9 Emperor Gods Festival – Pt 4

This is the last in a four-part series on the 9 Emperor Gods Festival that took place at the Tow...

9 Emperor Gods Festival – Pt 3

  Just a suggestion, but you might want to read the the first two parts of this series before continuing. You can read the...

9 Emperor Gods Festival – Pt 2

If you are reading this before reading the first part HERE, then you might be at a slight loss as...

Chinese New Year in 15 Photos

Chinese New Year in Penang My wife and I have been back in Malaysia 10 days now. In that time...

Eid-ul Adha, Kapitan Keling Masjid

I woke up today thinking I would go out and shoot some rain photos. It has been raining here for...

Swayambhunath: The Monkey Temple

  You can tell by the past few posts by Jon McCormack and I that we filled out days shooting...

Life, Worship and Sitting around: Bhaktapur, Nepal

  Bhaktapur was the capital of Nepal until late in the 15th century. As a result it has many amazing...

Redux: Kathmandu’s Boudhanath Stupa

  Kathmandu is a strange mix of Hindu and Buddhist culture. With only a few days to explore my friend...

Goodbye and Back to Hell With You!

This is the last post in this series. We have been looking at images from the 7th month of the...

A Night At The Opera

  As I said in a previous post, the Hungry Ghost month is full of performances of puppet shows and...

Kai Xin’s Hungry Ghost

    Yesterday I was told that there would be a Chinese opera in Georgetown. It was supposed to be...

The Goh Family Puppet Show

  I struggled whether to post this as a multimedia or just a series of images for you to enjoy....

The Maasai

In the last post I wrote about my time with the folks at the Kilgoris Project in Kenya. The project...

The Kilgoris Project

  This week I had the privilege of photographing the extraordinary work being done by The Kilgoris Project in Western...

Wallpaper for Chinese New Year

  I am heading out tonight for a month of travel. I join Jon McCormack, Gavin Gough and Leslie Fisher...

Luck Happens: Kek Lok Si Temple

 click on the image to view it larger   Last night, Scott and Tim, two of my ex-pat friends decided...

Thaipusam: Photo Walk Participant’s Images

  This weekend was filled with endless screams, the rolling of eyes, bodies being pierced by spears, the sticking out...

Thaipusam Day 2

  For the past few years that I have been covering Thaipusam I have always shot using a flash early...

Kashmir Pt 4: Portraits of Kashmir

  As I wrote the in first three posts in this Kashmiri series, the light was not so great for...

Kashmir Pt 3: A Slice of Life

  In this 3rd segment I offer you a look into everyday life in Srinagar. The city of Srinagar is...

Kashmir Pt 2: Shrines and Mosques

   (Click the images to view full size.) Kashmir is a very spiritual place. There are as many mosques on...

Eid-ul Adha, Kapitan Keling Masjid

warningI woke up today thinking I would go out and shoot some rain photos. It has been raining here for the past two to three weeks. I was getting stir-crazy and needed to get out. As I was getting dressed I kept hearing the speakers of the local mosque in the background talking about something. Then it occurred to me, today is Eid-ul Adha! Holy cow..well, holy cow, goat and any other halal animal. Continue reading

Kashmir Pt 1: A Gujjar Wedding

Gujjar men wait just out of the snow for the wazwan to begin.


I had the privilege to host my good friend Jon McCormack around Kashmir this past week. We were able to visit some of my favorite places in a short three days. One of the highlights for us was the wedding of the daughter of an old Gujjar friend. If you are a long time reader of my blog you will know that Gujjars are a shepherd people living in Kashmir. Continue reading

Four elements that can make your images stronger


I’ve been taking some online training with Media Storm this past week. The first lesson dealt mostly with audio production. Brian Storm made a point in passing that each audio clip must have texture, sense of place, context and mood. This is true not only for audio but for images as well. For any image to communicate a story effectively at least a few of these elements will probably be present.

First I’ll offer a definition of each of these elements. Then I will identify these elements in three images. Continue reading

Random Observations (in America)

This blog almost is as much about culture as it is about photography. As such, I felt this was a great little post to share with you – my well traveled reader.

