….India Diaries ‘Varanasi’

April 2018

The penultimate stop on our epic India trip was also going to be one of the main highlights.  We had been pretty spoilt up to this point, in terms of being chauffeured around to all our exciting destinations, and for the most part not having to be at a specific place by a specific time.  That was all about to change however, as we ventured out to make our own way by train to Varanasi….via the infamous Indian railway network.  We LOVE travelling by train, it’s the perfect mode of transport to daydream the journey away and of course we had romanticized it, imaging ourselves breezing through the Indian countryside nibbling on our tasty local snacks and making more travel memories.  Cue reality check……

The train was due to leave at around midnight and take approx. 12 hrs, with many stops along the way.  We did in fact leave almost on time, but somewhere along the way our we lost 5 hrs and our 12 hr ride turned into 17 hrs (which we were later informed is pretty good going with respect to potential delays which could be up to a full day/night).  Upon boarding, we found our bunks which were top deck in the aisle way, adjacent to each other, with local travellers below us.  We were fortunate enough to be riding in an air conditioned car and it actually worked, in fact it was right above my head and so I settled down for a night in what was tantamount to a meat locker….but as tired as I was, sleep escaped me.  Pete was out like a light within a few minutes, and quickly joined the chorus of snoring and farting (only snoring on his part – I think!)….to say it was torture would be an understatement.  So I resigned myself to a sleepless night and my mind drifted to the wonders that Varanasi would hold…we had been advised that if we thought Delhi was hectic, we ain’t seen nothing yet.


We scored yet again with the Ganapati Guest House http://www.ganpatiguesthouse.com perched on the banks of the River Ganges in the old town of Varanasi and with a rooftop deck that served beer…sssh!


Our balcony buddies….not the friendliest of furry creatures I might add.

From our roof top deck we had a great vantage point to watch this young dude conduct a flock of pigeons who circled high above us at the tilt of his stick, over and over again – it was mesmerizing.

Our balcony afforded us what was likely one of the best views in Varanasi.

A guided walking tour was a great way to get our bearings on day 1 and learn more about the rituals of riverside cremation, including the tactical pieces like where to buy wood for the pyre, which is carefully calculated and weighed out to ensure the fire burns long enough to fully cremate the body.



Hectic….any which way you looked.

Sidewalk latrines….yuck!  But better than peeing/pooping directly into the Ganges which obviously occurs. Wikipedia reports: “The levels of fecal coliform bacteria from human waste in the waters of the river near Varanasi are more than 100 times the Indian government’s official limit.  The Ganga Action Plan, an environmental initiative to clean up the river, has been a major failure thus far, due to corruption, lack of technical expertise, poor environmental planning, and lack of support from religious authorities.”
Who’s photobombing who….?

Another day….another veggie Thali – India is such a great country to be a vegetarian!


Laundry day….even if you think you’re in a guesthouse and therefore clean…think again – the majority of them contract out their laundry to locals and it all ends up in the Ganges.


High energy anticipation for the evening payers on the banks of the Ganges.

Another random couple who thought it would be great if I took their photo.

This event which runs 365 truly is a hawker’s heaven.  We figured out pretty quickly that once you’ve purchased a marigold candle offering and received a red bindi on your forehead, you were no longer a target.  It was however amusing to sit back and watch the same few guys in each area descend on any fresh foreheads that came through.

This kiddo hopped from boat to boat and was working so hard, I hope that everyone else who purchased a candle gave him a fair price.

HOLY COW…!  I know, that one’s getting a bit old.

No photography or videoing was permitted a the burning Ghat where cremations are taking place throughout the day and night.  However, our boat guide assured us it was OK to snap a few pics from the river at the night cruise.

Stunning sunrise and we were off again for another boat ride.
Once clear of the main tourist ghat’s, the level of pollution was plain to see, it wasn’t unusual to see a random dead cow floating along the river either, from any vantage point.

Like all the other destinations we had visited, Varanasi tourism is supported predominantly by Indian travellers, many of them making the pilgrimige to bathe in the holy Ganges and often a once in a lifetime experience.
Sadhus making their way to morning prayer.

Despite everything we had observed which should have prompted us to run a mile from this body of water rather than let it touch our skin, we felt we had to take the plunge and did not regret it (mostly because we didn’t in fact get sick!).  We knew  we would never return to Varanasi, and so gave it our best carpe diem.

We hoped a couple of non-religious whiteys wouldn’t cause too much of a stir and we didn’t.  In fact, those locals who were in the vicinity gave us nothing but encouraging nods and a thumbs up.  It was the closest we have come to a spiritual experience….and then we quickly hoofed it back up the steps to our guesthouse and took a 10 minute HOT shower.
Not a great quality pic but we were feeling very grateful to have spent time in this welcoming location.
The final destination of our journey was a few days at the beach in Goa (connecting through Hyderabad), and it was super chill but you really don’t need us gloating about our time in paradise…..so it’s a wrap!

