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Posts Tagged ‘2011’

My 2011 Photographic Year-End Review

December 26, 2011 1 comment

It’s been a good year for me. Not only have I got a new and exciting job with lots of travel, but I also moved in with my girlfriend and we’ve had the good fortune to have a couple of great holidays (to Vietnam and South Africa) and a couple more mini-break trips to boot.

It’s been an eventful year for me travel-wise. According to my profile on Tripit.com, in 2011 I have had 14 trips abroad totalling 100 days, racking up 147,596km of travel to 32 cities in 12 countries. Phew.

Apologies for the length of this post – I am having a hard time whittling down my favourite photos of the year!

January
In early January I was still getting to grips with my latest acquisition, a Canon 7D. I took it out on an crisp winter’s day and put it through its paces around West London:

Sunset Horse Riders, Hyde Park

Ice Skaters, Natural History Museum

I also made a brief business trip to Saudi Arabia. One of the stopovers was a coastal town called Yanbu, which like many Saudi cities has an “Al Balad”, an old town, which has often been left to rot, due to lack of a tourist trade and lack of interest in anything that isn’t shiny and new…
Al Balad ("Old Town"), Yanbu

Read more…

“The New York Post” – Photo Report

December 23, 2011 3 comments

We capped off our travel this year with a personal trip over to New York for some family time around the Thanksgiving weekend. Lucky enough to have some relatives and friends who live in NYC, I make it over about once a year and always manage to find time to go out and shoot this mega-metropolis. Though I daresay I probably have enough Central Park shots in my library by now…

Central Park Lake

Central Park Lake

Bethesda Fountain

Central Park in Autumn

Central Park South - Autumn Colors

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Fifth Avenue on Black Friday

Manhattan Sunset (from Brooklyn)

Times Square at Night

Leftovers of Occupy Wall Street, Zucotti Park

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Looking Downtown from Chinatown

Street Art, Lower East Side

Bushwick Graffiti

More of my latest New York photos can be seen either on Flickr (here) or Google+ (here).

This will probably be my penultimate post for 2011, if not my last – my next one will be a retrospective of the year with some of my favourite photos. It’s been a very fulfilling year.

Photos from Bestival 2011

September 17, 2011 2 comments

This year’s Bestival (my third visit) had potential to be a washout as the weather forecasts leading up to it were less-than-encouraging (one site saying that Sunday was going to see extended periods of “torrential rain” and 50+ mph wind gusts). In the event it was not quite as bad as all that, and the worst of the weather was saved for the early hours of the last morning, with high winds and rain providing a suitable finale to the festival. We did experience the amusing sight of empty tents blowing and scraping along through the fields, and not a few gazebos flew away into the night.

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We were lucky with the weather, then, and so managed to catch the Cure, Bjork, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash (epic set), Brian Wilson, the Urban Voodoo Machine, Toots and the Maytals, SBTRKT, Health, and a host of smaller acts dotted around tiny stages that we enjoyed despite not having a clue who they were.

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This year’s fancy dress theme was Rock Stars and Divas, and there were plenty on show beyond the expected Slashes and Beastie Boys crews.

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As usual there were a few quite random acts to see as well, from the “Wall of Death” motorcycle spectacular to the “Lords of Lightning” show featuring two men in chain mail, standing on two huge Tesla coils and fighting – with lightning.

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As usual, there are a few more photos to see over on my Bestival 2011 Flickr set

Photos from Notting Hill Carnival 2011 – Day 2

August 30, 2011 3 comments

After our abridged visit to Carnival on Day 1, we walked down from Queens Park to Notting Hill on Monday psyched up for a full session at Day 2. The mood was slightly subdued by grey skies and unseasonably low temperatures (think 17C) and, I suspect, quite a few hangovers from Day 1. But you can’t stay subdued for long once you get sucked into a mas parade full of exhuberant, brightly attired dancers with ear-to-ear grins. This time we mostly hung around Kensal Road, Golborn Road, Portobello, Westbourne Park and, to finish the day off, Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues where we were treated to a somewhat ramshackle ska set by his band, The Trojans. As usual Day 2 was a bit more crowded and edgy than Day 1, but aside from a handbags-at-dawn flareup at one of the soundsystems we didn’t see any trouble to speak of. Biggest drama of the day was, as usual, where the shortest toilet queues could be found.

