Seven days of assignment work on the Aegean followed by three intense days of work in Istanbul. A Turkish friend once told me that tea tastes better by the sea. Right-O.
I'm very excited to be teaming up this summer with the amazing people at Balyolu to offer an 8 night / 7 day photography workshop and expedition of Kars Province in Turkey. Check out tour details here.
I consider myself fairly well traveled and able to get 'off the beaten trail' but my experiences are nothing like the access we'll have with Balyolu. Think small villages tucked into lush green valleys, Turkish cowboys tending cattle on high plateaus, wildflowers and that light. We'll take you to places you've only dreamed about and I'll work with you to get the best images possible.
Drop me line if you would like hear more. We will only be taking 6 people so places are limited. See you in June!
We're returning to the Black Sea for another series of assignments. When we were there in November, 2012 for this story the anchovies / hamsi (hey, why else go) were a little thin on the ground. These photos are from October, 2011 when we were ankle deep in hamsi. The ports were bustling and fishermen and crew welcomed me onto boats and into their galleys. With any luck the hamsi will be running and I'll get my lens into the middle of it.
A few years back when I was shooting this story I found myself with a dilema - amputate part of the scene or shoot vertical. Many of my photographer friends talk about verticals the way someone might sheepishly mention driving drunk into a ditch or spilling hot coffee in their lap. Some say they only take one vertical a year. I've heard others say that it just feels weird.
Typically online slide shows are geared towards horizontal frames, a vertical in the mix looks odd. It throws off the continuity. Also, you can always crop a horizontal to vertical if you absolutely need a vertical for a page layout so why not keep as much information in the frame as possible.
So my problem with the Penang shot above and below is that I just could not make a horizontal happen. Above, I was shooting a 35mm pushed against a wall. In order to clear the top of the minuret I was laying on the ground with my face pressed against the sidewalk. At sidewalk level there was a nice line of light leading to the mosque. In a perfect world I would have a person walking through the light with the line of the mosque leading the eye to the minuret (when I took the above shot a cloud had just passed in front of the sun). I could get the line and the minuret but not the light. So when the guy below walked into the frame I said mea culpa and shot a vertical.
I didn't bother submitting this vertical frame but did end up using the shot later for a print publication. It's a scene I'll need to revisit either with a wider lens or with the idea of finding anther vantage point if I want to get it all in a horizontal.
Shooting on a tropical island - rough duty? Actually, yes - it's work. A bit about my 36 Hours in Koh Phangan.
As with most assignments I got about a weeks notice. I had a 4 day shoot in Malacca prior to so I would have to make my way from Malacca to Kuala Lumpur, then Bangkok to Koh Samui and on to Koh Phangan by ferry. I had 1 day to shoot the assignment and 6 connections to get there. I would travel on a Thursday, shoot Friday and part of Saturday, fly back to Penang Saturday night via Bangkok, edit and caption images Sunday and upload to the NYT's ftp so that they had the images Monday morning, December 24th.
Travel is always a little stressful and in this case I had no room for error. It was peak season and The Times needed the images before the Christmas holidays. A small screw up along the travel chain and I'd have some problems.
I had the article as a guide and made as many phone calls as I could to set up appointments and get a feel for the island. Although I had been to Koh Samui (which is adjacent to Koh Phangan) I had no idea what to expect from Koh Phangan (except it's well deserved reputation for sillyness) but figured with a little planning and some good luck I could find the 'anti-Phangan'.
I arrived at my hotel in Haad Rin at about 8:30pm on Thursday and immediately set about finding a car for the next day's excursions. I had choosen Haad Rin, not because I had hoped to party all night but because I planned to roughly circle the island starting first in the north east corner for sunrise and ending on the southwest end for sunset. Haad Rin was the halfway point and since it was a little larger I figured I would be assured of booking a reasonably priced car for the day and as luck would have it I was able to do just that. So all there was to do at this stage was grab a beer, have some dinner and set the alarm for a 4:30am wake up.
Next morning I poked my head out the door and hear the faint sounds of techno music. The driver shows up (right on time) and we make our way in the dark, past groups of late night (early morning?) partiers and off to our first appointment at Anantara Resort to catch the sunrise.
And it was an amazing sunrise (hightened by the smug feeling that I was up while others were just turning in for the night). So often I'll get up early for a 'non-event' sunrise but thankfully not this time. I gotta say that putting a few images in the bag early on (if even before my first cup of coffee) is a nice feeling.
By 7:30, was off to my next destination, shooting at the Buri Rasa Resort and along Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach (pictured above).I had made a noon appointment so my next order of business was to search out quiet, local destinations. Wat Khao Tham seemed to fit the bill so I stopped by and had a look around.
