Vanuatu makes no sense. Interestingly and strangely enough, Ayar’s pig killing and grade-taking gained a small wave of support among some of the older chiefs. It’s as if he reminded them that what they had was too precious to lose, even if it was considered sinful by the Church, and so began a small revival of the old ways, minus the cannibalism or the warfare.

Today South West Bay, Malekula remains a fascinating destination and the main “draw-card” for the few visitors that ever make it there is undoubtedly the culture, which still stubbornly holds on with its last breath, thanks to people like chief Ayar Randes. The younger generation have also recently caught on to the fact that there’s value in what their ancestors have passed on to them, not only spiritual, but commercial value. The few tourists that do make it to South West Bay are willing to pay to watch traditional dances and ceremonies and as a result new festivals and cultural programs are in the plans.

It’ll be interesting to observe which turn the culture of South West Bay takes in the next couple of decades. Will the youth continue to see the value in their past or will they be seduced to leave the small villages of South West Bay for “greener pastures” in Vanuatu’s capital and commercial centre – Port Villa? Will the traditions remain true to their original intentions or will they continue to exist purely as a form of entertainment or cultural experiences for the visitors? One thing for sure is that Ayar Randes is not very keen on festivals or ceremonies which stray away from the “correct” way of doing things, which don’t follow the tribal law laid out by his distant ancestors. He loves the idea of tourism coming and helping the locals understand the value of their culture, but Ayar won’t take what’s sacred to him and simply make a show of it all. The question is – will it matter when he’s gone? No one knows and perhaps for now, there’s no reason to think too hard about the future, but rather to try and catch the present, what still remains of the past.

chief dancing

Chief Ayar showing some moves from traditional ceremonial dances. Every ceremony has its own distinct dance moves, costumes, masks and gong beats. Here he dances by the remains of his “Nakamal”. The same word used these days for Kava bars was initially used for a chief’s sacred house – a place of great spiritual significance for any village. Chief Ayar’s sacred house was destroyed during a hurricane a couple of years ago and it’s been one of his main goals to rebuild it, the same way that it was before.

If you click on the photo to make it bigger you might also notice that behind Ayar is a pole with a face painted on it. The pole has spiritual value, but what’s perhaps most intriguing about this pole, is the way that one has to obtain a right to paint certain symbols on it. The law that dictates this is like an ancient system of copyright. Each new adopter of a particular symbol/pattern has to pay the original owner/inventor or his descendent with pigs.

through the bush with dogs

Ayar loves walking through the forest (or bush as its called in Vanuatu) which falls on his land. He tells me that he isn’t really happy when he’s in the village. The village is community land, he doesn’t feel home there and so every day he walks through the bush, to feed his soul in a sense. He talks about how much he loves the fresh breeze, the smells of various plants, which he occasionally tears off and rubs against each other to demonstrate (the smell). His three dogs (two pictured here) help him chase off any wild pigs, which like to come and make a mess of his crops.

coconut drinking

The last time I saw a person so passionate and proud of what their land produced was back in Belarus, in my grandmother’s countryside house. It’s interesting how ultimately there are all these similarities amongst people regardless of where we travel.

Ayar opened up a couple of coconuts for Tanya and I before he masterfully chopped the top off of his own. This was indeed one of the best tasting, sweetest coconuts I ever tried.

Elder Ayar in Church

I was pretty shocked when I saw Ayar in this “white-man outfit”. I joked with him, saying that I didn’t recognize him from the man in the namba I had seen a couple of days ago in the bush.  To this day Ayar remains closely associated with the Church, in fact he is one of the senior and most respected Church elders in the village of Wintua, which borders with his land. Being what I could describe as a devout non-believer myself (I believe in God, I just don’t believe in names of God or religions) I had a few very interesting conversations with Ayar. At the end of the day it was interesting to know that he’d gladly leave Church and go back to the bush, which is actually what he is planning to do in the next couple of years. When I asked him the pressing question of “What would you chose – Church or kastom?” he replied “kastom – it is my life, my history, my culture.

First month in Vanuatu

August 27, 2010

climbing trees

Hi folks! Once again I’ve found myself in a situation where it is impossible to post anything regularly. For most part Vanuatu does not have internet access.

