Happy New Year, if a little belated.I spent first week of the New Year in Wales with my good friends Nat and Rob, and their parents and friends. They hosted a 1980s themed New Year party, so I ended up in the company of Bananaman, Magnum PI, The Incredible Hulk, Ghostbusters and Madonna to name but a few!! It was great fun and I took many shots of them, but since this is a public bog I will not post any photos of them here. Instead I've posted some close-ups of some of the food and decor, the former of which was in endless abundance. After much drinking and mirth, we tried to launch some Chinese lanterns, but with the strong winds it proved to no avail. I managed a shot of the Milky Way, though.The weather wasn't so great owing to the severe gusts and rain, but a I managed a few shots around town. I took my shots with the Nikkors 50mm F/1.8G, the 35mm F/2, and the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8. All in all an enjoyable time spent with great friends in a lovely place with many fond memories.
Well, 2011 proved to be another busy and enjoyable year. I had many trips and excursions, new friends and experiences, and I have presented a few highlights here. I started the year (and will be ending it too!) in Wales. Not much photography, but I managed to capture the Milky Way one evening behind my friends’ house. February saw a trip to Prague. A beautiful and ornate city, but sadly the least friendly or welcoming place I have visited so far. As is typical on my travels, the friendliest people I met there were American tourists. March was a little quiet, busy with work. Boring! April was another amazing vacation with my best friend Lisa, this time in New York, to celebrate her birthday. My good friends there, Gene and Ralph, took excellent care of us, but Lisa and I really photographed the hell out of the city and its attractions! We nailed it Lise! In May, my good friend Bizhan and I went to Butterfly World, where the main butterfly house hadn’t yet been built! But there was still plenty to see and do and we had a good time. June was warm and I visited Hatfield House with my sis, a lovely stately home with excellent grounds that offered some nice photographic opportunities. July was a busy month. I attended the unveiling of a statue of President Ronald Reagan outside the American Embassy in London on Independence Day. The statue was to commemorate the 100th year of his birth and also his efforts in championing the cause of freedom. Later on the same month I went to see my dear friend Genka in Bulgaria, who again organised a fantastic holiday, with excursions into the National Forest, and horse-riding. Thank you Genka! At the end of July I attended the annual Berkeley Skirmish, an excellent medieval event with jousting and sword-fighting. August was also busy. A few photo trips with Jena to Richmond Park, Marwell Zoo, and Winchester Cathedral, and The Notting Hill Carnival with my friend Zuzana. September I had a superb trip to stunning Norway, with its breath-taking fjords and scenery. I called in at Bergen, Flam, Olden, Alesund and Stavanger. All equally different and beautiful. Also in September, I enjoyed a falconry experience, where we got to hold and fly several birds of prey. October was another excellent trip to Berlin, a terrific city with much to see and do, including two world-class zoos! All throughout the latter half of the year, my friend Zuzana and I visited most of London’s sights, including all the major museums. In November alone we visited the Natural History and Imperial War Museums. December rounded off nicely with some stunning tigers (in a nameless country) and some last minute photography in London. A great year, with many other successes and experiences, and I look forward to 2012 with great enthusiasm. Happy New Year!
