Archive for October, 2008

Recap of the first few days

October 30, 2008

I meant to post this a couple of days ago, but Diwali has kept Internet cafés closed here in Junagadh.

The cab ride from Mumbai airport to the hotel reminds me why I am not crazy about this city. Huge billboards, wide, congested roads and some of the most pitiful slums one might encounter – these are not the things that I love about India. My wife Tanya and I decide to head off to Junagadh, my friend Hardik’s town as soon as possible.
The next day at ‘India Railways Tourist Ticket Counter’ a woman with a rough, commanding voice violently taps at the keyboard with her long fingers, she looks at the computer screen and proclaims that it is impossible to travel where we want tonight. We plead with her to find a solution, she does – we have to get the train to Ahmedabad – a city that is an eight-hour bus trip away from Junagadh. I dread bus trips in India, but there is no other choice.
Our train arrives in Ahmedabad at 5 am. I take my almost immediate stepping into a pile of dog crap after disembarking as an official welcome back to the Indian Railways.
A riksha takes us towards the bus station; on the way we buy a ticket for the ‘deluxe bus’ to Junagadh from a shifty eyed travel agent. – The deluxe bus is very best! Beautiful! It will be here at 7 am. He says.
We wait and watch life go by. A vendor in front of us sweeps a pile of rubbish away from his stall into the spot of his neighbor. On a road clogged up with motorcycles, rikshas, cars and buses a couple of boys in a buffalo cart slowly make their way; they and the buffalo are oblivious to the modern motorized transport that rushes by. A young lion-haired man who looks and dresses like a Bollywood star checks himself out in the mirror and jumps into a riksha, while next to him a crowd of village women and children in colorful, raggedy clothes pours out of another riksha and head to the bus stand.
The bus is 40 minutes late. The journey is exhausting, but halfway through there is a pleasant surprise. I hear my name at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. I turn around and see Hardik. We were meant to meet in Junagadh, his bus was to depart 3 hours later than ours, but the leisurely pace of the ‘beautiful’ deluxe bus has meant that we have ended up at the same rest stop. A nice coincidence, but a frustrating realization of just how slow we are moving. We exchange hugs and briefly chat until our buses depart.
An unpleasant surprise comes as we near our destination. – Hello! Junagadh, riksha! Go, go! The bus is making a detour and Junagadh is no longer the planned destination. A few of the passengers, including us are crammed into a riksha that farts its way through a pot-holed road at a speed of 30km an hour for the remainder of the trip.
As we approach Junagadh my heart begins to beat faster. Having spent a lot of time in the town over the four times that I have been here it is as close a place to home as there is for me in India.
I check into “Relief Hotel”, a pleasant and extremely helpful place, where the owner – Faiz, has become a good friend over the years. Minutes later Hardik arrives at the hotel and we go roaming around (as the Indians like to say).
A couple of hours later exhausted Tanya and I fall asleep in our room to the overwhelmingly loud noise of the firecrackers and fireworks outside. We miss the peak of the Diwali celebrations, but late in the evening we meet Hardik again and plan to catch what’s left of them. The old part of town is still very much alive and full of people. Few tourists make it to Junagadh and Tanya and I attract attention wherever we go, for a moment we get away from the crowds and turn into a quiet lane. Unexpectedly we experience one of those surreal ‘only in India’ moments. Two bullocks with huge horns majestically pull a large cart filled with hay, atop the cart sits a bearded village man in a traditional white costume. The ruins of the old city are behind him and suddenly fireworks go off to light up the scene. Diwali is like Christmas and New Year at once and Tanya is quick to make the comparison of the bearded village man in the bullock cart to Santa Clause. A Junagadhi Santa Claus with bullocks in place of reindeer – I guess it’s true when photographers say that some of the best photos are the ones that only exist in our memories.
Diwali means that almost everything will be closed. I anticipate staying a few more days in Junagadh, at least until Hardik heads back to work. We’ll somehow have to sort out the motorcyle issues – the bike is in a bad need of servicing and I need to have luggage carriers made. Hopefully I’ll have at least something sorted out by the time of the next post.

