this is kukenan, the tepui that greeted us when we arrived at the first camp site on our 6 day trek up the larger roraima tepui. we had been walking all afternoon and were hot, sweaty and thirsty by the time we arrived. our guide pointed out a river close by where we could fill up our water bottles, and a little bit downstream, bathe and cool off. i wasted no time in changing into my swimming shorts and jumping in the river. the current was a little strong but it was nice and refreshing to dip your head under and cool off. there were a few leaves floating around which without thinking i picked up and threw to the side. i saw a small twig floating behind me and i was about to do the same when it started to move independent of the water. it was then that i realised that the stick was black and red, squiggly and far more serpentine than your average piece of wood. hopefully you'll understand why i didn't remain floating long enough to find out how dangerous the snake was
earlier today i was in the apple store in covent garden and needed to make my way to liverpool street. i checked out the journey on google maps and saw it wasn't that far or complicated to walk, head along the river, hang a left and you're there. it was all going fine until i got to st pauls cathedral and found my route was blocked by the lord mayor's show. i tried to take a long detour around this parade, which took around 45 minutes and somehow managed to both start and finish at the exact same spot near st pauls. if only there was some kind of system of underground tunnels where i could have avoided the crowded streets. i couldn't tell you whereabouts in london i took this as i was lost for most of my urban trek, but it's a safe bet to say it was somewhere in the st pauls area
i'm not completely content with the composition on this one, however i was somewhat limited with how i could shoot it as i had a fixed lens and there was another branch casting a shadow over the plant. this meant that the furthest away i could stand was at arms length so that i could still reach the branch to push it out of shot. i then had to focus and click the shutter with the other hand... which was fairly fiddly. it would have been pretty useful to have an extra arm, which i think about when i'm changing my lens and i juggle a camera, old lens, lens cap and new lens. the most awkward time i tried doing this was standing at the look out point near angel falls when the rain was lashing down. i didn't want to get the camera any wetter than i knew i would when i started taking pictures. this led to me fumbling blind under my poncho, sweat dripping down my face, growing more frustrated with each passing minute. that performance drew more than a few confused glances from the other onlookers let me tell you...
i try to use this mirror effect sparingly as it always feels too much like cheating. it seems the most boring of images can be lifted when you reflect one side onto the other, and as such i think it loses its value. but it also creates some cool effects and when i quickly tried it with this venezuelan wall i couldn't go back to how it was before.
towards the end of my travels, and particularly in the final two countries i visited, i started to become more and more homesick. this was closely connected to the fact that the countries in question, guyana and suriname, are among the least touristy destinations on the continent. this meant i met fewer fellow travellers which in turn made me miss my friends and family even more. now that i'm back home i've been trying to catch up with who i can in the last couple of weeks, mostly faces i haven't seen in around two years. while i've met many, many amazing people on the road, it is nice to be able to speak in slang, talk about old times and not receive strange looks when i make a room for romeo brass references.
so after more than two years travelling around the continent of south america i touched down on english soil a few days ago. it feels a little surreal to be back, everything seems both familiar and strange at the same time. day one was spent fighting a losing battle to keep awake from my jet-lagged, sleep deprived state. day two involved walking to a rainy town centre in flip-flops and looking for a wardrobe to better suit the autumnal english climate. then today, day three, i went food shopping and had a near religious experience. the choice, oh the endless choice, was close to overwhelming. there was a whole aisle full of cheese - if you can imagine that. countless varieties of crisps... more than three different types of beer... bacon, english muffins, mushrooms... i mean it was like a market, only super. i'm fully aware this novelty will soon wear off, but i've found that stuffing bacon sandwiches into my face does help with the readjustment.
on 11th september 2010 i took a flight over the atlantic ocean from europe to south america. apart from a week i spent back in england and a two i spent in cuba, i haven't left this continent, but tomorrow i will fly back home. i remember back in leeds when i was talking to friends about this mad idea of quitting my job and going travelling. i was concerned at the magnitude of the decision, packing it all in and exploring a strange, foreign part of the world. without fail they all said that any regrets i may have if i go would be minuscule compared to the regret of not going. of course they were right. while it's daunting to return to a country where i don't have a job nor a place to live, i've had two years full of surprises and adventures which i never thought i would experience. i don't think this will be my final time in south america, so instead of goodbye i'll say hasta la proxima vez - gracias por los recuerdos
i took this photo way back in february when i was walking through the gorgeous valle de cocora national park in colombia. i only processed it a couple of days ago when i was scanning through some old photos, and then found out from 500px that today is world animal day, so it seems appropriate to post it now. i've already mentioned how the quality of images on 500px is ridiculously high, and how my ambition is to trick my way into appearing in their editors' choice selection. well that's an accolade which has still alluded me, however i was gratified to see that my yellow bird shot which i put a few days ago wound up in their popular section, and indeed is the most popular photo i've added to their site. i find it a bit strange that it received that status as it's not even my favourite photo from the galapagos - but then what do i know
today is a special day as this photoblog turns 7 years old. digital cameras weren't around when i was growing up so i didn't really take that many photos. when i went to university i remember taking a short photography module in my first year with a film camera. i enjoyed it more than writing essays, but i never pursued it as a hobby. it wasn't until after i graduated that megapixels began to increase, prices began to decrease and digital cameras became mainstream. when i got my nikon coolpix back in 2005 i started to take pictures of everything and i found it exciting. despite the fact that the results reflected my experience, within a few months i had created this website and started to share them with the world. seven years, four cameras and almost 1500 photos later i still get a thrill from taking a shot, processing it in photoshop and seeing an image come alive. i hope that feeling continues and i have more birthdays in the future.
i only spent one night and two days in the small village of san cipriano, but it still left it's mark as one of my favourite places in colombia. the sun replaced the rain on the second day and my friends and i decided to spend a few hours floating down a river in big tire tubes. i think it's the most relaxed i've ever been in my life. i remember lying on my back, looking up at the trees and the sky, listening to the nature, drenched in sunlight, my feet dipped in the water and any worries or concerns evaporating. even thinking back about it now makes me smile - i guess it's what psychologists would call my happy place. it would be nice to provide some kind of visual evidence of this mythical paradise, what with this being a photoblog and everything. unfortunately the high water content of the river prohibited us from bringing anything we didn't want to get wet. so no cameras, no pictures, but warm and fuzzy memories - not so good for you but pretty damn good for me.
i got confused with this bird and wrote about darwin - read about it here: http://www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?id=1489
despite never owning either, i've always been more of a dog person than a cat person. i like the innate curiosity that cats have, and i can't deny that they're pretty damn cute, but they make me sneeze. fortunately my broken immune system doesn't extend to dogs - and there are a lot in the streets of south america. but it's not just the fact that i can physically tolerate canines compared to felines - they have better personalities too. whether they're keeping you company on a long trek or keeping guard outside the bedroom window they work harder at building that connection. and they're cute too. a recent oatmeal comic communicates this bond far better than i can - if you've ever owned a dog (or even if you haven't) you should check it out:
i just found out that a couple of days ago andy williams passed away. i have one of his 'best of' albums on my ipod which always seems to survive my monthly cull when i try and free up new space. it's full of so many old-fashioned crooning hits which i'm sure i wouldn't tolerate from a new artist - but andy gets away with it. my introduction to mr williams was from the movie shallow grave when happy heart plays out over the end scene and credits. i won't link to a clip of that scene, as it's possibly my favourite ever ending to a movie, and merits your time in watching the film in full. but yeah, it's an amazing sequence which is lifted even higher by the juxtaposition of the pretty, croony, happy heart. this may be influenced by a suppressed resentment at hearing 5469 versions of my way - but i say he was better than frank.
after i returned from visiting angel falls and other pretty places in canaima i planned to go south to santa elena and climb mount roraima. i went to the bus station one lunchtime to get tickets for the night bus, only to be told they were sold out and i should return the next day. i did, at 9am the next morning, to be told the same thing: no more tickets - come back tomorrow. so i returned at 7am the following morning, waited in line for about an hour, before finally leaving that night. when i arrived in santa elena the next morning i was told that i would have to wait a couple more nights for the next group departure to roraima. to be honest i found all of the waiting and the delays a little frustrating, like someone was telling me i should not climb that mountain. as it happened, i was just being told to wait, and it was great advice. i waited 23 months after i started travelling and a week longer than i had planned... and it was totally worth it.
i was reading an article on nme.com which was talking about those moments in songs that give you the goosebumps. they call it frisson and explain it scientifically as the flood of dopamine in the brain as a result of an emotional reaction to a moment in a song. it could be a change in tempo, an introduction of a certain instrument, or the way a lyric is formed or phrased. apparently only 30% - 50% of people experience this in response to music, which explains why some people aren't into music as much as others. i thought i'd look through my ipod and come up with my own list of musical frissons. it only took me a matter of minutes to choose 10 so i may well revisit this in the future. i've linked to the specific moments on the youtube links - although you should listen to the whole song if you want to appreciate those moments fully:
To read the list click here: http://www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?id=1485
i've added a little update to the main site (www.testmeat.co.uk) which means you can now view each photo full screen. this works well for images that are too tall to view in a regular browser, but it's also a nice effect for the other photos. to activate the full screen option just click on the icon which appears when you move your mouse to the top right of each photo. once you are in the full screen mode you can press the escape key to return to normal. this works in most browsers, although internet explorer is an unsurprising exception. but really, if you're still using internet explorer i'm sure you must have far bigger issues than the fullness of my images in your screen. i'm guessing it won't work in mobile browsers either, where you often don't have a mouse or escape key. oh and opera doesn't support it either. i'm starting to wonder why i bothered in the first place... ok, if there's anyone with firefox, chrome or safari who still uses a real computer in this post-pc age - then this feature is for you.
sorry, i wrote too much to fit in this box, if you want to find out what's more scary than getting a haircut in a foreign country read here: http://www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?id=1483
when i was looking at this shot i was happy with the general composition, framing and colours - but there was an element which bothered me. i tried to remove it by cropping or stretching the image, but in the end i concluded that the only real way to fix it was to clone it out. as soon as i started it became obvious that this was a foolish idea. the background wasn't simple snow or sky - it was full of crates, boxes and other complicated shapes. i probably should have stopped, but it became a challenge in my head that i was determined to overcome. far too much time later this is what i finished up with. i'd like to think that if i didn't say anything you would assume it was a regular photo. but now that you know i've done some serious editing i'm curious if you'll be able to work out what (or more likely where) has been adjusted.
if it's not obvious before, it will surely be after you look at the original: http://www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?extra=true&id=1122
two years ago today i took a plane to rio de janeiro to start my travels in south america. i didn't imagine i'd still be in south america when i wrote that sentence. this time last year i said that i didn't have a specific time scale, just a desire to visit each country in this continent. so how did that work out? well since i wrote that i have visited ecuador, colombia, venezuela and guyana. oh, and i also nipped over to cuba. in my pocket is a visa to suriname, so this time next week i should be posting from another new country. seems pretty comprehensive. unfortunately i'm predicting a gallic shaped hole in my plans as i'm not sure if i'll make it to french guiana. my issue comes down to money, i don't have so much, and french guiana requires a lot. if i wanted to be pedantic, i could miss it and still say that i've been in each country in south america. technically french guiana is a region of france... and i have been to france before. yeah, that didn't convince me either.
a few hours ago i saw andy murray win his first ever grand slam at the us open. well that statement is relatively accurate. i had no television so i ended up streaming the match on the internet. it turns out if your connection isn't so fast, and the video quality isn't so high, it's not so easy to watch professional tennis. i know there was a guy with a blue t-shirt who was running left and right and there was a guy with a white t-shirt who was running left and right. they were both swinging tennis rackets and making the odd grunt. and the scoreboard in the corner kept on changing. frustratingly it seems like they had decided to use invisible tennis balls. still i think i worked out what was going on: hours and hours of running around... blue guy lost... white guy won... no one smiled.
this is what the inside of my mind looks like everytime my computer crashes. and it crashes a lot. it crashed while i was writing this out, no reason, no warning, it just decided it wanted to be turned off. i was thinking that it's now exactly 2 years since i first bought the computer. if you look it at one way, it's pretty impressive that i've lugged a laptop all over south america and i'm still able to use it. if you look at it another way, it's pretty sad that i'm supposed to be impressed that an expensive piece of technology hasn't completely failed in a 2 year period. if you went back and saw how many times i've written about this issue in the past 2 years you'll understand why i'm far from impressed. the only thing that keeps me going is the dream of some office space retribution when i'm finally able to replace it.
the title of this photo is taken from the first track of the latest metric album synthetica. like almost all of their albums, i kinda hated it when i first heard it, and slowly it's grown on me. i was introduced to the band at my old job when my workmates would put live it out on the stereo. i instantly found the lead singers voice irritating, and her lyrics annoyed me. i slowly grew to tolerate it and then to enjoy a few tracks. i now like the lead singers voice, and hey i'm even using her lyrics for my photos now. i've come to the conclusion that for me, they fall into the category of being perfect 'working music'. this category usually includes bands who are write decent enough music that doesn't distract you by being spectacular. you can stick it on and get on with your business with pleasant noise in your ears, safe in the knowledge your focus won't be interrupted. they join coldplay in this category.
a couple of days ago i was bemoaning the vocal presence of a karaoke bar below where i was staying. well a few hours ago it started up again, and i heard the unmelodic strains of a volunteer, channelling barry manilow, drift in through my open window. i'm confident that even the most rational among you would see this as acceptable provocation to jump out of the window, but my mind didn't follow those thoughts. instead i tried to think about where i'd heard oh mandy sung in a happier context. changing mandy to mindy i realised it was from a really old simpsons episode - the last temptation of homer - where homer has a crush on a co-worker called mindy. he sings to himself - to the tune of manilow's mandy - before he notices lisa is also in the room. i managed to find the whole episode online (google the title if you want to) and realised it was one of the best episodes they ever made (really, you should google it). how about that, a bad barry manilow cover ends up making me happy, i didn't see that one coming
like yesterday's entry i took this almost one year ago when i was in peru. i liked the typeface, and the colours, but i have a feeling that i wouldn't have taken the photo if it was written in english. or more specifically, i don't think i would have taken it if it was in england. i'm not entirely sure why that is. i think it's one of those everyday sights which i normally wouldn't give a second glance, but as i was in a different country with a different language it stood out. so if you're from lima, there's a high chance you won't think much of the photo. to be honest if you're not from lima then you may well dismiss it as well, but screw you, i likes it.
the hotel where i'm staying is above a nightclub, which means it gets quite loud at night. as you can imagine it's fairly annoying, but the past few nights this annoyance has been amplified by karaoke that goes on well into the night. i think i've heard each way that my way can possibly be interpreted - i'm sure that's a technique they use in guantanamo bay. listening to these musical offerings has left me contemplating a dilemma. y'see i can just close the windows, which makes a big difference to the volume, however it also makes a big difference to the temperature of the room. it's a tough choice. i mean there's something very uncomfortable about trying to sleep in a really, really hot room. but my ears feel really, really uncomfortable listening to music i don't like sung by people who can't sing. it's a question with no right answer, although during the course of writing these words i have closed the windows and started sweating.
i was in a sandwich shop yesterday when i saw a girl wearing a black t-shirt. on the t-shirt was a neon outlined picture of an owl, wearing glasses. above this owl were the words WANNA LICK? yeah, i was a bit confused about the significance of the spectacled owl as well. regardless, my response to the proposal would have been similar to when i saw the instruction printed on this lady's pink t-shirt. it made me consider getting a t-shirt made up that says THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
i wrote over twice as much as i can fit in this box for today's photo - but it's a funny story - so if you want to you can read it over here:
when i was talking about a few of my favourite things on my trip to galapagos i wrote that my favourite snorkelling trip was an encounter with a turtle. i had seen turtles before in the water, but never as big, never as close and never for so long. it was a lucky find as i was just swimming under the water looking for life when i spotted it. usually if you swim up to an animal it will start retreating, but this turtle didn't budge. i advanced until i was a matter of inches away from the giant beast, it turned to look at me, then turned back and kept on eating. i have never been more transfixed at the sight of an animal having lunch before. every now and then it would make a move, go for a little swim, and then stop for some more grub. it never went too fast - and i know from experience that turtles can really move when they want - so i was able to stay close. for well over half an hour. it was one of those rare connections with nature, like the deer scene in stand by me, that leave you in speechless awe.
one of the most important parts of my workflow when it comes to processing my photos is sleep. regardless of how much time i've spent working on the image, it's always useful to put it away and look at it later with fresh eyes. i have plenty of files on my computer of pictures that i've started work on, but i know require more attention. in today's photo i started off by straightening the image and keeping some of the colours. i saved it but knew it wasn't quite right. looking back on it this evening i decided to revert to the original rotation and desaturate the colours. i then did some selective dodging and burning. also i removed a plane wing and increased the contrast. oh and i did some selective blurring and sharpening and applied a few masked curves. in total there were 15 layers of adjustments. i kinda wanted a little sleep after all of that, but i didn't want to wake up and end up with 30 layers...
In todays post i get all political... well a little political... sufficiently political that it takes up more space than i'm allowed to write here - read more on the photoblog: http://www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?id=1470
last thursday i questioned the feasibility of me crossing two borders in one day, and my lack of confidence was entirely justified, as last friday i had to spend the night in brazil. for about 30 seconds everything was going to plan, by which i mean i woke up on time... but then i checked my emails. i had been waiting the past few days for a work email to come through, it arrived that morning with the subject MAD SCREAMING URGENT. that's pretty tough to ignore. the work delayed me by about 4 hours and a few more minor delays occurred when i had to backtrack to get my passport stamps and mess around trying to convert some currency - all of which meant i arrived too late in boavista to catch the bus to the border. a brazilian sized beer along with some great street food pacified me and it only took me a few hours to remember what i love and hate about brazil: the people are so nice... but i can't understand a bloody word they're saying.
i was expecting some unpredictable weather when i went to visit angel falls, what with it being rainy season, but i was lulled into a false sense of security by the blue skies and sunshine that welcomed me in the national park. this good weather continued on the 4 hour boat ride up the river as we headed into the savannah towards the big waterfall. it was only when we started the final ascent on foot that the clouds got organised, opened up, and proceeded to shower us for the next 6 hours. it was like we had walked through an invisible tripwire the activates wet weather upon arrival. this made the trail slippery, the view obscured and the photography very wet - not the conditions i was hoping for when i posted my previous golden waterfall photo. then again, angel falls changes significantly from dry season to wet season, and for obvious reasons the 800+ metre plunge is more impressive when the rain lends a helping hand. unfortunately it's not quite as easy to see this brightside when you're soaked to the bone
i'm gearing up to do some more travelling tomorrow, and hopefully within 24hrs I'll be in a new country: guyana. in the time i've spent in venezuela it appeared as though virtually no tourists had much of an interest in the place, it seems as though this is even more true with guyana. i've only ever met one person on my trip who has been there before, when i was trekking inside colca canyon. it definitely feels like it's the forgotten corner of south america. in addition it's not so straightforward to get there, i have to go from venezuela to brazil, and then brazil to guyana. this presents a high margin or error - i'll have to deal with two different borders, three different countries, three different currencies and three different languages. luckily the final language is english - although i was just chatting to a friend of my canyon friend and they used the word irie - so i may have to learn a whole new vocabulary as well.
today i wrote some words about what i've learnt during my two years travelling - find out what they are here: http://www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?id=1466
i could try hard to think about something interesting, insightful or witty to say about chickens - but it wouldn't match up to these chicken dances (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9TXVMkQ29g) so it seems kinda fruitless. and if you're reading this and you haven't seen arrested development, well you're really wasting both my time and your own. c'mon
things i learnt from watching indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull
- the nazca lines can be found in cusco and not, as you may expect, in nazca
- the indigenous andean language of quechua was spoken in mexico
- if you're stuck in quicksand in a jungle, ignore all the trees and vines, a snake is the best instrument to pull yourself out
- far from being dangerous, rafting down iguazu is good, harmless family fun
- if there's a nuclear explosion the safest place to hide, and indeed be propelled into the air from within, is a fridge
- george lucas is a fucking hack
although to be fair, i've known that last point for a long, long time
yesterday i returned from a six day trek to roraima with aching muscles, puri puri bites, sunburnt skin, 3 dead camera batteries, 7GB of photos and amazing memories. but i'll save talk of all that for when i have some photographic accompaniments. in the mean time here's a shot that i took in canaima national park - famous for containing the tallest waterfall in the world: angel falls. i extravagantly splashed out money i didn't really have on a plane ride around the big waterfall - hoping for stunning views and pictures. disappointingly the weather wasn't playing ball and most of the cascade was obscured by clouds. to be honest i was pretty bummed out at what felt like a short, expensive and fairly worthless exercise. looking back at my shots revealed that while my disappointment was justified with regards to angel falls, i faired better with the surrounding area. indeed the clouds that ruined one vista, enhanced others such as this. there's probably some kind of message about silver lining hidden in all that
i'm often asked why i decided to go travelling in south america and of course there are lots of reasons. but i have a distinct memory of day dreaming back in england, coming across a photo of mount roraima and thinking wow... i really want to go there. and tomorrow there is where i will go as part of a six day trek. i won't be updating the site in that time for obvious reasons, but i hope i will have some good content to contribute when i return to an internet zone. it's taken many months, countries and miles to get to this point, and it looks like i've timed it to coincide with a particularly cloudy and wet part of the calendar, but i'm still really excited to go.
i feel like my photograpy is getting better, to the extent that i'm not so keen on some of the photos that i put up at the start of my trip. or to put it another way, if i went back again i'm confident i'd produce a much better collection of photos. i choose to look at this in a positive way, i'm happy that i'm improving my skills and becoming more selective in what i'm posting. i hope that my technique continues to get better and it would be great if i look back in a few years at my 2012 shots with the same critical eye. with this in mind today's photo is a strange choice. it's a photo that i wouldn't have hesitated in uploading a few years back, but now i'm not so sure. i mulled it over for a while before i started to get tired of all that mulling. so in summary, i feel like my photography has improved a lot in the last couple of years, and this isn't an example of that.
here's one for all you spanish speakers out there. when i took this photo i purposefully chopped off 3 letters to create 3 english words, can you work out what they are to create the 3 original spanish words? if you speak english as well, which if you're reading this then i assume you do, then it's a similar sign to this one in london (http://www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?id=1041) which coincidentally i took that the same day as seeing rage. i could hand out more clues, but it's really not that difficult... or really that fun.
it's been a while since i've driven a car, and even longer since i filled one up. even so i'm pretty certain that 50 litres (or 49.99 - hey i tried) would fill up most tanks. now i don't know how much it costs to fill up your car in your country but i doubt it's as cheap as here in venezuela. 3.50 bolivares, which using the worst exchange rate i've ever found, works out at around 28p or 44 cents. that's not per litre... that's for all 50 of them. in some ways this is positive - venezuela has a lot of oil, so it's good that it should be cheap for the citizens of the country. but why is everything else so expensive? things people need like food and drink. and why are there frequent power cuts in many towns and cities? it's a calculation that doesn't add up and a valid criticism of those in power that a country should be so rich in natural resources yet give so little back to the people. if only they could make petrol potable, although if they go down that route they should probably start with the water first.
i've had great nights out in each south american country i've been to. i have particularly fond memories from rio de janeiro, montevideo, buenos aires, valpariso, asuncion, la paz, quito and medellin. regrettably this trend hasn't continued in venezuela. the nightlife culture seems to be very different and not a lot really happens after the sun goes down. in fact most places just close up really early, which means if you want to grab something to eat and it's after 7.30pm it becomes a serious mission. it's so different to somewhere like argentina where for an average night out no one even thinks about leaving the house before midnight. to be fair i haven't been to caracas, and i've heard that it's a pretty lively city in every sense of the word, but even so i would have hoped to find some kind of life in the other cities. on the positive side it has helped slow down my economic collapse, on the negative side... i miss tequila nights
i went to canaima national park a few days ago to see lots of beautiful things including angel falls. i haven't been up to that much since i came back, i bought some rice, washed some clothes, cooked some rice, kicked a dead rat, caught up on some daily show, swung in a hammock - so y'know a fairly standard weekend. apart from the washing of the clothes, i'd been putting that off for weeks, boy did they hum. oh and now i think of it the dead rat was a bit unusual, i was walking back with my rice, looking straight ahead instead of down, when i felt it against my shoe. having spent most of the past few days, often in intermittent pain, walking barefoot it was a not-so-small mercy that i was wearing my reeboks. i can confirm it was a big bugger, couldn't be confused with a mouse and it was definitely dead. to be honest i probably would have freaked out a lot more if it wasn't for the fact that i was starving and wanted to get that rice cooked. and then i started swinging in a hammock. i'm easily distrac...
last year i met a group of journalists who worked for a magazine - bolivian express - in la paz. i hung out with them for a few days, one thing led to another and some of my photos were published in their latest issue. whilst hanging out with them i also me the designer of bolivian express who worked on a few other magazines. we kept in touch and a few weeks ago he asked if i wanted to submit any pictures to a photography magazine he's involved with called revista diafragma. the aim of this publication is to promote bolivian photographers, focussing on different themes each issue. the latest issue was to have an open theme and by asking me it seemed like they had relaxed their stance on limiting the nationality of their contributors. i sent across a few favourites from the last few months and was happy to discover that my encounter with some military personnel in salento received a full page spread on page 6. you can check out the online version here: http://issuu.com/revistadiafragma/docs/dfrg_12_final-issuu
i finally managed to see the latest batman movie last week, on the opening night no less. i had to queue for about an hour, buy hey i'm british, if there's one thing i know it's how to queue. there was the concern that it might be sold out when i got to the front, but in the end there was only around 40-50 people in the 135 seat screen. i was expecting it to be busier, but then again i was watching the english language/spanish subtitles version - i imagine most venezuelans prefer to hear their films in their own language. in some ways having spanish subtitles improved the experience - it meant that i could actually work out what bane was saying, if i had to rely on sound alone i would have been screwed. i made a point of avoiding all reviews and spoilers before watching it, so i wouldn't feel right about reviewing or spoiling the film here. i will say that i enjoyed it, although not as much as the second one, and i really want to see it again. i wonder what the chances are of finding an imax in guyana?
say what you want about venezuela, but it's a pretty connected country when it comes to the internet. so far i've only failed to update the site due to a power cut, a trip to the isolated los llanos, a day travelling, a night in a sex hotel and an unplanned stopover in caripe. and the speed is pretty decent as well - far better than bolivian standards which i feared before i travelled here. even where i took this, in the tiny beach village of santa fe, i had a strong connection. according to a report last year over a third of the country is online and venezuela ranked number 5 in the use of twitter. impressive statistics. i anticipate a few days of downtime coming up as tomorrow i'm hopefully going to be visiting angel falls in the canaima national park. i actually read that it's possible to get online in the park, however if it's ok with you i think i'll spend my time looking at waterfalls and mountains instead of a computer screen. if my camera doesn't get too wet then it will be worth it in the longrun.
it's late, i've written too much to fit in this box, and i can't be bothered to edit it all down - if you want to read the text that goes with this photo (although it's not really related) then click on the link:
i've seen a fair few setting suns in my trip around the continent, in some pretty spectacular places, and i should be getting to the stage where i'm a bit bored of the old routine. actually i kinda am, but i still feel compelled to photograph it, or at least get to a position where i have the option of photographing it, just in case it's a stunner. this all played out as normal in my previous destination, the caribbean beach town of santa fe, where i had a room a few metres away from the ocean and a westward view. the problem was that as soon as i arrived in the late afternoon i started to shave my head... and the batteries in the clippers ran out. i could plug them in to the mains, but this to charge them, not to use them. i worked out that around a 5 minute charge would give about 60 seconds of shavetime. no matter what route i took with my hair, or what balance i struck with the charging/usage i couldn't beat the sun from falling into the ocean. i made up for it by sticking around for another 6 sunsets.
most british people don't have a lot of time for american english. it's spelt colour not color, you throw away things in rubbish bins not trash cans and summer is followed by autumn not fall. i've started to relax my stance on these differences and they annoy me less and less. i think travelling has made me phase out the more british aspects of my vocabulary and consequently i've become less aggravated by american english. with that said, there's still one difference i refuse to accept: calling football soccer. you can't just create a new sport (american football), kind of based on a similar sport (rugby), then steal the name of another sport (football) and rename it in the process (soccer). i don't expect americans to like the game, they have their own sports and that's fine, but i still can't abide the word soccer. it was only when i came to save this image that i realised that i have a photo of kids playing football on the beach and called it beach soccer. please forgive me.
it's a curious thing that outside of south america people think of colombia as this scary, dangerous place. i just finished watching the shield and one of the characters was a fugitive with a plan to escape to colombia. i think they chose that country because people had preconceptions of it being a criminal haven but all i could think was, well it's gonna be a step up from los angeles. and after spending so much time in this continent it's funny how the reputation of colombia is so different here. the majority of travellers who have visited multiple countries in south america say that colombia is their favourite. colombians are regarded, by both gringos and south americans, to be the friendliest nationality in the continent. i spent over 3 months in a bunch of different places and did not feel unsafe once. colombia knows this negative perception isn't shared with the people that visit the country and promote tourism with the slogan the only risk is wanting to stay. and i can't really argue with that.
i've seen an anaconda once before this last august when i was in the pampas in bolivia. when we found the snake it was half in, half out of the water, i didn't want to get too close and as a result i didn't get any good photos or much else from the experience. almost one year later our guide was out searching in the rain as we waited on the road, before all of a sudden signalling us to a pool of water. we rushed over, but all i could see was a muddy puddle. the guide then thrust his hand in the water and pulled out a 6 metre long anaconda. i was scarily close this time and couldn't (or indeed didn't want to) take my eyes off the beast. the guide did for a second and the snake went for him, mouth open, teeth out, missing by inches. despite wanting to take a wider photo to give more context i had my broken telephoto lens already attached, and after witnessing how fast the serpent can attack, there was no way i could change. just so we're clear the super close up wasn't an aesthetic choice, but a cowardly choice
hotel madrid in barcelona is the worst sex hotel that i've ever stayed in. let me explain. barcelona is the name of a city in venezuela as well as spain, it looked kinda pretty so i added it to my route. when i arrived i discovered it was pretty, but also pretty expensive, so the cheapest place i could stay (which was still twice the price of my previous accommodation) was the aforementioned hotel madrid. truth be told i've only one other point of reference - sol y luna motel which i accidentally found myself in when i was travelling through paraguay. so, where did the barcelonian madrid fail? well there was the freezing cold air conditioning which leaked like a tap all over the floor. there was a constant influx of mosquitos that were far too plentiful to eradicate. and then there were the roaches. it was their room, i was their guest and they were everywhere, crawling on the floor, up the walls, in my shoes. if i got too cold and turned the a/c off they would proliferate and the walls would move. yuk.
it would be nice if i could manipulate life as easily as images in photoshop. brighten things up, make the colours more vivid, clone out the messy shit. take this photo as a convenient example. i remember that i wasn't feeling all that great at the time, i was still hanging onto my cold and felt pretty low in general. i hadn't taken any photos for a while so i forced myself to go out and shoot for half an hour. this photo came out of my camera reflecting my mood, dull, flat and lacking in colour. but there was still something inside and by adjusting the contrast, vibrance and colour balance it came back to life. if there's a happiness, contentment or serenity slider then it definitely isn't as simple to control.
if my memory is correct i've been fishing 4 times on my trip, and if my maths is correct that makes it 4 times in my life. the first was in uruguay, then there was brazil and bolivia and most recently los llanos here in venezuela. somehow despite this relatively little experience i've managed to maintain a 100% record and caught fish each time. i'm not claiming this as having any inherent skill or talent at attracting fish to some food that i'm dangling in the water, but you the statistics speak for themselves. of course, as with all statistics, you have to examine them further to decide whether there's any worth behind them. while fishing in los llanos i caught the first catch of the day after about 5 minutes. then nothing for the next hour as two chinese guys got into double figures. i was always better at sprinting than long distance. still i did feel some sense of pride that the five of us with fishing lines and bait managed to outscore the fisherman with a net.
i'm a naturally indecisive person which manifested itself with this photo when i had to choose between colour and black and white. certain shots seem to lend themselves to a black and white treatment, mudwalkers in colombia, ghosts in peru, kids with guns - i'd like to think they were all enhanced by a monochrome treatment. similarly other shots have striking colours where the removal would detract from the image, dunes in huacachina, jumping in colombia and a sunset in ecuador spring to mind from my more recent posts. with this in mind i was torn with this photo - the colours in the original were particularly vivid and it was what made me take the shot in the first place. however i tried it in black and white and liked the result. if only there was a way to upload both versions... hold on a sec... i've been doing that off and (mostly) on since 2006... i feel better now. so, here's the black and white version, and...
