I hadn’t been to Easter Island since 1986 and if you’ve checked out Photographs From the Edge, you’ll know that despite my “scientific” western brain, I had quite the spiritual experience here, miles away from the closest human and surrounded by monuments of ages passed. It is places like these where despite our different backgrounds one can come and feel an almost metaphysical presence that was partially my inspiration for an upcoming book on international faith and ritual.
For that project, among others, I thought it would be great to revisit it during the Tapati Festival. Rightly so, Rapa Nui people are very proud of their heritage and this festival highlights their culture. Of course, everyone is familiar with the moai, monumental statues of ancestors. We got up at three in the morning to photograph them under the Milky Way, running around with flashlights to illuminate them in various ways.
I was also able to pull photograph three Rapa Nui men in traditional garb, overlooking the ocean. In the past, men would brave the currents and swim out to the small island in the distance and bring back seabird eggs. If they succeeded they would be regarded as heroes for their efforts.
Enjoy the photos, and stay tuned to the blog for more photos from my first couple months of 2020 travel!
Here be Dragons! I spent most of the month of January in Asia – Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. In Japan, I was able to return to the place I photographed ducks and swans three decades ago for Migrations. As you can see, the congregation of waterfowl was a crush of feathers and beaks that mostly obscured any sight of the water beneath them. We also visited the beach, where storms in the region have discarded all kinds of garbage onto the shore – it was awful, but also quite a sight.
From Japan, we visited Indonesia and most notably Komodo island where I was able to capture the massive and menacing Komodo Dragons. I’d been planning this stop for a while and wasn’t disappointed, using some rigged up gear to get in nice and close.
The trip closed out in the Philippines, and this time the congregation was of revelers and worshipers at the Sinulog Festival and the – *deep breath* – Solemn Procession of the Miraculous Image of the Santa Niño. That’s quite the name, for quite the festival! I was most impressed with the variety of colorful costumes on display. I was also the sole photographer willing to get in the water with whale sharks – no regrets, enjoy the photos!
One of my last trips to close out 2019 was a visit to Istanbul, Turkey. I’ve been making my way through several countries with an eye on the different ways cultures express and practice faith for an upcoming book project where I wish to illustrate the various ways we humans, so similar in many ways, celebrate our faith with such varied ceremonies, icons, and other forms of expression. The domed mosques shining at sunrise or sunset, illuminated and shining over the city provided an excellent backdrop for capturing those practicing their faith as well as portraits, and I was even extended an invitation to photograph the Whirling Dervishes as they engaged in their frenetic reeling dance. Enjoy, and stay tuned for some exciting new photos from my current trip. Here’s a hint – There be Dragons!
I made multiple trips to India this year, including a trip this past November. I’m now an expert on old Delhi, where I was able to capture a number of abstracts before setting out in search of wildlife, namely tigers. My last trip here was focused mostly on the Holi festival, and while I came away with some shots I’m happy with the crush of people made for a chaotic environment to shoot in. This trip was more my speed, and I’m happy with what I came away with. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!
One of the draws to visiting a country like Romania is the old-world rural setting, and I came upon a couple fantastic and eventually willing subjects to illustrate just that.
When I first found the cat and the Muskovy duck in a barnyard in Romania, I decided to play up their relationship by basically herding them closer together. Initially they were about 5 feet apart which meant their association was less memorable. By slowly circling I was able to get them to be less than a foot apart which becomes visually more significant.
The cat understandably was unfazed by my presence. The duck was less confident with my intentions. Finally, with perseverance and patience, I got what I wanted – and brought two friends closer together!
At the beginning of November I pried a few friends away from their families and obligations and had a great time exploring the canyonlands of Utah; A simple excursion for photography’s sake of the sort I haven’t had in some time! Usually I’m leaping from location to location, itinerary in hand and a clear goal in mind – to fulfill a book project, or fill a gap in my catalog with previously unexplored location, creature, or culture.
This time it was a relaxed trip with friends to feed the soul and recharge the batteries with no expectations that would elicit success or failure. It was a great trip and I’ll definitely make time for these kinds of trips in the future. Enjoy!
