Saturday, 5 December 2009
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Three things of note:
I have 18000 images and 500 5*4 Negatives to evaluate.
I have left 90 negatives in Kathmandu to be devloped. I plan to continue working with Kiran and his team to the next stage. This will be to print a set of prints on fibre based paper of the the best negatives. These will be on offer for purchase as "limited" edition prints. Judging by the results of the negatives and the prints that have been done by Ganesh Lab I think these will be very desireable for collectors of mountain photos. There are already commitments to buy these prints. Get in touch if you would like to find out more.
I have kicked off a re-design of my website. mountain-photography.net For years I have done it on my own however Nirijan from exclusiveminds.com in Kathmandu has persuaded me to let him re-do it. The target is to have this up and running by the end of the year.
Currently I am working through the images and hope to hae some early work on the web by end December.
Thanks for all the encouragement and feedback while I was in Nepal it was greatly appreciated.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Anyhow I got to the airport and killed some time chatting with Henry Todd. His experience was not encouraging - they fly to Lukla and then turn back. I left it with Henry that if I changed my mind on other matters I would get back to him.
There was the usual mayhem and melee. The flight exceeded my expectations. We had excellent views of the whole mountain chain. Despite taking off an hour late. The promised visit to the cockpit to take photos did not materialise. The door remained tightly shut. The thing that really struck me was that I had never before seen a whole mountain system like this close up. It was quite stunning. Great views of Gauri Shanker and Menlungste among other lesser peaks. Everest, well the Everest flight goes nowhere near it!!! I felt treated with the disdain that tourists get treated with in many ways. They said the flight would be 50 minutes and from commencing taxing to touch down it was exactly 50 minutes. So in fact we were in the zone of big mountains for say 15 minutes. All this said for 100 pounds i'd say it was a snip. Something I will always remember. The solution for the avid mountain photographer is obviously to hire a helicopter :-)
Off to pack leave on Sunday assuming the airport is open. Lots of "activity" there this morning.
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
First up Professor Horoshiohono of Yamagata University - retired. Had an interesting meeting of minds on the Kagbeni to Jomsom road. Note the formality of the pose of two Geologists swopping collison zone theories. One with the benefit of decades of experience the other having done a bit of trekking!!!
Next up is Khagendra Tulachan owner of the Majesty Hotel in Jomsom. He loathes the road and the pollution. He will I think be in a book of portraits from the trip which I am working on. But not this photo.
Finally there is Winfried Luhr-Tanck who we meet in full photo mode on a bend south of Jomsom. Not quite sure who was most surprised. Anyhow I think Winfied thought I was off my trolley with this huge camera in the middle of nowhere. He for his part had just cycled from Kathmandu to Kagbeni in 7 days. By day he is a research Physicist specialising in metals.
We also for good measure met John Witcombe an expert in rice development on his way from Bangladesh to Bangor via Kagbeni. On a bike of course!!!
Make of it all what you will. Back in Kathmandu but off to Everest tomorrow morning!!!!
Saturday, 31 October 2009
Arrived in Pokhara last night late after a 10 day trek down the Kali Gandaki. Therafter up to Gorepani and across to Tadanpani and finally down to Naipul. There followed a helter skelter local bus to Pokhara.
As ever things here work like a "Nepali" watch. Slow but sure.
The Kali Gandaki is no less sensational now than it was in 1980. The comparison is compelling. Now they have what is called a road here but is no more than a trak. And everywhere there are buses and jeeps plying up and down in a cloud of dust. But the mountains and the geology are as good as anywhere.
It all started with an 18 minute flight from Pokhara. The views of the mountains were excellent. We skimmed along and I sat in the back with all my camera equipment and the air hostess who exhorted me to look right and then left. The North Face of Dhaulagiri flashed past - Rick the Dhaulagiri photo is for you, before I could get it. And we screamed onto the runway. Chiring was there to meet me having trekked for three days to get there.
We walked up to Kagbeni on the border with Upper Mustang. Where we had no permit. So we stopped there and started taking Large Format images. It was here that things almost went wrong. The camera blew over in the strong afternoon winds. And my duvet jacket blew over the edge. Fortunately the situation was retrieved largely due to Chiring.