...here's the colour version (http://www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?extra=true&id=1085)
this is another old shot from last year when i was in huacachina in peru. back then i wrote about how the most frustrating aspect of sandboarding, compared to snowboarding, was the lack of ski-lifts to get you to the top of the slope. i think this picture gives an idea of what i mean, and trust me it was even hotter than this photo makes it look. i gave sandboarding another go when i was on the sand dunes in coro. if my previous post is accurate that made it my fourth time, and i don't think i'm really improving. i still struggle with turning, which feels so natural in snow and wrong in sand, so i end up going in a straight line for around 10 seconds before stopping. i'm not saying those 10 seconds aren't enjoyable, but compared to the effort involved in climbing the sand dune, it doesn't feel like a fair trade.
i used to quite like bob marley. while i was never a massive fan i still enjoyed both the music & myth that came with the man. unfortunately this has changed since my time in south america. i don't think it's an exaggeration to say that i've heard his songs at least once a week in every place that i've travelled - and i don't know how much more i can take. i had a similar reaction to over-saturation in my last job. we used to bring our ipods into the office & took it in turns to stick on an album as we worked. there was a recurring lack of variety & an artist that i either didn't mind, or worse liked a lot, would get played to death. not that i'm above this, i have a collection of artists that i play far more than others, but at least i have the ability to control my ipod and mix it up when i want. it's a different story when a bunch of hippies stick the same 5 bob marley songs on an endless loop. there's a reason i don't listen to the radio - unfortunately most hostels in south america are stuck on hippy fm.
this is the gocta waterfall, a golden oldie (pun regrettably intended) from when i was in peru last november. one thing i liked about this was that it was 'discovered' very recently in 2005. of course that's a complete misuse of the word discover as any of the peruvians in the surrounding area would rightly argue. but still, it wasn't brought to international attention before then, which i think is pretty cool. you tend to think that in the 21st century there can't be much on the planet that is unexplored, so it's nice to be proven otherwise. stefan ziemendorff is the man responsible to the increase in tourism to the area and he announced the two step falls were 771 metres high, making them the third tallest free-leaping waterfall in the world. since then his research has been debated and the actual ranking fluctuates depending on your source. regardless it was still a mighty impressive feat of nature, and i'm curious how it will compare to angel falls which i hope to visit in the next few weeks.
i met someone in bolivia that told me it was recommended to drink coca-cola if you had a cold. the argument they gave was that because coke contains so many harmful ingredients, that rot teeth/corrode metal/penetrate the earths crust, it also attacks the cold or flu virus that you're suffering with. it sounds too stupid to be true, and a quick search on google reveals it's exactly that - stupid not true. apparently the only scenario when it's a good idea to drink coca-cola is if you're going into insulin shock because of an overdose of diabetes medication. it's embarrassing how many times that has happened to me. i also found out that the chemicals in coca-cola help neutralise the pain of jellyfish stings, so pouring a bottle of coke onto the stung area actually offers some kind of relief, an effect similar to pouring/peeing urine onto the affected area. with this information i think the coke marketing board could try a whole new marketing thrust: when you've run out of piss... try coca-cola
last night was the first time in more than a week that i had some alcohol, due to my health slightly improving. an english girl and i taught the argentinians that are staying here how to play spoons. actually they knew how to play already but in argentina they prefer to shout chancho! instead of grabbing a spoon, we compromised by doing both. we then moved on to a charades type game where we each had to write down the name of a film, pick another out at random and then try and act it out. it didn't take us long to notice the flaw in our binational games. even though we tried to pick hollywood movies that everyone would have heard of we didn't take into account the fact that the film titles often change quite a lot when they're translated. it was fun though, if nothing else just to see two argentianinas who have barely said two words to me all week acting as smurfs, or as they would say argentina, pitufos.
once again too much text, and also a bunch of links, makes picasa a bad place to write a caption - you can read the text i wrote to go with this photo here:
i was gearing up to leave bogota when i found out that manu chao was playing a free concert in the city. so i stuck around for a few days, walked down to the plaza a few hours before it was due to start only to find queues stretching for 6 blocks. i guess the good elements about a free concert directly cause the bad ones. i went back to the hostel and met a group of english people. three of them said that they were inside the plaza and found the atmosphere really scary, too many people pushing and shoving and not enough security. along with the long lines of people i decided to give it a miss and have a few drinks with the english instead. i'm pretty sure i consumed more tequila than water in the following 48 hours. the first night involved tequila stuntman where you snort a line of salt, down the shot of tequila and squeeze the lime in your eye. the second night i took a series of out of focus photos which perfectly captured the spirit of the evening. all in all it was a beautiful, blurry mess - good times.
in between the dunes and the work in coro i took a trip to sierra de san luis. i spent the night at a place called finca el monte which is a tiny place in the village of santiago. it's run by a french couple who live there with their young son and a variety of animals. and as soon as i arrived i was struck by how friendly everyone was. the parents were helpful and chatty and instantly made me feel welcome. their son, who was less than 5 years old, spoke to me in a mixture of french and spanish and couldn't wait to show me his etch-a-sketch. their dog, chinotto, was a big, over-excited ball of energy which started following me everywhere. even the cats wanted to purr up against me. and then there were the kittens, not quite as conversational as the humans, not quite as doting as chinotto, but damn were they cute. even with the sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes i couldn't help but play with them. you know you're in a good place when both the humans and the animals are full of love and kindness.
everyone who comes back from the galapagos always comments on how unafraid the animals are of humans. it's true, and that's great for photographers. however there's a difference between being unafraid and being domesticated. the animals are still wild, they don't want food or attention from the humans (in general anyway), they just don't see us as the threat which they historically should. as a result this photo was still somewhat of a challenge. i planted my camera and tripod in the iguanas' path only to see the animal course-correct and divert around me. in the end my solution was similar to the way that i shot mr tortuga. i waited for the iguana to stop, which usually happened when i was too close to it. i set up my camera and tripod and then retreated to a safe distance with my remote control, ready to snap when it started moving again. this process makes it impossible to know how the photos will look until after the animal has moved on, but still made for some satisfying wide angle close ups.
i used to really like hdr photography. i remember being stupidly excited the first time i managed to get that hdr look. since then i used to tag each photo i posted that used this technique, and then i stopped tagging them as it used it more and more. recently i've noticed that i've been using hdr less and less - this year i think only 8 of the 75 photos i've uploaded have any hdr elements - and even those haven't been that noticeable. there have even been quite a few occasions recently where i went for a hdr treatment, only to change my mind the next day and re-process. i'm not turning my back on the effect, and some of my favourite shots utilise it, but it's certainly something i'm beginning to realise has a certain time and place. and i think inside a cave counts as one of those places. in the past for instance when i shot out from a cave the interior would be pitch black, but combining 8 different exposures (which admittedly is a bit overkill) allows for a lot more detail.
i extended my stay in coro by a couple of weeks as i ended up doing some work for the posada that i was staying in. it got me thinking about what i wanted to do when i get back home - an event which is getting increasingly closer as my wallet becomes increasingly lighter. in a perfect world i'd like to figure out a way to get paid for taking photos, but in such a way that i still enjoy taking photos. the more i think about it the more i've come to realise that this perfect world is an impossible dream. y'see that famous saying do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life is a myth. it doesn't matter what it is you do, or what your passion is, it doesn't change the fact that work is still work. and then there's the danger that when you factor in all of the baggage that comes with work - you stop loving what you thought you did in the first place. anyway i've been in the mines in potosi - so i know whatever job i get will feel a lot less like work than that.
there are some famous sand dunes in coro called los medanos de coro, and i thought it would be a good idea to go out as the sun was setting to take some photos. now, lets all just think about that for a second. thought about it? worked out why it may not be such a good idea? if not then congratulations - you're just as stupid as me. for the benefit of those struggling, let me impart some valuable knowledge i've acquired in the last few decades. i've learnt that one sand dune, a big mound of sand, looks very similar to the next sand dune, another mound of sand. i've also learnt that when the sun goes down it is always, without fail, followed by darkness. now factor in that los medanos cover an area of around 5km by 40km, i had no torch with me and i get lost looking for museums with clear sign posts. i think you can work out what happened next, and why it took me two hours to find the exit after taking this picture. hey kids, i make these mistakes so that you won't have to.
i struggled with photographic inspiration when i was in bucaramanga, resorting to taking pictures of various body parts to keep myself busy. it wasn't an ugly city as such, and besides even 'ugly' places have their photogenic sides, but i couldn't find much that i wanted to point my lens at. that was partly because i didn't move around a great deal, so i think i was just feeling uninspired about life in general. the one time i did venture out of my self-imposed 5 block radius, to get a colombian haircut, i walked past the open doors of this church. i've taken surprisingly few church pictures in this predominantly catholic continent, and while this interior isn't a patch on castro it still seemed worthy enough for me to break from my creative abstinence.
if i had a longer zoom lens, a quicker driver or just more luck then this could have been a glorious photo of 30 cows rushing across this river in unison. i suppose i should be grateful that i was able to capture that stampede with my eyes, but it's a shame that i couldn't enjoy it fully knowing that my camera couldn't share my vision. i don't always think like that, that would be a horrible way to go through life, but it happens now and then. i think the previous occurrence was when i was in punta gallinas, it was some of the brightest stars i'd ever seen and i was with a french and peruvian friend as we sat stargazing on three red chairs. i thought it would make a perfect shot with the camera behind us: 3 red chairs and 3 silhouettes in front of a starry black sky. i set up my camera, lens, tripod and remote control and was ready to go when an empty battery symbol started flashing. guess the good thing about those kinds of vistas - if they're special enough you don't need a photograph to remember them.
there's not a great deal of activities on offer on the paradisical caribbean island containing playa blanca off the north coast of colombia. you can chill out in a hammock, go swimming, snorkelling or running along the beach. i chose to do all but the last of these and had a great time. the snorkelling was particularly fun as the sea level constantly changed from a couple of metres to between 8-10. the landscape and creatures under the water also changed and it was cool to go out exploring. i was with my french friend, and as we started to venture further out he kept stopping and asking me if i could see the jellyfish. i couldn't, and didn't know what he was talking about until about 15 minutes when it felt like someone had flicked a light switch in my head and they suddenly appeared to me. everywhere. we were surrounded by them. despite this scary, slimy inhabitant i still had a really fun time exploring below sea level - and find it far preferable to pegging it up and down a scorching beach.
i had a number of different favourites when i went to the galapagos.
my favourite animals however were sea lions, who were so playful and friendly under the water. my favourite snorkelling trip was when i spent 30 minutes following a giant galapagos turtle, literally inches away from the placid beast. my favourite photo, which i still haven't posted yet, was a close-up of a face of a bird - far from the most exotic animal that exists there but a favourite nonetheless. and then the top prize, the favourite thing that i saw with my eyes (catchy title i know) was another bird. i was snorkelling, head under water looking around for signs of life. a fish a few metres in front of me caught my eye when a split second later there was a huge splash as a bird dived into the water, mouth open wide to capture it's prey. i'd seen this before from land, but this was the first (and only) time that i witnessed it from such a close distance in the water.
today i wrote more than the allotted character space allows about 3D movies - if you want to read my rant then you can in my original post:
in general i'm not really a big fan of museums. i could probably count the number of museums i've been to in south america on one hand, and i've been in south america a long ass time. with that qualification i feel like it will hold more weight when i say that the gold museum in bogota was really impressive. it was well designed and laid out, enough to hold my interest in a subject that i really didn't care a great deal about. it had a substantial collection to the extent that i began to grow physically tired long before i approached the last of the exhibits. but perhaps the best quality of museo del oro - there was loads of shiny shit i could photograph. and with that statement you may begin to understand why me and museums don't have the closest of relationships.
arriving in cuba felt a little like travelling back in time. from the old, classic automobiles, to the simple and sparse diners and shops, to the way couples would travel together on bicycles. it seemed like i'd gone back to 1950s america, only with less racial segregation and mccarthyism. of course it wasn't all like this. on the main strip in cienfuegos for example there was a videostore where you could rent 'vhs tapes' - a modern technology which allows one to view motion pictures, or talkies, from the comfort of their living rooms. you can't stand in the way of progress.
last week i joined a new hub - http://photo-hub.co.uk - which is a website that sells photo prints from creatives around the world. to join you have to be approved by their creative panel so it's a nice compliment that they thought my shots either provoked enough thought or delivered a sufficient level of stun to be deemed worthy of inclusion. my collection contains a few of my favourite shots from my time in south america - or at least ones that i think would look nice hanging on your wall (yes i'm talking about your wall). of course if you want you can still buy prints from this website - or you could just save the photos onto your computer and print it at home. but please don't do that.
i'm always jealous when i see other peoples lightning shots, which i think is because i've never taken one that i was satisfied with, nor had many opportunities to do so. i was lucky to finally have a go when i was on isla mucura. the first night the sky was flashing quite a lot, but on the other side of the island. the second night it started flashing exactly where the sun had set a few hours prior. what i found cool was that despite the big, black storm cloud there rest of the sky was still full of stars. it created a nice effect. the weather was producing far more flashes than it was bolts so i found the timing of the capture difficult. my solution for this was to increase the exposure time to increase the chances of snapping a bolt, as well as showing off the stars. this one was a little over two minutes but despite this slow shutter speed the final result is pretty similar to how it looked at the time - with the ocean and sky quickly illuminating with each spark from the sky.
i don't like having to link away from picasa with these captions, but the prohibitive character limit along with the awkward ability to add clean links means that it's necessary again with this photo - so if you want to read my ramblings you'll have to view it on the main site:
only a couple of days ago a tortoise known as lonesome george that i met in the galapagos died. he was thought to be around 100 years old, which for most is a good innings but not that's not especially true in the tortoise world. more than that his death was particularly poignant - for george was the last of his kind. he hailed from isla pinta but when humans first started to visit the islands his population dwindled. tortoises were slaughtered for a quick and easy meal by hunters in the 19th century and more died as a result of the introduction of non-native animals such as goats. his death, an by extension the extinction of his species, was somewhat inevitable but that doesn't make it any less important. it's a sad reminder of the destructive effect humans have on this planet, and will hopefully highlight the importance of conservation in the future. i already had this photo lined up a few weeks ago and while it's a very different type of tortuga it feels appropriate to post today. rip jorge.
reasons why i hate/love my 50mm lens. when the focus is only slightly off the picture usually fails. when the focus is perfect the results are great. there's no inbetween. i produce far more fails than hits, but the shots like this make up for the ones that don't work. sorry, i don't usually write about how much i like one of my own photos. i never really know how to react when i receive compliments, and instinctively i usually try and find some failing, error or excuse in an unnecessary attempt to balance it out. i know, pretty dumb reaction. well if anyone says that they like this shot i'll have no qualms in agreeing and saying, i know - it's awesome! don't worry, i'm not changing, i'll go back to feigning modesty tomorrow.
i wrote too much to go with this picture to fit in this little box - click the link if you want to hear about the most dangerous experience of my two years in south america:
the first thought that popped into my head when i saw this skeleton was the climatic scene in indiana jones and the last crusade. you know the one where the guy has to pick a grail, preferably a holy one, to drink from and gain immortality. i remember seeing the effect as a kid and finding it both cool and really scary. thinking about it now still makes me a little scared. in fact even re-watching it on youtube does the trick. i think the blonde's screams add to the impact, but it's also the non-cgi effects which only look a little dated because they're not shiny, rendered and obvious computer creations. man i'm starting to sound like a grumpy old curmudgeon huh? i tells ya back in my day if you wanted to rip the flesh of someone's face you wouldn't simply press a few buttons on a computer, you'd get your hands dirty. uh-huh, it really was a simpler, better time back then.
apparently colombia has a really good reputation for dentistry, with people travelling from the states and australia for low cost, high quality treatment. armed with this knowledge i decided to go for my first visit in almost two years when i was in bucaramanga. after a clean and whiten i was informed my teeth were in a bad way and 4 molars needed to be removed. two days later a strong armed specialist was brought in and got to work. it actually hurt a lot less than i was anticipating, partly because i insisted on regular anaesthetic injections to keep everything as numb as possible. i got quite a few strange looks as i left the dentists office and it was only when i returned to the hostel and looked in the mirror that i realised why - my mouth was full of blood. it looked a lot worse than the reality, but i'd be lying if i said it was all a pleasurable experience. on the plus side the dentist did prescribe me with a course of ice lollies after my treatment. on the down side they did kind of taste like blood
this is a place called volcan de lodo el totumo which is a mud volcano. legend has it that it used to be a run-of-the-mill fire and lava volcano until a priest banished the devil inside and turned it into mud. obviously the legend is steeped in bollocks. either way it's a fun place to visit as you can bathe in the crater. it's a surreal experience as the mud is so thick and dense. as a result it's really hard to stand vertically as your body naturally tends to float flat. it was also almost (although crucially not) impossible to put you head under and sink. after some massaging and bathing we had the idea of lying down flat from one end to the other and seeing if we could run across each other. i was tasked with asking that in spanish, which i'll admit wasn't a phrase i'd picked up in any of my previous classes. surprisingly they managed to understand and even more surprisingly they said it was no problem. no one ever made it to the final body before slipping and splashing into the mud, but we had fun trying
i'm bookless at the moment and have a craving for some literary stimulation so last week i downloaded high fidelity by nick hornby. it's a book that i've read and enjoyed before, but that was over ten years ago so i couldn't really recall the details. unfortunately i never got that far as upon pressing play i discovered the narrator - nigel carrington - was wholly inappropriate for the role. his voice did not match the voice i had in my head when i first read the text. worse than that, he actively irritated me and made me hate the main character. it was a posh, upper-class voice which made every sentence sound both pompous and dismissive. out of respect for both the author, and my sanity, i had to turn it off. my conclusion from this brief and far from exhaustive experience is that audiobooks work best when read by the author themselves. and to that end i highly recommend i partridge: we need to talk about alan, orated magnificently by alan gordon partridge.
and nothing ever does begin like nothing ever ends
ask every atom in your body and they're sure to tell you
"friend, i'm old as time and older still
and you are made of everything you love, you feel, or kill
i will outlive you, and forgive you, and be just a baby still"
one of the frustrating aspects of travelling by public transport is that you have no control where you stop. there have been countless moments when i've been getting a cross-country bus and seen amazing sights and landscapes which i would have loved to, but been unable to, photograph. because of these missed opportunities i fully appreciated the freedom we enjoyed by paying a taxi driver to take us around the island of santa cruz in the galapagos. we were driving back from the giant tortoises of el chato when we saw the giant yellow sun appear from behind the clouds and drift down below the tree-lined hills. it was one of those sights which improved with each corner we passed so i asked the driver to stop on at least 4 occasions, each time standing on the back of his car zooming and clicking towards the light. it was a perfect storm of timing and lighting and one of the many magical riches the galapagos bestows upon its visitors.
bogota was far from my favourite city in colombia, nor my favourite capital city in south america, but the view from cerro de monserrate was nothing short of spectacular. before i went to cuba i had already witnessed a similar view when i took a 'party bus' around the city on the way to some nightclubs. on that occasion i decided against taking my camera with me, a wise choice as i consumed so much rum i probably would have struggled with detaching the lens cap let alone taking any decent shots. upon my return to bogota i took the my camera, tripod and the cable car up to 3152m as the sun was on its way down. i couldn't have been greeted by a more majestic vista when i made it to the top. two hours and two podcasts later darkness fell and the lights of the city, stars, planets and moon created an equally stunning illumination.
if you watch true blood (which is a rare example of a show where the title sequence is superior to the rest of the programme) you may recognise this guy as the vampire eric northman. you may recognise him as kirsten dunst's new husband in the beautiful but unsurprisingly depressing melancholia. if you have no taste at all in quality movies you may recognise him from the movie he was in town promoting - battleship - a film based on one of the most boring board games ever invented. or if you're like my turkish friend you wouldn't recognise him at all, only guessing he was famous based on the number of cameras and microphones pointed in his direction. i can think of a number of female friends who would recognise alexander skarsgard and would have happily traded places with her.
when i created my sleeping bears picture i thought it would start a phase of explicit photo manipulation, instead it started a phase of photo+typography. i had never added text to any of my photos before, but i felt like it enhanced the photo on that occasion. well i'm at it again here, and i have at least one more which i'll probably put up next week. i think it's an effect, like tilt-shifting, which i should use with restraint but every now and then i like to think it fits. along with my photo titles, the text i've been superimposing onto photos are usually taken from song lyrics. this was an exception, at least i thought it was until a quick look on google revealed that this line was from the song marvellous by the lightning seeds. i probably haven't heard that tune in around 15 years, so i can't claim that it was the true source, but listening to it again was a jangly, poppy trip down memory lane.
from what i could gather it seemed like there was a division of opinion that colombians held on pablo escobar. i think it's safe to say that the majority are happier now that he's not around, what with all the crime, killing and other mischief. he's a complicated fellow though who, maybe not for altruistic reasons, helped a lot of poor communities in medellin and did some good things. along with some despicably atrocious things. as the old saying goes you can't make an omelette without shooting some eggs in the face. and then shooting everyone related to those eggs. and those hanging out near the eggs. by omelette of course i mean cocaine and money. and by eggs i mean anyone he thought was preventing this omelette from being fucking huge.
i'm always amazed when i see behind-the-scenes action on movies how much work is involved. with big budget films like batman it makes sense, but more than that it's the shittier movies. i was on a bus last week where they showed undisputed III: redemption followed by undisputed II: last man standing. you might think that's a strange order to present the films, but it really makes no difference: they're both formulaic, badly scripted, brain-dead nonsense. anyways, as terrible as those movies were, you can be sure that they had a lot of (probably talented) people behind-the-scenes trying to make it happen. a lot of hard work goes into sculpting and polishing a turd. i thought that when i saw these guys filming in cartagena and saw them film one of the hanging military guys 'fake stabbing' the other military guy. i don't want to judge without watching the final cut, and as i've no idea the name of this film that's unlikely to ever happen, but i'm thinking it will be less batman and more undisputed.
cartagena is a beautiful colonial city in the north of colombia. it has great colourful architecture and pretty streets. unfortunately it also has a really oppressive heat. it's just so damn hot. this temperature really made it difficult for me to leave my air conditioned room and walk the streets during the day. when i did i sweated profusely, felt dehydrated and couldn't last too long before i needed to sit down. or maybe it was because i turned 30 when i was there and i'm just getting old. meh, i still think if you need to walk down the street with an umbrella you're in a place which is either wet or far too hot.
today's post is too long for me to edit down for this caption text. if you want to find out what's cooking in this pot and what happened after i drank it then you can read all about it from my original post:
i don't make any apologies for using photoshop with my photos, but these days it seems i don't manipulate my pictures so much. by that i mean whilst i'm happy to play around with colours and contrasts, i feel far less comfortable cloning out or adding elements. the only real exception has been my probably-too-small-to-call-a-series little planet series. i don't think it was a concious decision to move away from that part of digital photography, but it seems that i did drift. then a few months ago i came across a swedish photographer/artist by the name of erik johansson and i was instantly inspired. he creates beautiful pictures, which are a mix of different shots blended seamlessly in photoshop with fantastically surreal results. i was already in the middle of processing this shot of valle de cocora when i came across erik's work and i immediately changed direction. i took a lot more time processing this than i normally do, but then again it doesn't look like any of my normal photos. in a good way. hopefully.
cuba is more american than i expected it to be, from the clothing, to the music, to the racial profiling at the airports. speaking to some locals it seems like they have no issue with the people from the states, just the people who govern them. they weren't so sure about obama, i got the impression they wanted to like him but they'd been given very little evidence that his administration was really that different to bush. despite this he still a lot more popular than george w. so, in summary, the people of cuba look at the states the same way as everyone else.
it was over two months ago now that i left a hot and sunny cuba to a cold and wet colombia. it was rush hour and the taxi from the airport was taking so much time in the traffic that i had to walk the final rainy blocks to the hostel. after checking in and opening my bag i discovered that my shower gel had exploded all over my clothes. despite all this i felt happy. i was given a hot cup of non-bitter coffee, given a towel and ushered towards the hot showers and given no choice but to accept their help in washing and drying my rucksack. and the best feeling, that they did all this because they're nice people. not because they felt obliged, or because they wanted money, but because when someone is friendly to you, you're friendly to them, and the world is a better place. i know that weather can affect how you feel, but i much prefer a cold country full of warm people than a hot climate full of arseholes. besides, the sun broke through the clouds soon enough.
well did ya? when i last put a photo up on this site man u were top of the league, there was more than one living bee gee and two living beastie boys, dan harmon was still in control of community and a short right wing goblin was still in control of france. oh and i was in the southern half of colombia. so what happened? well i travelled north where i discovered a country which didn't let me access my own website. my frustration was magnified because i was travelling in a beautiful part of the world and i wanted to share that online instead of having my photos hidden in folders on my laptop. that was kind of the reason why i started the website in the first place because i didn't want the photos to collect binary dust on my hard drive. i hope i don't have another extended absence as i have ton of pictures and rambling text ready to go, so if you haven't given up on this site i'd like to continue where i left off. all of that is a long way of saying that i've missed you, lets act like i haven't been away...
one of the unique aspects of cuba that it took me a while to notice was the lack of commercial advertising. you can't walk down a street in almost every city in the world without seeing a bus, billboard or poster trying to sell you something. what with the political makeup of cuba it's not so surprising that they have an absence of this kind of advertising, however that doesn't mean there was a lack of billboards. the difference is the billboards in cuba are selling an ideology instead of hamburgers or shampoo. there were a lot of repeating catchphrases like patria o muerte and hasta la victoria siempre but one of my favourites was: discipline is the most important part of success. i suspect the locals treat these messages the same way we treat our adverts, they just see it as part of the wallpaper. in addition to this propaganda the only other decorations on this wallpaper was street art - and this was one of the less-politicised pieces that didn't involve mister guevara - a rare find
things i liked about my trip to cuba: the landscapes, the beaches, the weather, the skies, the history, the cars, the rum. things i didn't like about my trip to cuba: the cubans. of course there were exceptions, but in general i found the cubans to be a bunch of arseholes. they were unfriendly, unwelcoming and rude. and it can't help but affect your experience and impression of a country if the inhabitants don't want you to be there. like i say there were some exceptions and they usually came in the form of people we stayed with or who guided us on excursions - in other words people with a financial incentive to be (at the very least) polite. oh and that's another thing, everyone (and this time i mean everyone) who approached me wanted money. and it's really hard to warm to people when you know they're only talking to you because they see a dollar bill. for the record i didn't have any contact with this young chap so this isn't personal against him - just most of his compatriots whom i met.
i've written before about 500px which is a photo sharing website where you are encouraged to only upload the best of the best of your photos, and as a result the images there are nothing short of astonishing. everytime i feel like i'm getting good at photography a quick visit to the site brings me back down to earth. i was thinking of this site when i visited guatape in colombia, which is a small town near medellin. you can climb over 600 steps and have a view over the whole town, which is made up of a series of islands poking out over a man-made lake. it was a stunning view which made for great photographs, but i lamented the lack of mist, or sunset, or other dramatic lighting which in my head would have transformed a good shot into an amazing one. i don't know if that's a healthy attitude which leads to self improvement, or an unhealthy one which ends with unjustified disappointment. meh - it's not going to stop me posting photos that i like, even if that sentiment isn't universally shared.
i just finished reading life of pi for the second time, and i think i enjoyed it even more this time around. partly because i had an idea where it was heading, yet also because i forgot enough details to keep it surprising and interesting. i read online that ang lee is making a movie version which will probably be released some time this year, which i was cautiously optimistic about until i heard it was going to be in 3D. either way the book is so well written that i'd recommend consuming that before the hollywood version. i thought of that book with this photo as in an early chapter the lead character talks about the flight distances of certain animals and says a flamingo in the wild won't mind you if you stay more than three hundred yards away. cross that limit and it becomes tense. get even closer and you trigger a flight reaction from which the bird will not ease until the three-hundred-yard limit is set again - based on this guy it sounds accurate to me
i think this shot is the first time i've taken a sunrise photo on the same day as a startrail shot - i had around 4 hours sleep between the stars and the sun. whilst it's common for me to get to bed around 1 or 2 in the morning, getting up before the sun is a rarer occurrence. i must have been stirring already as i woke up naturally, checked the time, and thought i'd nip down to the jetty to see if the new day was photoworthy. it was, and my timing was perfect, the sun followed me 2 minutes later. despite my indolent state i was uncharacteristically efficient - out and back into bed in a 5 minute round trip - and captured one of my favourite cuban photos in the process. sometimes it pays to ignore the voice that tells you your bed is too warm and cosy to leave. obviously most of the time that voice is spot on - in fact your looking a little tired yourself, why don't you have a nice lie down...
i find taking star photos a boring, frustrating and rewarding process. the boredom comes from sitting and waiting up to 30 minutes for the shutter to open and close. the rewards arrive as soon as the shutter does close and the camera reveals the starry result. the frustration mainly centres around getting the shutter open in the first place. i have particular difficulty with this as my 10-20mm wide angle doesn't switch to manual focus with my d60. this means i have to use the auto focus, which becomes exponentially weaker the lower the light. my solution for this is to stand in front of the camera and shine a torch into the sensor. for some reason this moon-less shot was particularly trying and it took almost 5 minutes for the sensor to acknowledge the light. well it turns out there's a menu setting on my d60 where i can force manual focus, no matter what lens is attached. it was an illuminating discovery which means no longer will i have to perform a torchlit dance each time i want to take a long exposure
this is vinales and it's probably the most beautiful landscape i saw in my two weeks in cuba. according to wikitravel it's fidel castro's favourite place on the island and one of the only places where cubans seem happy. whether you're oppressed by a communist or a capitalist regime it must be a pretty good feeling to have this as your back garden. i took this between climbing out of a cave and jumping into a swimming pool... so i was happy
i thought i knew how to play chess until the guys i was travelling with bought a mini chess set and started talking about a bunch of techniques that sounded completely alien. the most complex move that i was aware of was that if you get the pawn to the other end of the table it turns into a queen. turns out even that's not quite complete, at least it can choose to turn into a queen or a castle, bishop or knight. however there's also a rule called en passant which allows (in a specific scenario) a pawn to capture an opposition pawn without moving to the opposing pawns square. even more confusing is something called castling which is a strange dance between the king and castle where, again under special conditions, they can move towards each other and swap sides. since i constantly forget which squares the bishop and knight are supposed to start from i doubt i'll be throwing out any of those advanced moves any time soon.
ok, lets get the clichés out the way early, i'm sure every conceivable type of classic car in cuba shot has been done a thousand time before. but what do you want me to do, go there and take pictures of bicycles? actually i did take a nice shot of a bicycle, but that's for a different day. despite the modern trail behind this automobile, havana was overflowing with these classic cars, and they looked beautiful. i'm not big on cars, they're useful to go from a to b, they're fun to drive but with the exception of marv they don't really illicit any strong emotion in me. but i turned my head almost everytime they passed me by. i don't really know why they stopped making them. you can't compare them to a modern day ferrari or lamborghini or porsche. sure the ride isn't quite as comfortable, the journey will take a bit longer, and it probably guzzles down the gasoline - but for me it's a small sacrifice for cruising down the street in a moving metallic work of art.
man these little buggers are a nightmare to photograph. of the 180 photos i took there were only about 8 which i was satisfied with, this one graduating to the top. what's more frustrating is the fact that in the other 172 photos there are so many that would be perfect if only the focus was different. then again if only my auntie had bollocks. i took this in a little farm in valle de cocora which is just outside salento. you had to pay to enter but that entrance included free hot chocolate and cheese. yeah you heard me. chocolate. and cheese. anyway despite the strange cuisine the valley was beautiful and you'll definitely be seeing some pictures from there in the future. not in the next two weeks however, as tomorrow i fly to cuba. as far as i'm aware the internet hasn't really infiltrated cuban borders, so there's a good chance these two birds will be occupying this position until the end of the month. hopefully i'll return with loads of colourful photos that i'll take a lifetime to process and post.
this was taken on the main galapagos island of santa cruz in a ranch called el chato. there were loads of giant galapagos tortoises chilling out during their migration from sea level to higher ground. when you got too close to them they would retract their heads inside their shells and hiss at you. so in order to get this shot i placed my camera on a tripod in front of the hiding head and then moved behind the tortoise with my remote control in hand. i had to wait a while for the tortoise to build up the courage to ignore the camera and continue eating, and even then i was pressing the remote button blind. this guy took it in his stride and kept on chomping the grass like a pro, which is more than i can say about his cousin in the next field who thought my wide angle lens was a special tortuga treat and tried to bite through it. the panicked rush and grab to save my camera resulted in some mutual hissing.
i'm not usually a fan of the lightroom presets, to me it feels like cheating - not because of distorting the original image, but because you can make that distortion by just pressing one button. despite this narrow-minded attitude i still found myself clicking the creative - split tone 2 button, which changed a fairly colourful original into this blue beauty - and i loved it. i took this in salento which is in part of the coffee area of colombia. i tried to take this shot the night before, but i didn't feel too safe walking down an unknown, dark muddy path, even with a canine companion. the next day i checked it out during daylight hours as i was walking to a coffee farm and discovered the only monsters were a few disinterested cows, so i planned my return. the clouds rolled up after this as i was taking a longer exposure, but i preferred the non trailing stars anyway - particularly after pressing that forbidden button.
whilst we were eating dinner in san cipriano colombia tiene talento was on the television. it's almost identical to britain's got talent, from the c-list celebrity judging panel to the dumb presenter and procession of seemingly mentally challenged contestants ready to be exploited. yeah, i'm not a fan. of the many, many elements that i dislike about the show i think it's the general style that bugs me the most. everything is big, brash and loud - drowning out any craft and subtlety. plus any product or programme that lines simon cowells' pockets doesn't make me want to invest my money or attention. having said that i got some enjoyment watching it in san cipriano, mainly because this kid's father was watching and laughing along. there's something about sharing and laughing at a joke in a different language which gives you a good feeling inside - a connection that doesn't care about borders, vernacular or beliefs. and i can't hate on simon cowell too much, if it wasn't for him i still wouldn't have seen ratm
if i had written this post 4 days ago then i would have talked about how i met these army men walking up to a mirador in salento. how they were happy to pose for a photo, but not so happy when i asked if i could get a picture holding their gun.
if i had written this post 2 days ago then i would be moaning about how i was driven crazy by a drugged up colombian guy in my room singing james blunt.
if i had written this 5 and a half hours i go i'd be lamenting my bad counting skills at incorrectly working out the time difference and waking up an hour too early for the arsenal match.
if i had written this 4 hours ago i'd be ranting about how everytime i get up early to watch arsenal play in south america (man u away, tottenham away) we always lose and it ruins my day.
if i had written this 2 and a half hours ago i'd be gleefully romanticising about how great football is and how i miss being in london on days like these
as it is i'm just going to write about what i could be writing about. i'm so meta.
after this one and lima i'm thinking about starting a sci-fi theme for south american cities with 4 letters. although now i've just said that i can't think of any other places with 4 letters in their name... loja... tena... and i think that's it. maybe there's more further down the road, then again i'm still looking for a third billboard so it might take a while to flesh this theme out. this was a hotel next to a shopping centre in cali, where an uncharacteristically accommodating security guard let me into the lobby to take this. guess it's true what people say about colombians being friendly and helpful.
i took this on a small trip i went on to a place called san cipriano which is near the western, pacific coast of colombia. it took a while to get there, and as soon as we arrived the heavens opened and it started pissing down. i guess that's why it's called the rainforest and not just the forest. ahem. i assume that historically there must have been a lot of migration from africa as most of the citizens were black. in fact i don't think i've seen that many black people in one place since london. that's not even a joke - all the countries south of here are pretty pale in comparison. not that i'm keeping count, and as anthony jeselnik once remarked, no one ever says too few black people. that was a joke by the way.
i've hit the point where i've been looking at this photo too long without being able to think of something to write about. inspiration has run dry so today you just get a silent picture. sorry about that, i'll try harder tomorrow.
this bird is cool. there are two reasons why it is cool. firstly, because it's rocking two blue feet. you don't get that everyday. secondly because it's called a booby. i met a dutch guy in montinita who enjoyed these galapagos birds so much he got a picture of one tattooed on the back of his leg. i don't really get that - i mean i like boobies too but not enough to have them inked on my skin. i think photographs serve as sufficient memory reminders. well, photographs and scars.
after all i wrote yesterday here's another shot from the galapagos. it's unusual, not just in the way that i decided to process it, but also because it doesn't contain a single animal. i still have plenty of animal shots to work on, but i was drawn into the woods of this shot. that might have had something to do with mogwai's happy songs for happy people which i was listening to at the time. anyways i don't feel like i want or need to add words to this one - so you can go back to the fog
well i did say that i was going to be a little lazy when it came to looking through my pictures from the galapagos, and so it has come to pass. i wanted to spend some time to go through them all, and then process them in a bulk like i did with my pictures from la senda verde. however once i started down that road i realised i didn't really enjoy working that way, i much prefer working on the odd photo here and there compared to a huge folder. plus i'm not upping my one a day quota, so it doesn't seem necessary or beneficial to have them good to go. i think my plan was to have them all ready, and then post them in a logical and coherent order - but those of you who regularly visit this blog will know that coherency isn't one of my stronger suits. anyways all these words are basically to say that this is a shot from the galapagos, but don't expect a tidal wave of further photos, i'll release those when i'm/they're ready.
i used to like watching a question of sport when i was younger, primarily for the what happens next round. that would be where they'd show a clip of a sporting event, for example a striker taking a shot at goal, and then pause it and ask what happens next? the solution, if not entertaining, was almost always unexpected - like a dog runs onto the pitch, tackles the striker and starts trying to hump the ball. well that question came to mind with this photo - two guys scrapping, and advancing police officer and a snarling police dog - it has the ingredients for an interesting outcome. unfortunately, like the aforementioned television show, the final result is disappointingly mundane, so i'll just leave you with this shot, the question and your imagination.