….India Diaries – ‘Agra (Taj Mahal)’

April 2018

As we left Ranthambore, I scanned through the Tiger shots on my camera and I’m sure Pete was getting a bit bored after seeing 20 in a row with no discernible difference.  Good times though, we both felt incredibly lucky to have had the experience….and we knew our next stop was Agra and the Taj Mahal!, but we had no idea what an impact viewing this spectacle would have on us.

We had also taken a different approach to accommodation in Agra, with an ever popular ‘homestay’ option.  After some research we opted for the highly recommended Coral Tree Homestay, http://thecoraltreehomestay.com and it was just what we needed after almost 2 weeks on the road.  A family run affair, with vibrant and welcoming decoration and yummy home-cooked breakfast and dinners.  It was also a nice interval to share meals with other travellers and compare notes as to where everyone has been and what lay ahead – something we haven’t done since backpacking through Southern Africa a number of years ago.  Definitely a primo location with less than a 10 minute stroll to the gate of the Taj.

Who knew there was a Baby Taj….or Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, as it’s officially known?, certainly not us until we found out it was part of the entrance fee to the Taj Mahal.  Located on the Yamuna River, this Mughal mausoleum is said to be the “draft” of the Taj Mahal and we found it to be a quiet place to wander for a while, and admire the intricate marble/precious stone designs similar to others we have already seen on the trip so far.

Of course, when the camera comes out, the kiddos are sure to follow soon after and this school part were particularly keen on achieving the right pose!

Looking out over the Yamuna River through the smog, which seemed to plague most of the major cities we visited.

We also visited the Unesco World Heritage site; Agra Fort, and while another amazing structure without a doubt, we were getting a little “forted out”, so balanced the time between reading the various information boards and people watching, particularly trying to figure out what people were watching!

I just couldn’t resist trying to capture all the vibrant colours that presented at every turn of the eye.

Looks like someone else was getting a bit “forted out” too!

From the Agra Fort we had a clear view of the Taj Mahal off in the smoggy distance, it really must be quite a maintenance schedule to keep it looking so pristine….you’ll see what I mean in some of the following shots.

The exciting moment when we were about to walk through the gate to get up close and personal with THE one and only Taj Mahal.

Wow….to say we were blown away would be an understatement of the year, we were in fact overwhelmed and it’s hard to put in words but there is ethereal beauty about it.

I wish I could adequately portray the glow of the inlaid ‘Firestone’ and other precious stone and marble, but it was impossible (for me anyway)…..that said, if you look just under the far right turret below, perhaps you can see sparkle of the early morning light on the design work?

For those of you who don’t know the story, here’s the Cole’s notes…..this UNESCO World Heritage Site (also named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World) was constructed between 1643-1653 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (who reigned from 1628 to 1658), to be the house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

A little sunset slice.

We were so impressed by our guided sunrise tour of the Taj that we headed back the next afternoon to wander around at our own leisure.  As a photographer I’m well aware of the colour and softness of light at different times of day, and typically sunrise or golden hour/sunset, are the best windows for most photos.  That said, the majestic Taj did not disappoint even in the harsh 1:00 pm afternoon sun, the people colours popped in its backdrop.

The universal selfie….

…..and the classic sunglasses shot!  Cheesy I know, but it’s not everyday you get the Taj Mahal reflection.

No matter how many times we’ve seen this gem in magazines, on post cards and TV, there really is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes if you ever have the opportunity.

After 13 days and I haven’t even tried to calculate the miles, we said goodbye to our driver Ravi in Agra.  Next stop, an overnight train to Varanasi to take in the Ganges and everything that comes with it.

….India Diaries – ‘Ranthambore National Park’

March 2018

With the colours of Udaipur still circling like an internal kaleidoscope in our heads, we were roused by an annoying alarm at a very unsociable hour, willing us to meet up with our driver, Ravi, for a mad-dash to Ranthambore National Park.  Why would you put yourself under such pressure on vacation you may ask…?  Well, we had the foresight to book an afternoon Tiger Safari that same day, but didn’t stop to consider that “everyday India” might well get in the way.  We’re normally pretty chilled when travelling, in terms of abandoning a plan, whatever….but on this occasion, we had shelled out hard-earned cash in advance and needed to be in Ranthambore by 2:30 sharp!   Poor Ravi didn’t realize the mission that was to be undertaken, and as the day progressed, and we became more and more focused on the route and timing (we got lost a few times)….this gentle and considerate soul started to pick up on our stress and wanted nothing more than to deliver us intact and on-time, what a guy!

I’ll spare you the details – but we made it!  We quickly checked into our base for the next 3 nights…The Shergarh Resort http://www.theshergarh.com. Should you every find yourself in the vicinity, be prepared for cool accommodation (choose the tent option), top class service and a great location for your Tiger Safari.

Sher Garh Resort….we loved it!

The daily commute inevitably involves camel overtaking.

The mad dash for our afternoon safari was rewarded with lots of opportunity to see the local population of birds, monkeys and deer – but no Tigers!  Not sure if it had anything to do with the fact that we were in a large ‘canter’ vehicle, as opposed to a more intimate ‘jeep’ experience – but we wanted to try both.

