Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back in NYC

It's a little weird being home. It is a feeling that is entirely new, surprising, and yet I feel like I should have anticipated it before I even set foot on the plane in Frankfurt. There is just something about American cities that falls slightly short of the charm and aesthetic beauty found in their foreign counterparts. This could just be a phase I'm going through, but there is no denying that the structured grid of NYC really can't hold a candle to the spider web of Paris and the medinas of Morocco in terms of aesthetic intrigue.

Moving on from that little whine...I went to NYC yesterday for an interview at the Christian Oth Studio. I found the ad on craigslist and was shocked/surprised/delighted to get a response with this link at the bottom (http://www.christianothstudio.com). I'm not a huge fan of wedding photography usually--because most of the photos I see are the same old cheesy crap just with a different couple--but this studio was actually doing it right! The photos were beautiful photos in their own right, not just a photo of a happy couple, an INTERESTING photo of a happy couple. I hope I get a chance to work with them in the future.

So, the interview was over fairly quickly and I had already paid to get into the city so I figured I should make the most of it. I called up my friend, Mr. Adam Abada, and arranged a lunch meeting. On the way I took a few photos.






Also, its worth posting a couple shot from my window seat on the flight from Munich to Frankfurt. More amazing clouds!




As always, there are more posted on flickr HERE.

All in all, it is good to be back, to be with my family again and to see some of my friends. I miss Germany a lot but I am confident that I will return sooner than I expect and that when I do, I will hopefully have a much better grasp of the language.

Until next time...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

DEUTSCHLAND!!!



Online Videos by Veoh.com

I was on a plane for 10 hours while this was happening. It was an incredible game with a spectacular finish-Germany pulled it out and put themselves in the final.

I can't wait to see what happens on Sunday...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Trip to Strasbourg

We went back to Strasbourg, France this past weekend to pick up some luggage that Julie and I had left behind at her host-mother's home. Neither one of us were prepared for what we saw when we got there.

A city that we had only known in the colder times of the year had completely transformed. Sun, flowers, people, everywhere. It was also the weekend of a huge music festival and there were local bands playing on every other street corner all over the city. For those of you familiar with it, think Serendipity Cafe on a citywide scale. It was a great energy to be a part of.

Here are a few pictures from the trip.






Julie and I are leaving tomorrow morning bright and early from Munich, heading back to NJ. It has been quite a trip, 6 months that I will surely remember for the rest of my life. I just wanted to take a minute to say thanks to all of you who have been following along and commenting--it kept me shooting, posting, and writing.

I couldn't have done it without all of you, thank you.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Lake

I felt in the mood for posting some pictures, so I decided I would do just that. 

A few shots from a trip to the lake the other day:

Julie Mit Grass

Fussen and Pfronten in Nesselwang, Germany


Sharpness is Overrated


Blulie

Bavarian Graffitti

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That's all for now, I'll put some more up tomorrow.
G'night folks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

As Promised : More Sunrise Pictures

I have never, in my current knowledge, witnessed anything as breathtakingly beautiful as this morning's sunrise.

I have seen a lot of sunrises, and sunsets for that matter, and this one was by far the most unique and stunning of the group. The pictures only begin to scratch the surface of what it was like to be standing there, under it all, watching the day begin in a blaze of orange and blue (and everything in between).





I've been waking up really early in the morning recently, usually around 5:30am. I always sit up and look out the window over the fields and forests that surround Schwarzenberg. Only the soaring Alps disturb the continuous flow of green that blankets the rolling landscape I see before me.

For the past week or so, the morning have been especially rainy...and foggy. That combo makes for less than expansive views during the hours when the sun begins to climb. So, today when I glanced out of the window and saw this...well you can probably imagine how I reacted--although I guess you don't have to seeing as how there are pictures.

Anyways, I have begun working on a short story about this little habit I have developed and I will be sure to post it here when I have something worth showing. For now, just photos and my lame attempts to convey to you how beautiful Germany is. 