some facts about colombia:
- it's the third most populated country in latin america after brazil and mexico
- it's roughly the same size as france, spain and portugal combined
- it's the only country in south america to border the pacific and atlantic ocean
- it has more plant and animal species per unit area than any other country in the world
- i'm there now
i waited a while before i attempted to climb cotopaxi due to catching a cold when i arrived in latacunga. after my health improved i returned, found a partner and walked up to the refuge. but as i tried to sleep suddenly felt my cold return. my symptoms subsided on the way up, but then returned on the way down and have become stronger since. also whilst i was hiking up cotopaxi i paused to get some energy sweets from my pocket, taking off my mitten to open the packet. a strong gust of wind then threw the mitten out of my hand. it was lost into the night so i had to do the rest of the trek wearing a thin cotton glove. the snow, ice and freezing temperatures meant my hand was really, really cold - and even now i have a numb feeling in my fingertips. so a cold... numb fingers... what else can i complain about? oh yeah, i went back to my favourite (south american) curryhouse today and they had no aloo gobi so i had to make do with bombay aloo. so a cold, numb fingers and i'm gobiless. life can be cruel sometimes.
i really wanted to post a photo of the view from the top of cotopaxi - unfortunately this didn't happen & i didn't even make it to the summit, partly because of the weather & partly because i was cheap. i mentioned yesterday that you can pay more to go by yourself, or split the cost with a partner. however if your partner quits then you have to go down as well, as you're both roped to the same mountain guide. that's what happened about 97 metres for the top. i know that sounds like barely nothing, but we'd been walking for over 6 hours and the final 200 metres are the most demanding. physically i was ready to quit as well, but i've got a stubbornness that would make me keep going. alas my portuguese accomplice did not. in fairness the weather had turned & there was really thick cloud all around us, so if we had made it to the 5897 metre summit all i would have captured would be a grey canvas. this was my favourite of about 5 photos i took on the hike, the snow-battered monkey who made the journey on my head
there's a volcano near the town of latacunga called cotopaxi. it's fairly common for people to attempt the almost 6000m summit, and i wanted to give it a go when i was there, unfortunately my cold made meant that it would have been dangerously difficult. the closest i managed was a short walk to the refugio which is just below 5000m. that's where i met this furry little guy. i travelled to quito afterwards, and when i started to feel better i returned to latacunga a few days ago. like when i climbed huayna potosi it's standard practice to have two people per guide. the downside of going with an extra person is if they can't make it to the top you all have to give up and go down. the downside of doing it by yourself is that it's 67% more expensive. i've now spent three days waiting for an extra person without any luck, so if i can't find a partner today i think i'll bite the bullet and pay the increased price. i'll let you know how i get on, and if i run into any more hungry foxes.
i don't want to sound like a broken record, but banos was beautiful. i think i must have been in an overly positive mood for the few days that i was there, as i recall there were a number of occasions where i'd just stare at (and of course photograph) the landscape without saying a word... y'know, for longer than is normal. i took this on the same drive where i saw the view of the town. i was with three other friends that i'd met in montanita, and apart from the french driver we all had slr cameras. this is the best for me as i didn't feel uncomfortable asking to stop the vehicle, or spending a bit too long framing or taking pictures. i guess the downside is that we probably all ended up with similar shots, but as far as i know the other 2 guys don't have websites, so lets just assume that mine came out the best
if i spend a long time in a place it's usually because i either like it there, or i'm too ill or unmotivated to leave. or, as was the case in tena, because i'm working. despite it being in the amazon the internet connection was actually pretty strong, so i thought it wise to stay and work instead of risk moving. the signal wasn't so strong in my room so i set up a desk next to the kitchen on a terrace/balcony area. it had a view over the whole city, which was pretty on the outskirts and a little ugly in the middle. part of this middle was a fairground which i would see light up and down each night that i was working. before i left i made a point of heading down there with my tripod - and this was the result. i still prefer my german shot i took over 5 years ago, but like back then i still enjoy the combination of long exposure and light.
it's not uncommon when you're travelling to keep on bumping into the same people. there's this israeli dudei met in mancora, montanita and quilotoa. he's friendly and sociable enough, but he also has some questionable political views. i didn't hear this first hand, but apparently in montanita he came out with some pretty misogynistic views on rape. like i say i wasn't there so i don't know the context. after he walked to this lake and back he took off his sweaty t-shirt and washed his face and body in the sink. as he reached for a towel i asked him if he'd just showered, to which he replied he had an arab shower. another guy in the room couldn't help but ask why he called it that, and he responded y'know cause they're so dirty. there was a different israeli i met in montanita who said something even more offensive, but i can't bring myself to type that out. well, after all that unpleasantness, here's a beautiful lake in a volcanic crater.
this is the city of banos in ecuador. i've posted about it before - and already mentioned that i thought it was beautiful. as well as hiring buggies and bicycles we also hired a 4x4 and drove across a bridge to the other side of the town. we wanted to get a good view of a volcano which hides behind some of the mountains, but for me the best view was looking back on the town balanced on a cliff, with waterfalls poking out and pouring into the river below. sure is some beautiful ground.
yesterday my excuse for not having much to write about was down to laziness and a hangover. today it's because i've been too productive - an alien feeling for me. i had a fairly long list of things i wanted to see and do in quito. this plan was scuppered slightly when me and my friends were kicked out of our hostel due to a lack of availability, so we also had to look for a new place to stay. in addition to this i managed to walk around the historical centre, do my laundry, do some work and eat a curry from my favourite (south american) curry house. you know, when you see it written down it really doesn't look that productive... hmm... well it was a long walk/lot of clothes/few hours of work/spicy curry... if that makes a difference. oh and in the spirit of recommending referenced songs - this photo's title is from a grizzly bear song i couldn't get out of my head in trujillo, so i'll ask you kindly to make your way
i'm struggling to think of something to write about today. that may or may not be related to the fact that last night i went out for the second consecutive night, both of which were the first time since new years eve. i heard a rumour that you can't buy alcohol on a sunday in quito, not that i need an excuse to take a break. so today has mostly been about chilling out, listening to music and not making any sudden movements. i highly recommend you give it a go. i was going to be obvious and suggest you listen to in my tree, the song from which i stole this photos title. but after listening to the album today, i much prefer the next track - don't it make you smile?
this is my sixth shot from sauce in peru. i mentioned in my first photo that the pouring rain presented a bunch of new photo opportunities. the most unexpected of these was a cloud of bats (yeah i looked that up) who began circling the hammock shelter. they were so fast and agile that it became really difficult to try and capture them. this was my best effort, which is far from perfect but i still thought it was worth of posting as a) it's the first time i've seen bats in the day and b) i'm inexplicably smug of my kanye referenced title. because it was the first time i'd seen bats in the day i had to double check what they were with my spanish friend. despite a thick castilian accent i managed to make out the word murcielago. i learnt that word after hearing that bruce wayne drives a lamborghini murcielago as it's the spanish word for bat. just goes to show watching the dark knight isn't just fun - it's educational... just like this blog (ahem)
so i finally made it back to quito today. i was here in early december before flying to the galapagos, and then back into the highlands and jungle. the first time was fairly short, so there's still quite a lot i want to see and explore. for me one of best parts of getting to a big city is being able to sample a wider range of food. in the smaller towns and villages the cuisine can become fairly similar and boring so i appreciate the opportunity to add more international flavour to my meals. last time i was here there was a curry house round the corner from where i was staying. by english standards it was average, by south american standards one of the best that i've tasted here. i think i ended up going twice in the two and a half days i had in town. and i'm already looking forward to going again tomorrow
whilst in misahualli we were crossing a bridge when a large group of americans joined us with a rope. they then proceeded to tie it to the bridge, jump off and swing from the rope. despite my reluctance to jump from scary heights it looked like a lot of fun. i wasn't really dressed for the occasion (no, honestly) so i just stayed and took photos. after about 20 minutes of hearing american twangs transform into splashes this fairly young local boy came on the scene. he then proceeded to climb up the thick wire of the bridge like a monkey, pull himself to the very top and then without a moments hesitation launch himself into the water. he drew gasps of amazement and disbelief from the crowd that had gathered. to quote bill hicks, he must carry his balls in a wheelbarrow man
this is the third photo i've posted from parque la carolina in quito. when i went there they had a little festival going on with (surprisingly aggressive) live music, a food arena and other bits and bobs. these bits and bobs included a tightrope walker, jumping cyclists and a group of parkour, er, people. out of everyone (musicians included) i think the cyclists were the most talented showmen. in fact that's what enticed me into the festival in the first place. unfortunately due to extending queueing before hand, and then extended raining afterwards, i only managed to catch a few flips and jumps before i had to ran for the shelter of the food tent and grab a hot dog.
banos is quite a touristy spot in ecuador, i'd spoken to a lot of people that went there, which conversely lowered my expectations. i thought it can't be that special if everyone goes there. well i was wrong, it was special, and this photo serves as pretty good evidence. there's a road called la ruta de las cascadas which directly translates as route of the waterfalls. as the route was mostly downhill i hired bicycles with some friends to take in the scenery. this was the last waterfall we saw, and after stopping for some sandwiches, we decided to go for a swim in the pool below. it was colder than it looked, but still a lot of fun, and seemed to act as a catalyst for all the other visitors to get wet. as we were drying off and preparing for the steep ascent back to la ruta this rainbow appeared in front of the waterfall. the effect was mesmerising and magical - so much so that after about 15 minutes i had to leave because it was too beautiful. i could have easily stared at it for hours.
my cold is slowly dissipating, but still hasn't gone completely. i don't think it helped matters that on friday i went to the small village of quilotoa which was cold, foggy and very, very wet. there's a big lake there which you're supposed the be able to see from the village, however it was obscured for most of the day by this mist. the clouds cleared the next morning and i tried to walk to the edge but only lasted about 10 minutes before my headache grew too uncomfortable. as i stopped for a rest it began spitting again, before that turned into hailstones which was followed by several hours of very heavy rainfall. it was somewhere in the middle of this bone-soaking weather that we discovered that there were no buses out of town, so i had to squat in the back of a wet camioneta on a long journey back to a warm bed. despite not really doing that much exercise i still feel like i've earned today's day of rest.
i have a lot to write about my shaman experience a couple of days ago, but yesterday i travelled from the jungle to the highlands of ecuador and i was immediately attacked by a cold. i've spent most of the day in bed with no energy to read, write, or look at and process photos. so i'm choosing a shot i took in the same park in quito as the men on wire. i think i'll be returning to the capital in a few days time, there was a lot i didn't get around to seeing due to planning around christmas and new years. anyways, that's all i feel like typing write now, not the best entry i know but rambling nonsense is better than silence right? right?? hello??? fine, sometimes silence is better, in which case
last week when i was in misahualli i went with some friends to see a shaman for an ayahuasca ceremony. if you didn't know, ayahuasca is a plant which when mixed with other plants create a powerful hallucinogenic drink. i suppose i should have guessed something wasn't right when the canoe driver that took us revealed that the shaman was his girlfriends father. small things like the non-traditional dress, the lack of music and chanting, and the fact that the preparation was pure, un-mixed ayahuasca - which tasted a little like bacon - also didn't sit right. i think he was a shaman of sorts, he performed a cleansing ceremony which looked, sounded and felt legitimate, but all three of us felt no effects at all from the drink. on the positive side i learnt that i can sit pretty still for 13 minutes whilst my spirit is being cleansed. plus i've got a lot more appreciation for the shaman that i saw last night, and will see again tomorrow. but that's a whole other story.
in the first fifteen or so months that i've been travelling in south america i somehow managed to avoid going into the amazon. that's some achievement seeing as the amazon basin makes up about 40% of south america. it hasn't been an intentional omission, just something that i haven't got around to. the closest i previously got was in bolivia when i had the choice of going into the jungle or the pampas, and i chose the pampas. anyway this has changed now i'm in ecuador and i'm both writing and posting a picture from amazonia. after all this time i feel like i should say something insightful about the rainforest... it sure rains a lot.
there were passengers on my galapagos boat who jumped into the ocean from the top level. i wanted to join in, but as soon as i got to the edge and looked over i felt paralysed. i ended up sitting on the edge for over half an hour, looking down at the ocean and waiting for that 'what the hell' feeling i needed to make the final step. it never came and i climbed the ladders back down a failure. the next day i walked straight up to the top and then without thinking too much i took three quick steps off the boat and into the water. it was because of this experience, specifically spending 30 minutes looking over the edge and failing to convince myself to jump, that i knew that i couldn't get involved in the bridge jumping that was happening around banos. bridge jumping is like bungee jumping, only the rope doesn't stretch like the bungee does. to me that sounds like an even more uncomfortable experience, and one that i was certainly a lot more comfortable photographing as opposed to participating in.
who here remembers kytv? almost no-one? right. who remembers the para-ski-scend-glide-diving sketch in kytv? no-one? huh. well it is an obscure reference which you'll probably only get if your british, a similar age to me, and perhaps a blood relative. after a not so quick search on youtube i managed to find the clip in question which comes from an episode spoofing holiday shows. it's strange watching it again for the first time in over 15 years, i'm not sure if i find it funny for nostalgic reasons, or because it's a well made comedy show. either way i had a smile on my face for almost all of the 10 minute video clip so any deeper analysis seems fairly redundant.
like me, this mountain is in ecuador - vilcabamba to be precise - and is called mandango. as soon as i heard the name i knew that i had walk there, like firemen and baggy trousers, it's a fun word to say in spanish. the hotel where i was staying provided maps, advice and guides for a series of walks around the area. this one was given 4 out of 5 on the difficulty scale plus there had also been recent robberies on the trail. but y'know it's called mandango, so i figured it was worth the risk and effort. part of the instructions on the trail guide included the line turn left into the field and pass the barking dog. i thought that was pretty funny when i first read it, as though the dog was part of the landscape that always remained barking in the same spot. after passing up and over this mountain i made it to said field and was introduced to the dog in question. it turns out that he does like to bark, and it's a lot less funny experiencing that at a close proximity compared to reading it on a page.
there seems to be a tradition among photoblogs, and various other sites as well, to compile a retrospective 'best of' at the end of each year. this is something that i haven't really adopted, the closest i came was a couple of years ago when i did a 12 months of gigging post. well this december i'm a little more organised, and i'm also prouder of the shots i've taken in this calender year. i did an alphabetic best of at the start of the month, and 5 of those have made it onto this list. if you want to read more about the selection of images above you'll have to make your way to the full site here:
. there was little that caught my eye when i was walking around lima looking for a bus ticket, with the exception of this roundabout. it was surrounded by grand, blue buildings and i immediately thought it would work well as a little planet. however i was tired and ill, and it was cold and dark, so it wasn't the right time to take pictures. i made a mental note to return here on my planned stop back through lima, and this is proof that i kept my promise. whilst processing it i was reminded why i never used to create print quality versions of my photos. the original photoshop file was pushing 2gb and it was painfully slow to make any changes. and there was a lot of processing to do - particularly on the buses and taxis. i perservered and despite it's imperfections it's now my favourite little planet, so i think it was worth the effort.
i really shouldn't be posting this as it is really similar in both name and content to my halloween offering. and i do have plenty of processed and unprocessed photos from other places that could justifiably take its place. but there's still something that i like about it, and i don't want to wait until october 31st next year to use it. besides this is my website, so i make the rules.
i've been to many beautiful places in south america that sometimes it's harder to get excited when i go to new towns. this was not the case when i arrived in vilcabamba - and i'd like to think this picture explains why. i was staying in a luxiourous hostel which boasted a pool, spa and a restaurant with this view for a handful of dollars a night. but in addition to the scenery, there was a really nice vibe to the people and place. for example i asked the receptionist if it rained much in the afternoon, having experienced strong downpours in loja and cuenca. her reply epitomised the postivity of the place when she said yes, and that's the reason why it's so green and beautiful here. in fact vilcabamba is referred to as the valley of longevity and people supposedly live longer here than anywhere else. whilst those claims probably wouldn't hold up to scientific scrutiny, i think it still says what you need to know about the stress-free lifestyle that exists.
a few times a year in potosi the miners perform a ceremony which essentially serves to bless the mine in the hope of bringing good fortune. i attended one of these ceremonies which involved playing live music, drinking 100% proof alcohol and sacraficing llamas. the llamas would be slaughtered at the entrance to the mine, with the blood then collected and thrown over the opening. they would then skin, gut and chop up the dead animals to cook and eat. witnessing this was both interesting and gruesome for me and the handful of other tourists who attended. the whole mining community were there, which included wives and young children. in my western mind it felt like something that a young child shouldn't have to witness, but they did with curiousity and respect. and i came to understand why it was that so many generations grew up and followed their fathers footsteps working in the mines. put simply it's just part of their culture. this shot is of three generations of a family preparing the sacraficial barbeque.
i had reasons to dislike cuenca, my first stop in ecuador after arriving from peru. it would rain very heavily each afternoon, i couldn't withdraw money from the atms and everything pretty much closed on a sunday. plus i saw arsenal play out a disappointing draw with fulham in a pub there... hey that's a legitmate reason in my mind. anyways i didn't dislike it. this was mainly because when i first went out walking around, i stopped near the central plaza to photograph some street art. a security guard came over and suggested i enter his building which contained a beautiful courtyard, this saintly wall, and three rooms of art installations. he then gave me a map which pinpointed other random art installations around the city. in a short moment this unknown city had shown itself to be friendly, beautiful and arty - which put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. well, up until the football and wet weather washed it away.
after a long time away from the internet i was going through my emails and saw a comment on my machu picchu photo on 500px which read the picture is very corny, but still it's the best i've seen here on 500px. for the record there are a crazy number of superior photos on the site, the popular and editors' choice sections always inspire and depress me in equal measure. anyway that comment reminded me of when i was sailing to isla del sol and a european traveller told me that I had an 'interesting face', and also when an ecuadorian travel agent said that when i spoke spanish it sounded like a song. you know, those times when you're not really sure whether you've just been paid a compliment or insulted. personally i think life is easier if you put your head (interesting or otherwise) in the sand and twist the interpretation until in comes out positive.
holy macaroni it's been a while since this site has seen any new pictures. i have a valid excuse for the absence as i've spent a week with poor internet followed by a week with no internet 1000 kilometres out at sea. i've been enjoying the wonders of the galapagos, and enjoy and wonder are both so true they could almost be understatements. i've taken what americans would describe as a shit-ton of photos, and i'm a little intimidated about going through them all. it's a big ol' mission and i'd be surprised if any of them will appear before next year. in many ways this shot therefore is particularly apt, as i took this over 4 months and 2 countries ago. plus sloth in spanish is perezoso which is also the word for lazy and that's how i'm going to behave when it comes to looking through the 4000+ photos i have from the islands.
when i was travelling in bolivia i took me 24 days before i saw my first monkey. in peru i managed to knock that down to 23 days before i bumped into fake-martin. i've had some time to hone my skills and now i'm in ecuador i only needed 4 days before i saw me some simians. as ron burgandy would say, don't act like you're not impressed. at this rate when i cross the border into colombia i'll be met by a team of monkeys checking my bags and stamping my passport. if i was on twitter i'd append this post with a hashtag such as #ideasthatsoundfunintheorybutleaveyoucoveredinfaeces. wait a minute, i am on twitter - lets see how long it takes before that catchy bad boy gets trending
this photo's title is a nod towards the fantastic documentary man on wire. i remember seeing it at the cinema when it was released and it instantly became one of the most exciting films i've ever seen. i mean i defy you to look at the poster and not want to watch it. talking of movies, i recently re-watched el secreto de sus ojos last week. it was my favourite movie of 2009 and it lost absolutely nothing upon a second viewing. despite all the time i've spent in south america my spanish is still not advanced enough to watch it without subtitles. having said that i did pick up a lot more, and particularly enjoyed hearing the characters using the word boludo, a (sometimes) friendly insult that you hear all the time in argentina. anyways if you haven't seen either (or both) of these two movies you have some catching up to do.
i received an email this morning from the world photo awards which was personally addressed to me, reminding me that the closing date for this year's competition is in less than a month. it went on to say how my previous entries were really well received by their judges so they'd love me to enter again. i won't lie, it felt nice to read that. really nice. and that feeling lasted all the way to the second paragraph where i was told that they were contacting all of those who had previously entered. ah, so they'd love me to enter again along with the other 50,000 previous entrants, make me feel special why don't you. anyways i figure i'll have another go this year, if you're into photography then you should too, it's free to enter, you could win $5000 and your almost certainly guaranteed a flattering email (of no more than one paragraph) next year.
due to a combination of not having much to say about this shot and too much time on my hands i decided to compile an alphabetic list of my favourite photos. i struggled a bit in finding shots i really liked for some letters (i'm looking at you q) which i blame squarely on my erratic photo titles rather than inadequate photography skills. next time i take a picture i really like i'll have to remember to name it qklxjrst. you'll have to go to my main site to see my choices:
i've been in ecuador for over a week now yet i'm still posting peruvian photos. is that bad? it seems bad. i'm still shooting, just the importing-processing-uploading part seems to be alluding me. maybe it's not so bad? after all i'm not really bothered that the photo i'm posting today wasn't taken today. when i first started this site i had an idea in my head of only posting a photo taken on that day, every day, regardless of the subject or quality. in my head the benefit of this was that i would force myself to take a photo every day. however i quickly found two big flaws with this system. if i take loads of photos that i really like in any given day i'll have to discard all but one of them. and worse than that, replace it with an inferior shot on the (more common) days when i don't shoot so good. nope, i'm on a shooting phase right now, which means you'll have to make do with pictures from my last processing phase. i'll show you ecuador when the cycle rotates.
hammocks are strange devices. there's something about lying, and gently swinging, that just makes you feel a lot more content. it's not as though they're the most comfortable of furniture, and there's always the unknown danger that readjusting your position may cause you to tumble out. regardless the feeling of being suspended in the air is somehow more relaxing than sinking into a soft sofa. plus there's an unedifying feeling of smugness that comes from typing this from a hammock compared to at a desk. this was one of the hammocks on laguna azul before the rain came.
usually when i go to hostels i ask the same kind of questions, how much does it cost? is it clean? is there hot water? is there wifi? yesterday i discovered that i was aiming too high with my questioning, and i should probably start with is there electricity? in fairness to the hostel it was clean, there was hot water and it only cost $5 for a private room, but the room didn't have any plug sockets. or wifi. you don't have to feel too sorry for me as i've now arrived at a place with a pool, bar, spa, hammocks, pool and ping-pong table, hot water, wifi and amazing views of the ecuadorian highlands. and enough electricity to power a fleet of prii
i'd forgive you if you thought that i had flipped this image, in fact more than that, i'd actually be impressed with your observational skills. but you sir would be wrong, as the officials who work in chanchaque decided to put the street name of jr grau as a mirror image. we had only stopped for a lunch stop, which subsequently left me about a minute to take some pictures of what looked like a cool little village. so i'm not sure if there are any more mirrored streets like this - or what the significance is - but i likes it.
i try to mix things up with my posts and not post too many shots from the same place. ok most of the last few months have been from peru, but then i've been in peru for over 100 days. i'll rephrase that, i was in peru for the last 100 days but late last night i crossed another border and arrived in the eighth country on my trip: ecuador. i don't know how long it will be before you see ecuador as i still have quite a backlog of processed and unprocessed peruvian photos. i'll see how my mood takes me. it's not helping matters that this shot is my fourth from the small pueblo of sauce, and if i have my way there are at least two more i want to post. maybe i should increase my uploads to more than one-a-day, or perhaps not worry about it so much. one moment... yup, that second option worked a treat.
last month i said that there was little point going to nazca if you didn't fly above the famous lines that are etched in the ground. by way of illustration this is what the alternative viewing structure looks like from the air. a better comparison i guess would be to contrast this shot with a photo from the watchtower, but you'll have to take my word for it that the viewing angle is infinitely superior from an aeroplane.
this is what it looked like from underneath the hammock shelter as the rain lashed down in sauce. i'd already been pissed on in cajamarca, chachapoyas and tarapoto so i was starting to become accustomed to the wet weather. it's certainly made me appreciate where i am now, which is a sunny beach town. as that famous philosopher once said, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.
there was a pub quiz on a few nights ago and when the quizmaster asked "what's the antonym of the word synonym?" i overheard an aussie guy saying ooh i know this one and then thinking really hard. surely you either know what those words mean and the answer is obvious, or you don't. it's not really a rack-your-brain-it's-in-there-somewhere kinda question. i was quietly confident in our teams performance but not knowing that date that elvis died, or that jimi died, or the original name of micky mouse cost us the chance of winning free t-shirts. blast.
i'm not entirely sure who is leading who in this shot, but i'd like to think that the mother is being led against her will to the ice cream shop. ironically i had an ice cream in my hand when i took this picture, which i had to painfully balance in my mouth while i got my camera out. i was smart enough to stay behind the kid to avoid surrendering it. to quote skin they rope them in young in piura.
i spent some time in tarapoto, sauce and lamas hanging out with a spanish guy i'd met. as the rain lashed down i tried to get a fast shot of a water droplet, which wasn't easy as it required a perfect combination of light, focus and timing. he saw me crouched over a bucket of water and i explained what i was aiming for, showing him some of my results. impressed with what he saw he waited for me to finish and the tried to achieve the same thing. i had some mixed feelings about that. i have no right to object about someone trying to take the same kind of picture as me, after all i've been guilty of only seeing a shot after someone else has spotted it first. and besides with a shot like this, it's inevitably going to be a different photo each time. i guess i was just a bit insecure that he would end up with a better shot than me. he gave up frustrated after a few minutes and i felt unjustified relief. yeah i know, it's a childish reaction, after all as the saying goes imitation is the greatest form of plagiarism
so i think the good people in piura weren't being completely genuine about the happiness of their toys - which might go some way to explain why they formed an alliance and broke out of the joint. unless there were other toys anxious for some of the advertised joy and they broke inside to get in on the action. but my csi skills point to the rubble being on the outside of the wall as evidence of an exit - so i stand by my theory that it was a front for some evil toy torture compound.
i'm still in peru and was a few days over my visa when i saw a poster that pearl jam were playing in lima. i've only been to one real gig on my trip in south america, when deftones were playing in asuncion, which isn't much for someone who likes going to gigs. trouble was i was in the very north of peru, over 17hrs from lima, and like i said already over my official time in the country. i weighed up the pros and cons in my head before concluding that it would be ridiculous to travel all that way just for a concert. i'm now writing this as i wait for a bus back north after seeing eddie and the boys rock it in south america - with no regrets whatsoever.
i went to the small town of lamas after a recommendation from a friend. there's not really much there for a tourist, which means not many tourists really go there. the happy consequence of this is that the locals are really friendly and curious when one (me) turns up. i started chatting to a guy in the plaza and he took me and my spanish friend on an impromptu tour of the city. he even invited us back to his for lunch, an offer we politely declined choosing to buy him beers as a thank you instead. this guy was one of the other locals we met on our little city tour. it's not so clear from this crop, but he was adorned in dead animals including a monkey on his right shoulder and a bird on his left. i think the acronym wtf was created for shit like that.
i left the baking hot tarapoto to travel a few hours to laguna azul in sauce. when i arrived at the lake it started spitting slightly, so i sought (is that a word - doesn't look right?) shelter in one of these hammocks. the spitting turned into a relentless downpour which managed to penetrate the thatched roof and left me soaked to the bone. i was frustrated at first, but the weather seemed to present so many different photo opportunities that you just don't get when it's dry. it's a shame that cameras aren't waterproof as i was really concious of the dangerous concoction of liquid and electronics. when i took this i ran from a more watertight shelter with the camera under my tshirt, pulled it out for 5 seconds and took 2 shots, and then raced back to cover. i'm glad i took the risk as the camera survived, and this became one of my recent favourites.
last night i learned about a steve irwin variation of rock paper scissors. instead of the traditional weapons you have steve irwin, a crocodile and a stingray, with the idea being that steve irwin beats crocodile, crocodile beats stingray and stingray beats steve. i was a little drunk so i can't quite remember how the hand shapes work for each of them, but at the time it all made perfect sense. this would probably be more appropriate if i was posting it with a picture of a croc... or a ray... or a steve, but that drink last night has turned into a hangover today so i just picked this processed shot at random.
so you probably have a number of questions from looking at this photo. i'll answer two of them: i have no idea and i didn't dare try.
well yesterdays post was a little on the moany side huh? upon reflection, whilst it was a miserable day it could have been worse, i could have died. when i was getting lost on the way to a mystical lake a bus was travelling the same route that i had taken the previous day got caught in a landslide resulting in over 20 people injured and 10 deaths. i found out about this as i departed the next day, and we passed the remains of the ill-fated bus. i was surprised the death toll was so low after witnessing the wreckage remains. it put me feeling hungry, getting lost and falling in some mud into perspective. i resisted the urge to get my camera out, i'm not sure about the etiquete in passing a scene of a major accident, but i'm pretty sure it would have been disrespectful. plus i didn't have a window seat... but y'know mainly i was showing respect.
you know how sometimes you have days where seemingly nothing goes right? well 11/11/11 was like that for me. i was in a small town called huancabamba (stop sniggering at the back) and had intended to go to a smaller village harmonically named salala and hike to a sacred lake. it's fair to say that didn't go to plan, and my day was littered with small annoyances which individually weren't too bad, but combined together created a pissed off tim. what i thought summed up the day was when i accidentally dropped the lid of my coke bottle into the muddy ground below. it landed face up (the good way up) and i thought - huh, maybe this day is turning around. i then fumbled picking it up and it fell again, this time landing face down. i took my camera with me, but despite the admittedly pretty landscape i didn't once take it out of my bag. i wasn't in the mood to capture, or appreciate, the beauty around me. so this is a slightly abstract shot taken on a far more successful hike when i was in huaraz
matt berninger from the national said that eric bachmann of crooked fingers was one of the best writers on the subject of love. while i've only got a couple of their albums, i'm finding it hard to disagree. and perhaps it's no coincidence that i first heard of eric's band when matt's band did an awesome cover of the song sleep all summer. the lyrics to that song are so poetic, in particular the line i've used for this photo's title, the longer version of which is: give the ocean what i took from you so one day you could find it in the sand, and hold it in your hands again. both versions are fairly similar, and i'm probably biased towards the cover as i'm such a big fan of matts' voice - and st vincent who appear as well.
is anyone else getting bored of my really long, spinning star trail shots? what's that? huh? oh this is no good, i can't hear a word you're saying. i'm going to assume that you were saying no and i'll keep on taking them. if i'm honest none of them have come anywhere close to the laguna blanca effort which remains as my personal favourite. like a drug addict chasing the sensation of their first high, i keep attempting (and failing) to recapture that effect. but like the best/worst drug addicts, i'm not going to quit trying...
i don't really get those online pop-up and banner adverts where they ask you to count how many balls are bouncing, or triangles you can see. they must be aimed at someone who's smart enough to understand the basic concept of looking and counting, but then dumb enough to be fooled by an obvious internet scam. is that a large market? then again i once had a boss (of an internet based company no less) who was feverishly excited about receiving an email promising large sums of money from an unknown nigerian financier. she only resisted replying with her bank details because she wanted to share/show off the good news with her more internet savvy friends.
across quite a lot of this continent (south america if you haven't been paying attention) there seems to be a common theme of amorous boys and girls publicly displaying their affection. i've been offered two different cultural views on this issue. one stated that it's fairly common for a son or daughter to remain living with their family, therefore they have less opportunity to get it on at home. another opinion was that the latin blood inside them made them less inhibited and reserved compared to, for example, people from northern europe. so basically it's either because their culture is more repressed or more open - right, glad i cleared that up.
so as i was walking back from laguna 69 i started chatting to this american girl. she told me that she was in peru for 6 weeks, starting in lima, a month volunteering in huaraz and then a quick stop to huacachina before flying to the states. it was her first time here, and she was going to keep on travelling round the world, but had no plans to return to peru. i was surprised at her itinerary, i think she's the first person i've met on my trip who went to peru and decided not to see machu picchu. i mean of course people like different things, but i would have thought that machu picchu was as close to being objectively beautiful as a tourist attraction can get. when i pressed her further she said that she'd seen a photo so didn't feel the need to see it in person. i really hope that she was using some of that famous american irony as i don't even know where to start with an argument like that. she liked the laguna though - although if she had waited until i posted this she could have saved herself 50 soles.
there were a few different dogs that joined us on our santa cruz trek. i'm pretty sure most, like this guy, were motivated by the food that we had in our hands - but i think others just wanted a bit of company. my favourite was a fearless small dog that followed us on our third day and had a penchant for barking at and chasing cows. it was a funny sight to see 1000lb beast running scared from a tiny, yappy canine. by the way this photo's title is a reference to the seabass scene in dumb and dumber - a movie that makes me laugh as much now as it did 17 years ago... christ i'm old.
back home if you wanted kicks you'd join a gang, start fights, maybe indulge in a bit of rioting. in huacachina there seems to be less options, so the kids just jump about in the sand. i don't know, the youth of today, outta control i tells ya.
lima doesn't have a subway system like buenos aires, nor does it just rely on regular buses. instead it's kind of mixed the two and created a special bus lane with regular stops at specific stations called el metropolitano. sort of like a tram without the tracks. it's good for people like me as i find the worst part of getting on a bus, particularly in a new city, is not knowing how much to pay, where to ask for and when to get off. anyways i was taking this picture on a bridge over one of the stations outside estadio nacional when a policeman came over. at first i thought it was to tell me off, and i was ready to get all defensive. however after the language barrier crumbled down a little i realised he was advising me to be careful as is wasn't the safest area to be waving around an expensive camera. he then kept watch as i counted down the seconds of my long exposure. i could think of a fair few other places where his deterring presence could come in handy.
it was strange, whenever the weather turned and the rain or snow started falling carlos, our guide, would put on his poncho and just hover above the ground. that must explain why he was unaffected by the altitude and i was panting, sweating and out of breath. just to be clear, nothing to do with my sedentary lifestyle, i'm just missing a magic peruvian poncho.
to quote football365: football is brilliant, and anyone who says otherwise is genuinely missing something in their lives. yesterday arsenal beat 5-3, and when the full time whistle sounded i was really, really happy. it was the reverse of how i felt a couple of months ago when man utd thumped us 8-2, but it came from the same place. it could accurately be described as a nonsensical reaction - both results didn't really directly impact on my everyday life. so why should they illicit such a strong emotional response? i've supported arsenal for over 20 years, and there are not many things that have been a constant in my life for that period of time. when they let me down i feel upset and disappointed, when they come good i feel elated and proud. there are countless occasions when i've seen my team fare badly and wished that i didn't care as much as i did. last night was an overdue reminder of why it means so much more, and feels so much sweeter, when you do care.
after looking through my photos from the santa cruz trek i decided to have a go processing them all in black and white. according to my tags i've only posted 170 black and white shots from over 1300 photos - and even some of those have some colour to them. still, i thought it would be an interesting challenge, made easier perhaps by the fact that the less than glorious weather seemed to lend itself to monochrome. anyways this was one of the first photos that i took on my trek as we took a rest break in a small village.
i travelled north from lima to a place called huaraz which is famous for it's scenery and trekking. after a couple days of acclimatising to the 3km increase in altitude i set off on the 4 day santa cruz trek. it was the third big trek that i have done in peru, after colca canyon and machu picchu - unfortunately it was also the worst. not that it was a terrible experience, but i think i was hoping for more out of it. unlike the previous two there wasn't really a big destination on this hike, no lush canyon basin or ancient inca city. we were also cursed with bad weather, rain, snow and mist. i think the highlight of the trek is supposed to be on the third day when you hike up to get a view of the cordillera blanca and in particular alpamayo which has been described as the most beautiful mountain in the world. annoyingly this was the foggiest day so we didn't even make it up to the view point as there would have been nothing to see. still it felt good to get some oxygen deprived air in my lungs
i remember seeing burning trees a few times when i was volunteering in senda verde and reporting it to the disinterested kitchen staff. that was just another item on the list of reasons why the kitchen staff were, as they say in france, fucking wankers. they adopted a position of superiority and condescension over anyone non-south american. which coincidentally was 95% of the volunteers. from talking shit about you in spanish, to undercooking food, to complaining at every opportunity that you were doing something wrong to lying to your face they were experts at rubbing you up the wrong way. the worst offender was the south african, who might be the most misanthropic person i've ever met working with the public. just before i left i heard a rumour, which i pray is true, that he left the door to his bedroom open and a spider monkey snuck inside. when he returned he found his expensive digital slr reduced to a collection of small plastic bits. i think his misanthropy extended to primates after that incident.
