caribbean, Cuba

Swimming in El Nicho, Cuba

June 18, 2015

In a brand new Hyundai Santa Fe, an unexpected sight on the Cuban roads, we wind our way through Sierra Del Escambray, stopping to take in the views back over the valley and of course, enjoy Cuban coffee at a ‘coffee museum’, until we reach Parque El Nicho.

Crossing dry streams and rivers, we walk up to one of many waterfalls, where we enjoy the refreshing swim in the enchanting waterhole.

Avoiding the new arrival of tourists, we skip the park’s restaurant, instead opting for a local meal further down the road, in what feels to be the ladies backyard.

After a week in Cuba struggling to converse with the locals, we were grateful to have hired an english speaking local guide to answer our questions on Cuban life.

As our local guide entertained us with Mother-in-law jokes, our plates were filled with pork, fresh tomatoes, dried banana’s, a delicious african root vegetable topped with a garlic jew and accompanied by the must-have, rice and beans.
El Nicho, Cuba

America's, Mexico

Magical Taxco

June 11, 2015

Winding down the mountain my jaw literally dropped at the sheer beauty out my window, the view of the Taxco township.

I was coming for the day.

That was Sunday.

I’ve listened to live music in the square, wandered the labyrinth of the market, over-indulged in the local ‘barbacoa’ tacos and spent far too much money on custom silver jewellery pieces, all based from my central, family-ran hostel where their 8 year old has taught me Spanish, while the eldest boys, the hostel managers, have shared their local knowledge with me.

And so today, on Wednesday, I’m still not in Oaxaca.

Taxco, Mexico

Taxco, Mexico

Taxco, Mexico
Taxco, Mexico
Amazing Taxco Hostel, Mexico
Taxco, Mexico

Taxco, Mexico

Taxco, Mexico

Taxco Silversmith, Mexico

Taxco Joyero, Mexico

Taxco Silver

Taxco Joyero, Mexico

Taxco Joyero, Mexico

Taxco Joyero, Mexico

Taxco, Mexico

Taxco, Mexico

 

If you’re heading to Taxco I highly recommend Hostel Casa Taxco who have both dorm and private rooms.

caribbean, Cuba

A Wander to Trinidad

June 10, 2015

With the sun high in the sky, sweat drips from you as you walk dirt roads from the tranquil seaside village of La Boca into Trinidad. Soon the dirt becomes concrete and the small tin ‘kiosks’ lining the streets change to colourful homes. Continuing up hill the ground beneath our feet turns to cobblestone and those colourful homes are now tourist shops selling handicrafts, and more usually, ‘Havana Club’ t-shirts and ‘Che Guavera’ military caps.

Small pop up tourist markets take over side streets, and squares are filled with musicians where Mojitos increase from 0.9 to 3cuc.

In the mid-afternoon thick grey clouds cover the sun and along with the locals, a few streets from the touristic Historic Centre, shelter is found in a butchers doorway beneath hanging meat, listening to the crack of thunder as we wait out the lighting and rain.

 

 

caribbean, Cuba

Viñales

June 10, 2015

Passing horse draw carts in our 80’s Peugeot taxi we roll into town. Below the surrounding mountains, concrete homes are painted hues of pink, blue and green, stand in contrast beside the banana leaf, tobacco drying barns.

As a jeep passes screaming a loud tune to advertise the ice-cream on board, we step inside our ‘casa’. The interior is as colourful as the outside, with lime green coating the walls from the white ceiling to the concrete floors, broken only by the shutters.

Outside, kids play in the street with their goat and women chat from their balconies.

 

 

caribbean, Cuba

Thoughts of Havana

May 25, 2015

Thoughts of Havana.

Against a backdrop of colourful, but crumbling buildings, manged dogs wander to the soundtrack of live jazz music, through kids playing soccer in the street and past men arguing over their game of dominoes.

Buildings gracefully decorate the curved Malécon, free of signage and any form of advertising leaving only classic cars to interrupting the scene with spitting black smoke.