Its late, Goodnight.

Sunrise

Woke up at 5:25am to see this out my window...



More to come later...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Recent shots, poll alert and CLOUDS, GLORIOUS CLOUDS!

Julie and I made a quick run to the grocery store today before dinner and tonight's Eurocup feature (France v. Italy). On my way out the door, I was floored by what I saw in the sky: clouds unlike any I had ever seen. There were examples of every formation I could think of, converging and combining to create a visual feast in the sky above my head. I ran back inside and grabbed my camera, then headed out onto the balcony for some shots before we left.

When we finally dragged me off the balcony and into the car, I couldn't stop shooting. The sun was setting and beams of light were shooting through the gaps in between clouds to illuminate select areas of the hillsides. It was like someone was up there shining a spotlight around, directing me to my next photographic opportunity.

We made it to the store just around the time Julie was starting to get fed up with my incessant "LOOK AT THESE THINGS!! THEY ARE AMAZING! AREN'T THEY BEAUTIFUL?! JULIE LOOK AREN'T THEY INCREDIBLE!!" I had officially lost it. I was obsessed with the puffy white mountains in the sky, my neck permanently craned upwards, snapping away happily with an enormous smile on my face. By this time we were in the parking lot of the Penny Markt/Getrankmarkt and people were starting to stare, I was too far into the zone to care...



So yea, the clouds were amazing and I lost it. I took a bunch of handheld panoramas also, I'll post one if any of them do the clouds justice.

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Also, I probably should have said something about this when I posted it, but there is a little poll on the sidebar just under the "Friends" section. Just a little survey to see how you folks like to receive imagery. Check it out and pick an option if you have the time, thanks.

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And now, a few recent shots from a walk around the neighborhood yesterday...









More on flickr as always...

Thanks for looking!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Curse of the Black Gold

Photojournalist Ed Kashi just launched a new website to accompany his newly released book, The Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta. There is a massive amount of material on there and it is all very worth looking through.

Be sure to check out the Curse of the Black Gold movie in the multimedia section. Hearing the words of the local people affected really adds something to an already powerful collection of images.

http://www.curseoftheblackgoldbook.com/

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Biting My Cheek

I just bit my cheek. I groaned and folded over on the couch in a cruel mix of pain and surprise. A second earlier I had been happily crunching away on my rice cracker, as dry as it was. I was content, sitting, watching Julie type an entry on her own blog, but now I find myself in a whole new world of pain. Why? What is this cruel device that always seems to act when we are enjoying a moment of culinary bliss? After regaining a feeling of normality in my mouth, I declared that I was going to go write a blog entry about the experience--I can only assume I was inspired by watching Julie type one of her own

The biting of the cheek. Centuries old and still plaguing mankind. Can a man not enjoy his food without having to walk that fine line between pleasure and pain? Will a day come when I can chew freely, happily, without the possibility of searing, unexpected pain? Sadly my friends, I think we all know the answer.

This may seem like a silly topic to write about, but I think that the larger, karmic overtones in the act of biting ones cheek deserve to be noted--a possible metaphor could exist there, unseen, just below the soft inner layer of your cheek...

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Some links if you feel my pain:

Cheek Bite Preventer
Stop-biting-my-cheek-Arghhhhhhhh

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yousuf Karsh

Just got linked to this amazing body of work from a true master of portraiture.

Thought I would share with anyone reading...

over 15,000 sittings...wow.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Flickr Update : Munich and Sulzberg

The latest from Deutschland.

Munich
Sulzberg

Comments are always welcome. Thanks for looking.

Munich

Day trip to Munich yesterday with half of the Bakshi clan. We visited the BMW museum, the English Garden/Biergarten, watched a couple Euro Cup games and had some great sushi at a spot called Sushi Soul. It was a great day and I was happy to finally see a little bit of Munich and a little too much of something else...