My sister recently returned from a trip to Jordan in the Middle East. Being more of a snap-shot taker than a photographer, she proved it is possible to capture good photos with a simple compact providing the composition and lighting are good.I have presented a selection of her images here, and below are her descriptions of the places she visited.JARASHThis is the 'Pompeii of the east'- built by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. It was a Roman City with Greek/Roman architecture 2 hours north of Amman (capital), was made a city of the Decapolis, full of temples and theatres The Picture is of the Oval plaza -which has 63 Columns to represent its construction in 63BC The South Theatre - One of the few amphitheatres there, with great acoustics. The ex Army of Jordanians are playing the bagpipes DEAD SEAHad some time to float in the Dead Sea, under the sun. Some of the girls covered them selves in mud to wash it off in the salty sea water – it’s supposed to take off 15 yrs from your face!! MOUNT NEBOThe magnificent view from where Moses died- you can see the Dead Sea in the background and can even stretch as far as Bethlehem MADABATown on the way to Petra, stopping off at the Byzantine St George's Church, famous for its Madaba Mosaic Map on the church floor, depicting the Holy Land KARAK CASTLE, KARAKA grand fortress used by the Crusaders, with great views of the valleys below, as well as overlooking the King's Highway PETRAThis is obviously the highlight of Jordan yet it is difficult to explain in words and I doubt my pictures could justify the range of colours and stonework that was on display. The striated rocks of red, pink, chocolate looked even more radiant once the sun had calmed down in the late afternoon. The Treasury is Petra's most famous feature, depicted in the Indian Jones & the Last Crusade film, and is situated at the end of the narrow entrance, which itself has carvings and 'statues' lining its path. There was a lot of climbing and hiking to reach some of Petra's many tombs, dodging camels, donkeys and horses en route. We met a lot of Bedouins, especially en route to Aarons Tomb, a 6 hour, sometimes treacherous, hike, in the middle of no where but with spectacular views of the landscape. The Bedouins speak remarkable English and sometimes try to sell us things from their stalls with phrases such as 'cheap as chips' and 'cheaper than Primark!'I don't think they directly benefit as much from tourism as the Royal Family do, as apparently ticket sales mostly go to the King (his picture is everywhere e, btw, cars, shops etc) LITTLE PETRAThis is unfortunately a place that is often forgotten by the tourists so it was quite deserted when we arrived. Again, fantastic views and I purchased many of my goods from the poorer Bedouins who ply their trade at the entrance. WADI RUMThis is a desert covered valley that we explored on the back of trucks, climbed sand dunes and left most of our tour group overnight to camp under the stars, while we headed to Aqaba AQABAA warm port in the south of Jordan, beneath the mountains, where one could explore a few more ruins including the city of Ayla. We walked on the public beach and it was strange to see children swimming in their tracksuit and ladies covered head to toe. Aqaba is also famous for its annual car rally (which happened whilst we were there in the town centre) as well as its Souks (markets) where I bought spices and other gifts. AMMANThe capital city at the weekend is crazy - lots of traffic. We visited the Citadel, a large expanse starting at the Temple of Hercules. The Citadel is elevated providing panoramic view of the capital below. The buildings in Amman resemble each other; square, beige with a distinct look of poverty. Amman houses 2m people, included many refugees from Palestine, Iraq, Syria and now Libya, partly due to the number of countries it borders, it's history (West Bank was part of Jordan) and the fact that it's a relatively stable country, welcoming everyone. FOODFood was very good though there wasn't so much variety. The mezze were addictive and the national dish is mansaaf (lamb with rice and yogurt). They love lamb and chicken. And rice. Lots of rice. In Aqaba there is more choice of fish and seafood. Jordan is a charming country and I would definitely recommend a visit. The people are so welcoming (always saying 'welcome to Jordan'!), friendly and speak a good level of English, even children as young as 6.I was very fortunate to have an amazing guide for the whole tour, who brought Jordan alive with his humour and vast knowledge and love of his country. I was also lucky with my lovely tour group. I travelled with a very good tour firm, Exodus, and we were a group of 19, ranging from 24-65. There were solos, siblings, friends and couples. We felt like we had known each other for years by day 4! I definitely enjoyed travelling alone and highly recommend it.
Well, who knows if we'll get that much snow this winter. These were all taken last winter in Richmond Park, London. I have included a variety of wildlife, including deer, a coaltit, a rabbit and my favourite, a parrot: a tropical bird in the snow!I remember spending an entire day there up to my knees in snow and freezing cold for the privilege!Some of the images have been rendered in black and white, simply because they worked better that way.I used a 400mm zoom lens for most of these which I have since sold. I also used the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 for the wide shots, as well as the 50mm F/1.4 AF-D, which I have also since sold.
Had another excellent night shoot with my friend Jena. She also took some excellent photos with her new Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, and I shall post her images in due course. For now these are some of mine. I used my Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, Nikkors 35mm F/2 and 50mm F/1.8G.
My best friend Lisa spent her holiday this past summer in Montana and Glacier Park, with her dad and cousin David. She shot some really fantastic photos, capturing the beauty of the landscape whether it be water or land. She shot mountains, waterfalls and rapids, sunrises to sunsets, and a wide variety of wildlife. I have selected and presented here a mere snapshot of of her amazing photos.I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did, and also get a sense of the diverse beauty, wildlife and vastness of Montana. Makes me want to go there!Well done bratski!