I also had a mini computer tragedy. The files from Mac OS X somehow got screwed up and I was unable to load up the system as soon as I arrived in Vanuatu. Luckily I also installed a copy of Windows 7 through bootcamp meaning that I can still use the computer to an extent, albeit very minimally. So much for Mac’s famous reliability – big disappointment there. Stupidly I forgot the system recovery disks and I don’t have much software to work with on the Windows system. Nevertheless, here are some images that have been processed relatively little, you might still see different versions of them sometime down the road. The images are a quick overview of some of the things I’ve come across so far on this adventure.

The image at the top is of a young chief climbing a tree to look for fruit bats and birds (which the local people hunt). People don’t usually wear this sort of stuff any more (apart from ceremonies and festivals), but this is what they used to wear not all that long ago. I got involved in helping some local people make some promotional shots of their area for tourism, so the man dressed for the occasion as did the other people in traditional outfits.

nice beach

This was the scene right outside of our bungalow on Maskeyne island off the larger island of Malekula. Pretty lovely place, we stayed for a week and a half and I got to experiment a little with some underwater photography.

fishing in a canoe

Fishing at Maskelyne island. The man is hitting the water to scare the fish so that the swim towards the net and get tangled in it. It was pretty wet in the boat (lots of splashing), so I was real glad to have my Aquatech housing, more on which in future posts.

spear fishing

Spear fishing by the reef, still in Maskelyne. Just one image under water for now, more to come.

fire in a forest

Maskelyne is not all underwater stuff. I came across this boy on the way to the village in which our bungalow owners lived.

nakamal at night

Abobe is a “Nakamal” a kind of a local bar, except the people don’t drink alcohol, but Kava – a very foul tasking drink made from a root. I will say again it tastes pretty awful, but the effect is great and Nakamals are great places to meet the locals and do some bonding.

bird hunting

Continuation form the series which the first photo belongs to. These guys were amazing tree climbers. I did manage to get up on a branch a little above the ground in order to get this shot.

two chiefs

Same young chiefs photographed one they got off the tree. The trees I should mention are some of the most photogenic I’ve ever come across.

fire in the village hut

I love shooting stuff by the fire and this is probably one of my favourite images of the sort so far. Here Jenny, the daughter of a man I befriended in one of our bungalows is preparing our dinner. Amenities in many parts of Malekula are pretty basic, here Tyreesa the young sister is providing some extra light.

mat weaking and kids

I really loved shooting inside the thatched huts that make up the main part of architecture in most villages around Vanuatu. Children are everywhere in Vanuatu and they are some of the nicest and cutest kids one is likely to encounter. As much as I love India, the children there can be absolute monsters, that’s never been the case in Vanuatu. In this image Victor, Jenny’s sun is the baby and in the back it’s his grandma and a neighbour girl doing some mat weaving.

chief ayar

Chied Ayar Randes. This man is one of the favourite characters I’ve come across so far on all of my journeys. Besides being a chief he’s also a church elder, which is actually pretty contradictory, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Despite wearing not much more than a banana leaf around his private parts he reminded me a bit of my grandfather – full of interesting stories, strong beliefs and basically he’s someone who might come across as a simple village man, but in fact is a very smart fellow who sees the bigger picture better than most of the people around him. I’ll definitely post a little story with some photos of him in the coming days.

planting yam

Chied Ayar’s hands planting a yam. It’s one of the main parts of the local diet all around Vanuatu and as far as I know a lot of the Pacific too. I have to say, I am really not a big fan of the stuff and though I have tried yam in some really tasty dishes, if I never see it again in my life I’ll be just fine.

hands with fishing net

Youngsters fishing in a lagoon in the remote South West Bay, Malekula.

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More net fishing in the same place, there’s actually quite a bit of fish there and I love fish, thus the lagoon was a place I liked too.

traditional boy in a canoe

Another photo taken for the tourism campaign. I saw this boy wearing the outfit a few days earlier during a festival. The festival is another story, but it was not a place where I could get the kind of shot of him that I wanted (I’d have to compete with some pretty intense and sometimes rude tourists who mostly traveled to the festival on their yachts).

young warriors

Same boy in the background and a son of a chief at the front. The thing he’s wearing is a curved pig tooth which forms when the pig’s bottom or top teeth (don’t remember which) are pulled out. For a tooth like that to form it takes a few years and a pig with this prized possession is worth a substantial amount of money, as it’s the kind of pig that’s used in grade-taking ceremonies, where young men become chiefs and older men move higher in rank after they perform traditional dances, kill pigs and share food with local villagers. The leaves above the boys heads are local umbrellas, for real. It started to rain during the shoot and once some adults brought them these leaves I thought it was a great opportunity.

baker lighting fire

A local baker in Wintua, South West Bay, Malekula lighting a fire. I shot a whole bunch of photos in his bakery. As I mentioned, I loved shooting in the interiors and the bakery was pretty awesome with some nice backlight and sidelight. I also shot some video there and I hope I’ll have enough time to share some of it when I get back.