More from Munich on Flickr shortly, stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bhalil, Fes, Hassan, Safron

The train from Tanger to Fes was fairly quick and painless, not to mention cheap as dirt—only around $15. Julie and I boarded with time to spare and set to finding an empty compartment. We had hoped, foolishly, on having a cabin to ourselves. Within 5 minutes of sitting down, the four remaining seats were filled by Moroccan students talking loudly amongst each other. They were speaking an odd mix of Arabic and French, which was more than enough to make my head spin.

For those of you who have traveled a bit in countries where you don’t speak the language…doesn’t it always seem like other languages are spoken at a much higher volume and with more aggression than English? It becomes all the more apparent when you meet someone who speaks English as well as say, Arabic, and who often switches back and forth between the two. Just something I have noticed over the months…

Anyways, these students were like that. Their conversation was very loud. Add in a laptop playing the latest Moroccan pop charts and you have yourself a very interesting train ride. To be fair though, after a few hours the music died down and the conversation slowed to a point where communication was attempted. They were nice, offering us a snack and some helpful advice about Fes. We all got off when the train finally came to a stop at the Gare du Fes. It was raining.

I had made plans with our host, Hassan, to meet at the train station near the ticket booth.

“I’ll be the one with the huge bright blue backpack,” I had told him.

“I know what you look like, I have seen your facebook, I will find you,” was the response.

Fair enough. I don’t really think we could have blended into the crowd had we tried.

We waited for about 5-10 minutes with no sign of Hassan. I thought he would have been waiting for us, as our train was late. I was about to go look for a pay phone when a slim fellow about my height wearing a white and black striped sweater walked up to us and enthusiastically introduced himself. Conversation was slow to start as we made our way to the petite taxi stand. As expected, we were waved off as Hassan attempted to get a ride on the meter. Although illegal, it is very common for petite taxi drivers to refuse service on the meter if there is a good amount of tourists in the area.

We walked 1km or so to a parking lot full of larger, tan, taxis that were headed to Sefrou, a small but large city about 30km from Fes. We through our things in the back of the old Mercedes, I paid the driver in advance and went to climb into the backseat through the door opposite where Julie and Hassan had entered. As I reached for the door handle, my eyes met with a face staring back at me. It was not Julie. It was not Hassan. It was the face of a Moroccan man.

“Ok,” I thought, “I guess I’ll go sit in the front seat.”

I took another step and reached for the passenger door handle. Two more faces peered out from the passenger window at me. I can only assume they were as confused by my actions as I was by their presence in my taxi.

I looked up, the driver was smiling and waving me around to the other side of the car, to the door Julie and Hassan had entered moments earlier. There was a mixed look of warmth and urgency about the wave. I obliged, circling around the vehicle to the open door. I looked in and discovered Julie and Hassan contorting their bodies to make room for me as the fourth body in the backseat.

“Seven in the car,” Hassan explained the obvious.

I closed the door snugly against my hip and got as comfortable as possible. The engine started and lively Moroccan music began to drift from the ancient car stereo, I smiled at Julie. We pulled out of the parking lot and began the short but long (when you are one of four in a backseat) trip to Sefrou.

Upon arriving at the Sefrou taxi stop, we retrieved our bags from the trunk and immediately transferred to another 7-man taxi headed to Bhalil, Hassan’s hometown where we would be staying for a few nights. Before we even reached Bhalil, Julie and I had begun to look at each other with a similar sort of excitement. We both knew the exciting reality of our current situation: we had finally gotten off the beaten track.

We arrived in Bhalil, mounted up, and began the climb. It was a small village set in the hillside of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The “streets” of the village were primarily steps with cement ramps for any wheeled contraption daring enough to attempt an assent.




After what seemed like an eternity—a 35 lb. bag on your back and another 20 lb. bag on your shoulder does wonder for your perception of time when climbing stairs—we reached the entryway to Hassan’s home. It was directly opposite the entrance to one of the village’s mosques. Julie and I looked at each other again, both dreading the possibility of the fabled 5 A.M. call to prayer.