My good friend Bizhan and I went on another of our photographic excursions, this time to Leadenhall Market and neighbouring places near St Paul's.Both of us took many photos, but I really like Bizhan's processing and compositions, so I have presented his work here rather than mine. His black and white photos are especially pleasing to my eye.He mainly used his Canon DSLR and the excellent 15-85mm lens.The last image was shot inside the Great Hall of the British Museum.
Berlin is just an incredible city!! So many vibrant things to see and do, and such wonderment everywhere that I simply have to return one day and see it again!! I was there for just a few days, but I managed to see much of its cultural, aesthetic and historical beauty, and presented here is a mere snapshot of the things I saw. From palaces to gardens, from views atop the TV tower and Siegesaulle, to all the many splendid churches, Berlin is a fascinating and energising city. I took in the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall, visited the Brandenburg Gate where President Reagan famously told Mr Gorbachev in 1987 to "tear down this wall!", saw the many wonderful garden styles in Garten De Welt, and sampled Berlin's cult dish, currywurst. I also, and naturally, visited both of Berlin's world class zoos, Tierpark Zoo in the east, and Haupstadt Zoo in the west; the former being the largest landscaped zoo in Europe and the latter having the largest collection of species of any zoo on Earth - over 17,000! Next to the Haupstadt Zoo is the Aquarium, which was also wonderful. The Festival Of Lights had just started towards the end of my visit, and some magnificent light displays and colours were on show around the buildings and streets. Berlin is a massive city, especially after the wall came down and East and West unified, but it has such an excellent public transport system that getting anywhere is very easy. Everything just works!! There is so much more to see and do, including all the palaces in the Potsdam area to the west. I managed to see just one -the Charlottenburg Palace and its magnificent gardens. I will have to return!I took many photos of many more things, so this is just a tiny selected snapshot. Enjoy!
How would we explain it? What would we say to future generations? How would we defend ourselves? That we had the knowledge and the means to do something about it but did not? That we allowed one of the most majestic creatures ever to have graced this planet to become extinct in the wild?Recent estimates put the number of tigers in India at under 1400 and declining. The largest cat on Earth, the Siberian or Amur Tiger numbers less than 400 in the wild. These are only estimates, which means there are large margins of error. The government in India is not known internationally for its honesty in these matters, and would conceivably inflate the figures. It is something of a shameful indictment on us that there are more privately owned tigers in the United States alone than there are in the wild in the rest of the world. I am not ordinarily given to the blame game, but in this case knowing the cause of the decline is important.Poaching. Particularly by the Chinese for use in medicine. I completely fail to see the logic of the Chinese who seem to be utterly indifferent about wiping out entire species on this planet in order to make soup, or some other ridiculous concoction for what they claim to be medicinal. Tigers, rhino, elephants and sharks are all on their radar. Let’s also not forget the role of the British historically, who, during the time of their Empire, made a sport out of killing hundreds of thousands of tigers in India. Destruction of habitat has also led to a loss of several tiger species already, including the Javan and Bali tigers, and of course, the burgeoning human population in India is encroaching on the habitats of tigers there.Hunting an animal to extinction is just utterly stupid, even for economic reasons. Not only is a magnificent organism removed from the wild forever, but also entire ecosystems can collapse due to disruptions in the food chain. A forest in India, for example, can be judged to be healthy if a tiger is present in it. The loss of a tiger to its native environment may not be apparent straight away but will become evident after many years. Unfortunately, most of the governments on Earth, and especially in India, have never been especially far-sighted.The problem of such small numbers remaining in the wild is that there needs to be enough genetic diversity within a population in order for a species to survive. With such few numbers, there is less diversity in the gene pool to maintain a healthy population that is resistant to disease and genetic defects. An effort to reintroduce pumas in Florida, for example, had so few numbers to start with that a lot of inbreeding took place and subsequently many of the resulting generations exhibited genetic defects.My point is that it may already be too late to preserve this (and many other endangered) species. And even if we stopped all hunting and habitat destruction now, we would still have to wait for many, many generations over many decades for the species to gain enough diversity to recover and be self-sufficient in the wild. I certainly would not be alive to see that happen, and I am still young!So, you can understand my anger and frustration that not enough is being done to prevent the extermination of an enchanting animal that has no vanity or concept of its own elegance, but one that still enthrals everyone that sees it.I have yet to see a tiger in the wild, and I dare say that time is running out if I ever intend to do so. All the photos you see here were taken of tigers in captivity. I have always been more enamoured with the photogenic appeal of the tiger rather than its place in its environment, and so where I have photographed them has never really bothered me. But I would gladly give up the opportunity to photograph them at all if I knew that they had a secure and abundant future in their native environment.Well, there's my rant. Now enjoy the photos!
