Top: World's first 360-degree Panorama of Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia, Feb 24/2009, from 12 separate photos...

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Baby mantis, Harare

This infant on a eucalyptus tree is only a few mm long, but was steady and fearless enough for me to creep up with my closeup equipment.

Crocodile farm near Victoria Falls

Although the USA considers crocodiles threatend, they are being farmed in Zimbabwe, their meat, skeletons and fabulous leather all used.

Hwange: Waterbuck

Our safari also took in parts of Hwange National Park, and the pose of these waterbuck with the tree seemed to me to be an African postcard in the making.

Sikumi: Wild dog

Quite rare, numbering a few thousand in Africa. We were already becoming quite blase about elephants (which were ahead on the road), on this our third safari, especially when this mother and her family appeared. We were seeing them for the first time, and they were happy to stay where they were, letting us get quite close.

Sikumi: Dawn buffalo herd

This was a magic moment, a gift. I could see in the early morning light of the safari that the sunlight would stream through the dust and turn these buffalo into something mysterious, identifiable only by their silhouettes, especially the horns. Once we got past them and looked back into the sun, I got what my inner vision was telling me would come - one of those happy occasions when vision and actuality line up and agree.

Sikumi: Giraffe pair

Quick, what noises do giraffes make? Apparently they cannot make a sound with their vocal cords - maybe they don't have any?

Sikumi: Monkey

A common sight, but with manual focus equipment they gave me enough challenges in their antics. This one, however, was resting in the sun.

It's critter time on the blog!

Sikumi Park: Buffalo

Four safaris, dawn and dusk, in open vehicles, showed us most of what Zimbabwe has to offer in wildlife. I was seeing this country for the first time as an adult and a photographer, and didn't waste the opportunity. Welcome to the buffalo, Africa's meanest, most dangerous vertebrate (probably the mosquito, carrying malaria, should be called its deadliest animal overall).

Friday, 13 April 2007

Anglican church, Nyanga

Here are buried not only my mother but also quite a number of other relatives from various generations. The two shots are basically the same thing looking outside and inside, with the addition that I carefully composed the latter shot to line up the details - cross, windows, &c - squarely, also allowing my reflected presence to be part of the scene.

Water lilies in a pond in Harare, and calla lilies in the southeastern mountains.

Baobab, on the way from Kariba to Harare
I needed my sister in the picture to give a true sense of the scale of these amazing giants. And this is far from the largest in the country.
Teak trees and cormorants, Kariba

Four days' houseboating on Kariba gave a good start to the trip, with first looks at wildlife. From the houseboat, a speedboat or the shore many visitors presented themselves.
The lake was artifically created some decades ago along with a dam at one end which provides much elecrtricity to Zimbabwe. In the process, many animals had to be rescued from the flood - in Operation Naoh's Ark, as it was called - and many trees, such as these teaks, were drowned. Their wood is so hard that they remain standing after all this time, and it is still useable to make beautiful furniture or other items.
Zimbabwe, October 2006:
Elephants and heron, Lake Kariba
In October 2006 my sister and I had the chance to return to a country we had left as children 29 years earlier: Zimbabwe. Our father was born there, and there our mother died in a car accident. We were shielded from the funeral, and never actually taken to her grave, so we missed saying a final goodbye to her. This journey was that goodbye, which we accomplished near the beginning, leaving us the rest - nearly three weeks - to reacquaint ourselves with this country where we spent six years of our childhood. We were hosted throughout in grand style first by our older stepbrother, then by our younger stepsister.
(More photos to follow: I was seeing the country for the first time as both an adult and a photographer, so I made the most of it!)

Thursday, 12 April 2007

"Other" photographic processes
There are more ways than "pure" photography to capture a photographic image. One can place 2d or 3d objects onto photographic paper and then expose the paper in a darkroom, the opacity or transparency of the objects affecting the passage of light onto the paper, and then develop the paper as a normal print, called a photogram. The same kind of thing can be done with the objects placed into the negative carrier of an enlarger, if they are small and thin enough, resulting in spectacular enlarged photograms. Or one can simply scan things using a regular desktop scanner. These leaves are from the scanning process, which captures fantastic detail at high resolutions. If your scanner is set at, say, 2400 dpi (dots per inch) and your printing is to be done at 300 dpi (a good resolution for photographs), the prints can be 8 times larger than the original in length and width, which can turn a leaf into a great poster child for nature lovers or the eco-minded.