when i first started learning spanish bombero was my favourite word. i found something satisfying about the way it sounds. even more satisfying is the word bombacho - go on, say it aloud. good huh? unfortunately there are very few conversations where firemen or knee-length baggy trousers are appropriate - so unless i have some burning fashion disaster those aurally aesthetic words will remain unspoken.
this cube in parque de la exposicion in lima reminded me of the movie sphere. apart from the very obvious geometric differences, i'm pretty sure that there was a big, reflective, golden sphere in that film. although a quick google search didn't provide any evidence to back that up so i could be remembering wrong again. i do recall being disappointed with that movie though, not because it was really bad, but because it had potential to be good. i enjoyed the scenes when the sphere/alien starts communicating via the computer screens, typing out his name is jerry and he is happy, before sinisterly changing tack and declaring he will kill everyone. it should have been a tense, claustrophobic sci-fi thriller/horror - but somehow the pieces just didn't fit together. it's certainly no event horizon which i'm not embarrassed to admit scared the bejesus out of me.
in general on my trip i've tried to be relatively restrained in extravagant spending, if you discount the general trip itself. i haven't been staying in high class accommodation, or dining in fancy restaurants. i think the last occasion i splashed out more than normal was when i went skydiving - and that turned out to be one of the best trips of my life. a couple of weeks ago in nazca i shelled out almost $100 for a trip in a marginally bigger plane to see the nazca lines. apparently it was quite a bit cheaper a few years ago, although there was also a higher chance of the plane falling out of the sky back then as well. the experience was unique and amazing - there are hundreds of different patterns and geometric shapes, dating back 1500 years, which are only visible from the air. how the ancient nazca civilisation created them without the modern ability to float above the ground is impressive to say the least. this is one of the many animals depicted in the lines, a hummingbird which is over 300 feet long.
after a day of sandboarding and a night of drinking in huacachina i was walking back to the hostel and saw a huge moon sinking below the lagoon. i rushed to get my camera but returned too late as it was dipping below the horizon. since i had my camera and tripod i figured i should make the most of it, so i wandered off into the dunes to take some night pictures. it was a tough compromise between getting a good vantage point for the shot that i wanted, and becoming too knackered to keep on walking uphill. it felt like i was walking backwards as my feet sank into the sand and slid down as i tried to move forward. in the end my body couldn't take me any higher than this, so i collapsed on the steep bank and caught my breath back as my shutter collected as much light as possible. mind you walking in sand isn't as difficult as cycling, which i learnt when i was going up & down a volcano in arequipa. it probably didn't help that i had mistakenly chosen the highest possible gear - yeah i'm not the brightest cyclist
amongst the cats, bears and monkeys at senda verda there was also a fox. he had a special enclosure close to where we slept, and we had to feed him at the end of each day. despite doing this quite a few times, i barely saw him. this was partly because he was nocturnal, so didn't really hang about during the day. but also because he was incredibly timid - meaning whenever you entered his enclosure he usually eyed you up from the opposite end. because of this experience i felt especially fortunate to see this wild andean fox when i was going through the paracas national reserve after my trip to the ballestas islands. i assume that he was particularly hungry as it's unusual for them to be out and about at mid-afternoon. he also didn't seem overly bothered by us slowly advancing as he munched on his bird carcass. this was as close as i got before he decided to retreat, and is marginally clearer than my previous fox photo.
the lonely planet description of the loki hostels in peru is if you haven't heard of it, you probably shouldn't stay there. this front handed disparagement is worn as a badge of honour by loki themselves, or at least worn as a t shirt which they sell proudly displaying that quote. and it's accurate as well. loki hostels are party hostels, which means it's a place centred around drinking and loud music as opposed to sleeping. it's a place where speaking spanish is a severe disadvantage compared to speaking english. it's a place where kitchens sell european style food instead of allowing you to cook what you want. it's often full with young english and irish teenagers, who are just about to start uni, and haven't left the hostel in days. but on the plus side they have pretty cool light fittings.
when i was staying in la paz i met a guy from huacachina in peru. he described the place to me as a little village with a lagoon in the middle, surrounded by sand dunes. i told him that it didn't sound real. he then googled it and showed me some photos of it - and i told him that it didn't look real. after arriving there last week i walked up to the top of one of the highest sand dunes and took this picture - and it still didn't seem real. i'm pretty sure the sand that's still collected in my pockets and shoes is real though.
i know it's a fairly dismissive sentence, but there's pretty much only one reason to go to nazca in peru, and that's to see the nazca lines. if you make it that far then you are presented with two options, paying for an expensive and potentially dangerous flight, or going to this cheap and relatively safer watchtower. the fact that you're looking at a picture of the tower, as opposed to the view from the tower, should tell you something about option number two.
so as i mentioned yesterday i've implemented a few updates to the site - the biggest of which is the ability to now purchase printed copies of the photos i post. i've worked through almost all of the images i've put up in 2011 - which is around 180. i still have about 60 to go until i'm up to date with all of my south american photos. offering print versions of photos older than this (pre september 2010) is difficult as the original files are at home - and i'm a long way from home. if there are any that you are interested in which don't have a buy image link then let me know and i'll see what i can sort out. the photo printing is taken care of by fotomoto: they ship internationally, package securely and most importantly the print quality is very high. i've also got the print versions uploaded (man now that took a while) which means i could be stuck in a jungle for weeks offline and you can still get your prints. think i've covered everything - all i'm missing now is some customers *cough*
so i've made a few changes to my photoblog, some small some big, in the last few days and months and i thought i'd let you know about them. unfortunately i'm restricted in how much i can write in this caption - so it's easier just to link you to the post:
when i was heading up the western coast of peru i took a boat trip from the small pueblo of paracas to the ballestas islands. often called the poor mans galapagos they are rich with sea lions, penguins and millions of birds. i saw a few of these structures attached to the islands and they immediately reminded me of ico. i haven't played the game in a while, so it may be a metal gear solid type of misremembrance but regardless there was a connection in my head. looking back at my post about metal gear solid i described it as the best computer game ever made. well i'll add to that sweeping statement by saying that ico is the most emotionally involving game ever made. it looks beautiful, its gameplay is simple and there's essentially only two characters in it - and you really care what happens to them. this kind of emotional reaction isn't unusual with certain songs or films, but it rarely occurs with computer games. metal gear solid is more fun, grand theft auto is more playable, but ico is a work of art.
i've been sandboarding twice before. the first was when i was in florianopolis where it was really windy and i didn't have any sunglasses - so i spent most of my time half blind with eyeballs full of sand. the second was in san pedro de atacama. i remember that there was a little kicker at the bottom of the dune that i kept riding towards with the intention of jumping over. i consistently lost my nerve at the last minute and speed checked which meant that i barely made it over the jump, let alone caught any air. on the final run i told myself to go for it, which i did catching the nose of my board in the sand and wiping out fairly spectacularly. the third time was a lot more enjoyable, partly because the dunes were steeper, therefore faster to board down. however it was mainly because we were transported around in a dune buggy which meant that there was no need to tire ourselves out walking uphill. i still miss snow though.
two days ago i learnt about steve jobs. the last time i felt affected by the death of someone i didn't know personally was probably mark 'sparklehorse' linkous. steve's creations have been a part of my life for a long time so i wanted to post an appropriate photo, but realised that i didn't actually have any apple products in south america. i bought a pc laptop to go travelling, mainly for cost reasons, and the multiple crashes are an unnecessary but constant reminder for why i prefer apple macs. all i had was my broken ipod, so i dug it out of my bag - and plugged it in. instead of being greeted with the broken all-white screen, i was welcomed with a small, sharp apple logo. i had to wait for confirmation, mainly because of a 400mb update/restore process, but a few hours later it was definite - my ipod had come back to life. i never would have checked if it wasn't for the news about mr jobs, so while i'd prefer him to be alive and creating, i appreciated the ironic symmetry
numbers for today - i've now posted over 1300 photos on my site, they've been viewed over 1 million times this year and i'm now 6 years old. i didn't kick up much of a fuss when i turned 5 last year, actually i was seduced by a beautiful brazilian beach and kinda forgot. when i turned 4 years old i mentioned that the photo that inspired my foray into photography, and particularly this website, was ddoi's orange clouds. well in actual fact it was that photo, and the song that this photo steals a title from, high speed train by the recently defunct r.e.m.. i can't explain the hows and whys, or really the connection between the two different mediums. but i remember looking at the toronto skyline, listening to stipe sing about flailing antelopes, and wanting to create. this photo probably isn't the best example of my creativity, but hey, it's got a pretty fast train in it.
this little guy was a lot quieter than the previous howler monkeys i had encountered - and also a lot less intimidating. in many ways they were the nicest monkeys at at senda verde. when they are big and noisy you imagine they're the kind of creatures that would run up to you, bite your face off, and then scamper away. in my experience they didn't show any signs of aggression at all, they were respectful to the other creatures and they liked to hang out together. in contrast to the squirrel monkeys who liked to steal food, the spider monkeys who liked to antagonise the capuchin monkeys, and the capuchins who (despite appearences) were far from angelic themselves - the howler monkeys were really chilled out and good natured. having said that i think one of the howlers did like to go to the toilet in the swimming pool - but hell we've all done that before.
on my first day working at senda verde i was responsible for this creature - a tayra called comote. as well as feeding him 3 times a day, we also had to take him for walks twice a day. i went to get his afternoon meal, however when i returned the sight, and smell, of the food perked him up. i opened the cage with the intention of leaving the bowl of food for him to devour. however his over-excitedness meant that he immediately tried to escape. with one hand holding the food, i went to grab him with my other hand before placing both back into the cage. comote didn't like this barrier between him and his dinner so he sunk his teeth into my left index finger. this time the pain was matched with a deep wound and a lot of blood, and i instinctively dropped both the food and the tayra. it was a baptisim of fire on my first day and left me with a scar and a valuable lesson - never get between a hungry, biting creature and his food.
when i got stitched up on the way to machu picchu the nurse gave me two different tablets. the blue one was for the pain, the red to stop infection - at least that was my understanding at the time. it turns out receiving medical attention and important advice is a good barometer of how much you understand a language. if it was a test then i think i would have got a c, i understood enough to feel ok about hobbling away - but i'm sure i missed a lot of the finer details. for example i was told that with the medication and stitches i shouldn't drink alcohol, eat seafood or onions. alcohol makes sense, i don't eat seafood anyway so that was no issue - but onions? i double and triple checked and she did use the word cebolla - but i guess the specific reasons got lost in the spanish-english communication.
this shot is a not so subtle reference to the famous ultimatum in the matrix. i wonder what would have happened to neo if, like me, he'd have taken both of 'em - bet that would have flummoxed smug old morpheus.
this great cavern lives on huayna picchu, which is the big mountain in the centre of this picture which overlooks the more famous machu picchu. it's a fairly demanding walk to the top of huayna picchu, which is over 2700 metres, and an even more demanding walk to the great cavern and back which is on the other side of the mountain. this walk is especially demanding if you have a dodgy leg so despite the fact that i thought the greatness was slightly overstated, i still felt compelled to post a picture from there.
this was the second creature we encountered on our first day of trekking on our way to machu picchu. not as fun or cool as fakemartin - but y'know pretty cute none the less. he was only 4 weeks old, and looked like he may grow into a fairly ugly dog when he's older. maybe he'll reveal a winning personality to compensate.
i've been on a bit of a lightroom buzz recently. my normal workflow routine is to import the photo into lightroom, but then open it in photoshop to process it. after i was happy with the lightroomed machu picchu i challenged myself to process a bunch of other shots i took on that trip. i was pretty happy with the results, it certainly made me look at things in a different way. having said that it would never be a replacement for photoshop, and the fact remains anything you can do with lightroom, you can do that and more in photoshop. in this example, it's actually a combination of two photos. i liked the expression on the lady in the first, but the background was obscured by a fellow traveller's backpack, so i spliced a second shot with an unobstructed view. i'm pretty certain that level of deception and cheating is only possible with photoshop.
i recently went to machu picchu for the second time in two years. the first time i went i trekked the classic inca trail route. this time around i chose the cheaper, and more varied, inca jungle trek. it was a 4 day trip where you could choose to cycle, raft, zip-line and trek, all of which culminates in a visit to machu picchu. if you're trying to work out which of these were responsible for the injury you're looking at, well disappointingly it was a fifth seemingly harmless activity - a visit to some natural hot springs. a slippery surface, a painful lack of balance, a half jump half fall and a sharp rock under the water were all contributing factors to me lying on a bench and a nurse threading 6 stitches into my shin. i was still able to continue the subsequent activities, which included a lot of steep walking when we got to the ancient inca city and surrounding mountains. all i need to do now is try and think of a cooler story which doesn't involve me falling into some shallow water. suggestions welcome.
if this looks familiar... well of course it does, machu picchu doesn't really need much introduction, and this angle is probably the most famous viewpoint. it was my second time at the ancient citidal - and as i've posted a shot from here before i wanted to try something different with the processing. i actually felt a bit of pressure, as i figured it would be a clear sign of how i've improved as a photographer, to go back to the same place and try and improve. after pissing around in photoshop, trying different hdr techniques, i settled on this subtle interpretation. ok, it's not that subtle, but it was processed exclusively in lightroom and the dynamic range was left uncharacteristically low. you can judge whether you prefer this interpretation, or my first attempt. as an aside, it turns out i returned to machu picchu exactly two years after my first visit. for real. the first time was 06/09/09 and this was 06/09/11. hows about that then.
i took this when i was locked in a market in cusco. i'm not quite sure how it happened, i had taken a couple of trousers there to get fixed up and the seamster told me to return at 3pm. i had some lunch, took a picture of a ruffian and the plaza and then returned to find the stall empty. i could see my trousers inside but felt uncomfortable just reaching inside and taking them. half an hour later that discomfort had turned into boredom so i replaced the clothes with a pile of coins and went to leave. this departure proved tricky as there seemed to be some kind of union meeting going on, and all the exits were locked. my comfort level switched again as i grew concerned about running into an angry tailor - lucky for me all of the anger seemed to be channelled by the union rep through the crowd that had gathered around him. i failed at staying inconspicuous due to my photographic activities but eventually succeeded in finding an exit and made my escape.
you're probably thinking that this is another monkey photo from my volunteering experience at la senda verde - well you'd be thinking wrong jack. i met this monkey as i went on a 4 day trek to machu picchu. as it happens he was a capuchin monkey called martin - yeah that sounded familiar to me as well. when i heard this one squeak and grunt it brought back fond memories. we had just walked up a fairly tiring uphill section, and most of the others in my group used the opportunity to eat, rehydrate and rest. i spent almost all my time hanging out with fakemartin. he was pretty friendly and pretty smart too. he was jumping back and forth in the trees, so much so that his leash got tangled up and left about 6 inches loose. i was going to untangle him, but before i could he used his hands and mouth to do the job himself. of course he couldn't hold a candle to the original martin - but it was cool to meet his peruvian bfam.
it was one year ago today that i left england and began this trip to south america. in that time i've visited seven different countries, brazil, argentina, uruguay, chile, paraguay, bolivia and peru. before i started the trip i didn't really have a time scale in mind. about a year sounded good, but really my only plan was to try and get to every country in south america. i think that might be the reason for my slow speed, i didn't want to rush through them all and complete my mission too soon so i subconsciously took a lot longer then maybe i should have. still, whilst i've been to some shitty places i don't have any regrets from anywhere that i've visited. to keep on course with my plan i still have ecuador, colombia and venezuala to get to - and if i make those i should really travel to the guianas to complete the set. i don't know how much longer that will keep me away from the uk for - to quote the (modest mouse) song from which i stole this photo's title - i'll drink until the thirst runs out.
i think i've made it clear that when i was volunteering my favourite monkey was martin. coming up in second place is this little juvenile called leo. i think that when anyone starts volunteering at senda verde he's your first favourite - as he shows no fear or aggression towards humans. the first time i walked up to the monkey area he ran towards me and jumped on my head and shoulders. he would adopt that position almost every time i returned there in the subsequent 3 weeks. he was always up for playing around, and as i'm sure you'll agree from this picture, he had the cutest face. he wasn't an angel though. when it came to feeding time he would frequently steal from his other monkey buddys. he would also bully some of the more timid capuchins, and generally liked to stir the shit. as a result a lot of the more experienced volunteers didn't care for him so much, but i could never stay mad a face like that. i guess it's a universal truism that beauty = power.
it's been a while since i've had a go at a little planet photo - and i'm not really sure why - as i think the effect is pretty cool. as i had already photographed the plaza de armas when i was in cusco a couple of years ago i thought i should try something a bit different. i've linked to instructions of how to achieve this effect before - but that was over 3 years ago - so here they are again:
1) create a 360 degree panoramic image - there's plenty of software available for this - i find PTGui particularly effective
2) open this image in photoshop, and change the image size so that the height is the same as the width, which will give you a distorted square image
3) rotate the image 180 degrees
4) choose filter / distort / polar coordinates and select rectangular to polar
you may need to clean up the image a little after, i found the lampost which is pointing almost directly north fairly problematic in this example, but it's a fun technique to experiment with. now go forth and create your own little planets.
i was as shocked as most when i heard about the recent riots in england. well, if i'm honest, my first reaction was to find it funny, then i thought it would be cool to be back there and take photos of it. this was all before i finally realised the seriousness of it all. while i heard reports of young kids participating in the rioting and looting, it appears as though they have nothing on the kids in peru. this little guy, decked out in tracksuit bottoms and brandishing a club, was terrorising a peaceful cobbled street in cusco before another youth with a stick intervened and taught him a lesson. well, that's one interpretation of this photo - another, perhaps more accurate one, would be that he was playing about with his brother. whichever you want to believe, he was crying about 10 seconds after i took this photo - so i guess the lesson to learn here is that playing with weapons will ultimately end in tears.
i returned last night from a 4 day trek to machu picchu. this was my second big trek, along with colca canyon, in the last couple of weeks and i've no big plans to do anymore in the short term future - i need rest. hopefully that means there won't be any more big gaps in updating the site either. i took this when i was in the pampas in bolivia. i never really had much interest in birds and birdwatching, no matter how colourful they may be they're never as cool as bears or monkeys. this opinion has changed somewhat on this trip and there's something about big birds in flight that are fun to photograph. as a result i spent a lot of time floating down the river in the pampas trying to move my camera at the same speed as the flying creatures. any frustration i had when i messed up the timing was quickly abated due to the abundance of feathered aviators above head.
this is nayra and wheezy, two of the newer capuchin monkeys at la senda verde. the last photo i put up of nayra she was suspiciously inspecting a glass of fruit juice on our dinner table. of all of the new arrivals she was the most clingy, and spent most of her time wrapped around the neck of the vet. she began to grow a little more adventurous, and in the last few days she was introduced into the main monkey area. no one was sure how she'd react, but the first thing she did was start chasing the alpha male, and then jump on the back of one of the older females. she ignored the vet, and all of the other humans. it was great to see the instant transition from shy dependency into, well, into a proper monkey. this picture was at an intermediate stage where she was getting to grips with the other monkeys at feeding time. wheezy was teaching her a harsh but useful lesson - if you don't hold onto your food, you don't eat.
this is a stitch of the final five shots i took with my camera before my battery died on the last day of the colca canyon trek - the view was spectacular. the left hand side of the frame is the canyon where i'd been hanging out for the last three days. i chose the three day option instead of two days, and it turned out to be a wise choice. in terms of ground covered they were both identical, so the benefit of stretching it out for three days was that the journey was more relaxed. this really paid off on day two where we arrived at a village called sangalle in the baking midday sun to find a beautiful garden and swimming pool to chill out in for the afternoon. we could only chill out so much though, as we had to set off on the steep ascent out of the canyon at 5am the next morning. i was the second to last person in our group to reach the summit, but resisted the lazy option of riding a mule up to the top. i was tired and sore, but that made me appreciate views like this all the more.
in between hanging with the monkeys of senda verde and getting to arequipa in peru i travelled to the pampas in bolivia. it was a choice between there and the jungle, and whilst the jungle sounds cooler the pampas have more wildlife. i wasn't sure what it would be like to look at these animals after spending so much time in close contact when i was volunteering. actually it was cool to see how they behave in their natural habitat. it turns out birds like to catch their own food as opposed to munch on freshly baked bird cake - who knew?
whilst volunteering we had a new arrival of five capuchin monkeys. in general the animals at the refuge were named after different spanish words for food however this trend was broken with the new guys and they were christened with non food related aymara names. i had a terrible time remembering these, so came up with my own. so the adult female was tufty, on account of being a tufted capuchin, the adult male baldy on account of a big bald patch he incurred after tussling with tufty. the juvenile was wheezy as he had respiratory issues which you could hear whenever he was on your shoulders. i called one of the babies spanky which only came about as i misheard her actual name - i think it sounded similar. the only name which i could successfully memorise and use was for this little one - nayra. i believe this translates as pretty eyes in aymara, a fact which is not too evident from this photo, but you're going to have to trust me on.
i still haven't really looked through my photos from my trek to colca canyon, but i have imported them onto my computer. working backwards, this was one of the last photos i took on my final day. i had already exhausted three camera batteries, mainly by taking long exposure night shots, so i had to resort to my backup camera. after spending the early hours ascending 1km we stopped in this small town for a few minutes. the town clearly catered for tourists and it had colourful llamas and tamed eagles for people to have photos with. maybe i'm affected by my animal volunteering experience but for me it's a fine line between exploiting an eagle on string and a dancing bear. and bears aren't for dancing. instead i had a colca sour - an even sourer pisco sour made with cactus fruit - and quietly judged.
i think i've said before that my favourite animals while volunteering were the capuchin monkeys - however this guy was perhaps the creature i was most surprised to meet at the refuge. his name is aruma, he's about 4 years old and he's an andean spectacled bear. the spectacled bear is near endangered and the only bear native to south america, so by that infallible logic aruma is related to paddington bear. like his fictional cousin aruma had a very sweet tooth and was particularly fond of sweet fruits, plants and jam sandwiches. he also had a predilection for peanuts, which we'd use as a distraction when one of us wanted to enter his enclosure to clean it. he had a very slow, calm and placid temperament and it was difficult to resist the urge to give him a shantaram style bear hug - well difficult until you saw the size of his claws and teeth.
i came back from my trip to the canyon yesterday evening on a high. it was a tough trek, particularly the last day, but a beautiful place which will hopefully come across when i look at the photos i took. i was pretty tired when i got back, but felt as though i should have a few drinks to celebrate. those few drinks lasted until the early hours, which meant that i only had a few hours sleep before i awoke to watch the arsenal match today. 90ish minutes later and the high had evaporated and i was tired and pissed off. man u had beaten us 8-2. it was probably the heaviest defeat i've witnessed, against the team i hate the most. it means we've now played 3, lost 2 and had a player sent off in each of those league games. having sold two of our best players there are now only a few days left to buy new additions to an inexperienced and inferior squad. i've probably felt more upset watching arsenal before but each way you look at it this is a low, low ebb. i would have been better off staying in the canyon.
i've been chilling out in arequipa the last week or so, kind of doing a whole lot of nothing and i'm starting to feel like i should do something productive. a popular destination from arequipa is colca canyon which you can trek in and around, either with a guide or by yourself. for a few days now i was strongly considering doing it without a guide, i think all this relaxing has made me want to give myself a challenge. however after seeking some advice it seems that if you want to explore as much as possible, it's a lot harder without guidance. particularly as i have no tent, sleeping bag, gps, compass - i think the chances of me getting lost would be fairly high. so my alternate option is a 3 day trek, which is probably ambitious enough as i am far from an accomplished hiker. still expending all that energy will justify me relaxing the following week, so in my head it's worth it. i doubt they have sorted out internet in the canyon, so i'll be offline for a few days, but should be back posting by the weekend.
when i returned from my blogging hiatus and went back online i was thrilled to find out that my favourite tv show, breaking bad, had began it's 4th series. i don't know if i've mentioned the show before on this site but for me it's the best dramatic television show ever made. it's so compelling, so well written, so well acted and treats the audience as intelligent participants instead of spelling out every detail. i began to watch the first two episodes of the new season and realised that there were a bunch of plot developments that had seemingly been wiped from my memory. i guess it's a sign of how highly i regard the series that i felt disrespectful watching it with the the previous series still cloudy. to right this wrong yesterday i downloaded all 13 episodes in series 3 and i'm now on the season finale. perhaps not the most productive or healthy way to spend 24 hours but if you've seen the show before then i know that you'd approve.
it's strange volunteering at an animal refuge how different people bond with different animals - and also how those animals bond with the volunteers. i noticed that there were definite favourites that existed between the two: the vet had a dog called swiss, a dutch volunteer a dog called pecky, another dutch volunteer a capuchin called luna, a canadian volunteer a parakeet called mr bean and me, well i had martin. for some reason i never got that close to the spider monkeys. there were about 10 of them in total, but i never managed to learn their names or really distinguish one from the others. i'm not sure why that was - as they were still really cool creatures - but there wasn't really a strong connection. what did impress me was they way that they moved, their tails were literally like a fifth limb and they were experts at judging the strength of each branch and leaping from one to another. this one was in a playful mood and bounced up and down above my head posing for the camera.
this is sasha, sasha is margay. i knew nothing about margays before i met her, apart from the fact they have beautiful eyes. after perusing wikipedia turns out there are quite a few cool facts about these creatures. they're natives of latin america and are fairly rare, listed as 'near threatened' animals. they're skilled, agile climbers whose ankles can turn 180 degrees, meaning they can climb head-first down trees. they can jump up to 12 feet from left to right, or right to left if they're in the mood. and most impressive of all they can mimic the sound made by their prey to lure them closer. all impressive stuff. i took this photo the first time i went up to sasha's cage, and even at 55mm the camera was still pretty close to her. when i went up the second time i was warned not to get too close as sasha could put her claws through the cage and swipe in a blink of an eye. that's one fact that could have been useful to know before our first meeting.
la senda verde was sitauted at the bottom of death road and i thought it would be fun to cycle down. i had made the same journey before when i was in the area a couple of years ago - and i remember back then i was seduced by the scary idea of cycling down the worlds most dangerous road. doing it a second time made me realise that a lot of this is clever marketing - it's a cool thing to say but when it comes down to it there's not really that much danger. sure you could fall off the cliff face and tumble to your death, but then you could fall off any cliff face that you're cycling near if your not being careful. it's not as though your hurtling towards them, or navigating through really narrow paths where any slip leads to tragedy. this is not to say that i didn't enjoy it, on the contrary it's a beautiful downhill ride, it's just when you see the amount of travellers sporting a 'death road survivor' t-shirt you realise that your not special for going from a to b.
when i first started volunteering i intended to work the required minimum two weeks and then go from there. in the end i stayed for 26 days - although this total was also more than anticipated. the reason for this, or half the reason for this, was this little creature. the other half was an animal called a lion monkey that shared the same cage. as i was heading down to hitch a ride back to la paz i saw the vet walking into the cage with food in her hand. i asked if i could join her, and spent the next 20 minutes staring at these weird creatures. the lion monkey was jumping and bouncing around the place while the owl monkey just peered out of his house. it was only after he ventured all of the way out that i realised he only had one eye, and also a fairly chubby body. i enjoyed looking and listening to these creatures so much that by the time i returned to the main area my ride had left without me. and i didn't feel any regret from choosing monkey time over leaving on time.
i took this at the mirador de yanahuara in arequipa, peru. now in spanish mirador translates as view point, and as the sun was setting i thought it would be worth walking up to it to enjoy the view. i suppose i should have guessed when the walk wasn't too steep, but i found the view was fairly disappointing. the sun was directly behind me and a big volcano called el misti wasn't in view, so all that was left was a fairly uninspiring vista of a few rooftops. maybe i've been spoiled recently, and was expecting too much, as there were enough other people there enjoying themselves. the title of the photo comes from the belisario calle quote inscribed above the archway which reads: yo quiero ser humilde como tu pueblo mio y volver cansado del trabajo cuando se hunde la luz. using my rudimentary spanish i make out it says i want to be humble like you my town and return tired from work when the light's gone down - hey i've managed to make it rhyme in english, that probably means i've translated it wrong.
i've spent the last few days editing down pictures i took whilst i was volunteering and i'm starting with my favourite monkey, and in many ways my best friend when i was volunteering, martin. before he was at the refuge his old owner used to treat him like a son by dressing him up in clothes and feeding him sugary sweets. as a result he lost some of his teeth, which meant his tongue often stuck out of his mouth. this added to his cuteness, but there were other reasons why martin was number one. he was a pretty big monkey, and thought of as being next in line to be alpha male. as a result he didn't really take any shit and was respected by the other monkeys. despite this he was still really friendly and approachable. he also loved solving puzzles, and i think of the 30 capuchins was the smartest monkey at the refuge. this intelligence culminated in me creating a super puzzle for him to solve... but that's another story for another day
a while ago i mentioned that i went for a meeting with a magazine editor in la paz with view to publishing some of my photos in the next issue. when i returned to la paz i checked into a hostel and saw the magazine on the side with my photo on the front cover. it was a good feeling. the magazine is a free, english language magazine called bolivian express - i'd met some girls who wrote for it when i went to the mines in potosi and that chance in encounter ultimately led to my photos appearing in it. the pictures were all about the aymara new year, which i witnessed and photographed in tiwanaku on winter solstice. you can read a bit more about it in the accompanying magazine article - http://www.bolivianexpress.org/magazines/10. this photo appears in the centre page spread as part of a photo essay - whatever that is. as is tradition, everyone in the crowd that gathered to welcome the new years sun raised their hands to the sky. well everyone except me who just took a bunch of pictures of them.
at the moment i'm in the peruvian city of arequipa - which sits over 2300 metres above sea level. in objective terms that's pretty high, but for me i'm really grateful that i'm this low. descending and ascending as i've left and returned to la paz messed me up a little, and then going to copacabana and lake titicaca maintained this altitude head squeeze. when i was in copacabana i read that it was worth climbing to the top of cerro calvario to see the sunset. it wasn't a long climb, but at close to 4000 metres high you can feel the oxygen depleting with every forward step. once at the top i discovered a big ass cloud between me and the dropping sun, so the promised spectacular sunset didn't really materialise. this shot of the bay and a speeding heartbeat was all i really got out of the experience.
a common way to travel from la paz to peru is to go via lake titicaca. i had already seen the peruvian side when i was there a couple of years ago, but not the bolivian side, so i set off for isla del sol. unfortunately i'd severely misjudged my monetary situation, and there were no cash machines on the island or copacabana where you get the boat from. after working out how much i needed for the boat back to the mainland, and then a ticket to peru, there was very little left in my wallet. i couldn't afford to walk from the southside to the northside of the island, a privilege that costs 15 bolivianos. nor could i afford to buy any lunch or dinner, so i had to survive on tampico and frac (juice and biscuits) for the 20 hours i spent there. despite these hardships, and when my mind wasn't on food, i still enjoyed the small bit of the island i could afford to see.
it's been over a month since i last put up a photo, probably one of the longest gaps in the sites' history. my previous shot was saying goodbye to la paz, and i took this today upon returning to the city following an 18 hour bus ride. at this point i think i've now spent more time in la paz than almost anywhere else on my travels - yes that includes you asuncion. it's not my favourite city, but it is convenient for moving on to different places. my excuse for not posting any updates in the last 4 weeks is purely down to a lack of internet access. this hardship was counterbalanced by the fact i spent most of that time volunteering (read: playing with) monkeys at an animal refuge as well as spotting other exotic animals in the pampas. i now have a plethora of primarily monkey shots that i need to look through and post - there will definitely be an animal bias in the coming weeks.
i've been in la paz for a little over three weeks now which to be honest is probably a bit too long, at least it's felt like too long as at least one of those weeks i've been ill in bed. anyways, i've recovered now and tomorrow i'm leaving town to a place nearby called coroico. it's down in the yungas which is a good few kilometres lower in altitude so i'm looking forward to the increase in temperature. while i'm there i'm going to do some volunteer work at an animal refuge called la senda verde. i've been there before, when i came to la paz a few years ago, and hung out with some monkeys after doing death road. i'm planning on travelling the same way tomorrow - downhill by bicycle - and will hopefully get to know my monkey companions a little better. i've no idea what the internet is like down there, i'm assuming not as prevalent as it is in the city, so the photo updates may well slow down. if that's the case at least it will be in the knowledge that i'll be adding to my collection of cute monkey pictures.
i've been looking through my processed pictures and trying to pick out one that i don't need to write that much about. i'm kind of struggling though, as there are at least two groups of pictures that really deserve some kind of explanation. and i'm feeling too lazy to do any explaining. in the end i settled for this shot from the second group - which i don't think particularly benefits from any context. what do you need to know... it's a dude in a hat. well to be more specific it's an aymaran dude in a hat - or should that be an aymaran dude in an aymaran hat? either way, the group keyword is aymara - and that's all i'm going to offer tonight. better photos and text will follow when i feel more loquacious.
ok, a bit more info about my hike up to huayna potosi - the 6k mountain that i climbed last week. we awoke on day two just after midnight, were roped to the guide and a partner and set off on the long, long walk. the aim was to get to the top for sunrise, although for me the main aim was just to get to the top. i couldn't really say much for the subsequent five hours, i just concentrated on shuffling my feet forward and trying to inhale as much oxygen as the mountainscape would let me. there was one occasion where we had to use our pickaxes to climb up an ice wall, and a few narrow sections with fairly substantial falls either side. the most scary of which was the ridge at the very end, which was only about a foot in width. not only was this where we were most tired, and most lacking in oxygen, but it was also the point where my crampon decided to leap off my boot. it all eventually added to the experience, and we made it to the summit to witness the sun climb above the sea of clouds and a new day being born
i've missed another day of posting and spent a second in bed feeling ill so as a result haven't got around to processing any new shots. i'm also lacking the energy or indeed motivation to write anything particularly insightful about anything i upload. in fact there's little point you visiting or reading this site today. the internet's a big place, i'm sure you can find something else to occupy your attention. when i was hanging out in asuncion a friend showed me a funny panda advert which is probably far more deserving of your time. anyways, if you are still reading this then i can tell you that i took this shot back when i was in paraguay. again, i can't really be bothered to repeat myself, so you can find a bit more context at these older posts. well, hopefully my health and this photoblog will immeasurably improve in the not too distance future, but until that time comes... be well.
there's quite a lot i could write about this photo - but unfortunately i can't right now. i've spent most of today in bed, the night before having shivery-fevered dreams, the day before that dehydrating in bed and the night before that throwing up. yeah, i'm not feeling so good. this was already processed so i figured it would be easy enough for me to stick it up and write some sympathy inducing prose. and with that done - back to bed.
two photographic happenings occurred yesterday. i went to the world press photo exhibition which is currently in la paz, and i went for a meeting with an editor about publishing some of my pictures in his magazine. whilst i'm not expecting either of those events to occur again any time soon - i've made a mental note to never combine those activities together. whilst the exhibition was moving, impressive and inspiring - showcasing award winning photojournalism from the last year - i also left feeling deflated. the quality was so much higher than my work that it filled me with self doubt and insecurity. not the frame of mind you want to be in when you're about to convince an editor to print your photos. i knew that it was an illogical reaction - of course the exhibited photos were superior - they were taken by award winning professionals. but rationality couldn't permeate my confidence. regardless i think the meeting went well so i'll keep you posted on any developments.