Hassan lives in what is known commonly as a “cave house.” That, obviously, can mean a variety of things. In this case, it means that he lives in a house that has 2 sleeping chambers carved into the mountainside—one on top of the other—with a front room/kitchen built onto the front of the mountainside which also serves as the front fa├žade of the house. Kind of hard to imagine, but here is a picture of the primary “cave” room where we slept every night.


The day after we arrived, Hassan showed us around his village and took us on an amazing hike over the mountains and down into Sefrou for dinner. The landscape was breathtaking.



On our hike, we stopped in a complex of man made caves, carved from sandstone, that were used by shepherds to shelter their sheep in the event of a sudden rainstorm. While we were there, there just happened to be a rainstorm and, sure enough, the sheep and cows began to appear.


The following day we took a day trip back into Fes to see the world famous tannery—the oldest and largest in Africa—and to pay a visit to a Berber pharmacy and surrounding souks that Fes is known for. The medina of Fes is said to have over 900 streets. I believe it. Without Hassan as our guide, we would have been hopelessly lost 6 times over. We got a bird’s eye view of the tannery from an enormous leather shop in the heart of Fes.



"Moroccan Adidas"

We exited the leather shop, Julie with a couple of purchases, and headed a few doors down to the pharmacy where we were given the grand tour but a very enthusiastic/entertaining shopkeeper. After 10 minutes, my wrists smelt like everything that smells like anything and the bottles and creams seemed endless. The guy was really going through the whole song and dance for us, tea and everything. I felt bad because I knew I had no use for any of his wares, except an amazing chunk of musk (which I almost bought), but I didn’t want the show to end. Thankfully Julie bailed me out with several purchases of various spices, including a 5g baggy of the illustrious Safron.

Back out into the streets of Fes. People were everywhere and anywhere, selling everything you can imagine. The sights and sounds, the smells, it was a lot to take in at once but I loved every moment.


We stopped in a small local eatery with a terrace and had some dinner before exiting the walls of the medina and heading back to the peace and quiet of Bhalil.


More Fes HERE.

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Stay tuned for the next installment of…Le Chronicle du Maroc.

Congrats Barack - Time for Change

Before these past 8 years of my life, I was pretty indifferent to politics. I was 13 when Bush was sworn in for his first term. I was still a child then, as much as I would have denied it, I didn't know what that election meant. I had no idea the impact it would have on the future of our country, our world, and my own life--then again, I don't suppose any of us ever thought it could get this bad. 

What we have all seen happening in the world and to our country over the past 8 years has been appalling. I guess if I can thank George Bush for one thing, it would be for making me care.

I never thought I would know what it felt like to be ashamed to be an American. A country which once stood for freedom and opportunity has all but lost it's former luster. 

I never thought that I would have to tell someone that I was Canadian so that they would give me a fair price for my food. 

I never thought that I would have to apologize abroad for the actions of my country's government.

I never thought I would care so much about a candidate for the Democratic Party, a Senator from Illinois.

I suppose what I see in Barack is a chance for CHANGE, proof that there is still HOPE. Two words which have come to define his campaign but also remain very much alive and real in all of those who wish for a brighter future.

As the economy sinks deeper everyday and the war on terror persists, what are we as Americans left with? We are afraid to travel because of what we fear other people of other nations think of us, because of what "our" president has done. We are afraid to own up to our nationality when we do travel, because we are afraid of the response. But at the same time, in hiding who we are, we deprive those who meet us of seeing what a real American is like--what America still is, even if it is hidden underneath the veil of the Bush administration. It is a frustrating game I am forced to play: Who to tell? When to hide?

The nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate in the upcoming election does represent hope. He has given us all a light at the end of the tunnel, a sense that after these years of darkness and even in this time of economic hardship, there are better times ahead.

Thank you Barack, congratulations and good luck, you have my vote.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Photo Updates!

There are 60 new photos spread around the sets.

Here is a handy link that takes you to only the new ones!

Enjoy!

Comment & Critique is very welcome and very cool.