August Photo Opportunity: Colorful Tribal Dancers of the Philippines

Kadayawan Festival performers
Participants of the “Indak Indak sa Kadalanan” perform before the crowd along Roxas Blvd. during the 23rd Kadayawan Festival in Davao City on August 23, 2008. The street dancing is one of the highlights of the week-long Kadayawan Festival. Keith Bacongco / AKP Images

A riot of color waits to be captured by photographers venturing to the Kadayawan Festival in the Philippines.

Simply Joy
Street dancers at the Kadayawan Festival, Davao, Philippines (photo: Bro. Jeffery Pioquinto, SJ)

Kadayawan is held annually during the 3rd Week of August in the city of Davao, the Philippines. Davao is found on Mindanao, the nation’s second-largest and southernmost island.

Kadayawan Indak Indak sa Kadalanan 2015
Tribal dancer at Kadayawan festival in Davao, Philippines (photo: Bro. Jeffery Pioquinto, SJ)

The weeklong festival is a celebration and thanksgiving for nature’s bountiful harvest, and offers wonderful photographic opportunities.

Christmas decors for sale in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines
Christmas decors for sale in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines (photo: Keith Bacongo)

During the festival, the streets of Davao are adorned with local fruit & vegetables, providing a colorful background to the tribal dances and floats. Floats are covered with fresh flowers and fruits, and the energetic dancers from various indigenous tribes wear their finest costumes and jewelry.

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A GIANT ÒPARULÓ (Christmas lantern), a product of craftsmen from the City of San Fernando in Pampanga province, entertains spectators at the 2014 Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival). Photo: Keith Bacongo

To get the best photos, pick a spot early as the streets get crowded quickly as visitors flock to watch the dancers and parades.

Photographer Herman Damar Captures the Best of Indonesian Village Life

Indonesian village woman and girl
Indonesian village woman and girl

Self-taught photographer Herman Damar lives in Indonesia. He came to the attention of the photographic community with the images he captured of idealistic moments of the everyday life of villagers residing outside of Jakarta.

Indonesian village man washing water buffalo
Indonesian village man throwing bucket of water on water buffalo

An ex-advertising director, Damar’s beautiful photos focus on the warmth of traditional village life. The settings, composition, and warm light all combine to give an idyllic quality to Damar’s photos. He says his favorite time to shoot is between 7am-9am.

Indonesian boys having water fight
Indonesian boys playing, having water fight

Particularly alluring are Damar’s images of village children playing in their natural element – in rivers, in muddy fields, with hand-made toys, and with their farm animals. His images beautifully emphasize the connection the villagers have with the natural world around them.

Village boy playing with chicken
Indonesian village boy blowing water at chicken

According to Damar, the villagers are very friendly and happy to have him take their photo. This is perhaps due to the fact that he spends time among the villagers learning about them and their lives.

Indonesian children at play
IThree ndonesian village children playing

I definitely hope Herman Damar continues to create his wonderful images, and look forward to seeing the results of his next projects.

Indonesian boy in the rain
Black & white photo of Indonesian boy under a leaf in the rain

An Amateur’s Experiences With Street Photography

Street photo of young Japanese woman
Street photo of young Japanese woman in Akihabara at dawn

I’ve never specialized in any one genre of photography, which is probably why I consider myself as an amateur in all genres of photography. Portraiture, HDR, landscapes, light painting – I constantly switch from one to the other, and enjoy them all.

One constant is that wherever I happen to be, I always enjoy going out for a walk to see what I can capture with my camera. While the majority of photos I take on these walks include people, I don’t consider that to be a requirement. Neither do I try to focus only on taking shots that document something in particular. So, I suppose I’m actually talking more about photo walks than about true street photography.

Asian street photography
Street photography taken in Asia

So, why do it? I’ve found shooting on the street is a great way to hone your skills in being aware of what’s going on around you, test different camera settings, practice using different lens, learning to be quick, and forcing yourself to think about how to create a compelling image. And, best of all, you never know what you’re going to find.

One of the allures of shooting people on the street is the opportunity to capture candid moments. This allows you to portray honest human emotions, which can lend to creating a memorable photo.

Old Man's Dreams
Old man in winter in black & white

Of course, you have to deal with the innate hesitation we all have to taking a stranger’s photo. Will they get mad? Will they think you’re some sort of strange stalker? Ideally, you’ll be quick enough when you press the shutter release that they won’t even notice you – that’s how you get a real candid shot.