this here mountain is called huayna potosi, it's located about 30km out of la paz, stands at 6088m high and yesterday i climbed to the top. and i managed that with a broken crampon and laryngitis. well, that's the party line. in truth the crampon only broke twice and the laryngitis could at best be described as acute and was diagnosed by a first year med-student. furthermore, while 6088m is an accurate calculation, the mountain has also been described as one of the easiest 6k summits to reach. this is because you start at about 4700m - so the hike up and acclimatisation isn't as intense. meh - speaking very much as an non-mountaineer - "easy" is the last word i'd use. it was a long, cold, difficult, tiring hike to the summit which started at 1:45am & finished 5 hours later just before sunrise. it involved walking on snow, rocks & even a bit of ice climbing - all at an altitude where moving & breathing weren't the best of friends. still, the view & sensation of getting to the top literally took my breath away
last week i woke up in the afternoon fired up my computer to see that google was displaying a different logo on it's homepage. after further investigation i discovered that there was actually a lunar eclipse that day - which would be visible from south america. it seemed like an appropriate day to walk up to the mirador - which offers great view of the city. once there i put my headphones in, took a few pictures and then watched the sunset. as the natural light dimmed the big full moon began to rise from behind mountain illimani. it looked really cool, but after a while i began to grow impatient at the lack of eclipse. then my ipod battery died and impatience quickly progressed to boredom as the moon stubbornly refused to change shape. a more thorough investigation seemed to indicate that the eclipse would have been visible from bolivia at some point in the early afternoon - so i was always going to miss out on that, but at least i saw a cool sunset/moonrise combination.
before entering the mines in potosi each of the miners chew coca leaves. this results in a constant bulge in the side of their mouths, but more crucially it provides them with energy to keep on going. it's also supposed to help with the effects of being at a high altitude - which is helpful for gringos like me. it's particularly common amongst the indigenous population in bolivia - something that fox news can't seem to get their heads around.
one of the first things i learnt to say in spanish lessons was what i did for a living: soy disenador grafico. it's actually easier to say in spanish than it is in english. that's probably because i always try and qualify it by saying that i do print stuff, video stuff, photo stuff, multimedia stuff, web stuff until the person who asked the original question loses interest. now that i've quit my job to go travelling the answer is a lot more simple: nada.
every sunday evening in el alto, la paz tourists and locals flock to a local sports centre to witness cholitas wrestling. i don't know much about wrestling, but it seems to be a cross between american and mexican style - only a lot more amateur. there are silly costumes, corrupt referees and pantomime style cheering and jeering at the good guys and bad guys. it was probably one of the strangest events i've witnessed on my travels, the sort of theatre that's so bad it's good. amongst the characters were this wolfman, a couple of skeletons, frankenstein and of course cholitas who are bolivian women in traditional dress. the kicks and punches were laughably fake and orchestrated - although some of the jumps and falls sounded like they could have hurt. the audience were also encouraged to throw popcorn and fruit at the participants - which added a bizarre element of interactivity. all in all it was a pretty surreal sunday night.
yesterday was the gran poder festival in la paz. it's a big street party which ticks all of the usual south american boxes: costumes, music, dancing. the difference with this one is that it never seemed to end. it started early on saturday morning, and was still going strong at midnight. it was an impressive feat seeing as i only managed a couple of hours of photography until i was knackered.
i'm think i'm repeating myself here but i hate microsoft. in fact i know i'm repeating myself as the day before yesterday is about the seventh time i've had to reinstall windows on my laptop. it has been bluescreening for a few weeks and i've been growing more and more nervous about losing all of my data. it's still operating worryingly slow but at least i'm backed up as of today. i still haven't looked through any photos that i've taken in the last week, except for yesterday which is where this one is from. i took it whilst taking a break from the incessant hills and climbs that dominate la paz. at a low altitude it would be hard work, but being one of the highest cities in the world walking becomes an almost deathly pursuit.
putting modesty aside, i freaking love this photo. i don't feel arrogant saying that as i know that there was a huge element of luck involved. i took a couple of shots before this where the framing and focus weren't quite right - but managed to get it spot on after the ladies clocked me taking their picture and began to laugh about it. usually i prefer it when the subject doesn't know that their having their picture taken - natural shots always seem better than posed alternatives. then again it's the fact that their reaction was natural and spontaneous that makes the difference. i took this during an anti-racism march in the independence day celebrations in sucre, bolivia and this was by far the best placard that was on display.
i haven't stopped taking photos the last few days, i have however stopped processing them as i've got to the point where i have almost no space left on my laptop. an annoying side effect of always shooting in raw is that the large filesizes really add up. i tackled this problem yesterday by purchasing a 1TB external hard drive - or disco duro as i soon learnt - in the black market in la paz. i even used my expert haggling skills to knock $5 dollars off the price - a discount so small another customer in the shop literally found it laughable. any the consequence of all of this is that i'm posting (relatively) old shots until i've cleared out more space. this rooftop was the second that i had snuck onto that day in sucre, this time the top of a university building near the centre.
after hanging out with black jesus and watching the sunset at the top of the cerro in sucre, i made my way back down. as i did the trees cleared and the post-sunsetted sky turned a beautiful orange-red. i had my tripod with me so close to the bottom of the hill i set it up and fired off a shot. it was only after i finished that i noticed i was being observed by scary looking dog which was (almost) the size of a (small) horse. i went to make my exit and it began barking aggressively and slowly advancing towards me. i don't usually get too bothered by dogs over here, but as i was out of the centre and probably on 'his territory' i did feel threatened. my tripod was still in hand, so i waved it in his general direction as i slowly backed away. each swing resulted in the beast retreating a few steps before it realised there was little danger posed by my tripod so it soon ignored it. luckily i had already made up enough ground, so with my heart beating fast i scampered down the rest of the hill and made my escape.
this is mathias. he's the resident cat at the misnamed black cat hostel in asuncion. he looks cute, but like a lot of cats he can act like a little fucker. this unspoken truism was shared with a french dude who was also staying there. one night we were both tidying up, clearing away bottles and clearing things into the bin. he had some screwed up cigarette packets which he was aiming for, launching at and mostly missing the bin on the other side of the courtyard. it looked like fun, so i joined in and we both tried to reach our target with the fastest throw possible. mathias was stereotypically curious, so wandered out to see what we were both doing. we turned to each other, and with a telepathic nod started launching the packets at our feline enemy. while this may seem like a form of animal cruelty, i'd counter that claim by stating a) you didn't meet mathias and b) you weren't as drunk as we were.
when i was staying in asuncion i met a canadian dude who used to work as a psychologist. one morning at breakfast he explained that there was an analytical test that involved drawing and interpreting pictures - and asked if i wanted to participate. it sounded intriguing, so i agreed, and he asked me draw five pictures. these were of a house, a tree, a person, me and my family and me sitting in the rain. for the final picture i drew myself with a blank expression, sitting crosslegged with my hands wrapped around my legs as the rain came down. i didn't give a lot of thought to what i was drawing, which was kind of the point, but the fact that i was curled up tight and didn't draw an umbrella to protect me held particular significance. fast forward a month and i saw this spider monkey in almost the exact same pose. all that was missing was the ipod what i had drawn myself listening to... i think i would have been too freaked out if i had seen that as well.
there's an argument to say that touring a working mine is a little exploitative - any guilt was abated by the fact that a portion of the money spent on the tour goes directly to the mining community. in addition to this the tour guides were all ex-miners and the tour begins at the miners' market where you buy gifts for the miners. these gifts would vary from cigarettes, (96%) alcohol, coca leaves, juice and even dynamite. each of these served different purposes. the dynamite helped them get to the minerals which would take hours and hours by hand. the coca leaves were chewed by every miner and provided them with energy to keep on going. the juice provided not only essential refreshment, but also essential sugar and nutrients as none of the miners would eat during their shifts. at first the alcohol and cigarettes seemed like the strangest present but the way that i saw it was that if you had to face going down to hell for more than 12 hours a day, you'd need something to take the edge off.
i was planning to leave sucre after two weeks, but i decided to stay one more day. the main reason for this was because i wanted to walk up to the mirador to see the sunset. i arrived a little early, so instead of sitting and waiting i thought i'd see if i could get to a higher vantage point. there's a hill just behind the mirador which looks out over the city, and after a little exploration i found a path which lead to the top. i was a little disappointed to discover that the view at the top was obscured by hundreds of trees - effectively offering a less impressive view than the lower mirador. there was a statue of jesus christ at the top which at least served as a somewhat satisfying destination. whilst this religious effigy is fairly common in south america - what made this one different was the choice to depict the big man as black instead of white. i don't know whether this was a concious decision which had any particular significance, but it did make my like the city that bit more.
yesterday i went on a mine tour in cerro rico in potosi, an excursion where you go inside a working bolivian mine with truly archaic working practices. afterwards when i was back in the town centre another company tried to sell me their tour. i explained that i had just returned from one, which they countered by offering me their version for free. so i've now come back from a second day in the mines - and as fascinating as it was i can honestly say if i meet another guide who offers to pay me to go on a third tour, i'd turn it down. i feel dirty, tired, sore and full of toxic chemicals. and also full of respect, admiration and wonder at the bolivians who work there every day.
i took this shot almost five months ago, but forgot about getting around to processing it until now. it was back when i was in buenos aires and is a hdr stitch of five photos. i took it from the top of palacio baralo which is a 100 metre high building in the centre of the city. it's a working building, full of offices, but i took a tour around and found it really interesting. the architect based the design on the divine comedy, and divided it into three sections: hell, purgatory and heaven. there are references to this, and other elements of dante's tome, dotted all around the building which made it more than just an awesome spot to get a view of the city. having said that, it was still an awesome spot to get a view of the city.
during my visit to the pantanal a group of us went fishing for piranhas. the trip kinda summed up my experience in the pantanal, as whilst the day before a couple of kids had caught a whole school of them, we got bugger all. it was a recurring theme that i kept missing out on spotting cool animals, that everyone else managed to see. this was only the second time i've ever been fishing, the first being back in uruguay last year. despite the absence of piranhas i am pleased to report that i maintained my 100% record by catching this little guy. as i recall he was a snakehead, and yes he was as small as he looks, so i just had time for a quick snap before chucking him back in.
a couple of days ago i got accepted into a club. an online music club. a secret online music club that i can't really talk about. it's a website that a friend introduced me to a few years ago and was a brilliant source for discovering new music. unfortunately too many users didn't respect the secrecy of it all and it decided to turn into a members-only site. i was denied an invitation at the time, and had just about come to terms with it's absence from my life when got word a few days ago that they were opening their doors again. i just need to move out of bolivia and to a country that has a decent internet connection to take advantage. anyways, i've probably already said too much so i'll stop typing now.
i suspect with a title like this i'll probably get a few disappointed visitors who might find this on google. in fact, i'm too scared to type it in myself for fear of the sites and images that will appear. it also will almost certainly do irrevocable damage to my search history - and would be tough to explain to anyone that might see it on my computer. yeah... some doors are best left unopened.
i always find it easier to take street photos of people when they have their eyes closed - i feel a lot less self concious. i can empathise with this bolivian fruit seller right now. i had a fairly big night out last night and only a few hours sleep before feasting on a pique a lo macho. that's a traditional bolivian dish which consists of a huge plate of beef, sausages, onions, chips along with egg and chilli. it's usually just called pique, but the macho part is added to the big portions because that's what you are if you finish the whole plate. i'm clearly not a real man as i only managed a little over half before i had to retire to bed. i've now got about 2 hours of rest before i'm up again to play wallyball - which is essentially indoor volleyball where you can hit the ball against the walls. i played it a few days ago and it was good fun, i'm not sure how much fun it will be while nursing a hangover and carrying a bellyful of pique. i guess i'll find out.
i spotted this working family while on a 7 hour hike in samaipata. it was supposed to be 5 hours, but we got lost a couple of times. it's always strange when you see people who come from, and have, a completely different lifestyle to your own. growing up in a rich, western country i couldn't imagine living and working in such simple conditions like this. yet it's not unusal to discover that those who do are often a lot more content than those of us who have 'more'. i guess it's all about what you grow up with - and a change from that inevitably seems alien and often less satisfying. like when crocodile dundee went to new york. ahem. either that or these guys just think they don't need anything else to be happy... clearly they haven't experienced the joy of a playstation 3.
i took this from the same government building as this city vista. in fact that photo was taken from the top, right hand ledge. after that we went inside the central dome type structure and climbed a creaky, windy staircase up to the flagpole. with cameras hanging around our necks, we definitely didn't look like we belonged there, but no one gave us any hassle. i think that was because we acted like we were supposed to be there - which seems to go a long way in fooling people. perhaps a risky strategy as there were guards who had guns with swords on the end at the entrance - but it was worth the exploration.
i've been pretty consistent in updating this site the last few weeks - however i've just come back from the pub with ten minutes to go and realised that i haven't posted a photo today. that's what i get for taking an afternoon nap i suppose. anyways here's a photo that i haven't got a great deal to talk about - which seems apt seeing as i haven't got much time to write anything. i took it outside a church in concepcion in paraguay. i had just arrived and it caught my eye whilst walking around looking for somewhere to eat. and that's all i've got to say - now time for bed.
on the weekend there was a big race through the streets of sucre. there were dudes on motorbikes, quad bikes and rally cars - and a lot of the town were lining the streets to watch them go by. i took this just before i went to the pub to see the champions league final, and whilst i didn't know who was in the lead, it was still fun to watch. some folks had less fun as later on i learnt there was a crash which killed at least one spectator and hospitalised a few others. i'm glad that i found out about that after i edged closer and closer with my wide angle lens.
i took this at a place called el fuerte in samaipata, some pre-ican ruins in the bolivian andes. it's actually got an interesting history - as it was used by both pre-incas (called chane), incas and the spaniards. the main reason that i went up to see it was for the views, however as you can see from this the fog was pretty thick that day so the vistas never presented themselves. still, it was good to get some exercise and it made me appreciate the returning sun the following day.
i've been staying in the (constitutional) capital of bolivia, sucre, for just over a week now and i love the place. there's something really relaxed, elegant and unpretentious here which puts you at ease and makes you want to slow down and stick around. it's a city that used to (and maybe still does) have a lot of money, and that's reflected in the grand white buildings that are dotted all around the centre. i'd say that it doesn't seem that bolivian, but after spending time in the affluent santa cruz and the indolent samaipata i don't think you can really pin down what that means. i took this from the top of a government building on the main plaza called prefectura de chuquisaca. it's an impressive building from the outside, so me and a mate thought we'd see if we could explore the inside. despite an armed presence at the doors we managed to sneak inside, and then kept on climbing a series of successive staircases until we found ourselves next to the flag pole at the top with and awesome view of the city.
today is the last big event in the (european) footballing calendar, the champions league final, so it seems an appropriate day for a footballing picture. this was from last months match between cerro porteno and santos and shows an innovation which as far as i know hasn't made it across the ocean. when a freekick was conceeded the referee would walk ten yards and then spray a temporary line on the pitch to indicate the closest distance where the wall could stand. almost every freekick i've ever seen involves the wall edging closer than the designated ten yards, sometimes only by a few inches, and other times to a ridiculous degree. with a visible line on the pitch it makes it that much harder for the wall to seek that unfair advantage. i can't think of any downside and hope that it makes its way over to england. and on that note - vamos barca!
i can only assume that kids in bolivia are built of stronger stuff than me. this child could hardly contain his enthusiasm as he bounded towards quite possibly the scariest clown this side of lake titicaca. i, on the otherhand, took a quick snap and ran as far away from the big-footed freak as possible. i can't speak for the fate of the little boy, but you have to look after yourself in a situation like that.
one comment that every traveller makes at some point or other is that they wished they had packed less stuff. from squeezing it all into the rucksack, to lugging around towns to various bus stations and hostels, it always feels too heavy. i can't help but feel jealous when i see people getting by with half of what i have. on the flipside, one item that i can never wrap my head around people bringing with them is a guitar. don't get me wrong, i like it when they do as it can create a really cool atmosphere - assuming they can actually play it - but logistically it just seems like it would be a massive hassle. this french-canadian dude trumped the acoustic guitar when he pulled out a shisha pipe from his bag. i really don't know how you can go around from place to place carrying such a large, awkward, fragile object - but he managed it so you can't help but respect that. oh, and he had an acoustic guitar as well.
yeah, i couldn't resist and went for an immature title for this photo. i usually go for a (not always) obscure song lyric to accompany my shots, this month pooling from bright eyes, death cab for cutie, neil young, coldplay, radiohead and r.e.m.. i couldn't think of any lyrical reference, vague or otherwise, to go along with this, so reached for the lowest common denominator instead.
in contrast to my last monkey picture - this baby primate seemed to be a lot happier. having said that i don't know what to read into his eyes - is it surprise, confusion, horror? i'm going for surprise. either way he's pretty goddamn cute. i think everyone wanted to take him home as a pet - probably with the intention of training him up like mojo. or maybe that's just me. talking of pets i was staying in a hostel in santa cruz last week that had a pet toucan called simon. now that was cool - even if he did have a penchant for biting.
there were literally hundreds of fans that took to the streets after cerro porteno beat olimpia in the local derby a few weeks ago. most of them were either packed into cars or piled on top of motorbikes - and were content with driving up and down the main street honking their horns. i was amazed that i didn't witness any accidents - particularly as the drivers and riders were more focused on celebrating with each other than looking at where they were going. most motorbikes had at least three people on them - pumping their fists in the air or waving big flags disconcertingly close to the back wheel. most of the cars were packed to the brim like this with the driver sipping on a can of beer. yeah, you'd have to be pretty foolish to get in and join them.
a couple of nights ago i played risk for the first time in probably 15-20 years. i think when i played it before it was just on the computer - and i soon learnt it's a very different experience playing with real humans. particularly when two of those humans are really into it. if you haven't played it, the simplified rules involve placing your armies on different countries and then rolling dice to determine if you can successfully invade and claim your opponents countries. the non-simplified rules start to get really confusing. the best part of the game is the internal politics involved. you can't attack everyone at once, so you end up forming alliances with your opponents. the game rolled on for hours, and we got kicked out of the pub before we had a chance to finish. i was hanging onto oceania and most of south america at the time, but america was dominant, fucking over africa and making strides to the middle east. i'll leave it to you to draw any real world parallels there.
i thought i would have another look at my photos from tanarandy after complaining about the lack of successful shots. i ended up pleasantly surprised to find that a few more came out than i had first thought. i think this shot is probably one of the best in terms of setting the scene and atmosphere. all that is missing are the torches that people were holding in their hands - however it does include a young paraguayan girl carrying a flask of terere. this is similar to mate but served cold, which makes more sense to me in the south american heat. like mate in argentina, everyone in paraguay seems to drink this and therefore awkwardly carry it around in a huge flask. i'm not knocking it though - it's the shit when it comes to hangovers - a medicine which was regularly administered during my time in paraguay.
a few days ago i went to an animal refuge in the small bolivian town of samaipata. it had a similar vibe to the monkey sanctuary i went to a couple of years ago in la paz - with most of the animals roaming free. we went to have a closer look at this monkey, when she swung towards us and jumped into the arms of one of my friends. she looked sad, and clearly wanted either attention or affection. when we spoke to one of the staff members we learnt why - her partner had died a week earlier and she was still grieving. cue sympathetic sighs from everyone around and a maternal instinct to provide as much comfort as we could offer.
typical conversation i've had this month:
- so i'm thinking of going to paraguay
- oh i've been there, i was in asuncion for almost 3 weeks
- 3 weeks, wow, you must of liked it
- er, yeah
- so what can you do there?
- er, well there's this hostel
- and this table
- and, uh, that's pretty much what i saw.
- it was fun
- so i'm thinking of skipping paraguay
truth is, i did manage to leave the hostel a handful of times. i went to the market, a football match and a concert. i saw a storm from the top of a bar and took a bus to a big lake. i also went on this boat ride along the river. well, i was in a bigger boat than this guy, but it was the same river. the golden hue was all in my head - which you could say, along with the title, is an analogy for my time asuncion - but i think it looks better this way.
ok, i feel a little bit bad about putting this up, i think i would have struggled to take a less flattering portrait. but in my defence, i don't think she'll ever see this website, so that makes it ok - right? besides who doesn't have a root around every now and then. it's nothing to be ashamed of. hell, it can be pretty satisfying. i think most people wouldn't do it on the street where there are a bunch of tourists with cameras. having said that i was in a car at the time. with a telephoto lens. we drove off a few seconds later so i'm afraid i can't answer the question which you're all thinking. if i had to guess i'd give her the benefit of the doubt and say she chose to flick it instead of eat it.
it is a couple months shy of two years ago that i tentatively began the transition from shooting jpg to shooting raw. i was far from convinced that this strange, bloated file format was worth the trouble. now i don't even think twice about it, and become frustrated when i use my compact camera and have to deal with the jpgs it produces. thing is, i don't think that shooting raw has made me a better photographer. on the contrary, if anything it has made me more lazy. i never give much thought to the colours that display on my camera, knowing i can adjust the white balance afterwards. similarly i don't stress about getting the exposure perfect, as i know i have the flexibility to make some adjustments to this in post production. consequently the gap between the original photos i take and the final result has widened - which doesn't really bother me as long as i'm happy with the final result. for me, switching to raw was as significant as the first time i got a manual-controlled camera or even my digital slr.
with the exception of cup finals, the last time i recall seeing fireworks at a football match was when arsenal played wigan five years ago. and that was because it was the final day of the season and we were saying goodbye to our old stadium. these fireworks were set off before cerro porteno played santos in a copa libertadores group match in asuncion. a group match. the quality on the pitch was superior to that of river and boca, the only other south american match i've seen, particularly santos who look like they would be tough to beat. the atmosphere was as i've now come to expect in this continent - whilst never reaching the heights of the superclasico (what could?) - there was still a passion and relentless energy in the support that you'll never see in england.
ok hands up who's getting a bit bored of these star trail shots that i keep putting up. anyone? well that's too bad, cos i still enjoy taking them. i like that when you start the exposure, you have no real idea how the finished photo will look. i took this on my trip to the pantanal in brazil. in fact it was from the same sort of position as my sun-blinded effort - only about (a day and) 2 hours later. seems kind of crazy that, within two hours you go from daylight to starlight, from falling sunlight to falling moonlight. that's what that bright light is dropping into the water in the centre of the frame - a thin crescent that didn't stick around for too long. the night before we had gone on a night drive and passed bigger, cleaner bodies of water which held perfect reflections of the stars above. i'd have loved to have taken a photo of that, but i didn't like the idea of being by myself, surrounded by nocturnal beasts in a pitchblack wetland. the things i don't do for you.
while watching the football celebrations take place on the streets of concepcion i got chatting to a dude and his friends, shared some beers and then got invited to go for a drive. my instincts told me to say no, as the driver was knocking back cans of lager. the devil on my shoulder told me that i'd have more fun if i got in the car than staying on the street so i got inside. the only time i began to fear for my safety was when he was talking about something which i could not translate. he looked to me in the backseat, asking if i understood, and after mulling it over i decided to go for honesty and said no. he then proceeded to turn his whole body to face me, with his foot still on the pedal, and took his hands off the wheel as he gesticulated trying to get his point across. his girlfriend in the passenger seat grabbed the wheel in an attempt to keep the car straight, and i kept on saying si in the hope that would appease him and send him back to the orthodox driving position.
a couple of nights ago i went out for a meal in a local bolivian restaurant with an israeli, a kiwi and a swiss - that last one doesn't read quite right. anyways we started talking politics, more specifically israeli politics, even more specifically about the flotilla incident which happened last year. what made this debate particularly entertaining for me were the characters involved. the kiwi guy was loud, the swiss girl was loquacious and the israeli guy was stubborn. the israeli guy was, perhaps unsurprisingly, adamant that israel were 100% in the right. the kiwi guy largely concurred. the swiss girl did not. after hearing the different arguments i tended to side more with her. so often traveller's conversations consist of 'have you been to this beach/waterfall/mountain?' it was refreshing to deviate from the standard script. i have my doubts whether the others would concur - but i got a kick out of the heated banter.
i arrived in concepcion late on a saturday night, and the next day i walked around town to find it resembled a ghost town. almost all the shops were closed, almost all the streets were empty, there was nothing happening at all. i decided to book my ticket out of town for the next morning. walking back from the bus station i began to see more people, and hear more noise, until i got to the main road and saw hundreds of paraguayans racing down on their motorbikes, honking there horns and waving flags. it didn't take me too long to realise that they were football fans, and upon further investigation cerro porteno fans who had just beaten their local rivals olimpia. for what i could gather they hadn't won a cup, they hadn't won the league, they'd just won one match - but the whole city were out on the streets celebrating like it was the pinnacle of their season. it's a sporting passion that seems to be uniquely south american, and in complete contrast to the quietude i'd experienced earlier in the day.
does this remind anyone else of metal gear solid? it's a long shot, and my memory is characteristically hazy so i may be misremembering the whole thing. but i'm sure there's a sequence in either the first, or more likely the second (playstation) game, where you have to negotiate your way along walkways that are suspended above water - i think with hal's sister - while a sniper takes shots at you. or maybe you are the sniper trying to protect her. or maybe i'm making the whole thing up? if this sounds familiar to anyone, then a confirmation would help me feel a little less crazy. either way i do have fond memories from my second year at uni where i would stay up all night playing the game. if that sounds sad, then what was worse was my mate would stay up all night and watch me play - i don't quite understand what thrill can be derived from that. despite my fractured memories, i still think it's the best computer game ever made.
after an increasingly malcontent time in asuncion, and then a night spent locked inside a sex motel, i arrived to laguna blanca at a low ebb. my head wasn't in a good space and my mood was dark and down. these thoughts began to dissipate when the night drew in. i lay on the shores of the laguna, underneath the stars, and read a really nice email that i had received that evening. my mood lifted, and i started to feel emotions that had been in hiding the last couple of weeks - peace, serenity and hope. as the galaxies looked on i set another long exposure going, switched my ipod touch from mail to music, and clung onto the feeling that everything was going to be alright.
the journey from asuncion to laguna blanca required staying the night in the small, sleepy town of santa rosa. there were no obvious hotels or hostels near the bus terminal, so i asked a couple of locals who recommended i hop on a mototaxi and go to sol y luna motel. it didn't take me long to notice that this was a different level of accommodation than i was used to in south america. for a start it charged by the hour, this complimentary condom was on the bedside table and the television could only pick up the playboy channel. when i went to walk outside i saw that the gate outside my front door was locked. i pounded on the metal to get the attention of the dude who was working there and asked why i was locked inside. he told me that it was for my own security, and if i needed anything i should use the phone in my room. i did so when i grew hungry and food was delivered through a hatch in the back door. the kicker, as if anything was left to the imagination, was the subtitle to the motel: el castillo del amor
when i mentioned last week that i struggled with taking good photos in april, my trip to tanarandy was in mind. it was my first proper trip outside of asuncion in almost three weeks - and it should have been perfect for photos. however i think a combination of being a bit rusty, along with low light and a lens that i still struggle to focus with, meant that a lot of the photos that i saw in my head didn't transfer to my camera screen. if i were to look for excuses, then i'd say my camera is partly responsible. i shot this at an iso of 800, which i think just about gives acceptable results. however when pushed up to 1600 and hi 1 the noise and grain is overwhelming. i found balancing the iso, aperture and shutter speed problematic and ended up with far too many shots that were either too dark or too blurry. at work last year i worked on photos someone else had taken with a canon 40d and was really impressed with the results taken at a high iso. is it too late to ask for a camera upgrade for my birthday?
there are many reasons why i stayed in asuncion for over 3 weeks but if i were to absolve responsibility then i'd place the blame squarely at the foot of this table. it witnessed dizzying highs, lonesome lows and a tenacious ambivalence that was both seductive and destructive. there were several unspoken, but widely adhered to rules at the table. the only really acceptable reasons to leave the table were to go to a pub, club or restaurant - or to buy alcohol to bring back to the table. going to bed was permitted, but only during daylight hours. in fact even seeking shelter during rainstorms was frowned upon. for me it was like being at a party with all the doors locked. you don't care when you're enjoying yourself, but stay there long enough and that feeling shifts to tedium and then entropy. if you're in the club when the music stops and the lights come up, the night has not gone to plan. it took me 24 days to escape to the cold, tranquil reality of the north, singing i am free, i am free, i am freezing.
in general i haven't been too happy with the photos i've taken this month. after saturday night i didn't really mind though - putting modesty aside - i freaking love this photo. after seeing it back it got me thinking how this reflects on my skills. to bring the modesty back to the table, i think that this shot is more about luck and tools than it is about technique and vision. it would be impossible to get a shot that looks like this without a wide angle lens, remote control and to an extent a tripod. i was lucky that halfway through a dude walked down the beach with a torch, creating a cool lighttrail. and of course lucky that i had such a beautiful sky above me. i still had no idea that i'd end up with a photo that looked like this. the only real skill was pointing the camera in the right direction, and selecting the best settings for the exposure. but i guess you could apply that logic to any photo you take. meh - what does it matter - the end result is more important than the journey to get there.
during the few weeks that i spent in asuncion i kind of took a break from photography. i still took the odd photo, but nowhere near the amount that i usually do, and usually not very successfully. for whatever reason i was lacking both motivation and inspiration. when i did make the effort i found it really hard to get any shots that i liked. i don't know if this means that i should keep on shooting regularly to make sure that i keep up my game, or whether a break is necessary to recharge my batteries. i guess it's open for interpretation, but i'm happy to accept that i'm gonna have bad days. this photo was taken on my second trip to mercardo 4 - a huge labyrinthine market in asuncion. most of it is outside, and they stretch coloured tarpaulin from stall to stall to protect against the sun. this creates a really nice effect of colour and light underneath. my first journey there was, photographically speaking, a disaster, but i was glad that i returned and felt more satisfied after this visit.
after being in asuncion for around three weeks, yesterday was the first day that i actually felt inspired to go out and take pictures. i'm not exactly sure what the trigger was, i think it was starting to feel wrong not using my camera, and a waste considering how much time i have spent in the city. i walked around the city to places that i had been before, and found it strange (in a good way) how i'd notice certain things that i would usually ignore. suddenly the whole city became a lot more interesting. this groom was hanging about outside a wedding suit type shop, with his bride on the other side of the doorway. i preferred the image of the dude as it made me thing of the guy from men in black that has the regenerating head. a little bit.
growing up in the uk i'm used to the normal christian traditions around the holidays, y'know like santa claus and the easter bunny. easter is a particularly unspectacular holiday - nothing really happens in england except you have more time off work and you eat a lot of chocolate eggs. don't get me wrong, i think more weekends should be like that, but in terms of religious celebrations i can't think of anything that special. certainly not when i compare to different countries where it becomes more of a party. paraguay seems to be on the interesting end of the scale, or at least tanarandy where i went on good friday. they had a big procession down a street lined with candles and big fire torches. loads of people had little fire torches which they were holding aloft as some dude paraded down the road. loads of paraguayans travelled to this small village and it really felt like a celebration. not that i knew what they were celebrating as it was all in spanish and guarani, but everyone seemed to have fun.
today seems like an appropriate day for a jesus themed photo. this was a windshield of a truck in the salar. i'm not sure what came first, the sticker of christ or the (apparent) bullethole, but it doesn't look like the saviour was doing much saving that day.
there are some songs i like, either for the melody or the lyrics, that i have no idea what they're about. odalisque by the decemberists is one of those songs. the lyrics don't all seem to make sense together, but they're still good and the melody ties them together. i particularly like the stanza:
and what do we do with ten dirty Jews
a thirty-aught full of rock salt and a warm afternoon?
what do we do?
what do we do?
no clue how that fits into the song, but it works.
i tried hard, boy how i tried, to find this lake. in theory it's simple, two buses and you're there. last week i attempted it and ended up missing the bus terminal. twice. when i finally arrived i couldn't find where to get the next bus and ended up returning to the hostel. yesterday i tried again, and this time managed to arrive ok. the problems occurred on the return leg when once again the bus i took missed the terminal. i was the last person on the bus, and had to explain to the bus driver that i wanted to get to the bus station. i could barely understand a word he said back to me - the only ones that got through were aca which means here and lejos which means far away - not a good combination. a change of bus later and i got dropped off on the edge of the centre and had to walk back to the hostel. i must have spent at least 4 times the amount of time either waiting for or riding on a bus compared to the time i spent at the lake - so no matter how this photo turned out it was always going to get uploaded.
there's a bar that i've been to a few times in paraguay called planta alta. each thursday and saturday night they have live music, jazz and bossa nova respectively. the bands are good and the bar is pretty cool as well, it doubles as an art gallery and also has a ping pong table and roof terrace. last thursday we were all sat on the terrace when we got distracted by flashing lights in the distance. turned out there were a few really localised storms sparking off around us. it looked amazing, and lasted for hours. annoyingly i had run out of space on my memory card, so had to keep deleting photos one by one before i could take a new one. this became particularly difficult as these storm flashes occurred at random, so it was hard to get the timing right. this was an early, knee-balanced attempt which probably turned out best. after i took it a mate from barcelona said it was "the best fucking picture i've seen in my life" - we were all under the influence but i'm still pocketing that compliment.
i once went dressed up as v (from vendetta) for a halloween party. i think everyone else found it very difficult to speak to me as i had a permanent creepy smile on my mask. it's pretty disconcerting to attempt any form of conversation and to be met with the same expression. i can't claim to have had the best costume that night though, my mate made a frank (from donnie darko) costume from scratch and even went as detailed to get a contact lens for the weird eye effect. it looked both scary and awesome in equal measures.
this is the vehicle that we took on the trip from san pedro de atacama in chile to uyuni in bolivia. actually that's a lie, this is the 4x4 that took us to the salt flats from uyuni. similar car, but the crucial difference was that this one broke down - leaving us stranded in the desert and having to walk to a nearby town. that makes it sound far more dramatic than it was - but i was pretty hungry at the time and we were down to our last packet of biscuits - so things were getting a little desperate.
i realise that i've made mention of this before - but i've just recently rediscovered a song that perfectly fits into the happy/sad genre that i like so much. it's another grandaddy number, from which i stole the title for this photo. what i like about it is how the last verse strides the gap between fond reminiscing and melancholic yearning, all with an unexpected and interesting melody.
you wrote me little letters and,
you brought me lunch that time,
at my work and that poem you left,
on my windshield wrapped in plastic,
to protect it from the rain.
this picture has been in my archives for a couple of months now. i liked it when i first processed it, but then keep changing my mind every other time i look at it. in the end i found the back and forth too confusing so i thought i'd just upload the shot and be done with it. plus the title gives me licence to link to the pixar movie of the same name. which in turn means i can link to an even better pixar short, possibly my favourite, called presto. so if you don't like the photo at least you got two cartoons out of your visit.
tarija is the wine capital of bolivia, in a country that isn't exactly world renowned for it's production of vino. when i went to visit the bodegas i understood why - the wine was pretty bad. i will qualify that by saying that i am far from a connoisseur, and also i think i was pretty spoilt when visited the wineries in mendoza. despite this we had a good time at casa vieja as we got chatting to a few friendly bolivians. our plan of visiting a handful of bodegas stuttered and we ended up spending the afternoon there draining multiple tumblers. things get a bit hazy from that point onwards.
a couple of days ago i went to my first proper gig in over half a year since i've been travelling. the deftones of all people were playing in asuncion of all places. pretty random but i didn't hesitate to get tickets. i've seen them once before, quite a few years ago, although i don't have particularly fond memories of that gig. i had to buy two overpriced tickets from a tout outside after mine were nicked somewhere between kings cross and wembley. in that gig they were supported by a perfect circle, whose lead singer did guest vocals on my favourite deftones song: passenger. i was convinced that they'd team up and knock out a version, but they didn't. despite arriving quite a few hours late i still enjoyed them this time around. it was fairly surreal being surrounded by paraguayan fans singing along in english. my late arrival had the unintended consequence that i recognised almost every song which the band then played - and i finally got me my rendition of passenger as well. good start to a good night.
this was the other side of the piles of salt, and about an hour earlier, when i went to the salt flats in bolivia. we all had to wake up pretty early, in a hostel without running water, to get to the salar in time for sunrise. i only started to properly wake up when we were driving on the lake and i could see the dawn colours breaking out of the sky. when we got to this spot i didn't know where to turn as every angle looked amazing. good times.
i'm going to hold my hands up straight away and say that this photo has benefited from photoshop manipulation. whilst it's normal for me to play around with the colours, as well as rotating and cloning out dust spots, i went a step further this time. i liked the crop of the three flying flamingos, but the middle one wasn't centred enough for my symmetrical sensibilities. through my eyes it looked better to have an even gap between each of the flighted birds, so i nudged the middle guy to the right and painted in the lake behind him. as a result i can't really defend myself from accusations that this photo is a fake. but a balanced and self-admitted fake is better to me than the off centre reality.
i don't really know what this is. i know that i took the picture on my trip to the salt flats, shortly after taking a dip in a natural thermal bath, and then watching smoke billow out from the ground. i think maybe i was at a geyser, i couldn't say for sure. i was just mesmerized by watching the patterns bubble out of the liquid, similar to the flames that were licking the rosario air. i'm easily distracted.
after i went to salar de uyuni i travelled south to a town called tupiza. i didn't really know what there was to do there, and took a horse riding trip to a nearby canyon. whilst there i met an english dude who had made the journey by foot instead of horse, and then climbed to the top of the canyon. he described the walk and view in such glowing terms that i decided to delay my departure and return the next day. what followed was a difficult and tiring walk that was immensely rewarding. there was a lot of clambering over rocks, and at it's hardest point a really steep climb up really loose rocks in the searing sun. i persevered upwards and when i made it to the top the view was as brilliant as i'd been promised. i couldn't enjoy it for too long as we saw storm clouds in the distance that were heading our way, so we had to make a quicker descent. this was one of the snaps i took on the way back down, as i was trying to keep ahead of the imminent rain.
i don't know what comes to mind when you look at this photo, but the first thing that i think of is chocolate brownies. i think maybe it's the texture. and i think maybe it's because i'm really hungry, and a warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream would go down a treat. i'm not sure how easy it'll be to find that in paraguay - but i'm up for the challenge...