Kagbeni is right on the join between the Indian and Chinese plates and has some amazing structural geology. It also is more Tibetan than Nepalese in culture. It feels like a step back in time yet with this bizarre addition of modern "things" like jeeps and motor bikes and telephones and electricity. Not to forget our guest house -Yak Donalds restaurant.
We walked on down the broadreaches of the gorge - the highest on the planet (apologies). And jeeps and buses rushed by with trekkers many of whom had crossed the Thorung La and succumbed to modern traffic to Pokhara. It takes them a day and a half. In 1980 it took us 6 days!!!
We photographed 3 times a day. At sunrise 6 am, during the morning and a at sunset. And in between we walked. Sometimes on the road sometimes on the old trail. And we met loads of interesting people - more of which in a later entry.
This morning in a fitting finale. Laxman arrived in his taxi with Chiring and we headed up to the stuppa above Pokahara to photograph the broad spectacle of Annapurna Himal. We witnessed a wonderful sunrise replete with Buddhist chants and drum thumping. Unknown to us we had happened upon the 10 year celebration of the building of the stuppa. There followed a bizarre 2 hour period when the buddhists went into overdrive - among them some heavy hitters in the Buddhist world - see photo. We paced up and down trying to capture a panorama that did not want to yield. I was caught in this dilema of what to photograph. In a wonderful moment they threw loads of paper flower petals from the stupa above us which drifted into our photographs!!!
Sadly I said goodbye to my trusty friend and aid Chiring today.
Bus to Kathmandu tomorrow morning.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Machapuchare has never been climbed to its summit. The only attempt was in 1957 by a British team led by Jimmy Roberts. Climbers Wilfrid Noyce and A. D. M. Cox climbed to within 50m of the summit via the north ridge, but did not complete the ascent; they had promised not to set foot on the actual summit. Since then, the mountain has been declared sacred, and it is now forbidden to climbers.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
I flew with Sergei Gunchenko in his microlight from Pokhara airport at 7:20 this morning. We were due to fly at 6:30 but at the last minute a bank of early morning mist enveloped the mountains. So we waited and then went for it. Sergei seemed a solid Russian name and I felt comfortable even as the air rushed by and we headed up into the mists above Pokhara. All their instincts were of course good and the mountains swirled out of the mist. It was a huge adrenalin rush. More so than the bus trip the day before:-) Initially I couldn't hit my stride because of the force of the air. But dropped the visor and got going. The mountains were stunning close up. But more so was the valley and the lake. A selection of the photos including Machapuchare and Annapurna are attached.
Sergei has been flying since 1989 and comes across from Russia for the trekking seasons. He started in hang gliders and progressed. "You fly like a bird". Now there is someone happy in his work!!!
Having run the gauntlet of Nepalis buracreacy I now have a trekking permit so will leave for Jomsom and my second trek tomorrow. Wherupon hopefully Chiring will be waiting for me.
Monday, 19 October 2009
Off to Pokhara tomorrow by bus. Excited about the flights and the trek. The road is the road. Was the reply from an American NGO worker on enquiry about the journey. Sounds like the title for a book.
Mahesh phoned to say that Chiring has left for Jomsom and will meet me off the flight on Thursday morning. Not sure but I think that it will take him 3 days to walk there. It is reassuring to know that he will be helping with my camera. Even if his head does suddenly appear under the dark cloth :-)
Had breakfast with an interesting lady who regards herself as a dental trekker. She has just endured a grueling trip to the west of the country. The situation there sounds very different to the trekking regions. She has spent significant time doing voluntary dental work in Afghanistan and Nepal. Ralph I have given her your email address. Hope this is OK.
Todays image is the Nepalese chicken at the butchers.
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Enjoyed Dipawali immensely. The Nepalis went nuts. Very reminiscent of the French on Bastille day. The firecrackers are smaller here. But the lights and spirit are big!!! I enjoyed the puja in the shop - attached.
The taxi driver who took me home told me he loved Nepal and that it is a wonderful country, this as we picked our way throught the pot holes in the road. You don't need a lot for happiness. People still have time for one another here. There is no television to speak of and it is still a step back in time.