Ok, so that’s about all for the quick overview. There are of course many more images and I’ll try to post some mini stories with some of those photos while I am near the internet. Next Wednesday I should be going somewhere pretty remote again, so hopefully I’ll have the time. In any case I just wanted to share something quick in case I don’t get the chance in the near future.

Assessing another year of life, some advice and plans for the future

July 3, 2010

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This is the first post since my 29th birthday, which I had about a week ago. If you’ve been following this blog for over a year, you would have perhaps read that I am really not so crazy about birthdays. Twenty-nine… things are getting really serious now, I’m kinda grown up. :) It feels like I was at university just yesterday and at high-school last week. While I am very glad that I am not in high-school now (though I still get the nightmares, like a lot of you probably do) it is very, what’s the word – strange, surreal to be on the verge of turning thirty.

It seems like my birthdays over the past few years have been days for some sort of self assessing. I try to reflect on what I’ve done with my life and ponder where I’m heading next. It’s always been a little depressing to self-assess myself. I’ve always felt like I hadn’t done enough, like I hadn’t seen all the places I wanted to see and well… just insert whatever unfulfilled goals you have and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I do fully realize that my life is pretty awesome in many ways and many people dream of traveling the world and taking photos. I’m not complaining by any means, it’s just that I always seem to be behind on my plans and on top of that in the past it’s always been a struggle to get the finances together for the next trip, there was that feeling of uncertainty and the question of “how long can I keep doing this?” was never too far away.

For the first birthday in my life however, this isn’t a very pressing question. It seems that all the hard work I’ve put into my photography, eBooks, agency contracts as well as establishing contacts with magazine editors is finally paying off. For the first time in my life my finances are not much of an issue, at least not enough to have me worried about the ability to do what I love most. I have to say “This feeling is great, no doubt about it!”

It feels like there’s a world of new, possibilities ahead of me now as far as travel and photography are concerned. I am writing this post because, well because I’m pretty excited, but also because there’s a lesson to be learned, not that most of us don’t know what that lesson is – hard work and perseverance pay off. Maybe not right away, but eventually they do.

I’ve been getting more emails and even occasional calls from young aspiring travel photographers than ever before asking me for advice relating to being a travel photographer for a living and while I still don’t feel like I’m the appropriate person to ask anything about this matter, I can at least say some positive, encouraging words to them – “It can be done” even by someone like me, who for most part just kinda floated around not knowing what the next week will bring. Sure there’s the crisis and it’s always been “impossible” to make money through photography, particularly through travel pictures, but if you have the skills, a degree of talent, a lot of perseverance and if you ignore all the nay-sayers, then you can do a lot of what others say is “hard” or even “impossible”. If you ask me, there’s never been a better time to be a creative person. With the internet anyone is their own publisher, director, broadcaster or basically whatever they want to be. If you have a quality product – i.e. a solid body of work, you can make things happen. Actually let me repeat that, you need a solid body of work.

A lot of people try to jump the gun and want to make a career out of a few dozens half-decent travel snaps and become disappointed when things don’t go their way. That’s simply not how it works, forget it. So my advice to all of you who want to be “Travel photographers” is simple, in fact it should be pretty obvious and I’ve been saying it all along, but I guess with all the tweeting, blogging and whatever else that people who want to be photographers do, they forget that you need to actually be good at photography, to have something to show in order to sell yourself.

I had a reality check in regards to this back in 2005 when I submitted a bunch of photos to Lonely Planet, hoping to be represented by their image library. Their editors probably laughed (or cursed at me for wasting their time), but emailed me a polite response saying that while I had some strong work there was not enough of it to warrant a contract. The email might as well have said something like – “You’ve sent us ten decent images and four hundred and ninety shitty ones, (they needed a submission of 500) thanks for wasting our time, don’t submit again until you take this seriously.

