On Sunday Malaysians went to to the polls for this country’s 13th general election. This election proved to the the closet in the country’s history and the largest turn out. If you are a readers in the West, you might the whole world uses voting machines and punch cards. But here in Malaysia voting was a little more low tech. Here is a peak of how votes were cast in my district.
I have been looking forward to talking with Michael Yamashita for years. Yamashita is a National Geographic icon. He has shot more than 30 stories with the magazine, many of which became cover stories. Specializing in Asia, he has shot stories on Marco Polo’s journey to China, the Great Wall, The Age of the Samurai, Korea’s DMZ and much, much more. Many of his stories have been turned into a National Geographic Channel documentary, The Ghost Fleet, won Best Historical Documentary at the 2006 New York International Film Festival.
Yamashita’s prior book, Marco Polo: A Photographer’s Journey , sold over 200,000 copies worldwide in its initial printing . Marco Polo is also the subject of his award-winning National Geographic Channel documentaries, Marco Polo: The China Mystery Revealed, in which Yamashita retraces the 13th-century Venetian’s epic excursion to China. His other books include The Great Wall: From Beginning to End, Zheng He (Discovery), In the Japanese Garden, New York from Above and Mekong (River): A Journey on the Mother of Waters.
In this interview Mike Yamashita gives us a wonderful look into what it is like to have been a National Geographic photographer for 30+ year. We also talk about what does it take to make a great photo and so much more. Mike is easy going and open. No pretense with this man. By the end of this interview you will believe Mike Yamashita is they guy that lives next door, only with a much cooler job.
Visit Mike’s Website HERE
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You can listen to more Depth of Field podcasts HERE.
Mr. Yeow is an institution at Pulau Tikus. You might remember this little part of the island from a previous post. In English Pulau Tikus means Rat Island. I am not even going to ask how it got it’s name, none-the-less this little market is quite popular here on the north side. The Malaysian island of Penang is known for its amazing variety of food, most of it hawker food, bought and eaten right on the street. The Chinese dominate the hawker scene here on the island. Continue reading
This week I am taking some personal time and going to the Philippines to visit my family. Actually, I have not visited my in-laws in a few years. It is always a great time of eating, driving and more eating. Eating, as I swear it is the Filipino national pastime and driving, in that the family is spread out all over Luzon. Plus, it is time to give my nieces some new Facebook profile pictures, so it is a must that I travel with a camera. I think they will be surprised, maybe even disappointed to see me arrive with the small X100. I am not too concerned. After playing with it for the past day or two I feel certain we can get them a photo they will like. 😉
Mini-rant: As I write this, I am sitting here in at the Penang airport waiting for my flight. It was delayed for over 4 hours. I really have mixed feelings flying Air Asia. Yes, they are cheap. But one of the most inefficient airlines I have every traveled on. If this was a paying job there is no way I would have flown these guys. Not dependable and quite frankly not very service oriented.
I’ll try to post when I can. But don’t expect too much.
Tomorrow I leave for India for five days. It’s a quick trip shooting for a client and then home again. My wife decided she tag along and go shopping. So it will be a lot nicer rooming with her than with my fellow photographer Nate Watkins who I went with to Indonesia. Nate will be joining me in India for this year. He is really getting into HDSLR video, but that’s not to say he’s not a good photographer. He is. But he definitely leads the way in video around me.
The video above is a mix of some still images I took, and I think some that Nate took as well. The video is all Nate’s. This and the Coffee Man are little snippets of life in rural Indonesia. They are a fun look at an individuals. Our goal is to humanize these cultures we visit. We chose to take one person in each one of the cultures and highlight them. To make this culture real. Instead of just some distant culture that we read about in a magazine with yellow edges. I hope you enjoy this look at the Penesak Jeweler of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Just quick FYI about a new workshop opportunity. Karl Grobl, one of the most prolific humanitarian photographers out there, has put together what has been called by one tweeter a “dream team” led workshop. I don’t know about it being a “dream team” but there are some very talented photographers converging at Angkor Wat in July of this year. Karl corralled, cajoled and did whatever it took to gather me, Gavin Gough, Marco Ryan (and himself) to lead this amazing workshop. This is not just a “lets go out and shoot together” style workshop..oh no.. this is “study in the classroom, get the know-how and then go out and shoot” type of deal. OK, that was a confusing sentence. Let me rephrase. For this workshop, participants will gather in the mornings and listen to lectures and have group interaction over new techniques and concepts. Then, in the afternoon, when the light is great, they will all go out and practice what they have just been taught.
This workshop is not limited to just Angkor Wat–as if that would have been a bad thing. Participants will also be exploring and shooting the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. So as you can see this will be an amazing opportunity for 15 people. For more information click HERE and HERE. Hope to see you there!
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by Shiloh Lane
I grew up in a very small town in Kentucky; I went to college in another very small town in Kentucky; and when I went to “the big city” to go shopping, I really just went to a slightly larger small town in Kentucky. It suffices to say that I didn’t meet a lot of strangers growing up, and when I did, chances were high that I would see them again eventually – probably at a high school ballgame.
That’s partly why I find traveling so interesting – strangers flit in and out of my life as easily as fireflies danced in and out of my grasp when I was a kid. People become a blip on my radar, and then they’re gone forever, which sometimes makes the relationship between the general populace and myself unpredictable.