One more day of photography in Kathmandu then pack tomorrow then off to Pokhara.
Yesterday I visited the processing lab and viewed my negatives for the first time. They were as as Kirin said all excellent. I have surprised myself as to how well they have turned out. It has taken a lot to get these images. 4 people trekking for 29 days. Then 3 technicians working for 7 days to develop the negatives. But perhaps the main goal of the expedition has been achieved – to photograph with a large format camera at high altitude (18000+ ft). Just need to do some printing!!!
For the photographers – the thing that surprised me most about the negatives is how much contrast they have been able to get out. This, on reflection, is probably because I have exposed the highlights consistently on Zone 7, so lifting the exposure up the exposure curve but not to the point of burning out the highlights. There is a great clip on YouTube by Bruce Burnbaum discussing this. As always overexposure is preferable to underexposure. Anyhow it was a relief to see the negatives.
It is now more than a week since I returned from the Khumbu. As promised some overiding thoughts – firstly I went early and so the views were fleeting and there was lots of clouds and mist. Suits my style of mountain photography – ethereal. The Khumbu was wonderfully green. Secondly as we were coming down there was obviously a serious number of people / trekking groups headed up. Line upon line of trekkers. Stories of difficulties getting beds and queing for an hour to cross the bridges have become legion. Finally I was more than a little shocked by the attitude of some of the trekkers. They seemed to think it OK to keep on ascending and some at fast rates, irrespective of how they felt. Inevitably everyday a helicopter would appear to take someone down to Kathmandu. This emergency service costs 6000 dollars and if you cannot prove insurance or a method of payment then there is no flight!!!! A Swiss trekker died at Pheriche 3 days ago. 16 people died of high altitude sickness last year. Centes like the CAN (Community Action Nepal) centre at Machermo undoubtedly help to keep these numbers down. Finally and most interestingly it is not only trekkers who fall ill – it is also the porters.
Off to Dipawali.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
I am relaxing in Kathmandu. Developing a routine of morning preparation and afternoon photographing in the streets of Kathmandu. Soudershan and Soudest are helping me by guiding me around the city and carrying my large format camera. Everywhere we go we get, so far, an interesting reception. Somewhere between did you come from the moon and nice camera, nice camera. It is a pleasure after years of having to do it all myself to have someone to hand me the camera and the lense etc. You are never quite sure what will greet you around the corner. It is both a learning experience and a very enjoyable one. More like being on holiday that it was in the mountains which always felt serious.
Dipawali - Diwali to you and me, starts on Friday. It promises to be exciting with fireworks and much colour. The focus moves around various outlying centres of the city and I plan where possible to attend.
I have been going back over my trek photos and post now three images from my day at the Jumbaise monastery. Hopefully you will get a feeling for how happy and friendly the nuns and monks were from these images.
Monday, 12 October 2009
There are 40k dogs in Kathmandu or am I getting confused with bicycles in Bejing. There is nothing confusing about the cocophony of noise that gets going at any hour of the night. One starts and the noise resonates, I suspect across the city in a wail that is quite extraordinary.
I am passing my rest days in Kathmandu photographing daily life across the city- from the margins to the centre. Yesterday I was on an obscure bridge by a very polluted Bagmatti river when I was acosted by a tourist who wanted to know who I was!!!! Turned out that after he removed his sun glasses that he was Phil Norris of BP. So it is true. You can run but there is no hiding!!!!
Kirin called today to say that B&W negative processing continues at 30 per day and that the exposures look good. This is encouraging.
I have gone back to Gokyo files and offer for todays delight some images from Gokyo RI sunrise. The owner of the hotel who claimed he had the highest choclate shop in the world. He was born and raised in Gokyo, has a large and well run establishment, owned 6 yaks and only went to Namche or Kathmandu at fesitval time, spoke excellent English. When I was leaving he rushed out and presented me with a Cadburys choclate bar. Very touching. I ate it on the Cho La. Didn't taste at all like the wrapper suggested so I guess it was yet another Chinese product!!!!!
The bonus is Gokyo sacred lake number 3.
