Havelis in The Shekhawati – Mandawa and Nawalgarh


Haveli courtyard in Nawalgarh

Visiting Havelis in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan is like going to an area that is covered with extraordinary street art. Mandawa and Nawalgarh are simply towns that offer open-air art galleries and museums dripping in jaw dropping frescoes. Havelis are the beautifully carved homes of rich merchants, highly decorated by artists during the 19th century. Today, some are thankfully turned into hotels or museums, which has allowed them to be restored, a few used as banks, schools or government buildings but hundreds of others simply abandoned.

Mandawa was the first stop of a photography road trip around Rajasthan with the aim of discovering some lesser visited havelis as well as some better known ones. I came several times in the late 90’s for various magazines and photographed some of the Maharajas and their palaces but not the havelis.


Haveli in Mandawa

We set off early from Delhi hiring a car and driver from a company called Metropole. It took almost 6 hours to get there as the roads were poor and traffic heavy at times. The Shekhawati region is at the edge of the Thar Desert, so the surrounding landscape was semi arid, dotted with khejri trees, the odd herd of goats and a few irrigated fields of mustard.

Although the Hotel Mandawa Haveli was Trip Advisor’s first choice, I chose the smaller Chobda Haveli, which I highly recommend, not for it’s colourful frescoes but for a delightful quiet and charming place to stay. We walked all round Mandawa, some Haveli’s could be visited and others not. Beware! you will be asked for money the minute you enter a doorway. I don’t mind paying a few rupees to go inside a Haveli, although it’s a shame that more cannot be restored as what you do see is just gorgeous and the restored ones are stunning.


Haveli doorway in Mandawa


Entrance to a haveli in Shekhawati region

All Havelis are roughly set up the same way, as you walk into the first courtyard there is a large room where that the visitors would be received, the private quarters opposite with bedrooms upstairs. A usually beautifully carved ornate wooden door in the centre takes you to a second courtyard, which would lead to the female quarters with mashrabiya windows as the women of the upper classes practiced purdah. Depending on the period of the Haveli and the opulence of the owner the frescoes vary considerably. The early ones were influenced by the Mughal era with geometric designs, some offer religious figures and show Hindu mythology. , There are also elephants and camels and the latter ones even depict trains and cars referring to the British influence.


Havelis in Mandawa

The second day we drove to Nawalgarh and spent the day there before returning to Mandawa. I think I liked it even more, there were even less tourists and the whole town was full of havelis. We visited several well known ones, one is a museum, but what I enjoyed the most was visiting the schools. Two of them were housed in beautiful if somewhat decaying old havelis.


Woman in a haveli full of frescoes in Nawalgarh

In one of the schools, the children were sitting on the floor of what was once a courtyard but now covered over.   In the other, just the rooms of the haveli had been turned into classrooms where sadly little of the artwork remained except for the exterior of the building. We bought a huge bag of sweets to thank the children for their time although they were very willing models!


classroom in a courtyard of an ancient haveli in Shekhawati,

Lets talk photography for a moment as whoever you are you will take pictures, lots of them, everyone does! There’s so much to take pictures of – the frescoes, the buildings, the people, the daily life, the local market, the cows wondering around, a real street photographers dream. To do a good job you really need everything from a very wide angle to as long a lens as you can carry. There are some magic moments that may require a long lens or the spell will be broken. I brought a Canon and a Fuji and I don’t regret it, particularly as the Fuji XT2 let me down badly in the heat and dust of India…

Nawalgarh#street of havelis#tuk tuk

Street scene in Nawalgarh, havelis everywhere

There are wonderful havelis all over Rajasthan but nowhere else really offers the atmosphere of the Shekhawati. It is a total immersion into an idea of what life must have been like in these small towns and the importance of art to the people of the region. As you walk through the towns at the beautiful sometimes crumbling but intricately carved buildings and look at the extraordinary frescoes, it is like a glimpse into the past that allows you to conjure up images of what life must have been like.

The best way to visit Rajasthan is to stay in a Haveli, which is not necessarily very expensive, and try and book a heritage room which is like sleeping in a museum. Rajasthan is full of palaces and havelis turned into hotels of all classes and to me, one of the reasons to go there. If they are privately owned in particular, the owner will be happy that you take an interest in his home.


fresco of an elephant on a haveli

I loved the Shekhawati but we still have a lot to see and I am looking forward to our 3 day visit to Jaisalmer but first we are going to stop en route at Bikaner and visit the fort and it’s havelis. I would also recommend visiting Fatehpur which we only drove through, but having planned an ambitious itinerary there is no time.