...well four hours after writing that i've just returned from bolsi with a nine grand brownie... it was seriously worth every guarani
this was one of the many cool natural sights, like the palindromic lake, in between san pedro de atacama and the salar. it's called arbol de piedra which translates as stone tree - for obvious reasons. i forget how the rocks came to exist in these weird shapes, something to do with volcanic erosion maybe, but it's a really unusual sight - particularly in the middle of a seemingly barren desert. me gusta.
it's pretty difficult to be anything other than positive when you see a sight like this: the world's largest salt flat in bolivia. i saw this on the third day of my trip from san pedro de atacama in chile to bolivia and it was the main reason for taking the trip. hell, it was one of the reasons that i wanted to travel in south america in the first place. i'd seen an argentinian salt flat the month before, but what makes this place unique is the scale of it that stretches on for miles out to the horizon. i was told before i booked the tour that there had been a lot of rainfall, and some parts of the salar were inaccessible because of flooding. i took this to be bad news, thinking that i would be missing out. the opposite was true, as a result of all of the standing water the salt flat was transformed into a giant mirror - creating reflections that made this alien landscape look truly awesome.
those that know me know that i'm not really one for making plans. in terms of a plan whilst travelling, it could be broken down as wanting to go to every country in south america. having started in brazil, and performed (very wobbly) semi circle by going down to uruguay and argentina and then up argentina and chile, i found myself in south bolivia. literally not metaphysically. here i was faced with a choice: to paraguay or to not paraguay. i think i can say with confidence that i'm yet to meet any travellers in this continent that have been to paraguay. it seems to be a country that everyone misses out, including those that write the guidebooks. whilst this would seem to indicate that there is no good reason to go there, for me it makes it more intriguing. plus the completest inside of me would be annoyed at a paraguayian shaped hole if i went to all the other countries. so i booked a bus ticket and went for it - next stop ascuncion
i met a dude in buenos aires who while looking at photos on my laptop he castigated me for my screen setup. i had the gamma pushed up, which he explained artificially brightened everything, making everything look grey instead of black and white. after a few tweaks he remedied things and the contrast and look was markedly different. the problem with this change is that i imagine most people who look at my photos online will be with computers that have the gamma pushed up. despite being told this is wrong, it means that most people will view my photos in the wrong way. that means if i process them in the right way i'll be one of the only ones to see that result. this came to mind when editing this photo, i got it looking how i wanted, with a nice contrast, silhouette and shadow. then out of curiosity i viewed it with my old, gamma-ridden settings and it all looked faded and washed out. let's just say if you don't think this photo is any good - blame it on the gamma.
aah - don't you hate it when you don't heed your own advice. i've always liked and used apple macs - only using pcs when it became a necessity. however before going travelling, against my better judgement, i bought a new pc laptop. there were a few reasons for this, not least the price, but i'm regretting it now. i've already had to rip out and replace the hard drive, and yesterday was the sixth time in as many months that i've had to reinstall the operating system. in techincal terms - it's a piece of shit. i know macs aren't perfect, but i'm confident i'd have a lot less trouble if i had a macbook instead of a dell. one consequence of the reinstall is that i can't open itunes - as my installer is older than the version i was last using. this means i have to download a 77mb file... in an internet cafe... in bolivia. it kinda feels like apple are both sticking their middle finger up and saying i told you so, or rather you told you so.
i'm in a new country now, which is responsible for my lack of recent updates. bolivia seems like an amazing place, unfortunately the internet connection doesn't match the quality of the people and place. whenever i used to check into hostels my first question would be to ask if there was wifi, however over here that question is more often than not met with laughter. another factor in the lack of online activity is my piece of shit laptop which annoyingly seems to be misbehaving again and crashes with worrying regularity. as a result i'm still yet to process any shots i've taken in this country - so argentina will have to hold the fort until i can work through my problems. this was taken at the street party/carnival in general guemes.
on my first night in san pedro de atacama i went out with my camera and tripod looking for a good spot to get a picture of the stars. despite it being a beautiful, cloudless night i still struggled. this was mainly because the moon was so big and bright, and there was a surprisingly large number of street lights. after walking for about fifteen minutes i found a spot in what seemed to be someone's driveway. i pointed the camera away from the moon, and set about taking a long exposure. i opted for manual focus, and when i returned to look at the result i found an amazing but blurry pattern. so i decided to try again last night, went back to the same location, and this time managed to 'trick' the auto focus into working using the light from my ipod. i used my remote to open the shutter, and then listened to tunes from my ipod for 30 minutes until the shutter closed again. this is the result, how lucky that i found a chilean driveway that happened to face due south.
i've had a bit of a nightmare day with technology, but still thought it a good time to update the look of the site. it's been a while since i've done a major revision, and i was getting a bit bored of the old look - so welcome version 5. while the look is a little different, the functionality is largely similar. i guess the two major changes is the removal of the slideshow function. it never worked quite as i would have liked, so i want to improve this before i bring it back. my favourite new addition, which actually existed in older versions, but not the last one, is the option to view the site with a white or black background. you can do this by clicking the links in the top right under the trees. in general i think photos work better with a black background - but you can be the judge of that. there may be a few bugs that exist, i've just arrived in a desert, so i can't really test as thoroughly as i should. here's hoping it doesn't all fall apart at the seams:
after posting a recent waterfall shot and bemoaning about the lack of iguazu pictures, i decided to go back and look at the photos i'd taken when i was there last september. i had hoped for a good one of garganta del diablo - which is probably the most impressive fall there. unfortunately i didn't have my wide angle lens at that time, so the pictures didn't quite turn out as i'd hoped. i think either that, or a helicopter, would have dramatically improved my images. whilst the devil's throat is the star of the park, what makes the argentinian side superior to the brazilian side is the number of falls, and the fact you can get a lot closer to them. i arrived there just after lunch and was one of the last to leave as the whole area was so spectacular and beautiful. it was on my list of must-see places when i came to south america and it lived up to my high expectations.
a couple of months ago i mentioned that at the end of last year i entered into a couple of online photo competitions. from the first competition my beach soccer shot was included in a list of 18 highly commended images. the other competition was the sony world photography awards, and again whilst i didn't win, i did get a commendation. i'm prouder of this as the competition seems more prestigious and the numbers are more flattering. there were over 50,000 entries in the open (non-professional) competition, and my los torres shot was included in the top 50 (or from my count 34) in the travel category. in addition the other shots are all very impressive, so it feels good to be in such attractive company. i received an email today asking for a higher resolution version, as it's also going to be included in the 2011 Sony World Photography Awards Winner's Book. again i'd have preferred the $5000 grand prize, but i'm happy enough with a page in a book.
updates have been a little bit irregular the last couple of weeks as i've been busy, busy, busy doing freelance work. i've fallen into a routine of waking up, asking for una noche mas at the reception, and then opening up my laptop. the plan after here is to head to a desert, and then a big salt flat, so i've felt like i should stay here and finish the work before wifi connections become more unstable. anyways the end finally seems to be near, so soon i'll have the internet to blame for irregular postings and not other work. this was taken on one of the rare occasions i left the office, before the rain came to the smaller salt flat, in a town called purmamarca. it claimed to have a 7 coloured mountain, and sure enough here it was.
despite my last experience on the road, i hired a car for the second time last friday. it was with the same guys as last time, and the plan this time was to head even more north to a place called humahuaca. the reason for this trip was because we were told there was a big carnival celebration going on. unfortunately it took 250km to realise that this information had been incorrect and the carnival started the day after. as i was falling asleep on the drive back, our dutch driver suddenly stopped in a town about 40km from home. he said that he'd heard some party noises, and sure enough we stumbled upon a different carnival. there were quite a few differences from my gualeguaychu experience - but if i had to pick one it would be the espumas. these were spray cans of white foam that kids seemed to derive enormous pleasure at unloading on passers by. this kid must have been more passive than the rest choosing the sky as his target.
this waterfall has the same name as the more famous garganta del diablo at the iguazu falls. which reminds me, i don't i've even looked through the photos i took there on the argentinian side. anyways, whilst the destination was nowhere near as spectacular, the journey there was a lot more fun. the path followed the stream of water to the cascada, however the path frequently stopped as the winding stream zig-zagged around. this meant that there were only two options for progressing, wading through the knee-high water or jumping over it. of the ten people i was with, everyone chose the wading option except for me. in fairness my height and footwear made it easier to jump, but it was also a lot more enjoyable. i began to treat it like a playstation puzzle game - approaching each section i assessed where the narrowest pass was coupled with the optimum launching pad. i didn't manage to finish the game with completely dry feet, but i'd like to think that my dry legs meant i completed the level.
annoyingly there's a limit of 1024 characters on these captions. usually i cut down any posts that are too long - but the story behind this photo is too good to edit. so if you want to know why an aussie guy is dancing in his pants check out my main photoblog:
just in case you were under the impression that the carnival in gualeguaychu was solely full of ladies wearing not very much - here's the evidence to prove otherwise. actually i think this dude had enough fabric on to make up for all that was missing from the other performers.
the furthest point from the origin of my cop bribing drive were the salinas grandes - or salt flats. we had good luck with the weather all day, but that evaporated when we arrived at this allegedly dry lake. spitting rain quickly turned into violent horizontal rain that soaked us through, and forced us to return to our vehicle after only a few minutes. it was a little frustrating, but we all had the world's largest salt flats in bolivia on our upcoming agenda, so we knew (or at least hoped) we'd get to see something bigger and better in the next few weeks. more frustrating was the drive back. it was my turn behind the wheel, and i soon discovered that the rain had been delivered in a huge cloud which had now enveloped the windy, rocky mountain road. it was annoying because it was the kind of road that on a clear day would be so much fun to rally down - and it must have been years since i last did that in a four wheeled vehicle. hopefully there will be more driving and less fog and police on the road ahead...
this is part of the quebrada de las conchas, where i was driving back from in yesterday's photo. i dicked about with the colours yesterday, but today's is far closer to how it looks in real life. it really was spectacular, and very different to any other part of argentina, at least any part that i've seen. oh and if you're interested in spanish, the word quebrada means gorge and the word concha means shell. actually the word concha means something else too - but amazingly it's one of the few swearwords i'm yet to write in any of my posts. how the fuck did that happen? anyways i'll save that gem for a more appropriate situation - for now you can use your imagination.
so yesterday i hired a car with a dutch couple that i'd met. i approached the border between the salta and jujuy provinces where there was a police checkpoint who signalled for me to pull over. he explained that i was driving without my lights on, which is illegal - the consequence of which is a fine of between 300 - 1000 pesos. he told me step out of the car and as he was writing down my details he went on to say that i'd have to go to a police station and pay 800 pesos - that's over £120. i tried to argue that it was midday and i didn't know i needed my lights on, but the language barrier made it difficult to be persuasive. after about 15 minutes he asked me if i wanted to pay there, or at the police station. a little confused i asked how much i'd need to pay there and then, to which he responded "i don't know". with a combination of confusion and fear i ended up offering 200 pesos for the privilege of getting my licence back. hijo de puta.
dead or alive, it seems as though che guevara is a difficult cat to track down. i took the bus from cordoba to alta gracia - the town where ernesto grew up, where his old house is now a museum. annoyingly the tourist info office at the bus station was closed so i had no idea where anything was. from memory i managed to retrace the buses steps to get into the centre, where i got my hands on a map and detailed directions to the museum. despite this i still managed to get lost while taking a short cut across a park, and proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes walking around confused. i even did the spinal tap thing of passing the same group of people a few times as i walked in ever decreasing circles. i finally got there by using the age old method of following signposts that were dotted around. this is a statue of che, back when he was just an asthmatic boy, sitting outside his old house.
man you've gotta have some cojones, figuratively speaking of course, to walk down the street like this, even if that street is the carnival parade. this was one of many ladies waxed to within an inch of their lives and might go someway in explaining why i took so many photos in gualeguaychu.
this is a fancy looking restaurant in cordoba, argentina - the likes of which the likes of me can't afford to go inside. i actually ate out a few times whilst in cordoba, including an average steak, an above average chinese and a below average mexican. it always stings when i get the bill and i know i can knock up a chilli con carne for a quarter of the price that will last for dinner and the next day's lunch. but then it's so much easier to eat when someone else has done the cooking... story of my life.
a combination of not feeling well and heavy rain outside seemed to make for a perfect time to process my shots from the carnival - and boy was it a slog. having narrowed down my list to 100 i set about just doing really simple crops and contrast adjustments. the issues arose when i had shots i liked with a random blurry head or hand obscuring the subject. if i couldn't, or didn't want to, get around this with cropping i'd try and clone it out. this resulted in a long, long day and my patience and enthusiasm was very much waning towards the end. this was actually the last shot i processed, and was taken at about the halfway point of the show. believe it or not this girl was dressed fairly conservatively compared to a lot of the other performers.
this is the wet weather that i took refuge from when i was hypnotised by man's red fire. i had returned to rosario with the intention of having a look around, particularly at this monument. it was kinda annoying that the heavens opened as soon as i arrived, but on the flipside it meant that i got some added reflections to my photos. only i couldn't take too much advantage for fear of water damage in my camera.
this is the first photo i've processed from the carnival i went to in gualeguaychu. i took over 1500 in total and managed to narrow those down to 600, then 160 and now 100. the next stage is to process these, which i keep putting off as it still seems a bit intimidating. but the friends that i went with keep badgering me to share them on facebook so i really should get it done. this shot was taken as soon as we arrived, and leila was adjusting her newly purchased bunny ears. i know there's a lot of things wrong with the shot - but since i first saw it there was something i liked that meant it was always going to be in the top 6.66%
this warning symbol disconcertingly appears on the back of the harness that you put on just before jumping out of a plane at 2500 metres - which is exactly what i did on monday when i went skydiving. i was nervous about it before hand, not because i thought it would be dangerous but just because jumping out of a plane is a scary thing to do. in fact i approached it with similar emotions to when i bungee jumped six years ago. i had a healthy level of nerves which peaked at the point where i had to launch myself into the air. the first 2 or 3 seconds were terrifying, a feeling of unknown, unnatural, uncontrolled falling. after that i was told to open my arms out like i was flying and the sensation changed to pure exhilaration. it must have taken about 15 seconds to descend the 1000 metres before the parachute opened up and i sailed to the ground - and they were among the best 15 seconds of my trip so far. there's nothing like hurtling towards the earth to make you feel alive.
it's strange the tv shows that they show in argentina. there are a lot of imported american (or i should say north american) series which they show in the original language with spanish subtitles. the most popular, or at least the ones that are on the most, are shows such as the big bang theory, two and a half men and the new adventures of old christine. i just don't get it. it turns out the reason that they still keep pumping out this tedious shit is because the south american market laps it up. you disappoint me argentina. the reason i thought of this, which has nothing to do with this park in cordoba, is because the television was on whilst i was processing this photo and i was surprised to hear two familiar voices - walt and jesse from breaking bad. more than that they were showing my favourite episode from the show, the one in season 2 when the rv is stuck out in the desert. proof, which the argentinians must surely need, that quality television can come out of the united states.
you don't see a lot of cats in south america. dogs are always popping up everywhere i go, which now i think about it may be related to the lack of felines. i saw this grey cat against a grey monument and moved in to take a picture. unfortunately i only had my wide angle lens on and as soon as i got too close it ran away. so instead of getting a shot with a nice, shallow depth of field that distinguishes the subject from the background, i decided to roll with this on and make it as painful as possible to look at. how did i do - are your eyes sore yet?
i'm not entirely sure whether it's a good idea that i have a link to the original photograph with each picture i post. a few times when i've been looking at the site with someone else they've liked a picture, and then felt disappointed or cheated when they saw the original. "oh, so you're not actually that good at photography, you just know how to use photoshop" seems to be their reaction, which i find difficult to deny. i do try and argue that in most cases the image that comes out of the camera isn't the same as the image i saw with my eyes, therefore the original isn't necessarily any more realistic than the final shot i put up. of course i'm also prone to fucking about with images just so (i think) they look good - so it may not be clear which is which. ultimately i don't regard it as that important - for me a shot that looks nice is enough - and the extra image is just a interesting point of contrast.
this big metal flower is a sculpture near recoleta in buenos aires. it was one of the sights that i missed out on when i was in the capital before, so i made an effort to walk to the park to see it. i arrived just after 8pm and read a sign that said the petals of the flower open at 7:30am and close at 8:30pm every day, simulating a real life flower. at 18 tons and over 20 metres in height i thought it would look pretty cool, so i decided to wait twenty minutes to see the transition. i picked myself a good spot, balanced my camera on my bag, and waited. and waited. and waited. i must have been there close to 45 minutes and couldn't see any change in the sculpture, meanwhile the sun had gone down and the park was now very dark. frustrated i walked back out of the park, and examined the sign once again in case i had the wrong time. i didn't, but i forgot to read the part where it said it takes over 20 minutes for the petals to open and close, once again mimicking a real flower. goddammit.
i must have been hypnotised by this fire for a good fifteen minutes. part of that was because it was pissing it down and being close to the fire gave me shelter and warmth. but the other reason was that i was just fascinated by the different shapes that were being created. that will explain why i ended up taking fifty pictures of the dancing flames. i could have chosen any of those as a post as they were all weird and interesting shapes - but number eight ended up coming out on top.
this is el ateneo - a bookstore in buenos aires. it was built in the early 20th century as a theatre - named teatro gran splendid - i don't think you need to speak spanish to work out what that means. at the beginning of the 21st century it was transformed into a bookshop. thankfully this was tastefully done and still looks very much like the theatre it once was. i hadn't actually heard about it in any of my guidebooks but according to the guardian it's one of the top 10 bookshops in the world. and as the rest of my family say: if it says it in the guardian, it must be true.
the reason that i travelled to gualeguaychu - which was in the opposite direction to where i was planning to go - was because there was an argentinian carnival happening on the weekend. i took my camera and ended up going through 2 memory cards, 2 batteries and amassed over 1500 shots. i was using my 50mm lens, which is a bitch to focus with, so i know that i'll have to discard a bunch of those. still, the process of going through them will take me a little time, so they'll have to wait. i took this the day before the carnival, when a bunch of us were buying tickets and asked this dude for directions. it was only when i was processing it that it made me think of the dude in the fast show who tells people to go down this road until you come to a tree.
i travelled with a couple of aussie guys to the small town of gualeguaychu. we arrived quite late, and a few of us nipped out for dinner while one of them caught up on sleep. we'd returned and were having a little mate when he woke up and, with a wet towel wrapped around him, headed for the showers. keen to get a dry towel he asked us how to say the word wet in spanish, before going up to the proprietors' daughter, pointing and saying the word mojado. however it was only afterwards that we learnt his towel was wet. from our perspective we just saw a half naked dude going up to a teenage girl, pointing at his crotch saying "wet, wet, wet". i don't think that's unusual aussie behaviour.
there was some kind of mirador (lookout point) around here in bahia blanca. i picked up a map from tourist info and walked about 20 blocks to the edge of the city trying to find it. annoyingly at some point towards the end of the journey i must have dropped the map, so when i got to this point i had no idea where the mirador was. everything just looked kind of ugly. i didn't really have many choices, so i put the song that i've used for this title on my ipod, idlewild since you asked, turned on my heels and headed back into the city.
this piece of street art wasn't far from boca junior's stadium in buenos aires. maradona is idolised almost everywhere in argentina, but particularly in la boca where he started and ended his career. it seems even his issues with drugs, his outspoken views and his failure as national team coach at the world cup, has done nothing to harm his reputation in his home country. in fact the opposite might be true, as each fall makes each comeback all the more meaningful. in england i think the general public still know him best for his cheating hand, but for all his bad traits he's still one of the best footballers that has ever lived. shit manager though.
i arrived in bahia blanca with the whole day to kill and saw this broken down building. i was curious what the view was like from the top of the disintegrating staircase. half way up i encountered a half naked dude who was under the influence. i thought it would look strange if i ran back down, so i pointed to my camera, then up to the top of the stairs and said tocar un foto. i didn't understand the response, but he didn't seem to mind me continuing. when i got to the very top i found another half naked dude, this time doing up his flies. i'll level with you, i was pretty scared. i was trapped between two half naked junkies at the top of a crumbling staircase with an expensive camera hanging round my neck, only able to pick out potentially threatening words like policia and drogas. i tried to explain i only wanted to take a picture of the view, at which point the downstairs dude started arguing with the upstairs dude. i left them still deep in debate with an out of focus picture and an elevated heart-rate.
after i was in pucon and chiloe i wanted to go to cordoba. i looked into bus tickets to go there and it seemed really expensive. then some friends offered me a cheaper option. they'd taken a train, well technically two trains, from buenos aires to bariloche for a quater of the price. if i could get to bariloche, which isn't that far from pucon, then i could do the reverse journey, and then get another train to cordoba. i could save a lot of money, plus get to go to places in buenos aires that i missed out on when i was there before. it sounded too good to be true. which meant of course it was. the first train that departed bariloche only leaves once a week, and it was booked out for about 6 weeks. i replaced that with a bus, managed to get the second train but then found out the train to cordoba was booked out for 6 weeks as well. high season will fuck you up. so my plan of one bus and three trains has now changed to one train and three buses - and i'm still not in cordoba yet. meh.
i don't know what's happened to kevin smith. i used to be a really big fan, and in a way i am still a fan, but one that doesn't really like his work. clerks was great, chasing amy was quality, but for my money mallrats was just laugh out loud hilarious. since then he's gone steadily downhill, from dogma which had a few funny moments, but was ultimately a let down, to clerks 2 which really disappointing right up to cop out which was just plain shit. this sharp decline should lead me to the conclusion that his work just isn't for me any more, but every now and then he still makes me laugh. for example he brought out a live stand-up type dvd called an evening with kevin smith, where he proved that he's just a master a telling a story on stage. i've listened to a few of his podcasts and he's still quick witted. i'm resigned to him no longer being the movie maker i wish he was, but he's created enough goodwill in my mind that i'm happy to accept that all i'll get is the occasional giggle.
i tried really hard to like buenos aires, unfortunately the city didn't try very hard to like me. i went there on three separate occasions and each time i fell ill. the first time i had horrible flu/cold type deal going on which kept me in bed for a couple of days. the second time i had 'shiny eyes', as my swedish friend put it, which required eye drops and tablets which the dude in the farmacia described as 'god in a pill'. this latest time i had a migraine and fever which annoyingly kept me in bed whilst everyone else was celebrating a friends birthday last saturday night. maybe it's some kind of sign telling me that i'm not welcome, but i still had some good times there, so i can forgive.
i thought i'd make an attempt at being cultural in buenos aires so i went to an art gallery called malba. well truth be told i wanted to go to the japonese gardens, but i was too late, and the gallery was nearby. there were a few nice pieces, but i ended up feeling fairly underwhelmed. a large portion of the gallery was dedicated to the artist marta minujin who was born in the place i've been staying, the san telmo district of buenos aires. she's a conceptual artist which in english is another way of saying wanker. from what i could glean, she seemed to be responsible from 60s type happenings which struck me as you had to be there type events. i dunno, it looks like she's popular, but it didn't really float my boat. for me, the coolest part of the museum was the benches that were sat on the first and second floors. they stretched like vines over the balcony, climbing up and down the walls. it was difficult to find a good angle, but hopefully you get some idea from this shot.
if this photo looks familiar, then that means you're a regular visitor, so thanks. i took a similar shot when i was in buenos aires the first time i was there, and this caught my eye in bahia blanca. i think i need to find at least one more though. if you have a few similar shots you can pretend that you have a theme going on. but when you only have two, well that's just lazy, like you can't find other things to take pictures of. the search continues.
walking up volcan villarrica was the first time i'd properly hiked on snow - to the extent where i had to wear cramp-ons on my feet for grip, and carry and ice pick to dig into the snow in case i fell. i found it all a little uncomfortable, but it was a good experience. descending the volcano was an even better experience though. instead of slowly and carefully putting one foot in front of the other, we all sat on little plastic seats and slid down through the snow. it was so much fun, and so much easier than the hiking that preceded it. i heard that if i was there a few weeks earlier then i'd have been able to snowboard down, which would have been awesome. sliding was definitely the next best way of getting to the bottom.
apparently penguins are one of the only monogamous animals on the planet, most of them sticking with one partner for life. in fact the last time i saw them, the guide said that often if their partner dies, the other penguin stops eating and dies as well. but since i've got you with penguin facts, check this one out: these penguins can dive down to 20m and hold their breath for 5 minutes. but even more impressive than that, emperor penguins, the biggies in antarctica, can go down to over 500m holding their breath for 20 minutes. they have a special type of blood that can store more oxygen and their heart slows down to 5 beats per minute when they do these long dives.
with more than 150 years under it's belt, cafe tortoni is almost certainly the oldest and most famous cafe in buenos aires. it was supposedly frequented by famous artists, creatives, intellectuals and politicians in it's long history. you have to queue out of the door to wait to be seated and when you walk in the decor makes it feel pretty special. unfortunately the same can't be said about the food. now i've discovered the californian burrito company is only a few blocks away, i know where i'd prefer to eat. and i'd advise other intellectuals to do the same.
i have a lens hood that came with my wide angle lens, but i hardly ever use it. partly because it's a little awkward to attach, and once i do it's even more awkward to put back in my bag with it still attached. but it's also because i quite like the way that the light reacts with the camera lens. sometimes it does brighten things too much, but other times you can achieve some really nice looking lens flares. and i think it was specifically at el cemetario that i learnt the lower (higher number) the aperture, the more 'starlike' the lightsource becomes. i thought i'd take advantage of that, on a particularly blistering day in buenos aires, when i crossed puente de la mujer - woman's bridge.
i'm back in buenos aires at the moment, and i've been going through some of the pictures i took the first time i was there. i'd heard that i should visit la boca, which is quite a poor area of the city, but a famous one where they have really colourful houses. i actually went there twice, but both times my timings were off. the first visit was late in the afternoon as the sun was going down, which meant there wasn't much light, and everything was kinda closing up. the second time i'd arranged to meet a friend in the centre of the city, and i misjudged how long it would take me to get around. as a result i arrived in time to spend five minutes there, before turning back and jogging to the subway station to make my appointment. i managed to get this rather clichéd shot before my speedy retreat.
i don't eat any kind of fish and seafood, not because of any allergies but just because i don't like the smell and taste. i thought that this may prove to be complicated while travelling, but so far the only time it was a little awkward was after i went fishing in uruguay and i had to turn down my catch after it had been battered and fried. most of brazil, uruguay and argentina seem to be in love with meat, specifically asados and steak, so for me it's been ideal. castro in chile was a little different. unsurprisingly as it's on the island of chiloe most of the menus leaned towards food 'de la mar'. there was a fish market there where this lady was preparing some kind of local fishy fast food. i really enjoy trying authentic street food, but i still couldn't bring myself to give it a go. lucky for me you can find hamburgers and chips in most cities, so i didn't go hungry.
in my football supporting experience when your local rivals score against you, the normal response is to politely suggest to them where they can go. in buenos aires, the reaction seems to be little more extreme. when river plate scored against boca juniors in el monumental the boca fans started lighting flares and throwing them at the river fans. after they grew tired of this, they then started to set fire to the stands. why those cheeky scamps.
this was one of those photos which was really easy to take, required hardly any processing, and instantly became one of my recent favourites. it's from the san francisco church in castro that i was raving about a few days ago and shows off more of the awesome woodwork. because it was dark inside i needed a long exposure, which without a tripod meant that i head to try and balance the camera. lucky for me someone had left an alter in the church, right where i wanted to place my camera. as a result i just set my shutter speed to 0.6 seconds (an educated guess), set the timer to 10 seconds and placed the camera pointing upwards to get the shot. no real skill or creative eye was needed - but that didn't stop me from liking what i saw 10.6 seconds later.
the legend tells that antonio gil was a farmworker who a wealthy widow fell in love with. when her brothers and the head of the police (who was also in love with the widow) found out about their relationship, they accused him of robbery and tried to kill him. he enlisted in the army to escape them, fought against the paraguayan army, and returned a hero. however when he arrived at his village, he was forced to return to the army to fight in the argentine civil war. instead he went on the run. when he was finally caught he was tortured and strung up by his feet. when the policeman was going to kill him, gauchito gil said to him: "your son is very ill, if you pray and beg me to save your child, i promise you that he will live. if not, he will die". the policeman showed slit his throatbut later learnt it was true so he prayed to gauchito gil to save his son, and true to gil's word he began to get better. the policeman returned, built a shrine and ensured that the story of this miracle would become a legend.
in england we have wasps. no one likes wasps. wasps' primary job is to ruin any activity that involves you being outside. they seem to exist solely with the desire to annoy. in south america, specifically chile, you can replace the word wasp with horsefly. i think these critters like being around water, and they were particularly prevalent in the chiloe national park. and by prevalent i mean fucking-wave-your-arms-around-like-a-lunatic-and-shout-expletives-because-you-just-can't-take-it-anymore-annoying.
every now and then i get compliments on my photos from my friends. often they're friends who didn't realise that i took pictures, so their reaction may be down to surprise as much as how impressed they are. since travelling i've started putting my south america photos on facebook which has also increased the flow of positive feedback. a few people have told me that i should enter my photos into competitions. whilst this is at odds with my lazy, non self-promoting work ethic i looked into it, and apparently a lot of competitions offer prizes - who knew? so just before christmas i thought i'd have a look on google, and entered a couple. i've heard back from the first one a few days ago and guess what... i didn't win. thanks for the advice dipshits. my beach soccer shot was included in their list of 18 highly commended images though, which was a nice feeling. not quite as nice as winning a brand new canon 7d, but nice nonetheless.
this is the smoking top of the volcano i climbed up in pucon, chile. there were close to 30 of us in our group, and leading the line was my german friend, which in my mind was an impressive feat as he was smoking almost as much as the volcano itself. seriously every break that we took on our ascent, when i was sweating and catching my breath, he'd spark up and puff away. you'd call it stupid if it wasn't for the fact it seemed to have no adverse effect on his ability to climb a mountain. maybe there's a marketing trick there - smoking not only makes you look cool, but helps you climb a volcano - something to add to the subliminal messages
i think the biggest thing i miss back home, after people of course, is food. even though i've had more than enough argentinian steaks to appreciate the quality over here, it's the things you usually eat but can't get ahold of which i crave the most. for some reason mushrooms and chilli peppers are both almost impossible to find unless you go to a large supermarket, or a well stocked grocers. in fact spices in general have been lacking - which means there's been no chance of getting anywhere near a curry in the last four months. ahh - what i'd give for a chicken and spinach curry... with naan... and aloo gobi... ooh and tarka daal... ooh and poppadoms... ooh, ooh and the onion/tomato mix in the pickle tray. that thought's gonna torture me until i make it back home.
i'm not a churchgoer, and as such haven't stepped inside that many. when i do go inside i tend to appreciate it for what it is - a big building. for better or worse, and i'd tend towards the latter, churches tend to have more money thrown at them than other buildings. this usually results in a grand piece of architecture - but as with all architecture - it can be viewed subjectively. so you can encounter massive holy buildings that just don't hit the mark and makes you feel nothing. iglesia san francisco was not one of those buildings. in fact i can say without hyperbole that this was the most impressive church i've ever set foot in. the painted exterior is a little ugly and gives no clues as to the wooden treasure chest it holds inside - it took my breath away. impressive as well to think that this church, which is in castro - a town in the chilean island of chiloe, was rebuilt twice after the first two burnt down. i guess they put so much goddamn lacquer on it was an accident just waiting to happen.
being a fan of m ward and bright eyes - in particular conor oberst - i was excited when i heard they were collaborating with jim james for monsters of folk. i bought their debut album and was a little underwhelmed with the result. the more i listened to though the more it grew on me, and perhaps unsurprisingly the oberst led tracks became my favourites. top of those is the song map of the world which in it's opening lines articulates, far more eloquently than i can, a big reason why i wanted to go travelling:
there's a map of the world on the wall in your room
green pins where you want to go
white pins where you've been
there isn't even ten
and you're already feeling old
a mantra for anyone who doesn't have enough stamps in their passport
this is a bit of a filler shot. it's a few months old when i was still getting to grips with my 50mm lens, and while i like the texture and depth of field i'll admit there isn't much else to the shot. does it need more? i dunno. i think i have better shots that i'm yet to post, but i'm also yet to process them, so this backup photo has now been promoted. i took it at a turtle sanctuary in florianopolis in brazil. it was along the beach from my hostel, and we were escorted there and back by lady who reigned in her animal instincts and didn't attack any of the turtles. good dog.