As the sun sets, locals and tourists alike perch on the retaining wall to enjoy the beautiful views and the cool ocean breeze as smiling buskers approach the tourists, offering one song for one c.u.p.

Mexico

A night in Mexico City

May 5, 2015

Descending through the heavy cloud, thoughts of Casablanca’s dodgy airport cab drivers pushing and pulling at my belongings back in 2012 began to fill my mind, and I wandered if I was prepared for Mexico.

Pushing the thoughts from my mind, I focused on the view below. As the country was slowly revealed, I strained to make out rows of trees and man-made dams soon replaced with colourful concrete houses, and a row of shanti homes along a well-maintained roadside.

Following an hour in the queue chatting with a local, my passport was stamped, bags collected and I stepped outside with my pre-purchased taxi fare.

This is not Casablanca.

The 1950’s Mercedes with holes in the floor and a flashing oil light which I envisioned was in fact a brand new and spotlessly clean Volkswagen driven by a middle-aged man with English slightly better than my very limited Spanish.

The heavy clouds opened as we made our way through the streets. As rain turned to heavy hail our hazard lights were turned on and we slowed to walking pace. With the wrong street number for my accommodation, the driver and I circled the neighbourhood looking for building numbers. Out the window I watched laughing men run to their shop fronts to photograph this “muy, muy, muy extraño” (extremely strange) weather on their mobile phones and down the side streets children threw the ice about while others built snow-men.

Having shown the photo of my host to half the neighbourhood we finally heard “sí, sí.. Cristina.. sí, sí” from a lady pointing to the door next door. Smiling behind the door was Cristina’s mum, a beautiful lady.

Climbing two flights of narrow outdoor stairs I was grateful for packing light, but not as grateful as I was to be handed a fresh towel and step into a hot shower after 26hours in transit.

Sprinkling fresh mango with chilli and lime salt at the kitchen table and with my phrasebook in hand, I managed a small conversation with mamma until Cristina arrived. Crossing the busy roads, together, we made our way past four or five delicious smelling street stalls to “the best” in the neighbourhood for delicious quasadilla’s and tacos by the roadside for what would be my an amazing meal accompanied by laughter and surrounded by locals.

Personal

Dreams of Icebergs

April 9, 2015

Paddles down we sit in silent awe, listening to the echo of water crashing against the frozen island towering above us, watching as those of the sea enter the air and those of the air enter the sea. With each wave against the iceberg, our kayak rocks gently in the safety zone. Sea birds duck for fish around us and the human silence is broken by laughter, as slight wind carries the splash of a whale breaching, onto our skin.

And with a smooth movement of a single finger, the camera shutter is released, for this moment to be relived forever.

Asia, Bhutan

These Roads

April 9, 2015

Winding through these mountains, we stop for a Yak and her calf and on the next corner, avoid a boulder taking up much of the road, having fallen in a recent landslip. The road zig zags down the mountain face, taking you down to the valley and right back up the other side, often to 2100m or higher.

Just outside the city, small wooden bridges covered in colourful prayer flags allows access to the other side of the river. The fast flowing, turquoise blue glacial waters changes with the land. At times shallow and narrow sections with huge boulders create white wash and soon after the floor drops and calm deep waters flow gently.

Further from Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, a combination of landslips and waterfalls runnings across the quickly made dirt roads makes for a rough drive and the newly built hydro power plant has trucks ripping up what little road remains.

We share the main highway, sections of bitumen, but mostly dirt roads, with school buses, tractors and carts. At one point we met an Indian truck on the bend of a narrow road. Built into a mountain face, the shear cliff drop to our left and the bankment to our right left nowhere to go. Our guide literally got out and tapped the side of the van to direct the driver along the cliff edge past the truck with less than two inches between the vehicles. The most nerve racking experience of our trip as we literally placed our lives in the hands of our driver and our guide.