(Sculpture depicting an elephant and a monkey making an offering to Buddha. Wat Khao Tham).
(A resident monk at Wat Khao Tham).
The only problem with Wat Khao Tham is that the name sounded much like the Thai rice porridge khao tom and since I had not had breakfast yet (it was now approaching 11am) I figured it was time to find something tasty.
A roadside stop offering grilled chicken (gai yang), grilled pork (moo yang) and green papaya salad (som tom) fit the bill perfectly. A quick refresher and I was off to my next appointment at The Yoga Studio.
The Yoga Studio is owned and operated by Canadian transplant Melanie Schorr. Melanie told me that when she proposed to move to Koh Phangan with her Thai husband that his family argued against it saying that the island was full of 'druggies and criminals' but from her quiet end of the island they could not have been further from the truth.
Next up I hiked up to the Phaeng Waterfall. Admittedly it was dry season so not much happening at the falls but still a nice place to hike around and enjoy nature.
As afternoon approached I headed to the western side of the island checking out fishing harbors and hanging out briefly with a woman drying fish (below).
Heading to my 4pm appointment at the Kupu Kupu Resort I was surprised to learn that it was still under construction, but since I had made an appointment with the resort's manager they had happily set up a room (one of the images from Kupu Kupu ended up as the lead to the article).
With the sun starting to set I headed to my final destination, Beach Lounge and a walk along Thong Sala Beach.
This is often where it starts getting toughest in an assignment - that point where you've already had a super long day and you see others kicking back and you still have work to do.
Sunset and back to the hotel by 8-ish to grab dinner and download the days images. I felt like I had a pretty good range of images but since I had some time in the morning that I'd head out again with an eye for getting a sunrise landscape from the hilltop at Wat Khao Tham.
Out the door at 6am but no joy. Grey skies gave rise to rain and finally lightening chased me off Wat Khao Tham. I cruised up the coast a bit stopping at the Thongsala Market but really not much happening. Saturday had been the day - I felt lucky (and relieved). I returned to see my hotel for the first time in daylight (frankly it looked better at night..) packed up and headed for the ferry to Samui for the flight to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and home to Penang).
I submitted the images Monday (to a nice thumbs up from my editor,). In the end one image ran
but that's how it goes. It's work but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Tags: Anantara Resort, beach, beach holiday, Beach Lounge, Buri Rasa Resort, durian, full moon party, Haad Rin, island, Koh Phangan, Kupu Kupu Resort, market, meditation, monks, nature, Phaeng Waterfall, Thailand, The Yoga Studio, Thong Sala, Wat Khao Tham, yoga
I grew up in Michigan and I never thought I say this but when you live in the tropics snow is a thrill. This is just outside of Aksaray, Turkey. (More on Turkey and me, here). I am constantly amazed by the depth and diversity in this country.
For the February issue of Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Magazine I headed up to Chiang Mai for a week of adventure. Chuffed when the shot above was the cover for issue. Hiking and climbing - certainly different than my other work in Chiang Mai.
March had me going in what seemed to be a opposite directions all at once. A trip to Siem Reap with my parents was temporarily sidetracked for an assignment in Vientiane, Lao for the New York Times. They call these stories '36 Hours' and in reality I was there for a little under 48 hours. Thanks to the some advanced planning on my part and that Vientiane is a relatively small, walkable city I was able to get what I needed and join the family for the rest of their holiday.
In July I headed off to Mexico City (my first time there) for this story for The New York Times. (Confession time - I rarely eat the props when I'm shooting food, but I ate most of this torta and much of the one behind - much to the chagrin of my hosts). MC was a real eye opener and a must return destination.
August brought me back to Malaysia but in Kuala Lumpur this time for a story about one of my favorite places in KL - Chow Kit Market. For a guy that digs markets, this was pretty much the dream assignment.
September took me to Koh Samui, Thailand for feature for Travel + Leisure SEA and a food excursion for The Wall Street Journal. (confession #2 - I ate 4 servings to this desert but I swear it was just to make Chef Alex happy).
Then back to Turkey for this journey and this kind of unbelievable hospitality. Throw in stops in Italy for an upcoming article, commercial work and some stuff back home and it's been an interesting, rewarding year. I'm excited for 2013 but I'm also kind of sad to see 2012 go..
Recent work for Travel + Leisure SEA. In November I checked out what was new in my adopted home George Town. It's still packed full of all the loveable characters that brought me here to begin with but a few more galleries, restaurants, cafes and hotels give it a whole new (in a good way) feel.
I'd like to think that George Town is just improving on the good things it had to begin with. Time will tell but so far so good.