September 30, 2010

Around Bhaktapur 3

Often people asks me what about Nepal, it is not a difficult answer, but at the same time it is also hard to describe it briefly and precisely, and sometimes my answer is sunshine, and colors. And in this trip, I saw plenty of both.
Continue to wander around the Bhaktapur Squre, all the time with a Panasonic GF-1 with me, it is like a visual notebook, and I took quite many images such as this, a perfect example of sunshine and color, Nepalese color.  Sometimes photography is not such purpose driven, many images took simply because at that instant, it is just so attractive, of course, often is also serves documentary value, representing something of sometime. Digital image, thanks to its metadata, honestly reocorded the date, time, and many model even allow GPS geotag, perfect for travelers.
Or sometimes just a simple image such as this, also with GF-1, a simple repre-sentation of colors popular in the market.  The high quality GF-1 and its 20/1.7 lens, perfect for this kind of docu-mentary work, faithfully and detaily record the fine texture.
Also such as the pattern, color on the fabric, clearly identify the Nepalese culture.  It is suggested that photographer should not, or at least it is what I will try to convice, to open to more photographic subjects, because during the process one may inspired by other elements of the image can create something else, sometimes something totally not expected.  Or, the photographer should not put pressure on himself that each day, each hour he should produce something, at least this is not when you are traveling for pleasure.

September 29, 2010

Around Bhaktapur 2

Have I said enough of traveling with photography group?  Of course you get to meet other photographer that may exchange different crafts, or just relaxed with friend? Or simply do not want to involve in those rush mode of typical tourist group? Yes, you have a lot more your own time, to shoot or sometimes just sipping coffee, taking a break, or sometimes taking a long break. Eric, a friend of mine who is also in the trip, for example, has a different agenda. He was too busy in his work life, has hard time to get decent sleep so he simply wants to take a break, travel with a camera, taking or not taking picture, taking or not taking video, and he got what he want.
Mine is simple too. This is not the first trip to Nepal and certainly not likely to be the last, so I was in no hurry, I took time for my own picture, my video, get myself engaged with local for some conversation, it is after all a holiday, not an assignment. With this clear in mind, I was at ease of getting what I want, and not all that is photography or videography related. You get different ideas on something, you get to swtich off some part of your brain to give it a break, or you get to switch on some part of your brain that was not working for awhile.
Here is a simple image of a weathered wooden door, nothing spectacular, but its texture attracts me, so I snap an image with the Panasonic GF-1.  The compact camera works like a notepad, a visual notepad that is.  OK, there is a bit of photographer's bad habit, I like to see how such a compact m4/3 camera can resolve in this kind of image. Just wanted to know. And GF-1 certainly did well here, as well as its capability in recording nice quality video.  GF-1 was havily marketed as a camera to shoot AVCHD but I was more or less shooting the .mov most of the time so it is easier for me to edit and view on my mac. More on this later.
Here is another image also taken with GF-1 + 20/1.7, on a traditional Nepali tapastry vendor, the vibrant tapestry displayed together with a nice color pattern.
And some scarf here, together forming a very pleasing color pattern.  Here, the color trend does not work, or it does not need to work. Tradition is the result of time, and people who in the position to pioneer color was on mission to make changes, and most of the time - un-necessary changes, which has a nice name called "fashion".  My own approach of fashion is to be different, but the result of fashion is usually quite opposite, and since everyone many people eventually all dress the same, then it gives the designer (or moeny invested on them) to make change, and let the cycle repeated itself, a beautiful system, I must say.
But readers don't get me wrong, I love fashion cycles, after all, a big part of my job was base on that!  And seeing new, different (no matter for what reason or result) is a fun part of daily life.
And this is the street where I took all these tapestry and fabrics, a very tradition small street in Bhaktapur, also with GF-1.
And this ia young Nepali man busied with his cell phone.  And speaking of cell phone, it is a more than a small part of young people in those developed countries, indifferent in Nepal, or perhaps more so because in a country like Nepal, they have less. The text messaging, the Facebook, the twitter, the XYZ, is in fact becoming an important part of life.  Today, to me, the cell phone to the younger people, is more than jewelry, more than watch, sometimes more than the dress.
And this image speaks for itself, also with GF-1, but certainly each individual images taken with larger cameras I beleived. Taken in fornt of a tour shop, featuring all the popular destinations in Nepal, something I do often when I travel.  Afterall, what else one can do to cover all the best attractions of a country in one single capture?  One of my travel top to give, highly recommended!

