It is time to take a breather and reflect on the year gone by. 2016 was a very busy time with 15 international trips to all corners of the globe including Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Sardinia, & Botswana. I thank everyone who has been a part of these photographic adventures, and I hope that we will have an equally fulfilling time in 2017. Here is a selection of 15 of some of my favorite images, one from each trip.
Rajasthani Mystics Running through Hot Coals, India
Receding Wave and Calved Ice on Black Beach, Iceland
Woman in a Chador Walking Past a Mural of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran
Man Walking over Puddle During Easter Procession, Guatemala
Plaza de España at Dusk, Spain
Portrait of Alessia in Traditional Dress of the Village of Tresnuraghes, Sardinia
Elderly Woman Cutting Grass with a Sickle for Animal Food, Romania
Travel Photographer of the Year Competition
I am happy to say that, after 6 years as a Finalist, the image above, from one of our 2016 tours to Romania, was chosen as the Best Single image in a Portfolio "Mankind" in the 2016 Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) (see above). Another, photographed in a bakery in Viñales, Cuba was Highly Commended in the One Shot Category, "Shaped by Light" (see at the end of this post).
Farm Workers Loading Fresh-cut Hay on to a Horse-drawn Cart, Romania
Gelati Monastery Interior Showing Medieval Frescoes, Georgia
St Blaise’s Church and the Cathedral at Dusk, Croatia
Young Golden Eagle Hunter Holding his Bird, Mongolia
Man Grinding Millet to Make Flour for Chapatis, India
A Bride Leaves and a Bride Exits from the Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum, Uzbekistan
Male Cheetah Using a Tree as a Lookout, Botswana
Bathing Huts at St James Reflected in a Tidal Pool, South Africa
The Cake Decorator, Cuba
Travel Photographer of the Year Competition
"The Cake Decorator" - 2016 Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY), Highly Commended One Shot, "Shaped by Light"
GUEST POST BY HERB LEVENTON
I love Islamic Srinagar. I love how early in the morning the flower seller will pull up to my houseboat in his shikara over and sell me fresh cut flowers. I love the 200 year old wood and brick three and four story mud brick structures that all seem to be leaning over at twenty degrees. I love the smiles on the 10 year old girls and how the hijabs they wear make them look so regal. I love the silver stubble on the mens faces. I love the waffle like bread and how the ridges are made from the bakers finger tips. I love the voices of the Sufi singers. I love how in a darkened storefront a man sits all day in the same chair that his grandfather sat in and sells rosewater. I love how our guide Lassa speaks in a near whisper and shares tales of his city. I love the earth tones, the bridges that span the city, the calmness…
…Srinagar is a special place.
GUEST POST BY HERB LEVENTON OF EPIC PHOTO TOURS
Dal Lake in Srinagar is at 6,000 feet altitude and I think that height has possibly impacted the functioning of the houseboat owners where we are staying. In the 60's the Beatles stayed at Butts Clermont and smoked great ganja, sang and laughed and felt peaceful. Their houseboat is still there but sunken in mud, with peeling paint, totally dilapidated, lacking windows and really looks like a wound and not a relic. This sunken houseboat isn't a national treasure or an ancient ruin but an eyesore in a magnificent location. The houseboats are furnished in old carpets and the couches seem to be from my dead grandmothers apartment in Brooklyn. Bob and Ann, two extremely nice fellow travelers and photographers are staying at another one of the houseboats that is half on land and half in mud. When I asked Bob about his houseboat he said to him it was a plywood shack in mud and he was fearful that Ann who was in the next room would slip while taking a shower and wind up sitting on the toilet because of how the boat was lilting in the water.
The owners are a group of brothers who all love their inheritance dearly but aren't sure in what direction to take the houseboat complex. So it remains stuck in mud. As a tribute to their departed father they keep it untouched, an interesting business strategy for sure.