I learned my lesson and hung onto the little positive bit of the email. I figured that the editor had no reason to lie to me and thought that if someone in a quality organization like LP thought that I had at least some strong work, then I have to build on that and I so I went out shooting stuff pretty intensely for a couple of years, using money that I earned working crappy jobs.

Ok, that’s enough of that. On a completely different note, I’ll be on the road again in a couple of weeks. My next destination – Vanuatu. I knew nothing about this country until very recently, but the more I’ve researched on it the more intrigued I’ve become. It’s actually quite easy to become intrigued with a nation which is made up of 83 islands, some of which are home to very traditional tribal groups and there’s only information out there on about two or three of them (the islands). The only way to find out more is to go, so that’s what I’m doing. It helps that Vanuatu is only about a four hour flight from Sydney, so you could say that I’ll be exploring what’s out there in my own backyard, ok, perhaps in the neighbor’s backyard. You get the point. :)

I’ll try to squeeze in a post before I go, but that’s all for now. Oh, and the seemingly unrelated image at the top of the post is a screen grab of the front page of the Corbis Images website. They featured (it’s gone now) one of my wrestler images there, which I thought was a pretty awesome welcome, as I fairly recently signed a contract with them. I probably mentioned before, I am now represented by two of the world’s favorite/hated (depends which way one looks at it) photo agencies – Getty and Corbis Images.

5 Great Photography Podcasts

June 16, 2010

Whenever I do a lot of post processing work in front of the computer monitor I tend to go a little insane, by a lot I mean something like 10 hours a day for a couple of weeks straight. I’m sure that I’m not the only one on whom this has an “adverse” affect.

To minimize the “pain” I often listen to music, but I feel that a more productive thing to do is to listen to certain podcasts, specifically podcasts that relate to the industry which I am a part of. I already mentioned a few months back that I listen to a lot of tech podcasts, which are all very relevant and keep me in the loop, as far as what I need to pay attention to. Through these I know what new technological developments may either make my life easier as a photographer (and now as an eBook writer) or what new developments are game changers and need to be considered in order to keep growing. (think iPad)

Of course the great thing about Podcasts is that you can listen to them while doing other work, you absorb information and often learn new things without losing time. And so without further-a-do I  want to mention 5 podcasts which are very relevant to almost anyone working in the photography industry or wanting to make a living in it. The podcasts are not ranked from best to worst, but rather alphabetically.

Note: I haven’t figured out how to link these directly to iTunes, so you’ll have to search for these podcasts within iTunes yourselves.

Depth-of-Field

Matt Brandon’s “Depth of Field” is without a doubt one of my favorites. Most of his guests are professional photographers with a lot of wisdom to offer to the listener. I love his casual interviewing style and the fact that he often asks the less typical questions. Matt also doesn’t just agree and play along with the people he interviews, but frequently questions them (without coming off as overly critical) and this generates interesting discussions. In short – great stuff in this podcast!

F-stop-Beyond

“F-Stop Beyond” has been a solid podcast for some time now, it’s been renamed to “F-Stop Beyond – The Experience” and it seems like the quality will remain high. There are some successful, big name photographers from various parts of the industry that make appearances on this podcast. I feel that it’s always valuable listening to anyone who has succeeded at something that I’m interested in, so “F-Stop Beyond” is definitely in my iTunes library.

Lenswork

Brooks Jensen’s “Lenswork” podcasts are an extension of Brooks’ beautiful photographic magazine of the same name. The podcasts are monologues of Brooks’ thoughts on photography, the creative process and random things in life that offer valuable lessons to any creatives. While listening to one man speak his mind is not everyone’s cup of tea, I love listening to Brooks’ stuff. For any aspiring photographers in particular there’s a whole lot of wisdom in what the man says.

The-Candid-Frame

“The Candid Frame” is a podcast by Ibarionex R. Perello. It’s similar to “F-Stop Beyond” except that I feel that Ibarionex often digs a little deeper and reveals more of the inner world of the photographers he interviews. This is sometimes really fascinating and beneficial to the listener, as those who are particularly keen will learn a lot from hearing what drives and inspires some of the world’s most interesting and successful photographers.