Below are some useful links:







The Visual Power of Black and White Photography


B/W Paris, trees under the snow

The visual power of black and white photography is indisputable. I have always been a fan of black and white photography but as a predominantly commercial photographer my assignments are almost always for an end result in colour. Having said this, with digital photography and shooting in the RAW mode it is easy to convert the image to anything you want. Although it is interesting to see how the image looks once converted to in black and white, it is not quite the same as deciding at the onset to do so. In this article I am essentially talking about taking digital photos in monochrome rather than with film.

La defense#Paris#buildings#geometricshapes

B/W geometric pattern of buildings at La Defense

There is something so compelling about a black and white photograph. In galleries, for years I have always found myself stopping, looking and studying a black and white photograph in far more depth than a colour one. Why is that? I think it is because we live in colour so we don’t see B/W the same way so we look and find more in the image than we would notice in a colour photograph.

When taking any photograph, a number of elements come into it and especially so for black and white. A black and white photograph needs to show a lot of contrast, a dull grey photo is of no interest whatsoever. So make sure that either in shooting mode or in post-production the picture is as contrasted as possible. This is particularly applicable to landscapes and the actual focus of the photo. There should be light and dark areas of your photo.

In black and white photography you can create a mood, make something dramatic, turn the banal into the extraordinary. There is the possibility to interpret what you see, the way you want it to. The composition, always an important part of taking any photograph is absolutely essential whilst shooting black and white.

The textures are also of paramount importance. Sand, sea, bark, leaves, grasses, clothes, facial expressions and many others are all textures that can be enhanced to create an interesting and intricate image that makes you want to keep looking at it.   Shapes are important too and the actual framing of the photo can make a huge difference.


B/W Jumping over Stones on Trouville beach

Dramatic light works beautifully in black white photography, far better than in colour. A ray of light in a landscape or using a certain light in a portrait, creating strong shadows and bright hi-lights can make an image haunting and beautiful. In portraiture for example a black and white image would not be lit in the same way as one shot in colour. In general I prefer B/W portraits to colour anyway and never tire of looking at those done by Irving Penn, Seydou Keita and Malik Sedibe.

When printing black and white the quality of the print is vital. Ilford Silver Gelatin prints are to me the best there are and it is possible to make these prints from a digital image.  These days very few people print their photos, they will make a slide show on their computer or publish them directly online.

B/W girl in Paris

B/W – girl in Paris

As a young photographer arriving in Egypt I wanted to take black and white photographs and set up a dark room but rarely had enough time to really work at it, as a lot of the work was in the dark room. Today, it is easier, you don’t need to take a separate camera. Software such as Lightroom, Photoshop and Capture One enable you to turn out a decent black and white photograph without it taking so long.

Do use separate colour filters in the post-production though as this greatly affects the final result. Each colour represents a shade of grey and by adding a colour filter you can change the tones and contrast of the photo. I often shoot with a yellow filter then do the rest in post.

I really got back into black and white photography again whilst living here in Paris.  True, I love the work of Henri Cartier Bresson, Edouard Boubat and others who produced marvellous B/W street photography images that have gone down in history, but I found that Paris with its fairly miserable weather just looked way more appealing in black and white! I found myself actually seeing the image in black and white and found it exciting.

Whilst taking photography tours of Paris in poor weather, I often suggest  they take black and white images.  I advise shooting in mono-chrome, adding a yellow filter if the camera has that option and framing carefully,  looking for contrasts, textures and shapes.  Street photography always looks great in black and white anyway, as colours don’t get in the way of what you’re shooting.


Fisherman on the beach at sunset in Northern France

I have done and still do quite a lot of industrial photography and this too can look stunning in black and white.   I work a lot in Africa and the Far East where the colours can be absolutely stunning and I am invariably asked for colour, but I do sometimes convert images to B/W and if I’ve time I’ll shoot some in mono-chrome. What happens when the colours are so rich and diverse, is that it is easy to use the colour as the main focus whereas with black and white photography you are looking for more. On my next trip, which is to India, I will definitely try and go past the rich colours to the textures and contrasts of black and white.






Trouville Beach in Winter

Visit Honfleur and Trouville on the Normandy coast and be sure to pack a camera. Winter and summer alike I love these 2 seaside towns and visit them as frequently as I can. It is just over a 2hour drive from Paris and a car is handy as you’re going to be whizzing between them. A lot more is said of Deauville but for me Honfleur and Trouville have more character and offer a greater variety of photos.