Last stop on our cruise through Norway was the town of Stavanger. A largish town, with a fishing fleet and famous petroleum museum, the latter of which we didn't have time to see. Instead we took a boat trip through the beautiful Lysefjord, famous for its rock formations carved by glaciers. We ventured past the rock of Preikestolen and found a magnificent waterfall, and then stopped somewhere for waffles and cream where we were greeted by a Viking.We just had enough time upon returning to have a quick look inside Stavanger Cathedral.Norway proved to be a stunning trip with much spectacular scenery, and yet there is clearly so much more of this amazing country to see. I hope to go back one day and see even more.
Next stop through the Fjords was the small town of Flam, which is famous for having one of the highest railways in the world, and the stunning Naeroyfjord, itself a Unesco World Heritage site. We took a lovely leisurely boat trip through the fjord, before being driven to the Stalheim Hotel which overlooks the beautiful Naeroy Valley. The road descending from the hotel is the steepest in the world, with 13 hairpin turns, and is flanked by two lovely waterfalls.After returning to Flam, we hiked up the mountain behind the town to reach the mighty Berkefossen Waterfall. The hike was such a hard slog, and I lost weight sweating fluid, but the sight of the waterfall was definitely worth the effort, as was the view of Flam from the top.The scenery was just amazing, and I have only presented a snapshot here.
Third stop on our foray into the fjords was Alesund, a larger town spread out over many small islands. Having arrived at sunrise, we took another small boat through Horundfjord, and then returned to the town, where we ascended the 418 steps to the summit of Mount Aksla to see the view of the town below. An epic sight!We then strolled through the town, especially the marina which had no end of fantastic reflections in the water. The colourful buildings throughout the town date back to the turn of the last century, and are famous for their Art Nouveau architecture.As we left, yet again we were blessed with more spectacular rainbows.
Olden was the second stop on our trip through the Norwegian fjords. Arriving at Olden we were met by wonderfully eerie mists lying low over the town. We took a small boat along Lake Olden, arriving at a small restaurant to enjoy waffles and cream! We then were taken by coach to see the Kjenndalen Glacier, a magnificent sight. Next to the glacier was a waterfall, and dotted around the landscape were more waterfalls and streams no doubt fed by the glacier. We returned via a stunning lake which reminded me of Emerald Lake in the Yukon in Alaska. In the afternoon, we took a brief tour around another lake. As we left, a stunning double rainbow formed, the second one we saw in as many days. I used a mixture of Nikkors 18-200mm, 35mm F/2, and 50mm F/1.8, as well as the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8. For some shots I bracketed three exposures as the contrast was a little harsh for the camera. These were later blended in Photomatix.
I recently returned from a cruise around the Norwegian Fjords.Our first port of call was Bergen, a large town notable for its fishing industry. The famous fish market was alas closed by the time of day we arrived, but we still managed to take the funicular to ascend Mount Floyen and take in the spectacular views of the town.After we descended, we had a little time to walk around the famous Brygge Harbour with its colourful facades. As we were leaving, and due to the weather fluxing between sunshine and rain, we were gifted with a double rainbow, followed by a beautiful sunset.A very short but enjoyable excursion.
My friend Jena and I spent a day in Marwell Zoo in Hampshire last weekend. An excellent wildlife park, surprisingly big with large enclosures for most of the animals. The exhibits were very well set up for viewing with lots of glass and no prohibitive fencing. The snow leopards were a big draw because of the new cubs, although during our time there, the mother was asleep and the cubs were hidden away. All in all, a good and exhausting day, but we both managed some neat shots. I wil post Jena's photos in a separate blog entry soon.As nice as the zoo is, we were careful to frame our shots so that there was as little evidence of enclosure as possible.I used mainly the Nikkor 70-200mm VRII +/- 1.7xTC, the Nikkor 50mm F/1.8G AF-S and the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 for shots of and around Marwell House.