Recently, when I received a B&W image to assess from Ron, a former client from one of my Cuba tours, I studied it and then wrote back to him asking if he would send me the original RAW file so that I could work on it the way I would have done it.
This he duly did, and once I had optimized the RAW file in Camera RAW (which included desaturating it, adjusting the B&W tones with the color sliders, and making final adjustments to exposure and contrast), I ran it through Nik Silver Efex Pro using my Havana Nights recipe. I then made some local corrections and tweaks to arrive at the example on the right. The added contract and rich blacks really accentuated the character of the old woman as well as emphasizing the beautiful quality of the single source "window light".
Though Ron's image conversion was solid, I think that by comparing the two treatments side by side shows how "grey" his image was in comparison to the version made with Silver Efex.
I have included the Havana Nights settings below. If you would like to try it, download the file and import it into Silver Efex Pro. have fun!
Travel partner Herb Leventon of Epic Photo Tours is presently in Gujarat scouting for our upcoming tour in Tribes of Gujarat, Jan 9 - 21, 2015. Here are his impressions of Ahemdabad during his first 8 hours there (pics to follow).
Great first day, didn't see another foreigner along the way. No english spoken, zero hassle factor. Great street photography; cattle on the streets, interesting architecture, henna on hands, ankle bracelets, nose piercings, friendly shop keepers…
Left the hotel at 7:30 am and drove directly to the ancient gated part of the city. Walked down narrow, winding paths where the 2 and 3 story crumbling wood and cement structures were connected and the windows and door frames had intricate carvings and wound up in a section where all of the women were washing their clothes in buckets and beating them on the pavement. Before I even entered the path I knew what the the sound was, clothing being slapped on the pavement. Other women were using straw hand brooms and sweeping the paths and then piled up the rubbish and made their way to the small dumpster truck. Smiles everywhere, everyone happy to get photographed. Stopped at a coffee stall and had a small cup of energy.
Continued walking and heard the sounds of women chanting. Followed the trail to a Jain temple. Men on one side, women on the other. About 100 smiling faces motioning me to sit down. Found a staircase and went up to shoot down on the crowd. The Jain's are as devout as they come in the Hindu world. No shoes, no possessions, don't eat root vegetables and the main Jain had a thin white cloth over his mouth when he spoke. That was to prevent him from swallowing a bug and engaging in violence.
From there made my way to a regular Hindu temple. Many of the men and women had cotton bags over their hands and were counting the chaka beads inside. I saw some really spiritual expressions on peoples faces. I wandered off and lost my local guide and tour operator so I made my way back to where I hoped the car and driver was.He was there but his english was minimal but we he knew enough to call th guide and find his coordinates and I jumped in a tuktuk and zoomed over to them.
The rest of the morning was spent walking through the "poles' which are the neighborhoods behind the houses built in courtyards. Then moved along to walk through the spice market, stationery and book market, and embroidery markets. Bought a white Ghandi cap for myself and my 70 year old local guide. Definitely a smile getter and ice breaker wearing that cap. Makes it easy to photograph people when they see me with the Ghandi "topi". My tour operator says that I don't look like an idiot with it on.
Sitting on a stoop were a few masculine looking women who my guide said were hajiras. They are transgender, eunuchs, and called the third sex in India. I took a few shots and then had my guide engage them with the idea that I could find out where their "akhra" community lives and I can do a photo shoot with them. They didn't really like him so I had my female tour operator work them and got a phone number so that I could visit them tomorrow.
By noon it hit 95 degrees and I was zoning out so we took a tuktuk to a possible hotel choice and had lunch. Labor centric India at its best and worst, I think we had about 8 waiters fussing over us. Checked out the rooms and decided that the location was really convenient so I will have the group stay there the first 3 days in Ahmedabad. Totally out of steam, we drove back to the hotel where we are staying at now. Really luxurious, I will save to for the last night of the trip as it is out of the way but will be a great place to end the trip.
Nik's Silver Efex Pro is pretty impressive software. Here is a selection of images made using it to make the conversions.
You walk into a dark space lit only by an open door at the back of the premises and you are immediately assaulted by the reek of pepper. Within seconds you are coughing and it is hard to breathe. As you head towards the light a breeze blows around the dust stirred up by the sifted pepper. Another coughing fit before you rush outside.
These women work in this environment for six days a week, 9 - 5, protected only by a strip of cloth wrapped around their mouths and noses. They spend their days sifting and sorting the various grades of black pepper in an unventilated environment. It is incredible that there is not even a fan on the premises.
I speak to Maria, a practicing catholic, and she is happy to pose for a few photograph for our small group. For the next few minutes the lives of the spice girls in this particular warehouse are interrupted with smiles and laughter as we try to capture their beautiful spirit through our photos.
As our tour to South India draws to a close I would like to share some of the images that we have taken on this two-week journey. It has been a great trip – the Southern Indian people are warm and friendly and they love to have their photos taken. As soon as you show them the image on the screen they uniformly respond with, "super!"
On a recent trip to india I watched a Bollywood movie on the plane called Marina. The video below is the theme song "Chennai". Here is the plot:
Ambikapathy ('Pakoda' Pandian) is a orphan runaway who escapes from his cruel uncle to Chennai and eventually ends up at Marina beach. He earns his livelihood by first hawking drinking-water packets and later poached chickpeas to the public visiting Marina beach. His calm and matured manners win him the admiration and later the friendship of other boys employed at the beach. Ambikapathy has a passion to be educated, so he works in the day to save money for schooling whilst trying to study at night on his own. His ultimate dream is to be enrolled in a proper school. His passion also slowly begins to rubs-off on the other children on the beach.
