Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

One last adventure in Braslav

January 30, 2010

The-netI’m in Abu Dhabi airport on a 12-hour layover. There’s really no better time to reflect on my most recent and final adventure in Belarus, before I head back to Sydney.

With a bit less than a week till my flight I decided that it’ll be a real pity not to visit the Braslav region one last time. When Yuri Ivanych, my friend in Braslav told me that I’d be able to see how the same fishermen brigade which I already photographed works in winter, I was sold on one last visit, much to the dismay of my family in Minsk, and Tanya – my wife.

The main reason was their concern for my driving ability in winter time. After my small car crash in Poland I had a bigger accident the day before New Year’s Eve. Again  – very slippery road, which looked deceitfully decent, I decided to overtake a very slow moving car, but even about 60km/per hour was enough to land my vehicle into a barrier, down a small hill and into a field. A tractor pulled me out and one of those “evacuator” vehicles got the car all the way back to Minsk, as it was not driveable. The story had a happy ending, since no one was hurt and everything was solvable, but understandably my family was concerned.

In any case, I hired a car again and went to Braslav. Luckily everything went very smoothly as far as driving this time, I think I learned my lessons.

Now to the fishermen. The shoot was a dream and a nightmare at the same time. I always wanted to shoot in the winter, in the snow. But that day it was minus 20 Celsius! I will say first of all that the gear held up incredibly well. I shot with the Canon 5D MKII, 20mm f1.8 Sigma and 24-70 f2.8 Canon lenses, I didn’t expect any problems with those, what surprised me was the battery. I filled a 16GB card with stills and even a few videos, the battery still had 28% of life left, I decided to change it simply to avoid missing an important shot when it would finally go flat.

I don’t know how I would rank my own performance. I was in the cold for about 5 hours straight and another two with breaks in a pretty warm car. It’s tough working in such weather. You can’t shoot without gloves, you lose sense of your fingers very quickly, the wind feels like it burns your face and when the sun goes down, staying for a couple of minutes without movement makes your teeth rattle from the cold.

I was not greatly equipped, as far as cold-proof gear for this one, but my friend was impressed with the way I tolerated the conditions. I have to say – it was a great experience, but I won’t be too sad if I don’t have another one like it for a while.

When the fishermen finally pulled out the net, which they managed to spread out under the ice, they didn’t end up with much. Parts of the ice cut the net in a few places and a lot of the fish was lost. Tough day for these guys, they were at the lake for much longer than me and managed to handle it like just another work-day.

At the end me, Yuri Ivanych and the National park driver drove across the frozen lake. In a very timely manner I was told that 10 years ago a jeep went under at about this time of the year, taking four passengers with it. I was advised to hold on to the door handle, to open it and jump, in case the ice cracks. I thought it was a joke, but after seeing Yuri Ivanych holding on to the door handle at the back I realised it wasn’t. The driver joked – if you two are holding on to the handles, what the hell am I meant to do? – Hold on to the wheel! Joked Yuri Ivanych.

casting-the-netA large hole is made in the ice. On one end fishermen cast a net into the hole.

rope-pullingOn the other end, fishermen make holes in the ice and use ropes to capture the net and spread it out. The net is pulled by hand at first and later with the help of a motor and a horse.

Pulling-the-ropeThe working conditions are very manual labour intensive, but things weren’t actually this way before. I was told by the fishermen who have been in the “business” for a while that there was more machinery involved during the Soviet times. Tractors did the job of horses and humans. Now it is unclear where the resources are going, one thing for sure the job hasn’t become any easier.

Old-fisherman-and-horseThis man has been with the fishermen brigade for a very long time. When I asked him “How’s life?” after arriving, he replied – “Life? What kind of life is this? I’m so sick of this shit, I’ve been doing it for 36 years! It’s f—cking cold out here!” I asked him why he did the job. His reply- “What else is there to do?”

smoke-break Not all fishermen lack enthusiasm though. The much younger Leonid, despite his frozen moustache tells me that the work isn’t so bad. He’s used to working because he has a big family and “many mouths to feed”. I asked him about the cold. “You don’t feel it while you work, while you move around, it’s not too bad here, if only someone could wipe the snot off my nose, then it would be perfect.” He jokes.

in-the-darkA fisherman puts a rope in the water then stirs it around with a stick to defrost it. His dog, watches on. She followed her owner and stayed by his side in the blistering cold for the entire day.

The only light comes from the car’s head-lights, however, usually there’s even less light than you see. The car’s lights were only switched-on after my begging, pleading and explaining that I won’t be able to photograph anything without them, at least that helped the fishermen a bit too. I’ve said it before, it’s a tough life. Their salary is about 180,000 Belarussian Rubles per month, that’s a bit over US$60.

That’s all for now. My next post will be from home, for the first time in about 5 months.

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.