Mas Explosion, Golborn Road

Cheeky Mas Dancer, Golborn Road

Gaz Mayall, Gaz's Rockin' Blues

Dude and Dudette

Mas Dancer, Kensal Road

The photo below might be my favourite from Day 2 – two pirates from one of the mas crews did a double-daggering on a giggling bystander right in front of one of London’s finest – and the cop couldn’t help a fit of the giggles as well. (Generally daggering at Carnival is good-natured but I could see how it would get mightily annoying from a female perspective…)

Double-Dagger and Laughing Cop, Kensal Road

That’s enough of Carnival for now, but if you’d like to check out the rest of my photos then head on over to my Notting Hill Carnival 2011 Flickr set.

Vietnam Trip Photo Report #4: Huế and Sapa


In an effort to speed up my faltering photo posting progress from this trip (which was finished over a month ago, mind) I am combining two cities into one post again even though they are miles apart, both in terms of disposition and in terms of geography.

Huế
We were led to believe by a couple of people that Huế was the less touristic, more “authentic” and historically significant alternative to Hội An, but I would be the first to admit that we struggled there. Despite staying in an excellent hotel, we found the actual city to be imposingly big and hostile to pedestrians, with some of the most persistently annoying cyclo touts (I recall beginning to wince at the approaching shout of “HELLO!”) and moto drivers around. It didn’t help matters that on the first day we slogged through a couple of miles of this annoyance to cross the river to the Imperial Citadel in oppressive jungle heat. Think Adrian Cronauer’s forecast of “continued hot and shitty” and you’re there.

But we got to the Imperial City and the Forbidden City within and were impressed by the old buildings and the new – some of them restored to former glories after pesky bombings by the Americans in the 60s. We chanced some fairly dodgy street food (congealed pig’s blood, anyone) and dodged yet more cyclo drivers. On the second day we battled through small intestinal distress and retook the city, this time on a smarter conveyance: bicycles. This was a much more pleasant way to see the city as it precluded the cyclo touts approaching and also cut the city down to a manageable size, allowing us to get around to the central market and the surrounding canals.

Sunset over the canal, Hue

Ngan Gate, Imperial City, Hue

Forbidden City Arcade, Hue

Temple in Forbidden City, Hue

Side Gates of Citadel, Imperial City, Hue

Pensive merchant, Hue Central Market


Sapa
Half a country away on the Chinese border is the former hill station of Sapa. Whereas we had been wrongfully advised of Huế’s “authenticity” and lack of tourists, several fellow travelers had shared horror stories of the tenacious hill tribe touts of Sapa, so we arrived expecting the worst. As it turned out, aside from an initial encounter with a gaggle of Black H’mong women swarming our bus on arrival, and a bit of a rip-off tour booked from our hotel, most of our time in Sapa was copacetic and we found Sapa quite relaxing even as it was touristic.

Our time in Sapa was mostly visiting the surrounding countryside of steep rice terraces, villages, parks, and the odd waterfall. It was on one of our excursions over into the village of Cat Cat that I decided to lay down on my back to get a beauty shot of a water buffalo and did my back in, a condition that has only exacerbated over time and is still affecting me over a month later as I type this in Nigeria. But we continued with our hike and our overall experience of Sapa was a positive one which made me want to come back and get a bit more off the beaten track next time.

Train into Lao Cai

Thac Bac (Silver Waterfall), near Sapa

H'Mong mother and child, near Sapa

Divine Light over Sapa

Red Zao lady, Sapa

A face only a mother could love, etc

Rice Terraces of Cat Cat, Sapa - Panorama

Escaping the heat, Cat Cat, Sapa

Cat Cat Landscape, Sapa

I couldn’t resist including the shot below, which I forgot I had captured. These two German girls were the two biggest marks in Sapa, by which I mean that they had developed no defenses against people approaching them on the street. Every time a H’mong woman came up to them, for instance, they would stop and chat and check out whatever she was selling. Except that this always drew a crowd of other H’mong merchants, so that wherever these girls went, they always had a convoy of hill tribe women attached like lampreys.

New H'mong Friends, Sapa

That’s all from Sapa, well of course apart from the rest of the photos over on Flickr (and more photos from Huế to boot).