September 28, 2010

Around Bhaktapur 1

Bhaktapur, the town of devotees, or known as Bhadagon, or Khwopa.  Consisted of 3 squares: Darbar Square,  Taumadhi Square and Dattatreya Square.  As I wroe many times, this is a true world heritage site, because people is living there, and how they live, their religious life, are all part of the world heritage, not just ancient stone, brick or wood.  It does not operate in hours, with a gate to open in the morning and ask you out before it close.  When you visit there, you are also part of it, any visitor can easily blend into this serentic place, or live here if he wishes.  While wandering around, I also saw quite many small boutique hotels inside the squares - what a mistake we did not stay here!
Our breakfast place itself is such a set up!  An ancient building in its own right, a 3-storey wood structure building that sitting inside here, you get an elevated panoramic view of the square.  Walking up, I passed the kitchen on the 2nd floor, and snap an image of the cook patiently waiting for the food to be ready.  Shot with Canon 5DII + EF 24-105/4L IS.
Finding out the food is still in the kitchen, I upload the camera bag and leave it in the top floor where some of my fellow photographers already there, and took my Canon 5DIi ith EF 24-105/4L IS hurried down the building to find something interesting.
And here a small shrine, some Nepalese women doing their morning religious practice. I was shooting my picture really close to them but none of them seemed to care, they are just so much into their routine as if it is a life lesson, or indeed it is - so take my advice - take you time, get the picture you want, or trying until you get what you want.  Repeat: Nepal is paradise to photograph people.  And one more tip: the Canon 5DII or many HDSLR nowadays, with the ability to capture beautiful cinematic footage. Use it, you have already paid for it.

Time to get back to breakfast.  I ahve myself a nice set up by the balcany, while enjoy my breakfast - seriously speaking, I am not a fan of Nepalese food, which extends to its breakfast, but sure it is totally acceptable.  However, considered the set up I have, the view, I really cannot say it was not wonderful.  I slowly set up my Canon 1Ds III on tripod, mounted with EF 35/1.4L lens, softly pressed the shutter for some long exposure shots, to register the somewhat busy morning market.