In winter I like to arrive in Trouville in time for lunch at Le Central, a big bustling brasserie that serves wonderful fresh small shrimps or fried whitebait with 2 small soles, although it’s all good here and very friendly. It’s particularly popular with locals, which is always a good sign. Now, a good meal and a couple of glasses of sauvignon later it is time to take out the camera.


Normandy style houses along the front of Trouville

Trouville is a fishing port and fresh fish vendors are lined up along the estuary. In warmer weather table and chairs are set up and it is here alfresco, that a delicious fresh seafood lunch can take place. The estuary is very photogenic with it’s fishing boats and loads of seagulls. Right at the end is the casino and then the boardwalk, little huts and parasols. In summer I like to photograph Trouville in colour and in winter I tend to go for black and white.


Shells on the beach at Trouville

I spent New Years day there this year and we drove from Paris in torrential rain but miraculously by the time we’d finished lunch the rain had stopped. Many of the shops were open in the pretty little back streets of Trouville making for good pictures with people walking by with their collars hunched up. After we took to the boardwalk and onto the windswept beach. The tide was way out and the storm had brought in piles and piles of shells of all sorts making for more interesting shots. There were people walking their dogs and screaming gulls swooping down and flying off.

Dog in Honfleur waiting for the door to open

Dog in Honfleur

We had booked into a wonderful bed and breakfast in Honfleur called La Cour Sainte Catherine so by about 4 or so we headed over there. It is a pretty drive through Villers, Criqueboeuf and Pennedepie. There are dozens of great bed and breakfasts and hotels at all prices all the way from Trouville to Honfleur. Some are off the beaten track but easily accessible by car. Most of them open in winter and some offer attractive prices compared to the summer.

The first thing you see approaching Honfleur is the stunning marina lined on two sides with its historic 16th-18th century buildings. A drawbridge connects the marina to the fishing port and on the other side is the town hall and many more beautiful buildings and cafés. It is a jaw dropping sight and you won’t know where to stand to get the best pictures. You’ll walk around it 10 times anyway so will find plenty of possibilities!

Behind the marina is the town with its charming, narrow winding streets, historical buildings, attractive shops, art galleries, food shops, cafés, restaurants and of course the marvellous 15th century church. Taking picture postcards of Honfleur isn’t difficult, what is harder is to take some time and try and take different pictures: The dog in the bicycle basket outside a pretty shop, bottles of calvados, or a particular building or sign, so that they stand out.

I like a telephoto and a wide angle. For the telephoto I would set the camera with an aperture priority so as not to miss anything and at f2.8 or f4 and focus on what you want and the background will fall away and hopefully give you good bokeh, but that’s another story! With a wide angle, just get up there nice and close and get the atmosphere.

Honfleur#Marina#Night#New Year

Honfleur Marina at New year

We walked down to the harbour to take pictures of the almost full moon over the Marina before dinner. We chose to eat at Coté Resto, a bistro serving well presented dishes with a twist, at reasonable prices. In France we have 4 main types of restaurants, cafés, brasseries, bistros, or gastronomic. Honfleur has its fair share of good eating places, we are in Normandy after all! The brasseries offer moules frites that can be excellent (Le Capital in Trouville). If you are looking for a treat (gastronomic) then I would go to Le Bréard.

It wasn’t sunny in Honfleur the next day either, but we took a walk up to the Chapel Notre Dame de Grace and came back down via a different route and joined the coastal path. We walked along the beach with the industrial skyline of Le Havre barely visible across the horizon. It isn’t a pretty beach in summer but at low tide one can walk all the way to Trouville. I took a bunch of black and white pictures. I love landscapes, and the starkness and the textures did it for me.

Honfleur#Fishing nets#harbour wall#buildings

Honfleur, Fishing nets along harbour wall.

A last walk along the cobbled streets of Honfleur, a few more photos and the purchase of a good bottle of calvados – tastes better when bought locally! We check our watches and set off for Trouville, in time to buy some fresh fish for dinner! We’re photographers but we do like our food!

In 2018 I will be offering tailor made photography tours to Honfleur and Trouville. Join me, you will not be disappointed!





The Impact of photography on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Projects


Senegal CSR project: Donation of octopus pots to fishing community in Yenne

The impact of photography on Corporate Social Responsibility projects is paramount in illustrating the company’s social and environmental activities that enhances their overall reputation. Photographs depicting people whose lives have changed thanks to the presence of a company that has invested in worthy local projects talks volumes for itself.