We are into the home stretch now, in the next post or two we will cover the buzzing capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, as well as the beautiful karst wonderland of Ha Long Bay. By which point I will well and truly be ready to change tack onto other destinations… Barcelona awaits.

Vietnam Trip Photo Report #2: Mũi Né and Nha Trang


Update, July 12 2011
Thanks to WordPress.com featuring this on their “Freshly Pressed” section on July 11th, 2011, this photo report post has had a tremendous amount of traffic, thanks entirely to you lovely folks who have chosen to bestow your click-favours. I might add in an oh-so-cheeky way that more of my photographic travel delights can be found in the Travel Photography posts section (let’s be honest, the most interesting part of this blog for blogger and reader alike)…

Also, for your delectation, I have other Vietnam photo posts as well:

Original post
After the hectic experience of Saigon, desirous of some sun and fun, we headed north out of the city towards the southern coastal resorts of Mũi Né and Nha Trang. Never ones to sit around on the beach, we did a fair bit of exploration in each place, seeing how the people in both towns were getting to grips with combining their traditional lifestyles (fishing, mostly) with increasing numbers of tourists and their various demands and proclivities.

Mũi Né
We knew that Mũi Né was going to be our first stop as we headed north, because it was a pretty manageable five-hour bus ride from Saigon. Having investigated a bit and determined that the main strip of Mũi Né looked like a catastrophic mix of Russian, German and Australian package tour hellholes, we booked a bungalow in the private resort Pandanus just outside the main strip. As the man in Indiana Jones said, we chose…. wisely. We hired some bicycles the first afternoon and toddled down into the fishing village north of the resort strip, where we were lucky enough to see the fishing harbour just as dusk approached. It was our first encounter with the curious rattan “bathtub” dinghies that are such a feature of waterfront life in south Vietnam.

Fishing Harbour, Mui Ne Village

Fishing Harbour, Mui Ne Village

Fishing Harbour, Mui Ne Village

The next day we hired scooters, and took to them like ducks to water. Riding around a relatively low-population area like Mũi Né was the perfect way to start driving in Vietnam – not sure I would have wanted to kick things off in Saigon, for instance. Happily we carried on through the main resort strip and south to Phan Thiết, the main fishing town near Mui Ne, where we knew we’d be able to see some Cham temples, and also look into a fishing harbour I had seen from the bus the day before.

First stop was the Cham temples on a hilltop overlooking the town: leftovers of the old religions of the Cham people, who are still around in greatly reduced numbers and greatly reduced influence. The only other visitors to this temple complex were a bridal couple and their photographers, who were happy to pose for us in between having their love committed to digital eternity….

Cham Temples, Phan Thiet

Cham Temples and Graveyard, Phan Thiet

Bridal Couple at Cham Temples, Phan Thiet

After the Cham temples we continued on down to the main fishing section of Phan Thiết and, after struggling to work out how to get to the actual quay-side from the main street, we eventually just did as the locals did and drove our scooters into a warren of tiny rutted alleyways, somehow managing not to scrape ourselves or our bikes down the sides of people’s houses, till eventually we popped out on the quay and got to see some of the fishing boats and dinghies at close quarters, and to see what conditions the fishermen lived in when they weren’t out casting for squid and scallops…

Phan Tiet Fishing Harbour

Phan Tiet Fishing Harbour

Phan Tiet Fishing Harbour

We were tempted to keep going around a headland as we saw a beach on the other side that looked like it needed investigating. However, the pavement and packed earth had run out and in between us and the beach was the motorcycle’s bane: sand. We were about to turn around and give up when a toothless grandmother laughed at us and pointed through the sand. Shamed, we duly attempted and conquered the sand challenge. When we came to the beach we dismounted and walked down to observe some scallop fishermen freshly arrived and disgorging their catch via the dinghies to women waiting on shore, who were busily shucking the scallops and discarding the shells onto the beach in great mounds (there were countless thousands of old shells about). It was a fascinating scene, and they were very surprised that we as tourists had made it around to see them. They were friendly enough, though, and we felt we were well off the trail.

