Sri Lanka women, colorful dresses, saris

Thanksgiving 2019 on a Photography Tour and Workshop to Sri Lanka

sri lanka, lunchtime, food, curry traveling,
Lunch time train to Ella

Take my 12 day Photography Tour to Sri Lanka from the 27th November to the 8th December.  A Photography Tour and Workshop to Sri Lanka ticks all the boxes a keen photographer could wish for.  This stunning island in the middle of the Indian ocean offers the greatest diversity of images that anyone could wish for.  Sri Lanka has it all, lush tropical green landscapes, rolling hills covered in tea plantations, friendly people, amazing archaeological sites, colonial towns, wild animals and a dramatic coastline.

Negombo

All you have to do is get to Colombo and I’ll do the rest!  We’ll spend our first afternoon and evening just north of Colombo in Negombo and photograph the fishing boats and beach as the sun sets before going back to the hotel to relax and talk about our trip.

It’s now 6am, the day has just broken and we’re photographing the fishermen coming in with their catch and taking it to the market. Two hours later and I’m pulling you away for breakfast as we are leaving in our air-conditioned mini bus to Anuradaphura.  It’s a 5 hour drive and time to relax and talk.

Anuradhapura

anuradhapura, stupa, temple,
Anuradhapura Stupa

The photography tour is going to visit and photograph the marvellous Buddhist temples and stupas built around the 3rd century AD.  There are usually monks in orange robes and often children on school trips. There are black and white-faced monkeys and brown monkeys everywhere and they too are very photogenic. Our best pictures will be at dusk, people come and offer flowers, it’s very beautiful.


Polannaruwa

Next morning we take off for the second stop in the cultural triangle which is Polonnaruwa. Very different from Anuradaphura, here we photograph wonderful ruins in a jungle setting and a reclining buddha covered in greedy monkeys eating the offerings brought worshippers.  We check into our hotel at Sigiriya, discuss our pictures and take off to try and see some wild elephants before night falls in the nearby wildlife park.

Sigiriya and Dambulla

It’s Saturday so there will be some locals climbing Lion’s rock as well as tourists. Sri Lankans like Indians wear wonderfully colourful saris which look great against the green of the jungle and the starkness of the rock.  In the mid-afternoon we are going to Dambulla cave temple which is one of my favourite places. One of the reasons to go on my photography tour is that I try to get us to places at the best time of day.  Although this isn’t always possible I do know that Dambulla is best visited in the afternoon when the light filters gently into the amazing caves and light up the frescoes.

Kandy

Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock

We’re going to Kandy today but first we are going to stop off at Dambulla wholesale market and take some amazing photos.  This market is the centre for the whole island for fruit and vegetables.  It’s very photogenic, the place is heaving with people loading and offloading and traders buying.  Not too long though because there are more pictures to take in Kandy. It’s Sunday and Kandy will be full of local people shopping and visiting.  We will go to Temple of the Tooth and perhaps the Royal Botanical gardens if we’ve time.  The best pictures of the lake will be just before dusk and we don’t want to miss that.

Elephants

Dambulla, frescoes, temple, praying, buddhas
Praying inside Dambulla Cave

As it is early December and not the best time to see animals in the wild and even harder to make good pictures, I am making a change in the usual itinerary and we will go to Pinnawala elephant orphanage and omit Yala National Park.  Each day they take the elephants down to the river for them to bathe and be washed.  It’s quite a spectacular scene watching a herd of elephants walk through the village.  There are great photos to be made and it is an enjoyable trip. It also gives us slightly more time in Kandy which is well worthwhile.

Tea Plantations, Mountains and Nurawaeliya

elephant, portrait of elephant,
Elephant at Pinnawala

Our photography tour is leaving Kandy today for Nuwaraeliya and start to climb the surrounding foothills we are entering a different world.  As the temperature drops we are surrounded by tea plantations, and the colourful dots in the lush greenery are the tea pickers.   We will stop several times on the way and visit at least one tea plantation and photograph the tea pickers and the factory. Then suddenly we’re in England! Nuwaraeliya definitely has something very British about it, the cottages, the cold! We are going to sit in our hotel, order tea of course and enjoy a photography workshop looking and discussing everyone’s photos.

Horton Plains and the train to Ella

Tuk Tuks, transport, driver,
Tuk tuk drivers in Sri Lanka

We are setting off very early this morning to go to Hortons Plains, a landscape photographers paradise.  We’re going on a hike, it will be cold and misty but magical.  There could be an outburst of rain but hopefully we’ll see the sun too, so we will dress appropriately and make sure that our cameras are well protected.  Back to our mini-van that will take us to the Nanu Oya Train station where we will board the lunchtime train to Ella.  This wonderful train journey is great fun, it passes superb scenery and stops at dozens of stations.  There are passengers and hawkers and a real slice of local life to photograph. We disembark at the very picturesque town of Ella where we will spend the night.