CSR is a way to minimise the negative aspects and maximise the positive ones. Bringing out a brochure full of colorful photographs on the company’s corporate social responsibility programmes of a particular year will show its shareholders and investors that it has integrity and high business ethics. It is no longer an obligation that a company feels it has to develop, but one that is now an integral part of their business. Many, in fact most Corporate Social Responsibility schemes I have photographed are sustainable with a long-term outlook.


Kenya CSR project: installation of Water Tanks in Turkana

I work a lot in the oil and gas section, often in Africa, so I have photographed many local waste management companies that have developed with financial aid or have expanded and grown thanks to part of a CSR programme. This in the long term will reduce costs to the corporation and immediately benefit the local community creating employment.  A company I worked for recently in Senegal supported a plastic re-cycling project set up by a young girl who 2 years later employs a number of local people and is expanding her business. Re-cycling and waste management are both popular sustainable development projects that relate directly to the business and show those businesses as responsible and caring.

Over the years I have photographed all sorts of sustainable corporate social responsibility programmes. Installing water tanks and bringing drinking water to outer reaches of Kenya and Ghana, and the setting up of schools and medical centres in remote areas. I once bounced along for 4 ½ hours to witness hundreds of malaria nets being delivered to local communities in Cameroon, and same for Ghana. I have photographed colorful openings to new projects presided over by African chiefs dressed in all their regalia in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique.


CSR Project: Donating mosquito nets in Africa

Not all the corporate social responsibility programmes around the world are directly related to the actual business. Many help women who are in dire need of making some money thus acquiring financial independence. The training of women in various different skills that they can earn money from has multiplied all over the world. Microfinance has been crucial in this, allowing people to take out small loans that they repay over short periods of time with low interest rates. I have worked for several companies who have invested in this, taking pictures in rural villages of happy women working whilst their children go to school. Investing in education is another popular project that is often part of such a programme.

The company’s logo is often represented on tee shirts, uniforms and overalls and buildings. Great, colorful images of those local people getting on with sustainable jobs are an important form of communication to the investor and shareholder in addition to photos of the product, the manufacturing and the workers.


CSR Project: Women packaging cereals in Senegal

Corporate Social Responsibility has become so important that Forbes has come up with the top ten rated companies in the US over the last few years and has written numerous related articles . https://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2017/09/13/the-10-companies-with-the-best-csr-reputations-in-2017/#cb6f10c546bf

Not surprisingly these are also some of the largest corporations, but medium and small businesses are also investing and it’s global. What better way to advertise and communicate this tendency than by photography!

I am basically a reportage photographer. For years I have worked for many magazines and weekend supplements, often on stories that I had discovered and implemented myself, so photographing Corporate Social Responsibility projects is simply part of doing what I do best. It has also become an integral part of my work, as more and more companies are realising the importance of it photographically as an important part of it’s advertising and communication in brochures and annual reports.

Ghan#children#football#CSR project

Children playing football infront of poster advertising a CSR project




An Oil and Gas Photography Assignment in Norway’s North Sea in a Storm

Snowing Floro Port Norway

Loading containers onto vessels in Norway in winter

I’m on an oil and gas photography assignment in Norway and there is a storm brewing up. I cling to the side of the supply vessel I’m on, as a huge wave crashes against it.   I’m wrapped up in a huge oilskin coat, which is over a thick down one where a camera nestles around my neck as I had been photographing the pretty Norwegian coastline.

The coast fades away completely and we are out at sea, the North Sea.

We are talking very cold temperatures here, we are in winter and it gets dark by about 3.00ish. As the afternoon progresses it becomes rougher and rougher and by early evening it starts snowing, huge whirling flakes that settle on everything immediately. Kristian calls me on the intercom and tells me to go and stay in my cabin. I have taken 2 sea sickness pills and am grateful.

I stagger to my cabin and lie on the bunk clinging to the side as it feels as though we are on a vicious roller coaster. It is impossible to move. I see the porthole rise high and bang down and feel instantly sick but a trip to the bathroom is not an option. My camera bag is tied to the desk that is anchored to the floor but my suitcase slips and slides all over the floor.

helicopter#rig#night time#

Helicopter leaving the rig in the dark

We are supposed to reach a rig in the middle of the ocean. I am on the boat to take pictures of the activity on the vessel, photograph the rig from the sea and the offloading process before being transferred on to the rig by winch. The captain of the boat calls me up to see how I am faring and to tell me that we will probably have to turn back as although the winds will die down shortly they are forecasting a severe snow storm in the next 8-12 hours.