Day 4, Bhaktapur

Into the 4th day in Nepal, this will be also the day we leave Kathmandu to Nagarkot.  This day started early again, and this is the beauty of traveling in a photography tour, to catch the first light on location. Rather than the usual morning call, the breakfast, the wait, then slow starting - not for me, not for those who travel for photography.  And this morning is a perfect example.
I have to pack last night - frankly, on such a photography trip, I besides cameras, lenses, I have not much else.  Oh yes, of course my 17" Macbook Pro, 2 external HDD (1G each), my Walcom Intuos 4, clothing is probably use more to stuff the bag for shock protection, and to wear.  But this is March in Nepal, a typical summer cloth will do and a light jacket for early morning in country side (which I did not bring at all - I get used to some cold, but not freezing - March in Nepal is not freezing, so I survive very well).  After loading the luggages to the bus, still in the dark, we moved on to ou destination of the day - Bhaktapur (The Town of Devotees),  also a world heritage site.  And here I repeat again, many of the world heritage sites I visited is for torusits, few peopel actually live there.  In Nepal, you are visitor to those who live in the world heritage site, real life.  
Upon arrival, the most familiar sight - the Nepalese started to queue up to get their daily essential - water! This is shot with Panasonic GF-1 mounted with 20/1.7 lens, manual exposure.  This little and powerful camera was almost glued to my hand through out this trip. Its full manual control allows me to capture the light where I see it and wanted to show it.
And this Nepali woman, later than those already around the water well, just left the door to get the water. This is how people live in the world heritage site in Nepal, sorry, no plumbing.  This of course is one of the photographic subject, but it would be quite selfish for me to want to shoot the scene such as this and delay the people from modernize.  I also wondered, many years later, when they finally live in a community where water comes from the faucets, will this be a bitter or sweet memory? Or both?  Again, this is shot with Panasonic GF-1.
Still in the morning, around 6:10am, after each of us have a registration of our bearing, we decided it is better to give freedom for the group, and we shall meet again at a beautiful breakfast spot later, and we will be here until 2pm, before leaving for Nagarkot - a good plan! So I set off!
Wandering around, in front of my eyes were the ancient architecture, some with modern improvement (but not those you would usually see in China, with color metal or color changing LED - ?? what the xxxx is that for??), here you see nicely matched modern day - OK, not so modern, but something of present day, fixtures, lockers, window shields and so on. And you will be convinced that this is a real world heritage site, not a theater.
Again, with the heavy gear on my back (Canon 1Ds III and 5DII and a bagful of lenses inside my Lowepro), the GF-1 is my primary tool, and something powerful indeed. Here I spot this woman just left her home for her morning prayer, quickly snap off a shot.
And here a lone passenger, to want to record the image with motion blue, I was in fact set up my camera with the shutter speed to 1/60s to just enough to capture the moving subject reasonable sharpness and reasonable motion blur - and wait.  Wait for the motion subject to get into my frame, and fire off. I did not wait for long, and this is only shot I took! I have a little luck here.
And some Nepali men, sitting there, I was not sure what they waiting for, or may be just sitting?  No matter what, they are kind enough to just sit there while I take my shot.
And also something about Nepali men, as one will find it very common, they like to read newspapers. It is just their culture?  or the country is in changing?  I don't know, may be both.  But this is nothing which I should worry, and I told myself, perhaps it is time to go to meet friends for breakfast!

September 27, 2010

Monks, around Pashupatinath Temple

Most of the visitors went to Pashupatinath Temple for the Hindu funeral culture, but there are also monks not to be missed.
With Panasonic GF-1 mounted with 20/1.7 lens, I made quick excursion around the temple area to cature some of the monks practice around here.  Of course the monks still looked quite the same, their practice may be not, at least I doubt so.  After all, this is 2010.
But really I don't care that much.  May be it will be different if I am working on a special article - which is tempting, but for now, I am a tourist taking some travel photographs, I will give it a beak, I will give myself a break.
Realism is one thing, drama is another.  Once I decided to careless the story behind the picture, the actual production part was quite effortless, and fun, and relaxed.  And then you can look at the picture with a slightly different perspective. For example this elder monk, with his hair so long that I was convinced that perhaps he did not cut it for decades.  But how does this has anythiing to do with religious practice, it is not a subject here.

Scan the surrounding

Even travel with group, I sometimes like to stay away from group to work on my photography, not that I am not a group person, but I often able to find more opportunities when shooting along,  Often because there is a tendency for one to shoot similar things in group shooting, although this does not mean you can't get good images, but you can't get more unique images.  Of course my goal is not to shoot just different images, but I prefer when I came back from the trip I have a little different work, even though the difference does not mean superior images.
Here an example, while everyone was focusing on the funeral scene,  I look away to find somthing else to shoot and I saw these monkey running on the roof top of a building next to the Pashupatinath Temple, sunset on the background, and I fired away some shots, usnig Canon 5DII + EF 70-200/2.8L IS with 1.4X extender.
And a young monk quietly looking at the group of visitors (most with cameras) gathered around the river bank to watch and photograph of the funeral in progress. I quickly snap ta few images with a Panasonic GF-1 with 20mm lens. Highly suggested: I knew that a lot of photographers are looking for the highest possible resolution of capture they can get, so often they overlook the importance of a compact camera such as GF-1 can do.
And here an elder Nepali woman walked out of the door, also with compact and mighty GF-1.