I’ve discovered that people do crazy things when they don’t plan to see you again. More often, though, I’ve discovered that I do crazy things when I don’t plan to see you again – like forego social grace in pursuit of a photograph. My mother will be mortified to read this, but I find that dignity can get in the way of some really great shots. A few days ago, I was shooting at a crowded Buddhist wat, or temple, and I stumbled across a shot of discarded shoes lying on a mat as a line of worshippers knelt barefoot in the background. In a few seconds, my chin and my camera were on the pavement while my butt stuck straight up in the air. I should have probably been more lady-like, but I got the shot and I made people laugh.
I also love the stories my brief encounters create, the weird little tales I use to make my roommate smile. That same, sweltering day, I was taking a break from shooting while chugging water. My skin was slick with perspiration and my hair looked like Richard Simmons’ curly mop does after 30 minutes of Sweatin’ to the Oldies. Yet, for some reason, one man thought I was a great photo opp. He told his wife to sit next to me and smile, which she reluctantly did. She must have really loved him because I stunk badly. Although it was strange, I like to think that 20 years from now, their family album will hold pictures of his wife with opulent statues of Buddha, his wife in front of gorgeous temples and his wife next to The Random Sweaty Girl. I feel privileged to be that sweaty girl.
It’s really memorable, though, when someone you don’t know does something that makes them feel like family. When I left America, I sat next to two elderly women on one of the three planes it took to get to Southeast Asia. I didn’t know their nationality; I just knew that they were from Asia and that I didn’t speak a lick of their language. Yet, they still grew very concerned over my eating habits. When I didn’t feel like consuming the food, they insisted I do so, and a few hours later, they kindly offered me vegetables in a sandwich bag. When I tried to sleep, they made sure I had a blanket. They reminded me of my own grandmother, only with healthier snacks. I miss them a bit.
I feel like traveling creates it’s own culture, one in which people often care less about what they do because they will never see you again and one in which generous actions mean so much more for precisely that reason. I’m not trying to philosophize or say anything particularly meaningful, I just found myself mulling over the moments we create with each other and contemplating whether or not any of those people will write about me in their blogs. I also wonder if my airplane grandmothers are flying right now, adopting more kids fresh from college who could use a few good vegetables doled out from sandwich bags. I hope they are, anyway.
This past week I was caught off guard a bit. Never has an Asian airline once weighed my carry-on. You know as well as I do that traveling photographers carry loads of gear in their carry-on. But this trip, as I entered the boarding area the fine folks at Malaysia Airlines asked me to put my Think Tank International roller bag and my Urban Disguise both on a small scale. Of course I was over, by 15 kg. So they graciously told me they would not charge me, this time. They told me to rearrange my bags and I could check the roller bag. I did. I put my 5D body, 85 1.2 and my 24-70 2.8 in my Urban Disguise and continued on to the plane. But once I got to the door of the plane there was no one to take the roller bag and I walked in and took a seat with both bags. Upon returning I knew what to expect. So I packed everything in my Urban Disguise. Sure enough, this time at check-in they weighed my roller bag. So I simply checked it there.
What does this mean? It means, Asia is also feeling some sort of pinch financially. Money has to be the motivation. Will other airlines in Asia follow suit? My guess is, yes. This puts us Asia travelers in a slight bind. Here are a couple of ideas that might help. If you have some better ones share it with the rest of us.
Prioritize your gear load. Pack the most costly or most important gear in your carry-on and check the rest. Remember, it was only two trips back that my luggage got lost for days (On Malaysia Airlines). So put your body or bodies, and the most costly lenses in your carry-on. There is a slight problem with this plan, the more expensive lenses are also inherently the heavier lenses. So you might be able to get away with a minimum amount of gear in a carry-on if you reduce the load. But lets face it if you are serious about your shooting then you have a lot of gear and it is costly, heavy and with you, otherwise, why did you buy it? So…
Enter the photo/travel vest. This is the age old idea that seems to work. It is uncomfortable and hot. But deal with it! It just might get your gear on the plane with you. I am not advocating wearing a vest to shoot, just to travel in. But photo vest are ugly and lets face it, we all want to look good, otherwise we all would be wearing velcro sneakers from Wal-Mart. What are the options? Well sad to say the vast majority of photo vest are the same; multiple pockets on the outside and the inside all zippered to the max. I swear they all used the same pattern. Even renown companies like Tilly and Domke look alike. The Bellingham vest is getting closer, but still, it looks like your are a cross between a special forces commando and a fly fisherman and it sets you back 300 bucks! Then there is David DuChemin’s favorite vest the Gitzo Fleece. I am not as keen on this as he is, mainly because it is a working vest and it is fleece. I don’t really need a working vest and certainly am not looking for a fleece one. All I want is a simple vest to smuggle illicit gear on board a flight and sidestep the weight restrictions.
So where does that leave us? Just about nowhere. Until today on David’s blog (this is a long way to go about promoting his blog entry) where he linked to this thing of beauty. It’s Scott Jordan’s, Scottevest Travel Vest. This looks like a real winner. It has pockets galore and still is stylish. The one downside of this is it looks a bit warm for Asia. So, enter Scottevest SeV Tropical Jacket/Vest. Pretty much the same jacket just a lot lighter weight and even packable. Ya’ gotta love that! Here is the deal sealer, the thing is only $120. True, you can get other vest cheaper (not the ones listed above), but I think I would pay a little more for the looks and the functionality of this vest jacket combination. Now I can’t be too enthusiastic over this vest yet, as I have never actually see it in person…so to speak.
So if you have a better vest or a better idea how to get your gear safely to the shoot let me know.