I groan inwardly as this means I will not be able to accomplish what am here for. When you are on a photographic assignment and you are absolutely unable to take any pictures, even if it isn’t your fault, it is just awful. Half an hour or so later there is a call on the tannoy, telling us that there will be a window in the weather so we are going to attempt to reach the rig after all.


offloading containers onto the rig.

As the pitching and rolling subsided slightly, in the early hours of morning I saw the twinkling lights of the rig in the distance. As the morning progressed to my utter amazement the sea calmed down and I was able to photograph the containers as they were swung up over the side in a clear sky.

Just as I thought that my photography assignment was going quite well, Kristian, who was watching me taking the photos told me that I would not be able to be transferred onto the rig. ‘The wind is coming up again making it potentially dangerous and above all we’ve run out of time and we have to get back to port as quickly as possible as there is very heavy snow storm is on it’s way.’ He said. I learnt that weather patterns could change quite drastically and very quickly. I was quite excited though as I love taking photographs in the snow!

This was not the first photographic assignment I had been on where the carefully orchestrated plans go pear shaped. I had kept the client informed of the changing events by internet and they turned out to be more anxious about my well being than getting the pictures. It was finally decided that I would go to Bergen and wait until I could be transferred by helicopter. Sooner or later it would clear.


Bergen, birds in the snow

On arrival, I was driven to the airport in blinding snow, where I took the last flight out to Bergen. I was lucky as I learnt that the later flight was cancelled. In Bergen I checked in to the airport hotel and watched the swirling snow come down thick and fast. There was an icy wind and it was already settling quickly on the ground. It snowed all night and all the next day. Very few planes landed and took off and the all helicopters were grounded until further notice.

The following morning the heliport was stuffed with people all waiting to go offshore as Bergen is a hub for many different companies and rigs and I was at the back of the list. Having been told it would not be for at least 36 hours, I took a bus downtown and photographed the city, which is very picturesque and absolutely stunning in the snow. I found a hotel overlooking the port and town that allowed up on the roof to take some great shots before taking the cable car right up to the top. People were already on skis and as the sky turned dark blue and the lights came on, it was a beautiful sight.

I spent 2 days photographing everything, the port, the views, and the skiers, the rifts of snow in front of the helicopter terminal and the hundreds of rig workers waiting to leave before I eventually left myself. There was still snow on the rig and it was bitterly cold. I was told that I couldn’t stay longer than a night as beds and weather were particularly problematical, but I managed to fulfil my photography assignment shooting a lot of it in the dark which was quite beautiful and before I left, the sun came out again so I had a pretty good diversity of pictures. Better than any I got off the coast of Scotland which I had always done in summer.

Going on a photography assignment in the North Sea off the coast of Norway in winter can be a rewarding experience providing you have a bit of guts, very warm clothes and of course some patience!







champagne harvesters group

Champagne harvesters celebrate the first day

Consider taking a Photography Tour to Champagne in September or October. It is the best time to visit. In September the grapes are ripe and ready for picking. You may be lucky enough to be there during the ‘vendanges’ when the grapes are picked by hand and the countryside is dotted with people in colourful clothes picking the grapes.

A Photography Tour in Champagne offers the possibility to take the best pictures in the most spectacular settings. You will taste champagne from small and big producers, photograph their cellars, and make beautiful landscape photographs.

champagne cave at Guy Charbaut

Champagne caves at Guy Charbaut



If you come during the grape picking, last year in early September and probably similarly this year, I will arrange for you to spend part of the day with the pickers, getting up close, offering some superb vivid portraits of the people, the vines and the grapes.

Champagne grape picking harvesters

Champagne grape picking camaraderie

Visiting the cellars at this time is sometimes difficult as everyone is busy with the harvest but the photographic opportunities are wonderful. I also arrange for us to have a delicious local champagne lunch with the harvesters. You will also be able to photograph the crushing and processing of the grapes.

Not to worry, if you miss this event.

champagne vineyards fall

Champagne vineyards in autumn

The countryside with its criss-cross patterns of the vineyards, cyclists and old stone villages make for stunning photographs. In October, the leaves turn from green to a kaleidoscope of oranges, yellows, rust and gold, and although the grapes have been harvested there are always some remaining, as the quotas in champagne are very strict.

 church in Mutigny in Champagne

The church at Mutigny in Champagne

In Fleury La Rivière there is a small champagne house that we can visit which has exceptional cellar full of fossils abounding with shells that are several tens of million of years old.