I just loved the two weeks I had in Israel and Jordan, with a brief foray into the West Bank. For once I actually had friends set up a trip for me instead of the other way around. We had an extraordinary time with an insider’s access to what is the center of several of the world’s great religions. I found it to be exceptionally energizing and fascinating; with all that we hear about the Middle East, this was not what I was expecting. It is a microcosm of how well people of different faiths & cultures can live together and alternately how cruelly it tears people apart.
As with all my trips, we do our due diligence to find the best resources on the ground and much of what was captured wouldn’t have been possible without the access and insight provided by our fantastic guide, Simon Beni. I can’t recommend Simon enough if you’re planning a trip to the region – check out his website for more information!
In Jordan we drove up the Wadi Rum and I had flashbacks to Lawrence of Arabia, which is one of my favorite movies. Its rock formation are reminiscent of the desert southwest (without the camels), but instead of angular, the sandstone is pillowy.
We also visited the famous ancient city of Petra. It was fascinating to see in person, though the amount of tourists and the instantly recognizable features made it less interesting to me as a subject. Still, I’m thankful to have experienced it in person. Enjoy the pics!
Good news if you’re in the Pacific Northwest and could use a little photographic inspiration to recharge those chilly fall batteries – the next two weekends will see me back home for a few events, and I hope to catch you there!
As you may know if you follow me, Wild Elephants was published this week. Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered. I’ll be signing those books this weekend so we can send them out! The new trade edition of Human Canvas will also be officially published next week, but we have received those as well. I’ll be attending the Kenmore Camera Digital Photo Expo this Saturday from 10:30 AM til 12:30 PM – come and pick up your signed copy of either or both books! This is always an invaluable event with plenty of resources on-hand to talk about the latest photo tech – don’t miss it!
For those of you in the Seattle and Portland areas, there are still limited spaces remaining for both Photography As Art seminars happening in those cities – sign up to reserve your spot today!
If you’d rather gamble than secure a guaranteed spot, today is the last day to enter your name in our give-away, so check it out and enter your name before midnight for your chance to win a ticket!
With the fall of Communism in 1989 and the integration into the European Union, Romania is changing quickly. We spent a day in Bucharest and then headed for the hills where traditional life can still be found. This time of year is beautiful in the Carpathians with fall color, morning mists, and agricultural landscapes.
Overall, I was happy with what I was able to capture here, from the golden landscapes to the flow of daily life here. I was also grateful to be able to observe traditional rituals and the celebration of religion here that will play nicely into an upcoming book project. Now it’s off to Israel! Stay tuned for more. . .
Currently I’m on the road traveling, but have some photos to share from our visit to Romania. While there, I was able to photograph the Bear Dancers whom parade through the streets of villages every year between Christmas and New Years in their bear-skin costumes. It was a privilege to photograph them in this way long before they will officially don the outfits.
This ceremony is a joyfulcelebration belying the fearsome appearance of the traditional costumes and demeanor of the dancers within. It is a tradition intended to scare away evil spirits – including an accompaniment of drums, flutes, and singing – with beginnings that have been difficult to pin-point due to sparse documentation of the region’s history.
To begin with, we assemble the performers! Dressed in a red military uniform, the “Bear Tamer” leads his group of dancers while a wool-clad shepherd stands with the musicians in blue and white garb. A more overcast day may have been ideal, but you must work with the circumstances you are given. By closing in close on the group of dancers themselves, we can put the focus directly on the savage costumes.
Here, a young girl peaks out from below her mask, giving us a great opportunity to capture a similar shot of the group, but with this reveal adding an extra sense of context to the photograph. The contrast of her face among the fierce, snarling bears only adds to the story.
Again, I want to isolate and emphasize the costumes and the dancers themselves without any other outside information informing the story – the subjects here are the elaborate costumes, their muzzles silhouetted against the blue sky, and the shadowed faces of the dancers themselves.
Of course, these ARE dancers after all – so action shots are necessary. Capturing the dancers in their furs against the rich evergreen background of Romanian landscape ties them together nicely. As complimentary colors, the rich reds of their costumes stand out against the forest green.
Here we focus on the procession of bears as they might appear in their journey through the village, usually ending up in a town square for further celebration. Whenever you are given an opportunity like this, take full advantage of it and get all the shots you possibly can – I’ll have more up soon along with the rest of our haul from Romania!