A line of Bambi’s at the waterhole was a pretty cool sight.

This ‘Rufous Treepie’ was very comfortable hanging out on our vehicle.


We had a great guide for our 6-person jeep safari the next morning, and it wasn’t long before he spotted a large paw print (resembling Tigger) at the side of the road.

Hurrah!….there is only one Tiger family in this zone of the park and we found dad taking a drink around 7:00 am – an early morning safari is a must!

We were in an agile jeep this time, and felt bad for all the folk doing their ‘canter’ safari as they were unable to get ‘off road’.

In contrast, we were able to get in pretty close…like 5 metres away….and my D90 18-200mm was on full zoom.  Not the best choice lens for a safari – but hey ho – it’s all I had with me.

….his thirst is quenched and he’s off

What happened next was very unexpected and pretty amazing.  We were on a high after seeing papa Tiger, and all the vehicles were still hanging out in that area in the hope of another glimpse.  However, our savvy guide decided to head in another direction, and within minutes we ran into two sons making their way across the park, towards dad, in the direction we came from.  We had about 3 minutes before the rest of the morning entourage arrived and here’s what I was able to capture.

The morning light was changing so quickly, whichever way I pointed my camera, the scene had it’s own amazing colour.

The shot below is my personal fave….we felt very privileged to see these cats in the wild.


Driving back to the lodge on cloud nine (not everyone gets to see a Tiger!)….we had a goat escort – this is so typical of Indian roads and I have to admit, I miss sharing thoroughfares with wildlife, downtown Vancouver.

 

….India Diaries ‘Udaipur’

March 2018

We left Pushkar feeling pretty chilled, and with an eager anticipation as to what the next stop on our epic Rajasthan tour would bring.  After a week or so travelling, it’s easy to think you’ve “experienced it” – the culture that is, but time and again we were proven so wrong, we had no idea how much the regional cultures would differ, even within the same state.

Udaipur….’The City of Lakes’, with a population of approx. 450,000 had its own welcoming personality.  As with many other cities we visited, it also had a healthy back-drop of multiple religious groups living in harmonious co-existence, and that worked for us.

The ‘draw’ of Udaipur – our favourite Indian city to date, might best be explained in pictures rather than words…


India is like a box of chocolates….you just never know what you’re gonna get…and this is particularly true when on a road trip – evidenced by the party tractor above.  Almost every tractor we saw on the drive from Pushkar to Udaipur was adorned in the same way and packing a boombox and a couple of speakers, because you need music while you work…right?!  Party on Rajasthan!


Lake Pichola hotel
http://www.lakepicholahotel.com – another winner!  Accessed via a network of narrow alleyways – it’s hard to to imagine how there would be any view….and then – our room!

The most famous accommodation on the lake by far is the Taj Lake Palace Hotel Taj Lake Palace Hotel  This is the one hotel that can only be accessed by boat, unless the lake dries up (as it did during the 2012 drought) and it’s über exclusive.  We like to treat ourselves occasionally while travelling, but the price of accommodation was well outside our comfort zone, so we figured we’d just pop over for lunch and check it out – a good compromise right?……wrong, no riff raff allowed! You have to be a paying guest to enjoy this expensive little gem.

With no chance of entry to the Lake Palace Hotel, we opted to do a tour of the magnificent City Palace, and as with our other excursions, were impressed by how incredibly well-preserved this structure is.  The rich history is too deep to go into in this overview, so if you’re interested to learn more, check out this informative link; http://www.udaipur.org.uk/tourist-attractions/citypalace.html

With the Palace tour under our belt, it was time to check out the local markets (I needed authentic spices to bring home for Indian dinner entertaining)….so we hired an ‘auto’ driver for a few hours.  I don’t remember his name, but he was hell-bent on taking us up to the surrounding hills to visit the “craft village”, and no doubt on a healthy commission for doing so.  After too much debate, he relinquished and took us to the local market as originally requested.  Love these awkward travel moments – just not so much at the time!

Not buying organic food is not an option, how cool is that?!


The shot below was a common sight in many of the Indian towns/cities we visited.  There always seemed to be a buzzing network of “one-way” back streets, with double parking and multiple vehicles traversing “one-way” in both directions!  If the owners of obstructing vehicles were not in hollering distance, the accommodating by-standers were ready to oblige with a stealthily coordinated ‘pick up and drop’ exercise to move the temporary offenders.   An efficient resolve with no parking tickets incurred.

I’m not sure where we happened upon the info about the Dharohar Folk Dance at the Bagore Ki Haveli (likely Trip Advisor – our ‘go to’ resource while on the road these days), but I’m glad we paid attention.  This was a fab way to while away a couple of hours with dancing and regalia from multiple regions around India.  A very talented cast indeed.  All these pics were taken in very low light with an 18-200 mm lens on my Nikon D90 at maximum ISO, so I was pleased anything turned out.

 

Spinning around in a floaty skirt with some of your besties, what more do you want from life?!

The audience participation went down well too.

