Word and Image

Archive for September, 2011

Central Market, Stone Town, Zanzibar

Stone Town, Zanzibar. Julia and I stayed in a small hotel, the Coffee House, near to the central market in Stone Town. It was recommended by the travel agent for its location and as a good example of local culture. The van drove to a crowded square. When the driver couldn’t find a place to park, he turned off the engine in the middle of the square, opened the back hatch, removed our luggage, and beckoned Julia and I to follow. We carried our stuff and followed along a series of narrow winding streets. Julia thought for sure we were being lured to our deaths. I admit I was also a bit nervous. When we came to the hotel, the door was locked and we were permitted entry only after we were screened. The central market is crowded and the vendors sold all manner of goods and produce. It was Ramadan and the crowds were waiting to break their fast. Julia was nervous about me walking around with an expensive camera and ‘tourist’ stamped on my forehead. So, I had to shoot from the hip and get shots with the point and shoot Canon G11. Autofocus, fast f-stop, and no look shooting got me a pile of nice shots. I like the skewed horizons and angles. It gives more edge to the photos. Julia was sure I would be stopped and she was careful not walk near to me. Except for this shot, I think that most of the market crowd ignored us. This was a local market. Though there were some tourist souvenirs, this market was filled with local folks just doing their everyday marketing for meat, fish, produce, furniture, and clothes. Visitors were treated politely but mostly ignored by the shoppers and merchants.


Evening in Stone Town

When Julia and I arrived at the Coffee House, a guard opened a peephole and then allowed us entry. After check-in, a slender woman scooped up my heavy bag and marched to the stairs. Julia hefted her heavy backpack. I offered to carry my own bag but the woman waved me off. After three flights, she was bent over hands on knees clearly exhausted by the effort. I think she probably should have left me to carry my own stuff. After we returned from a walk through the market, our room was bathed in this wonderful glow of evening light. We went out later and walked a fair distance to dinner and never felt threatened. I guess being in a strange environment can add to the sense of excitement and danger.


Central Market Exchange

Central market. I got to shoot with the Canon G11 on the first afternoon. The next morning I was up and out before Julia awoke so I used my Nikon and the zoom lens. This shot is a favorite of Julia’s. I used the Canon and otherwise would not have included this photo except that Julia noticed it. The soft focus works here. This is a colorful graphic and the energy of the market action comes through. Because it is without sharp detail the blur adds to the feeling of frenetic activity.


Early Morning Catch

Central market – early morning. Zanzibar is an island and the economy is very much about the sea. All manner of fish are sold at the market. The dhows that ply the waters are often out on the ocean overnight to catch fish. Here, I chanced upon a man hauling a marlin to the fish market only steps away. I wondered if he was the fisherman and whether this was the only fish he caught. When we returned later, Julia and I saw a hammerhead shark in chopped pieces on the ground for sale. Cleanliness appeared to be a casual consideration.


Sugar Cane

Stone Town. We found an open air food market set up in the park near to the water. Vendors began setting up at dusk. By dark, cooking was in full swing just as the fast for Ramadan ended. We had a dinner reservation in a typical restaurant nearby so Julia did some window-shopping. This vendor made a sugar cane drink. At first I didn’t see the appeal of drinking a sweet beverage of crushed sugar cane juice. But they also add lime and a piece of ginger as the cane is passed through the press. The result is a very refreshing concoction. Julia drank the whole thing barely leaving me a sip.


Sunrise

Shooting Star Resort. I’m not a fan of getting up early for the sunrise. But, as I get older I find that I often awaken early. Of course, it helps if you are sleeping on a bluff overlooking the ocean facing to the east. The sunrises were spectacular. A dhow might sail across the scene for interest and depth. In the lower corner is the reflection from the infinity pool. I just like the mood. Sunrise and sunset can be mistaken for one another because of similarities in the lighting. Rather than correct for the exposure I like the darkened foreground in this photo.


Hibiscus

Shooting Star resort. I have many photos of hibiscus flowers made  over the  years from tropical climes I have visited. My first memory were of the flowers in Hawaii. One early sunrise at the Shooting Star, as I walked by this blossom, I noticed the high key light on the yellow flower. Once home, I edited this photo and converted it to a sepia toned image. It makes stunning graphic interpretation of a flower that I have seen many times before. The conversion tones give the image a surreal glow. I really don’t recall having to do too much post processing. All the elements were just perfectly setup for this image to work.


Dhow

Shooting Star resort. The dhow is the signature vessel of the sea in these parts. They are rough hewn and narrow. Outriggers are necessary to balance the boat. A sail can be raised and these small craft are quite swift. The boats are used for transport and fishing. Here on the beach, many craft are available to provide rides for visitors. Julia and I declined because we were unsure of their seaworthiness. And, both of us get seasick. I think I got better photos outside the boats than I would have gotten from a ride on board.