as i wrote a few days ago, the reason that i went back on myself to pucon was the active villarrica volcano. as pretty as it looked from the town, i wasn't just satisfied with seeing it there, i wanted to climb the smoking beast. last saturday that's exactly what happened. the ascent of around 1200m took around 5 hours, walking on a combination of rocks and snow. whilst altitude wasn't an issue, the summit is 'only' 2847 metres, it certainly wasn't a leisurly stroll. we were fully prepared though with crampons, ice axes and snickers bars. i'm still yet to look through all my photos, but this was relatively early on, looking back out from the volcano to the other mountains in the distance.
when i went whale watching in puerto madryn there were two shots that i really wanted to get. the first was of a whale jumping in and out of the water, and the second was a clean shot of a whale tail descending into the water. i didn't get either. this was the closest i managed of the latter - and i considered doing some creative cloning to fake it - but decided that it would be better to leave it like this. despite failing at my mission it was still a magical experience seeing the massive creatures up close. a mother and daughter stuck close to the boat, and swam up and under as we all watched in awe. despite being on a packed boat full of eager, snapping tourists you couldn't help but feel special to experience it.
i'm guessing this guy in the plaza de armas in santiago was supposed to be some kind of tribute to the chilean miners. he was one of those living statues who stay really still for ages, usually waiting for some unsuspecting kids to wander up and stare, before making a sudden movement trying to illicit a scream. i must be too old, as he didn't move when i went up with my camera. however he was a perfect subject for my 50mm lens as it's a socially acceptable situation where you can stick a camera in a random person's face and take a picture.
right now i should be making plans to decide where i want to go next. i'm still in pucon and have put aside this day as my planning and researching time. trouble is, i'm no good at planning and research. and even if it's planning to go somewhere really cool, it still seems like a chore to look in guidebooks and browse online. it always helps when you have someone else to share (or takeover) that side of things, but i said goodbye to the last of my current travel buddys this morning so now it's all on me. as a result i've resorted to pissing about with photos instead of looking at lonely planets. this one was taken on new years eve in valparaiso - somewhere inbetween the nose ring and the fireworks.
i found the zoo in buenos aires a depressing place to visit. in some ways most zoos are kinda depressing, but this was definitely more so than others. they had almost every kind of animal, in small, dilapidated enclosures, and they looked miserable. i mean they had a polar bear, just out in the argentinian heat, constantly walking around in circles like it was stir crazy. i definitely left in a worse mood compared to when i arrived - i don't know if that makes it hypocritical for me to post picture from there. if so, then i'll add this advice to the image: stay away
my trip around south america as so far taken me to brazil, uruguay, argentina and chile. although there has been a bit of zig-zagging here and there i've pretty much been travelling in one direction, south towards the tip of the continent and then north after that. after spending christmas in mendoza and new years in valparaiso i was undecided about where to go next. my mate i'd been travelling with was heading north, but a bit too far for me. i considered going west into some new places in argentina. and then i thought about going south to pucon. in my head it seemed wrong going back on myself, like i wasn't allowed to backtrack, but the trip only took 10 hours, which in south america is literally 'just down the road'. so i boarded the bus and went back on myself without looking back. and the reason to retrace my steps and go south to pucon: this big, smoking, active volcano.
when i first got to santiago i wasn't particularly impressed. i walked around a little, not really sure where i was going, and didn't see a great deal of interest. the next day i decided to do a free city tour, where a guide takes you around the city for four hours and only makes money from tips. it was really interesting and opened my eyes to a lot of history and culture that i didn't know anything about. my mindset changed from thinking i was there too long to not having enough time to do all i wanted. i returned a second time after valparaiso and ticked a few more things off the list, which included going to the top of cerro san cristobal and getting an awesome view of the whole city.
new years celebrations started in an apartment i was renting with a german and english friend in vina del mar. we headed to the beach in valparaiso to watch the awesome fireworks. it was a few kilometres walk to the main plaza from there, and disappointingly things were winding down in the plaza by the time we arrived. in search of more celebrations we checked out a couple of clubs, but preferred the dancing on the street celebrations that a lot of the chileans were getting involved in. they lined all of the streets, and couldn't wait to approach you and say feliz ano nuevo. we ended up meeting a small group who invited us back to their place for some tequila. that's an offer that you have to be wasted to accept, so we promptly followed them on what seemed like an endless walk to their apartment, at the top of one of the many hills in valparaiso. i took this on the journey, as the sun was rising on a new year, but before the tequila blurred everything else.
i'm about to hop on a bus to go south in chile - so i don't really have time to write any long caption here. which i guess is why i chose this photo, which i kinda like, but in a throwaway kinda way. i spotted it whilst we were walking around valparaiso on new years eve. we had a tough mission, which was to scout out places to go drinking in the evening, without indulging during the day. we all knew from (christmas) experience that if we started drinking during the day, we wouldn't be able to keep it up until the early hours. seeing as we cracked open our cans of cristal about half an hour after i took this photo you could say we lost the battle, but most of us still managed to last until the sun came up so i guess we won the war.
i'd heard lots of travellers i've met tell me how pretty bariloche was, but i was really underwhelmed when i arrived there. that was partly because the weather was really windy, which made standing in one spot difficult. also i was walking around looking for some food while everybody was on a siesta so that just made me a bit grumpy. in protest i spent pretty much all of the next day drinking beer and playing ping pong in the hostel, so it was only on my third and final day that i started to appreciate it. after booking a bus ticket, and having four hours to kill, i caught a local bus to cerro campanario. there i took a chairlift to the top, and the views were just amazing. literally every direction looked awesome, and you could see why it's the argentinian lake district, as the blue/turquoise water just glowed between the trees. i'm so glad my curmudgeonly behaviour didn't last the full extent of my stay there, as it was certainly a view to remember.
i spent new years eve in a chilean beach town called valparaiso. i was told before i arrived there that it was famous for a big street party along with cracking fireworks display, and i wasn't disappointed. well, the only disappointment came when i arrived at the beach and realised that i left my mini-tripod back at the apartment. this meant that i had to improvise and use my shoe to balance my camera, so the pictures were nowhere near as impressive as the fireworks that were launched from different ships out in the harbour. this started at midnight and lasted for over half an hour. about eight hours later was when the partying finished - but to quote vince noir that's another story for another time.
the bus ride from mendoza to santiago was probably the most beautiful drive i've ever been on. we crossed over and through the andes, on winding mountain roads. i struggled to photograph it satisfactorily, my bus seat wasn't the best viewing point, so you'll have to trust me when i say it looked amazing. i took a few 'blind' shots where i pointed the camera towards the road behind me and clicked away. the framing didn't really work in any one shot, but there were elements that i liked in a few so i cheated and combined three photos together. this is probably frowned upon in the photographic community, but i'm not bothered by frowns, i prefer the way this looks now. i kinda had michel gondry's music video to the chemical brother's star guitar in mind when i was putting it together too. here's to another year on the road.
this is a combination of four photos that i took when i went to see fuerza bruta in buenos aires. it's really hard to describe exactly what fuerza bruta (which translates as brute force) is. the closest description would probaby be interactive performance art, which may sound a bit pretentious, but it is so much fun. for the most part you stand in a circle with the 'performance' happening in the centre. on this occasion the performance involved a man running very fast on a treadmill. obstacles were then placed in his way which he had to avoid, or in the case of the cardboard boxes on the left, run through. at another point of the show they lowered down a swimming pool above the audience, as dancers slipped and slid along the water above your heads. there was a dj playing music throughout the whole thing and the night ended with everyone showered in water as we jumped and danced like lunatics. it was a good party, and on that note i hope that everyone has a good new years party tonight - felíz año nuevo
out of the six wineries we visited in mendoza, trapiche was by far our favourite. this was partly because the wine was diverse, interesting and tasted good. partly because the place itself was grand, full of character and opulent. but it was mainly because the girl who took us on the tour was the prettiest argentinian girl i've ever seen. all of the guys in the group listened attentively as she talked about micro-oxidisation and instructed us the correct technique to sample and taste each glass. i suspect if you ask every one of that group, myself included, to recite any of what she said you'd be met with silence.
this was a piece of art that was hanging, or impaled, in centro cultural palacio la moneda in santiago, chile. there were a lot of pieces from different south american artists, and being such a subjective medium i thought it varied in quality. this was one of the better ones though, a new testament with an arrow struck through it. they were a bit funny about people taking pictures, which meant that i had to be quick and have the correct settings selected straight away. those two variables don't often occur when i take pictures, so i didn't leave with many good shots. luckily for me this was really easy to photograph, the composition and lighting was all taken care of by the artist, so all i needed to do was focus and click.
the cemetery in buenos aires is a strange thing. it's weird how much attention, detail and money has been spent on some of these tombs or mausoleums. many of them are hugely complicated structures that look like little churches in their own right, or grandiose statues. i was impressed at first, but couldn't shake the feeling that the money spent was wasteful to the point of being distasteful. for all intents and purposes it seemed that the people who were buried there (or the people that buried them) were involved in a game of one-upmanship to try and better the last person that died, to make their final resting place look as fancy as possible. but really, what's the point? all the pesos that have been spent on something that, as an ideal, is ugly, doesn't seem right. but then again, aesthetically a lot the monuments and statues are the opposite of ugly, and there's certainly a social/cultural interest there. hmm, this is uncharacteristically serious for me, what i meant to say was: ooh look - a lens flare.
a couple of days before christmas me and my mate hired out a tandem bike and toured around the different vineyards in mendoza. as soon as we hopped on the two-person bike we realised how awkward it was to control, after factoring in the overbearing heat and the quantity of wine we consumed it progressed to somewhere between dangerous and comical. we ended up going to six different wineries, where we were given a selection of wine, liquers, absinthe, olive oil and chocolate - all homemade of course. it all took it's toll, and the empty stomach (barring the chocolate and olive oil soaked bread) didn't help, but it was a lot of fun. i took this shot at one of the more fancy (and perhaps famous?) wineries: trapiche. it's actually a combination of three shots that i took, which i did because my alcoholic shaky hand didn't let me get the framing right each time.
this was a picture that i thought i had posted before, but looking through my processed photos i saw that it was tagged as unposted. i took it the same bird park as mr toucan, which as i mentioned before i chose to go to instead of mcdonalds. all my mates choose the latter, so i walked around the park by myself. the benefit of this was that i could stop, change my lens and take as many photos as i liked without pissing off people with compact cameras. this was particularly true here in the hummingbird and butterfly enclosure, where it took a mixture of luck and timing to freeze the bird in mid-air.
i had intended to post something festive and christmasy today. i went out last night to a christmas party and thought that would be the perfect environment to snap an appropriately seasonal photo. unfortunately instead of looking out for photo opportunities i spent most of my time drinking. this resulted in me waking up this morning with blurry photos and an even blurrier head. so i've had a quick scan for any pictures that i took with snow in them, and saw these photos that i took in torres del paine. i'd taken a few in a row, fourteen to be precise, so i decided to do a lazy, hungover stitch - feliz navidad
this was the second glacier that i'd seen in a few days while down in patagonia - glacier perito moreno in el calafate, argentina. this one was a lot bigger, unbelievably the same size as buenos aires, and also it's one of the few glaciers that is actually growing. as a result of this it's common to see pieces break and fall off. it's quite a surreal but awe-inspiring moment when you hear it creak and sigh, and then turn to see a huge clump of ice come tumbling down to the icy lake below.
mate is one of those drinks that you literally see everywhere in uruguay and argentina. i found it strange at first to see people out and about drinking it, because it's not particularly portable. you need the cup, the straw but also a thermos full of hot water to constantly top it up - so it's usually a balancing act when people have this and any other item of luggage. i first tried mate at an argentinian friends place in rio and found it incredibly hard to drink. not because of the taste, which was a little bitter but something i can see you'd get used to. no, the difficulty arises when you suck boiling water out of a metal straw. it must be something that south american lips grow accustomed to, but my sensitive mouth burnt up whenever the water passed through the metal it was touching. consequently i could only really take a few sips at a time as the pain was too high. i think along with improving my spanish, finishing a cup of mate without grimacing is high up on my list of south american targets.
i took this as the sun was setting on a bus ride on ruta 3 - a highway that makes up most of argentina's east coast. it was part of a 37 hour journey i took between puerto madryn and ushuaia. if that sounds like a tough journey, believe me it's even tougher when the wheel falls off the bus and you have chase it down after being left at the chilean border. yeah it was a fairly eventful 37 hours to get to the end of the world.
there's a story behind this lighthouse. unfortunately i was told this story in spanish so i only really understood half of it, and therefore misunderstood the finer details. it's known as el faro del fin del mundo which translates as the lighthouse at the end of the world - however apparently it's neither the last lighthouse before antarctica nor the original lighthouse at the end of the world that jules verne wrote about. in fact, the more i think about, the more i realise that i missed some important details in the story. pretty much all i got out of it was that it's a lighthouse. so... yeah... hope you enjoyed this lesson. class dismissed.
i passed these adverts when i was walking back to my hostel in buenos aires and did a double take. my eye thought that it would make a nice picture in the city of tango, but my head thought i'd look like a bit of a dick if i took my camera out, knelt down and took the shot. by the time i'd walked another block down to the door of my hostel the photographer in me convinced my pride that it really didn't matter what i looked like, so i turned back and got the picture. i was annoyed that i hesitated, but glad that i'm overcoming any perceived embarrassment i might feel in lieu of taking photos that i want.
after finishing the first day's hiking in torres del paine we set up the tent and then walked out to this look out point to have our dinner. the sun was setting behind glacier grey and the vantage point was fantastic. upon polishing off our food we saw a guy seemingly walk back from the foot of the glacier, which inspired us to make a similar journey. it was fairly treacherous on the way down. there were a lot of steep sections and a lot of loose rocks. after making it about 80% of the way there it became obvious that the final descent was the wrong side of foolish. with the sun pretty much set we were also running out of light and didn't fancy a climb back up in the dark. and it was a climb in every sense of the word, there were more than a few moments where my foot slipped and i was just hanging on by one hand as big rocks fell and violently crashed below. it was tough work, not least because the afternoon's 15km had drained most of my energy, but we finally made it back safe to the sunless picnic spot.
i've had a few days break in posting in part due to trekking in the mountains of chile. i went to torres del paine in patagonia where i spent two nights camping and three days hiking. at they were difficult hikes. i clocked in over 60km in strong winds, steep ascents and high temperatures. but i didn't go for the exercise, i went for the scenery - and this is probably the most famous part of the park - the three eponymous torres. i was told that if you get up early and trek there in the morning you can see the sunrise on the peaks. so i set my alarm and left the tent at half four in the morning. an hour and very steep climb later i was sat on a rock with the camera pointing towards the mountains waiting for the clouds to shift. only they didn't, more came to join them, and they decided to bring some snow with them. i shivered and waited until it became obvious that the morning show had been cancelled and then headed back to camp. still, sunrise or no sunrise it was an amazing sight.
these purple leaved trees were planted all over buenos aires. it was a really strange sight for someone who was brought up thinking leaves were supposed to be green. they looked pretty, but i have a feeling that they may have been partly responsible for the hayfever i was suffering over there. if that's the case, then i can't forgive them. i mean it doesn't seem fair that i get attacked by european pollen in april and then south american pollen in november. doesn't seem fair at all.
this is is the inside of a carriage on the a line, part of the buenos aires underground network called the subte. it opened in 1913 and was the first subway in the southern hemisphere. whilst the carriages were refurbished 13 years later they've had almost a century of uninterupted service. yup, someone's been reading wikipedia. for me though it's a good illustration of buenos aires, a cool detail in a city full of cool details. also it helped justify my decision to bring my wide angle lens back with me to south america.
before i came to south america i remember reading an article about 50 sporting things you must do before you die. number one on the list was watching boca juniors play river plate - one of the biggest local derbys in club football. both teams were due to play each other a week or so before i was in buenos aires but due to unforseen circumstances it got postponed to the day before i was flying back to the uk. the serendipitous timing convinced me to attend. the superclasico lived up to it's billing. not in terms of quality - as the game was pretty dire and the skill level bordered on embarrasing, but the support... wow. it was unlike any sporting event i've ever been to. most of the crowd weren't watching the pitch, instead they were focused on making as much noise and atmosphere as possible. there was chanting, jumping, flag waving, newspaper throwing and flares aplenty. i took this just after they'd retracted a massive flag/banner that covered the entire tier. you don't get that kind of shit at the emirates.
sup? it's been a while huh? yeah i'll accept responsibility for that. there's the usual excuse of not finding the time along with struggling with a broken computer and flying home and back. these constraints haven't stopped me from taking photos, just stopped me from doing anything with them. i feel like i need at least a day to go through them all, pick out the ones i like and start processing them. but that thought sounds too much like work, and hey i quit my job so i wouldn't have to work. i'm sure an appropriate time will present itself soon, and until then i'll try and upload any shots that jump out at me. i chose this one as i didn't think the original needed much work - plus i'm hoping to see some more penguins tomorrow. if i get some better shots then these ones may never surface, so i thought i'd get in a preemptive post. i took this in peninsula valdes, a part of northern patagonia with a lot of cool wildlife... but you'll have to wait to see more of that...
in my last post i mentioned that we celebrated our victory in the argentinian grand national with rum and cigars. while that was true, we actually purchased both of these before we had even placed a bet. we were surprised to learn that they didn't sell alcohol inside the track, so we ended up walking to a local supermarket. there we bought five small bottles of coke and one large bottle of rum. we divided the big bottle into the smaller bottles and snuck them back in. so technically speaking the rum was consumed before the big race, but we enjoyed the cigars afterwards. well technically speaking i just coughed and choked on my cigar smoke, but dave here seemed to enjoy his.
yesterday a bunch of us went to the gran premio nacional del bicentenario in buenos aires. i think it's the argentinian equivalent of the grand national - but the bicentenario aspect made it that little bit more special. there were races going all day, and we waited until the big event before placing our bets. we decided to put money on three out of the fifteen horses, a small bit on the first two and then a lot on our top choice: excessive halo. we took to the stands and shouted vamos as they set off racing around the track. then followed three minutes of loud, energetic confusion before we realised that our horse had finished first. overjoyed with our gambling fortuity we collected our winnings and then toasted our victory with rum and cigars. good times.
man, i thought ol' four eyes was ugly, turns out his ocular enhanced bigger brother is even more weird looking. i saw this dude scuttling along the beach in cabo polonio. it was a bright and windy day, and i was in a rush to get back to the village to catch the bus back to civilisation, so i just placed the camera at sand level, pointed and clicked. like the last spider, it was only when i looked back at the shot on my computer that i realised how repugnant it looked. i think the way that spiders move is a big factor in why people are scared of them. surely the numbers of arachnophobes would increase if they saw this face as well. shudder.
not a massive amount to say about this one - it's just your everyday car that's been gutted and stuffed with plants that are now growing inside. photographing it did make me think of one of my favourite michel gondry videos though - bachelorette by bjork. it's typical gondry with homemade effects and an idea that loops back and forth in a paradoxical circle. you'll probably have to watch the video until the end to appreciate why i connected it with this picture.
if my spanish skills are correct than this graffiti translates as and what do you do?. i've seen it plastered up, or i guess i should say stencilled and sprayed up, all around buenos aires. i'm not sure what it's referring to, who the question is aimed at or what response it's trying to solicit. it has a facebook link, so if i could be arsed i'd look on there, or google the phrase itself. truth is - i don't really care that much - i just like the type and design.
today is my second day in buenos aires. everyone i've spoken to about the place, and i mean without exception everyone, has loved it. consequently my expectations have been really high for the city to impress me. if i'm honest, i'm still waiting. i am feeling pretty run down at the minute, a combination of argentinian hayfever and an english cold, so i think i'd struggle to get the most out of anywhere i'd be. plus it's a huge city, and i've so far been wandering around with out any planning, preparation or map. i suspect in a place this big you need to know where to go, otherwise it's too easy to waste your time in the wrong places. luckily time is on my side as i should have a few weeks here, so hopefully my health will improve and i'll go to the right places soon enough.
these were two spanish brothers that i met whilst i stayed in punta del diablo. they had both been fishing before, so when were standing with our rods by the lake i assumed that they would bring in the biggest catch. as it happened, only three out of the six of us managed to get anything. and two of those fishermen (myself included) were first-timers. i think that goes to show that when it comes to fishing - luck is the most important attribute... either that or i've unearthed a hidden talent for attracting fish to a stick.
it's been a while since i've seen a monkey over here, and as i'm leaving uruguay today i'm thinking that this may be the first country i've been to on this trip where i won't see any. i saw a family of howler monkeys in esteros del ibera in argentina, and this dude was on the same brazilan island as these three noisy bastards. all uruguay has had to offer so far have been fish and seals. it's a pretty country, but i'm afraid that lack of primates is a red x in uruguay's column.
i think the best songs are the ones that make you feel happy and sad at the same time. they don't come along that often, and it's probably a very subjective thing, but i can only think of a handful that fall into that category for me. the title for this photo is a lyric from one of those songs, first movement-message fade by grandaddy. for me, jason lytle is masterful at combining too seemingly contrasting emotions, and he manages to inject both hope and despair into the closing refrain it's happiness that matters anyway. beautiful song.
la mano en la arena has been around in punta del este for as long as i've been alive, yet they've still only managed to excavate the tips of the fingers. i'm not sure how many generations will have to pass before the uruguayans pull their fingers out and reveal the full stone man that's hiding beneath the beach. hell, they could at least get to the wrist.
one of the reasons i went to cabo polonio, despite the lack of electricity, was because there was supposed to be a big sea lion colony. getting there involved hopping on a bus from punta del diablo to a place called castillos, then another bus to the entrance, and then a 4x4 vehicle which bumped and bounded over the sand dunes until we reached the beach. when we arrived i dropped my bags off in the pousada and went up and down the beach scouting for the seals. i couldn't see a single one. whilst having a bite to eat i looked in my dictionary for the keyword i needed to ask the spanish speaking waitress where i could find them. i hesitated when i discovered it, as i think the phrase i needed was donde esta las focas? i wasn't confident that i was saying the correct word, and not hurling abuse. luckily we bumped into someone from our old hostel in montevideo who directed us around some rocks where a hundred seals were bathing in the sun. that saved me from dropping some foreign f-bombs.
i've been trying to keep up with posting an image everyday whilst i've been away. it hasn't always been practical but i've managed to only miss one post in the last three weeks. that (not quite) perfect record was put under threat yesterday when i travelled to a place in uruguay called cabo polonio where there's no electricity in the whole village. i prepared for this by posting first thing in the morning before i departed, and i'm now posting this last thing at night having arrived in a new electric town. it's all about priorities.
yesterday a few of us took a trip out to the black lagoon - laguna negra - just outside of punta del diablo. we packed four fishing rods and sat on the shore trying to catch some fish as the sun was setting. i've never been fishing before, partly because i don't eat fish, but also because i thought it looked kinda boring. whilst i wouldn't say i revised my opinion to exciting i still really enjoyed it, it was nice and relaxing and i did get excited when i felt a tug on my line and reeled in (not exactly) huge fish that was (not) almost the size of a shark. my aversion to seafood meant that i didn't try it when we got back but i was told it tasted great.
when i first saw this i thought that it looked like a little wooden city, and i thought it would make for quite a cool photograph. i crouched down to get a shot but couldn't quite find the correct angle. ordinarily i'd persevere until i was happy, but i'd been walking for over two hours and the sun was burning into my skull. so apologies, i think this could have been better, but i didn't have it in me.
the street art in south america in general is impressive. this trend continues in montevideo which seems to have a really vibrant graffiti community. while this may not be the greatest example of this, i think it acts as a good illustration of the cultural difference in marketing tactics. back in the uk if a nightclub (which i assume this is?) wanted promotion they'd plaster up some hundreds of posters, or layer upon layer of stickers. to me there's more artistic merit, and just general coolness, in a stencil and a can of spray paint.
this is the same favela where the little drummer boy resides. we got picked up from our hostel and driven to the bottom. we then all hopped on the back of a motorbike and rode up to the top before walking back to the start. that was the first time i've ever been on the back of a bike, and it was the scariest part of the day. i've no problem with riding a bike (well apart from the times i crashed - but that's another story) but there's the lack of control when your not the one riding which i don't like. i was the first of our group to go up to the top, and i wasn't sure on the etiquette of holding on. instinct was whispering me to hug the rider so i wouldn't fly off (a la ralph), pride was favouring the white knuckle grasp to the back of the seat. pride won the fight, although the swerves around the blind corners between the traffic and pedestrians made me question that decision all the way to the top.
while walking around the parque do caracol i came across a tree which had all it's branches enclosed in spiders webs. there were loads of little bugs caught in them, but i as hard as i looked i couldn't locate the big spider(s) i assumed were responsible. turning my attention to a nearby plant i spotted this little guy. and he was little, so much so that i struggled to get him in focus as the depth of field was so shallow. it was only when i looked back on my computer that i discovered he was little and ugly. and had four eyes. made me glad that i used a telephoto lens and didn't have to get too close.
good goddamn i wish i had a remote control for my camera. when the stars came out in pellegrini the weren't at all shy. the sky at night looked amazing, however i only had a maximum of 30 seconds to capture it, even my mate's compact camera gives him 180 seconds to play with. to get this i carefully balanced the camera, pointed it skywards and pressed the shutter every 30 seconds for just over 10 minutes, or 22 times to be exact. as the camera was on the ground i had no idea what it was really aiming at, so i was fairly pleased with the result. in my head though i'd have got a totally kick ass 30 minute exposure if i had a remote. i created this by putting all of the photos on separate layers in photoshop and setting the blending mode of all but the bottom layer to lighten. i had to nudge each layer a little bit to account for real life nudges i made when pressing the shutter.
a couple of weeks ago or so i promised i'd get around to posting some shots from the more touristy places i've been to such as iguazu falls and christ the redeemer. well i've done the former, but when i looked back at my jesus pictures i wasn't that satisfied. the problem was that i went up when it was really cloudy, which meant the view of both the statue and the city below were partly obscured. every now and then the mist would move out the way and i would get a good view, but just as quickly the mist would return and conceal it all again. while all this was going on, i was more interested with what was happening behind christ's back. again when i first got to the top this view was just a grey and white abyss. then the clouds slowly faded out to reveal these towers and pylons perched on top of the clouds. it looked awesome. so there's my assessment - pylons are better than jesus.
this is my third day in montevideo, uruguay, and i am already running out of space on my memory cards. every street you turn down you find at least five different photo opportunities - i swear that a week here would fill up a photoblog for year. talking of which, i just signed up for another four days at the hostel i'm staying at, so get ready for a few hundred uruguayan photos.
walking around montevideo yesterday we were going to go back to the hostel when we passed a bar with jack daniels signs on the window, hunky dory playing from a turntable and a big wooden table in the sun. i think if you get a hattrick like that you have to stop and have a drink. one drink quickly turned into many as we got talking to a few regulars that were there. when i got up to pay the tab the music had changed and it sounded strangely familiar. i asked the barman who it was and as soon as he said M is shouted back WARD?! i was tipsy enough to regard the fact we both liked the same (not so) obscure artist as a crazy meeting of chance. i think the bartender must have thought the same as instead of taking my money he pulled out a new beer and said m ward has bought this beer for you. legendary.
there are two types of men - those that have to be in complete control whenever a barbeque gets started, and those that are happy enough just to eat the food. i fall firmly in the second camp, i'll cook if necessary but i don't feel compelled to blow on the coals and constantly prod and turn the meat. a few days ago me and four other people decided to have a somewhat impromptu barbeque, and through no compulsion of my own i ended up acting as head chef. it worked out, and we were all well fed at the end of the night. particularly lady who not only finished off everyone's scraps, but also half a steak and a sausage that didn't quite make the journey from the grill to the plate. ok, so maybe i wasn't so good with moving the meat, but no one fell ill the next day, so that's a success in my book.
the are a few different types of friends you meet when you go travelling. there are those that you get on really well with, but know you'll never see again. there are those that you exchange facebook details with yet probably won't ever message. there are those that you keep in touch with in the hope that you might meet up at a different destination on your travels. and there are those that you hope you'll keep in contact with for a long time. this lady falls into the first category, which is a shame as she was really friendly. whenever i went to the supermarket she'd bound along with me, if i went to the beach she'd be at my heels and play fetch. she even kept guard on the balcony outside my bedroom to make sure i was safe. yeah, i kinda regret not asking for her facebook details now.
i haven't got my wide angle lens with me on my travels. i'm returning home in about a month for a week and i'm debating whether i should bring it back out with me when i return. on the downside, there are insurance implications - in that it'll cost quite a lot to insure. it is a fairly pricey lens though and it would represent both a significant loss and, for a potential thief, a good steal. plus it will be something else in terms of bulk and weight that i'll have to carry around with me. on the flipside there are very obvious benefits, and i've already encountered quite a few situations where i've regretted not having it. my workaround here was to zoom my telephoto lens into the back of a pair of binoculars that were hanging at the top of an observation tower in parque do caracol. i suspect that i won't be fortunate enough to have this option at most of the wide vistas i encounter.
i've always found the moon a bit of a bitch to try and photograph. usually i only notice it when it's full, and while that may look nice in person it doesn't always make for the best photograph. first time i put up a moon shot i shamefully tried to disguise this by completely overprocessing it and creating something stupid. well this may still not be a great photo, but i liked it enough after i looked at it on my computer to put it up here. i took this on a boat ride on ilha grande - about half an hour after the sun had dipped
after me and three mates had spent a couple of hours looking around iguazu falls in brazil it was lunchtime and we were all pretty hungry. someone planted a mcdonalds seed in our heads and it was all we could think of, a gnawing craving we couldn't get rid of. we sat at an inferior burger joint by the waterfalls contemplating our next move. we weren't impressed with the food they had there so we broke it down to two options. go to a nearby birdpark which had been recommended to us or get the bus to mcdonalds. the debate went on for a good half an hour, and if i had bowed to peer pressure you'd be looking at a photo of a big mac right now. as it was everyone else left and i hungrily walked round the birdpark on my own. still, when this toucan hopped up towards me i knew that i'd made the correct decision.
the birdlife was pretty cool in the big laguna, but the coolest animals were definitely the cayman. like sharks they just have a sinister/danger vibe going on which is both scary and captivating. when we saw our first one we paddled the boat up quite close and started taking pictures. i was snapping away, and then went to change some settings. i upped the shutter speed too much and the pictures ended up really underexposed. annoyingly this was at the exact moment when the reptile opened it's mouth wide exposing it's teeth in a yawning pose. i beat myself up about missing that one for the rest of the trip.
my mate has just got into surfing, and wanted me to come down and get some pictures of him riding the waves. i was hoping for some more big wave type shots, but a combination of him not being as good, and the waves being really flat, meant that was impossible. in fact he found it really difficult to even catch a wave and stand on the board. i got a bit bored so looked around and saw this seagull in the corner of my eye. looking through my lens i saw that it had a fish in his mouth so i took this picture. just after clicking the shutter i turned to look at my mate who had finally stood up and caught a wave, and was just coming to a stop near the shore. he wasn't too impressed when i revealed that i'd missed that because i was taking pictures of seagulls.
a couple of days ago i went on a short walk and sat on these boulders taking pictures of the waves crashing through them. the path had finished, but the boulders kept on going around the coast so i decided to continue, jumping and climbing from one to the next. when i got to a section where there was no way forward i turned to look back and found the exit wasn't as simple as the entrance. weighing up my options i went for the next best alternative and headed inland to the jungle. i found a trail, or at least some flattened ground where someone (or something) had walked before. when this path thinned out i tried to work out the best route, convinced that a road was just around the corner. it wasn't and as i ventured deeper i just got sweatier, thirstier and itchier. when the trail i was following stopped at a big boggy marshland i knew it was time to either commit or turn back. an hour and a half later i was back at this boulder, turns out the original exit was a lot easier than the jungle alternative.
i haven't posted many 'headline' shots of the big south american attractions so far. i don't think it's been a conscious decision - i guess i just chose to process other shots first. plus when you roll up somewhere really touristy and everyone has their cameras out you don't feel like you're capturing anything that original by taking a shot. but that's bollocks - because everything you shoot is new and different, because it's you that's shooting it. plus, the reason that everyone has their cameras out is usually because what you're looking at is really impressive. and that certainly applies to the iguazu falls. this is on the brazilian side, which while not being as impressive as the argentinian side is still awe-inspiring. this was probably the best bit of it - and it wasn't very easy to get a picture as the spray from the falls soaked everything that was close by. i managed this shot before my lens got covered in water and i was too scared to get it out again.
this was in the argentinian side of iguazu falls, and kinda of reminded me of the shins video. you know the one with all the butterflies. what was it called? hang on i'll just check on google...