Putting together some thoughts on Large format capture at high altitiude for the photographers that are following the blog. Also in the next couple of days some reflections on the trek.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Yesterday as I arrived in Lukla I bumped into Sandy Allan and his clients on their way to Ama Dablam. Sandy was in good form. Looking older than when I last saw him. We talked about his recent ascent of Nanga Parbat. Also caught up on Rick.
The weather has turned for the worst. Seems like a good time to quit the mountains - temporarily at least. As we flew across the foothills there was mist everywhere and it is raining hard. The monsoon started late and is continuing late. This is not good for the rice harvest which should be happening now but is delayed.
We spent 29 days on our trek. It feels to me like a marathon walk. But I am now fitter than I have been in the last 20 years and my batteries are recharged. Dunbadur Tamang and Chiring looked after me as one of thier own. We had a fabulous time together. I will cherish the memories of setting off at 4 in the morning and watching the sunrise as the high Himalaya revealed itself. They never lost their enthusiasm even as I wearied and kept me going.
Today I will deliver my B&W negatives to Kirin. I have >8000 digital shots. Will start to post some of these tomorrow.
Saturday, 3 October 2009
We climbed Gokyo Ri in perfect weather. Setting off in the dark in order to photograph at sunrise. The views were amongst the most stunning I have seen from any peak. Towering 8000m peaks Choi Oyu, Everst amongst them. For a geologist with all the amazing rock structures this was Disneyland. For a photographer it was heaven.
At Gorak Shep we did likewise and climbed Kalapattar. The weather again was completely clear and so Everest was very close. Many of the trekkers who made to the top got very emotional and there was an outbreak of song as the sun rose in 10 diferent languages!!!!
The Chola lived up to it's reputation and was covered in snow and mist. I kept on telling myself this was not Ben Macdui - given all the pink granite.
Health good, acclimitization no issue. Waiting for the mist to clear on Amam Dablam. Expect to be in Kathmandu in 4-7 days whereupon I will upload some more images.
Monday, 21 September 2009
We got up this morning and headed off at 5am to the army encampment on the hill. As we reached the makeshift helipad we saw Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse glowing in the morning sunrise. Seeing a big mountain for the first time is a special moment. Ama Dablam greeted us with a smile and all around Pachermo, Kongde, Thamserku serku and Kusum Kanguru lit up with awe inspiring grandure. But enough talk you want to see how it looked.
PS Off to Thame tomorrow and therafter on to Gokyo. There is no internet up there as far as I know!!!
As I walked around the corner this afternoon it was at the end of a really thrilling walk up the Dudh Kosi gorge through emmaculate pine forests and flowers and glimpses up to towering snow clad peaks - Kusum Kanguru. On the way we bumped into Ang Phurba Sherpa. DB made the introductions. At 62 when he walked around the corner with a stride and perfect physique I felt this is someone of bearing. And with it perfect English and immaculate manners. I took his portrait.
And as we meandered up among the trekkers and mingled with the porters the contrast could not be more startling between the boy carrying the door or indeed the boy carrying the new telephone antenae for Tangboche which kept on getting stuck in the trees and he had to do delicate reverses.
Last night we stayed in Phakding at the Namaste Lodge. I enjoyed this immensley. The owners wife was highly "motivated" and ran in and out of the kitchen in a whirlwind and shouted and generally cooked and dispensed chang. While her husband Nima Dorjee Sherpa sat impassively in the restaurant. It transpired that we were both born in 1957. There followed a day long intermittant review of our lives and philosophy. late in the night as Tshiri Nima topped up the chang Nima Dorjee told me that he had been with Bonnington on the 1975 Sw face expedition. He left the trekking business and worked in the US to make the money to start his hotel. A common theme.
Will post some images tomorrow after download.
Off to load the film and get the "big" LF camera fired up at 6am tomorrow as the sun rises over Everest.
Saturday, 19 September 2009
The bus journey from kathmandu to Jirri, the roadhead, was freightening. The road got narrower and narrower and with it my temperature rose. We followed the ravines around. The worrying thing was passing other buses. Because of the Monsoon the verge was very soft and we had to negotiate onto the verge beside enormous drops. Anyhow an hour from Jirri ( 8 hours out) the bus stopped and there was huge comotion. The passengers were looking into a ditch. It took some time before it became clear that a school boy had fallen off the roof. He was still coherent but had a nasty bump on the head. So we dropped him off at the Jirri hospital. The following day I found out that one of the buses had indeed gone in to the ravine with the loss of 50+ passengers.