Fishermen on Phan Thiet Beach

Fishermen on Phan Thiet Beach

Fishermen on Phan Thiet Beach

I don’t want to over-romanticise this experience though; the beach was filthy, very different to the sanitised versions at the resorts nearby which were cleaned obsessively. This beach was an environmental disaster of discarded shells, rubbish, excrement, and a recently-dead dog. The entire place smelled like three-day-old shit, and we made our excuses. Getting back off the beach involved driving through someone’s patio (seriously) and driving through a family of four eating their dinners on either side of an alleyway, who only pulled their dishes and drinks away at the last moment. We continued back into the main resort strip and found a place for lunch, where we remarked that the three-day-old shit smell seemed to pervade the town. It was only a few minutes later that we discovered to our horror that I had trod in some of the three-day-old shit and was tracking it around. This was special stuff, probably banned under the Geneva convention, and suffice it to say that after multiple cleaning attempts and an overnight soak I was forced to throw this set of beloved sandals away. That’s some serious shit.

The next morning we got up early and walked down the road from our resort to climb the red sand dunes, a famous local attraction which is probably best explored using a jeep, and the main idea is to do sand-surfing – or at least that’s what all the touts would have you do. Of course I skipped the sand-surfing and went photo-surfing instead….

Red Sand Dunes, Mui Ne

Red Sand Dunes, Mui Ne

Red Sand Dunes, Mui Ne

Red Sand Dunes, Mui Ne

Of course, we didn’t spend all of our time sightseeing. There was a beach to play in, as well, and we did. But nobody wants to see other people’s beach pictures, so I’ll suffice with this one:

Beach near Mui Ne

Nha Trang
After three days and two nights in Mũi Né we decided to push up the coast to Hoi An, with a one-night stopover in Nha Trang, another beach resort, to break up what would otherwise be an 18-hour bus journey. As it happened, the five hours to Nha Trang did us in, as we had inadvertently booked a sleeper bus – for an afternoon journey. It was fairly hellish, let’s just leave it there. Once in Nha Trang we agreed that we needed to find some other way to continue on to Hoi An the next day. As it happens the urgency of this decision was removed from us by some dodgy shellfish and an ensuing everything-must-go bout of food poisoning. So we ended up spending two nights in Nha Trang, recuperating and preparing for the next journey. As it happened we lodged in the Sheraton on the main strip, so this was not what you would call a hardship to extend our stay. We checked out the town, but it was roasting hot during the day so we mostly explored at night (somehow seeming to end up at the Sailing Club each night) or during the early mornings.

The view from our hotel’s rooftop terrace was pretty striking at night, watching untold thousands of scooters cruising up and down the strip, and the otherworldly construction side next door:

Nha Trang Beach Road from the Sheraton roof bar

Nha Trang Beach Road from the Sheraton roof bar

Marriot under construction, from the Sheraton rooftop bar, Nha Trang

Of course we did manage to get out onto the beach here, and because it was the start of a bank holiday weekend there, there were genuine Vietnamese tourists visiting the beach in droves:

Nha Trang Beach

Bathing her best friend, Nha Trang Beach

Early on the final morning in Nha Trang we went up to the fishing marina and saw the fishermen getting about their work. We carried on around the bay to another set of Cham temples on a hill overlooking the harbour.

Nha Trang Fishing Harbour

Nha Trang Fishing Harbour

Nha Trang Fishing Harbour

Cham Temples, Nha Trang

Cham Temples, Nha Trang

Cham Temples, Nha Trang

Cham Temples, Nha Trang

That was it for Nha Trang, and we headed out to catch our chosen “cheating” transportation up to Hoi An: Vietnam Airlines.

You can see more photos of Mũi Né and Nha Trang in my Flickr set here.

Next time: A photo report from the charming old colonial town of Hoi An. Reports from Hue, Saigon, Sapa, and Ha Long Bay will follow…

A sunny winter’s walk along the South Bank

February 22, 2011 1 comment

The weekend before last contained that rarest of things: a sunny, mild day in the midst of a London February. It would have been rude not to start the day with a chorizo sandwich in Borough Market and ruder still not to continue on the time-honoured South Bank stroll up to the Hungerford Bridge. I have done this walk so many times I could do it in my sleep, but I never get tired of it. Any excuse, as they say, and I usually bring a camera along because there are always interesting subjects, from the market, the river activity, the South Bank buildings, the other strollers, to street performers, the kids in the Undercroft and always a bit of randomness at some point in the trip.

 

These, without further ado, were some of the sights I saw that day…. more in my January/February 2011 Set on Flickr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course I have many more South Bank shots from years gone by…