A few days later we head toward a remote school in Hebesa. The three and a half hour journey, which takes us just ninety kilometres, was further delayed as we waited for an explosion to take place beside the roadside, part of the hydro plant construction. Our hearts nearly came through our chest as the exploding ground beside us shook the car and a huge dust cloud filled the area.

The roads were tough but the experiences worth it with spectacular scenery along the way.

Personal

RAW: part 1.

April 9, 2015

I wanted to give you all a little background on how I got to where I am today. 

The beginning

People like me, those neglecting their base, roaming, from one place to another, itching to explore an empty forest or immerse themselves in foreign culture, are not this way due to sheer luck. Rather, we have a common understanding, that life can be altered or taken suddenly. Whether from personal experience, or from the witness of someone else’s, we have truly learnt to appreciate the present moment.

 

Personally, I can thank teenage illness. Not an ear infection or the common cold, but a disease that rips you apart. It starts with your physical self, creating intense pain in your legs, a pain you are unable to describe and which nothing relieves. It strips your energy, leaving you unable to wash your hair or hold a simple fork. And then, it moves into your head, creating unpredictable mood swings to rival a pregnant woman. It has you giving up on modern medicine and pushing away the people you love. And just when you think you have overcome it, it rears its ugly head as a reminded that it is still, 5 years later, undefeated. But those sporadic reminders, are almost necessary. They take you back to the darkest times of that first year, allowing you to see exactly how far you have come, a reminder to be grateful of every good day and to appreciate the small things.

 

So what are these small things? As I travel I meet amazing people, each with their own unique story. I watch their faces light up as they speak of the most magical sunrise they just witnessed, or they recall the smell of a coffee roaster they walked by. With each story shared I learn how personal this answer is. For me, it is not fancy shoes or new make-up. It is not 5 star hotels or giggling in day spas. It is simply fresh air and open spaces. It is my puppy licking my face or the smell of a horse on my hands. It is meandering through markets in Marrakech or conversing with hand signals over chai in Rajasthan. It is anywhere I could not be, while laying in my own bed, watching movies in 15 minute intervals- the extension the disease allowed my concentration.
Today, almost 5 years from the beginning, I reflect how far I have come and recognise my gratitude for the disease I hate. It is thanks to Ross River Fever that I believe, everything happens for a reason.
Personal

SA Professional Photography Awards 2014

July 2, 2014

Each year, at the Epson State Awards, members of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) enter their very best images into one of nine categories; Portrait, Wedding, Family, Landscape Commercial, Illustrative, Travel, Documentary or Contemporary, aiming to receive the ultimate award of State Professional Photographer of the Year.

For the first two years of your AIPP membership you are an ‘Emerging Member’, as I am. This gives you the opportunity to enter up to 9 images into the State Awards which puts you in the running for the title of State Emerging Photographer of the Year.

Each photograph is assessed by a panel of five judges. Each judge scores the print out of 100 and the panel’s average is the final score. The final score determines the following results:

95 – 100 Gold with Distinction
90 – 94 Gold
85 – 89 Silver with Distinction
80 – 84 Silver
78 – 79 High Professional Practice but not quite award standard
70 – 77 Professional Practice Standard
50 – 69 Below Professional Practice

This year, for the first time, draining my bank account but with some amazing support from Paul, Dave and Miriam at my local lab-Atkins, my mentor and the amazing photography tour goddess- Sue at Informal Photo Tours, and my family and friends, I put on my brave boots and entered the SA Awards (SAPPA’s). From my three photographs entered, all in the travel category, I received two silver awards, making me a Finalist for SA Emerging Photographer of the year and I would like to share them all with you!


The Jolly Man At Jobhai Palace

During my first ten days in India last year I was with Sue on her Live and Breath Rajasthan Photo Tour. She did an amazing job of creating a (very flexible) itinerary to incorporate the perfect balance of sightseeing amongst our street walks and village visits.