I took some pretty interesting and different photographs there and of course we will enjoy a glass of their champagne before leaving.

Cave aux coquillages Fleury la riviere champagne

La cave aux coquillages

There are a number of small picturesque villages, some along the banks of the Marne with its boats and pretty bridges. As all the Champagne area is hilly there are many vantage points allowing a variety of landscapes that are quite different one from the other.

The difference between a private Champagne Tour and a private Photography Champagne Tour is that you will see a greater diversity whilst receiving full photography tuition and will come home with a great set of pictures. I can organise anything from a day trip to a 5 day trip that will take you to all three champagne areas.

I will definitely be spending a part of September and October in the vineyards taking photographs, so join me!

champagne early morning kiss

Champagne early morning kiss





An Offshore Aerial Photography and Video Shoot in West Africa

aerial of tanker FPSO

aerial of tanker FPSO and vessel

“The chopper is scheduled at 11.00 today” Mick tells me. I’m on an offshore oilrig in the Gulf of Guinea and I need to take some aerial photography and video of the rig and surrounding supply vessels for a prominent oil company. I groan inwardly as 11.00 will probably mean 12.00 which is the middle of the day and the sun will be directly overhead. At least today there is some, as the last few days have been so hazy that any aerial photography would have been dull and colorless.

landing helicopter offshore

Helicopter about to land offshore

Scheduling a flight for a photography or video flyover is always a little complicated. If the rigs are far out from the shore, most oil companies will try to fit it in between the crew changes, those arriving and leaving. This is the case today.  I am informed that the door will be open, that I will have just under an hour and that one of the helicopter personnel will be up there with me and yes, I will have two way radio with the pilot which is essential

Last winter I had to do an aerial shoot with the door closed and 6 passengers in the cabin, which was a challenge. Did I get any decent pictures? Well I did, but they were boring compared to ones with the door open and no passengers. Firstly, shooting through glass is really not ideal but much harder was trying to get a funkier angle, as the corners of the window would appear. I had two way radio contact with the pilots who were great but I understand that with 6 passengers they couldn’t duck and dive like I sometimes ask them.

aerial of oil rig

aerial oil rig

I take the stills first then switch to video. The light is right overhead and very bright. As for various reasons I do not have a 3 axis gimbal stabilizer to shoot video I use my Sony 4K camcorder that has a built in stabilizer which although inadequate for such a shoot, will be way smoother than any footage shot with a DSLR. I set it up on a pillow to help cushion the jolts. I’m not madly happy with it but it can be rectified in post-production.

aerial of tanker loading oil

aerial of tanker loading oil

Here are some tips for aerial photography and video from a helicopter:

The priority for stills is the shutter speed. Make sure that the camera is set at least at 1/1000th second. I like the aperture to be at least F8 making the ISO the last priority. You do not want blurred pictures.

For really smooth video you need a 3 axis gimbal stabilizer and a decent one. Shoot at either 24fps –1/50th or 30fps at 1/60th. Use a neutral density filter especially in bright light. I do not recommend using a DSLR, it’s really hard to balance the camera and focus.

Drones will probably take over completely for aerial video and photography for offshore oil rigs. They are already being used for various offshore operations. http://oilandgasuk.co.uk/new-guidelines-for-the-use-of-drones-offshore/

I find the video footage from drones hard to beat. For stills it remains debatable, as does the cost compared to using a helicopter.

offshore oil rig in Gulf of Guinea

aerial offshore oil rig in Gulf of Guinea

yangon young nuns street scene

A Photography Tour to Myanmar – A days preparation in Yangon.

The plane has just landed in Yangon. In two days time 6 people are going to join me on a photography tour to Myanmar. It is exciting. I love the country and have planned the trip with a trusted local agent. We’ve been working on it for almost a year but I’m still a little nervous. The driver who picks me up speaks English and tells me how busy he is with so many visitors.   It is time to visit Myanmar as things are changing.

I check in to the chosen hotel where I will be staying for 4 nights. It isn’t the original one I had wanted to stay in but it’s fine. I breathe a sigh of relief as I am shown up to a ‘quiet’ room on the 4th floor. Tomorrow I am going to visit a couple of other hotels for the next Myanmar trip. It is mid afternoon and I waste no time in going to see the agent I use to organise my Myanmar Photography Tours.