Galle and the Sri Lankan coast to Colombo

Ella, tropical scenery, jungle, sri lanka, Greenery
Lush tropical scenery of Ella

Today, we are going to photograph the streets and markets of Galle both inside and outside the fort.  We will also be going 24 kilometres down the coast to photograph the famous stilt fishermen which is an amazing sight when they are all out there standing 2 metres up in a rough sea fishing.  If it’s a sunny day we’ll be there in the late afternoon to make magical photographs against a dramatic sky.

Wednesday morning, a walk to the waterfall and the surrounding countryside and time for a short workshop before setting off for the spectacular coastal city of Galle and it’s famous fort where we will spend 2 nights.   The fort was originally built by the Portuguese before it fell to the Dutch who built many of the buildings that we see today.  The British took it over in the late 18th century.  We will take a walk and photograph life inside the fort which is also famous for its lighthouse and a top venue for weddings.   At dusk there are newly-weds posing on the rocks against the dramatic vibrant colours of sunset. 

Train to Colombo

Fishermen, dusk, sunset, stilt fishermen, sri lanja
Stilt Fisherman near Galle at dusk

Tomorrow we’re going to take the local train to Colombo that rattles along the coast.  I love taking pictures at train stations in Sri Lanka, it’s so full of colour and atmosphere – there are some super photographs to be made.  This is a local train so we won’t have any pre-reserved seats and will mingle with the locals.  The journey takes about 3 hours with stops, so plenty of time to make photos and relax. 

On arrival in Colombo we will check into our hotel before going to the oldest parts of the city, the bustling Pettah and Slave Island where we will get pictures of street life before going back to our hotel for a final photography workshop and dinner.

The photography tour and workshop officially ends today but I will be available to help with tips, editing, an additional walk, whatever anybody would find helpful.   Check out is at midday but our bags can be left in reception.  I hope you’ll join me, Sri Lanka really is a jewel in the Indian Ocean.

ATAURO, EAST TIMOR – AN EXCITING PHOTOGRAPHY ASSIGNMENT

Coconut palms in Atauro, East Timor

Coconut palms in Atauro

I have an unusual photography assignment. I am to go to East Timor and photograph the island of Atauro in East Timor for a research programme taking part there. They require photos for a website, articles and perhaps a book. I am excited. This sounds like the sort of work I particularly love.

Beachfront at Warunwan village, Atauro

Warunwana Village, Atauro

As I skim through the pages of google I see photos of turquoise waters, palm trees, multi coloured coral and fish and the excitement grows. I discover that Atauro has the most spectacular reefs and the biggest biodiversity of reef fish and coral of anywhere in the world. There are few places to stay and few tourists, most of whom are divers and come from nearby Australia. My job however, is to photograph the local people, their lives and their environment.

Children running on the beach at Beloi, Atauro

Children running on the beach at Beloi, Atauro

The only way to arrive in Atauro is by boat from Dili, East Timor’s laid back and sprawling capital. The boat crosses a very deep channel where schools of whales and dolphins can often be seen. In windy weather it’s choppy to say the least!  After about an hour and a half we approach the coast, cross over the reef and are soon in the clearest waters.  The boat tethers just outside Barry’s Place where we will stay for our first couple of nights before venturing inland.  The palm roofed bamboo huts are set in gardens on the beach. It’s a comfortable, friendly place. There are some tourists, researchers, aid workers, English teachers and me.

Woman digging for shells in Beloi, Atauro

Woman digging for shells in Beloi, Atauro

Within minutes of arriving and being designated a hut I am walking along the beach with a camera on each shoulder. One of the projects the researchers are working on in Atauro is the work of the women.

Woman in Atauro carrying empty water bottles

Atauro, Woman carrying empty water bottles in Adara

At this time of the year each day or night at low tide, they are out digging for shells.  It isn’t an easy job, they are looking for food, there are several varieties and it takes them hours to fill their buckets. We are lucky, low tide is at the end of the day, just before sun set. The beach is a hive of activity. Farming seaweed is also a major business. Bodies of men and women in shallow water are bent over tending to the seaweed. Women are digging for shells, small boats are out fishing and children are running and playing with starfish that have been marooned on the wet sand.

