Much has been made of the Kumbh Mela lately because it is such an extraordinary event – a mass Hindu pilgrimage, largest in the world. Each Kumbh, tens of millions of pilgrims descend upon one of four Indian cities to celebrate and bathe in sacred rivers.
The location for the Kumbh Mela rotates each time, roughly every three years, with smaller celebrations occurring at each city during various off-years. These dates are dictated by the Vikram Samvat, or historical Hindu calendar.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting during this spectacular event multiple times throughout my career:
2001 – Allahabad
This visit to Kumbh Mela ended up producing one of my most popular images – Spiritual Journey.
This occasion was a “Maha” or “Great” Kumbh Mela – over 120 million people attended!
If you’re ever able to attend this historic spiritual event, it’s well worth the trip to witness the spirituality and dedication of the pilgrims who attend. Though popularity and exposure has risen over recent years, it’s a sacred event that exemplifies spirituality through the dedication and sacrifice. Rarely seen in the public eye, the Kumbh Mela offers a rare chance to witness the emergence of the sadhus, or holy men, who spend most of their lives in isolated meditation and deprivation who come and further display their dedication through discomfort as they bathe in the melted glacial waters of their sacred rivers.
An upcoming Ardh Kumbh Mela takes place this year in Allahabad (officially known as Prayagraj), and the next Kumbh Mela will happen in 2022 at Haridwar.
Despite it’s cold, unwelcoming climate, South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic is one of my favorite places on earth. A remote, hundred-mile whaleback of rock, South Georgia Island resides in the Southern Ocean, more than eight hundred miles southeast of the Falkland Islands. It features glacier-clad mountains rising two vertical miles above the sea. South Georgia is as wild as it gets, hosting one of the largest concentrations of wildlife anywhere. Over four hundred thousand pairs of king penguins walk the beaches and swim in the frigid blue ocean. Seals, albatross, and even reindeer (imported for meat by long-gone Norwegian whalers) also inhabit this isolated island. I used a wide-angle lens to photograph austere landscapes, intimate plant studies, and endearing animal behavior in this wildlife oasis.
On a tiny island near the coast of South Georgia Island, a courting male albatross bonds with it’s potential lifelong mate. The wandering albatross, with an eleven-foot wingspan, is clearly king of ocean birds, but overfishing and destructive longline nets threaten it’s survival in southern oceans. Some nets stretch up to sixty miles and snare fish and birds indiscriminately.
An adolescent king penguin challenges reindeer crossing through a penguin rockery on South Georgia Island. Long gone European brought reindeer to the island as a dietary alternative to whale meat. Reindeer herds continue to roam through the remote island.
Forty-pound king penguins line the shores of South Georgia Island. They are on their way to the rockery where territorial instincts prompt numerous quarrels among the birds. The beach is a respite from the dangers of the ocean and the crabby neighbors on the nests. Although the island experiences some of the worst weather in the world, we were fortunate to shoot in the pink light of a clear sky with the sun hidden behind the horizon.
Want to know more, and see these animals in motion? This episode is featured on Season 1, Episode 4 of Travels to the Edge, available individually, as part of the entire first season, and the full series! Have a great weekend!
Great news on my evergreen TV show! The first thirteen episodes of Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge are now available to stream in the US & UK on Amazon. If you haven’t seen them before, it’s now even easier!
Check them out at an affordable price, or stream them free if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber:
Revel in the beauty of awe-inspiring landscapes and the unique animals and people that inhabit them through an artist’s lens. During these journeys, I share my knowledge, curiosity, and enthusiasm about the world around us. You will also learn professional photographic techniques in such an intimate manner that you feel as if you’re right there with me getting a personal photography lesson.
Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge was produced by Edge of the Earth Productions, LLC in association with Blue Moon Productions, Inc., presented by Oregon Public Broadcasting, and distributed by American Public Television (APT). Funding for Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge was generously provided by Canon U.S.A., Inc. and the Microsoft Corporation. Additional funding was provided by Conservation International.
With Art Wolfe’s Travel to the Edge airing in the US & Europe and Tales by Light streaming on Netflix, you can binge watch all these gloriously filmed, international episodes to your heart’s content and then figure out where you want to travel to next.
If you haven’t already seen it, Season 1 of Tales by Light is riveting. The six half hour long episodes follow five photographers around the world documenting their approach to photography and story telling: Darren Jew, a nature and underwater photographer, Krystle Wright, an adventure sports photographer, Richard I’Anson, a travel photographer, and Peter Eastway, a landscape photographer.
Five photographers & six episodes–the math doesn’t add up, you say. Two of the episodes follow me on wildlife and cultural adventures in East Africa, Papua New Guinea, and Alaska. In “Tribes”, you’ll catch glimpses of my work with the Surma people of Ethiopia, and gain huge insight into my Human Canvas Project. In “Wild” I visit Alaska, among other locations, to photograph the mountainous landscape and brown bears of Katmai to which I am leading workshops in 2017 and the same dates for 2018.
After witnessing the amazing percolating crater of Nyirangongo Volcano and Virunga’s mountain gorillas, we flew to one of Tanzania’s most remote and rarely visited parks, Katavi National Park. Here in the dry season the Katuma River slows to a trickle and becomes the only source of drinking water for miles around. Wildlife in unbelievable densities is forced to converge on the riverine pools. Already the most dangerous animals in East Africa, hippos erupt in territorial disputes and crocodiles lurk nearby in an uneasy truce. This is one of the few places I have been where so many huge, dangerous animals have been so concentrated. In the midst of it all, an annular eclipse occurred, which seemed a sideline to this gritty wildlife spectacle. To answer your question: the crocodile did manage to wriggle away to safety.
Some years are publishing years, some are traveling, 2015 was for reshaping the business—a necessity in the ever-changing photography industry. I closed my downtown Seattle gallery and launched this website, focusing my core business online and allowing me the ability to concentrate on other projects, of which there are many.
All the filming that I did in 2014 with Abraham Joffe and the Untitled Film Works crew—in East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Alaska, and here in Seattle—finally came to fruition. Tales by Light is a joint Canon Australia and National Geographic Channel production & I hope it comes to the US soon!
Travel & Photography: The year was bookended by East Africa
While travel slowed somewhat in 2015, I still managed trips to Tanzania (twice), Kenya, Yellowstone National Park (twice), Antarctica, India, Bali, Japan, Iceland, Washington State, Alaska, Svalbard, California, and Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. The final expedition of the year was to the Danakil Basin of Ethiopia.