Train passengers in Yangon station

Trains stops in Yangon station

Win greets me with a wide smile, sees my anxious face and tells me everything will be fine!  He has even added small things to make our trip even better. Informs me of an upgraded hotel in Bagan and a new guide in Mandalay. ‘You will get even better photographs than the last time’ he assures me. On the way back to the hotel I can’t stop taking pictures, they’re snaps really of people drinking tea on the sidewalks, the hustle and bustle of downtown Yangon, such a photogenic city.

The next day I visit a couple of hotels, one is 5 star and I wonder if I could go more upmarket on the next trip and choose it, a haven of peace between the Shwedagon Pagoda and downtown. Win will have to negotiate the price!

The traffic back to my hotel is pretty dense. On arrival I receive a message. Two of my photography tour students have just arrived, a day ahead of time. I call their room and they come down. A charming Australian couple who are so excited and pleased to see me. It is their first trip to the area and they just flew in from Thailand.

Rangoon Tea House

Rangoon Tea House

It’s lunchtime and I take them to the Rangoon Tea House, which is an attractive restaurant on the 2nd floor of an ordinary looking building, albeit for westerners. They love the place and take out their cameras immediately! The Rangoon Tea House is a good place to try local dishes as spice wise, they do at least cater to the western palate. The place is pretty full and noisy but it’s after 2.00 so there was no wait. We discuss Myanmar, the trip, photography and cameras.

Young monks begging for alms

Yangon Young monks begging for alms

We take a walk where I know there is a monastery in the hope that we will see some young monks then go back to the hotel before we set off to see the sunset. I have two good sunset shots set up for the following two nights at the Irawaddy river and the Shwedagon Pagoda, so tonight we’ll go to Kandawgyi Lake. Just as we are about to leave a hot tired looking woman checks in and gives her name to the reception. She’s one of us! I recognise the name, say hi and never get to Kandawgyi Lake! I send the Australian couple off with a map and wish them good luck.

The next day the three remaining other people arrive and the photography tour officially begins. 12 days of extraordinary photography, laughter and companionship in this stunning, memorable land that I never tire of.

sunset over Irrewaddy river Yangon

sunset over Irrewaddy river Yangon


Industrial, Corporate and Landscape photography in Turkana Country, Kenya

Turkana tribes people with animals Kenya

Turkana tribes people Kenya

It’s 5.30 am in Nairobi and time to go. It’s still dark outside, but in a short while the car will come and pick me up and take me to Wilson Airport for the first flight out to Kapese in the Turkana region of Northern Kenya. I’m excited. I am on a great assignment, a corporate and industrial shoot for an oil company that is also going to allow me to discover the region and get up close to the local communities. As well as photographing the oil rigs, I will be shooting portraits, landscapes and local people. Aerials are also needed so a flyover has to be arranged.

helicopter take off in Turkana

helicopter taking off from Kapese airport, Turkana

On arrival at Wilson airport there is a hub of activity. Dawn is beginning to break and I take out a camera and start taking pictures of all the rig workers checking in. The plane eventually takes off and as we fly over the Rift Valley I try to imagine what it must have been like all those millions of years ago when man took his first steps. On the approach to Kapese, looking out of the window, I see that the terrain is semi arid desert scrub.

Landscape of turkana huts and local women

Huts and women in Turkana Kenya

There are mountains in the distance and on closer inspection there are groups of circular huts dotted around. Many Turkana are nomadic herdsmen who move from place to place.

The days go by quickly. There is so much to photograph.

Oil rig in Turkana Kenya

Oil rig in Turkana, Kenya

The camps, the rigs, the workers, people from the local communities who work with and for the oil companies. There are the Corporate Social Responsibility programmes that help the local communities. It is boiling hot and the alight in the middle of the day ferocious. I’m shooting a local company preparing the terrain for a new rig, sweat pouring off their faces. The earth is red, they are in blue and it’s a terrific shot. We visit the schools and the numerous water wells that the company has set up to help the nomadic tribes living in these harsh conditions.

Whilst driving around on bumpy unmade roads, herdsmen with their goats and camels cross our path. Amidst the scrub are extraordinary formations of anthills. We come across groups of women carrying plastic water containers.   I’m constantly shouting ‘stop!’, as I see so many photo opportunities. The people are beautiful.

Turkana girl with oil rig behind

Turkana girl with oil rig behind

They shave their heads apart from the centre, which is often plaited, and wear wonderful colourful beads around their necks. As we stop the children rush out to meet us. Some of the adults are happy to be photographed and others not at all. I talk to them, show them my camera, the pictures I’ve taken and explain why I’m here and doing this. Most of the drivers are Turkana, and are happy to help with translating and eventual persuasion if needed!