Leopard

Julia taught in Namibia in 2010. Since she had seen many of the sights and animals there, we found ourselves visiting Tanzania in the summer. Lisa spent time in a Children’s Village as the nurse. It was quite an experience for them. They had to put up with some privation. Meanwhile I joined them as a tourist and enjoyed regular meals and hot water. Many animals are easy to find and observe. Elephants, giraffe and wildebeest are pretty easy to see. Not that one would be to jaded about seeing any of them. But, the big cats are hard to see. And a leopard is rare indeed. We were very fortunate and didn’t know it. The guide who collected us in the morning laid out a spread of tea and cookies. Then, we were off meandering on the Serengeti. Here the vehicles could drive off road. We came up on another Land Cruiser with a single occupant peering intently past the bushes in a crevice beneath some large rocks. There was a leopard, named Chewy, eating a freshly killed wildebeest. By the next morning the carcass was stripped clean. And yes the guide knew this leopard’s habits well enough to be on a first name basis. Wow, we were lucky to see Chewy. And, yes, the guide told us, but I have forgotten, how distinguish a leopard from a cheetah. It’s about size, build, eyes, and coloring.

 


Rhino

Serengeti. Even for our guide, seeing a rhino is not common. We had some false starts, but early one morning we drove across the plain, bumping up and down at breakneck speed to investigate a dot on the horizon. it turned out to be the rhino in this photo. We did not approach too closely. But we were still in range with my super duper telephoto lens. This rhino tolerated us and didn’t break his pattern of grazing. When he ran off it was faster than we could follow. This was a most special day. The ‘big five’ – elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, lion, and leopard – are so named because they are the most difficult to hunt on foot. The term has been adopted by tourists. In the course of one day I shot all five. Photo, not gun, and, I daresay quite a neat piece of luck. Who’d have guessed when we started out in the early morning, that the day would be so memorable.?


Lions

Serengeti. I’m told the lions are lazy. They don’t make any effort whatsoever to chase down and eat tourists. The camp in which we stayed had a fresh kill from a lion the night before. It wasn’t more than a short walk to the tents. So, there were armed escorts after dark. Another story and picture I saw was of a lion chewing on the bumper of a Land Cruiser. As long as you don’t disembark, lions associate you with the vehicle and don’t attack people. Henceforth, our guide approached these lions close enough so that I could almost touch them with an outstretched leg. Of course, I didn’t do this. What’s interesting? The male who had lain about listless and asleep suddenly rose. Then lifting his tail proceeded to spray this female. Marking territory or possession? The female was suitably disgusted and moved off. All this occurred in slow motion and without any snarling or fighting.


Cheetah

Serengeti. Of all the cats, I think that the cheetahs are the hardest to see. They are solitary. I saw one in the Ngorongora crater. It was a mere black dot in a field. All we could see was the dot of its head poking up from the grass. Twenty or more Land Cruisers were gathered and dust clouds signaled more were on their way having been summoned by radio. I think that everyone was probably disappointed. But, here! We were close up! Our guide drove right up to the small hill of grass and stopped. This cheetah, no name here, just sat and posed. He never moved off even after we left. I feel very fortunate that we saw the major big cats. No, no tigers are on the Serengeti.


Victor ID

Press Pass, US Open. Here was a dream come true. Well, actually not so much a dream as a fortunate happenstance. No, not worded strongly enough, it was a fantastic experience! Every amateur dreams, of unlimited access to wander and photograph, at an event venue. Lisa’s co-worker’s husband is Manny, a Sports Illustrated photographer, whom I met at a dinner party in our home. I showed him my slide storage system for 100k+ slides. He was blown away. He later graciously invited me to assist him in Flushing Meadow at the US Open. And, “Bring your own camera.” I had a D70 that I had purchased when David graduated high school. I thought it was a pretty good camera. I had the 80-400mm zoom and an 80-200mm f2.8 zoom. The former I purchased when Julia started playing rugby. And the later I acquired on sale at the photo equipment repair shop. Everyone at the upper echelon of sports is mostly Canon. I’m talking about the heavy-duty workhorse Mark bodies and the gray telephoto lens mounted on monopods. Some of the lenses are nearly 20 lbs. Boy oh boy did I get an – on the fly lesson in event shooting. It made me realize how inadequate my skills were for this fast paced atmosphere. I upgraded my camera soon after. I suddenly had use for more buttons and menu settings.


Justine Henin

For a little lady Justine packed a heck of a punch. She was focused. By that I say she never really smiled at all during play. Up in the stands, one can walk around the court from above. It allows for a different perspective. One such signature shot is a full court view in late afternoon with the players casting large shadows as they face one another. I like this shot because of the tension and energy you feel.


Maria Sharapova

One of the ‘moments’ is when a player wins the match. As the points and scores change, the inevitable becomes obvious and every camera trains on the winner. And at that decisive moment hundreds of cameras click from all vantages – the sidelines, the dugout, and the stands. It will continue as the winner makes her/his celebratory display. Some will fall to the court in joy. Other times the winner will climb up into the stands to hug family and supporters.


Andy Roddick

On every point, cameras all over the tennis court follow at least two critical moments. Those are the serve and the return. I learned how to set my camera to focus and then to wait for the critical moment to press the shutter release. A motor drive does not save you. More often than not the motor drive will fire before or after the critical moment. The desired image is caught when the ball is in the frame. It’s even better if the ball is on the racquet just as it is leaving for the return. You spend all day shooting every point and come up with a handful of frames like this. Mostly you have action shots without the ball. A memorable shot that Manny took was one of Nadal. Nadal was looking into his racquet as the ball was hitting the strings. It was a close-up shot full of emotion. I will always admire that shot.


