Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Birds in Flight

Good morning! I know I teased about why I couldn't show my hotel pictures, and that's coming. But today, birds! I've never really photographed birds in flight, but these two were too good to pass up. I thank my 70-200 lens for making this shot possible.

Birds in Flight

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How the West was won

Happy Monday! Too early? C'mon, I'm sure you were sick of all that weekend-ness. My wife and I got away for a romantic weekend this weekend down in Dana Point. My wife booked us in a fancy-schmancy hotel and we didn't leave the room very much (if you know what I'm sayin'). Actually what I'm saying is we were both too lazy to get out and do much so we just hung out in the hotel room. That's what you were thinking, right?

We did manage to get the the San Luis Obispo Historic Mission. It was amazing! I've been to several missions in California, but this was by far the largest and best preserved of all. It was a beautiful day and I had a fantastic time taking pictures and being with my wife. More pictures to come after I've had time to work on them, but for now, just a tease.


Oh, and I did take some pictures at our hotel, but I can't share them. More on that story soon.

Friday, January 27, 2012

iPhone Friday

iPhone Friday returns! Have a great weekend.

Lake Tana sunset

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wave Abstract

Sometimes the things you see along the way are the most beautiful.

Wave Abstract

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ethiopia 2012 Part 2

Thanks so much for all the comments here, on Facebook and Twitter!

One day during our stay in Lalibela, a few of us visited a monastery just a few miles outside of town.

Monastery Sign

The Saint Neakutoleab Monastery is built in a cave nestled in the side of the mountain. Unfortunately due to it's location and the path to get to it, there was no real way to photograph the whole of it from outside. I was told that it dates from around the 15th century and also goes by the name Cave Church. This was a wonderfully tranquil place with a small but steady stream of believers coming in and out.

Man in cave praying

Girl kneeling

Woman in doorway

Covered pedastal

Girl leaving

The resident priest was an interesting character. As soon as we walked in he quietly began setting up and laying out treasures to show us. He laid the treasures out with such quiet routine that I have to assume foreigners come here almost daily. Also interesting was the way in which he handled these ancient artifacts. He grabbed crowns, crosses, bibles and liturgical items as if he was rummaging through books at a library. "Here's the cross that was given to the monastery at it's founding" said in a bored, almost scripted way. This is a six hundred year old cross given by the king of Ethiopia! Items you would normally see behind glass at a museum were piled up in a cabinet.



Priest with artifacts

The following day we left Lalibela and traveled six hours by bus to the lakeside town of Bahir Dar. We saw houses under construction, decorated donkeys and views that reminded me of the Desert Southwest.


Decorated Donkeys

Wide vista

Desert monument

We were supposed to fly from Lalibela to Bahir Dar, but Ethiopian Airlines decided to cancel the flight. I'm really glad they did because I would not have wanted to miss out on the beautiful scenery along the way.

For the next two days we woke early to jump on a boat and head out on Lake Tana. The lake is massive. There are islands throughout and many of them have monasteries built on them. Lake Tana is also the source of the Blue Nile, so it's impact on not only Ethiopian history but the history of Sudan and Egypt can't be underestimated. The lake is full of fish (mostly Tilapia), birds and even hippos. Going out in the early morning with fog still on the lake was so peaceful. The only people out were us and the fisherman in their papyrus boats.

Three fisherman

Fisherman close

Fishing net

Hippo and grass

Hippo mouth

Birds in flight

The monasteries here were very different than the one we visited outside Lalibela. The buildings were round with a square inner room accessible only by the priest. They were no less fascinating or ornate.

Inner corner


Hallway wide




After two days we flew back to Addis and ended our trip with a lovely dinner at the Jupiter hotel. I can't say enough about the people I traveled with; a truly talented and sharing group of photographers. I learned so much from David and Jeffrey, but also from viewing the work of my fellow participants. This trip profoundly affected the way I look through my camera. If you are looking to challenge yourself and improve your photographic eye, I can highly recommend a workshop like this. In fact, if you're thinking of taking a workshop like this you could do no better than David and Jeffery's Within the Frame. You can check them out here.

I hope that these posts gave you glimpse into Ethiopian life and culture. This was a once in a lifetime trip for me and I am so glad I can share it with you. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Travels in Ethiopia

Whew, it's been quite a hectic and amazing three weeks since my last post. I apologize for not posting last week, but it took me a while to figure out which day it was supposed to be and when I should be sleeping (any moment I could, it turned out). I also started work at my new place last week and that was awesome and busy. Excuses aside, I'm back now and I promise that this post won't disappoint.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Ethiopia? Maybe I have, but I'll say it again: I love that country. Getting to visit places I'd never been was amazing in and of itself, but visiting those places with an amazing group of photographers that included my favorite modern photographer was mind blowing. I gained insight into making photographs that show people in the context of their surroundings and the elements that help the viewer of my images connect with what I am showing. It was truly eye-opening to the type of photography I want to do, and the photography that I'm capable of doing.