Thirsty in Delhi
Turbanned man drining water on the streets of Delhi

There are a few options you can use to get candid street shots. One is to go someplace where a lot of people are taking photos – a public event, or a park where a street performer is putting on a show. You’ll easily be able to take photos of people in the crowd without attracting a lot of attention. Another technique is to look for people who are so engrossed in whatever they are doing that they won’t notice you (someone feeding the birds in a park, for example).

A common ruse is to pretend you’re shooting something besides the person whose photo you want to take. An easy way of doing this is to set up a shot and allow the person to walk into the frame. If they notice you, just keep shooting even after they’ve passed by. Chances are, they’ll think they got in your way.

Teenage girl years
Teenage girl in a crowd

It’s just a personal opinion, but I don’t recommend using a telephoto lens to take candid shots of strangers. I’ll admit I tried this when I got my first telephoto lens as a gift, but the whole experience felt creepy and I gave it up immediately. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying it’s not for me.

Begin a ‘foreigner’ in all the countries where I shoot, it’s inevitable that I stand out and get noticed. This means some of the shots I get are of people looking directly at me. Sometimes this enhances the image, but other times (when they start ‘posing’), it weakens the shot.

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Street photography in Asia

When people notice that I’ve taken their photo, I always give them a big smile and offer to let them to look at the photo (sign language goes a long way here!). It’s always awkward to be caught taking someone’s photo, but so far I’ve never had any problem. It probably helps that I never take photos of people that purposely are unflattering – when they’re arguing, etc.

Exercising common sense and practicing common courtesy both go a long way into making amateur street photography a fun experience! The things you’ll learn, and the practice you’ll get in using your camera, both make it worth the time and effort.

 

Lala Deen Dayal – The Doyen of Indian Photographers

Famous indian photographer - Lala Deen Dayal
Famous indian photographer – Lala Deen Dayal

Born in 1844 at Sardhana in Meerut in the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh today), Lala Deen Dayal was a successful engineer in Indore, where he was Head Estimator & Draughtsman with the Public Works Department. It was here that he was introduced to photography. His skill with the new medium was noticed by ruler of Indore, Maharaja Tukoji II. In 1875, the Mahajara became his patron, and encouraged him to set up his first studio. Shortly after establishing his studio, Dayal photographed the royal visit of the Prince of Wales (who became King George V), greatly enhancing his reputation.

Tiger Hunter - by Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal
Tiger Hunter – by Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal

This success was followed by a string of appointments over the years that allowed Dayal to capture a unique photographic record of Indian aristocratic life not easily accessed by his British counterparts.

Maharaja of Bijawar
Maharaja of Bijawar – by Indian photographer Lala Dayal Deen

This portrait taken in 1882, depicting the Maharaja of Bijawar sitting cross-legged, surrounded by servants, is a example of Dayal’s portrait work at the time.

In 1886, Dayal was appointed as the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad (an Islamic dynasty in India). Remaining in the Nizim’s service until his death, Dayal captured intimate portraits of the royal family, opulent palace interiors, and the pageantry of the times. In appreciation of his work and dedication, the Nizam bestowed on him the honorific title of “Raja”

Jain temples at Sonagiri near Dattia
Jain temples at Sonagiri near Dattia – as photographed by Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal

Besides the Nizam, Dayal photographed various British dignitaries throughout his career. In 1887, he had the unique honor of being appointed as “Photographer to Her Majesty and Queen” by Queen Victoria. Dayal also received numerous awards in exhibitions in India and abroad, notably at the World Colombian Commission in 1893 in USA.

Dayal captured a wealth of images of both the British and indian ruling classes
Dayal captured a wealth of images of both the British and indian ruling classes

In 1896 he expanded his business and opened the largest photography studio in Bombay, which was patronized by both Indians as well as the British.

Photos of India by Lala Deen Dayal
Historic photos of India by Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal

Dayal photographed on a wider scale than any European photographer of the time, as he moved with ease between the Indian and English worlds. His albums of India views and ancient monuments became very popular and were bought as keepsakes and gifts by both the British and Indian aristocracy.

It was not only in his portraitures and depictions of the lives of the ruling classes that makes Dayal’s work memorable. He also captured the rich culture and tradition of India’s architectural heritage – its palaces, temples, monuments, and forts.

Dayal passed away on 5th July 1905, and his work was carried on by his sons. His contribution to Indian photography has earned him the title of “Doyen of Indian photography”. Lala Deen Dayal was the first Indian photographer to earn international renown for his pioneering work in the field of photography in the subcontinent.