An old man (Sundararajan) and postman (Jithan Mohan) are the guardian of sorts for these street-children. The beach is also the got-to place for many lovebirds. One such couple is Senthilnathan and Swapna Sundari.
I remembered really enjoying the film so yesterday, while spending the day in Chennai before the beginning of our tour, I made an effort to go down to Marina Beach where I photographed a small slice of life – perhaps these boys were influenced by the movie!
I just spoke to 3 of the Emirates flight attendants who will be on our flight today. One was from Brazil, one from the Netherlands and the other from New Zealand. I've heard great things about this airline and it is my first flight with them – bound for Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Often the atmosphere in India is choked with pollution. Instead of lamenting the poor visibility embrace it and create something special. On two separate occasions during my January 2013 tour to the Kumbh Mela we had this poor visibility, the first time in Allahabad , and several days later at Varanasi. These are the results! Do we have a theme going here?
Here Chris is using good lighting technique to photograph this Himba woman in the doorway of her home. At the time the direct, outdoor light was pretty harsh so she has placed her in the shade of her hut and is relying on the reflected ambient light as her primary light source. You can see the beautiful warmth that surrounds the doorway, and with careful image processing this turned in to a gorgeous image.
NEWSFLASH! Photographic Journeys – An Afternoon with Sam Abell and Evelyn Nodwell
Join Sam Abell and Evelyn Nodwell 2:00 pm Saturday March 15, 2014 for an illuminating afternoon of conversation about photography at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Mr Abell, renowned National Geographic photographer and teacher, will present a talk drawing on his 30 years as a world-ranging photographer of gardens, cultures and history. He will then join his friend, the distinguished Vancouver photographer Evelyn Nodwell for a walking conversation of her works on display in the Garden's gallery. Take a look at some of Evelyn's and husband Ted's images at the following [LINK].
GUIZHOU CHINA, In the Season of New Rice
March 1 - 30, 2014 Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, 578 Carrall Street, Vancouver BC.
(Exhibit Opening 2:00-4:00 pm Saturday March 1)
This photography exhibit by anthropologist and award-winning photographer Evelyn Nodwell explores village and small town life in Guizhou Province at a time of China’s growing urbanization.
Guizhou is among the least developed of China’s provinces. Many villages are still accessible only over rough, winding and narrow gravel roads; some are only accessible on foot. More than one-third of Guizhou’s towns and steep, green hills are populated by an ethnically diverse population of many indigenous ethnic minorities.
After the fall harvest, villages stage festivals, a traditional time for courtship. Festival activities include fireworks, water buffalo fights, bareback horse races, dancing, lusheng pipe playing and stalls of food, balloons and crafts.
Women dress in a wide range of clothing, from elaborate embroidered and silver-adorned festival dress, to jeans and high heels. Festival dress, also worn at weddings and other important events, is carefully stored in trunks and handed down within families.
At weekly markets, too, many women wear their traditional ethnic clothing, often a very dark blue-black or brownish indigo which is locally grown and made into a dye. Throughout Guizhou, spinning, dying, weaving, elaborate types of embroidery and batik are widely practiced by women, some of whom are recognized as master textile artists.
Rice is an important crop. Fall festivals are often called Tasting New Rice Festivals. The dried rice stalks are important fodder for animals and are stacked in the fields in characteristic pointed dome shapes.
The beauty and spontaneity of these photographs is thanks to the welcoming openness and good nature of the Guizhou people.
About the Artist
As an anthropologist, Evelyn Nodwell has worked in Vancouver and India. Based on her research in India, she produced two television documentaries in collaboration with Knowledge Network. As a photographer, Evelyn has had photos published in Canadian Geographic magazine, The Province newspaper and Vancouver Coast and Mountains Tourism publications. Her prints have been included in the Burnaby Art Gallery sales and rental division. She has given photo workshops, and judges for camera clubs in Vancouver. In 2013 one of her images from China, A Good Laugh, came in 4th out of 280 photos at the North Shore Challenge.
Evelyn Nodwell embraced digital photography early for the degree of control that it gives her. In 2004 she produced the first slideshow in digital format for the annual Showcase at the Shadbolt Center for the Arts. Being a new technology, it was accepted with some trepidation by event organizers and became the winning show that year.
“First come the acts of seeing and experiencing - a heart-stopping play of light or color, a mood, an atmosphere, a human moment, an interaction.” she says. “There quickly follows the impulse to capture the moment or inspiration. Then comes the desire to communicate and share it. Photographing both nurtures and requires slowing down to savor the moment, to be fully engaged with the life around, and to see every sight and experience as if it were new.”
As an anthropologist Evelyn Nodwell is interested in people’s everyday lives. Whether she is photographing quickly to capture a fleeting moment or waiting patiently for compositional elements to become clear, she does not control a situation but looks for what happens. She strives to create images that give insights into an inner life, actions that speak about lifestyle, and interactions that speak about connections and context.
About Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first of its kind outside of China, is an authentic representation of an age – old garden tradition which reached its peak in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Garden is characteristic of the private spaces within a Ming scholar’s residence. With its asymmetrical arrangement of rocks and plants, its winding paths and corridors, and the vistas that overlook its courtyards, the Garden emulates the rhythms of nature.Ming dynasty scholars, the elite of their time, lived and worked in their garden, sharing these enchanting spaces with friends and family of all ages. Like any home, a scholar’s garden was filled with energy, but also offered quiet moments for contemplation.
The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was named "World's Top City Garden" by National Geographic and, in 2012, "Canadian Garden Tourism Garden of the Year".
Jeremy Woodhouse is a professional photographer and traveller. He leads photography trips to all corners of the globe