Back in Asia

I am back in my favorite part of the world! I am headed for Cambodia and Laos soon, but right now I’m taking a personal break and visiting my family in Bangladesh. I do pln to post updates of my trip on here. My hope is that these updates will serve as the starting point for regular posts even after I return. So please do check back.

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The Recent Past and the Near Future

I know that I have been ignoring this blog for quite a while. Despite the best of intentions, the “real life” does take over from time to time. I have made myself a promise that I will do better from now on, and I fully intend to keep that promise.

To start with, I just wanted to add a short update on what I have been up to and what I plan to do in the near future. This year has been a pretty slow year, photographically speaking. I did visit the Napa valley earlier in the year for a family vacation. Although photography was not the primary reason, I still managed to shoot some landscapes and some actually turned out to be pretty good.


I also taught a couple of community education courses earlier this year. One was on artificial lighting for portraits. I don’t use artificial lighting in my work a whole lot these days, but I do have some experience doing that in the past. And I also happen to own a bunch of lighting equipment. Just thought I’d put them to good use. I do enjoy teaching these classes. It feels nice to see the spark of creativity in someone’s eyes. Here is a photo that I took during the class. This beautiful young lady, the daughter of one of the class participants, was our model for the class. I like this photo quite a bit, it represents my belief that the best artificial lighting is the one that looks the most natural.

Artificial Lighting Class

So, what’s in the future? Well, I’m thrilled to announce that the Southeast Asia trip is going to happen after all. Yep, next year in May I’ll head to my most favorite region in the whole world. Although I will be in a few countries on this trip, I’ll visit Cambodia and Laos purely for photography. I, of course, have been to Cambodia last year. This time it will be a quick visit. I do have some plans, and can’t give much details at this point. After Cambodia, I’ll spend a number of days in Laos, which will be a completely new experience for me. I can’t wait!

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Web Site Re-design and Kickstarter Project

It was long overdue, but I have finally re-designed my web site. I have known for quite a while that sooner or later I would have to say goodbye to flash. The writing was on the wall, flash was on its way out. Still, I dragged my feet for a long time, but finally got down to actually doing it. The new site is HTML based, so it’s compatible with Apple devices. I kept it pretty simple, and that was intentional. Can’t say that I like the bells and whistles very much anymore. I must be getting old!

I have also launched a kickstarter project a couple of days ago. This is for an ongoing project called “Nations of the Mekong”. The idea is to photograph 5 nations–Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar–that are on the path of the lower Mekong river. As many of you know, I have already photographed part of Thailand and Cambodia. My plan is to offer fine-art prints of some of the photographs from Cambodia as rewards for my Kickstarter project to try and raise some funds for the next phase, which would be Laos. I don’t know if I would be successful in that, but any help would be much appreciated. And of course, the rewards aren’t bad either. For instance, a $100 contribution will get you a signed 18″x10″ archival fine-art print of this photo:


Or a 12″x18″ print of this:


Please check out the project here.

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In the Land of Apsaras

I know that I have been ignoring this blog for quite a while now. Work, life, and travels can sometimes just take over our lives and before you know it, you start to fall behind on things. Today, I just had to take some time and update on at least one of the recent happenings in my life.

I travel for my work a fair amount. And then there are the occasional vacations. But very rarely do I get to take a trip purely for photography. A couple of years ago, I told myself that I had to do that once in a while if I wanted to grow as a photographer. It is no surprise to me that I chose Cambodia to be the first of these major trips. To be honest, Asia appeals to me more than any other part of the world. The sights, the colors, the cultures, the sounds, and the food all come together to make incredible feasts for all our sensory organs. To try to capture all of that with a camera is certainly no easy task.

I have to admit, prior to this trip I knew very little about Cambodia. The real attraction for me were the temples of Angkor Archeological Park—a UNESCO world heritage site. These centuries-old ruins have inspired many artists and photographers over the years, and I just knew that I had to walk in their footsteps.

I finally made the trip this past June. Excluding travel times, the trip was just about 10 days long, but I really spent about 5 of those days in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was in Thailand for much of the rest, but I will hopefully do a separate blog post about that. It was, by all measures, an awesome trip. I did spend most of my daylight hours in the temple sites and that certainly was, as expected, the highlight of the trip. But what I didn’t expect was that the rest of my time was also highly enjoyable and downright fun. Siem Reap is a quiet sleepy town with incredibly generous people and some fun spots for nightlife. I do have to admit, however, I am not a big fan of Cambodian food. My palette is decidedly spicy, I absolutely love the cuisine of Thailand, and Cambodian food is much milder in taste, more on the creamy and sweet side.

Photographing the temple sites was a daunting task. I already know that I would have to go back if I really wanted to do them justice. I didn’t get to visit some of the temples that were a little further away from Siem Reap. The weather didn’t always cooperate (which affected the light), and I simply couldn’t photograph some things the way I would have liked—most notably the elaborate wall carvings of Angkor Wat.

Anyways, here are some random photos from the trip. The series “In the Land of Apsaras” is up in the portfolio section of my web site.

This is my guide Ratanak Eath. He took me around the temple sites. He understood my needs very well. A great person to be around.

Receiving blessings from a buddhist nun. She gave me this wristband for good luck. I am supposed to keep it on until it falls off by itself. It is still going strong and I certainly am not taking it off. I need all the good luck I can get!

On my way to Tonle Sap Lake.

Photographing a monk.

Photographing Angkor Wat.

Having dinner with Ratanak.