Child in Beloi, Atauro collecting starfish

Child collecting starfish in Atauro, East Timor

There are so many photographs to make as the sun goes behind the hills and disappears to the other side of the island where we will go in 2 days. The next day we take a truck up the hill behind Barry’s Place that leaves us along a fork in a dusty road. We walk on to the village of Warunwana, dropping back down to the coast passing mangroves and sweet water pools shimmering in the early morning light. There are palm trees everywhere, I learn of the many varieties that exist. Photographing palm trees and their uses is part of my assignment.

Woman walking between cultivated seaweed in Atauro,

Atauro, Woman looking at her seaweed cultivation

As we approach, a man is high above us, cutting down coconuts and we are immediately given one. It is delicious and thirst quenching after our walk. We stop and talk to the people who I find are always smiling and friendly.

Chopping down coocnuts in Atauro

Atauro, Chopping coconuts

Time to move on, there is another village to walk to, Akrema. Atauro is an island that has to be discovered on foot. We walk a lot, every day for hours. Sometimes a truck or a jeep will take us to a certain point but from there the only way forwards is on foot. There is a fixer working with the researchers and he is excellent. He also carries my camera bag, which is great as some of the walks are very steep and dangerous. I yell ‘Thomas!’ frequently as there is always something I’m stopping to photograph and inevitably the lens I need is in the bag.

Mangroves at lowtide in Atauro, East Timor

Mangrove at low tide in Atauro, East Timor

Over the following days we visit more villages. We cross rocky beaches, jungle paths and see hundreds of ancient shells still lying around. There are caves that have been painted thousands of years ago, destroyed by the Protestants who believe them to be ungodly. We sleep in cabins on the beach and lie in hammocks for a brief rest before taking off on another hot dusty trek.

Smiling children in Atauro, East Timor

Children in Atauro, East Timor

We stay at night at Thomas’s in the mountain in Anartutu. As I learn to differentiate the palm trees and their uses, I learn that an important one is the one used for making palm wine which is very appreciated by the local people. I photograph the work involved and we all drink together.

drinking palm wine in Atauro

Drinking palm wine in Anartutu,

We see the blacksmith at work, children in school, women weaving on looms using palm thread, and the daily quest looking for food. They grow corn and beans, rear chickens and pigs and use every edible plant and tree. Most of the people on Atauro are on avery low income but are some of the happiest I’ve ever seen. Photographing them was a pure delight.

Woman carrying bottles Atauro

Atauro,Woman carrying empty water bottles in Adara

In the main town on the island called Vila, there is a co-operative workshop, Boneca, run by women who do intricate embroidery using sewing machines.  They produce very pretty bags of all different shapes and sizes and various dolls all made of material. It was set up some years ago by an Italian woman who trained and set them up. Unfortunately as the currency in East Timor is US$, the products are very expensive but most visitors try and buy something to help support them.

Atauro, women weaving with palm thread

Weaving palm thread

 

Atauro is a sizeable asset of East Timor, it will eventually be exploited for tourism but before this happens roads will need to be built and the problem of water shortage addressed. From what the researchers have found, the island has been inhabited for thousands of years. The existing families are organised in clans and they explain their traditions and show us hidden places that are sacred. They are very religious Christians, most of whom are Protestant.

Atauro, women sewing at Boneca

Atauro, sewing in Boneca, a women’s co-operative in Vila

We find time to snorkel during the time I’m on Atauro. It is absolutely stunning – I wish I had an underwater camera but I had so much stuff to carry that I didn’t and kicked myself for forgetting the GoPro. I shall no doubt return to Atauro to finish the photographic project as there was not enough time to cover everything. As a photographer you are dependent on circumstances, weather, activities taking place and in this case, the tides.

 

 

 

 

Champagne Photography Tour

champagne, cellar, champagne cave, champagne cellar

champagne cave of independent grower producer

How about a one day photography tour in champagne?  You’re in Paris, you fancy a day in the country, you love photography and you like champagne. Who doesn’t?   I take tailor made photography tours to champagne.  I meet you at Chateau Thierry which is only an hour from Paris on a local train, pick you up and take you on a fantastic photographic tour of the vineyards of the Marne Valley and beyond.  There’s no need to go as far as Reims or Epernay although we can begin there too if you prefer.

This is how our day could evolve:  I pick you up and we drive out following the river Marne which is covered in vineyards on both sides and is one of the most spectacular sites to see.  We could even go immediately to the House of  Pannier and photograph their spectacular cellars followed by a tasting.

vienyards, champagne, working in champagne

Working in vineyards of champagne

After a while, we will visit an independent grower-producer, take pictures of the cellars and enjoy a glass of champagne (I’m driving so have to refrain!).  The real story of champagne is not just the huge fancy houses of Epernay and Reims but the thousands of independent champagne grower-producers that dot the countryside.