Dugout, Not PC

At the US Open there is an area at the baseline where there are cutouts in the wall. TV viewers pretty much never notice the openings. Photographer positions are there with the vantage at eyelevel with the players’ feet. The TV broadcast cameras are on one side and the assigned photo positions are on the other side. Sports Illustrated rates, so they get an assigned position. I don’t rate so I got to stand behind the first photographers and get what I could. This was mostly looking across the net and catching a photo of the opposing player’s serve. Photographers sitting here call it the dugout. So, here I am shooting across the court and working hard on my timing. Two photographers sitting in front of me are clicking away. Runners collect their compact flash cards to take for immediate download and upload to the internet. The male shooter on the right sticks his elbow into the ribs of his female colleague on his left. She gives him a disgusted look and I realize something is up on the near court but I don’t have a viewpoint. Sticking my arms out, letting autofocus work, I click off a few frames. Pulling my camera back and looking down at the screen, I grin too. I realize that this photo of a well-known ranked player will never be published – not politically correct. And, what’s with the suspenders above the thong?


Amazon Jungle

Amazon jungle, Somewhere. We stayed in an eco friendly resort. It was rainy and muddy. The hosts provided, and you needed, the knee high boots so as not to be mired in the mud. The rooms were open to the jungle – no windows, no screens. The jungle was cut back from the room about ten feet. During the day, monkeys foraged in the trees. At night a mosquito netting was placed over your bed to separate you from nature and the mosquitoes. We took malaria prophylaxis and no one became ill. After walking through mud all day, everyone was exhausted. I slept like a log. The next morning I awoke to hear Julia screaming and Lisa standing at the bedside. All night long the bats had made a roost above their mosquito canopy. And then they did what bats do. This sight and photo need explanation because it is not obvious until captioned. Julia had left her shoes below the roosting bats. Somehow, and I don’t believe it even now, they bombed the area and never seemed to have landed anything in her shoes. The picture is here. David and I never heard a thing – not the bats and not the screaming.


Fiestas Del Cusco

Cusco is a town at relatively high altitude 11,150 ft while Machu Picchu is at 7,874 ft. Either way it’s all about effort. Walking uphill will do it every time. I did not experience the breathlessness in Cusco that I experienced on Machu Picchu. One afternoon we did help to revive a young woman who collapsed while we were on a bus tour. While we visited there was a religious festival in progress. These colorful characters marched along side religious statues. I say characters because technically I did not see them dance. Elsewhere they served guinea pig – roasted whole. This was one of the many representative costumes. The masks were somehow scary though no one appeared the least bit apprehensive. I feel fortunate that we were there on the day of the festival see the pageantry.


Llamas, Early Morning Fog

The plateau upon which Machu Picchu rests is reached by bus. The last part of the trail is a walk up a winding path to magnificent vistas over the valley to the adjoining peaks. This walk is challenging in itself because of the altitude. I was short of breath while David was unencumbered and able to carry my heavy camera bag without a problem. The bottom of the trail starts in the small town of Aguas Calientes. David decided to hike the mountain from the bottom in the dark just before dawn in order to see the sunrise. After you hike to the plateau there is another mile or more hike to higher elevation at the Sun Gate. David hooked up with a fit female climber at dawn. It turns out David had no problem with this altitude. Julia and I took the bus to the plateau and hiked the remaining trail to the Sun Gate. I was tachycardic, sweating and short of breath, but we made it before sunrise. I watched a group of guides running down the trail with a teenage girl who had collapsed from the altitude. As Julia and I started our brisk trek from the plateau, this sight in the morning fog made a signature image.


Machu Picchu

There have been countless images of Machu Picchu made by others. It  was explored by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The city sits on a mountaintop in a remote region. The huge and heavy stones were carried to the top of the mountain and assembled in a feat that makes the site a wonder of the world. This image captures a detail of the ruins giving a sense of the grandeur and spacious skies.


Weaver, Peru

Cusco, Peru. We attended a wedding in Lima, Peru in 2009. South America had not been on my short list of places to visit. I was unprepared for this great adventure. We landed in Cusco on the way to Machu Picchu. At a roadside stop was this woman demonstrating her skill with a loom. She worked as I took advantage of the muted indirect light to capture this image. There were llamas present, one of which gave David a full-face lick. I have that shot also but this picture is better.


David

There are many great shots of David. But this one is a favorite. We were at a birthday party for my nephews in Scotch Plains, NJ. It was a grab shot. The background was perfectly blurred. I had tilted the horizon to give the picture more dynamic interest. It all worked.


Julia, Straw Hat

Xcaret, Mexico. The family was wandering around the local market. Julia tried on this hat and it was meant for her. We bought it. I thought there would be many great potential photo ops with this hat once we were back home. On the return trip, Julia left it in the airport. I remember seeing it there and of course we left it behind on the seat in the airport lounge. It’s hard to keep track of all the carry on stuff.