The Natural World Is Celebrated By This Singaporean Photographer

Ernest Goh -'Selfie'
Ernest Goh -‘Selfie’

Previously a photojournalist with The Straits Times, Ernest Goh is a Singaporean photographer and visual artist whose work focuses on animals and their relationship with humans.

From 'The Fish Book'
From ‘The Fish Book’

Ernest’s animal portraits have been published in The Fish Book (2011), Cocks (2013, republished as Chickens in the US in 2015), and The Gift Book (2014) a collection of 15 gift-wrapping paper designs created with various elements from nature – including insects, butterfly chrysalises and flowers.

From 'The Chicken Book'
From ‘The Chicken Book’

His most recent work was presented in the solo exhibition ‘Breakfast at 8 Jungle at 9’ (Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film, Singapore, 2015).

From 'The Gift Book'
From ‘The Gift Book’

According to the artist, Ernest’s fascination with the natural world began as a boy at his grandmother’s rural kampung (‘village’) in Singapore, as he waded in streams looking for fish and jumped into bushes searching for spiders.

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Hong Kong Photographer’s Cinematic-Style Photos Evoke Nostalgia

Hong Kong street vendor
Hong Kong street vendor

A retired film director and actor, Hong Kong street photographer Fan Ho’s mastery of natural light creates a mood and drama in his photos that resemble film sets from a past era.

Hong Kong Venice
APP | 16×20 | Edition of 20

Taken during the 1950’s and 60’s, Ho’s images captured the transition of this iconic Asian city while it was in the midst of transitioning from old to new.

Silhouetted construction workers in Hong Kong
Silhouetted construction workers in Hong Kong

Immigrating to Hong Kong from Shanghai with his family at a young age, Ho began documenting Hong Kong with a Rolleiflex camera his father purchased for his. Largely self-taught. Ho began by developing his images in the family bathtub, eventually building a large collection of urban street photos.

Left: woman against large wallRight: pedestrians climbing stairs
Left: woman against large wall Right: pedestrians climbing stairs

According to Ho, he always looked for the lighting and composition to fall into place when shooting his street photos.

Cleaning woman dusting venetian blinds
Cleaning woman dusting venetian blinds

In addition to his successful career as a film director, first for Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers and later as an independent director, Ho’s photography has won him almost 300 international awards.

Smokey World, 1959
People in indoor stairwell

Fan Ho died of pneumonia on 19 June, 2016 at the age of 84.

Some of The Best Places to Photograph Tokyo

Tokyo Night Skyline
Skyline of Tokyo by night

Tokyo offers a mix of traditional and ultra-modern. This gives the visiting photographer some great choices. Even visitors with time constraints have a variety of locations to choose from.

Shibuya Scramble Crossing
Crowds at Shibuya Scramble Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is not to be missed. The world’s busiest pedestrian crossing (with an estimated one million people crossing the street here everyday), this ‘scramble’ crosswalk offers a unique photographic experience. Trying to figure out how to best capture the waves of humanity going through the crosswalks is every photographer’s challenge.

The Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Japan’s Emperor Meiji. The shrine complex is located with 170 acres of forested land in downtown Shibuya. This is a spectacular setting to capture some photos depicting traditional Japan.

 

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As a hub for entertainment, business, and shopping, Shinjuku ward in the evening is the perfect location to capture great photos of modern Tokyo with its multitude of neon lights.

Asakusa, Sensoø-ji in the rain
Sensoø-ji temple in the rain at night, Asakusa, Tokyo

Sensō-ji Temple, Tokyo’s most popular Buddhist temple, is a wonderful place for photographing traditional Japanese architecture. The famous temple gates, Kaminarimon and Hozomon, the five-storey pagoda, and the temple itself will make it easy to fill your camera’s memory card.

Gundam in Odaiba
Massive statue of Gundam in the evening at Odaiba, Tokyo

Odaiba is an entertainment and shopping mecca located on a man-made island. There are wonderful views of Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge, making the area particularly ideal for taking pictures of the night skyline of Tokyo. The area is also famous for it’s massive Gundam statue.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Loss of Personal Identities is Highlighted by Young Cambodian Photographer

Cambodian photographer: Neak Sophal
Cambodian photographer: Neak Sophal

A former student of Studio Images (the only place that provides education in photography and image in Cambodia) and a graduate of the Royal University of Fine Arts, Cambodian photographer Neak Sophal explores the issue of identity in contemporary Cambodian society.

From the series 'Behind'
From the series ‘Behind’

Neak’s exploratory work includes several including ‘Behind’ a collection of photos taken on the streets in which the subject practice self-censorship by showing their backs to the camera instead of revealing their faces and identity, and a series entitled Cham Norng (‘Thread’) where she used string to emphasize the ties of the present to the past.