First, the group I traveled with. David duChemin, amazing world and humanitarian photographer, along with his co-leader Jeffrey Chapman guided a group of 10 photographers from around the world. We had participants from Australia, Israel, Italy, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Canada, and several from the U.S. We all met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa to begin our journey. From Addis we flew to Lalibela, which is in the north eastern part of the country. Lalibela is a town and holy site built by King Lalibela in the 13th century. It is widely believed that his goal in building the churches here was to recreate Jerusalem in Ethiopia. The churches and spaces around the churches are named to represent the important events written about in the Bible. Yes, the pictures are coming, I'm just trying to lay down some info to give context. It's a literary device. I think.

King Lalibela decided that the way to represent Jerusalem was to carve a series of churches, not only from the ground, but in the ground. These rock hewn churches are unique to Lalibela and stand as marvels of engineering and dedication. The most famous and most photographed of these is the Church of Saint Georges. Here's a wide shot of it to give you some context and scale.

St. Georges wide

All of the other churches are built in a more standard rectangular format, but this is unique for being in the shape of, no surpirse, Saint Georges cross. These are enormous structures carved directly down into the rock, and the interiors have been hallowed out the same rock. They basically just removed everything that wasn't a church. Amazing skill and craftmanship. Here's Saint Georges at a more photogenic time of day.

Saint Georges sunset

These are a few samples of the churches interiors.

Church interior

Carved saint

The top picture shows not only the beautifully carved archways, but the painted decorations that went into the interiors. The bottom picture is one of twelve carvings representing the twelve apostles. Each apostle was about nine feet tall.

Since most of the churches are more traditional in shape, and the fact that many of them are covered with these hideous looking steel and canvas structures, photographing the buildings themselves wasn't very appealing.

Saint Marys wide

The lack of landscape and architectural images to be made really forced me to focus on the people to tell the story of this place. And with almost 100,000 pilgrims present, there were plenty of opportunities to make images of people.

Priest with umbrella

Priest thru doorway

Lady in Furnace

Boy with sun rays

Three lady steps

Two girls

Cross and  cap

Priest out of Furnace

Priest with staff

After six days in Lalibela we visited a monastery then traveled by bus to Bahir Dar, on the shores of Lake Tana. Check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I made it!

Oh yeah, I'm all up in the Africa. After two planes and twenty hours, I made it. Haven't slept a wink, but strangely am not tired. That's gonna make tomorrow pretty messed up. We jump on another plane at 7 in the morning to head up to Lalibela (it's currently 11:30 pm). Just wanted to post a quick picture from today's travels and give a couple of shout-outs. The picture today comes from somewhere over Greece.

Over Greece

First shout-out goes to the lady that sat next to me from Frankfurt to Addis: your constant farting for 7 hours left an indelible mark. Secondly, to the family that sat across from me: letting your child scream for the last 45 minutes of our flight really put a button on my travels. Oh, and from my observation, repeatedly saying please has no effect on your child.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Ethiopia landscape flag

Well Happy New Year to one and all! I thought to myself, "What's the best way to start off 2012?" BY GOING TO ETHIOPIA!!! I know I mentioned it here months ago, but as you read this I'm winging my way to Ethiopia for a two week photo workshop with with my favorite photographer, David duChemin. Favorite photographer + Ethiopia = mind blown. There will be seven other photographers plus another leader/teacher to spend the time with. I saw David (I call him David now) tweet back in the summer that he would be leading a workshop in Lalibela, Ethiopia during Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7) when many believers pilgrimage to this place.

If you've never heard of Lalibela, it is famous for it's stone carved churches that are over a thousand years old. The churches are carved down into the rock and all the interior spaces are hallowed out. Click here for a link the Wikipedia page to get a better idea of what I'm talking about. The town will be filled with white-robed pilgrims carrying brightly covered fabric umbrellas who've journeyed to celebrate Christmas in Ethiopia's most holy place.

After spending six days there we're heading over to Bahir Dar which is located on Lake Tana. Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile and is dotted with islands holding homes and monasteries. There should be some amazing, and different things to see there.

Our trip wraps up back in the capital, Addis Ababa. I feel so fortunate that I'm able to go on this once in a lifetime trip and witness the beauty and diversity of my daughters' homeland. My internet access in uncertain, but I will hopefully to able to post some images while I'm there. As always, you can follow me over on Twitter ( twitter.com/fxmixer ) if you want to keep up with all the fun.

Have a great week!