 

This lovely lady is my hero….we didn’t know she was 70 yrs old until after she’d finished the following sequence of pot balancing.  To be honest, we were impressed when she donned the first 2 – 3 levels, and were not prepared for her to return another 7 times to be loaded up to the hilt!

Balancing 10 clay pots is not enough in and of itself to assure job satisfaction, so best lay down a glass carpet to raise the difficulty bar another level!

Darling husband looking quite distinguished in his Kurta – brings out the steel-blue eyes!

Night time around Lake Udaipur is a magical experience, all the buildings are so beautifully lit, and I get to practice my night photography (sans tripod!)

Above….our sparkling hotel, taken from across the lake.

5 steps outside the hotel on our way to dinner and a couple of local teenagers enquire “how was the wedding”…I guess we looked the part!

….’India Diaries – Pushkar’

February 2018

After the bustle of Jaipur, we were more than ready to dial things down a notch, and heard Pushkar might be the place to kick back for a few days.  With a population of around 22,000, and set on a holy lake where Lord Brahma (the “Creator” in the Hindu religion) is said to have dropped a lotus flower, it’s very picturesque. Just a small town, laced with hundreds of temples, many of them with a chalky blue appearance and it’s easy to understand why this is such an important destination for devout Hindus.

When travelling over a short period of time (1 month), we attempt to hit the highlights of each destination but the calendar doesn’t always cooperate.  The highlight of Pushkar would have been the annual Camel Fair, which typically runs between the end of October and beginning of November, depending on where the Hindu month of ‘Kartik’ falls.  In 2017, the Fair was scheduled to start about 1 week after we passed through the region, so alas, we weren’t able to experience this small town in all its dromedary glory.  On the upside, the drive to Pushkar was a mere 3.5 hours, so no need for a 06:00 am start, and an early afternoon arrival provided ample time for some initial exploration before nightfall.

Notwithstanding the fact that we didn’t make it for the main event, day-to-day life for locals and tourists alike still revolves around the camel industry, as it were, in addition to the more serious business of prayers.  There is also a distinct laid back “hippy” feel to the place, which made for a chill few days.

As much as we love them we dare not keep chips within reach when at home – because they last for 10 seconds max. That being said, chips, and more specifically ‘Lays” have been a favourite “road trip” snack of ours for many years, so you can imagine how chuffed we were to discover India has it’s very own spicy brand!  I wish this was an offering at home….maybe I’ll lobby Lays Canada!

The Seventh Heaven Haveli http://inn-seventh-heaven.com/ish/ was a unique little haven with a backpacker feel, and plenty of common area nooks to chill, read a book or just contemplate life.


Pete took one for the team when I ordered a Banana ‘Lassi’ thinking it would be cool and refreshing beverage after our drive, only for it to arrive at room temperature (the ambient air being around 35oC), and not ordinarily being a milk drinker, the gag reflex went into action.

It was a bit of a haul up 4 flights of winding stairs to access our room, but worth it to wake up to the beautiful morning light filtering through an amazing aqua dome…and hey, we are doing this kind of travel now because we don’t yet have to rely on an elevator to take us where we need to be!

Would like to see this on every light switch in every place we ever visit 🙂

I had mentioned previously that locals often ask for their photo to be taken, and this was one of those occasions, however I didn’t clue into the fact that she was looking for compensation for modelling, which made for an awkward exchange.

Bathing ghats around the lake in restful late afternoon light.

 

 

Love the juxtaposition of the cow and scooter in this one….a common sight.

After many days of delicious Indian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner – we were craving some greens, and found (via TripAdvisor) this little gem of a cafe with a limited menu, but all salad and veggies were market fresh every morning and the owner shuts shop when they run out.

Even the cows know where to line up for the good eats!

We enjoyed the food so much, we made a pit stop before taking off on our next leg and the owner/chef, Siddharth was very accommodating, he has such a passion for serving up health, tasty bites.

The ladies adorned in their best and brightest en route to afternoon prayers.

My first henna experience….hard to beat.

My sense is that the smug look on the camel’s face above is due to the knowledge that dear husband is going to be hanging on for his dear life, in not the most flattering poses, momentarily….(I don’t agree with the nose pin btw!).

Looking back on the town of Pushkar.

Camel breeding is big business.

As with everywhere else we visited, caucasian tourists were a minority, so ‘Indiana Jones’ always attracts attention.

A sorry, but not unusual, sight.  Garbage should not be the dietary staple for man or beast.

It’s a train, a camel train!

We asked the old boy who was leading Pete to take a quick snap of us (above) on the iPhone….

…glad we double checked and asked his trendy little side kick to give it another shot.

Sunsets and camels….a pretty special combination.

 

 

 

….’India Diaries – Jaipur’

February 2018

We chose to visit India in October/November for a number of reasons, such as it was after the monsoon season and we didn’t much feel like being hot (and wet), but also in order to be there during the Diwali ‘Festival of Lights’.  Regardless of where we happened to be during the key festival dates, we knew we wouldn’t be disappointed, and so we made for Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan.