From the series 'Thread': Left: 'Champa' / Right: 'Piss and Drink'
From the series ‘Thread’: Left: ‘Champa’ / Right: ‘Piss and Drink’

The photographer next moved her focus to the city, where she asked everyday people to pose for her in the street, hiding their faces behind an object that characterizes them. In most cases, the object tended to be related to their work.

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The subjects of Neak’s photos – whether a construction worker, a merchant, or a monk for example – ultimately lose their personal identity behind the object the selected to pose behind.

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The purpose of Neak’s documentary series is to demonstrate how individuals disappear behind their function in society. The photos in the collection have a strange, yet lasting, impression.

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July Photo Opportunity: Naadam, an Explosion of Mongolian Energy!

Naadam Festival parade
Openning parade of the Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Pack your camera gear and travel to Mongolia to experience the Naadam Festival. Naadam is a major holiday in Mongolia and the perfect time to experience the culture and people of this amazing country.

 

Mongolian wrestlers at Naadam Festival
Mongolian wrestlers at Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (Photo courtesy of LiveFromUB)

Naadam is held annually in July in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar, and draws thousands of spectators..

Horseback riders at Naadam Festival
Horseback riders at Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

A photographer’s dream, Naadam’s opening ceremony features marches and music from soldiers, monks and athletes before the commencement of the main sporting events.

Horseback riders at Naadam Festival
Horseback riders at Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Naadam’s origins reach back to Mongolia’s traditional military activities, which is why Mongolian wresting, horse racing and archery are the highlights of the 2-day festivities.

Crowds at the Naadam Festival
Crowds at the Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

While not one of the easiest festivals to reach, Naadam’s colourful athletes and spectators offer spectacular photo opportunities, and is definitely worth the extra effort to attend. With planning, and a bit of luck, you’ll be able to capture some memorable photos at this unique festival.

Photography’s Beginnings in India

Dancing girls from Madras taken by Nicholas & Curths
Indian dancing girls from Madras taken by Nicholas & Curths in 1870

Photography came to India around 1840, just as photography was replacing painting as the new mode of recording the world.

In the early years, almost all the photos taken in India were linked to the British colonial regime – either by subject, or by photographer. The photographers mainly were English civil servants in the colonial government, or employees of the British East India Company (colloquially known as ‘John Company’). Some were employed specifically to take photographs, while others were amateurs.

Photography was also considered by the East India Company to be the most accurate and economical means of recording architectural and archaeological monuments for official records. The company actively encouraged the employees to photograph, and record archaeological sites.

Although they were a tiny minority of the population, it was the English in India who also first formed the major market for photography in India. Many individual bought photographs as a visual record of their experiences in India, which at the end of their tour of duty they would take back to their home country to show their family and friends.

No definitive record of when the first photograph was taken in India exists, but it’s generally agreed that the first commercial photograph taken in India dates from 1844.

The first photographic societies of India were found in 1854 in Bombay and 1857 in Bengal and Madras.

Native Nautch at Delhi (or Shalimar?), 1864 by Samuel Bourne
Native Nautch in Delhi, India, 1864 by Samuel Bourne

Indians were also quick to learn how to take photos. The first to learn were probably those employed by European photographers as assistants. These Indian photographers began by taking photos for India’s upper classes. There was a growing demand among wealthy Indians for photos, and local studios were soon set up to meet this demand.

The first Indian photographer whose name is recorded is Nawab Ahmed Ali Khan of Lucknow. However, it’s not exactly clear when he started taking photos. Estimates range between 1845 and 1850. The earliest existing photo taken by Khan is dated 1855

By 1855, a course in photography had been established at the Madras School of Industrial Art to teach photography to Indian students.

Photo by Dr. Narain Dajee
Photo by Dr. Narain Dajee

The quick growth of photography amongst Indians can be seen by inclusion of 30 photographs by Dr Narain Dajee (a professional photographer, and a council member of the Bombay Photographic Society) in the 1857 exhibition by the Photographic Society of Bengal. Dajee’s photos differed from his British counterparts in that they included images of fakirs, snake charmers, musicians, soldiers and other Indians.

As Indian photographers began establishing successful studios, most of them made the majority of their money through commissions from affluent Indian families. However, a few Indian photographers also began selling their work to both the aristocratic families of India as well as to the British civil servants serving the British Raj. Lala Deen Dayal (also known as Raja Deen Dayal) was one of the most successful*.

*Stay tuned… a post on Lala Deen Dayal will be coming soon!