I have a good friend that lives in India who is, at the moment, back visiting friends in the United States. Yesterday he posted these random observation. I asked him if I could share them with you because, as an expat American myself, they struck a code.

  • Today we drove through a brand new shopping complex in Queen Creek, Arizona filled with generic stores like Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohls, etc. I’m pretty sure the parking lot for this complex has more parking than all of our city in Kashmir combined.
  • Americans leave a ton of space between cars when coming to a stop at traffic lights. Several times I’ve noticed we could easily fit our car from India in between two cars. And maybe an auto-rickshaw along with it.
  • Speaking of traffic lights, those things can be annoying. I’m used to driving in a city of 1 million people without a single traffic light. Funny how the stressful chaos of Kashmir driving can be missed when I’m in the overly orderly driving of America.
  • The lines you stand in while boarding a Southwest Airlines flight would have much less personal space if that was done in India. In fact, I doubt that whole boarding system would even work in India.
  • We don’t see many people walking outside. If there are any people who happen not to be in a car, then they likely are just exercising rather than utilizing walking as a form of transportation. Or they’re Asian.
  • Listening to an Oklahoma accent just puts a smile on our faces.
  • It may have always been this way, but politicians seem to spend more time dedicated to getting elected to than actually doing things for the country and people who voted for them.
  • TV commercials seem to be even more dumb than before. With many people just recording their TV shows and skipping commercials, do ad companies not care anymore?
  • It’s sad to see greed overwhelmingly dictate the future of college sports.
  • While sitting at a park eating a picnic dinner we saw a couple games of a co-ed adult softball league being played. That may seem normal to most Americans, but something about it stood out to us. Middle-aged men and women playing a sport together on a weekday evening. I can’t think of any recreational equivalent for that in our part of India.


Guest Post: Richard Tulloch

When I first started this blog my intent was to write about photography as well as culture and travel. I admit that the majority of the postings have been about photography. But, if you are one of my regulars you know that I often write about how the photographer interacts with the culture they are photographing. I have always been fascinated with cultures. To me, culture is the personality of a city or country. Recently, I ran across Richard Tulloch’s Life on the Road. I loved how he handles the stresses of travel and culture in a both witty and pragmatic way. Richard Tulloch writes for children and teaches writing around world.  Richard is an Australian who lives part of the year in Sydney and part in Amsterdam. His writing for children includes 151 episodes of the popular TV series Bananas in Pyjamas as well as numerous successful plays and books.

He travels the world ‘on wheels and legs’, teaching writing workshops, performing his solo storytelling show, and along the way contributing articles to newspapers, magazines and websites. His own popular blog is: Richard Tulloch’s Life on the Road.

I’m excited that Richard has agreed to contribute today’s post.  ~ Matt Brandon

The Ducky Potty Man

~ Richard Tulloch

As soon as I caught the vendor’s eye through the car window I knew I’d made a mistake. I was new to Nigeria. I’d just arrived in Lagos that morning, less than an hour ago. I’d shown a flicker of interest in what he was selling and now he expected me to buy it – a toddler’s ducky potty.

I didn’t mean to stare. I know that in these potentially awkward situations it’s best to hide behind sunglasses and feign blindness, or to speak loudly into a cell phone so you look like a busy man on a mission. After several stints in Asia and four whole weeks in Africa, I was an old hand at smiling politely and brushing away zebra necklaces, phone cards, Ladysmith Black Mambazo CDs and Rolex watches as if they were troublesome flies.

But this was new to me – a young man in a traffic jam (‘go-slows’, I was soon to discover they’re called in Nigeria) trying to sell ducky potties to passing motorists. I mean, when you’re caught in a traffic jam, in the heat and oppressive humidity, it’s possible that you might develop the need for a bottle of cool water, or an orange, or a bag of nuts, or a newspaper, or even a phone card if you have to let someone know that at this rate you won’t make it to the office for another five hours. Other enterprising vendors were already selling these items. It seems totally improbable that you’d suddenly experience an overwhelming urge to buy a ducky potty.