TWIP

“This Week in Photography” of “TWiP” is another favorite of mine. The podcast is hosted by Frederick Van Johnson and a panel of a few photographers (they sometimes change quite often). The focus of this show is on the photography industry, the panel discusses the latest news, developments, talks about gear and there’s usually an interesting and often very eye-opening and insightful interview with a pro photographer or someone from the industry. For those who are working in the photo industry, this podcast is an absolute must.

Well, that’s all for now folks. If you have any other great photography podcasts to suggest, please do so.

Transcending Travel – my new eBook

June 3, 2010

Travel book book graphic1-2 Just wanted to pass the word that my new eBook, which I did for “Digital Photography School” is out. I’ve put a lot of work into this one and I’m pretty over the moon about the fact that Darren Rowse, who is the founder of DPS (which happens to be the biggest photographic community on the web) decided to team up with me for this eBook. Darren is definitely one of the gurus of social media, he also runs the extremely useful and popular ProBlogger, it’s always an honor to be associated with people like that, who are at the top of their game.

Transcending Travel – A Guide to Captivating Travel Photography” is ideal for beginners and intermediates, but even if you’re a seasoned shooter I hope that it can provide you with some inspiration and food for thought or just give you a look at how I do things photographically.

You can find more info HERE or by clicking on the picture above. This week there’s a 25% off special and there are also some pretty cool incentives, check out the links for more.

That’s  all from me for now. More to come soon.

Back from my hiatus

May 30, 2010

mahout-and-elephant

Hi folks! Wow, it’s been about 3 months since my last post. I realize that posting once every 3 months is a great way to lose most of my readers, but hey, what can I say, I haven’t had much writing left in me lately.

The thing is, I had undertaken a pretty big project. In collaboration with The Digital Photography School I’ve written another eBook, this time on Travel photography. That’s a pretty darn broad topic, so naturally it took me a while to get the whole thing done (though longer than I expected). In the process I just really didn’t have the energy to write anything on my own blog, nor did I take any photos. I don’t know how the heck guys like David duChemin (at Pixelatedimage.com) manage to blog a few times a week, but then again even he has been pretty sparse of late, due to all the traveling.

I also have to update all of you who applied for the “Join me” trip on a motorcycle from Bali to the tribal villages of Flores. Sorry to say, but it ain’t happening this year, nor is the other private photo workshop. I’m kinda surprised by how much interest these generated, since I never actually advertised them anywhere, nor even blogged about them. In any case, I think I’m most likely going to stay away from the face to face, non-virtual workshops for the next couple of years. I just feel like I want to use my time on the road to educate myself for now, to keep taking my own photography to the next level. Nevertheless, I’ve put a lot of my knowledge into the Travel Photography eBook, so if you’re hungry for knowledge, if you want to know how I do things, it’s definitely worth checking out, stay tuned here and on the Digital Photography School site this week to find out more.

As I mentioned, I haven’t done any photography or at least no significant photography since I’ve been back in Sydney. So that’s about 4 months without doing any meaningful photo taking. Such is the nature of this way of business/lifestyle – you take photos for months and then you work on them for months, so that you can actually get them out into the marketplace or in front of the public.

I recently finalized a contract with Corbis Images, so now I’ll be represented by two of the world’s “favorite” stock photo agencies. This means more work sorting through the images and that’s exciting and overwhelming at the same time.

Now to some fun news, I hope to begin adding video content to this blog starting from my next journey. It’s something that I want to make a big priority in the not too distant future. It’ll be a mixture of adventure/travel videos and some behind the scenes stuff, which will hopefully be educational for all the aspiring travel photographers or for just anyone curious about what happens on such trips, how the photos are actually created.

Ok, so that’s about all for today. I’ll be blogging regularly again. To all of you who haven’t forgotten about me – thank you. To all those who have – I hope that you’ll find the new content of this blog interesting enough to come back.

For now I leave you with an image from a Ukranian magazine “Digital Photographer”. They did a pretty long story on my travels and images a couple of months back. The whole thing is kinda funny because they interviewed me in English (easier for me than Russian, though I speak it) and the way they translated what I said made me sound much more intelligent than I actually am, or perhaps more well-spoken in Russian. The title of the feature is “Messenger from the people”. If any of you are in that part of the world, perhaps you can get your hands on the magazine and check it out.

Ok, off for now, but I’m back in the blogosphere, so stay tuned.


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