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Farewell to 2011

Happy New Year everyone! This blog has been quiet for a while. But as I was in the process of saying goodbye to 2011 (quietly as it turned out, for me it was a cozy night with some good food and a great British mystery), I started to think about a review of my photography in 2011. So, on New Year’s Day, I started to look back at the photos that I took in the previous year. As I looked at them, two things became immediately clear. First, 2011 was not a prolific year for me, photographically speaking. I’m generally not terribly prolific with my photography anyway, but even then 2011 produced a much smaller quantity than usual. Second, I also realized that I did not do a whole lot of conceptual work or fine art figure studies—two major genres that I consider to be “my kind of work”. Am I evolving as a photographer? Am I slowly becoming a landscape and “capturing the moment” type of photographer? I don’t think so. I have always done a fair amount of work in these areas to begin with. Plus I have always resisted confining myself to just one genre of photography. I envy my fellow photographer colleagues who can do that, which allows them to have depth and focus in just one area, but I simply cannot bring myself to do it.

Hopefully, 2012 will be a great year for photography. Here are a few photographs taken in 2011.

I took this one at the Hoover Dam. It’s a joy to print and makes a great print too!

It was one of those lucky days. You see outside a window and catch this with the beautiful light!

I call this “Fallen”. Also makes a gorgeous print.

A rather simple photo, but I really loved the symmetry, the colors, and the composition.

I can’t explain why, but I absolutely love this photograph. Perhaps because it reminds me of two of my favorite things, rain and my childhood in South Asia.

This one should be familiar to the blog readers! A print of this recently sold at a benefit auction for the Angkor Hospital for Children.

Taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Love the light in this one!

Taken at Wat Po in Bangkok.

This is from a recent series of photos called “Before the Dinner Plate”.

This is Misty Stone–an adult film star. I captured this in Las Vegas while she was responding to a group of adoring fans. I loved how this came out. In fact, this is one of my favorite portraits ever. Why? Well, partly because it captures who she is and makes the viewer curious about her. But also just look at those sparkling and expressive eyes!

Does a photograph have to show a lot of nudity to have a sensual and erotic tone? I think not!

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An Evening of Bull Ridin’

I have lived in southern small towns for about 15 years now, and I have to say, it has been largely a good experience. I would take the friendly, simple, often chatty southern people and the delicious but deadly cuisine any day. But I’m not much of a fan of the popular forms of recreation in the South. I’m not a hunter, neither have I ever had much interest in rodeo sports. A few weeks ago, I found out that one of my wife’s colleagues was an organizer of bull riding competitions. Suddenly, I started to have mixed feelings about it. I knew I would never be an avid fan and pay money to go see something like that, but the photographer in me was definitely interested. I knew these events would present some good photo opportunities. I also realized that it wasn’t the bull riding itself that peaked my interest, rather it was the human drama that was likely to be a part of such an event.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give it a shot. It was a night event and I didn’t stay very long, since I had a two and a half hour drive back home. But it certainly was interesting. The crowd was as one would expect, and I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb! There was the obligatory clown, who was doing what clowns do, complete with some not-so-subtle ridicules for our current president. I wonder if he poked fun at Bush the same way when he was president (I have my doubts). But the bull riding itself was actually pretty nice. It certainly was not easy to photograph though. The light wasn’t terribly good to begin with, also things unfolded rather quickly and usually didn’t last very long. But here are some of the photos from the evening that I liked.

Cowboys....big and small

A rider mentally prepares himself

Escaping the bull

Sometimes things just don't go as planned....

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Winners of a Flickr Contest

I am not a big social network person at all. I have
maintained a minimal presence on Facebook, just enough to keep in touch with
family and friends. But I have to admit, I completely suck at it. Which is why
when Flickr came along, I initially resisted the urge to join. I knew that I
would not have the time to devote to it, especially to do it well. But then I
finally did join Flickr a few years ago for a very specific reason–to handle
certain operations of a campus photography club that I had started. Then I
became curious one day and started to search for photographers from the part of
the world where I was born and spent my younger years. That opened a whole new
world for me and probably kept me in Flickr ever since. I joined several groups,
one of which was “Bangladeshi Photographers”. The group members are
all from Bangladesh, some still live there and some are abroad, but they all
love the art and craft of photography. Most of the members are photo
enthusiasts who want to learn and practice the craft, which can be pretty
difficult for some in the region. Let’s face it, photography is not the
cheapest of hobbies, and South Asia is not known for the abundance of wealth. A
couple of years ago, I was trying to think of a way to encourage these young,
energetic photographers and I came up with the idea of, what else, a contest!
It’s a twice a year contest, I have a panel of judges made up of some of my
photographer friends and we choose two winners. The prize isn’t much really, a
year of “Pro” membership on Flickr, but that’s not the important part,
at least not for me.  The idea is to recognize excellence in these young talents, and it’s all done in good fun.

Anyways, we have just completed one of these contests
and I thought I’d post the winning photos here.

The first of two winners (in no particular order) is
called “Portraits”. The photographer is Muhammad Khalid Rayhan
Shawon. This depicts two kids (who are likely to be homeless street kids) looking
at some portraits of beautiful happy children at a street shop. The image, no
doubt, has a sad undertone to it, but it is also quite a powerful image. The
contrast between the portraits and the main subjects, their placement, the
colors–everything work really well together to make this image. It may be
sad, but it is also strangely beautiful.

The second image is “Food Factory–The Aftermath” by Tahmid Syed Abtahi. This shows three individuals cleaning up after what, by all indications, looks like a feast. The composition is excellent here. Placement of the three individuals, the piled up plates and
leftovers, and the diagonally placed drain that cuts across the image couldn’t
have worked any better. The photo was also a stark reminder of the waste that
humans generate in their daily lives and those that have to deal with them.

I have a feeling that we will see a lot more of these young artists in the future.

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