Moscow, USSR, August 19, 1991

Here are 7 shots from my monochrome film of the coup d'etat attempt against Gorbachev in Moscow, August 1991. All are scans of prints, the negatives being among those stolen from my apartment in St Petersburg in 1994; at least I still have the prints, anyway. The scans are a bit thin on detail, a bit grainy, but they're history, so we'll forgive them their defects.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Portrait of Chris A, Milborne Port, England, c. 1990
The original of this is a negative which was stolen along with a lot of my other material in St Petersburg in early 1994. (This loss of my work has happened only twice; but it is devastating.)
Chris had an unusual enough look to warrant some experimental portraits; this piece is from the first sitting.
The next stage in the production of this image, after shooting onto a negative, was some play in the darkroom (remember those, anyone? Anyone still using one? Plenty of photographers still are, I'll bet). While processing the print in its chemical baths I briefly switched on the light intentionally. This caused a partial reversal of some of the print's tones, a process known as the Sabbattier [?sp] effect and misknown as solarization. It is also available as a filter in Photoshop... but this was the handmade version, less predictable and always an adventure.
Then I rephotographed the print against a pencil-shaded background, and THIS is a scan of the print from the negative of that shot! Phew, how many generations is that from the original person? Chris -> negative -> "solarized" print -> negative -> print -> scan... 6 degrees from reality. I suppose that accounts for the surrealistic feeling of this, one of my favourite portraits ever.

Mestia and Mt. Tetnuldi (l of centre), March 2007
A quick day trip to the capital town. Visiting friends of Nodar's sister who have their own tower, which we were able to climb inside to its top. A view from the house over the town - I also shot through an open window, but I feel that this is the better picture, less touristy, because it shows not just a town and landscape but the context of the house interior as well.
Warning!, Etseri, March 2007

This dog would have none of us being nearby, and with its owner absent, we weren't about to find ourselves on the same side of the door as it.

Sheep, Etseri, March 2007

Just sheep, in front of the old part of Nodar's house.

Lenjeri, Svaneti, November 2003
Just down from Mestia; one classic view of watchtowers.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Ushba, Etseri and other views from Etseri, March 2007
My 16th trip to Svaneti. Nodar's brother encouraged me to climb a certain cellphone tower for the views and, after checking for signs of either danger or forbidding, I did so. Three times, to see the landscape at various angles of light. This was the last time, sunset, with the final rays gilding only Ushba pinkish-gold.

Frames, Etseri, February 2004

A window and a door, the ruined house and a barn, two different locations in the village.

Cracked paint, Etseri, February 2004
For some reason I am strongly drawn to this subject everywhere. Having studied chaos theory somewhat, I think it's the mix of decay-randomness and order. Natural processes impose themselves on an ordered surface and alter it in ways which obey rules but are also partly irregular.
Mountains across the Inguri R. from Etseri, February 2004

Part of a wall of mountains which forms the backdrop to Etseri. They are deceptively small-looking; even the way down to the river in order to cross them is a long trek. They are another of my muses, and I often photograph them in various weather and lighting conditions. Monochrome because there was so little colour in the scene anyway, this deep in winter.

Mt. Ushba from above Mestia, December 2003
A completely different view from the one I was used to from Etseri and Becho. The twin peaks revealed high above several villages. Not one of the highest mountains in the world, but certainly one of the most challenging to climb nonetheless, with a string of deaths resulting.

Monday, 9 April 2007

House detail, Ushgili, December 2003

The flag of Svaneti features a lion. There was a Georgian nature magazine with a photograph of a leopard on its cover in about 2004, from the Georgian-Azeri border. Hyaenas have been reported - but not proved - in the Khevsureti region of Georgia south of Chechnya. Of wolves and bears we need not speak - they are definitely still around.

Carved door closeup, Ushguli house museum, December 2003

This magnificent work is actually for sale, for US$4000 the last I heard. Many hundreds of hours must have gone into it. Any takers?

At last! Ushguli, one of the most inaccessible places in all of Georgia, and for that and for its own beauty one of the most rewarding to visit. Often the roads to it are closed by snow for much of the winter as it is the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe. C. 50 families; 7 churches, most of them tiny; many watchtowers; 2 amazing museums; part of it a UN Heritage protected site; an antique jewel.