September 26, 2010

Life and Death

The morning spent in the little Bagmati village proved to be productive and fun, but eventually we have to move on.  Many of my fellow trevelers continue to fire off their cameras through the window of our bus, like a accorded rythm, but I slowly put on my JBL earphone and turn on my iPod to listen to music and a small nap, not that I have no desire to shoot more nor I no longer have interest, just to have a short mental break, while the bus started, and roll on to our lunch destination.
Our lunch today is still Chiinese food, kind of biring. It is not that I am not a fan of Chinese food, I am just not a fan for Chinese food in Nepal.
After lunch, we move on to the river bank right next to Pashupatinath Temple. It is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu.  The temple was first established in the 5th century.  The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Brahmins from south India since of the time of Malla King Yaksha Malla. This tradition is supposed to have started by the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the different states of Bharatam (Greater India) by encouraging cultural exchanges. Built on the outcrop of Bagmati River, considered holy river in Hindu. Pashupatinath temple is not accessible for non-Hindu but it is the cremations that attact many visitors, both Nepaliese and foreign visitors.  Cremations are part of life and death. And the important fact is that Hindus are cremated on the banks of this holy river, and Kirants are buried in the hills by its side.  According to the Nepalese Hindu tradition, the dead body must be dipped three times into the Bagmati river before cremation.  Te chief mourner (usually the first son) who lights the funeral pyre must take a holy river-water bath immediately after cremation.  Many relatives who join the funeral procession also take bath in the Bagmati River or sprinkle the holy water on their bodies at the end of cremation.  Bagmati River thus considered purifying the people spiritually and physically.
Images taken with Canon 5DII + EF 70-200/2.8L IS +1.4X Extender, also use to take the motions.

Video taken with Canon 5DII with EF 70-200/2.8L IS + 1.4 Extender.

Close to the action

It is my preference, and something I highly suggest, to get as close as possible to your subjects, in their actions, to bring to viewer into more reality. A stranger is a stranger, you can't change that fact in an instant.  But a stranger with a camera on hand is a lot friendlier than he has nothing on hand, this is the advantage of photographer with his tools on hand.  OK, except you are in a conflict zone than perhaps it is a different story. Here in Nepal, my theory usually works, and it works quite well.
This image, taken with a Canon 5DII and EF 24-105/4L IS, on a woman working on her weaving, is a good example.  Of course there are many ways to take image of her working, but taking a picture simply as a distant observer or getting an angle such as this so you feel her work, gave the picture totally different dynamic. It was a dark room but even with the 5DII's fantastic poor light performance, I still set my camera at a slower shutter speed to allow some motion blur, to achieve stronger sense of action.  Video here also taken with Canon 5DII with EF 24-105/4L. 
And this one, the son of the weaver, was blowing a balloon, I quickly snap the image also with my 5DII, not only to portrait her adorbale son, but also give the environment a faithful record, dark, tiny, common of hard working people in less developed countries.  Here the careful reader will find out that with this image, I did not have the focus perfectly set to the kid, in stead, it is somehow in the background.  But it does not bother me!  The shot was made with the lens set to 24mm, so the reasonable wide angle lens at least provides all the elements in this image acceptable sharpness.  The focus, although important, it is not the most critical matter in this image, to me.  What mattered was the this image is require to show the realirt of the working enviroment of her mom, and the kid's ability to find himself a playground given the condition, and happy with it.
And this one, a butcher at work. Also shot with a Canon 5DII, here I lowered to camera to the level of the meat (almost), so to record the action, the atmosphere of the morning market of this little village with more honesty.  Short video clip here captured with Panasonic GF-1 with 20/1.7.

And this one the cotton trader who is book keeping the weight and cost of the cotton. Also shot with Canon 5DII + EF 24-105/4L IS, the high resolution of modern digital camera and decent optic even reocreded the cost of trades of the day, giving the image a little extra historical value.
Short video clip captured with Panasonic GF-1 + 20/1.7.