There followed 9 wonderful days of treking in the foothills. Each day starting the same. DB / Chiring and Purna and I would set off at 7am. The mornings were hot and we traversed west - east across the foothills. Going up in the morning and generally down in the afternoon!!! The afternoons generally have been rainy. And there has been the occassional leech but like the west coast midge nothing to get too excited about!! We were the only westerns around bar three others that we met so the isolation was real. We crossed the Lamjung Jura at 3650m in very misty surreal conditions.
We took a rest day at Junbaise and DB and I visited the Thupten Choling monastrey. DB introduced me and I found this out later, as a British Buddist. So we had free access and worshipped with firstly the nuns and then the monks. There are 350 nuns and 85 monks and it is the biggest Gompa outside Kathmandu. It was a moving experience sitting there listening to their incantations. I was very surprised by how tactile the nuns were!!!!!
Life on the road is basic. Few trekkers come this way preferring to fly to Lukla. The great advantage for me is that I have been getting fitter and acclimitised. Having started at a low level!!! Intially I was stiff but now am going well!!!! I am surviving on a diet of Dhal Bat and fried rice and eggs.
When we crossed the Dudh Kosi things became markedly different. The ravine is very tight indeed and impressively steep. We walked yesterday along the narrowest of paths in the forest. Alongside precipitous drops. When it began to clear in the early evening the scene beneath us was like a boiling pot of mist. Awe inspirring. We stayed the night with Pemba Galijen Sherpa and his wonderful family of wife and three girls. It came as no surprise that he summitted on Everest in 1993 and has supported ever thereafter. This he says is his last year. He spent three months at BC living up at camp 2. It was interesting what he had to say about the change in the Khumbu icefall in this short time. It has collapsed and the crevasse and seracs are much less intimidating. There is more rock. Eventually he predicts it will disappear.
Tomorrow, with my band of merry gentlemen we will head off to Namche and the big mountains beyond. Apologies no images but this is not my computer.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
The last two days have been spent in final preparations.
In every town associated with the mountains there is a Frau Biner or a Madame Baronnier and I guess in Kathmandu it is Shona. She took a bit of finding but along with husband Andy she has made the final gearing up a pleasure. "For the rainy season you need four pairs of socks - these thin ones to Junbesi, the next ones to Namche and above your thick good ones". Now I think you have everything".
Likewise Sorita the pharmacist has given me 5 different antibiotics for just about anything one might contemplate and more.
Last night I went over to visit the dark room. The technician, if this is the correct term has done a wonderfull job with my four negatives, so the film is confirmed good. He even gave me advice on my exposures. Which given his 27 years of experience I cannot argue with. During all this it became clear that the lab owner Kiran was elsewhere. Suddenly I found myself up in Durbar Square amongst thousands of ecstatic Nepalis on the last night of the Festival - Indra Jatra. They were awaiting the appearance of the 4 year old Kumari - child Godess. I was taken to the door of the palace and photographed her coming out. There followed absolute mayhem as the police attempted to regain control and get her to her awaitng chariot.
Mahesh will pick me up in the morning and take me to the bus park. There I will meet the trek team and we will travel by local bus to Jiri- the start of the trek. A nine hour bus trip that costs £16 for the four of us.
For my trek Mahesh has lent me a book to read - Nothing Venture Nothing Win - Ed Hillary's autobiography. Very appropriate.
Monday, 7 September 2009
Set off for Jiri on Thursday morning. Everything just about ready. Guide and porters in place and the plan is in place. Mahesh is very experienced in organising these things. His last client was Sir CB so I am in good hands. He re-assured me this morning that the first porter was choosen because he would setup my camera. The second is a big and strong gentleman who will be able to carry me down if necessary and he finished by saying that if anything goes wrong he will send a helicopter!!!!