You may have heard of the British TV documentary ‘The Real Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’?, I hadn’t until my mum mentioned it to us, and like ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ movie, it was also filmed in Jaipur – “The Pink City”, so we’d had a sneak preview.  While still a hive of activity, Jaipur was nowhere near as congested as Delhi with a population of approx. 3.1 million vs.16.7 million and growing rapidly, and it was quite enchanting decked out in its festival best.  We had found a neat little boutique hotel in a quiet backstreet http://www.pearlpalaceheritage.com, in easy walking distance or a quick Auto ride to all the action.  Check out the opulent rooms – we stayed in the Khwabgah premium room, and couldn’t pronounce it so just called it our ‘silver’ room.  The staff were super hospitable and thoughtful, we highly recommend it if you find yourself in that part of the world.

We generally tried not to over schedule ourselves throughout our adventures in India, and so had a few things on our hit list for Jaipur; visit the Amber Fort, spend time in the old part of the City during the Diwali celebration, take a cooking class and of course eat, eat, eat lots of delicious local cuisine. That said, sharing some of our memories below.

Why ‘The Pink City” you may ask?….well, in 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour. Since pink denotes the color of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the whole city pink in color to welcome the guests…. Pink, or perhaps (salmon?) in colour, the city of Jaipur is said to be one of most beautiful cities of India, and we certainly wouldn’t disagree.

We visited many Forts and Palaces during our trip, and with the exception of the Taj, the Amber Fort was a favourite spot for us.  Having been wracked with guilt after our one and only elephant ride in Nepal a few years ago https://carrymycamera.com/2012/12/09/all-about-elephants/, we opted for a leisurely stroll to the entrance.

Once inside, we secured an excellent guide for about CA$10 (Sudeep Chatterji of Triangle Tours India) and were pleasantly surprised to learn that he also had a keen interest in photography, so scored more shots of the two of us together than we did the rest of the trip.  We found generally that it was well worth taking in the sights with a guide, the history is so rich and we certainly couldn’t have done enough advance reading to ensure we didn’t miss the backstories, which enhanced the whole vibe and experience of any given attraction.
Back to the treatment of elephants for a moment, and we were disheartened to hear that these magnificent creatures were all females.  Apparently the males used to become aggravated in the late afternoon after constantly traipsing up and down the hill in the stinking heat – and who wouldn’t?!  So they were removed from service leaving the females with the heavy lifting, and lost opportunity to become a matriarch in their natural surroundings.  Sad all around.  We understand that the Amber Fort is the only tourist attraction in India where the use of elephants is still sanctioned, hoping that soon changes.

 


We had seen the retiree stars of the ‘The Best Real Exotic Marigold Hotel’ take an excursion to ‘The Monkey Palace’ and so headed that way after the Fort, unfortunately it turned out to be a lunch bag let down – very poorly maintained and garbage littered around.  There were lots of monkeys, true enough, but that in itself wasn’t enough to make it worthwhile.  The tower below was probably the most interesting and intact piece on the site and we didn’t stick around.

Diwali ‘The Festival of Lights’, also known as Deepavali, a Sanskrit word meaning “rows of lighted lamps”, it is one of the most popular Hindu festivals celebrated across South Asia, and is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs. The festival of lights celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.  Marigolds also play a prominent role in the celebration and you will see garlands strung everywhere, including car dashboards.  I enquired with one fellow about the significance of marigolds versus other flowers, and his reply was simply, they are plentiful and cheap – so there you go, if that’s really the case.

The entrance way to the old ‘Pink City’ lit up with hot pink fluorescents, hard to miss 😉

Whichever way we turned we were met with a colourful energy, and a seemingly endless sea of families and friends heading to the nearest temple to offer candles (light signifies purity, goodness, good luck and power in the Hindu religion), and recite prayers.

With so many people out and about on the streets, I can only imagine Diwali is a bumper sales time for the hardworking street vendors in the area.

I wish I could add sound and motion to the photo above.  Almost every major store front was lit up and alive with Indian tunes, store workers, as well as a variety of animatronics.

…and lets not forget the good old helium balloon.

We knew before we arrived that cows are sacred in the Hindu religion, and the more time we spent in India, the more this became apparent, they were EVERYWHERE!  I could have done a blog post specifically on cows…..
I particularly like this party cow!

Interestingly enough, I posted the shot above on Instagram while we were still travelling, and a friend questioned the swastika. So for those of you who don’t (I didn’t either) have an appreciation of its origin – here’s a little Wiki blurb:

The swastika (as a character 卐 or 卍) is an ancient religious icon used in the Indian subcontinent, East Asia and Southeast Asia, where it has been and remains a sacred symbol of spiritual principles in Hinduism, Buddhism and JainismIn the Western world, it was historically a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck, but in the 1930s, it became the main feature of Nazi symbolism as an emblem of Aryan race identity, and as a result, it has become stigmatized in the West by association with ideas of racism, hatred, and mass murder.

So as you see, had it not been turned on its side by a particular German who shall not be named, we would view it very differently in the West, just saying!