...oh yeah, saint simon. now i've rewatched it it's actually nothing like that video, part from the fact there are quite a few butterflies. still, at least i've directed your attention towards a quality tune. you're welcome.
i usually find birds really boring. certainly going to a zoo or animal park, i'd be more keen on the mammals or reptiles. in fact after going scuba diving i'd even put fish above them in terms of interesting animals to see. despite this i've been to a bird park in brazil, and saw quite a few flying creatures in esteros, and they were both really cool. so if you're not a fan of birds, prepare to get a little bored over the coming days when i post a selection of the many shots i've taken.
last night a few of us we were walking back from the pub when we passed some sand dunes. we'd been drinking all day and the temptation was overpowering, we dropped everything and legged it into the sandy darkness. we proceeded to spend the next two hours running, jumping and behaving like kids until we were all covered in sand. this is one of the swedish guys we were with who was taking a break from jumping before launching into an hour long drunken pantomime with his mate, complete with playfighting and arnold schwarzenegger impressions. it was possibly the funniest and most surreal dramatisation i've ever seen.
i would like to be able to surf, but i don't think i could be arsed going through all the lessons and practice to get to a level where i could do something like this. i'm sure there must be a massive buzz when you ride a wave, but i don't like the trade off with the paddling, waiting and freezing in the water. not to mention the gallons of sea water you must end up consuming every time you catch it wrong. i'm content enough sticking to bodyboarding close to the shore.
one of the cool things about going to the argentinian marshlands was that it was completely spontaneous and unexpected. i always knew i was going to go to christ the redeemer in rio (pictures coming soon) and iguazu falls in brazil/argentina (pictures coming soon) but i had never heard of esteros del ibera before and it was only chosen because it sounded cool and was close by. in the actual village of colonia carlos pellegrini we only met one other person from the 600 strong population that spoke english - so i guess not many other gringos had heard of it either.
do people still send postcards these days? i mean if you go somewhere where you have access to the internet and a digital camera - surely an email with an attachment is a better option. you get to send a picture of your choosing that will have more significance than a pre-selected postcard shot. it's cheaper to send an email than buying a card and postage. and it's instant, instead of waiting the weeks the international postal service takes to deliver mail. for me all the positives seem to be on the side of sending a picture email. which is a roundabout way of saying i haven't got round to sending any postcards yet.
yesterday i saw the sun set over laguna del ibera in colonia carlos pellegrini. it looks like a pretty sight, but it is the kind of place where once the sun goes down, the bugs come out. the temptation to head for shelter and avoid getting eaten alive was too high, so i waited for the sun to disappear and then legged it back inside.
i've been in argentina for a few days but this is the first photo i've had a chance to process. i took it in a town called corrientes, which was praised by my rough guide and denounced by my mate's lonely planet. as my bus arrived at half six and the next one departed at ten i can't really pass judgement. i did take a few shots in this deserted train yard though, so i'm glad i used it as a connection.
as part of the tour of rio that a friend of a friend took us on we went to a cathedral in el centro. on the outside it looked really strange, like an ugly 1970s concrete pyramid that was half space-age and half secret spy aesthetics. on the inside it looked amazing, with floor to ceiling stained glass windows on each of the four sides. i didn't know how to photograph it and in the end went for a distorted panoramic which, while not being that accurate, still gives a fairly good idea of how cool it looked on the inside.
there was a really beautiful beach on ilha grande called lopes mendes. there were only two ways to access it, one was by hiking across the island for a few hours, and the other was by boat. we chose the hottest part of the day to hike over, but that made reaching the beach itself all the more sweet. we elected to get the boat back, due to being pretty knackered from the first hike, the fact the sun was going down, and also as we'd been told there were dolphins in the water that liked to follow the boat. i'd love to be posting a picture of dolphins right now, but they never materialised so all you're getting is a setting sun.
we went to a restaurant for lunch last week where they gave us all blank paper tablemats and a crayon each. it's such a simple idea i don't know why more restaurants don't do it. it saves you having to make tortured small talk whilst complaining about how long the food is taking. instead we drew pictures of the person sitting opposite us to varying degrees of (un)flattery. this is how i came out - which i was pretty chuffed with - mainly cos it makes my beard look far more fulsome than real life.
last week i went on a tour of rocinha favela - the largest favela in rio de janeiro. part of me felt a little uncomfortable with the idea, as i didn't want it to be like going to a zoo full of poor people. but from everything i'd heard, the tours do have a positive impact in the communities. the tour itself was fascinating - experiencing people living in a very different way to what i'd consider common. having said that, it wasn't like visiting a dirty, depressing slum. we passed plenty of houses that had tv glows emanating out of them, spotted a few computers being used and even saw a a family watching a portuguese-dubbed simpsons episode. parts of the tour felt pretty orchestrated, other parts felt more realistic, but overall i thought it was a worthwhile and interesting experience. i took this on one of the more orchestrated sections, where we just happened to pass four kids with drum sticks who played us a number. still, it gave me a good opportunity to try out my new lens so that was cool with me.
we arrived on ilha grande a couple of days ago. after finding our hostel we went to the beach before setting off on a walk. there were signposts to a waterfall which sounded as good as any place to walk towards. the trail began to get steeper, which wasn't very fun in flip-flops, and we sensed the sun was on it's way down. still we persevered, up until we heard a strange noise coming from the trees. my mate was convinced that there was danger ahead, in fact i think the exact phrase he used was "that sounds like wild pigs... fuck that, i'm turning back!" i insisted we kept on going, and as we turned round the corner we saw these three monkeys howling in the distance. we were lucky that i was brave enough to keep on walking. but then again, my bravery did stem from my belief that the noise we were hearing was a chainsaw.
last thursday we met up with a friend of a friend who lives in rio. we hadn't met her before, but we clicked straight away and got on really well. she took us on a little tour of the city, which started early in the morning and involved a hike up corcovado mountain. i'm pretty sure the last time i did a proper hike was well over a year ago when i was in peru... in fact that's probably the last time i did any proper form of exercise. combining that with the fact that i didn't have any dinner the night before, or breakfast that morning, and i was nursing a hangover... well it would be fair to say that i found it a struggle. the whole trail lasted about 90 minutes, but they were 90 minutes of unrelenting uphill, and i mean really steep uphill. i refused to ask how much further it was to the top, as i thought any answer that was longer than 10 minutes would just demoralise me. luckily my stubbornness to finish outfought every other signal my body was begging my brain to give up.
i think all brazilians must be born with some kind of genetic predisposition to kicking a ball in the air. as i was lounging on ipanema beach the other day there were a whole bunch of groups of brazilians performing really impressive keepy-uppy skills. annoyingly they knew how impressive they looked so they were posing and showing off as much as just having a kick-about. i fought the urge to introduce them to john smith.
much of my first couple of days in rio has been spent chilling out on the beach. it's been pretty relaxing, although the tranquillity does get spoiled every few minutes by some random dude trying to sell some random junk. it doesn't take long to get annoyed by their constant badgering, however i was impressed with the dedication shown by this guy. i didn't think i had any room in my bag for summery dresses so i still had to say no abrigado.
i was just working on my computer when i saw something move out of the corner of my eye. as i turned to look i saw this spider scuttling across the room. i'm not usually too fussed about spiders, i'm not there biggest fan, but i don't turn into a quivering wreck when i see one. still, this dude was pretty big. i trapped it without too much trouble, but for me the trickiest part of the operation is releasing it back into the wild. my usual approach is to take it outside, turn the container upside down, give it a shake, and then quickly retreat. however i'm always worried that the spider will cling on inside, and when i come back inside it will crawl out the container and start attacking me. i assumed that it was more testy than usual after i forced it to pose for this photograph, so i decided to employ a new technique. this involved placing the vessel on the ground, kicking it over at a legs length, waiting for it crawl into the night, and then quickly picking up my emancipation tools and legging it back in.
i didn't think twice about taking my slr and lenses to south america when i made my mind up about travelling. i'm a little concerned about the safety of them, i know they'll be more likely to get broken or stolen compared to at home, but what can you do about? in that spirit i bought another lens the other day: a 50mm f1.8 prime. i was watching a documentary that had some amazing looking portrait shots and that sold it to me. it wasn't too costly, so i managed to justify the expense in my head. annoyingly when i got hold of it i discovered that the auto focus feature works on all nikons apart from mine. this could be an issue as it has such a shallow depth of field, but i think it might lead to some interesting results. this is my first shot with it, and you can see what i mean about the depth of field. incidentally i bought this neocube purely based on a post from a different photoblog. detour wrote about it almost two years ago, and i thought it looked too cool not to have. i was right - it's awesome.
so i've got an announcement to make - i'm going to be going away for a while. that is, away from the uk. i've got a one way ticket to rio and in just under two weeks i'll be flying over to brazil with the intention of travelling around south america. this isn't just a holiday like when i went over last year, no siree, i've quit my job, moved out of my flat and said my goodbyes. the plan is to travel around the continent, first heading to the south of argentina and then working northwards.
i am taking my camera and a laptop with me so as long as they don't get stolen i'm hoping to continue updating this site. it'll all depend on how easy it is to access the internet where i am, but i doubt i'll have a lack of content when i do connect.
anyways today was my last day at work, so for the next ten days or so i'll be frantically sorting out what's left to sort out. then i can relax and fly off into the unknown.
there were a lot of moments this summer when i thought i'd never take a picture like this: cesc fabregas in an arsenal shirt. for an arsenal fan the biggest drama over the last few months was whether cesc would stay at the club or move to barcelona. it seemed certain at one point that he'd go, or at least that he wanted to go. then it became clear that arsenal were stubborn and didn't want to sell him. frustratingly cesc kept quiet about it all so the uncertainty ran up until a couple of weeks before the new season kicked off when he finally committed his (short term) future to the club. i already know that next summer the rumours and gossip will begin again, and i think i'd be more surprised if he stayed past that point, but for this season at least we can still sing we've got cesc fabregas.
i took this over a month ago from the window in my flat, but i probably could have taken it quite a few times in the last week. the weather has been pretty messed up recently, seemingly either really sunny or really wet. i was walking home from work last friday just as it started raining and must have tripled in weight due to my soggy clothes when i finally got home. english summer weather is nothing if not predictable.
i had another flying trip to london on the weekend and paid another visit to westfield. this is primarily because i know i can pick up a wifi connection, without having to buy a big mac or latte. things will be a lot simpler when london brings in the 'wifi in every lamp post and bus stop' proposal which is supposed to happen before the 2012 olympics. although a quick search on google reveals that boris may be talking out of his arse about this as apparantly it's only been mooted as an idea as opposed to a nailed on plan. never trust a (tory) politician.
this guy has caused a little bit of a stir at work recently. first of he didn't invite any of his bosses to his wedding last month. then he handed in his notice due to getting a job with a rival company and was shown the door a couple days later. i think it's fair to say the senior guys were not best pleased. i don't think it'd be wise to write much more about it so all i will say is this - i had a great time at the wedding.
i was up in scotland the weekend before last - so to add to my stereotypical collection of obvious photos here's a picture of a loch. loch lomond to be specific, where i had just enjoyed a homemade picnic on a suprsingly sunny scottish day - who knew there was more to scotland than rain and haggis? i took this with my new camera and i'm still in the 'getting used to it' period so i don't want to make any premature judgements - but i'm not really a fan of the 4x3 ratio that it produces. i think i'm used to pictures looking more widescreen, and as a result this cropping looks a bit wrong to me. i'll either have to come around to the idea, or start framing my pictures better.
we were all tasked with bringing different meals when i went camping on the weekend. my responsibility was the burgers and sausages for the barbeque. however when we learnt that a couple of friends were arriving the next day, and could therefore bring along some fresh produce, my role diminished to just bringing cheese, onions and ketchup. as a result of my unimpressive offering, and my late arrival, in my head i thought lugging 16 bottles of beer in my rucksack would make up for it. i think all it made was my back feel sore. i attempted to get involved in cooking duties, but after chopping the corner of my thumb off while i was dicing the onions i resigned to what i knew i could do - take photos. it's best not to stretch yourself when you're with others who are clearly more compentant.
i went camping over the weekend in north yorkshire. the weather forecast promised rain on the first day followed by sunshine on the second. surprisingly this was pretty accurate, so when i woke up on saturday morning i felt like i was looking at my surroundings for the first time. this was more to do with the fact that i only arrived on friday evening when it was wet and getting dark. due to an organisational mixup (ie i'm disorganised) i arrived after work whereas everyone else got there at about lunchtime. the unplanned benefit (to me) was that i avoided the whole 'pitching the tent in the rain' manoeuvre that my mates suffered. the lesson there it seems is that it pays to be disorganised, but it doesn't pay to be my friend. all this talk would imply i took this when the sun was rising on saturday morning, but after a particularly tiring day at work i was in no mood for early starts so instead this is the sun setting in the evening.
i still seem to be struggling for time to both take and post pictures so here's an old one from the rage against the machine gig i went to. they didn't play the longest set i've seen, but they did bang out most of their hits. in between handing out a giant cheque and their celebratory finale they played the usual suspects from their three studio albums as well as covering the clash's white riot and the unexpected but appreciated township rebellion from their debut lp. zack de la rocha preceded this song with a diatribe about israel and palestine saying "the un should stop kow-towing to the united states and israel and do what's right and condemn the israeli government for what they did on that flotilla and end the blockade". he then led over 40,000 people in singing/shouting out one of their most famous hooks: "don't stand on a silent platform, fight the war, fuck the norm"". you wouldn't get that at an x-factor concert. love it.
i've have a lot of late nights this week. i go to bed fairly late anyway, usually getting about six hours of sleep a night, but the difference this week is that i've been busy and working up until i go to sleep. as a result i've been feeling more knackered then i should when i wake, and this morning i was actually woken up at half 9 by work saying "where the fuck are you?" that never looks too professional. strangely just before that phonecall i was dreaming i was involved in a track and field type event with everyone at work, and i was racing around the track really, really slowly. it's as though my subconscious knew that i was going to be late, but could only transmit that message in a coded metaphor. then again, had i been dreaming about a giant alarm clock i suspect that would have made zero difference. anyways this shot is of my neice after her christening and i'm planning doing the same this weekend. sleeping that is, not lying in the garden with my feet sticking out of a pram.
i'll be the first to admit that the recent lack of posting on here has been nothing short of disgraceful. no updates for three weeks looks worse when i think that i've probably been sat in front of my computer for a lot of those days. unfortunately my attention has been distracted by various jobs and tasks. this has kept me from both posting and taking pictures for the best part of a month. i'm not going to promise that this will improve in the near future, but i'll try harder. with a long absence of posting there's pressure to make sure you return with a strong image, almost as though you'd been waiting that long to post a quality shot. well this isn't one of those. but in a way it's pertinent, as this was the much anticipated view that i'd trekked for four days on the inca trail to witness. i took this at the sun gate, and somewhere behind the clouds is machu picchu. the word anticlimax was created for moments like these. thankfully, if you stick shit out for long enough, sometimes you do get rewarded.
for real? that meat that people only ever eat at christmas? that's a little too dry and a little too bland? who knew that it looked like this? i guess there's no correlation between how crazy an animal looks and how delicious it tastes. i think i'll stick with boring ass chickens on my plate.
back in 2003 cienciano, cusco's main football team, qualified for copa sudamericana - which is the south american version of the uefa cup. in the quarter finals they managed to overcome the brazilian club santos, in the semi's they beat atletico nacional and they faced the argentinian river plate in the final. the away leg was an end-to-end, back-and-forth affair that finished 3-3. the second leg began and it wasn't long into the game when cienciano had a player sent off. the crowd grew less vocal and more subdued as the game went on, then one fan began to shout out ¡sí se puede! ¡sí se puede!. this soon spread around the entire stadium and with all of the cienciano fans willing their team on, 15 minutes from time the peruvians scored from a free kick to make it one-nil. despite finishing the game with nine men cienciano were crowned champions of south america and ¡sí se puede! became their mantra. all of which was a long way of saying ¡sí se puede! translates into yes you can!
as a lot of trash talk and bollocks was spouted around the time of the race for christmas number one between rage against the machine and x factor, there was one element that i thought didn't get enough attention. while simon cowell insisted joe should get to number one as it would fulfil the boy's dream, rage promised that all the money spent on their single would go straight to charity, specifically the uk's homeless charity shelter. midway through rage's set at their victory gig they invited out two people who "had a good idea" - jon and tracy morter who started the facebook campaign intent on stopping x-factor from their annual christmas number one. after a couple of speeches from zack and tom they then handed the morters a cheque for over £100k which had been raised as a result of their initiative. it felt genuinely inspiring to see the positive effects and massive results that can be achieved by the smallest and simplest ideas.
after my niece's christening we all went outside to get some fresh air and sun. i made a mistake that i'm guessing every photographer has made before, i forgot to change my camera from the indoor to the outdoor settings. if i'd have been more heedful then there's no way i'd have taken a shot like this - so i'm glad i left all of that heed inside.
it's strange how certain words or phrases that you haven't heard of before enter into the national conciousness. in the 90s if you'd have heard the words millennium bug you would have thought it was some futuristic disease. the year before last the term credit crunch would have sounded like some weird kind of cereal. and even a couple of months ago if someone had said the word vuvuzela i would have probably assumed they were talking about something rude. who knew it was in fact a traditional african horn which is quite possibly the most boring instrument ever invented. i mean seriously - one note - that's all you got - i've produced farts with more melody than that.
i wouldn't class myself as a gambler. i don't think i've ever bet on a horse, or gone to the dogs, and i rarely do the lottery. however every two years, i tend to place a few bets on the world cup or european championships. for this year's world cup i've stepped it up a little. this is mainly due to the ease and speed of going to an online bookies instead of a bricks and mortar version, and also due to an ipod touch app i've downloaded. this app allows me to bet from my sofa, whilst i'm watching the match. this carries a huge advantage to the gambler, as you can judge how a game is progressing, instead of the relative blindness of a pre-match prediction. as it stands, through a combination of winning bets and other promotions, i've made £140 profit. this unexpected bounty acted as justification in my head to replace my knackered canon a620 so i put the money towards a new compact camera - a canon sx210. i thought it appropriate to debut it with a shot of the bets that put it in my hands.
i've passed this sign lots of times before whenever i've travelled down to london, as it's right outside victoria coach station. i've wanted to take a picture of it before, but i'm usually in a rush to either catch the bus, or go to whatever i'm in london for. typical then that the only moment i had a bit of time it was when it was so dark i had to up the iso to barely tolerable levels to get a visible image. however i can make no guarantee that i will ever be in that area with time on my hands in the near future, so i figured it was still worth posting. if i do get another opportunity then i'll try and get a shot from the other side that has the N A K N letters - which should be all you need to complete the simple anagram.
i suppose one of the main reasons why people are usually christened at a very young age is so that you don't retain any traumatic memories of the big scary man pouring water on your head. chloe didn't seem as bothered as you might think, and was impeccably behaved for the whole service. her lively sister was slightly less so as she littered the service with her unique peppa pig impressions which somewhat detracted from the vicars convictions. mind you my camera sounded equally as noisy as i was snapping away so i probably didn't help matters, but at least i managed to get a photo out of it, albeit a noisy, grainy, high iso photo.
this was a ring-tailed lemur strolling about with her two kids clinging onto her belly. this was in the same fenced off area as the lemur i posted last week, but this time i managed to hide the wire but converting the image to black and white with the green filter preset in photoshop. i'm not really sure what this does to the image, from a technical point of view, but i was trying a few different techniques and that worked the best.
before rage against the machine came on stage they played an animated video of simon cowell, surrounded by his many riches, lamenting rage's victory in getting to christmas number one. this was met with inevitable boos and jeers from the audience, particularly his comment that if the band were in x factor they wouldn't make it past boot camp. it was complete over the top pantomime which while amusing and enjoyable, threatened to undermine some the more serious and intense nature of ratm. when the band walked out and launched head-first into a storming version of testify all of these concerns left my head - they undoubtedly were for real and undoubtedly meant business.
the weather has been pretty good the last few days - however my recent postings haven't really reflected that. that's because i've got a bunch of gig and animal pictures, but no sunshine pictures. to slightly redress this balance, before i take some sunny shots, i thought i'd post one from peru last year. this was on the floating islands of uros and i don't think it would be inaccurate to say that this was almost as hot as my non air-conditioned office. so you know, it was pretty hot.
when i biked over to cookridge to get a long exposure night shot of the communication tower i parked my bike in an estate around the corner. as i was dismounting a group of lads walked past and shouted "i wouldn't leave that there mate" in a manner that sounded infinitely more threatening than it did helpful. as a result i didn't feel particularly safe crouching in the field in front of the tower with my slr and spare lenses. i'm not usually too concerned when out late at night taking pictures, but i had an uneasy feeling while i was there so shamefully/sensibly i didn't hang around for too long. i think i wanted to make some kind of irrational point to myself by taking this shot of where i parked, but as soon as the shutter clicked i sped away.
i've been to a few outdoor gigs where they've brought in an initiative where you get money for every empty beer cup you return. at the rage against the machine concert you received 10p per cup - which was probably paid for my hiking up the price of the beer itself. i imagine it's supposed to encourage recycling as much as discourage littering - however it has a third repercussion as well. it turns your average music fan into eagle-eyed opportunists scouring the area for discarded empty vessels in an attempt to cash in. out of all of those that i saw, this guy was the clear master at this game and must have amassed a few hundred - an impressive tally. it would have been even more impressive if this photo showed him with both hands in the air - but that would be an altogether different accomplishment.
my second niece got christened the other week in the same church as my first. this time around i had a better camera, and, significantly, sororal permission to use it. i remembered taking a similar shot to this when i was there two years ago for round one so i attempted replicating it. the window and the child are slightly different, but you have to look pretty close to notice.
i'm not quite sure how tom morello is viewed in the guitar community, or even in the musician community as a whole. i get the feeling it's the same as many other artists, respected and admired in his own genre, unappreciated, mocked or scorned in others. in my opinion, which is unapologetically partial, he should earn a lot of respect. that cat can do things with his guitar that i haven't seen anyone else do. it may look in this picture like he's giving his instrument an insecure hug, but he's actually flicking the pickup while scratching the fret to produce a distinctive sound that's a million miles away from strumming a d chord. it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he deserves props for innovation.
i was complaining last month about keeping animals in cages, not you understand from any welfare perspective, but because the cage ends up ruining the photo. i was having this trouble when photographing the lemurs, so instead of trying to hide the cage i made it a focal point of the photo.
i took this after watching the latest bill hicks movie. i only got into bill after his death, so i never had a chance to see him live. i think watching that film in a sold out cinema is probably the closest i'll come to that experience. it was great to laugh along at both old and new (to me) material - the man is a legend, and it was one of the few movies i've seen followed by a round of applause, and one of the fewer where i've joined in with that applause. since i had my camera with me i decided to take this shot on my way home, which from my eyes was just a regular long exposure shot of streets in the distance. after the 30 seconds had elapsed and i reviewed the result i was surprised to see colourful lights dotting the sky. i looked up again, and just saw dark ahead of me, so i took another shot, and got the same colourful result. now i'm sure my left-brain could come up with some unexciting explanation as to how these lights appeared in the sky - but i prefer to listen to my right-brain.
i was out riding on my bike a few weekends ago and as the weather was good i decided to take the long way home. this took me through an area i hadn't been to before, and as i passed this tower i thought it looked like a good place to return for a night shot. and that's exactly how that shit went down. i took my tripod as i knew i'd need a really long exposure, however i hadn't factored in the difficulty with focusing. there wasn't enough light to use the auto-focus, and after quite a lot of trial and error i wasn't having any luck with manual either. the solution came in the form of my wide-angle which didn't complain once and provided me with a nice sharp capture. incidentally the light stretching between the bottom-left of the tower and the trees is an aeroplane which was coming in to land at the nearby airport.
i've been a fan of rage against the machine for quite a long time and i was one of the lucky few to get a free ticket to their victory gig in london the other week. i took my camera, as well as a rucksack with amongst other things my spare lenses. as the headline act drew nearer i made my way closer to the front and drew a lot of comments from people remarking how brave i was to have my camera out at a rage concert. when they finally made it on stage it became apparent why. i don't think i've ever been in a crowd so violent and aggressive. that's not necessarily a condemnation, as it wasn't malicious or hostile, just heavy and potentially dangerous. i was pushed and pulled around, waves of people were swayed from side to side, losing balance and falling on each other. the audience helped each other up, and then the waves restarted and again we all fell down. it was completely lacking in any control so i knew that for my, and my camera's safety, i needed to retreat.
this is an asian fishing cat which was another cute animal from trotters world of animals in the lakes. it looked just like an oversized pet cat that you just wanted to go up to and cuddle. i have a feeling the fact that they chose to capitalise the words VERY FEROCIOUS on her website description page is a compelling reason to resist that urge.
jess is a big fan of this ball. she seemed at her happiest when she was running along chasing after it. as luck would have it my niece derived almost as much enjoyment at throwing the ball - so it sounds like a perfect match. the rub is that my niece throws like a two year old girl, primarily on account of being a two year old girl, so you could feel jess's frustration building as she patiently waited to run after the ball, only to watch it projected a foot away from it's original location.
today i went to see england play usa in our first game of the world cup. there's a cricket ground near to where i live called headingley carnegie stadium which opened it's gates to allow football fans to watch the match on their big screen. they didn't, however, open their minds to the option of fans bringing their own alcohol to the event. to get around this we hatched a cunning plan which involved buying cheap beer in the local off-licence and passing it through the gates into the rucksack that housed this camera. no queueing and paying exorbitant prices for us. the match itself was neither a complete success or a complete failure (in that it finished 1-1) except to me who had bet that the argentines would win and the english would draw today's fixtures. i figured that way if england won i'd be happy, and if england drew at least i'd make a bit of profit. of course i'd still prefer england to win, but the extra £10.24 in my pocket makes it a little easier to take.
the world cup started today so i tried to find a suitable football shot from my archives. despite having posted a fair few soccer shots i couldn't find any so i decided to look back even further at south african photos i took two and a half years ago when i was over on holiday. i was watching the coverage tonight on bbc and they had a revolving studio in cape town that showed a panorama including table mountain, the new stadium and robben island - all drenched in evening, african sun. damn it makes me wish i didn't get pneumonia when i was driving to cape town and have to turn back via the plettenburg bay hospital.
on sunday i went down to london to see rage against the machine play their 'victory concert' in finsbury park. basically last christmas a facebook campaign was started to get rage's killing in the name song to number one in the singles charts, primarily to topple the monopoly that simon cowell's x-factor has had on christmas number ones in previous years. the facebook campaign gained momentum and despite the song not being physically released (it made it to the top.
this shot was taken just before the encore. they blasted out joe mcelderry's the climb (the x-factor competitor) while flashing quotes on the big screen, a few of which i've included on the left of the shot. there was a lot of cocky and arrogant put-downs and predictions from joe and simon cowell before the raw stats of the number of purchases and the YOU Made History salute. the band then came back on stage and the crowd went ape-shit as they rattled out the victorious anthem.
this is my niece deep in concentration as she creates a crayola art spectacular at her granddad's house. she hasn't quite mastered the complex shapes, still adopting an abstract straight line style. i'm sure cubism or surrealism is just around the corner.
if you know a few things about digital photos, you won't need me to tell you that this is an hdr image. if you don't know what that is, it's a combination of a series of exposures, on this occasion three. because i was shooting towards the sun if i'd have just taken one shot then i'd have to choose between the sky being really blown out and over-exposed, or the foreground being really dark and under-exposed. by shooting both of those variants, and one in the middle, i was able to combine the three so you can see the details in the whole image. as this isn't a natural view from a photograph, hdr images tend to look a bit unreal. i'm not usually a fan of this look, at least i prefer it when it's toned down a little. but on this occasion i decided to push it a little further and create something a little more hyper-real than normal.
when i came back from my holiday last year i posted a yellow cab shot from new york and proclaimed that times square was a place that everyone should visit once, and never again. the eagle-eyed amongst you may spot that the timestamp on that big yellow taxi photo is a couple of weeks before this one, so i can only hold my hands up. i clearly didn't practice what i preached. i'm trying to recall why i went back there on the second leg of my new york trip, but i can't think of any good reason. fool me once times square, shame on you. fool me twice...
over the last couple of days i've been working on refining the site and creating a mobile version. i started doing this after i noticed how awkward the site was to navigate on my ipod touch. i wanted to try and keep as much functionality as i could, although i knew it would be tough to bring all the features to a screen that's only 300 pixels wide. there are a few minor features missing, and an amended layout, but apart from that, everything else should be there and should be working.
by the way, this is jess, she's a cross between a border collie and, i dunno, something else. she likes long walks by the coast, having her belly tickled and the word 'ball'.
this is another beast from the world of animals - i was quite snap happy so i'm sure i'll be putting more up next month. frustratingly there was a common denominator between me and getting the shot i wanted - a wire fence. sure it may have kept me safe from this canadian lynx - but at what cost - a photo with blurred lines all over it. i tried my best to remove them in photoshop, and found the most successful result was to use a green filtered black and white adjustment layer. the side effect of this was that the image became black and white, but i'm cool with that, i've used that effect before.
when i went down to london to see the national i arrived with a bit of time to kill before the gig. i was recommended a coffee place which was between st pancras and the british library. i went on a bit of a mission trying to locate it, as it was called peyton and byrne yet transpired to not be the peyton and byrne in st pancras or just outside the british library. confusingly it was between these two locations, but the proprietors had decided to eschew any branding on their signage, opting for the generic espresso bar appellation. anyways the reason for the recommendation, and the justification for the subsequent search, was this treat: churros and chocolate. they are flippantly (though not inaccurately) also known as mexican doughnuts and they are squeezed out of a huge metal churros machine, deep fried, and then dusted with cinnamon and sugar. they are then served with a little pot of chocolate for dipping and these were sold with a free hot drink. well worth the £2.50.
i saw this swan when i was down in essex the weekend before last. it wasn't quite as cool as the animals i saw in the lakes a week earlier - but i still considered it photoworthy.
the last time i put up a lengthy post, i followed it with a shorter one - as yesterday's was also fairly long i'm thinking it's a good idea to echo that model again. plus my brain's been active for well over twelve hours today, and every man's got his limit. this shot seemed appropriate as it's one i took without engaging my brain at all. i thought it looked nice, so i clicked the shutter, but i couldn't analyse or extrapolate any further meaning or significance from it. so i'll just leave it as it is, and you can take from it what you will.
his photo is the only one in my archives that i thought could act as an obscure reference to lost - as jacob and the man in black duking it out. the reason i want to reference it is because i just finished watching the end a.k.a. the last ever episode. i must say that as a series, lost is stubbornly consistent. since it started six years ago it's been brilliant and frustrating in unequal measure. with no evidence to the contrary, i suppose it's unsurprising that the series finale followed this same pattern. it answered some questions and left some hanging, it was big on broad brush strokes which masked some finer details. but i respect the balls of the creators who would answer a critical question of why people can't leave the island with one simple line of dialogue. it wasn't the best television show of the decade, it isn't 10 out of 10 perfect, but it was an consistent, intelligent and entertaining drama. and i'm glad i stuck with it.
i think last night was the first time since the alcohol fuelled stag do that i've got really drunk. certainly the first time since then that i've done shots - which is usually a fairly good barometer. i haven't got any photographic evidence of this, today's photo is from the weekend before, however the fact that my head still hasn't stopped aching is evidence to me that i need to either drink less, or (re)train my body to handle drinking more. the latter sounds like more fun.
this was a shot i took last weekend when i was down in essex. it looks like a gloriously stunning sunset was taking place, however i have to confess that was absolutely not the case. it was a very pleasant day, but the orangey treatment you see is all down to photoshop fakery. i was just messing around with various post production effects and stumbled across this look after a random combination of tweaks.
usually when i choose a picture to post i have a vague idea of what i want to write about it. on this occasion i haven't, my brain is pretty fried tonight and it feels like far too much effort to engage it properly. i quite like this image, and i think the processing, while not very subtle, suits it. beyond that i've nothing to add, so sorry about that. this photoblog will have to settle for just a photo.
i liked flat eric, i quite liked monkey but i can't be doing with that stupid damn meerkat. the advert was clearly thought up in a particularly unimaginative brainstorming session - with some 'sky blue thinking' as my old boss used to say. i'm not sure how many hours it took them to realise that the word market sounds similar to meerkat, or why they thought that dressing it up in a smoking jacket, and giving it a poncy attitude and a russian accent would make it endearing and likeable. it doesn't matter how cute and fluffy you try and make it, at the end of the day he's still hawking car insurance. as tyler durden eloquently puts it: sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.
this is the main bus station in la paz, bolivia. when i went to south america last year i booked a return flight to peru, and a tour that went from peru to bolivia. therefore my little task for the trip was to try and arrange my journey back from bolivia to peru in time for my flight home. i was intending to use as much spanish as i could to get a bus ticket from inside this station, however when it came down to it i chickened out and got the help of my peruvian tour guide. financially that turned out to be a wise move, as after he had arranged it all and i went to pay, the lady who served us revealed that she would have charged more if she knew the ticket was for a gringo. of course she said that in superfast spanish so i just smiled at her and said gracias.
this was a water ride that a couple of guys i met on the recent stag do went on in blackpool. as is often the way on occasions like this, there were quite a few people who i hadn't met before, friends of friends and the like. everyone seemed genuinely nice, although i was surprised to find that the guys i didn't know were seemingly very different to me and my mates. they were all yorkshire born and bred, and proper lads. they knew each other so well that they mainly communicated with insults. in fact the put-downs were so frequent, be they a nickname, a random swearword or appending the sentence with a patronising 'sweetheart', that i began to feel left out of the mickey taking. it was evident that i was an outsider to their group, and the only way to become accepted was to have the piss ripped out of me. i didn't manage full integration, for example i never received the popular 'get back in your jar' aspersion, but i'm happy to say that i did eventually illicit a pleasing amount of good natured abuse.
i'll level with you, i'm a little bit drunk to write anything coherent about this post. i just came back from the best gig i've seen all year, which combines well with me only working a half day tomorrow. you may be suprised to hear that the best gig i've seen came after i saw my so called favourte band, however this gig was a little different, and it's a 'band' that i've wanted to see since i first saw them on tv about three years ago. their name is flight of the conchords, and this time i'm not even going to offer you a link. if you've heard of them, then there's no reason not to understand why i enjoyed them so much. if you haven't heard of them, then youtube is your friend. to say they matched my expectations sounds like a fairly flat assesment, but i assure you it's the highest of compiments i could offer. there were so many funny, quotable lines that i forgot the ones at the start as they were replaced with the newer ones. all in all, a jolly funny evening.
these were two peruvian brothers that were stuck in a boat trying to negotiate their way out of the reed islands on lake titicaca. i love the fraternal dynamic going on here, one of them putting their back into getting the boat released from the mud and reeds, while the other just sits on his arse. but you know that's just what i captured at two minutes past nine when i took this shot, for all i know the roles could have been reversed five minutes before and they were just taking it in turns. something tells me that's unlikely though.
last thursday i went down to london to see the national. i think they're probably my favourite band, certainly if you discount those that are currently disbanded or dead. i was pretty lucky to get tickets as i missed out on the first round that reportedly sold out in four minutes. then a couple of weeks ago i heard that they'd released a handful more due to scrapping the original plan of recording/videoing the gig. it was in the royal albert hall, which i'd never been to before, and found to be characteristically grand inside. the tickets forbade bringing cameras, as most tickets do, but i didn't want to risk taking my slr so i took my little compact. this is the same compact i learnt a few days ago didn't work so well... it proved that way again, and all the shots i tried taking of the band came our a blurry mess. this was one of the only ones that didn't come out too blurred, which perversely was a long exposure balanced on the back of someone's chair before the band came on.
at the beginning of the week i went to see arsenal play at blackburn. i was sat with all of the home fans, which meant that i had to keep my joy confined when we scored, and also my anguish disguised when they got their two. the second of these came from this dude, christopher samba, who's a beast of a player, by which i mean he's fucking huge. i was obviously annoyed that they had scored what would become the winner, and then celebrated right in front of me, but since i had my camera in my hand i figured at least i might get a good photo. when i got home i discovered i didn't even manage that. worse still, i think my camera is fucked. i noticed it a little when snapping away, but i couldn't focus on anything, either automatically or manually. it all came out really blurry. i think this only comes into play when i'm above a certain focal length, so that essentially means the zoom is disabled. dammit.
when i was walking around central park i saw this weird violinist and an even weirder dancer putting on some kind of show in front of the fountain. i thought that the shot would be ideal for some hdr treatment, however i didn't have a tripod so i found it difficult to match the different exposed shots. actually that's a lie, i did have a tripod as i used it later on in the day on the brooklyn bridge. well, either way i couldn't get the hdr to work, and actually i think i prefer the shadows and the darkness that makes the ceiling stand out, so i'm not too arsed.
when i went to my bike to ride to work on tuesday morning i found the cover strewn on the ground and the lock as you see it here. another guy in my block of flats had his bike nicked about a month ago, so i knew that there was a risk in leaving it where i did. however i don't really have much choice. there isn't anywhere i can leave it inside, so chained to the railings is my only option. luckily this isn't a picture of a bike lock that has been chopped in two, but one that has almost been chopped in two. i don't know if the theives couldn't cut through the very last bit, or if they got spooked because it was taking too long, but it was still hanging together by the wires. so i was lucky that i only had to shell out for a new lock instead of a new bike, but i'm not overly confident that i'll be as fortunate next time. scum, sub-human scum.
last week was one of the first times in ages that i opened the windows in my flat. it must be a sign that the weather's turning for the better as i felt far too cold to do it throughout the winter. i wasn't presented with another swarm of bugs, but there were still one or two that were hanging on in there. on this occasion i had time to reach for my slr and get a better shot of the little trespassers. this guy was scuttling across a piece of paper on my desk, although i found that it moved so fast that i had to put another piece of paper in front of him, and then swap them around, to keep him from running out of frame. i think i stopped somewhere between getting a shot i liked and considering the whole ordeal a little too torturous for the bug that just wanted freedom.
after yesterdays rather lengthy post i thought it best to keep it relatively short and sweet today. so here's a shot of la paz in bolivia, from where i've posted before, however this time it's in colour. how about that.
so today is a bit of a special day, this post marks the 1000th post in photobloggery. i knew it was coming up, and as i haven't really made a big deal of any landmark before (except my 4th birthday) i thought i should do something a little bit different. so here's a mosaic of the first 1000 photos i've posted.
if you want to see the full, link-ridden mosaic then head to the main photoblog: www.testmeat.co.uk/photos/index.php?id=1000