This evening I delivered my test negatives to Kiran and we formulated a plan. It seems like the images will be hotshotted by express porter on weekly basis to Lukla. For onward delivery to his lab. I am beginning to wonder if digital is the way to go :-)
Saturday, 5 September 2009
Yesterday was a day off from photography. Instead I was picked up by the GM of the Hash at the Chatrakh roundabout in front of the cake house. It was the usual eclectic mix of people and countryside. The run lasted over two hours and I survived relatively OK so must be ready for a 3 weeks+ trek. It was hot and the altitude while running at the start was palpable. A cross section of local UN, UNESCO, Wateraid and diplomatic runners wound its way across paddy fields and through villages and past stuppas and a variety of shrines and much else. And lots of dogs who wanted to join in. On a scale of 10 this was 10. Very friendly engaging and interesting people who really understand what is going on here.
Had diner with Ralph a Christian German Dentist at the Vajra. He has just finished two weeks of voluntary help just north of Dumre. Reports that the people have looked after their teeth remarkably well. The problem is diseases like Typhoid.
Commence Large Format photography today. Check out camera and shoot some test shots in the Vajra back yard - not your normal garde :-)
Friday, 4 September 2009
The highlight of yesterday was one of those visits that had to be done but nothing can prepare you for it when it comes. I went to visit the cremation site on the Bagmati river. A helpful young man acted as my tour guide and we witnessed a cremation of an elderly lady and it was very moving. The whole area had a sombre mood. And all the way up the right bank of the river there were burning pires while down the left bank a crowd of onlookers and tourists watched. During all this a disturbance got up in the temple and the police arrived at some speed to sort it out.
The Sadhus were there in force and very congenial they were. We chatted and I took some photographs. I saw one at the gate on a mobile phone which he quickly put beneath his top before I could look closer. Seems like technology is enabling every facet of life here!!!!
Afterwards I returned to the monkey temple to try and catch the monks at evening prayers however it downpoured and they stayed inside so instead I photographed the monkeys.
Plan to take the tourist flight to Everest on Monday and then commence the slow road on Thursday :-)
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Yesterday was hectic. I also visited with Ganesh Photographic who will develop my negatives. Kiran Man Chitraker showed me some of his family photographs that date back 100 years. Beautiful large prints of the Royal family and even a shot of Tenzing and Hillary when they returned from the successful first ascent.
Yesterday was the opening day of the main festival here. It coincided with the first public viewing of the new Kumari. The 4 year old living godess. Durbar sq was a heaving frenzied mass. The full panorama of people and govt and diplomatic hoy poloy was in full vociferous view.
In the evening went to the Yin and Yang with Rob Casserly and Helen Sovdat who leave for Manasulu today.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
This is arguably my most "viewed" image. It appeared in the BBC website in 2004 and has since been used in a few diferent places. It is taken during the Bangladesh Monsoon. I took it whilst driving to the wellsite. I waved and they waved back. It is such a happy scene. The children are cooling off in the monsson waters. It was one of my very first digital images and I was amazed by the potency of this tiny Sony 5 mp camera. I have owned a Sony compact ever since and will be taking my latest one to Nepal.
Monday, 24 August 2009
All the new camera bits and bobs have arrived. Getting down to the serious issues of packing and how to get it safely out there. Reading lots on the medical front of what I need to take with me.
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Monday, 17 August 2009
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Another interesting thing is the live view. This is the first SLR I have owned that has live view. I have always enjoyed the immediacy of live view on small compacts. And my initial impression is similar with the D700 live view. It challenges the way you look at a scene.
Next stop Belladrum music festival this weekend.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
I have taken delivery of a Nikon D700. It usually takes me about a year to decide on which new camera to buy. I was not an early adopter of digital and still prefer large format film for my classical landscape work. Consequently this is my second digital SLR, my first being the Nikon D80. It is an important decision and also an expensive one. The decision was finally made in favour of the D700 because it suits my style of photography. My observaation is that this is the leading camera for low light photography. Michael Johnson at The Online Photographer, whose opinion I value and respect ,reckons this is the leading camera in the world at the moment. No doubt this will change, however with a trip to Nepal looming it was time to buy. I plan to review the camera as I go and particularly its performance in Nepal. So far I am both excited and impressed with what I have seen.