Everyone is in on the Diwali candle action, and I suspect the little guys above are making a nice little profit!

Pete’s pretty impressed with “…shirting at its best”

If we had kids…they would totally be outfitted like this 🙂

This was taken when we were still unused to random strangers approaching us asking for their picture to be taken.  I love taking pics of people, so no hassle on my part, however – other than a quick glance at the back of my camera, I’m not really sure what was in it for them.

Back to the hotel and this flower elephant had lovingly been created in the lobby while we were out.

Our driver also turned out to be a good fixer for anything we needed, and it seemed Pete desperately needed some fireworks, seriously he would not stop talking about it for 2 days straight, and so when the goods (a small sample of which are above), arrived – he was beside himself.  Firecrackers were going off constantly while we were in Jaipur (Delhi had banned them as they were adding to the already horrendous air pollution in that city)….so Pete made hay.

It was a reasonable request of me to stand by and take a video clip/photo of the firework fun, however, nobody had pre-warned us about the magnitude of the ‘pataka bomb’ and my ears were ringing with a piercing pain for 2 days afterwards – I was actually quite ticked off by the whole episode at the time, so glad this is picture has no sound!

The final highlight of our Jaipur visit was an evening with Chef Lokesh and his charming wife Geetika at Jaipur Cooking Classes http://www.jaipurcookingclasses.com.  We learned so many great tips and were quite pleased with our accomplishment, we were also the only students on that particular evening (there can be up to 20 at times), so were spoiled.  We can’t recommend this highly enough and have been cooking the same recipes for friends since returning to Vancouver.

….’India Diaries – Delhi’

January 2018

India has been on our bucket list for a number of years, and so you can imagine how stoked we were after 10 months of planning, to hop on a direct flight from Vancouver to Delhi to begin our month-long journey.  Approximately 15 hours later we arrived, somewhat dishevelled given we don’t (can’t) fly up front in the posh seats, and wandered around Delhi airport at 2:00 am trying to locate Ravi, who would be our driver for the next 13 days. It never ceases to amaze us that you can so quickly be on the other side of the world, surrounded by unfamiliar sounds, smells and sights, and in an ambient temperature 30 degrees celsius higher than what we had left behind.  Given it was the dead of night, exploration would have to wait until the next day.

We had arranged to be in Delhi for just 3 days to acclimatize and get over jet lag, so took advantage of seeing some of the highlights from our central base at the Hotel Bright  http://hotelbrightdelhi.in in Connaught Place.  It’s surprising how much ground one can cover, although much of the time was spent idling in Delhi traffic jams.

Some initial observations:

  • it’s really hot
  • there are LOTS of people and very few white faces
  • guys pee on the sidewalk wherever and whenever the urge takes them
  • everywhere you look there are vibrant colours
  • horn honking seems to be a national pastime
  • the Indian cuisine exceeded our high expectations – it was love at first bite!
  • did I mention it’s really hot!

Meet Ravi….our savvy navigator (Congress Tourist Taxi Service – highly recommended)

India Gate: a memorial to 70,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died in the period 1914–21, and a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike, most of whom are Indian nationals.

Typical Delhi road scape and this isn’t even rush hour!

Humayun’s Tomb:  the first of the Mughal empire architecture in India, built in 1572 to house the mortal remains of Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor of India.  It’s really incredible how well preserved this structure is.

The next few shots are of the craziness that is Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square), which is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi.  You can find just about anything in the intricate winding labyrinth of streets and alleyways, and it’s definitely the part of town to hit for a bargain, as we found out when shopping for some cool Indian clothes for Pete.

Fresh squeezed lemonade to order.  The sheer volume of people in India lends itself to manual labour where you might otherwise expect something to be automated.  Even road signs are hand-painted in many areas if you can believe.

I wanted Pete to purchase a cute little outfit like these dudes are donning, but he wouldn’t go for it 😉

Having a driver of Sikh religion meant that we were able to take advantage of his prayer pit stop at the Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, in Chandni Chowk, which was a pretty cool experience.  The young gentleman in the picture above was thrilled to take and store the shoes of a couple of pasty foreigners.

Delhi’s famous Red Fort; construction started on May 12th 1639 and completed 8 years 10 months & 25 days later on April 6th, 1648.

A pretty typical sight was to see a Tuk Tuk (Auto) driver’s cabin decked out with marigold garlands, images of their favourite Gods and family pictures…it’s important to take the things that matter with you when you spend such a significant part of your life stuck in demoralizing traffic jams.

A visit to the Raj Ghan, Mahatma Ghandi monument in Delhi was very grounding for us.  Located on the banks of the Yamuna River and housing Ghandi’s ashes, the eternal flame burns hot and bright, and ironically so do your feet as removal of footwear is mandatory before entering the complex.

The monument is a popular day trip destination for local school kids who find they’ve hit a double word score with white foreigners on site too!
We enjoyed some wonderful Indian flavours on our last night in Delhi, followed by dancing with some locals (picked up a few Bollywood moves) before heading to our next destination, Jaipur, early the next morning, with somewhat foggy demeanours.