Poppies, windmill, champagne, scenic, country

A scene amongst the vineyards of the Mill near Mailly

The cellars you visit will be small,  but you will have the time to take pictures of them properly.  Some have attractive vaulted cellars and others not, the challenge is to come out and make good pictures.

No photography tour in champagne could be complete without a walk around Hautvillers, the most picturesque and famous of all the villages and the birthplace of champagne. There are lots of photos to make here, the charming little signs on all the ancient buildings, the views in many directions, the old church where Dom Perignon is buried, the café,  the vineyards all around and much more.  I like to stop off at the ‘AU 36’, it’s actually a champagne bar that offers tastings which can be accompanied by a plate of local delicacies providing it has been ordered in advance.  For a more substantial lunch there is the highly rated Rotisserie at Ay, a few kilometres away.

café, Hautvillers, country café, outdoor café,

Café in Hautvillers

After a lunch break our photography tour continues and I would recommend a visit to Fleury la Rivière where we will visit the ‘Cave aux Coquillages’  which belongs to a champagne grower-producer fascinated by palaeontology.

cave aux coquillages, cave coquillages, cave champagne,

Ancient shells and fossils in the Cave aux Coquillages

He has excavated the cellars under his house which  is filled with the most extraordinary shells and fossils dating back hundreds of thousands of years that were found there.  Whilst Patrick explains and shows us how this came about, we take photographs of these amazingly beautifiul and original cellars. At the end of the tour Patrick gives us a tasting and you will discover how good Patricks champagne is.

After this,  depending on the time,  we could go on and visit another independent champagne producer or we might spend the afternoon taking pictures of scenic places and walk amongst the vineyards.

Photographically it offers a great variety of images from landscapes to macro shots of champagne bottles in darkly lit cellars.  A wide angle lens and a telephoto are the 2 lenses necessary to obtain a variety of shots.  A tripod is also essential for good photographs of the cellars.

champagne bottles, champagne cellar

Champagne bottles in cellar

champagne, Guy Méa, Champagne bottles, champagne cellar

The Wolf at champagne Guy Méa

As I offer tailor made photography tours, the circuit and cellars we visit will be adapted to your interests and can begin anywhere in champagne.  The circuit mentioned above is only a suggestion.  Someone more familiar with the area may prefer to visit the Cote des Blanc, the villages of Cramant, Oger and Avize, where we can also visit local champagne cellars, and take scenic shots.

If you decide that you would like to visit a well known champagne house such as Castellane, Mercier or Moet et Chandon in Epernay or Pommery, Taitinger or Mumm in Reims I can also accompany you.  These visits are not geared to photography but the cellars are spectacular and worth seeing.

A photography tour in Champagne is a unique experience.  It is best to come between May and November.  As well as visiting places that you would never find alone, I will be there to coach you in photography and help you return with an excellent set of pictures offering a variety that you would not have imagined.

cave au coquillages

cave au coquillages

 

 

Havelis in The Shekhawati – Mandawa and Nawalgarh

Haveli#children#india#rajasthan

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#Mandawa#frescoes

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#mandawa

Haveli doorway in Mandawa

Haveli#door#frescoes#rajasthan

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.

Haveli#Mandawa#rajasthan

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.

Haveli@frescoes#woman#Nawalgarh

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!

Haveli#schoolchildren#school#nawalgarh

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.

elephant#fresco#haveli#mandawa

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:

http://www.metrovista.co.in/index.htm

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotels-g1162333-c2-Mandawa_Jhunjhunu_District_Rajasthan-Hotels.html

 

 

 

 

The Visual Power of Black and White Photography

Paris#snow#trees

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.

Trouville#beach#jumping

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#France#landscape#sunsetB/W

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.

 

 

 

A PHOTOGRAPHER’S VISIT TO HONFLEUR AND TROUVILLE IN WET, WINDY, WINTER

Trouville#Beach#winter#landscape

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#houses#Trouville#

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#beach#Trouville

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!

http://www.coursaintecatherine.com/guest-house-charme-honfleur-accomodation

https://www.thefork.com/restaurant/cote-resto/9313

https://www.restaurant-lebreard.com

 

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

Senegal#fishing#octopuspots#children

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#water#tanks#Turkana

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.

Africa#Mosquitonets#rural#villages

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.

Senegal#Women#feedingproject#

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#oilrig

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#scenic#snow

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!

 

 

 

 

 

CONSIDER TAKING A PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR TO CHAMPAGNE IN THE FALL

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

http://www.champagneeric-mallet.fr/ElementsRubrique.aspx?SITE=MALLE14&RUB=1&MP_SS_RUB=ELEM&MP_ELT=DIA&PAGE=1&Lang=FR

http://www.champagne-alain-mercier.fr/index-en.html

 

 

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