Time is almost up, I’ve taken thousands of photos, downloaded them on various hard drives at least twice to make sure that the pictures are safe. I’ve made several friends and feel I would like to stay longer and get more pictures. Back home the work isn’t finished, a hefty job of post-production begins which plunges me back into those dazzling desert days, a world away from the bustling city I live in.


A Photography Holiday in Jamaica part 1

View of Crow Mountains and Rio Grande Jamaica

View over Crow Mountains and Rio Grande Jamaica

What do James Bond and Bob Marley have in common? Jamaica! I’ve been wanting to go for years and finally decided to book a flight, pack a camera, hire a car and discover this much publicised island in the sun. Not a photography tour with the alarm beeping at 5.30 but a laid back wonderful journey of discovery.  For a photographer this is easier said than done!

We picked up a car in Kingston and drove through part of the Blue Mountains to the East coast which was stunning, with luscious tropical vegetation. We stayed in Port Antonio for a few days, overlooking the Crow Mountains and the Rio Grande, at the Rio Vista Resort, which offered a view to die for.  I took loads of pictures of it and yes, I did get up at 5.30! There were loads of gorgeous sandy coves with crystal clear water and the famous Blue Lagoon.

frenchmans cove beach jamaica

Frenchmans Cove beach, Jamaica

I am a fan of those old Bond movies so we decided to continue our pursuit of Ian Fleming’s Jamaica. On our first night in Kingston we stayed at the Liguanea Club which was one of the locations used in Dr. No and where Sean Connery was a guest. So, with reggae blaring out, we left Port Antonio and stopped in Oracabessa to take a swim at the James Bond beach near where Ian Fleming’s old house Goldeneye is now a luxury hotel.

The next port of call was Ocho Rios. A slight disappointment as like most of the north coast, all the luxury hotels have bagged the best beaches making access almost impossible. However, our airbnb at Sandcastles allowed us private access to the beach over the road, which was very picturesque. Our main aim was to visit the touristy Dunn’s Falls first thing in the morning the minute it opened. It is the most visited spot in all of Jamaica and another famous movie location.

Wedding photo at Dunns Falls Jamaica

Wedding in Dunns Falls Jamaica

We enjoyed half an hour’s solitude before the hoards arrived. I don’t usually do touristy things but it is extremely beautiful and fun to walk through the falls. They look really slippery but they’re not.

Leaving Ocho Rios the whole north coast is peppered with sandy beaches and coves, all the way to Montego Bay. The real shame is that the coastline is spoilt by huge holiday resorts that appropriate huge stretches of beach or a whole bay. We managed to get into one of them on the pretext of meeting people for lunch there . The entire beach was covered in sun loungers and tourists and although the water was marvellously transparent, and the reef right there in wading distance it was absolutely thick with people so we left immediately.  That is not what I look for when I go away.

Our next main stop was the old colonial town of Falmouth.

Street scene with colonial building Falmouth Jamaica

Street scene, Falmouth Jamaica

It was Sunday and the town crowded with locals walking around and shopping. I thought this a terrific opportunity to take some street photos, particularly as buildings are really pretty. Jamaican’s aren’t too keen on cameras, even the little Fuji I had with me. I had a couple of conversations with them to explain that although I had loads of fabulous photos of beaches and scenery I wanted to take some photos of every day life in a pretty Jamaican town. Somewhat reluctantly they understood and I was at least able to convey the atmosphere and finally obtain some street photography.

a street scene in Falmouth, jamaica

Street scene jamaica

We arrived in Montego Bay in the evening. At first sight it was nothing like I imagined it to be. The hip strip as its called is a road between the beach, which is backed by buildings and hotels so you can’t see it and another massive block of hotels and restaurants on the other side. Be vary wary of where you stay if you intend to sleep at all whilst there. There are a few beaches that are walking distance, the best by far being the justly famous Doctors Cave Beach. From there you can get a glimpse of what it must have been like in that bygone glamorous era of art deco, luxurious houses, hotels and casinos. The old buildings are mostly still there, converted, deserted and overshadowed by the modern.   The best thing to do is to lie on the comfortable pristine beach, put on a pair of flippers, mask and tuba and swim out to the reef which is right there, unspoilt, with pretty coral and an array of multi coloured fish. From the beach, you see the planes from all over the world coming in to land every few minutes bringing visitors of whom many never venture much beyond their reserved hotel. What a shame.

Doctors cave beach jamaica evening

Doctors cave beach jamaica