…’they do’

November 2017

It seems like a lifetime ago since Labour Day long weekend in the Okanagan, and the sizzling 35 degree heat was mitigated only by the cold sweats I was experiencing at the prospect of photographing the marriage of my beautiful friend Pauline, and her handsome beau, Sky.

“I don’t do weddings”……that’s been my mantra for the longest time, I think because I have such a high regard for many of those photographers who do “do” weddings.  This said, with their easy going approach to the event, and fine choice of locations Sanctuary Gardens / Quails Gate Winery, the happy couple had maximized my “great shot” potential.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful, but it was a positive stress – in the happiest of environments, and I’m glad I didn’t let my trepidations win me over 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….’overdue inspiration’

August 2017

I’ve been wondering of late whether photographers may be susceptible to their own version of “writer’s block”.  I say this because with each dry month that has blown by this year, I’ve run out of excuses….I have the equipment, the time, a reasonable skill set –  and yet, nada…rien…niets!

Well that’s behind me –  I think (hope) because my long-lost inspiration presented itself again this weekend at a meet-up with our friends and their kiddos.  This is without a doubt one of the most “chilled” families we know….what with the parents’ sense of humour, a fearless young son and their recent addition of a beautifully intense daughter.

I’ve always said that I love to photograph people, places and things….well I’m thinking perhaps, it’s the human connection that is, in fact, my inspiration.   I will test that theory….but for now, the only thing left for me to do was hang out with my camera ready to roll!


 

 

….weekly photo challenge – ‘earth’

April 2017

Earth by season….and then to the moon – as seen from earth!

….’heads & tails’

April 2017

When long time family friends (who don’t like to be in front of the camera), asked if I would take a few informal shots for them, it goes without saying I was more than happy to accommodate.

“We just want one family photo with the 4 of us and Charli (the dog)”…..they said

“No problem at all”….I said

….and ended up eating my words (about 60 shots later) – but it was fun!  🙂

 

 

 

 

….’love the plant’

February 2017

Meet my favourite houseplant – Oxalis Triangularis (Purple Shamrock), aptly nicknamed ‘The Love Plant’.  Sharing a few shots taken with love on this Valentines Day ♥

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….’be nosey’

January 2017

While I’m a big fan of “keeping Christmas in December”….I only recently had a chance to review some shots that were taken during a special trip to the UK, to spend the holiday season with family.  So please indulge me with this flashback as you’re endeavouring to get on with 2017, just because…

This little set started out with my 7-year-old niece (Emily) taking an interest in my Nikon D90 when I was capturing some moments on December 25th.  So I handed the camera over, forgetting in the moment that everything was set to “manual”….and with minimal guidance, she proficiently went around the room.  Most of the portraits below were taken by “our Em”….and the rest by me (the understudy!).

Oh…and incase you’re wondering, the answer is yes – in St Helens, UK, we don our reindeer antlers and red noses throughout the festive season “as you do”!

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….snow play

December 2016

The back story to this photo shoot is pretty cool……I think.  A last-minute call from a girlfriend in the Fall of 2015 placed me in the sound booth at an ACDC concert that same evening, and sharing the space, a beer and the fantastic vantage point with mom and dad below.  Mom and I discovered we have a common interest in photography and an agreement was struck to connect and snap a few family pics.  It took just over a year to line up our mutual schedules, and we were not going to let the freezing temperatures kibosh the opportunity again – so off we went to a very scenic Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, and frost-bitten fingers were a small sacrifice for a family keepsake.

 

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….’the wet coast’

November 2016

A change is as good as a rest “they say”, so despite the fact that it has been raining relentlessly for the previous 4 weeks or so, and there was no end in sight, we decided to take off for a mini road trip to the West (Wet) Coast of Vancouver Island for a birthday break.

Leaving on Remembrance Day, we were thankful that BC ferries were respectfully observant of this important occasion, in both lowering the Canadian flag to half mast and observing the moment of silence.  It was quite something to witness and participate in, the phenomena of a jammed packed ferry hitting the mute button for 2 minutes.

After a super scenic (albeit it torrentially rainy) drive, we arrived at our lodgings the Snug Harbour Inn, Ucluelet, and were not disappointed.  The cosy fire and extra large jacuzzi tub, quickly made the damp drive a distant memory…

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Rain, rain…go away!

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The start…..or the end (?)….of Highway # 1

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Booting around Tofino harbour…

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…and a stop at the Wickaninnish Inn (where we were married 13 yrs ago), to take in the view

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Surfers at Long Beach not deterred by the inclement weather “surfs up dude!”

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Back at the Snug Harbour Inn and planning our hike for the next (non-rainy) day….

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….a wonderful break all-in-all and a birthday celebrated with BC’s own Blue Mountain – my fave!

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…’puppy love’

November 2016

Shear joy…..is spending time with closest friends and their new puppy.  She (Kess)….was a reminder that we all need somebody to love (and to be loved) and that’s what life is all about, after all….