Just under an hour from Agra you will find Johbhai Palace, built by Akbar the Great for his favourite wife (for producing a son), Jodha Bai. Wandering the grounds of the beautiful palace we met this jolly character, who turned out to be the ‘cousin’ of our tour guide!

We couldn’t miss the opportunity to grab a picture or two of this expressive man with his one betel-nut-stained tooth! And didn’t he absolutely love the camera (and maybe the attention too)!

Agra, Jobhai Palace
Agra, Jobhai Palace
I entered the above black and white photograph which the judges believed to be of high professional practice, but not award level- scoring it a 78. The suggestion for improvement was to print onto a softer paper stock as the one I chose, in their opinion, made the blacks too rich. Different fine art papers can represent the same image completely differently and it’s an extremely difficult task (for me) to choose the appropriate paper. With that said, the image isn’t quite strong enough for Nationals so I’ll just enjoy it for the memories it brings back.

Windows Of Jodhpur

If you know me then you probably know I’m really bad at being a twenty-something year old. On Saturday nights when most our out partying or even just relaxing in general, you’ll find me in my office, probably researching a new photoshop technique or listening to a business podcast. The one thing I am good at to confirm my age is sleeping in. I love love love to sleep in. While travelling, no matter if I’m in a tent by the sea, the smelliest dorm in Prague or in a 5 star hotel in Kolkata- I enjoy rising early to explore in morning light. Rajasthan was no different, excited to get out with the others in the amazing golden light.

This particular morning I was so grateful for my travellers energy. It was early in our trip and it was the day I fell in love with India. We hit the streets as the sun had just risen. Woman sat among piles of grass, selling it to the passerbys to feed to the street cows. Men laughed at the Chai stands. Manged street dogs searched among rubbish for scraps. We tasted tradition street breakfast. We chatted with old men. We watched children heading off to school- all stopping to ask for pens!

I wandered from the group most of the morning. Always behind or ahead. Being alone, weaving the paths between the blue walls of the city, off a tourist track, opened many doors. Literally. An elder woman invited me down her path to introduce her family to the tourist. Fathers asked for pictures of their shy daughters. And young children surrounded me reaching for my hand.

Jodphur
Jodphur

I mostly enjoyed the experience but occasionally, an image would unfold in front of me calling my camera to my eye. This black and white image above was one of those. I was enjoying the architecture, following the columns up when I saw this scene. Six small children, completely oblivious to me below them, watched as others passed below them. The older boy held a toy gun, playing a game of his own. A younger boy nagged him to share. A girl with long braided hair giggled with the boy beside her. And at the other end a dad lifted a baby to see beside his sibling. For a little while I stood still, enjoying the scene. I’m a lazy photographer at times, and so with my long lens on I began photographing the little stories in each window- but the rest of the story got lost. I forced myself to change lenses- hoping the kids wouldn’t disappear in the meantime.

They didn’t


Fifteen Minutes In The Almost Darkness

Dzong Bhutan
I stood here, in the almost darkness, by a beautifully decorated column, in this Bhutanese Dzong for around fifteen minutes. Monks darted about, running by me in the corridor, laughing with their friends. I stood just watching the ever changing group of young, cheeky monks. I was just about to head up stairs when one monk left the group to take a phone call. Of course I quickly lifted my camera, changed some settings and waited, so patiently. I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for but I just knew it wasn’t the image I wanted yet. Then the younger monk twirled his robe as they do, and headed off- that’s what I was waiting for.To me, this image sums up the wonderful Bhutan- an ancient civilisation trying to live in the modern world without losing its traditions.
Bhutan Dzong
Overall I’m pretty stoked with my results as a newby to the awards scene, not only stealing a couple of silvers beside some of the industry’s best but also becoming a finalist for SA Emerging Photographer of the Year. Congratulations to all who entered and especially to David Sievers who was awarded 2014 SA Professional Photographer of the Year.
>>Did you see we have an online shop where some of the above photographs are available? Check it out here: Shop <<