This place is in a time warp to the extent that they don't have a refrigerator. I asked how they are keeping the food cold and they said they shopped daily. Definitely from market to mouth while staying here. One of the toilets didn't work and after asking numerous times to have it fixed and offering to call my plumber in New York for technical support it was fixed which they proudly announced and became a source of animated discussion. I just wish that Peggy, who is shooting video, could have captured that scene. They spoke about the plumber for two days and how proud of the new toilet they were – I am sure John Lennon could have written a song about it. When I mentioned that the walkway should reach one of the far houseboats so that people shouldn't always be stepping in the mud/yuck they nodded excitedly and said "inshallah" (God willing) Gabe from Boston, who received this trip as a gift from his parents as a graduation treat, seems to have this yuck as permanent attachment to his feet.
The grounds are magnificent and the flower garden something to envy. The food is excellent and the kabobs far better than any I have ever tasted. The waiter is a wonderful man who has been there for 30 years and I feel honored to have shared his water pipe. The two chefs are constantly smiling and when I went in the kitchen to thank them for another meal they beamed – you could feel that Dal Lake love. Abdullah, the on-site barber, masseuse, and tailor has a work bag that mentions his numerous skills. For 200 rupees ($3) he gave me a scalp and shoulder massage which left my skull red and a memory for a lifetime.
The Beatles are no longer but Clermont Butts remains. When I travel I want a totally authentic experience and the Epic Photo Tours group is surely getting one. Everyone is smiling, in the trip zone, getting exceptional photographs and they all know that this is as good as it gets. I think I will fill out an employment application here at the Butts, but first they will have to find a pen that works…yes, I will return again…I love this place!
GUEST POST BY HERB LEVENTON
In Srinagar if you want to get the shots you need to get up while it is still dark and get on the lake. So, eleven hardy folk were up at 4AM floating three people per shikara towards the floating market. Dark and cold we floated for an half and half in silence with the boatmen rowing away.
Passing the mosque, the shore line dotted with three-story, two-hundred-year-old wooden houses in different states of disrepair, we all knew that we were very far from home. As we got closer, out of the darkness came small wooden boats loaded with tomatoes, eggplants, cabbage, cauliflower and some vegetables I have never seen before and with names I could never pronounce.
The small channels led to a big opening which was filling with grizzled men with grey beards that were weighing their vegetables on scales that probably were worth lots more that their lot. Lots of bargaining, yelling back and forth, rupees passing hands, handshakes, sealing the deal.
Joining this disorganized chaos were seed sellers and a really cool shikara painted with a sign that screamed "Delicious Man", who rowed up to our group of 5 boats, and in perfect English, tried to make a hard sale – the cookies, baked just an hour before, tasted of cinnamon, and were way to good to pass up. The seed man had packets to sell which many in the group bought in the hope that they will grow, bloom and have them dreaming of this morning on Dal Lake long after they will have returned home.
Nik's Silver Efex Pro is pretty impressive software. Here is a selection of images made using it to make the conversions.
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!"
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?
I have just about finished distilling down 7,000+ images from my recent scouting trip to Socotra and Mainland Yemen. It has resulted in a final edit of 272 – for now anyway. As always, with this vast quantity of imagery, it is always good to revisit the files 6 months or a year later on with fresh eyes.
I have posted the edit to my Zenfolio site at the following link. If you would like to see a quick overview just scroll down on the homepage and all the images are there in the flow.
Our next trip to Socotra is in April 2015 and we have 3 spots still open.
Here is a selection of my greatest hits in the form of a slideshow. Enjoy!
This is a nice post from super stock photographer John lund who recently came on one of my tours which I ran with Luka Esenko.
Located in the Gulf of Aden off the horn of Africa, Socotra is one of those ”lost world” islands (separated from the world six million years ago) where intrepid travellers - particularly those seeking exotic nature and wildlife in a remote tropical setting — can go for days on end without rubbing shoulders with that less-than-endangered species, the tourist!
Known for decades as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, it is the world’s tenth richest island for endemic plant species, and it is the biggest island in the Middle East measuring 125 kilometres in length and 45 kilometres across.
For extra reading check out this New York Times Article about Socotra.
Jeremy Woodhouse is a professional photographer and traveller. He leads photography trips to all corners of the globe