And I’m off to India…again

October 25, 2008

Today I’m flying to India for the fourth time in the past 3 years. I love India like no other country, but I have been wanting to see other places (hence my recent Indonesia trip). I feel like I can spend my whole life in India and it still won’t be enough. I would see and photograph only a tiny part of what’s there. But that’s a big part of the attraction. I keep getting sucked inJ. I have a private workshop to teach, but I guess I just need any excuse.

For the first time I will not have an extended plan before I get to the country. I will spend Diwali in Junagadh (Gujarat) the hometown of my great friend Hardik. I left my motorcycle with him after my last trip, figuring that he could get some good use out of it for a few years. Well, I am back sooner than I expected and will deprive him of it. My wife and I will probably ride towards Bikaner, Rajasthan. I haven’t been there yet and since the workshop takes place in Rajasthan too it’s a good chance to see that area. Ooh, the joy of riding on the Indian roads again! Over the years I’ve embraced the chaos and now I think I feel more stressed in a car in Sydney, everything feels too orderly.

The workshop will go on for 17 days and nothing seems to be concrete after that, great but potentially disastrous from the standpoint of productivity. I have plenty of ideas for stories to shoot though, so I don’t think being unproductive is my biggest threat. India here we come again…


For those interested in what gear I’m taking:

I am only an occasional gear freak. For most part I don’t care what I shoot with, or what tools I use, as long as they do what I want them to do. However I do last for the 5D MKII.

Canon 5D (well the new one ain’t out yet!), Canon 24-70mm f 2.8, Sigma 20mm f 1.8

Self explanatory…I  think.

Canon 580 EX II Flash + ST-E2 Trasmitter along with a portable softbox from Photoflex, as well as a while bunch of gels.

These really got a lot of use during my last Indonesia trip. It’s great what you can do with a flash and whatever that is becomes even better when it’s an off camera flash. Thanks to my wife Tanya for holding it in the most awkward of situations.

Two 8GB cards and a bunch of 2GB and 1GB cards. Two portable HDDs 250GB and 160GB, I like Seagate. I have not replaced my broken Hyperdrive Color Space. It was one great gadget, if only it could withstand hits against a concrete floor. One banged up old Dell laptop. I am proud of how much use I have gotten out of this thing. Still does most of the work I need and even seems to withstand the hits against a concrete floor.

Timorese elder by the fire, taken with the help of a transmitter an off camera flash, a gel and a softbox.

Timorese elder by the fire, taken with the help of a transmitter, an off camera flash, a gel and a softbox.


Sulfur Miners of Kawah Ijen

October 25, 2008

A quick first real post. Above is a photograph of a sulfur miner who works at Kawah Ijen. His name is Paing and over the time that I spent in the region we became friends. This image was taken during my last trip to the Ijen crater (I made 3 trips there). We decided to make the journey together, but began a little later than I would have preferred; the sun was already slowly making its way up as we reached the crater rim. We stopped to rest; I decided to take advantage of the fact that there was some light and to photograph Paing against the spectacular mountain backdrop. He sat down, I set up my tripod, he lit his cigarette with the still burning flame and stared out into the distance. Another miner walked past, they exchanged greetings and he continued to stare. I took as few frames. This is probably one that I like most. The image is lit only by the flame that Paing is holding.

To get more of an idea about Kawah Ijen and the people who work there you can read what I’ve written and see the bunch of images here in my gallery on PBase.

First post and welcome to the blog

October 25, 2008

I’ve been contemplating this for a while and at last I have entered the world of bloggers. The final push was my journey around Indonesia. I regretted not being able to share the amazing experiences and the many lessons in photography, travel and life that one encounters on the road.

I want this blog to serve a few purposes. Obviously it is a ‘place’ for friends and family around the world to see what I’m up to, but I hope that it can also be a somewhat valuable resource for fellow wanderers, photographers or even armchair travelers.

Some of the questions regarding the technical/practical side of photography will also be answered here. I am often asked something along these lines – What lens did you use? How was this lit? How did you get access? Periodically I will post an image and provide an insight into what was involved in making it.

Feel free to comment, interact and ask more questions. I will do my best to respond any time I am near a connection.