Who is this ducky potty man? I wondered.  What made him decide to sell potties by the roadside? Are they his potties, or is he an agent for someone who’s found a large batch of toilet items fallen off the back of a truck, and who now needs help to offload them?  How many potties does he sell in a day?  In a year? How much profit margin is there in selling a potty?  When he was a kid, did he aspire to be a potty vendor when he grew up?  Do his parents talk proudly about ‘our son who’s in Lagos doing something very big in potties’?

Is he hoping this potty business will be a temporary phase in his career; something to tide him over in hard times until a more glamorous and lucrative job turns up?  Is he maybe an actor between engagements, or a student putting himself through college?

The point is; the ducky potty man has no choice.  If he could do anything else in life, he wouldn’t choose to stand in the heat and the traffic fumes, hoping against hope that someone in the next car to inch past might just want a ducky potty.  If he had any say at all in what he could sell, he’d go for something with a bit more commercial oomph than ducky potties.

We fill our lives planning what we’d like to do, where we’d like our careers to take us, what our children will be when they grow up, deciding where to go on our next holiday. Such decisions cannot possibly be a part of the ducky potty man’s world.  There are an awful lot more people in his situation than there are in mine.

I raised my eyebrows at him, trying to indicate amused incredulity that he might think a big grown up boy like me might still need a potty. He put on his best pleading expression.  I shrugged. I didn’t even have any local currency yet, so I couldn’t even make a donation. The ducky potty man gave up, grinned broadly and gave me a cheerful wave.  I had to admire him. If I had to swap places with him, I don’t think I’d be grinning and waving very often.

The car crept away from him, and his place at the car window was taken in turn by vendors selling dog leashes, magazines and dartboards. ‘American International School‘, said my driver, pointing into the middle distance. I looked out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the place where I would be working as a writer in residence for the next week. All I could see was a group of nondescript buildings surrounded by other groups of nondescript buildings.

’How long until we get there?’ I asked.

’Depend on traffic,’ he said, ‘we must take long way round, then come back. This street, only driving one way.  Maybe a half hour more.’

The cars in front were still barely moving. My plane out of Nairobi had been cancelled the day before and I’d been awake all night waiting for the next flight to leave.  I was expecting to work that afternoon, so I’d boosted my consciousness with a few cups of coffee on the plane. Now the third and fourth cups were working their way to my bladder. There was nowhere for the driver to pull over. We were in the middle lane of a highway in a built-up area, maybe even within sight of the students and parents and teachers from the school.

I crossed my legs and wished I’d been able to buy a ducky potty.

Can The Right Photo Be No Photo?

We had such a great response from the last post, “What is your Un-Suck Filter” that I thought I would take the discussion over to and let others join in. So if you are interested in some ways to photograph people different than ourselves then by all means visit this link and give me your thoughts.

Hanoi, Vietnam

To view the EXIF data and a larger version, just click on the image.

Hanoi is quite a fascinating city. It reminds me a lot of Old Delhi in many ways–the crowded narrow streets, the mix of cultures both old and new. Suffice it to say, I like it here. The people are not super easy to photograph. They feel you are indeed, “taking” a photo of them and not giving back. I have tried to show them the image on the back of the camera but that doesn’t cut it. I didn’t bring my Pogo printer this trip–that might have helped. But frankly speaking there are so many tourists visiting this place, folks are rather jaded when it comes to having their picture made. What I find helps ease the tension when pointing a camera at people in situations like this, is to use a sort of barter system. A photo op in exchange for whatever they are selling. So if you find a photogenic subject that is selling fruit, try buying some from them. This drops some of the fear and suspicion and lowers their defenses and there will be much more of a chance you’ll get that shot. It is not a panacea and the shot you get might not be a candid, but it sure can help.

When Culture Collides With Your Camera

Photo by Victoria F.

I received this email yesterday from Victoria, a student in my Introduction to Photography class held here in Penang. I thought I should share it with you as a great reminder how traveling photographers need to be aware of the culture around them and always try to be sensitive to the local norms and traditions. Always remembering we are the visitors, this is not about us, this picture is about them. I am quoting this letter fully. I will let you comment. Did she handle it well? Continue reading