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…’in search of Yogi’

September 2016

We just LOVE the National Parks in the US, and given it’s the centennial celebration this year we opted to visit a couple them.  Yellowstone was a very different experience from our hiking trip to Joshua Tree this past February, in part because we decided to drive there from Vancouver, BC (via Portland).  It was an epic road trip unlike any we’ve undertaken previously, and in planning this little jaunt, we decided we’d share the driving so the 4,300+ kilometres wouldn’t be too much of a challenge between us.  As it turned out, I seem to have an aversion to driving at high-speed along an interstate, and so my “share” of the drive amounted to a mere 50 km or so, before I lost my nerve and was relegated to co-pilot status!

By the time we arrived in Yellowstone (after first spending a couple of days in Teton National Park) I was more than ready for the black bear, grizzly bear, wolves, moose and perhaps the odd bison sighting…any of the aforementioned would provide ample opportunity for my future National Geographic cover shot!!!  Alas, it very quickly became apparent that the wildlife would not be lining up waiting for me to pose them, and so I decided to just enjoy the scenery, and more importantly the company, instead!

A few images were captured along the way, and posted below for those who may be interested in heading to this gem of a park in the future.

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The Old Faithful Inn…what a wonderful, historic spot to spend a night or two.

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….and the geyser of the same name doesn’t disappoint in blowing off steam every 90 mins or so!

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….no grizzlies, wolves or moose to be seen anywhere – but the abundance of bison did not disappoint 🙂

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….and then there was the hiking – awe-inspiring even for those of us who are afraid of heights!

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….the hotel rooms in the park all seemed to have a cute furry friend installed (and available for purchase at a reasonable price btw!) – and after 4 days I was beginning to think this may be the only bear we would see during our trip.

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….and then on our final day’s drive, behold – there were these 2 guys (or gals) off the side of the road, and blatantly unaware of the traffic chaos their playful presence had created!  Yay for our Yogi sighting!

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….we thought this geyser sign was pretty funny (and unnecessary), until we saw some tourists from another continent stepping off the trails to put their hand in the water, or get a better angled photo – unbelievable!  Yellowstone should seriously consider replacing the boy image with a fully grown man or woman…(the kiddos appeared to be following the rules!)

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…the highlight of the trip for us was by far the multitude of geysers and hot pools/springs.  The prismatic colours were incredible, and although we only saw snippets due to the cold temperatures (snow had already fallen causing the steam to obliterate many) – we were impressed all the same.

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…heading home via Montana (a river runs through it don’t you know?!).  Spot the cowboy!

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…’real wedding’!

July 2016

Soon after my last post ‘faux wedding’ https://carrymycamera.com/2016/06/07/faux-wedding/…..I was asked to photograph the small, impromptu marriage of the lovely couple below!  Timing couldn’t have been better as I was still in “wedding shooter” mode, and it was so nice to share in their “happily ever after” moment!

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Flowers by Forage & Bloom http://www.forageandbloom.ca/special-occasions

…’faux wedding?!’

June 2016

It may have been a ‘faux’ wedding shoot….but the flowers were aromatically real and the collective talents of participants undeniably evident.   All of which made for one of the most rewarding and fun photo shoots I’ve had the pleasure to work on to date!

I’ll let the images speak for themselves…and I’m sure visitors to ‘Forage & BLOOM’ http://www.forageandbloom.ca/about will be as inspired as I was to see the uniquely crafted offerings of boutineers, flower crowns and bouquets.  I may just have to renew my wedding vows in order to don my wedding dress again, with the beautiful accompaniment of these fresh and vibrant blooms! 😉

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This above is in fact my very own wedding dress….. 🙂

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“Lucy the Labrador” little helper!

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Amanda Langerak – Co Owner, Forage & BLOOM

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Natalie Sumiyoshi – Co Owner, Forage & BLOOM

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Behind the scenes & Forage & BLOOM – pre-shoot final touches

 

 

…’my blooming balcony’

April 2016

I’m not usually one for posting ‘before’ and ‘after’ home reno photos…but my recent experience working with a local Vancouver floral and plant design business ‘Forage & BLOOM’  http://www.forageandbloom.ca, proved to be quite transformative…not only for our drab concrete balcony – but also in terms of providing me with some sorely lacking gardening skills.

Initially, the prospect of spending hard-earned cash on new plants and herbs, given my previously abysmal track record of keeping anything alive for more than a few weeks, didn’t fill me with joy – but I also wasn’t prepared to spend another summer on a barren balcony.  For this reason, I reached out to the F&B team (Natalie Sumiyoshi and Amanda Langerak) for their expert advice on how to best maximize the use of this small space.

A visually successful project is the result….and what a treat it is to step outside to hand-pick a few fresh herbs for my culinary capers!

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The Master Plan

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The large faux tree is the only item not designed and delivered by Forage & BLOOM

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I was more than happy to participate under the watchful eye of the real gardener, and the most significant thing I learned along the way is the importance of “tickling” the roots of a plant when transferring to its permanent home.  Who would have thought?!

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Really looking forward to seeing the deep violet Clematis flowers wind their way up this custom made trellis 🙂

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